Saturday 31 December 2016

2016: My Year in Review

I think most of us can agree that, on the whole, 2016 has been an awful year. I know that for me personally, it's been pretty terrible, to say the least. However, some great things have also happened this year. Maybe not enough to counteract the bad things, but enough to build that silver lining.

When you've had a bad year, it can be difficult to see the good things that have also happened alongside the bad. That's why, after years like this, it's a good idea to sit down and take stock of the events of the past year. Reflect on what you have achieved, even small accomplishments, and remember the glimmers of good.

2016 has been a year full of ups and downs for me - but how has it been for you?

Here are just a few of the best bits of my year:
  • I built further on my personal successes of 2015
  • I've had three different jobs this year and learned new skills from each of them
  • I finally got a job related to my degree, doing what I want to do in the industry I want to work in
  • I passed my driving test
  • I bought my first car
  • I learned an awful lot about myself
  • I went on holiday with some of my best friends for the first time
  • I got to see a good friend who I hadn't seen for several years
  • I spent some time with someone I should have met up with much sooner
  • I revisited some of my favourite parts of Italy and explored new ones
  • I met several incredible new people who are now firmly a part of my life
  • I had a new relationship
  • I discovered a new hobby and started geocaching
  • I completed my 2016 Goodreads reading challenge
  • I bought an oboe
  • I discovered which people mean the most to me
  • I managed to grow my blog further
  • I explored new parts of the country
A photo posted by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

  • I got to see both of my favourite bands live in one year
  • I've been to numerous shows, events and gigs
  • I took part in my fourth gishwhes and attended a gishers meet-up in London
  • I went on holiday on a canal boat with my family
A photo posted by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

See - no matter what bad things happened, it's never going to have been a completely bad year!

Now, as another year ends and a new one begins, it's time to look ahead to the future and focus on 2017. Happy New Year!

Take a moment to remember some of the best bits of your year. Then, why not share them in the comments below? I'd love to hear them!

Reading Round-Up: Nov/Dec 2016

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

Well, I don't know about you, but I can't believe that it's the end of another year already!

Friday 30 December 2016

My Top 10 Books of 2016

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

As we've come to the end of the year, it's the perfect time to do a round-up of all the books I've read and enjoyed during 2016. According to my reading challenge stats on Goodreads, I've read a grand total of 51 books this year, though I'm hoping to make it to 52 before the year is out! As ever, it's been an eclectic mix, ranging from children's to romance to thrillers to non-fiction, but I've managed to come up with a shortlist comprised of my top ten books of the year.

Thursday 22 December 2016

Poetry Block: Patchwork Poetry by Mel Finefrock

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

Thanks to the overwhelmingly positive response to the first edition of Poetry Block, today I'm pleased to bring you the second of the series.

This time I'm featuring the poet Mel Finefrock, who is here to share with us one of the poems from her anthology Patchwork Poetry as well as her thoughts and opinions on some of the common misconceptions about poetry.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Interview: Robert Uttaro

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

Today, I have an interview with the author Robert Uttaro, about his writing and how his work as a rape crisis counsellor has influenced his work.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Why I Write Psychological Fiction by Tam May

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

Authors get asked all the time what genre they write in. It’s sort of the be-all and end-all of questions, along with “Where do you get your ideas?” and “Do you write about what you know?”

I tell people that I write psychological fiction.

But what is psychological fiction?

Monday 19 December 2016

Book Review: Cairn, A Dragon Memoir by Rebecca Ferrell Porter

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

Cairn A Dragon Memoir by Rebecca Ferrell Porter book cover

AD* | What do murderous whales, an orphaned fawn, and tattooed dragons have to do with the Northern Lights? Everything.

Troika never knew life in the lair. Orphaned the night of his hatching, he trudges through the world painfully unaware of what it truly means to be a dragon. Then the voice invades his dreams, and he knows what must be done. Ignoring Aurora is unthinkable, but Troika has already fulfilled his destiny, and he has no reason to risk his life for dragons he barely remembers. Still, nobody denies an Elemental, and certainly not a dragon of the Sapphire clan. But is she calling him home to die, or will he expose the brutal killer before he becomes the next murder victim?

Saturday 17 December 2016

Interview: Michael Michaud

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

On the blog today, crime author Michael Michaud stops by for a chat about his latest novella The Introvert and how he became a writer.

