Tag Archives: authors

Do you have a spare 5 million? If so, I have a bargain for you

And I’m not joking. This really is a bargain (for those who have around £5M). For that, you could bag yourself Bleak House – the former summer home of Charles Dickens, and the very place where he wrote David Copperfield.

Bleak House

Imagine what a wonderful and inspirational place this would be to live in and run writers’ retreats at. I know this sounds like something that is going to lead to a punchline, but it isn’t. Plus it’s in a great location, right by the sea, so has wonderful sea views, and the icing on the cake is that it’s only about 20 minutes away from where I live, so I can come and visit you, (Yay! Right?).

Inside of Bleak House

I spotted the article about it in our local online newspaper (KM’s KentOnline) this week…

Article about sale of Bleak House

I would certainly dispute the last line on that snippet though – one of the most renowned, yes, but one of the most expensive, certainly not! There are plenty upon plenty of more expensive properties in the country. Take this example, a fourth floor apartment in one of London’s most prestigious areas, £25m, nearly five times as much as Bleak House…

London flat for sale

A very nice apartment, yes, a very nice location, sure, but does it come close to living in somewhere like Bleak House in Broadstairs? With its history? As I say, Bleak House is quite a bargain by comparison. Direct trains from Broadstairs into central London only take 1hr 20mins too, so it’s really quite perfect in every way.

And look at these other excerpts from the news article…

Excerpt from news article

See the bit in bold? A mere 3 years ago it was only £2m, and now it is £5m, wow! How much could it be worth in the future?

I genuinely can’t understand why millionaires aren’t racing to snap it up; it’s been on the market since October. And I’m also really surprised that it is just available for general sale for anybody to buy like that.

And look at this bit…

Excerpt from newspaper

It’s already operating as a business, geared up for bed and breakfast, so perfect for running those writers’ retreats, right? So who wants to come in on it with me? And when I say “Come in on it with me”, you need to put in all the money and I’ll…erm…help run the writers’ retreats. Ooh and I can make cakes too; writers need cakes.

Long term followers of this blog may just remember that I did a short video about this very house a few years ago when I was part of Limebird Writers. Here it is again… (sorry that it’s really hard to hear me during part of it because of the wind.)

So I did a video about it, and now it’s up for sale, that means it’s destined to be mine, right?

Would you buy this house if you had the money? Can I visit?

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The Playground

Howdy folks, today I’m lit (that’s uber-cool young people speak for fired-up and excited, because I’m so down with the kids) as we have a special guest. Please join me in welcoming the very gorgeous Lisa Burton! Lisa is author C.S. Boyack’s spokesmodel, and let me tell you, she is one glamorous and feisty chick. You may recall that Craig Boyack previously visited me himself, and we made bread rolls together  while chatting about his book, Will ‘O the Wisp. Lisa and I aren’t going to do any baking today, but I do have a little challenge for her. Hi Lisa, welcome…wait, is that a bust of Craig himself you’re leaning on there?

Lisa leaning on bust of Craig Boyack

Hi Vanessa, yes it is, I miss him when I’m travelling. Sigh. Thanks for inviting me over to talk about his newest book, The Playground. But what’s all this about a challenge?

Don’t worry about that Lisa, it’s easy. In the meantime, I hope you don’t mind taking the lime?

Taking the lime? Is that more cool kid-speak?

No. Notice how I’ve made your words lime green? L is for Lisa, and L is for lime, see? This is a clue about the challenge coming up.

Oh I see…I think.

Well let’s crack on Lisa. What can you tell me about the book?

Book cover of The Playground

This one is another paranormal tale, but Craig’s making me tell people it’s paranormal with science fiction sprinkles on top. There is a bit of near future technology in this one. Mainly the Playground Dolls, and the social network they contain.

A social network contained in dolls? Why dolls?

The network is marketed to children. They tell parents their kids can make friends all over the world, get help with homework, and learn from other cultures. That’s a bunch of bull though. The man behind it all is using the network to brainwash the children, and grow his own army.

Oh my goodness, sounds chilling. What are the characters in the book like?

Craig went with three main characters this time. It’s almost like three short stories, but they weave together to tell a bigger story. Chloe is a little girl who gets a Playground doll for Christmas. Her job is to illustrate what all the children are going through.

Gina is a doctor who just had her own brush with the paranormal. She really doesn’t want anything to do with it, but could be the only person who can bring down the network.

Then there’s Clovis. He’s a giant of a man, and he’s calculating and brutal. He’s working for the bad guy, and has a head start on Gina. He grows on you after a while though.

Sounds great Lisa. I can’t wait to read it, in fact, do you mind waiting while I read it now?

Waiting while you read the whole book? Erm…well…ooh! I can’t believe I’m bringing this up myself, but didn’t you say you had some kind of challenge for me Vanessa?

Oh yes, the challenge. Okay, we’ll do that first. Then I’ll read the book while you wait. Right, so the book is called The Playground, what I want you to do is tell me something about the book for each of the letters of PLAYGROUND.

Okay sure, let’s see…

– P is for parasite. There is only one, but it’s really important to the story.

