New Witch on The Block- Giveaway Today Only! Help me With Questions for Louisa West, Author.

Get in Today for the Fab Giveaway and help me interview Louisa West, Author of New Witch on The Block.

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Here is a little about the book. I’ve read it and thoroughly enjoyed it and reviewed it on Good reads.

Practical Magic meets Bridget Jones’ Diary in this fun, heart-warming short novel about starting over, putting family first, and finding love when you least expect it.

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Here are the details of the giveaway- it’s one that I’d love to win it myself!  Best get in quickly it finishes today.

https://kingsumo.com/g/mipgcv/new-witch-on-the-block-mega-prize-pack

New Witch on The Block is the start of Louisa’s new series Midlife in Mosswood.

Book & Author Details: New Witch on the Block Louisa West
(Midlife in Mosswood, #1) Publication date: June 30th 2020
Genres: Adult, Paranormal

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Synopsis:

She thought she was running away from her past, not catching up with it.

Rosemary Bell just wants to live a quiet, happy life and raise her daughter as far away from her toxic ex-husband as she can get. But when they move into a decrepit cottage in the woods of Mosswood, Georgia, Rosie realizes her life will never be simple.

A gang of meddling neighborhood do-gooders want to run her out of town. The vicious laundromat machines keep eating her spare change. Not to mention her buff Irish stalker who insists that he’s a Witch- King and that it’s her royal destiny to be his Queen.

And to top it all and to top it off, strange things keep happening around Rosie when she least expects it…

She could deal with it all, but her ex won’t rest until he tracks her down. When her ability to protect her daughter is threatened, Rosie shows them all that nobody messes with the new witch on the block.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54331799-new-witch-on-the-block

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Purchase:Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dN5N5T

AMAZON CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B087KYLF3N
AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087KYLF3N
AMAZON AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B087KYLF3N

I’m going to interview Louisa here and for my Chatting with Authors Page over on Facebook. Is there anything  you’d like to ask her?

Did you grow-up watching Bewitched or Sabrina the Teenage Witch or Charmed?

What drew you to writing about witchcraft?

What makes witches such an enduring topic?

Did you make up some rules for magic or does anything go?
AUTHOR BIO:
Author by day, Netflix connoisseur by night.

Louisa likes Pina Coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain. Determined to empty her brain of stories, she writes across several genres including fantasy, speculative fiction, contemporary and historical fiction, and romance.

She lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, and drinks more coffee than is good for her. When she’s not writing or researching projects, Louisa enjoys spending time with her family, and Harriet The Great (Dane). Hobbies include playing video games, watching copious amounts of tv, and various craft-related initiatives.

She strongly believes that the truth is still out there.

Author links: http://www.louisawest.com/
https://www.instagram.com/louisa_west/
https://www.facebook.com/louisawestauthor/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16738794.Louisa_West

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Author by day, Netflix connoisseur by night.

Louisa likes Pina Coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain. Determined to empty her brain of stories, she writes acrshe writes across several genres including fantasy, speculative fiction, contemporary and historical fiction, and romance.

She lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, and drinks more coffee than is good for her. When she’s not writing or researching projects, Louisa enjoys spending time with her family, and Harriet The Great (Dane). Hobbies include playing video games, watching copious amounts of tv, and various craft-related initiatives.

She strongly believes that the truth is still out there.
Author links:

http://www.louisawest.com/

https://www.instagram.com/louisa_west/

https://www.facebook.com/louisawestauthor/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16738794.Louisa_West

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Author B. Michael Radburn.

I am delighted to welcome B Michael Radburn to chatting with authors, his latest book Subterranean was released on July 1st.

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Here is an extract.

The past is my shadow, forever behind me.’ Cassie Belrose was used to looking over her shoulder. Running away was what she did best – away from a possessive husband who wants her back, running from city to city, from job to job, to stay one step ahead of him. Daniel Woodsman is at home in the dark; in the abandoned railway tunnels below the city where the homeless veteran has built his life since his injuries had taken away more than just his confidence. Fleeing the Suits dispatched by her husband to bring her home, Cassie enters Daniel’s domain in the subway where their two worlds collide. Together, can they stop running long enough to begin living again.’

It’s on my to-read list and I think it should be on yours too.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Aside from the usual childhood desires of becoming either a cowboy or an astronaut, I knew from adolescence that I wanted to be a writer. The path wasn’t a direct one, but I finally got there.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood.

Playing my guitar or riding my motorcycle will always lift me out of a slump (or writer’s block), but my family is a constant when it comes to the joy of life.

Also, for the motorcycle fans, tell us a little about your Harley?

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Iconic Harley Davidson

Ah, my bike … She’s a beautiful Road King Classic that has been with me for more than ten years now. A tribute to that Americana road culture of chrome and leather that I love so much. Harley ownership is as much a culture as it is an interest. I can’t imagine life without it.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?

A simple BBQ grill of steak, jacket potatoes, string beans in butter, and corn on the cob with a nice Cabernet Merlot. As it’s Saturday, I’ll be doing the cooking. Can’t say I’d prefer anything else right now.

What are your musical tastes?

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Old school country and blues. I’m a product of the 60s and 70s, so am also partial to rock and roll from that era. When I jam with my friends though, it’s usually a bit of all those genres, depending on where the mood (and alcohol) takes us.

 

Your hero?

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We all imagine we can be a hero

This is tough. Heroes come and go in our lives, depending where we are and what we’re doing. There are so many people I have admired over the years. A constant is Neil Armstrong. Not so much for what he did, but for how he did it with such focus, heroism, and unassuming humility.

Right now, however, I’d have to say New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She is such a strong and shining light amidst the current World leadership. A true inspiration.

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

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A campfire cookout

It wouldn’t be a dinner party, but rather an open campfire to share a billy of tea. I would have Elon Musk and Bill Gates to discuss the possible future of humanity. My third guest would be Ricky Gervais to keep the conversation grounded. I think that would be neat.

Writing and other topics.

As a woman, I am intrigued by the fact that you wrote successfully for women’s magazines earlier in your career. What allowed you to tap into that market?

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It was a calculated decision at first. There was a decade’s gap where I hadn’t written a word while I focused on my young family. When the itch to write again grew too much to ignore, I looked for an accessible paying market which at the time was the significant stable of women’s’ magazines in Australia. When I read a few samples, I recognised a pattern that I felt I could follow but decided to add a unique twist in the tale and stamp my own literary voice. The method worked well, and soon opened overseas opportunities. I think living in a household of women (my wife and 2 girls) also helped me successfully tap into the female psyche.

You couldn’t get much further apart than writing from this perspective and your love for Harley Davidsons and motorcycles.

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A diverse community

 

Not really. The motorcycle community a diverse one these days, with many riders of all genders. The gap isn’t as wide as you may think. Conversations at rallies and motorcycle pubs and haunts can often turn to books and the arts. Don’t be fooled by the leather, tattoos and facial hair.

Equally, I am interested in your comment ‘no matter the story, it’s always better when told with strong female influences.’

 

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Women enjoy many genres including crime.

 

 

Can you elaborate further, especially as many male writers only have token female characters?

I think it’s a matter of balance. My stories are character-driven, so I write most of my books from multiple perspectives. Therefore, it’s imperative that I understand the place where their influences and drives come from; bring their backstories to the surface to better understand their reasoning and actions. I am a fan of so many female writers, top of my list being Harper Lee and Margaret Atwood. Men and woman often process things differently. I think it helps a book to see both the conflict and common ground this can sometimes produce in a story.  In Subterranean, however, I chose to write it entirely from my female protagonist’s point of view to dig deep on the domestic abuse angle. That way I could also keep Daniel’s story mysterious and at arm’s length until he was ready to share it with Cassie.

Do you get much feedback from women on your writing?

All the time. The greater percentage of my readership appears to be female, not an uncommon statistic in the crime genre as I understand it. One of the nicest comments I ever received was from a reader who told me; “You write like a woman.”

The book touches on both homelessness and veterans. What do you think is the main issue contributing to homelessness for veterans?

