Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Review: Candlepower by Janet Doolaege

A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of having Janet Doolaege as a guest blogger. I had only read one of her books at that time, but have since rectified this deficiency in my reading and here is my review of Candlepower:

Having read and enjoyed A Paris Haunting by the same author last year, I was very pleased to come across Candlepower while browsing favourite authors on Amazon. I downloaded it and began reading it almost at once, finding myself rapidly drawn in to the intriguing story.

Narrated by Stella, all events are filtered through her consciousness, but as seems to happen with Doolaege's novels, the POV character takes something of a back seat in order to turn the spotlight on other characters. There are some marvellous characters in Candlepower, though none more delightful than Rose. Of course, the other thing this author does so well is evoke the atmosphere of a Paris unseen by tourists, making the reading a satisfying, visual experience.

The question of who and what Rose is permeates the entire story. She's an ethereal being and I spent a lot of time wondering if she was meant to be real. She lives alone in a Paris apartment opposite Stella, teaching and playing beautiful music, creating exquisite patchwork quilts by candlelight (she shuns electricity) and talking to the birds.

It is when Stella's canary, Topaz escapes through the window that Stella first meets Rose. Unable the resist the attraction Rose has over all living creatures, Topaz leaves his tree and flies into her hands, and that's the beginning of a rather haunting friendship.

There is a beautiful poignancy about the way this story unfolds around the two almost-tragic females who find friendship in a world in which they are both slightly out of kilter. Bilingual Stella escapes from an overbearing mother, academic father, not-too-loveable brother and an unhappy love affair, into a Paris apartment she purchases with her beloved grandmother's legacy. She yearns to love and be loved and after meeting Rose, embarks on another love affair with Rose's friend, Olivier, ignoring all the hints that her fragile heart is again at serious risk.

Of Rose, Stella tells her father, "People are drawn to her, but somehow they're scared of her at the same time." This sums up everyone's attitude towards the tormented Rose and the reader longs to know more about her and for the other characters to understand and accept this strange and rather wonderful creature in the same way the birds do with their unquestioning adoration.

It's always difficult, when writing a review, to say enough to interest other readers but not too much to give away 'spoilers', so I'm reluctant to say more about the events and mar the reading experience for others. And it's a reading experience I highly recommend. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it and when I was reading, I was mesmerised by the often grim Parisian atmosphere and the colourful, diverse characters. The story is beautifully told and weaves a magical spell that held me enthralled from beginning to end. Read it - enjoy the magic.

About the author:

Janet Doolaege grew up in Dorset, England. After university she found her first job in France, and has stayed in France ever since. She worked for UNESCO, initially as a translator and finally as Chief of the English Translation Unit. Her husband is French and they live in a village south-west of Paris.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Winner Takes All - 28 Great Books up for Grabs

Scroll to the bottom to enter to win all 28 ebooks! There's a little of everything, for a total of over $85 worth of ebooks. Winner takes all!

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Alicia Dean shows you how to Find the Magic

Award winning author and editor, Alicia Dean, shares her process of creating a story, along with bonus tips in Find The Magic – How to Plot a Story in 10 Easy Steps.

*** ON SALE - 99¢ through November 15, 2014 ***

How to write a novel? That is the question. There are probably as many answers to that question as there are people who ask it. 

Wanting to write and actually doing it are two very different things. I am well acquainted with the sometimes grueling process of churning out a story. Over the years, I have tried many methods for creating and completing manuscripts, and have tweaked and honed it down to a workable (for me) process. 

Using specific examples from one of my own novels, Without Mercy, I share my method in this mini how to book. The first eight steps actually deal with plotting while the last two are designed to help expand your outline into a well-developed draft. There is no one, perfect way to create a story, but there will be a method, or methods that work for you. I’m not sure if this is the one, but it works for me. Only you can decide if it also works for you. Fingers crossed that it does! 



