Monday 30 January 2017

Book Review: White Lies and Wishes by Cathy Bramley

Last Updated: 28 June 2021

White Lies and Wishes by Cathy Bramley book blog tour graphic

AD* | What happens when what you wish for is only half the story...?

Flirtatious, straight-talking Jo Gold says she’s got no time for love; she’s determined to save her family’s failing footwear business.

New mother Sarah Hudson has cut short her maternity leave to return to work. She says she’ll do whatever it takes to make partner at the accountancy firm.

Bored, over-eating housewife Carrie Radley says she just wants to shift the pounds – she’d love to finally wear a bikini in public.

The unlikely trio meets by chance one winter’s day, and in a moment of ‘Carpe Diem’ madness, embark on a mission to make their wishes come true by September.

Easy. At least it would be if they hadn’t been just the teensiest bit stingy with the truth…

With hidden issues, hidden talents, and hidden demons to overcome, new friends Jo, Carrie and Sarah must admit to what they really, really want, if they are ever to get their happy endings.

Saturday 28 January 2017

Guest Post & Giveaway (CLOSED): Ethnicity's Place in Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan

Pigeon-Blood Red is an interracial crime novel but it is, first and foremost, a crime novel. At its centre is the theft of a priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace. That theft sets in motion the novel's action and, together with the hunt to find the necklace, it pushes the action forward. The crime also brings together the novel's disparate characters, each of whom contributes something different to the story, but the ethnicity of the characters is incidental to the plot. In other words, with minor exceptions, a reader would not know whether a given character was white or black if the character weren't described as such. On this latter point, permit me a slight digression. 

When an author doesn't point out a character's ethnicity, the widely accepted default position is that the character is white. I haven't done a scientific study but I think this statement is true. Therefore, even where race or ethnicity is an issue in a novel, the author expects his readers to assume that all of the characters are white unless the writer says a particular character is black or describes him or her as such. This default position is a little trickier to handle where the novel's setting is a place where blacks predominate, such as Africa or certain countries in the Caribbean like Jamaica. In those cases, authors do often specifically point out when a character is white to distinguish that character from the predominant group. My novel takes place in Chicago and Honolulu, so I have adhered to the default position by directly pointing out when a character is black or by indicating it by describing the colour of the character's skin.

The above digression aside, the point of this piece was to explore ways of addressing two questions that arise when writing a crime novel in which some of the main characters are black (or are of some other non-white ethnicity), but in which their ethnicity is not central to the story, as is true in my novel. The first question is how the novel should be marketed. The description of Pigeon-Blood Red on the novel's back cover is completely silent as to the ethnicity of the characters, because their ethnicity is incidental to the story. Here is that description:

"After an unfaithful husband and his lover try to double-cross a loan shark, they endanger the lives of the man's unsuspecting wife and an old flame who comes to her rescue. Pursued by a "killer with a conscience," the wife and her newly found protector must decide what to do with a stolen ruby necklace worth millions. And their pursuer must decide what to do with them: murder them as ordered - although one of them saved his life - or refuse and risk the life of the woman he loves."

The unfaithful husband and his lover are both black, as are the unsuspecting wife and the old flame, while the loan shark and the killer with a conscience are white. Race is irrelevant to these characters as they react to the theft of the necklace and as they interact with each other. Therefore, pointing out their race in the description of the novel adds nothing. This is not to say that race might not have been relevant to a different set of characters I might have imagined. It could have, just not in this novel. But wait for the sequel!

The second question is whether a realistic interracial crime novel can be written where race is merely incidental to the story. My answer is yes because Pigeon-Blood Red is that novel. That said, I do in fact mention race in the novel, but only a few times and then only tangentially. Addressing it, if only incidentally, was a bow to reality. Regrettably, at this time and place in our history, it is very difficult to ignore race completely. Perhaps it will not always be so.

About Pigeon-Blood Red


For underworld enforcer Richard "Rico" Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss's priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime. 

As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

About Ed Duncan


Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland and is at work on the second instalment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy.

For more information about Ed and his work, visit his website or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter or Goodreads.


If you think Pigeon-Blood Red sounds interesting, then you're in luck, as I've kindly been given a copy to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, please use the Rafflecopter widget below. Please note, this is a US only giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
  1. Giveaway closes on 5th February 2017 at 11.59pm (GMT).
  2. The prize consists of one paperback or Kindle copy (winner's choice) of Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed Duncan.
  3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be sent to the winner by the promoter, NOT The Writing Greyhound.
  4. This giveaway is open to US residents only.
  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.
Pigeon-Blood Red is available to buy now.

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

Friday 27 January 2017

Interview: Faye Hall

Last Updated: 17 January 2022

Today I am super pleased to be able to bring you an interview with historical romance author Faye Hall, ahead of the release of her latest novel, Deceit and Devotion.

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

My name is Faye Hall and I’m a published author of steamy historical romantic suspense stories set in the beautiful coastal towns of 19th Century Australia. I currently have six titles available from Beachwalk Press and Red Sage Publishing.

How did you first become interested in writing? 

I’ve written stories ever since I can remember. I got really dedicated, though, towards the end of High School when my then English teacher told me I would never amount to a decent writer. That gave me the drive to want to prove him wrong.

What draws you to writing romance? 

I love happily ever afters. But more so I love putting the characters’ lives through turmoil and knowing that no matter what I put them through they will always end up with the love of their life. To me, that’s something very important and not something often allowed in people’s real lives.

Why did you decide to write historical fiction? 

I love history. A few years back, I did my own family’s history and how they came to Australia. It made me wonder about the struggles these families must have gone through together and how they were lucky enough to have a love to survive it all.

Tell me about Deceit and Devotion. 

My newest release Deceit and Devotion is a complex tale of a young half-caste aboriginal man, Jarrah, who is hired to seduce a white man’s wife. In turn, the wife, Emily, hires Jarrah to spy on her husband and find his connection to her father’s missing black opal collection. The relationship that develops between Jarrah and Emily is a very controversial one and was very taboo in the 19th century.

Do you find it difficult to write about race, as it can be such a sensitive topic? 

Yes! I find it very hard to write about race as there is so much tension and controversy surrounding the racial past of Australia.

How do you get inspiration? 

My husband is always my greatest inspiration and he is always letting me rebound ideas off him and he often gives me ideas for new stories.

What’s your writing process? 

It’s very scattered. I have a large family so writing happens when and if I can. I’ve also got very used to writing with constant interruptions.

What’s the hardest thing about writing? 

Usually, the beginning is the hardest for me to write. I never quite know where to start. More often than not, by the time I’ve written the ending, I need to go back and rewrite the first few chapters to tie everything in.

What do you love most about writing? 

I love creating the characters with all their different personalities. That would have to be my favourite part by far.

Which authors inspire you? 

Love Amanda Quick! She has always been my greatest inspiration.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers? 

Never give up and learn to take criticism. Don’t take too much to heart and just keep writing if that’s what you love.

What’s your all-time favourite book? 

To Kill a Mockingbird.

What are your ambitions for your writing career? 

I would love to have multiple best sellers.

What are you currently working on? 

A book called Heart of Stone – a story about an Australian slave trader who becomes entangled with an Irish slave.

To find out more about Faye and her work, visit her website or find her on Facebook

Have you read any of Faye's books? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Guest Post: Writing A Cause Driven Series by D.J. Williams

I stood on the shores of the Zambezi River as a spark for a story pierced my soul. After three weeks of travelling across the country, witnessing the reality of those forgotten by the world, and facing a major change in my career, I knew that one day I'd write about this place. Little did I know that it would be years before I found the courage to write my first novel, The Disillusioned. I was so afraid of failing to capture the story that I wrote the novel without telling anyone. When it was finished, I reached out to a friend in the TV industry and her response encouraged me to step out in faith and publish.

I share this with you because those days on the Zambezi defined my passion as a storyteller.

What I discovered throughout the writing process, was that using my experiences of travelling to the poorest places in the world fuelled my drive to create the Guardian novels, a series filled with mystery, suspense, and adventure. All of those were aspects of the story, but from the first novel the reality of the fight against human trafficking was an underlying thread throughout. It's one reason why I've defined this series as cause-driven novels. My hope is that readers will be entertained, but will also be inspired to make a difference in the world when they flip that last page.

