Taking the Cross banner

Today I’m delighted to be taking part in Charles Gibson’s virtual book tour for his fabulous work of historical fiction, Taking the Cross. The Medieval period is sometimes the poor relation when it comes to literature and too many people dismiss it, thinking it was a time of general misery, intolerance and endless conflict. To an extent they’re right, but it’s easy to forget that behind all those actions that seem pointless and misguided to us today lay real conviction. And real people. What I especially liked about Charles Gibson’s novel was that we got into the skins of the characters and, even if we might not share their beliefs, we could see why they believed them.


We have two main characters to absorb us in Taking the Cross – Eva, a young woman in a religious order, and Andreas. a knight. They are both embroiled in the battles against non-adherents to Catholic orthodoxy, but also internal struggles as they strive to do what they believe is right.

I have a fascinating guest post from the author for you here which will you give you a real insight into the period and place in which this book is set. It gives you an excellent taste of both Charles Gibson’s passion for this period, and his clear, engaging style of writing which you will find in his novel.  


Charles Gibson
Charles Gibson

The Languedoc

When most Americans think of places in France, they of think Paris, Normandy, Provence. Few seem to know of the Languedoc. Yet, if they have journeyed there, it is a place not easily forgotten. It not only has the largest intact Medieval walled city in Europe, but is the realm of the troubadours, of courtship and romance, and of the first crusade that was targeted against lands in Europe. Taking the Cross is set in the Languedoc and Provence during the first summer of this Crusade, which came to be known as the Albigensian Crusade against heresy.

The Languedoc is named for the language which used to be predominantly spoken there, a tongue called Occitan. It was the language of the troubadours and of those who lived in Southern France and Northern Spain during most of the Middle Ages. Occitan as a language is much closer to Spanish than to French. Before the Albigensian Crusade, the nobles of the Languedoc aligned themselves with King Pedro of Aragon, whose throne was in Barcelona. The name Languedoc comes from Langue d’oc, or the “language of yes”.

In the early thirteenth century, at a time when so much of Europe was issuing an emphatic “no”, the Languedoc said “yes”. Yes to greater freedom of religion, yes to increased economic freedom, yes to more freedom for Jews and not persecution. In June, 1209, the Languedoc was likely the most free and the most wealthy realm in Europe. The size of its great cities such as Beziers, Carcassonne, and Toulouse, rivaled or surpassed London, Paris, and Rome itself. Albigensians and Waldensians, groups that thrived in the Languedoc under protection, groups that either did not believe or did not practice their faith in the way of the Catholic Church, were deemed to be heretics.

Taking the Cross coverPope Innocent III declared heretics to be more evil than Saracens and launched the Albigensian Crusade. It ravaged a free and prosperous land. It led to the oppression and brutality of the Inquisition. C.S. Lewis declared that if not for the Albigensian Crusade, the Renaissance would have begun in the Languedoc in the thirteenth century two-hundred years before it began in Italy.

The largest intact Medieval walled city in Europe is Carcassonne. It is the Chateau Comtal, the castle of the city of Carcassonne, that is pictured on the cover of Taking the Cross. When I traveled to the Languedoc, I was able to go inside the Chateau Comtal, the castle of Viscount Raimon Roger Trencavel I, who is a main character in Taking the Cross. From the Chateau Comtal, I went to the nearby Tower of Heretics. It is so named because heretics were hanged there after the Albigensian Crusade from the crossbeams of the roof of the tower.

It was in the Tower of the Heretics that the history of the Languedoc came alive for me. As I stared up at the broad crossbeams, it was as if I could hear the screams and feel the suffering of those who were hanged, feel the heat and smell the smoke from those burnt at the stake. Even though it took me many years to figure it out, it was then I knew I had a story to tell.

The first instalment of that story is Taking the Cross.    


Taking the Cross is a historical novel by Charles Gibson about the little-known crusade launched by the Roman Catholic Church against fellow Christians in France, a time of great religious turmoil and conflict.

In the Middle Ages not all crusades were fought in the Holy Land. A two-pronged threat to the Catholic Church was growing within Christendom itself and Pope Innocent III called for the crusade against heresy to eliminate both the Albigenses and Valdenses, two movements that did not adhere to Church orthodoxy.

Andreas, a knight who longs to go on crusade to the Holy Land, finds himself fighting against one in his French homeland. While Andreas wages war for the lives and religious freedom of his people, a battle rages within his soul.

Eva, a young woman of a new religious order, the Beguines, discovers a secret message within a letter about the death of her father in the Holy Land. As she learns more of her father, she is forced to confront the profound and perilous spiritual inheritance he has bequeathed to her. A legacy for which she must fight.

Hearing of the feats of Andreas, Eva senses her inheritance may lead her to him.

