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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Interview: Robert Eggleton

I am pleased to welcome the author Robert Eggleton to the blog, talking about his early life, writing and his debut novel Rarity from the Hollow.

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

I’m a retired children’s psychotherapist with over forty years in the field of children’s advocacy. I grew up in an impoverished household in West Virginia, started writing short stories as a child to escape harsh realities, and went to college during the Vietnam War that I protested. I was awarded a Master’s Degree in 1977. During college days I mostly wrote poetry, some of which was published in alternative zines published by hippies and one was published in the West Virginia Student Writer’s Anthology of 1973. After college, a great deal of my nonfiction in the field of child welfare was published – inspection reports on large institutions where kids were locked up and the deficient systems that perpetuated that outrage, research on foster home drift that allowed children to bounce from one home to the next and never finding permanency, statistical reports on child abuse and delinquency and correlates, etc. Most of this work is now archived by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. In 2006, I returned to my first love of writing fiction. Rarity from the Hollow is my debut novel and follows publication of three short stories in magazines. The final edition of this novel was released to Amazon on December 5, 2016.
How did you get inspiration for your book?

In 2002, I accepted a job as a psychotherapist for our local mental health centre. It was the first job of my career that did not include the production of written materials. My need to write started building and I began to write a few poems again. Part of my role at the mental health centre was to facilitate group therapy sessions. One day in 2006, a skinny little girl with stringy brown hair sat a few seats away around the table used for written therapeutic exercises. Instead of disclosing the horrors of her abuse by one of the meanest daddies on Earth, she instead spoke of her hopes and dreams for the future – finding a loving family to protect her. My protagonist was born that day: Lacy Dawn, an empowered victim who takes on the evils of the universe.

What draws you to writing about social issues?

While I’ve read and enjoyed books in most genres, my greatest enjoyment has been from works that have included a literary element, albeit science fiction, romance...as the primary genre. For example, The Color Purple touched me deeply. In addition to writing what I’ve enjoyed reading, frankly, I’m not sure that I could stop social commentary from seeping into what I write, even if my goal would be to produce an escapist young adult story. It somehow slips in thru the side doors, the way that racism was addressed when Harry Potter gave the sock to Dobby. I’ve experienced social consciousness for as long as I can remember. Finally, while I hope to never write anything preachy, I believe that serious social commentary can be enjoyed by employing comedy and satire. Perhaps this is best evidenced by the recent upsurge in popularity of the American television show Saturday Night Live after it began a series of shows filled with parody about Donald Trump. It appears to me that a huge gap has evolved in entertainment between serious and escapist audiences. I hope to play a small role in motivating more readers to enjoy novels that include social commentary.

Tell me about Rarity from the Hollow.

In a nutshell, Rarity from the Hollow begins in tragedy that leads into and amplifies subsequent comedy and satire. It is a story about a most unlikely saviour of the universe, a female protagonist who doesn’t need swords, light sabers, or sex appeal to beat the most powerful being in the universe in business negotiations in order to fulfill her destiny and save her family and friends. The political allegory in the story is much more obvious now that Donald Trump has become a household name. It was not addressed my the vast majority of book reviewers of the Advance Review Copy, the same as very few humans on Earth would have predicted the outcome of the U.S. elections.


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Image: Robert Eggleton
Facing an imminent threat, Universal Management has manipulated the genetics of Lacy Dawn for millennia in an effort to enhance her savior attributes. The present-day-version doesn’t mind saving the universe, but her friends and family come first. After cutting a deal with an android sent to Earth to recruit and train her for the job, following the tragic murder of her best friend, a child sexual abuse victim who plays an annoying and comical ghost most of the story, Lacy Dawn’s parents are cured of their mental health disorders. A team assembled, she heads to a giant shopping mall out-of-state, the center of Universal Governance on planet Shptiludrp (Shop Until You Drop). Tedious Art of the Deal (by Donald Trump) methods are employed by Lacy Dawn to fulfill her mission and to return to Earth before the beginning of high school where she expects to be popular.

Why do you feel it is important to write ‘victimisation to empowerment’ stories?

Many people love “underdog” stories, come-from-behind winners within our competitive and capitalistic structures. I love this type of story, as well. However, I feel that it is very important for victims of child maltreatment to envision a point when the past is the past, and that while they may never forget or forgive the maltreatment, it doesn’t control their futures. I had to find this place myself. I hope that readers of my novel who have experienced childhood victimization to pursue empowerment. 

Can you tell me how your novel aims to help prevent child abuse?

One thing that we haven’t talked about is the correlation between anger outbursts experienced by parents and the infliction of injury, psychological and physical, to children who are otherwise loved dearly. In Rarity form the Hollow, similar to my own childhood, Dwayne, the father of Lacy Dawn, is a war-damaged Vet. Popular in high school, he just wasn’t the same man after returning from the Gulf War. I am hopeful that if read by people with PTSD, night terrors, and anger outbursts, that my novel will encouraged Vets to pursue treatment. While in my story it took ET assistance to cure Dwayne, it was a metaphor for opening oneself up to treatment available by the Veteran’s administrations of many countries. A lot more is known about PTSD and its treatment today than when my father suffered from it in the ‘50s and early ‘60s. A common thread that appears to remain is a “tough man” attitude held by some soldiers about PTSD, as if it can be overcome by sheer will, or because of love for their children or spouses. And, in my opinion, it’s cyclical. The guilt about damage done by disabled Vets, especially to their defenceless children, feeds the disorder and contributes to other correlates of child maltreatment, such as substance abuse.

You’re donating your author proceeds to a child abuse prevention program, is that right?

Yes, half of author proceeds from Rarity from the Hollow have been and will continue to be donated to Children’s Home Society of West Virginia.

Can you tell me a little bit about the program and why it is so important to you?

I worked for this nonprofit agency in the early ‘80s and stand by its good works. It was established in 1893 and now serves over 13,000 children and families each year. The best way to learn about the agency is to visit its site

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Gosh, now you’ve really put me on the spot. I have a ton of favourite books, and the particulars depend on mood and what’s happening in the world. I’ve mentioned The Color Purple. For something on an opposite spectrum, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.


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Image: Robert Eggleton
Where’s your favourite place to write?

Despite having contributed to the U.S. Social Security fund for fifty-two years, I’ve never made much of a salary and now live on a low fixed income. When young, I used to handwrite poems anyplace and everyplace, including public bathroom stalls. I’ve tried taking my laptop to the woods, parks, etc., and it just hasn’t worked for me. Since I don’t have an office in the small house that we bought in the ‘80s, I write on an old PC in my living room. It works okay.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

My most pressing ambition is to get beyond the self-promotion stage of Rarity from the Hollow and to pick back up on the next Lacy Dawn Adventure, Ivy. I’m almost sixty-six years old, a late start for a writer to enter this crazy marketplace. Many of my friends have already passed on, so my ambition is to write something meaningful each day until I die.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Frankly, writing saved my life. I would not have retired from my last job as a children’s psychotherapist if I had not felt compelled to retire in order to write and promote my fiction. After all these years, the job was so emotionally draining, bringing home and processing the pain of maltreated children every day after work, it is doubtful that I would have survived much longer.

What are you currently working on?

I mentioned the next book, Ivy. I thought that it was ready for professional editing a couple of years ago. I was wrong. I’ve learned so much from book reviewers of Rarity from the Hollow that I realize it needs to be better put together. I would love to say that I was working on it, but I’m still promoting my debut novel. Of course, I always have at least one short story in the works. The next submission deadline that I’m working toward meeting is April 15, 2017. Last week, I submitted a poem to a magazine and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be published. Last year, one of my poems won first place in an international competition.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

It took me a while, but I now prefer ebooks over paperbacks. I really didn’t have much choice about switching with some exception. My house is so packed with physical books that it feel life my wife and I live in a library. She refused to donate any books to Goodwill, so we’ve just ran out of space for traditional books. I know wear reading glasses but the font is still so small in many paper books that reading them had become increasingly difficult. I now love ebooks, in part because I can enlarge the font. Plus, I can carry a library with me for when my mood in reading tastes suddenly change.

Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?

I have no experience with self-publishing. Rarity from the Hollow is a traditional small press publication. When I was first exploring options for its original publication, self-publishing was new, expensive, and regarded as the same as vanity publishing. Things have certainly changed in all these respects and I may export that option for Ivy. It seems to have a lot of advantages but I have zero technical skills to do much myself except to contract with one of the companies that have flooded the world of books. I’ve never spent a penny to have my debut novel presented to the world, but I have been responsible for almost all of its promotions. I’m hopeful that Dog Horn Publishing remains alive and well. It’s one of the few traditional small presses left that accept novel length submissions. However, this is a very tough marketplace. I have no hope at my age to be recognized by a traditional Big Five conglomerate publishing house. Those doors have been chained shut for as long as I can remember.

What are you reading at the moment?

I recently finished a debut novel by a prominent Australian psychologist with several nonfiction publications for sale: Hit and Run by Dr. Bob Rich. I loved it but this story certainly would be a tough sell for most readers of mainstream fiction. I then got about half-way finished with the debut novel by a wonderful book blogger, but I had to DNF it. I wanted to love it so much, but the way she treated her own childhood victimization as if it could be told without challenging comfort zones just did not work for me. I’m looking for a comedy, and have almost decided to find my copy of Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins on one of my basement book shelves. It’s a classic 1971 hippie manifesto. But, if you or anybody else has a strong recommendation, I’m in the mood for comedic satire.

For more information about Robert and his work, you can follow him on Twitter. Rarity from the Hollow is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Guest Post: Five Interesting Things about the Bamboo Trilogy by Ann Bennett

Welcome to my stop on the Bamboo Trilogy blog tour! Today I have a guest post from the author, Ann Bennett, to share with you all. If you enjoy reading Ann's post, don't forget to check out the other upcoming stops on the blog tour!

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I’ve written in another post about how researching my father’s experience inspired me to write a story about a prisoner on the Thai-Burma railway. The resulting book, Bamboo Heart, actually started life under another name. It was called The Pomelo Tree in early drafts because a pomelo tree on the edge of a hamlet near Kanchanaburi on the river Kwai is the setting for a momentous scene that is the catalyst for the rest of the story.

Looking for some feedback from readers, I posted my early chapters of The Pomelo Tree on the peer review site, YouWriteOn. (The chapters are still there if you look!). They reached number one in the charts which meant I qualified for a review from a professional editor. She was positive about many aspects of the book, in particular the central character, Tom Ellis, but she thought the name didn’t convey enough about the subject matter of the book. So I began to think about other titles. I remembered that my mother used to refer to the heart condition that many prisoners of war suffered through years of malnutrition as ‘Bamboo Heart.’ That seemed highly appropriate for Tom’s story, linking it to the jungle and the experience of the prisoners, but also conveying a suggestion of strength and strong emotion.

Bamboo Island is the name of a real-life uninhabited island in the Andaman sea near Phi-Phi in Thailand. We have been there on longtail boat trips to skorkel and swim. But the Bamboo Island in my trilogy is actually based on Bangka Island off Sumatra which was occupied by the Japanese during the war. It is where the doomed ship, the Vyner Brooke, went down and where Australian civilian nurses were forced to walk into the sea and shot by Japanese soldiers. Reading about this shocking episode and the true story of the only survivor, Vivian Bullwinkel, sowed the seeds for the plot of Bamboo Island. Some of the scenes set on the island though, in particular the village where Mawar lives, were inspired by the village of Ban Tha Thondo on the tiny island of Koh Yao Noi off Phuket.

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Image: Ann Bennett / Faye Rogers
The backstory of the character of Adam in Bamboo Island, as a soldier posted to the NorthWest Frontier to defend British India from the afghan tribesmen was inspired by another, earlier episode in my father’s life. Not being able to find work in London, he joined the West Kent regiment as a Private in 1932 and after a year or so was posted out to India. At some point he joined the Royal Scots Fusiliers and was posted to a remote place on the Frontier called Loralai. He would to speak about the Karakoram mountains and Balochistan, names which sounded impossibly romantic to me as a young child. Reading about the harsh, isolated life soldiers suffered in that landscape was the inspiration for Adam’s story.

Bamboo Road is a path that runs between clumps of bamboo along the river Kwai from the river crossing at Tamarkan towards Chungkai camp. It exists only in my imagination and is the setting for many scenes in the book I named after it. Nowadays there are one or two roads and settlements along that side of the river. I have taken one or two liberties with the geography of the area for the sake of the story. For example Chungkai camp is further away from the town than I have set it, and the cave temples that Sirinya visits, although within walking distance from the town, are in a different location.

