Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Happy Holidays to all!

To all my friends, I will not be blogging from today until after New Year.  A very Merry Christmas to those who are celebrating and the Happiest New Year.  Most of all, I wish everybody peace, prosperity and health.

See you in a week or so!

Friday, 16 December 2011

Deja Vu Blogfest: My imaginary friends...

Today is the Deja vu Blogfest Day!  Hoorah!

I thought I'd re-post something that I wrote in year 2007, the year I started blogging. Why this one?  It's because in this post, I wrote about my imaginary friends which I still find amusing to this day. This is the story behind my blog title, Conversations with Self.  


And no, I did not exaggerate the story.  I did talk to imaginary friends...which worried my father.

Hope you enjoy reading it!


******


First posted on 08 May 2007

I don't know why, but for some reason, I tend to reminisce a lot about my childhood these days. Last week, it was Caroline (my doll) I was reminiscing about so I wrote about broken toys and then somehow found a way to connect it to broken dreams, etc. This time, though, it's all about this part of my childhood when I had imaginary friends. If you witnessed my childhood, you would probably think I was a looney. But think...children do have imaginary friends, don't they? Or was it only me? (Widens eyes and looks around) Embarrassed Oh, no!

Anyway, let me tell you about some of these 'friends' that people never saw...or some probably did but never knew that they were my friends. One of them was that reflection in the mirror. yes, oh, yes, call me a nutcase, but I did talk to myself in the mirror! I would really converse with the other 'self.' And she talked back to me! Only, it was also me talking, of course, who did you think it was? I used to do this very often that I overheard my Dad saying to my Mom, 'Don't you think we should take our daughter to a Psychiatrist? I am getting worried.' My Mom, who was so used to seeing me talking to my toys, said nonchalantly, 'Oh stop that. She's just playing. Children do that all the time.'

Yes, I said toys. I did talk to my toys (although I didn't have much, really) - I remember talking to Caroline while she was behind that glass. What a pity. I could only talk to my doll behind a glass! (will post her story soon) I also talked to my paper dolls which I made myself. They lived in an improvised dollhouse. I used matchboxes as furniture and my dollhouse was a corrugated box, sometimes I used a cigarette carton. Ahh, a child's innovativeness. I wonder where did it all go? I don't seem to have the same creativity now that I am older. But that's another narrative. I think I can only produce rubbish now...and perhaps children? Tongue Out

Hold it. That's not all. There is something far more special than that beautiful (oh ha!) reflection in the mirror that looked like me (Har! Har Har!) and my dolls. There were lizards as well. Yes! That's right, those tiny crawling creatures with moderately elongate body and tapering tail...some might have another name for it, though. They are sometimes called wall or house lizards. Other times they are called house geckos. But let me just call it that. Lizard. At night, I developed this routine to converse with them before I'd fall asleep. There was one time, if I remember it right, when my Dad came home late from work. Remember that in those days, there were no mobile phones...(and telegrams came after a week, not the promised next day delivery...so if you'd send it, you'd arrive at your destination before your telegram). When Mom started to get worried, I would listen to the clicking sounds of the lizards. Tsk, tsk, tsk. I would close my eyes and converse with them. 'Is - my - fa - ther - safe?' One Tsk is equivalent to a syllable. Of course, I would interpret the Tsk-Tsk to what I wanted to hear, what did you expect? Funny, huh?

All these imaginary friends come to mind now that I am away from home. I have forgotten them a long, long time ago and never spoken to them for years - if I ever did that at my age, I would probably be in a mental institution.Frown

Isn't it a universal truth that from the day we were born, we already have the need to communicate? A baby's uttering of its first word is always a milestone, a breakthrough that all mothers rejoice in. I have read somewhere that there was an experiment done by experts where they formed two groups of babies. The first group was cleaned and fed but no one ever communicated with them - verbally or otherwise. The second group was cleaned and fed...and carers communicated with these babies. After a period of time, it was discovered that the second group of babies grew faster and were healthier than the first group. This experiment only proves that we do need to communicate. It is this uniqueness that sets us apart from other creatures.

This is most probably the reason why I am writing this piece. There is the internet now to communicate to practically everyone and anyone in the world. My friend, Rosemarie, was right in telling me that blogging helps. It would like to thank her for being an inspiration to create my own blogsite...(and to Makis for introducing Blogger to me). It sure eases boredom and makes me think. It fills my need to communicate.

So, this time, I don't have to stand in front of the mirror or listen to the clicking sound of the house lizards (there isn't any here, anyway) or get dolls. I only have to sit down and immerse myself in the world wide web. It does help.

