Books reviewed have been either gifted by the author or purchased by me.
My book review policy:
1. I don't charge to write reviews.
2. If I don't like a book enough to give it a 3 or higher rating I will not write a review as I think
negative-only reviews are unhelpful. That's why you don't see any 1 or 2 star reviews from me.
3. I do not read horror, erotica, pornography, poetry and religion.
4. I assess a book on four fronts:
--the story and how well it is developed
--the characters and how well they are developed
--dialogue: how well it advances the story and how real it is
--the quality of writing.
5. I write what I think. Honest reviews only.
I am currently not taking requests for reviews.
|Posted by Alana Woods on May 19, 2013 at 4:10 AM||comments (0)|
My guest this week is Gillian Jackson, author of THE COUNSELLOR, a novel that delves into the inner workings of therapeutic counsellors. I was intrigued to say the least about Gillian’s background and reason for writing this story.
Alana: Gillian, welcome, it’s lovely to have another author from the UK here. I’d like to combine my first question with a bit about you and a bit about the book. Do you live in the book’s location?
Gillian:Yes, although the book is set in North Yorkshire and I live just over the border in County Durham, England. The fictitious market town is a combination of several which are near my home, an area I love, combining the best of urban and country living right on the doorstep, with the coast just forty minutes drive away.
Alana: Looks like heaven! I have to say that as I read THE COUNSELLOR I was intrigued by what seems to me to be quite in-depth knowledge of how to ‘treat’ people who seek counselling. You have childcare qualifications and are now a voluntary worker for Victim Support, is it that knowledge and experience you called upon or was further research required.
Gillian: My childcare career was a wonderful period which I loved enormously but one which came to a rather abrupt end with the worsening of a long-term back problem. Seeking out a less strenuous occupation led me into training for therapeutic counselling which is currently put to use in my work for Victim Support, a brilliant charity which does amazing work in supporting people at vulnerable times in their lives.
Alana: Ah, that’s something I didn’t pick up on when researching for the interview—that you had trained for that. I imagine it was similar to the training Maggie underwent in the book?
Gillian:Yes, the training and ongoing work has provided invaluable knowledge and insight in the areas I write about, although I would never actually use a ‘case’ for a scenario in the books. It’s very much an instance of truth being stranger than fiction, my real life clients’ stories would not be believed!
Alana: Now THAT piques my interest. Not that I’m going to ask about the real cases, but I have to say the fictional ones were emotional enough to read. But before writing and publishing THE COUNSELLOR you had already published a self-help book From victim to survivor. Could you give an insight into what it contains and why you wrote it.
Gillian: From Victim to survivor is a short, self help book specifically for adults who were sexually abused as children but did not disclose until later life. It’s a sad fact of life that this atrocity happens and is something which can destroy lives. The book is in many ways a very personal one, inspired by my own abuse as a child which I kept secret until I was fifty years old. It is not, however, a book about me and is surprisingly positive!
My own story is briefly outlined but in the book as a whole I have attempted to offer positive and practical ideas for self help and to signpost to organizations which can support and encourage survivors. I was in a very bad place for two or three years and was given books on the subject which I hadn’t the energy or inclination to even open, so huge and complicated they looked! Eventually seeking therapeutic counselling for myself, it proved to be a most empowering experience and From victim to survivor is the book I would have wished to read at the time, short, succinct and even with pictures! Therapy was the spark which ignited my interest in counselling and afterwards I returned to college to study psychology and counselling.
Alana: Just like Maggie.
Gillian: Absolutely. I was the ‘granny’ of the group and, like Maggie, enjoyed the complete change of focus this brought.
Alana: Did the information you use in From victim to survivor inform Maggie’s methods in THE COUNSELLOR?
Gillian: Certainly in the specific area of historical childhood abuse, yes. There is a cross over in From victim to survivor with the character Janet in THE COUNSELLOR, who is loosely based on my own experience. The depth of training and practical work for counselling however is the main inspiration for Maggie. I wanted to give her the ability to get alongside each client to offer the best possible help she can, her own grief and loss bringing the empathy needed to be totally committed to the work. Although a novel, I hope to portray therapeutic counselling as a powerful tool in taking control of life in general rather than a fashionable whim for those who can afford it.
Alana:You were certainly successful there; it definitely came across as a powerful tool! I was pleased to discover that Maggie continues in a second book—Maggie’s world—already published and I believe you’re working on a third. Would you tell us a little of where Maggie’s story takes her in them?
Gillian: Maggie’s world moves her personal story along in time and brings her into contact with three new clients. I love being able to choose an issue to explore and in the second of the series is a young mother with amnesia, a newlywed who is the victim of psychological abuse and the heartbreaking topic of childlessness.
The third in the series is my work in progress, again with three new clients bringing diverse issues and the return of a popular character from book one! The working title is ‘Pretence’ and is on track to be finished later this year. I have been thrilled and encouraged by the feedback from the first two books. The subject matter seems to have captured people’s attention and the way I write, alternating stories throughout the book, for many makes easy reading. I’m also a believer in happy endings and aim for the best possible outcome, although to reflect life and be realistic there has to be a measure of sadness.
Alana: Well, I think you’ve got the mix just right in THE COUNSELLOR.
Gillian: That was my debut novel and first serious attempt at fiction. It was like a new baby and as a new writer I feel I’m growing and honing my work continuously. Writing is compulsive, I could not imagine life without my lap top and writing projects; our cat, who used to be my only ‘laptop’ has resigned herself to second place and my wonderful supportive husband has been persuaded to subscribe to SKY television to immerse himself in football but there are simply not enough football matches in the day to keep me happy!
Alana: I’ll take that as a hint that I’ve kept you from writing long enough and let you get back to it. Gillian, thanks so much for talking to me today.
|Posted by Alana Woods on May 19, 2013 at 4:00 AM||comments (0)|
Poor punctuation on the first page especially is what made the first impression. Plus what I thought was a major spoiler in the first few paragraphs but as the foreshadowed incident happened very quickly after that point I revised my thinking.
Chapter 3 contains a description of a walk in heavy crisp frost in bright sunshine which conjured memories of a similar walk I took several years ago in the south of the UK. Beautiful.
Until chapter 3 I thought the story was going to be third person single point of view but in that chapter another character takes over. From then on the POV jumps back and forth between Maggie Sayer—the counsellor—and her clients. It took several jumps for me to become accustomed to the POV changes but they had the effect of not being able to immerse myself in the story. I felt I didn’t get to know the characters intimately; however, I did like them.
Without giving anything away Maggie Sayer undertakes training and becomes a counsellor after a personal tragedy alters her life irrevocably. She, more than many, is in a position to understand the trauma confronting the people who seek her help. Although alone she is not lonely, having good work colleagues, loving parents, a close friend and an adoring dog. Set in the north of England the scenic descriptions anchor the story within its setting.
I’d hazard a guess that Jackson has some expertise in the subject matter. Her handling of the clients and their problems, and Sayer’s methodology, smacks of someone who knows what they’re talking about.
I was not enamoured of the writing style and language; I thought they lacked spark. My opinion only of course because style is entirely subjective to the reader.
However, I liked the story line and there was a satisfying ending. And, finally, a big plus was the dialogue which was natural and used well.
|Posted by Alana Woods on May 5, 2013 at 5:15 AM||comments (11)|
Today I have as my guest one my fellow Goodreads Boomer Lit group members. I’ve just reviewed her first book CONFESSIONS OF AN INSTINCTIVELY MUTINOUS BABY BOOMER and wanted to find out more about her and what prompted her to write her memoirs.
Alana: Marsha, I’ve got to ask—Confessions of a mutinous baby boomer ... Why mutinous?