In writing Bamboo Road, I wanted to write about how the building of the railway and the Japanese occupation affected the local people. It was partly inspired by the story of Boon Pong, a vegetable merchant who had a contract with the Japanese to supply the prisoner of war camps around Kanchanaburi. He was a member of the Thai underground, the ‘V’ Organisation, committed to resisting the Japanese occupation and helping prisoners. He and his family took great risks, smuggling medicines and equipment into the camp, cashing IOUs for the prisoners. The character of Chalong, Sirinya’s uncle is inspired by Boon Pong, but the rest of the family and their story are entirely fictional. Incidentally, Chalong is a fairly unusual Thai name, but is also the name of a beautiful temple in Phuket. Sirinya is the name of a young tour guide we met in Chiang Mai. When I was looking for names for my central character I remembered thinking Sirinya was a beautiful Thai name.

About Ann Bennett

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Image: Ann Bennett / Faye Rogers
Ann Bennett was born and raised in a small village in Northamptonshire, UK. She read Law at Cambridge and qualified and practised as a solicitor. During a career break, to have children, she started to write. Her father had been a prisoner of war on the Thailand– Burma Railway and the idea for a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy came from researching his wartime experiences. The research took her back to Asia, a place she loves and has returned to many times. She lives in Surrey with her husband and three sons and works in London as a lawyer.

To find out more about Ann and her work, visit her website or her blog, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Will you be reading the trilogy? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Spotlight & Giveaway (CLOSED): World Odyssey by Lance & James Morcan

Today I'm pleased to welcome father-son writing duo Lance and James Morcan back to the blog. Following on from the posts and giveaways I did for their previous novels White Spirit and Into the Americas, I now have another spotlight on their latest - World Odyssey. And don't worry - there's another giveaway at the end of the post!

Sheltered English missionary Susannah Drake gets more than she bargained for when she agrees to journey to the South Pacific to spread God’s Word.


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Image: Lance and James Morcan
Set in the nineteenth century, WORLD ODYSSEY (The World Duology, #1) follows the fortunes of three young travellers as each embarks on an epic journey. Their dramatic adventures span sixteen years and see them engage with Native American Indians, Barbary Coast pirates, Aborigines, Maoris and Pacific Islanders as they travel around the world - from America to Africa, from England to the Canary Islands, to Australia, New Zealand and Samoa.

Ambitious American adventurer Nathan Johnson's journey begins when he runs away to sea to escape a violent father. After surviving a shipwreck and enslavement by one of the indigenous tribes of America's north-west, his stocks rise and he becomes a successful trader. When Nathan decides to visit Fiji to trade muskets to the natives, he doesn't know it but his fortunes are about to change again.


Sheltered English missionary Susannah Drake's journey begins after she agrees to accompany her clergyman father to Fiji to help him run a mission station there. They endure a nightmare voyage they're lucky to survive. When Susannah finds herself sexually attracted to a young crewmember, she is forced to choose between her forbidden desires and the life her father has mapped out for her.
Irrepressible Cockney Jack Halliday's journey begins when he steals hemp from an unscrupulous employer who owes him outstanding wages. For this, he's sentenced to seven years' hard labour in the British penal colony of New South Wales. Jack escapes to Fiji only to be tracked down by a bounty hunter employed by the British Government to round up escaped convicts.


After travelling thousands of miles and experiencing the best and worst that life can offer, these three disparate individuals eventually end up in the remote archipelago of Fiji, in the South Pacific, where their lives intersect.


Their story continues in Fiji, book two in The World Duology.

World Odyssey is available to buy now.

Lance and James have very kindly offered an ecopy of the book for me to give away to one lucky reader. Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
  1. Giveaway closes on 3rd April 2017 at 11.59pm (GMT).
  2. The prize consists of one ecopy of World Odyssey by Lance and James Morcan.
  3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be sent to the winner by the authors, NOT The Writing Greyhound.
  4. This giveaway is open internationally.
  5. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended.
  6. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended.
  7. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced.
Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 27 March 2017

Interview: Zee Monodee

Today I'm pleased to welcome Zee Monodee to the blog, to talk about her life, her writing and her latest release Before the Morning.

Hi, Zee, welcome to the blog!

Well, hello! It's a pleasure to be here today; thanks for inviting me!

So tell me a little about yourself.

I better tell you, I am the queen of long-winded, so to spare you that, I will try to be brief and sharp. *grin*

I am an island girl, born and raised in Mauritius (cue the geography moment – almost in the middle of the Indian Ocean, lol). In my early thirties, married, mum of a teenage lad. Uni graduate in communications science, but totally ditched the corporate world in favour of writing and editing (which is my ‘day’ job outside of writing). I guess what defines me the most, though, is that I am a 2x breast cancer survivor; I actually started writing because of my first diagnosis at the age of 22. Penning my first novel then kept me grounded through the long months of therapy after that health bomb.

