Never Be At Peace, by M.J. Neary, Shows a Fresh Look at Irish Independence Movement

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailI have been so excited to review M.J. Neary’s newest book, Never Be At Peace! I have always been interested in Irish history and culture, especially considering my name, Erin, means Ireland! I had a guest post with her last month about her writing Irish history and  you can view it HERE!

Never Be At Peace takes place in Ireland around the turn of the 19th century, at a time when the Irish independence movements were gaining speed. The novel’s main protagonist, Helena Molony, works to liberate Ireland, overcoming obstacles such as her gender and the entire British Empire that would have made a weaker person crumble.

This novel is fresh and new because it shows us the beginnings of the IRA and Sinn Fein, of the times of Michael Collins. Most of us know solely of the IRA and Sinn Fein in the 1970s and 1980s, when London was being bombed at an alarming rate. It is a look at the rebellious streak that defines the Irish.

All of Neary’s characters are well-formed, with hopes and losses, with love and death. We feel all of their emotions within ourselves as we read. Never Be At Peace is also fast-paced, where the military scenes are captivating. They are not sugar-coated nor overly gruesome, just enough that we know what is going on. We learn a lot of the strategy the IRA used at this time in trying to form their own independent Ireland and the toll the battles put on the independence fighters.

We see a whole new side of this story in Never Be At Peace. We have all heard the British side in our own lives, most of us anyway. We also have heard about the terrorists that made up the IRA in the 70s and 80s, but in this novel we see the members in the early days of the Irish Independence Movement on a human level. We remove the veil of violence and hate and see all as humans, with flaws and all. This is the greatest thing I took away from Neary’s book and I believe that all who read this will be better for it.

I would suggest this book to a fan of military history, but also to anyone who likes British or Irish History. The hostility between the British and Irish still has not ended, making this book timely and one that we all need to read to understand the past so that we can prevent the same type of death we saw then from happening in the future.

Never Be At Peace, Synopsis~

Never Be at Peace Cover ThumbnailA pugnacious orphan from a bleak Dublin suburb, Helena Molony dreams of liberating Ireland. Her fantasies take shape when the indomitable Maud Gonne informally adopts her and sets her on a path to theatrical stardom – and political martyrdom. Swept up in the Gaelic Revival, Helena succumbs to the romantic advances of Bulmer Hobson, an egotistical Fenian leader with a talent for turning friends into enemies.

After their affair ends in a bitter ideological rift, she turns to Sean Connolly, a married fellow-actor from the Abbey Theatre, a man idolised in the nationalist circles. As Ireland prepares to strike against the British rule on Easter Monday, Helena and her comrades find themselves caught in a whirlwind of deceit, violence, broken alliances and questionable sacrifices.

In the words of Patrick Pearse, “Ireland unfree shall never be at peace.” For the survivors of the Rising, the battle will continue for decades after the last shot had been fired.

 Author M.J. Neary, Biography~

Neary author photoA Chernobyl survivor adopted into the world of Anglo-Irish politics, Marina Julia Neary has dedicated her literary career to depicting military and social disasters, from the Charge of the Light Brigade to the Easter Rising in Dublin. Her mission is to tell untold stories, find hidden gems and illuminate the prematurely extinguished stars in history.

She explores human suffering through the prism of dark humor, believing that tragedy and comedy go hand in hand. Her debut novel Wynfield’s Kingdom: a Tale of London Slums appeared on the cover of the First Edition Magazine in the UK and earned the praise of the Neo-Victorian Studies Journal.

With the centennial of the Easter Rising approaching, she has written a series of novels exploring the hidden conflicts within the revolutionary ranks. Never Be at Peace: a Novel of Irish Rebels is a companion piece to Martyrs & Traitors: a Tale of 1916.

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Laura K. Cowan’s Music of Sacred Lakes is Beautiful Redemptive Ghost Story + INTERVIEW

musicofsacredlakesbookcoverfrontMusic of Sacred Lakes, by Laura K. Cowan, is my type of book. I love books that rise above words on a page and become their own surreal, atmospheric, deep thinking entities. It’s why I love Neil Gaiman, Erin Healy, and Ted Dekker so much. I really wish there were more authors who would write stories that intertwine the essence of life with fantastic ideas and a connection to nature, our ancestors, and the spirit world. Maybe I just think deeper myself than an average person on such subjects, but I doubt it. I am sure there are plenty of us free spirit thinkers sitting on benches by rivers and lakes and thinking about how it all fits together.

In this novel, Laura deals with emotions and issues such as not feeling like you belong, feeling guilty for not meeting expectations, feeling that you can’t be who you are, and as well, emotions that come from accidentally doing something wrong and having it eat away at you. She does a wonderful job of bringing it full circle though and redeeming the protagonist as he does inner soul searching and embraces self-awareness and forgiveness.

This story is somewhat supernatural in regards to it deals with the character diving deep beyond the normal, natural world and seeks guidance from God, spirits, natures, and himself. He is heightened in regards to thinking beyond the average world and healing himself. The lake, and his quest he is sent on by a native american healer to hear the lake speak to him, brings a gothic, foggy feel to the novel.

I really enjoyed Laura’s use of the first people tribes, the Odawa and Ojibwe, which are native to the area of Canada and Michigan. Native American novels and the use of their spiritual history and connection with nature has always interested and appealed to me, so I was thrilled that her novel included this element. It gives us as Christians an understanding that their is more than the usual religion that most are used to, that long before the white men came here, native americans were in-tune to the natural world and as well their own emotions and spiritual plain. A deep understanding of nature can call to us, change us, and speak to us, or how spirits and ancestors can speak to us through it, is so eerie to read about and yet so interesting to think on.

I really loved the issues and emotions Laura put into her book, as well as her character development and  her astounding magical and spiritual realism and symbolism. I can’t read to read more from Laura. If you liked Erin Healy’s Afloat or Neil Gaiman’s The House at the End of the Lane, then I think you’ll love Laura’s Music of the Sacred Lakes.  4.5 stars

Interview with Laura K. Cowan~

laura-k-cowan-headshotHi Laura!! Happy to have you come by Oh, for the Hook of a Book! It’s always a pleasure to have you here. You are kicking off quite the year as not only are you publishing Music of Sacred Lakes, but you have many more books launching this year. How are you feeling about launching Music of Sacred Lakes to the world?

Laura: Thank you! It’s so nice to be back to talk to you again. How am I feeling? Giddiness followed by dread followed by joy. No biggie. But seriously, this book came out of a full year of intense research and involved a shift in my worldview to a new understanding of the connectedness of things, so it’s big for me even if I’m not inventing any new way of seeing things that didn’t already exist in the world. I am super excited to share it with everyone, but I’m also pretty nervous. How many more people have to call me a heretic before I earn my sew-on “This Artist Has Been Flogged and Proven Sincere” patch?

Erin: NO reason to be nervous….haha! It’s getting somewhat more like spring where we are in Michigan and Ohio, after all that massive snow we had, let’s don our sweatshirts and head out in the cool breeze for a walk around one of our neighboring lakes. Should we bring coffee or tea? I opt this time for a steaming cup of java myself. You?

Laura: I love coffee, but it turns me into a maniac! I seriously can’t drink more than a quarter-cup of coffee without attempting to write an entire book in one day or clean my whole house. That would be awesome if it didn’t involve a crash on the other end. So, tea, thanks.

Erin: I have some great questions I’ve been waiting to ask you so let’s get started.

Q: Tell us a little about Music of Sacred Lakes. What was your inspiration for the novel?

A: My family actually has a sixth-generation family homestead in Northern Michigan like Peter in Music of Sacred Lakes, and while I’m really proud of my pioneering ancestors and relatives who still maintain the farm, I was upset when I learned as a kid about the history of Native American tribes being forced to give their lands to the United States to open it to settlers in the 1800s. I thought all my life about how maybe I should give back land I had control over, or at least help these tribes. In the end I realized that this sort of thing has happened throughout history to many peoples and it’s not possible to untangle it so simply, but it got me thinking about ownership of land, a concept I’ve never really been comfortable with. I also was thinking about how different cultures give rise to unique musical styles that really seem to reflect the environment they come from, and I started to wonder if there was a relationship between music and land. What was people’s relationship to land? What kind of relationships do people have with nature? I was starting to realized that feeling unwanted and displaced in the world was a deeper issue than family relationships, a big theme running through the generations of my family. It had something to do with the way we view our place in the world as a whole as well, something that had more to do with our entire culture’s way of viewing their relationship with nature.

Q: Your stories generally have an air of spirituality and connection with the natural elements. How do you feel your ghost differs from the normal ghost stories we read mainstream today?

A: This ghost is so different that I didn’t decide it was a ghost until the story was finished! This ghost is more like the voice of the world or the creative force behind it, which comes to Peter in the book in the form of the girl he accidentally killed rising out of Lake Michigan as a part of the lake. That’s why I call it a redemptive ghost story. It’s certainly still fascinating in the way I think all ghost stories can be, but it’s not just scary or sad. There’s a real ambiguous quality to it. We travel through the experience of being pursued by this voice with Peter, unsure of what is going on.

Q: How do you as an author define your genre? Literary? Christian? Paranormal? And how do others define you? Even though we can say we don’t want to be defined, generally our novels fit in somewhere and this helps readers to know if it’s a read for them.

A: I guess the best fit for me is magical realism or imaginative fantasy, in which invisible or mythical truths are made literal and visible in the contemporary world. My writing hops across several genres: fantasy, literary fiction, spiritual/visionary/metaphysical/postmodern Christian, paranormal psychological thrillers, but everything is about dreams, the connections between the natural and spiritual worlds, and supernatural or magical elements.

Q: What makes your novel, The Music of Sacred Lakes, stand out on the shelves? What makes your story unique?

A: Both supernatural novels and literary novels sometimes have a kind of dark vision of the world these days, probably just a reflection of our times. But Music of Sacred Lakes dives into one of the hardest topics literature tackles–being unwanted, unloved, displaced in the world, seeing no hope or purpose in life: despair–and brings an ambitiously hopeful vision of how things might be all right after all. It might be that we just don’t see it.

