Guest Blog Post: Karen Charlton

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Author Karen Charlton

Today I have a guest post from historical fiction writer Karen Charlton.  An English graduate and a former teacher, she now writes full-time and lives in a remote fishing village on the North East coast of England. She is a stalwart of the village pub quiz and her team once won the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads.’ Her other claim to fame is that she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for writing Murder Mystery Weekends. Her series featuring Inspector Stephen Lavender and Constable Woods are available through Amazon here. Her books are available on audio, in print, and on Kindle Unlimited.

My Detective Lavender Mysteries, published by Thomas & Mercer, are the fictional adventures of Stephen Lavender, who was a real-life Principal Officer with the Bow Street Police Office in London.

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Bow Street

By the early 19th century, Principal Officers had a variety of different and important roles although they were still nicknamed ‘Bow Street Runners’ as if they were messenger boys. Apart from supporting their colleagues solve crime in the capital, they were often sent out to help magistrates in the provinces with difficult cases. They also took part in undercover work in periods of insurrection, for example, during the Luddite riots in the Midlands and were available for hire by wealthy landowners.

They were Britain’s earliest private detectives and they were famous throughout London. The exploits of Stephen Lavender in particular filled many column inches in The Times. He was a Regency celebrity.

They were the only policemen allowed into Buckingham House (the forerunner of the palace) and did security work for the Bank of England. On some occasions, they were even sent abroad to help with crimes and criminals who had spilled out over our borders onto the continent.

Unlike modern crime fighters, the Bow Street officers usually worked alone. However, successful crime fiction novels normally have a pair of heroes – or heroines – resolving the mysteries. So, I decided to change history and gave Lavender a side-kick, Constable Ned Woods, in keeping with this modern literary convention. Woods brings down-to-earth humour and kindness to the novels and is a great foil to Lavender’s slightly-introverted, bookish intelligence. Many readers tell me he is their favourite character.

I frequently find records of Lavender’s cases in the newspapers and often use them as the basis for the plots of my novels. For example, the third book in the series, The Sculthorpe Murder, is based around one of Lavender’s most famous cases which was extensively reported. In 1818, a gang of thugs burst into the home of an elderly man called William Sculthorpe who lived in rural Northamptonshire. They viciously attacked and robbed the eighty-seven-year-old and his son.

The newspapers are always vague about how Lavender actually solved his cases. They tend to be rather gory publications and prefer to dwell more on the horror; the size of the pool of blood and ‘the large quantity of clotted blood that had settled in the victim’s mouth.’ This lack of detail about the police procedure of the time gives me plenty of opportunity to flex my imagination and use artistic license. This is how I prefer to work. I take the bare bones of a real case and then make up the rest. My latest mystery, Plague Pits & River Bones (to be published: 11th January 2018) is a mixture of one of Lavender’s real cases and several other fictional sub-plots.

Inevitably, other real characters do occasionally appear in my books. These have ranged from William, Duke of Clarence and his mistress, the famous actress, Dorothy Jordan; to the artist, William Turner, other Bow Street officers and a range of British Politicians. However, Magdalena, Lavender’s spirited and exotic love-interest, is a figment of my imagination.

My favourite part of writing is usually the first 50,000 words. I tend to think about my books for over a year and when I start writing the words flow over the page with the smoothness of silk. By the time I’m at 50,000 words, it usually gets more difficult. I’ve often got three or four sub-plots running at the same time and dozens of loose ends to tie-up. At this point, I usually take a little break. I hate the cold, dark British winters and last year I flew south to the sunshine of the Canary Islands for a month to finish Plague Pits and River Bones.

But I normally spend this ‘break’ time pottering around my beloved garden, or reading a historical fiction novel by another author (my favourite genre.) Then I come back to my desk refreshed, and race towards the dramatic conclusion. The best two words when writing a novel are always: ‘The End.’

But it’s usually not long before the voices of Lavender and Woods are clamouring in my head, demanding another outing.

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Author Interview Tomorrow!

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Those of you who are regular readers know I’ve been reading and reviewing Karen Charlton’s books, the Detective Lavender mystery series, for some time now. I’m pleased to announce that she has taken a break from writing to do an interview with me. Tomorrow I’ll have that post up, so be sure to come back and take a look.

