In Through the Withering Storm, author Leif Gregersen bravely describes his descent into mental illness. Takes a lot of courage since as he says in the book, it’s hard to reveal how “I was slipping into a deep cloud of near-desperation and depression.  I didn’t want to admit any weaknesses.” Any family that has been touched by mental illness of any kind knows what a difficult time this can be for everyone concerned, but obviously most of all for the sufferer. Books such as this are so incredibly valuable since they are a ray of hope, a reminder that there is light at the end of the long, dark tunnel, and sharing someone else’s experiences helps keep your own in perspective.

Leif Gregersen describes how the bipolar disorder slowly but surely took a firm grip on him and how he behaved as a result. There are touches of humour in the book, and it’s healthy to be able to recognise the fun moments even though they’re the result of a sinister illness. There’s shocking behaviour too. Generally the author has a very robust attitude to the problems he went through in the past, and I think it’s this clear, no-nonsense retrospective view he gives that highlights how confusing and frightening it must have been at the time .

Drink, depression and despair swamp Leif Gregersen’s life, interspersed with miserable stays at an antiquated mental hospital. However, courage wins through and the author finally emerges from the prison his mind has thrown him in and begins to build a healthy, rewarding life.

There is a real need for books like this one given the widespread occurrence of mental illness. There often isn’t much support from the professionals for the families involved – if any frankly – so ‘from the horse’s mouth’ accounts like Through a Withering Storm are invaluable in the insights they give. They boost you with a new lease of energy to continue supporting and loving through the stormy times.

22042_283509832161_1352577_nAbout the Author: Leif Gregersen

“I grew up somewhat isolated from the harsher forces of the world in St. Albert, a small town just outside of Edmonton, Alberta. Most of my younger years were filled with images of very happy times – trips everywhere from California to Copenhagen, constant school successes and football games in the field near my house that seemed to last forever.

“But all was not okay. There were times when my father would discipline me severely or I would come home to find an ambulance in our backyard taking my mother to the hospital for yet another suicide attempt. Although I knew that depression ran in our family, I had no clue of the fearsome beast that was growing inside me.

“At that time, I was more concerned about my growing collection of comic books, bought with money my sister would give me for doing her dishes or earned as a bean-picker or weed- puller on a farm not far from town. To be able to buy more comics, I even lied about my age to get a paper route and picked up more money by shoveling walks that hadn’t been done on the route.

Somewhere after the end of elementary school, there was a profound shift. It seemed the wind ran out of my sails and the transition to junior high was not a smooth one. I gave up on sports and I began to hate school and the people in it.

The remaining school years became a painful, out-of-control descent into madness. Gripped by mental illness, my thoughts, actions and behaviours became increasingly bizarre. My world became a true life horror movie of growing up mentally ill. Despite delusions, fights, arrests, reprisals and being institutionalized, years were wasted fighting any form of treatment, denying the illness and refusing medications.

Fortunately, for the past 15 years, my life has stabilized. I have accepted treatment and medications. Today, I have steady work and can afford some of the things I only dreamed of before. My computers, my 1994 VW Golf, a decent apartment and, above all, my books. From the age of three, my father exposed me to literature of the highest quality. Today, he is a much kinder, gentler and alcohol-free 72 year-old. I have him to thank for my passion to read and write.

Buy the book

The book is also available here.

Find Leif at www.facebook.com/leif.gregersen

Leif has a website at www.valhallabooks.com where you can find out about his other books and read sample chapters.


	

Thomas Ryan is one of the reasons I love my job so much. I’m a freelance editor working exclusively with indie authors these days and relishing every moment of it. There is so much talent out there and Thomas is one of these incredibly gifted writers whose work deserves a huge audience. There are a lot of generalisations made about the quality of self-published writing by people who don’t actually know what they’re talking about. I’m there on the pit face, and have been for 25 years now, and I can tell you that while there is undeniably some poor work produced by indies, there is far, far more of an impressively high quality. Like this book.

thomas ryanThe Field of Blackbirds begins in New Zealand where ex-Special Forces soldier Jeff Bradley has taken over the Boundary Fence, a vineyard he inherited from his Croatian grandparents. (His soon-to-be ex-wife has her eye on this as the divorce settlement between them is thrashed through.) Jeff has hired a Kosovon Arben Shala, an experienced winemake, to be his manager and advisor. He soon becomes his friend. Bad weather has meant a bad yield this year so Jeff sends Arben to Kosovo to source bulk wine. Arben falls foul of corrupt officials and ends up in prison. Jeff and Arben’s family don’t know where he is, only that something is wrong, so Jeff sets off to find his friend.

Once he gets so Kosovo, which is under UN administation, he begins his detective work. He runs into an American aid worker, Morgan Delaney, and UN worker Barry Briggs and his Kiwi girlfriend Bethany and they become a tight team. But Jeff is making as many enemies as he makes friends. as he gradually discovers that a huge property scam is being perpetrated with links to international terrorism. Throw in the Kosovon Liberation Army and a mysterious private security agent, plenty of suspense, action and an intriguing plot, and you have a breathless read that provides a sharp insight into post-civil-war Kosovo and introduces us to some memorable characters.

It’s brutal in places, but also moving and inspiring since although difficult political and economic circumstances can bring out the worst  in people, time and again they bring out the best. This is as much a story about loyalty and self-respect as it is about corruption.

I asked Thomas some questions about his powerful novel.

1.     What’s the story behind the Field of Blackbirds? Why did you write the story?

I spent many years in Eastern Europe, mostly the Balkans. Made many friends amongst the locals and monitored their trials and hardships experienced by all peoples who live in developing nations. Distrust, dishonest politicians and ineffective, corrupted, and hated legal systems.  Money ruled. Those who ended up on the wrong side of the law were guilty until proven innocent, and that came down to bribes – an absolutely brilliant environment for a storyteller looking to create a good yarn. Then, throw in the UN, NATO and organised crime and along came ‘The Field of Blackbirds’.

2.    What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?
I wanted to weave a fast paced yet complex story with lots of interesting characters and still be easy for the reader to follow. I wanted the baddies as well rounded as the goodies but a clear line between the two groups. I believe in heroes conquering all and getting the girl. The story should be fun and an enjoyable read. I believe I achieved this.

3.    Who’s your favourite character and why?
This is a hard question. It took five years to write this book and I rewrote it more than fourteen times. I came to know all the characters so well. They’re like family. All have quirky endearing traits. In the end if I have to show favouritism then it must be for my main protagonist Jeff Bradley. It took a long time to develop Jeff. As a character he changed many times. For so long I never really had a clear picture of him. When it finally came I think I created a man I would be proud to call my friend. I think he is best summed up by the words of a reader ‘Not too macho and not too new age, a good mix of masculinity and sensitivity, loyal to his friends. A male character most women would love to meet.’

4.    Do you prefer creating villains or good guys?
There is no doubt you can have more fun with the bad guys. Within reason, almost anything you have your bad guy character do is acceptable to the reader. Also, when it comes to killing them off the writer can be hugely imaginative in fact readers expect ‘spectacular’ when it comes baddies end. Writing goodies is a tortuous journey. Each word is carefully measured as is the sentence as is the paragraph. For the reader it is the main protagonist taking them on the journey and expectations are high. Early on an image is imagined and any deviation from perceived characteristics will not be tolerated. Any sloppiness with this character and the book is closed and tossed back onto a shelf or sent off to the second hand bookshop. No doubt about it. Baddies are much more fun.

5.    What are some of the references you used while researching this book?
Every location scene in this book is for real and I have visited. In Kosovo I met many members of the UN and still have friends who served there. I spent many nights in the Kukri Bar in Prishtina and walked through the streets and Bazaars. I learned of the legal systems from police friends and as an ex-soldier with combat experience I have an understanding of the nature of violence and how the military works. I have two SAS officers I lunch with on a regular basis and they helped me shape Jeff’s character and personality.

6.    What was the hardest part of writing The Field of Blackbirds?
For any book of this type continuity, planting seeds, and ensuring all data is correct is key. A wrong line, an expectation not met, a storyline or subplot not explained, a key message left out and the mystery falls apart and the reader is let down. The reader needs to be kept on the edge of their seat as the tale unravels. Not able to guess the likely outcome. Obviously the reader knows the hero will come out on top but not how. This is the where the writer needs to be so careful not to reveal too much. Padding, accepted in many forms of literature has no place in a thriller. I overcame many of these problems by constantly sending the manuscript out to readers for feedback. Each rewrite tightened the narration. And finally all the threads of the story must be tied off to satisfy the reader. I believe I achieved this.

ryan blackbirds7.    The book has a very striking cover. Did you design this yourself?
The cover was designed by a company called BookBaby in the USA. I gave them a free hand. The final editorial and formatting of the back page for the print copy I worked on myself with the aid of a formatter.

8.    When did you first realise you wanted to be an author?
I think from a very early age 7yrs maybe 8yrs old I was writing stories. Decades later when I finally had a short story accepted for radio production and was asked for more I looked at the payment cheque and decided it wasn’t worth it. Now years later I’ve decided it’s time.

9.    You’re a member of a writing group. How has this helped you with your writing in general and this book in particular?
I have been a member of a writers critique group for years. All emerging writers need one. If nothing else they keep you focused on producing work. This book would never have been finished without the support of my group.