Writing the second novel, Waking Lazarus, was challenging to continue in the cause-driven storytelling style. To capture this story in a unique way, the novel spans nearly a century as readers are taken back to the 1920s and then return to the present day on a global adventure. It also pushes readers further into the world of child slavery, poverty, and the darkness of secrets. I'm humbled that the Guardian novels, and the cause-driven storytelling style, have garnered the attention of Hollywood's elite.

"The Disillusioned is a fast-paced mystery... you won't put it down until you've unlocked the secrets and lies to find the truth." 

- Judith McCreary, Co-Executive Producer, Law & Order: SVU, Criminal Minds, & CSI.

"Waking Lazarus is a captivating visual story with a colourful narrative. Once I started reading, it was hard to put down." 

- Peter Anderson, Oscar Winner, Cinematographer.

I'm writing my third novel, The Auctioneer, and experimenting with ways to continue in telling stories that raise awareness for causes and issues around the world. It's like writing layers, where the story that draws readers in leads to a deeper place that travels the road between fiction and reality. My hope is that others who are passionate about storytelling will embrace this same approach and will write books that not only entertain, but also challenge readers beyond the last page.

About Waking Lazarus


Jake Harris’ life hasn’t turned out the way he planned. Battling his addictions, and the shattered pieces of his family, he is hired to ghostwrite a memoir. From the 1920’s story of a controversial evangelist, to the present day mystery of a former District Attorney, everything changes when his search for the truth leads to an atrocity hidden from history. With a past he can’t remember, he begins to discover that he is not the person he believed himself to be. Rather, he is a threat to a secret society that has remained in the shadows for nearly a century. Jake is drawn deep inside a world he never knew existed that brings him closer to his own extraordinary destiny.

About D.J. Williams


Currently based out of Los Angeles, Williams continues to add to his producing and directing credits of more than 350 episodes of broadcast TV syndicated worldwide by developing new projects for television, film and print.

For more information, visit his website. Waking Lazarus is available to buy now.

What do you think about the concept of cause-driven books? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday 24 January 2017

Interview: Jeffrey H. Konis

This morning, author Jeffrey H. Konis is stopping by the blog for a chat about his life, his writing, and the release of his new semi-biographical book.

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

I'm a married father of two boys, with a joint J.D./MBA degree. After practising law for many years, I went back to school to get my master's degree in education and became a high school social studies teacher (the primary, though not sole reason was because I would never see my children grow up had I remained an attorney). I lived in NYC for about half of my adult life; I am now back where I grew up, about 50 miles north-west of NYC, near my parents.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I first got into writing when I would write my own birthday, father's day, and other occasion cards for my family. Everyone, including people who would not compliment me so freely, thought I was a good writer. As I enjoyed writing so much, I decided to believe, delusionally or otherwise, that maybe they were right. This is only my second book, however. The first, From Courtroom to Classroom: Making a Case for Good Teaching, was published in 2008 and offers a late-career changer's perspective on teaching adolescents.

Tell me about your book.

The book is about the lost opportunity to ask my grandmother (actually, my dad's aunt) about my real grandparents who had perished just before and during the Holocaust. I had lived with her for over two years and, like my dad, had never asked her questions about the past. My father is an only child and she was the last person on earth who could have told me so much about my dad's background. This book is a chronicle of my time with my Grandma Ola and an imagining of the stories she might have shared had I only took the time to ask her the questions.

What do you hope readers take away from your book?

I hope that readers take away that - as I write in the book - the time we have with the elderly among us does not include forever, that we need to spend time with our older relatives and talk to them, listen to what they have to say. Such conversations will serve to provide some insight into how you got to be who you are today.

What’s your writing process?

My writing process entails sitting in my living room and writing longhand in a journal from Japan with the most beautiful paper - yes, I am quite tactile. I later will type up sections on the computer, editing along the way. I will then print out the pages and work on them, again, longhand; then repeat the process.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

The hardest thing about writing is isolating yourself from your family and friends for long periods of time but you have to do this. You must be alone with your thoughts, I believe, to adequately articulate them on paper.

What do you love most about writing?

The freedom to express myself in the most intimate fashion. When I write, at the end of the day, I am simply having a conversation with myself; the process, to me, represents an endeavour to understand most deeply who I am.

Which authors inspire you?

The incredible J.M. Coetzee who had the unimaginable audacity to write as Dostoevsky his Master of St. Petersburg; Hemingway, whose writing puts you right in the scenes he describes in his writing, and Fitzgerald: "So he waited, listening for a moment to the tuning-fork that had been struck upon a star;" who writes like this? Just beautiful - I had quoted this fragment along with the next few lines, from Gatsby, to my wife on our first New Year's Eve. Just as we were about to share our first kiss, she started crying!

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Details, details, details - and honesty in your work. I think the more honest you are with yourself, the more interesting readers will find you.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

The Brothers Karamazov. The writing, the story and the ideas combined into one piece of work is simply remarkable.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

They are modest, to say the least, as I am first and foremost a school teacher who practices law on the side. I came to writing rather late in life. I do wish, at times, that I had made a greater effort pursuing it as a potential career in my younger days.

Do you prefer reading e-books or traditional books?

Traditional books - I need to examine the cover, feel the paper.

Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?

I prefer self-publishing because of the fact that the author owns the rights to his works. There was a traditional publisher who was interested in my first book and the first thing they told me was that they would likely change the title of the book. That title had come to me in such a moment of clarity and inspiration and was just perfect given the substance of the book. I then realised I would lose complete control over the book. This is something I don't think I could ever do.

What are you reading at the moment?

I am in the middle of reading City of Dreams, a 400-year history of immigrant New York City. Fascinating. Next up is Jonathan Safran Foer's latest novel, Here I Am.

To find out more about the author, follow him on Facebook or Goodreads. The Conversations We Never Had is available to buy now.

What conversation do you wish you'd had the chance to have? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday 21 January 2017

Wing Jones Photo Tour

Wing Jones is the much anticipated debut novel from Katherine Webber, publishing 5th January 2017 in the UK. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants…

Katherine Webber was born in Southern California but has lived in Atlanta, Hawaii, Hong Kong and now in London. For several years she worked at the reading charity BookTrust, where she worked on projects such as The Letterbox Club which delivers parcels of books to children in care, and YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention. You can find her on Twitter - @kwebberwrites.

Throughout January, over 40 bloggers will be participating in the #WJphototour – a photo blog tour documenting Katherine’s path to publishing her debut novel. From childhood memories that inspired her writing to her time living in Atlanta and Asia that influenced the book to authors she’s met over the years right up to receiving her first finished copy of the book, follow along to see Katherine’s author life unfold! Keep an eye on the hashtag to see the latest photos!


This post is one of the more personal, and serious, posts. 

The week my US and UK book deal was announced, a childhood friend of mine lost her life in a drunk driving accident. Julia was the passenger in a car that was hit by a teenage drunk driver. I was devastated by the tragic news - I had only just seen Julia a few months before at a friend’s wedding. She’s the one pictured with me in the black and white striped dress. 

In the picture above, I’m with her sister and my friend Courtney, both who had run track and cross country with me in high school. I know this is a bit of a heavy post for a photo blog, but a drunk driving accident is central to the plot of WING JONES, and having this happen to someone I knew in real life hit hard. It also influenced later edits to make sure I handled the subject matter with sensitivity and respect, especially dealing with the victim’s families. 

To remember and honour Julia’s life, her family started I Keep Dancing, an organisation dedicated to providing resources, support, and opportunities for others going through grief and hardship. WING JONES is now forever linked to Julia - and as I celebrate the launch of the book, I’d also like to celebrate her amazing life and memory. You can find more information on I Keep Dancing here.

Wing Jones is available to buy now.

Friday 20 January 2017

Interview: John Murray and Abby Jones

I am very pleased to welcome John Murray and Abby Jones to the blog to talk about their new book Code Name: Papa, the thriller/biography of John's life. Read on to find out all about the pair and the extraordinary tale that inspired the book.