As for my background – like I mentioned above, my university studies put me further into the field of arts and humanities, but I graduated school with a solid foundation in economics and languages, as in both English and French and their respective literature fields.


How did you first become interested in writing?

I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t interested in writing. I used to pen a daily diary ever since I was 10, and lately, when I fell back on those booklets my mum had still kept at her place, well, let’s just say reading them reminded me a lot of YA angst and impulse-driven thoughts.

I was also always going over the word count assigned for essays at school, so much so that my 6th-grade primary teacher would stop at my desk every time he gave an essay and ask me, “Are you writing up a novel, girl?” We can say his words were prophetic!

This continued in higher classes, where my essays resembled the synopsis for a Mills & Boon romance – said essays, after being corrected by the teacher, would make the rounds among my classmates and friends as ‘the’ reading material of the moment; they all wanted to see what new romance I had come up with.

So yeah, I have to say, writing had always been in my blood – that’s what it’s felt like, anyway.


What draws you to writing romantic suspense?

I love the element of danger in it. The stakes are so much higher than in a regular romance. The hero and heroine don’t just have to end up together, but there are massive odds to be beaten and these are not things that can be resolved through talk or discussions or therapy, even. No, we’re talking guns, hits, assassination attempts, unscrupulous thugs, evil masterminds, sociopaths out to make you their toy of the moment, among so many other threats. How do they come of all this, and how to do it never mind unscathed, but still alive, and with the hope of seeing tomorrow?

Gotta say I love that adrenaline rush, so yeah, I suppose it is the thrill junkie in me that brings me to this genre.


Tell me about Before the Morning.

I’d actually never planned to write this book! After writing the first book (Walking The Edge), I’d ended up with all this amazing trove of espionage information that I didn’t get to use in there. Around the same time, on a Goodreads group I belong to, a challenge was starting – write a friends-to-lovers story, but with a dangerous hero component in there.

I immediately knew that, if I did take up this challenge, my story would have not a dangerous hero, but a dangerous heroine! Then the friends to lovers aspect came into play... and I had Rayne Cheltham and Ash Gilfoy. Best friends from childhood through their young adult days, except that Rayne had fallen in love with him along the way and knew he was the only man for her. But Ash, who never suspected a thing, ends up confiding in her that he is never going to marry. All of Rayne’s hopes go up in smoke then, and knowing that she will never have Ash as she wishes to have him in her life, she reckons it is better she forgets about him. In the process, she turns her life over completely... and becomes the very clandestine and secretive top assassin code-named Kali inside the Corpus agency.

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Image: Zee Monodee 
Seventeen years pass, and suddenly, Ash crosses her path once more. Having him step foot into her life again tells her she can no longer continue to be ruthless killer Kali, and she decides to retire from that life.

But how does someone who’s only ever known to be a skilful manipulator come back to a seemingly ‘normal’ life? This is what Rayne struggles with, along with the fact that there’s a rogue faction inside the agency who don’t want her out of the game and wish for her to join their ranks. What is she to do? And how does she now protect Ash, and her family, too, as no one has a clue she’s been an assassin all these years …

Those were the starting points of the book, and it was an immense thrill ride through various European locations like London, Nice, Prague, Arles, and Hastings.


How do you get inspiration?


I love playing the ‘what if…’ game. *grin* That’s the only way I can explain it, because I have no clue where the seed of a plot or character comes from (it seems to pop in from out of nowhere!) but once the seed is there, I engage into the ‘what if’ game and set it all rolling.

What’s your writing process?

I don’t actually have one, in that writing is a very erratic occurrence for me. I write when I can, usually between editing projects – I did mention that’s my day job, and coupled with my cancer-recovery health state, well, let’s just say I have less physical stamina than I would’ve liked, while my brain is most probably firing on all synapses at any given point. When I find a free block of time, I just sit down and write, probably to the exclusion of everything else (thank God the blokes in my life know how to order takeout or boil an egg with some ramen noodles to survive when I’m in the throes of writing!).

But I think this also counts a lot in my ‘process’ – I ‘daydream’ all the scenes in my books (again, that brain firing up while the body refuses to follow? Usually in that line of thought). So when I go to write, I usually know what is going to happen and how, and I just let my fingers take over the keyboard then.