Author Interview – Simon Petrie

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You might remember that back in August 2017 I told you about a space mystery than I really enjoyed. Now I have a follow up post about the author, Simon Petrie. I asked him about the story, set on one of Saturn’s moons, about his main character, and about his writing process.

Simon, where did you get the inspiration for this story?

I’ve written quite a lot of SF stories set on Titan; Matters Arising is the tenth and also the longest. I’ve always been interested in the mixture of SF and mystery, and I fancied the idea of making one of my Titan stories a mystery. Matters Arising was the result. It started, I suppose, with the image of a person deliberately breaching their own spacesuit, and then I needed to answer for myself the question of why someone might feel compelled to do such a thing. Once I had that answer, the story almost wrote itself.
I’m not always kind to my characters, and there’s a certain satisfaction to be had in giving a character an imaginative death. The idea of someone dying from a ruptured spacesuit is, I suppose, one of SF’s tropes, but such events in fiction usually dwell on the fatal and grotesque effects of exposure to vacuum. A ‘spacesuit containment failure’ on Titan, with its thick, cold, poisonous atmosphere, would be quite a different kind of horrible death, and I wanted to write that.

Where did you get the title of the story and the name – Guerline Scarfe – for your detective?

The title, Matters Arising from the Identification of the Body, suggested itself as the sort of dry, longwinded title that a bureaucrat would use to disguise something unpleasant. In my mind’s eye, it was the title Guerline gave to her report on the incident. And it has at least a double meaning in the context of the story – I’m always a sucker for a double meaning, so once I’d realised that, the title was fixed.
Guerline Scarfe’s name fell together somewhat haphazardly. I collect names – both first names and family names – that seem interesting and somewhat unusual, and try to find intriguing combinations. In this case, I had her surname sorted well before her first name. I actually wrote the first draft with a very different first name for her, but then decided it was too similar to the name of the main character in another Titan story; and since I couldn’t be sure she wouldn’t meet this other character in a new story, I figured I should change her name before it was set in stone.

This story is set in the solar system. If you had a chance, would you travel in space? Would you live in space?

I’d quite like to live in space, in a colony on the Moon or an asteroid or on Titan, but I’m actually not mad keen about travelling through space – even if I passed the physical for spaceflight (which I suspect I wouldn’t), there’s a lot that can go wrong with rocketry and I’m a somewhat anxious traveller. I’m still profoundly envious of those who do get to spend time in space, even if (at the moment) that seems to mean only low Earth orbit.
(And, while still Earthbound, I console myself with the thought that zero-gravity plumbing is not for the faint of heart.)

How long do you think it will be until we send humans off our planet again? What country do you think will do it first?

I’m pretty useless at predictions like this, but I think it’ll be between ten and fifteen years before we see humans on the Moon again. As to who manages it, my three guesses would be India, China, or a corporation like SpaceX.

How long have you been writing? Is this your first book finished?

I’ve been writing fiction seriously for eleven years now, but there had also been spells of writing quite a long way further back than that. Matters Arising isn’t my first book, but it’s the first of my books that’s only one story – I have a couple of SF short story collections out (Rare Unsigned Copy and Difficult Second Album), as well as a novella double (Flight 404 / The Hunt for Red Leicester). All of those are out through Peggy Bright Books, but a lot of my short fiction has appeared in various magazines or websites before that.

What’s been your biggest writing challenge? How did you overcome it or deal with it?

My biggest writing challenge has been finishing a novel, and I haven’t yet overcome that. I’ve written several novellas and lots of short stories, and my written work is getting longer. Matters Arising is my longest story yet, and its follow-up is looking to be longer than that.
Of writing challenges I have met, most of it has been a matter of having confidence in my ability to write, and learning from feedback – whether from my longsuffering editor, Edwina Harvey, or from my colleagues in the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, who provide awesome (constructive) criticism.

What writers do you look to for inspiration?

