Someone’s in Trouble!

I love picking out unique excerpts from Heart Search for people to post. I always try and stop it when it leaves a question in readers’ minds. Does that sound wicked to you?

Maybe it is in some ways, but when you look at it from an Indie author’s point of view, anything which generates interest in their work is a really good thing. Every author wants to create ‘a buzz’ about their books and the more people talk about them, the more well known they become.

Betrayal front cover

Today’s stop on day 4 of the Heart Search: Betrayal blog tour is Maria V A Johnson and she’s got an excerpt from chapter two that will certainly make you wonder what happens next. Click here to read it.

 

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Book Review – Kiatana’s Journey by Natalie Erin

Kiatana's Journey

This book was a little different to what I expected. It contained everything described on the blurb and a bit more besides.

I loved the character of Kiatana. She was feisty, opinionated, and didn’t like people disagreeing with her or answering back. Maybe it was due to her upbringing and the fact she’s a princess with her own realm. However, she cares passionately about all the creatures in her forest kingdom, and has a softer and more playful side to her.

The characters of Lottie and Lilja were an absolute joy and I loved to see their journey from pups into adulthood. At times they had me laughing out loud and in one place I had a lump in my throat. The book was definitely the richer for their inclusion.

Some of the other characters were well crafted, especially Ionan, but others left me wondering &/or rolling my eyes. I felt Keota was a bit of a wimp with not much common sense at times. Although he could be quite assertive with Ionan, when it came to dealing with Kiatana or anyone else, he seemed to be a hapless twit. At the end, he seemed to grow within himself, but for me it was too little, too late. The other character who didn’t seem quite real was Casiff. When he first entered the story, he was a real nasty piece of work and at that point he was well written, but further in he did a complete 180 degree turn and became Mr Nice and Generous. It could be argued that meeting a certain powerful lady had something to do with it and I’m sure she was influential in his change of heart, but for me it was too abrupt a change to be realistic.

Most of the scenery was well described and I could use my imagination to fill in the gaps the author left, which I really liked.

For me, the one let-down in the book was how little space was given to the plague in the forest which sent Kiatana on her journey in the first place. It could have been drawn out a little more to give a real sense of urgency, with more detail of the sickness and how it affected different species.

Despite some of the things I wasn’t so keen on, I did enjoy this book. There was a twist I didn’t see coming and the ending has been left in such a way as to allow for a second book. I hope Natalie Erin will take the foregoing as constructive criticism as she undoubtedly has talent and I look forward to seeing her next offering.

 

Author Interview – Michelle Birbeck

 

As part of The Stars Are Falling Blog Tour, it is my very great pleasure to be interviewing the author of this fantastic new book, Michelle Birbeck. If you’re a sci-fi fan, you really must get this book! Now, fanfare please . . . no, louder than that . . . please welcome, Michelle Birbeck *APPLAUSE*

CC – Hi Michelle, thanks for joining me today. Are you ready for me to grill you a little?

MB – So long as it’s for no more than eight minutes on a medium heat, otherwise I’ll burn.

CC- Oh, very good, starting off with a little joke, ha ha ha! I can see what sort of interview this is going to be *laughs*. Okay then, let’s make a start.
What inspired you to create the story and take it in this particular direction?

MB – The Stars Are Falling started with one image and three titles. The image was shooting stars filling the night sky and a young girl running away from something. The titles were The Stars Are Falling, The Stars Are Shining, and The Stars Are Rising. Obviously I went with the first one, because it fits the book so well. About eighteen months after I first had the idea, I came back to it. There was something I wanted to enter, but I didn’t have a finished manuscript that wasn’t part of a series.
So I decided to write one.
Despite only having thirty days until the end of the submission period.
Between the Skype text conversations, cooking dinner, and the Skype phone conversations, I had a full plot and all my research done the day I decided to do it. Ten days later, I had a fully written manuscript and two of my best friends reading it through for me to give me notes.
Intense is about the only way I can describe those ten days. I had 40 Marilyn Manson on repeat for the entire time (I have a thing about repetition when I’m writing). And all I did was write. Maybe eat a little, too.

CC – Wow! That does sound very intense. You did incredibly well to get it all done in ten days. I’m guessing you lived on caffeine and got hardly any sleep! Now onto the next question. Are any of your characters based on real people?

