Archive for September, 2013

Give Away Winner for M.K. Tod’s UNRAVELLED

Monday, September 30th, 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments

I am happy to say that we have a winner for M.K. Tod’s debut novel, UNRAVELLED. And the winner is…

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Joye!

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Many thanks to everyone who joined in our give away…please tune in later this week for a give away with the fabulous historical romance author, Victoria Vane!

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Give Away of UNRAVELLED by M. K. Tod

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 13 Comments

UNRAVELLED

I am thrilled to host a give away of M.K. Tod’s debut novel UNRAVELLED. Just leave a comments below and throw your name in the hat to win. Hard copy US and Canada only or choose an Ebook version.

 

Two wars, two affairs, one marriage. 

In October 1935, Edward Jamieson’s memories of war and a passionate love affair resurface when an invitation to a WWI memorial ceremony arrives. Though reluctant to visit the scenes of horror he has spent years trying to forget, Edward succumbs to the unlikely possibility of discovering what happened to Helene Noisette, the woman he once pledged to marry. Travelling through the French countryside with his wife Ann, Edward sees nothing but reminders of war. After a chance encounter with Helene at the dedication ceremony, Edward’s past puts his present life in jeopardy. When WWII erupts a few years later, Edward is quickly caught up in the world of training espionage agents, while Ann counsels grieving women and copes with the daily threats facing those she loves. And once again, secrets and war threaten the bonds of marriage. With events unfolding in France, England and Canada, UNRAVELLED is a compelling novel of love, duty and sacrifice set amongst the turmoil of two world wars.

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon (USCanada and elsewhere), NookKoboGoogle Play and soon on iTunes. Mary can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

 

Q &A with M.K. Tod, Author of UNRAVELLED

Monday, September 23rd, 2013 | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

M.K. Tod’s debut novel Unravelled can be summed up in its tagline: Two Wars. Two Affairs. One Marriage. Beginning in 1935, the novel interleaves stark memories of WWI with the unfolding of WWII to tell the story of one couple’s struggle to keep their marriage alive.

UNRAVELLED

 

Thanks for joining me today, Mary. I have to ask, when did you begin writing Unravelled?

In 2004 my husband and I went to live in Hong Kong. After a few months of excitement, the reality of living so far away from home struck hard. I was lonely, my husband travelled almost every week, I missed my children, family and friends. With no job and oodles of time on my hands, I decided to write a story based loosely on the lives of my grandparents.

 

How did you research your novel?

One of the most wonderful aspects of historical fiction is the research. Although I hated history at school, I found researching WWI, the Great Depression and WWII to be fascinating. I spent hours looking for tidbits to enhance the story and facts to ensure an accurate depiction of trench warfare, period clothing, dance music, popular foods, regulations, the building of a kite, the sound of bombs dropping, 1920s midwifery practices, and on and on. Often I stumbled on a detail in the serendipity offered by Google and wove that detail in. I found websites galore as well as traditional sources like non-fiction books, libraries, museums, personal travel and so on. One regret is my failure to properly document the research sources I used.

 

How long did it take to write it?

Having never written anything except business reports and a few academic papers, fiction turned out to be much more of a challenge than I had naively anticipated. After returning to Toronto in 2007, I went back to work and wrote in short bursts at night or on weekends. In 2009 I sent close to fifty query letters to literary agents and, while waiting for responses, began another novel. Interestingly, that novel was easier to write in part because it was a total fabrication but also because I had learned quite a bit about the writing process. In the fall of 2011 I focused my time on Unravelled once more.

 

What inspired this story?

My grandmother died on the way to her second wedding and I had always thought this dramatic event would make a great ending for a novel. But stories need more than an ending. My mother provided further ingredients for the story by telling me that my grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge in April of 1917 and went on to be part of the Army of Occupation in Germany after WWI ended. She spoke of my great-grandparents and what she knew of her parents’ wedding, a few memories of the Depression and more substantial memories of living through WWII. She gave me a box of old photos and newspaper clippings and my grandfather’s scrapbooks. She also relayed the story of my grandfather’s involvement with Camp X, a place not far from Toronto where espionage agents were trained in WWII. My grandfather and espionage – who would have imagined? And gradually the twists and turns of a plot unfolded.

 

What is your writing process?