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Homelessness is such a complex issue. It’s difficult for many of us to understand how living rough on the streets feels safer than where they have come from, but that’s the crux of it. Add the trauma of PTSD to the mix and that rabbit hole some of our veterans find themselves down just gets deeper. Despite the efforts of government bodies to assist our vets, the culture learnt in the military is hard to shake when it comes to talking about these things. There is a line in Subterranean where Daniel tries to explain it to Cassie. He says, “We don’t talk to civilians because they can never understand what we went through; what we are going through; and we don’t need to talk to another veteran, because they do know.”

I applaud all-male champions for change concerning domestic abuse. What can men do to help other men and women?

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Domestic violence a problem for men and women.

Lead by example for a start. If you see a person in trouble, step up and bear witness. I find this passive action can often stem a potential abusive event in a public place without force. Sit with the victim, stand with them, walk with them, make them feel safe.

What time of the day do you usually write?

I find the mornings accommodate my creative writing more productively, and evenings better suited for the more mundane tasks of correspondence and research, although I’m disciplined enough these days to be able to write at any time of the day. It depends on the weight of any deadlines I may have.

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What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Editing … I hate it. Not because I begrudge my editor’s work at making my books the best they can be, but because my headspace is usually in the next project by the time we are at the editing stage. I call it a necessary evil (first world problem, I know).

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

Not too strict. I have a conservative target of no less than 500 manuscript words a day (any more is a bonus). This means I can comfortably have a first draft in 10 months or so. I like it best when I have several projects on the go at any one time, dipping in and out of each as the mood takes me.

How long do you research for a book?

The Falls

It varies, depending on the complexities of the plot. I am a less is more kind of writer anyway. I’m very fortunate to have a couple of sources within the police force that help me with procedural and cultural aspects in my novels. Research never really stops throughout the process. There are always details surfacing that need to be checked and explored.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I like to place an early model canary yellow VW Beetle car in all my novels. Sometimes it provides a minor insignificant prop, and at other times a major one that’s key to the story. I couldn’t tell you why I do that. It’s just a fun little foible that gives me joy.

I love that!

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Yellow Volkswagen Beetle Coupe

Do you have a favourite character that you have written?

If so, who? And what makes them so special? Firstly, The Librarian (Thomas Leon) from my debut novel, The Crossing. He’s an eccentric retired old-school newspaperman living in a rundown mansion on the cusp of a devastated landscape of past logging in the Tasmanian Highlands. He was one of those characters that wrote themselves; I just had to sit back and take notes. More recently I could say the same about Daniel Woodsman in Subterranean. I found a real affinity with his character as it developed on the page, possible because of the link to my army days.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?

I think they could write a great technical manual. But fiction needs to find a pathway into the reader’s emotions. I find it better to set a seed rather than advise what the reader should be feeling. If I do it right, this allows them to discover the level of emotions based on their own benchmarks in life.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?

Best: Stephen King suggested never to underestimate your reader when we were both speaking at the 84 World Fantasy Convention in Canada.

I am in awe, you met and spoke to Stephen King.

Worst: “Writing is easy”, by my best friend in high school.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?black and red typewriter

$90 dollars for a portable Remington typewriter back in 1978. It was the moment I decided that I could really do this.

Do you have a favourite author and why?

This is tough. There are so many. But the most influential of my favourites is Ray Bradbury. He was always able to write adult speculative fiction with the heart and curiosity of a child. I love that.

What are you reading now?

While the rest of the world appears to be devouring new literature during the C-19 crisis (which is wonderful), I’m revisiting the classics. Currently, I’m reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I recently purchased a beautiful leather-bound hardcover version. The way Stoker has told the tale from a collection of diaries, journals and official documents is so masterful.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

Many writers imitate their most influential authors to kick off their career. My early influences were Americans like Bradbury, Bloch and Lovecraft to name a few, but I’d like to think that I have since found my own voice and style.

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Favourite quote (does not matter the source) Can be from music if you like!

My favourite quote is from British author Clive Baker. You’ll find it in his Books of Blood collection. “People are like books. Wherever we’re opened, we’re red.” Creepy, huh?

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?

Again, too many to consider as an ultimate favourite, but the one book I can go back to time and time again is Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I seem to find something new that touches my heart every time I read it.

Favourite book when you were a kid.

Maurice Sendak’s, Where the Wild Things Are. It was the first book that really sparked my imagination as a child, a spark that has since turned into a raging fire of creativity for me today.

Thank you so much for a fun and fascinating interview. 

About the author.

B. Michael Radburn has been writing successfully for
decades with over a hundred short stories, articles and reviews published in
Australia, the UK and the United States.

He was an award-winning short storyteller before his move to novels and screenplays, a move that freed him to further explore his characters, as well as the natural and supernatural environs in his work.

Amidst road trips on his Harley Davidson, and jamming with the local musicians, B. Michael Radburn is a family man and enjoys farming his small Southern Highlands property where the hauntingly beautiful surrounds inspire his stories.

Connect with B. Michael Radburn on his Facebook, Instagram or webpage.

Subterranean: ISBN: Paperback ISBN 978-0-6487093-9-8, RRP $27.00
E-book ISBN 978-0-6487093-8-1, RRP $4.99
Pages: 238pp Category: Fiction, contemporary.
Available: From Booktopia and Amazon.

Website: Publisher: http://www.atlasproductions.com.au/
Also by B. Michael Radburn: The Crossing; Blackwater Moon; and The Falls and more

What Did I read in May 2020?

 

Like many people, I was battling with the restrictions and limitations of our Covid 19 world. This meant no visits to the library, which was closed. Like many readers, I have amassed a significant To Be Read Pile, otherwise known as TBR. What is in it?  It’s a mixture of books I had bought and never started, books I’ve been given, and books acquired at book swop.

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We can always escape into a book

Also, I have learned to love my Kindle. It was an under-appreciated Christmas present that has finally come into its own. Plusses are that it has a book light making for easy reading in bed and the ability to adjust the text size which I have appreciated since an eye operation.

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Light, portable and lots of storage- why didn’t I appreciate it before now?

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.

Foxglove Summer

One from book swop, with the tagline, “Two missing children. One lost copper.” This is book five in the Peter Grant series, and it would have helped enormously if I’d read the previous four. That said, it was still an enjoyable read, although I suspect some in-jokes and references went completely over my head. The police presence mixed with the supernatural gave it an unusual and amusing twist. Peter Grant is both a cop and a man with an aptitude for magic.

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones illustrated by Tim Stevens.

Christopher

 

Another children’s’ book from my TBR pile- this book is a precursor to the popular ‘Chrestomanci’ series. As I hadn’t read any of them, I started the book with no preconceptions. It is an engaging story of Christopher, a rather lonely boy, who finds out that he has a destiny. His parents are aloof, his mother beautiful, but always out, his father important and busy. When his uncle takes an interest in him, he’s flattered by the attention. The next bombshell is he’s to be sent away to school. Unexpectedly, he finds fun and friendship at school and as a love of cricket. Then, he is unceremoniously removed from school. Sent into the guardianship of a wizard to learn magic. He is to become the next ‘Chrestomanci.’ magical guardian of all wizards, but he proves inept at magic. However, unknown to anyone else he can go to a place he calls ‘the in-between’ a doorway onto other worlds. The revelation of this secret increases the danger, that he and everyone else is in. Reading a children’s book as an adult, you pick up more of the hints and nuances that would have bypassed you as a child. Even so, there were still a few surprises.

Pawprints of Love- A Gumnut Press Anthology.

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Look! its even colour themed with my laptop.

This anthology is stylishly put together, and the contents do not disappoint either. Ten Australian Authors write stories filled with canine capers, disarming and distracting their human companions. In Stonecrest Bay, at Dee’s dog grooming salon The Funny Bone, dogs always come first. All doggy life is there. The good dogs and the naughty ones. They steal not only their owner’s hearts but yours too. The town is abuzz with a local fundraiser for the Fireys*, and the upbeat vibe catches hearts unaware as they fall under its spell and give love a chance.

* Fireys  is  Australian slang for the fire fighting  men and women

Starting Over At Acorn Cottage by Kate Forster.