I suppose for Matters Arising, my main inspirations would be Kim Stanley Robinson, whose ‘Mars’ trilogy pretty much sets the benchmark for solar-system-based SF, and writers like Isaac Asimov and Larry Niven who pioneered the SF/detective subgenre. (I’m really looking forward to Alastair Reynolds’ new SF/detective novel, too, which is due out in a couple of months.) But I’m trying to absorb some of the techniques of Scandinavian crime writers, who I’ve been reading a lot of lately; and other SF writers that have influenced me at one time or another are Douglas Adams (as well as my ‘serious’ stuff, I also write a fair bit of humorous SF, and I think The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a strong influence there), Iain M Banks, Lois McMaster Bujold, and Amy Thompson.

What’s your favorite space movie?

I would’ve been ten or eleven when I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey, which has a perplexing storyline but incredibly realistic space scenes; I enjoyed the original Star Wars; I’m a fan of the first two Alien movies; I was quite impressed by Gravity; and I quite liked The Martian (though I think the book is better than the movie). I don’t think I could pick a favourite out of those.

Will there be more in this series? What are you working on right now?

Yes, there’s definitely more in the ‘Guerline Scarfe’ series, and the next one (which is called A Reappraisal of the Circumstances Resulting in Death) should be out around the middle of 2018. Other than that, there are a couple of Titan short stories I’m trying to finish off, a new ‘Gordon Mamon’ (humorous space-elevator mystery) story, and a novella about human colonisation of an interstellar cloud. There’s no shortage of things to write, it’s just a matter of organising myself …

What would you like readers to take from this story?

That human nature doesn’t change in a different environment, although the consequences might be different.

What advice would you give writers?

Know when to break the rules.
Read widely across different genres, and read deeply in the genre you want to write in.
Write what you want to, not what you think publishers want.
Find a writers’ group, and learn to recognise and accept constructive criticism.
Try to learn from rejection, and don’t get discouraged.

How can readers best stay in touch with you?

I’m pretty backward when it comes to social media, so probably the best way is to use the ‘contact’ page on my WordPress site.

Interview with Anne Montgomery

Today I have another treat – an interview with author Anne Montgomery. Anne is a former reporter turned writer. She has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. Her first TV job came at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter. She finished her on‐camera broadcasting career with a two‐year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery was a freelance and/or staff reporter for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces. Today we’re going to be talking about her book, The Scent of Rain.

32337760I really enjoyed your book. (My review is here.) Where did you get the idea for this book?
The ideas for all of my books come from current events. I am an admitted news junkie and have been reading the newspaper front to back daily for about 40 years. I’ve learned that truth is often far stranger than fiction. Stories about the polygamists in Colorado City are often in the news here in Arizona. I had never heard about the cult until I moved here and was shocked that such a group could exist in the US. In regard to Rose, the 16-year-old protagonist, I am a teacher in a Title I high school in Phoenix. Many of my students come from difficult and disadvantaged backgrounds. I am also a foster mom. I have seen what abuse and neglect can do to children first hand.

What kind of research did you do? Can you describe your writing process?
As a former reporter, I greatly enjoy digging for a story. I read articles about Colorado City and conducted interviews with people who had lived and worked in the community, including Flora Jessop, who escaped twice from the cult and today works with the Child Protection Project: an anti-child abuse group that helps women and girls escape from the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The stories Flora told me were so harrowing that to this day I have not listened to the three-hour recording of our interview session. The images were burned into my brain. I also interviewed Dr. Theodore Tarby, who bravely confronted the cult members, asking them to refrain from marrying and reproducing with their close relatives, after he discovered that the cause of the awful birth defects in the community were the result of incest. Unfortunately, Dr. Tarby was ignored.
I find it impossible to write stories without actually visiting the locations where my characters live, so
I recruited a friend and we drove to Colorado, City. We concocted a story about looking for a place to retire. As we studied the community, children stared at us as if we were monsters. They are told that outsiders are devils. I am not afraid of many things, but I have to admit that I was uncomfortable while doing my research on site and have no desire to go back.
In regard to my writing process, I’m what you call a “pantser”, which is an author who doesn’t have a specific plan or plot line in place. While doing research my characters are fleshed out, but I’m never certain exactly what they will be doing or where they will take me. In fact, my characters often surprise me. This is writing by the seat of your pants. Hence, “pantser”.