– L is for Gina’s lamp. It allows her to see what people are really like.

– A is for angel — of death.

– Y is for youth, that passes for the children.

– G is for GTO, as in Pontiac GTO.

– R is for regents, the kind that are in charge.

– O is for oracle, there isn’t one, but– well, you’ll see.

– U is for the underworld.

– N is for New Orleans.

– D is for the dog. There’s only one of those too, but he makes a great sidekick.

That was tough. I could have used some of the letters multiple times, and others were hard.

Well done Lisa, you passed the challenge! Very intriguing, I guess we’ll have to read the book to understand some of those. Speaking of which, you sit quietly now while I read it all…

Well er, before that, part of my job is to hand out posters for the book. I brought you a picture of me hanging Gina’s blunderbuss up in the writing cabin. Craig thought it was so cool he had to display it permanently. I’ll just put the poster up shall I?

Lisa Burton poster

Ooh, what a lovely poster, please do! Wait…you’re not trying to distract me from reading the book right now are you?

Not at all. Can I just say though Vanessa, I love your hair. Ours is almost the same color. Would you ever consider playing me in a book trailer? Craig has a book of short stories coming this Fall, and you could read one of the micros.

Me? You guys would want me to do that? Oh wow, oh YES YES YES!!! I would love to! What fun, I can’t wait, shall we set a date now before you go? We’ll be best friends, we’ll have sleepovers and braid each other’s hair, it’ll be so much fun! Hang on a minute…wasn’t there something else I was just going to do?

I don’t think so Vanessa, that was it, well I must go, thank you so much for having me over, bye!

Bye Lisa!…I’m sure there was something I was going to do before she left…what was it? Oh yes, read the book! Lisa! Lisa come back, I haven’t read the book yet! Darn it, she’s gone, she’s going to be SO disappointed when she remembers.

——————
Well folks, I hope you enjoyed Lisa’s visit, I know I did. And finally, here are all the essential links:

The Playground on Amazon and on Amazon UK
The Playground on Goodreads
Find out more about Craig and follow his blog
Check out the rest of his novels here
Follow him on Twitter
Craig’s Facebook
Lisa Burton’s Facebook (Oh yes, she has her own)

The cover for The Playground, and all the Lisa Burton images were created for Craig Boyack by artist Sean Harrington.

Most People Read Fiction Not So Much For Plot As For Company

Girl reading

Whether or not you agree with the above quote by Josip Novakovich, it’s certainly one that makes you think, and question what it is that makes you love a novel or not. It’s an appropriate quote too because today we’re going to talk about writing rules – please present your tickets to the girl on the door then come in and have a seat. Ready? Then I shall begin…

I recently read a post by JM McDowell entitled Damn The Writing Rules—What Do Readers Like? She had written this as a result of feedback she received from some alpha readers of her novel – of which I was one (I will mention at this point that I loved the story and the way it was written). Her post was around the issue of writing rules, and who they are really for. You might want to pop over and read JM’s post before continuing here to get the background on this post.

Personally, I haven’t done a huge amount of fiction writing, a couple of half-finished novels, a couple of barely started novels, an occasional short story, mainly my bits of published writing have been non-fiction. I haven’t really learned the rules of fiction writing – I’ve picked some up along the way, mainly from blog posts written by writers, but I haven’t actively sought to learn what they are. Therefore when I read fiction, whether just for pleasure, or in the case of JM’s novel, to critique it, I’m not consciously measuring it against a set of rules.

Man measuring weights

When I’m reading, the negative things I tend to notice are:

  • Something that doesn’t seem realistic within the context or world that has been created.
  • Story threads that don’t go anywhere.
  • Things left unexplained that I really wanted an explanation for.
  • Anything that seems contrived.
  • Descriptions that feel too lengthy and self-indulgent.
  • Grammatical errors.

These are things that non writers might notice too, things that aren’t particularly to do with fiction writing rules. The one thing I do notice which would come under “writer knowledge” is the show-don’t-tell issue. I can really see the value of that one, and I admire it greatly it when it’s done well, it totally breathes life into the story.

What I do wonder though is where the rules come from. I know there won’t be just one answer to that, but how evidence-based are the rules? How many of them are proven to be key to a successful novel, and how many of them were just said by someone influential at some point because they sounded logical, and have then been passed on and quoted by everyone else, but actually don’t make any difference to reader enjoyment? It’s hard to be conclusive, you could no doubt find a correlation between rule-compliance and successful novels, but you couldn’t be sure that the following of the rules is what made them successful. Of course following the rules is part of the game you likely have to play if you want a traditional publishing route for your book, and that’s probably the main driver for following the rules for many writers.

Something that comes to mind here are the TV talent shows, particularly the singing X-Factor type ones (which yes, I do watch, sorry ‘n all). So many times when I’ve watched the early audition rounds, I’ve seen people who are a bit raw, a bit rough around the edges maybe, their personality is there and it draws you in, they’re different, and there’s something special about them. But then when they make it through to the live shows, they’ve been polished up, scrubbed to perfection, turned into a formula-looking and sounding pop singer. They’ve had that raw edginess, that quirkiness, that made them great taken away from them. I understand that it’s been done by people in the industry who presumably know what is needed to turn those people into money-generators, but it’s a real shame. And I wonder sometimes if too much strict adherence to the writing rules can at times do a similar thing to the writer’s story.

