Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wednesday's Writer Shout Out - Author P J Sharon's Top #Review

It's not surprising that author P J Sharon's heart was touched by this excellent five star review for her young-adult novel, Pieces of Love that appeared on Amazon last month. The reader/reviewer, Kirstin Harnedy, called it "An engrossing, heartfelt novel that offers readers a perfect vacation." 

This amazing story captivated me from the first page and I couldn't put it down. Genuine and heartfelt, it's an amazing journey that's the perfect blend of growth, love and humor set against the incredible backdrops encountered on Lexi's Mediterranean cruise. With authentic characters from Lexi with her struggles to overcome the loss of her sister and find her path to her delightful grandma who frequently reminds her never to call her grandma, PJ Sharon delivers an engaging novel that delights and inspires while brilliantly tackling the toughest of emotions with true depth. It's a novel sure live on in the reader's mind long after finishing the last page.

It certainly intrigues me and if it makes you want to know more about Pieces of Love, here's the blurb:


Sixteen year-old Alexis Hartman wants nothing more than to play her guitar and get high, hoping to escape the pain of losing her sister. But when her second arrest for pot possession leads to her mother’s breakdown, Lexi is sent to stay with her grandmother for the summer. While embarking on a Mediterranean cruise hardly sounds like punishment, being forced to face her demons and falling for a guy she may never see again gives Lexi a chance to discover what it means to love someone—even when you have to let them go


About author P J Sharon

Award winning author of young adult books, Massage Therapist, Personal Trainer, and Yogi, PJ Sharon has been called “a powerhouse of positivity and productivity.” Her mantra is “find balance in all things, and live every day to the fullest.” A black belt in the art of Shaolin Kempo Karate, avid kayaker, and singer of Italian art songs, PJ has two grown sons and lives with her brilliant engineer husband in the Berkshire Hills of Western MA where she writes YA…because every teen deserves a hopefully ever after.

You can find out more about P J Sharon and her award-winning stories by clicking on the link to her website.

Happy reading.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesday's Writer - Shout Out - It could be You!

Every author loves to come across a great review of one of his/her titles.  We spend so much time lovingly crafting a story in the hope that someone will really enjoy it and there can be no better way than for readers to show their enjoyment by taking the time to write a review expressing this and recommending the book to others.

We all receive plenty of good reviews but that never dilutes the pleasure of reading a new one.  It makes us want to shout about it from the rooftops because it validates all our hard work.  It means we've communicated with a reader in exactly the way we set out to achieve.

I had the great pleasure of experiencing that pinnacle of pleasure in a review I came across following a Google Alert last week on Romancing the Book  and that gave me the idea of doing something a little new with this blog.

I frequently post reviews of books I've read on this blog, but now I plan to open my Wednesday's Writer feature to any author who has received a great review that has afforded them real pleasure.  It doesn't have to be a recent release.  All I need from authors is an email with:


 a copy of the review, with its link, so we can acknowledge it correctly
the blurb and buy link 
a brief author bio and 
jpegs of the author and the cover of the title in question.

I hope it will be a great opportunity to spread the word about good books that bring readers pleasure and for us all to share that moment of happiness you felt when you first read that special review.

Please send your email to ManicScribbler@gmail.com.




Thursday, July 24, 2014

Seductive Malevolence: In Defense of Evil - A Response by Tara Fox Hall

I'm very happy this week to welcome the wonderful Tara Fox Hall and let her air her controversial views on the way evil is portrayed in modern fiction.  Over to Tara.

My good friend and fellow author Jenny Twist makes the argument that looking for reasons for true evil, as in mass murderers, takes the emphasis away from the victims. I agree that we need to acknowledge the evil in our world. I also agree that evil in our society is being downplayed from a simple and straightforward nemesis of good into a more sophisticated concept, usually of a flawed human’s words or actions.  Any rationale given in defense of human evil gives no basis for a lessening of punishment, a kinder view of evil men or women, or acceptance of their deeds.  I am no friend of evil, of serious criminals, and a strong believer in capital punishment. So why do I find myself cheering on Hannibal Lecter? 

