Monday, 25 September 2017

65. Convention Capers

Hello dear readers. :) I have so much to tell you, but I better get the not so good news out of the way first.

Unfortunately, my novella submission was unsuccessful. They liked it, but it wasn’t what they were looking for now.  I’m disappointed, but I’m sure I’ll find a home for my story someday. In the meantime, I’m much too excited to dwell on the knock back for long.

Since I’ve moved to Western Australia, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some very special and amazing authors. First, my long time, (unofficial mentor) email friend, Jenny Schwartz. I’ve also met three of my fellow RWA Aspiring eLoop members. It’s been wonderful to meet these ladies face to face, especially when they are so giving of themselves, much like almost every author I’ve met. :)

One of the Aspiring trio and I met for the first time last weekend at the Rockingham Writers Convention in a place called Baldivas. Their local library, and their function and meeting rooms are just stunning. Even the loo was pretty flash. I could have spent hours there. (In the library, that is. Not the loo.) ;)

My new friend went out of her way to make sure I was comfortable. She introduced me to members of her local writing group along with some wonderful established authors too. Particularly another special lady whom I’ll mention in a little while. :)

The day itself began ominously. To travel on a freeway for forty minutes in foggy conditions where I could only see a few meters in front and behind me, and nothing past the lane beside me, ensured my fingers ached by the time I pulled into the car park. I hadn’t realised I had a death grip on the steering wheel until that moment. Fortunately, by the time it came to write anything down, I could straighten my hands again. I recognised my friend by her Facebook photo, properly introduced myself, and we were off to our first workshop.

Overcoming Obstacles to Writing with Author, Annabel Smith.

What an engaging and lovely lady. :) She spoke about the fact that all writers have their issues, and then she showed us ways to defeat them. We learned to note what does and doesn’t work for us, what our perceived and unchangeable obstacles were, and how we could turn some of those negatives into positives. There are some things we can’t change such as work, family, our health, conflicting schedules, and all the things life throws at us. But we can alter our perceptions, and delegate some of our tasks to give ourselves writing time. For example, my family like spending time with me (at least, that’s what they say) and I do have to leave the writing zone to enjoy life experiences and feed my creative side. But to have some time for myself, I can delegate the housework and the cooking so I have more time to write. (I really, really, really liked this one.) ;)

Then there are the things I worry about myself. Yes, there’s always going to be a more talented writer than me because I think my work isn’t good enough, and yes, I will always write things that I think are absolute rubbish, but neither of those things is going to stop me writing and wanting to write better. And my ‘favourite’ – pushing through the introvert tendencies. Although, I stepped out of my little shell at the conference and chatted to a few lovely people who made that effort so worthwhile. :)

Ms Smith also shared suggestions to give ourselves more writing time by tracking how much time we spend on the things we’re doing when we could / should be writing. Like *cough* Facebook and Netflix. As in less of it. Cutting down television time, social engagements, shopping for groceries at the store instead of online, and reading for hours on end, all add up. She’s certainly not suggesting we give up everything, or indeed giving any of it up. Just to manage our time better and decide what’s important to us.

The group was asked what strengths and characteristics a successful writer has, and then to redefine that success into our own terms and improve and strengthen the ones we already have. We should define our success as something we can influence or control instead of focusing on the things we can’t. We also touched on that important first draft. We need to give ourselves permission to have a terrible first draft. In fact, Ms Smith provided us with a permission slip to do exactly that. :)
  

 Unfortunately, the session ran out of time, but as Ms Smith had plenty to share with us, if anyone’s keen to know more, you can learn about Ms Smith, her books, and her workshops, here. :)


After a quick break where I remembered to text my husband and let him know I’d arrived there safely, (oops), we were off to our next session.

Author Tess Woods’ Twelve Ingredients All Page Turners have in Common.

What a pleasure listening to this author speak. She was funny, laid back, and so entertaining.

Using examples from two well-known stories, and her first novel, ‘Love at First Flight’, Ms Woods gave her audience invaluable advice. Things like ensuring we have a strong opening that’s dynamic, enticing, and immediately sets the scene for the reader without giving away all our story’s secrets. The reader must be hooked right from the start. As writers, we must deliver on our promise to provide a fulfilling conclusion by the story’s end. A favourite was ‘the shopping list’ No one wants to read a list of a character’s attributes. I also enjoyed the thought of ‘zooming in’ on one detail to bring a character or a scene to life. (But not in the first draft.) :)

Other writers, I imagine, have heard of Chekov’s Rule – If you write about a gun in chapter one, better be using it by chapter two. In other words, all the details of a story must be relevant whether it’s foreshadowing a future event or moving the story forward.

