Guest post by Ilona Slack

A Guest Post by Ilona Slack, author of Chauns

It’s time to learn about the Chauns [kawns] because they are out there, despite being very small and close to impossible to notice. Just like with other small creatures, we neither know what they are up to most of the time, nor attempt to learn about it. We see them and then forget about them because their life is so separate from ours. But would you ask what they usually do if you had a chance and they could reply? Would you believe the stories they told you? The book makes this possible with the Chauns. Now you can discover where they like to be, the things they tend to do and, because there are more than one, you might just pick a favourite; after all, they are adorable.

For me it all started with Connie, an original character never seen before. You can call him my imagination but his world is credible. It had to be or he would lose appeal, for looks are one thing but characteristics are the real deal. As his depicted world grew fast and steady in my head and on paper, something happened that would change my approach – thanks to the wind my husband’s glasses flew into the River Avon during his lunch break. Of course, this was my fault. After all, not that long before this I had chosen the more expensive ones, the ultra-lightweight ones (that glided so beautifully but instantly failed to float) and so his employer had to courier him home because he couldn’t see his computer screen (or much else) without his glasses. I was not going to hear the end of it, so I had to do something to make it worthwhile. My intention at once became to say to him one day “but of course, it had to be or else the book wouldn’t be the same” so an additional chapter was in order. But the Chauns don’t wear glasses; something else needed a twist to make this work and I came up with the narration frame for the stories to be somewhat broken up and yet still connected in a slightly more unusual way than just sequential chapters.

The two things that helped me shape the book the most (and in general to come up with thoughts to jot down) are walking and sitting in a car as a passenger, watching the scenery change. I do the first more often, and I prefer more distant, circular walks. I found Bristol very inspirational and I forged the core of many passages on or near the Bristol and Bath Railway Path. We have since moved to Wales and I’m sure this new location won’t disappoint either in what it has to offer for discovery; so worry not if you can’t get enough of the Chauns, because more stories of them are on the way and you can follow my (very new) Instagram account for upcoming sketches @ilona.slack!

PS my husband never brings up the lost specks. He does always opt for the cheaper kind though. I don’t get a say in it (yet!).

Chauns is available in paperback on Amazon and in ebook on Kindle.
See more at chauns.co.uk

Interview with James Tingle

An Interview with James Tingle, author of Mervano

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

Well, I enjoyed writing one called Symmachia that is quite long and unusual and has an odd structure which was challenging to complete but still somehow fun to do. I also enjoyed writing this one, Mervano, as it was light hearted and not too serious and so it was fairly pleasurable to write.

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?

My first one was Head of an Apostle which I did a few years ago. It is out there to read now but I may change it a little at some stage to make it easier to read as it has long paragraphs which some people seem to dislike- have to see!

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

I think my writing has gotten a little bit more natural maybe and i think I can now write quite a variety of different things and so I’m not restricted to one genre or one specific voice which is good as that would get tedious both for me and readers.

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 seem to write quite a few but the one mentioned at the start of the interview did take a while, maybe a year and so different books take different amounts of time. I wouldn’t want to take years over a book as it would become too much of a burden and would become a real pain to have to finish.

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 always write in my bedroom, on a comfortable armchair as it is a bit quieter than being downstairs with people wandering about and making a load of racket! I do it all on my laptop as that seems the quickest way but have taken notes in notebooks before in the past before writing it onto a computer, but only occasionally.

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?

Sometimes I get a family member to read a novel I’ve done just to see what they think and other times not…I don’t use an editor and instead do it all myself. Some people will use editors but I like the end product to be exactly as I want it…each to their own!

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?

I used to live in Manchester and had a few good bookshops there but never get the chance to go nowadays. There was a few good places locally but one closed down a while back and so I’m just trying to read the books I have at home now and save money- I bought a lot of books online years ago and still have many left to read!

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

My favourite genre is perhaps modern classics as I like books by Kerouac, Salinger, Fante, Hemingway and Isherwood and the likes but I did read fantasy a while ago and do still like some of that kind of thing now as well as odd, hard to categorize novels by Mark Leyner and people like that who push boundaries in fiction…anything a bit novel!

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?

I don’t do that much social media really but do post about my books in the Facebook groups every day, trying to post different books on different days so as not to annoy people too much! I message the odd person on Goodreads about new releases to see if they want a free book sending and sometimes do an interview like this which is promotion if not strictly social media.

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

I try to write different things all the time and don’t do many interviews but a little bit of repetition is hard to avoid. As long as there is always a good chunk of fresh detail, then that’s fine and is as well as you can do I suppose!

Interview with Mike Russell

An Interview with Mike Russell, author of 3 short story collections and 1 novella (and a novel – shhhh)

Mike Russell was born in 1973. He grew up in the small village of Pulborough in the south of England. As a child, he enjoyed daydreaming, art and writing strange stories. As an adult, he enjoys daydreaming, art and writing strange stories.
Mike has a master’s degree in fine art and is a qualified art tutor.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I don’t have a favourite. It wouldn’t be fair to the others. I like them all for different reasons. My latest book ‘Strange Secrets’ contains some very mysterious and magical imagery. Those are the aspects of my stories that I like the best. They are the active ingredients.

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 attempted to write my first novel when I was 12 years old. It was called ‘Imagine Infinity.’ I wouldn’t try to resurrect it but its essence is probably in all of my stories. I seemed to know what I wanted to do back then. I just didn’t have the means to do it.

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Thankfully I only started publishing my books after I improved my ability to step out of myself and read my own stories from a different perspective. This came from performing my stories for many years in clubs and bars and theatres and art galleries. You learn quickly in front of an audience. The stories in my first book ‘Nothing Is Strange’ were all performed live many times and honed over a long period of time. Performing my stories helped me to develop a way of writing that is very clear and vivid, creating a vision in the reader’s mind. Once that is established it is possible to take the reader to unusual places.

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?

Ideas do need time to connect with other ideas and to reveal themselves completely. I work on many projects at once, all at different stages of development. Otherwise I would need ten lives to get anything written. I plan to only be a writer in this life.
My published books are three short story collections and a novella:

I also have a novel completed. It should be published later this year with a bit of luck. That’s a scoop.

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 used to need to be in a hermetically sealed space to write. Doors and windows closed, no interruptions. Now I can write pretty much anywhere. That change came I think from myself becoming more mentally flexible, a result of meditation and greater peace of mind. I write initial inspirations on post-it notes. I have pads and pens in every room and every pocket. Last week I awoke in the night with some ideas and couldn’t find the pad that is usually by my bedside so I wrote on my arms and legs. There is always a way.

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?

Jay the StrangeBooks secretary helps with every book in the final stages. I call her the StrangeBooks receiver and transmitter maintainer. If you imagine a machine that magically receives stories from the ether, then transmits them to people all around the world, Jay ensures that machine keeps working. I also have a friend, John Zonn, who has read each of my books before publication. His input has also been invaluable. No one person really creates a book. I didn’t invent the English language or paper, nor did I physically make any of my books. So an author is really just one part of a book’s creation.

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?

I love the smell of books too but I’d rather read a scentless good book than a beautifully smelling bad book. In fact I’d rather read a badly smelling good book than a beautifully smelling good book. I buy a lot of second hand books and enjoy searching second hand bookshops. I can imagine what my favourite bookshop would be like but I haven’t found it yet.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I would be happy if genres didn’t exist really. For something to be generic means it is in some way conforming to a stereotype. I like books that cross genre boundaries the best. My books tend to be squeezed into the fantasy genre, which is fine. They can sit comfortably on that shelf but when no one is looking they float up into the air and fly around.

As a child I read a lot of science fiction. I loved HG Wells. Later I moved on to Philip K Dick, who is science fiction on the surface but something else beneath. I like Angela Carter who is termed fantasy, though her twisted fairy tales are almost like anthropology, investigating our society’s myths. I love Kafka, who could be put in any genre: fantasy, horror, comedy, detective… My tastes have broadened over the years but the essence of what interests me in literature is still the same as when I was 5 years old. I search for wonder.

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?