Welcome to the blog! John - tell me about yourself.

I was a fairly ordinary kid. I got average grades in school, first became a police officer and then an enlisted soldier during the War in Vietnam. I’ve always had very strong feelings about helping people, my country and the world. I met two friends in boot camp who immediately felt like my brothers - which they were for the rest of their lives. One of them had a very powerful father in New York, the original Papa. I was chosen by Papa to take over his position before he died. As your readers will see in the book, beyond that time, I never had a normal life. In the book, your readers will see the many sacrifices my team and I made on behalf of world safety.

How did you first become interested in writing?

Abby: I’m the working writer in the group. This is my fifth book and I write for magazines as well. John is the storyteller - and what a story he has to tell of his amazing life! But, this book would not have been possible without the encouragement from John’s wife and my long-time friend, Sharon, who finally convinced John that his story needed to be told. Sadly, along with many family members and friends, we lost Sharon this summer to a rare form of cancer. It’s still very hard to believe that she’s gone and we all miss her so much.

Tell me about the book.

Abby: The book is getting great reviews and we are truly happy to hear from our readers. The book quickly reviews John’s (Papa’s) early life, then moves on to his association with a secretive international group and their work on behalf of world order with the blessings of their countries (mostly in Europe, plus Canada and the US). In 43 chapters, Papa talks about their training and many of their missions. The book is truly a wild ride… and all true. Only names and some places have been changed to protect the families of those involved (most of whom are now gone). One of the aspects that our readers seem to enjoy is the fact that the book also looks at the personal lives of several agents, including Papa. Their home lives were almost non-existent at times and their marriages and families suffered, as the agents did, by the requirements of their jobs. 

What inspired you to write it?

John: I used to wake up from nightmares in a panic with night sweats. Finally, Sharon, who I married just a few years ago, encouraged me to tell her my story. She was fascinated and suggested she take notes and we then put it away. However, she soon felt that the story was one that people needed to know. Transparency is important in today’s world. We contacted Sharon’s friend, Abby, to advise us. She agreed to work with us and we worked hard for eighteen months to put my story together. It was Abby’s goal to never loose my distinct voice or any of the facts in the book through the long process. Luckily she was able to accomplish that.

Is the story fictional or based on real events?

All true, except the names and a few of the places. Readers in the UK will likely be fascinated with the chapter,“Out of This World” about what thousands in southern England thought was a UFO sighting. Now, decades later, the facts are laid plain.

How do you plan for the book to educate readers?

John: There is so much secrecy in all governments. This book takes a look at some interesting and often gruesome things that take place to fix bad situations and sometimes eliminate bad people both within and outside of governments.

What’s your writing process and where’s your favourite place to write?

Abby: Luckily, where and how you choose to write is very adaptable. I write at all times of the day and sometimes night at my home in California. I have two desks and move back and forth between them. However, part of the book was written when I lived in New York. I’ve also written parts of this story in a quiet library and in my home garden. So, like Papa in our book, the writing of Code Name: Papa moved around a lot, too!

What do you love most about writing?

Abby: There is real satisfaction in putting a story together to truly convey the intended meaning. I never really know how the words will tumble out and if they need to be adjusted. This is especially true with this book because it’s non-fiction. John, Sharon and I worked very closely - in different states via the Internet, phone, and messaging - and truly made this book a team effort. By the way, John and I have never met... yet. Perhaps we will finally meet sometime soon because we are now working on book two of this planned trilogy. Stay tuned...

Which authors inspire you and what’s your all-time favourite book?

John: My favourite book is Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak. I enjoy reading many types of fiction and non-fiction. 

Abby: My favourite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. As a child, I accidently picked up Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca at the library, thinking I was bringing home Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. It was a fascinating read for my young, na├»ve mind. I believe she truly inspired me to write.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Abby: Yes - Go for it and write what inspires you! However, don’t turn down boring projects offered to you when you first start, because each project helps you develop your focus and skills. You don’t really need a backup plan, just a second source of income to help support your passion for writing. Oh, and you’re never too young or too old to become a writer. 

John: Amen to all of that!

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Abby: I’m blessed to be able at this point, after slightly more than twenty years, to be able to write what I like - both books and magazine articles. For new writers, I would suggest picking two to five topics that interest you the most and work on developing those through research and your writing skills. However, your career may surprise you with detours and even complete changes in direction. I started by writing about food and home trends. I still love that, but my career has moved far away from both.

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

John: Well, I’m an accidental writer who is now working on book two about my life with a likely third one planned. I’d hoped to be doing a lot more fishing at this point. And I love spending time with my children and grandchildren. 

Abby: I have a true entrepreneurial spirit, so I’d likely be creating a style and design website and running with that.

What are you currently working on?

John: Our second book is about the many interesting, intelligent women who passed through my life and career. Their crucial roles and sacrifices need to be honoured - and that is our goal with this book. Younger readers may not fully understand that in covert operations, female agents were almost unheard of in the 1960s and ‘70s. They were trailblazers for women in many related fields, including police work. I think our readers will find these brave women fascinating!

Self-publishing or traditional publishing?

Abby: I prefer traditional publishing, but I’m very excited about what is happening online, which is allowing many more voices to be readily heard. This is my third book that is offered in traditional format and as an e-book. The others were all traditional. I’ve always worked with traditional publishers before. But, for security reasons, this book needed a lot of control over John’s privacy, Sharon’s and mine, as well. (We are using pseudonyms.) Subsequently, we used Simon & Schuster’s self-publishing imprint for book one. But, self-publishing requires wearing a lot of extra hats and much more time.

What are you reading at the moment?

Abby: I always have two or three books I’m reading at a time. Currently, they are On the Shoulder of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (basketball great and fascinating writer), and Exodus: A Memoir by Deborah Feldman. I’ve got about twenty others I’ll be so excited to read, but writing takes up a lot of my reading time! 

John: I’ve been so involved with book two recently that - sadly - I’m too busy to read right now. I look forward to sitting down with a good read soon.

Code Name: Papa is available to buy now.

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

Tuesday 17 January 2017

Interview: Tam May

Last Updated: 1 January 2021

Today I'm pleased to welcome the lovely Tam May back to the blog for a chat about her latest release, Gnarled Bones and Other Stories. 

How did you first become interested in writing?

When I was 14, my sister’s best friend was a writer and introduced her to journaling and fiction writing. We’re twins, so naturally, I always wanted to do what my sister was doing. I bought two notebooks and started writing in a journal and a children’s story inspired by The Wizard of Oz. That started me on my writing journey.

Tell me about your latest book.

It’s called Gnarled Bones and Other Stories and it’s a collection of five short stories in which strange and spooky events affect the characters’ lives in ways they never could have anticipated. In one story, for example, during a mailroom secretary and her friends’ fun day at the circus, childhood nostalgia becomes mingled with brutal fear. Another story was featured on Whimsy Gardener’s Storytime With Whimsey and is the eerie imprint that an art exhibit leaves on a lonely woman’s psyche one quiet Saturday afternoon.

The title story paints a picture of the complicated bond between an orphaned brother and sister by weaving journal entries and first-person narrative. The stories are really about how our past shadows our present and future.

How do you get inspiration?

From everywhere! I’ve always been an observer and absorber so everything going on around me can be an inspiration. Sometimes an incident, book, film character, an idea in an article, or something else will create a picture of a story for me that I write down and save in a folder on my computer. Sometimes a small thing, even a feeling, might make it into a story.

Interview, Tam May, Gnarled Bones and Other Stories, Fiction, Short Stories, Book, Author, Writer, Writing, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

What’s your writing process?