I don’t really have a conclusion to make here. I’m certainly not saying that writing rules are pointless, I understand that many of them are based on solid reasoning and have value to them, and in general I’m a rule-follower, but it’s the idea of blindly following them, or thinking that they are the ONLY way that something should be done, which I take issue with. But I’m no expert, and I welcome any counter arguments below. It’s a subject that gets discussed often amongst writers and there are many different views.

Speaking of writing and novels (notice how seamlessly I work this one in), over on my Sugarness blog, I have this week started a new series of posts in collaboration with author J Keller-Ford, where I have created recipes for each of the characters in her new novel In the Shadow of the Dragon King, to be published in 2016. The first recipe is Eric Hamden’s Red Wine Apple Pie.

Red wine apple pie

What are your views on writing rules? Or if you don’t know much about writing rules, what things turn you on or off when reading fiction? Do you like apple pie?

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photo credit (red-headed girl) : Girl and book via photopin (license)
photo credit (measuring weights) : Checking Accuracy of a Scale in a Feed Mill Establishment (FDA 117) via photopin (license)
photo credit (apple pie) : Me!

Come and Play with Lorna to Win an Amazon Gift Card!

Lorna Lee talking

Would you like to meet Lorna? Would you like to play a game called Truth or Fiction? Would you like to win a £10 (approx $16 USD) Amazon Gift card? Of course you would!

Lorna Lee has just written and published her second book, a wonderful novel called Never Turn Backwhich I LOVED. 

Never Turn Back

It is based on the life of her grandmother and is part fiction, part reality, which is what led Lorna and I to come up with this genius idea of playing Truth or Fiction. I’m SO excited to play this!

First, let’s meet the lady herself. Hello Lorna, welcome, could you please tell everyone about the game?

Hi Vanessa, thank you, yes certainly I can, but first maybe we should tell them about…

Hang on! Sorry to interrupt, but I’m too excited! I’ll just tell everyone about the game myself! Is that ok?

Er, well yes, but maybe first we should tell them about the bo…

Wait! First we should tell them about the book. I’m surprised you didn’t think of that Lorna!

Indeed, glad YOU thought of that Vanessa. Ok, here’s the book blurb:

Meri Vaarsara had a dream and something to prove. She also had incredibly bad fortune and even worse timing.

Her dream was to become a famous fashion designer in Paris, a dream born from a need to prove herself worthy of love and a happy life, something her stern Finnish mother never fostered but her seafaring father always knew was hers for the taking. So at the tender age of eighteen, Meri left the security of her family and her home for a country where she didn’t speak the language and she didn’t know a soul.

Paris in the late 1920s was not friendly to immigrants, even those with extraordinary talents. Forced to find work as a domestic, Meri forged ahead through turns of fate and misfortune as Paris braced for Hitler’s invasion. By choice, Meri becomes a single mother caring for her half-Jewish daughter throughout the occupation of France. Once the war was over, she used her feminine wiles to find her way to America, the land of milk and honey, with the hope of finally being able to work as a designer in a New York fashion house. But that too was not to be, until fate and a kind stranger stepped in to help.

Great, thanks Lorna. Now do you want to tell them about the game? Oh no wait, I’m too excited! I’ll tell them! No, you tell them…go on!

Ok, well if you’re sure. I’m going to read out eight statements about myself, and some of them will be tr…

Hush now Lorna, I need to tell them about the game!

But you sai…

Sshhh! Some of the statements will be true and some will be fiction, and all everyone has to do is guess which are which! The person who gets the most right wins, and if there’s a tie then we’ll do a random drawing from those! Anyway, go ahead with the statements Lorna, we haven’t got all day.

Whatever you say Vanessa, right…

POST UPDATE: As the deadline has passed, I’ve put the answers to the statements below in red.

1. I hate chocolate and never eat it. TRUE

2. In my spare time, I crochet afghans (the blankets, not the people). FALSE

3. I have been struck by lightning twice. TRUE

4. My biggest phobia is of worms. TRUE

Worm saying he won't hurt Lorna

5. I am so enamoured with gorgeous blonde cultural icons, that my engagement ring is a replica of Princess Diana’s ring. TRUE

6. As someone who loves and respects language, I ensure that I always use proper English in my blog posts. FALSE

7. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted to have a large family. FALSE

8. I am a non-violent, Buddhist who happens to be a great shot with a pistol. TRUE

Thanks Lorna! Now, tell them that regular followers of your blog, and those who have read your memoir, may be at an advantage with some of those.

Erm, well I think you already…

Also tell them that they have until Monday, November 17, to submit their answers using this form (nobody else will be able to see what is entered and submitted using the form) –


Again Vanessa, I don’t think I need to tell them because you already tol…

Tell them that the contest is open to anyone, from anywhere in the world, and the winner will receive a £10 (or equivalent in their currency) Amazon Gift Card. Go on, tell them!