Acorn Cottage

As a fan of the TV show Escape to the Country, I was anticipating enjoying this book and I did. However, there is far more to the story than the charming cover might have you imagine. Clara has bought a country cottage over the internet. A betraying boyfriend and best friend and too much wine can do that to you. I snorted with laughter at the nicknames she came up with for the dubious duo.

Inevitably, the pictures don’t tell the whole story- the place is a dump and Clara has nowhere else to live. She need help and fast and it arrives in the shape of Henry, the thatcher who can fix anything. Henry has a daughter Pansy and they live in a gypsy caravan. So far, so predictable. The village of Merryknowe has its mix of strange inhabitants. There is Tassie who is a grandmotherly/ tea leaf reading/ knowing things type. Rachel at the teashop, a sad wisp of a girl, whose storyline is particularly sad. The plot deepens with the addition of these characters and in helping them and being helped by them Clara also helps herself. Despite its light cover, there are serious issued addressed here with family violence and domestic abuse. This might be upsetting for some readers.

The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester.

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Settle down for an unforgettable read.

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book in a book giveaway, otherwise, I would have bought it. Every book Natasha Lester has written has surpassed the previous book. The Paris Secret continues this trend, it is superlative and compelling storytelling.

Much of Natasha’s success is in combing topics which interest her and resonate with her readers, such as travel and fashion. The bonus is that she then combines them with historical research into lesser-known topics to craft a compelling story. The authors note at the end of the book details much of this research and show how comprehensive the research process was.

Natasha takes the research and brings it to life, peopling it with characters that we come to care about.

Like Skye Penrose, surely with a name like that she was born to fly? One of two illegitimate sisters to an unconventional mother Skye enjoyed an almost idyllic childhood in Cornwall. As someone who spent part of my childhood in Cornwall, I enjoyed reading about Skye’s halcyon days with Nicholas Crawford an American boy who is destined to return to the States.

Later, when Skye joins the war effort as an Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot the trials and humiliations these women endured just to do a vital job were almost unbelievable. They faced male patronage, misogyny, and hostility in breathtaking amounts. All this is based on documented fact. If we bear in mind that these women were middle class, educated women, who had the funds to be able to learn to fly-  we can only imagine how lower-class women were treated. To still undertake the jobs given to them, to fly in freezing conditions in an open cockpit plane. To smile, to boost male morale, to be treated so poorly and expected to perform to impossible standards. Every single one of those women was a heroine who deserves our respect and thanks.

Christian Dior, that iconic name in fashion had a sister Catherine. The famous Miss Dior perfume is named for her. Again, a little-known story, she was part of the resistance and was captured in 1944 and sent to the infamous Ravensbruek concentration camp. This makes grim but compelling reading.

When Skye meets Nicholas again, he’s engaged to a Frenchwoman  Margaux Jourdan. So, they can only remain as friends and in the camaraderie and tensions of wartime that has to do. But can it be enough? Nicholas still has feelings for Skye and she for him, but he’s an honourable man.

In present-day Australia, Kat Jourdan is a fashion conservator. Sent on a mission by her grandmother Margaux Jordan to visit Cornwall. Kat becomes fascinated by what she has discovered and what she has still to learn. And then there is a collection of sixty-five priceless Dior gowns. They are so well described; it is easy to visualise them and to covet them.

This book takes a reader on an emotional journey, one that makes you laugh and cry, exclaim at the courage and weep at the baseness of some of humanity. Unforgettable.

The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson.

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Botticelli’ Virgin-

I didn’t know how much I needed this book until I read it. As a writer trying to tell a female story fitting it into the heroes journey concept has always felt unsatisfying to me, and now, I know why. The stories may intertwine, but they are immensely different. I found myself nodding as various points were raised. It was like finding the missing piece to a jigsaw, everything finally made sense. I had a submission to complete and using these concepts made it easier and I think more emotionally satisfying.

 

 

Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About The Vikings.

My book, Fire & Ice is both a contemporary romance and timeslip love story set in Viking times, so I have been researching the Vikings for a while. Currently, I am trying my hand at another Viking romance.

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Viking doll and books at the book launch

What we know about them is from the writing of their enemies, so it is hardly an unbiased picture. These churchmen who were often the victims of the raids wrote in their chronicles about them. They disliked and distrusted everything about these pagans.

 

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Churches were easy to raid

A bit like asking your ex-partner for a character reference.

The Viking had an oral culture, so they left little in the way of writing. Most of what we know is from the monks or Arab sources.

Viking did employ skalds who told stores and recited poems.

Here are some things you may not know about them

Firstly, they did not call themselves ‘ Vikings’, that happened centuries later. They called themselves .’ Norse’ or ‘North men.’ They came from Scandinavia. Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Viking means raider and many were peaceful farmers or craftsmen.

Viking potter

They didn’t wear horned helmets, sorry ‘Hagar the Horrible.’ The horned helmet was a costume designers’ idea for the staging of Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle of operas. If a Viking had a helmet, it was just a domed metal one, but many simply wore a leather cap and often leather armour too.

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Similar to the helmets the Normans wore

Vikings were dirty and smelly. No, they were very hygienic compare to most other people, they bathed at least once a week. Many washed each morning. Most possessed a comb and were scrupulous about grooming. This made them attractive to women and might have inspired some home-grown jealousy. Both men and women wore jewellery, rings, arm rings, necklaces, charms.

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Thor’s hammer amulet

Viking women were not equal as sexual double standards did apply. Pre-marital sex was allowed for both sexes, provided they were discreet, and it did not end in pregnancy. Men could keep more than one woman as concubines called frilles as well as bed slaves. The children of concubines could be recognised as legitimate. Illegitimate children ruined a woman’s chance of marriage and were a burden to her family.

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A few women were fighters, most were busy with a myriad of domestic tasks.

Divorces were mostly instigated by the women.  Reasons could be lack of attention – he was consistently absent-three years was considered desertion, or he was cruel, struck her, he was inclined towards men, or he didn’t satisfy her in bed.

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She kept her dowry or bride price

However, Viking women had their own money and could own land.

Vikings gave us names for some of the days of the week, Wednesday ( Woden’s/Odin’s Day )Thursday ( Thor’s Day) Friday ( Frigg ‘s or Freya’s Day.)

A Viking carried his bride over the threshold of their new home and into their new life.  She wore a circlet of flowers on her head. Each presented the other with a sword, his from grave goods, the sword of his ancestors. He was entrusting his lineage to her and she to him. The term honeymoon has evolved from the Viking custom of giving the bride and groom a month’s worth of sweet ale. That is the ale which is sweetened with honey.viking-ship-in-the-water

 

 

Chatting with authors-Meet Crime Writer Sandi Wallace.

Sandi has a dual career as a fitness instructor and as a writer. So, she embodies the ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’ concept.

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That’s a terrific way to put it, Sonia. I also like to think of it as balancing my active, outgoing side with my sedentary, solitary one; both are creative and fun. Anyway, thanks so much for inviting me in for a chat!

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I read every day and it’s almost always crime fiction. I also love to garden, exercise, canoe, relax, visit the country, and be around great people. An evening at home, enjoying a glass of red wine with my hubby, wood fire glowing and popping, the pup at our feet, the cat on my lap, and a crime show on TV is my idea of bliss.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Since about the age of six, my dream was to be a crime writer.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood.

A walk with the pup, inhaling the pure air up here on our hill, looking across to the nearby hills cloaked in a pretty blue haze never fails to relieve my computer-sore eyes or to put my worries into perspective, and it reminds me just how fortunate I am. Time in our garden, working or just relaxing, or a simple evening with my hubby also lifts my spirits.200508 IMG_1973

 

What is for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating?

Chicken and salad. Hmm…a medium-hot Indian curry with peas–rice and garlic naan, or a beautiful Italian pasta dish. Mmm.

Can you tell us a little about your books?

Tell-Me-Why-low res

I’d love to! I have three rural crime thrillers—Tell Me Why, Dead Again and Into the Fog— along with a collection of short crime stories with central police characters, On the Job, all being re-released in fresh editions thanks to my new publisher. Even more exciting, two new titles will soon join the others. The second collection of my short crime stories, Murder in the Midst, is out 11 August and it features eight different women with one thing in common: serious crime. And my fourth rural thriller, Black Cloud, publishes on 22 July. I can’t wait!

