Interview with Kristi Saare Duarte

An Interview with Kristi Saare Duarte, author of Transmigrant

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

I wrote my first novel when I was fifteen years old. The year was 1983, and I hammered it out on a manual typewriter. When my parents realized I was serious about it, they brought home an oh! so luxurious electrical typewriter. The novel was called “Low,” and each chapter was based on one track of David Bowie’s album of the same name. The main character was a young boy who ran away from his foster home in Sweden and traveled to the Isle of Wight in England. The only one who ever read the manuscript was my dad. I never edited it, never tried to publish it. But I still those typed up pages and, who knows, perhaps one day I will look at it again and force in some kind of a plot structure? Then again, it might be absolutely useless. I also have another novel somewhere in my drawers, but that one has been laid to rest forever.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

The Transmigrant took six years from start to finish. I assume my next novel will take less time. But I’m a perfectionist with a full time job, so I doubt that one book a year will ever be my style. But kudos to those who can do it!

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

I like to write on trains. There’s just something about the humming motion that inspires me. But, honestly, I could write anywhere, as long as I have a laptop. Or a napkin. Or the back of a receipt. When the inspiration attacks, I have to write it down.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

With The Transmigrant, a handful of friends and one stranger volunteered as beta-readers. They were all either writers, or had specific knowledge about the religions I cover in my novel. I’m not religious myself, which is kind of strange, because I spent so many years writing about Jesus, so their feedback was critical to get the details right. I found my first editor by searching online, and the subsequent editors through the Editorial Freelancers Association. I always ask for a sample and a quote, and have been lucky to find excellent editors.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

Yes, I definitely love bookshops. There’s a Barnes & Noble a few blocks from my office, and when I am stressed out, I go there to look at books and recharge. Most of the books I read are hard copy, but ebooks are very convenient for travel or late night reading. I often read 2-3 books at the same time. One by my bedside, one on the way to work, and sometimes also a non-fiction book when I need to study something, like book marketing or religions.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind from?
1. childhood?  My favorite author was Laura Ingalls Wilder. I read all the Little House on the Prairie books and even made paper dolls of the sisters and acted out my own scenes.
2. adolescence? Anything romance. Kissing and touching was very exciting. I also read lots of books by Indian, Chinese, and African authors, for some reason.
3. young adult? I went through a phase where I only read memoirs and biographies and didn’t like anything made up. I loved Audrey Hepburn’s and Lord Byron’s biographies.
4. adult? I read any genre except fantasy and romance. Some of my favorite authors include Haruki Murakami, Andre Dubus III, Khaled Hosseini, Rohinton Mistry, John Steinbeck. I’m still attracted to foreign authors.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What do you do? Have you chosen someone to manage your profile?

No, I do everything myself, which I probably don’t do as well as I should. I’m trying to learn to be more efficient and post more regularly. I spend perhaps an hour a day on social media, mostly on Facebook and Twitter. I like Pinterest, too. Instagram is still difficult for me as I keep forgetting about it. I don’t really enjoy scrolling down other people’s posts, so it never crosses my mind that I should take a photo and post it. Do I like social media? I don’t love it, but I don’t hate it, either.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

You get better, more honest and natural, with every interview. I think it would do me a great disservice to recycle the responses. But I might recycle ideas.

 

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Interview with Gregory Grayson

An Interview with Gregory Grayson, author of Fireflight

Everyone has a ‘first novel’, even if many of them are a rough draft relegated to the bottom and back of your desk drawer (or your external harddrive!). Have you been able to reshape yours, or have you abandoned it for good?

Neither, actually. That beast – which has existed in one form or another for the past twenty years – currently sits, ugly and unusable, in a dark corner of my files. I do have plans to try and resurrect it at some point, though I know the effort will involve scrapping 90% of what’s there and starting over. So, I’m going to procrastinate on that one for a good long while.

Some authors are able to pump out a novel a year and still be filled with inspiration. Is this the case for you, or do you like to let an idea percolate for a couple of years in order to get a beautiful novel?

I am all about the percolating, whether it be my coffee, or my stories. All my ideas start rather small, just a single character, place, or event, nothing that would take up more than a couple sentences in my notebook. It sits there, waiting for me to be ready to hear what it has to say.