What’s the hardest thing about writing?

When you reach a block. When the story, or the characters, is just not working as you wish it to or need it to. I hate stopping things halfway or before they are finished, and when I block on a story, I know I have to drop that project for a while until the solution presents itself to me God knows when. I just cannot force it then, and this is the hardest part, knowing I can’t do anything about it until my brain decides it’s finally time to unlock that puzzle piece in the big jigsaw.


What do you love most about writing?

Getting to lose myself in other worlds! I mean, in the Corpus Agency series alone, I’ve gotten to be an amnesiac woman searching for her lost memory in Marseilles, France (Walking The Edge). Then I was a skilled assassin giving it all up for love, and in the process, parachuted into her crazy Russian-Irish family all while there is a bridezilla type wedding being planned (Before The Morning). I again became a woman on the run, and this time, a medical doctor with a very shady past and an even shadier mind that conjures up torture methods the way other women invent new cupcake flavours (Let Mercy Come).

In another of my books, I’ve been a world-renowned supermodel battling anorexia (Whisk Me Up, Book 1 in my Havisham Park series). In yet another one, I slip into the persona of an immortal woman who is the daughter of Greek god Dionysos and a maenad, and she has the power to control a crowd’s thoughts (The Eternelles series that I co-write with my bestie, Natalie G. Owens).

I’m just a home-based editor and housewife/mum whose biggest thrill in life is managing to nab dream shoes in sales at the ALDO shop! Writing is my escape, my thrill-seeking avenue, and would you believe it, it is all entirely legal and consequence-free!


Which authors inspire you?

Sophie Kinsella and Jill Mansell, for always managing to write a truly engaging story that takes you through twists and turns you never see coming.

Martina Cole, for using very dark and dismal themes as the backdrop for her stories, but then painting such exquisite characters that you cannot help but root for them even if they are mafia gangsters!

And Kristan Higgins for taking the apparently simple and spinning it into something magical. Read her Blue Heron series and you’ll see what I mean here.


Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Write, write, write. Then write some more. And some more. And some more…

You get the drift, LOL. Practice doesn’t make perfect, per se, but it does get you as close as can be to that perfection level. And the more you write, the more you come to discover yourself as a writer. What makes you tick. What always seems to make its way into your writing. What theme keeps recurring, never mind that you said this was a totally different genre… Write to discover who you are as a writer before you even think of publishing, let alone promotion and marketing. It pays to know who you are and what you and your books are about before you step out into the big bad world of publishing.


What’s your all-time favourite book?

The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella. I can read that on repeat and never tire of it!

Can I squeeze in that Kristan Higgins’ Blue Heron series is a very close Number Two here?


Where’s your favourite place to write?

At my desk. I tend to phase out everything around me when I’m writing and get to the ‘zone’, so the comfiest place for me is my chair in front of my desk with the very big screen right in front of me.

But really, I can work anywhere if I really have to. For example, I have written a 52K book on my Blackberry-type phone in the hospital waiting room while awaiting my daily session of radiotherapy after my second cancer diagnosis, so I know it is possible. But given the chance? My desk, most definitely!


What are your ambitions for your writing career?

To entertain readers. To make them smile and give that happy sigh at the end of any one of my books because we all got to the happy ending. To take them on a journey they wouldn’t have been able to take with anyone else, and thus have them equate my name with an unforgettable trip into life and romance.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t want to make best-seller lists one day, but honestly, having readers and getting to hear from them is the highlight of this job for me, and I hope I can continue to make that happen, and in even greater numbers.


If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Hmm... Remember that uni degree? I was employed, back in the day, in corporate. I’d started out as an administrative assistant, and within a year, had worked my way up to the coordinator of an after-sales department. That was over ten years ago, so who knows where I would’ve been today if I’d continued to climb the corporate ladder?

But yeah, I would’ve been a corporate girl, probably hoping to make it to the executive level by now in PR or the communications department of a big firm or conglomerate-type.


What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

Well, I used to be a totally undomestic goddess. Still am, in certain aspects – thank God my husband knows how to wield a vacuum cleaner as if you left it to me, we’d have a whole house of dust bunnies in residence!

But the kitchen is another story. I couldn’t cook to save my life back when I got married and set up house. I learned on the job – mistakes like, you actually have to cut the onions before frying them! (I kid you not! It’s happened!). I read cookbooks. Then ‘graduated’ to YouTube videos. Experimented (threw quite a few burned pans and baking sheets here). But lo and behold, one day, I actually managed to cook. And bake. So much so that I now love cooking and baking, and feel ‘off’ if I haven’t baked a cake in more than 2 weeks.