My novels all star Melbourne journalist Georgie Harvey and Daylesford cop John Franklin. Combining Aussie Noir, parallel stories led by a journalist and a cop, and gritty rural fiction set in a variety of country locations, my novels can be enjoyed as standalone as the crime aspects are wrapped up within each one, though many people prefer to read them as part of the gripping series, following the lives of Georgie, Franklin and other cast members.

If you’d like to know more about my thrillers, please check out https://www.sandiwallace.com/new-aussie-noir/ or visit my Amazon or Goodreads pages.

On-The-Job-low res

What time of the day do you usually write?
I aim for ‘business hours’ for my work and switch focus to quality time with my family at night. In pre-Covid times, that meant my writing sessions fitted around my fitness industry commitments in that work time, but right now I have bonus availability for writing. And of course, I do work outside those hours when the mood or need strikes.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
I enjoy all parts of writing—from the first idea right through to professional editing and proofreading the final draft. Marketing is the trickiest part of being a writer for me. What I like most are personal appearances with the opportunity to talk to and connect with readers and aspiring writers.

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How long do you research for a book?

Research can be a big hole that writers fall into, so interesting, that they spend far longer on it than they need to. I try to be disciplined and focused on the process. For my fourth rural crime thriller, Black Cloud, it was important for me to better understand several technical aspects of the situation I was setting up before jumping into the actual writing, as these points held direct consequences for the timeline, action and events. From there, the story evolved quite organically, but there were some further knowledge gaps that I either flagged and addressed after the draft was down, or I initiated the relevant research and added it in as I went.

What drew you to writing crime?

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Another atmospheric cover

I was destined to write crime after deciding it was for me at that tender age of six. Admittedly, I was first drawn to the genre by enjoyment value—books that gave vicarious thrills and danger, broadened knowledge, explored other cultures and places, exercised the brain, and offered an escape from the real world. But I now love crime stories that offer social commentary about topical issues, situations that are believable, are relatable and happening to imperfect people. Reading—and writing—crime fiction makes sense of things and often brings a type of justice or resolution not always possible in real life.

Have you written in other genres?
Crime fiction is my writing passion, but I have written some short stories that aren’t a crime, along with a fair volume of articles and other non-fiction material to develop my writer’s bio and skills.

Did you ever consider using a pseudonym?
Not for my adult crime fiction. My lifelong dream was to write it, so I wanted to put my name to it. One thing I might try one day is writing crime or mystery books for children or young adults. In that case, a pseudonym would be useful to differentiate my books for my audiences.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?

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Yes, my two main characters, journalist Georgie Harvey and country cop John Franklin. It’s great to wear their skin, get inside their head, be in their world. Georgie is determined, strong, and sometimes reckless. Franklin is intelligent, loyal, and a maverick. Both have vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses, and both have character traits I’d like to own, and others I am happy not to. I am also fond of, and in some cases love to hate, other characters in each of my stories.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?
We’re asking a lot of our readers. To invest in our stories. To care about our characters and the outcome of the situation we’ve built. To suspend disbelief at times. To care enough to finish the story. We want the story to resonate with readers after they finish and for them to recommend our books to others. It follows, then, that we need to feel it with them. While it can leave us vulnerable, a writer’s empathy and bond with their characters, story and readers are invaluable, is genuine and it shines through. (It is advisable to grow a thicker skin for other aspects of being a writer, though.)

Best writing advice you ever received?
Practice, practice, practice. Keep striving. Keep believing.

Do you have a favourite author and a favourite book, and why?
Oh, no! Naming one favourite author or one favourite book is like choosing a favourite child! I am an avid reader of Australian and international crime fiction. My preference is contemporary novels, and though I read many sub-genres of crime, I’m often drawn to rural crime thrillers, psychological thrillers, and police procedurals I also enjoy a good cosy when the mood strikes. I regularly feature my standout crime reads in my ‘Good Reads’ blog posts at https://www.sandiwallace.com/blog/.

What are you reading now?

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Writers are also readers.

Cause and Effect: Vice Plagues the City (Kind Hearts and Martinets Book 1) by Pete Adams, a stablemate in my new publishing house. Pete has a distinctive, witty, British style and his star is Detective Inspector Jack Austin, a ‘self-labelled enigma’ who runs the Community Police Unit from his deck chair, working a variety of cases while struggling with his mental health issues. Only a little way in, I’m enjoying its uniqueness very much already and know it’s going to take a more malevolent turn very soon.

Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source)

‘You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars. Regardless’ If today was your last day by Nickelback.

 

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Thanks so much for the chat, Sonia. I’ve had fun. I hope your followers have enjoyed it, too.

Its been fun -thanks, Sandi.

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Website https://www.sandiwallace.com/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8431978.Sandi_Wallace

Amazon author page https://www.amazon.com/Sandi-Wallace/e/B00TTIYLVS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sandi.wallace.crimewriter

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sandiwallacecrime/

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com.au/sandiwallace_crimewriter/

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sandi-wallace

Book buy links

Tell Me Why http://mybook.to/tellmewhy

Dead Again http://mybook.to/deadagain

Into the Fog http://mybook.to/intothefog

Black Cloud http://mybook.to/blackcloud

 

 

The Books That I Don’t Review.

 

I have always read widely and extensively. Books are chosen at random, maybe through a  friend’s recommendation, or reading a blurb. At times, I am tempted by a bookshop or library display. I  have a passion for fiction and also dip into non-fiction if the topic appeals to me.

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Things I love- books and cats and the time to read

Often, I will then write a review, I like to keep track of what I have read and use Good reads as well as posting reviews on my blog. I am not paid for the reviews and hardly ever receive a ‘free’ copy of a book. If I do so, then I reveal that.

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Pleasure in reading a good book.

There are some books that I won’t review though. As a writer, I know the amount of time and effort that goes into writing book. Volunteering as a book group coordinator for eleven -years taught me that there isn’t a book that appeals to everyone.

As readers, we bring our own experiences and expectations, to the books that we read. What one may describe as slow-paced, another may consider introspective and thoughtful. We may have ‘hot button’ topics, which are always going to be negative to us. Some may have moral or ethical scruples about certain kinds of books. Hot romance will not appeal to sweet or Christian romance readers, graphic content may not appeal to a more sensitive reader.

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My To-Be-Read Book Stack

For me it is simple, if I am not enjoying a book I stop reading and don’t review it. It’s not a bad book, put simply I am not the right reader. That is not to say there are no bad books, over wordy, pretentious, slight on a story, dull,  or prosaic,  of course,  there are. It’s up to us to decide for ourselves what they are.

 

 

Meet Josh Langley, Author, Illustrator, Copywriter, Broadcaster, After-life Investigator and All-Round Good Guy.

I met Josh and his partner Andy, at the Rockingham Writers’ Convention last year. I was slightly star-struck, after reading Find Your Creative Mojo. They are charming and loads of fun to chat with.  Josh has walked the walk, which gives his books such power to help children and adults while dealing with their anxieties.Josh Langley author head shot small (1)

What do you like to do when you are not writing? Sitting on my verandah with my husband watching the sunset over the valley enjoying a glass of wine (or several).

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was 6, I wanted to be a train driver because seemingly all you had to do was toot the horn and wave at people as you went by. Otherwise, I’ve never had any idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. As long as it wasn’t a normal boring job! I think I’ve succeeded in that; radio announcer, radio copywriter, author/illustrator, photographer, abstract artist, part-time afterlife investigator… who knows what’s next?

Josh recently launched his own YouTube channel.

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What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating? Andy is cooking southern style chicken schnitzels and garlic roast veggies and it suits me just fine.

Can you cook? Are you practical? Yes, I can cook and quite enjoy it. I’m lucky, that both Andy and I enjoy cooking so we have lots of yummy meals. My favourite is Tortellini. (There’s a recipe for Lemon and Parsley Tortellini on page 54 of Being You is Enough if you’re interested.)

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Breakfast or dinner? Dinner definitely. Unless breakfast is something exotic like Parathas and onion bhajis…. (Or leftover Tortellini )

Your hero? I don’t have heroes, but there are a few people who I admire, such as Michael Leunig. I got to meet him at last years Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival (we were next to each other in the program guide, Langley / Leunig) and I was a blubbering mess. I couldn’t say anything interesting or clever, just ‘Um, I’m a big fan… Can I have a selfie?’. Sonia comments that’s so much like I was when I met you!