After the haphazard approach to writing Unravelled, I have used a more structured process for my second and third novels based on Elizabeth George’s suggestions in Write Away, her book about writing. I write a general plot summary, then a chapter-by-chapter outline that includes setting, narrator, bullet point outline, dramatic dominoes (this chapter leads to follow on events), and open questions (questions the reader is left wondering at the end of the chapter).

 

Except when I’m doing ancillary activities like marketing, blogging, or conducting my survey, I write every weekday usually six or more hours. As I said once in a blog post, writing is like no other job I’ve had.

 

NO ONE GIVES YOU A JOB DESCRIPTION – except all the writers who’ve written books on writing and the professors who teach writing, everyone of them with something different to say.

NO ONE REVIEWS YOUR JOB PERFORMANCE – except thousands (wouldn’t that be nice) of readers, none of whom have met you.

NO ONE MONITORS YOUR WORK – except that little voice in your head or occasionally, if you are lucky enough to get a publisher, an editor who sets deadlines for each of an incredible number of revisions.

YOU HAVE NO COLLEAGUES – no one to bitch to, no one to go for coffee with, no one to discuss difficult problems with.

YOU HAVE NO BOSS – many would say this is a good thing but in my experience bosses can help set direction, clarify priorities, help you see the big picture or negotiate the politics.

YOU HAVE NO SUBORDINATES – which means having no one who seeks your guidance or to whom you can delegate.

YOU RECEIVE NO REGULAR INCOME – in fact you can work for years and earn nothing, zip, zero, nada.

YOU REGULARLY DISCARD YOUR WORK PRODUCT – who else would put hours and hours into a small paragraph and later delete it?

YOU AGONIZE OVER COMMAS, ADVERBS, WORDS IN GENERAL – writing in many other careers only has to be ‘good enough’.

IT NEVER MATTERS WHAT YOU WEAR TO WORK – even pajamas are acceptable.

Thanks again for joining me. Tune in Wednesday, Sept. 25th  for a chance to win a copy of her debut novel…

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction and blogs about all aspects of the genre at A Writer of History. Her debut novel, UNRAVELLED: Two wars. Two affairs. One marriage. is available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon (USCanada and elsewhere), NookKoboGoogle Play and soon on iTunes. Mary can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

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Love at Any Age: Guest Post with Fabulous Author Sheila Webster Boneham

Monday, September 16th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Love, Murder, and a Touch of Gray

By Sheila Webster Boneham

 

Have you ever been surprised to learn that someone else is surprised by something that doesn’t surprise you at all? I was surprised to learn that a few people on the publishing end of my Animals in Focus Mystery series were surprised that my fifty-something protagonist had the hots for one slightly older hunk.

Why shouldn’t she? Janet MacPhail, my protagonist, doesn’t define herself by her birthdate. She has a thriving freelance business as a nature and animal photographer, and a thriving hobby training and showing her Australian Shepherd, Jay, in several canine sports. She runs, takes long walks, and hikes several times a week with her dog or her camera—or both.  She plays with her bright little tabby, Leo. She’s facing up to her mother’s dementia, her best friend’s health issues, and, lately, the occasional murder. Why shouldn’t she feel a few tingles when Tom Saunders, anthropologist and dog lover, strolls into her life?

Not that Janet doesn’t have a few reservations about complicating her life. Her first husband left her wary of long-term commitments, and she’s not interested in having to account for her actions to anyone but herself. And the critters, who do have certain expectations. Then again, it is nice to have someone around who understands her passion for her animals and her work. Tom does all that, and he’s a great kisser to boot. He also passed the acid test—Janet’s animals love him, and his own black Labrador Retriever, Drake, worships him.

One thing should be no surprised:  romance isn’t any simpler just because the players are more mature. In fact, as Janet and Tom are learning, love at any age can be murder.

 

 

Money Bird 400

The Money Bird, Animals in Focus Mystery #2

For Janet MacPhail, photographing retrievers in training is the perfect way to spend an evening. But a photo session at Twisted Lake takes a peculiar turn as Drake, her friend Tom’s Labrador, fetches a blood-soaked bag holding an exotic feather and a torn one-hundred-dollar bill.

When one of her photography students turns up dead at the lake, Janet investigates a secretive retreat center with help from Australian Shepherd Jay and her quirky neighbor Goldie. Between dog-training classes, photo assignments, and romantic interludes with Tom, Janet is determined to get to the bottom of things before another victim’s wings are clipped for good.