I wish I could easily pump out a novel a year (as I’m sure many of us do), but I need to exist in the space of my idea for a while, get a feel for everything going on. Then I can try and express it most effectively.

I have heard of writers that could only write in one place – then that cafe closed down and they could no longer write! Where do you find yourself writing most often, and on what medium (pen/paper or digital)?

Well, as far as medium goes, I’m primarily a Scrivener user, and I don’t think I’ll ever stop. I’m not as much locked to one specific tool or environment, though. If I’m feeling the inspiration, or the opportunity for a good bit of writing comes up, and I’ve got nothing more than a crayon and napkin, I’ll make it work.

As for place, when I write, I’m in my head. I’m seeing what I’m thinking about; the desk space where I happen to be sitting doesn’t really register. I used to do a lot of writing on the bus, so I’ve gotten pretty good at tuning out the world. If distractions are a problem, headphones and an appropriate musical track do wonders.

Before going on to hire an editor, most authors use beta-readers. How do you recruit your beta-readers, and choose an editor? Are you lucky enough to have loving family members who can read and comment on your novel?

I am extremely lucky to have an observant, astute, and upfront reader very close to me. Using family can be a tricky business; there’s often way much more emotion tied to the process than should be. Try picking a family member you have good arguments with.

I’ve used fellow writers in various groups I’ve belonged to over the years, and I can’t stress the importance of that, as well. You need to get to know the person helping you out before you can know if they’ll be truly helpful in your process. You need someone like you, but different.

It needs to be someone you can trust, someone who thinks as you do, at least on a level or two. Someone who can read your words and grasp what you were trying to express, or maybe even see things from a different perspective and interpretation. This is always a good thing; any element in your writing that sparks a conversation has hit the mark.

I walk past bookshops and am drawn in by the smell of the books – ebooks simply don’t have the same attraction for me. Does this happen to you, and do you have a favourite bookshop? Or perhaps you are an e-reader fan… where do you source most of your material from?

The term “dusty old tome” is, to me, a beautiful one. The idea of an old book, wooden or leather-bound, with thick but brittle, yellowed pages, covered in intricate black calligraphy, likely scrawled by the gnarled hand of a wise old wizard, is intoxicating. I don’t have a favorite bookstore, though I am drawn more to the indie shops than a more traditional retail outlet.

That being said, I am an admitted eBook reader out of necessity. I’m usually flipping between at least a couple books for my current read, and of course I have to have the entire Wheel of Time series available 24×7 (you never know when you’ll need to dive back in there, am I right WOTers?). It gets nigh-impossible to cart all that around with you in print form, even paperback.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and do you have a favourite author who sticks in your mind?

Anyone who’s checked out my background knows I am a die-hard Robert Jordan fan. I started the series a year or two after Eye of the World came out, when I was around 15 or 16, and I haven’t looked back since. I love reading any kind of speculative fiction, the more unique perspective or imagination, the better. Both fantasy and sci fi are par for the course, but I’ll read any great story, no matter the medium. Gone Girl was a fantastic novel, for example.

Other authors I read rather heavily are Gaiman, King, Rice, Barker, Rowling, Collins, Butcher, and Salvatore.

Social media is a big thing, much to my disgust! I never have enough time myself to do what I feel is a good job. What have you chosen to do?

I’m pretty much a one-man show, so all the social media content is a product of my brain. I don’t think anyone else is better equipped to represent me, so I take all the responsibility (and the blame).

I’m primarily on Facebook in terms of platform, though I do have my own site as well, and I do all my blog posts there. What I like about Facebook is, for good or ill, it gives you great immediate feedback. The tools and analytics available when you run a page are very good at scratching the itch of needing to know how you’re doing, what your exposure and reach are. We live in an age where authors and readers have an always-on, direct pipeline to each other, and it’s a wonderful thing.

Answering interview questions can often take a long time! Tell me, are you ever tempted to recycle your answers from one to the next?

It’s a real challenge to come up with unique answers every time, and of course the temptation is always there to copy and paste. I do my best to express myself genuinely and as “in-the moment” as I can, channeling my current mental state into my words, and giving as much diverse info as I can.