10.    What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Self-publishing pretty much means you have to do everything yourself. The marketing and the writing. My observations to date are that when it comes to the self- marketing of eBooks it is new to everyone. As yet no perfect rules of action have been established and there are many supposed experts ready to tell writers how to succeed. Some good, some not so good. What everyone agrees on however is that just putting your book up on a reseller like Amazon is not enough. Readers need to know it is there. The social media and blogs are a first and reasonably productive step. But writers need to adopt a business mind set and establish long term realistic goals. Unlike print books, eBooks stay in the system forever a writer has time to build a platform. Gain reviews. Write the best book you can. There is a theory the more books on site the more sales and whilst this is true this only occurs in the long term if the writing is of reasonable standard. And most importantly, find a good editor. Without one, you have no chance.

11.    How do you feel about eBooks vs print books and self vs conventional publishing?
I think in reality this question is no longer relevant. EBooks are here and are not going away. The next generation of children are already using iphones and tablets daily. Print books will always be about but in what form remains to be seen. I think print book for self-publishers will be restricted. To successfully distribute a print book the writer would need access to a distribution network. An alternative option is to use a print on demand company like create space and they will make it available on Amazon. The decision on whether or not to self-publish or use a traditional publisher is nowadays a choice not available in the past. Most writers try for an agent or traditional publisher first and then go the self-publishing route. It is great there is the choice. Long may it continue. In New Zealand there was little choice. There are no literary agents.

chardonnay12.    Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer?
I think the man occupational hazard is fitness. Nowadays not only do we write on computers but they are the first step in research. No more walking to a library.  I have a daily exercise routine, two big walks per week and a round of golf. Healthy body, healthy mind.

13.    And finally what’s the ideal wine to accompany your novel?
Boundary Fence wines are not on the market as yet so I like to relax with a competitor’s vintage from a neighbour’s winery. I’m a Chardonnay man from way back. So a glass of chilled Soljans Hawkes Bay Chardonnay would do nicely. On colder nights, one of their cabernets.

Elizabethpic1

I’m delighted to welcome Elizabeth Lamprey, indie author of lively and intriguing whodunits. I asked her a few questions.

Tell us briefly about One Two Buckle My Shoe and Three Four Knock On My Door. 

They are novellas, and whodunits in the Detection Club style, set in Scotland in the kind of retirement village I hope to end up in myself one day. Retirement villages aren’t old age homes – they’re designed for people in late middle age who are down-sizing into an environment that will be age-friendly when they get old.  My invented one is definitely eccentric.

What’s the story behind the stories? Why did you write the books?

My mother moved into a retirement village very reluctantly, after finally realizing she couldn’t cope with a big house any longer then absolutely loved it, she was always delighted and intrigued by her new neighbours. Sadly she took ill and died and I wrote a story where murders occurred in the village and she and  friends did a sort of multiple Miss Marple on them – it was a therapy for me, to fix her in my mind as having fun and lively friends and a bit of a challenge, like a never-ending murder dinner. I’d never written a whodunit before, although I enjoy reading them, and a year or so later the One Two title popped up out of nowhere and the idea for the series was born. I borrowed the basic story from her book, fictionalizing the characters and making them younger. She’s lent her name to the friend character – Vivian – but Vivian only borrows her voice and moments of her history, she isn’t a portrait.

Are they fun to write?

They’re great fun to plot – deciding on a murder and working backwards to set it up so that the reader and the characters can solve it, hopefully in a neck and neck finish. Setting up the clues so they are fairly presented but not screamingly obvious is the trickiest part.

12knockdoorWhich character are you most like and why?

I think I may be most like Katryn, the administrator who joins Grasshopper Lawns in the second book, after the death of the first administrator  – I grew up in South Africa, so I can identify with her, and quite enjoy having her around. She’s a minor role, very direct and pragmatic.

Dogs feature quite prominently in the stories. I’m guessing you’re a dog lover. Please tell us about your current canine companion/s. Dogs totally took over the second book, but they’re normally more wallpaper. There’s a cat coming into the third book – I do love pets, they really make a house a home, especially for anyone living alone. I became a cat person about ten years ago but there were always dogs in my life before. I took on a rescue dog with severe personality issues (she shares most of Maggie’s traits, and more) about six months ago and at first regretted it bitterly but wouldn’t want to be without her now. The cat is still reserving judgement.

Do you have any bizarre writing rituals?

I don’t think so – I had a foible about writing with purple ink and it reached a point where I could only write with purple ink, but finally trained myself to type direct, rather than write the first draft in longhand.  And breaking myself of the habit of smoking while I typed was mind-numbing for a while! I was quite stressed during the adjustment and held a pen between my teeth, sucking furiously when my mind went blank, until one burst and ink went everywhere. Cured.