Q: What do you hope readers “take away” after they read this novel? What types of emotions or thoughts do you hope to evoke from them?

A: Hope. A feeling of being surrounded by loving care and belonging just as they are.

Q: The Odawa tribe, which is featured in the book, were native to Canada and Michigan. Have you done much research about the tribes? How did you feature the tribe in the book?

A: The main character’s best friend Derek is from the Odawa tribe local to the area where Peter’s family has been living since 1865, and it’s his uncle he takes Peter to when he sees he is in trouble after accidentally killing a girl. It’s this Uncle Lou, a pipe carrier or spiritual leader for the tribe, who tells Peter he needs to live by the shores of Lake Michigan until it speaks to him. I read everything I could find about the history of the tribes and their culture and myths while researching this novel, but a lot of information is kept private within the tribe. I contacted the band of Odawa living in the area where Music of Sacred Lakes is set and someone very graciously answered some of my questions about the tribe’s culture and lifestyle. I was also lucky to find an Ojibwe linguist in my own town who would help me proof some details in my novel. (Ojibwe is a brother tribe to the Odawa and the languages and history are intertwined.) This gave me a bit more confidence that I wasn’t going to make any huge mistakes writing this novel, but the more I learned the more I realized how complex the culture and beliefs were.

Q: Is the lake in your novel Lake Michigan or Lake Huron? How many novels do you think could be penned just by looking out at a lake and clearing your mind? Lakes offer so much depth, pun intended. Do you find beauty, solace, and stories at the lake?

A: Lake Michigan. And oh my I could write forever looking out over Lake Michigan in particular. I think readers will see how much I love the lake by reading the novel. The lake itself is a character in this book, and I had no problem coming up with a new image to describe the lake every single moment Peter looks out over the water throughout the book or listens to the waves. The lake is like that, always changing, always bringing you some new insight or sense of freedom.

Q: Your life is busy, how have you found time to write novels such as these that seem to take a lot of internal reflection and deep thinking? I’d love to be able to write on this wavelength, but the voices of a million things to do with the kids and work and life seem to stifle my thoughts. How do you do it? Advice?

A: I honestly am always thinking on speculative, metaphysical and spiritual topics and have been told most of my life that it’s boring or that it’s arrogant to think that I’m capable of thinking deeply on these things. I finally had to decide that I believed I was capable of this, because I really can’t help myself. This is what I love about life. And when my brain or my heart get going on these topics, the stories just explode inside my head, or start to unfold slowly and then accelerate, and I have to write to keep up. It’s still accelerating now that I’m investing in my writing, and it’s a little startling sometimes to see all this stuff in my head rolling out onto paper. It’s only a fraction of what’s going through my mind, but it’s quickly turning into a whole library of work!

Q: You’ve described yourself as a literary imaginative novelist, or an American Fabulist. Can you talk about this a little and describe what that means for readers?

A: The main features of my work are that it is high-concept, meaning I’m exploring really deep topics of speculation about how the world works. And it’s imaginative, because if I write fantasy I’m often making up my own monsters or putting two concepts together into something new, not writing about existing fantasy creatures like elves or dragons. So I’ll take you down a lot of different paths with my stories, but it will hopefully always be something that is important to you and really resonates with you, and it will always be imaginative and new.

Q: What are your hopes for yourself as a novelist? We can be humble, but we all aspire. What are your aspirations, goals, dreams?

A: There are so many things I can’t control about my success, so I focus my goals on things I think I can accomplish. I would like to be the most prolific and imaginative American Fabulist in history. Of course my real dream is to connect with as many readers as possible and for my stories to mean something to someone who is hurting and needs some hope and love or a world to escape into where they can be happy. I had my first glimpse of this when I released my first novel, The Little Seer, last year. Two people wrote to me and told me the book changed their lives. Even if I didn’t already write for the love of it, that would have made five years of work worth it, for me.

Q: What authors do you like yourself? What authors have served as inspiration for you? What are some of your favorite books?

A: I love Italo Calvino, who wrote literary fantasy. Jorge Luis Borges, the king of magical realism. I love the new fairy tales coming out these days, written by Eowyn Ivey, Kate Bernheimer or Ekaterina Sedia, and anything speculative or imaginative and spiritual at the same time. I love Victorian or Puritan ghost stories about priests, for obvious reasons. Some of my favorite books include Charles de Lint’s Memory & Dream, in which art is sentient, Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood about a layered magical wood of mythic creatures, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods since it opened up this world of contemporary fantasy mixed with world myths to me. And Lewis Carroll. Alice in Wonderland is the most amazing story on so many levels.

Q: Are you making a conscious decision to self-publish your books? Can you talk about that and what your thoughts are on this?

A: Yes, it was a tough decision because publishing is in a huge transition right now, but ultimately I discovered that traditional publishing couldn’t offer me the things they used to, and that contract terms were so bad they could sometimes stop an author’s career in its tracks. Even though I met some amazing people in the process of making this decision, I had to go it alone in the end just so I could keep my career moving forward. As a self-published author I can publish six books a year, as quickly as I can write and edit them, I can control how quickly I get my covers designed, hire any help I need, and so on. I hope someday to find partners to help me get my work out and scale up my career even further, but for now the only way to write what I want and not get bogged down in bottlenecks is to do it all myself, and I actually enjoy that process so it’s very satisfying.

Q: Also are you crazy publishing such an unheard of amount of books in the next one to two years? How are you doing this? What is your plan? How many books do you actually having coming out and what are they about?

A: I have six books coming out this year starting with Music of Sacred Lakes, everything from new fairytales about portals between worlds to a young adult fantasy world in which dreams balloon into a new reality that threatens to roll up the world like a scroll, and a paranormal psychological thriller about an ex-ballerina running away from an abusive marriage while trying to figure out if she’s possessed. It all follows the same supernatural spiritual lines of the rest of my work but dips into many different genres.

I’m publishing this quickly because readers now consume books like they do movies, binge reading whole backlists, and because this really is how quickly I need to work to keep up with myself. I have three books I’m editing over the next few months in parallel, and I already have four more books I want to write noodling around in my head. My idea file must have close to 200 ideas in it, and growing. Yes, I’m probably crazy, but hopefully the interesting kind of crazy.

Q: Where can readers and authors connect with you? Where can they purchase your books? 

A: All my work comes out first on Amazon and Kindle (you can find Music of Sacred Lakes here [ http://www.amazon.com/Music-Sacred-Lakes-Laura-Cowan/dp/1494711427/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1397568590&sr=8-2&keywords=laura+k.+cowan ] ), but I will be releasing many of my books to other e-book retailers soon, and you can always order my work in any bookstore or request it be ordered by your local library. I’m on Facebook [ http://www.facebook.com/laurakcowannovelist ] and Twitter (@laurakcowan) as well as Pinterest and Goodreads as Laura K. Cowan. And I blog at http://www.laurakcowan.com.

Erin: I’m always so happy to learn of your work and feature you on the blog, Laura, my friend. Best wishes to you with all your pursuits and we’ll be here to inform our readers about all your fabulous novels as they publish. I love watching all this blossom for you.

Laura: Thank you so much! I really appreciate all your support. Best of luck to you with everything as well!

Music of Sacred Lakes, Synopsis~

musicofsacredlakesbookcoverfrontPeter Sanskevicz doesn’t belong anywhere. He doesn’t want the sixth-generation family farm his great great-grandfather unwittingly stole from its Odawa owners, and can’t continue his jobs serving “fudgies,” tourists in Northern Michigan who seem more at home than he is. He can’t seem to take charge of things or do anything but make a mess. Then, Peter accidentally kills a girl.

Seeing his life is at risk, his friend takes him to his uncle, a pipe carrier of the Odawa tribe, who tells him he must live by the shores of Lake Michigan until the lake speaks to him. Peter lives and loves and rages by the shores of the great lake, haunted by its rich beauty, by strange images and sounds that begin to pursue him through his waking and sleeping hours, and by the spirit of the dead girl, who seems to be trying to help him. One day, he finally finds an inner silence. And then, he hears what the lake has to say to him. A story about reconnecting with the source of your life and your joy, Music of Sacred Lakes gives voice to the spirit of the land and lakes that gave birth to us all.

With this second and astonishingly sophisticated novel, Dreaming Novelist Laura K. Cowan cements her reputation as one of the most imaginative new American Fabulists, a writer of spiritually-oriented magical realism, literary fantasy, and visionary fiction in the line of Alice Hoffman, Ursula K. Le Guin, or Paulo Coelho, but characterized by an electric mix of lyrical language, an evocative sense of place, and quick-moving narrative that harkens back to a time when literary fiction was served up raw and ghost stories weren’t told for their sad and scary parts.

Available April 26, 2014 in Paperback and Ebook

Author Laura K. Cowan, Biography~

laura-k-cowan-headshotLaura K. Cowan writes imaginative stories that explore the connections between the spiritual and natural worlds. Her work has been compared to that of acclaimed fantasy and sci-fi authors Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Bradbury, but her stark and lovely stories retain a distinctly spiritual flavor.

Laura’s debut novel The Little Seer was a top 5 Kindle Bestseller for free titles in Christian Suspense and Occult/Supernatural, and was hailed by reviewers and readers as “riveting,” “moving and lyrical.” Her second novel, a redemptive ghost story titled Music of Sacred Lakes, and her first short story collection, The Thin Places: Supernatural Tales of the Unseen, received rave reviews. Laura’s short stories also appear in a number of anthologies, including the charity anthology Shades of Fear, and the upcoming historical horror anthology Sins of the Past, the rather ridiculous soon-to-come PANTS! anthology, and the completely absurd upcoming Faery Tale Therapy.