 Boneham_portrait_AussieKiss_600w

 

Sheila Webster Boneham is the author of 17 nonfiction books, six of which have won major awards from the Dog Writers Association of America and the Cat Writers Association. She is also the author of Drop Dead on Recall, the first in the Animals in Focus Mystery series. For the past two decades Boneham has been showing her Australian Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers in various canine sports. She has also bred top-winning Aussies, and founded rescue groups for Aussies and Labs. Boneham holds a doctorate in folklore and MFA in creative writing, and resides in Wilmington, N.C., with her husband Roger, Lily, their yellow Lab, and Sunny, their Golden Retriever.

 

Links:

 

Website & Blog: http://www.sheilaboneham.com

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/sheilawrites

Amazon:  http://amazon.com/author/sheilaboneham

You can also order your personally autographed copy from Pomegranate_Books .

Dustin&Annie

Love comes in many forms. My Australian Shepherd Dustin and Labrador Retriever Annie liked all the dogs and cats in the family, but theirs was a special relationship. Notice that they were holding hands in this photo, taken when they were both 12 years old. I imagine they are romping and cuddling together at the Rainbow Bridge.

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The Gods of Heavenly Punishment by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Friday, September 13th, 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments

 

Godsjackethires-197x300

 

 

I was honored to receive a copy of THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT for review. It is rare that I am able to take the time to read and review historical fiction set during the 20th century, and I am so glad I read this one.

THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is a novel whose beautifully interwoven plot reflects the horrors of war. A tapestry of love and loss that spans three decades and two generations, bringing Imperial Japan to vivid life before World War II and the devastation of Tokyo after. A brilliant portrayal of good men and women who build their lives in and around the storms of history, THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT shows that in war, no one is spared. A truly beautiful novel.

 

And now Jennifer Cody Epstein joins us to give us some insight into her work and her research. Thank you so much for joining us, Jennifer.

 

On Shakespeare, in (Puppy) Love

 

About two years ago, I suffered one of those not-infrequent guilt flashes we New York parents can get: namely, that despite living in one of the world’s great culture capitals, my daughters were getting most of their culture from Sixteen Handles and Red Mango.  It was on the heels of this revelation that (while engaged in my daily pre-writing procrastination practice) I honed in on an email advertising an upcoming performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

 

A-ha, I thought.  

 

The email was from the Classic Stage Company, an off-Broadway venue I love. It’s one of the most intimate theaters in the city, with tiers of seats that start right on the small center stage and acoustics that make you feel a part of each performance. But that wasn’t the only reason the advertisement appealed. Most people don’t know this, but Midsummer marked the apex of my brief acting career, which began in fourth grade as a court lady in The Mikado and came to an inglorious end with a high school try for Juliet (which I failed —probably because for some reason utterly inexplicable, even to myself, I recited my lines with an atrocious English accent). 

 

My childhood stint in the limelight was marked by one resounding success, however: our sixth grade production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I’d auditioned for Titania, the Queen of the Fairies. I didn’t get it, but I came close: I was given Oberon, King of the Fairies–a title my brothers had as much of a blast with as did they with the Hitlerean mustache that came with the role.

 

Cross-dressing aside, though, playing Titania’s magic-meddling hubby proved to be a high point in an otherwise bleak middle-school experience. A excellent drama coach, a well-edited script and hours of brow-furrowed puzzling over lines like  Tarry, rash wanton: am not I thy lord? all combined for me to create an unforgettable introduction to the Bard. Already an aspiring writer at that point, it was then that I learned that Shakespeare wasn’t dry or boring or even that hard to understand. He was, rather, one of the funniest and smartest and most inspirationally irreverent writers ever to set quill to paper.

 

It was bearing all that in mind that I bought tickets to CSC’s performance, which starred Bebe Neuwirth and Christina Ricci.  The girls were tweenishly skeptical at first: “Shakespeare?” asked Hannah,  my then-eight-year-old. “Isn’t that for grownups? Isn’t it going to be boring?”

 

I tried to allay her concerns by telling her how funny the play was  (“He likes to talk about asses,” I confided). And about that fascinating transformation that takes place linguistically during a Shakespeare production; how for the first ten minutes or so you might be utterly lost, but then—amazingly, almost alchemically—your ear acclimates to the verbal flourishes and flippant quips and somehow you find yourself understanding.

