Alana Woods ... the Intrigue Queen

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Alana Woods' book reviews: Renaissance 2.0: Carnival of Characters, Crusades, and Causes (Book 1) by Dean C. Moore

Posted by Alana Woods on February 14, 2015 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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I was a couple of chapters in when I laughed, and then wondered if I should. It immediately reminded me of my first exposure to the film Pulp Fiction; that first inadvertent burst of laughter when John Travolta’s gun accidentally fired in the car. I was aghast at myself. Was I supposed to laugh? The scene was so over the top. So too is this novel. What is its classification: comedy horror or horror comedy, or something else? Is it supposed to be a serious novel? I finished reading without deciding.

It’s set in the modern day and everything is familiar: the world, the way ordinary people live their lives and earn their living, the traumas we face. Even the incessant killing is a reflection of our gone-mad society. But there the similarities end.

From the cover, when I bought the book, I thought it was a sci-fi story. From the title, RENAISSANCE 2.0, I thought it was a nod to the 14th—16th century European Renaissance and the author was creating a second, 21st century, perhaps global, renaissance. And although I didn’t see any evidence of one in this book it no doubt becomes apparent in subsequent books in the series.

There is a definite sci-fi element with technologies that shatter life being created in back rooms and just as quickly being disposed of by mysterious forces; there’s a beserk drug culture; in fact it’s sheer mayhem from start to finish. Multiple characters make brief appearances never to return and it’s only well into the story that I realised there is a recurring character who, by the end, is identified as the protagonist who will be taking the series forward. He’s a detective with a wife who is becoming a man, which is forcing him into thinking he should become a woman. Yes, you read that right!

The author takes you deep into the psyches of his characters. There’s plenty of esoterica as he delves into psychology and philosophy. If you’re not interested in that you can skim without losing the plot.

I have no idea how the author will sustain this level of tortuous inventiveness over a series. As five volumes have already been published I don’t have to wait to find out.

This is an exceptional read. I was gobsmacked from very early on and didn’t pick my chin up until I’d finished reading.

It’s very different. Read it and see what you think.


RENAISSANCE 2.0 on Amazon


An interview with the author will be published at a later date

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Alana Woods' book reviews: MY STORY by Julia Gillard

Posted by Alana Woods on January 23, 2015 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (2)

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I’m impressed with the generosity of spirit that Julia Gillard possesses. The book is littered with the names of people to whom she gives thanks: for their enduring friendship, their casual mateship, their thoughtfulness, their support and love. What a rich life this woman has, if those she counts as friends is a guide.

And that in her official memoir encompassing her time as Prime Minister of Australia she unstintingly gives credit where she believes it’s due to her political opponents and enemies as well as the many people who sustained and continue to sustain her is generous indeed.

Generous also is her take on what is important in life: to make a difference to the lives of others through your own hard work.

Working class immigrants to Australia from Wales when Gillard was a child, her parents regretted their lack of education and the limits it placed on them. Education and hard work were inculcated into their two daughters. And Gillard has made bettering Australia’s education system her life’s work. The education sphere is where she headed immediately she left politics.

I’ve never read the memoirs of past prime ministers before. Never wanted to. But I felt the memoirs of the first female to hold that position warranted my attention. Having only read this one I don’t know if its structure follows a formula for PM memoirs. Whether it does or not it’s a good one. Rather than adopting a time sequential telling where the multiplicity of what was going on at any given time would overwhelm you, each chapter covers a different aspect of her prime ministership.

The first part chronicles the overall story. Subsequent chapters deal with individual areas such as defence, health, education, environment, tax, foreign policy. This approach makes it possible for the reader to grasp all that was done and accomplished. It makes clear the vast breadth and scope of what is expected of a country’s leader.

It’s also an intimate picture of what goes on behind the scenes. I suspect I’m no different to any other reader when I say it’s those candid moments and the humour that reveal and round out the woman.

At the end Gillard says ‘I hope my words inform, provoke, intrigue and amuse'. For me they did all of those. It was well worth the read.

MY STORY on Amazon (this is a global link)


The author declined an interview to accompany this review

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Alana Woods' book reviews: SKY CITY: THE RISE OF AN ORPHAN by RD Hale

Posted by Alana Woods on December 13, 2014 at 4:05 PM Comments comments (0)

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This is a coming-of-age story about 16 year old Arturo Basilides, a street-smart orphan with a sassy mouth and engaging personality living at the bottom level of society in a savagely-ruled post-apocalyptic world that has a lot of similarities to Earth. The story is told in first person point of view by Arturo, who lives with his sister and friends he considers to be family in a disused warehouse on the outer fringes of society. It’s an unqualified attention-grabber!

By the book’s end it’s obvious Arturo’s been a pretty gutsy kid from the moment he entered the world. Set against a background of controlling overlords, gangsterish rebels and the uncaring upper-crust of society Arturo must find a way to keep his family safe while coming to terms with the important role he seems destined to play in the rebel movement and the added complication of his overwhelming but probably unrequited love for one of his inner circle.

I wonder if the author is planning more for Arturo, given there were several questions left unresolved. Or perhaps he has deliberately left some things for the reader to surmise.

I enjoyed this book immensely. The story and characters are nicely developed. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions, which are sharp to the point of drawing blood. And let’s not forget the completely natural dialogue—a talent beyond many authors but one that RD Hale has nailed.

Hale is an author to watch. He has a crystalline quality to his storytelling, the descriptions are sharp and the characterisation is subtle yet powerful.

It’s not often I read a book that requires my absolute undivided attention. This is one of them. The author’s voice is compelling, and exactly right for the telling of this cyberpunk saga.

SKY CITY: THE RISE OF AN ORPHAN on Amazon (this is a global link)

Take this link to my interview with RD Hale

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Alana Woods interviews RD HALE, author of Sky City: the rise of an orphan

Posted by Alana Woods on December 13, 2014 at 4:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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I’ve just finished reading RD Hale’s debut novel, SKY CITY: THE RISE OF AN ORPHAN. It’s a 492 page epic. Lots of labels have been attached to it by others: cyberpunk, biopunk, dystopian, sci-fi, manga, young adult, as well as a touch of fantasy. I agree with all of them, but add another one: coming of age.

There’s not much you can find out about RD on the internet, perhaps because he’s a private kind of person and likes to keep to himself, or perhaps he prefers to let his writing and characters talk for him. Whatever the reason, I aim to tease something from him today to make the day for his growing number of fans.

Alana: G’day RD, am I allowed to know what the R in RD stands for, or do you use the initials to maintain a certain mystique?

RD: The initials help to maintain a mystique and create the impression I'm smarter than I actually am! However, my friends call me Ricky (among other things!)

Alana: How about I help maintain the mystique and stick with RD then. :) Your bio says little is known about you other than tidbits, rumours and hearsay. I’m going to do my best to squeeze a bit of detail from you today because, let’s face it, you’ve got a lot of fans out there in book land. I think they’d like an inside peek. Your bio says you’re married and have one young child. I take it that’s fact, yes? As to your age, I’m hazarding a guess that you’re still wrinkle-free.

RD: I’m rapidly starting to accumulate grey hairs thanks in no part to my son, but I'm doing pretty well on the wrinkle side. However, I'm sure my second child will help contribute towards those when he/she arrives.

Alana: Oh, does that mean another baby is on the way? Are congratulations in order?

RD: The second boy is due in early April and already I am having sleepless nights!

Alana: There’s nothing like a new baby! You’ll look back on it as totally worth it. As you’re going for a second I guess you already know that though. Where in the UK do you call home?

RD: A lively place called Newcastle upon Tyne where beer is known as "breakfast" and religion is called "football".

Newcastle upon Tyne pics: Angel of the North, Tynemouth Priory, fireworks over the city.



Alana: Sounds like a tough place! Is it where you want to be, or is there somewhere you’d rather be if money were no object? Does the grittiness of SKY CITY stem from there or do I have completely the wrong impression of your home town?