I joined facebook and twitter and the rest to promote my books. I wasn’t interested in it before then. If you keep your wits about you and remember why you are using it, social media can be a wonderful tool. It is an extraordinary thing to be able to communicate with people all over the world. We shouldn’t take that for granted. Not so long ago it would have seemed unbelievable. I have met some great friends through social media and many more people have discovered my books. Both myself and Jay manage our online presence every day. It’s fun. We host free to enter competitions on our Facebook page. Come and see what we’re up to.

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

No, Rose! I would never do that.

Spotlight: Indie Fantasy Addicts Summer Reading Challenge!

Indie Fantasy Addicts Summer Reading Challenge!

Have you heard about the #IFASummerChallenge?

The Indie Fantasy Addicts Facebook group is hosting a summer reading challenge. The goal? To discover more nail-biting, edge of your seat, take-you-for-a-wild-ride-and-leave-you-breathless books!

Some of the authors who graciously donated signed copies and ebooks to this challenge are USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors, including JT Williams, Alexia Purdy, Sarah K.L. Wilson, JC Kang, Mike Shelton, Eric T. Knight, JA Andrews and tons more.

#IFASummerChallenge Details:

The purpose of this is just to have fun and discover more amazing indie fantasy authors! We are going to make this simple. There is no set reading list. Audiobooks also apply. Read whatever you want as long as it’s indie fantasy.

All you have to do is post what you’re reading and your thoughts on the book (without spoilers!) so the rest of us can discover more amazing adventures!

The Challenge will go until September 20, 2018—last day of summer! We will be doing a tiered winning system since not all readers read at the same rate. Eg. A tier for the winner for whoever reads the most indie fantasy books, and a couple tiers for those who read eg. 0-3 and 4-7.

Draws will be done to choose winners from the two lower tiers.

Grand Prize: Multiple signed books and swag
Tier Two: Chance to win a signed book
Tier Three: Chance to win ebooks from some amazing authors.

Let the adventures begin!!

Indie Fantasy Addicts on Facebook 

Review: Margot McGovern – Neverland

Neverland
Margot McGovern

Kit has almost killed herself in her efforts to get home to Neverland, the place of her childhood storytelling. She’s forced herself to forget the night her parents died in the hopes of maintaining her childhood fantasies. Her psychiatrist uncle is determined to help her heal, but is Kit too stubborn for her own good?

I actually never fell for the protagonist of this novel. I thought she was a selfish b**** that never thought for anyone but herself. In fact, I felt like she undermined their healing, and that was just cruel. I also didn’t in the least appreciate the interspersion of the ‘fairytales’ throughout an ok real action novel.

Burying the past is never a good idea. I loved the symbolism of Kit taking her love interest to the centre of the island and likened it to a bookaholic handing their favourite novel to a potential partner and getting them to read it. However, this also made her easier to manipulate, and in the end I hated her.

I didn’t agree with the premise of Neverland – who ever thought of putting a psychiatric hospital for teenagers on a freaking island? I could imagine that the isolation and fresh environment could be healthy, but I also know that it probably wasn’t all that positive that people COULD JUST LEAP OFF A CLIFF!

I barely finished this novel. I was hoping for redemption at the end, so I did finish skimming to the end. But I wouldn’t recommend this novel at all. It was overall quite mood-dampening and had no satisfying ending that redeemed it in my mind. 1 star. Don’t waste your time or your heartstrings on this novel.

Penguin Random House | 2nd April 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Laura Dockrill – Big Bones

Big Bones
Laura Dockrill

Bluebelle is fat, and not afraid or ashamed to admit it. She loves food in every way, and she’s determined to not go back to school, instead applying for an apprenticeship at Planet Coffee. To negotiate with her mom, Bluebelle finds herself forced into doing a food diary.

This was an average novel with a meandering storyline that had me losing interest about half way through (and thus pausing to write this review). BB was a lovable, cuddly protagonist and it was certainly comforting to read a fat-positive novel for once. However, she IS unhealthily fat and I’m not sure I can give completely positive feedback to a novel that initially promotes it.

It was unclear to me how much of the text was food diary, and how much was actually narrative. Some of the things BB wrote in her food diary were a lot more suited to a general diary, not a food one! That ‘boyfriend’ of hers was so slow and BB’s reactions so cliche that I figured it couldn’t possibly be written in a food diary – but lo and behold it was!