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Inscription: H.H. Miller Creates Historical World of Mainland + Interview

Inscription_CoverToday, I have a review, interview, and info on H.H. Miller’s debut novel, Inscription! Miller does an extraordinary job as a novelist, and a first time book author at that, with Inscription.  She creates a historical world the likes of which we as readers could think is real if we didn’t know better. Possibly you might do an Internet search for the people and place if you didn’t know better type of writing. Her scenes and settings are vivid, though imaginary, and her characters are well-developed and full of emotions. We have romance, intrigue, and fantastical adventure all rolled into the place of Mainland. It reads like historical fiction, but as imaginary historical fiction, not fantasy. I know it must be sometimes so hard for readers to grasp, but there aren’t a lot of other books out there as such. She really has a deep imagination yet isn’t magical. Think of it like Game of Thrones or Outlander and add a touch of “Downton Abbey” and Jane Austen.

I loved this book. I have always loved this type of novel and not only do I applaud Miller for writing such a well-written novel, but I congratulate her on her efforts to write a unique novel and cross the hill and stand upon new territory. I hope that as some of these true historical tales are repeated over and over more novels like Miller’s will be created. As she didn’t have true subject matter, she didn’t have to do too much research but create it all from her own head. I am in awe of how difficult that must be, especially keeping everything straight! Creating an entire world of people and a place like Mainland was probably not an easy feat, but she makes it seem flawless.

Her female character of Caris was an independent and beautiful heiress and her descriptions seemed to fit what I might picture in my head of someone from this time period going through such strife. I enjoyed Tom as well and I appreciate the level and type of romance she depicted in her book. I think there was just the right amount of conflict and adventure and I was sucked up into the story and didn’t want to stop reading it last week!

I’d say this was a major success for a debut novel and I hope to read so much more from Miller in the future.

Now, learn more about the novel in this interview…….

Hi, H.H and welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are happy to have you here today to talk about your book, Inscription, as well as getting to know the author behind the book. How has the book launch been going for you?

H.H.: Great! Publishing is a whole new world to me, so it’s definitely been an education. But I’m enjoying learning the ropes and talking to readers about Inscription.

Erin: Let’s have a seat here in this quaint bookstore coffee shop. What will you have to drink with me? Tea, coffee, fruit juice? I’ll be having a Café Mocha today, still a bit of a chill in the air here and I’ve been up late writing.

H.H.: Iced coffee for me, no matter the weather. I get a lot of funny looks at the Starbucks drive-through window when it’s snowing. Rare, of course, that it snows in Seattle, but we definitely get our share of cold, wet, dreary days. Good writing weather.

Erin: Ha! Yes, you do have some rainy days there. Iced is always good, it’s just plain yummy! Let’s get started in with the questions now. Relax and let’s have a great time.

Q: I could repost your synopsis, but in your words what is your novel, Inscription, all about? What genre of historical literature or time/place is it set in?

A: I call it a historically fictional romantic adventure, because it doesn’t fall neatly into any standard genre. The story follows a 20-year-old woman in 1851 whose life is turned upside down by people and events beyond her control: scheming relatives, vindictive soldiers, wild storms. And of course, the hero she falls in love with.

It takes place in a fictional country called Mainland. I’ve always loved historical fiction set in England, but it’s been done – and done very well – by many others. I was intrigued by the idea of imagining a world where the time period and customs were familiar, but the story was unconstrained by actual history. I was free to create places, characters, and events as I wished them to be without regard for the way things actually were.

Q: I understand that Inscription is your first novel. Where did the inspiration for your novel come from? Why did you decide to write a fictional work?

A: I’ve always been an avid reader, but I fell into a reading rut about two years ago. I just couldn’t find a book I LOVED. You know the kind . . . where you want to drop everything and spend the whole day immersed in the life and times of your favorite characters. I’d had this nugget of an idea for a story rambling around in my head, and I finally decided if I couldn’t find a book I wanted to read, I’d write one myself. I guess you could say necessity was the mother of invention.

Q: How long did it take you to write it and did you have to dive into a lot of research or was it all a tale inside your head?

A: The entire process – from the first day I slapped down a few notes in a file on my computer called “Book” to the day it was published – took one year. As far as research, that’s the great part about writing “fictional” historical fiction. You don’t need to do much beyond tapping into your own imagination. I’ve read a lot about the time period, so I had a rich base for envisioning what life might have been like. I also lived in England for a few months (many years ago).

Q: What were your biggest challenges in writing the book? What were your greatest obstacles that you overcame or greatest success so far?

A: The scene in the hayloft with Tom and Caris made me blush the entire time I was writing it. It’s pretty mild for a sex scene, and I don’t get embarrassed reading this stuff in other books, but I never knew it would make me so uncomfortable to write! I got over it eventually, but I still cringe a little when I think about my kids reading it. Also, I re-wrote the opening chapter countless times. That was probably the most difficult part to get right.

Q: You do copy writing for work, as do I sometimes, so I know that it’s a different type of writing. How do you keep the styles straight or the flow? Do you have problems with the transition or does the writing come natural?

A: I’ve always been a writer, even before I had a job as a writer. I kept a journal all through my stupid teen years. (And if you’ve ever read something as an adult that you wrote when you were 16, you know how it makes you want to reach for a blowtorch.) But writing has always been a creative outlet for me, whether personal or professional. Writing for marketing/business is definitely different than writing a novel, but the creative process is similar. In anything you write, your goal is to tell the story in the most compelling way possible, so it resonates with your audience.

Q: What advice do you have for aspiring writers and authors now that you’ve been through the first time publishing a novel?

A: It’s a messy, protracted, sometimes agonizing but ultimately incredibly rewarding process to write and publish a novel. If you like to set challenging goals for yourself, and you’re dying to check “write a novel” off your bucket list, it’s worth the effort. And remember, an editor is your best friend. I’m a professional writer/editor, but I didn’t trust myself to edit my own book – and I’m extremely glad I didn’t.

Q: Do you feel there is a market currently for your type of book? Is it ever mentioned with Downton Abbey meets fantasy in terms of talking about its content? Who will like your book?

A: Yes, that’s tricky. When I set out to write this book, I didn’t think a lot about my “target” audience. I just wrote the story I wanted to read, figuring that other people like me would enjoy it. I think Downton Abbey fans are probably a perfect audience, as well as lovers of Jane Austen, Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, and stories like Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. I know the publishing world likes to slot novels into neat categories like historical fantasy, even when only the location is fictional, but I just don’t see Inscription in the same category with unicorns and magic.

Q: What authors do you enjoy reading? Who are your author inspirations? What are your favorite books?

A: Well, certainly the ones named above are at the top of my list. I also admire J. K. Rowling and Dan Brown for their story-telling flair, character-driven stories, and page-turning plots. And let’s not forget Charlotte Bronte . . . Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorites.

Q: I read that you like to travel, yet you also have three kids….so do I and I know how that is….what new travel destination do you hope to go most?

A: Well, our kids are 10, 15, and 17 now so it’s not as hard as when they were toddlers! We’ve been to lots of places, but so far we’ve missed Italy, so I’d like to get there at some point . . . Rome and Florence. And the Cook Islands. Maybe without the kids. :)

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: You can find me at http://www.facebook.com/HHMillerBooks. I love to hear from readers!

Erin: Thank you so much, H.H., for your time with me today. I had an excellent time talking and sipping java. It was so nice to learn about your book and the woman behind it. Please stop back by anytime. I like to stay in touch with writer friends.

H.H.: Nice to chat with you too, Erin, thank you. Your blog is wonderful. I’ll come visit often. :)

Erin: Great to hear, I’d love to “see” you!

*********************************************************

Inscription, Synopsis~

Inscription_CoverPublication: January 9, 2014
H.H Miller
Paperback; 278p
ISBN-10: 0615944418

eBook; 700kb
ASIN: B00HSBNW5Y

The year is 1851 and the Grand Guard is ravaging Mainland. Arrests. Floggings. Swift executions. Twenty-year-old Caris McKay, the beautiful heiress of Oakside Manor, is sent to live with distant relations until the danger has passed. It’s no refuge, however, as Lady Granville and her scheming son plot to get their hands on Caris’s inheritance with treachery and deceit.

Soon, alarming news arrives that the ruthless Captain James Maldoro has seized Oakside and imprisoned Caris’s beloved uncle. And now he’s after her.

Caris escapes with the help of Tom Granville, the enigmatic silver-eyed heir of Thornbridge. But when a cryptic note about a hidden fortune launches them on a perilous journey across Mainland, Caris and Tom must rely on wits, courage, and their growing love for each other if they hope to survive.

Filled with adventure, intrigue, and romance, Inscription will transport you to a historically fictional world you’ll never want to leave.

READ AN EXCERPT.

Buy the Book

Amazon (eBook)
Amazon (Paperback)

Author H.H. Miller, Biography~

H.H.-Miller-Author-150x150H. H. Miller is the author of the novel Inscription, a historically fictional romantic adventure. In real life, she’s content director at Stoke Strategy, a brand strategy firm in Seattle, Washington, where she specializes in transforming what some might call “boring” technology jargon into compelling, readable, memorable stories. Her favorite escape is Manzanita, Oregon – a place of beautiful beaches, wild storms, chilly nights around the bonfire (even in July), and time to enjoy life with her husband and three children.

For more information please visit H.H. Miller’s Facebook Page.

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/inscriptiontour

Tour Hashtag: #InscriptionTour

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The Talented Author, Journalist Carol Strickland Guest Speaks Today on the New Digital Book World

Today, I have an excellent guest article by Carol Strickland, the author of The Eagle and the Swan, in which she talks about the new and and improved and countless reasons to read digital books! It’s fitting as yesterday in my review, which  you can see HERE, I was raving out the enhanced digital version of her book. With all its links to resources, art, and photos it makes reading an experience.

Be sure to also sign-up at the Rafflecopter link to enter to win one of two copies of her digital book. Enjoy!

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A New Look at the Book: Print or Pixels?   
by Carol Strickland, author of The Eagle and the Swan

The printed book celebrates its 560th birthday in 2014, while its newest offspring the eBook has been popular less than a decade. Yet with titles proliferating at an enormous rate and more readers using the electronic format, one wonders what its potential might be.