Marsha: It's funny, Alana, that your first question is about mutinous. I can't tell you the variety of responses I've received about that word! One reviewer said, ‘This book may have the most intriguing title of any other book I've read in the past year’, and another started off her review with, ‘At first I was put off by the title, since Boomers are by definition a mutinous generation’, but went on to say how much she liked it! I suppose what she said was exactly my point: Boomers ARE by definition a mutinous generation. One of the meanings stated in the dictionary is ‘refusing to obey or submit to control’. Well, that sounds like Boomers to me! I thought the word that stood out was instinctively, but I guess not!
Alana: Instinctively hardly registered on me. It was definitely mutinous that piqued my interest. I’m a Boomer myself but I have to say that as a member of Goodreads Boomer lit group I’m learning so much about what being one actually means.
Seeing how we’ve dived straight into the book let’s stick with it for a while. Let’s talk about the parables. How did you remember all of those episodes in your life that you’ve written about? Did you keep a diary?
Marsha: Good question. Yes, I did keep a diary from time to time, especially when significant things happened. For instance, I wrote about the process of birthing our son, Matt, a week or so after he was born. When I dug through old papers and found what I had written I was a little taken aback by how accurate it was concerning what I had experienced physically and emotionally. I don't think I could have written that chapter on such an earthy level had I not documented it so soon after it occurred.
Alana: I can so relate to that. Just a week ago I was at the birth of my newest grand-daughter. What an experience! It immediately became one of the precious moments in my life. Sorry, I couldn’t resist telling you that.
Marsha: How lovely for you and congratulations. I'd like to suggest to you that you take the time to write down exactly how you felt while it's still fresh! Of course there were many stories I shared that I had little or no documentation about and I'll tell you how I remembered. I went to this beautiful spot on top of a mountain and would sit, staring off into the clouds. I would let my mind wander back and when I remembered something I'd jot it down on a legal pad. For instance, the sequences that were about some of the extraordinary things I witnessed when I was a young operating room nurse and also in the ICU. I didn't want to write those chapters until I could walk through those doors again and look around each room—the sounds, the smells, all of it. That took being by myself, in the quiet, to unearth those memories.
Alana: What beautiful photos! Did those episodes have significance at the time? Was it immediately apparent that they were life lessons?
Marsha: Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. I think there are moments in everyone's life when something happens and it's like a two-by-four just hit you across the head—you know it's significant! But there are other situations that it takes the passage of time to see that one seemingly unimportant moment was really a defining moment after all.
Alana: And when did you start thinking of them as parables?
Marsha: That came about with the tomato plants. When the incident that I call The parable of the tomato plant happened I went right inside, sat down and wrote it out long hand that very day. That was about a year and a half before I began writing my book, but it was ‘the seed’ for what was to come.
Alana: I query in my review the revealing of other people’s personal details. It’s something I guess you can’t avoid if you’re being candid in a memoir. How did you tackle that?
Marsha: I would never use someone's actual name and reveal personal details without their permission. There were miscellaneous people in my life, particularly when I was a young woman, who I either didn't want to use their real name or couldn't locate them to ask permission. And these people were not those who I based the stories around—they were more incidental characters. It's really my family and a few close friends that we're talking about here.
Marsha: My husband and long-time business partner, Bob Rector, who is also a writer, told me to ‘keep it honest’ from the beginning, and he stuck by me on that all the way.
I'll tell you a quick story that best sums it up, Alana. You recall that there is one chapter about our son when he was a teenager. It was a tough chapter to write and it might be tough to read, I don't know. But Matt is now a grown man and very happily married.
Alana: So how did you approach it?
Marsha: I sent the chapter to him before including it in the book, to get his permission to be as personal as I was about what we had experienced during that troubling time. After he read it he told me, ‘I was holding my breath, wondering if you were going to pull your punches or not. I was so proud of you that you didn't. Yeah, mom, include it. It might help some other parent going through the same thing’.
Alana: Wow, how wonderful of him.
Marsha: That meant SO much to me. As you can see, I've had a lot of encouragement about keeping it honest ...
Alana: You’ve obviously had some tough times in your life but you’ve overcome them. You come across as an indomitable spirit but do you see yourself that way?
Marsha: Ha! Yeah, I guess I do! The photograph of the little stinker of a girl on the cover of my book is me!
(The photo of adult Marsha below is the one she considers her current 'Mutinous' photo.)
Alana: It’s a fabulous photo. I love the look on your face.
Marsha: I was born with that attitude and frankly it's been a lot to live up to at times. I expect myself to be world-conquering material and when I miss the mark I'm terribly disappointed in myself. To answer your question, yes, I do rather think of myself as indomitable, but often I'm not. It's part of what my book is about really, making sure that you remember how you overcame tough times so that you can pull from that part of yourself when tough times come again.
Alana: Well, you’ve certainly done that in spades. What prompted you to write the memoir?
Marsha: Actually it didn't start out as a memoir at all. Initially it was going to be a series of vignettes about remembering life's lessons. I've been in the unusual situation of experiencing the normal side of life as a wife, mother and daughter in a middle-class neighborhood, while at the same time living BIG dreams! Among other things Bob and I traveled the globe doing something that had never been done before: producing an original play, Letters from the Front, that entertained American troops and their families around the world for fifteen years. Quite a contrast!
Alana: I’m sorry to say I’d not heard of the play until reading about it, but I Googled and found the website. What an undertaking is all I can say! Oh, and congratulations on seeing it through and it being so successful.
Marsha: Thanks so much, Alana, and as you could tell from reading the book, it took years of persistence before it was successful, which gave me a keen awareness of what it takes to overcome life's obstacles. I wanted to share what I had learned in the process. However, when I presented the first draft to my in-house editor (Bob!) he told me that he liked it very much but thought it was going to leave the reader unsatisfied.
Alana: How so?
Marsha: He explained that I had introduced so many extremely personal issues in my parables and then moved on too quickly. For instance, there is an early chapter about my mom being sick with breast cancer. Bob said that I needed to let the reader know what happened to my mom and how it affected me. He told me to connect the dots in my book, to give it a narrative flow as an overall story, even though each chapter can basically stand on its own. At that point I had to rethink the entire structure of the book, but I'm sure glad I did. The second draft was twice as long as the first and very close to how the final book turned out. Certainly a memoir in a way, but with a different twist I think.
Alana: Definitely a different twist. And there’s nothing quite like good advice. Given all the parables you write about why did you choose the tomato plant as the book’s sub-title? Why not Letters from the Front, which dominated your life for so long?
Marsha: Because my book started with the tomato plant story. About 18 months after I wrote it I found myself about as lost as I had ever been. We had been hard hit by the economy, like so many other people, and I was feeling pretty beat up by life. Not indomitable at all! I found the hand-written pages of The parable of the tomato plant tucked away in a drawer, next to where I would sit in the den and look out at my garden. When I read it I cried, smiled at the silliness of life and felt more hopeful. There have been very few changes to that parable from when I first wrote it. You see, I didn't write Letters from the Front, my husband did. I produced it. When I read The parable of the tomato plant that day I realized that I was a writer and it was time for me to write a book. I suppose I felt I had to leave it in the title to honor that moment. (I took a picture of the very first tomato that popped out—it was a cherry tomato.)
Alana: And a magnificent one it is! You now live in the mountains and I have a vision of you in a little log cabin surrounded by mountains and fir trees? Am I close or a way off track?
Marsha: Well, you were pretty close concerning where we lived when I wrote my Mutinous Boomer book! It was more of a cottage than a cabin, there were initially fir trees, but they were taken out by a tornado! We recently moved to a lovely spot very near the mountains but with a good deal more room than the cottage!
Alana: Do you have any projects on the go at the moment. Another play perhaps, another book?