Filled with battles of the flesh and the spirit, Taking the Cross reveals a passionate aspect of Medieval times where some fought ardently for the freedom of others. [provided by the author]

 About the author

Charles Gibson first started reading about history and geography when he was seven. He wrote his first short story at the age of nine. He continues to read and write whenever he can.
Charles has spent many years researching the Middle Ages and the Crusades, and has traveled to the Languedoc region in France. He has combined the passions of history and geography and prose to finish his first novel, Taking the Cross.
It takes place during the summer of 1209 in France.

Charles Gibson has previously written for the inspirational book series God Allows U-Turns as well as for a Minnesota newspaper.
He also works as a project manager for a medical device company. He also loves travel writing, and would like to start his own magazine some day about travel as a journey through life. The dominant theme of his writing is freedom. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free;
therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.”

He lives in Minnesota with his lovely wife and energetic sons. He can be reached at [email protected]

Visit his website. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter , Google +

Send him your questions and comments.

Follow the rest of the book’s virtual tour here.

Take part in the giveaway for this book here.


Crossing The Line banner

Frederique Molay’s first Nico Sirsky novel, The 7th Woman, won the prize for Best Crime Novel in France in 2007, so you’re quite justified going into this book with high expectations. And you won’t be disappointed. This is an intriquing, polished murder mystery featuring the very likeable Police Commissioner Nico Sirsky.

Sirsky has now recovered from his gunshot wound, and his divorce, and life is good again. He has a new woman in his life and some interesting cases to get his teeth into. And one of these actually involves teeth. A student dentist doing a dissection as part of his training comes across something in a tooth. It turns out to be a tiny bit of paper stuck in a makeshift filling that says, ‘I was murdered’. Not that’s got to catch your attention! Of course, it could be a sick joke but soon Sirsky and his team uncover more macabre murders. Something is crossing the line of acceptability at a hospital renowned for its progress in cancer treatment. And at the heart of it all is a little girl.

The author
The author

The French edition of this book was titled Dent pour Dent – A Tooth for a Tooth. I had misgivings about the English title mainly because there are already so many books called ‘Crossing the Line’ out there. Amazon.com gives you 22,589 to choose from under the category ‘Books’. The worry with using a popular title is that a book can get lost. That may not be quite such a worry with such a prestigious, prize-winning author as Fréderique Molay, but generally a unique, distinctive title helps a book in terms of discoverability. However, Crossing the Line is certainly an apt title for this novel, since several lines are crossed – in terms of relationships, personal accomplishments and what’s ethically acceptable in the fight against disease. So yes, the title has won me over.

Crossing the Line cover

There is one thing about the very eye-catching cover that I don’t like. It’s not the Eiffel Tower, that iconic symbol of France, which at once portrays the setting of this novel and acts as a beacon of attraction. It may be horribly overused as meaning France, but it works brilliantly on this cover. And the title crossing the ‘Do Not Cross’ line is a very clever, creative touch.  No, it’s the inclusion of that ugly, glaring red label: ‘She is the French Michael Connelly’. Possibly in the mind of whoever wrote this, Molay is, but I personally can’t see any particular similarity other than they’re both authors. To me Molay is by far the better author of the two, with the depth and dimension of her writing. Too many crime writers get caught up in overdoing the dry details of terminology and technology used in forensics departments, but here we have descriptive, beautiful details about settings, personalities, relationships – everything. The publisher should let readers make up their own minds. I imagine its purpose is to boost sales but that presupposes everyone knows Connelly’s books and automatically likes them, and personally I think it will deter as many readers as it attracts. I imagine I’m not the only one who doesn’t like being told what to think! The cover would look much better without it.

This novel, the second in a series, works very well as a standalone, but you get more from it having read the precursor. Sirsky’s Russian heritage can be a little baffling at first if you dive into this second novel, although you have a strong hint with the son being called Dimitri. Plus you get the added element of seeing the characters develop.

In conclusion, Crossing the Line is an extremely enjoyable, thought-provoking read.

Follow the book on it’s book tour here:

And join in the giveaway here:

You can buy the book:

Via Le French Book’s website

All the Amazon websites and Barnes and Noble.


bigfattipsyCoco Pinchard is getting her life back together. She’s divorced from dopey philandering first husband Daniel, son Rosencrantz is moving out and gorgeous Adam, Coco’s boyfriend, is about to move in. Even Ethel, Coco’s ex-mother-in-law, if you can have one of those, seems to be rather nice to her these days.
But then Adam starts behaving strangely and Coco’s happiness begins to unravel… despite two more adorable men, Rocco and Xavier, and Rosencrantz’s outrageous housemates entering her life.
Robert Bryndza manages to combine side-splitting humour with some pretty serious issues, without trivialising them or making the book’s atmosphere too heavy. Coco faces some very big challenges but she’s nothing if not indomitable and creative, and she takes them head on. She gets a little bit of supernatural help along the way, which fits perfectly into Coco’s somewhat chaotic life.
The book consists of a series of emails and this works extremely well. Each one conveys the personality of its writer and keeps the story flowing from various points of view, but all reflect the talent and humour of this wonderful author.
Coco Pinchard’s Big Fat Tipsy Wedding is comedy fiction at its very, very best.
Warning: not to be read in public. Your chuckles, snorts of laughter, gasps and occasional tears may cause consternation.