Find Alicia Here:
Alicia Dean lives in Edmond, Oklahoma. She has three grown children and a huge network of supportive friends and family. She writes mostly contemporary suspense and paranormal, but has also written in other genres, including a few vintage historicals.
In addition to being an author of more than twenty published works, Alicia is both a freelance editor and an editor for The Wild Rose Press, under the name, Ally Robertson, in their suspense line.
Other than reading and writing, her passions are Elvis Presley, MLB, NFL (she usually works in a mention of one or all three into her stories) and watching her favorite televisions shows like Vampire Diaries, Justified, Sons of Anarchy, Haven, The Mindy Project, and Dexter (even though it has sadly ended, she will forever be a fan). Some of her favorite authors are Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, Lee Child, Lisa Gardner, Sharon Sala, Jordan Dane, Ridley Pearson, Joseph Finder, and Jonathan Kellerman…to name a few.

Find Alicia here:

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Meet Jenny Twist's 'Uncle Vernon'

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while will know how highly I rate author Jenny Twist's wonderfully chilling short stories, like Tales of the Mantequero, Away With the Fairies, Take One at Bedtime and more. This week I was delighted to see she had brought Uncle Vernon up from the McCaffrey cellar to celebrate Halloween with us all.  It's a spooktacular short story and a great tea break read, and not just for Halloween.  At only 99c/77p , it will do you more good than a chocolate biscuit, believe me.  So go on, trick or treat yourself.  It's worth it.

Here's my review:

"The thing about Uncle Vernon is he used to be normal…"

This is a another great short story told as only Jenny Twist can tell them and perfect for the Halloween season - and beyond. It features the larger than life McCaffrey family who live in a ramshackle mansion in a small Yorkshire village, where everyone, as you'd expect, seems to know everyone else and their business. Except, of course, being Halloween, you have to expect the unexpected.

The extended McCaffrey family is large and colourful, with old Granny McCaffrey living on cornflakes and ham sandwiches (and probably not being able to tell the difference between them), the well-intentioned big Da and his strapping sons and daughters, through to 10 year old Bridget, "tiny and dainty, as if there hadn't been quite enough material left when it came to making the last child and she had to make do with what was left over from her much bigger brothers and sisters" and the one-eyed cat Genghis.

Oh, did I forget to say? There's also Uncle Vernon, who inhabits the cellar at Halloween and who, according to Janice McCaffrey is only "half-programmed". It's hardly surprising that Gary's girlfriend, the prim and proper Alison, spends half her time in a complete daze - and that's not just because she loves Gary!

I love Jenny Twist's story-telling style. It's honest, it's colourful and her characters have a Dickensian quality about them, but she convinces us that they are real and living among us - and furthermore, we know them. They all have their skeletons in the closet; ghosts in the attic, or Uncle Vernon in the cellar. Escaping with a Jenny Twist story is always a delightful adventure.

Time to bring out the cats - all five of them!

Well done, Ms Twist.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wednesday's Writer - Janet Doolaege

I'm very excited to welcome today's guest, Janet Doolaege. I read her excellent story A Paris Haunting last year - and it's no exaggeration to say that it's continued to haunt me ever since. So much so that I recently approached Janet to collaborate in a new boxed set coming very soon.

Today I've asked Janet to tell us something about herself and her work, so here she is:

I live in France but write in English. This certainly limits my opportunities for promotion: no book signings and no chance of interviews in the local press in this French-speaking context, so I’m very grateful for ManicScribbler’s invitation here.

Thank goodness for the internet! Like many writers, after years of rejections from literary agents, I started publishing ebooks on Kindle Direct Publishing, and it’s wonderful to know that at last we have some readers. Even so, I’m one of those people who still prefer “real” books made of paper, so gradually I’m self-publishing print editions too.

A Paris Haunting, a spooky contemporary romance, is set in the city where I lived and worked for a long time, so I’m familiar with its atmosphere – not always glamorous, I should add. “This book is a page-turner," writes one reviewer. "I was totally hooked by the unfolding story,” writes another. The unexplained has always fascinated me. Animal-lovers may also enjoy the role played by a cat in this ghost story. 