PS: I will understand if you think that at an early age, I showed signs of a mental disorder - talking to lizards and all Roll - but don't worry, I don't bite. Aha-ha-ha-ha!!!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

A Chat with Author Catherine Ryan Hyde

I am so proud to bring to you the author who brought us Pay It Forward, a very popular, heartbreaking and yet so beautiful story of a young boy who attempts to make this world a better place.  I cannot begin to tell you how awesome she is...but without much further ado, I bring to you the amazing Catherine Ryan Hyde.  Pay It Forward is only one of her novels.  please visit her website HERE to know more about her books.

Our Chat

Len:  I’ve seen the film, Pay It Forward, and saw how much it’s grown into a movement and a foundation.  It’s amazing that a book turned into a film continues to help people.  Please can you tell us how you came up with the story idea?

Catherine:  Yes, absolutely. I used to not like this question because it was a long story and I had told it literally hundreds of times. But I found what I think is a good solution. I edited a videotaped speech where I told the story in proper detail, and I posted it on my YouTube channel. So now I’m glad you asked. Because I’ve put a lot of work into my YouTube channel, and there’s a lot out there for my readers to explore. So I’m happy to be able to give a link to that.

The story of my inspiration for the Pay It Forward idea is here: 

And the channel main page is here: 

I have video excerpts for most of the novels, which are little videos I made myself, with excerpts read by me. I have videos from my hiking and travel and other videos that are Pay It Forward related. I hope people will take a look around out there!

L:  You’ve written so many books.  Do you also have a day job?

C:  I do not. Since 1998, I have managed to keep the bills paid with my writing, as well as looking after my retired mom. Although I have to admit that there are times when I am not succeeding in doing so by as comfortable a margin as I might like. But I persevere.


I also have no spouse or children. Which really does explain a big piece of how I manage to get so much done. Nobody ever tugs my sleeve while I’m writing and says, “What’s for dinner?” or “Hey, mom, look at me.” This is not to denigrate spouses and children in any way. But the singular focus helps me to be more prolific.  

L:  Please can you describe to us your writing day?

C:  Well. I can describe two possible days. 
In one, I get up, do 15 minutes of Yoga, check my email, drink a cup of tea, and start writing. Sometime around 2:30 I realize my teeth are not brushed. Sometime around 5:00 I realize I should eat. Having remedied those issues, I get back to work.

On other days, I still do Yoga and tea, but I spend the whole day without writing. If I have a work in progress and I have something worth getting down, I work. If not, I balance the check book and get the oil changed in the car. Because later, when I’m working, I won’t do either of those things.

L:  Are you a plotter or a panster?

C:  Somewhere in between, I think. I like to know where I’m going so I don’t get lost and end up nowhere. But I don’t like to hammer down where I’m going so tightly that I miss an interesting side trip. So I’m forever trying to hit that balance. 

L:  I find your books focus on kindness and love...have you always wanted to write this kind, which I love, of stories?

C:  I think there was a time, a couple of decades ago, where my work was darker and edgier. And then, as I gradually got lighter, so did the stories. 

L:  In ‘When I Found You,’ it was interesting to know about guns  and duck-hunting.  Did you have to interview people about guns and duck-hunting?

C:  Interestingly, though I have never hunted, I know just a little bit about shotguns and hunting because I once took a hunter safety course. Even though I don’t hunt. It’s like this: There was a lottery for permits to hunt mountain lions. Very controversial. There are very few lions, and most people think they should be allowed to live. So a group of us got together and got our hunting licenses, so we could join the lottery. So one of us could hopefully win a permit which we would not use, thus saving one lion. But it all ended rather anticlimactically when the lottery was called off, which I think was for the best.
I did have a friend of mine, who is a hunter, in Pennsylvania, check my work before publication.

L:  In ‘Don’t Let Me Go,’ you wrote about child protective system and social services, was the research challenging to get information that’s in the book? 

C:  Not too much. I was able to learn a lot online. And every case is a little bit different.

L:  Who are your favourite authors?

C:  I read a lot of Young Adult novels (of course I write them as well) and I like Holly Schindler and David Levithan and Jerry Spinelli (who might not be well-known in the UK—I’m not sure).
My favorite adult author is Jonathan Safran Foer.

L:  Favourite books?

C:  My favorite “classics” from when I was young are Flowers for Algernon, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Of Mice and Men.

More recent favorites are Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (Jonathan Safran Foer) and The Book Thief (Markus Zusak).

L:  Which writing books would you recommend that would help us writers to improve more our writing?
C:  For those having trouble getting started (or not stalling) I’d recommend Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. 