In an article in the December 1, 2013 New York Times, David Streitfeld denigrated enhanced eBooks, quoting Peter Meyers saying, “We pursued distractions and called them enhancements.” Wait a cotton-pickin’ minute! As Sportin’ Life sings in Porgy and Bess, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

I’ve published non-fiction books on art, architecture, and literature as conventional print books and my historical novel (The Eagle and the Swan) as an eBook. From an author’s perspective, dead-tree books are just that: dead, immobile, static. Enhanced eBooks have all the growth potential of a living tree.

The Eagle and the SwanLet’s re-imagine the eBook with wide branches and deep roots. The branches provide perches for bird-like ideas to nest on and use as launching pads. The roots offer depth and a stable foundation. And the trees’ buds open into beautiful blossoms, not to mention forming seeds that can grow into new offshoots. Basically, an eBook can jumpstart a reader’s growth.

With links to embedded information, a well-designed, enhanced eBook can increase the reader’s knowledge with clickable hotspots for unfamiliar terms or names. These activate the reader’s brain by turning reading from passive consumption into lively engagement. No longer must you leave the experience of the book to learn more historical background. It’s layered right into the book.

The eBook is not just reader-friendly but user-driven, following a trend towards participatory art. It’s not a lonely meBook; it’s a collaborative weBook. Instead of imagining the setting, you can see it illustrated.

For non-fiction books, access to enhancements seems like a no-brainer. Even for fiction (especially historical fiction, a sort of hybrid form) they’re a value-added bonus. A fictional eBook can merge an invented story with fact. If the word weren’t already taken, we could call it “faction.”

Reading doesn’t have to be escapism. It can also be discovery and learning.

Of course, this subterranean richness offered by enhanced eBooks shouldn’t distract from immersion in the story. To be effective, enhancements should probably be accessed only after reading a story and becoming absorbed with the characters: their emotions, thoughts, issues and obstacles they face, and the plot.

Think of the enhanced eBook as a collage or assemblage rather than a one-dimensional painting. It should be multi-layered with a dense texture but offer the thrill of old-fashioned story-telling mixed with current technology.

Enhancements function both inside the story as an additional narrative voice (through design of the page with background colors and images, borders or frames) and outside as objective commentary and a source of more information.

The enhanced eBook is a post-modern art form in the sense that it’s a pastiche of old and new, traditional and experimental. In its ideal form, it establishes a sub-narrative plane. The choice isn’t bipolar: print or eBook. Both have their utility and craft and art. But why wouldn’t you want to make a book as rich and colorful an experience as possible?

In the enhanced version of my novel set in 6th-century Constantinople (a period obscure to modern readers), my “born digital” publisher Erudition Digital offers readers a cornucopia of add-ons: maps, timelines, glossary, character profiles (with images), and links to succinct summaries of historical characters, places, and events.

For example, one main character in my novel is Emperor Justinian, a late Roman Empire autocrat who contends with the Ostrogothic king Theodoric. “Who were the Ostrogoths?” a reader may wonder. A discourse within the narrative would slow down the plot. But if a reader is motivated to know more, she can click and bring up a map of the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy and find out who Theodoric was, written in a magazine-sidebar style that tells how he dispatched his rival to the throne with a single blow of his sword, slicing him in half and saying, “The wretch cannot have had a bone in his body!”

Print books are limited by the cost of production and distribution. For eBooks, it’s no big deal to add full-color, high-resolution images and links to more info.

Which is not to say that eBooks are now exploiting their potential. Standard eBooks are much less than they can be. Plain old black type on a pale background is so Gutenberg-era. Adding color, images, and design elements to each page of fiction can provide subtext and atmosphere to heighten emotional involvement. As we all know, words are just the beginning of the experience of reading. They’re the diving board, but right now, most eBooks aren’t taking the plunge into uncharted waters.

Enhancements exist to augment and expand. This deeper view foreshadows what an eBook can be. Why settle for less when you can have more?

Please note:

Readers can see an enhanced version of the first part of my novel for free on the book’s website: http://www.theeagleandtheswan.com. If there’s enough demand from the Readers Club, we’ll roll out enhancements for subsequent installments.

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GIVEAWAY!!!!!

Enter to win 1 of 2 copies of the digital edition of The Eagle and the Swan! Click on the link below to go to the Rafflecopter where you can receives entries. It runs until midnight of April 23, 2014.

CLICK HERE——–> http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/MjMxYWEzMGI1ZDE2MGYyYTgzYjk4NzVhYzhmMTdmOjM=/

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The Eagle and the Swan, Synopsis~

The Eagle and the SwanPublication Date: November 7, 2013
Erudition Digital
eBook
ASIN: B00GIR54MI

For 1,500 years she has been cruelly maligned by history. Labelled as corrupt, immoral and sexually depraved by the sixth-century historian Procopius in his notorious Secret History, the Byzantine Empress Theodora was condemned to be judged a degenerate harlot by posterity. Until now. Due to a conviction that its contents would only be understood by generations of the distant future, a manuscript that has remained unopened for a millennium and a half is about to set the record straight. It will unravel the deepest secrets of a captivating and charismatic courtesan, her unlikely romance with an Emperor, and her rise to power and influence that would outshine even Cleopatra. This historical novel traces the love affairs, travails, machinations, scandals and triumphs of a cast of real characters who inhabit an Empire at its glorious and fragile peak. It’s the tale of a dazzling civilization in its Golden Age; one which, despite plague, earthquakes and marauding Huns, would lay the foundation for modern Europe as we know it.

Listen to an interview with Carol Strickland

Praise for The Eagle and the Swan

“It’s a book rife with detail and passion. If you like historical fiction this book hits on all cylinders. The level of detail in terms of prose and historical relevance is engaging. And THEN the plot is what’s moving. The love and lust combined with a compelling story, taking on universal themes from a cross section of history, makes for a gripping work.”

“Carol Strickland has written a masterful epic. It is beautifully crafted and impossible to put down.”

“Beautiful storytelling. Fascinating and well-developed characters. What an interesting time in history! This book was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The Eagle and the Swan is a must-read!”

Buy the eBook

Amazon

About the Author

Carol StricklandCarol Strickland is an art and architecture critic, prize-winning screenwriter, and journalist who’s contributed to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Art in America magazine.

A Ph.D. in literature and former writing professor, she’s author of The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in the History of Art from Prehistoric to Post-Modern (which has sold more than 400,000 copies in multiple editions and translations), The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History of Architecture, The Illustrated Timeline of Art History, The Illustrated Timeline of Western Literature, and monographs on individual artists.

While writing on masterpieces of Byzantine art (glorious mosaics in Ravenna, Italy featuring Theodora and Justinian and the monumental Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul built by Justinian), Strickland became fascinated by the woman who began life as a swan dancer and her husband, an ex-swineherd.

Knowing how maligned they were by the official historian of their era Procopius, who wrote a slanderous “Secret History” vilifying them, Strickland decided to let the audacious Theodora tell her story. She emerges not just as the bear-keeper’s daughter and a former prostitute who ensnared the man who became emperor, but as a courageous crusader against the abuse of women, children, and free-thinkers.

Author Links

Author Website
Book Website
Facebook Page
Twitter
Pinterest

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theeagleandtheswantour

Tour Hashtag: #EagleandtheSwanTour

The Eagle and the Swan_Tour Banner_FINAL

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The Eagle and the Swan by Carol Strickland is a Beautiful Historical Biography of Theodora, with Unique Digital Options

The Eagle and the SwanI can’t rave enough about the experience I’ve had over the last month with Carol Strickland’s The Eagle and the Swan, Part 1 and the enhanced version offered by Erudition Digital. At first I had only read part one as I thought that was all I was offered in exchange for an honest review so I read it on the Kindle and then read it again and took time using the enhanced version on the PC (though I will go back and check out on the Ipad as well). I’ll get back to that in a little bit.

This novel features the rise and life of Empress Theodora during the time of the Byzantine Empire (6th Century), a time period that leaves me quite enthralled. It seems to be rising in popularity as more historical women are being earthed from the long-buried dirt and adorned with rich and vibrant details to jump at us off the page. Theodora is the main woman featured to us at the moment, due to her vibrant personality, her rags to riches story, and her political prowess during her reign with her husband, Roman Emperor Justinian the Great as they sought to reconquer some of the lost western world.

Though many novels featuring these queens of strength, light, intelligence, and political might are written with a more fantasy appeal, and are very good in their own right as well, this novel is also highly researched and well-written as if it will be featured as an epic movie, like Cleopatra or Spartacus. A movie we might see now remastered and colored that we sit absorbed for four hours to watch. It tends toward a more historical masterpiece that explodes with information and is told from the viewpoint of a monk, a childhood friend. It juxtaposes between time seamlessly and offers superb dialogue as we learn about these larger than life, though real, historical people. It’s definitely a historical biography and features so much information that it’s a great historical resources for other writers or students.

Even with this said, it’s also vibrant, lush in details, the sentences smooth and delightful, and her descriptions beautiful and immaculate. It’s compelling and urges you to turn the page, as not only is Theodora’s story engaging, but the book flows smoothly. It has intrigue, sex, decadence, shame, love, scandals, paranoia, and so much more. It easily runs the emotional gamut. And that is just part one.

Unfortunately I can only review part one at this time, as when I added it to the Kindle for review and read the extra version on the PC, I wasn’t aware that I was able to download part 2-4 for the review as well. I sure wish it would have been made more clear to me, but in the end I did some searching on the Erudition website and figured out that joining the Reader’s Club allowed me access to part 2-4. It’s totally my fault for not taking the time to look earlier, always hurrying.

Anyway, it’s pretty cool that they do that to get feedback and social sharing after each portion. From a marketing standpoint, as a professional one myself, I think this is a unique, fresh, and engaging idea, but I learned too late. I hope other readers coming in to the site understand how to purchase it. I am thrilled though to go back and read 2-4 now and I’ll add those in to the review here once I finish and revise this section. Good news is, I can’t wait to finish the other parts.

