Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Readers Writes - Mickey Reed aka 'I'm a Book Shark'


I always think people who spend a lot of time reviewing books must quickly become discerning readers or drown in a sea of requests from authors desperately seeking reviews for their titles.  I'm therefore always interested in chatting to reviewers to learn about their reading likes and dislikes.  Today's interviewee is is reviewer Mickey Reed, whose blog is I'm a Book Shark and who kindly agreed to let me put her in the spotlight this week.

Firstly, I'd love to know a little bit about how or why you became a reviewer (and which came first, the reviews or the blog?)  How do your reading commitments fit in with your lifestyle?  

I have posted my reviews for books on Goodreads for as long as I’ve known about Goodreads. My husband asked why I wasn’t trying to get paid for writing reviews for a paper or something, and in Googling that I discovered book blogs.  I read whatever I want and post those reviews to the blog. Lately it’s been a blog for promoting other books as my reading time has decreased dramatically.

You must receive numerous requests for reviews - how do you choose which books/authors to take on?

I do get quite a few review requests, even though I’ve mentioned that I won’t really be able to take any on right now.  Quite honestly I don’t really read too many of the emails either. I don’t have much time to read, but I do skim all of the emails to see if anything catches my eye. And I do keep them all in case I want to go back and accept a request.

For me a 5* review means a book is literally 'unputdownable'.  How do you 'measure' a good book?  

A 5-star book keeps me guessing, makes me laugh/cry, sucks me in, and never lets me forget. It’s memorable and treasured. On my blog, books rarely get a 5-star review. I’m very picky, but when you earn it, I let the world know.

How do you feel if you really like or thoroughly dislike a book you've agreed to review?

I’m so happy when I’m pleasantly surprised by a book I’ve taken on to review. It’s happened a quite a few times. Then there have been those times when I just can’t get through a book. If I’ve agreed to review it but couldn’t stand it, I usually will still review it on Goodreads but not on my blog. Just my policy.

Do you receive feedback from writers or other readers on your reviews?

I get comments about my reviews, sure. But no one has ever told me to change my format or anything. I love having discussion, so if anyone ever has a question about my reviews I’d love to chat!

Do you know if your reviews influence the success (or otherwise) of a new title?

I’m not sure. I’ve had people buy books because of my reviews, and I’ve had people say they won’t pick up a title because of my reviews. But I don’t think my little blog will make or break a novel. :o)

Now some more general questions about reading   Did you have a favourite book or author as a child?

I would always go to the library and pick up Lurlene McDaniel’s books even though she made me cry every single time!

What is your happiest reading memory?

I wish I could truly remember reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time, but I do remember going back to it at different points in my life, rereading passages that made me giggle or get all sappy. 

What was the first book you remember reading independently and really enjoying?

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume. However, I recently went back to it and discovered that my tastes had dramatically changed. Haha.

How significant was reading to you as a child?

As a child, I enjoyed reading. I was good at it, so I kept on doing it. I was curious and loved to learn, so it helped me achieve many things.

How important is reading in your life now?

Now, reading is an adventure, an escape, and a journey. It opens me up to new worlds. Plus, I’d love to just be a fly on the wall somewhere, and it really allows me to be that for these characters.

Have you ever wished you could change places with any character from a story?

I don’t think I’ve truly wanted to change places with any character, but I’ve loved books so much that I’d wish to live in their world, be friends with the characters, and fit right in.

What are you currently reading and in what format (hardback, paperback, e-book)?

I’m actually listening to the audio book version of Moby-Dick for my English class.

Do you think the young of today read enough, and if not, how might you try to encourage them to read more?

I think some do, but many don’t. We live in a fast-paced, technologically advanced world. It’s easy to just watch the movie instead. I’d love for them to read more often, and perhaps if they discovered a world they could get lost in, they’d enjoy reading more too.

Do you prefer print or e-books?

Quite honestly I prefer print. I do read e-books, and I don’t mind reading them at all. But nothing beats the brand new book smell. Ahhh. :o)

Do you think e-books will ever totally replace print?

I think they might, which would be incredibly sad. But the newspaper still exists, so there is hope!

Do you think books transfer to films well?  What is your favourite/worst book-to-film transfer?

It all depends, which is a lazy answer, but it’s how I feel. Some books do and some books don’t. My favorite book-to-movie versions are The Help, Shutter Island, True Grit, Shopgirl, The Princess Bride, Water for Elephants, Silver Linings Playbook, and Pride and Prejudice (almost any version). My least favorites are the Hannibal movies (I love them on their own, but not as book-to-movie versions), PS I Love You, Twilight, The Lucky One, and My Sister’s Keeper. I mostly like film versions when they are cast well and agree with the book.

Is there a book you know you'll never read or found impossible to finish?

I’ll probably never read the Fifty Shades of Grey series, but I never say never ;o) Books that are impossible to finish to me are the poorly edited ones.

Do you think there is anything new and exciting in modern fiction, or has it "all been said before"?

I think there can be new and exciting in modern fiction. We just need some writers with great imaginations. I’m sure they’re out there! We just need to discover them.