Marsha: I will definitely write at least one more Mutinous Boomer book and I have an outline for another writing project that I've been working on. I am a writer now, there's no going back from that.
As far as plays, Letters from the Front is the love of my life in that category! There is interest in touring it again, which I would love to do. There is no better or more appreciative audience in the world than our troops and their families. We shall see.
But, Alana, since you've read my book, you know I try not to write a script for my life. Try is the operative word here! My personal goal is to allow myself to feel the wind change, God's wind in my life, and let it fill my sail and take me where it will. It sure has taken me to some amazing places so far!
Alana: Marsha, I can only agree with you, it certainly has. May I say it’s been a real pleasure talking to you. Thank you.
Marsha: Thank you, Alana. The pleasure was mine.
Take this link to my review of Confessions of an instinctively mutinous baby boomer
Kirkus Reviews of Confessions
|Posted by Alana Woods on May 5, 2013 at 5:00 AM||comments (0)|
This is a memoir with each chapter devoted to significant times in the author’s life. It is a retrospective, a looking back, at the situations and events that have made her who she is today.
Confessions is categorised as Boomer literature but I’m not sure. My understanding of the genre is that the principle character or characters are boomer agers in the present day and the story is an exploration of how they are looking ahead and coming to terms with aging and pursuing a worthy life after retiring from their lifetime career. But Confessions, as I say, is the author reminiscing about her life and what brought her to this point. Therefore, is it Boomer literature? I’m not going to angst about it, it’s a nice read in its own right.
I always wonder when reading memoirs how the author, in revealing the intimacies of their own lives, reconciles the revealing of other people’s, often family members, intimate details. I imagine that they ask for and are given permission. I pose that question because this one does contain such revelations.
Most chapters recall a different event or episode in Robert’s life but several, from chapter 13, follow her through 15 years from the idea and creation of a play Letters from the front she and her husband eventually took on tour to US military bases throughout the world. It became known as ‘The world’s most decorated play’ and if the passion they so obviously poured into it has anything to do with it I can understand why it became such a success.
Confessions is a straightforward memoir, candid, full of warmth and caring. Roberts’ faith that God will show the way shines through. Each parable engenders an emotional response be it a lump in the throat all the way through to a smile.
Simply and sincerely told I found it an easy, at times heart-tugging but heart-warming, read.
Take this link to my interview with Marsha Roberts
|Posted by Alana Woods on April 30, 2013 at 7:00 PM||comments (0)|
The show features host Jason Matthews with special guest Grant Faulkner.
National Novel Writing Month is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing. Participants begin writing on 1 November. The goal is to write a 50,000-word (approximately 175 page) novel by midnight on 30 November.
The very first NaNoWriMo took place in July 1999 with 21 participants.
From the NaNoWriMo website:
Valuing enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft, NaNoWriMo is a novel-writing program for everyone who has thought fleetingly about writing a novel but has been scared away by the time and effort involved.
As you spend November writing you can draw comfort from the fact that all around the world other participants are going through the same joys and sorrows of producing the Great Frantic Novel. Wrimos meet throughout the month to offer encouragement, commiseration and—when the thing is done—the kind of raucous celebrations that tend to frighten animals and small children.
In 2011 there were 256,618 participants and 36,843 crossed the 50K finish line by the deadline, entering into the annals of NaNoWriMo superstardom forever. They started the month as auto mechanics, out-of-work actors, and middle school English teachers. They walked away novelists.
Want to know more about NaNoWriMo? Click on the link and watch the show!
|Posted by Alana Woods on April 16, 2013 at 4:50 AM||comments (2)|
I'm in the UK at the moment, coincidentally at the time of the London Book Fair happening at Earls Court, and when the offer to attend yesterday on opening day as a guest of the event organiser was made how could I refuse!
It's the biggest and most important book fair in the English speaking world and I got to go! As you can see from the photo there was a bit of a blow.
I wandered up and down aisles for a while trying to take it all in but after a bit decided to consult the map because I was looking for the author lounge. As they say, when all else fails look at the instructions. I found the lounge but it was packed as there were non-stop presentations.
So after hanging around the fringes outside for a couple I went exploring again to see who I could see. No famous faces unfortunately, at least ones that I knew, unless you count those on posters.
The Amazon KDP and CreateSpace stand is large and impressive and was doing brisk business. As was the UK indie author stand, which was even larger and more impressive. Digital publishing options are also being well covered, at least from my fairly limited knowledge of it.
As an Aussie I was interested to see who was representing the downunder industry but found only one small publisher and the self publishing group which was sharing a stand with others. I The big publishers in Australia are, of course, divisions of multi-nationals, so no big AUSTRALIA signs hanging anywhere.
I have to say a huge thank you to the event organiser for giving me the opportunity to attend. It's not every day you get to see such a concentration of players, big and little, in your chosen industry.
|Posted by Alana Woods on March 23, 2013 at 5:00 PM||comments (2)|
In the interests of transparency let me say up front that I review books and post those reviews because it’s a never ending source of blog material. What I'm doing is putting my love of reading to use.
However, that doesn’t mean I’ll ignore discourtesies from authors when they solicit reviews, and I get quite a few.
I may even knock back requests because of them, but I won’t do you the courtesy of telling you I’ve refused on the grounds of your bad manners—so if you’re getting a lot of refusals take a critical look at your inquiry letter/email.
2. DON’T send the book file (or multiple files) along with your query. What that tells me is you're assuming I'll agree to review, and that's a BIG assumption. If I do agree to review your book I’ll ask for the files and tell you what formats I’ll accept.
3. NEVER tell me how good your book is. I'm not interested in what you think. I'm also not interested in what other reviewers have thought of it. I make a point of not reading other reviews about a book I'm asked to review because I want to form my own opinions.
Committing these three sins is guaranteed to make me think hard about whether I want to be bothered with your book.
If I do agree to review, even after you've been impolite, be assured that it will get an honest review regardless of how I feel about you. But it would be nice to think I’ve also made a pleasant connection with another author.
The kind of request I like contains:
Now that I've got that off my chest I must say that I'm currently not accepting books to review because I really need to whittle down the stack I already have. I’ll update my blog status when I’m accepting again.
|Posted by Alana Woods on March 19, 2013 at 5:00 PM||comments (0)|
by Alana Woods
Indie Authors # 43 presents Madeline Sharples and her memoir, LEAVING THE HALL LIGHTS ON, the harrowing but ultimately uplifting tale of the course of years from her son Paul’s diagnosis with bipolar disorder, through his suicide at her home to the present day. It details how the family weathered its worst nightmare.
In addition to LEAVING THE HALL LIGHTS ON, Madeline co-authored BLUE COLLAR WOMEN: Trailblazing Women Take on Men-Only Jobs (New Horizon Press, 1994) a book about women in nontraditional professions. She also co-edited the poetry anthology, The Great American Poetry Show, Volumes 1 (Muse Media, 2004) and 2 (2010). Her poetry accompanies the work of photographer Paul Blieden in two books, The Emerging Goddess and Intimacy as well as appearing in print and online on many occasions.
Madeline is now a full-time writer and working on a novel based in the 1920s.
|Posted by Alana Woods on March 9, 2013 at 4:10 PM||comments (2)|
By Alana Woods
Today we have the pleasure of Michael Murphy visiting to talk about his latest book GOODBYE EMILY and to also give us a little insight into his life which, although I didn't ask him about it, obviously includes sky-diving!
Alana: Michael, welcome, thank you for giving up part of your weekend to come visit. Hopefully I haven’t kept you from chicken farm chores. What about giving us a peek into what life is like as a chicken farmer in Arizona.