Likewise, Candlepower is set in present-day Paris. It also tells of uncanny events, and of the persecution of one person for being different. A reviewer says: “This is a quietly brilliant book, delicate, emotive, powerful - highly recommended to those who enjoy originality and a good mystery.” By the way, don’t let the cover mislead you. This is not Steampunk! There is a reason for the candle.

Birds have always been an important part of my life, and the true story of Ebony and Spica, my much-loved rescued blackbird and starling, is best read in paperback with illustrations by Carol Jean Watkins and Alain Perry, not to mention Marianne Weeks’s attractive layout.  Both birds had unforgettable personalities.

Another attractively produced paperback, for children this time, is The Story of an Ordinary Lion, a retelling by the lion of the old legend of Saint Jerome, patron saint of translators. One reviewer said, “The inside is as good as the cover,” the cover being again the work of Alain Perry, and the print edition has fine colour illustrations by Paolo Santoro. A ten-year-old said: “When I read this book, I felt like I was in the story.” What could be more gratifying? 

Set in ancient times, Tobias and the Demon is a tale of adventure for middle-grade readers, told by a dog. Young Tobias sets out across the mountains to recover his father’s money, but what happens to him is not what he expected.  A boy reader in the UK writes : “It is really clever how it is taken from a dogs point of view and that tag can speak to other dogs. I like the idea that Sara is possessed by a demon.”

Flora and the Wolf, another retelling for children of an old legend, is in ebook format at present and I’m hoping to publish an illustrated paperback edition quite soon. It’s aimed at children aged seven and over, and I would very much like to know what they think of it.

Reviews, reviews – please write honest reviews! We indie writers do need them.

At present I’m working on another contemporary novel with a paranormal twist, this time set partly in Paris and partly in Greece.

About the author:

Janet Doolaege grew up in Dorset, England. After university she found her first job in France, and has stayed in France ever since. She worked for UNESCO, initially as a translator and finally as Chief of the English Translation Unit. Her husband is French and they live in a village south-west of Paris.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wednesday's Writer Shout Out - Sharleen Scott

This week's guest author is Sharleen Scott who says her first five star review of her contemporary romance/mystery, Caught in Cross Seas gave her a warm fuzzy feeling.  I'm sure reader/reviewer, Sharon will be delighted to know she can expect the sequel in October.  Here's what Sharon had to say:

A perfect summer read. What a delightful read this was! You will get drawn in to this story, and end wishing for a sequel! I am waiting for another book from you Sharleen Scott!

Short and to the point, but sometimes they're the best.  It certainly sparked my interest.

Here's the blurb for Caught in Cross Seas (an intriguing title, don't you think?):

It’s summer in the tranquil coastal town of Angel Beach, Oregon, but not everyone is enjoying the surf. Harlie Cates is caught in a sea of catastrophes. One of her homeless charges has died, her food bank may be forced to shut down, a reporter suspects she’s the missing ex-wife of a wealthy philanthropist, and her gorgeous new neighbor is threatening to have her arrested for stalking him. One more problem and she’s going under for the last time. 
Country music superstar Clay Masterson isn’t interested in dipping his toes in the cool Pacific. He’s on the trail of his supposedly dead father, who is wanted for murder in Montana, and the grapevine says he’ll find him in the vicinity of Angel Beach. For a guy with a famous face, hunting on his own isn’t easy. When he discovers Harlie isn’t a stalker, he enlists her in the search and soon finds his heart making discoveries of its own. 
The current shifts when details in a local murder match the Montana murder case. There’s no sign of dear ol’ dad and Clay is beginning to look like a suspect. Harlie knows the truth, but a promise has her struggling to stay silent. Whether she talks or not, someone will be sacrificed, and it may be Harlie who is in the most danger of all.