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Reviews: Unfinished Novels Released to Book Crossing #1

I have a series of novels that I have never finished reading and in some cases, couldn’t face reading at all. In the interests of freeing up space on my bookshelves, and letting other people have a chance to read them, I have released these novels on Book Crossing.

The Second Coming: A Love Story
Scott Pinsker

I received this book for review, but the cover, the story, the everything put me off reading. It has been sitting on my shelf to be read for at least 3 years, so it is time for it to go.

 

NIGHT PEOPLE, Book 1 – Things We Lost in the Night: A Memoir of Love and Music in the 60s with Stark Naked and the Car Thieves (Volume 1)
Larry J Dunlap

I received this book for review, but the cover put me off reading. Then when I attempted to read it, I couldn’t get through the dry text of the first chapter. It has been sitting on my shelf to be read for at least 2 years, so it is time for it to go.

 

Delivering the Phantom Moon
Niro Raine

I received this book for review. When I attempted to read it several times, I couldn’t get through the first chapter due to a number of factors. The character names seemed forced, the humour was just odd and I didn’t love the text formatting (funny how the small things can add up). It has been sitting on my shelf to be read for at least 2 years, so it is time for it to go.

 

 

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Review: Barbara Bourland – I’ll Eat when I’m Dead

I’ll Eat when I’m Dead
Barbara Bourland

Cat’s boss has died in a locked storeroom with a huge slab of ribbon next to her. Deemed to have stemmed from an eating disorder, it was just a heart attack. That locked door prompts a investigation by a cop looking for promotion, and bam! Cat is suckered in to doing her own research.

This was like eating a really bad, stale peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I chewed my way patiently through the first 1/4 of the book, sitting through honestly a quite boring backstory and the party lives of Cat, Bess and some random other person they went to school with. Then, I got some tasty jelly, where we got into the crux of the investigations into the murder and a bit of development of a on-again off-again relationship between Cat and the detective. AND THEN, someone forgot to put the peanut butter in. The next 1/4 was simply Cat and Bess being swaddled around with Cat hating the experience and Bess being pretty happy about it. Then there’s another bit of bread of nothing even really happening until the end. I didn’t care about Cat or Bess enough for it to matter at that point.

Maybe part of the problem with this novel was this promised to be a bit of an expose on the women’s fashion industry which promotes thin women that buy expensive clothes. Instead, I found a main character that professed to follow these views, then failed to follow any of them. Sure, the magazine promotes American made fashion, then promotes ecologically and ethically sound wares, but to an extent it is all lip service.

A story of socialites that could have potentially had their comeuppance. If you’re doing lines of cocaine, smoking pot on a regular basis and having a flirting affair with heroin, I can’t feel that sorry for you. I appreciated that Cat insisted on using condoms when having wild, random sex, and was pretty vocal about the fact, but it couldn’t redeem the novel.

What’s with the title? They don’t have a problem with eating as far as I can see, there is a different Problem with a capital P. In fact, I recently stated my opinion on a new YA novel that I think has the same title, which promises to be much more exciting. Honestly, when this one came in the mail, I thought it was that book and got excited. That was enough for me to start reading it anyway, and I shouldn’t have wasted my time.

Women’s fiction with a hint of crime? I think it was sold to me as a bit more attractive than that, otherwise I never would have touched it in the first place. Don’t waste your time on this one. 2 stars because I finished it in the hopes of it improving.

Hachette Australia | 16th May 2017 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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Review: Henry Marsh – Admissions

Admissions
Henry Marsh

Dr. Henry Marsh was a Political Studies student before wagging college for a year. Eventually, he ended up studying medicine and becoming a celebrated neurosurgeon. This novel is a memoir of his experiences in remote hospitals in places such as Nepal and Pakistan, where he offers his services as surgeon and teacher to those in need.

I honestly expected more juicy stories and less reflection, but perhaps that was a hallmark of this being his second novel – perhaps they were all exhausted by his first novel, ‘Do No Harm’. For me then, there was too much memoir and reflection on aging rather than substance about the joys and upsets of being a neuroscientist. I can accept a certain level of introspection, but I’m not certain what regular readers would pull from this novel.