I spent a lot of time perusing and using the enhanced version. It includes all types of photos of the time period, plus plenty of words are highlighted so that if you click on them,  you can see a definition or a photo and short summary. This really adds to the novel is you are versed in the historical time period or people. I enjoyed all the photos throughout and felt it added so much to the overall experience. It wasn’t just a novel, it was an adventure in time. I also really liked the added bonuses at the end of the timelines, the maps of places like the Byzantine Empire, and other resources. My son is about to enter high school and is a huge historian, he is going to love having these maps and extra resources added to his reading on the Ipad. What a great way to help your talented and gifted children, or those interested in history, have additional content added to their studies.

Overall, I am thrilled. Not only will I read more of Carol Strickland, as she is a fabulous writer and historian with a great novel that could be destined for the big screen of old, or maybe now….oh, would they make epic historical movies again on a more mainstream level? One can only hope. I would also seek out  more of these types of digital reading experiences.

Part one of the book by Carol gets 5 stars from me, but as well Erudition’s new concept gets a high thumbs up. I just hope they make sure that most readers understand the concept clearly for best process though I am not sure buying from that site is an option for others yet. I think if you buy off Amazon, you just get the whole file. I’ll be watching for more to come, by both Carol and this publisher.

STAY TUNED FOR A GUEST ARTICLE BY CAROL TOMORROW

AND ENTER TO WIN 2 COPIES!!

The Eagle and the SwanThe Eagle and the Swan, Synopsis~

Publication Date: November 7, 2013
Erudition Digital
eBook
ASIN: B00GIR54MI

For 1,500 years she has been cruelly maligned by history. Labelled as corrupt, immoral and sexually depraved by the sixth-century historian Procopius in his notorious Secret History, the Byzantine Empress Theodora was condemned to be judged a degenerate harlot by posterity.

Until now.

Due to a conviction that its contents would only be understood by generations of the distant future, a manuscript that has remained unopened for a millennium and a half is about to set the record straight. It will unravel the deepest secrets of a captivating and charismatic courtesan, her unlikely romance with an Emperor, and her rise to power and influence that would outshine even Cleopatra.

This historical novel traces the love affairs, travails, machinations, scandals and triumphs of a cast of real characters who inhabit an Empire at its glorious and fragile peak. It’s the tale of a dazzling civilization in its Golden Age; one which, despite plague, earthquakes and marauding Huns, would lay the foundation for modern Europe as we know it.

Listen to an interview with Carol Strickland

Praise for The Eagle and the Swan

“It’s a book rife with detail and passion. If you like historical fiction this book hits on all cylinders. The level of detail in terms of prose and historical relevance is engaging. And THEN the plot is what’s moving. The love and lust combined with a compelling story, taking on universal themes from a cross-section of history, makes for a gripping work.”

“Carol Strickland has written a masterful epic. It is beautifully crafted and impossible to put down.”

“Beautiful storytelling. Fascinating and well-developed characters. What an interesting time in history! This book was thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The Eagle and the Swan is a must-read!”

Free Enhanced Preview~

Visit http://www.theeagleandtheswan.com/readers-club for a free enhanced preview of Part One of The Eagle and the Swan. The enhanced edition unites text, context and subtext with art, design elements and in-depth info for a visual and cultural history of the Golden Age of Byzantium. It provides an enticing preview for prospective readers as well as an illustrated catalogue for the complete story.

Buy the eBook~

Amazon

Author Carol Strickland, Biography~

Carol StricklandCarol Strickland is an art and architecture critic, prize-winning screenwriter, and journalist who’s contributed to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, and Art in America magazine. A Ph.D. in literature and former writing professor, she’s author of The Annotated Mona Lisa: A Crash Course in the History of Art from Prehistoric to Post-Modern (which has sold more than 400,000 copies in multiple editions and translations), The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History of Architecture, The Illustrated Timeline of Art History, The Illustrated Timeline of Western Literature, and monographs on individual artists.

While writing on masterpieces of Byzantine art (glorious mosaics in Ravenna, Italy featuring Theodora and Justinian and the monumental Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul built by Justinian), Strickland became fascinated by the woman who began life as a swan dancer and her husband, an ex-swineherd.

Knowing how maligned they were by the official historian of their era Procopius, who wrote a slanderous “Secret History” vilifying them, Strickland decided to let the audacious Theodora tell her story. She emerges not just as the bear-keeper’s daughter and a former prostitute who ensnared the man who became emperor, but as a courageous crusader against the abuse of women, children, and free-thinkers.

Author Links

Author Website
Book Website
Facebook Page
Twitter
Pinterest

Tour Schedule: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/theeagleandtheswantour

Tour Hashtag: #EagleandtheSwanTour

The Eagle and the Swan_Tour Banner_FINAL

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Horror/Thriller Author W.D. Gagliani Talks About Writing Like a Film Director: Does It Work?

This afternoon I welcome to my blog the great and amazing W.D. Gagliani, the author of the Nick Lupo Werewolf Detective Series. He’s a wealth of writing knowledge (and well, on most other things as well) and he’s one of my best friends in the writing business and all around for that matter. He’s a great writing teacher and this guest article will give you a glimpse…..

A Bram Stoker Award Finalist Author for Wolf’s Trap, the first book that started it all, his series has been well-received and it isn’t over yet! He just released book five this year and is working on six. If you’ve read them you know how amazing he is, and if you haven’t, then there is always time to catch-up. He also has some other hard-noir thrillers and stories out and is a man of many writing talents. Today, he’s with us to talk about writing like a film director! In the next week or two we’ll have a PART DEUX and will feature an interview. But for now, take it away, Bill…..but don’t run too far away with my blog.

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POV in the Nick Lupo Series: Using Shifting Points of View Like Movie Directors
by Bram Stoker Award Finalist Author W.D. Gagliani

BillI’ve decided I would make a rather poor film director, yet that doesn’t stop me from writing my novels exactly as if I were directing a movie.

There’s the whole “filming scenes out of sequence” trip, which is messy and sometimes gets me into trouble, but I keep doing it. I could write thousands of words about that. In fact, maybe I will. Just as soon as I get myself out of my latest trouble.

But here I just want to explain (and explore) my obsession with being a low-rent director. I’m sure that’s what I would be. Influenced by Hitchcock, but hampered by reality and limited talent. So, no, I wouldn’t be directing any classics. But that doesn’t mean I can’t steal the movie techniques that help me tell a story more effectively. Call it an obsession if you want, but I always find myself wrapped up in a directorial mess. Maybe, who knows, it’s the only way I can work. The only way I can be forced to finish, and the only way I can best tell my story.

One of the ways I follow through on my obsessive behavior is to use a variation of a movie director’s shifting points of view (POVs). It’s one thing many beginners use incorrectly. I see this all the time – the writer lets the point of view slide inadvertently and unnecessarily from character to character in the same scene until the reader can’t quite figure out who’s seeing and thinking. The key words there are “in the same scene.” I won’t lie, some of the big bestselling authors do it, too, right in their blockbuster books. But it’s still usually a bad idea, and at least they do it more carefully than the beginners who may be doing it inadvertently. Beginners want to be in everyone’s head at all times… to the point that readers will be undoubtedly confused by the action and the thoughts sliding from character to character. (Add another beginner mistake, a few overly colorful metaphors and similes in the narration, and you have the recipe for narrative disaster.)

But I will also admit that their instinct may be partly on target, because both thrillers and horror tales are best served by multiple POVs – I believe they just have to be kept under control. I’ve always enjoyed the claustrophobic feel of a strict First Person POV in thrillers and mysteries (especially in hardboiled detective stories), but one must recognize the limitations. Choosing to tell the story that way limits what the writer can do, and what the reader can see, because the protagonist isn’t privy to any information he/she doesn’t witness or experience. It’s so limiting a POV that it must be used sparingly, maybe even lovingly and in a way that embraces the difficulties. You rarely see a strict First Person POV used in a movie because you would literally never leave the protagonist’s side, which would be difficult to sustain without causing boredom.

In my Nick Lupo series, starting with Wolf’s Trap, I made a conscious decision to present multiple characters’ points of view, taking as my model, in part, William Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying. I liked how in that classic work each chapter was narrated from a different POV, and by labeling each section with the name of the character it’s always obvious whose head you’re in. But unlike in Faulkner’s novel, I chose to present the different POVs not as separate First Person accounts, but as Third Person limited. So in essence we look into each character’s head in an omniscient way, but not into anyone else’s within the same section. The technique allows me to create a sort of quilt or tapestry, with some sections overlapping as the same action is seen and described by different narrative points of view, while other actions occur elsewhere and are experienced by different characters – all to connect (hopefully) into a coherent whole by the end.

Occasionally I’ve taken some heat from reviewers/readers who find the jumping around confusing, especially since I also employ parallel stories along two separate timelines. One reader referred to it as (paraphrasing) authorial ADD. “For one thing it jumps around from character to character too much,” another reader complained. Well, that’s certainly part of the reason I use the technique. Whenever I’m stuck or blocked, with no clear “next move” ahead, I will jump forward and take another plot point or section from farther up the timeline (or in the past) and start fresh from that point, trusting my quilting skills later on to patch the pieces together. In essence, I’m “filming scenes out of sequence” and trusting I’ll fix it in the “editing room.”

More often than not, it works. When it does, I am rewarded with the feeling that maybe I wouldn’t be so bad a film director after all. But the process can be excruciatingly painstaking, and there’s the reason I keep saying I’ll stop doing it this way. I’ll stop with the next book.

W.D. Gagliani, Biography~

W.D. Authorpicgambit-210W.D. Gagliani is the author of the horror/crime thriller WOLF’S TRAP (Samhain Publishing), a past Bram Stoker Award nominee, as well as WOLF’S GAMBIT (47North), WOLF’S BLUFF (47North), WOLF’S EDGE (Samhain), and the upcoming WOLF’S CUT (Samhain). WOLF’S TRAP was reissued by Samhain Publishing in 2012. Gagliani is also the author of the hard-noir thriller SAVAGE NIGHTS (Tarkus Press), the collection SHADOWPLAYS, the novella THE GREAT BELZONI AND THE GAIT OF ANUBIS, and the holiday-themed short stories “The Christmas Wolf” and “The Christmas Zombie,” all available for the Kindle and other formats.