Buy the book here.




What a great way to start July! It’s my turn to host Cris Hammond who is on a virtual book tour with his extremely enjoyable From Here to Paris.

All expats are interesting people, since it takes a certain sort of person to up sticks and not just move, but move to another country, but some are definitely more interesting than others. For many, expatdom often happens as a result of unemployment, and this is Cris’s case. As he succinctly puts it in the blurb, “your life can fall apart just enough to allow you to put it back together again in a whole new way”. And what a way! 

Cris, a cartoonist and then a boat photographer, buys a barge, Phaedra, and explores the French canal system. Phaedra needed a good bit of attention before the trip, and Cris had to grapple with plenty of other new challenges, such as French, France and dealing with locks.  And that’s just for starters.


Cris and his wife Linda rise to the challenges they face as expats afloat. There are plenty of entertaining anecdotes as we follow Phaedra’s dignified progress along the French waterways, enjoying the scenery and sharing Cris’s ups and downs on the way. It’s a book of self-discovery as well sightseeing and, as a fellow expat in France, it paints a realistic picture of the country as seen through foreign eyes.

Cris and Linda
Cris and Linda

I asked Cris some questions about his book, barging and Paris.


What inspired you to write From Here to Paris?
It never occurred to me that what we were doing was “book worthy” at first. But I did know that lots of our friends thought that we were setting out to do something verging on the crazy, and they were always eager to hear the latest news, catastrophic or euphoric. I’d regularly send short stories back to a growing number of people who seemed to always be fascinated and asking for more. That kind of interest and support made me feel good, regardless of whatever immediate challenges we were facing. As time went on, the stories began to pile up and someone said, “Hey, why don’t you turn this into a book?” That was another thing I’d never done before, so, since we were into trying new adventures, I gave it a shot.

Please describe it in 100 words (ok, 113!)
From Here to Paris is the story of how we climbed out of our well-worn corporate trench, took a look around, and decided it was time to shake things up. It’s also the hilarious tale of selling the burdensome house, returning the leased cars, shredding the credit cards, and abandoning the mind-numbing commute in favor of a joyful struggle toward a fresh, more fulfilling life. One we imagined as being lived in jeans, and filled with leisurely afternoons aboard our Dutch barge, Phaedra, floating along glass-still canals through medieval villages and rolling vineyards of Burgundy toward our ultimate goal, to live on our barge in the shadow of Notre Dame, in Paris.


What’s the appeal of barging?
For me there are several things that recommend a barge over a house or an apartment. The first thing is that we’re always on the water. Living on the water can be a challenge at times, but it’s also almost always lovely, interesting, and relaxing. Another unique appeal is that the barge moves. We aren’t always cruising when we’re in France, but when the urge to go out to somewhere new hits, we can untie the lines and be gone. Phaedra is also extremely comfortable in a very compact space. From her stained glass windows that fill one wall, to her wonderfully carved woodwork that decorates her from bow to stern, living aboard her is like living in a varnished, glowing jewel box. To be honest though, I enjoy sitting in the cockpit in the evening, watching the sun go down with a glass of wine every bit as much as I love driving here through the canals and rivers of France. It’s all good.

What are your three favorite things about Paris?
The first thing is the feeling that comes over me of youth and joy when I’m on the streets of Paris. It’s hard to explain, but I feel like a kid again. Also, as I mention in the book, being an artist, I feel, when I walk through Paris, that I’m in a place that epitomizes an artistic approach to life. I love the museums, but I also love the way that Paris is a city that is made for walking. And I think this leads me to the third thing, the cafés. I can’t get enough of the people watching.

From Here to Paris has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?
Yes, I did.

Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?
I don’t think so, unless you think having to wear a scuba diving wetsuit whenever I write is quirky. (I don’t wear the flippers though.) Other than that, I find myself writing a lot of dialogue and sometimes it’s as if I’m just taking dictation from the voices I’m hearing in my head. I used to write a syndicated daily comic strip. I’d write non-stop for two weeks, then draw for two weeks, in order to get a month’s worth of strips out. During the writing time, I was pretty much a zombie, lost into the world of my characters. I’d walk right past people I knew, mumbling to myself, without even seeing them. I don’t know though if, in the world of writers, that is all that unusual.

A beautiful drawing of St Bris, by Cris
A beautiful drawing of St Bris, by Cris

Tell us briefly about what book’s coming next.
Well, I’m continuing to write my short stories and adventures for the folks back home. I’m getting that feeling again from my readers that there’s another book in that growing collection.

What one snippet of advice would you give to aspiring self-published authors?
Get an editor that knows your voice and what you are trying say. Take their suggested edits as just that, suggestions. A good editor is invaluable, because we all have something to learn. But you’re a unique person with your own voice and your own story. Have faith in it.

What one snippet of advice would you give to anyone planning to visit France?
Give yourself enough time to enjoy your time past the jet lag malaise. See Paris but don’t try to see it all in one trip. You’ll be back. Also, try to get out of Paris and see other parts of the country. I’m convinced that France is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. It’s worth getting lost in the countryside for a week or two. You’ll be back.


Thanks to Cris for the great interview and photos.


About Cris

Cris Hammond is a nationally known artist, cartoonist, and entrepreneur. His comic strip, Speed Walker, Private Eye, was seen daily in over 150 newspapers across the country, from The Miami Herald to The Seattle Sun Times, The San Diego Union, and The Minneapolis Star Tribune. His paintings of ships and the sea have appeared in galleries in Sausalito, San Francisco, Tiburon, and Carmel, California. He led special effects teams to Academy Awards for Special Effects in motion pictures including Star Trek IV, Innerspace, and The Abyss, among others. In 1994, facing penury, he left his artistic pursuits, bought a briefcase and a couple ties, and went out and got a real corporate job. Eight years and four more neckties later, he walked into his office one morning and was ambushed by the waiting Exit Interview Team, which informed him that he was, as of that moment, “out on his ear.”
After a suitable period of bi-polar careening between panic and reflection, he realized that he was too young to retire and too old to go looking for another corporate job. So, he sold the house, bought a barge in France and started painting again.
Now he and his wife, Linda, spend half the year in California living and working in their tiny art studio near San Francisco, and the other half doing the same thing on the barge in France. Piloting their 1925 Dutch barge Phaedra, they’ve meandered through more than 1200 kilometers of canals and rivers and negotiated more than 850 locks in their travels from the Rhone wine region, through Burgundy to Chablis and down the Seine into Paris.

Cris’s website: http://www.bargephaedra.com/

Call by other stop on his book tour by visiting http://francebooktours.com/2014/04/09/cris-hammond-on-tour-from-here-to-paris-2/

And finally enter a giveaway for Cris’s excellent and entertaining book.


Today I’m taking part in the book release blitz for novel number three in J M Griffin’s wonderful culinary cozy mystery series featuring Melina Cameron. These thoroughly enjoyable literary morsels feature super characters, suspenseful mysteries and delicious recipes. Definitely worth a nibble!

Focaccia Fatality Button 300 x 225

Melina Cameron is single, and looking. For a date. Not another dead body.

Her former flame, the sexy Scotsman, Aidan Sinclair, went MIA after he proposed a few months ago, so Melina isn’t wasting any more bread and tears on that one! When hunky police detective Porter Anderson asks her out, she says yes. She could do worse than dating a cop. She and Porter already have a lot in common given her penchant for finding dead bodies.

When high-ranking politician Vincent Gallagher hires Melina to cater his swanky party, and specifically requests her famous focaccia, Melina looks forward to the event, and the potential new customers it could bring. Not to mention, flirting with the cute waiters. But two things happen on that fateful night that could change the course of Melina’s future. First, Aidan walks into the party with a tall, sultry blonde. Second, that same tall, sultry blonde winds up dead, and Melina is the one who discovers the body!

This can’t be good for business let alone Melina’s love life.

Now, Melina has to figure out how to stay away from Aidan, and figure out who killed the blonde, or she might be the one to take the fall.

cover a focaccia fatality
J.M. Griffin/Dana Stone grew up in rural Maine. She relocated to Rhode Island and lives in the north western part of the state with her husband and two cats. J.M.’s first published novel For Love of Livvy, began a series of humorous mysteries featuring Lavinia “Vinnie” Esposito. J.M. has also written a romance under the pseudonym Dana Stone.

• Blog http://mycozymysteries.blogspot.com
• Facebook danastone.5815
• Twitter @mycozymystery


And here’s a Rafflecopter giveaway!

fawn picI’m thrilled to feature new author Fawn Atondo on Books Are Cool today. Fawn has just published her first book, Chosen Darkness. It’s contemporary paranormal, with some very original twists and turns along the way. The main characters are Falyn, a lone werewolf, and Alex, a vampire bounty hunter. When they meet, there’s instant attraction, but werewolves and vampires aren’t allowed to become partners, on pain of death. And Falyn soon learns she has a crucially important role to play in uniting the fractured werewolf society. It could be too much for a nineteen-year-old but Falyn has buckets of attitude and stamina.

Fawn Atondo creates some unusual and wonderful characters. She puts them into testing and entertaining situations, and you’re never sure what’s coming next. Chosen Darkness is exciting and different, sexy and imaginative.

I asked Fawn some questions about Chosen Darkness and her experiences as a self-published author.

What inspired you to write Chosen Darkness?

I have always loved vampires and werewolves. I wanted to make them something other than just bad or monsters. Yet not go Twilight with it either. Something for adults, something full of all kinds of immortal beings. A world inside a world.

Please describe it in 100 words.