In general I don’t think I’d recommend books so much as a good writing (critique) group. I know books feel much safer. Which is the problem. Writers need to get used to hearing feedback. It’s unavoidable.

L:  Your biggest influence?

C:  Nature - particularly the breathtakingly beautiful vistas I see when I hike in the national parks

L:  Greatest weakness?

C:  Potato chips.  Otherwise, I am a fiendishly healthy eater.

L:  Please complete this into a sentence for me:  "When I was a child, I wanted to be...."

C:  A cartoonist.  A songwriter.  An actress.  A film producer.  An animator.  Always something creative.  Just took me a while to find my niche.


*******

It is so nice to get to know you more.  Thank you ever so much for this lovely interview.  It is an honour to have you on my blog.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

I'm a mushy mum

You know this already...I'm a mum.  And a mushy mum.  I don't know why but I'm just a darn softie.  You show me someone crying and my tears will fall, too.  To be honest, I don't like it.  But that's just the way my eyes are and the tear ducts.

Ok, Len, get to the point, will yah?

So, I just have to share this photo with you.  It's of my son holding a soft toy from Father Christmas at Fritton Lake Winter Wonderland.

Because of his neurological condition, my boy doesn't speak and he's in a wheelchair.  In Santa's Grotto, Father Christmas spoke to him, held his hand and had photos with him.  He just looked around and I knew the scene would be etched in his memory forever but whether or not he understood what went on, I wouldn't have a way of knowing. All the while, I wondered if he understood any of it.  When one of Santa's "Elves" gave me Santa's gift - a soft toy called Rupert Bear on the way out, I handed it to my boy.  As if to answer the question in my mind - he softly got hold of the soft toy, pulled it close to his chest and pressed it against his lips.

You know what?  The sight of him clutching the toy made me so tearful.  He loved it.  In his own way I knew he enjoyed the trip.  And he loved Rupert.

Here's his beautiful photo.  Isn't he lovely?


And I just have to say this, the man who was Father Christmas that afternoon at Fritton Lake was the kindest Father Christmas I've met so far.  If you are reading this, thank you.  I've taken your kind words home with me.

And thank you most especially to Contact-A-Family for this early Christmas family gift. (I meant to post this bit the day I posted my son's photo but needed permission first)

Anything exciting you're doing this for the winter/holiday/Christmas season?


and what makes you all mushy?

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Friendship Celebration Winners!

I'm announcing the winners today!  But before I give you the results, I'd like to thank the sponsors of the books I'm giving away for their generosity and most of all, their friendship:





My sincerest thanks wrapped in a big HUG to you all!

Now the winners! 

Lucky (paperback) by Alice Sebold goes to:
L'Aussie Denise

The Breath of Fresh Air (paperback) by Erica James
goes to:
Sharon Mayhew

Build A Man (e-book) by Talli Roland
goes to:
Golden Eagle

The Doll (e-book) by JC Martin goes to:
Gemma

Unidentified (paperback) by Rae Mariz goes to:
Robyn Campbell

Floral Writing Set goes to:
Cortney Pearson

Congratulations!!!
You will receive an e-mail shortly about your prize.  Yayyy! to you all!!!

Wait! Before I say goodbye, have you been to JC Martin's blog?  She's announced the winners to her Birthday Blow-Out!  Here's the link:  JC Martin, Fighter Writer.

Have a fab Sunday, everyone!


Sunday, 20 November 2011

Hello You! You're my friend...and I'm celebrating You! ❤

Friendship Give-aways for Thanksgiving!


"...Was my only chance at friendship here destined to be thwarted at every turn?"- Sophie Mercer, Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins


I have met a lot of wonderful people in my life, some of them became very very good friends.  There were, however, many thwarted friendships as well.  There had also been on-line friendships that began well...and ended up really bad.  I'd like to think they are ones that are never meant to be.

Why am I mentioning the thwarted and the unpleasant ones?  Because  I believe life shows us these undesirable things sometimes to let us focus more on the good!  It has made me appreciate more what I have!  This is why, I'm celebrating all the friendships I have in my life!

This message is to thank all of YOU:  Blogger friends, fellow writers and readers out there who have always been there for me.  Whether or not I have something worth reading, you are always there.  I often find myself unable to write anything worthy of posting and yet you keep coming back.  Again and again.

So, please let me tell you.

I heart  ♡♡♡ you all.

I'm celebrating Friendships!! YaY!

This Thanksgiving (in the UK, we don't celebrate Thanksgiving but I'd like to join my my friends in USA and in other parts of the world who are), I'd like to take the opportunity to tell you how grateful I am for each one of you. You know who you are.  I'm so glad that we crossed paths, that we are on-line buddies and that ours is the kind of friendship that has not been thwarted.