Michael: A couple of years ago my wife from out of nowhere said, “Don’t you think it would be fun to raise chickens in our backyard?” Before I could give it serious consideration she’d brought home five chicks, a small pen and heating lamp. Of course the girls quickly outgrew their initial enclosure, so we ordered a chicken coop which we set inside a portable dog run and surrounded the whole thing with fencing. It’s been quite an investment in money and upkeep, but fun? Well, I guess.
Alana: And I imagine there are always plenty of eggs for breakfast! Have you always been an Arizona boy or did you arrive there after a life elsewhere?
Michael: I’ve lived more than fifty years in Arizona, so I’m practically a native. It’s got everything, desert, mountains with pines, lakes, snow in the winter and more than 300 days a year of sunshine. Guess that’s why everyone’s moving here, or at least it seems that way.
Take this link to Bing.com images of Arizona
Alana: Sounds like a little slice of paradise. Let’s talk about GOODBYE EMILY. There are three themes running through it: Woodstock, obviously, but also the effects of war, on Vietnam vets specifically, and Alzheimer’s. First, can we talk about Woodstock—what attracted you to it?
Michael: I grew up in the sixties and attended the Monterey Pop Festival in 1968, but Woodstock was the most culturally historical event of the twentieth century. The performances have been covered in book and film, but no-one ever wrote about the 400,000 who braved the elements and helped make it such a memorable event.
Take this link to Looney Palace to see original Woodstock festival photos
Alana: Well, you certainly brought that aspect to life in GOODBYE EMILY. While reading it I was thinking that you must have been there because it was so real to me. But what about the effects of war angle? What instigated or encouraged you to touch on this?
Michael: Growing up in the sixties one couldn’t help but be impacted by a war that divided the country so much. And what we did to, or failed to do for, Vietnam Veterans was tragic. I tried to convey some of that in the novel with my character Buck Jamison.
Alana: And lastly Alzheimer’s. Another extremely emotive topic. Why bring that into what is already an emotion-packed story?
Michael: When I was younger I worked in a nursing home that had an Alzheimer’s unit. I’ll never forget the impact of the disease on family members. Also, since the novel is about three baby boomers, I wanted to touch on the impact of aging on their lives which is why the main character, Sparky, struggles with a very real disease, Broken Heart Syndrome.
Alana: Your descriptions of that were ‘heartfelt’ to say the least! I could almost feel the ache as I was reading. How did you know or find out about it?
Michael: I drew upon my experience working alongside an Alzheimer’s unit. The former schoolteacher with Alzheimer’s in GOODBYE EMILY was based on a patient who greeted me each morning by asking if I’d turned in my homework. It was sad and touching at the same time. One day she stopped asking.
Alana: Following on from that there’s another topic I almost forgot—the companion dog Lady. She’s a real honey. You’ve packed enough tear-jerkers into this book. Did you set out to tackle so many emotive subjects?
Michael: My wife and I had a golden retriever and anyone who’s had one can attest to their personalities which I tried to convey. As far as so many emotional subjects, I wanted to address some serious topics that baby boomers deal with, but do so in a humorous story with likeable characters. From the reviews so far I think it worked.
Alana: I know it worked because the entire story made such an impact on me. But GOODBYE EMILY isn’t your first book, is it. In fact I believe it’s your eighth. Are the topics and themes of those similar—eg Boomer Lit—to those in GOODBYE EMILY?
Michael: My first novel The Class of ’68 takes place in the most tumultuous year of the twentieth century, so there are many similar themes. However, the others are the types of novels I enjoy reading, mystery/suspense. My first post-GOODBYE EMILY novel The Yankee Club, which isn't out yet, is a humorous mystery set it 1933 New York. Prohibition, speakeasies, and I get to use the word dames a lot. I think readers who enjoy GOODBYE EMILY will enjoy The Yankee Club.
Alana: Michael, thank you so much. I’ll let you get back to the girls and that incredible sunshine now.
Add me to your Google + circles
|Posted by Alana Woods on March 9, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
This book has as good a hook as I’ve come across.
Like many ebooks I’m reading nowadays this one isn’t overly long. Having said that, it’s exactly the right length for the story. There’s no verbiage to mar the crisp and descriptive language. And it’s told in the immediacy of first person point of view. I liked it very much.
To me it’s a road story; the storyline centering on Woodstock, the famous music festival held in 1969, and encompassing two time periods: the time of the festival and the present. They run concurrently, chapters jumping between each. The 1969 story tells of the meeting between the narrator, Walter Ellington, a forciby-retired retired professor, and his future wife, Emily, at Woodstock. The present story tells of events leading up to their return with the narrator’s two best friends. Music plays a big part as the three used to have a band in their school days.
This is a boomer genre novel; one that portrays mature characters finding their place in the world after retirement, after the family has grown and left home, after everything familiar has often been turned on its head and they’re left floundering. It’s make or break time for many and at novel opening Walter has been floundering for two years.
Also making important contributions are the lingering effects on war veterans and the onset of Alzheimer’s.
If it sounds like a tough read be assured that it’s not. As I say, the writing is crisp. The dialogue carries the story as nothing else can—I’m a fan of good dialogue—and the story is heart warming. I had a few lumps in the throat while reading.
A good read.
|Posted by Alana Woods on March 5, 2013 at 4:00 PM||comments (0)|
For over 18s only
Indie Authors no. 42 presents erotica author and teacher Shoshanna Evers.
Learn the ins and outs of writing erotica romance from one of the best in the business. For mature audiences.
Critically-acclaimed author Shoshanna Evers has written dozens of sexy stories including Amazon Erotica Bestseller Overheated. Her work has been featured in Best Bondage Erotica 2012 and Best Bondage Erotica 2013, the Penguin/Berkley Heat anthology Agony/Ecstasy, and numerous erotic BDSM novellas including Chastity Belt and Punishing the Art Thief from Ellora's Cave Publishing.
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 26, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (3)|
We have Christian Russo, the son of Pietro Russo, with us today.
Pietro is the Boss of the Russo Italian Mafia Family.
How does it make you feel to be his son, not even necessarily second in power?
Who says I’m not second in power? As far as I’m concerned, I’m blood.
Is it rumor that the mob will torture and kill those who betray them?
You will never find evidence to incriminate me or my father.
Because you don’t take care of the jobs yourself, or you’re that good?
You don’t need to be good when things are in place. But I am good.
You say you’d never get caught for a crime, so let’s talk hypothetically; say this guy did the family wrong, he owed debts and couldn’t repay?
If what I says goes outside of this room, I will find you and I will kill you. First off, I don’t have a preference when it comes to a means of killing. It’s whatever fits my current mood. I love to torture and what you say, dangle hope in front of them. When their eyes light just a little, thinking they will somehow get out alive, I cut off a finger or earlobe. They may not know it but death is coming, and it will be a painful journey.
Raymond Hunter saved your life and was welcomed into your family, but he chose to move on. How did you feel when Ray left?
Nothing. Why would I feel anything? He played his part. He got in with us because he had skills with guns. He was good, no, great, at killing people. That simple.
What do you think is the real reason for Ray leaving?
He didn’t leave. He turned his back on the family.
Okay, why do you think he turned his back on the family?
He spoke of freedom, of being his own person, of maybe even finding love and settling down. Ridiculous.
I take it this wasn’t a decision you were in favor of. Why not kill him? Isn’t that what normally happens to those who want out?
Why was he chosen to carry out the assassination on Governor Behler?
What are your thoughts on the assassination of Governor Behler?
If she was meant to die, she was meant to die. Life isn’t about fairness; it’s about playing a role. We each have our part. She must have had hers.
What is the one thing that angers you more than anything?
There’s only one thing that pisses me off more than anything, but I’m not sharing it here.