RD: Medio city is a (greatly exaggerated) representation of the council estate where I grew up. Sky City represents the sights and sounds that were out of reach to a jobless, disenfranchised youth. 

My home town has its qualities, but unemployment has been a problem for many. And then there is the perma-grey sky which only adds to the misery! I understand your part of the world is lit by a golden disc called "the sun". We've never seen it!




Alana: Yes, we’re blessed here in Australia. It’s the best place on the planet. I was born in the UK but wouldn’t live anywhere else but here.

RD: Maybe one day we'll get to move somewhere warm and cheerful like Australia.

Alana: You’d be very welcome. Let’s talk about your writing. It sounds as though the genre you write in is the one that’s always appealed to you. Is that right, and why?

RD: I've always liked sci-fi for many reasons, not least because once interstellar travel is invented I plan to become a space pirate! I spent my childhood preparing for this role by playing videogames, and now I fill the waiting time by writing books!

Sci-fi is a great tool for self-expression because you have more creative freedom than in other genres. The aspect that most appeals is the world building. With SKY CITY I wanted to create a microcosm of the world in which we live, where the problems are amplified so we can take a closer look at poverty, inequality and indoctrination. My aim was to give a voice to the voiceless and to challenge pre-conceived ideas.

Alana: I’d say you’ve well and truly succeeded in that. And Arturo Basilides, SKY CITY’s young hero you’ve built that world around; what brought about his creation? He’s an immensely charismatic character.

RD: He's a combination of many factors; he has some of my traits but I was conscious about making him fit into his awful world. He had to be highly intelligent and physically adept for the rebellion to take an interest in him, but he also had to be reckless. He could not have emerged from his childhood untainted so he is a very flawed protagonist. I wanted to get away from the heroic stereotype and create a character who was complex and unpredictable.

Alana: You originally published the book as a series of six smaller books but have now removed them from sale. What’s the thinking behind that?

RD: The book was originally serialised on Wattpad and I wanted readers to experience the instalments as they were initially intended, but their removal from Amazon was ultimately a commercial decision. It was confusing my readership as Amazon kept listing the complete edition as part of the series. I didn’t want people to mistakenly purchase twice in the belief they were buying the latest instalment. Plus the complete edition has a reasonable price so there’s no need to break it up.

Alana: I commented in my review of SKY CITY that there are several aspects of the story that were unfinished. I speculated that more is to come of Arturo. Am I right? And if so, do you have a release date in mind? Perhaps you might also like to whet our appetite for where you will be taking Arturo and his mates in it.

RD: I have a couple of spin-offs in the works starring other characters which are available on Wattpad. Both are in their early stages so everything, including the titles may change.

The Formation of the Rebellion stars Leo Jardine and is a prequel explaining how the rebellion came to be. It’s intended to be hard sci-fi—darker and more complex than The Rise of an Orphan with a similar feel to Gibson's Neuromancer.

The Sister of a Rebel Soldier stars Emmi Basilides and continues on from events at the end of The Rise of an Orphan. It’s intended to be a more accessible addition to the series. The rebellion really gets under way in this one and you'll discover what the more interesting characters are capable of.

Alana: And Arturo?

RD: I haven’t started the next part of Arturo's story just yet, but it’s definitely coming. I’ll likely serialise it on Wattpad and then release six instalments as one book on Amazon as I did with The Rise of an Orphan. I expect Arturo's saga will become a trilogy at the very least.


Alana: What about after SKY CITY is completed, do you have any other stories in mind and are they in the same genre?

RD: I would love to write in another genre, maybe fantasy but I can't see myself doing this for a long time!


Alana: RD, thank you so much for talking with me today. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know the writer behind the book.

RD: Thank you, Alana.

RD Hale has a new website. You can visit it by taking this link.

RD Hale's blog

RD Hale on    FaceBook   |   Twitter

SKY CITY: THE RISE OF AN ORPHAN on Amazon (this is a global link)


Take this link to my review of SKY CITY: THE RISE OF AN ORPHAN

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Alana Woods interviews RP DAHLKE, author of The Dead Red mystery series

Posted by Alana Woods on November 15, 2014 at 5:40 PM Comments comments (0)

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My guest today is Rebecca Dahlke, better known as RP Dahlke to her fans. I’ve just read the 4th book in her DEAD RED mystery series and it might be true to say that with the series Rebecca took to heart the advice given to many authors starting out, and that is to write what you know. I say that because the first three books at least centre on the crop dusting business and, like her heroine Lalla Bains, Rebecca worked in it herself.



Alana: Welcome Rebecca. First of all, do you prefer Rebecca or RP?

Rebecca: Rebecca is just fine!

Alana: You grew up in Modesto, California, but escaped to the city after running your father’s crop-dusting business for two years. Whereabouts is home nowadays? Any particular reason you chose it?

Rebecca: We were leaving our sailboat in Mexico every summer, going back to the states to annoy our adult children, which can be very entertaining if you count how much fun it is to leave the towels on their bathroom floor and stand in front of an open fridge and ask, "What's for dinner?"

pics: Rebecca's father RA Phillips and the first of the Stearmans he used for the aero ag business. Rebecca's son John (on right) and a mate in front of their aero ag plane.


Alana: Wow, you’re game. We’ve never been brave enough to push those boundaries!

Rebecca: Well, hijinks of that sort only go so far, so we figured it was time to buy a summer home, something close enough to drive to and from the Mexican Marina where we kept our boat. Of course, when my husband suggested a condo or apartment, I suggested he get realistic! I'd gotten used to wide open spaces, so we compromised on 4 acres and a nice house south of Tucson. The scenic shot is a picture of our back yard.


Alana: That's some back yard! My husband John and I owned a 46ft catamaran for a few years and I pretended to be a sailor but never got out of the sheltered waters of the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland. Tell us a bit about your experience. What was or is your craft, how long have you been sailing and where? Have you retired from the sea or do you still sail?

Rebecca: We're from the bay area of San Francisco, California. We both learned to sail on this bay—which really was a lot of fun, if you don't mind dodging freighters barreling down on you at warp speed. We started with a 27ft water ballasted trailerable boat, then upsized to a Hylas 47. Interesting that you had a catamaran as we tried out a few with charters, and even considered purchasing one before opting to stick with the mono-hull. A 46 ft. cat is like a 65 ft. monohull, and a dream to sail, or so I've heard.


Alana: We sold some years ago, but our memories are of the fun we had. I understand you wrote your mystery sailing trilogy while sailing. I can imagine it would have been very conducive to getting the creative juices flowing. I haven’t read it, so would you tell us a bit about it? Does it follow a principal character?

Rebecca: The two books in my sailing trilogy are based around one small 32 ft Westsail and two sisters who inherited it from their father. They both learned to sail it on the San Francisco bay and loved it.


Alana: So you were writing from experience again.

Rebecca: I was, and am. In the first book, A DANGEROUS HARBOR, Katrina Hunter is a S.F. police detective on leave after shooting her sister's stalker. She single hands the boat to Mexico only to find a floater, an old flame with a secret that could undo her career, a bald parrot and the man who could either become the love of her life or her undoing.


Alana: And the second?

Rebecca: The second book, HURRICANE HOLE, features the sister, Leila Hunter Standiford, queen of daytime drama. When she admires a beautiful vintage Alden and its handsome captain she doesn't realize that the boat will soon burn to the water line, or that a dead body will be found below, or that the captain has been targeted as the sacrificial diver.



Alana: Lalla Bains, the heroine of the DEAD RED series, is very likeable. I dropped in on her in the 4th book in the series and at some point I’m going to have to go back and read about her earlier exploits. She reminded me of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, although she’s most definitely her own person. I imagine I’m not the first person to make favourable comparisons.