Something else important to all stories is defining your characters’ goals, the stakes, and whether they’ll achieve them. How difficult are you as the writer going to make achieving these goals? What obstacles are you putting in your characters’ paths, and how are they going to act or react to these situations? And if they achieve a goal earlier in the book, make sure there’s another obstacle for them to overcome. And with each scene, remember to reveal a little more about the story or character.

Other sections we covered were the ‘Show, not Tell’. Action always works better than simply telling your readers what’s happening. (Think back to that shopping list.) Telling does not involve the reader in your story and does not engage them. Neither do filler words and overusing them. My bugbear used to be ‘as if’, and come to think of it, it still is, but I didn’t realise how often my characters said, ‘What the hell?' either until I had a closer look at my work. Something else to work on.

All recommended replacement catchphrases suggested will be considered. :)

And last, but not least, Ms Woods talked about backstory. OMG! The backstory and info dumping I did in my earlier stories still embarrasses me. I couldn’t see what I was doing wrong then, but I certainly can now. Hasn’t stopped me writing it (first drafts are just for the writer. :) ) but at least I am recognizing it for what it is. In all, it was a wonderful session. :) You can learn more about Ms Woods and her books here. :)


After lunch, we listened to our keynote speaker, Ms Meredith Curnow from Penguin Random House who spoke about the Publishing Industry, her background and vast experience/s, and her hopes for the future in storytelling. This was followed by an author panel who spoke about their work in a book, which also featured stories from other writers who were in the audience, called ‘Writing the Dream’ and their writing experiences in general. The panel consisted of Guy Salvidge, Natasha Lester, Teena Raffa-Mulligan, Monique Mulligan, and Karen McDermott – the latter two are the driving force behind Australian Publishers, Serenity Press. Everyone was generous in sharing their goals and the paths that lead to their publishing experiences. Afterwards, they faced an onslaught of eager readers ready to buy their books, and have that very precious signature adorn their front pages. :)

Another quick break led us to our final session for the day.

Alex Adsett - What does a Literary Agent do and do you need one?

Again, we met another lovely lady happy to share her advice and experiences with us. :)

In Australia, writers have a choice whether they need an agent. In America, or to break into the American market, writers must have an agent. It’s difficult to attain an agent in Australia because there are so few Literary Agents here. Having an agent in your corner means you have someone who is experienced, knows the industry, and who is looking for which genres / manuscripts and then matches the right manuscript with the right publisher. They negotiate the best contracts, advances, and deals on your behalf, and ensures the writer has fair royalties, and understands the deal and the contracts provided by publishers. While lawyers can negotiate contracts too, the best negotiators for manuscripts are agents and the ASA – Australian Society of Authors.

An agent receives 15% of what an author earns. A reputable agent will charge a commission only. They learn on the job (there’s no formal training), and they don’t receive any money until they’ve sold your book. They look out for your rights, advise you on your contracts, check on your edit requests, look after Marketing, Options and help manage a writer’s career and most of all, they are a shoulder to cry on when everything seems overwhelming.

The best way to secure an agent is attend Pitch opportunities, research websites, send professional query letters, pitch to the right agent for your genre, and ALWAYS follow the guidelines. Ms Adsett provided examples of positive and negative sides to having an agent, and reminded us that an agent isn’t for everyone, and that’s perfectly fine. Currently Ms Adsett is not looking for unsolicited manuscripts, so I don’t feel right sharing details here. However, if she’s taking pitches at a workshop or conference near you, and you’re looking for an agent in the genres she represents, I’m sure her friendly approach will immediately put you at ease, and I certainly wish you luck with your pitch. :)

Book Reviews
First, a reminder that Ms Nolan’s latest book in her Reaper series, ‘Silver Reaper’, is due out the first of October. :) I’ll share my review on the next blog. :)


Now, I’ve been breaking a few of Ms Smith’s suggestions considering I’d been Netflixing (that’s a word, right?) and binge reading. I did come across a wonderful movie called ‘Odd Thomas’, which starred an amazing young actor, the late Anton Yelchin. No sooner did the movie end, then I wanted to read the book again. And when I finished that, I wanted to read more, so here’s a review of Mr Dean Koontz’s first two books in the Odd Thomas series.

ODD THOMAS - Odd by name, a hero by nature.