MB – Although I try not to directly base any of my characters on real people, I am absolutely positive there are bits of everyone I know in there somewhere. My character’s personalities come together as I write, instead of me writing them down before I begin.
With the characters for The Stars Are Falling, that is especially true. I had such little time to write it in that most of the planning I did was surrounding the Stars themselves and the plot line. The characters just all sort of fell in together and developed their own traits. Fortunately, most of them were pretty evident from chapter one!
From Alexis stumbling up the stairs, and Mark following with his cat calls, to Dale helping the pair home, and Jenny ditching them for a night under the stars. And they worked so well as a group, too, which I liked. They each had their own area of expertise, and they each had their own issues.

CC – I know exactly what you mean about characters just coming together and developing their own traits as that’s what happened with my books. Now, is there anything you would love to expand more on in your book that you couldn’t?

MB – I’ve had a lot of people give me strange looks when I say that The Stars Are Falling is a science fiction book. A lot of those tell me that they don’t like science fiction. To which I say, that’s ok, because it’s science fiction for people who both do and don’t like sci-fi. It has alien invasions, plenty of action, and a fast-paced, fun storyline, but isn’t full of advanced technology and spaceships.

CC – I must admit, it’s usually the advanced technology stuff that sometimes puts me off sci-fi, but your story is so much more enjoyable to read! Is there a message in your book you would like readers to grasp?

MB – The main part of the book is the reason why the Stars fall to Earth and start killing everyone, and that’s because we’re killing the planet. So there is a big message there about saving the world, but there are also several other messages hidden in there that came about as I was writing. One of those is that it really can take just one person to save the world.

CC – I agree we’re slowly killing this planet and yes, it can just take one person to change things – if only they could get the right people to listen. So, do you have a   favourite character in The Stars Are Falling?

MB – Dale! Hands down, I am completely and utterly in love with Dale. He’s been through a lot of stuff, and he’s still standing tall and taking everything in his stride. I love his strength in the face of everything. And he is so cute and adorable! He’s tall, dark, and handsome, with a dash of geek thrown in.

CC – Tall, dark and handsome? Ooo any chance of throwing him my way when you’ve finished with him? *Laughs* What are some of the books you’re really into right now?

MB – I’ve recently started reading Agatha Christie. I’m not very far in, but I love Hercule Poirot! And I can’t wait to read more. I’m hoping to be able to read some more after the launch for The Stars Are Falling.

CC – I’ve never read Agatha Christie – you’ll have to let me know what you think of them.  So now you’ve got me wondering. Is there a certain author you admire and if so, why?

MB – I adore Richard Laymon. And this is where all the people who know me groan. I’ve answered this question the same way for year now. But the answer hasn’t changed. No matter what other books I read and how much I love them, Laymon in the one that I love the most. I still have all of his books, every last one, and there isn’t anything that I dislike about them. From the characters to the plot to the location to the way they are written. They are all fantastic.

CC – Hmm I think I remember reading something of his many years ago but can’t remember what it was. What author do you hope to meet one day?

MB – It would be nice to meet Richard Laymon, but that’s not going to happen unless ghosts start popping out of the afterlife. So other than him, I would love to meet JR Ward, especially if she’d be willing to dish some secrets about my favourite characters!

CC – If you’re in a cartoon, which character would you be?

It’s been a long time since I sat and watched cartoons on a regular basis. So I’m going to go with Berk. I’d like to be Berk from Trapdoor. Just because he is awesome, and I have his plushie sat on my bed every night.

CAM00309 with Michelle interview

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CC – Oh, he’s cute! Name one superpower you would like to have.

MB- Flying! Think of the money I’d save on international flying. Not to mention the calories it would burn flying that far! Though I expect customs would be interesting.
“And how did you arrive today?”
“I flew.”
“With which airline?”
“None.”
“But you said you flew.”
*Me doing chicken actions.* “Yep. I flew.”

CC – Is there a supernatural being you would like to be and why?

MC]like to be a werecat. A giant, cuddly kitty cat that can run around scaring people. Also, just because I adore big cats, and I’m not fond of the sight of blood, so being a vampire is out for me. But being a werecat sounds like fun.

– If you could travel through time, where would you go?

Ohh, this is a question I have been asked before, a long time ago. And my answer is still the same. I’d go to Rome. Because I want to hear the song Nero played as Rome burned. I expect it would be a heart-warming occasion. (And yes, I will stop with the bad jokes now.)

And Five Fun Shorts!
1) What makes you cringe?

Cracking bones. People breathing on me. People touching their eyes. The sight of blood. There’s a whole list of things!

2) Favorite dessert?

Cake. A nice, moist cake with strawberry and cream filling, and marzipan and icing on the top.

3) Dog or cat person?