Although I enjoyed the scientific discussion because I’m a scientist and know something about the brain’s morphology, it would have been very useful to have diagrams of what the incisions and brain areas looked like. Nothing too gastly, I’m certain it would be difficult to get permissions to print images of patients, but just dry diagrams could have been useful.

The brief discussions about how Henry could apply his knowledge to neuroscience about how personality probably does [not] exist after death could not save the novel for me. Neither could the discussions on his renovation project in his retirement. Additionally, I wasn’t actually sure what family he had left, which made me wonder at his sanity! Also, he is obsessed with getting dementia which derails a lot of the chapters.

If you are looking for more ways of living mindfully, shaped by what others dying has done so far (The Five Invitations) or are looking for a provocative discussion of the implications of a ‘Good Death’ (The Easy Way Out), this is not the novel for you. It wasn’t really the novel for me, but others might enjoy it. Thankfully it is non-fiction, so I don’t have to assign a star rating to something I didn’t particularly enjoy.

Hachette Australia | 16th May 2017 | AU$32.99 | paperback

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Spotlight with Jose Patterson

Jose Patterson on the origins of her newest novel, My Aunt Manya

I live in the university city of Oxford which, by its very nature, always has a ‘floating’ population of visiting scholars. It was always the custom for my late husband and I to invite guests to share Friday night – the beginning of the Sabbath day – with us. During one never to be forgotten Friday night dinner when the conversation was buzzing, our American friend Susie told us about her grandmother, Sarah who was 11 years old in 1891 and lived near the Russian town of Bialystok. Her father had gone to New York to stay with his sister while he looked for work, leaving Sarah behind with her hated stepmother. Her young life changed forever when she heard from her Aunt the sad news of her father’s sudden death. Her Aunt sent her a boat ticket, some money and the offer of a home. Sarah fled the pogroms and set off alone on the long hazardous journey to Ellis Island. When she finally arrived she learned that her Aunt had died the week before. She was saved from the threat of deportation by her aunt’s two close friends.

These are the few treasured facts on which I based the story of My Aunt Manya which some reviewers – including Clare Morpurgo – have likened to the plight of modern immigrants. As I have mentioned it is indeed a fascinating story and I do hope you will enjoy reading it.

Release notes of My Aunt Manya

José Patterson’s latest children’s story details the journey of Sarah a ten-year old immigrant making her way to America (Based on a true story)

From acclaimed children’s author José Patterson comes a new story that will hit home.

Set in Russia at the end of the 19th century, My Aunt Manya is a period novel featuring heroine Sarah, who lives unhappily with her much-hated stepmother. Sarah’s father has gone to live in New York with his sister Manya while he looks for a job.  Sarah’s life changes overnight when Aunt Manya writes with news that her father has been killed in an accident. She sends her a boat ticket, some money and an offer of a home.

Sarah’s family and friends are poor, Yiddish-speaking Russian Jews. When Sarah’s friends get word that a group of Cossacks is planning a pogrom attack, they lose no time in helping her to set out alone on the longest journey of her young life. 

My Aunt Manya is a heart-warming story of Sarah’s journey to America on the ‘other side of the world.’ She becomes an immigrant with just one goal – to live with her Aunt Manya in a free country. Sarah faces difficulties and dangers of the unknown with great courage and determination which, together with the ‘hand of fate,’ combine to make this an unforgettable story.  Released during a time where immigration is a hotly-debated topic in the UK,  My Aunt Manya will show young readers what it is truly like to be an immigrant.  

José’s first novel, No Buts, Becky! was a runner up in the People’s Book Prize Award Competition and finalist in the Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards 2013.

Website: http://www.josepatterson.com/

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Review: Bren MacDibble – How to Bee

How to Bee
Bren MacDibble

The bees have been killed and now only the bravest children pollinate the fruit trees by hand. It’s hard work, and only a select few are chosen. Peony’s mother thinks that the way forward is in the city, Peony knows that her place is with the other Bees.

In a future fiction, it’s possible this is going to become common place. Bees are dying out, and despite things such as the somewhat ill informed flower planting schemes by ?cereal? companies, unless we pick up our game with killing bees with pesticides and so forth. A world without fruit would be pretty miserable.