Rebecca: I've been absolutely floored that so many readers have commented that this series reminds them of Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum series! I write what I like to read and, of course, Janet Evanovich is the queen of humorous mysteries.




Alana: I have to admit to becoming a bit tired of Stephanie by the time the books got to double figures.

Rebecca: Well, I can tell you there a lot of really entertaining authors who can also tickle the funny bone while writing a really good mystery. Try Heather Haven or Cindy Sample, or AJ Lape or Kaye George. Want to get all of these authors, myself included in a boxed set? Get WHAT’S SO FUNNY ABOUT MURDER? and enjoy seven complete humorous novels for only 99 cents.



Alana: Thanks, I’ve just taken you up on that. About time I found myself some more authors in the genre. But getting back to you, do you have more stories in either or both of the series planned?

Rebecca: I'm writing #5 in the DEAD RED mystery series. This one is titled A DEAD RED MIRACLE and it's again based in Wishbone, Arizona. I'm so enjoying writing about this area. Did you know that South East Arizona is where Geronimo and Cochise lived? These two Chirachauhua Apache Indians were famous for side-stepping American efforts to corral them, or their people.

Alana: Cowboys and Indians was one of the favourite games when I was growing up. I remember the girls always had to be the Indians and the cowboys always had to win. Things would be different if kids played it nowadays I think! But again, let’s get back to you. You produce a newsletter too, I’ve heard.

Rebecca: I do, three times a week and they feature the best in mystery/suspense and thrillers with DIRT CHEAP MYSTERY READS.



Alana: Are there new books envisaged for the future that take you away from the two current series and perhaps into a new genre?

Rebecca: oh, boy—that's a loaded question. I so want to write a book that I've had in my head for several years, but the DEAD RED series is starting to pick up more and more readers, so much so that I can't see how to stop writing the next and the next just to indulge my fantasy of something completely different.

Alana: Well, I look forward to reading it when you do. Rebecca, thank you so much for talking with me.

Rebecca: It has been my pleasure! Thank you for having me!

RP DAHLKE'S links:  website   |   DIRTCHEAPMYSTERYREADS   |   Amazon

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Alana Woods' book reviews: A DEAD RED ALIBI by RP Dahlke

Posted by Alana Woods on November 15, 2014 at 5:35 PM Comments comments (0)

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Stephanie Plum step aside.

Lalla Bains—ex model, 5’10”, blond and extremely easy on the eye teams up with cousin and budding PI Pearlie and cop fiancé Caleb Stone to solve two murders, not least because Lalla’s dad is the chief suspect.

This is the 4th book in the Dead Red mystery series and at the end the author expresses the hope I enjoyed reading it as much as she enjoyed writing it. I can assure her I did!

I haven’t read the previous three in the series, not knowing about them until coming across this one, but I didn’t feel the lack of any essential knowledge about the characters. There was some economical back story to fill me in but essentially I think it’s complete enough in itself to stand alone.

Told in a deceptively easy-to-read style everything about it engages you: the storyline, the characters, the descriptions and the humour.

I say ‘deceptively easy to read’ because that style isn’t as easy to accomplish as some may imagine. It brought to mind one of my all-time favourite authors, Dick Francis. He had a similar writing style and he was a master with it. I’m not exaggerating when I say that RP Dahlke is another author who has finessed it.

I found myself comparing it to Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and I’m betting that if you like Stephanie you’re going to really like RP Dahlke’s Lalla Bains.



Take this link to my interview with RP Dahlke

Take this link to RP Dahlke's Amazon author page

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Posted by Alana Woods on November 8, 2014 at 12:35 AM Comments comments (4)

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What a glorious time of the year Spring is in CHASING BOOK SALES LAND.

The resident ducks have had babies and the kangaroos are coming in to the gardens looking for the new shoots. They have the belief—and I don’t disabuse them of the idea—that I cause the rain to fall that provides them with the new grass that grows just outside the palace doors.


The lavender is buckling under the weight of the Fiefdom’s bee population and the Consort and I are already salivating in anticipation of coating the honey on the lovely bread our bakery provides.

The rugosa roses are heavy with flowers, so along with everything else we’re expecting a bumper crop of hips to be turned into jam. The Trigintipetala roses are also heavy with blooms, meaning the Fiefdom’s stock of rose oil will be well and truly replenished this season. Nothing like rose oil to soothe the unquiet breasts of the Fiefdom’s sometimes unruly neighbors.




In the orchard our apple blossoms have transformed into little new fruits. Come autumn they will be large, red, crunchy and very sweet to bite into straight from the tree or savoured in the cook’s famous pies and strudel. The cherries, too, are abundant this year and will grace the Fiefdom’s Christmas Feast table. And let's not forget our treasured olive trees which are covered in tiny flowers. They have only been producing a crop for the last two years so My Fiefdomness is still on the pickling learning curve. But I will master it!



Ah, Spring. Yes, we love it here in CHASING BOOK SALES LAND.

Take this link to all CHASING BOOK SALES LAND stories.

Alana Woods' book reviews: FOREVER YOUNG by Claude Nougat

Posted by Alana Woods on September 13, 2014 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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Some time ago I read Nougat’s short story compilation Death on Facebook, Short Stories for the Digital Age and was impressed with the range of stories and the skill with which they were presented. One that caught my imagination was I will not leave you behind, the futuristic story of a 122 year old woman who is part of an elite program that keeps you young until you die. In FOREVER YOUNG Nougat has taken that short story and woven its premise into a four-part series of short novels I enjoyed reading very much.

The over-arching theme is the approaching doom of Earth from climate change. The story is set 200 years into the future and what becomes apparent very quickly is that humankind never did learn the lessons of what it would take to save the planet. Everyone, including big business, is still only concerned with the present and what they can get out of it for themselves. People are still divided into the have’s and have not’s, only now the have’s—called the OnePercenters—can afford to have old-age and illness permanently eliminated right up until death, whereas the have not’s—the 99PerCenters—continue to struggle as we struggle in this day and age.

The story and struggle is told through three characters who all aspire to be a OnePercenter, highlighting the fact that even in Earth’s extremis we’re still only concerned with what advantages we can garner for ourselves.

You can come away from reading this series feeling a great despair for where we’re heading. The alternatives that the author presents, that of leaving Earth to inhabit a new planet and starting again, or remaining and hoping Earth regenerates itself, are stark contrasts.

A thought-provoking, confronting read.

A point worth mentioning is that the cover art is one of Nougat's own works and depicts Alice, one of the characters in the series. If you click on the link below to my interview with the author you will see more of her paintings.


Take this link to my interview with CLAUDE NOUGAT

Take this link to the author's Amazon author page for all of her novels

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Alana Woods' book reviews: THE BARTER AND RECKONING series by John L Work

Posted by Alana Woods on September 4, 2014 at 10:40 AM Comments comments (0)

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You may well remember that I've reviewed some of John L Work's books previously. I've always meant to catch up with this particular series and now I have. A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE can be read as a stand-alone novel but it can also be read as a precursor to the three-part THE BARTER series. The author himself refers to it as a four book collection called THE BARTER AND RECKONING SERIES. For the purposes of this article I'm reviewing them separately.


I’ve read enough of John L Work’s novels to know they take you by the throat and don’t let go until well after you’ve finished reading them. This one doesn’t deviate from the mold. In fact it ramps up the tension by quite a few degrees.

In this gun-rights thriller he takes you to the United States in the near future, 2016, against the backdrop of a country descending into totalitarianism, and brings you the story of an ordinary man, Wesley Kirbaugh, seeking justice for his murdered daughter.

It beautifully combines a seemingly small story—that of one man—with a large story—that of a nation’s descent from greatness.

Unsettling is an understatement. But what read!



This story was born from best-selling author and investigative journalist Jerome Corsi’s essay at World Net Daily titled China poised to play debt card—for US land. John L Work took the premise of a United States in so deep a debt to China that it trades the debt for US soil. The year is 2016 and the political scene picks up where it left off in A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE.