If my husband asks: cat. If not, I like big, fluffy dogs.

4) Savoury or sweet snacks?

Depends on my mood. Although, I am always in the mood for cold roast chicken with a bit of salt on.

5) Favourite season?

Late spring. It’s not as hot as summer, the nights are getting longer, and it’s not as cold as spring. And there are so many pretty flowers!

Thanks again for joining me today, Michelle and good luck with ‘The Stars Are Falling’.

Cover Reveal – The Prince’s Man

When I saw the blurb for this book, I knew I had to put it on my TBR list. I’m honoured to be able to share the cover reveal for this exciting new book by author, Deborah Jay.

So, drumroll please . . .

PM-EBOOK_FLAT

Cool, isn’t it?!

Here’s the blurb – fantasy lovers take note:

Award winning novel, THE PRINCE’S MAN, has been described as ‘James Bond meets Lord of the Rings’ – a sweeping tale of spies and deadly politics, inter-species mistrust and magic phobia, with an underlying thread of romance.

Rustam Chalice, hedonist, dance tutor and spy, loves his life, never better than when he’s bedding a gorgeous woman.

So when the kingdom he serves is threatened from within, he leaps into action. Only trouble is, the spy master, Prince Hal, teams him up with an untouchable aristocratic assassin who despises him.

And to make matters worse, she’s the most beautiful woman in the Five Kingdoms.

Plunged into a desperate journey over the mountains, the mismatched pair struggle to survive deadly wildlife, the machinations of a spiteful god – and each other.

They must also keep alive a sickly elf they need as a political pawn. But when the elf reveals that Rustam has magic of his own, he is forced to question his identity, his sanity and worst, his loyalty to his prince.

For in Tyr-en, all magic users are put to death.

This sounds amazing, doesn’t it?! I have a feeling Deborah is going to be an author to watch. Let me share a bit about her . . .

debby

Deborah Jay writes fast-paced fantasy adventures featuring quirky characters and multi-layered plots – just what she likes to read.

Living mostly on the UK South coast, she has already invested in her ultimate retirement plan – a farmhouse in the majestic, mystery-filled Scottish Highlands where she retreats to write when she can find time. Her taste for the good things in life is kept in check by the expense of keeping too many dressage horses, and her complete inability to cook.

THE PRINCE’S MAN, her debut novel, first in a trilogy and winner of a UK Arts Board award will be published on 29th July 2013. She also has non-fiction equestrian titles published under the name Debby Lush.

Find out more about Deborah at www.deborahjay.wordpress.com or follow Deborah on Twitter https://twitter.com/DeborahJay2 and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DeborahJay

So put this date (29th July) in your diary, folks and be one of the first to get your hands on this debut novel.

 

#BlogFlash2013 Day 2 – Technology

Today is Day 2 and the prompt is Technology. My take on this is to show how different generations either embrace technology or run from it.

Technology

 technology

“What’ve you got there, Zoe?”

“It’s an e-reader, Granddad,” Zoe replied nonchalantly, barely raising her eyes from the screen.

“A what?” Granddad ask, puzzled.

Zoe dragged herself back into the real world, miffed at being interrupted. She’d just reached a thrilling bit and was desperate to find out what would happen next. “An e-reader. It’s like a mini computer to store electronic books on.”

Granddad huffed. “Electronic books? Whatever next? What’s wrong with reading a proper book? This is technology gone mad!”

“I do read paperbacks, but this is portable and stores over a thousand!”

“Damn computers!” Her author Grandfather growled.

e-reader

Dilemma

Dilemma

Have you ever come across a book that’s so badly written you would rather cut your arm off than turn another page? That’s how I felt last night! Let me explain . . .

I was contacted by an American author who asked me to review her book for Amazon UK. She hadn’t received any reviews on my side of the pond and was keen to change this situation. I agreed and she sent me a free copy in return for a review. I added it to my list and began reading it Thursday night in bed.

Astounded by how immature the writing was (and bearing in mind I was really tired), I put it down telling myself it had to get better. WRONG!  I picked it up again last night and after half an hour I couldn’t stand to turn another page. This is what I found:

>          The book had either been self-edited or edited by someone who wasn’t professional and didn’t really know what they were doing. Whoever did edit it should be pinned against a wall and shot!

>          The characters were like cardboard cut-outs and one dimensional. There was no emotion SHOWN whatsoever. The reader is TOLD someone is happy/sad/hurting/angry, but there’s no emotional connection so you can’t empathise with the character. You can’t imagine what they’re feeling because there’s nothing to hook into.