A collection of collaborations between David Benton and W.D. Gagliani, MYSTERIES & MAYHEM (Tarkus Press), is available for Kindle and all other formats. Five collaborative short stories are included, as well as one solo short story from each author, and several bonuses along with a guest short story.

Gagliani is also the author of various short stories published in anthologies such as ROBERT BLOCH’S PSYCHOS, UNDEAD TALES, MORE MONSTERS FROM MEMPHIS, WICKED KARNIVAL HALLOWEEN HORROR, THE BLACK SPIRAL, THE MIDNIGHTERS CLUB, THE ASYLUM 2, ZIPPERED FLESH 2, MASTERS OF UNREALITY, DARK PASSIONS: HOT BLOOD 13, MALPRACTICE: AN ANTHOLOGY OF BEDSIDE TERROR, and ZIPPERED FLESH 2 (the last four with David Benton), and more.

He has also written book reviews, articles, and interviews that have been published in places such as THE MILWAUKEE JOURNAL SENTINEL, CHIZINE, CEMETERY DANCE, HORRORWORLD, PAPERBACK PARADE, CINEMA RETRO, HELLNOTES, FLESH & BLOOD, BOOKPAGE, BOOKLOVERS, THE SCREAM FACTORY, HORROR MAGAZINE, SF CHRONICLE, BARE BONES, and others. Also published in the Writers Digest book ON WRITING HORROR (edited by Mort Castle), THEY BITE! (edited by Jonathan Maberry and David Kramer), and in the Edgar Award-nominated THRILLERS: THE 100 MUST READS (edited by Morrell & Wagner), published by Oceanside for the International Thriller Writers. In October 2011, THE WRITER magazine published his article on writing werewolf epics.

His interests include old and new progressive rock, synthesizers, weapons, history (and alternate history, secret history, and steampunk), military history, movies, book reviewing, and plain old reading and writing. He is an Active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and the International Thriller Writers (ITW). He lives and writes in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.

You can find W.D. Gagliani online at his website www.wdgagliani.com or on Facebook and Twitter.

Newest releases is………..

Wolf’s Cut, Synopsis!

WolfsCut72lg-330resizeThe Nick Lupo Series Book Five.

Nick Lupo: A cop, a werewolf…and a target!

Homicide detective–and werewolf–Nick Lupo is hoping to finally have a chance to focus his attentions on the woman he loves, instead of the Wolfpaw mercenary werewolves who tried so hard to kill him. Lupo survived that battle–barely–and brought down Wolfpaw. But Wolfpaw was backed by a super secret group within the Pentagon whose sinister plan is already in motion. And a new enemy has set its sights on the local casino. Nick Lupo thought he was home free, but whenever he tries to get out, they drag him back in…

Wolf’s Cut is fourth novel following the Bram Stoker Award-nominated novel Wolf’s Trap, so it is the fifth in the savage series of horror/thrillers about the werewolf/cop. These “North Woods Noirs” are set mostly in the wilds of Northern Wisconsin, where werewolf legends abound and the moon paints the treetops silver. Warning: adult content. The next book in the series will arrive in 2015.

Wolf’s Cut is a stellar addition to Gagliani’s Nick Lupo series. An impressive and addictive read… cements Gagliani’s place at the top of the new wave of horror/crime fiction.”
–Dreadful Tales

“With his series of Nick Lupo books, W.D. Gagliani has done more than pump a little oxygen into the tired werewolf thriller. He’s resurrected the entire genre and added a rush of nitrous oxide excitement. Do yourself a favor and pick up Wolf’s Cut, a nice addition to this superior series.”
–Gene O’Neill, author of Dance of the Blue Lady

“W.D. Gagliani’s Detective Lupo series is the best of the werewolf genre. Top-notch writing, nail-biting suspense, and a ferocious mix of serial killers and werewolves… Gagliani continues to deliver fast-paced horror that will get your heart pumping. Highly recommended.”
–Brian Moreland, author of Dead of Winter and The Devil’s Woods

“Being Italian and a former cop I can relate to Lupo on many levels. The whole series is a big hit at our store with several of our staff. We can’t wait for the next book. Keep howling!”
–Tony D’Amato, Chief Armorer of The Gun Store, Las Vegas, NV

“Let out a howl, because Lupo’s back, and badder than ever!”
–John Everson, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Violet Eyes and NightWhere
Wolf’s Edge is an exciting page-turned full of suspense, mystery, and thrills. Don’t miss it.”

–The Horror Zine, on the 4th Nick Lupo novel

“Riveting, disturbing, gut-wrenching – and entertaining as all get-out – and I loved every page!”

–Jay Bonansinga, author of The Killer’s Game and co-author of The Walking Dead Series, on Wolf’s Trap, the 1st Nick Lupo novel

“Gagliani once more proves that werewolves are scary as hell.”
—Jonathan Maberry, New York Times-bestselling author of The Dragon Factory

“Gagliani has brought bite back to the werewolf novel!”
–CNN Headline News Book Lizard

“The best werewolf novel since The Howling!”
–J.A. Konrath, author of Whiskey Sour on Wolf’s Gambit

Buy on Amazon at:

http://www.amazon.com/Wolfs-Cut-W-D-Gagliani-ebook/dp/B00GMKWLUE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397364156&sr=8-1&keywords=Wolf%27s+Cut

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Grip and Hold Tight for Hunter Shea’s Online Publicity Tour for The Waiting

The publicity tour for Hunter Shea’s THE WAITING, coordinated by my business Hook of a Book Media & Publicity, has begun!! It all started Friday evening with an announcement by Shea of the schedule, then yesterday with a notice and a giveaway at Renae Rude’s The Paranormalist blog (she’s having a separate giveaway on her blog for a signed print copy of Sinister Entity and 2 e-copies of The Waiting–3 winners total).  Her giveaway is in addition to the tour-wide giveaway, to be clear, but you can enter both.

Stay tuned for the schedule below and main giveaway option. Watch for this graphic around the web! It’s going to be a scary good time, so hold on to your hats, or grip the arm of your chair…..

The Waiting Shea Tour

My thoughts/review~

Shea always impresses me with his excellent writing and fast-moving interesting books. I was scared to death to read this “based on true events” ghost novella, The Waiting. However, was glad I did….I mean….glad I read in the the-waitingDAYLIGHT. From the background stories he told me, I was petrified. I will never vacuum again without looking over my shoulder, want to be alone, or want to be ill. I’m learning more things about ghosts and spirits than I ever wanted to know. Am I curious? Yes, probably too much so. It holds my interest to learn of the unknown. Am I scared still? Yes. And I will forever be haunted by this novella. I read The Waiting in one morning session after I woke up one day, because I couldn’t put it down. I HAD to know what was happening as the story progressed. I didn’t eat breakfast that day and didn’t want to go downstairs until Tim and the kids got home.

This book will be either, depending on your mindset, fun for you to read and be a good, cheap investment for a thrill of a read, OR it will scare you to death and make you incense every corner of your house. I loved the characters in Shea’s novel, particularly for some reason, the old woman next door.

There is a ton of back story to this novel so I would be sure to follow this tour if you are interested. He’ll probably divulge some of it in his interviews and several of his guest articles. It was a blast putting this tour together for Shea and talking about this “inspired by true events” novella. I would really love to see this turned into a movie.

Tour and Giveaway~

I hope you enjoy the publicity tour and let us know what you think. Be sure to enter to win!! Giveaways include one (1) signed paperback of Sinister Entity (this is a full-length print novel of Shea’s that includes paranormal and dopplegangers) plus he’s giving away 5 e-books, one of each of his works: Forest of Shadows, Sinister Entity, Evil Eternal, Swamp Monster Massacre, The Waiting. So there will be six (6) winners in all from the tour-wide giveaway. You must do the Rafflecopter provided to enter. It’s already begun and ends on April 28 at midnight and winners will be notified. Look for the Rafflecopter below the schedule!!

Hunter Shea’s The Waiting Online Publicity Tour

Week One

April 11: Tour Kick-off Announcement at Author Hunter Shea—www.huntershea.com
Tour-wide Rafflecopter Giveaway Starts!

April 12: Inclusion in The Paranormalist’s NetNet Round-up, Plus Giveaway—                                                                              www.theparanormalist.wordpress.com

April 13:
Tour announcement/review at Hook of a Book—
www.hookofabook.wordpress.com

Review at Dreadful Tales—www.dreadfultales.com

April 14: Review at Creating Serenity—
http://www.creating-serenity.com/book-review-the-waiting-by-hunter-shea/

April 15: Review/Interview at Top of the Heap Reviews—www.topoftheheapreviews.com

April 16: Review at Wag the Fox—www.waggingthefox.blogspot.com

April 17: Review at Girl with Book Lungs—www.girlwithbooklungs.com

April 18: Review and guest article at Bookie Monster—
www.bookie-monster.com

April 19: The Paranormalist Giveaway Drawing— www.theparanormalist.wordpress.com

April 20 Easter

Week Two

April 21: Review at Tim Busbey—www.timbusbey.wordpress.com

April 22: Interview (and review re-post) with Jennifer Matlock and The Entertainer Magazine–
Online at, www.etjenmatlock.tumblr.com, and in print, The Entertainer Magazine

April 23: Guest article at Promote Horror.com

April 24: Guest article at Author Jonathan Janz—www.jonathanjanz.com

April 25: Interview at Author Russell James–www.russellrjames.com

April 26: Interview at The Paranormalist—www.theparanormalist.wordpress.com

Possible April 28 date….TBA

***********************************************************************

RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY LINK–
CLICK TO GO TO ENTRY  FORM

Click here to enter———————->a Rafflecopter giveaway

***********************************************************************

The Waiting, Synopsis~

the-waitingBASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS…

Clinging to life…haunted by the dead.