About fifteen years ago you were under the scope for a murder in Detroit, Michigan. A man was found murdered in an apartment and his wife and two children were found in the family home. Evidence looked like it involved the Mafia, but no convictions came of the crimes. No one paid for what happened to that family.
Is there a question in there?
Do you know anything about it? Do you know why anyone would look at the Mafia and even you specifically?
You read enough about me and you might find out.
Speaking of that, your big reveal is coming up. What, March 14th?
I’d like to call it my reveal. Others may see it as Hunter’s. You know he was given that name for a reason. It signifies his talent.
The above-noted piece is fictional and was written for promotional purposes. Christian Russo is the main antagonist in Assassination of a Dignitary coming March 14th to Amazon for Kindle, and in April for print. Be sure to check out the full Assassination Blog Tour schedule here and enter for your chance to win!
Here’s the overview of Assassination of a Dignitary:
Raymond Hunter's dark past has returned and demands one final favor. Now fifteen years later, settled as an accountant and family man, he assumed life would be calm. He thought wrong. The Italian mafia wants him back.
The directions were simple: Kill Governor Behler and be out for good.
This is an odd request since the mafia typically respects dignitaries; however, in order to protect his family he has no choice but to accept the job.
He picks the date and location—Niagara Falls, New York—two hundred and forty miles away. But by the time he returns home, he finds out the assassination attempt failed, his family has been kidnapped, and he has twenty-four hours to set things right if he wants to see them again.
With time running out Raymond discovers the real reason they wanted Behler dead and finds out he’s placed himself and his family right in the middle of a mafia power struggle. What he doesn’t realize is that law enforcement is also closing in.
You can find out more about Carolyn and her novels online in the following places:
Go to the
page to enter the RAFFLECOPTER giveaway
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 23, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
Like Looking for Alibrandi, Marchetta’s first book, an award-winner that went on to become a highly successful film starring Pia Miranda, Greta Scacchi and Anthony LaPaglia, SAVING FRANCESCA is the story of a teenage girl caught at a time of family and personal crisis.
Looking For Alibrandi won the Children's Book Council of Australia award in 1993. SAVING FRANCESCA won it in 2004.
Francesca (Francis, Frankie) Spinelli is 16, lives in the Sydney suburbs, has an enviable family relationship—although often figuratively nose-to-nose in argument with Mia, her mother—and is in the throes of adjusting to changing from an all-girls school to a previously all-boys school when her mother has a nervous breakdown. It sends Francesca, her father and younger brother into a nose dive of trying to cope. Without Mia to anchor them they’re adrift and it frightens the life out of them.
Short though this novel is, it’s jam-packed with insight, drama, humour and descriptive wonder. My synopsis may make it sound like a difficult read but it isn’t. I was almost in tears a couple of times by the poignancy of moments only to be yanked into laughter by visual gems. Let me give you an example of each.
Tears (mine) threatened when Frankie finally tells papa she and her brother Luca have never liked eggs (he’s been cooking them every morning since Mia fell ill). On a precipice himself, papa hurls them away and Luca grabs hold, hugging him and desperately promising that they’ll eat the eggs. A few minutes later up comes the image of another time with papa walking naked from the bathroom to the bedroom and Frankie saying ‘I can’t say it’s an attractive picture, but it hasn’t traumatised me.’ The story is full of such moments.
Told in first person present tense the story is well rounded—Frankie’s friends at school are a delight to read—the characters are beautifully drawn, and the writing is superb.
There is no accompanying author interview this week as Melina Marchetta declined, citing pressure of work.
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 19, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
How to SEO for Amazon
Indie authors use SEO for Amazon and Google search engines to sell more books. This week's show focuses on giving tips for other authors. It features host Jason Matthews and regular guests Lisa Grace and Samantha Fury.
Jason Matthews is a writer living in Pismo Beach, California. He is a leader in the self-publishing community, teaching Indie authors how to sell e-books and paperbacks effectively using all free methods. His how-to guides include:
All three are jam-packed with advice that all new authors need to know to optimise their websites and blogs.
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 16, 2013 at 9:15 AM||comments (2)|
This week's interviewee is Duncan Whitehead, a member of my Goodreads Boomer group. We discuss his boomer novel THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB as well as his so far amazing life.
Alana: Duncan, welcome. It’s lovely to have you here today. Before we talk about your book we just HAVE to talk about you. You’ve had such an interesting life: born in the UK, the Royal Navy, working on super yachts, boxer, teacher, soccer coach, self defence arts, languages, cooking among other things—how on earth have you fitted all of that in?
Duncan: I joined the Royal Navy at age 17 and prior to that I was already boxing regularly, since the age of 14. After serving onboard ships for four years I undertook extra training, including languages, which enabled me to work in British Embassies, mainly in South America. Before leaving the navy in 2002 I took a teaching course—English as a foreign language—as I wanted to travel. Fortunately for me I was head-hunted and offered a job as a purser aboard a super yacht. I was able to combine writing, my other interests and activities in between jobs and yachts. Coaching kid’s soccer was fun because my daughter took up the sport. A lot of the things I do are usually on a volunteer basis.
Alana: Can we focus on the super yacht period for a moment. Any juicy anecdotes that you can relate without fear of retribution.
Duncan: Well, I have signed several confidentiality agreements but I can tell you that the yachts I worked on are unbelievable—not only the amount of money that’s spent on them but the organization, rules and regulations and other laws they have to abide by. The photos are of two, the Boadicea and Princess Mariana.
I was lucky to meet some well-known individuals and have remained in contact with some. It’s an interesting ‘industry’ and I have to say the crews work long hours and very hard. The travelling is of course great. I visited Australia, the Mediterranean, Caribbean, South Pacific, South America and both coasts of the USA, berthing at some luxurious locations. I am most impressed by the quality of chefs on these yachts; they produce 5 star quality food in such cramped conditions. One former chef of an owner I worked with went on to international fame and Michelin stars!
As for anecdotes, how about this? I was once mistaken for an owner. My girlfriend was visiting me and my boss insisted we stay onboard as guests while they weren’t onboard. Denzil Washington and his family were on Greg Norman’s yacht berthed next to us and they waved to us, probably thinking we were famous!
Alana: On waving terms with Denzil—I AM impressed. And then you settled in the south of the USA! How did that come about?
Duncan: While working onboard a yacht we visited Savannah for a protracted period of time. I met a girl and after we sailed we continued dating and married. Eventually I settled in Savannah. I love the place and I made it my base as I travelled. Eventually it became my home.
Alana: And that’s where you began to write in earnest?
Duncan: I had written short stories in the past and attempted several novels, all comedy based, but never had the time nor inspiration to ever complete anything. Savannah is a hotbed of writers, in my neighbourhood alone there lived two NY Times best-selling authors who became friends.
Alana: Don’t want to say who?
Duncan: Greg Keyes, a fantastic fantasy writer and Rosemary Daniell, a very accomplished writer of Southern fiction and memoirs.
With time on my hands I wrote THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB and two other novels. It didn’t happen overnight; I began writing TGLDWC in 2006.
Alana: THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB is set in the Savannah location—your Amazon bio says it was inspired by the quirky characters and eeriness of your new environment. What do you mean by that?
Duncan: Gordonston is a very quaint neighbourhood and it was very alien to me. I’m English with a very strong accent and I was a stay-at home-dad ...
Alana: Ah, so the character Doug is based on you?
Duncan: Some aspects of Doug are based on my personal perception of the neighbourhood as an outsider, an alien if you will, not accustomed to not only his environment but also the personal situation he finds himself in. Apart from that Doug and I are very different ... I wouldn’t dig a hole ...
