Animation by Kayelle Allen at The Author's Secret

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Released at last - 'Unworkers' by Lynette Sofras

Deciding that a book is finally ready to be unleashed to the reading world is never easy and 'Unworkers' has caused me far more agonies than any of my other books.  I've lived and breathed this story for so long that I've worried at times that my obsession with it might become unhealthy and have therefore taken numerous holidays from it, hoping that distance will be the cure.  I always come back to it, of course, and it welcomes me like the dear old friend it is and settles down for further surgical intervention. Well, enough is enough.  It's time to pronounce the delicate procedure over, discharge it from my care and watch it thrive or fail.

So what is it about?  Well, first and foremost it's women's fiction - concerning women and their relationships with each other, with their families - husbands or partners, past and present - with their children and with Chichester Court, a strange house with a sinister past which is somehow related to each one of them.  So, as you may have gathered, it's also very much a ghost story!

Let me introduce you to the women you see on the cover:

ANNE (centre) – former teacher, currently undergoing an acrimonious divorce, recently moved into Chichester Court with her deeply unhappy, 6 year old son.

GEMMA (right of centre) – ex-nurse, divorced from playboy-husband, two young children, one new lover but a recurring nightmare prevents her from moving forward.

RHIA (left of centre) – Gemma’s friend who enjoys a seemingly perfect marriage to a doctor; a perfect husband, perfect children, perfect house; but repressing the pain of her secret past leads to compulsive and disturbing behaviours.

JOANNA (far right) – Anne’s oldest friend and an ex-resident of the house.  She is a new age therapist, long-divorced, with three older children; the oldest lost to her forever.

PAIGE (far left) – a lonely teenage mum with young baby; left a desperate semi-invalid after a mysterious accident on the staircase, which she insists was no accident.

These five women are drawn together by Chichester Court – a large Georgian mansion now converted into flats for one-parent families.  Despite copious architectural re-planning, it seems the house’s dark and sinister past cannot be destroyed.  Anne is the catalyst who brings these significant lives together and eventually draws out the house’s secret: that five young women in a former age were brutally murdered within its walls.

In the process of discovery, these women’s lives and young families are irrevocably transformed by the escalating forces operating in the house when the past encroaches on the present.  Anne and Joanna track down the former owners of the house, the frail and elderly Chichester sisters, to uncover the dark, ancestral secrets they have guiltily concealed for their entire lives.

'Unworkers' is about poisons and potions; about relationships, past lives and the painful secrets between men and women which spread to permeate the private spaces of their lives and homes.

I hope you will read it.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Readers Writes - All about books by Tara Fox Hall

I've never known a writer who isn't an avid reader and today's guest is no exception.  Not only is she a writer I admire hugely, she's also a prolific reader and reviewer - which makes her doubly interesting as a guest.  She is the hugely talented Tara Fox Hall and I can't wait to put her under the spotlight and discover more about her reading likes and dislikes.

So firstly, Tara, welcome as always to my blog.  I'd love to know a little bit about how or why you became a reviewer and how your reading commitments fit in with your lifestyle.  

Tara:  I became a reviewer because I needed to review other author’s work so they would agree to do mine, when I was first starting out. Reviews are important, and there are a lot of 1 hit wonders…or no hit wonders. It’s difficult as a new author to stand out from the crowd and get picked when a review site is getting hundreds of new books a month and only a small fraction of those can be reviewed. 

Then I began to enjoy reviewing books, and offered to review for Good Book Alert and another fiction site. (The latter was with the understanding that if I reviewed 2-3 books for them, I could get a review of my book. That didn’t happen, and I no longer review for that group). I try to review a new book each month for GBA, but sometimes it’s more than that.  I also joined up as a reviewer at E & K Family Books, so that I could review books I liked for fellow authors and work at getting my paperback pile of mainstream authors winnowed down. EK will let you review any book at their site, as long as some other reviewer has not already reviewed it. 

I know them and they are both excellent sites.  You must receive numerous requests for reviews - how do you choose which books/authors to take on?

Tara: I used to take all books anyone asked me to review, but I quickly became overwhelmed. Right now I still have books I cannot get to in a pile near my bed, plus several dozen more on my Kindle app on my computer. I decided just this month that I am going to stick exclusively to the thriller genre for the foreseeable future. I would like to read more genres, but I just do not have enough time.

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

Tara: I agree with you, Lyn; 5 means I recommend the book wholeheartedly, because I could not drag myself away, or it moved me to emotive displays, or it was so well crafted that it changed my worldview.

4 would be the book was really good, but I didn’t like something key about it and whatever it was took away from the story so I wasn’t drawn in totally.

3 would be I liked the book, but it had serious problems that made it something I probably would not read again.

I will not publicly review less than a 3, as a general rule. I do give ½ stars also in ratings for books that lie between whole star rankings.

I feel the exactly the same - if you can't find something good to say about a book, it's kinder to say nothing.  How do you feel if you really like or thoroughly dislike a book you've agreed to review?

Tara: If I like it, I’m ecstatic. There is nothing more joyful than going on and on about how wonderful a novel was. If I dislike it, I contact the author and say I can’t review…or if it was a book I didn’t officially agree to review, I just take it off my Goodreads list and delete it off my computer. There is no point putting up a review saying something was terrible.

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

Tara: So far, not really. Most authors love getting a 5 star review, so I always get thanks from them. But otherwise, no.

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

Tara: I know that several authors have contacted me, saying they doubted their work and that they really wanted to quit…then they got a good review from me and it convinced them to keep going. I’m pleased by that, but it also puts pressure on, because I don’t like to upset people. I know how it feels to get a bad review, which is why if I can’t give a decent review, I decline to review.

An admirable philosophy!  Now some more general questions about reading:

Did you have a favourite book or author as a child? 

I read all of the Big Red and Black Stallion books as a child.

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

The Horse Tamer by Walter Farley.

How significant was reading to you as a child? 

Very significant. I always had my nose in a book, and would read every night.

How important is reading in your life now? 

Sadly, less important than writing, but both take a back seat usually to daily life. I miss being able to just sit down and spend the day reading. 

Do you have a favourite book or author as an adult?  If so, who/why and have you read it more than once? 

The Hobbit. I like the message; that it’s not who you were or what you can do that influences what you will do, it’s how willing you are to step outside your own boundaries and push for what you think is right.

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

I’m reading Inheritance on PDF, and I’m super late due to a death of a relative. I hope to finish it today and get it sent off. I really hate being late, even if it’s due to circumstances I can’t control.

Do you prefer print or e-books? 

Ebooks are easier to store…but I prefer reading print books. After looking at a screen all day at work, or writing all day on the computer, the last thing I want is to look at another screen.

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

Yes, but it won’t be for another 50 years or so.  I’ll have time to enjoy print the rest of my life, I hope!

Thanks Tara; I really appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to chat to me about your reading preferences.  

And since we are speaking of reading, I'd also like to add that one of the best reads of MY year so far is Tara's excellent paranormal/fantasy "Lash".  Definitely 5* and well worth a read.

For more information about Tara, just click on any of the links below: