Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Wonderful News !

I just had to share some wonderful news: Gypsy Shadow have said they're going to offer me a contract for my third short ebook--Flower Child. Good news like that does wonders for the jetlag!

So, what is Flower Child?

When Megan miscarries her first pregnancy it feels like the end of everything, but instead it’s the start of a curious relationship between the grieving mother and an unborn child who hovers somewhere between ghost and angel. Angela, Megan’s “little angel,” has character and dreams all her own, friends who may or may not be real angels, and a little brother who brings hope to her mother’s world. But Angela’s dream-world has a secret and one day Angela might become real...

Wnat to know more? You'll have to wait till it comes out I guess. Meanwhile I'm dancing round the room again, visions of book-covers and contracts in my mind, and eager to enjoy the editing process. (Denise Bartlett at Gypsy Shadow is a wonderful editor.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Meet Jean Henry Mead: Writing and Publishing a Novel

Jean Henry Mead’s latest novel is Murder on the Interstate, third in the Logan & Cafferty mystery/suspense series. Her two protagonists, Dana Logan and Sarah Cafferty, are amateur sleuths traveling the country in a motorhome. Along a mountainous highway in northern Arizona they discover the body of a young woman in her Mercedes convertible and take off after the killer. Along the way they discover that he’s pursuing them and is a member of a homegrown terrorist group that later kidnaps them while plotting the downfall of the nation.

Click here for my review of Murder on the Interstate.

Jean is the author of 14 books, both fiction and nonfiction as well as children’s mysteries. She’s also an award-winning photojournalist and former news reporter/editor. And I'm delighted to welcome her today to my blog where she's answering the question, How difficult is it to write and publish a novel.

Over to you Jean, and thank you so much for sharing this post.

Writing and Publishing a Novel

by Jean Henry Mead

How difficult is it to write and publish a novel?

Now that there so many small presses and online writing courses, a fledgling writer has a smoother path to publication than those of us who began writing in the dark ages (before computers). I wrote my first novel in fourth grade—a chapter a day to entertain classmates—but it was many years before I actually published one, and not before five of my nonfiction books were in print.

No novel writing courses were available when I served as editor of my college newspaper, so my logical career choice was journalism. I then wrote for three dailies, two in California before marrying a Wyomingite and moving to Casper, where I served as staff writer for the statewide newspaper. I was later editor of In Wyoming Magazine and freelanced for other publications, but what I really wanted to write were novels.

My forte has been interviews, which I still conduct to this day on my blog sites Mysterious Writers and Writers of the West. While I enjoyed interviewing interesting people, the yearning to write fiction was always there, like an itch I couldn’t quite scratch. I studied the work of Dean Koontz, whose stories horrified me (which they’re meant to do) until I read The Watchers, one of my favorite novels. I still like the poetic way Koontz strings his words together.

I spent two and a half years behind a microfilm machine during the mid-1980s to research my centennial history book, and had so many notes left over that I decided to incorporate them into an historical novel. The book, Escape on the Wind, took several years to write and rewrite, and has been published by three publishers since 1999. It remains my bestselling book and was retitled: Escape, A Wyoming Historical Novel. But writing the book was akin to climbing Mt. Everest.

A member of Mystery Writers of America as well as Western Writers of America, I was fortunate to have two award-winning novelists take me under their wings during the writing process. The late Fred Grove and Richard S. Wheeler read my manuscript and offered advice. Fred allowed me to send him my chapters via snail mail, and made suggestions although he didn’t edit my work. Both writers were continuing the work of their own mentors by giving me advice and I promised to pass along the favor by mentoring on my own. Now that I'm blogging and writing for more than one publisher, I regret I no longer have the time. But now there are many blogs offering writing advice that we didn't have years ago, as well as online courses. There are also numerous small publishers receptive to new writers.

Writing and publishing novels has never been easy but it's now a far cry from the days of typewriters, carbon copies and white-out. I can imagine what writing a book was like with quills, inkwells and foolscap. We novelists have come a long way . . .

You can visit Jean at her website: www.jeanhenrymead.com/ as well as her blog sites:
Mysterious Writers: http://mysteriouspeople.blogspot.com/
Writers of the West: http://writersofthewest.blogspot.com/
Murderous Musings: http://murderousmusings.blogspot.com/
Make Mine Mystery: http://makeminemystery.blogspot.com/

She also has four Facebook pages and is listed on Twitter.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Reading in England

Jean Henry Mead's visiting my Blog tomorrow. I read her newest book, Murder of the Interstate, a short while ago and really enjoyed it. Don't forget to drop back here in the morning and read her post on Writing and Publishing a Novel. Meanwhile, back to some very English book reviews...

I didn't read as much as I expected while I was in England--more time spent catching up with family and friends, cups of tea and happy conversation, long-forgotten TV shows to share, walks with dogs, the amazing luxury of strolling along the prom and going shopping with my Mum... I really did have a really wonderful time! And, yes, I read a bit too. In fact, I read four books by English authors, twohttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif loaned from a friend of my Mum's, one given by my sister-in-law, and one for our book group back in Oregon (but I was too jet-lagged to make it to the meeting).

While I was reading the first book I had that slight feeling of being foreign--you know, when the accent's just a little bit different and you wonder if you're missing something so you start to listen too carefully. I thought perhaps I'd spent too much time away. But the second book and the third gave the same feeling. Then I suddenly realized what it was; those first three English novels were written in the third person omniscient mode, and I've grown accustomed to third person limited. Is that a transatlantic difference in style? I don't know. I did come to like the omniscient again, and the recognize they were doing it really well--not "head-hopping" so much as gently touching down and moving on. And the books were all great.

So here they are: four English novels read by an English American...

The first two are The Island and The Return, both by Victoria Hislop. Both feature quintessentially English women seeking their identity, and in both books the protagonist finds her future in the past. The Island follows the people living in and near a 1930s leper colony off the Island of Crete, and The Return traces the story of a Spanish family during the Spanish Civil War. Both books are beautifully researched and very evocatively written, bringing eras, people and places to vivid life, and creating fascinating contrasts with the modern world.

Next is The Outcast by Sadie Jones, an absorbing tale of repressed emotions, tragedy and hope among the middle classes of England in the 1950s. The narrative's tight and tense and the insights into character's conflicting emotions are truly haunting. A dark tale that scarcely lets up, but that somehow finds a way, in spite of everything, to let in the light.

And finally, there's The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey. I didn't even finish this one till I got back, but it's a wonderfully absorbing, fact-filled mystery with the most delightful characters and conversation, erudite, down-to-earth, and just plain fun. Truth is the reputed daughter of time, and the protagonists, laid up on his sick-bed, searches for the truth about that famous, so-very-English bit of history--the Princes in the Tower. I loved it.

Actually, I loved all four books and wish I'd had more time in England so I could have raided the bookstores and filled up my case. But I have to mention one final read which takes no book-case or suit-case space--Royal Wisdom, by Kate Petrella, which I loaded onto my Kindle before my flight. It's full of amazing, amusing, and oddly insightful quotes from the British royal family, and I thoroughly enjoyed sharing it with my Mum.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Best Singer you might never hear

Liam McNally was a finalist in Britain's Got Talent in 2010. At 14 years old he had the most incredible soprano voice--you can hear Liam on Youtube here and I'm sure you'll agree. But when I was in England I got to hear a demo recording of how he sings now, at 15, and it was incredible! He still has all the beauty and range of his soprano voice, now with the added depth and maturity of an extra year and a fantastic alto. I've never heard anyone anywhere sing like Liam does. But apparently getting someone to produce a record of him is as hard as getting a publisher when you want to write. I'm lucky; I know the longer I wait, and practice, the better my writing will get. But a 15-year-old young man with an incredible voice can't share that confidence. The producers tell him to come back in seven years when his voice has broken. And here he is, with an unbroken, beautiful, incredible, powerful voice, that no-one else can hear. I wish, I wish, I wish I could buy the record.

Reading on the plane

One free checked-in bag, that's what they allow on trips to England. So I packed lightly, checked it in, and carried books and kindle in my computer case. The books were for reading in crowded lounges and on planes during that period where "electronic devices" are turned off. The kindle was for the long long hours of flying, though I actually watched quite a few movies as well, and even slept some of the time. And the space in the bag was for bringing back presents (and books!). So now I'm back, and here's some book reviews I wrote on the computer but didn't post due to blogger's read-only down-time coinciding with my English, hey-let's-try-the-internet time. As usual, click on the blue links to read full reviews on Gather.

Literary fiction:

The Girl in the Garden, by Kamala Nair is a beautiful story, filled with mystery, the scent of flowers and the wonder of a child. The writing's as rich as the tale--definitely one to read with a 4-star, rich, complex cup of coffee.

Children, by Maggie Clark, is an oddly unsettling novellette told with richly poetic language. The children of the title might be those in danger, the kidnapped, the killed, or maybe just the people around us who haven't quite grown up. The story's dark and gritty, wrapped round a haunting mystery--to be read with a 5-star bold dark intense cup of coffee.

Megan’s Way, by Melissa Foster will soon be coming out as a movie and it was a finalist in the 2010 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. It's one of those books that defies genres, part paranormal, part family drama, part spiritual and magical, even part mystery. The characters all become very real and the dialog's excellent. Meanwhile the mysteries of truth and lies leave haunting echoes in the mind. Take a 3-star balanced coffee with this one.

Revenge Served Cold, by Jackie Fullerton reminded me of Randall and Hopkirk deceased--a childhood favorite on TV. Anne Marshall's a part-time law student and the ghost of her father helps investigating crimes. In this novel, a law professor has died and his wife's accused of murder. Anne and friends come to the rescue. Great to read with that 3-star balanced coffee balanced on your knees at the beach.

Children's Books:
Redheart, by Jackie Gamber, sets up an intriguing medieval world of people and dragons, where greed has overwhelmed the old order of mutual assistance and battles loom. There's great dialog, fun characters, pleasing themes of friendship and honor, and a nice completeness to the tale despite this being the first ina series. If kids get to drink coffee I'll offer them a 2-star bright and lively cup with this read.

Effie at the Wedding, by Tracy Marchini, tells a delightful tale, interspersed with hilarious lists, from the point of view of a bride's little sister who just might prefer hiding in the bathroom to revealing her hideous pink dress. Take a 2-star living cup of coffee with this one too, and be careful not to spill it when laughing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Did I really just say that I'm an author?

My virus-scanner broke this morning. Probably clicking "yes" to downloading updates wasn't such a good idea while jet-lag rules--I only got back from England yesterday. I clicked "yes" to removing the previous version, and "yes" to restarting my machine. Altogether too many "yes"s. When Windows came back neither old nor new virus scanner could be found anywhere.

Jet-lag still ruling, I proceeded to panic and search for my account on the internet. I typed my virus scanner key-code in and was told it was invalid. I looked for downloads and tried again with similar lack of success. Then I phoned Best Buy since that's where I bought the computer and virus scanner in the first place.

Best Buy keep great records. They also have great geeks in their geek squad. Soon a very nice stranger was moving the mouse about my screen, downloading and activating the latest version and confirming all was well. While installation and updates proceeded, slowly, she asked how my day was going and I confessed not so well--not so well till calling her anyway. I needed my computer I said and she asked me what I do. I write. "Write what?" I have a couple of ebooks out. "How cool!" says she and asks their names so she can look them up later, then adds, "so you're an author" and I say yes.

My hands are still shaking. Did I really just say I'm an author, to a complete stranger, over the phone? I hope she finds and likes the books. I hope I gave her the right names. I hope my jet-lag improves as the day goes by. But at least the virus scanner's working now... and hey, maybe I really am an author after all.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lovely review of Refracted !

There's a lovely review of my ebook, Refracted, on The Dubious Disciple today! Just click on the blue link to read it. While you're there, don't forget to look at some of the Dubious Disciple's other posts, especially the one for Friday May 6th, especially if you've ever wondered what the Bible might have to say about the value of pi. Hey, some of us mongrel Christian mathematicians, and even non-mongrels or other curious readers, get pretty excited about this sort of thing. It's nice to know I'm not the only one! Enjoy!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Reading while Tidying Up

It's spring. No, it's fast approaching summer--the schools will soon be out (and the tulips too). But I still haven't caught up all on stuff that I left undone at Christmas, saying I'll finish after Mum's gone home. Soon I'll be seeing my Mum again, so perhaps a few days of catchup can be excused--that's my excuse for being away from the internet anyway.

But away from reading? From books? No way... I tidy a box; I clear out the corner of a room; then I read to celebrate--it's less fattening than chocolate.This week's reading includes:

Young adult fiction: I am not Esther, by Fleur Beale. I loved this book. Fourteen-year-old Kirby is sent to live with relatives in an old religious community, and called Esther. The author nicely avoids condemning anyone while showing how Kirby struggles to retain her identity and regain her freedom. A well-balanced book to enjoy with a three-star balanced cup of coffee.

Next comes Judgement Day by Wanda L Dyson, a mystery thriller that delves into society's morals, family relationships, romance, ethics and faith, as cable news host Suzanne Kidwell finds herself on the receiving end of the sort of shoddy reporting that's fueled her TV ratings success. Enjoy a bright, lively two-star coffee with this one.

Jean Henry Mead's Murder on the Interstate is another mystery, half-cozy, half thriller, with well-drawn characters and crisp dialog, zany car-chases and a curious mix of humor and serious fears. Bright and lively, a two-star coffee would go down well with this one too. And, I'll be welcoming the author to my blog in just a few short weeks, so don't forget to come back and read her post on May 23rd.

Finally there's Doctor Confidential by Richard Sheff MD. With my oldest son just finishing his internship year and about to enter residency, this is one I had to read, and though Dr Sheff trained a generation ago, the story of his experiences still reads as immediately relevant and intriguingly up-to-date. With the quick dialog, rapid decisions and lingering struggles to sleep, wake up, have a life, etc, that we see in TV doctor programs, with clear explanations of medicine and the human body in the footnotes, and with some intriguing questions about technology and human understanding, this was a really fascinating read, best enjoyed with the flavors of a 4-star, elegant, complex cup of coffee.

Just click on the links for my reviews on gather, and don't forget to come back May 23rd for Jean Henry Mead's guest post. Meanwhile, I'll get back to all that tidying and catching up.