Adan and Rose both have difficult family situations. What was your own family like?
I was raised the middle child in a middle-class family in Livingston, New Jersey, not too far from New York City. Both my parents were college graduates – a rarity in the 1960s – who expected their three kids to go to college, as well. I struggled early on with what I would later learn was low-end dyslexia. So, I hated to read and school was a battle. When it came time for college, my older brother bet me that I’d drop out freshman year, because I was too stupid to graduate. Perhaps I should thank him for my later successes in academics, because I was determined not to lose that bet. I was also obese until I was about 14, a condition that embarrassed my family and had me spending a good deal of time without human companionship. However, I was lucky to have the best dog on the planet who wandered the nearby woods and streams with me, so I never felt alone. I believe those early forays into nature provided me with the love of wild areas I still have today.

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The setting is very important to the book. What experience did you have with the desert before the book?

The state of Arizona, where I have lived for almost 30 years, is one of the most wondrous wild areas I have ever explored. We have the incredibly diverse Sonoran Desert, as well as high mountains and canyons and rivers and forests. I have seen much of the state because I’m a rock collector. (It’s true. I have about 400 specimens in my living room alone. Friends know not to ask about them if I’ve had a glass of wine, because I then feel compelled to explain when and where I obtained each one, whether they want to know or not.) Before researching The Scent of Rain, I had not traveled to the Arizona Strip. I was thrilled by the stark beauty of the area. Zion National Park is just a short drive from Colorado City. The thing I enjoyed most about writing the manuscript was incorporating descriptions of the landscape into the story.

Which of the characters in the book can you identify with the most?
Like Rose, I am often enthralled with the beauty of nature. I’m a high school teacher, and to have a student like her would be a delight. I admire her enthusiasm, her determination to find answers to the natural world around her, and her efforts to reconcile the beliefs of the strange community in which she was raised with all the new things she learns about the outside world. I can also identify with Adan. Through some strange twist, I became a foster mom at 55. As I never had any biological children, you can imagine what suddenly having a 15-year-old boy in my home was like. Adan reminds me of my first son, Brandon. I now have three boys who call me mom.

What would you like readers to take away from the book?
Be aware of what’s happening around you. Some characters in The Scent of Rain are kind, well-meaning people, but they don’t acknowledge what’s happening right under their noses. Mistreatment of people, especially children, is something no one should tolerate, and no belief or religion should be a mask for abuse.

Is The Scent of Rain your first book? What are you working on now?

Actually, I have six books, through two are neatly tucked away in a drawer, likely never to see the light of day. Two books are to be soon to be reissued. A Light in the Desert is a soft-thriller involving an assassin who is succumbing to a strange form of mental illness called the Jerusalem Syndrome, a pregnant teenager, and the deadly real-life sabotage of an Amtrak train in the Arizona desert. Nothing But Echoes is historical fiction that deals with the discovery of a fabulous tomb in Northern Arizona that reveals a man interred 900 years ago who doesn’t look like the pueblo people who buried him, and which leads to questions about when Europeans first arrived in the Americas. The Castle, which tells the story of a female National Park ranger who is struggling to come to grips with being raped and the serial rapist who is stalking her, is currently being offered to publishers.

Which authors would you say have influenced your work the most?

That’s a tough question. I’m told I write like a man. More likely, I write like a reporter. We are, after all, story tellers. We are just more succinct and often lacking in flowery prose. So, perhaps reporters have influenced my writing more than authors.

What do you like to do in your spare time? 

I have several hobbies. I am a high school football referee and crew chief. That means I’m the white hat, the official that signals to the press box about what’s happening on the field. I began officiating in 1979 as a way to learn the main team spectator sports. I wanted to be a sportscaster, which was unheard of for a woman in the 1970s, so I decided to become a certified amateur official in football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball, in order to become knowledgeable enough to report on the games. I believed a news director somewhere would appreciate my efforts and hire me. And that’s exactly what happened. I would go on to work for five TV stations. My first on-air job came at WRBL-TV in Columbus, Georgia, and led to positions at WROC-TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP-TV in Phoenix, Arizona, and ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where I anchored the Emmy and ACE award-winning SportsCenter. I finished my on-camera broadcasting career with a two-year stint as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. That I still officiate football surprises me, but I can’t seem to quit. My other hobbies include rock collecting, gardening – which is quite an adventure in the desert – scuba diving, and playing my guitar. I’m also a movie buff.