I liked the ending a lot. I liked the whole novel, but truely, the ending was fantastic. I loved how Peony stuck to her beliefs and her family. That girl knows what is important! It’s something that more people in the world could afford to learn…

I’m not going to suggest that this is a YA novel. There’s just not enough depth for that, and it’s not a reread so that’s why it’s not getting 5 stars from me. But it carries a very important message, it improves the current knowledge of young people. I could see it as an early highschool novel, and I’d love it a lot more than some other ‘Australian classics’ they stick teenagers with.

Allen & Unwin | 26th April 2017 | AU$16.99 | paperback

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Guest Post: Robert Eggleton on ‘Reality-Based Inspiration’

Guest Post with Robert Eggleton

Robert Eggleton has served as a children’s advocate in an impoverished state for over forty years. He is best known for his investigative reports about children’s programs, most of which were published by the West Virginia Supreme Court where he worked from1982 through 1997, and which also included publication of models of serving disadvantaged and homeless children in the community instead of in large institutions, research into foster care drift involving children bouncing from one home to the next — never finding a permanent loving family, and statistical reports on the occurrence and correlates of child abuse and delinquency.

Today, he is a retired children’s psychotherapist from the mental health center in Charleston, West Virginia, where he specialized in helping victims cope with and overcome physical and sexual abuse, and other mental health concerns. Rarity from the Hollow is his debut novel. Its release followed publication of three short Lacy Dawn Adventures in magazines: Wingspan Quarterly, Beyond Centauri, and Atomjack Science Fiction. The Advance Review Copy of Rarity from the Hollow received considerable praise through Robert learning about the world of books as a novice. The final edition was released to Amazon on December 5, 2016. Author proceeds have been donated to a child abuse prevention program operated by Children’s Home Society of West Virginia. http://www.childhswv.org/ Robert worked for this agency in the early ‘80s and stands by its good works. He continues to write fiction with new adventures based on a protagonist that is a composite character of children that he met when delivering group psychotherapy services. The overall theme of his stories remains victimization to empowerment.

Rarity from the Hollow

Lacy Dawn’s father relives the Gulf War, her mother’s teeth are rotting out, and her best friend is murdered by the meanest daddy on Earth. Life in the hollow is hard. She has one advantage — an android was inserted into her life and is working with her to cure her parents. But, he wants something in exchange. It’s up to her to save the Universe. Lacy Dawn doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her family and friends come first.

 

 

The Past is the Past
Reality-Based Inspiration in Fiction

Originally rejected by elitist publishers, George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London (1933), semiautobiographical, is still regarded as one of fiction’s most inspiring works. The Cancer Ward by Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1967) similarly inspired people concerning a disease that continues to devastate families worldwide. Separated by decades, what do these two books have in common? In addition to great writing styles, the technique used to inspire readers is similar. There are many other examples of books that inspire by: if you think that your life sucks, read this. It will make you feel better. This book helps you appreciate what is going right in your life because what’s going on in the lives of characters in the story is awful.

Several notches above listening to an inspirational speaker selling a get-rich scheme, such as was once popular in real estate, other books reach for human drive and ambitions to inspire. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (1938) is the best selling self-help book of all time. A cornerstone was its wisdom on how to increase earning power – you can influence the behavior of others by how you behave toward them. A son of a poor farmer, Carnegie’s success (except in marriage) made fiction writers of millions of people in their relationships with others. As a former door-to-door Amway salesperson during college, attitudes and skills shared by Carnegie did prove effective in me paying for my books and tuition. I became a master of the compliment, heartfelt or not. Yes, we can become inspired to achieve material success.

Not counting the thousands of other great books which have inspired us to diet, eat more nutritionally…, one of my personal favorite inspirational books was The Art of Happiness (1998) by Dalai Lama. In contrast to books that inspired pursuit of materialism, this one encouraged us to reflect on our inner selves and to find out what happiness truly means. It questioned whether material success equates with true happiness. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time concentrating on self-reflection if I’m worried about paying the electricity bill. For those who have achieved financial security, and who have found that happiness is elusive despite wealth, books like this one have been successful even if many of the concepts promoted in them cannot be proven to be fact.