You want me to repeat what you just said?

Oh I’m so excited! Anyway, no need to tell them those things Lorna, I already did, why would you want to repeat what I’ve already said?

Good point Vanessa, good point. Sigh.

And finally, tell them where they can buy Never Turn Back from. Never mind, I’ll tell them, you’ll probably just get it wrong:

amazon.com
amazon.co.uk
amazon.fr

And they can also read my review of the book on those links.

Well thank you so much for stopping by Lorna. A little bit of advice for you – in future try to be a bit more prepared, I had to cover your back a few times there, I don’t think anyone will have noticed though.

Sure Vanessa, I’ll keep that in mind, thanks for having me, and good luck with the contest everyone!

Random Tuesday

Vanessa as a WeeMee

This is my WeeMee, created for me by my daughter, using Apple’s WeeMee Avatar Creator. What do we think? Does it look like me?

A few matters of business to go through today. I’ve brought coffee and doughnuts for everyone. Please find a seat quickly and settle down. And don’t eat all the doughnuts, save me a couple, ok?

ITEM 1 ON THE AGENDA – PRIZE WINNER!

A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed the author Mike Allegra, and he kindly donated a copy of his book, Sarah Gives Thanks, to be given to one randomly selected lucky commenter on that post. I cut out all the names of those who commented (apart from you Mike, I know it wasn’t specified in the rules, but you weren’t allowed to enter the draw to win a copy of your own book. Sorry ‘n all)…

Strips of paper with bloggers names on

I put all the strips into a big brown envelope, then danced around the room, shaking the envelope, and singing Shake, Rattle and Roll, because that was the only song I could think of at the time that had the word “Shake” in it. I then shut my eyes, reached in, and pulled out…

Strip of paper that says The Hook

Congratulations to The Hook! Mr The Hook, if you could please contact Mike direct using his contact form, then he will get the copy of Sarah Gives Thanks sent out to you pronto!

ITEM 2 ON THE AGENDA – GUEST POST

Yesterday I wrote a guest post over on the wonderful blog of The Mercenary Researcher. My post is about education, and is part of series of posts she has been featuring over there relating to education. You can read mine by clicking here! And while you’re over there, have a general browse around her blog, you’ll find plenty to amuse, interest, and delight you!

ITEM 3 ON THE AGENDA – BOOKS BY BLOGGERS

I’ve set up a new page on my blog called Books by Bloggers to help promote the books that have been written by bloggers who I interact with; please go and have a browse…There are probably a few blogging author buddies I’ve missed off there who I should have remembered. I’ve already had a couple of middle-of-the-night-springing-bolt-upright moments of “Oh no! I forgot X’s book!” So if you’ve written a book that I know about, and I haven’t included it, please don’t take it personally, I just forgot! There’s a form on that page to tell me about it.

ITEM 4 ON THE AGENDA – ARE THERE ANY DOUGHNUTS LEFT?

Well?…I’m waiting…

Jennifer’s Paper Wishes

Today I am delighted to welcome back one of my personal heroes, the wonderful author, Jennifer M. Eaton – Hurrah! Welcome Jennifer, do sit down…

Jennifer M Eaton

…Oh you are already, perfect!

Jennifer is here to talk about her new book, Paper Wishes, do you want to see the cover? Of course you do!

Paper Wishes Cover

Don’t you just want to reach into your screen, grab it, and start reading right away? Of course you do!

The reason Jennifer is one of my heroes is because she started out 2012 by saying “I WILL get published this year,” and that’s exactly what she did. Her first published story “Last Winter Red” was part of the “Make Believe” anthology at the end of last year, and since that first one she has scored publishing deal after publishing deal. But it’s not only that, she also offers plenty of invaluable help to other writers on her website, by sharing her own personal writing experiences, as well as passing on tips and advice she has learned along the way. And she does all this alongside a day job and family commitments.

Well, enough gushing from me, let’s read a little biography and find out what Paper Wishes is all about…

Jennifer Eaton lives on the East Coast USA with her wonderfully supportive husband, three energetic boys, and a pepped up poodle. She hosts an interactive website jennifermeaton.com aimed at making all writers the best they can be.

Her new winter romance “Paper Wishes” cools down the summer heat in August of 2013. Jennifer’s also-winter-themed Dystopian novelette “Last Winter Red” is available as part of the “Make Believe” Anthology from J.Taylor Publishing. Both are available in ebook format from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com
Paper wishes strip

Paper Wishes (A two-part novella)…

Part One – Connect the Dots: Jill writes her most intimate Christmas wish to God—and throws it away for its ridiculousness—but Christmas wishes have a way of coming true, even when you don’t know what you’ve wished for.

Part Two – A Test of Faith: One day after her Christmas wish comes true, Jill faces a wrenching choice that tests her deepest beliefs. Will love prevail over conviction, or is happiness nothing more than a fairytale?

Available in ebook format from amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com and everywhere else great ebooks are sold.

That’s great Jennifer, and now I have a few questions, is that ok?

Sure, go ahead.