He’s Odd. Odd Thomas, to be precise. Genius fry-cook at the Pico Mundo grill; boyfriend to the gorgeous Stormy Llewellyn – and possibly the only person with a chance of stopping one of the worst crimes in the bloody history of murder…

Something evil has come to the desert town that Odd and Stormy call home. It comes in the form of a mysterious man with a macabre appetite, a filing cabinet full of information on the world’s worst killers, and strange, hyena-like shadows following him wherever he goes. Odd is worried. He knows things, sees things – about the living, the dead and the soon to be dead. Things that he has to act on. Now he’s terrified for Stormy, himself and Pico Mundo. Because he knows that on Wednesday August 15, a savage, blood-soaked whirlwind of violence and murder will devastate the town.
Today is August 14. And Odd is far from sure he can stop the coming storm…

Odd Thomas is an exceptionally polite young man who lives his ordinary life as a fry cook, and is deeply in love with Stormy Llewellyn, a young woman whose childhood contains more horrors than his own. Perhaps that’s why she understands him better than most. She’s survived monsters, so it’s no surprise to her that Odd can see them among the ghosts that have been in and out of his life for as long as he can remember. Odd doesn’t know why the dead seem so fond of him, especially the ghost of Elvis Presley, but when they show him they need his help, Odd never refuses them. When the monsters Odd knows as Bodachs surge into his hometown, Odd knows something terrible is about to happen, but since he’s the only one who can see them, then Odd must do everything he can to prevent the coming disaster, whatever it may be.

I loved this story long before Anton Yelchin brought the character so wonderfully to life onscreen. Odd is certainly different, but he’s also the most affable and genuine character I’ve come across. Funny how sometimes you wish a character could be real rather than the clever imaginings of an author’s mind. I wanted him to succeed, I wanted him to have his happy ending, and to overcome all obstacles in his path. The result was a very bittersweet mix that carries Odd throughout the series and shapes everything he does. The urgency in which Odd shifts through the scattered clues the ghosts and his other abilities show him never waivers, and has the reader glued to the pages until the very end.

FOREVER ODD - I see dead people. But then, by God, I do something about it.

Odd Thomas never asked for his special ability. He’s just an ordinary guy trying to live a quiet life in the small desert town of Pico Mundo. Yet he feels an obligation to do right by his otherworldly confidants, and that’s why he’s won hearts on both sides of the divide between life and death. But when a childhood friend disappears, Odd discovers something worse than a dead body and embarks on a heart-stopping battle of will and wits with an enemy of exceptional cunning. In the hours to come there can be no innocent bystanders, and every sacrifice can tip the balance between despair and hope. 

When the ghost of his closest friend’s adoptive father appears in Odd’s room in the early hours of the morning, Odd races to check on his friend only to find the house empty except for the ghost’s body. His number one suspect is Danny’s biological father, recently released from prison. But as Odd utilises his ability and tracks his friend, he finds himself in a burned-out casino / hotel full of ghosts clinging to their own tragic demises and meets the real kidnapper – a kidnapper with abilities that rival Odd’s at every turn.

This story had a great twist, and delves into other cultural beliefs of what happens to the spirit / soul long after death. The antagonist is a character with a brilliantly twisted mind, confident in their own abilities, and a quest for knowledge that’s almost as deep as Odd’s. Once again, the reader is barracking for Odd to overcome the obstacles placed before him thanks to Danny mistakenly betraying Odd’s secrets to the one person who knows just how to make Odd’s gifts and his soul their own. As for the other ghosts in the hotel, for once it’s Odd that needs their help, not the other way around.

Mr Koontz has been a long-time favourite author of mine. I began reading his stories in my teens, alongside Mr Stephen King’s novels, and the magic of his writing has never left me. If you’ve yet to discover this wonderful writer, more on Mr Koontz can be found here.


Remember at the start when I said I met another amazing writer at the conference? I was introduced to the most delightful, effervescent author named Carolyn Wren. She was charming, vivacious, and interested in everyone around her, much like the lovely lady who introduced us. I could have listened to her speak all day too as she was so intriguing. And lucky me, I’m now the proud owner of a copy of her (signed) latest release with Serenity Press. :)

LOVE UNDER FIRE – THE LOVE UNDER FIRE SERIES PREQUEL

British government black ops agent, Remy Cross and his team are sent into a small jungle nation caught up in a government coup to rescue an aid worker, the daughter of a powerful politician.
The assignment appears straight forward, until Remy meets his very stubborn mission objective. She comes with baggage, literally, and she refuses to leave without it.

Astrid James only ever wanted to help people. Now she's locked in a sprawling mansion with two orphaned children, in the middle of a war zone, wearing only a white satin evening dress.
To make matters worse, she just attacked the man sent to rescue her.

Remy knows he only has three days to negotiate the treacherous jungle terrain and reach the rendezvous point. With a gorgeous, hot-headed, barefoot heiress and two tiny babies in tow, what could possibly go wrong?