I tend to work on several projects at once. Sometimes I wake up early in the morning and write, sometimes I write in the evening. I have problems concentrating for long periods of time, so one-hour writing stints are most productive for me. I write the first draft from beginning to end without really doing much editing. I do read over the last few paragraphs I wrote plus any notes I made on the scene just to jog my memory and I might make some changes in grammar and punctuation but nothing really serious. Then I let the first draft rest once it’s finished for as long as I can. The revision process begins once the first draft has rested. I’m a perfectionist so I do quite a few revisions on my own. I turn it over to my critique group, a wonderful group of women who are honest and insightful and know and appreciate my offbeat style. After more revisions based on their feedback, I turn the work over to a professional freelance editor who goes through it and then more revisions.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

All of it, really. Writing the first draft is tough because even though it’s an exciting, creative time, I’m full of doubts about whether the story will work, whether I’m exploring the characters fully. Editing and revision is hard as well, trying to shape the story and cement the characters. I self-publish my work so there is just a lot to do to get the book out to readers. I think a lot of people see self-publishing as “write the book, put it through the spell-checker, publish it on Amazon”. Many of us do a lot more work than that to get our books as polished as we can make them.

What do you love most about writing?

No matter how tough the writing process is, I love every minute of it. I love the creation of the first draft and the polishing in the revisions and seeing the characters and story take shape, all the pieces falling into place. And I love putting the book together, making the finished product.

Which authors inspire you?

I’m a huge classic literature fan. I’m the crazy person who willingly reads Dickens J. I love offbeat, philosophical writing too. My favourites are Anais Nin and Jane Bowles. I love classic psychological fiction writers like Edith Wharton, Henry James, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf and the Brontes. I recently discovered Thomas Mann and was completely blown away by his stories.

Interview, Tam May, Gnarled Bones and Other Stories, Fiction, Short Stories, Book, Author, Writer, Writing, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Yes. Follow your fear. If you’re writing something and you feel yourself becoming afraid because you’re touching on emotions that you maybe didn’t know you had or haven’t visited in a long time or have been avoiding, don’t stop. Go on. It’s a place where your imagination is leading you to discover yourself and where you can go to give something back to others. It’s a good thing.

Also, go with what you love, even if it’s not trending on Twitter or if it’s not getting you praise from your Aunt Minnie or your friends are telling you it’s too way out there. You can’t give something to readers that you don’t have with authenticity and honest. Readers deserve that and so do you.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Under a Glass Bell by Anais Nin. 

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I would just love to have a readership that gets something out of my writing because it makes them think and feel. I would love to introduce new readers to psychological fiction. I believe that every writer eventually finds his or her audience, however large or small it is.

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

I would be an independent ESL/EFL tutor and teacher. I did some of that a few years ago through a company and I loved it. I wasn’t just helping non-native English speakers with their English, I was learning about their world and their culture. It was very fascinating to me.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

Part of my love of classics includes classic films. I adore watching classic films. I also love to cook and discover new recipes.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a series called the Waxwood series set in a Northern California resort town that revolves around crumbling relationships among a wealthy San Francisco family. The series was originally a novel I wrote about 12 years ago in three different narratives that I felt would work better as a series. Book one is called The Order of Actaeon. I’m doing revisions on it with the help of my critique group and I hope to get it out to an editor soon. I’m working on the first draft of the second book, The Claustrophobic Heart. I’m also working on another book called House of Masks which I started during National Novel Writing Month last year.

What are you reading at the moment?

I like to read several books at once. I’m reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Lewis Stevenson, which I’ve always wanted to read. I’m also almost through with Death in Venice and Other Stories by Thomas Mann, which, as I mentioned earlier, has been mind-blowing to me. And I’m also reading a biography about Zelda Fitzgerald called Zelda Fitzgerald: Her Voice in Paradise.

To find out more about Tam, visit her website or sign up for her newsletter. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Gnarled Bones is available to buy now.

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

Saturday 14 January 2017

Print is the Word: Literary Inspired Art & Giveaway (CLOSED)

Like many book-lovers out there, I love discovering new bookish products and designs to fill my home. I recently redecorated my room, which gave me the perfect opportunity to get creative and search out some gorgeous literary inspiration.

This research made me fall in love with some of the most stunning literary-inspired art and quote prints out there. As I have neither the money nor space to buy them all, I've picked out a few of my favourites to share with you!

The Secret Garden

Simple but striking, this super stylish quote print features the wise words of author Frances Hodgson Burnett - "If you look the right way, you can see that the whole world is a garden".

Ideal for those who love gardening as much as books, this print is the perfect addition to a minimalist design.

Alice in Wonderland

There are many Alice in Wonderland inspired prints and pieces of artwork out there, but this is one of the best I've seen. It's eye-catching and bold, with a special kind of charm all of its own.

It's vintage and whimsical, printed directly onto an original page from the book. No two prints are exactly the same, meaning that each one is completely unique!

Peter Pan

I have a major crush on Bookishly products (so much so that I - unsuccessfully - applied to work there a while back) and this Peter Pan canvas is one of the best.

The print features the famous quote, "second to the right, and straight on till morning," against a gorgeous backdrop of the starry night sky.

Edgar Allan Poe

This spooky Halloween themed quote is taken from Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven and Other Poems.

It's quirky and original, offering a more modern option than some of my other picks. Its bold colours and comic graphics are sure to make it stand out, wherever you chose to put it.

Winnie the Pooh

Last but not least, we come to Winnie the Pooh. This classic and much-loved children's character is the perfect addition to the home, and this stunning print is one of my favourites. Printed directly onto a vintage page from a Pooh book, this quote reads, "I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen". It's sweet, touching, and would make the ideal gift.

If you love this Winnie the Pooh quote print as much as I do, you're in luck, as I have one to give away to one lucky reader. Simply enter via the Rafflecopter widget below for your chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
1. Giveaway closes on 22nd January 2017 at 11.59pm (GMT).
2. The prize consists of one Winnie the Pooh print as seen above.
3. This giveaway is open to residents of the UK aged 18 and over.
4. The winner will be randomly generated once the giveaway has ended.
5. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended.
6. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced.

Which of my picks is your favourite? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday 13 January 2017

Interview: Piers Anthony

Author Piers Anthony is stopping by the blog today for a chat about his writing world. Enjoy!

Hi, Piers! Who are your favourite authors?

If I lost my memory and had my choice of reading matter, I hope my favourite would be Piers Anthony. I try to write what I would like to read. As for other authors, I have admired many in the Science Fiction and Fantasy fields, from Robert A Heinlein on down. I am also an admirer of the plays of George Bernard Shaw, and not just because he was a vegetarian.

What's the best thing about being a writer?

For me, the best thing is getting to exercise my imagination and being independent. I can’t be fired for someone else’s mistakes.

What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?

It used to be dealing with publishers, who were like insensitive robots interested only in money, regardless what they claimed. But the old order is passing and the new publishers I am dealing with are generally more compatible. Some of them even like good fiction. So now the hardest thing is facing the prospect of my declining ability with advancing age. I’m not capable of simply letting it go and retiring. So when I no longer write well, I hope I am the first, not the last to know it.

Interview, Piers Anthony, Service Goat, Dreaming Big Publications, Author, Writer, Lorna Holland, The Writing Greyhound

What are your thoughts on self-publishing versus traditional publishing?

I approve of self-publishing. In the old days only about one aspiring writer in a hundred could ever get anything published. That led to bigger sales for the one percent and tough luck for the 99%. I prefer that every writer has a chance. That’s why I have worked to make self-publishing possible for anyone, notably by my early investment in Xlibris – I am no longer connected – and my ongoing survey of electronic publishers. The playing field will probably never be level, but it’s better than it was. Traditional publishers had dictatorial power for over a century. Now it’s the writers’ turn.

Who or what inspired you to become a writer?

I needed to decide on my college major. I pondered a day and a night, and it came to me: I wanted to be a writer. It was like a light turning on and it has guided me ever since.

Do your family support your writing career?

My wife supported me. She went to work so I could stay home and try to be a writer. That was when I broke through with my first story sale – for $20. But it led to greater things, in time.

Interview, Piers Anthony, Service Goat, Dreaming Big Publications, Author, Writer, Lorna Holland, The Writing Greyhound

What's your favourite line from a movie?

Great lines in movies are myriad, but it’s the quiet personal ones that get to me the most that others may not even notice. There was one whose title I don’t remember, where a man, a widower, got a girlfriend he was considering marrying. His early teen daughter lived with him. When the woman made them a meal, the man told the teen to do the dishes. The girlfriend intervened. “No, she doesn’t have to do that. I’ll do it.” Why? “She’s your daughter and I want her to like me.” That disarming candour surely ensured that the girl would like the woman.