About the author:

Sharleen Scott writes contemporary romance/mystery/suspense and women’s fiction. Her debut novel, Caught in Cross Seas, was published in May 2014. Caught in the Spin, the second book in the series, is scheduled for release in the fall. Sharleen is a member of Romance Writers of America and Indie Romance Ink. Her former career as a travel agent introduced her to fascinating and romantic locales she could draw on for her books. 
Her present position as a rural mail carrier keeps her firmly planted in reality, a situation her imagination does its best to thwart. Sharleen lives in the beautiful state of Washington with her husband, Brett, and their two college kids. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Wednesday's Writer Shout Out - Guest Author Michele Drier

Today I'm handing over my blog to author Michele Drier who has something very pertinent to say on the subject of reviews, as well as some great reviews to share.

Who Has a Review?

In every old movie about Broadway, there’s a scene when the cast and author wait until four a.m. with bated breath for the early editions of the New York newspapers.

Critics who came for the opening night rushed back to their offices and wrote reviews that everybody believed could make or break the play.

There are still critics and there are still newspaper reviews...and some of them may make or break a play, but there’s also the morass of reviews for books.

If you have a big publisher, they’ll print ARCs (Advance Reading Copies) and send them to big newspapers, magazines and review sites a few months before your book hits the sales venues.

Some rave reviews will probably make it onto the book itself before going to print. This is the hype that gets your book noticed, picked up, read and with luck onto a Best Seller list.

There are other reviews though that help or hinder a book in the sales wars, and these are from readers, smaller review sites, bloggers.

As an indie author, these are the ones that count. Without some number of reviews, and more that four stars or so in overall ranking, your can’t even buy a spot on the targeted sales sites like BookBub, Ereader News Today or Pixel of Ink.

I write in two genres, and for each I have review sites that always get copies of my latest and a request for a review.

And I’m incredibly pleased that my most recent book (SNAP: All That Jazz, published in ebook format at the end of June) is in the “rave reviews” category.

Paranormal Romance Guild said, “I loved all of the Kandesky books but there is love and there is LOVE, and this one I LOVED. I loved Nik and Jazz and their love for each other is beautiful in spite of the inherent problems, i.e. being a vampire and the violence. I can't wait for book nine to find out what happens with Nik and Jazz and Maxie and Jean-Louis.”

I have to admit that this reviewer has become somewhat of a fan. In her review of the previous book, SNAP: White Nights, she said, “There is always something new in each book but the characters remain the same.  There is romance, love and sex and always danger of one kind or another.  I can't wait for the next book in the series, so Ms. Drier please just sit at your computer and write.”

The other site that’s always on my send-to list is The Reading Cafe. Their review of SNAP: All That Jazz said, “...this of course, is a must read! Like the rest of the series Ms. Drier has woven an intricate tale of two completely different societies and the issues of falling in love and the adjustments needed to male room in their lives for each other....     Grab your favorite beverage (cause you won’t want to stop) (personally, I found a fan handy). This is a series, you can read each book as a stand-alone, but it’s soooo much better to read from the beginning. Enjoy, everyone, I really, really, really love it!”

As wonderful as these are, they’re like the icing...the cake is the reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, B&N by the readers. Almost every book I read today on my ereader has a plea from the author about posting a review.

The game has changed and we’re never going to get an opening night New York Times review, but we still write the best books we can, put them out there and hope that readers and reviewers will love them as much as we do!

About Michele Drier

Michele Drier was born in Santa Cruz and is a fifth generation Californian. She’s lived and worked all over the state, calling both Southern and Northern California home.  During her career in journalism—as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers—she won awards for producing investigative series.

SNAP: All That Jazz, Book Eight of The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles, was published June 30, 2014.  The Kandesky Vampire Chronicles paranormal romance series include SNAP: The World Unfolds, SNAP: New Talent, Plague: A Love Story, DANUBE: A Tale of Murder, SNAP: Love for Blood, SNAP: Happily Ever After?, SNAP: White Night and SNAP: All That Jazz.  SNAP: I, Vampire, Book Ten in the Kandesky Vampire Chronicles is scheduled for publication early 2015.

She also writes the Amy Hobbes Newspaper mysteries, Edited for Death and Labeled for Death. A third book, Delta for Death, is coming in 2014.

For more information, visit Michele's website by clicking on this link.