Thanks Mickey - that was every bit as interesting as I knew it would be.
Why not pop over to Mickey's blog to get to know her better?  Just click on the image below.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wednesday's Writer - Gloria Harchar talks about Steampunk

I'm wildly excited about today's guest being on my blog because she's the first writer of Steampunk I've come across and I think this is quite an exciting genre.  She is the hugely talented Gloria Harchar, whom I just had to get to know after seeing her wonderful book covers!  Who couldn't be impressed by these?  

Gloria is an author who gets ideas by exploring historical places, reading old documents/records, (such as letters, newspapers, marriage certificates, diaries, journals, documentaries—well, you get the idea), visiting cemeteries and historical buildings, finding unique antique gadgets that never gained popularity with the public. In Gloria's opinion, there's no better way to explore a countryside, village or city than while gripping the handlebars of a bicycle.

She has two Bachelor's degrees: One in Education with a concentration in English and the other in Accounting. Too, she has a Master's of Science degree in Instructional Design and Technology.

Her love is writing romance novels and young adult science fiction, and being able to write stories that are begging to be told! Her series, called The Lumière Romances, is in an alternate Steampunk World. To find out more, please visit her at her official website at  Be sure to subscribe to her newsletter to discover when the next book is released, to participate in contests and blog hops, and to win prizes

Anyway she's here today to tell us all about Steampunk, so let's see how many questions we can cram in while we have her on the blog.

Welcome, Gloria.  First off, what exactly is Steampunk?

Steampunk is a subgenre of science fiction and fantasy. It's the Enlightenment Period. It's Industrial
Revolution. It's an attitude of brainstorming inventions in societies, and any idea deserves deep thought and consideration. Per Gail Carriger, there are two types of steampunk: 
i. The first, traditional steampunk, envisions a future as the Victorians imagined it. The writings of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne are good examples. 
ii. The second, industrial steampunk, sees a far future world that harkens back to Victorian culture, for example a bustle dress made of kevlar. There are also other temporal options like clockpunk (c. 1500s) and dieselpunk (WWII).
b. Both of my series fall into the traditional steampunk with minor tweaks. The Lumière Romances have fantasy creatures in them--pixies, faeries, elves, werewolves, vampires, immortals, etc. Miss Marquet's School of Inquiry is straight traditional steampunk in that there are no fantasy creatures. Both are written for YA and YA Crossovers. 

Fascinating.  What is your favorite thing about steampunk or writing about steampunk?

I've always adored creating alternative history. I love world-building. I imagine myself in a steampunk world where you can see steampunk technology nearly everywhere you look, mixed in with Victorian clothing fashions--slightly altered--and historical architecture. I love carriages--phaetons, (in fact, my pixies in Lies & Crinoline made a photon phaeton), Town coaches, brougham, barouches, landaus--and "steampunking" them up. 

What is your favorite steampunk accessory

My steampunk clock. I love it!

What turned you on to steampunk? 
My father was an aerospace engineer. I always wondered how different our world would be if we would have chosen to develop different types of hydrogen-propelled airships instead of the jet-fueled airplanes of today. What if we had stuck to steam-powered appliances instead of electricity? Or used electricity instead of gunpowder for guns? Or had walking legs in addition to wheels on cars? Before actually writing steampunk, I've always tried to include inventions in my stories, even in my straight historical romances.

Cars with legs - imagine that!  My brain is doing summersaults.  Do you have any upcoming Steampunk stories you can tell us about?

Mudlark Girl is book 1 in my new series, Miss Marquet's School of Inquiry. Lulu Jardine is a girl who lives by the River Thames. A washed out poet, down on his luck, found her clinging onto a piece of a steamboat. The poet raises her, and together they dredge the river in search of her identity. One gift the poet has given her is a thirst for knowledge. She likes solving problems, making life easier, and has made a metal radar to aid her search. A girl from Polite Society asks her to participate in a study of environment versus bloodlines—she wants to see if she can make a lady out of Lulu. Lulu refuses. But when Lulu witnesses a famous scientist who commits murder, and overhears part of a plan to attack Queen Victoria, it's a mudlark girl's word against a lady of the haute ton. Lulu becomes a fugitive on the run. The only way to escape is to hide in plain sight by becoming a test specimen. 

What an intriguing plot.  It sounds like a combination of Dickens and Dr Who but with your own unique twist.  I love it.  Who is your favorite character of all from one of your Steampunk stories?

Botheration, that is a difficult question to answer because the character I love the most is the one about whom I'm telling the story. So, as of the present, I am enjoying tremendously the spunkiness that is Lulu Jardine. She is creative, intelligent and frightfully spunky--she just doesn't know it.  

I love self-effacing characters who are sublimely ignorant of their own charisma.  Lulu sounds great!  What's the hardest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?

Research because I love science and I can spend hours thinking about crazy inventions. In writing courses I've been taught not to show my research. However, lovers of steampunk want to learn/understand a little bit of how things work in my world since this is what steampunk is all about. I have to rely on my beta readers to tell me what to cut and by how much.

Well I suppose readers could do their own research but personally I like to have as much information as I can get in the actual book.  That way I feel I'm being educated as well as entertained.  What's the easiest thing about creating a Steampunk universe?

Allowing my imagination to take over. I particularly enjoy action scenes and using bizarre devices or vehicles in the chase scenes. 

That sounds highly visual and very exciting.  What does steampunk allow you to do as a writer that no other genres can?