Thursday 15 December 2016

Book Review: Tinsel Town, Zak & Jen's Astronomical Adventures by Natalie Page and Chris Rivers Nuttall

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

Tinsel Town by Natalie Page and Chris Rivers Nuttall book cover
AD* | Zak flew to Jen's planet and giggled with glee, he was so excited for what they might see...

Best friends Zak and Jen are off on a Christmas adventure with their special umbrellas. This time, the pair fly to a new planet, but where is everybody? Enjoy the magic as Zak and Jen make some new festive friends and discover how important it is to make the most of every day.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Interview: Jeanne Burrows-Johnson

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

Today, the author Jeanne Burrows-Johnson has stopped by the blog for a nice long chat about everything bookish. So grab a drink, make sure you're sitting comfortably, and read on!

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

I was born in California and raised in Oregon. As a child, I studied Scottish Highland Dancing and theatre arts. In high school, I was active in the performing arts and worked as an assistant to the drama instructor in my senior year. After a couple of years as a performer in the Portland, Oregon, arts community, I moved to Hawai`i where I helped run Highland Games. In addition to teaching performing arts classes, I became a member of the British Association of Teachers of Dancing, Highland Division, and served as the coordinator of volunteer actors for the Honolulu Police Department’s final phase of recruit training for a short while. When I returned to college, I obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from the University of Hawai`i with Distinction and was accepted for membership in Phi Beta Kappa. I subsequently became a teaching assistant in the University’s World Civilisation and a member of Phi Alpha Theta.

Throughout my years of working in the performing arts, I produced print, audio, and sometimes visual program and event promotional materials. When my husband John (a naval officer) was transferred to Newport, Rhode Island, I began working as a freelance writer and promotional consultant. After a short return to Hawai`i, John accepted a final assignment in Phoenix, while I moved both our home and my business to Tucson, Arizona. In 2012 I served as artistic director and a co-author of the print and audio anthology Under Sonoran Skies, Prose and Poetry From the High Desert, which was recognised by Southwest Books of the Year as one of the year’s top 50 picks. Since that time, I have built upon the prologue to Prospect For Murder which appeared in USS. While slowly seeking a literary agent and publisher, I have completed three books in the Natalie Seachrist mystery series. I am a member of Arizona Mystery Writers and Sisters in Crime.

How did you first become interested in writing?

As with many writers, my love of writing lies in my love of reading. Equally significant was my enrolment in what today would be called “advanced placement” classes in English and Social Studies during high school. In those courses, I was required to spend part of my days in creative writing exercises, which I came to anticipate with great joy. Since I also participated in community and high school theatre programs, I was regularly exposed to and inspired by dramatists such as William Shakespeare, Edward Albee, and Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière.

What draws you to writing mysteries?

Mysterious people and events are key elements in most of the books I read and many of the movies I watch. In recent years I’ve been disappointed in the violence of many of the thrillers and police procedurals that dominate the overall mystery genre. At the same time, I have found many works in the sub-genre of “cosies” lacking in substance and detail. Eventually, I decided to dip my quill into the realm of modern mysteries that I would enjoy reading myself. I knew that I would include numerous historical and multicultural references, plus meaningful relationships that could be enriched throughout the Natalie Seachrist series. I hope that my readers will feel I have accomplished my own goals. In my second book, Murder on Mokulua Drive, the protagonist has moved into a serious relationship with Keoni Hewitt as they enter life in an ocean-side cottage. In the third, Murders of Conveyance, the couple participates in a scavenger hunt across the island of O`ahu, while exploring two deaths separated by sixty years. In the fourth, Yen for Murder (which I’m now completing), Keoni revisits an unsolved case from his career with the Honolulu Police Department.

Tell me about Prospect for Murder.

Set in the sensory-rich environs of Hawai`i, Prospect for Murder offers a variety of readers and listeners a mystery filled with multicultural and historical references. This is the debut print, audio, and ebook in a continuing series. In it, journalist Natalie Seachrist and Miss Una (her silent but fleet-footed feline companion) explore the inexplicable death of Natalie’s grandniece. Spurred by evocative visions and the cautionary help of retired homicide detective Keoni Hewitt, the protagonist moves to the Honolulu foothills apartment where she envisioned Ariel’s body draped over a vintage Mustang. There she discovers the fascinating Shànghăi origins of the elderly Wong Sisters who own the complex…and more than a little discord between the family and staff. Will Natalie be able to solve the puzzle of the girl’s death before the police close their investigation without an arrest? Or has she put herself in the way of a murderer who’s willing to kill again to hide their secret? To hear the audio version of the Prologue to this mystery, please visit my website.