Remy Cross is a professional, strictly-by-the-book black ops agent on a mission to rescue the stubborn daughter of a powerful politician. He’s all business until the woman he’s been sent to rescue almost succeeds where so many other dangerous criminals have failed – one well-placed blow over the head nearly does him in. There’s no time for apologies though because the monsters holding her captive will be back at any moment, and their chances of escaping are slim – much like the figure of the gorgeous would-be assailant who’s affecting more than just his body and his mind. Remy must get her out fast, as much for his protection as hers. A pity she’s not going anywhere unless he promises to take two orphaned babies with them.

Astrid James is a woman of principles, and she’s not about to back down from anyone to do what’s right, especially if they’re strong, smart, and altogether much too handsome for their own good. She’s strong and smart too, and fiercely protective of her young charges. So what if there’s treacherous jungles to traverse, militant soldiers chasing them, and a team of rescuers who probably think she’s little more than a spoiled brat to deal with. As soon as they reach the rendezvous point, she’ll give them a piece of her mind, and that will be the end of it, right?

I loved this. Stories where the main characters save each other, and are equal in their relationships are my favourite every time. A short story it may be, but it was action packed, well-paced, and answered any question I had about how fast the main characters’ relationship was progressing. In fact, the characters asked that question themselves, which showed me that Ms Wren thinks about her readers and can slip seamlessly between fiction and still have a real life / real time feel to her stories. Even the sub characters played their parts so well, and easily helped bring this story to life. Those sub characters each have their own story in subsequent books, which I look forward to reading. :) Oh, and the passionate scenes – they’ll leave you wanting more. :)

You can find more about this very lovely lady here. :)


News

Wow! Almost done. I did warn you I was a little excited and had much to share.

I'm pleased to say the road was fog free when I drove home later that night. The only thing that had me in a tight grip were the thoughts buzzing around in my head.

Let’s see, I have another copy editing job coming up in October. The unsuccessful novella will have another look over to see what else I can work on. I’ve started rewrites on a novel, and there’s another workshop to look forward to in a couple of weeks as well. I’m currently reading Charlaine Harris’ Midnight, Texas, and I have more of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas series to read. So, after all of that, all I need now is to add the kitchen sink.

Oh look!
  



Until next time, apologies for the eye strain, and may words fill your world with wonder. :)

Saturday, 26 August 2017

64. One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Mixed news, dear readers. At the time of posting, I haven’t heard if my novella submission was successful. I’m working on the ‘no news is good news’ theory, but I’m not holding my breath. No luck with the short story competition this time around, but considering there were over eight hundred entries, I did all right. :)

I also received my feedback from the other competition I entered, but I’m yet to receive placement results. It was a staggered entry; therefore, they’re still marking entries before they make their final announcement. This is one competition I’d recommend to other aspiring writers. Ink and Insights offer a brilliant opportunity to obtain professional feedback on a portion of your manuscript. Four reviewers critique and provide commentary on your entry. They state what does and doesn’t work, and what they thought could be strengthened in your excerpt. It's a brilliant way to gain varying perspectives of your story so you can work on your weaknesses and progress with your strengths. The top three entries then have their work reviewed by agents, who could then offer the lucky recipients the opportunity to submit their complete manuscript, and then, possible publication. :)

I found it interesting how different opinions could be so varied on a scene, yet in others, all four judges agreed. The latter gave me some much-needed guidance in ways I could improve my story. As for the former, I could see both sides of the comments, and I can adjust it accordingly. The best part was reading all four judges believed I had an original concept on my hands and they were interested to know more. I admit I was surprised they loved a character who wasn’t an integral part of the story (to me), but obviously resonated with them. And they picked up a couple of things I missed too. :/

So, while I’ve received some fantastic feedback, and scored better than I’d hoped, I still don’t know how I went overall. Again, I do recommend giving this annual feedback competition your consideration. My comments were insightful, thoughtful, and will only make my story stronger. Who’d want to miss an opportunity like that?

Ink and Insights - https://inkandinsights.com/

Book Reviews

Lucky me, I beta -read Ms Nolan’s latest novel in her Reaper series. Of course, that means I can’t share my thoughts yet, but I know her readers will love the latest predicament for her heroine. Meanwhile, you can read my reviews of her previous Reaper stories here.




I am allowed, however, to share Ms Jenny Schwartz’s latest release. :)

Desert Devil (Old School Book 5)

Donna Keats is a seer. But when she defies fate to save her estranged foster brother she becomes fate’s victim.