What’s the best way for readers to stay in touch with you?

I am active on social media: Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and LinkedIn. Readers can find me on Wikipedia and Amazon, and are also welcome to contact me on my website, https://annemontgomerywriter.com/.

Author Interview: Young-Im Lee

I’m very excited to offer you another author interview. This time I’m featuring the author of the historical drama, Forgotten Reflections. Young-Im Lee lives in South Korea and this is her first book. I really enjoyed it and I’m so happy to speak with her.

Young-Im Lee was born in Mokpo, South Korea and relocated to Manila, Philippines at the age of one where she grew up in an international setting. She graduated with a BA in English Language and Literature from Seoul National University and an MA in English Literary Studies from the University of York (UK). She currently resides in Seoul, South Korea.

51t-0avsrNLBook Description

DARE TO DREAM IN THE MIDST OF WAR.

1945. Rice fields seem endless in a quaint farming village of South Korea, yet Iseul and the villagers have been on the verge of starvation for as long as they can remember; the last of their Japanese colonizers have taken every last grain with them. In the newly independent Korea, Iseul dreams of what her future might bring. Yet, war is on the horizon, and the boy she has fallen for is an alleged North Korean communist spy.

Amidst war, Jung-Soo and Iseul embark on a comic journey of self-discovery across the mountainous peninsula, as they are aided by the occasional appearances of long forgotten legendary figures. Music helps them pass the time, as does the radio and the crafty carpentry skills of Iseul who would eventually make history with her handcrafted hanji paper. Unexpected friendships are forged, love burgeons and betrayal taints their elusive dreams.

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What research did you do for your book?

Researching for this book seemed to have no end. I visited one of the many museums here in Seoul and found that much of the relevant information could be found online. I tried to channel this feeling of being overwhelmed into the book where we see Jia, the granddaughter, feeling quite helpless in her own search for the truth of her grandmother’s past. After watching a few more documentaries about the Korean War, I did what I could to focus on letters and accounts of day-to-day occurrences in the lives of the soldiers coming from such a multi-national background.

In particular, I found an account of a Korean woman who remembered how grateful she felt as a young girl when the war had broken out. She explained how, for the first time, people focused on men dying, instead of her being a disgrace for having been born a daughter. As shocking as this statement was, it was somewhat understandable considering the status of women at the time. From this interview, the character “Mi-Jung” came into focus who can be found sharing the same sentiment as this woman from the interview since Mi-Jung is born as a daughter to a single mom who was pitied for having a daughter instead of a son.

article-2299134-006938EF00000258-941_964x639As for the events/plot that transpires in the story, I was particularly taken by the battle of Chosin Reservoir where UN troops were surrounded by over 120,000 Chinese troops who were hiding in the mountains before mounting an attack in a strategic location that trapped UN forces in the Northern Territory. A task force was created to rescue those trapped, though so few survived that those who did were later nicknamed “The Chosin Few.”

While my story is not located in Chosin, I was inspired by this battle that highlighted the mountainous landscape of the Korean Peninsula, the international scale of this war and the heroism displayed by those who risked their lives to save those trapped in by the mountains.

This is a really long, detailed book. How long did it take you to write? Can you describe your writing process?

Yes, it is certainly long! I had been living with my grandmother when the idea first struck and that was over two years ago! While I had written a rough screenplay of this story soon after, I eventually abandoned the project for over a year before finally returning to it, this time opting to write the story in the novel form instead. It took eight months of full-time writing to complete this project.

Writing the screenplay first was helpful since it made me focus on scenes that pushed the plot forward. It made transcribing the story into the novel form somewhat easier, although it took a while to seamlessly integrate the thoughts of each character into prose. I had a notebook dedicated to scribbling my way towards a novel. It was certainly non-linear and possibly the most round-about way of writing, but it somehow resulted in a novel. Honestly, I don’t think I remember it being a “process” at all.

Is this your first book you wrote? What are you working on right now?