What do you like to snack on while you write?

I maintain my college weight, and I exercise seriously. I don’t eat between meals. I’m pretty fit for my age, pushing 82, and mean to stay that way.

What is the funniest thing you’ve been asked during an interview?

At the moment I’m not thinking of anything funny in an interview. But I was amused by a sentence in my fan mail: “Ha! Caught you reading fan mail!” 

Sometimes I do learn things from my fan mail .

I had a suicidally depressive girl in one of my novels (Virtual Mode, if you must know) who regularly cut her wrists so that they bled. So she wore red bands on her wrists to conceal the blood. A reader wrote that I had it wrong: blood dries black, so she needed black wristlets. I suspect she spoke from experience.

Piers Anthony's latest book, Service Goat, is available to buy now.

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

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Spotlight & Giveaway (CLOSED): Into the Americas by Lance & James Morcan

Regular readers of the blog may remember that I recently collaborated with father-son writing duo Lance and James Morcan to promote their novel White Spirit. As that post proved to be such a success, today we're teaming up again to tell you about another of their novels - Into the Americas.

The novel is a tale of two vastly different cultures – Indigenous North American and European civilisation – colliding head-on. It also has a strong romantic subplot.

It has been described as:

"A Romeo and Juliet story set in the wilderness."

Spotlight, Giveaway, Into the Americas, Lance and James Morcan, Books, Cover, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

Nineteen-year-old blacksmith John Jewitt is one of only two survivors after his crewmates clash with the fierce Mowachaht tribe in the Pacific Northwest. A life of slavery awaits John and his fellow survivor, a belligerent American sailmaker, in a village ruled by the iron fist of Maquina, the all-powerful chief. Desperate to taste freedom again, they make several doomed escape attempts over mountains and sea. Only their value to the tribe and John’s relationship with Maquina prevents their captors from killing them.

As the seasons' pass, John ‘goes Indian’ after falling in love with Eu-stochee, a beautiful maiden. This further alienates him from his fellow captive whose defiance leads to violent consequences. In the bloodshed that follows, John discovers another side to himself – a side he never knew existed and a side he detests. His desire to be reunited with the family and friends he left behind returns even stronger than before.

The stakes rise when John learns Eu-stochee is pregnant. When a final opportunity to escape arises, he must choose between returning to civilisation or staying with Eu-stochee and their newborn son.

Into the Americas is available to buy now.

Lance and James have kindly offered an ecopy of the book to one lucky reader. Simply enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
  1. Giveaway closes on 18th January 2017 at 11.59pm (GMT).
  2. The prize consists of one ecopy of Into the Americas 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!

Tuesday 10 January 2017

Interview: Erin A. Jensen

This morning, I have an interview with fantasy author Erin A. Jensen to share with you. Find out all about her writing process and the inspiration behind her books!

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

I live in the US in upstate New York with my husband, two teenage sons and a Yorkshire terrier who thinks he's second in the family chain of command. In addition to being a writer and a mother, I'm also a pharmacist. I love to read, can barely function without coffee, and have always dreamed of living by the water.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I first became interested in writing when I was in college. As a pharmacy major, my coursework was mostly math and science. Since that didn't really satisfy my creative artistic side, I picked up a literature or art history class whenever I could fit one into my schedule, and I started writing poetry. Being the introvert that I am, I only shared my writing with a handful of people back then, but the response was always positive.

What draws you to writing fantasy?

Fantasy has always been my favourite genre to read. I love to lose myself in alternate worlds where mythical creatures exist and magic is real and every impossible thing is possible. And I naturally write what I'd love to read.

Tell me about Dream Waters.

Dream Waters is the first book in a series and it's mainly set within a psychiatric facility. Charlie has spent most of his life in mental institutions because he sees the people around him morph into creatures that no one else can see. Unlike the rest of the world, Charlie remembers the Waters that come each night to transport everyone to the Dream World, where they take an another form and live another life. Charlie can see people "flip" to their Dream forms in this world and he has the ability to jump in the Waters and travel to the Dream World.

The story begins when a beautiful new patient is admitted to the facility. Emma is clearly out of her element and terrified to be there. Charlie offers his friendship and protection, and the two patients quickly become inseparable. Charlie soon discovers that Emma's Dream form is shadowed by a monstrous dragon. Each night while Emma dreams of the man who's been banned from visiting her, Charlie searches for the beast in the Dream World hoping to figure out how it's connected to Emma. But when Emma's buried memories begin to surface, Charlie finds more monsters than he bargained for.

How do you get inspiration?

The inspiration for this series came from my interactions with mentally ill individuals during my clinical rotations in pharmacy school. No matter how coherent or rational the patients were, if you looked into their eyes you could see that soul struggling to connect with the world around them. The idea for the story stemmed from my need to understand why some individuals are burdened with such debilitating mental illnesses. I guess it's my fictitious answer to the question "where does that soul exist when the mind holds it captive?"

What’s your writing process?

I think through most of the scenes in my books long before I write them down. I picture it playing out like a movie and envision actual actors playing the parts of my characters. Sometimes before I sit down to write, I'll watch brief YouTube clips of the actors so their voices and mannerisms are clear in my head. I'll also listen to music that sets the tone of the chapter, both before and during writing.

Which authors inspire you?

Stephen King was a huge inspiration. I read an interview he did a long time ago where he mentioned that his scenes played out like movies in his head and he could easily entertain himself with his mental pictures. That wasn't his exact wording, I read it ages ago, but the idea stuck with me. I could always entertain myself with elaborate daydreams that played out like movies. So I guess the concept that I could entertain others with my daydreams came from him. 

 I'm also inspired (like every other author out there) by J.K. Rowling. I was just reading an article about how she was told that she'd never make any money on her "overly long novel about a boy wizard in glasses." She didn't listen to those who told her she couldn't. She just kept believing in herself and chasing her dream, and look where it took her. She's the ultimate inspiration, not just because of the wealth she earned but because she didn't let anyone else's negativity discourage her from following her dreams.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Write every day. Read every day, and not just in your genre. The more you read, the better you'll write. And never let anyone else convince you to give up on your dream. You only get one life. Live it for all its worth!

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Oh gosh, do I have to pick just one? I fell in love with Wuthering Heights when I read it for a Humanities course in college. I skipped the class once because I hadn't read the chapter we'd be discussing (I'd been studying for a chemistry test for that darn major of mine) and I didn't want the class to spoil anything for me! If I'm allowed to pick a second, the Fever Series by Karen Marie Moning is my favourite urban fantasy series. I can't select just one book because I adore the whole series.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

Well, my ideal spot would be in my dream house with a window overlooking the water. Until then, it's a desk in my bedroom where I listen to music and transport myself to the Dream World.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Right now, it's to get my books into the hands of readers who will enjoy them. It's a thrill each time I see that my book has found its way to a reader in a new country. Down the road, I would love to make writing my full time job some day. If I could do that and earn enough to afford a waterfront home, I'd be in heaven!

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

My biggest interest is my family. A day spent with them, sharing a big meal and playing board games or going on a hike (preferably somewhere with waterfalls) or on any sort of vacation is a perfect day. I also love art history and took as many art history classes as I could fit into my schedule in college. And I love going to the movies. I'll sometimes picture my story up on that big screen as the previews play.

What are you currently working on?

I'm currently writing Dream Sight (book 3 in the Dream Waters series).

What are you reading at the moment?

I just finished The Light Between Oceans, which I absolutely loved. And I've started Me Before You. Normally, I like to read a book before watching the movie but I saw Me Before You with a friend, loved the movie and then bought the book.

Dream Waters is available to buy now. To find out more about Erin, visit her website or follow her on Twitter

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Monday 9 January 2017

Book Review: Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups

Last Updated: 28 June 2021

How it Works: The Dog book cover

Lighthearted humour and modern takes on classic stories are all over the bestseller lists at the moment - just look at my review of the Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups series!

The Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups series, by Jason Hazeley and Joel Morris, has been around for a while but seems to be getting increasingly popular. Thanks to Christmas presents, I've now read four of the books, which I'll briefly talk about individually below. Of course, there are plenty more books in the series, so get browsing and find one which suits you!