As one of only three couriers alive, Forrest “Rest” Castillo can travel anywhere on Earth in seconds. However, the price of his rare talent is to be forever alone. Anyone who gets close to him becomes a potential hostage for the powerful people that seek to own him.

Two years ago, Rest retreated to the isolated beauty of the Arizona desert to save those who have his loyalty and love, but it was the wrong strategy. It’s not his life that should be sacrificed for peace. Nor will it be Donna’s.

Rest’s enemies are about to learn that this former Army Ranger is not as alone as they believed, and that no conspiracy can be buried forever.

The time has come for Rest to walk the Path for justice, and Donna will match him step for step.

Rest’s stubborn attitude in leaving his loved ones behind to keep them safe has its merits, but it’s cost him more than he thought possible. For Rest, controlling and manipulating portals, and being able to enter and exit them at will, is a valuable commodity. And to control Rest and his ability, some people are willing to do anything, even kill. When Donna, the woman he’s loved since they were teens, tracks him down with an urgent warning, he knows he’s about to break two hearts all over again. When her horrifying vision comes true days later, and he barely survives, he knows she’s in more danger than before. Only this time, the safest place for her is right by his side.

Donna’s heart broke when Rest abandoned her two years ago without so much as a goodbye. She told herself she could let him go, but when her secret Seer talent reveals a vision of his imminent death, nothing will stop her from finding him no matter why he left her behind. Thanks to her warning, she may have saved the day, but doing so not only puts their lives in danger, but also the team Rest abandoned too. When someone threatens a member of the team to get to Rest, they realise they need to work together to find the truth, one that’s buried deeper than anyone expects.

I like that there was more to Donna than her ability to have visions, abilities which impressed the jaded and distrusting team Rest once called friends. She exceeded their expectations and proved that while she might not have magical military training, she is an asset to the group. And through rebuilding the friendships he left behind, Rest learned to value not only those relationships, but to understand you don’t abandon those who love you.

Ms Schwartz’s previous series and now this one often mentions a magical way of travelling where guides help magical creatures enter and exit through ‘Portals’. This is just one of the many clever ways she’s joined her stand-alone stories together. Yet again, she’s woven characters from previous stories to propel this tale. And I’m going to have a moment of cleverness that I guessed the characters for a future book. :) I also have a feeling that Rest and Donna are going to make an appearance in that book too, but I’ll have to wait to see if I’m right because she has two more books before she gets to that one. You see why she’s one of my author idols, right? :)


News

The copyediting job is complete, and I have a happy customer who’s one step closer to publishing her first novel. I’m very excited for her and I hope everyone enjoys her story. I enjoyed the process, and learned more about writing on the way. I also learned more about South Africa as both the writer and parts of the story embrace this culture and the language. I thought Aussies had some interesting sayings – we’re not alone there. J I was impressed though, that the writer explained through her characters what the South African terms meant. I also learned a few Scottish sayings as the story is set in the Scottish Highlands just to add to the intrigue. As I’m of Scottish decent, I enjoyed learning a thing or three. :)

While waiting for news of the competition and submission, I’ve been working on my rewrites, especially the story I sent to Ink and Insights, and on the story a dear writing friend was kind enough to structurally edit for me. Not so sure she felt kindly toward me when she was done – oh dear. But again, I have learned so much, which is exactly what the writing business is all about. I’ve also gained a wonderful critique partner / friend and we’ve been swapping chapters, and strengthening and providing guidance for each other’s stories.

Next month I have a writing conference to attend, so I’ll be meeting some more wonderful Western Australian writers and discovering more tips and tricks about writing. I can’t wait.

Until then, in the vein of I Love Lucy’s Ricky Ricardo, I have some ‘splaining (fixing) to do. :)




Tuesday, 25 July 2017

63. Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking

It’s July, and my oldest has turned seventeen. I’m not ready to be giving driving lessons. I’m happy handing that task to the professionals and the Other Half. Less likely to have a panicked, uncertain, what-the-heck-just-happened co-pilot that way, let alone worry how the inexperienced driver is feeling about the crazy lady who’s suddenly invented hand signals to rival ‘the bird’.

As it was school holidays, we took a day trip to a beautiful coastal town called Bunbury where we spent time with a lovely RWA writer, (who’s one my Aspiring eLoop co-hosts) and her son. She and her husband are renovating the most gorgeous old house. It has huge rooms, divine wooden floors, the most beautiful rose bushes out the front, and room for a garden and outdoor entertaining area out the back. Most importantly, and I swear I’m not jealous, she has a wonderful office set up in which to do her writing. Okay, so I’m more than a little jealous. :/

They took us to the marina for lunch, and we had a bittersweet moment as we took in the spectacular views. It was just like the marina back home. The boats, the bustle, the ocean, the water views from the cafĂ© – it was as though we’d blinked or tapped our heels together three times and muttered something about there being no place like home, and for a moment, there we were. The only difference was that wild westerly wind. I’ve experienced a few cyclones, so I know what it’s like to hear the wind scream to the point you want to scream right along with it. But the wind gusts roaring up from the Antarctic -  let’s just say I had a brand-new hairdo of which the Bride of Frankenstein would be proud.