>          There was no description used anywhere. When the characters were in a tropical location I wanted to SEE the golden sand, HEAR the waves lap gently on the shore, SMELL the salty air, ADMIRE the lush scenery with its colourful blooms, WONDER at the indigenous people’s customs. I didn’t want to be TOLD the place was ‘beautiful and peaceful’ I wanted to SEE and IMAGINE it for myself through good use of description.

>          The dialogue was stilted and unrealistic, even robotic in places.

>          The plot moved on, but because the writing was so bad, you couldn’t get a sense of where it was heading.

>          Part of the book is set in Eastern Europe yet the characters don’t have names typical of their Iron Curtain home, they have English/American names. The author obviously hasn’t done any research on the country and very little on their customs.

>          If I didn’t know better, I would say the book had been written by a six or seven-year-old as the style is like, “The cat sat on the mat”, and “He was a coward and his name was Fred”. I think you get the gist!

In the right editor’s hands, this book could possibly have been made into something half decent, but it would have meant scrapping it and starting again.

Anyway, here’s where my dilemma comes in. I’m not one to publicly trash another author’s work – I would hate to have it done to me – yet she’s asked me for a review. I won’t normally review a book unless I like it and am therefore reluctant to post a one-star review with nothing positive to say about it. I could email the author and give her a private critique, explaining why I don’t want to publish a review, but my instincts tells me she won’t take it in the right spirit. I think she’ll (A) blow off my critique because she thinks she’s such a good writer and her crap doesn’t smell (I’m sure you know the sort I mean), or (B) bad-mouth me for daring to criticise her work, or (C) run a hate campaign against me and try to smear my good name, or all of the above.

I’ve worked hard to build my reputation, both as a writer and an editor, and the last thing I want is to have my name tarnished.

So what would you do? All opinions very gratefully received coz I’m really stumped!!

 

Special Guest – Maria V A Johnson

Today I have a real treat for you! My special guest is none other than my wonderful editor, who is a published author and poet in her own right – Maria V A Johnson. Now I’m going to make her blush before I begin the interview – I happen to know Maria was nominated for International Young Poet of the Year in her second year of University! What an amazing achievement! Is that cool or what??

Anyway, I managed to twist Maria’s arm to take time off from editing Heart Search book two, to talk to us about her emotive poetry book, Hearts & Minds, writing and editing. And, as a special treat, Maria has agreed to me sharing one of the poems from Hearts & Minds here for your enjoyment.

Maria

C: Welcome, Maria. It’s great to have you here today.

M: Thanks so much for inviting me, Carlie, and for the wonderful cup of tea!

C: Congratulations on publishing Hearts & Minds, Maria. Tell us, how did you feel seeing it up on Amazon for the first time?

M: I guess I was numb. You know how you get when the unachievable startles you? That’s how I was! I’m rather a pessimist and just seeing it up on Amazon wasn’t enough to make me truly happy; and I didn’t start believing in my work until I got my first good review.

C: I can relate to that. So, how long have you been writing and what got you started?

M: I guess I was a bit of a late starter. I did the odd poem or story in school for assignments, but I didn’t really start writing per se until 2004 during my A Levels. It was at that time my grandmother passed away, and I wanted something personal to read at the funeral. Good student as I was, I researched heavily into funereal poetry before attempting to write my own; and I haven’t looked back since.

C: I don’t think that’s particularly late – some people don’t start writing until they retire! Anyway, I noticed on your bio you have a Bachelor of Arts Honours Degree in English and Creative Writing. What aspects of your Creative Writing degree did you love? What did you hate?

M: Well I loved most of it, but the fiction writing course was my favourite. I have the beginnings of about 10 stories – because each submission had to be a different story – and the hardest part is going back and picking which one to finish. I would have to say the screenwriting course was the hardest for me; I really struggled. Believe it or not though, poetry wasn’t one of my favourites. My teacher was constantly on my back saying it wasn’t modern enough, that it had too much story to it. I read some of his, and honestly I have no idea how he managed to get it published!

C: Where do you get the inspiration from for your beautiful poetry?

M: A lot of my inspiration comes from my experiences. When I first started it was a very emotional time for me, and there was something so cathartic about pouring my emotion onto paper that I’ve kept going in that vein. Some of my inspiration actually came about as assignments. I had to write about a certain subject, and something worthwhile came out.

C: Everyone needs an emotional outlet and I think it’s wonderful how you channel yours into your poetry. How much of yourself do you actually pour onto the pages?