How do you get inspiration?

I realise many authors consciously select the settings for their work. In my case, since the majority of my academic life and many of my professional activities have taken place in Hawai`i, there was no question of where I would centre my mystery series. Additionally, part of the inspiration for the first book came from an unusual dream I had that occurred in the type and location of the apartment building I have used for Natalie Seachrist’s exploration of her grandniece’s death. As to inspiration in general, I find it everywhere—visits with friends and strangers; books, television, movies, the Internet; on shopping trips; in obituaries, as well as news stories. Whenever I have an idea for an article, blog, book, etc., I open a file and input my ideas. I then date and name it and place it in an appropriate folder.

Prospect for Murder by Jeanne Burrows-Johnson book graphics

What’s your writing process?

Accompanied by Miss Satin (a lovely black and white cat), much of my writing is simply done at my computer - morning, noon, or night - overlooking a sago palm and a paloverde tree in my bricked courtyard. Often my best writing occurs late at night, seated in a recliner while applying my pen to the backside of old printouts. Concurrently, I may be watching whodunit television shows which provide exotic details of mayhem, death, and autopsies. In terms of the elements of my writing, I usually write my blogs and book chapters consecutively. While I work from a rough outline, I must confess that most of my work is simply written as I feel inspired. Nevertheless, there are a few organisational techniques and materials I employ.

  • I keep comprehensive folders of each book’s research. If the potential for reusing the material is limited, it remains in that book’s general folder. But, since much of the information on Hawai`i is likely to prove useful in the future, it may be moved to a Natalie Seachrist series research folder
  • Once I have written a chapter, I use a spreadsheet program to record details of time frame, characters, and the main points of action
  • I write chapter summaries, sometimes right after completing the writing. But more often, when I’m shifting material from one chapter to another due to errors I’ve caught, or to harmonise the length of them. This is the basis for writing an extensive book summary, and subsequently shorter summaries that will be used in numerous ways
  • I keep a file with images and descriptions of elements I wish to see included in each book’s cover art and audio CDs. It’s interesting to compare early ideas with the final art

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

For me, the most difficult aspect of writing is filtering, prioritising and addressing feedback from colleagues and proofreaders. The key is to contemplate the taste of my target market of well-educated, history and multi-culture-loving readers who enjoy an unfolding cast of characters, unusual food, and detailed description. In short, I have to consider whether the feedback I receive is pertinent to the international audience I am seeking. Sometimes how a person expresses their response to a work in progress is not as important as the individual kernels of the content of their remarks. For instance, because some readers are not interested in menus, I am going to use my website as a place for readers to find recipes, rather than embed them in the books. And, knowing that readers may or may not wish to explore the specialised and non-English vocabulary I use, I have placed a short description for pronouncing Hawaiian words, as well as a detailed glossary, at the back of each book.

What do you love most about writing?

Writing allows me to weave snippets from my own life experiences into aspects of the many chapters of my education…hopefully yielding stories that may delight, haunt, or inspire a readership that may not otherwise partake of them.

Which authors inspire you?

I have no single favourite book. I am fond of: the melodious sonnets of Shakespeare; the deviousness of Agatha Christie; the complexities of classics from James Lee Burcke, Richard North Patterson, Scott Turow, and Irving Wallace; newer works by historically-oriented authors like Sarah R. Shaber; the inspirational thoughts of Maya Angelou and Wayne Dyer; and, of course, the surprising work of members of my writers’ salon.

Jeanne Burrows-Johnson author photo

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Study and write unceasingly. Many people do not realise they can audit continuing education and college courses, which means that they don’t have the pressure of fulfilling course requirements for credit. As to the writing…YOU CAN ALWAYS HIRE AN EDITOR! WHAT YOU MUST DO IS TO CAPTURE YOUR CREATIVE THOUGHTS AS THEY ARISE! In short, don’t let your ideas go unrecorded. That means keeping a notebook near you whenever possible, including on your bedside table. When you reach a point of non-inspiration, turn your attention to the nuts and bolts of your projects and your future as an author. Consider writing a summary of each project in advance of completing it. Have you written descriptions of each character and the physical elements of each scene? And what about you? Do you have a strong bio and resume? Have you considered how you will structure your author’s website? Finally, what about those hardcopy and electronic files and folders that may have confusing names and overlapping contents? Putting a date in their names can alleviate the stress of the sorting and disposing process! 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I would be very pleased to see the next three Natalie Seachrist Novels published as a trilogy. And, of course, it would be lovely to find my protagonist’s adventures presented in movies for the small if not the large screen.