Confession: I skimmed to finish reading this novel. I don’t want to condemn it to 2 stars despite that,  because I’ve just come back from vacation and I literally have a stack TBR of higher than a meter and other things just look more exciting. BB’s redemption and joining a gym, precipitated by the big family upset were ok, but not compelling.

I’d recommend reading Holding Up the Universe or Pretty Girls Don’t Eat before diving into this novel. Their protagonists have more depth, and overall the love stories, while taking a backseat, are more intriguing and believable. I’ll give it 3 stars because it could have finished strongly – but I wasn’t going to hang around to find out when there were better things on offer.

 Allen & Unwin | 23rd May 2018 | AU$19.99 | paperback

Review: Karen Gregory – Skylarks

Skylarks
Karen Gregory

Joni’s family struggles to pay the rent and Joni wants to keep her family together. All she wants is to send her little brother to camp by working more hours at the library, but the invasion of the region’s rich girl Annabel is going to disrupt more than that plan.

Oh Joni, why are you so blind? Why are you so stubborn? Why can’t you just let things go and see further than the end of your nose? You certainly don’t fly higher because your feet are firmly on the ground and your head is either fixed on them or glaring into someone’s face.

I was frustrated by Joni’s attitude towards everything in life. I appreciated her concern for her little brother and her disappointment in the rest of her family, but I just feel irritated and angry that she didn’t actually think about what those things might mean.

Once again, being gay is something to be frowned upon and it overshadows the rest of the novel, which I thought was actually more important. People losing jobs and their housing is a big problem, and it’s not often explored in young adult fiction. I always hope for novels that could reflect a teenager’s life and this one had the beginnings of it.

A confession to be made that it has been at least 2 months since I read this novel and so it has become a bit hazy in my head. However past me gave it 3 stars, so I’m going to roll with that rating.

Bloomsbury | 1st July 2018 | AU$16.99 | paperback

Reivew: Nichola Yoon – Everything Everything

Everything Everything
Nichola Yoon

SCID, or severe combined immunodeficiency, is very rare, yet its sufferers are famous. Maddy has her whole house locked off from the world and sees just her nurse, Carla, and her mother. One day, a boy moves in next door, and Maddy knows she’s about to get her heart broken.

Ooh, this has the twist of The One Memory of Flora Banks, and the love story of Tin Heart. Maddy is a lovable protagonist who you want to just hug – but of course you aren’t supposed to. I admired her determination and self-awareness, and her ability to still put others beyond her own safety. However I was surprised by her lack of general knowledge, as I felt that she could have learnt more information despite being trapped inside a bubble.

This certainly comes under the heading of Young Adult fiction due to the tastefully written sex scene and the themes of parent betrayal and domestic abuse. At the same time, the author treads lightly enough that it isn’t abrasive and adds nicely to the story line.

This was a thoroughly enjoyable diversion on a 15 hour plane flight. I was very excited to find it at a garage sale for the grand total of $1. I could have sworn that I had read “The Sun is Also a Star” but it turns out I haven’t read that one either.

I’m giving this novel 4 stars. I wasn’t enraptured as I could have been as I was able to put it down in the middle of reading it, but it belongs on my shelf as a comfort read.

Interview with H.W. Vivian

An Interview with H.W. Vivian, author of In Hiding

H. W. Vivian is the YA/Sci-Fi/Fantasy author of In Hiding and the War of Rain Trilogy. Her debut novel is entitled Chasers. She also writes general fiction under her pseudonym, Alex Chu. Novels written under this pseudonym include the IndieReader 2015 winner for Best Humor Novel, Days of Amber, and the Suspense/Thriller, Monarchs.

I’m not going to be reviewing your newest novel, but from your other published novels, is there one that is your own personal favourite?

I would say that every newest novel is my favorite because it describes my latest personal and spiritual growth. So since In Hiding is my latest release, it’s my favorite right now. In another year or so, my favorite will most likely be different!

What is In Hiding about?