Ok, firstly…oh…hang on a minute, is that a bag of chocolate covered blueberries you’re hiding behind your back there? No? Only it looks just like…well, nevermind. Let’s kick off with a tricky one. Describe ‘Paper Wishes’ in one word.

Honest.

Honest, good word. Now can you describe your perfect writing environment, include important details like what snacks and drinks you like to have on hand, you know, like if you enjoy having any chocolate covered blueberries or anything like that?

I really need to be alone to write… with no distractions.  I should probably be cut off from the internet as well. I’m a certified communications junkie. No! I am! I even majored in it in college! Ha! Seriously though, I do write better in quiet. I enjoy a hot cocoa or hot tea, or a green Gatorade (cut 50% water) in my mug holder. Treat choices are anything that crunches and won’t get my keyboard sticky. Pretzels work pretty well. And if I’m writing an action scene, or need a little pep, my new favourite is chocolate covered blueberries. Yummy!

I knew it! Now, something that many writers wrestle with – when you are writing and editing a novel, or novella, how do you know when you’re finished?

Ugh. I never feel finished. In general, I am very anal and would like to get through a complete read from start to finish without making changes. That’s when I know I’m done. Reality is, though, that even if you get that far, an editor is still going to find things to change. That’s just the nature of the beast. I try to control myself and get to a point where I have eliminated my show verses tell issues, and there are also no points where I stumble over the speech, or the pacing is off kilter. At that point I send it out to beta readers to see if they agree. I then revise according to their comments (if I agree) and then start working on the query.

It sounds like quite a serious business, but when you’re not being all serious, what makes you laugh?

Realistic slap stick amuses me to no ends. Someone tripping or falling out of a chair.  Not sure why. Jokes and “forced” stuff usually only makes me smile. I guess I find the “funny” in the silly things that happen unexpectedly every day.

Ah yes, thank goodness for video cameras so these moments can be shared with the world! Now, this might sound like an odd question, but I think you’ll have an answer. What color is “Paper Wishes”? The story itself; if you had to attribute a color to it, what would it be?

Blue, for many reasons. Blue is cool, and Paper Wishes takes place in winter. But it also represents sadness. Jill tries so hard to hide her sadness that she misses out on being happy. (Until a little divine intervention gives her a little nudge in the right direction)

Blue? A bit like blueberries? Like chocolate covered blueberries? What IS that behind your back?…Anyway, as the book is called “Paper Wishes”, I clearly had to have a wish-based question…Imagine I have the power to grant you three wishes, with rules attached, what would your wishes be? The rules are; RULE 1) The wishes must be related in some way to reading or writing. RULE 2) The first wish must be for yourself, the second wish must be for somebody you know (you don’t have to say who it is), the third wish must be for the wider world.

FIRST WISH – For myself, and this may seem selfish… but I’d love to write a book that so many people have read that it is a household name, and people could strike up conversations about my world. This is not stemming from a desire to be rich or famous. I would just find it incredibly satisfying to know something I created had touched people and brought them together.

SECOND WISH – For someone else… I know quite a few authors who are brilliant, but unpublished. One in particular is really good, but lacks the self-confidence to finish a project. My wish would be for her to gain the confidence to finish her novel so she can feel the wonder of success (or at least the excitement of publication).

THIRD WISH – For the wider world, I would love it if people would embrace books.  The truth is that most people read only what they have to. The wonderful worlds that have been created are lost to many, because they do not take the time to read about them. I think this is getting worse due to people’s tight schedules, as reading takes time. I wish people had more time to read. I think the world would be a better place.

Thank you Jennifer, great answers!

Thanks so much for having me and for coming up with such interesting questions! This has been fun. I hope everyone enjoys Paper Wishes – a little winter romance to cool off their summer. Thanks again! Oh, and here’s a little something for you Vanessa, I hope I haven’t squashed them behind my back here…

What is it?…oh, chocolate covered blueberries! For me! Yay! I had no idea that you had anything hidden behind your back! Thank you so much, and thanks again for visiting us today.

Chocolate covered blueberriesJennifer’s Networking Links:

Email | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook | Manic ReadersGoodreads | Amazon

I won’t be able to reply to comments for a few days, but Jennifer will be stopping by, so do leave any comments or questions you have for her below, and I’ll be back to join in the chat too in a few days…

What the Dickens is going on?

This is a little spoofy video report I made about Charles Dickens with my friend, Stacey Morgan from Morganic Films, for the Limebird Writers site where I also blog. I thought I would share it here too. Apologies that my voice is at times hard to hear over the sound of wind and the sea! We had a few microphone issues…

If the embedded version doesn’t work, you can go to it here http://youtu.be/i2Qizp3QNZw

Hope you all have a good weekend!

How was Lorna supposed to know? Win her book and find out!

book-coverLorna Lee

Does lightning ever strike twice in the same place? It does if your name is Lorna Lee. To find out more, you’ll have to read her newly published memoir, ‘How Was I Supposed to Know?‘. This book will make you laugh, cry, and laugh some more. True tales of near misses and direct hits, and did I mention lots of laughs? Lorna has a talent for finding the comedy and the positive side even where there really isn’t any. Readers of her blog, Lorna’s Voice, will know what I’m talking about.