Newlywed Cassandra Pagano lies in a state between life and death, her body fed and preserved by the machines at her side. While she struggles, unaware of the world around her, someone waits—a boy. A phantom that appears solid, real, alive. Cassandra’s husband, Brian, sees him in the house, by her bedside, running down darkened hallways. The boy walks without sound, whispers words that can’t be deciphered.

Terror and tension are driving Brian to the breaking point. Why is the boy there, and what does he want with Cassandra…and her fading soul?

Early Reviews~

“It has all the makings for a classic ghost story. If you enjoy being spooked by ghastly little children with sinister intentions, this novella is definitely for you.” — Tim Meyer, Horror Novel Reviews

Available April, 2014! Published by Samhain Horror Publishing

Order your e-book at AmazonSamhain Publishing and B&N

Hunter Shea, Biography~

hunter-headshotHunter Shea is the product of a childhood weaned on The Night Stalker, The Twilight Zone and In Search Of. But he doesn’t just write about the paranormal. He actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experience them, then he puts those stories to the page.

His novels and novellas Forest of Shadows, Evil Eternal, Swamp Monster Massacre, Sinister Entity, and The Waitingare published through Samhain Publishing’s horror line. He’ll have The Montauk Monster out soon from Pinnacle/Kensington and Hell Hole from Samhain this summer.

He lives with his family and untrainable cat close enough to New York City to get Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

He’s also proud to be one half of the Monster Men video podcast, along with his partner in crime, Jack Campisi. Their show is a light hearted approach to dark subjects. They explore real life hauntings, monsters, movies, books and everything under the horror sun.

Feel free to contact him any time at huntershea1@gmail.com. Writing is lonely work.

 

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Filed under Book Reviews, Online Publicity Tours

Interview with Author of Night in Shanghai and Member of National Committee on U.S.-China Relations: Nicole Mones

Hi Nicole, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I am glad to have you here with me today! How are you? How has the launch of your book been going for you? Your cover is beautiful.

Nicole: Thanks! I love the cover too, front and back; it really captures the novel. The launch of the book has been unlike any other, since I am touring with a multimedia presentation of historical photos, film clips, and video. You can see it all on my website (nicolemones.com), starting with the three-minute trailer on the home page.

Night in Shanghai is the first novel I’ve ever written based entirely on real people and true events—so even though it’s a novel, you actually can go online and look at the pictures! And the novel ends with a true-to-life epilogue; only the four central characters are fictional, and you learn what happened to everyone else. I truly love blurring the line between fiction and historical fact.

02_Night in Shanghai

Erin: My son, who is also an aspiring politician, historian, and blogger is joining us today, he’s very interested in your experience with China. Both of us are really looking forward to this interview, but first, join us in a drink. Do you prefer coffee, tea, or something else? We can sip and chat, have a seat right here in the comfortable chairs in my library room. The sun is actually starting to peek through the clouds.

Nicole: Perfect. I’m glad your son is here, because this is a book for the history lover. Tea, thank you… My drink of choice of choice for this virtual conversation would be a Dongting oolong, with a long, flowery finish—because that’s the flavor of reminiscence.

Erin: That sounds delightful, let’s all have that! Now, we’ll get our questions underway!

Q: Night in Shanghai takes place in 1936 in Chiang Kai-Shek-era Shanghai. What research did you conduct to accurately portray this historical era?

A: More than you could ever imagine. There’s powerful magic in verisimilitude, and I like to leave no detail unstudied. Some of the research was just my life… it was my privilege to sign my first commercial contract in Shanghai in 1977, and the city as I came to know it then, immediately after the Cultural Revolution, was physically almost unchanged from the 1930s and 40s. So many of the vanished jazz and entertainment venues portrayed in this book, along with the vintage look and feel of the city, were right in front of me back then–and so are within my personal memory. For example, twenty years ago, before it was torn down, I was able to explore the Canidrome—since at that time, the dog-track was re-purposed as the municipal flower market!

Through the decades, I have also listened to many Shanghainese elders share their personal memories of the jazz age, and of the war. I began listening to these stories as soon as I started learning Chinese—back when you still saw older women with bound feet! Of course I also spent several years poring over written histories, and in these secondary sources, I’m especially indebted to the scholarship of Stella Dong, Lynn Pan, Andrew Jones, Poshek Fu, and Gunther Schuller. First-person accounts by jazz musicians, memoirs by other notables who lived or worked in Shanghai, vintage maps, and even letters of the period were all incredibly important to me, because through these primary sources, I could see streets, I could hear voices. Finally, my wonderful researcher Daniel Nieh combed the Chinese internet to check details. Everything is accurate—the price of a steamship ticket (he wrote to steamship companies in Japan with such perfect Japanese that they went to the warehouse and pulled out 1937 fare schedules for him!), the name some street was popularly known by, the precise turn of a phrase in mid-30s Shanghai pidgin. That’s why Night in Shanghai feels so alive… because it’s true!

Q: I understand that your employment in the textile business sparked your love of Chinese culture. What about China fascinates you most?

A: There’s a saying in Chinese: huo dao lao, xue dao lao, hai you san fen xue bu dao. You can live to old age, study to old age, and still thirty percent will be unexplored. That’s it for me…from the moment I first set foot there as a young girl in 1977, determined to do business in textiles, I recognized China as a place so multi-faceted and magnificently complex that it would reward a lifetime of study, attention, and observation. I knew I could never come to the end of it. Like anyone, I can be frustrated by China, but I saw from the start that it would never bore me. And it never has!

Q: Night in Shanghai is not simply historical, but is also a beautiful depiction of Chinese custom and culture. What do you believe Americans need to learn more about to understand China beyond just the fortune cookies (which were American inventions) and the like?

A: You know, I think if you asked that question of ten different China experts, you’d get ten different answers, depending on each person’s field. Environmental degradation will seem most important to some China watchers, while others will focus on how badly China needs to learn to adhere to the rule of law. Both are critical issues. But I am a novelist, and so what I personally want Americans to see and sense and feel is the human landscape of China. Why do people think and live—and choose—as they do, in China? How have the pendulums of modern history shaped and sculpted the nation’s psyche? As someone who has been a fly on the wall through the last 37 years of China’s modernization, these are stories and characters I can bring to a Western audience.

Q: The story used as a sub-plot in Night in Shanghai included a daring but little known plan to bring Jews to Shanghai to escape the Holocaust. How did you come across this, and why do we not hear about it more?

A: My researcher Daniel Nieh was trolling through a Chinese military history database, checking details on the visa requirements for entry to various Chinese cities in the 1930s. He literally stumbled over—and as his eyes popped out his head, began to read and translate—Chinese documents on this incredible story. In 1939 the Chinese Nationalist Government passed a law setting aside two counties in westernmost Yunnan Province—land adjoining Burma—as a permanent autonomous resettlement zone for 100,000 Jewish refugees to be brought from Europe! This was in addition to the 25,000 Jewish refugees alreadysurviving the war in Shanghai. No other country on earth, including the U.S., risked so much to save Jewish lives. This became a powerful part of my novel, and of course I could not let it remain forgotten. Your question—why have we never heard of this?—is a good one. My guess is that it has been hidden first, because it failed, and second, because it was a plan created by the Nationalist Government—not the Communists. Perhaps in the first decades after the Communists took over, they did not want to celebrate and promote any good works of the Nationalists. Now, however, this is something in which all Chinese can take pride. China really tried to help Jews during the Holocaust—and I see clear signs (like the opening of a Holocaust Museum, and the establishment of Jewish Studies at the university level) that the Chinese government would like the world to know what they did—even if it was done by the Nationalists!  

Q: You write both novels and articles on China. What is your writing process like?

A: Well, as you can probably tell… first I do a huge amount of research! I really enjoy mastering a topic from every possible angle. Then, I put it all out of my mind, sit at the computer, and fly by the seat of my pants. Come to think of it, that’s more or less how I started my textiles business back in 1977. And you know what? That’s also how the protagonist of Night in Shanghai, African-American pianist Thomas Greene, finally learns to improvise—to solo. I guess you’ve got my number.  

Q: Did you travel for research of your novels, including Night in Shanghai?

A: Of course! It’s part of my magical thinking as a novelist: no street corner is ever described on which I have not stood, no street vendor’s snack is mentioned that I have not tasted, no line of Chinese spoken I’ve not heard. Once I spent a week in Shanghai for this book and accomplished NOTHING except that I found a highly detailed 1932 street map of Shanghai at a flea market. All the way home, I was kicking myself on having wasted a trip to China… but guess what? That map became my bible! Looking back, that was a great research trip! It just didn’t seem so at the time.

Q: I read that you are on the National Committee on United States-China Relations. What does your role in this organization entail?

A: My role in the organization is to benefit from the incredible insight on China provided by professors and diplomats! The Committee is made up of hundreds of career China-watchers, scholars, business leaders, and State Department people—collectively, their knowledge of China is beyond awesome, and helps make my work on China more authoritative. From my side, with China-based novels in print in 22 languages, I am one of the few in the group who speaks to a popular audience… I am the accidental (and popular) Sinologist. They are the experts.

Q: Some of the Chinese in this time period looked down upon Song and Thomas’s relationship. Did Chinese culture hold prejudice against some foreigners or other ethnic groups at this time?

A: In Night in Shanghai, Song is a secret member of the Chinese Communist Party, and she knows that a love relationship with Thomas will hold back her advancement in the Party. This is not because he is black, but because he is a foreigner–an American. The Chinese Communists were very anti-foreign in those early decades. When they came to power in 1949, after this novel ends, they threw out all foreigners. The only Americans allowed to stay were those who renounced American citizenship and joined the Communist Party—but even those brave souls ended up in prison ten years later, accused as spies, just for being foreign. All that anti-foreign sentiment did not really begin to turn around until the late 1970s.

Q: Why did both the Nationalists and Communists oppose Western music in China? Was jazz at all popular in any other part of China at this time?