I addressed this issue once before as part of a paper co-written by my husband, “The Allure of the Serial
Killer,” published in Serial Killers: Being and Killing.  The conclusion was that our society is so beset by rules and regulations that we embrace the freedom offered by the sort of antihero that regularly breaks them with aplomb, such as Walter White, the hero of TV series Breaking Bad. Even classic villains such as The Wicked Witch of the West and Maleficent are now being transformed into more than an antagonist we love to hate. Simple black-to-the-soul evil is easy to recognize and abhor, but is almost never found in real life. Literature also has no power to physically hurt us. Realistic evil is complex and potentially deadly, which makes it much more dangerous. If we learn from fiction about evil—and how to deal with it—wouldn’t it be better to have truly complex villains, so we are not swayed by the intricacies of mortal monsters when we run across them in real life?


Enter the most famous evil seducers in fiction, the vampires of today’s literature. This new century predator has become a romantic hero. He’s a born killer who can’t help his desires—and might not even want to. He’s got a gift for one-liners, a ruthless possessive nature, and a mile-wide black streak in his otherwise white soul to keep the long nights interesting. I say bring him on! Who wants a simple monster doomed to die at the end of the tale, or a boring hero too perfect to feel comfortable with? I want my rogue villain who can seduce me with a single look, a few choice softly spoken words, and the brush of fangs in his passionate kiss, even as he saves me from the banality of my everyday life. 

About Tara Fox Hall
Tara Fox Hall’s writing credits include nonfiction, erotica, horror, suspense, action-adventure, children’s stories, and contemporary and historical paranormal romance. She is the author of the paranormal fantasy Lash series and the paranormal romantic drama Promise Me series. Tara divides her free time unequally between writing novels and short stories, chainsawing firewood, caring for stray animals, sewing cat and dog beds for donation to animal shelters, and target practice. All of her published children’s stories to date are free reads on www.childrens-stories.net.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Domingo's Angel by @JennyTwist1 - Now relaunched.

One of the best novels I've read in recent years, Domingo's Angel by Jenny Twist was relaunched (with a lovely revamped cover) this weekend after the author regained her publishing rights and was able to produce this independently - at a much lower cost than her previous publisher charged. Oh the virtues of independent publishing!

Here's how I reviewed it after reading it for the first time:

Jenny Twist is a wonderfully talented storyteller and Domingo’s Angel weaves a spell of enchantment around the reader from start to finish.  Although set in the 1950s (when the English woman, Angela, first arrives in the remote mountain village of Amendillas), there is nonetheless a timeless quality to the story.  Through seamless flashbacks, the narrative takes us through the dreadful days of the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s despotic rule, then forwards into a happier, hopeful future.  

The small, self-sufficient community seems untouched by the outside world and, on the surface looks like paradise. However, every character has been affected and deeply scarred by past tragedies and each nurses his or her own secret pain.  Widows, who have long ago stopped weeping and have put away their smiles - seemingly forever, are the backbone of this community now devoid of men of a certain generation.

The English Angela is escaping from her own tragic secrets, but her healing process begins when she meets Domingo who worships her as his angel, then little by little, the healing magic begins to spread.  But it is Rosalba, the excellently–drawn village matriarch, whose complex life-journey really captivates our hearts.  Angela is quick to realise that “Whatever Rosalba thinks today, the village will think tomorrow” and the true love story is the growing bond between these two women, who learn to heal each other. 

I read the latter half of the story almost entirely through misty eyes as the main characters grew larger than life with every page, unfolding their astonishing stories to me like good friends trusting me with their heartfelt secrets.  When I reached the final page, I felt bereft and lonely, though completely satisfied that I had left them all in very good hands.  Domingo’s Angel is a story I will certainly read again and this author goes straight to the top of my favourites list.

Maybe now's the time for me to dig it out and settle down for a wonderful re-read.  I recommend it to anyone and everyone who hasn't yet read it.  I gave it five stars because I couldn't go higher.  I'd love to know what you think.