It also took us longer to get to the car than it did to leave it. I like to think we put a few mime artists to shame crossing the street too. Then we visited a sweet shop where the owners made their lollies on the premises. We may have left there with a not-so healthy sugar hit. :)

We also took a train trip to Perth. It’s a novelty being so close to a capital city. Back home, visiting the capital meant a six-and-a-half-hour drive, crashing at a motel, and being too tired to eat, let alone hit the shops. But here, we’re barely fifty minutes away, can explore the main street mall to our heart’s content, and still be home to sleep in our own beds all in the one day. Bliss! It was here that I made my favourite discovery. Not a department store, although they were a welcome relief from the wind. And not the busking musicians and street magicians. Man, are there some talented people around. We found a REAL book store. We stumbled upon it by chance, but there wasn’t a second thought to descending the narrow stairs and entering that ‘cave of wonders’.


Don’t get me wrong, KINDLE has its place, but it just doesn’t have the sensory delights that a book does. The touch, the smell, the rustle of turning pages, me heavy breathing because I almost fell down the steps in my rush to get into the store. We all left with something to treasure. Even my youngest, who isn’t the biggest fan of reading, (yet) found some books to love. However, for this month, I read two novellas. (Don’t worry KINDLE. I still love you too.) :)

Book Reviews

The Texan and the Egyptian: The Sky Fire Chronicles by Paul Summerhayes. (Prequel)
The Texan and his Confederate friends’ job was simple. Buy weapons for the war effort and transport them home—but nothing is ever that easy.

On a ship in the middle of the Atlantic, the people around the Texan start vanishing. Why? And is the mysterious Egyptian woman involved? Will the Texan be her next victim?

The Sky Fire Chronicles is a fantasy series set in America during the late 1800’s.
Prequel: The Texan and the Egyptian
Book 1: Coming soon

It was supposed to be an easy job watching over the cache of guns and ammunition as they sailed across the Atlantic toward America. His companions weren’t the Texan’s first choice, but they could handle themselves in a fight. He just didn’t expect the fight to find him on the voyage home. One by one, the ship’s crew, and then his men, go missing. The ship’s not that big, but with no bodies to be found, and no clues to their disappearance, the Texan is at a loss what to do. Instinct tells him a beautiful Egyptian priestess is involved, but he doesn’t know how. Now he must decide whether his fellow traveller is friend or foe, because the priestess seems to be the only one who knows what’s happening, and he’s not sure he wants to hear the truth.

What a great start to Mr Summerhayes’ new series. How interesting to combine what touches on Egyptian mythology with the Wild West. I liked the charisma between the Texan and the Priestess, and it will be interesting to see how this leads into the series, because in this world, nothing is as it seems.

Alchemy and Arcana: An Urban Fantasy Novella Collection
 – The Dragon Stone by Paul Summerhayes.
Ryver is descended from an old family of witches and warlocks, but she is young and her magic is weak – not a good thing when you live in a place where dark things prowl the city at night.

Falling on hard times, Ryver resorts to petty theft in an effort to escape the confines of the wicked city – a city full of violence drugs, death, and old memories. By chance, she ‘finds’ an old box and her life is turned upside down. What she knows and loves is not as it seems.

Will she discover the truth, and escape this veil city before she falls to its growing darkness?

When Ryver ‘finds’ a box a local drug gang has been guarding, she’s disappointed to find it’s just an old chunk of wood. But inside she discovers a beautiful stone that feels like it belongs to her. Then she learns the stone once belonged to her dead father. Bull, the gang leader, isn’t about to let his treasure go. Scouring the city, he terrorises her mother, then kidnaps a street kid who idolises Ryver. His instructions are clear. Bring back the stone or the boy dies. Now Ryver has no choice but to embrace her family’s legacy of magic. Her morals insist she save Liam, but there’s no way she’s letting go of that stone, no matter how much Bull or his mysterious ‘boss’ wants it back or what it costs her to keep it.

Wonderful novella. This was a story I could see play out like a movie in my mind. So much that it ended far too soon. I wanted more. Ryver may have been a tough teen with a heart of gold, but I could see so much for her and her future. Do you suppose if I nag him enough, Mr Summerhayes might consider expanding this story to a novel length version or even a series?