I can create an atmosphere that is totally my own. Although I've studied British history and know it quite well, I can tweak that history; I don't have to be historically correct. I love having smart characters who know how to put together a bilocycle, an airship, or a photon phaeton.The otherworldly atmosphere of seeing something strangely brilliant--like a blimp with wings and a boat hull, or a barouche with mechanical legs and feet. Thinking up new ways to do mundane chores such as washing clothes. I can't do all this in any other genre!

I'm quite sure your own clear enjoyment enhances your stories for your readers.  What are the challenges and advantages to writing a steampunk story?

One of the challenges I have is making up names for gadgets. But I have a lot of fun with the task. And I have to remember the name of the object. I've started a spreadsheet to keep track. I would love to have drawings of them someday and post them on my site. But for now I need to have a list of devices that are in my stories and upload that.

Oh yes - do try to make sketches for posterity - like Leonardo da Vinci.  And what fun thinking up new names for gadgets/inventions - I'd love to try to help with that.  Maybe you should set that as a quiz question somewhere?  You give the basic information of what the machine does and ask readers to come up with the best name?  (Just a thought).  How much research does it take and how much imagination?

As I stated above, it sometimes take a lot of research. Sometimes I research as I write; sometimes I make a note to research and keep going with my story. Imagination? I have an abundance of it. Hey, you're looking at a woman who, as a girl of seven years old, coerced her little sister of four to ride in the mechanical dumb waiter so that she could describe all the worlds and denizens that existed between the walls, (to my extreme disappointment, all she could tell me is, "It was dark and scary!"). Needless to say, to write steampunk, an author has to have a lot of imagination. Mix imagination with scientific findings and principals, tweak those, add plot plus characterization as major elements and you've got yourself a steampunk story! 

It's been wonderful talking to you Gloria - I could go on and on as every fascinating answer seems to generate more questions.  I hope you've enjoyed yourself - I know I have.

Now Gloria wants to turn the tables and ask YOU a question - and it's one I love asking readers as well: What do YOU like to read?

You can buy Lies and Crinoline on Kobo or by clicking on the cover 
and discover more about Gloria by clicking on any of the following links:

I really recommend you do - she's amazing!  Thanks, Gloria.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Authors in Bloom Blog Hop - Lynette Sofras has TWO Romances for You to Claim

I'm no gardener - I'll own up to that from the start - I've tried to grow my own vegetables but simply ended up making my garden resemble a scene from The Day of the Triffids (probably because of over-fertilisation) but yielding very few edible vegetables.  Living in an early Victorian cottage, I yearn to have a typical cottage garden filled with pretty flowers and, most importantly, lots of herbs, and with these I have been a little bit more successful.

For my Authors in Bloom contribution, here are my six golden rules gleaned from years of trial and error and an extra tip for preserving your herbs once grown.

1)  Be ultra careful when buying herbs from garden centres; in my experience it's better (and more rewarding) to grow them from seed.  Having an array of herbs in pots on the kitchen windowsill is very satisfying for aspiring chefs.

2)  Pay attention to the directions on the seed packs regarding spacing requirements.  It can be fiddly handling tiny seeds but never crowd them

3)  Keep them well-watered but don't allow them to stand in water for too long.  Good drainage is essential for healthy roots.

4)  Move the pots around regularly for even light-distribution.

5)  Never overfeed (I've lost so many that way, mistakenly believing they'll grow better if well-fed).  In fact herbs will grow well in relatively poor soil conditions.

6)  Don't be tempted to harvest the leaves too early.  Allow them to grow up to 8 inches and strip leaves sparingly.  Then wait for regrowth before snipping more.  For the herbs you use most frequently, grow extra pots.

Top Tip:  If you want dried herbs - a brilliant way to dry them quickly is to cut them and spread them onto newspaper on a sunny window ledge or in the back of the car on a sunny day.  Close all the windows and they'll be dry in no time - leaving your car deliciously aromatic at the same time.  

My heroine, Juliet in my giveaway novel The Apple Tree (winner of Inspired Romance's inaugural writing competition) has, like me, very little knowledge about gardening and plants.  When she visits the gardening centre owned by an old family friend, she meets Nicholas and immediately mistakes him for a gardener.  This is something Nicholas, if only the demands of big business permitted, would happily embrace.  The misunderstanding is soon cleared up, however, but Nicholas' love of gardens is certainly one of the reasons Juliet falls in love with him.

Here is the blurb for Giveaway One: The Apple Tree.

Escaping from your past is never easy, as young hospital doctor Juliet discovers when she tries to start afresh, leaving both her marriage and her career behind.  Love blossoms rapidly when she meets the mysterious and forthright Nicholas, who seems to herald the new beginning she craves.  

The past quickly dissolves into insignificance as their all-consuming romance propels them forward but Juliet has to learn the price of happiness in the cruellest way possible.  Will she be able face the painful roots of her past in order for her future to grow strong and healthy?

Giveaway 2:  Shopping for Love

Now when it comes to cooking, I know much more, believe me.  I love nothing better than experimenting with exotic cuisine and frequently globetrot in my kitchen.  In my second giveaway novel Shopping for Love, my lovely hero Greg fancies himself as a bit of a Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen.  In this excerpt he prepares a Thai fish meal for Emma.

He handed her a glass of chilled wine and she leaned against the tall fridge sipping it as she watched him busy himself with a wok and bamboo steamer.  “I feel guilty just standing here.  Can I help?”