So in short, my interests outside of writing and reading are cooking and baking. *Grin*


What are you currently working on?

I am halfway through book three in my sweet contemporary small-town series The Daimsbury Chronicles. This story features a breast cancer heroine, so is very close to my heart.

What are you reading at the moment?

Brandwashed by Martin Lindstrom. It’s about the tactics and strategies of big companies to get consumers addicted to brands and keep them buying and consuming. Eye-opening stuff, to be honest!

To find out more about Zee and her books, visit her website.

Thanks again for having me over today! It’s been a true joy to answer all those thought-provoking questions.

From Mauritius with love,

Zee

Friday, 10 March 2017

Interview: Allison Floyd

Today I have author Allison Floyd stopping by the blog for a quick chat. Enjoy!

Firstly, tell me a little about yourself and your background.

I was born and raised in New England and graduated from Fairfield University with a B.A in English. I’ve been writing creatively for as long as I can remember, but for a long time, it was just for my own creative outlet. Professionally I’ve written for online and print publications about healthcare and gender equality, worked as an editorial assistant, and most recently my debut novel A Wider Universe was released in November 2016.

How did you first become interested in writing? 

I remember telling people as early as seven or eight that when I grew up I wanted to be an author. I think what prompted my seven-year-old self to make that declaration was reading Jane Yolen books, but the inclination to write and create stories has always been there for me.

Tell me about A Wider Universe. 

A Wider Universe tells the story of a family: an estranged father and daughter, Gene and Chelsea Shepherd. Their relationship is strained because Chelsea has prioritised her deadbeat boyfriend over her dying mother, so the two are travelling on very separate paths at the beginning of the novel. The story follows Gene, who is living alone, as he begins to get strange visits from a twenty-something religious solicitor and the unexpected developments that come from those visits. It also follows Chelsea’s journey as she realises how toxic her relationship has become and as she forges a friendship with a handsome but much older college professor. Gene’s path and Chelsea’s path seem unrelated but they are much more intertwined than you’d expect.

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Image: Allison Floyd
How do you get inspiration? 

My senior year at Fairfield I was taking a British Literature Survey course and we were reading Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, which is pretty lofty and not the most engaging read. However, during a class discussion of the subject matter I was fascinated by the concept of a perfect society in which there was religious freedom but proselytising was forbidden. I wondered how different our society would be if fewer groups pushed so hard to try and make others adopt their beliefs. That inspired a story about someone who wants to be utterly left alone but is being hounded by someone determined to spread their ideologies.

What’s your writing process? 

My method is essentially to sit down and write when I’m feeling inspired. Unfortunately, I’m not a writer who can accomplish very much creatively when I’ve lost my muse. On days I can’t muster creativity, I edit. I’m not an outliner and I don’t really do drafts so to speak. Instead, I periodically will go through the whole of what I’ve written and make adjustments and additions.

What’s the hardest thing about writing? 

Coming up with truly unique ideas. Once I have an idea it’s easier for the writing to follow and the storytelling will start to flow. But I can’t just decide “Today I’m going to write” because unless I’m smacked in the face with an idea or inspiration, I’m not going to get very far.

What do you love most about writing? 

I love the when every aspect of your story is perfectly clear in your mind. You know everything about you characters; you know their favourite food is, what kind of music they listen to. You can see the setting in your mind’s eye. It’s exciting to see a whole world that you’ve created in your head and then be able to share it with others.


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Image: Allison Floyd
Which authors inspire you? 

I love classic literature so writers like Charlotte Brontë and John Steinbeck have influenced my writing. I grew up reading Judy Blume so I will always have a real love for her. As for contemporary writers, I’m a big fan of Jennifer Weiner. She’s really good at creating very different, well-developed characters, getting inside their heads, and then making them relatable.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 

The best tip I was ever given was if you have an idea, go for it. If you’ve got a story to tell, commit to telling it. As soon as the inspiration strikes you, write it down, get it on paper and see where it leads you.

What’s your all-time favourite book? 

Jane Eyre.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing? 

If I were to imagine myself in a completely unrelated career I would want to do something related to the arts, like museum curating. I think supporting arts and creativity is really important.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading? 