Still, as we filed into the tiny theater and took our places (front row, Stage Right) I could tell my daughters were still feeling a little tepid about the whole thing, And about ten minutes in—perhaps predictably—Hannah leaned over in consternation.   “Mom,” she whispered reproachfully. “I don’t understand ANYTHING!”

 

“Just wait,” I advised her.

 

She didn’t have to wait long: within ten minutes the little stage was shaking and glittering as the actors shouted, hurled, danced and tumbled across it. It was a particularly gratifyingly bawdy performance—there were farts and belches, face-slappings and behind-pinches. At one point Helena and Hermia rode their respective lovers’ shoulders, simultaneously chicken-fighting and stripping one another down to their underthings (by the end their boyfriends were also almost near-nude). The audience roared through it all—my charges among them. “Mom, this is awesome!” Hannah crowed at intermission. The one dampening moment was when someone’s phone went off with the sound of smashing plate windows, and we realized with horror that it belonged to my older daughter—who sat rooted to her seat, blushing furiously as Bebe Neuwirth (who played the ass-kissing Queen Titania) stopped mid-line and drawled: “Seriously?” A moment later, though (and quite graciously, to my mind) she winked at Katie and mouthed “It’s O.K.” to her over her shoulder.  The Queen’s forgiveness secured, we left the Village giddy and giggly and spent the subway ride back talking about Shakespeare’s life, times and other plays. 

 

There I could have left it, and called the outing a success. In the days that followed, though, and much to my surprise,  I discovered that our Shakespearian adventures weren’t over. Almost immediately after getting home, Hannah asked me to print out Midsummer for her in its entirety. Over the weeks that followed she spent hours in her room, puzzling over the lines as I had, trying to read them with the same staccato near-hysteria with which Christina Ricci (Hannah’s new idol) had. She found a picture of Will on the Internet and stuck it on the cover of her writing notebook, and confided to her 2nd grade teacher that she secretly loved the man (but to please not tell her classmates). She asked me if I’d help her produce the play with her friends over the last few weeks of the Spring term—and perhaps insanely, I said that I would try.  In the end, we didn’t end up performing anything—but I did do something I would never have foreseen in a million years: for five weeks, for twice a week, I engaged a group of eight children (ages 4-12) in Shakespearean language, themes and movies–and they actually liked it.

 

In the months since, my daughter’s affair with the Bard has burned on. We’ve been to two more theater events—one this summer’s Shakespeare in the Park performance of A Comedy of Errors, and another a “director’s chat” about Romeo and Juliet. The latter was drier fare than the slapstick comedies that came before, but Hannah still claimed to enjoy it. For me, though, the real highlight came after she left her school backpack at the café there. After a breathless retracing of our steps I found the bag and gave it back to her—whereupon she gravely pronounced: “Well, mom, all’s well that ends well.”  Her most recent Bardian dabblings include a Shakespearean workshop here in Brooklyn this past summer that explored various aspects of Twelfth Night.

 

Am I surprised that my youngest daughter has fallen for a man 440 years older than she is? A little; particularly given that her prior literary love was Mary Pope Osborne. But when I think about it, perhaps I shouldn’t be. After all, what draws her to Shakespeare is what drew me as a child: his humor, his empathy, his astonishing literary inventiveness (it was Hannah who pointed out that over 135 phrases we use today–including all of a sudden, a sea change and dead as a doornail–have their origins to his work).  Not to mention his obsession with butts and donkeys.

 

Most of all, though, I think what draws her is how rewarding Shakespeare can be—how, once you untangle the honorifics and arcane witticisms and fancily-veiled double-entendres you have stories that remain fresh and relevant to this day. As she once told me, “it’s like reaching back in time and touching really old people and realizing they’re the same as we are.”

 

I have no idea how long her puppy crush will last, but I’m riding it as long as I can. In two weeks she begins another Shakespearean workshop, this one on Much Ado About Nothing. Our next off-Broadway stop will be the full production of Romeo and Juliet, also at our beloved Classic Stage Company, starring Elizabeth Olsen (sister of Mary-Kate and Ashley) as Juliet. I have no idea if she plans to fake a British accent or not–either way I’m sure it will be great.

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Photo

Jennifer Cody Epstein is the author of The Gods of Heavenly Punishment and the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. She has written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, Self, Mademoiselle and NBC, and has worked in Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband, two daughters and especially needy Springer Spaniel.

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