Falyn is a lone werewolf whose work leads her to Alex Rave, a vampire bounty hunter. They quickly find out she is the bounty. After she escapes from the man who hired Alex to find her, Alex teams up with her to help her find out about the strange power locked inside her. She is meant to lead her race. It won’t be easy, but she finds a way to do it: she must become a shadow wolf. The only problem is she will have to give up the one thing she wants more than uniting her people: Alex.

What’s the appeal of paranormal as a genre?

The fact you can do so much with it! The endless ideas you could make out of the same creatures everyone knows about and writes about. I like how quickly things can go wrong in a paranormal world, making for great plots and story lines. Plus – it’s fun to write!

Which character did you enjoy creating the most and why?

I love my main leads, but the character I enjoyed creating the most was Lark. There’s just so much he can get across without saying very much. And I can’t wait for his love story, which will finish up the series.

Which character are you most like?

Um, this is a tough one! I think I am somewhere in the middle of Falyn and Break. Like Falyn, I had a rough start to life but I made something out of what I had. Always moving on and never looking back. And like Break I am very short and enjoy my tea!

Would you rather be a vampire or a werewolf?

There is something sensual about a vampire, I can’t lie I would love to have that effortless confidence and power. However, the whole blood drinking thing just wouldn’t work for me. I would be one hungry vampire! I would much rather be a werewolf!

Chosen Darkness has a really great cover. Did you design it yourself?

chosenfinal2I am very lucky in the fact I did get a lot of say on my cover. I needed the people on the front to be as close to the people whose story is inside as possible!

Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?

Yes, a few. One of them is that I always start with a title. I will hear a song or see a title of a TV show and something in the wording will stand out. I think, “Man, that would make a great title!” This is what happened with Chosen Darkness: I was watching an episode of One Tree Hill that was called ‘As for me, I have Chosen Darkness’. And the phrase ‘Chosen Darkness’ stood out. After that the world started building and the story was born.

Tell us briefly about what you’re writing at the moment.

Along with Chosen Shadows, book two in the Chosen Series, I am working on a contemporary novella series. Book one, Office Hours, should be out by the end of this summer.

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

Write. And write often! If you want to be an author you need to keep at it. You’re only going to get better with each story!

What do your family and friends think of you being an author?

No one is surprised I am writing as I started young. I won so many awards for my short stories and poems in school that no one is shocked I am still at it. My sisters and girl cousins use to beg for me to finish my stories I told them at night! Yes, even then I started a series of stories that I spun out over long summers for them.

And finally, in Chosen Darkness, one of the characters, Break, loves a nice cup of tea! What’s your favorite food and drink?

Glazed pork chops with strawberry salsa. Yum! As for drink, tea. I have so much tea, it’s insane! I love to collect it! I drink it with milk which my hubby thought was the oddest thing when we first got married. He never heard of putting milk in your tea! I couldn’t picture it any other way. Coffee is a close second – I’m not sure I could function without it most days!

Find out more about Fawn at her blog here.

And do treat yourself to Chosen Darkness which you can buy here.

Rewan 200Today I’m delighted to be interviewing debut novelist Rewan Tremethick. He’s about to launch Fallen on Good Times, a quirky and very entertaining tale in the paranormal noir genre. The action takes place in the American city of Pilgrim’s Wane, where all is definitely not what it seems. Laslo, a less than effective private detective, has found a niche market where he seems to excel – cases involving supernatural beings of one sort or another. Life’s bound to be interesting, if dangerous…

I asked Rewan some questions about Fallen on Good Times, writing and self-publishing.

1.       What inspired you to write Fallen on Good Times?

I wanted to write a book that was more commercially viable, a straight up action adventure. It turns out I actually need there to be some kind of substance in my work in order for me to be happy with it, though, so I ended up going back and changing it up quite a bit.

2.       Please describe it in 100 words.

It’s the story of Laslo Kane, a paranormal detective who wants to get out of the game before it kills him. When a wealthy investor offers Laslo a huge fee to solve the murder of his business partner, Laslo sees his chance to change his life forever. But to claim his money, Laslo will have to follow a trail of connected murders to its source: the mob.

Fallen on Good Times is part mystery, part comedy, all noir. Dark, gritty, silly, and quirky.

3.       What’s the appeal of paranormal noir as a genre?

The great thing about paranormal as a genre is that it’s about those things that could almost be real. Fantasy, another genre I love, is very much about things that couldn’t possibly exist, whereas the paranormal taps into that part of us all that is scared of the dark. I think it’s perhaps easier to connect with as a reader, because we’ve all seen shadows out of the corner of our eyes and heard strange inhuman noises coming from close by…

And noir is all about being dark and gritty. Visually, noir films have plenty of lashings of shadow and striking colours. What better match for the supernatural?

4.       Would you like to live in Pilgrim’s Wane?

It’s incredibly dangerous, but yes I would. For several reasons, really. One: I would love to live in a time where a trilby and trench coat was the norm for men. Two: It may be a risky place to be, with lots of strange things going on and the chance of getting eaten, but that just makes it interesting. It’s got its silly moments, and its unbelievable aspects. It would certainly make for an entertaining (if much shorter) life.