“You already are.  Just by decorating my kitchen, making eye candy – it’s almost ready, anyway,” he told her with a grin. “It’s all in the prep, you see.”

He had steamed the fish over banana leaves in a bamboo basket and poured sizzling sesame oil over it at the last minute.  It was accompanied by little bowls of perfectly cooked rice and vegetables and Emma was almost too impressed to think about eating.

“This is wonderful.  Where on earth did you find fresh banana leaves?” She asked peering into the bamboo steamer in the centre of the table.

“Oh you’d be amazed at what  wonderful things you can pick up in supermarkets these days,” he said with a knowing wink which reduced Emma to helpless laughter for some time until he apologised and ordered her to begin eating, which she did, accompanied by appreciative sound-effects.

“How can a man who cooks like this possibly be divorced?” she asked at length.

Greg laughed, genuinely amused.  “Spoken like a true foodie.  But, you know, it takes more than culinary skills to make a marriage work.”

“Not for me, it wouldn’t,” Emma said with a smile, transferring more of the succulent white flesh from the sea bass onto her plate before coaxing it between her chopsticks.  “If I could eat like this every day, I would ask for nothing more in life.”  She paused before bringing any more of the food to her mouth.  “Would it be out of order for me to ask what happened?”

If you'd like to win either of these books in any e-book format, simply leave a comment or answer the following question and don't forget to leave your email address and say which book you'd prefer to win.

Recent research claims that the smell of the herb rosemary can help what?  (Hint - Shakespeare had a fair idea about this 400 years ago - so it's hardly new research!)

For more information about any of my books, please click on any of the following links:

Don't forget to visit other authors on the  Authors in Bloom list for your chance to win an e-reader and $25 worth of books. 

Manic Scribbler's A-Z Challenge - I is for I'm Terribly Sorry!

I'm Terribly Sorry

I've really enjoyed this A-Z Challenge and hope I'll be able to pick it up again in a few days and see it through to the end.  At the moment, however, I must call a halt to my participation.  The reason - and I sincerely hope all animal lovers will understand - is that our little cat is very poorly at the moment. She's been in and out of the vet surgery and hospital since Saturday and still isn't really showing signs of improvement.  We're having to force-feed her at the moment and it's very distressing for all of us - but especially her.  She's a little monkey but we're very fond of her and desperate for her to get better, but it looks like an operation is on the cards in the next few days.

This has just taken up so much of my time and energy that I've fallen behind on everything else.  I have at least a thousand emails (and increasing daily) still waiting to be read and blog posts to put together for others and so I have to re-appraise my priorities right now.

I hope I'll be able to pick up again a little later in the alphabet.  I've really enjoyed the experience so far and appreciate all the great comments from visitors to my blog.  Hope to be back soon.

Thanks all.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Manic Scribbler's A-Z Challenge - H is for Houses (with attitude)

H is for Houses

I love stories featuring houses with history; stories in which the houses become almost another character as their secrets are gradually disclosed.  Houses like Wuthering Heights, Thornfield Hall, Satis House, Northanger Abbey to name just a few become so real in the stories that you feel you could make a pilgrimage to them even today.

Unsurprisingly perhaps, houses have played a significant part in some of my stories, not least my forthcoming release which features Chichester Court, once an elegant Georgian family home but now renovated to make social housing for single mothers and their children.  Chichester Court is haunted by more ghosts than one and seems desperate to yield up its secrets to anyone who will listen.

Here's what Joanna (a former resident) tells Anne - a current resident whose young son has suffered recurring nightmares since moving into Chichester Court about the house's history.

"No house is ever just bricks and mortar.  It's an extension of the people it shelters and Chichester Court has sheltered a lot of damaged, angry people in the last forty or so years since the scheme began, not to mention those before the Housing Trust took over!  Just think of all that negative energy, from all those discordant lines, seeping into the bricks and mortar.  Now my question to you is: what do you think happens to it?" Joanna's voice had taken on that melodramatic quality of a teacher acting out an extract from a Gothic story for a class of ten year olds, making Anne smile properly for the first time that morning and then, in an expansive gesture, reaching into the biscuit tin, from which she pulled out a plain digestive.

"Oh yes, Chichester Court has sheltered a lot of angry people.  And anger breeds anger, especially in idleness and stagnant spaces,  and then spills into this cauldron of resentment and conflicting emotions and simmers and bubbles over the years until all this ill-feeling spills over and leaks into the nooks and crannies, the bricks and mortar of its confinement.  Where does it go?  Where can it go?  There are no channels to release it, only an old tangled web of discordant lines and too many empty spaces in which to breed.  Oh, that house is one huge, voracious parasite for the wrong kind of energy." 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Manic Scribbler's A-Z Challenge - G is for Ghosts

G is for Ghosts

Do you believe in them?  I don't, though that doesn't stop me from writing about them.  But before I go into that, let's take a look at some common beliefs about them.  It is said that ghosts have no sense of time - in particular of time having passed but they retain memories and emotions from their physical lives and are drawn to certain locations which act as portals for their transportation between realms. They are attention-seekers and can communicate with the living in a number of ways.  They can be mischievous and are often more active around young children because of the energy they give off.  They have a strong sense of smell and are drawn to particular scents.