During the day I would walk around the neighbourhood with my dog and daughter and would never encounter a soul. It was as if I was the only person alive at times. Even though Gordonston is in a city it’s very quiet and not much traffic traverses through it. The park amazed me, it’s as I describe in the book and it felt I had the place to myself, my dog and child. I guess I thought it would be a great place to hide something ... or someone.
As for characters, yes I did find some of them ‘quirky’—though I am NOT going to say who!
Alana: How close to fact is the book then?
Duncan: The book does have several factual parts; there is a park, as described in the novel, and the houses as described do exist, though I have used a bit of imagination with one of them. The neighbourhood is leafy and the avenues and streets are tree lined with Spanish moss dripping from them like silk.
Alana: It sounds beautiful. And the characters?
Duncan: Some of the characters and events are loosely based on real neighbours—there was a widower alderman living in the neighbourhood though he bears no resemblance to the character in the book and I confess I found it good ‘fodder’ to have a good-looking eligible bachelor in my story.
Alana: I believe this is your first book. Is it the first you’ve written or the first you’ve published? And what are you working on now?
Duncan: This is my first published book. I’m in the editing phase (lessons learned) of my second book, a comedy set in Manhattan entitled The Reluctant Jesus. I’ve also written a sequel to THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB.
Alana: How far off are they both to being published?
Duncan: The Reluctant Jesus is being re-edited. I decided to use lessons learned from TGLDWC to alleviate any editing errors that would mar readers’ enjoyment. The sequel has been written but I’m undecided as to who dies ... the character I wanted to kill off may have some extra mileage so I am trying to figure out if he (or she) should live or die. Friends who have read the sequel enjoyed it; however, with a film treatment now completed ...
Alana: Duncan!!! you've thrown in yet another teaser. What do you mean by 'film treatment'?
Duncan: Well, one’s been written, not by me, and sent to a few production companies who requested it ... and it slightly changes things. I need to be careful about how the next one ends ... in case I need the character to ultimately tie up the story. AndI’m drafting the third and final book in the trilogy.
I also write comedy satire and spoof news and do have a real job!
Alana: May I ask what that might be?
Duncan: I work as a security and safety auditor and consultant for private super yachts. Our company helps owners implement required safety and security regulations and we provide advice, consultancy and management systems that help them achieve that goal.
Alana: Duncan, thank you so much for all of that information! Wow, is all I can say.
Take this link to read my review of THE GORDONSTON LADIES DOG WALKING CLUB
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 16, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
All seems perfect in the Savannah suburb of Gordonston. The mature ladies meet each day in the local park to sip a cocktail and gossip while their dogs get their exercise. Their neighbours include a new widower, an attractive young couple who appear very much in love, an English house-husband and an elderly black man they don’t know but frown upon because he doesn’t clean up after his pooch.
Where to start with this novella? I have to say it took me a while to get into it, but get into it I eventually did.
It’s very much a telling of the story and I’m not a fan of that style. The best way I can think of to describe it is that it reminded me of how fairy tales are told, a linear unfolding of happenings. The narration does not include a lot of dialogue. The characters also are sketched in, not finely described.
It’s an ensemble piece. The many characters have equal billing and the author changes the point of view between them frequently and without warning. There are no, for instance, extra line spaces to herald a new perspective. You may stick with one character for several pages or a paragraph. However, once you realise you’re subject to frequent POV changes it ceases to be a problem.
Like a fairy tale all seems perfect at the beginning. These many characters are friends or good neighbours who show compassion when tragedy strikes.
However, after a while I began to notice a feeling of impeding doom settling on me, a feeling that something awful is about to happen. It does, but it’s not what I expected. The author very cleverly builds suspense while seemingly nothing of any moment is happening. From there the world of all these characters begins to disintegrate and we see through the sugar coating into their mean and ugly selves. No-one remains pure and although not everyone receives their comeuppance in the confines of the book it’s on the cards they will at some point down the track. Perhaps the author has a sequel in mind.
At the end it remained for me a modern fairy tale with wicked characters wanting to harm others without much reason.
Take this link to read my interview with Duncan Whitehead.
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 9, 2013 at 9:15 AM||comments (9)|
If you’re a fan of classic movies you’re going to really enjoy my interview with this week’s author Stephen R Hulse. And if you are a fan you may well already be familiar with his name and work.
Alana: Stephen, welcome. Thank you for accepting my interview invitation. However, before we get to THE BLUE HOUR may I find out a bit about its author, you. You were born in Liverpool England, are you still there?
Stephen: Thank you, Alana. It’s a pleasure to be here. First of all I must say that this virtual coffee is positively superb.
Alana: Glad you like it. I ground it just a minute ago so it’s lovely and fresh.
Stephen: Now, where were we? Yes, I was indeed born in Liverpool and, yes, I’m currently still there. Although over the years I’ve spent time in America, both coasts, Germany and Australia, as well as a period living in London during the mid 1980s. I’m blessed or cursed, depending on my mood at any given time, by wanderlust. Although like a salmon I always seem to end up making the long, hard swim back up river to my spawning ground.
Alana: Australia! Whereabouts? I grew up in Adelaide but have been in Canberra since 1980, except for a five year sojourn up on the Sunshine Coast.
Stephen: Ah, of course. I noticed when I visited your site that you're based in Australia yourself. The lovely small town of Echuca, down in Victoria. I spent three months there back in 2007. Coincidentally enough I was there when the original paperback version of my first novel, Shadowchaser, was published. Back in the days before it became an ebook only edition.
Alana: Lovely place, Echuca. For our readers' edification it's on the Murray and used to be a busy port when the river was still navigable by paddle steamer. But, I always say there’s nothing quite like home. I understand that you’re the co-creator and a former contributor to the classic television websites Television Heaven, Teletronic, and Day In The Life. I'm not familiar with them so would you enlighten me with a bit of background and what instigated their creation?
Stephen: Happy to. The genesis of Television Heaven came about in 1999–2000 when my great friend and then writing partner, Laurence Marcus, had the idea that it might be fun to set up a little website where we could write about the classic television series that we’d enjoyed in our childhood/youth. Both of us being unashamedly square-eyed TV addicts the idea appealed to me instantly. Between us we drew up a list of ten classic shows we’d cover.
Now bear in mind that at the time this was entirely for our own amusement. We fully expected that this wondrous site would only ever enjoy two visitors—us! At the time I was living in Northern California while Laurence was back home in his native London, so the entire idea took shape via a frantic tennis match of emails at decidedly ungodly and odd hours for both of us.
Anyway, once we’d decided on the ten shows we’d feature, while Laurence set about the design of the website I undertook the writing for the first batch of show overviews/reviews. If I recall correctly the very first completed review was for the classic comedy series Dad’s Army. Amazingly, Laurence was thrilled with it and that review became the standard template for everything which was to follow.
Anyway, cutting a very long story short, fast forward to the present day. Following my departure as an active contributor Television Heaven went on to grow beyond our wildest expectations. It’s now recognised world-wide as one of the leading resources on the subject of classic television and television history. From that original list of ten shows the site has blossomed into a vast treasure trove of television knowledge currently covering over one thousand classic and current series, visited by millions of people per month from all over the globe.
Laurence and his team of contributors have done an absolutely phenomenal job, and I’m immensely proud of both the success Laurence has made of the site and my own small contribution to what began as—and remained for us both—a genuine labour of love.
As for Television Heaven’s sister sites, Teletronic began when I had the idea of us producing a monthly text-based ezine covering TV related subjects which didn’t quite fit into the main site, or we simply didn’t have room for at the time. However, it quickly became apparent that the text-based format was too limiting. So, Laurence worked his design magic once again and Teletronic the website was born.
With it we were able to delve in much greater detail into specific aspects of the history and development of the medium and the personalities which shaped its development. It was here that Laurence’s wonderful skills as a factual writer truly bloomed. And now Teletronic has grown into far more than the sum of its original parts. It provides the perfect compliment to the original site.