Once again Work sets one man’s story against world affairs and once again does it brilliantly.

Although A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE is a stand alone novel it is also a precursor to the three-part THE BARTER series, of which this is the first.

Benito Hernandez, a military veteran, has been working at a chicken processing plant for some years. The kids are grown up and have left home, so there’s just him and his wife Monica. The deteriorating political situation in the US is seen through his story and his eyes. And it’s horrific.

Work knows how to keep you turning the page and holding your breath.



Think George Orwell’s 1984 was a piece of fiction? Think again. In this second in THE BARTER series John L Work presents for your enjoyment and contemplation a story of the world going mad. The year is 2020.

He points out that the United States has gone from being the World’s biggest creditor nation in 1945 to the world’s biggest debtor nation today.

But as he also points out in his introduction, “This isn’t a book about economics. It’s a killer thriller.”

He’s right!

Benito and Monica Hernandez from book 1 are dead and we now follow their son Jamie. Private citizens possessing guns was outlawed years ago and there are harsh penalties for non-compliance. I’m not giving anything away by saying Jamie buys one so he can pursue his vendetta against the injustice of his father’s death.

I’m not going to tell you how Benito died but it’s all tied up in the Chinese now being the behind-the-scenes power in America.

You’re going to want to move straight on to book 3 when you finish this one.



This is book 3 in John L Work’s THE BARTER series and picks up within minutes of where book 2 finished. America is now a country that today’s citizens wouldn’t recognise. In the not too distant future Islam and China will be battling for supremacy but for now they exist together in an uneasy alliance.

Jamie Hernandez is on the run from his own government for crimes committed in book 2. He’s aided by Australian Secret Intelligence Service agents. Rebecca Teals is one of them and she and Jamie get to know each other pretty well over the course of the rest of the story.

As an Australian myself it’s interesting to see a non-Australian’s view of us. Work obviously finds us engaging. It’s not the first time he’s referenced Australia as the last bastion against Islam in his novels.

Jamie and Rebecca escape to Australia where Jamie and two other Americans receive military training with the aim of returning to the US to wreak havoc. Then it’s back home to do just that.

Book 3 keeps up the pace and I found myself reading quickly to find out if Jamie and Rebecca survive.


The whole series of four books grabs you by the throat—as I said in my review of A WELL-REGULATED VENGEANCE—and doesn’t let go.


THE BARTER on Amazon



Take this link to my interview with JOHN L WORK

Take this link to the author's Amazon author page for all of his novels

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Intrigue Queen, Branding an Indie Author

Posted by Alana Woods on August 23, 2014 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (2)

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This week an article I wrote on branding yourself featured on the blog of self-publishing guru Jason Matthews.

It's reproduced in part here, on my own blog, and if you'd like to read it in its entirety just take this link to Jason's page.

Intrigue Queen, Branding an Indie Author

It’s no secret indie authors need to market their books, but how many are branding themselves? It’s one thing to pick a genre and produce multiple books, it’s another to intentionally build a brand.

This is why we can learn a few things from Alana Woods, who splits time between the UK and Australia. Besides writing gripping novels (winner of the Australian Fast Books Prize for Best Fiction), she’s a source of great ideas on writing and marketing.

Alana, how does an author brand herself?

Every indie author knows that promotion and marketing is our own responsibility.

It isn’t essential, but to focus my mind I made a business plan and it consists of this.

1. A brand to build exposure—Alana Woods is the Intrigue Queen. I chose this because I write suspenseful thrillers. It’s the central theme around which I market my product.

2. My target market—The narrow market is book publishing. The wider market is the entertainment industry as books not only compete with other books but also TV, cinema, games etc.

3. My product—What I write, packaged in books.

4. Where my product sits in the market—Narrow market: genre. Wider market: books.

5. Where to place my product—Online and/or physical book stores, direct selling.

6. My goal—To be the top selling author in my genre.

7. Strategies to achieve my goal—Promotion and marketing. Currently it revolves around ebooks and paperbacks. Eventually it will include audiobooks and foreign translations.

8. Hanging on to the apron strings of 7 is the question: are there any circumstances unique to me as an Australian author?

Find out how I implement my business plan by reading the full article on Jason's blog.

Indie Authors TV #66 presents: August McLaughlin, author of sexuality-body image-psych thriller IN HER SHADOW

Posted by Alana Woods on August 19, 2014 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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Indie Authors TV #66  interviews sexuality writer/activist August McLaughlin. August discusses sex, body image, eating disorders and more within her psych thriller IN HER SHADOW.


About August McLaughlin


August McLaughlin is an award-winning health and sexuality writer, radio personality and creator of the empowering female sexuality brand Girl Boner. Her work has been featured by, Sexual Wellness News, DAME Magazine, Healthy Aging Magazine and more.

Her first novel, IN HER SHADOW, a thriller loosely based on her battle with anorexia while working as an international model, was an 2013 Indies for Excellence finalist, and in 2014 she was named one of BlogHer’s Voices of the Year.

Known for melding personal passion with activism, she uses her skills as a public speaker and journalist to inspire other women to embrace their bodies and sexuality, making way for fuller, more authentic lives.

August is represented by Jill Marr of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency and loves connecting with readers and listeners throughout social media.

Hosted by Jason Matthews and Marla Miller


Take this link to all Indie Authors TV posts.


Posted by Alana Woods on August 16, 2014 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (2)

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Once in a rare while, when petitions have banked to a degree that I can no longer ignore them, I’ll hold a Petition Day where all the inhabitants who have something they wish to discuss with me can come to the palace and gain an audience.

On this particular morning I was busy trying to get to the bottom of my in-box before Petition Time when I heard a loud bang. Not concerned, because sometimes the roof likes to herald its presence by making annoying noises, I continued with the correspondence.

Imagine my horror, then, when peering out at the queue forming to see me I spied one of my subjects in extremis on the palace window ledge.

It looked like Little Spoggy had tried to beat the crowds into the palace only to find what she thought was the entrance barred by an invisible barrier—glass.

I rushed outside and to my relief found her still breathing although her eyes were closed, her mouth open and her heart beating as though it would burst from her chest.

I stroked her little chest to calm her and tried dripfeeding her some water after which The Consort led me away to grieve as he predicted she would not recover.

Imagine my joy then, when an hour later I returned to collect her fragile little body for burial and found her sitting. Another hour later she had recovered sufficiently to fly home.

I hastened to ask what it was she had come to petition me for but she said she had such a headache it had flown right out of her head.

Egbert, on the other hand, was granted his request.

Recent rains have brought about a second flush of new rosehips and I consented to not net them.

I was so upset about Little Spoggy in extremis I felt it not appropriate to capture her image but Egbert, on the other hand, he’s always happy to pose.

Take this link to all CHASING BOOK SALES LAND stories

Indie Authors TV #65 presents: LYNNE SPREEN Amazon Bestseller Dakota Blues

Posted by Alana Woods on August 12, 2014 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (2)

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Indie Authors TV #65 interviews award winning author Lynne Spreen about her Amazon bestseller DAKOTA BLUES, a coming-of-age story for mid-lifers. Lynne discusses the novel and what coming of age for mid-lifers means for her.


Lynne wrote DAKOTA BLUES, in part, because she wanted to express her optimism about aging. She has a core belief: life is better after fifty.

DAKOTA BLUES has received over one hundred reviews, earning an average 4.5 out of 5 stars on

Lynne's website book blurb: In the traditional coming-of-age story the main character has to figure out who she wants to be when she grows up. She struggles to earn an education, develop a career, find a life partner, establish a home, start a family…

But then what? After you’ve lived through your first coming-of-age you reach a place where you think you have it figured out, but then life changes. Maybe you’re not happy anymore. Something’s missing – or you’ve been dealt a tough hand. What happens now?

That’s the midlife coming-of-age story!