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

I’ve been a writer for decades, but usually, my work has focused on polishing the work of others and structuring promotional materials for executives and their profit and non-profit organisations. If I weren’t creating my own works, I’d be exploring the ever-expanding shelves of others’ publications.

What are you currently working on?

I’m nearing the seventy-five per cent mark in Yen For Murder. For the most part, I’ve completed researching Japanese Buddhist sects and the offerings and operations of international auction houses. I’m now steering Natalie, Keoni, Miss Una and HPD Lieutenant John Dias and other expanded characters through the final phases of determining who murdered a Buddhist priestess while stealing a priceless golden statue of the Buddha from a temple in the hills of Honolulu.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

Definitely traditional books - preferably hardcover, with margins wide enough to facilitate comfortable reading.

Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Having worked with both methods of bringing fiction and non-fiction to the public, I remain neutral on this issue. Would I like to work with a large publishing house? Yes, most definitely! But I am competing in a publishing world crowded with unsophisticated writers and publishers focused on their bottom line financially. Success, now more than ever before, rests on sheer luck…

What are you reading at the moment?

Recently I’ve been perusing books I’ve won in drawings at meetings of Arizona Mystery Writers and the Tucson chapter of Sisters in Crime. As usual, most fall into the categories of police procedurals and thrillers, which I don’t find so thrilling. But I’ve just started John Connolly’s The Lovers, and am enjoying the elegance of his use of language and the flow of his character studies.

Where can my readers go to find out more about you and your work?

I invite those seeking more information about my work and the Natalie Seachrist mysteries to visit my author website. Prospect for Murder is available to buy now (paid link; commission earned).

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

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Spotlight: White Spirit by Lance and James Morcan

Last Updated: 17 May 2024

After escaping from Australia’s notorious Moreton Bay Penal Settlement, Irish convict John Graham finds refuge with the Kabi, a tribe of Aborigines who eventually accept him as one of their own. Attempts to recapture Graham are orchestrated by a variety of contrasting characters working for the all-pervasive British Empire. They include Moreton Bay's tyrannical, opium-addicted commandant Lord Cheetham, the dashing yet warlike Lieutenant Hogan, native tracker Barega and the penal settlement's captain, Tom Marsden.

Monday 12 December 2016

Book Review: A Christmas Surprise by Emily Murdoch

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

A Christmas Surprise by Emily Murdoch banner

AD* | Every year for thirty years Lord Robert, the Viscount of Marchwood, throws a Christmas Ball. But this year the Marchwood Christmas Ball holds extra importance. 

His daughter, Lady Audrey, has just turned eighteen, and it is time for her to be introduced into society. It is Audrey’s first, best, and potentially only chance of securing a husband. Especially seeing as there are rumours that the Marchwood money is running dry. But headstrong Lady Audrey is not sure she wants a husband. Ever since her mother died she has been left to her own devices. Though she is very close to her father, it was often the servants she turned to for companionship, particularly Thomas, who, five years older than her, was always the person she depended on for conversation. She is not ready to leave everything she knows, and the thought of abandoning her father breaks her heart. She is determined that only someone truly special will take her away from her home.

But with the ball centred around a masquerade theme, everyone is in disguise. And a handsome stranger threatens to steal Audrey’s heart. Could he hold the key to her heart?

And when she unmasks him will it be a good, or bad, Christmas Surprise?

Saturday 10 December 2016

Interview: Emily Murdoch

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

This Christmas, I'm participating in the #WYChristmasReadathon (check out the badge in the sidebar!) and I will also be taking part in the blog tour for Emily Murdoch's festive novella A Christmas Surprise (paid link; commission earned). Don't miss my review of the book, coming soon!

To start getting us all in the Christmas spirit, Emily has kindly agreed to answer a few questions.

"Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells..." Still too early?