Friday 6 January 2017

Interview: Rick Moss

Today it is my pleasure to host the author Rick Moss on The Writing Greyhound, talking about his life, his writing, and his latest novel Tellers.

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

I grew up, along with two tolerant older brothers, in rural and suburban Maryland, which had and continues to have a tinge of the South affecting its general liberal-minded population. We witnessed a lot of racial disharmony in Baltimore in the ‘60s, and to see that the pain and anger carries on there to this day is terribly disturbing. But I digress.

I took to drawing and painting at a young age and studied visual arts of all kinds through college. I found work as a video editor and producer, at a point forming a small design firm and, ultimately, launching a business web publication with the help of two talented partners. In short, I’ve picked up whatever skills were necessary to get on in my work and always enjoy taking on new challenges, but the need to create things has motivated all else.

How did you first become interested in writing?

With the growth of our web publication, it became necessary for me to do a lot of business writing and reporting, so I learned the craft.

In 2007, I was taken with the passing of Kurt Vonnegut and began writing an essay that played off one of his half-serious world-altering ideas. But the essay kept expanding in unexpected directions. At a point, I realised a novel would be the best platform for the ideas, so I plotted out the narrative. My first draft was over 700 pages. I hired an editor who took me to school on everything I had done wrong. I spent two more years rewriting and produced Ebocloud, my first published novel.

Ebocloud is the story of a utopian social media movement that spurs a step forward (ostensibly) in human evolution. Ebocloud may have gotten more interest among the scientific community than with fiction-lovers, but to my delight, it was picked up for a Duke University course on augmented reality in fiction and read by students alongside William Gibson’s Neuromancer.

Tell me about Tellers.

Tellers concerns the close-knit residents of a small farming collective who suffer a tragic loss and seek comfort - and perhaps forgiveness - by telling their stories. We hear the tales voiced by the individual characters, flashing back between chapters to learn about the events that led to the tragedy.

What made you decide on the unusual format of Tellers?

Tellers is, in effect, a set of inter-related short stories, stitched together by, and supportive of, an overarching narrative. In other words, it’s a novel/anthology hybrid. I can’t say that I set out to take on such a difficult task - it grew organically out of the need to express a lot of ideas that all play toward a few core themes: the dissolution of family and society; our disassociation with nature and reliance on technology; and the role of artists, free-thinkers and utopians in pushing humanity forward.

How did you get inspiration?

I was researching innovative design concepts for inner cities (just poking around for ideas) and happened across a short book on the MOVE tragedy that took place in Philadelphia in 1985. MOVE was a radical green political group founded by John Africa (born Vincent Leaphart) in 1972. Africa and his extended “family” of followers believed that society’s ills and, in particular, the struggles of Black people in America, stemmed from our separation from natural processes. Africa taught a return to a hunter-gatherer society while voicing opposition to science, medicine and technology. The MOVE lifestyle, in other words, was at odds with living in inner-city Philadelphia and the group had a number of run-ins with the police, some violent.

By 1985, the conflict had come to a head. The MOVE family barricaded themselves in their row house. In an ill-conceived effort to end the stand-off, the Philadelphia police firebombed the home, killing all but two of the MOVE family and igniting a firestorm that destroyed a large swath of homes. The essay I read proposed a solution for rebuilding the homes in a way that would support a healthier social environment.

My head was spinning. I could see the MOVE tragedy as a microcosm of so many problems that plague modern life. And because of the kaleidoscopic swirl of influences, I imagined not just one but a set of distinct voices exploring these themes from their unique perspectives.

What’s your writing process?

I don’t recommend my process - it’s anything but efficient. (Tellers took me nearly six years to complete.) My fiction-writing time is limited to off-hours, so I write in bursts. I tend to dive headlong into the story at any point that offers an entry point. Later, once the overall plot comes into focus, I sketch out a chronological outline and begin rearranging what I’ve written. I’m also an obsessive editor, so after writing only a few paragraphs, I double back to begin reworking. It’s a confounding process, but I love every minute of it.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

The toughest challenge for me is perhaps keeping the broad objectives of the project in mind while buried in the minute details. Often what should be an inconsequential story thread lassos me and drags me off on a tangent. I have a great time and can’t imagine the reader not following me off on some darling side adventure. Later, I man-up and “slay my darlings.” It’s sad. I love my darlings.

What do you love most about writing?

I’ve worked with painting, printmaking, photography, animation — on and on. Writing is unique in that the scope of your expressive product is limited only by your skills. There are no boundaries — no edges to the canvas. You can write about anything, from the point of view of anyone, set in any era, and in any setting. I believe art is the highest aspiration of the human race and that language is the most versatile tool in pursuing those ends. And so what I love most about writing is the freedom it offers.

Which authors inspire you?

The aforementioned Kurt Vonnegut is my singular hero. He was able to uncover our most damnable and dumbfounding qualities with a depth of humour that can only come from recognition of life’s absurdity. And yet, despite his cynicism, he was an unyielding humanist. To read stories that can balance all those traits is quite inspiring. David Foster Wallace and George Saunders rank right up there for me in this regard, as well.

When it comes to improving my craftsmanship, I look to Doris Lessing, Elmore Leonard, Franz Kafka, Faulkner and Hemingway.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
  • Be humble. When you think you’re getting somewhere, remind yourself that you don’t know diddly. 
  • Accept that nothing you write is beyond sacrifice for the overall good. 
  • Never give up. Good writing doesn’t come cheap — you need to spend years, if not decades, at it.
What’s your all-time favourite book?

This question is causing me pain. I feel like I’m being asked which of my daughters I favour. In support of my gushing praise of Vonnegut, I’m going to go with Slaughterhouse-Five, a book that’s got everything I could possibly ask for. But please also put Moby Dick, Ulysses, The Illiad, Infinite Jest, Gravity’s Rainbow, 1984 and Valis in my suitcase before shipwrecking me on that desert island.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

I’m perfectly content working on the couch in my Brooklyn apartment but, often as I sit here, I imagine myself on a bench in nearby Prospect Park.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

Realistically speaking, to bring enrichment to as many people as I can - and in the scheme of things, a few thousand readers would suffice. Money doesn’t really play into that objective at all. And yet, if I could make a modest income from fiction writing, it could make the rest of my life a heck of a lot more satisfying. But I don’t kid myself. This is not the right time in human history to make a living as a writer.

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

Painting more - big canvases, huge brushes, buckets and buckets of gobby acrylic.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

My wife and I are movie-obsessed. Being in New York City makes it all too easy to spend lots of time feeding our habit. It’s a great joy sharing those experiences with her in those dark rooms. (Yes, I’m still talking about movies.) And, as discussed, I like to throw paint around when I’m able.

What are you currently working on?

My third novel, which is still at Stage One. I’m spitting out story fragments with somewhat vague metaphysical themes swimming in my head. As with Tellers, this one will also tell stories from different vantage points. I can’t say more. The embryo hasn’t formed features yet.

What are you reading at the moment?

Oblivion - a book of short stories by David Foster Wallace, and a pile of small poetry volumes that we recently won in a raffle at a reading.

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

The Tellers website, my Amazon author page, or my Goodreads author page.

Tellers is available to buy now.

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

Thursday 5 January 2017

Book Review: Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups

Last Updated: 28 June 2021

Five on Brexit Island by Bruno Vincent Book Cover

I'm a big fan of the original Famous Five books, so when I heard there was going to be a spoof Enid Blyton for adults series, naturally I was horrified. However, I've since read three of the 'Enid Blyton for Grown-Ups' series, and I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. The author Bruno Vincent has done a fantastic job of updating the stories for a modern audience while preserving the charm of the originals. These Famous Five books for grown-ups are entertaining, funny, and enjoyable, making them the perfect quick reads to brighten up a dull January day.

Wednesday 4 January 2017

Spotlight: Rock, Scissors, Paper by Richard Stevenson

In the early 1980’s, serial killer Clifford Olson rampaged through the lower mainland of British Columbia, raping and murdering eleven victims. His heinous cash-for-bodies deal foreshortened his trial and resulted in the law currently on Canadian books that forbids criminals from benefiting financially from their crimes.