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, (Living or dead) who would they be and why?

Iggy Pop. He could tell some awesome rock and roll stories. The late Anthony Bourdain. He could also tell some greats stories about people, food and travelling. My husband Andy. I couldn’t let him miss out on all the fun!

What time of the day do you usually write?BSP Its OK to feel the way you feel cover ABIA 2018 sm

I prefer mornings, the earlier the better but not like 3.30 (I did that once when I set the bedside clock wrong after a blackout) more like 5.30 onward.  However, if I’m drawing illustrations, that can be anytime.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I have a really short attention span when it comes to writing and rarely gets into the flow. I’m constantly checking Facebook, getting up to snack on something or walking around outside. Oh, look! Is that packet of pretzels? Yum!

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

All over the shop like a mad dog’s breakfast. There is no structure. When I was working 4 days a week, I used to get up at early and write for an hour before work, but now that I work from home all the time, there’s no structure at all. I’m trying to write a memoir on childhood trauma at the moment and I haven’t found my rhythm as yet, but I’m hoping it’ll come. Maybe pretzels will help.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I can write anywhere. The kitchen table, office, beach, café etc. It doesn’t matter. I know that’s not quirky, but very handy!

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

I get a lot of feedback from parents telling me how the kid’s books have made a big difference in their child’s lives. Especially kids who may be a little different or who don’t feel ‘normal’ for whatever reason. They say that the books have started great conversations and led to all sorts of life-changing insights for both the kids and the parents. That makes all that I do worthwhile.

How has being a copywriter influenced your writing style?

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Josh worked in radio

Radio copywriting is all about distilling big concepts down into simple easy to relate to messages, which means using as few words as possible. It’s the same for kid’s books. I take big concepts such as emotional and mental well-being and all that’s associated with them and break them down into powerful short sentences and then marry them with simple cartoon-like illustrations. It’s the art of saying more with less.

I guess that in copywriting you work to appeal to emotions, does that carry over into your writing?

Yep, advertising is all about connecting on an emotional level and that is the same for writing non-fiction and kids books. Even though I’m not a traditional storyteller, the way I shape a story is to go direct to the heart of the reader and make a deep connection that way. Cut straight to the chase but have fun while doing it.

I think you have said that you write your children’s books for the kid you once were. I know that many, many kids and adults relate to them.

Yes, I write the books as though I was giving life advice to my 8-year-old self. I think there are only a handful of kids authors who are in the same boat as me (Todd Parr for example) as most are either teachers, educators, librarians, in the child development field or have kids themselves and I don’t fit into any of that. So writing the books for myself made sense and it was healing as well, as I had experienced childhood trauma and through the books, I was able to reassure the younger me that he is OK the way he was and that he is loved. I think parents can relate to the same message because it’s something they wanted to hear when they were young too.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?

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Graeme the giraffe.

I love Graeme the Giraffe, the cover boy for Magnificent Mistakes. He represents the confident, playful happy go lucky kid in all of us. He’s not too concerned about what other people think of him and he’s willing to give new things a go. He wants to wring the most out of life.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?

Everyone can feel their emotions in some way, even if it’s getting angry at a bus being late! However it’s being able to tap into that emotion and transfer it to the page so that everyone can relate to it, that’s the trick.

Best writing advice? Worst writing advice you ever received?

Best: “Adverbs are not your friend” – Stephen King. Worst: “This is crap” – Me.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? My laptop. I love it. I really do. I think I spend more time with it than my husband!

Many people won’t have heard about your exploration into the afterlife. Personally, I’d like to thank you for doing things I have always been too scared to do. You have two books about this, don’t you?

Yes, ‘Dying to Know: If there life after death’ and ‘Turning Inside Out; What is everything we’ve been taught about life is wrong?’ both on my website.

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I’ve always been interested in ghosts, the paranormal and afterlife topics and I was desperate to see if could have a personal experience of some kind myself. When I was planning the outline of Dying to Know I knew I had to include a ghost investigation, however, I couldn’t think of anywhere that I could have easy access too. Then one of my work colleagues mentioned in passing that he thought the radio station he was working at was haunted in some way. I remembered I had worked there many years before and thought the same thing. Bam! I had my haunted building! It’s not often you get to play ghost investigator, but it was heaps of fun, yet very scary at the same. It’s the kind of adrenaline rush I love. While some people like parachuting out of a perfectly good plan, I like to see if I can come face to face with a ghost!turning inside out

 

How many unpublished/ half-finished books do you have?

1 novel, 2 kids books, a photographic book, and other stuff.

QUESTIONS FOR FUN (or maybe not!)

What are you reading now? Irritating posts on Facebook!

Do you have a favourite author? I don’t have a favourite author per se, but enjoy Mark Manson, Anne Lamott and Rebecca Solnit.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I really got a lot out of Stephen King’s On Writing.

Is there an author you most admire in your genre? Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are). His personal story always brings a tear to my eye. He kept his homosexuality and his 50-year relationship to his partner a secret from his Jewish parents because he didn’t want to disappoint them. If I could give him a copy of Being You is Enough and give him a hug, I would.

Favourite quote: “Find your own lane” – Diane Evans (my editor)

Favourite book when you were a kid? Rhyme Giggles, Nonsense Giggles, written by William Cole and Illustrated by Tomi Ungerer

Do you think being in a supportive partnership has helped your confidence and creativity?

Hell yes. I’m lucky that Andy is so supportive and encourages me to keep going with my projects. It also helps that he’s a writer and creative type as well, so we’re both encouraging and supporting each other. Mind you have been known to fight over the little writing desk on our library!

Thank you for having me, it’s been fun! Thank you for being here, Josh.

Find all about Josh and his books at www.joshlangley.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/joshlangleywriter/

https://www.instagram.com/joshlangleyauthor/

 

 

 

April 2020 the last of the library books for now.

I love my local library, I am a regular library user and generally pop in once a week. It was fortunate that I had just grabbed a stack of books, when the library closed for the foreseeable future. So this month my reading is a mix of library books and ones I had on my bookshelves.Those I have marked with an asterisk.

The joy of browsing for a book
The joy of browsing to find a suitable book

The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley.

Authenticty Project

This was the perfect book for now.  Strangers are brought together by chance. Each has read a green notebook,The Authenticity Project. Julian, an elderly artist started it off, asking what lies we tell ourselves and others? He writes that he’s lonely and leaves the book in Monica’s café.

Café owner, Monica,reminded me of Monica in Friends, with her quest for order and perfection. After reading Julian’s confession, she writes of her hopes, fears and dreams. Hazard is next, he gets the book by accident.He’s an ex-city trader , burnt out and trying to quit his coke habit. Going as far as possible, from everything and everyone,he knows, he winds up on a beach in Thailand. Even paradise can have its drawbacks, boredom makes Hazard read the book and then add his story to it.

Laidback and likeable Riley,gets the book by chance. As a stranger to London, he decides to see if he can find  Monica’s café. An amusing part of the book showed the disconnect between perception and reality Alice is an influencer, and mummy blogger.She stares through the window of Monica’s café. Alice is tired of her so called ‘perfect life; and looks at the homeliness of the cafe with envy.Meanwhile, Monica, sees the perfect mother and baby. Each envies the other for what they think is lacking in their own lives and to me, that was very realistic.

This is one of those rare books that you want to read in one sitting and then you are sorry that you finished. I  cared about these people and felt that I knew them.

Something to Tell You by Lucy Diamond. *

Something to tell you

A  carefully planned, much anticipated golden wedding anniversary party, for Harry and Jeanie Mortimer, goes wrong when a gate-crasher turns up. Unknown to them, John, their eldest son, has become increasingly distant from his wife Robyn. Sweet Bunny is in love with Dave Mortimer, but she is living a lie and fears exposure. Londoner, Frankie lives with Craig and his little boy, but their situation is becoming precarious. Everyone has something on their minds, lives will be reshaped, as the secrets and failings are exposed.