Yes, this is my first book. I am currently doing research on post-colonial orientalism. I am grateful for this novel since it inspired a new academic topic of interest. I would love to continue writing fiction, but at the moment, I have been consumed with my research and a part-time job (I teach English here in Korea, which was one major inspiration for the character, Jia).

Part of your book centers around an elderly woman suffering from dementia. Do you have any experience with relatives in nursing homes?

While living with my grandmother, I had visited her sister in the hospice center who was also suffering from some form of dementia. Likewise, my late grandfather showed symptoms while I was living with my grandparents. It was certainly an eye-opening experience and one that was quite scary. Nursing homes have become quite common in Korea and I think I am at that age where I see my parents, aunts, and uncles seriously consider the possibilities of how best to care for our grandparents.

Iseul lives in a tiny village. Her granddaughter lives in a big town. Which one more closely relates to your experience? What are the advantages to where you grew up?

Contrary to what many readers may think, my background is quite far removed from that of Jia’s (the granddaughter). I did not strictly grow up in a city, nor did I grow up in Korea. I actually grew up in a somewhat suburban area in Manila, Philippines which was a cross between a big city and a smaller city. When I first moved to Seoul, I was both enthralled and overwhelmed. At eighteen, I was also living alone in the dormitory with my parents in a different country, which made Seoul seem even more vast. But during the course of my studies in Seoul, I moved to some of the rural areas of Korea for months at a time and found the contrast so shocking! Likewise, my grandfather lives in one of the smallest villages in Mokpo which had always been uncomfortable, to say the least! The toilet was outside and a truck would come and empty it only once a week or so. The house would reek of hay and manure from the barn that was attached to the living space. I was quite shocked to know that people still lived in old-fashioned hanok houses. It was only through research into the tradition of hanok homes was I able to appreciate the structure and utility of these homes that adapted so well to the bitter cold winters and hot summers.

 

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Hanok style house in modern city

Iseul’s granddaughter faces a lot of pressure about her education. What’s the difference between the American education system and the Korean one? 

I grew up in the American-adapted international education system. I had always known about the so-called “horrors” of the Korean education system growing up, but it was never something I experienced first-hand. I now live vicariously through my students who are under the same pressure, and it makes my heart break. On the other hand, what I also see is the resilience of children, though honestly, I don’t think Korean students can imagine it any other way. It is a sobering thought and one that made me want to write about fostering the imagination in students. How else would things change if people can’t imagine a different future?

What do you like to do when you’re not writing? What writers do you admire?

Between my job teaching English and doing research, I feel like the day goes by so quickly!

Honestly, I love knitting! It does take up a lot of time so I’m trying to limit myself J I also enjoy playing the guitar and taking a long stroll around my neighborhood/ nearby Gwanak mountain. I’ve recently joined a writer’s group and it has been so nice to finally meet other aspiring authors.

If I had to pick a few of my favorite novels, it would be Murakami’s “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle,” Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” Towle’s “A Gentleman in Moscow,” Vonnegut’s “Slaughterhouse-Five” and Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.”

 

If a reader wants to keep in touch with what you’re working on, where’s the best place to keep up with your work?

I currently have a facebook page and a website where I post a few blogs every once in a while, including upcoming writing projects and updates about this book. You can reach me through both of these channels.

Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/youngimleeauthor/

Website: youngimleeauthor.wordpress.com


Hope you enjoyed this interview. If you want to read more, Young-Im’s book is available free right now from Kindle Unlimited.

Humorous Mysteries

23014654If you like a little humor with your mysteries, Donna Andrews has got a series for you. Meg Langslow is a blacksmith whose family has a tendency to get involved in stuff that leads to murder. She has discovered a wide array of murder victims over the years, but she keeps her head and always manages to figure out who done it.

I love funny books, so I took a break from my Off the Shelf challenge this month and read two of Andrews’ latest books, Lord of the Wings and Die Like an Eagle. All of them have birds and bird-related puns in the title.

Lord of the Wings revolves around the mythical town of Caerphilly, Virginia where they’ve begun a new Halloween Festival. Things were going pretty smoothly until someone started a strange scavenger hunt. It started at the zoo and ended in a murder. The next book in the series, Die Like an Eagle, centers around Meg’s twins and their first baseball team. The books are #18 & 19 in the series, but you can start anywhere really and give it a go. My favorite is probably We’ll Always Have Parrots which involves a fan convention. It is just hilarious.  Great reads for curling up with a good book.