And finally ... (you there at the back. Yes, you! At least attempt to pretend to be paying attention. We’re almost done with this particular subject) ...
Alana: Who? Me? Sorry, the glaze is because I’m rapt!
Stephen: All right, you’re forgiven ... well, as I was saying, finally there’s Reminisce This, the third site in the stable, originally called Day In The Life. Now this was Laurence’s idea, and I just pitched in with suggestions and the writing of the overview for each of the decades covered. Unlike its sister sites it isn’t television based. Rather, it’s a nostalgic look back at the development of the culture of the UK over a period of sixty years from the 1940s through to the 1990s. It’s fun, as already mentioned, it’s nostalgic—and yet again, it’s a labour of love.
Alana: You obviously have a deep and broad knowledge of both television and film across all the major genres. Does that result from the intense interest of an amateur or from working in the industry?
Stephen: My knowledge of both mediums stems primarily from far too many childhood hours with my nose either pressed up against the television or cinema screen, far too many hours spent with my nose buried deep in the musty pages of books and magazines devoted to film and TV stretching back decades, plus a family with an almost preternatural knowledge of both.
Professionally I've flirted with the television industry here and there. But, sadly, tis a tale of projects that never quite made it to fruition, and expectations confounded by unexpected obstacles. But never say never—doubtless I’ll take another tilt at that particular windmill in times to come.
Alana: This seems a logical spot to turn to THE BLUE HOUR. In my review I make the observation that your story-telling style reminded me of the Raymond Chandler novels. I haven’t read your first book so don’t know if that carries through but, is it a style you consciously use?
Stephen: Well, I’ve always had a long standing love affair with classic noir ‘Private Eye’ fiction in both print and film/TV. So following the publication of SHADOWCHASER—which, while containing elements in common thematically with THE BLUE HOUR, is written in a very different style—I was casting around for that all-important second book idea and the idea of taking a classic noir approach to a modern day mystery with a slight supernatural undertone appealed to me.
I also knew I wanted the story told in the first person by a strong, yet flawed, female lead—with the much more traditional male private eye as the partner figure. My prime influences/inspirations included the fast-talking, wisecracking duo of Bogart/Bacall in the classic film version of The Big Sleep, Chinatown, and my physical template for the rugged, ironically recognisable incarnation of my private eye, Gideon Wade, was the ever wonderful Robert Mitchum.
Alana: What about the subject matter in THE BLUE HOUR—where did the idea for that come from?
Stephen: Hmmm … difficult to answer without giving away too much of the central core of the plot, I think. What I can say is that the issue of human trafficking has been rather high profile these past few years. The idea appealed to me as a very effective core of the novel’s story. From there it took very little extrapolation on my part to realise that if I narrowed that down to one very particular aspect of the issue then it added a very resonant emotional core to the story which would resonate strongly for both readers and central characters alike. The stakes are high, because the threat being faced is utterly monstrous and repugnant. Once I had that central concept and my research nailed down, the characters basically wrote the story themselves.
Alana: I think that’s something authors in general find—once underway the characters take over. Let’s talk about your characters. You make no allowances for them being male or female in the situations in which you place them. You expect the women to be as tough, resourceful and resilient as the men. Why?
Stephen: Why? Because in my personal experience women are as tough, resourceful and resilient as men. Arguably even more so. I like woman—actually I love women—and I like to think I understand them enough to do them the justice they deserve—particularly in my writing.
Alana: I agree that it's difficult to talk about the book without giving spoilers so let's get on to what you're working on at the moment?
Stephen: You mean apart from my duties steering the good ship Blue Hour Publishing through the treacherous waters of the Amazonion Sea?
Alana: Yes, let’s take time out from that particular black hole for a moment at least. I find that it can consume you.
Stephen: Well, workaholic madman that I am I’m currently writing three books simultaneously! The insignificant other, which is the sequel to THE BLUE HOUR. Shadowchaser II, for which readers of the first book have been (im)patiently waiting for five years. And last but by no means least a brand new comedy thriller provisionally titled The dark eye agency and featuring my brand new female lead character who, I have to admit, I’m more than a little bit in love with. Want me to describe the basic premise in a single sentence? Bridget Jones … as written by Raymond Chandler.
Alana: That I will have to read. Stephen, thank you.
Stephen: No, thank you Alana, m’dear, for making this a wonderfully fun and enjoyable experience. Er, I don’t suppose you have any of that delicious virtual coffee left ... and perhaps a Lamington cake …?
Alana: I do actually so there’s no need for you to rush off. It’s a beautiful day so grab your mug and we can move out on to the deck and enjoy the view at the same time. I’ve not long put a sunset photo of it up as my Twitter header and if I say so myself it looks good (@AlanaEWoods). A little past l’heure bleue perhaps, but not by much.
Take this link to my review of THE BLUE HOUR
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 9, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
THE BLUE HOUR. The French call this time ‘l’heure bleue’, the time between dusk and sunrise when the sun is still below the horizon, and the world is awash with a hazy blue shadowed hue that suspends us somewhere between the accepted divisions of darkness and light.’
THE BLUE HOUR. What a wonderfully evocative title.
And as it led me to expect, and didn’t disappoint, it was the introduction to a story told in what could be described as noir style with a decidedly Raymond Chandler/Phillip Marlowe feel to it.
It wouldn’t take much for a review of this book to contain spoilers but I’ll try to sidestep them while also giving something of a synopsis.
According to the blurb at the back of the book this is the first in what will become a series of Churchill and Wade mysteries. Churchill and Wade are the principal characters, Churchill with a law enforcement background, Wade from the private investigation field. The location setting is never identified but you work it out after a bit. Churchill and Wade meet in the opening pages and join forces to tackle an especially sleazy form of crime.
‘I didn’t need to be sober to know I was in deep, deep trouble!’ Got me! Right there with the Chandler style opening. But could Hulse keep me?
The story is told in the first person from Churchill’s point of view. It adds immeasurably to the immediacy and impact of the storytelling.
There’s a terrific plot line and the characters are drawn well especially, as you would expect, Churchill and Wade, but I also liked very much Madalene Helaine, The French Assistant Director of EUROPOL. She’s exactly what every red-blooded woman in her fifties hopes she approximates at that age.
So, did Hulse keep me to the end? It dipped in the middle. The overall narration is very witty but it felt forced, became ‘clever’ in the middle, but thankfully picked up again. So, yes, he kept me.
Take this link to my interview with Stephen R Hulse
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 5, 2013 at 9:00 AM||comments (0)|
Writing for the Christian genre
The Christian genre in fiction is huge. There's a large section of indie authors who write under it and this week Indie Authors Network Hangouts no. 40 was fortunate enough to feature two authors prominent in the genre, Lisa Grace of The Angel series and Samantha Fury of the Street justice series.
With host Jason Matthews they discuss and share valuable advice for other writers wondering what actually consitutes the genre and how to approach it.
Take this link to my review of Angel in the shadows by Lisa Grace.
|Posted by Alana Woods on February 2, 2013 at 9:10 AM||comments (0)|
I first met Amy some time ago in what was then a new Facebook group begun by Jason Matthews as a place for authors to meet and exchange ideas and information. I figured it was time I read and reviewed Amy's first book and gave her some air time to talk about it, as well as herself.
Alana: Amy welcome, it’s lovely to finally have you here. The first question I want to ask is where your knowledge of such places as Quito and Hope Valley come from. I understand your parents were missionaries—are they places you actually lived or visited?
Amy: First of all, thank you so much for having me, Alana. It’s a privilege to be interviewed by the amazing author of IMBROGLIO, AUTOMATON and 25 ESSENTIAL WRITING TIPS. It’s exciting to be here.