Spooked enough?  My forthcoming release, Unworkers, is a modern ghost story which explores all of these beliefs and more, so if you enjoy spine-chilling tales, I hope you'll put it on your reading list.

Here is a brief excerpt from Chapter 4 in which Anne encounters the seventeen year old single mum, Paige, on the staircase and hears about her mysterious accident - which Paige insists was no accident at all.

Anne was about to turn away when a thought struck her.  "You were right about these stairs being dangerous.  I've almost tripped and fallen once or twice myself, you know."

Paige caught in her breath quickly.  "I didn't trip," she said through tight lips.  "I was pushed."

"What?"  Anne raised her hand to her face in an involuntary gesture, as if to suppress her shock.

Paige advanced a step towards Anne, her eyes fixed on her face.  "You think I'm mad, don't you?  The police said it wasn't possible, but I know I was pushed.  I felt someone push me!  And I'm sick of pretending it didn't happen.  I hate this house.  Don't you hate it?  I hate these bloody stairs most of all."

Anne's hand fell from her mouth to her throat, where it fingered a fine gold chain for a moment and then stretched gently towards Paige's left arm.  "Yes, I know what you mean," she said, consolingly.  "Will you show me where it happened?"

Paige used her stick to point to the top of the stairwell.  "Right there.  And I lay on that bloody landing up there for an hour and three quarters before anyone came to help me."

"That's awful.  Were you unconscious?"

"I wish I was - it hurt like hell."

Anne inhaled slowly and quietly before asking her next question.  "Did you...I mean, have you ever noticed a strange smell on the staircase?"

Paige caught her own breath much more sharply and blinked hard.  "How did you know that?  I never told no one that!  That stink - it was nearly worse than the pain.  I didn't know what it was.  At first I thought it might be coming from me - it was horrible.  But then I realised.  It must of come from her."

"Her?  Who do you mean?"

"The woman what pushed me."

"But...did you see anyone?  You said the police claimed..."

"I didn't need to see her," Paige cut in vehemently.  "But she was there all right.  And all the time I was lying there, I could tell she was watching me, wishing I was dead, so she could get her hands on my Courtney.  I hate this house.  I'd do anything to get away from it!"

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Manic Scribblers A-Z Challenge - F is for Future

F is for Future

When we think about the future our thoughts inevitably turn towards the issue of global warming and the effect this will have - indeed is already having - on the world.  Rising sea levels, floods or droughts, tears in the ozone layer, overcrowding, pollution and depleted resources are just some of the depressing threats hanging like a mighty Sword of Damocles over our future.  Grim.  But then technology is also advancing at a rapid rate and with knowledge and enlightenment comes hope.  

Vast numbers of writers love to speculate about the future in their fiction and even I have made a brief foray into the unknown in a short story co-written with my wonderful son.  Surveillance is set some time in the near future, in an uncertain world where knowledge is valued rather differently than we might expect.  Genius is seen as a threat by the controlling powers who fear for their authority over the masses.  Everyone is monitored in a surveillance society, including young children who display extraordinary intelligence.  Children such as Harrison Avery who, at the age of six, already shows unusual talents.

"Right then, son, let's see what we need to cover today, shall we?" Brandon said cheerfully, logging into the program.
"I'd like to do something different today, Daddy," Harrison said in a polite little voice.
Brandon glanced from the loaded program to the child.  "Oh yes?  What did you have in mind?"
"A machine.  I'd like to make a machine."
Brandon spun around in his chair, his full attention now on the boy.  "Do you have any specific machine in mind?" 
Harrison nodded, full of confidence and threw his father a disarming smile.
"Yes.  I've thought all about it.  I want to make a machine to measure people."
Brandon's mind was like a well-oiled machine in its workings as it now ran through the permutations of Harrison's words and tried to second-guess what the boy had in his mind.
"What exactly is it you want to measure?"  He enquired at length.
"I want to measure people's truth," Harrison replied, making the words sound so ridiculously simple and straightforward that Brandon laughed in spite of himself. 
"And where exactly did this idea come from?" 
"From Uncle Russ." 
"What?"  Brandon asked sharply.  "What does Uncle Russ have to do with it?"
Harrison wriggled his small frame into a more comfortable position on his chair so that he could sit back, which he now did, resting his arms on the armrests although, of course, these were too high for him and lent him a certain comical appearance, like any small child emulating an adult. 
"Uncle Russ couldn't tell when I was speaking the truth or telling a lie.  He couldn't work out the difference and that meant he didn't ask the right questions.  And the twins don't speak the truth and they hurt each other by telling lies.  Telling lies makes people angry or sad.  So I want to make a machine so that people can measure each other and see when they are telling the truth or telling lies.  That way they won't have to be angry or hurt any more."

Friday, April 5, 2013

Manic Scribbler's A-Z Challenge - E is for Ex- (Wife or Girlfriend)

E is for Ex-wife or girlfriend

"Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned 
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned."
        (William Congreve 1670-1729)

As Jim Samuels said "A wife lasts only for the length of the marriage, but an ex-wife is there for the rest of your life."  And when they do hang around, ex-wives, whether they chose their ex-certificate or not, make excellent villains, as I've discovered.  And I'm not alone.  Ex-wives are stereotypically jealous, avaricious and vindictive - what better qualities can you ask for in a good villain?  