Hosted by Jason Matthews

BOOK BLAST: Who am I? by Megan Cyrulewski

Posted by Alana Woods on July 30, 2014 at 8:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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Megan Cyrulewski's new memoir WHO AM I!

is available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble from Saturday 2 August 2014

I'm participating in the BOOK BLAST promotion, helping Megan to spread the news

WHO AM I! synopsis

Megan’s book, Who Am I? How My Daughter Taught Me to Let Go and Live Again, is about her journey into post-partum depression, anxiety disorder, panic attacks, stays in the psych ward, divorce, emotional abuse, domestic violence, law school, how she managed to graduate from law school and a beautiful little girl who emerged from all of this chaos.

Megan's bio

Megan Cyrulewski has been writing short stories since she was ten. After attending Grand Valley State University she eventually settled into a career in the non-profit sector for eight years. Deciding to change careers she went back to school to study for a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

While studying she wrote her memoir, documenting her divorce, child custody battle and postpartum depression struggles.

Megan lives in Michigan with her 3-year-old daughter who loves to dance, run, read, and snuggle time with Mommy. Megan also enjoys her volunteer work with various organizations in and around metro-Detroit.

Excerpt from the book

On January 18, 2012, we all convened in the courthouse for the Motion for Parenting Time hearing. My dad and I arrived with my attorney, but Tyler loved an audience so he brought his dad, step-mom, and his new on-again off-again girlfriend, Heather. Tyler walked in with his posse in tow, cocky as hell. It took all of two minutes for the judge to knock him off his feet.

The Judge addressed our respective attorneys. “Why are we here?”

“Your honor,” Tyler’s attorney began, “my client has clearly been denied his parenti—”

The Judge didn’t even let him finish. “How?” She turned to my attorney. “Don?”

“Your honor, as you can see in the divorce decree, there was supposed to be a review when the minor child turned twelve-months-old. The Defendant has ignored that review.”

“I—if I may, your honor,” Tyler’s attorney sputtered.

“I see the review in the decree. It’s here in black and white,” she told Tyler’s attorney. “What is the problem? Why didn’t you understand the review? Your client signed the divorce decree.”

Tyler’s attorney tried again. “But your honor—”

The judge cut him off. “There is to be a review conducted by the Friend of the Court referee assigned to the parties. Until then, the Defendant will continue his parenting time schedule as agreed upon in the divorce decree. Dismissed.”

And that was it. After eight police reports and numerous harassing text messages, phone calls, and e-mails, we won. As Don and Tyler’s attorney went to speak with the clerk to file the necessary paperwork, Don told us to wait for him outside the courtroom.

As we exited the courtroom, the hallway was so packed with people that my dad and I were only able to find enough space to lean against the wall. We were talking about the court proceedings when we looked up and saw Tyler and his new girlfriend standing right across from us.

“Why do you lie about everything?” Tyler screamed.

Heather walked up to me and stood about an inch from my face. “As a mother myself, you should be happy that Tyler is the father of your child.”

My jaw dropped. “I’m sorry but I don’t know you.”

She smirked. “Well you’re going to get to know me, bitch.”

Tyler made a big show of pulling her from me like I was going to punch her or something. By this time, everyone in the hallway was watching us. We were pure entertainment.

Heather continued her rant. “Two times in the psych ward, Megan? What a great mother you are.”

“Where is your mom, the real mother of our child?” Tyler screamed. “She’s the one who takes care of Madelyne.”

My dad and I tried to move away from Tyler and Heather but they followed us.

“Awww…” Heather mocked. “Do you have to take a Xanax because of your anxiety?”

“Go take your Xanax and sleeping pills, you drug addict,” Tyler shouted.

Finally, Don emerged from the courtroom and pulled us into a quiet corridor. He explained that I needed to call our referee to set up a meeting to discuss a visitation schedule. I told Don about the verbal assault by Tyler and Heather. Don said he would call Tyler’s attorney to let him know that Heather would not be allowed in my house.

Upon leaving the courthouse, Heather screamed, “See you on Sunday, Megan.”

I turned toward her and said calmly, “I don’t know you, but you are not welcome in my home.”

That night, Tyler sent me multiple texts attacking my mothering skills, my supposed drug addictions, how he was going to fight for joint custody of Madelyne, how Heather would be accompanying him for his visitations, and a barrage of other insults:

• “Get a life already.”

• “Don’t you have something better to do than wasting your parents’ money?”

• “Go take your pills and relax, oh yeah, then your parents would have to watch our daughter. Oh yeah, they already do.”

• “Go talk to your friends. Oh yeah, you don’t have any because of how crazy you are.”

• “Interesting to know you’ve been to the hospital a couple of times. You really need to get it together.”

• “Better go call your lawyer and make up some more stuff about me.”

• “Don’t be mad at your sorry life.”

• “I am sure living with Mom and Dad the rest of your life will be fun.”

• “When you get a job, then you can pay me child support. Fun.”


I finally had to turn my phone off at midnight.


Available from Amazon in paperback and ebook

Available from Barnes & Nobel in paperback and ebook

Alana Woods' book reviews: COUNTERPOINT by Paul V Walters

Posted by Alana Woods on July 29, 2014 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

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COUNTERPOINT: Take Back That Which Is Yours is the third novel in the Jonathan Savage Trilogy

Something wicked this way comes … and, boy, is it wicked.

This is the final book in Walters’ Jonathan Savage trilogy and it doesn’t disappoint. In fact it ramps up a dozen rungs or so on the ladder delivering a non-stop fireworks show, burst after pyrotechnic burst.

The main players from FINAL DIAGNOSIS and BLOWBACK unite to meet their varied ends. The villains are villainous, the heroes are real and, given what’s happening in our world, the scenario is all-too-terrifyingly possible.

The pace never slackens and the words flow effortlessly to create scenes easily conjured into images.

A really good finale. Thanks for the entertainment, Mr Walters!



Take this link to an earlier interview with PAUL V WALTERS.

Take these links to my reviews of FINAL DIAGNOSIS and BLOWBACK.

Take this link to all my book reviews.


Genius links are here!

Posted by Alana Woods on July 21, 2014 at 8:45 PM Comments comments (0)

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Are you an author or artist who has their product for sale on multiple sites that can be accessed on a variety of devices?

Have you dreamed of the day when one link would take a buyer to the right store for the device they’re using?

Dream no more, that day is here.

GeoRiot has delivered just such links. They’re called Genius links.

I’m not going to attempt to recreate or paraphrase the information GeoRiot provides except to give you the first paragraph of their media release. After that click on the GeoRiot links below to go to their site for all the information.


Genius Links eliminate the need to create multiple links for a single product that's available across different ecosystems. Scenarios can now be created within a single link, to route each click individually based off of the user’s location, device, operating system, and even date. This eliminates the hurdles of promoting to your ever-growing audience as more storefronts and devices come online.

Check out GeoRiot’s Step by Step Guide or visit our blog to learn more about Genius Links.

 GeoRiot website link.

Take this link to all my GeoRiot articles.


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Alana Woods' book reviews: BETTER YOU BETTER ME by Jason Matthews

Posted by Alana Woods on July 20, 2014 at 3:00 AM Comments comments (0)

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I’ve read this book twice now, the first time as a beta reader and the second time after buying it to review. It’s a book I’m not going to get tired of. I’ll be returning to it often because the message resonated deeply with me.


The author describes himself in the introduction as a mess for much of his life. He intimates troubles that threatened to overwhelm him. He thought life was conspiring against him. He wondered what the point of it all was. Then after a particularly harrowing episode he woke to the fact that it was within his power to help himself. And that’s where his journey to a better self began. Not by trying to make big changes immediately but by focusing on striving continually to become slightly better. After a while he noticed that the little changes were accumulating into big ones.


In writing this book Matthews is documenting the steps he took to remake himself into a person he liked. He is sharing those steps in the belief that others will also be struggling and will find the information useful, even valuable.