Of course, The Bible has inspired countless individuals worldwide. So have Shruti for believers of Hinduism, The Tripitaka for those holding faith in Buddhism, Tanakh – the Hebrew Bible, and several other religious texts. For me, while most familiar with Christianity, the inspirational technique employed is fear: to prevent one’s eternal damnation to everlasting Hell – comply with the scriptures.

Apparently, threats can be inspiring. Quite a few folks who post on Facebook seem to believe so. The principle religious text of Islam is the Qur’an. It would be impossible to count the number of hate posts in recent months that inspire people to vote for politicians and policies because if you don’t, in effect, Muslims will rape all white Christian women unless they marry them first during childhood – all supposedly found in this book.

Have I gotten off on a tangent? This article was supposed to be about inspiration in fiction. Before I consider addressing superheroes, John Wayne-type characters, and the G.I. Joes, please note that, depending on reader interpretation, there may be a fine line between fiction and nonfiction. I’ll stop there because I don’t want to offend any readers of this blog. And, because that was precisely my dilemma as I wrote my debut novel, Rarity from the Hollow. How could I inspire sensitivity to the plight of maltreated children without taking readers outside of their comfort zones?

All things considered, I knew that I didn’t want to: (1) write something so tragic that it merely promoted readers to be grateful that their own childhoods had not been filled with horror; (2) sell the prevention of child maltreatment based on the positive economic impact that it would have on society or as a tax deductible contribution; (3) promise people that they will feel better about themselves if they contribute to the prevention of child maltreatment; (4) threaten people with damnation if they ignore needful kids; (5) or, warn people that maltreated children will grow up to victimize others, such as increased crime, if they don’t do something to help them now. All that has been tried before and child victimization rates are going up: new federal data shows nearly 3-percent rise in child abuse.

On the other hand, I also didn’t want to draw a veil over such a huge social problem as child maltreatment when writing Rarity from the Hollow. Some Young Adult novels that I’ve read, authors address childhood maltreatment without pulling a single one of my heart strings. Yes, there are wonderful books for children similar to Bobby and Mandee’s Good Touch / Bad Touch by Robert Kahn (2011), but as a retired children’s psychotherapist determined to write a novel that could potentially impact social policy, I knew that my book wouldn’t target children or even teens consumed with plot-driven escapist fiction.

I decided that Rarity from the Hollow would sensitize and inspire adult readers who were not prudish, faint-of-heart, or easily offended. I later realized, as the Advance Review Copy of my novel was being circulated, this designation carried an unintended message about my story to some potential readers and book reviewers – that it contained heavy sexual or violent content. Before the release of the final edition of my novel to Amazon on December 5, 2016, I wrote an article that was published on a book blog in an effort to clarify its content.

I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist. While participating with the editor on the final edition, as mentioned above, I sure had collected a bunch of elements that I didn’t want to portray in my debut novel. Most of the writing had been done after coming home drained from having worked at the local mental health center all day. Exhausted, at some point I made a very inspirational decision for me. Half of author proceeds are donated to the prevention of child maltreatment. http://childhswv.org I’m not sure if this aspect of the project has inspired others, but it did the trick for me.

Rarity from the Hollow uses soft science fiction as a backdrop, but has elements of other genres: fantasy, everyday horror, a ghost — so it’s a little paranormal, true-love type romance, mystery, and adventure. The content addresses social issues: poverty, domestic violence, child maltreatment, local and intergalactic economics, mental health concerns – including PTSD experienced by Veterans and the medicinal use of marijuana for treatment of Bipolar Disorder, Capitalism, and touches on the role of Jesus: “Jesus is everybody’s friend, not just humans.”

Several book reviewers have commented that the story is unique. Here’s one: “…soon I found myself immersed in the bizarre world… weeping for the victim and standing up to the oppressor…solace and healing in the power of love, laughing at the often comical thoughts… marveling at ancient alien encounters… As a rape survivor… found myself relating easily to Lacy Dawn… style of writing which I would describe as beautifully honest. Rarity from the Hollow is different from anything I have ever read, and in today’s world of cookie-cutter cloned books, that’s pretty refreshing… whimsical and endearing world of Appalachian Science Fiction, taking you on a wild ride you won’t soon forget….”