Writer Wednesday

I wanted to do something fun for today’s post, so I thought I would highlight 5 authors I discovered this year. These are not necessarily first time authors, just authors that are new to me. All the author profiles here were taken from GoodReads.

  1. Selina Siak Chin Yoke – Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke (石清玉) grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends. She always knew that one day, she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009 Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer. Her first novel, The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (The Malayan Series, #1), was published on November 1, 2016 and made an immediate emotional connection with readers. It debuted as an Amazon best-seller in historical fiction, was named by Goodreads as one of the 6 best books of November 2016 and has been compared to the work of Pearl S. Buck and Amy Tan.

  2. Melanie Cellier grew up on a staple diet of books, books and more books. And although she got older she never stopped loving children’s and young adult novels. She always wanted to write one herself but it took three careers and three different continents before she actually managed it. She now feels incredibly fortunate to spend her time writing from her home in Canberra, Australia where they don’t have a beach but they do have kangaroos hopping down the streets. Her staple diet hasn’t changed much, although she’s added choc mint Rooibos tea and Chicken Crimpies to the list. She is currently working on The Four Kingdoms, a series of YA fairy tale retellings.
  3. Karen Charlton writes historical mystery and is also the author of a nonfiction genealogy book, ‘Seeking Our Eagle.’ She has published short stories and numerous articles and reviews in newspapers and magazines. An English graduate and ex-teacher, Karen has led writing workshops and has spoken at a series of literary events across the North of England, where she lives. Karen now writes full-time and is currently working on the third Detective Lavender Mystery for Thomas & Mercer. A stalwart of the village pub quiz and a member of a winning team on the BBC quiz show ‘Eggheads’, Karen also enjoys the theatre, and she won a Yorkshire Tourist Board award for her Murder Mystery Weekends.
  4. Ta-Nehisi Coates is a senior editor for The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues for TheAtlantic.com and the magazine. He is the author of the 2008 memoir The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood. His book Between the World and Me, released in 2015, won the National Book Award for Nonfiction. Coates received the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in 2015. He is a prolific writer, but I read his graphic novel Black Panther.
  5. Unlike so many writers, Susan Crandall did not emerge from the womb with a pen and paper in hand and a fully formed story in her mind. Instead, she was born with an incredible love for books. This must be genetic, because her father and now her son, both hated school, but are somehow addicted to books. For much of her young life, even those exhausting years when her children were young and Susan worked in her previous profession (yes, the rumor is true, she was a dental hygienist) she was an avid reader. Susan has always been fascinated with words – those of you who catch yourself reading the dictionary when you cracked it open to look up mesopelagic you just might have a writer hiding inside you, too. She wrote Whistling Past the Graveyard.

Looking for content!

Are you an author? Would you like to be interviewed and reviewed? Or are you a blogger looking for a little more exposure? My blog is small, but I’d love to grow! Contact me and we’ll see if we can help each other.

I’m looking for solid writers who just need a little more publicity and write in my preferred genres – science, history, historical fiction, mystery/thriller, fantasy or sci fi. Not so interested in romance, MG, contemporary fiction or horror. Let me know! I’d love to have you on here.

For bloggers, I’d love to host just about anyone! As long as you write about books, any aspect of books, it would be fun to host you.

Happy reading!

Author Interview: Brent Jones

fenderHow far must we travel to find our way home?

Today I have something special – my first interview with an actual author! I’m pretty excited! Shenanigans over at Reads and Reels organized this book promotion, but I actually got to read the book and ask the author a few questions.

The book is Fender: A Novel by author Brent Jones. You can get it here from Kindle Unlimited.

The book is about Brennan, a middle-aged guy whose life has been turned upside down when his wife and daughter are killed in an accident. He’s ready to hole up in his house and surrender to the grief, but thanks to his friends, he agrees to go on a road trip, just the guys and his beloved dog, Fender.

It was a change of pace for me, to read a book from a squarely male perspective. The only female characters in here are presented in flashbacks or as bit characters. I could really feel the difference in the way the book worked, but I enjoyed the difference.