So what is he talking about when he says we can be better versions of ourselves? He looks at all aspects of life: the physical, as in our bodies and our environment; the mental, as in our consciousness and happiness; our relationships, both personal and professional; and much more.


Matthews doesn’t talk at you, he guides you. There are plenty of scenarios and examples to highlight his points. At the end of each chapter he itemises the key concepts made and the questions we need to ask ourselves.


If you take only one thing from this book it might well be the message that happiness is a choice. I now remind myself of it every day. But that isn’t the only lesson I’ve learned and to remind myself of what are essentially the easy things I can do to be happier and a better person is why I’ll be returning to it regularly.


BETTER YOU BETTER ME on Amazon   US   |   UK  |   CA   |  AU   |   India

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Alana Woods interviews GRAHAM HIGSON, author of Flither Lass

Posted by Alana Woods on July 5, 2014 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (2)

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My guest today is UK author Graham Higson whose book about a small UK Yorkshire fishing village in 1915 attracted my attention because John and I were walking those very spots in July last year. Heartbeat country, if Graham's photo is anything to go by.

Alana: Graham, welcome. Wyke Bay, the fictional setting for FLITHER LASS, is based on Robin Hood’s Bay, which is the end point for the Coast to Coast walk that John and I did. We loved the place. Why choose that spot?

Graham: Thanks, Alana. Because you've been there you'll be able to appreciate the timelessness of the village, which is very much as it was in the story's time period. Then there's the coastline, and the beaches teeming with rock pools. I could see the characters tramping through the streets, sense their hunger, feel their anguish. It was if they were there every time I turned a corner. And when we walked along the beach and saw a cliff top waterfall, I knew that I would use it in the story.

So yes, it's very much like the fictional Wyke Bay, but I had to write in some differences because if readers think that a place is real, then they might (heaven forbid) believe that the characters are also based on actual people.


Alana: On your website you talk about visiting Whitby, which is close to your setting of Wyke Bay. I bought a silver and jet bangle there to commemorate our walk. Unfortunately I didn’t have time to get used to wearing it because it was stolen less than a month later. But you say that although living nearby all your life it wasn’t until you were an adult that you visited Whitby.

Graham: I know the very shop where you must have bought the jet bangle. Sorry to hear about what happened. The shop is at the bottom of the famous 199 steps …


Alana: It is! W Hamond. Guarantees that it uses only genuine Whitby jet.

Graham: That’s it … and I'm pleased to say that on a couple of occasions I have run up those two at a time without stopping.

Alana: Hope you don't mind. I'm throwing in two of my own photos here. There's me outside W Hamond with my new purchase in my hot little hands, and then there's John on the famous 199 steps.



Alana: I doubt that I could have gone up them two at a time. Quite a feat!

Graham: Yes, but dare I do it again …? So why did it take us so long to visit Whitby for the first time? It is in a part of England that we'd not yet got around to. It's as simple as that.


Alana: So where is home? And why is it home?

Graham: Home is in an outlying Pennine village in Yorkshire, about half an hour from Leeds in one direction and Manchester in the other.

It's all open countryside, which we like, even though you can be held up by cows crossing the road for milking, and there is plenty of wind and rain. Come to think of it, it's very much like the village where my character Briscoe lives in OAK SEER.


Alana: There’s nothing quite like using what you know. You’ve been a journalist for most of your life I believe, although if I’m not wrong you’re a fulltime writer, as in author rather than journalist, nowadays.

Graham: Yes, I gave up my day job so I could write fulltime, but in and amongst I decided to complete my education. I trained as a screenwriter at University College Falmouth, which I think taught me much more about things like structure and dialogue. I was the only one taking screenwriting, by the way, which meant that the tutor had no one else to pick on but me.


Alana: But think of all that one on one! Invaluable! And nowadays you’re involved in the republishing of another local author, Leo Walmsley, who lived 1892-1966. Would you tell us a little about him and what you’re doing.

Graham: I found Robin Hood's Bay in about 1989 and there was this cottage with a blue commemorative plaque above the door saying that an author once lived there. I thought, "Crikey, I've never heard of him." I really believed they were grasping at straws for tourism purposes, although my wife Margaret was certain she had read one of his books. But then there was a television program about the village that mentioned a major film had been shot there in the 1930s. There was no internet back then (not for civilians, anyhow) and it was whilst asking around in the village that I found the film, Turn of the Tide, was based on a Walmsley book. We bought the book, THREE FEVERS, and six years later joined the Walmsley Society. Two years after that my wife and I were voted on to the committee. At that time none of the major publishers was printing his books, and it was me who said we should do it ourselves. Here we are, 11 books republished and another on the way. Very satisfying.


Alana: Do you have a link that anyone interested can take to check them out?

Graham: Yes. I also administer the website.

Alana: Let’s talk about your books now. FLITHER LASS, which I’ve just read and reviewed, to begin with. Give us a flavor of the story line. I have to say I love the video trailer for it. I called the book atmospheric. Well, so is the trailer.

Perhaps you could also explain what a flither is and what they were used for.

Graham: In the 1800s, maybe even farther back, many flither girls traveled in gangs, but in 1915 my flither lass Amy works alone, often in harsh weather conditions as she scours the shore for limpets, or "flithers". These are the mollusk-type creatures that live inside the conical shells usually found sticking to the rocks, almost with the strength of industrial adhesive. She collects them to use as bait on her father's fishing lines. Hardy, strong, practical, she is an expert at climbing steep cliff faces, and refuses to allow her highly impractical long skirt to prevent her wading out into the water. Instead she simply rolls it up to her waist, despite exposing her bare thighs – quite shocking for those times.




But she is estranged from the local community which believes, in its ignorance, that she is backward, slow-witted. The reality is that she is a wild, unruly girl, passionately protective of the small bay that she believes is hers. She works things out by instinct and whatever else she can pick up from odd snatches of conversation that are not obscured by an undiagnosed hearing condition. You wouldn't get that sort of thing happening nowadays, would you? Naturally, sometimes she gets things wrong.

The story begins when her father is caught in a storm, leaving her with no-one apart from a hard, embittered mother and an idle sister. Convinced that her father is still alive she searches the shore, and instead finds an injured man. He's not her father but for the time being he'll do, and she decides to keep him for herself. The First World War is waging in France and Belgium and only a few hundred yards out from the coast at Wyke Bay merchant shipping is under threat from mines and U-boats. And Amy's new friend is German.


Alana: The book’s a corker. I don’t hand out 5 stars easily but FLITHER LASS deserved them. And your other book?

Graham: OAK SEER (a supernatural mystery) is about an obsessive who deals in old wooden artifacts. One night he finds he can no longer handle these wooden items without being haunted by images from the past. He's something of a Lothario, doesn't much like people, yet women throw themselves at him … and suddenly he can’t perform, so he's washed up, whichever way you look at it. There's a modern day high priestess of a coven in Scotland, women who lust after an ancient medieval carving of a monster's face, blood loss, and a girl in a white dress. And poor old Briscoe must take a look at himself and do the right thing to save them. But what is the right thing? And is he so set in his ways that he won't be able to exorcise the past? Or is it that the past is exorcising him?


Alana: Sounds like he’s got some real problems! Are you working on anything else at the moment?

Graham: Yes—a memoir, would you believe? It's based on the magazine column I wrote for over 10 years and is about the observations from behind the counter of an independent hardware store. This time there's an underlying theme with much more at stake. I'm reluctant to describe it as funny because those readers who don't find it as such then give bad reviews, but I can tell you that it is meant to be a little humorous. I've just completed the first draft and it's been a pleasure getting reacquainted with the characters I've known for so long they almost write themselves. Naturally, being a memoir, there are some real people in there, but their names have been changed to prevent lawsuits.


Alana: Graham, thank you so much for chatting with me today.