I love movies. I’m a huge fan of the classics, as well as lesser-known old movies that are hidden gems. I really enjoy watching old favourites and discovering great movies. I also am interested in and active about working towards gender equality.

What are you currently working on? 

I’m in the early stages of working on my second novel. It’s about a twenty-something woman who was adopted learning she has a biological half-sibling halfway across the world.

What are you reading at the moment? 

I’ve been rereading Macbeth in small doses a lot lately, but the books on my to-read list for my next library trip are Mara Wilson’s memoir Where Am I Now? and Carrie Fisher’s memoir Wishful Drinking.

To find out more about Allison and her work, visit her website or find her on Facebook and Twitter. A Wider Universe is available to buy now.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Character Spotlight: Taylor Nicks from Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents by Lee Cockburn

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Flesh of Innocents by Lee Cockburn. I have a spotlight on the character of Taylor Nicks from the book to share with you, written by the author. Enjoy!

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Taylor Nicks is a very astute woman, she is confident, very bright and intelligent and has been around the block a few times in life. She is worldly wise and has a broad understanding of life and the people in it and she is very streetwise and can handle herself. She is tall, athletic, and very aesthetically pleasing the eye, both men and women tend to watch as she walks by, she dresses well and takes pride in her appearance. She has long dark wavy hair, brown eyes, tanned skin, about 5’11” in height, and draws attention naturally and has an aura, a real presence when she walks into a room. She is very good at her job, very competent, efficient and really cares about getting the right results, putting bad people behind bars and protecting others.

Taylor’s life has two separate entities, at her work she is in control and nothing phases her, she just gets the job done, with efficiency and respect and the hard work from her team. She guides them to strive to become efficient and they all work together as essential members of the team.

Then there is Taylor’s love life, she is not egotistical, she has loved and lost before, book three will explain this, and there is a genuine fear of loving and losing again, but she does fall for Kay. Unfortunately the inner Taylor cannot help herself, if she feels a genuine attraction for someone, she may falter and be tempted, the thrill of a passionate encounter, a situation that sometimes has thrust upon her without going looking for it, is sometimes too much to turn down, the choice swayed by intimate desire and temptation.

Taylor fears commitment, which is simply self-preservation. She finds herself attracted to several people at once and has real feelings for them. She is not looking for self-gratification, she does enjoy loving women and gets attention with her natural beauty, and she is actually a very nice, funny and decent person, and people are drawn to her, but when offers of more than friendship are thrust upon her, she finds it hard to resist.

Taylor is a genuine person, very good at her job, but a little misunderstood and unhinged in her private life, but deep down a decent spud.

About Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents

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Image: Lee Cockburn / Authoright UK PR
Detective Sergeant Taylor Nicks is back and in charge of tracking down a sadistic vigilante, with a penchant for torturing paedophiles, in this unsettling crime thriller by a real-life police sergeant.

High-powered businessmen are turning up tortured around the city of Edinburgh with one specific thing in common — a sinister double life involving paedophilia. Leaving his ‘victims’ in a disturbing state, the individual responsible calls the police and lays bare the evidence of their targets’ twisted misdemeanours to discover, along with a special memento of their own troubled past — a chilling calling card. Once again heading the investigation team is Detective Sergeant Taylor Nicks, along with her partner Detective Constable Marcus Black, who are tasked not only with tracking the perpetrator down but also dealing with the unusual scenario of having to arrest the victims for their own barbarous crimes. But with the wounded piling up the predator’s thirst for revenge intensifies and soon Nicks discovers that she is no longer chasing down a sinister attacker but a deadly serial killer.

Vivid, dark and deeply unsettling, Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents is the perfect read for serious crime and police thriller fans.

Porcelain: Flesh of Innocents is available to buy now.

About Lee Cockburn

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Image: Lee Cockburn / Authoright UK PR
Lee Cockburn has worked for Police Scotland for sixteen years including as a police sergeant in Edinburgh for seven years and also as a public order officer. Before joining the force, she played for Scotland Women’s rugby team for fifteen years, earning over eighty caps for the Scottish ladies and British Lionesses teams. She also swam competitively for twelve years, successfully representing Edinburgh at the age of fifteen in the youth Olympics in Denmark in 1984. Lee lives in Edinburgh with her civil partner Emily and their two young sons Jamie and Harry. Her first book Devil’s Demise was published by Clink Street Publishing in November 2014.

Follow Lee Cockburn on Twitter.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!