I’m going to put a pot of coffee on now, so please join me and Lorna for a chat, and if you leave a comment at the end of this post, you will be entered into a draw to win a copy of her book.

Beautiful inside and out, charming, intelligent, funny. But enough about me, let’s talk about Lorna (the old jokes are still the best, right? Right?!). But of course I was talking about Lorna. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together and make some noise for the wonderful Lorna Lee!!!! Woohoo!!!

Hello Lorna, glad you could join us.
Hello Vanessa, thank you. Wow, what a welcome!

Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?
Please do.

Firstly, the obvious question – what prompted you to write this memoir?
Since I knew from an early age I ‘had a book in me’, it was either this or ‘Little Men, Big Problems.’ I already had piles of short stories about my youth that I wrote as therapy when I became ill with dizziness-blondeness (Chronic Fatigue). So I chose to go that way. Plus I needed to put the past behind me for good. Writing this memoir did that for me.

Well, you certainly pull off dizziness-blondeness very well. I wonder, what song would you pick as the theme tune if your book was made into a film, and why?
I ruminated over this question for a long time for two reasons: I’m not a music aficionado, so my selection of tunes is limited to songs I like to sing or dance to and none of those songs were perfectly appropriate for the theme of the book. ‘The Long and Winding Road’ by the Beatles is my all-time favorite song by that group and it connotes the twisty path my life has taken, but it’s kind of soulful and my book is upbeat. ‘Open Arms’ by Tina Turner is what I’m going with. It has a snappy beat. The lyrics are positive and upbeat, while acknowledging that life isn’t always that way. I’d say that captures the spirit of my memoir. Plus, Reggie (my cockatoo) and I used to dance to this tune all the time.

Yes I’ve heard all about your wild dancing nights with Reggie. Now, apart from the dizziness-blondeness thing, what road blocks did you have in writing this memoir?
I had too much material and didn’t see a way to organize it. Memoirs need a theme like fiction needs a plot. Once I settled on a theme, the book took shape. Then there were the days when I doubted myself. My illness is one that affects my ability to think coherently. I would be writing and stumble because I knew there was a perfect word for what I wanted to say, but couldn’t ‘find’ it in my brain. What kind of writer loses words? Finally, telling this story involved more than just me. I was concerned about my ex-husband and how he would react to my honest tale. Making the decision that this was my story told from my recollections and feelings, I forged on. If he wants to tell his side, it’s a free country, he can write and publish a book. Who am I kidding? He probably won’t even read the thing!

Speaking of the effect you have on others, if you were stranded on a desert island with a group of people, which skill/s do you have that would help ensure the group’s survival?
I sure hope that desert island has lots of shade, doesn’t get too hot, and has lots of fruits (the edible kind, not the looney kind). The only skill I could lend to ensure our mutual survival is my natural aversion to conflict. I am a peace-keeper. As a highly sensitive middle-child, I have learned how to anticipate when tension is brewing and use my humor and/or negotiation skills to avert conflict. We may be stranded, but I’d make sure we were all cooperating and being nice to each other.

Those are important skills Lorna. No shelters or rafts are going to get built if everyone is fighting, right? Now, looking back at your life, what advice would you give to your teenage self?
Use your unique voice, Lorna; don’t squelch it just to please others. You don’t have to put on an act. The real you is a show worth seeing. And get some help with that drinking problem.

And finally, and this isn’t a hint (although I am free on Saturday), if I came round for dinner, what would you cook for me, and what sort of entertainment would you provide?
I make a delicious vegan eggplant parmesan with quinoa pasta (gluten-free). I would serve it with a fresh tossed salad with a homemade dressing of aged balsamic vinegar and Tuscan herb olive oil. And my specialty: challah, which I couldn’t have, but you could. For dessert, a bowl of fresh fruit drizzled with mango sauce (no sugar added). Healthy and delicious. Oh, and Melbeck wine from Argentina (that’s Phil’s favorite wine). I’d have seltzer water. As for entertainment…Scrappy has an amazing number of adorable tricks. Maybe not a whole evening’s worth, but I’m sure we’d find lots to chit-chat about too. [Editor’s note: Phil is Lorna’s man, and Scrappy is her dog, in case you thought it was the other way around]

Sounds great! 7pm ok for Saturday?
Erm…sure.

Thank you so much for your time Lorna.
My pleasure.

Right, the giveaway works like this…
1) You leave a comment on this post by 11pm (GMT) on 31 January 2013.
2) I put the names into a hat and get one of my kids to draw one out.
3) I let the winner know that they have won a copy of Lorna’s book, ‘How Was I Supposed to Know?’ and they can pick either the paperback version or an e-book in their preferred format.
4) They get their book.
5) They read it and love it.

If you would like to buy the book for yourself, then this page on Lorna’s blog has the buying details – http://lornasvoice.com/how-was-i-supposed-to-know-a-memoir/

Well, what are you waiting for? Let the comments begin!

Author chat and a chance to win an Amazon gift card, oh yes!