My latest novel is about a young girl who believes she was abandoned at a young age. She was brought up inside a nuclear power plant after being found by her “guardian”, who is less like a care-giving adoptive parent, and more like a boss. This “guardian” makes her work to power the nuclear reactors in the plant. When she gets older, she starts seeingflashbacks of her life before she came to the plant, and eventually realizes that what she’s doing is not what she was meant to do. I like to add a philosophical element to my novels, so in essence In Hiding is about the dissidence between what others in society (specifically those in power) tell us we are here to do with our lives, verses what we believe we are here to do. I think this ideal is very prevalent in our modern commercial global society.

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 would say my first rough draft was the one that I published as my first novel, so it’s quite revised and refined. I do have several short stories from my earlier years that are still in the hard drive because I never delete story ideas. So you never know – one of those could be the next novel I publish!

Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Honestly I think my writing has remained the same throughout my career. I always aim to write as descriptively as possible, so I suppose that lately my descriptions have been more specific, and I’ve been diving much deeper into character development.

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’m definitely inspired! I can usually finish a novel within 6-8 months. I’m always writing something!

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 only write in my home, because, living in New York City, I get easily distracted by the bustling sights and sounds (not to mention the instability of writing in my place of work or in a public area). I think there’s a special connection between writers and their thoughts when using the pen and paper, so my first draft is always on paper. I then transcribe the words onto a typical Word document, and edit/proofread on that.

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 used to have a beta-reader who has since fallen out of touch… but the very nice advice she’s always given me was that, no matter how weird or awkward anyone thinks of my stories, it is one that I must still share because it is a testament to my existence during the however many decades I’m allowed to live on this earth!

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, bookshops (and cafes) are always interesting and alluring to me. I could get lost in a bookshop/cafe for hours! E-reading is a good way to organize one’s home and save space, but physical books (and writing pads) are always my preference.

I used to find myself buying books in only one genre (fantasy) before I started writing this blog. What is your favourite genre, and have your tastes changed over time?

I like every genre except romance. I don’t know… I’ve just never quite been drawn to them. But I have been pleasantly surprised by some romance novels that friends recommend me.

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?

I know what you mean. Social media is such a drag on my time! What I do is I just schedule posts in advance, so I don’t have to remember to post something every day. This method has done me well, and I highly recommend it to everybody! I manage everything myself! I wish I had a social media manager, though. Scheduling posts has changed my life, and kept me on-track with my marketing goals!

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

I don’t recycle my answers because every blogger I’ve met has been creative enough to ask different questions!

Review: Janet Evanovich – Stephanie Plum series

Stephanie Plum series
Janet Evanovich

Stephanie Plum is a terrible daughter, neighbour and employee. Most of these qualities are due to the fact that she’s employed as a bounty hunter for bail jumpers – but leaves her cell phone flat and her gun in the cookie jar. This lovable/hateable unlikely heroine regularly finds herself being shot at but with the help of her love interests Morelli the cop and Ranger the sexy beast, and her ex-ho friend Lula she’ll live to fight another day.

You don’t need to have read the first novel in the series. You don’t need to have read any of the series in the middle to the novel you’ve gotten your hands on! Evanovich sets the scene of Stephanie very simply at the beginning of every novel. In the past, I read Turbo Twenty-Three without having touched the novels before! I read 5 or so of these in a row before I couldn’t take anymore.

Steph is so clueless, and the jokes so stupid and the badguys so unbelievable it just makes you laugh the whole way through. The novels are set up in such a way that the reader can predict the ending but Steph is left wandering around in the dark (literally, half the time). When she got the dog, Bob, the funniest moments were when he ate too much and she took him to poop on her arch-nemesis’ front lawn. So I’m not immune to toilet humour, sue me. I can’t believe they made this into a movie! I fear for my eyeballs.

This is just like the Mercedes Thompson novels I just read! A cruisy light read that encourages your brain to switch off for vacation time. However, the plot and execution of the Mercedes Thompson series is more my style in the end (also, there is 25+ novels in that series!).

I’ll be giving three stars to this harmless crime-romance series. Just don’t read too many in a row or your brain may fall out from Steph’s sheer stupidity.