Graham: And thank you, Alana, for having me. I've rather enjoyed being here with you.

Graham's links   website   |   blog   |   Twitter   |   Facebook   |   YouTube trailer   |   LinkedIn

Goodreads   |   Flither Lass Goodreads page   |   Amazon author page

FLITHER LASS on Amazon smartURL   |   CreateSpace for paperback


Take this link to my review of FLITHER LASS.

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Alana Woods' book reviews: FLITHER LASS by Graham Higson

Posted by Alana Woods on July 5, 2014 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

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FLITHER LASS is incredibly atmospheric. The further I got into it the more I became convinced it would not end well, I couldn’t see how it could be otherwise. Without giving anything away I will just say that when the ending came I thought ‘How apt. Perfect.’


The wildness, of characters and setting, is consistent from start to finish. The bone-chilling cold of the sea and terrible weather wafted out of the pages and into my bones. I had to put the heating on. The language was like a pop-up picture book opening up scene after scene. The dialogue of these illiterate and mostly ignorant fishing folk did its job in revealing their characters to me. Higson is a helluva story teller.


The story? It follows a few days in the life of Amy Trott, a 15 year old living in a poor fishing village on the wild UK Yorkshire coast. Everyone ekes a precarious living looking out for themselves. There’s no room for caring about neighbours. Anyone thought to be even a little different is treated harshly and Amy is that little bit different, thought to be simple. Her only protector is her father. There are two young men who also have soft spots for her but neither knows how to show it and don’t have the courage anyway. Amy collects flithers, limpets, from the rocky shore for her fisherman father to use as bait on his lines. It’s back-breaking dangerous work. The year is 1915 and paranoia regarding the Germans abounds. So when Amy finds one washed up on the rocks her life becomes very precarious indeed.


This is the story of people struggling to exist and find their place in that existence. Wrap your hands around a hot coffee or chocolate and let Graham Higson immerse you in Amy’s life.

FLITHER LASS on Amazon   US   |   UK


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Alana Woods interviews MICHEAL MAXWELL, author of Diamonds and Cole

Posted by Alana Woods on June 21, 2014 at 7:10 PM Comments comments (0)

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Micheal Maxwell is my guest author today. I like to do a bit of ferreting about authors before having a chat so check out such places as their websites, Facebook and Amazon author pages. Micheal is obviously someone who likes to keep himself to himself because all I could find was a teaser. I immediately wanted to know details and am now going to attempt to get them.

Here’s the teaser from his author bio: Mr Maxwell has traveled the globe, dined with politicians, rock stars and beggars. He has rubbed shoulders with priests and murderers, surgeons and drug dealers, each one giving him a part of themselves that will live again in the pages of his books.


Alana: Micheal, welcome. There is no way I’m going to let you go without enlightening me about the travel and the people you’ve met. So tell me, in what exotic spots did you meet such diverse types and how did you come to meet them?

Micheal: Thanks for having me. Since I am unwilling to enter a 12-step program there is no hope of curing my Travel Addiction. This June I will visit my 39th country. Along the way I’ve met a lot of folks.


Alana: I’m all ears to hear about them.

Micheal: Okay, let’s see, I’ve traveled to China and met with the head of National Chinese Radio, who at the time was the Party Chairman for Yunnan Province. The Governor of Aguascalientes, Mexico, and I had a meeting a few years ago. I thought American politicians were a shady bunch until I met him. He gave me a nice gift though.

I ate dinner with Ace Frehley of KISS. I remember it, he was beyond remembering anything. I’ve been known to give beggars part of my lunch, some were grateful, some, well, not so much.

Been to the Vatican twice, they wouldn’t let me in once. I had walking shorts on. The woman in line in front of me had on a gauzy see through summer dress and a thong. Nothing else. They put her right through. (laughs)

On a more serious note, when I was in the music business I met a lot of drug dealers. Speaking of murderers, I am sad to say I have known 11 convicted murderers on a first name basis. They were all in my classroom over the years.

A car I was riding in was stopped by New People Army guerrillas in the middle of nowhere in the Philippines. They opened my luggage and tossed it around with the barrel tip of a machine gun. That was a bit unsettling.


Alana: I bet. Getting back to the music business—what did you do?

Micheal: Actually music is my first love. I am an avid collector, wannabe guitarist and it seemed only natural that when, as a disenchanted worker bee, I wanted a job that I would love, I turned to music. Over the years I have written record reviews, done specialty radio shows, promoted concerts and owned a small chain of record stores. I mentioned meeting rock stars, that’s when most of that happened.

I still long to introduce people to music they haven’t heard so every Sunday morning on my Facebook page I post a mini-radio show called Sunday With Micheal, where I post two Youtube videos of artists I think people need to know about.

Alana: Apologies for interrupting your run. Please continue.

Micheal: Talking about music is never an interruption.

I once had a woman tell me over dinner how she tried to hire a hit man to kill her daughter’s abusive husband. Thankfully she didn’t pay the ten grand. (laughs)


Alana: That would’ve given me a restless night or two wondering if she was serious! Anyone else?

Micheal: This is turning a bit dark. (laughs) Let’s lighten it up a bit. I met a family while traveling that were very devote Jews. We spent many hours over Kosher meals discussing faith. The daughter had never met a Christian to actually sit and talk with. They lived in a really tight community in Toronto. So, she asked me everything she had ever wondered about. At the next table was a couple from Melbourne that as the evening progress seemed to be leaning closer and closer to hear us. At one point the wife turned and asked if we were disturbing them.

He said, 'No, I just want to see who wins.'

He had missed the whole point. Even though we were loud and there was a lot of waving of hands, our talk was done in love and respect for each other’s beliefs.

I told the fellow we weren’t arguing and that we were having a great time sharing our faith.

'You people are so intelligent I can’t believe you believe all the bulls**t!' the man replied.

I will never forget what my friend said to him, without missing a beat he quoted Psalm 14:1, 'The fool hath said in his heart: "There is no God"; they have dealt corruptly, they have done abominably; there is none that doeth good.'

That was the end of our evening.

I ran into the guy from Melbourne the next day and he apologized. Turned out to be a nice guy.

I have found that everyone has a story. If you are an active listener, people will open up with the most intimate details of their life. I think there is almost a confessional element or psychological release in talking to strangers. As a writer I think it’s important to keep your eyes open and your mouth shut as much as possible. Sometimes you have to prime the pump though.

The funny thing is, one on one, they were all just people who breathe the same air we do.

I still haven’t met Bob Dylan yet. That’s a disappointment.


Alana: I recently read and reviewed the first in your Cole Sage thriller series DIAMONDS AND COLE. Did any of the people you’ve met influence the characters in the story and, if so, how?

Micheal: It is often said, ‘Careful what you say to a writer, it will end up in print.’ I would certainly be less than truthful if I said that the characters weren’t drawn from people and events I have either seen or been party to. Writing is kind of the same confessional cleansing I spoke of earlier. Before you ask, no, I haven’t committed any crimes.


In the Cole Sage series there are also biographical elements that make such good stories I would be foolish not to use them. The roots of COLE DUST, book four in the series, are deep in my own family’s oral history and legends. In the end, fiction is still fiction though, and certainly parallels between Cole Sage and I would be flattering, but a bit misguided.

In THREE NAILS I think there is a much finer line between fiction and memoir. Some stories just seem to haunt me until I get them down properly. In the case of THREE NAILS I really tried to examine the pain of losing a child and how it would color the world around you. Thank God I have never lost a child, but someone dear to me did. The idea of braiding their story with anecdotes from my own life seemed a very natural thing to do.

So to your question, yes, everything and everyone I have ever met or things I’ve done play a role in my books. I think that’s why I enjoy writing so much.


Alana: Why a world-weary reporter for your leading man?