As a sign of my appreciation and lurve and with the help and generosity of friends who are donating books (massive thanks!), I'm giving away:

From the Author of Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold.
This is her memoir.
A Breath of Fresh Air by Erica James
A story of finding love again after a tragedy from
a Sunday Times Bestselling Author

An e-copy of Build a Man - donated by the author, 
the Bestselling Novelist Talli Roland
She is also the author of The Hating Game and Watching Willow Watts
Big thanks, Talli!
An e-copy of The Doll by J.C. Martin
A delightfully creepy novellete and a must-read for any horror-lover!
Donated by Author J.C. Martin
Big thanks, J.C.!
A YA dystopian novel by Rae Mariz
This will be sent by mail to one of the winners within the USA only
Big thanks to my friend Theresa Milstein for this book!


and I also have:
A beautiful floral Writing Set with 20 sheets of writing paper and 10 envelopes
plus I'm including some surprise treats inside!
Come on, I know you want them!  It's easy, you can do one, a combination or all of the following:

1.  share this on your Facebook wall - 1 point
2.  share it onTwitter - 1 point
3.  post a link on the side bar of your blog - 2 points
4.  write a blog post about it - 3 points

Please leave me a comment telling me what you've done and which books above you like in order of preference...and don't forget your name and e-mail address so I can let you know if you are one of the winners!

This ends on 30 November 2011, 12 midnight UK Time.  Winners will be announced after 30 Nov.

All giveaways, open internationally.  The Unidentified by Rae Mariz is open within the USA.

I'd love it if you follow me but it is not necessary or a requirement to enter. Sharing the news is to let others know I'm celebrating them, too.  Thank you so much for being here ❤ 

♥♥♥BIG Thanksgiving Hugs!♡♡♡

Friday, 18 November 2011

Don't Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Another book review!  I promise you this is worth your time.  I just loved this book to bits and I really have to share it!

You probably have seen the film, Pay It Forward which stars Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.  The film was based on the novel by Catherine Ryan Hyde.  I had the honour of meeting Catherine on-line after I searched for her on Facebook as soon as I began reading Don't Let Me Go.  Let me tell you, it's not only her book I find amazing, Catherine herself is pure awesomeness!

Without much further ado, let me share with you this astonishing book!




Back cover summary:

Sometimes a child knows better... 


GRACE 

Ten-year-old Grace knows that her mum loves her, but her mum loves drugs too. And there’s only so long Grace can fend off the ‘woman from the county’ who is threatening to put her into care. Her only hope is... 

BILLY 
Grown-man Billy Shine hasn’t been out of his apartment for years. People scare him, and the outside world scares him even more. Day in, day out, he lives a perfectly orchestrated silent life within his four walls. Until now. . . 

THE PLAN 
Grace bursts into Billy’s life with a loud voice and a brave plan to get her mum clean. And it won’t be easy, because they will have to confiscate the one thing her mum holds most dear . . . they will have to kidnap Grace.

Why I like it:

A heartwarming tale of friendship and love.  Love in all forms.  The story depicts the goodness of humanity.  That in each of us lies kindness, no matter who or what we are.

I loved the characters in this story.   It's a feel-good book that would make you wish there was a Book 2.  It's funny, soul-soothing...full of selflessness and compassion.

I am particularly impressed with how the author switched point of view from an adult to a 10-year old girl.  I think it's brilliant!

I am now definitely a fan of Catherine Ryan Hyde!

"So I guess people figure it's not as hard to lose your mother when you never got along anyway.  But they're wrong.  They're dead wrong.  It's always hard to lose your mother.  Always.  If you loved her, if you hated her.  If she smothered you, if she ignored you.  It doesn't matter.  She's your mother.  Your mother.  That's just a very tough bond to break." 
- Jesse, page 233, Don't Let Me Go by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Disclaimer: I own a copy of the book above. This is an honest review and I was not compensated for this.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

String Bridge by Jessica Bell

A Book Review and An Interview Part 2

As promised, fellow bloggers, I'm back with Jessica Bell again.  I've got 3 more questions answered by the lovely Jessica! (Thanks again, Jess!).  But before that, let me tell you about her book, String Bridge and why I like it.

Blurb:
Greek cuisine, smog and domestic drudgery was not the life Australian musician, Melody, was expecting when she married a Greek music promoter and settled in Athens, Greece. Keen to play in her new shoes, though, Melody trades her guitar for a 'proper' career and her music for motherhood. That is, until she can bear it no longer and plots a return to the stage--and the person she used to be. However, the obstacles she faces along the way are nothing compared to the tragedy that awaits ...