I selected science fiction as the backdrop because it was the best fit by process of elimination. The way I see it, the systems in place to help maltreated children are woefully inadequate. I felt that the straight literary, biographical, exposé, memoir, or nonfiction genres wouldn’t work because the story would have been so depressing that only the most determined would have finished it.

I felt that Rarity form the Hollow had to be hopeful. I wanted it to inspire survivors of child maltreatment toward competitiveness within our existing economic structures, instead of folks using past victimization as an excuse for inactivity – living in the past. I didn’t think that anybody would bite on the theme of a knight on a white stallion galloping off a hillside to swoop victims into safety, like in the traditional romance genre.  That almost never actually happens in real life, so that genre was too unrealistic as the primary. There was already enough horror in the story, so that genre was out too. What could be more horrific than child abuse?

Readers who are used to the fantastical may feel less inspired about my bottom line to achieve a HEA ending for Rarity from the Hollow. While I don’t want to spoil anything for prospective readers, and I don’t think that this will, in the spaceship on their way home after saving the universe, Lacy Dawn’s father asks her, “Will you ever forgive me?” She answers, “No, but I will always love you.” Such is the optimal resolution of real-life child maltreatment cases. While it may never be forgotten or forgiven, the ability to put the past in the past and to move on with our lives regardless of the pain that we all have suffered from time to time, is the key to achieving true inspiration in fiction and in life.

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Review: Ezekiel Boone – Skitter

Skitter
Ezekiel Boone

Spiders have taken over the world. Hatching secretly from Peru and other hot spots, they have infected people until their bodies are pulled apart by the spiders hatching inside them. LA is a gonner, and India and China are suffering. No mention of Australia though, so maybe that is just fine.

This was a disappointment of a book. Not only was I frustrated by the constantly changing perspectives that only built a tiny picture of what was happening, the ending was not an ending. Oh my goodness. I’ve just realised that this was the second book. So that means I can expect a third book, so I should just accept the ending. Well, I can tell you reading the first novel probably wouldn’t have made any difference to my non-enjoyment of this one.

It could have been more creepy. But honestly, thanks to the changing perspectives, I never got attached enough to anyone to actually care whether they lived or died. Maybe if a kid that was being protected died? Many people find spiders creepy, but I’m not one of them. Ok, I don’t like big hairy shapes just dropping down on me randomly, but I can remove them ok from the house.

The story build slowly, I was excited to have any sort of breakthrough on control, but the focus on the US kinda wrecked it for me. People speaking Japanese and losing things in translation is fine, but you couldn’t work that out better? You’re going to use the magical Spanish Protocol, and it’s not even going to work? Idiots…

I’ll give it 2 stars because it was not particularly fabulous. I’m not interested in reading the next, or the previous book. I can’t think of who is going to love it right now, but I guess it’s ok to fill in time. Just don’t have high expectations.

Hachette Australia | 1 May 2017| AU$16.99 | paperback

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Review: Maude Julien – The Only Girl in the World

The Only Girl in the World
Maude Julien

Maude’s mother was chosen when she was six years old to give birth to blonde Maude and train Maude as superior being – at Maude’s father’s request. Maude is forced to endure torture in the basement, sitting in the dark for hours with rats running past her feet, and to spend hours practicing the piano and accordion.

I actually expected this novel to be darker than what it was. Reading the blurb made me think that Maude was inexplicably (physically) tortured in horrific ways. That’s not to say she wasn’t – but it was more psychological torture, which to an extent can be much harder to recover from. This is a success story though, as Maude has gone on to be a ‘doctor of the mind’ and assists other victims of trauma and abuse.

I was right there with Maude from the very beginning, and the prose was written in such a way that it wasn’t dry or stilted. In fact, if you didn’t tell someone it was a memoir, I’m pretty sure they would just think it was some horrific form of fiction. There is a climax of sorts, which fits in with a fiction novel, but the outcomes of the novel were much more real. I don’t think I am expressing myself adequately here, but trust me, it is written flawlessly.

As this is a memoir I’m not giving it any stars. But it is a fantastic memoir that I recommend highly. It’s a unique survivorship novel of what cults can do to children, but how the resilience of children can create positive outcomes.

Text Publishing | 1st May 2017 | AU$32.99 | Paperback

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