Friday 9 December 2016

How Being A Sword and Shield Fighter Influenced My Work by Christine Talley

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

I’m Christine Talley, also known as Clotilda Warhammer. I was a sword and shield fighter for nine years and I’m the author of a romance/science fiction novel, The Girl in the Bird: Romance and Alien Power in the Current Middle Ages. 

Thursday 8 December 2016

Book Review: Beloved Sacrifice by Lorraine Carey

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

Beloved Sacrifice by Lorraine Carey book cover

AD* | A dark family secret is about to unleash itself. An old gypsy curse was cast long ago and is about to rear its ugly head when Faith Bennett, a descendant from the D’Amici family, learns she is to give birth to the seventh daughter in the family. Faith’s child will be born with a heightened sixth sense and regarded as the ‘enlightened one’. A vengeful tribe of the Romani Cult has been waiting hundreds of years for this event. Diabolical plans have been made that include kidnapping the child and attempted murder.

Danger lies at every turn as this young mother-to-be finds herself holding the key to a power she never knew lay deep within her. Unseen forces take root as she embarks on a perilous journey of deceit and entrapment when an unknown enemy emerges while trying to save her marriage, her life and that of her child. Faith will be forced to perform a dangerous ritual on sacred grounds. This Paranormal tale will take you from the small town of Pacentro, Italy, hidden deep in the Apennine Mountains in the early 1900s to modern-day, Orange County, California, with its racy lifestyle. In this tale of betrayal and sacrifice, curses know no boundaries.

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Interview: Morland Matthews

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

Today I have a very interesting interview with travel writer Morland Matthews to share with you. Morland and his wife travelled across Japan and Taiwan last year. His new book, Taiwan and Japan In Ten Days: Don't Forget the Kit Kats, documents their experiences, with a particular focus on what it was like to travel to these countries as people of colour.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Writing from a Place of Grief by John Sibley Williams

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

Though my poetry often varies in structure, setting, and narrative style, I cannot help but write about the themes that have haunted me since childhood. Love. Family. Grief. Emotional distance. Perhaps all authors, regardless of genre, are in some sense trying to better know their demons, their ghosts, all while exploring and perhaps even celebrating the fear that caused them. In my case, I’ve always been enthralled by the contrast of love and mortality, how the more we love the more we have to lose, and how different people react to highly charged emotional situations.

Monday 5 December 2016

Extract: Gazore! by Will Hallewell

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

Gazore by Will Hallewell book blog tour graphic

Today I have an extract from Will Hallewell's new children's book, Gazore!, to share with you. Read on for the extract and don't forget to enter the giveaway at the end of the post!

Book Review: Thin Air by Michelle Paver

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

Thin Air by Michelle Paver book cover

AD* | In 1935, young medic Stephen Pearce travels to India to join an expedition with his brother, Kits. The elite team of five will climb Kangchenjunga, the world's third-highest mountain and one of mountaineering's biggest killers. No one has scaled it before, and they are, quite literally, following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time - the 1907 Lyell Expedition.

Five men lost their lives back then, overcome by the atrocious weather, misfortune and 'mountain sickness' at such high altitudes. Lyell became a classic British hero when he published his memoir, Bloody, But Unbowed, which regaled his heroism in the face of extreme odds. It is this book that will guide this new group to get to the very top.

As the team prepare for the epic climb, Pearce's unease about the expedition deepens. The only other survivor of the 1907 expedition, Charles Tennant, warns him off. He hints at dark things ahead and tells Pearce that, while five men lost their lives on the mountain, only four were laid to rest.

But Pearce is determined to go ahead and complete something that he has dreamed of his entire life. As they get higher and higher, and the oxygen levels drop, he starts to see dark things out of the corners of his eyes. As macabre mementoes of the earlier climbers turn up on the trail, Stephen starts to suspect that Charles Lyell's account of the tragedy was perhaps not the full story...

Friday 2 December 2016

Interview: Jennifer Samson

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

The lovely Jennifer Samson has dropped into The Writing Greyhound today for a chat about her writing and her latest book Sin City!

Thursday 1 December 2016

Book Review: The Potion Diaries & Royal Tour by Amy Alward

Last Updated: 16 May 2024

The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward book cover

It's two book reviews for the price of one today, as I share my thoughts on both The Potion Diaries and Royal Tour by Amy Alward. Keep on reading for the reviews!