Author Jenny Twist left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and an escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford. 
In 2001 she and her husband moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.
Jenny's other published works include: Take One At Bedtime,The Mantequero series, Bedtime Shadows (with Tara Fox Hall) and dozens of short stories.

Domingo's Angel is available from:

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shades of Evil - With Guest Authors Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall

Jenny Twist
Tara Fox Hall
Although I don't write horror, I do enjoy introducing a little wickedness into my stories when appropriate. Why should creating evil characters be more fascinating than creating good ones? I'm not entirely sure, but they are. My ears pricked up, therefore, at a debate on the subject of evil between two author friends whose excellent work fills me with admiration, and I persuaded them to 'go public' and air their views on my blog.

These two great authors are Jenny Twist and Tara Fox Hall, who often collaborate on chilling horror anthologies, as well as writing individual longer works - and I've never yet been disappointed by any of these.


Tara said that what sparked the debate was a review by a U.S. college professor [Gregory Alles] of Robert Ellwood's book: Tales of Darkness: The Mythology of Evil, that claimed:  “We learn more about evil and how to deal with it from stories than we do from philosophical analysis…life [itself] is…a set of stories.” This had Tara pondering what, if this is true, does the recent shift in fiction toward making the usual villain of the story into its hero do to our society? Should we be worried that the perceived line between evil and good is not just blurring, but disappearing?

Jenny Twist's response to this is:

See No Evil?

In recent years there seems to have been a worrying shift in people’s attitude to evil. We try to empathise with mass murderers, child abusers, serial killers. We look for reasons. They had a difficult childhood. Perhaps they were themselves abused. They have never been loved. They were dominated by a sadistic lover.
Well, it doesn’t wash with me. It’s irrelevant why they do these evil deeds. They have to be stopped. They have to be caught and locked up and never let out again.
Lesley Ann Downey
And don’t talk to me about rehabilitation. Talk to the mother of Lesley Ann Downey, whose ten year old daughter was tortured to death by the notorious Moors Murderers. (Just to prove they really were evil and not just misunderstood, they recorded her screams so they could play it back later for pleasure.) Talk to the families of the 909 people who died in Jonestown. See if they think rehabilitation is a good idea. Or maybe we should think about releasing Charles Manson. He’s been in prison a long time and he’s probably sorry by now.

Let’s not acknowledge that there is evil in the world. Let’s pretend it can all be put right.


Ian Brady



Myra Hindley


Charles Manson

This same downplaying of evil seems to be seeping insidiously into vampire literature. Vampires have become poor, misunderstood creatures who are only trying to earn a crust – or, in their case, a bucket of human blood. It is not, after all, their fault that they are vampires. They were the victims once.
And so now we have sexy vampires who are tender lovers. We have vampires with human emotions; vampires who are co-operating with humans and making a living in the world. We even have, God help us, sparkly vampires.
Don’t make me laugh. Vampires are parasites, feeding on human beings. They are serial killers. It doesn’t matter what they were before or if they were victims themselves. They are vampires now and nobody in their right mind would want one for a lover.
Real, believable vampires should be evil - properly evil. Not this namby-pamby evil which can be explained away and forgiven, but deep-down, black to the soul evil.
My absolute favourite vampire of all time is Kurt Barlow in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot’. He is ancient, clever, devious . . . and evil to the core. Someone you can really enjoy hating. That’s my kind of vampire.

I hope you'll return next week to hear Tara's response to Jenny's post.

