Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

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

Thursday, April 10, 2014

New Spring Cover for Wishful Thinking - What Do You Think?

Don't you love spring?  The flowers re-emerging in every nook and cranny of the garden after their long sleep; the trees bedecked with blossoms; down by the river the ducks, geese and other waterfowl proudly parade their cute little bundles of fluff and feathers while in the fields the lambs trail close behind their mothers, trying to keep up. 

It all makes me feel so alive.

I've spring-cleaned the house, revamped my wardrobe, shampooed the cat (not really) and am still itching to do more, so I thought, why not give some of my book covers a facelift too?  

Don't get me wrong, I'm not throwing away their old garments—they're far too dear to me for that—just letting them try on something new for size.  So here's the first one (made by ebookcoverdesignsbycarey.com)

The Blurb:
A high-speed blow-out in the fast lane of a busy motorway! Miraculously, Jess and her young son escape almost-certain death. 

Then, like another miracle, Jess encounters Christian Goodchild, famous pop star turned Hollywood A-lister and a man most women only ever meet in their dreams. Both are touched by the enchantment of the moment - leaving them longing for more. 

But Christian is enmeshed in a relationship so damaging that Jess doubts their love can survive in the glamorous but complex world of celebrity. Could it all turn out to be just wishful thinking?

Same story, just a brand new look.  And just in case you need reminding, here's what the old one looked like.

I'd love to know what you think of its new spring outfit.








Wednesday, March 12, 2014

FLY OR FALL by Gilli Allan - A Review

I was delighted to receive a review copy of FLY OR FALL, since I have thoroughly enjoyed previous titles from this author, whose writing style is a little reminiscent of that excellent writer of women's fiction, Deborah Moggach.  What an engrossing story this is - Gilli Allan just gets better and better in my opinion.

The story concerns the quiet and self-effacing Eleanor, as she journeys through a traumatic period of her life.  Having become a teenage wife and mother, all she has known is devotion to her own invalid mother, her children and her husband.  Her 13 year old twins sometimes seem to be more worldly-wise than her.  She's suppressed her own needs and desires so completely that she seems almost without personality.  As such, she is quite difficult to relate to intimately and the reader has to get to know her in the same way as the other characters.  Nevertheless, it's impossible to dislike her.  Like all Allan's characters, Eleanor is complex and real.  

Eleanor's husband, Trevor is a rather devious, self-serving man; I suspected and disliked him from the outset and at no time did he redeem himself.  Yet he was no less real - in fact I felt I knew him all too well!  Having sold Eleanor's family home in Battersea for a substantial price, Trevor moves his family to the country to enjoy 'clean air, green fields, a house with a proper garden and a driveway'. Trevor selfishly pursues his new career and indulgences, while Eleanor tries to fit in with her sophisticated neighbours and sort out the marathon renovations of the new house.  Enter Patrick, the builder, a likeable rogue, whose constant harmless lies make him enigmatic and fascinating and who extends a warm hand of friendship to Eleanor, helping her through her most difficult times.

The village of Downland is peopled with interesting characters, Katherine, Felicity, Elizabeth and their husbands as well as Patrick and the even more mysterious David, to whom Eleanor is secretly drawn.  But no one in Downland is quite what they seem, as Eleanor has to discover in often painful ways.  This includes her own family and most of all, herself.  

Ms Allan writes about seemingly ordinary people in ordinary settings, but, of course, neither is ordinary.  The characters are richly drawn in all their complexities, yet grittily realistic and engaging.  The settings are carefully painted with the reverence of an artist who has a deep affinity with the countryside.  

The story is compellingly told with a well-sustained narrative flow.  I found it deeply engrossing and sat up late into the night more than once, unable to put it down.  It gathers momentum, like a snowball rolling downhill, hurtling towards its dramatic conclusion.  I look forward to reading more from this talented writer and am pleased to bring out all FIVE cute cats to award this book.

And here's a real bonus: FLY OR FALL is on sale at 99p only for a limited time.