Make Believe Blog Tour ButtonToday I’m joined on the couch by three wonderful authors; they’re here as part of their blog tour for ‘Make Believe’, an anthology published by J.Taylor Publishing. And as if that wasn’t exciting enough, I’m also giving away a £10 (approx. $16 US) Amazon gift card to one lucky person who comments on this post! *

The authors are J. A. Belfield, Jennifer M. Eaton, and J. Keller Ford. Welcome ladies. They are three of the six authors whose stories have been published in ‘Make Believe’. I read it, and I LOVED it. All six authors certainly know how to tell a story; adventures and fairytales for grown-ups, what a joy!

Make Believe book cover

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Here’s a bit of info on the three gals…

J. A. Belfield

J.A.Belfied author imageBest known for writing the Holloway Pack series, J. A. Belfield lives in Solihull, England, with her husband, two children, three cats, and a dog. She writes paranormal romance with a second love for urban fantasy.

Her story in Make Believe: ‘Escort to Insanity’. Booking a male escort was supposed to be a simple affair for Nicole Harrington but somehow leads to the craziest night of her life—and Benjamin Gold is wholly to blame.

Blog | Twitter | Facebook

Jennifer M. Eaton

Jennifer M EatonJennifer Eaton lives on the east coast of the USA… where she pulls new worlds out of the air while juggling her knight in shining armor, three young princes, and a conceited poodle.

Her story in Make Believe: ‘Last Winter Red’. Emily leaves the safety of Terra in search of a husband, but what she finds outside the city walls will question everything she believes in, and the basic fabric of life as she knows it.

Blog | Twitter | Facebook

J. Keller Ford

J Keller-FordJ. “Jenny” Keller Ford lives on the west coast of Florida with her husband, two sons, three spoiled pets, and an endless supply of fictional characters desperately trying to escape her head.

Her story in Make Believe: ‘The Amulet of Ormisez’. When Lord Elton Fletcher returns home from war to find his brother possessed by a magical stone, he finds himself in yet another battle where the price of failure could be his own life.

Blog | Twitter | Facebook

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I asked the same three questions to the three of them, so while me and the gals sit here on the couch eating virtual Christmas chocs and drinking virtual mulled wine, you can have a read through their answers…

1) The book is called ‘Make Believe’, but what did you make believe about when you were a child?

J. A. Belfield – Um … how many people are gonna read this before I answer? Okay, I’ll ‘fess up. When I was waaaaaaaay younger, I used to do a lot of putting myself in the spotlight imaginings. So when I played on my roller blades, I’d pretend I was in a competition and do spins and stuff and pretend the crowd was clapping whilst mumbling commentary under my breath. Also, in our kitchen, there was a big square window right in front of the main work surface, and whenever I baked (which I did quite a lot) I would talk to the window like it was a TV camera and I was on my own cooking show. But seriously, don’t tell anyone. I have my rep to think of, ya know?

Jennifer M. Eaton – Oh!  Tons of stuff.  I was always on one wild fantasy or another.  I think I saved the world three times, and the galaxy twice.  Yeah, I was a bit of an under-achiever.

J. Keller Ford – I loved playing dress up, even into my early tweens.  I loved gowns with elbow length gloves and would collect them from thrift shops like some people collect trinkets.  I was a bit of an actress even then, and would often write stories and act them out for family and friends.  Yes, I was a bit eccentric.  I still read my stories aloud as it helps me to find unnatural words and cadence.

2) If you had the opportunity to do one of these, which would you choose and why? a) Travel into space. b) Time travel into the past or future. c) Swap lives with somebody rich and famous for one week.

J. A. Belfield – Eeeek. Well, I definitely wouldn’t travel into space. The mere thought of it scares the bejeebus outta me. I have no desire to travel into the past because what’s happened already should never be tampered with and consequences are there for people to learn from. If we had the ability to go back and alter every crappy decision we ever made, we’d never treat our lives with the respect they deserve. And I think seeing what’s up and coming would be a seriously dangerous tool for anyone to have. So, I’d have to go with ‘c‘ – though who I’d swap lives with would take a whooole lotta consideration.

Jennifer M. Eaton – I think I would time-travel.  I’m really into history… especially ancient Egypt and Medieval times – you know – knights and castles and all that stuff.  I’m sure as fascinating as it would be though, I’d be glad to come home.  I like my modern conveniences… and writing a novel with a feather dipped in ink sounds painful.

J. Keller Ford – Hmm, time travel, definitely.  I would love to go back to June 13, 1886 to Berg Castle in Germany and find out how King Ludwig II actually died.  Was it suicide?  Murder?  If only Lake Starnberg could talk.

3) How would your closest friends describe you?