Alana: Amy, Amy, I’ve got to get my head through the door, so stop it!
Amy: Ha ha! Sorry. So, Hope Valley is based on a real place in British Columbia where I spent 18 months from the age of 10 to 11.
Alana: I thought it sounded like first-hand experience.
Amy: My father was the Director of the camp there (much like Gabriel Walker’s father in the book) and my mom led a Bible study group with the ladies. There were only four families and the place was so small and remote that you could only get there by boat. Almost all of the locations in Hope Valley actually exist, except for the berry patch which I created from memories.
I have sadly never been to Quito ...
Alana: You’re kidding! I would have put money on those descriptions coming from experience!
Amy: Well, I did a lot of research on the city and combined my feelings of being a misplaced TCK (third culture kid) to give Anjaline’s story some depth. Though I was born in Canada I spent the first nine years of my life in Africa.
Alana: Wow, what an amazing experience for a child.
Amy: Yes, but when my parents moved us back here it was like what Anjaline went through, but in reverse. I was returning to my home country, but it took a very long time for it to feel like home. Africa and Canada were like night and day. And, of course, Ecuador and Canada are as well. So, I had no trouble seeing how hard it could be for Anjaline to be transplanted, since I had gone through the same thing.
Alana: Your descriptions suggest to me that you loved Hope Valley very much and that perhaps, as far as Quito is concerned, you would like to visit one day.
Amy: I loved the setting for Hope Valley very much. As young children with nowhere to go besides the woods behind and ocean in front—our parents never worried we would wander off—we were given a lot of freedom.
I remember many times going up the mountain with a few of the other kids or swinging from the tire swing out over the water. I know our parents were around somewhere but they didn’t really supervise us overly much. It’s a place with a lot of wonderful memories.
Alana: Sounds like heaven. And Quito?
Amy: As I said before, I’ve never been to Quito. After researching it so thoroughly though, I am very interested in visiting someday. Especially during the Feast of Fruits and Flowers.
Alana: Talking about all that freedom in Hope Valley, you weren’t worried about the cougars? Is Anjaline’s experience of them based on something that actually happened?
Amy: Actually it was bears we had to be on the lookout for. They liked to come down to fish in the creek when the salmon were spawning and because of this we were never allowed to wander in the woods alone. I guess we should have been more worried, but black bears are really only aggressive if you get between them and their babies. Sadly that happened once with my dad. He wasn’t hurt and shot the mother right away. He didn’t know she was a mother though and had to shoot the cub they discovered nearby as well, because without its mother it would starve. It was a pretty devastating experience.
Alana: I can imagine. So where are you now? And did the wandering stop while you were still growing up and with your parents, or when you married?
Amy: I’m in Toronto now, married to a man who was born and raised here. We have such completely different backgrounds. He’s lived in the same city, same side, his entire life, while I moved every one or two years.
The wandering did stop for grades six through twelve, basically because my father was stationed at Mission Aviation Fellowship Canada as the Director. As soon as I graduated they moved to Kitchener, staying there for a couple years and then moving again to be close to my older sister and her family. I think my parents have the moving bug.
Alana: I imagine that’s the basis then for Anjaline’s stepfather’s profession?
Amy: I don’t know if it was the moving bug, per se. His job did call him all over though, just like my father’s line of work did. Personally I hate moving. It didn’t stop after I moved away from my parents either. I’ve moved several times since then, before and during my marriage. I think the longest I’ve stayed in any one place since getting married was our last home. And that was just shy of three years.
Alana: Amy, turning to THE HEART’S DISCOVERY, why Young Adult fiction? Why were you drawn to writing in that genre? Did you try others beforehand?
Amy: It sounds clichéd but I didn’t really choose the genre. It chose me. I have actually wanted to write adult fiction and some sci-fi ever since beginning The Hope Valley Saga but for now I’m writing YA fiction. I think the nature of my story—a boy and girl in their early teens falling in love and making a whole bunch of mistakes along the way—leant itself well to young readers. I have one 13 year old who insists she is my biggest fan. So, even though I didn’t set out to write YA, it seems that my young readers like my writing. I have tried romance and even comedy, but never been published. It was really the nature of the story that placed me in the YA genre.
Alana: What sparked the idea for the story line which, I should explain, is book 1 in The Hope Valley Saga?
Amy: I was talking to an old friend I grew up with in what is the setting for Hope Valley. We got talking about our memories and he said I should write about them. I sat down to just write out some memoires and before I knew it the story was growing rapidly. I wrote the first three books in the saga in just under a year. My daughter was very young at the time and sleeping in four hour stretches. So, while she slept, I wrote and wrote. It was a wonderful time. I never had any idea of publishing until my husband encouraged me to try. I went to agent after agent and finally discovered Jason Matthews and his wonderful book, How to Make, Market and Sell Your Ebook—All For Free. I self-published my first book and I’ve never looked back.
Alana: Yes, so many of us are grateful to Jason for his advice. Are the ages of your two principle characters reflective of the age of characters generally in YA fiction? I ask that because to my way of thinking 14 year old girls should be playing sports and having sleepovers with their girlfriends, not kissing and declaring their undying love to 15 year old boys. Please don’t see that as criticism—probably just my age talking.
Amy: I’m not offended in the least. If I was to compare my books to others in this genre then, yes, I would say my principle characters are a little young. So, no, it’s not typical. I honestly couldn’t tell you why I chose that age. It just happened. It’s funny though. You’re the first person who’s mentioned them seeming a bit young for falling in love. My first boyfriend was at the age of ten. I guess maybe in my mind my characters started falling for the opposite sex young because I did.
Alana: You’re right, personal experience is everything. My first boyfriend was after I started work. Not sure if that makes me sound slow or sad, so I won’t dwell on it. Let’s get back to you. I know you have published book 2 in the saga; would you tell us a little about it without giving any spoilers away?
Amy: Well, basically book 2 is the story of Gabriel and Anjaline growing up and living their lives apart, hence the title WORLDS APART. Though they’re not physically a world away from each other, because of their very different backgrounds it seems that way. Readers of volume 2 get to watch them grow up and experience a slightly more mature love. It also introduces the careers that will take them into adulthood. It’s a bit of a coming of age book, with the main characters trying desperately to hang on to a past that they can never recapture.
Alana: We can look forward to more conflict then?
Amy: We can indeed. What’s a love story without a lot of conflict? There will be lots of problems for both of them as they’re introduced to a chance at new love. I think readers can figure this out mostly from the back of my book, so I don’t think I’ve given any spoilers.
Alana: What are you working on now? You said earlier that you had written book 3.
Amy: I’m editing and reworking book 3 (or volume 3 as I’m calling it now) which is set to be released December 2013.
I’m also working on a book I hope to have out by June 2013, entitled RUNAWAY: DAMIAN’S STORY. It features one of the characters in book 1 that a lot of my readers have begged me to expand on. As it doesn’t flow completely with the saga it will be numbered volume 2.5. There’ll be five books in total (six if you include volume 2.5) in The Hope Valley Saga, with one book being released every year, hopefully in December.
Alana: Well, I should let you get back to it then! Amy, thank you so much for your time.
Amy: Thank you so much for the interview. I really enjoyed it.
Take this link to my review of THE HEART'S DISCOVERY
Amy's Amazon author page
I include the following URLs to pages that I can't get clean links to:
Amy's Facebook page: www.facebook.com/AuthorAmyMcGuire
Amy's FB group page: www.facebook.com/groups/114804801984584/ (She's An Author page)
Amy on Twitter: twitter.com/ShesAnAuthor
THE HEART'S DISCOVERY on Smashwords: www.smashwords.com/books/view/146706