Gilli Allan started to write in childhood - a hobby pursued throughout her teenage. Writing was only abandoned when she left home and real life supplanted the fiction. Gilli did not go to Oxford or Cambridge but after just enough exam passes to squeak in, she attended Croydon College of Art. 
She did not work on any of the broadsheets or in television, but has done a variety of slightly less prestigious jobs. She was a shop assistant in several West End department stores, selling wigs, shoes, children’s clothes and accessories. She has also been a beauty consultant, a bar-maid and did a job with no title which involved spotting American tourists in London and persuading them to go on a free guided-tour that culminated in lunch at the Hilton. There they had to endure a high pressure pitch selling real-estate in Florida! Gilli worked longest, and most happily, in her dream job as an illustrator in advertising. 
She only started writing again when at home with her young son, Tom, and her first two completed novels, Just Before Dawn and Desires & Dreams, were immediately accepted by a mainstream publisher. But the publisher ceased to trade and after a period in the wilderness, Gilli went independent. TORN, LIFE CLASS and FLY or FALL are all currently available both as Kindle books and in paperback. She also has a short story - Holiday Romance - in the e-edition of the recently published RNA anthology, TRULY, MADLY, DEEPLY.
Gilli has been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers, and a driving force behind the establishment of a community shop in her village.  Still a keen artist, Gilli designs the annual family Christmas card and in 2013, she and her son, Tom Williams, collaborated on a children’s book. He wrote and she illustrated THE TALE of KING HARALD - The Last Viking Adventure, published by British Museum Press to coincide with the ‘Vikings - Life and Legend’ exhibition, which has just opened at the British Museum.  

(All links go to the UK Amazon store, so for US readers, simply change .co.uk to .com in the subject line).

You can also connect with Gilli on any of the following links: 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Piracy - Arrr ye sittin' on t' fence?

Last year Forbes printed an interesting (if rather depressing) article on piracy—something that is becoming an increasing problem in the publishing industry and affects practically all authors indiscriminately.  If you've poured sweat and tears into your treasured book, someone out there wants to own it (whether or not they ever choose to read it) for free.  These people are effectively thieves, and our dilemma is: do we fight them, or not?  
One popular argument is that people who seek out free download sites for music, films or books would be unlikely to dig into their pockets to actually pay for the booty, if it were not available for free; ergo piracy does not affect your royalties.  On the other hand, research has also shown that those who pirate do spend more—at least on music—than 'non-sharers', so are we losing potential sales?  Should we become complacent and turn a blind eye to this scourge of the world wide web, or do our utmost to fight it?
Many authors prefer to do nothing, but one author group has been proactive in seeking out pirate sites and warning other authors as well as making their thoughts on the subject known wherever possible.  I was so impressed by author Rowena Cherry's articulate response to the Forbes' article that I asked her permission to quote this in full on my blog.  Here it is:
Piracy is not the saviour of the book industry. It's the bread and butter of Search and of advertising. The money in ebooks is being made by Google, and by those whom Google and Yahoo and Bing pay to display advertisements.
Unfortunately, the media --including Forbes, CNBC, and others-- promote and encourage and validate piracy and immoral business models. That is why public attitudes have changed, piracy is widely accepted.... and embraced. The law cannot keep up, and the lawmakers follow either the money (Google) or the wishes of the majority (who want free content).
Advising authors and musicians to turn themselves into street corner buskers is simply not realistic. If every author and musician were on the street (or on the road, or on the internet superhighway) giving away their content willingly, and begging for charity, the culture would be depreciated.
You might as well advise authors to buy stocks and shares in Google and Amazon and PayPal/EBay, and share in the profits from piracy.
Suggesting that authors and publishers give away more, or add additional content (why would that not be ripped off, too?) , or take more time away from what they do best to "engage" with the public is simply not going to improve the quality, depth and diversity of what is written.
It's killing the golden-egg-laying goose for its feathers. It's eroding copyright protection for content creators. Eventually, there will be no incentive for smart and original minds to invest the time to hone their craft and "share" their stories.
Shame on Forbes for lending its gravitas to the forced redistribution of property. Make no mistake, that's what piracy is --a forced redistribution of wealth-- real wealth, and intellectual property. The irony is that the wealth is being taken from the weak, the minority, the relatively poor and given to the rich.... Amazon, EBay, and Google.
So what do you think?  On which side of the fence do you feel most comfortable?


Report piracy: tips@disneyantipiracy.com 
 reportpiracy@rwa.org