Ex-wives and girlfriends (even an ex-boyfriend) have worked villainously well for me in two stories.  In Shopping for Love, Greg's ex, Josie, chose to leave her husband for a man who promised her a more glamorous lifestyle.  However, although she discarded Greg, she is determined not to let him find happiness with anyone else.  Emma's ex-boyfriend, Bailey, is not as malicious as Josie, but is equally intent on keeping close tabs on Greg and Emma's happiness - and throwing the occasional spanner in the works when and where he can.

But my most hated villain so far is Amber Rayne, former lead singer of Wishful and ex-girlfriend of Christian Goodchild in Wishful Thinking.  With her psychopathic tendencies, Amber will go to any lengths to destroy Christian's blossoming relationship with Jess.

After lunch Christian’s manager, Tom Powers arrived to talk business and whisked an apologetic Christian off to his study after being introduced to Jess.  Jess and Ben settled into a sitting room with a TV the size of a cinema screen to await Christian’s return.  They had just decided on a film to watch when Amber sauntered in.

“So, ghost-writer, Jess, how and when exactly did you meet our Christian?” she asked, reclining on a nearby sofa and pulling her legs up underneath the cushions.

Jess explained very briefly how they had met.

Amber nodded thoughtfully.  “No time at all, then.  Of course we go back absolute centuries – right to the start of Wishful.  I suppose he’s told you all about me?”

“Actually no.  He’s told me very little,” Jess answered.

“Perhaps that’s because it’s so complicated - as you can imagine after so many years.  We’ve often talked about marriage, you know.”

Jess compressed her lips for a brief moment.  “I read you were going to marry Adam Ainsworth,” she said as calmly as her tremulous voice would allow.

Amber shrugged her shoulders before fluttering her fingers in a dismissive gesture.  “The press will say anything – you should know that.”  Amber glanced at her hand for a moment and Jess wondered if she was counting her fake nails or contemplating her future wedding ring.  “Your little boy is adorable.  Where does Benjamin’s daddy figure in your lives?”

Jess refused to answer, partly because she felt it was none of Amber’s business and partly because she did not want to discuss the subject in front of Ben.  She had already seen him roll his eyes and shake his head at the mention of his name.  He disliked being called Benjamin and muttered “I’m Ben” under his breath, but she thought Amber had probably not heard him.

Amber gave her a knowing look. “Off limits?  Yes, I suppose it can be difficult for some people when strangers start prying into your personal backgrounds, can’t it?”

“The very last thing I would want to do – and I’m sure that goes for Christian as well,” Jess said in a voice shaking with pent-up frustration, “Is cause any personal distress to anyone.  The idea behind the autobiography is for Chris to document the history of the band and his involvement in it – not to do some tabloidesque exposé!”

“Oh that’s how Chris sees it, is it?” Amber asked, the emphasis on his name sounding derisory.  “But he’ll never tell you the full truth about us.  Believe me, ghost-writer – if he did, he knows he wouldn’t see you – or your darling little boy - again for dust.”  And with those words, Amber rose and left the room, leaving Jess trembling with misery and frustration.

There's a review on Amazon which produced a huge smile when I read it: "I love Ms Sofras' villains. I want to find them and strangle them before they spoil everything."

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Manic Scribbler's A-Z Challenge - D is for Dreams

D is for Dreams

In common with many other writers, most of the ideas for my stories come from my dreams.  I also notice that I tend to include dreams in my stories quite frequently, so it seems natural to give the subject of dreams and dreaming a little blog space in this A-Z Challenge.

Everyone dreams but not everyone can remember their dreams.  In fact even those of us who have good recall will forget more than 90% of our dream content.  Waking up or being awoken during the REM stage of dreaming is the surest way of recalling dreams, but  to continually deprive a person of this important phase of dreaming can have serious consequences on a person's health.

Many dreams are universal and the symbols in them have been interpreted throughout the world and
throughout the ages as people have always wondered about their significance.  But dream interpretation can be quite a hit and miss affair.  The fact is that dreams carry deep and obscure meanings that only the subconscious mind can make any sense of.

Unconsciously, I seem to have made many of my heroines orphans or bereaved of one parent, so it's perhaps not surprising that when they dream, they seem to be searching for the parental love of which I've cruelly deprived them.  (Note to self: must be kinder to my next heroine and give her two healthy parents).  Their dreams mark or prompt a new turning point in their lives.  Even Ellis, in Killing Jenna Crane dreams, but his dream is brought on by his powerful fears and nagging guilt.

He didn't have too long to think about it, however.  That night he dreamt Emily was with him as her usual provocative self.  She invited him on a location hunt - which turned out to be a cemetery - one of those large, rambling spaces you find dotted around London filled with neglect and decay but among ancient, tired old tombstones newer burials are evident as old family plots are invaded by younger inmates and a few fresh flowers appear to mark the new arrivals.

Emily took his hand.  "Come and see what I found," she said encouragingly, leading him between the weather-worn stones of older graves.  "It's just perfect."

She pointed to a headstone without a surround, crammed in between far more imposing funeral masonry depicting cherubs and angels.  He saw Chloe Winterson's name engraved in the marble headstone and the dates.  In a simple small urn beneath the headstone sat a large posy of primroses so many, in fact, that the little yellow flowers spilled out all around it.  Primroses: I can't live without you, he remembered.  He looked at Emily who shrugged her shoulders to demonstrate her lack of concern.  "I always thought it must be so easy to be a man without a conscience.  Now come over here, there's something much more interesting for you to see."