Why I like it:

Definitely gripping.  It might be a cliche to say it's 'unputdownable' but there isn't any other way to describe it.  Just amazing.

With a storyline so consuming, it felt like being in some sort of a trance reading this book.  I couldn't stop.  It felt like being on a rollercoaster of emotions.  Just when you think Melody is going to make a long-time dream come true, just when everything is all coming together - piece by piece...BANG!  Everything shatters.  How does Melody put all the pieces back together again?  Where does she go?  What is in store for her?

Intense writing.  Outstanding dialogue.  Impressive metaphors.  Jessica Bell writes beautifully.  String Bridge is a powerful novel.

One of my favourite parts (my ARC copy is full of markings!):

"I just want my mother's hugs.  I need soothing maternal hugs without having to explain why.  And even though the hugs are in the form of a gentle voice through a phone, I can still imagine these hugs - the reassuring scent of henna and coconut moisturizer - her smooth skin against my cheek as she kisses and breathes me in."  - Page 164

Before I can reveal too much, I guess I must stop here.  But let me tell you.  This is definitely a MUST-READ.

and below is the rest of the interview. Hope you all enjoy it like I did!

*******
A Chat with Author Jessica Bell, Part Two:
The One where she talked about having children!


Len:  In String Bridge, Melody has a daughter...do you see yourself being a mother yourself in the near future?  Do you dream of having children? 

Jessica:  Oh yes, definitely. I love kids. But I'm really not sure I'm ready, to be honest. My "career" has just started to kick off, and I'm a bit worried about putting myself into Melody's shoes! lol But you know what? I'm not getting any younger, so I think I might just have to bite the bullet. Soon.

Len:  There's a lot of humourous lines/parts in String Bridge that really made me chuckle.  For example on page 165, you wrote:  "Oh, how I'd love to squash someone's head between two trashcan lids.  I could make music at the same time.  Become a member of Stomp."

I think this is hilarious.  Did they naturally come as you wrote the first draft?

Jessica:  Nope. Usually that stuff comes in much later. These things are like extra touches. The icing on the cake, sort of thing.

Len:  On page 213, you wrote (as Melody):  "Somewhere up there is us, a happy us, in some parallel universe, living the way we're supposed to be.  I truly believe that the earth is our practice ground - the place where we are to test things out, to make mistakes, to discover what we believe in, what we are passionate about.  Death is when we move on and go up there - to the real world; to start again, to rectify our mistakes and live a happy and fulfilling existence.  There is no hell.  Earth is hell.  This is where we are allowed to sin.  Up there, is where we no longer want to."

I loved this part.  It is very deep.  I had to stop and think after reading this part...and then I read each word again, slowly, making every word feel like tiny morsels of food in my mouth, savouring them.

Which makes me ask this question:  do you personally believe this?  Do you believe in the life after death?


Jessica:  Firstly can I just say, that what I love about reading is savoring phrases.  When I find things like this, I underline them and mark the page on the inside of the cover.  When I find things I want to underline, the book becomes a prized possession and will never leave my bookshelf, not even into borrowing hands.  That said, I am SO THRILLED, you felt like this about something in MY book!!!  Did you know that that is the only thing I have ever wanted from my readers?  This is the most exciting moment, I have to tell you.  This is what I wanted.  I wanted people to savor my words.  So thank you so much, Len, thank you for savoring them!!!

In answer to your question, yes, I believe this.  I am not a follower of any particular religion, and I don't believe in "God" the way many do.  But I do believe there is something greater than us out there.  And I believe there is so much more than what we experience here.  I truly think the earth is our playground where we grow, learn, pick up our own shit.  But I don't believe that our transitions happen chronologically.  I believe it's possible we have already moved on in some other time frame.  I believe we are whatever and wherever we imagine ourselves to be.


****
Jessica, thank you once again. It's such a pleasure to have you on my blog.  
And...

Congratulations on being on the Bestselling List on Amazon!!!! 


*****


Disclaimer:  I received an ARC of the book above from the publisher for an honest review and I was not compensated for this review.



Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Chat with Author Jessica Bell

Jessica Bell, one of my favourite people in blogosphere is launching her book, String Bridge this month!  YaY!  Let's do the happy dance for Jessica!

I have a bit of good news - I have Jessica on my blog today!