Olson was just the pimple on the hide of a misogynist culture, as this long poem sequence attests.

Sometimes a book project chooses its author, as this one did when the author recognised one of the victims from her photograph.

WARNING: Graphic language and violence. Due to the nature of the contents, all readers must be 18 years or older and prepared for the difficult subject matter and language within this book.

Spotlight, Rock Scissors Paper, Richard Stevenson, Books, Dreaming Big Publications, Writer, Author, Lorna Holland, The Writing Greyhound

About Richard Stevenson

Richard Stevenson was born in Victoria, B.C., in 1952 and has lived in western Canada and Nigeria. A college English teacher by profession, he taught English, Canadian and African literature, business communication, creative and technical writing, E.S.L., and humanities courses in high schools and colleges. A former editor-in-chief of Prism International, he served in various editorial, jury, and writing/arts group executive capacities. His own reviews and poems have appeared in hundreds of magazines, anthologies, e-zines, and journals published in Canada, the United States, and overseas. He performed with the jazz/poetry group Naked Ear and rock music/YA verse troupe Sasquatch, and occasionally puts other ensembles together for book launches and performances and reviews books.

Rock, Scissors, Paper is available to buy now.

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

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Interview: Elaine Johns

The lovely author Elaine Johns is stopping by the blog today for a cup of tea, a slice of cake and a nice chat about her writing and her books!

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

I was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, attended Italia Conti Performing Arts Academy in London and made records with my twin brother which ‘scraped’ their way into the charts in my teens. I have travelled the world as a musician, playing the flute and singing in several big bands where I met my partner Larry (a saxophone player and novelist). We played night clubs, hotels and cruise ships and came back home to a residency in the rooftop club at the London Park Lane Hilton.

I am a twin; my older brother Derek (10 minutes older) is an actor who played the Irish assassin in Harry’s Game and has been playing Charlie Fairhead in the BBC drama Casualty for many years now. He thinks he is an expert on all things medical because of his experience in the series, but really he only knows enough to kill you. We have that twin thing going on where you always seem to know what the other one is up to (sometimes inconvenient) and, thankfully, I don’t look a bit like him – although to be fair, he doesn’t look too bad for his age.

I used to teach full time in Truro College, but currently only teach part time as well as invigilating so that I can have time to write. I love my evening students and their passion often inspires me. I enjoy writing short stories and have had several in print in women’s magazines. However, I concentrate now on writing my books and it’s a special feeling to see them in print and to think that people are reading them – and trying to picture who those people might be.

I adore living in Cornwall with its dramatic scenery and beautiful coastline. 

How did you first become interested in writing? 

I guess I’ve always been interested in writing, from my earliest days in school, always scribbling and making up characters. I inherited my mum’s love of reading and she encouraged us to read everything, no matter what kind of story or genre as it takes you to another world. I used to have to write lots of formal essays with academic language, and writing fiction was a sort of counter-balance to that. I just love inventing characters and stories and I’m one of those awful people who listen in on other people’s conversations at bus stops etc. Writing makes me smile, apart from when it doesn’t of course, and I’ve written myself into a blind alley or somewhere that isn’t going to work! 

What draws you to writing women’s fiction? 

I suppose that first and foremost because I am a woman and I care about things that women have to go through in life. That could be having to fight for recognition in a man’s world, or juggling a work/life balance whilst trying to look after your family, or trying to come up to the exacting standards of ‘the perfect body’ that magazines try to impose on us. Finding love and companionship of true value isn’t easy for women either, in a world that is sometimes quite cynical. 

Maybe it sounds pretentious, and I don’t want it to, but I care about things like how women are treated when they are having their babies, at a time when they are vulnerable. Although my Chic Lit book Ice Cream for Breakfast is a light, holiday read, and has a humorous voice, I highlighted a couple of women’s issues in it that I feel particularly passionate about. The book isn’t meant to be a social commentary or preachy though, just a bit of fun and entertainment, but I wanted to be true to myself and put in a couple of things that I care about. It was always a natural thing to do also, to write women’s fiction, as I really enjoy reading it. 

Tell me about your books. 

I’ve published 4 books: Lemonade and Lies, Finding Mary, Ice Cream for Breakfast, and a children’s book for 8 to 12 year old's called The Last Climbing Boy (although this is also a ‘cross-over’ as adults have read it as well and tell me they enjoyed it.)

Interview, Elaine Johns, Author, Lemonade and Lies, Books, Writer, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

Lemonade and Lies is a women’s fiction/mystery set in Cornwall, Scotland and Norway. I particularly wanted to use Norway as one of the settings for it as Larry and I spent many happy times there playing music, and I know the place well. I used Oslo and one of my characters takes an unscheduled swim after falling off a ferry into the freezing waters of the Oslo Fjord. The book’s protagonist is thirty-two year old Gill Webster, an optimist. Her mother taught her from an early age to take life’s lemons and make lemonade out of them. But when you’re a single mum trying to juggle two children, a job as a lecturer, pay the mortgage, fix a dodgy boiler and scrape up this month’s child minding fees, you have to squeeze those lemons pretty hard sometimes. 

Interview, Elaine Johns, Author, Ice-Cream for Breakfast, Books, Writer, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

Ice Cream for Breakfast is a chic lit set in a Fawlty Towers type of small hotel in Newquay. It follows the day to day life of its heroine Stevie. I feel quite close to this book, especially as the hotel I’ve used for the setting is one that I played music in for several years during the summer season and Christmas when my children were growing up. (However, the name of the hotel has been changed in my book in case the manager recognises it!)

Interview, Elaine Johns, Author, Finding Mary, Books, Writer, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

Finding Mary is a commercial women’s fiction. Its time frame is contemporary and the book is international, set in Ireland, America and London. It is about the loss of family and the subsequent reuniting of two sisters in a heart-warming finale.

Interview, Elaine Johns, Author, The Last Climbing Boy, Books, Writer, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

The Last Climbing Boy. I wrote this book because of my love for Dickens and I wanted to write an historical adventure that could be read by children. I was particularly affected by the research I had done into the cruelty of the Victorian Industrial era when children were made to work long hours in factories and sent up chimneys to sweep them because these boys (and sometimes girls) were small. Often these children got stuck in narrow chimneys and were left to die, their corpses being removed later by a mason who would go up onto the roof to dismantle some of the chimney. Protagonist Tommy Hopkins is a ten-year-old orphan and an amazing climber. He is a Victorian climbing-boy forced to work in dangerous, dark chimneys with only a small brush and a scraper - often when the flues are still burning hot. One night, his master Belter goes too far and savagely beats a new climbing-boy. Tommy comes to his rescue and becomes a hero. 

How do you get inspiration?

I get inspiration from all sorts of places: listening to people talk to each other about events (eavesdropping again!) reading about things in newspapers, researching old newspapers, from television and from people saying “Hey, don’t you think this would make a good story?” I used to do a lot of swim training and plodding up and down swim lanes is very boring with only the bottom of the pool to look at, so I would often say to myself – what if this happened or how would this be – trouble with that is that you have to jump out of the pool to find a notebook. Another great way to get inspiration for writing is walking along a Cornish beach and watching the waves crashing in.

What’s your writing process?

Usually, I’ll have an idea in my head for a character, but probably only a vague idea what the plot line will be, so the story has to grow organically. I’m one of those ‘seat of your pants’ writers who just begin by writing the first page and see where it goes from there. Obviously this will only take you so far, so eventually, once I start to get engaged with a book, I will sketch out a structure – a skeleton to hang it on. This will often change though as I get into the plot and sometimes the characters go off on a journey of their own that surprises you. I’ve discussed this with friends (who don’t write) - the way that your characters can often tell you what to do - and they don’t believe me. But friends who write themselves understand this perfectly, and have often sat in front of a screen and written a passage that has surprised them. Spooky or what?

I put everything straight onto my laptop and try to write at least 3,000 words a day. I don’t always manage this amount, as life and work sometimes get in the way, but I write every single day. I always go over whatever I’ve written the day before, as distance, even if it’s only a day, makes you more objective about your work. It is easier to prune out whatever doesn’t work this way without being too precious about ‘your baby’. When I think I have finished a book, I put it away for at least a week. That’s when I find that it is only an early draft! I redraft many times and my current book is on its 7th draft.