5.       Fallen on Hard Times has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

fallen coverThanks. No, I got it done professionally, because I know how important it is. Josh and Caspar from Snakeskin Studios [link: www.snakeskin-studios.co.uk if you want to include, but feel free not to] are the two geniuses I have to thank for the cover. They took my ideas and added a lot of their own, so I feel that the cover is still personal to me, but I haven’t overridden their expertise in order to get my way. It’s already getting a lot of positive feedback from people who have seen it, so I already feel justified in my decision to get it done professionally.

6.       Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?

I suppose if anyone came in to the room while I was dictating they might be a bit confused. I have a Blue Snowball Ice mic, which is a spherical microphone that I often hold in my hand as one might cradle a glass of brandy. I’m sure that looks unusual.

Other than that, I’d say the only quirky writing habit I have is being a writer. We’re all bonkers.

7.       When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise?

I was in school, so around about 15. When I was 13 we had to write a short story for a piece of English homework. Everyone else came in with two pages of A4; I turned in 11. A few months after that I started writing in my notepad one day when I was incredibly bored in a science lesson. I still have no idea why, but I started by writing ‘Chapter One’. From that moment on, I was writing a novel.

When I was about 15 teachers started suggesting to me that I consider trying to get published when I grew up. By that point I was quite well known for my novel. I’d carry the up to date version – 50 pages or so – in my bag at all times in case anyone wanted to read it. As soon as someone suggested looking into publication, I knew that was what I should be doing with my life.

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

Run it like a business. You can’t be an artist whilst selling your book. Consider it a product – work out who exactly it is that wants to buy it, what makes it different to the other books they might think about buying, where they are and how you will reach them.

And if you think you don’t need to get your MS edited and pay for a professional cover design, don’t bother self-publishing.

Fallen on Good Times will be released in Paperback and on Kindle on the 31st of May

Author Bio

Rewan (not pronounced ‘Rowan’) Tremethick is a British author who was named after a saint. St Ruan was invulnerable to wolves; Rewan isn’t. Rewan is a fan of clever plots, strong woman who don’t have to be described using words like ‘feisty’, and epic music. He has dabbled in stand-up comedy, radio presenting, and writing sentences without trying to make a joke. He balances his desire to write something meaningful by wearing extremely tight jeans.

Here’s Rewan’s excellent trailer for Fallen on Good Times.

And finally, you can get chapter one of the novel for free when you sign up to Rewan’s newsletter at his website here.

If you’re looking for a book that’s hugely entertaining, intellectually stimulating and quite unlike anything you’ve ever read before, then this is the one for you. Chasms: Gospel of Freeman is the debut novel of author Gregory J. O. Smith, who has a lot to say and it’s all very well worth reading. The novel is science fiction at heart, but with plenty of added adventure, metaphysical questioning and philosophical debate. The characters are extremely diverse, ranging from talking dogs to tramps to an assortment of mortal immortal beings (humanoid and otherwise) to two scarily powerful and all pervasive and opposed figures – David Isaaks and Soo Yun. It’s up to our hero, Bastion Freeman, to lead the battle to save humanity, however unwillingly.

I asked Gregory some questions about his fascinating novel.

What inspired you to write Chasms: Gospel of Freeman?

I’ve been obsessed with the Singularity longer than I knew the word for it. When I was 6, my dad bought our first computer and raved about how the hard drive, at a whopping 5 megabytes, was so large that we’d never fill it up or need another. I’d be able to leave that computer to my grandchildren! A couple of years later, I brought home a video game too large to play and turned that computer into a paper weight. And since I just knew my father had to be the most brilliant person in creation, I figured that computers must be advancing in some unpredictable way. Coupled with a persistent fascination with the future, adoring The Terminator and Matrix franchises, then the novels of John Scalzi, and the work of Ray Kurzweil… the whole subject has become a sort of obsession. Me and a friend argued for years about whether an artificial intelligence would be malevolent, and my position has always been that if an AI were truly brilliant then it would find better alternatives to war or genocide for purely selfish reasons to optimize longevity. About four years ago, I heard a candy-coated pop song (which I won’t be naming anytime soon) and by the end had the framework for a story about Bastion and Veronica (though both had different names). From that primordial soup, the story has been repeatedly hammered into something else entirely.

Describe the book in 100 words.

The Aquarius corporation, headed by an enigmatic artificial intelligence named Soo Yun, offers recruits the chance to live forever and the ability to reform their bodies and minds in any way they choose. Bastion Freeman joins to escape the Inquisition only to find himself pitted against a genocidal madman threatening to exterminate all life in the solar system in a game of chicken with God.

What’s the attraction of sci-fi as a genre?