I’ve traveled by car a lot in my life, driving to visit relatives, moving, family vacations – so I could really imagine that part of the book. There’s something magical about the open road. It really does feel liberating.

Brent Jones

From bad checks to bathroom graffiti, Brent Jones has always been drawn to writing. He won a national creative writing competition at the age of fourteen, although he can’t recall what the story was about. Seventeen years later, he gave up his freelance career as a social media manager to pursue creative writing full-time. Fender and The Fifteenth of June are his first two novels.

Interview Q & A

1. What inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned in the afterword, my wife and I took a cross-country road trip with our dogs back in 2015. I recently published a blog post with photos and the itinerary from that trip. It was a life-changing experience traveling across America by car, and the road trip in Fender largely follows the same path we took.
I’m sometimes asked why I write contemporary fiction—literary fiction, as some call it. How come I don’t write about vampires or killer robots or contact with Martians? The answer is pretty simple. I think truth is strange enough without needing to invent alternate worlds. And when I come up with ideas for stories, I usually try to take two or more seemingly unrelated real life experiences and find a way to mash them together.
I started with the road trip idea and blended it with experiences I’ve had with my dog, Gibson, who much like the beagle protagonist in my book, is named after a guitar. Gibson has helped me through some difficult times, and I started wondering if there was a way I could combine the two ideas of a vehicular adventure and the comfort of a canine friend.
Both aspects of the story were worth telling, I thought. And so I worked backwards—what circumstances would need to transpire to bring together the therapeutic love a dog with a cross-country road trip? And that’s how Fender was born.
2. Where did you get the idea for Brennan and his close friendship with the guys? Is that based on real life?
I wish it were based on real life. I can’t say I have any close friends from childhood. For that matter, I’m a bit of an introverted loner as an adult. But there is something to being able to connect with people you share a history with. There’s an instant bond there, especially if those shared experiences include elements of overcoming adversity together. For two people to abandon their families and leave town for several weeks just to help out a friend, I figured they must share some pretty deep roots. And I felt that a shared experience of childhood poverty and neglect would be a powerful enough reason to forge such a bond.
3. Fender the dog is central to the story. Tell us a story about your dogs.
Fender, the dog, is largely based off Gibson, who is a pug mix and five-and-a-half years old. But the dog who usually gives us the most stories is Stirling, our four-year-old lab mix. It’s becoming a running (albeit unfunny) joke that whenever we travel with Stirling, we need to map out all the nearby emergency vet clinics.
When driving through California, Stirling got into something at a dog park and ended up ill for the rest of our road trip. He couldn’t hold down water or food after that. Last year we rented a waterfront property for two weeks in Nova Scotia, and Stirling decided to make friends with a porcupine. He needed several quills removed from his face in the middle of the night, and the closest vet was an hour away by car.
He’s a good boy—he comes to see me every morning for a hug! I’ll be sitting at my desk and he’ll walk up beside me, place a paw on my leg, wait for me to turn, then stand upright and wrap both his front paws around my neck. It’s just part of our routine and it happens just like clockwork. He’s a lot more work than Gibson, but he can be a lot more affectionate, too.
4. I loved the author’s note about the road trips you took before writing this book. Is there anywhere you’d like to visit that you haven’t been yet?
There are many places in the world I still hope to visit one day. But for the sake of staying consistent with road trips and the themes in Fender, I’m going to pick a location in the United States. My wife is originally from Atlanta, and we’ve made several drives there from Fort Erie. We recently drove to Washington, DC for a wedding and Miami, Florida for a funeral. Between us, we’ve been just about every state, and we’ve logged an absurd number of hours on the road. But there is one state I’ve always wanted to visit and neither of us have been, and that’s Tennessee. I’d love to drive out to Nashville or Memphis—or both!—for a few days to check out the local music scene and tour the Gibson guitar factory. We’ve driven through parts of the state, but have never stopped.

Contest 🏆 Winner!

51zdhuggq6lWe have a winner! Using random number generator, I plugged in my number of followers and came up with ……

Susandyer1962.

Susan, if you send me your address I will get this in the mail this week. Congrats on winning! I’ll be doing another giveaway next month, so if you didn’t win, stay tuned for your next chance.