The Villa Girls by Nicky Pellegrino.*

The Villa Girls

Hiring a villa is an escape from reality, everyday worries and problems. It started when the girls were leaving school. Addolorata impulsively asks Rosie – whose parents were killed in a car crash, to join them and so the tradition of the four villa girls is born. The first trip was to Majorca, the next to Italy, and that set up a tradition. Through tough times and life upheavals, they still have the villa to look forward to. In Italy charming and somewhat spoiled Enzo basks in the adoration of his family and enjoys the privilege as the heir to a wealthy olive estate. Meeting the villa girls will change his life and theirs.

Buying Thyme by T.J.Hamilton *

Buying Thyme

High-end escort Miranda is pragmatic about her job and the men she meets. She keeps her real name and life a secret. She is seductive and alluring, playing the fantasy role men want. Powerful, charismatic and dangerous, Joe Tench, a reputed underworld figure is her best client. But Miranda thinks she can handle him. Until events spin out of her control, putting her in danger. Sexy and sizzling. Frustratingly nowhere on the book blurb was it revealed that the book was part of a series. A letdown.

Consider This by Chuck Palahniuk.

Consider this

Who hasn’t heard of him?  He is the sort of celebrity writer who generates headlines and controversy. His tales are always edgy, so I picked this book up wondering what kind of writing advice he would give.  Practical advice interspersed with anecdotes. Clear-eyed and realistic about the writer and writing process. Not prescriptive, simply saying ‘this is what works for me.’ Not for the easily offended.

The Last Kingdom by Bernard Cornwell.*

The LAst Kingdom

Set in 9th century England and Denmark. Uhtred, son of Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a noble English boy is captured after a raid and is taken to Denmark. He finds favour with Ragnar and is eventually accepted as almost another son. The unfettered way of life appeals to him. He much prefers the fighting upbringing, to the one he might have had in England, with  its prayers and learning. Throughout the book, his identity is fluid as his loyalties shift ,in these his formative years. At heart, I think  he is always a pagan. He has a fatalistic attitude to life, embodied in the phrase ‘destiny is all.’ I enjoyed the immersion into the midst of this way of life, vividly written. The book inspired the popular TV series The Last Kingdom

Mary Poppins by P.L Travers illustrated by Mary Shephard.*SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

I had never read Mary Poppins and  I thought now might be the time to enjoy it. The book was a shock ,after the saccharine Disney version of Mary Poppins. The original Mary Poppins as written by P.L.Travers is very definitely an Edwardian no-nonsense nanny and a far more acerbic creation. She is an interesting, although not a likeable character, in my opinion. However, as there were five more Mary Poppins books, she proved popular.

Shakespeare by Bill Bryson.*

Shakespeare

What we think we know about Shakespeare is probably wrong. Bill Bryson sets out to tell us that we know extraordinarily little about England’s most famous poet and playwright. There are only three portraits in existence, and only one is from Shakespeare’s time. This summarises very well the entire Shakespeare knowledge, as hardly anything is contemporary. Bryson works through the conspiracy theories of who else could have written the plays. He demolishes the arguments one by one, some made by serious scholars, others by cranks. Personally, the conclusive argument for me was the way Bryson showed how Shakespeare’s Warwickshire upbringing and knowledge imbued his work in the phraseology and concepts of that place.

Enchanted Glass by Diana Wynne Jones.*

Enchanted Glass

This has been on my bookshelves for a while. After trying to read a much-anticipated book, which I gave up on ( I hate to do that!) And no, I dont  like posting snarky reviews. I read Enchanted Glass, as a kind of antidote. It was an enjoyable read. Andrew Hope had a magical grandfather and, on his death, inherits his house, his staff, and his field of care, without really realising what that entails.

As he is coming to grips with this, a young boy , Aidan Gain turns up and needs his help. Andrew already has the disruptive staff to deal with but accepts Aiden and tries to help him. Aidan’s arrival seems to be a catalyst for trouble and adds mystery and complexity to Andrew’s life. Altogether a very enjoyable read. As others have noted, Aidan’s parentage gives cause to pause and consider the implications of a throwaway sentence or two. Perhaps the author didn’t see it as problematical at the time? I think the book could have done with a better cover too.

A Cotswold Mystery by Rebecca Tope.*

aCotswolds Mystery

I am reading books I have at home and this is the first in the series that I have, although its number four in this series. I was soon able to keep up as the author quickly filled in house sitter Thea Osborne’s background. Engaged to house sit in delightful Cotswold village for ten days Thea and her spaniel Hepzie, are engaged to ‘ keep an eye on granny’ as her daughter and son in law have a ten-day break. It sounds like a perfect job although they do seem a bit paranoid about security arrangements. Thea finds her charge a puzzle at times capable and the at times confused. She is voluble about ‘dear Julian’ their next-door neighbour. All is going well until Julian is found dead by Thea’s daughter trainee police constable Jessica.

Edit Your Own Romance Novel by Ebony McKenna.*

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A helpful and practical guide which talks you through the steps needed to edit your own romance novel. Romances have their own structure and it is useful to have some explanations which make that clear and relatable. Simple explanations and examples make the steps understandable. Encouraging and user friendly.

Meet Author/Poet/Artist/Activist-Annie Hill Otness.

Hi Annie and thanks so much for joining us today. We will start with some getting to know you questions, then move on to your writing and art.

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Annie Hill Otness.

What do you like to do when you are not writing?  My favourite is swimming in the sea and next is sailing

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All the joy of sailing.

 

I didn’t expect to grow up as I am lucky to survive my childhood – my mother was an alcoholic who abused and neglected me. She tried to kill me, the first time when I was about four when she stripped me to my undies and locked me out of the house all day in the middle of a Melbourne winter – I got pneumonia and was very ill. The second time I was about eight and she slashed my right wrist and throat with a razor. Both times were when my father was away. I think she believed she was sacrificing or saving me.  I survived the pneumonia and glandular fever which left me with lung and heart damage. I made 80 last year!

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S B says Thank you for sharing this- what a traumatic experiences

Sometimes I share because telling others who have suffered and survived that you  understand and care can make a difference, and keeping silent, as I was raised to do, perpetuates the damage of child  abuse and neglect

What was your dream job when you were younger? I wanted to sail away, or fly like a bird, or write stories and make pictures.

What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating? Not sure about tea tonight, but a takeaway would be good. Something new and different – except coriander.

What’s your favourite food? Currently it’s spinach and halva.

Your hero? Greta Thunberg,

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? Tyson Yunkaporta; he’s aboriginal and an advocate for indigenous culture, as well as a creative performer and artist. I would love to yarn with him.

Anh Do: came to Australia in a refugee boat, he became a comedian, artist (stunning portraits in his ABC show), and writer for young people. He’s creative in many fields – and funny and smart.

Julia Gillard: past prime minister of Australia. She was an outstanding leader, brave, and ethical and still a mental health advocate and strong woman.

They are all creators in different ways and from different origins that exemplifies our dynamic culture. From all the lands on earth we come – They affirm our unofficial anthem We are one – we are Australian.

What’s your writing space like?

neon signage

I have a girl-shed for artwork and a ‘Do not disturb – genius at work’ sign in my corner in the back room with my PC  and my home gym so I can get up and workout a bit when the flow stops. S.B. comments Lovely-love the genius at work sign.

How do you decide if an idea will be a story, a poem or an artwork?

It’s not a decision – some ideas come visually, some in a flash as a poem (usually when I’m travelling or walking) and then some are stories to be told over time.

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For those unfamiliar with your fiction how would you describe it?

I decided to write romances when I retired but was totally no good at it – my attempt turned into the first book in the Travellers Trilogy which could be described as Adventure/Romance, as there’s a lot of adventure and intrigue and a powerful love story. My latest book is The Swagman Saga, a colonial myth, and this could be an Australian historical fantasy, I guess.

swagman saga

 

Is there a typical writing day?

When I’m writing, which I’m not currently, I grab the time when I can. I’m not an owl, so usually in the morning, but afternoons or evenings too, depending on what’s happening.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Editing. It costs too much for me to have my m/s professionally edited, and I’m grateful for a friend who edited the trilogy, but he couldn’t edit the Swagman Saga, so it’s published with all its faults, which I’m sure are many and diverse.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?Don’t think I have one. I just hammer away and try to keep up with the characters as their lives unfold.