Sci-fi is the only genre I’ve seen that really molds the future, or, perhaps, occasionally predicts noteworthy advances. Jules Verne wrote about submarines and spaceships, then reality caught up much later. Once upon a time, James Bond had a phone in his car and decades later car phones became a reality. The crew of the Enterprise all had communicators back in the sixties, then later we all had flip phones. Darth Vader had limbs replaced with robotic replicas, and now our own prosthetics are very close to making fictional ones look deprecated. I would love to see a future with advances like viable negligible senescence, layered virtual realities, and a benevolent AI (or at least self-interested enough to keep humans) who runs things more effectively than people have managed. And I think we could make that happen if we don’t get stuck on a few admittedly substantial hurdles along the way.

Which character in the book would you most like to be, and why?

Soo Yun is as close to all powerful that a mechanistic universe could support, in my humble opinion so far, so that has some appeal. If we’re sticking with the more grounded characters, then all have their upsides. Even the psychotic conviction and ostensible clarity of David Isaaks has some strange appeal. Probably Nebojsa because I have no idea from what crevasse of my brain she emerged, she’s a survivor, and because she has a long and relatively happy existence after the events of the book.

Chasms: Gospel of Freeman has a great cover. Did you design it yourself?

chasms coverThe fellas over at ebooklaunch.com did an excellent job on the cover! I had a general idea of a before and after split-screen image of a face with a business card for Aquarius – admittedly schlocky or like a magazine advertisement for the reformation. But I told them the premise of the story, to run with whatever struck them, and the results turned out excellent!

Your characters are able to opt for many enhancements and additions under the Aquarius project, and most of them ask for a tail. What sort of tail would you choose? 

Definitely something more classic mammalian to start out, see if I like it. Like a spider monkey or a kinkajou.

Which authors or books are you reading at the moment?

At the moment, I’m taking an embarrassing amount of time to get through three books due to work, my own writing, keeping up on the news and a few websites I enjoy, and life getting generally in the way. I’ve been trying this rotation where I’ll read a classic, something popular, then something new/obscure/enriching a few chapters at a time. For a classic, I’m going through The Catcher in the Rye since I never read it in high school. An oddly fun book even though Holden Caulfield is a real shit. He really is.

For something popular, a friend got me reading A Song of Ice and Fire and I’m struggling through A Clash of Kings – Martin is an excellent writer but I’m having trust issues with the way he kills off characters. I’m hesitant to get invested in anyone since he’s apparently going to brutally murder all of them!

Then for something new and obscure, I’m creeping through The Transhumanist Wager slowly but surely. I’m not sure if it is the characters, the reporter style writing, or the peculiar mix of Libertarian Objectivist ideology dripping off every page that is not working for me. I’ll be putting a review of this one on my blog as soon as I can muster the willpower to finish the rest since it deals with the singularity, transhumanism, and other themes superficially similar to my book and coming series.

Do you have any strange or quirky writing habits?

Leave open lap space for the cat, otherwise the bastard will walk on the keyboard or stand in front of the screen until I get the hint. Gregorian Chants and Folk music helps, or any good soundtrack without distracting or decipherable words. And, oddly, writing a first draft or two in first person then rewriting in third person helps get into character.

When did you first realize you wanted to be an author, indie or otherwise? 

I’ve known I wanted to tell stories since I was 11 when I saw a movie (can’t even remember which one, anymore) that I otherwise adored but hated the ending so much that I kept thinking, “I could do better than that!” Time will tell if that prediction turns out true or not. But I never wanted to deal with a publisher – the idea some suit could send my story back and demand a five hundred page rewrite, completely rework the structure, and water a story down into drivel all based on their own guesses which have yet to prove any better than anyone else’s is just maddening. I’ve seen that out of writer’s groups and have no interest in working with any publisher not on my own terms. For better and worse, the audience can decide if I ever get to do this for a living. My hopes are modest. Apparently if I sell a million books this year, I’ve got to convert to veganism… (Eris demands!) My appetite for cheese burgers is not worried.

What are you writing at the moment?

My next book is a toss up at the moment, unfortunately. Recently I heard about the movie Transcendence and older ones like Lawnmower Man and the book Neuromancer that all share similar themes with the prequel I’m writing, so after I’ve gone through these or if I determine there’s little more than superficial differences that I can add (short of being actually optimistic about the future), then I’ll move on to the third book in the series and come back to Gospel of Song afterward, perhaps as a freebie. The third book, tentatively subtitled Gospel of Veronica, is about the 7 day gap in Bastion’s memories in chapter 92 and told through Veronica’s perspective.

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

Stop before completing a sentence/thought so that you know where to pick up the next day or session. Helps get the madness flowing. Best advice I ever got.

What do your family and friends think about you being an author? 

A few of my friends are excited and very supportive. My family is also very supportive but they seem to find it more a novelty or strange curiosity.

OK, enough of the serious stuff. What are your three favourite foods?