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wednesday's Writer - Carol Kilgore

Hi, everyone! I’m so thrilled to be here on Lyn’s blog. She and I have known each other for a long time. While we’ve never met face-to-face, we’ve come to know each other through the things we write. Lyn was in one of the first online critique groups I participated in, a group that burned fast and hot … and out. Way too soon. But I made a couple of friends from that group that I still keep in touch with today, and I’m happy to say Lyn is one.

One of the things I enjoy most about being a writer – besides the actual writing and editing and promoting and everything else that comes with the package – is meeting other writers. We’re all different. We have different ways of arriving at a finished product. We have different styles. We write about different things. Yet stick a few of us in a room, and we chat about all sorts of things as if we’ve been friends since kindergarten. It’s almost an instant recognition of a kindred spirit.

So I’m looking forward to meeting you, if I don’t know you already. I’m hoping you’ll tell me about yourself in the comments. If I already know you, you may learn something new about me here. If so, you can tell me something new about you J

You’ve probably guessed by now that I’m not British. Although half of me is, through my mother’s side. My English ancestors arrived here in the Colonies way back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and settled in New England. Some came from Essex and Kent. Others from Devon.

As my ancestors were prone to travel west to see what else was out there, my immediate family were Texans, and I was born in Texas. I live here today, via several years of living up and down the eastern seaboard from Miami to New York, as the wife of a Coast Guard officer. We now make our home in the fabulous city of San Antonio. And my novels are set along the South Texas Gulf Coast.

I write a blend of mystery, suspense, and romance that doesn’t slide neatly into any of those genre slots. I call it Crime Fiction with a Kiss. The best way I know to describe my writing style is to tell you the names of some of my favorite authors. You will see from the list how different they are, yet all have influenced what I write – and the way I write it. The one constant with them all is their love of straightforward language. I, too, love non-flowery prose. So in no particular order, my faves are: Lisa Scottoline, James Patterson, Lisa Gardner, Suzanne Brockmann, David Baldacci.

My first novel, IN NAME ONLY, released last July.

It was so much fun to write. I had written a short story about the protagonist several years earlier, and I hadn’t been able to get her out of my mind. In the short story, “Never Say My Name,” she became involved with the Federal Witness Protection Program. I kept wondering what happened next!

You can read an excerpt of IN NAME ONLY on Amazon in the Look Inside! feature. Here’s the blurb:

No home. No family. No place to hide. For Summer Newcombe, that's only the beginning.

The night Summer escapes from a burning Padre Island eatery and discovers the arsonist is stalking her, is the same night she meets Fire Captain Gabriel Duran. As much as she's attracted to Gabe, five years in the Federal Witness Security Program because of her father’s testimony against a mob boss have taught her the importance of being alone and invisible.

No matter how much she yearns for a real home, Summer relinquished that option the night she killed the man who murdered her father. But Gabe breaks down her guard and places both of them in danger. Summer has vowed never to kill again, but she's frantic she'll cost Gabe his life unless she stops running and fights for the future she wants with the man she loves.

My second novel, SOLOMON’S COMPASS, is new this week! It released on April 2. As I’m actually
writing this post in mid-March, I’m not certain if Look Inside! is active yet. I hope so. This novel, while also set along the Texas coast, involves different characters, a different setting, and a very different story.
During the writing of this story, anything and everything that could have gone wrong did. And things are still going wrong. During the blog tour for my debut novel, one tiny glitch happened. So far with the tour for SOLOMON’S COMPASS, I’ve encountered five distinct issues. Five! And it’s only mid-March. The tour hasn’t even officially begun. So I’m guessing readers are either going to really love the story, or the book will tank. Nothing in between. I’m also guessing most readers are going to fall in love, like, or lust with Jake Solomon. He’s SUCH a scoundrel J

Here’s the blurb:

A missing belt—her uncle’s prized possession. The lure of buried treasure. And a sexy former SEAL who makes U.S. Coast Guard Commander Taylor Campbell crazy. What more could any woman want. Right?

Taylor is in Rock Harbor, Texas, on a quest to unearth her uncle’s treasure—a journey far outside the realm of her real life. There’s one glitch. Taylor's certain the buried treasure was all in Uncle Randy's dementia-riddled mind. Now he’s dead.

Former SEAL Jake Solomon is in Rock Harbor under false pretenses to protect Taylor from the fate that befell her uncle and the other members of a tight circle of Coast Guardsmen called the Compass Points who served together on Point boats in Vietnam.

Jake is definitely not supposed to become involved with Taylor. That was his first mistake. Taylor is attracted to Jake as well, but she refuses to wait for him to locate the killer when she knows her plan will force her uncle’s murderer into action.

But the killer's actions are just what Jake is afraid of.

Both books are available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback.

Carol Kilgore has always had stories and characters in her head, but she didn’t know she should write them down until about a dozen years ago. Once she started, she couldn’t stop. Her first published short story won the Derringer Award for Best Short-Short Mystery. She continued to write short fiction for a few years and also enjoyed a small success as a freelancer before giving it all up for her true love—novels.

Tagging along with her own special Coastie, Carol has lived in locations across the U.S. She and her husband now share their San Antonio home and patio with two active herding dogs that keep them free from all danger, real or imagined.

You can find Carol at these locations across the web:

Manic Scribbler's A-Z Challenge - C is for Cat (Of course!)

C is for Cat

Of course!  Anyone who has visited my blog in the past will know I have a bit of a fondness for fur-balls.  If I can sneak a picture of one into a blog post, you can be sure I will.  How can I baffle you with cat facts?  Well, did you know they've been stalking the earth for over 35 million years and in all that time have barely changed in appearance or behaviour?  We all know they were revered in Ancient Egypt but did you also know that if you hurt or killed one, you could be put to death?  Or that a blind cat uses its whiskers in the same way a blind man uses his white cane?  And did you know that a cat's hearing is better than a dog's and three times that of human hearing?  How about this one: the collective noun for a group of kittens is kindle.

It's hardly surprising that cats keep creeping into my stories.  They're never there at the planning stages but
when my back is turned one will invariably sneak in.  I know I shouldn't have favourite's but I do have a bit of a soft spot for Bessie, who is Emma's tortoiseshell moggy in Shopping for Love and who is based on my own cat.  

Thistle from In Loving Hate is perhaps the most unobtrusive cat.  She belongs to the housekeeper but adopts the heroine, Lyssa in the way cats often decide to do.  Mr Minniver, in Killing Jenna Crane is perhaps the most sinister cat.  He's responsible for bringing Ellis and Chloe together but may not always be what he seems.  One thing all three cats have in common, however, is their greed!  Bessie (Shopping for Love) becomes a bit of a daredevil whenever a bowl of tuna is mentioned.

“Come on, Bessie, let’s get you that tuna,” she said, turning towards the worktop next to the sink and reaching for the can opener. 

“Mrawrr,” Bessie said again, more urgently this time and brushed even harder against her legs.  Emma blinked back her tears and tamped her nose with the back of her index finger as though taking in snuff.  She hoped the wet, sniffing sound would not be audible.

“Aren’t you pleased to see me?”  Bailey asked, coming up behind her and enclosing her in his arms.

“Don’t!” Emma ordered, brandishing the can opener at him.  “Just leave your key and go back to Russia.”

“Mongolia, not Russia,” he corrected, shuffling the length of his body against hers and attempting to nuzzle her neck where he knew she liked it, just below her left ear.

Emma pushed him away angrily and reached for a saucer to decant the tuna for the now frantic Bessie who was risking life and limb weaving in and out between both pairs of legs.  Once done, she placed the saucer on the floor in the corner of the kitchen and the cat began gulping it down with shameless greed.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Manic Scribbler's A-Z Challenge - B is for Bard

B is for Bard

As in the bard.  

Now old William Shakespeare knew a thing or two about love, and all other aspects of the human condition, didn't he?  As a teacher, I was frequently asked by complaining students how the plays and poems of someone writing nearly 400 years ago could possibly be relevant today.  Here's (more or less) what I would tell them.  The themes of Shakespeare's plays have made them endure throughout the centuries. His tragedies deal with issues vitally relevant to us today; for example: the complexities of love and friendship in every form, whether between men and women, parents and children, siblings, colleagues or friends. He delved deeply into human emotions and how these manifested in a multitude of profound and complex ways, such as jealousy and deception, possessiveness, pride, anger, foolishness and many, many more. In all his plays he explored important issues such as loyalty, duty, honour, marriage, trust, honesty and societal expectations as well as what happens to
the human psyche when these are threatened or undermined.  Nuff said?

The title of my first romantic suspense was stolen from Shakespeare - I hope he wouldn't mind.  In Loving Hate is about just that, love and hatred and the fine line separating both.  The phrase (an oxymoron) came from Romeo and Juliet who, despite their youth, experienced profound and very real love. 

Capturing the intense pleasure and pain of love and portraying it to the reader differently each time is no easy feat when you are not Shakespeare but we can only keep on trying in the hope that practice will make us better, if not perfect.  Here is the moment when Lyssa and Alex from In Loving Hate stop fighting their desires and follow their hearts:

He reached beyond her to tug at the stiff, old sash and, as it yielded, his face brushed against her hair and she felt the warmth of his breath on her ear.  She turned, as if hypnotised, feeling the heat of his body through the thin, silk robe he now wore.  She looked into his eyes and felt herself drowning in them.  Their lips met but barely made contact, lingering for a moment on that tantalising brink of uncertainty, until a little gasp of exquisite pain escaped from hers, to be captured by his, and the union completed.  She wanted him every bit as much as he wanted her.

As his warmth enveloped her, the passion so long quiescent within her rose and engulfed her until she began to tremble with the bewildering mixture of quivering fear and intense desire.  Her heart quickened and throbbed as powerful emotions pulsated throughout her body, swamping and crushing her like savage winter waves, bruising and wounding her with their intensity.

He held her closely, but with such sweet tenderness that her heart cried out in agony and anguish until it seemed to burst from its tortured confinement, erupting with a volcanic intensity that made her sob with longing.  She clung to him tightly with a powerful sense of belonging—no longer as a separate entity, but as a part of that vital essence within him which needed her as much as she needed him.

His response so matched and harmonised with her emotions that they seemed to drift together onto a completely separate plane, where words were redundant and all that mattered was that sense of perfect unity, that sense that only one force stood there, consoling itself in its own sweet embrace.