J. A. Belfield – Probably as slightly vacant and nuttier than the nuttiest fruit cake. Ha!

Jennifer M. Eaton – Ha!  Unpredictable. I’m one of those really quiet people who pops up and surprises you once in a while.  I have a very wild side, but I keep it under wraps with the hubby and kids… well, my oldest son is starting to see it.  Yeah, I am the mad woman who ran through a corn field with my kids a few weeks ago doing research for my novel.  My youngest was afraid we’d get arrested… okay… maybe I cut loose with my kids too.  Don’t tell my husband. 🙂

J. Keller Ford – Don’t know, so I asked.  From the mouth of one of my best friends: “Jenny is passionately stubborn, overly-trusting, loving, moody, impulsive, weird, imaginative and a free spirit who forgets on a daily basis how amazingly wonderful and beautiful she is, both inside and out.” Yeah, ok.  *blush*

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* Amazon gift card giveaway info/rules

1) Leave an interesting/funny/sparkling comment on this post by 11pm (GMT) on Friday 28 December (actually, dull and uninteresting comments have just as much chance of winning – it’s random!).

2) After the closing date, I will put all the names in a hat and ask one of Santa’s elves to randomly pick one out. In the unlikely event of my not being able to find an elf, I will ask one of my children to randomly pick a winner out of the hat. I will select which of my children will do this by asking one of Santa’s elves to randomly pick one of them. Oh no…wait. Well it’ll be random anyway.

3) The lucky winner will be notified and will receive a £10 Amazon gift card. If the winner is outside of the UK, I will check the currency exchange rate applicable on 28 December and will get an Amazon gift card closest to that amount from the relevant country’s Amazon website.

4) The lucky recipient will spend the gift card at Amazon on whatever they like. As a completely random suggestion, plucked out of nowhere, they could buy an anthology, such as ‘Make Believe‘.

You’ve got one week people, so get commenting! Additionally, I am informed that random commenters throughout the blog tour will receive ebook copies of either ‘For the Love of Christmas’ (another anthology which includes a story by Jennifer M. Eaton) or ‘Make Believe’, so even more reason to comment.

And follow this Rafflecopter link for even MORE chances to win – a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you so much for your time ladies. I wish you, and all my readers, a very Merry Christmas!

Candy cane with holly

A Perfect Day for Bananafish (Or why everyone should read Salinger)

JD Salinger reading at a table

Before I launch into my praise of Salinger, I need to confess something. When it comes to books, I’m useless. Also films and music. I love books and films and music, but ask me what my favourites are and you will be met with a blank stare. Obviously I know what I like at the time, but afterwards I can never remember the names of anything, or who wrote, starred in, or sang, what. Seriously, don’t ask me to join your quiz team if there are likely to be any questions about books, films or music because I assure you, I will be of no help. As I have mentioned on here, I have started writing a book, and one of my biggest fears around that is that at some point people will be asking me what my favourite books and authors are, and I won’t have anything intelligent to say. I could talk a bit about Silas Marner I suppose because we did that for our English literature O’Level and I liked it enough to have read it twice more since, so I remember the story and who wrote it which is a lot for me. I could also talk a bit about Pride and Prejudice (which I have also read three times I believe), but then so can everyone. But what if they start naming particular authors and asking me what I think of them? What will I say? (I’m not sure who these people are who will be asking me these questions, but that’s irrelevant right now, I’ve listened to Radio 4 so I know it happens).

I’m getting that bit out of the way first in case there is anyone like me reading this, who may be worried that I will be talking intelligently about books; I won’t be.

Now that I’ve explained all that, you’re probably wondering why I’m choosing to write about Salinger right? Well it goes like this…a few months back, I was speaking to my partner about some short stories I had written and wondering whether they were too dialogue-heavy. I expressed that I felt it wasn’t proper for stories to be driven so much by dialogue. “Not at all” he said. “Dialogue-heavy stories can be excellent. Have you read any Salinger?”. Well of course I had no idea whether I had or not, so he went ahead and bought me some Salinger. “Read them and you will see” he said. So I read them and I saw. I can now confirm that I had reached the grand old age of 41 without ever having read The Catcher in the Rye, or A Perfect Day for Bananafish or, I’m fairly confident, any of his work at all. Shocking isn’t it. I can also now say that I LOVE the way Salinger writes, nobody can turn a phrase like he can (nobody that I can remember anyway). He writes very cleverly, but it feels like it was effortless to write, and it is a joy to read. His writing is a bit quirky and I like quirky. He can be funny and tragic at the same time. He hints at things so terrible that you dare not allow your mind to go in that direction but you are nevertheless compelled to keep reading. At times he leaves you confused and unsure about what has just happened, but you don’t feel cheated by that. It is very readable, very readable indeed (which is always a useful quality in a book). You get the sense that he had no idea quite how brilliant he was.

Jump forward to a couple of days ago and I read this blog about writing dialogue by Neeks at Limebird Writers, which gave me the idea to write something about Salinger. And so here I am, writing about Salinger. I haven’t actually said a whole lot about him have I, but at least I can now add him to my very short list of authors that I might be able to mention if I am called upon to do so.

So in summary, yeah, Salinger is a pretty cool dude, and in the unlikely event that you too have not read any of his work, then you really should (and there I was worrying that I wouldn’t have anything intelligent to say).

Oh, and as this is my blog, I can divert if I like – my book research survey remains open until 14 Feb, so if any parents out there haven’t yet filled it in, it would be lovely if you could. It’s very short and it’s here: http://surveyofparents.questionpro.com/