I’m totally serious about those yellow Asian pears, even though they’re pricey in my neck of the woods. Raw cloves of garlic have become a masochistic self-flagellation of duty – last summer I noticed the mosquitoes left me alone all year for the first time ever and a friend remarked that it might have something to do with the excessive amounts of garlic I was putting on everything to cut back on salt intake… Hmm, yeah, we’re going to just leave that one there.

blurry gregAnd from the (slightly blurry) photo on your Amazon page, I see you like ties. Describe your ideal tie. 

Actually, that picture might be the one time I’ve worn a tie of my own free will. Whenever I try to convince myself how I’m really nothing at all like Bastion, I remember my dad’s first lesson about adulthood was the difference between regular and “power ties”… Imagine if Gordon Gekko and Louis Skolnick merged; that’s my dad.

And finally, anything else we should know about you or your writing?

Anyone that receives a print copy without page numbers, a “quirky” spine, or errors in the front or back matter (entirely my fault), then I’m considering these special gems as “collector’s items” and will be buying them back at inflated prices if the elder gods or simulation programmers or whatever force me to convert to veganism (prerequisites pending).


So, I hope you’re tempted to read Chasms: Gospel of Freeman now that you’ve discovered what an interesting person its author is!

Buy the book here:



And find out more about Greg and Chasms here at his website.


Star For Mrs Blake banner

This is a very topical book in this, the centenary year of the First World War. A Star for Mrs Blake by April Smith is the story of five American mothers who lost sons during the First World War. They meet on the first Gold Star Mothers pilgrimage, funded by the American Government, which takes mother to see their sons’ graves in France. The star in the title comes from the fact that families put a star in their window if their soldier child is serving abroad and a gold star shows that this person died.

As you’d expect, this is a very moving story. There can be nothing worse for any mother than to lose a child. Grief becomes a uniting force amongst the very different women who are thrown together in Party A where we have Mrs Blake, a maid, a Jewish farmer’s wife and a rich socialite. They represent different classes, religions and cultural backgrounds. Cora Blake remains our main point of interest and she makes for an interesting and sympathetic heroine, but other characters become absorbing too.

The author clearly did a lot of research for this book and that comes through in both the major themes and the little details. However, Smith’s obsession with detail concerning her characters slows the story down at times and takes our main focus away from the point of this pilgrimage and the death, scandal and secret that we’re tempted with in the book’s blurb. We go off at tangents that we don’t need to and become a little mired down in the minutiae of backgrounds now and again. Greater focus on the main thrust of the story would give it more momentum and make its impact even more powerful.

That said, it’s a good story and generally well written. It has a truly beautiful cover, as you can see, although the inclusion of ‘A Novel’ is rather pointless. We know what it is! It’s available as hardback, paperback, ebook and audiobook. Authors need to be providing their work in whatever format readers demand and it’s good to see that Smith’s publishers, Knopf, are doing this. However, the ebook price is unrealistically high, being more than for the paperback. Not a good marketing move, in my opinion.

Star For Mrs Blake cover

A Crouton Murder Button 300 x 225

Melina’s back. You may remember I reviewed the first book in this culinary cozy mystery series, A Crusty Murder, here recently. Now it’s time to look at the second book.


When Franklin Seever, the father of Melina’s best friend BettyJo, is poisoned from eating Melina’s fresh baked croutons at a dinner party, a police investigation once again targets Melina.

But Melina has learned her lesson after finding her landlady lying in a pool of blood, and with a crusty piece of bread protruding from her mouth, just a few months ago. If there is one thing Melina is aware of, it’s that you never really know people until you break bread with them.

BettyJo’s dad, a wealthy banker, already disliked Melina before the crouton calamity. What’s he going to think of her now that his life is hanging in the balance? Out of the bread pan and into the fire for Melina as she tries to keep BettyJo from freaking out about her dad, and engages in keeping her safe from a weirdo stalker.

And wouldn’t you know it? Just when Melina’s life couldn’t get more twisted than a loaf of braided bread, the sexy Scotsman, Aidan Sinclair, once again arrives on her doorstep with a smile on his face and an offer that could change Melina’s life forever.


This is another very entertaining novella that makes you hungry as you enjoy the mystery. It’s a well-constructed whodunnit, with very real tension and suspense. But there’s also comedy, hints of romance, friendship, loyalty, patience, impatience and, well, real life. The characters are people you could meet on the street, they’re so very human and convincing. The mystery itself is tightly written and plausible, so all in all, this is an easy-read, easy-enjoy story. J M Griffin has a sharp eye for detail and a sure way of grabbing the reader’s attention.

A perfectly baked piece of fiction – attractive looking, crispily written and ultimately very satisfying and more-ish!

About the author:

J.M. Griffin/Dana Stone grew up in rural Maine. She relocated to Rhode Island and lives in the north western part of the state with her husband and two cats. J.M.’s first published novel For Love of Livvy, began a series of humorous mysteries featuring Lavinia “Vinnie” Esposito. J.M. has also written a romance under the pseudonym Dana Stone.