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Annie’s picture of Australia’s Pilbara region.

When you’re writing an emotionally draining (or sexy, or sad, etc) scene, how do you get in the mood?

I’m the watcher in my stories, so it’s like seeing a movie. I’m often surprised at what is unfolding, and react to the tragic, scary, passionate or violent events.  I’ve been saddened by the way the lives of some characters unfolded and I usually intervene at the end, as I write to give hope, not to create sorrow and despair.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special.

Sweptback COVER

The truism that we are all our characters. I most admire the courage and devotion of Aidan, and Matilda; the adventurous spirits of Greta and The Swagman; and the dogged and persistent Old Grey Mare, – as they are the best of me; but I have to acknowledge myself in the troubled Gwen/Selina; and in the evil Tobias, and the shape-changing monster, Captain Sharman.

Why did you choose to self-publish, and use a pen name?

The rejections made me feel like a failure. Although I understand this is usual and it can take many years of rejection before a writer is successful, I was around 70 when I started writing novels and I thought I didn’t have that long to wait. I know my work doesn’t fit a commercial mould so I decided that I would write my own way. I feel I don’t need to write to a market as I don’t expect ever to write for a living, although I’ve covered my costs

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I chose to use my maiden name as I wanted to disassociate my work from my everyday identity. I Googled it, and it wasn’t being used, since then two other M.A. Hills have appeared – one writes about chakras and yogic stuff which is OK, but the other writes lurid romances. Should have stuck with Otness.

Are you currently working on a new book? Will it carry on the stories from the trilogy or The Swagman?

I have started a young adult series called The Theriant, (Theriants are shape-changers).  I find this concept not only fascinating, but a great way to create diverse p.o.v.  I’ve written the first book and the first draft of the second and have the outline for another one. The protagonist is a mutant hero called Crystal Stone whose mission is to save the world. The first one – The Flight of Crystal Stone, is about its/her coming of age but after letting the work rest and coming back to it, I realised I must revise  it, as the first part could be cultural appropriation, and also doesn’t fit the story as it developed

4 elements quilt (1)
4 element quilt by Annie.

Who is your favourite author and why? So many: Tyson Yunkaporta –  I’ve just read Sand Talk, and this was extraordinary– confronting – validating some of my concepts and challenging others. I’ll need to read it again.

Peter Fitzsimons; Australian history – he tells the true story and brings it to life.

Kem Nunn, writes stories with so much empathy about surfing and of people that I feel I know.

Liu Cixin  – The three body problem. His dystopian future could become the new reality aka Wells’ War of the Worlds  – Chinese viewpoint is enlightening.

All different and really great reads.

What book is currently on your bedside table? Kim Scott’s Dead man dance, Qi Gong, Me and the boat and a man named Bob, by C.E. Bowman (friends have told me it’s the best book they’ve ever read – Bob is Bob Dylan!) Moab is my Washpot – Stephen Fry.

e book reader turned on
The convenience of e-books

I prefer to read eBooks now as the range is limitless with wonderful free library apps. I have about 3,000 books (I’m used to having shelves of books around I guess after 25+ years in libraries), and eBook loans suit me now.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

James Joyce, The Dubliners, I read at 18 and it reset my brain. After being schooled on Eliot and Thackeray, that were so alien to my life and culture, I couldn’t relate to them at all. Joyce opened the window to the wide universe of possibilities.

Tim Winton, because he writes about my kind of world, and I realised that we can tell the stories about places and lives we know. Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel because he is wildly inventive and bawdy and funny.

Cervantes because he wrote the ultimate quest,and many other authors.I think everything I read has some influence.

Who is the author you most admire in your genre?

Norman Lindsay, Tolkien and Terry Pratchett – for fantasy sagas, Susanne Collins’ The Hunger Games for YA. I  don’t write to a genre but admire so many authors – I’ll pick  Melissa Lukashenko, Too much lip as adventure romance. Poetry – Les Murray. Don Williams for theatre (I’ve written a few plays that I produced and directed at the Pocket Theatre – great loss that it closed down.)

Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source)

Change is possible because it’s necessary – James Zerzan.

time for change sign with led light
Photo by Alexas Fotos on Pexels.com

SB. That quote is very pertinent at the moment!

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult / ‘Sea Sick’ by Alanna Mitchell had a life changing effect on me and made me realise that I had to fight for the well being of the oceans that I love and voyage on.

Favourite book when you were a kid? Alice in wonderland and through the looking glass. I was sent to the care of strangers for a few months at about 9 and was allowed to take one book –  Lewis Carrol was in hindsight such a good choice, with a strong, resilient, resourceful girl hero alone in a weird world.

What famous author do you wish would be your mentor? Shakespeare – I think he’s the greatest writer ever even though I don’t read in other languages.

I’ve included a few of the quilts, which are made from silk paintings with shibori dyed panels.

SB I asked what Shibori was .

Shibori is a Japanese tie dye craft that gives a streaky effect.

Buy links Ozartworks: www.ozartworks.com;

Talismans: https://talismans.ozartworks.com/

Ozartworks facebook: https://www.facebook.com/annie.hill.otness/?ref=bookmarks

Elements and visions: http://elements-and-visions.blogspot.com/

Novels available on amazon, etc.

THE AUTHOR:

M.A. Hill  was born once upon a time in Tasmania, lives near Fremantle, Western Australia.  She is an award-winning writer, playwright, poet, and artist – working in paint, textiles, and clay.

A blue water sailor and activist for the marine environment, her journey is one of survival that has taken her on trackless voyages where few have ventured. In her work she strives for a better world. As Annie Hill Otness, she has published –

Collected poetry, Dream Beaches Invisible Landscapes;

Vision  Books – inspirational works illustrated with  original paintings on silk. 

Talismans – ‘anything whose presence exercises a remarkable or powerful influence on human feelings or actions.’  Source: Dictionary.com

As M.A. Hill she is the author and illustrator of The Travellers Trilogy and The Swagman Saga.

Visit TALISMANS : Annie HIll Otness/ M.A. Hill:   or www.ozartworks.com;  to enjoy more of her work.

 

 

 

 

March Madness: Fourteen Books I Read in March 2020.

Like many people around the world, I am staying home. It has provided me with a reading bonanza. The month started as normal until mid-month with the need to stay home. Most normal activities were cancelled and I read and read.

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Luckily, we can still read.

What Holds Us Together by  Sandi Ward

What holds us together

Browsing in the library and this book caught my eye, I was attracted by the beguiling cat picture on the front cover. Reading the blurb further intrigued me, so I took the book home. Serendipity, as I enjoyed reading it, especially the perspective of Luna, the family cat. This is a reflective and thoughtful book, dealing with the sudden death of a husband and father and how the family must try and come to terms with it. Guilt and anger cloud the points of view as Annika wasn’t home when Peter died and Donovan, her son is unforgiving towards her. Luna is the only one who is aware of the presence of Peter’s ghost. Donovan has Peter’s journal and won’t return it, while Annika is concerned about what it might reveal. Things become complicated as Sam Annika’s old high school boyfriend and his brother Danny come to plough them out of a snowstorm. A positive and hopeful book

The Last Voyage of Mrs Henry Parker by Joanna Nell

The LAst Voyage of Mrs Henry parker

As I had enjoyed The Single Ladies of The Jacaranda Retirement Village, I settled down with this book anticipating an enjoyable read. I would have relished it when I was younger, finding it amusing. However, for someone who is aware of ageing, it makes uncomfortable reading. Poor bewildered Mrs Parker valiantly battling on with her memory loss, confusion and worries. Throughout the book, we worry is poor Henry dead, misplaced, or playing a cruel game with Mrs Parker? All the classic fears of ageing, are here, the book wasn’t the happiest choice for me. It is well written, and others have and will enjoy it.

The Secret Letter By Kerry Barrett.