More about author Jenny Twist:

Jenny Twist left school at fifteen and went to work in an asbestos factory. After working in various jobs, including bacon-packer and an escapologist’s assistant, she returned to full-time education and did a BA in history at Manchester and post-graduate studies at Oxford. 
In 2001 she and her husband moved to Southern Spain where they live with their rather eccentric dog and cat.
Jenny's published works include: Take One At Bedtime, Domingo's Angel, The Mantequero series, Bedtime Shadows (with Tara Fox Hall) and dozens of short stories.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

All is Revealed - My Writing Process (blog hop)

Many thanks to Stacy Juba, whose forthcoming romantic comedy Fooling Around With Cinderella, I'm very much looking forward to reading, for including me in the Writing Process blog hop.  This seemed an interesting way to explore how I approach my writing from story idea to printed page, and to share my latest project.  Next week Misty Beller and Deborah Court will post their responses to the questions below.

1) What am I working on?


Due for release next week, my latest story is a contemporary romance with suspense The Nightclub.  Here
is the blurb: 

Trying to make a living for her teenage sister and herself, Laura Hamilton accepts a job offer as a hostess at an infamous nightclub. As she struggles to survive in a world of sex, drugs and corruption, she certainly doesn't expect to find her own knight in shining armour in the club's owner, Julian. But will he really save her from a future as a fallen woman? And is he involved in the criminal organisation that threatens not only her sister's life, but will change her own fate forever?

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Like Stacy, I've published in a variety of genres, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, a psychological thriller and a modern ghost story.  I've even co-written a short science fiction story with my darling son.  All my stories involve people facing a dramatic emotional journey, which I try to make as realistic as possible to allow my readers to identify with them.  Although I like to include emotional or sexual tension, I don't write erotica and consider my romances to be 'clean'.  The Nightclub probably goes one step further than the rest, and I'll leave it to my readers to decide if that's a step too far.

3) Why do I write what I do?

I like to write the kind of stories I enjoy reading involving characters with whom I can really empathise, since I want readers to do the same.  That's not to say they are without flaws—Ellis Crawford in Killing Jenna Crane, for example, is one of the most unlikeable men imaginable; he's deeply flawed and his journey to self-discovery is fraught with difficulties.  Despite his faults, readers still manage to understand him and some even like him.  I'm not sure if I do, though.

4) How my writing process works

I used to need to have the whole story mapped out in my head before I began writing, but nowadays I've been known to sit at my computer with only the sketchiest of ideas and let the story evolve according to its own whimsy.  I wrote my best-seller Wishful Thinking that way.  It's great fun as it allows stories to evolve organically.  When I'm not writing, my brain is still swamped with ideas.  I have packs of pens and Post-It notes in every room in my house so I can grab one and scribble down ideas as they come to me.  I stick all these into an exercise book on my desk that I use for jotting down relevant names, places, dates, any details likely to recur throughout the story.  Once I've finished with each sticky note, it goes in the bin—nice and tidy—though believe me, I'm anything but a tidy worker!



Do be sure to catch the two great writers nominated to continue the hop next week—just click on their names to take you to their blogs:

Misty Beller was raised on a farm in South Carolina, so her Southern roots run deep, as does her love for Christian novels. Misty is a semi-finalist in the American Christian Fiction Writers 2014 Genesis Contest in the Historical Romance category, and is looking forward to the upcoming release of her debut Historical Romance novel by Prism Book Group.

Deborah Court lives in a picturesque European small town. A health

professional by day, at night she loves to write romances about elven warriors of deadly beauty, capable of making a woman die from sheer pleasure - or stories to awaken the deepest, most secret fantasies of her readers.
Deborah's bestselling debut novel Bound to the Prince, a fantasy romance featuring an Elven hero, was nominated "Best Book of 2011" by The Romance Review. Writing in both English and German, her favourite genres are fantasy/paranormal, erotic and historical romance; she also publishes young adult mysteries for Harlequin Books, Germany.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Nightclub - a New #Romance with #Suspense by Lynette Sofras @ManicScribber - ARCs now available

I'm very excited to announce my forthcoming release - a modern romance with suspense and to be able to offer advance review copies for interested readers.  The book will be on sale in mid-June.

The Blurb

Trying to make a living for her teenage sister and herself, Laura Hamilton accepts a job offer as a hostess at an infamous nightclub. As she struggles to survive in a world of sex, drugs and corruption, she certainly doesn't expect to find her own knight in shining armour in the club's owner, Julian. But will he really save her from a future as a fallen woman? And is he involved in the criminal organisation that threatens not only her sister's life, but will change her own fate forever?