Micheal: As a young man I got a job fresh out of university as a writer. My boss was an old school newspaperman from Chicago. In the two years I spent with him he taught me more about the craft of writing than all the writing courses I ever sat through. There is no resemblance other than Chicago and the newspaper connection but it was my way of honoring him.

The character of Cole Sage is intended to be an every man hero. He’s a good guy who finds himself in situations not of his making, that put his investigative skills and sense of right and wrong constantly to the test.

I really wanted Cole Sage to be free of the over-used character flaws that almost every mystery/detective/private eye character seems to be burdened with. So, Cole isn’t a drunk, degenerate gambler, PTSD patient, womanizer or recovering drug addict. He’s just a regular guy that a lot of bad stuff happens to. That’s why, in DIAMONDS AND COLE we take care of the great burden of losing the woman he loved and lost. As he grows as a character it is his commitment to his friends that find him with decisions that stretch the boundaries of how far he is willing to go to take care of those he loves.

Alana: I liked his being normal very much.

Micheal: I think Cole is a character that women will love and that men can relate to.

Alana: I think you’re right.:)  I believe you now live in California; are you on the coast, inland, in a city? Have you always been there or is it a recent settling, after your travels?

Micheal: I am sadly landlocked. If you drew a cross on the map of California, where the lines intersect is home. I once heard someone say where they lived was, ‘a good place to be from’. That’s Modesto, 80 miles east of San Francisco but it may as well be a million. Therein lies the secret of my travel bug. ‘Anywhere but here’ as my wife tells people when asked why I like to travel so much.



Alana: I’ve heard of Modesto—can’t say why or how—so it can’t be too bad. Are you a lone traveller and your wife keeps the home fires burning, or is she a willing accomplice?

Micheal: Like I said, Modesto is a great place to be from. George Lucas of Star Wars fame is from Modesto. His sister is my neighbor. If you’ve seen American Graffiti, that is about Modesto. Actors Jeremy Renner and Timothy Olyphant are both from Modesto. Of course our two most famous achievements are Gallo Wine and Micheal Maxwell the author! (laughs)

As to my wonderful wife Janet, she is my ever present traveling partner, photographer, navigator and chronicler of facts. I leave a town and twenty minutes later can’t remember its name. Janet keeps nearly hour by hour logs of places, facts and details that I love to read later. We have two bookshelves full of her amazing photo/scrapbooks of our adventures. This photo was taken in Yosemite National Park, three hours from Modesto.


Alana: I must say that I find it awkward to type your name. I have a brother called Michael and the a is before the e. My fingers just don’t want to type it any other way.

Micheal: Truth is stranger than fiction. Here’s the scoop on the name thing. I was an eleven pound, two ounce baby. When I was born my poor mother was pretty wiped out after, and when they brought the clipboard with the paperwork she transposed the a and e. Viola! Micheal!

The thing is, nobody searches for Micheal, so on, Facebook, Twitter, my blog, stuff like that, I spell it Michael.  If you notice the covers of my books are all spelled correctly.

We carried on the ea curse with my youngest son Austin, his middle name is Micheal! Clever or cruel?

Alana: I noticed and wondered about the difference in those spots. As to passing on the spelling, on one level it would be just plain confusing, I think, for them to be spelt differently, but on another level—speaking as someone who has had to spell her name and correct pronunciation all her life—I’m a great proponent of going with the norm.

Micheal: Well, there you are, I’ve been shying away from the normal for years! (laughs)


Alana:  Let me clarify; as far as spelling names is concerned I’m a great proponent of going with the norm. You now have four books in the series published. Would you tell us a little about where Cole finds himself in them, and are there any more on the horizon?

Micheal: You did a wonderful job in your review, thank you, of getting the story started. DIAMONDS AND COLE introduces us to Cole Sage and sets in motion the journey I intend to keep him on for quite a while. They say you can’t go home again, but Cole is forced to try. When he receives a call from his great lost love he is thrown into a mix of con-artists, street thugs and a fortune in stolen diamonds. Who gets hurt and who survives questions his loyalty and commitment to legality.

#2 CELLAR FULL OF COLE moves Cole from Chicago to California, but before he can leave he tries to help a colleague with an abusive family member and finds himself facing a pedophile with ties to child murders and pornography.



Alana: It has a very unsettling cover.

Micheal: The little girl is my granddaughter! Quite the little actress! The hand belongs to my son. It is dark but not graphic.


Alana: And the rest in the series?

Micheal: #3 HELIX OF COLE is the worst nightmare of anyone in the public arena. A piece Cole wrote years ago is the catalyst that sends a 60s radical and 21st century terrorist on one last mission, and he wants Cole to tell the story. Nasty fellow this one, bomber, murderer, and has a nuclear suitcase bomb! Charles Manson even pays a visit! Look out San Francisco.

From book 2 on San Francisco is home base for Cole Sage. This photos shows San Francisco Marina from Pacific Heights


Alana: I’m going to amend what I said about him being normal a while back. A normal bloke who encounters much more excitement and life-threatening problems than most of us normal folk!

Micheal: Some guys have all the luck.

#4 COLE DUST is one I am particularly proud of. Cole inherits a farm in Oklahoma. He discovers the journals of the grandfather he never knew. It is actually a book within a book. We follow the life of a very colorful tormented man through the journals and Cole’s discovery of a long buried family secret in the other. Some of my most rewarding reviews I’ve received as a writer have come from this one. By the way that is my grandparents on the cover.


I am currently working on #5 COLE SHOOT and #6 CROSS OF COLE. You heard it here first folks! COLE SHOOT opens with the Chinese New Year’s Parade in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Cole is right in the middle of a street gang shoot out that ends in the death of a close friend. Lots of old friends from the other books return for a visit.

CROSS OF COLE is about half finished. It has Cole investigating the death of a charismatic religious leader.

I have a lot more Cole books planned and outlined. I just have to find a few more hours on the clock to get them done!


Alana: You mentioned THREE NAILS earlier.  Can you tell us a bit about it, or any other books you have outside the Cole Sage series? I’m curious how your process works.

Micheal: THREE NAILS is a novella. It tells the story of a teacher who loses his son in a car accident. Like a handful of stones thrown in a pond, the circles of his life and memories are all interconnected to his processing his grief. His relationship with his wife, his other children, colleagues at work and even the kids he teaches are part of his healing. I think it raises a lot of questions of faith, love and why we do the things we do to survive tragedy. The story takes place over the course of a school year.

I am currently working on a young adult book. This is a real departure for me, but it kind of helps get out of the crime and suspense box for a while. It’s called THE TIME PEDALER and tells the story of a boy, 14, who finds a time machine. Lots of adventure and dare I say it, history lessons. It is also something new in that I’m working with a writing partner. More on that another time. Shhh, it’s a secret.


Alana: My lips are sealed.

Micheal: My other project I am really excited about is a Western novel, inspired by the lyrics of a song by Bob Dylan. Sort of a Dylan Inspired Western. Tight lips on this one for now, but I think it is going to be really interesting.

So, you can see I’ve got a lot of work to do!


Alana: All I can say is Whew. Now then, before I let you go tell me where your next trip will be to.

Micheal: We are going to be spending five weeks in a little town in Ecuador called Banos Aguasde Santa. It is in a beautiful valley at the foot of a volcano. Just the other side of the mountains is the Amazon basin. We’ve rented an apartment and hope to immerse ourselves in the community. We’ve been studying Spanish like crazy. Who knows, if we love it I might retire there!


Alana: Micheal, thanks so much for talking with me today. It’s been a pleasure finding out the details behind that teaser.

Micheal: Thank you for the opportunity. So nice to do an interview with fresh questions and ideas. Thanks for not asking me what my favorite book is or favorite author! I hope your readers will find our chat as much fun as I did.

 DIAMONDS AND COLE on Amazon   US   |   UK

Micheal’s links: Blogspot   |   Facebook   |   Amazon US   |   Amazon UK

Take this link to my review of DIAMONDS AND COLE

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