M: A lot! I’m one of those people that tend to bottle up their emotions until they make themselves ill. Writing poetry has helped me release some of that tension. To be honest, I believe poetry is a way to share yourself and your views with the world. If you don’t pour yourself in, then what is your poetry?

C: Good point! Do you write stories as well? If so, what genre and age group?

M: Well, the genre is easy – Fantasy. I fell in love with it as a kid, and haven’t looked back since. My favourite age group to read is teenage/YA, and that’s the genre I aim to write for, but most of my ideas tend to be younger than that!

C: You are also a professional editor. What is it about editing you enjoy? Is there any part of it you hate?

M: The most rewarding part is getting to turn a raw manuscript into something people would buy and read. The part I love most however, is getting to read the stories first! I guess the only real downside is being unable to switch off the editor. Now, whenever I read, I constantly notice mistakes and it sort of spoils the enjoyment. Even big authors like Charlaine Harris (who wrote the True Blood books) aren’t free of mistakes.

C: Damn! You were supposed to say your favourite part of editing was working on my books!! [Laughs]. So, what’s next for Maria V A Johnson? Are you working on anything at the moment?

M: Right now my writing group, Writebulb, is just starting work on a second charity anthology. We released one towards the end of last year raising money for Farleigh Hospice, and we have decided to do another. We haven’t quite chosen a charity yet, but Little Havens Children’s Hospice is the logical choice since we are attempting to write for 6-10 year olds.

As far as my individual work goes, I’ve been playing about with a space story for young children. I haven’t quite figured out which age group it’s going to be for – I’ll wait and see once the story is written. The idea actually started as a writing challenge in my group; take a song title out of the hat, and write for 30 minutes. I got the title Supermassive Black Hole! I might even use that as the title for the book…hmmm.

C: Five fun ones to finish off:

Favourite food?

M: Now that’s an easy one! I’m quarter Italian, and I love pasta in any form.

C: Favourite book/series?

M: Another easy one! Are you planning to ask me anything that’ll make me think? It has to be the Otherworld Series by Yasmine Galenorn (over 16’s only readers!), but with The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien running a close second.

C: Uh-oh! Now she’s getting sassy! [Laughs] Ok, try this one! If you could be a supernatural being, what would you be and why?

M: Ok, now you’re upping your game! I love vampires, but I’m not sure I’d want to be one. A steady diet of blood would get really boring after a few hundred years. So in that case I think I would have to pick two: Fae (because they can live for ages – even half-fae can live to a thousand), and a Were. Even though Weres have to change form on the full moon, they can change whenever they want. I’m not sure which species of Were I would prefer, maybe seal because I love to swim, or maybe one of the big cats. Though I love wolves, the Weres have a bad rep as being too aggressive.

C: Hmmm. I can see the attraction of Fae, but not sure about Weres. Let’s see if I can really get you with this one. If you could pick one place in the world to go, where would it be and why?

M: Now this is a hard one. There are so many places I would love to go, how do you just pick one? I have already been to Paris and Rome, so I think I would have to go for either Milan or Venice. Milan, if I’m being reflective – my paternal grandmother came from a little village on the outskirts, but Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world, and I would love to experience it.

C: Yay! That one made you think. Finally, if you could have dinner with any one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?

M: Prince Charming! Oh, did you mean a REAL person? [Chuckles]

C: Thanks for taking time off from editing to let me interview you, Maria.

M: Thank you for asking me here. Now, how about another cuppa?

Cheeky, isn’t she?! Lol. Now I happen to know Maria’s book cover was designed by the wonderfully talented, Ceri Clark; I think it’s fabulous, what about you?

Hearts & Minds

Here is the blurb:

The most important human experiences of love and death are beautifully explored in this anthology. With carefully selected and themed sections: Loss; Love; Lyrical; and Life, the emotions invoked by the words as they flow over the page will touch your heart.

And now, as promised, here is one of the poems from the book:

The Chair

The chair sits stark and silent,

its occupant gone.

A mass of letters

stacked nearby, no one

there to open them.

A brown patch stains

the ceiling, a stale

smell clings to the fabric –

old smoke.

A spaniel casts its lonely eyes

approaches, sniffs

and slinks away.

Reading glasses discarded

on its arm, blank screen before it,

no haunting strains

of Emmerdale make us

yell for quiet; no better tune

than the one we lost.

Hearts & Minds is available from Amazon UK, and Amazon.com for Kindle or paperback.

Check out Maria’s website here: http://mariavajohnson.com