Secret Letter

 

Two interlinked storied make up this book and they are perfect companions for each other. Esther in 1910 is fighting for women’s rights after being left in poor circumstances due to her father’s’ death and gambling problems. In 2019 teacher Lizzie needs to begin again after being unwittingly implicated in her ex-husband’s less than ethical dealings. Both women need grit and determination to solve their problems and build a life worth living. I was cheering on the sidelines with this one and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Bad Girls by Caitlin Davies.

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Coincidentally I was reading this at the same time as I was reading The Secret Letter. This is a social history of Britain’s Holloway women’s’ prison. Bad Girls is a sobering book and one that left me both sad and angry at the treatment these women received. I am full of admiration for the courage of the suffragettes. Political prisoners, which essentially what the suffragettes were, were often treated with special harshness. For example,  Lilian Lenton was eventually tied to a chair by six wardresses after refusing food and forcibly fed by two male doctors. It was a brutal procedure, forcing a tube down the throat or even in some cases the nose to enable ‘feeding’. In Lilian’s case, the tube was pushed into her windpipe and then food was forced into her lung Women were not ‘given’ the vote. They fought for it, demanded it, and eventually won it. There are heartrending stories of interred so-called’ enemy aliens’- women who had fled Nazi persecution to go to  Britain, who then ended up in prison. They could even end up with fascist and Nazi sympathisers and the system did not seem to recognise the difference.

There are of course the  ‘celebrity cases’ notorious women who ended up in Holloway. More interesting to me were the so-called criminals who were products of a society that had no compassion for the beaten, the starving, the ill-educated, and the poor. A society that shamed and devalued women while holding them to a higher standard of behaviour and morality than men. Holloway became a women’s prison in 1902 and was closed in 2016- the site has now been sold to a housing association. It is planned to build  social housing on much of the site

The Cosy Coffee Shop of Promises by Kellie Hailes.

Coy coffee shop

Set in the fictional Rabbits’ Leap  Devon, the book explores the rivalry and attraction between Mel, the local café owner and Tony the owner of the decrepit village pub. Mel is in a panic due to an upcoming visit from her matchmaking mother. Mel can’t face that humiliation again and persuades Tony to act as decoy fiance. It can’t be that simple, can it? And of course, it isn’t.

Amour: How the French talk about Love by Stefania Rouselle.

Amour

The title of this nonfiction book intrigued me. The French are masters of the art of love, or so the mythologising says. So, what did they have to say on the subject? As a journalist, Rousselle covered hard subjects, terrorist attacks, refugees, and far-right parties. She felt despair and decided to look for the antidote-love. What follows are interviews and photographs of ordinary people and how they see love. The whole spectrum of emotions is here from those whose search has ended in despair to the long-married couples who still hold hands. Each story is as individual as the person who tells it. Do I know any more about love? If anything, the lesson is that we each seek what matters to us. Love is more than the physical, it’s the rightness, the connection and one special individual.

The Women of Primrose Square by Claudia  Carroll

Primrose square
A surprise party for Frank Woods that delivers one hell of a surprise and sets off a chain of inevitable events. Primrose Square was once a genteel place and Miss Violet Hardcastle deplores what it has become. She’s the self-appointed arbiter of standards, firing off angry missives to all and sundry. Then there is Emily Dunne, out of rehab and out of chances. I found their stories realistic and entertaining. Claudia Carroll writes with compassion and warmth.

Home to Bindarra Creek by Juanita Kees.

Home to Bindarra Creek

Alice is at home in Bindarra Creek, after a tragedy she had built a life for herself. She feels safe, although trapped by her memories and regrets. Dan Molyneux is a local boy returned from the big city, where he was reportedly a hotshot financial whizz. At their initial meeting, sparks fly. When he buys the old pub, Alice expects him to tear it down and that’s alright with her. Unexpectedly, Dan plans to reopen the pub, where there are painful memories for Alice.

The Little Library Year by Kate Young.

The Little LIbrary year

An absolute treasure of a book for anyone who enjoys browsing cookbooks and reading. The recipes sound like the sort of things you might want to cook. For me, the book was a revisit to my birthplace England and a homage to the seasons. This book combines seasonal recipes and recommended reading in a glorious mixture to inform, entertain and inspire.

Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty.

Rules of the Road

Each of Ciara Geraghty’s books is different and for me, this was perhaps the wrong book for this stressful time. Terry is determined to accompany her friend Iris and to try and dissuade her from her ultimate plan to end her life in Switzerland. Iris had progressive Multiple sclerosis and feels its time. The book is about relationships, memories and taking a road trip. Well written and plausible.

White Nights by Ann Cleeves.

White Nights

An atmospheric story that immersed me in the long Shetland evenings of almost endless daylight. These are the White nights of the title, an unnerving time for those unaccustomed to them. Jimmy Perez has a bizarre death to deal with, which is at first presumed to be a suicide. Later, when a murder is revealed the Shetland community feels quite secure. The victim was an incomer, not one of their own. But tongues are loosened, and gossip is revived, as old secrets take on new importance. After another death, the case becomes closer to home. I enjoy Jimmy’s thought processes and his ability to use his island background as he investigates. Well -paced and kept me guessing.

The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins.

Book charmer

I am always drawn to books with either a book or library in the title, so this was an obvious choice for me. Initially, the book read like a fairy tale drawing me in and inviting me to enjoy myself. Sarah Dove, Dove Pond’s town librarian has a gift, to her the books live and breathe and sometimes they let her know who needs them. It’s a gift as rare as it is inexplicable. New arrival Grace Wheeler isn’t interested in staying in Dove Pond. She plans to say a year then leave, but Sarah knows the town needs her. It’s just a matter of convincing her and making her stay. I look forward to reading more of this charming series

Falling for the Italian Billionaire by Annie Claydon

Falling fro Her italian Billioniare

Three and a half stars from me,-this is the first Mills and Boon romance that I have read. I choose it because of the cover and the title. After all who could resist an Italian billionaire if he looked like that. I found it enjoyable and readable. The relationship balance ebbed and flowed. Gabriel de Marco and Clare Holt are well-matched both physically and intellectually. Yet each has something in their past they want to forget. My only disappointment was that I felt the ending let the rest of the book down.

The Sunrise Girl by Lisa Wolstenholme.

The Sunrise Girl

Lucy is in limbo, two years have passed since her husband’s death, yet she is still waking each morning at sunrise. She can’t escape the guilt that she was responsible. It keeps her stuck in an endless loop of grief and guilt.

Best friend Em, drags Lucy out for birthday celebrations. Soon, Lucy is in familiar territory as she tries to block out her feelings. The meaningless one-night stands, endless cigarettes, and glasses of wine don’t dull her pain. Em drags Lucy off to Ibiza, the Spanish  ‘party island’  with its hedonistic lifestyle. They relished it when they were in their twenties, but now in their thirties, isn’t it a bit sad? Lucy starts to think so,  until she meets a  sexy man who makes her pulses race. Determined to find answers , she impulsively decides to go home and sort out her affairs there and then returns.  At first, it’s great,  but he wants more than a casual fling and she is adamant she wants no promises, no commitment. He wants to wake up with her beside him, to have a real relationship. Once again, confronted with this she leaves.

Lucy has been seeing a  grief therapist intermittently and Marj’s skillful questioning enables Lucy to  examine her thoughts and beliefs. She goes through grief, blame, guilt and avoidance, numbing herself with the partying to avoid facing her feelings. There  is no future until past issues are resolved, and Lucy now find the courage to do just that.

I was intrigued by how the author cleverly kept us guessing as to how Joe died and what part Lucy played in that. Overall a bit of an emotional roller coaster and a story that is very readable and relatable was provided with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Note on this month’s book choices

As the month progressed and the news became more dismal, my reading pattern changed. I no longer wanted to read anything deep, meaningful or tragic. I know that others have to embrace dystopian fiction, but for me, that felt like too much of an overload. I wanted distraction and comfort. Some take solace in baking; I take comfort from reading. It was a big blow for me when my local library inevitability closed down. I know it is the right decision, but I felt the loss keenly.  A small loss in the scheme of things, but it matters to me. So, I can no longer anticipate a serendipitous find from the library.  I will be exploring the many books I have at home which are waiting to be read. Like most book lovers I do have a TBR( To Be Read ) stack of books.

Have your reading habits changed due to Covid 19?