If you are a regular visitor to this blog, you will probably notice that some of the questions I asked Jessica were the usual questions I'd ask an author.  I hope that this will not bore you - but the truth is, I really wanted to know her answers to these questions.  Now, my biggest mistake was this:  I did not ask her a single question about her debut novel, String Bridge!!!  Arrrrrghhhh!  Yes, I know, I've hit my head on the wall several times already today.  Looking back, I think that the mistake was because I sent her the interview questions months before I got a copy of String Bridge.  And I wanted to ask questions after reading the book.  Now.  I need to calm myself down.  I am posting my review on String Bridge on 15th November...I'm hoping it is not too late to ask Jessica a couple more questions.  If I get lucky, the answers will be posted with the book review, how's that?

I'm happy now.  Hope you are, too.

Now, friends, let's have Jessica!


Len:  What was your job before you made the decision to become a writer?
Jessica Bell:  An English text book writer/editor for English Language Teaching materials. Still am.

L:  Do you write full time?
JB:  Nope. Whenever I can fit it in!

L:  Who are the authors that influenced your writing?
JB:  Marilynne Robinson
Margaret Atwood
Raymond Carver
Gwen Harwood
Anne Lamott
Rebecca Miller

L:  I am really interested to know this - what are your most favourite books - the ones that you will be happy to read over and over again?
JB:  Housekeeping, by Marilynne Robinson is the only book I have ever read multiple times. I still find new things in it too. It’s an acquired taste, though; not for everyone. You need to read it and savor it. You can’t read this book for the story. You have to read it for the sheer brilliance of language.

L:  What do you look for when reading a book? Do you pick it up because of its cover or do you take friends’ recommendations when choosing one?
JB:  I actually don’t pay much attention to covers, I think it’s the blurb which is the first thing I look at. Mind you, if the cover looks tacky and cut and pasted together in five minutes, you can forget it, unless the book was written by a friend, then there’s no chance. Might be a bit shallow, but there’re only so many hours in a day, right?


L:  (*Laughing*  Because secretly, she agrees...hahahahaha!)

L:  You write poetry and literary fiction (aside from being a Singer and Songwriter), do you have to switch from one to the other - I mean, from being a poet to a novelist and vice versa depending on what you are writing?
JB:  All of my writing begins quite raw, so no, I don’t really have to switch, because the bulk of my creativity comes when I begin to embellish the content that’s already written, and I have the same system for both fiction an poetry. I write, I tweak, I color in.

*Len whispers to blog readers:  Have you heard all about it?  Jessica did not only write a book.  She also wrote and recorded a song for it...no, let me correct that, she recorded an album!  Yes, all for her book, String Bridge!

L:  How do you deal with writer’s block?
JB:  I don’t suffer from it much because I don’t ever force myself to write. I really do think that writing when you want to is the key. The rule, that we must write every day, just doesn’t work for me. If I write every day, my creativity runs dry.

L:  Please can you tell us about the challenges you had to face on the road to publication? I’m sure a lot of our blogger friends would like to know.
JB:  Hmm … challenges … rejections, rejections, tears, tears, conflicting advice, rejections, tears, conflicting advice … need I say more?

L:  Any current projects that you are working on?
JB:  Yes, MUTED, which was inspired by a short story I wrote for an anthology called TINY DANCER. Here’s my current blurb:
It's illegal to wear clothes. In some streets, it's also illegal to sing without accompanying instruments. Concetta, a famous Italian a cappella singer from before “the change,” now living in Arles, France, breaks these laws. As punishment, her vocal chords are brutally slashed and her eardrums surgically perforated. Unable to cope living a life without song, she resolves to drown herself in the river clothed in a dress stained with performance memories. But Concetta's suicide attempt is cut short as someone grabs her by the throat and pulls her to the surface. Is it the busking harpist, who encouraged her to feel music through vibration, acting as savior? Or a street warden on the prowl for another offender to detain?

L:  Thank you very much once again, Jessica. Is there anything you’d like to add or tell your friends and supporters out there?
JB:  Have you crossed the String Bridge yet? Hahahahaha …


L:  Yes I have!  I have!  And I loved it!  Congratulations once again on your debut novel!

*****

How about you, blog friends?  Have you crossed the String Bridge yet?  If you haven't yet, here are the links:


Jessica's links:
String Bridge Website: http://www.stringbridge.com/


Purchase links:

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Hometowns and Settings

Does your hometown influence your writing?

The ever-so-adorable Theresa Milstein is with me today with a guest post to promote Fangtales.  Her short story 'Allured' is included in this YA anthology.  Theresa spent time thinking about setting when writing her piece, so she thought she'd share her perspective on how our hometowns shape us and frame our writing.