Did you design your covers yourself? What was your aim in the designs?

I got really lucky with the covers, I might have tried some inexpert photo-shopping but I knew the first one had to be an abandoned shoe – trying photo-shopping that. I finally went onto Elance to find an artist.  Lacey O’Connor is practically psychic and can create more than I even realized I wanted, she’s absolutely brilliant.

34knockdoorWhen did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

Since forever, since before I even knew that daydreams and scribbling endless stories had a name. I thought the dream would only ever be that, a dream, when family problems meant I couldn’t go to university to read English, but reading and writing are two of my greatest pleasures, I just wish I could write as well as the authors I read!

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

Don’t rush into self-publishing – I doubt anyone will listen, because I wouldn’t have listened, but in retrospect I threw away a lot of potential word-of-mouth goodwill from family and friends by putting out a sub-standard first book. The story itself hasn’t changed but there were so many glitches in the first edition, and the format was really amateur. A lot were picked up in the second, and I had already completed a complete loop on the learning curve by then! I feel really strongly about it, and am constantly meeting SP authors who simply don’t see errors as a problem, the important thing, they insist pompously, is the story. Putting out sub-standard books is bad for us all and with so very many books on offer your readers won’t get to the story because they will give up on the first page. I’m a copy-editor myself (granted, mainly business / technical stuff) and I thought I could do my own copy-editing. No-one can – your brain auto-adjusts and simply doesn’t see errors on work it knows well.

 And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?

I have four names – apparently in some traditions a long name means good luck – and also a Twitter name (Elegsabiff) so in a weird way I have several lives. My professional life skips the second name,  I write under the first three (Elizabeth Joanna Lamprey), I am known by my first and last names, and I review and tweet under the elegsabiff name. Maybe one day I’ll settle on one version, but it could be boring. I was quite taken with the idea of publishing as Elegsabiff but KDP isn’t really set up for one name. Maybe that’s why Cher has never self-published?

About the books

One Two Buckle My Shoe

Detectives nearly always work alone, although some don’t mind an admiring sidekick as they deftly and efficiently go about their business. In real life, murder isn’t always straightforward and clues can be much more elusive. In this particular case, just finding out who exactly got murdered was the first challenge.

The residents at Grasshopper Lawns were closely interested, because the murderer could be among them, but hadn’t any intention of interfering in the solving of the case. Piecing together scraps of information was intriguing, though. And they did keep coming across facts that no-one had given to the police… This is the first in the quite light-hearted murder series based in a rather unusual retirement village in Scotland.

Three Four Knock On My Door

A dead body in the laundry sparks off the next murder mystery at Grasshopper Lawns. Once again Edge and her friends help the police with this investigation but there’s more to deal with. Throw in a badly behaved dog, a tall, shadowy figure and Death with his scythe and events get quite complicated!
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Three-Knock-Grasshopper-Lawns-ebook/dp/B00C4FE0TG/

ebyacodeThe eBay Code by Charles Salter (Volume 2 of The Ebay Detective) is every bit as good as the first book in this series. The author continues the theme of basing his novel on actual events, which makes it so immediate and that much more sinister. Major Brad Stout was appointed as an eBay Detective at the end of the last novel and the throws himself into his new role enthusiastically. Following up a terrorist threat he needs to decipher a code in order to intercept their deals on eBay. In this adventure Brad teams up with the interesting and complex Pierre, now his father-in-law, to try and prevent a horrendous international incident involving radioactive matter. Amidst the tension and excitement, there’s domestic happiness and tenderness, family commitment, frustration, moments of humour and much to enjoy.
Salter creates brilliant characters. Every one, however minor, is rounded and has a real role to play. Mary Lou and her parents bring some fresh interest in this story. The plot is exciting, built soundly on real events and everyone’s familiarity with Ebay. From these factual foundations a superbly imaginative story springs, and the action doesn’t end – even at the end. There’s a new development waiting for us there. Settings are superbly depicted, with great attention to detail and adding yet more realism to the story. I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t enjoy this novel as it has all the ingredients an engrossing modern thriller needs. It’s a successful and riveting read.

The whole genre of detective fiction began with a lady author – Anna Katherine Greene – and it’s good to see that it’s safe and even more successful these days in the hands of other women writers such as Marcia Turner. Ill Conceived is the second in the Meredith and Hodge series and is every bit as good as the first book, Misplaced Loyalty. The characters we encountered previously continue to develop and we meet some interesting new ones. Relationships between them don’t always take the course we’d expect. There’s an intricately created and thought out plot with several strands to it.
Patsy Hodge is now working as a private investigator and her first job throws her in at the deep end. How come Stella Young, businesswoman and lesbian, is pregnant? To her certain knowledge she has never slept with a man. Meanwhile, Meredith and his team are investigating the murder of a young man in broad daylight for apparently no reason whatsoever. Why does all the evidence seem to point to a very unlikely suspect? How does the Sensations night club fit into all of this? And even after the self-confessed perpetrator is taken into custody, how come the deaths continue? The various story lines become intertwined meaning Patsy and Meredith are working together again but there are tensions between them, in both their professional and personal lives. Are they being completely honest with each other?
A truly absorbing book with an ending that takes your breath away, and leaves you eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.

Today’s Books Are Cool feature is about Marcia Turner, indie author of murder mysteries. Marcia has recently published two very different books in the genre which we’ll take a quick look at first before hearing from Marcia about her books and writing.

misplaced coverMisplaced Loyalty was Marcia’s debut detective novel. Patsy Hodge won’t be second best – not in her job as a police detective or to another woman. After a relationship with a man at work who turned out to be married, she transfers to another area and finds herself working for the prickly and opinionated John Meredith. She forms an uneasy alliance with another female detective in Meredith’s team, Tanya, as they investigate what at first appeared to be suicides but are now realised to be assisted suicides – in some cases, very assisted. Patsy proves to be a very sharp investigator, which antagonises Tanya, but she’s not the only enemy Patsy makes. Surprisingly, her biggest initial enemy, her boss Meredith, proves to have another side. He’s been frankly a complete bastard to women in the past, but it’s time to change. Especially when Patsy appears to be in real danger. However, whether two such strong-willed people can make as successful a private team as they do a professional one remains to be seen.

This is a supremely successful murder mystery with rounded, convincing characters who grab your attention and an extremely clever and unpredictable plot. There’s tension, terror, intrigue, humour and romance, and this book will appeal to anyone who likes any of those elements since it’s so readable and entertaining.

Next up is Murderous Mishaps.

Muderous Mishaps CoverFive work colleagues meet up at the reasonably nice St James Hotel for a weekend of pampering and self-indulgence. There aren’t many other guests there – a few priests, an elderly couple, a much younger people and a few others, including a hotel inspector. So Suzie, Jenny, Debby, Charity and Anna should get plenty of attention from the spa staff and the dishy French barman. Hotel manager Gina Brown determinedly keeps standards the highest she can, despite the fact that this weekend she’s having to deal with Cornwall’s heaviest summer rain in decades, power failures – and a dead body. It’s enough to drive anyone to drink, and several people overindulge over the period!

The police arrive swiftly to deal with the body and with the weather meaning no one can leave the hotel, it shouldn’t be too hard to solve the crime. And there’s no shortage of perpetrators ready to own up. When DI B asks for a confession, several guilty parties jump up. So who really did commit the crime? And just how many murders were there?

There’s a lot of entertainment to be had from this lively, clever and very funny murder mystery. Marcia Turner has woven a fascinating plot and she has a lovely, natural writing style. You’re there with our fun five leading females as they tease each other, take part in the karaoke competition, and although they get the claws out on each other occasionally, they’re genuinely kind and caring. They take other guests, notably Barbara and Simon, under their wing and look out for each other. And only one of them might be a murderer…

Marcia Turner has a great eye for detail and the close-knit community she creates in this hotel draws us in. Every single one of her characters is complex and truly intriguing. No little mannerism or quirk escapes the author’s eye. The plot is ingenious, to say the least, and keeps us interested, puzzled and guessing to the very end.

marcia picAnd now, over to Marcia!

Tell us briefly about Misplaced Loyalty.

Misplaced Loyalty was my second full length novel, although the first published. The first novel I wrote was Murderous Mishaps although written under a working title of “Whodunitchiclitthing”. Once I’d completed that, I decided to see if I could write a serious whodunit. I wanted it to be a little different, so I threw a will they won’t they into the mix. It was a huge learning curve in just about every way, and eventually absorbed every spare minute of my time. Once I had finished it, I missed the development of the characters and began to plot out the next in the series, whilst editing/rewriting what eventually became Murderous Mishaps.

What’s the story behind the story? Why did you write the book?

As mentioned above, I was coming to the end of writing Murderous Mishaps, and wanted to write something less frivolous. I saw a news item on a poor man who had been badly injured and wanted to end his life. He had been an active sportsman and father, and found himself a quadriplegic, unable even to feed himself. He was brave enough not to take the option to end his life quietly, but challenged the law through the high court, wanting to be given permission to end his life legally, and on his terms. He did that to both protect his family and those that would have to help him, and to provide hope to others in a similar situation. He lost his case and his reaction was harrowing. He died a few weeks later. I began to wonder, what if? What if there was someone willing to risk helping those who saw no future, irrespective of the law? Those whose lives had become so retched, that death was the most palatable option. But what if that person started making the decision as to when the time had come?

I wanted to consider the argument from both sides. I wanted to show that there are people, who, for one reason or another, truly had reached the end of their life as they see it, and the misery it causes them waking up each day. I countered this by showing that some days they were glad that they had seen their loved ones one more time, and that giving others control over their existence could prove fatal. I wanted to question that if such an agreement had been made, at what point does the decision to end your life pass into the hands of others.

Was it an easy story to write?

Surprisingly, yes. I had the basic premise as to how the victims would die, and I knew I wanted to show that whilst these awful things were going on, life for everyone else carried on as usual. I think that’s why I introduced the will they won’t they element. Meredith & Hodge were desperately trying to find and stop the villain, whilst trying to decide whether or not to become involved with each other. I would confess though, that I didn’t decide finally ‘who did it’, until I was over half way through.

Which character are you most like? Patsy? Jasper? Meredith?

Hmm. That’s a tough question. Probably a mixture of Patsy and Meredith, weighted toward Patsy. I am quite calm and pragmatic about most things.  I don’t like to be the center of attention, I’m quite happy to be on the peripherals looking in, but more often than not get dragged in to the thick of things. When I explode, which is rare, it is of that moment and then I move on.

 

And now we’d like to hear a little bit about your latest novel Murderous Mishaps.

My “Whodunitchiclitthing” was born from a conversation with a friend. She had been asked to help someone who had ‘killed’ their partner with an odd weapon. The conversation ended with her saying, “They wouldn’t believe you if you wrote it down!”  I wasn’t working at the time, and having always enjoyed writing I thought, why not? I sketched out a story where I was able to drop in many of unusual and amusing things that had happened to my friends and colleagues over the years. I borrowed a pet irritation from here, and a mannerism from there, and my cast was born.

It’s fair to say it’s less serious than Misplaced Loyalty, even though we have a few bodies. Was it more fun to write?

Not really, as it was supposed to be farcical, and because I’d never attempted anything like it before, I found getting some of the scenes to work without overdoing it really difficult. I’d love to write stories that make people laugh, and admire writers who seem to be able to do so effortlessly. It was never supposed to be a comedy but nor was it serious, and when I decided to publish it I was concerned that readers would think I meant it to be taken seriously.

Your lady characters in Murderous Mishaps are successful, glamorous businesswoman. I get the feeling you’re one too. Who are you most like out of Anna, Jenny, Debby, Suzie and Charity?

Glamorous is not a word I would ever associate with myself. It made me laugh reading the question. However I was a Regional Director for a large corporate for many years and I was competent at my job. I suppose if I had to choose a character most like myself, it would be Anna, sensible, reliable, a tiny bit adventurous, and so not totally boring.

enid-blytonWhat’s the main appeal of crime fiction?

I like reading all types of fiction but I like to be challenged as the story develops. I grew out of Enid Blyton at about nine years of age, and started reading Agatha Christie because that was mainly what was lying about.  I like to work out what, why and how with whatever I’m reading, and when I came to writing Murderous Mishaps, it seemed natural to drop all the things I wanted to include into a whodunit.  Surprisingly, some of my favourite novels are not related to crime in anyway.

Did you design your covers yourself? What was your aim in the designs?

I found a graphic designer quite by chance, gave him a brief synopsis of the stories and he came up with various designs. With both Misplaced Loyalty and Murderous Mishaps the covers jumped out at me. With Ill Conceived the second in the Meredith & Hodge series I did give him several of my own ideas. I am not artistic in anyway shape or form, but I know what I like. The aim with Murderous Mishaps was to ensure readers knew this was not a serious read. With the other two, I wanted to catch the eye and whilst depicting perhaps a little of the story, ensure that it raised more questions than it answered.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author?

I don’t think there was an absolute moment. I’ve always enjoyed making up stories. I would find myself in situations where on the face of it everything was normal, but someone would do or say something that wasn’t quite right. I would find myself making up dramatic reasons for it, just for my own amusement. The reality of course was far more boring. One day I simply sat down in front of the laptop and started writing fuller versions of my thoughts and exaggerations.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?

To research how things work as an indie author. Join as many writers groups as you can find time to attend both on line and in person if possible, and learn by other people’s mistakes. I am not at all technical and managed to make as many mistakes with the first upload of Misplaced Loyalty, as was possible to make. I also didn’t consider how I was going to promote it to anyone other than people I already knew. So, do your homework first and be prepared. I now have the legacy of some reviews which would have been great if it wasn’t for the mistakes I made. The one thing I can say with absolute certainty it get yourself an editor!

This is your baby. You have nurtured and developed it, you have done your absolute utmost to give it a good start in the world, and then you let it down at the final hurdle by sending it out into the world without first making sure shoelaces are tied, and it trips up on the first outing. That can be corrected of course, but some damage will already have been done. It would be so much better to avoid the fall if at all possible. An editor will tie the laces for you.

And finally, anything else our readers need to know about you?

Not really, I’m just an average mum, wife, or work colleague. I happen to disappear for hours on end in front of a laptop, and I sometimes ask odd questions at inappropriate moments much to others amusement. Such as, “can you get DNA from urine?” whilst eating dinner.  Other than that I’m normal!

Thanks Marcia!

You can buy Marcia’s books here:

 

 

 

Ramblings in Ireland by Kerry Dwyer is really two books in one. One the one hand we have a humorous, incisive look at expat life as seen by this witty, fascinating author, but which only hints at all the experiences she has clearly had. On the other we have an enjoyable travelogue that depicts Ireland with all its outward charm and friendliness. This precisely reflects how Ramblings is used as the title to depict Dwyer’s thoughts and observations about various matters and also the physical unhurried walks that Dwyer takes on holiday. France-based, the author and her husband take their first child-free holiday for a long time and end up in Ireland when other holiday plans go awry. However, they’re as happy to be there as anywhere more exotic and the trip introduces them to a wonderful country and allows the author the chance to tap her rich imagination and share her point of view about many and various things with us.
Kerry Dwyer has a wonderful eye for detail and uses it to depict very clear mental images for the reader of everything she experiences. We can see the full Irish breakfasts on the plates in all their glory, picture husband and wife teetering on a fogbound, narrow ledge and get a good idea of what everybody they meet looks like. We get a clear feel for the friendly atmosphere they encounter everywhere. We also learn what makes this author tick – her likes and dislikes, her optimism, her enthusiasm, her love for Jinx and her husband. Just occasionally the reproduced conversations go on a little too long, but that’s a minor and easily forgivable fault given the general excellence of this unusual, quirky gem of a book.

You can buy the book here:

NightBuddiesStickerCover300dpiThe content of this book is spot on for a young audience. John Degraffenreidt has exciting adventures at night-time when, of course, adults think he’s in bed and asleep. Outwitting grown-ups is always appealing to kids! John’s buddy, the red crocodile Crosley, is in a bit of bother. Some imposters that look like him are causing trouble so Crosley and John need to stop them.

This book offers likeable and intriguing characters, with the larger than life, irrepressible Crosley, a crazy, imaginative plot and plenty of fun. However, it’s the presentation that’s the controversial element in this book. I love the way different typefaces are used to make each page look as lively as story it’s telling is. That’s a nice touch and it works brilliantly. Less so, in my opinion, the language. Most of the characters have their own dialects and what they say is spelt how it sounds, at least to the author’s head. As Crosley says in the introduction: “If there’s a word ya can’t understand, just say it out loud an’ then ya’ll get it. Hey, just don’t spell it that way at school or in a spellin’ test! If ya want, make a game outta findin’ all the misspelled words in the story!”

A touch of over-eagerness there to make it acceptable to spell words wrongly? Maybe. Confident readers won’t have any problems with it but kids who find reading more of a challenge may be a little perplexed. The danger with writing in a dialect is that it becomes annoying after a while. It’s a fun, well-intentioned ploy that would work perfectly with an older audience, but can be very hit and miss with younger kids.
Also, fermez la! isn’t something French kids would say anywhere near an adult! Teachers don’t tolerate it in the schoolyard either. (I live in France and have three bilingual French-English kids.) I’d have preferred to see ‘Taisez-vous’ so a bit more research there would have been good. My last minor moan is that there are rather too many very long dashes around the place too. Any mannerism used more than moderately becomes irritating.

However, pedantry aside, this is a lively, fast paced book that is fabulously illustrated by Jessica Love and makes for entertaining read.

You can buy the book here:

 

We all know how important a cover is for a book or ebook. Well, so is the title, but this doesn’t always get as much time and effort put into it as it should. And especially, authors don’t seem to be doing much if any research to see if the title they want has been used. It’s not a great idea to give your book the same name as one that’s already out there.

Recently I’ve read across the following books with titles that turn out to be very popular:

Scorpio Rising: I read the book of this name that Monique Domovitch had authored. But amongst many others, Alan Annand, R. G. Vilet, Daisy Denman, Rosie Orr, Alex MacDonough, Richard Katrovas, Ms Scorpio N and Mark Sheldon have also written books with this title.