You can nag find more about Paul and his books here - http://www.paulsummerhayes.com/

News

Ah, that blog title. For my non-Australian readers, ‘Flat Out Like a Lizard Drinking’ is Australian slang for being extremely busy or hard at work, and no, it has nothing to do with alcohol – usually. ;)

What it really means is that I’ve been so busy copy editing, I could only squeeze in two novellas to read and share with you because everything else I’m reading is part of the editing process. And because it’s a paying job, I want to make sure I do it, and the author, justice. Since I’ve been busy doing ‘my job’, I haven’t had time to work on my own stories and the self-editing that’s waiting for me there. So, I’d better get cracking because like the time, tide, and taxes, this editing is waiting for no man (and not this woman either.)

Until next time, happy reading. :)



Sunday, 25 June 2017

62. Winter Wonders

It’s past June twenty-first, which marks the Winter Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. Therefore, I am now officially spending my first winter in South Western Australia. :)

I doubt you want an official report, but apart from chilly mornings, and cold, stop-hogging-the-blankets evenings, it’s been beautiful weather. Bright, sunny days. Curls of smoke hanging in the air over the chimney tops in the neighbouring houses. A playful breeze messing with my hair. In all, (apart from the chimney smoke), it’s been like what I am used to in Queensland. And here I was worrying I wouldn’t handle the cold now that I’m living closer to the Antarctic circle. I’ve got this.

And then a week ago, one of the lovely locals let it drop that, apparently, it’s been an unusually warm winter.

Er, say again?

So now the cool change is sneaking in and I’m wearing socks and shoes constantly. (An almost unheard-of occurrence back home.) The woollen gloves come on at night. (Fingerless, so I can still type.) I’ve progressed to wearing two pairs of socks in bed, and I’m kidding myself if I think I’ll be acclimatised by Winter’s end. Seriously? What do I think I’m going to do when the ‘real’ winter arrives? And why am I now imaging a horde of White Walkers (aka George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones) are now breathing down my neck? It’s just that playful breeze, right?


Warming up the gloves while I make my cuppa.

Fear not! I have managed to steal, er, acquire, some warmth. The dogs have become extra cuddly during the day, and the cat is my new best friend as she settles on the bed at night, curled around my feet. (She also stops the other half from stealing the blankets.) I can’t move until she decides to wander off again, but my double-sock covered toes aren’t complaining. And of course, Winter is the perfect excuse to snuggle into a comfortable chair, overindulge on the coffee and chocolate, and read. :)

Book Reviews

Her Robot Wolf: Gift of Gaia by Jenny Schwartz

Jaya Romanov is an independent star ship shaman. She studies the energy flows of the universe and—for a price—will harness them to her employer’s purpose. Wormholes are a whole lot safer to travel when a shaman guides the jump.

Vulf Trent is a bounty hunter. It was that or join the family business, piracy, and Vulf is too much the lone wolf to tolerate the demands of a large pirate crew. Where his family enjoys the bonds of pack, he prefers the freedom of ranging the universe, alone.

Seven generations ago, humanity evacuated Earth and the shifter clans’ ability to transform into their animal forms was one of the most terrible losses of that time. Now, the werewolves, werebears and other shifters are trapped in their human bodies and slowly losing the essence of their primal souls. Jaya is determined to heal their torn transformational abilities, but Vulf doesn’t believe her.

He didn’t kidnap her for her healing abilities.

***

“Her Robot Wolf” is a fabulous adventure in which rare, mystical science replaces magic, pirates are taught to respect lone women, the galaxy is imperilled —and perhaps, rescued—and a fated mate pair contemplate kicking Fate in the teeth. Have fun! Don’t forget to buy Galactic Insurance before leaving Earth!

Space opera, paranormal romance and a galactic array of aliens, mysteries, startling revelations, and breath-taking heroics.

Jaya is a natural born shaman, and an orphan. No wonder she pledges her loyalty to the one man who acts like he gives a damn about her, even if he has a strange way of showing it. For him, she’d do anything, without hesitation. But that loyalty is questioned when he steals something precious from her whilst escaping a formidable bounty hunter. And in that one moment, she’s gone from betrayed to kidnapped because that bounty hunter knows there’s a connection between the two humans that Jaya can’t or won’t reveal.

Vulf Trent is a bounty hunter, werewolf, pirate, and determined to live alone. Kidnapping Jaya isn’t his first choice, but if that means using her to capture his target, he’ll do it. But the damn woman knows too much about his kind. And why should he care if she claims to want to help the Were community regain its ‘shifter’ abilities. He’s heard enough lies to last a life time. Yet there’s something about her that goes far beyond appearance, however unwilling he is to admit it.