Excerpt

Julian left the Inner Sanctum and let himself back through the office and into the club.  A few cleaning staff were still at work, vacuuming the acres of blue carpet and wiping down tables, but Lucy-Laura sat huddled at a side table, fully dressed now, her body language clearly speaking her dejection.  She looked very different from the delicious creature who'd danced in his arms to song after song last night.
'Hi,' he said, sitting down opposite her.
'Hi to you, too, Mr Manager.  So you work here, Julian, just-call-me-James.'
'Yes Laura, my-name-is-Lucy, or at least, I will do so as from Tuesday.'
'All the girls here change their names, for obvious reasons.  But I didn't know the staff went around tricking them into talking about the club for their own sneaky reasons.  It isn't fair.'  She gave a little aggrieved sniff, which made him smile.
'I know it was a shabby trick, and I'm sorry, but I wanted to get a holistic feel for the place.  You didn't talk yourself out of a job, if that's what worries you.  I was impressed by your honesty and discretion, actually.'  And quite a lot more besides.
'Thank you.  But why did you choose me… or did you just ask Loz to bring you any girl?'
'He has a bit of a soft spot for you, you do realise?  But yes, I did ask for you.  I saw you with Ken Featherstone the other night and thought that if you could charm that old lush, you must be worth getting to know.'
She smiled for the first time and he liked the way this lit up her face.  'Then I'm sorry if I disappointed you.  I have no idea what to make of Ken.  When Loz took me to his table on my first night, he was with another woman.  I presumed she worked here, but she left after a while, seemed to be going on somewhere by herself, and I haven't seen her since.  I don't know why he asks for me when most of the time he's too drunk for coherent conversation and when we dance, I practically have to hold him up.'
He laughed.  'Well you'll soon build up your upper body strength that way.  He must weigh twenty stones.'
Laura gave a little giggle.  'And some.  And the other night, he kind of slumped down on my arm and then—can you believe this—he bit me.'  She pulled up the sleeve of her T-shirt and displayed an angry, deep purple bruise on her upper arm.
Julian stared at the welt in shock and disgust.  He stretched out his hand and touched it gently with his finger.  'He did that to you?  You could have him arrested for that.  You should have reported him.'
'To whom?  I'm probably the one who would have been shown the door.  He's a valued customer, I'm just… the hired help.'
'He's not that valued.  Not after this.  I'll make sure he doesn't come back.'
'No, please don't.  He's not a bad man; he just drinks too much and loses control.  I know he wouldn't hurt someone otherwise.  I'm sure he's a lovely person when he's sober.  He's probably just one of the lost and the lonely.'
He gave her a quizzical look.  'Lost and lonely?  That sounds very sentimental, maudlin, even.'
She gave him a little smile.  'My stepmother had this favourite song.  If she wasn't playing it, she was forever singing it.  It was about some woman in a nightclub singing songs "for the lost and lonely".  That's how I think of him.  I'm sure he must have a good reason for drinking himself into oblivion.  From what I understood the other night, he holds quite an important post in some government health agency.'
Julian shook his head.  'I think Mel's right.  You do belong in church: Lucy-Laura, Little Miss Do-gooder.  Well, he's certainly going to receive a strong warning that if he gets too drunk, he's out.'
'Now that's a far better idea, James-Julian, Mr Do-gooder.  So you're going to manage Ferriby's Nightclub and sober up all your customers?  That's a novel way to do business. You told me you were in the music industry.  Were you telling the truth?'
'I was, and still am, since I won't be abandoning it entirely.  If you can juggle two jobs, I'm sure I can.  Now, are we still friends?'
She smiled up at him looking sweet and trusting.  Dammit, he thought, don't get involved.  But something stirring within him told him he already was.

If you are interested in receiving a review copy, please contact me at ManicScribbler@gmail.com