The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Eriksson (excellent, by the way): Oral Roberts, Richard Copeland, John Mulinde, Penny Dawne, Edythe Draper, Kristen Bretweiser and Jeff Gunhus have their versions too. Again, that’s only some of the authors who had the same idea. There are a lot of Wake-Up Calls (plural) out there too that could get confused.

Passion in Paris: Rusty Blackwood, Adam Carpenter, Helen Hardt, Robyn Grady all have versions.

Losing It by Simon Lipson (do read this guy) has rivals by Zaria Garrison, Melanie Douglass, Lindsay Rech, Laura Fraser, William Miller, Valerie Bertillini – and those are just from the first page of results on Amazon.

The danger with using a title that’s already been employed is that it makes it harder for readers to find and buy your book. They might be looking up your Gardening with Nail Scissors but come across someone else’s tome of this name and buy that instead, not realising their mistake. Or, when they call up the title on Smashwords, they find six other books with the same name, all of which have snappier covers than yours and so one of them gets the sale instead. Heart-breaking isn’t it?

But other people have the same idea as you do, and sometimes at the same time. And there’s nothing you can do about that. My ‘The Witch’s Dog’ came out pretty much alongside Frank Rodgers’. And I’d checked to see if there were other ones out there before I settled on my choice. The stories are completely different, but they’ve got the same name. There’s an ‘Escape from the Volcano’ out there now, very similar to my ‘Escape the Volcano’. My ‘Oh Dad’ of 1999, has been followed by one in 2000 and another in 2008. ‘Oh Santa’, again the only one at the time, is the name of a Christmas collection of songs by Mariah Carey’s. OK, not a book, but the same title which gets in the way when folk are looking for my masterpiece. And ‘Beat the Hackers’ as a search term pulls up CDs by Beat Hackers, a rap group!

So, you can’t avoid the problem happening completely, but I would strongly advise you to come up with as original a title as you can to keep your book totally unique. Maybe others of the same name will come along later, but at least you got in first!

I mentioned book bags in a previous post. A book bag is always a nice present. It’s traditionally a bag, hence the name, but you can equally have a book box or book parcel, which contains a book together with some appropriate items to go with it. A book bag for a cookery book, for example, would have some cooking items in it too – perhaps a pinafore and a rolling pin. Now that the ebook is here, there’s no need to include the book anymore. You supply that separately to the recipient. But you can still give the bag of associated goodies.

Here are ten ideas, starting with three of my books, followed by seven great reads I’ve enjoyed this year:

1. Best of Blog in France (Non-fiction about expat life in France.) A bottle of French wine and some French cheese, one of the varieties that comes in a round wooden or cardboard box, would be most suitable as well as practical. But anything French will do!

2. The Smelliest Cheese in the World (Fiction) Now this is a kid’s book, but adults would enjoy it too. If you’re giving it to a grown up, then give them some smelly cheese too – stands to reason! Roquefort or Auvergne Blue are good ones. For younger readers, since the story also features socks, then a pair of those would be perfect.

3. Oh Santa! A chocolate Santa, a skipping rope and a Santa hat would be good choices.

Now for those other ebooks that I’d thoroughly recommend:

4. Big Backpack – Little World: this is a wonderful and entertaining account by Donna Morang of her experiences as an ESL teacher. See the guest post by Donna on this website. The ideal accompaniment would be a rucksack. The author spent a lot of time in Mexico, and in fact now lives there, so some Mexican food like a box of tacos or a jar or guacamole, or a bottle of Tequila would be excellent too.

5. Sunshine Soup by Jo Parfitt: this is a book about expat life with a good bit of cooking thrown in. A soup recipe book, or a set of nice soup bowls would be suitable.

6. Stay Tuned by Lauren Clark: this is about Melissa who works for a TV station. It’s chick-lit/rom-com. I reviewed it here. During the story she revamps her look. Give the recipient some make-up or a voucher for a facial or a massage.

7. A Song for Europe by Simon Lipson: this is rom-com at its best with the Eurovision Song Contest at its heart. A CD of all the songs from one of the Contests would be fitting (2010 and 2006 were really good years). Anything Euro would go well with this book. Failing that, go here  to get souvenirs with the European flag on them!

8. The Lingerie Castle by Markee Andersen: well, lingerie would be good with this book! Or a football. You’ll have to read the book.

9. Lye in Wait by Cricket MacRae, a home crafting mystery. The heroine is a soapmaker so fill a book bag with beautifully handmade perfumed soap.

10. The Wake-Up Call by Jonas Eriksson: gritty rom-com starring an overstressed, overstimulated executive, so I’d suggest decaff coffee, bath bombs, scented candles or a lavender-filled sleep mask.

Hope these are helpful!