At the end of a book I always hand it over to my lovely man. Larry is an avid reader and he has written many books, so I value his opinion greatly. I know he will be totally honest with me and tell me if there is something wrong with the writing. If you are lucky enough to have an alpha reader like this, treasure them, they are worth pure gold.

What’s the hardest thing about writing? 

Getting started on a new book is never all that easy, like jumping into a pool with your eyes closed; you just have to trust that there is water in there. But I guess one of the really hard things is just to keep going. Keep going when you get to 40,000 words and hope that you will find at least another 40,000 from somewhere. Keep going when you’ve written yourself into a corner and if you can’t get out of it, just highlight it and press delete. Deleting work is one of the hardest things to do, but if you think the writing is okay just not in keeping with your current storyline, then don’t delete – I tend to put it in my ‘swipe file’ that I keep on my laptop. Sometimes, if it doesn’t work in this story, it can be used for something else. But I guess the very hardest thing about writing, especially if you want to be accepted in ‘traditional publishing’ is dealing with rejection slips. They are just part of the process and not meant as a personal insult.

What do you love most about writing?

I enjoy the whole process. To think that you have the power to create something that didn’t exist before you put it onto paper – that’s an exciting and awesome thing. I enjoy researching also, but I particularly love it when I’ve finished a book. This is a bit of a wally thing to do, but when I’m absolutely sure I’ve finished a ‘final’ draft, I go to a local place near the beach that prints tees and I get myself a black tee shirt with the name of the book printed on it. It’s become a bit of a tradition with me now and nobody who sees me wearing it knows what it’s about, it could be anything, and I don’t tell them. It’s just my little joke with myself. Another thing I love about writing is when I know a character so well that they get right under my skin. A good friend of mine who isn’t a writer, but one of my ‘alpha readers’ who reads things for me because I trust her to give me an honest opinion (we did our degrees together) once suggested that my protagonist might do a certain thing. I said ‘he would never do that; it’s not in his nature’. My friend said ‘you know it’s not real, right? He doesn’t really exist.’ But of course, that’s where writers differ from others – for us, it is real.

Which authors inspire you?

Lee Child, Jodi Picoult (her plotting and twists never fail to amaze me) Marian Keyes, Carole Matthews, Bernard Cornwell, Kate Atkinson, Jo Jo Moyes, Gillian Flynn, Nora Roberts, Peter James, James Patterson, Jo Nesbo, Mark Billingham...

These are obviously contemporary authors, but I also go back to the classics. I enjoy the beauty and cleverness of a Shakespearian Sonnet and have lots of poetry collections, both modern poets as well as the classics. I dip into poetry from time to time when I need inspiration. Poets are incredible, their writing technique and the fact that they strive for the perfect word and get ideas across in so few simple phrases.

Interview, Elaine Johns, Author, Books, Writer, The Writing Greyhound, Lorna Holland

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Read, read and read. Read everything that you can get your hands on. Read in different genres, not just the one that is your favourite. You can learn something from everything that you read. The clue to good writing is on your bedside table whether it is in Kindle form or paperback. Don’t hold back from reading because you think you might plagiarise the work of others, it’s very unlikely that you will remember long passages from books and incorporate them into your own work.

Keep practising because writing is a craft that improves and evolves with patience and work. However, you need to keep at it; write every day, even if it’s only for 10 minutes. It doesn’t have to be a short story or a book; all writing has value in your writing journey. Write a diary or a blog or describe what you see outside your front door. I know people who say they want to write a book, but all they do is read books about ‘writing’. It’s good to dip into books on technique now and again, but if you spend your time reading about the theory, you won’t have time to write!

As writers, we are often too close to our own stories to be able to look at them objectively and critique them. So, find yourself some ‘alpha readers’, people that you trust to give you an unbiased and objective opinion on your work. (Not your mother or your grandmother or relatives if you can help it, for they will probably tell you that you are a genius!) When these people then tell you something is wrong with your MS don’t take it personally and get upset. You asked them to help didn’t you? It is of course up to you if you take their advice. Everyone will have a different idea and it is all subjective. However, if more than one person comes up with the same thing, then it’s possible that they could be right and you’ve missed something out in your story, or not been able to get your idea across, or the grammar is screwed up.

Find a place where you feel comfortable writing and tell everybody in your family or your house or whatever to STAY AWAY and give you an hour of peace to write. This is a very important thing and you need to be selfish about it.

My best tip would be – believe in yourself. Someday, someone may sprinkle a little fairy dust on you and your writing will be published!

What are your ambitions for your writing career? 

I suppose like most writers I would love to see one of my books on screen and finding a wider audience. Meanwhile, I would like lots of people to find and enjoy my books. It’s a bit more difficult when you are an ‘indie’ author to get your books out there. I will always be writing though, even if no one was ever to read a word of mine, because it is a passion and I guess a compulsion really. It takes you into another world (although my own world is pretty good!) and keeps your brain and imagination working. I often find myself grinning when I’m writing and it’s going well. I hope I will still be able to do that and feel like that – getting joy from writing - even when I get quite ancient. For me, that would be a worthwhile ambition.

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

That’s an easy one. I was a professional musician for many years and really love music, all kinds of music, but my first love is jazz. If I had the time, I would like to learn to play jazz piano. But there aren’t enough hours in the day to follow all of your dreams. I don’t play the flute or sing anymore (at least only in the bath) although I did this for most of my life, but now I direct my energies into writing and that gives me the creative satisfaction that music once did, so I still have an artistic outlet that makes me happy.

If someone out there could push a magic button and add at least another 4 hours to the day, I would have piano lessons. Yay!

What are you currently working on? 

My current book is (hopefully) on its final draft now and is a Crime Fiction called Not Everybody Likes Sushi. It’s about private detective Gerry Bryant, and his female partner and love interest, Becky Adderley. Bryant (private investigator, reasonable rates) may be new at the game, but he’s not stupid. He’s had education, not exactly a PhD but enough to know how the important bits of the world work. Ex-soldier Bryant is a man who gets things done - quietly, efficiently, no drama. A man used to seeing dead bodies, which is just as well considering the final gruesome tally when he follows the trail of a cartel of ruthless counterfeiters. And this time it’s personal as Bryant chases the men who framed him for a murder he didn’t commit and administers his own kind of lethal justice.

Do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing?

There’s a lot to be said for self-publishing. You have the power in your own hands and can decide exactly what cover you want, and editorial decisions are your own. But with that power comes the responsibility of getting it right and making a professional job of the process. With something like KDP you can format and upload your MS and it can be available to buy electronically in a matter of days, instead of the eighteen months or so involved in getting a book to the shelves in traditional publishing.

However, self-publishing is a very time consuming business, as you need to put a lot of effort into getting your writing in front of readers. You have to turn into some sort of business entrepreneur and spend valuable time marketing yourself and your work, time that should be spent writing. So, I would say that is one drawback of self-publishing.

There are pros and cons for both routes. Mainstream publishers have the expertise and lots of valuable professionals to get behind a book, but they don’t always market their middle-list authors as vigorously as maybe the writers themselves would expect.

It’s a very exciting time in publishing, full of opportunities for the indie author, and many MSS that might otherwise have languished in a drawer having failed to get past the agent gatekeepers, are finally being published. I’m sure many a good book has collected rejection slips because of the pressure on literary agents to read so many unsolicited submissions. The process of bashing your way through to a traditional publishing contract is not for the faint hearted, but worth the effort.

All things considered, I would say that I prefer the weight of traditional publishing behind you as an author - with professionals who have lots of experience of the industry.

What are you reading at the moment?

Right now I’m re-reading Kate Atkinson’s crime/literary novel When will there be Good News? (a Jackson Brodie detective novel) and looking forward to the arrival of Jodi Picoult’s latest book  – Small Great Things – can’t wait.

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

I have recently got a lovely new website, which you can visit here

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat to me, Elaine! It's been a pleasure to host you on the blog.

Will you be picking up any of Elaine's books? Let me know in the comments below!