Here's Theresa:




“It’s a suburb of New York City where moms drive oversize silver trucks to Starbucks and most kids play soccer whether they want to or not.  It’s the kind of place where kids are trained from birth to compete.  In everything.  School, sports, friendship, clothes. . .you know, everything.”
- D.J. MacHale, Morpheus Road: The Light

My blogging buddy, Jessica Bell wrote a recent post asking the question:

What's the first wonderful aspect of your hometown that comes to mind when you think about it? And does it make you feel nostalgic?

Just 1 aspect and 1 hometown?!  
How about 10 aspects and 2 hometowns?


Until age 9, I lived in New York City.  This is my childhood list:
Soot snow mountains
Fire hydrant sprinklers – watching on
X-rated movie theatre ‘round the corner
Giant Catholic Church, opposite direction
Friends and neighbors from everywhere in the world
Walking everywhere and noisy elevated subway
Dark school with caged stairways and paper towel ceilings
Parks with cement cause scraped knees
Crowded and noisy, horns and double-parked cars
Independence with caution

For the rest of my childhood, I lived on Long Island.  If I hadn’t lived in NYC first, this list might be different. If I write it from my teen years, it would also be different.  This is my childhood list:

Sameness of big houses and people
Mowing lawns and lawn pride
Mandatory soccer
Cars drive everywhere
Bicycling through lazy summers
Playing video games at the bowling alley
Backyards with sprinklers 
Basements with toys
Inhaling greenery from flower and vegetable gardens
Designer jeans

Though these places are only an hour drive apart, the contrast is great.  Being a city kid and suburban kid are like two different beasts inside me.  My childhood experiences help me write city and suburban characters.

Kimberley Griffiths Little writes about life on the bayou in The Healing Spell and her soon-to-be-released Circle of Secrets.  I wouldn’t have the faintest idea what that life is like there if I hadn’t been introduced to that world by her:

“I sit in the prow of the motorboat, worms jiggling my gut the whole way, fat and sassy on all that cake I just ate.

When we get to the swamp house, I watch my daddy tie the rope around the dock piling, get my suitcases out, and set them on the scraggly lawn.  Wind moans through the giant cypress trees surrounding the house, making the Spanish moss float in the air like mermaid’s hair.”

- Kimberley Griffiths Little, Circle of Secrets

Recently, I read Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord in one sitting.  Because she spent time on an island in Maine, she could bring that tiny world realistically to me, as I sat in on the Charles River in Cambridge, overlooking the Boston skyline.

I’ve mentioned before that I can make up anything in the world in my books, but I like my setting to be based on a place that I know.  I must know the physical ground to ground my book, no matter what other fantastical elements exist.  The places I’ve lived have had a profound impact on me as a person and as a writer. And knowing a place helps me bring authenticity to my pieces.  But I need to take it further like other authors who know their settings enough to make them  character-like – Carl Hiaasen and Kate DiCamillo, for example.

Where we’ve lived is so much of who we are.

In November, I’m going to post an interview with Jessica Bell about her upcoming book, String Bridge.  She explains how living in Australia and Greece has influenced her writing.

Can you list aspects of your hometown?
How did where you grew up influence your writing?
Which books or authors do wonders with setting?
Links you might want to use:

My blog:  
http://theresamilstein.blogspot.com/

Fangtales: 
Barnes and Noble:

Monday, 24 October 2011

The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little

I waited so long for this book to arrive on my doorstep so that when it finally did, I almost screamed in delight!

Livie, the main character, did not only make me reconnect to my child-self but also helped me come to terms with the things in my past, things I can never change.

The Healing Spell by Kimberley Griffiths Little helped me understand my own fears when I was an eleven year old girl.  Most of all, it made me understand and love my mother more than I already do or did.

This is one of the books that I highly recommend to both children and adults alike.  It's an emotionally powerful book.  It may not have the same effect on you but I can assure you that it is an excellent read.  I am certain you will enjoy every word, every page.  To me, this means I will be reading more books by Ms Little.



Back cover blurb:


Twelve-year-old Livie is living with a secret and it's crushing her. She knows she is responsible for her mother's coma, but she can't tell anyone. It's up to her to find a way to wake her momma up.

Stuck in the middle of three sisters, hiding a forbidden pet alligator, and afraid to disappoint her daddy, whom she loves more than anyone else, Livie struggles to find her place within her own family as she learns about the powers of faith and redemption. Livie's powerful, emotional, and sometimes humorous story will stay with readers long after the last line is read.
Set in the lush bayou of Louisiana, Kimberley Griffiths Little brings Livie's story to life with power and grace.

Disclaimer:  I own a copy of the book 'The Healing Spell.'  This is an honest review and I was not compensated for this.