Sci-fi romance is a new area for Ms Schwartz, but you wouldn’t be able to tell that by reading her story. I found it seamless. It didn’t hurt that it had a that paranormal twist I love so much, but seriously, is there nothing she can’t do? My envy for her writing skills is skyrocketing. (Pun not, well, maybe just a little,  intended.) Again, Jaya and Wulf were characters who balanced each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and what do you know, Ms Schwartz has plans to continue their tale. J

More on Ms Schwartz’s stories here. http://authorjennyschwartz.com/

Streamer by Sue-Ellen Pashley

How can you disappear, only to appear in a new location, and not know how it happens?
How can you have any sort of life if you can’t control when this happens?
And how can you find the answers when you don’t even know your own name?
For twenty-year-old Rhiannon Clarke, the last three days are all she can remember. And they have just been a series of flicking in and out of different locations with only vague memories to guide her. But as she slowly starts to build a picture of her life, the questions are getting harder. Why is this happening to her? Why does the thought of her brother fill her with unease? Why does her father’s name make her break into a cold sweat? And who is the mysterious man in the bed?

This is a great new adult story teeming with shock, betrayal, distrust, and intrigue.

Imagine the despair and confusion of having lost your memory, yet images and thoughts fight to resurface. Desperate to make sense of what is happening to her, and maintain her grip on sanity, Rhiannon Clarke is terrified, alone, and determined to find the answers. Just as soon as she learns how to stop moving through space without knowing how to control it. Sometimes she arrives at places with non-knowledge of what she’s doing there. The next, everything seems so familiar. But every time it seems someone recognises her, and she them, something whisks Rhiannon away once more. And then she lands in his bedroom, he calls her name, and slowly the truth is revealed. But is the one man who promises to help her, who swears they know each other, the person who betrayed her heart and soul?

Find out more from Ms Pashley here. http://www.sueellenpashley.com/

Kadin: A Sci-Fi Alien Romance (Dragons of Riddich - Book 1) by Mel Teshco

The dragons will search the universe for their one true mate...

Grace has a special ability. She senses paranormal beings. It’s the perfect trait to have as an operative for the Paranormal Detection Agency. A pity her next target, Kadin Marres, doesn’t just trigger her paranormal senses … he triggers her lust too.

Kadin has been aware of the elusive Grace for some time now and has waited patiently for her. She’s a dragon breeder, and once he finally has her, he isn’t about to give her up. Not even if it means she goes from hunter to hunted.

I love when Ms Teshco brings me another naughty little story to read. This is the lead-in novella to her new Sci-fi/Paranormal ‘Dragons of Riddick’ series.

Orphaned at an early age, Grace swore she’d make whoever killed her parents pay. Or should that be ‘what’ ever, because even then, Grace could sense those who were different from humankind. That ability found a home with the PDA - Paranormal Detection Agency, its members utilising Grace’s abilities while giving her the means and skills to someday fulfil her vow. But this talk of dragons is too far-fetched. They don’t exist, and if they did, surely, they would have triggered her senses. Then she closes in on the PDA’s person of interest and discovers that not only do dragons exist, her genetic code could save their entire race.

Kadin has been watching and waiting for the opportunity to meet Grace, but he never expected their intense reaction to each other. She’s the answer he’s been scouring the Universe to find, and now that he has her, he’s not letting her go. Being an alien might complicate matters, but nowhere near as complicated as the revelation that Grace is his fated mate, and the PDA, once her saviours, are now their enemy, for a mated pair of dragons is a sort-after commodity indeed.

Here’s more on Ms Teshco. http://www.melteshco.com/

News

Nothing back from the competitions and the submission yet. August is going to be nerve wracking. I’ve enjoyed my second writers group meeting. We had a critique day. There’s some great storytelling happening with this group. :) I also discovered they have a Writers Festival in September. That means I’ll be meeting more fabulous writers, though it’s more likely I’ll be grinning at them insanely from behind a pot plant or some dark corner of the room.

The editing is progressing, but let’s just say one of my stories needs some major surgery. Fortunately, one of my critique partners is handy with a scalpel and is cutting away the dead words. I can only hope my critiquing in return is just as valuable.

My next dilemma is - do I edit another old story or start the new one? I swear, some of those ‘voices’ are becoming ‘very’ insistent. Either that, or my husband is having trouble breaking the sound barrier that is my headphones.


I’ve discovered they make excellent earmuffs. ;)