Thursday, 6 October 2011

What are you reading?

Whew.  That was close!  I thought I lost this blog.  *Inhale.  Exhale.*  No, don't blame Blogger.  It wasn't Blogger.  It was me.  I logged in using the wrong email address, hahaha!

Moment of craziness over.

Wow! It's finally October.  Summer is gone!  We had a lot of sunshine over here in England last week and before that...and yes, it was heaven for most people.  Me?  I had heat rash around my neck! Eeeeekkk! But no worries, it's fading away slowly, thank God.

No big news about myself today but guess what?  JUICY NEWS about our pals, Theresa Milstein, Talli Roland, India Drummond and Jessica Bell!


In no particular order:

Juicy News 1:  Author Theresa Milstein's short story "Allured" is included in a YA anthology, Fangtales - and it is NOW AVAILABLE on Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com.  Check it out!


She's got a blog tour promoting Fangtales - go visit her BLOG to find out more!

Theresa is also doing a guest post right here, yes, on this blog, on the 27th October.  Please don't forget the date and see us in two weeks' time.

Juicy News 2:  Another prolific writer and talented author, Talli Roland, is self-publishing her latest novel, Build a Man!  I can't wait to get my copy!  What are you waiting for?  Check it out!  Click HERE.

Juicy News 3:  Let's not forget to mention that Author India Drummond custom designed the cover for Build a Man! Look at that! How amazing!  I'm so impressed!  So if you have a book that you'd like custom artwork for - you know who to call.


Juicy News 4:  Author Jessica Bell's  String Bridge, is coming out in November!  Woot, Jess!!!!  Only a month away!  I've read this book and I so loved it.  I will be posting a review on this one soon.



Just want to give you the heads up, blog friends!  I will see you again after a few days hopefully.  Anyway, I will be over at your blogs!  *HUGS*



Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Watching Willow Watts Launch Day!

Today is the celebratory launch of Talli Roland's second novel, Watching Willow Watts and I've joined the parteeeeyyy!!!!

Almost 150 bloggers have joined the If I could be Anyone, I'd be...Websplash and this is what this is all about! Woot!

So who would I be?

*Holds breath*

I'd be Samantha played by Nicole Kidman in Bewitched (2005)!  Why?  Because she's stunning and wears pretty dresses in the film!  And of course, magic!  Yes!  I'd like to have magical power to...to...I don't know - hmmm...turn bad people into toads?  Hee hee.  I'd like to be a beautiful witch with only the face of Nicole Kidman but please let me NOT be married to Darrin played by Will Ferrell?


Now, about Willow Watts:

For Willow Watts, life has settled into a predictably dull routine: days behind the counter at her father's antique shop and nights watching TV, as the pension-aged residents of Britain's Ugliest Village bed down for yet another early night.  But everything changes when a YouTube video of Willow's epically embarrassing Marilyn Monroe impersonation gets millions of hits after a viewer spots Marilyn's ghostly image in a frame.

Instantly, Willow's town is overrun with fans flocking to see the 'new Marilyn'. Egged on by the villagers -- whose shops and businesses are cashing in -- Willow embraces her new identity, dying her hair platinum and ramming herself full of cakes to achieve Marilyn's legendary curves.

But when a former flame returns seeking the old Willow, Willow must decide: can she risk her stardom and her village's newfound fortune on love, or is being Marilyn her ticket to happiness? 



The good news!  You can buy a copy of Willow on Amazon UK for £1.71, or on Amazon.com for $2.99. Paperback coming in November!


And, one more EXCITING part of today is seeing the beautiful Talli Roland as Marilyn Monroe!!!






Congratulations, Talli!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

The Door Swung Open

Rachel Harrie is hosting the First Campaigner Challenge. 


Write a short story/flash fiction story in 200 words or less, excluding the title.  It can be in any format, including a poem.  Begin the story with the words, "The door swung open."  These four words will be included in the word count.


Here's my attempt:


The door swung open.  Alice did not even hear it when it shut as she bowed down her head, staring at her jeans and her hands still clasped together in between her legs.  She felt a hand on her shoulder.  Startled, she looked up to see Adrian.  His face was flustered and sweaty.  He knew.  He didn't have to say a thing.  They just looked at each other.


She was the one who broke the silence.  "He's gone,"  she whispered, tears streaming down her cheeks.


He nodded with eyes closed and sat next to her.  Adrian could hold it no longer.  He covered his face with his hands and sobbed.  Alice wrapped an arm around him, leaned on his shoulder.  And she wept, too.  


The suffering was over.  Their only child was finally at peace.