A: in the 1930s, jazz was the most popular music in the world! This was the swing era… when Prohibition was repealed in 1934, and suddenly people could dress up and go out and drink and dance, ballrooms became the rage. The big, orchestral sound—swing—was born. This was popular in every city in China, just as in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere—but nowhere in Asia was jazz as big as it was in Shanghai. Shanghai went completely nuts for dancing, and nightlife, and jazz! So frenzied was the dancing and partying in ‘Night in Shanghai’ that the Nationalists and Communists alike were afraid all this jazz would weaken the Chinese people’s ability to resist the Japanese invasion.   Most Americans are aware that China banned all Western music for 30 years in 1949. This started in the 30s, with the fear of jazz.

Q: What future projects or writings are you working on? Are we going to see more set in China?

A: Yes—I’d love to write another big historical, and maybe bring back Song Yuhua. But I’ll probably spend years doing research…

Q: Where can readers connect with you?

A: On my website—it’s easy. Nicolemones.com. And while there, be sure to view the Night in Shanghai trailer on the home page—it’s amazing, and it tells the story of the novel in three minutes. The website also has galleries of captioned historical photos that bring to life the people and events in the book.

Erin:  Thank you so much, Nicole, for stopping by Oh, for the Hook of a Book today! It was a pleasure talking to you today and I look forward to hearing about your future endeavors and writings.

Nicole: Thank you! It’s been so much fun talking with you.

*Note: Thanks so much to my intelligent son for coming up with many of the questions and assisting me with this amazing interview during my short bout with the flu.

02_Night in ShanghaiNight in Shanghai, Synopsis~

Publication Date: March 4, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Genre: Historical Fiction

In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.

Song Yuhua is refined, educated, and bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai’s most powerful crime boss in payment for her father’s gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for the Communist Party.

Only when Shanghai is shattered by the Japanese invasion do Song and Thomas find their way to each other. Though their union is forbidden, neither can back down from it in the turbulent years of occupation and resistance that follow. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and world war, they are borne on an irresistible riff of melody and improvisation to Night in Shanghai’s final, impossible choice.

In this impressively researched novel, Nicole Mones not only tells the forgotten story of black musicians in the Chinese Jazz age, but also weaves in a stunning true tale of Holocaust heroism little-known in the West.

Praise for Night in Shanghai~

“Based on true episodes and peppered with the lives and experiences of actual characters from the worlds of politics, music, the military, and the government, Mones’ engrossing historical novel illuminates the danger, depravity, and drama of this dark period with brave authenticity.” — Carol Haggas, Booklist

“Mones’ breathless and enlightening account of an African-American jazzman and his circle in prewar Shanghai… keep(s) the suspense mounting until the end.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Amid the plethora of World War II fiction, Mones’s fourth novel (after The Last Chinese Chef) offers a rarely seen African American and Asian perspective. Fans of works such as Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility will appreciate the use of jazz as the backdrop to a world at war. Historical fiction fans will not be disappointed.” — Library Journal

“With a magician’s sleight of hand, Nicole Mones conjures up the jazz-filled, complex, turbulent world of Shanghai just before World War II. A feast for the senses…the lives and loves of expatriate musicians intertwine with the growing tensions between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party, while the ominous threats from the Japanese stir the winds of war. A rich and thoroughly captivating read.” – Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurai’s Garden

“What an incredible thing Mones does in this novel of the compelling, sexy, rich and complicated world of historical Shanghai. Every page reveals some custom, some costume, some food, some trick of language that exposes a fascinating moment in history — the Japanese invasion on the eve of World War II. Mones weaves the multiple strands of her story much the way themes and melodies are woven into the jazz her protagonist plays, with subtle and suggestive undertones of human greed, power, and passion.” – Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin

READ AN EXCERPT.

Buy the Book~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
IndieBound
Powell’s

Author Nicole Mones, Biography~

03_Nicole MonesA newly launched textile business took Nicole Mones to China for the first time in 1977, after the end of the Cultural Revolution. As an individual she traded textiles with China for eighteen years before she turned to writing about that country.

Her novels Night in Shanghai, The Last Chinese Chef, Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light are in print in more than twenty-two languages and have received multiple juried prizes, including the Kafka Prize (year’s best work of fiction by any American woman) and Kiriyama Prize (finalist; for the work of fiction which best enhances understanding of any Pacific Rim Culture).

Mones’ nonfiction writing on China has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Gourmet, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. She is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. For more information visir www.nicolemones.com

 Tour Schedule: hfvirtualbooktours.com/nightinshanghaitour

Tour Hashtag: #NightInShanghaiTour

Night in Shanghai_Tour Banner_FINAL

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Filed under Q and A with Authors

Night in Shanghai, by Nicole Mones, Gives a Look into the Jazz Age in War-torn China

02_Night in ShanghaiNight in Shanghai, by Nicole Mones, was a wonderful original and inspiring story. It featured a forbidden love story, but yet had so many other layers as well. It dealt with racism, the arts, culture (esp Asian vs. Western), war, servitude.

As much as I love history, and even really like Asian history, it was completely different to me for her to feature black musicians in the Chinese Jazz Age. I didn’t even know China had a jazz age, or any racism towards African-Americans. It was so wonderful of her to research a time in history not well-talked about and bring it to life.

Her voice, or rather the voice of her characters, were strong, vibrant, piercing, believable, and captivating. I really enjoyed hearing the story of Thomas Greene–how he came to Shanghai, how he learned to play jazz after years of classical in America, how he had to deal with racism and segregation, and how he overcame music being dead due to the laws. As the conflict in China and war ensued, he didn’t pick sides, national or communist, as neither supported music. When he meets Song,  a Communist spy, he inadvertently becomes intertwined in war, and life is almost all consumed by war. But all he wanted was to play music, and as war ensued, his race no longer mattered, only the music. He longed to keep Shaghai’s jazz clubs alive with sound.

As Mones weaves the story of war, she also gives us a glimpse of how the holocaust came to China. I was educated on the fact that many Jews were planned to be resettled in Western China by the Nationalists in order to gain favor in the West. In this book, Mones featured the struggle between Chinese communists, nationalists, and the Japanese during one of the worst World Wars in history–WWII. Mones put a lot political and military history and intelligence into her book, which I loved, yet it doesn’t feel over done or heavy. She is a wonderful author due to her work in China in which to showcase China’s culture in WWII, and all the political nuances and intrigue, yet she also does a beautiful job of displaying the music in full capacity, from the musical techniques, notes, and reading of music in various ways.

Mones has a great amount of detail to tell and several varying sub-stories, yet she kept the pace moving and her book was tightly edited. I loved her details, her full and lush sentences, and the way the words moved on the page as if they were music themselves.

The novel has strongly formed characters, beautiful sentences, a moving story and plots, and very well-written. I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes war-time history with political intelligence yet also to those who appreciate good music and the people who kept these arts alive at one of the most depressing times in history.

I highly recommend this book for purchase if you like historical Asian culture, war stories, or music history. Really for anyone though, it’s a great historical novel that explores a less common time and place in history than many other books you might find on the shelf set in this time period.

Night in Shanghai, Synopsis~

02_Night in ShanghaiPublication Date: March 4, 2014
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Genre: Historical Fiction

In 1936, classical pianist Thomas Greene is recruited to Shanghai to lead a jazz orchestra of fellow African-American expats. From being flat broke in segregated Baltimore to living in a mansion with servants of his own, he becomes the toast of a city obsessed with music, money, pleasure and power, even as it ignores the rising winds of war.

Song Yuhua is refined, educated, and bonded since age eighteen to Shanghai’s most powerful crime boss in payment for her father’s gambling debts. Outwardly submissive, she burns with rage and risks her life spying on her master for the Communist Party.

Only when Shanghai is shattered by the Japanese invasion do Song and Thomas find their way to each other. Though their union is forbidden, neither can back down from it in the turbulent years of occupation and resistance that follow. Torn between music and survival, freedom and commitment, love and world war, they are borne on an irresistible riff of melody and improvisation to Night in Shanghai’s final, impossible choice.

In this impressively researched novel, Nicole Mones not only tells the forgotten story of black musicians in the Chinese Jazz age, but also weaves in a stunning true tale of Holocaust heroism little-known in the West.

Praise for Night in Shanghai~

“Based on true episodes and peppered with the lives and experiences of actual characters from the worlds of politics, music, the military, and the government, Mones’ engrossing historical novel illuminates the danger, depravity, and drama of this dark period with brave authenticity.” — Carol Haggas, Booklist

“Mones’ breathless and enlightening account of an African-American jazzman and his circle in prewar Shanghai… keep(s) the suspense mounting until the end.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Amid the plethora of World War II fiction, Mones’s fourth novel (after The Last Chinese Chef) offers a rarely seen African-American and Asian perspective. Fans of works such as Amor Towles’s Rules of Civility will appreciate the use of jazz as the backdrop to a world at war. Historical fiction fans will not be disappointed.” — Library Journal

“With a magician’s sleight of hand, Nicole Mones conjures up the jazz-filled, complex, turbulent world of Shanghai just before World War II. A feast for the senses…the lives and loves of expatriate musicians intertwine with the growing tensions between the Communist Party and the Nationalist Party, while the ominous threats from the Japanese stir the winds of war. A rich and thoroughly captivating read.” – Gail Tsukiyama, author of The Samurai’s Garden

“What an incredible thing Mones does in this novel of the compelling, sexy, rich and complicated world of historical Shanghai. Every page reveals some custom, some costume, some food, some trick of language that exposes a fascinating moment in history — the Japanese invasion on the eve of World War II. Mones weaves the multiple strands of her story much the way themes and melodies are woven into the jazz her protagonist plays, with subtle and suggestive undertones of human greed, power, and passion.” – Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin

READ AN EXCERPT.

Buy the Book~

Amazon
Barnes & Noble
Books-a-Million
IndieBound
Powell’s

Author Nicole Mones, Biography~

03_Nicole MonesA newly launched textile business took Nicole Mones to China for the first time in 1977, after the end of the Cultural Revolution. As an individual she traded textiles with China for eighteen years before she turned to writing about that country.

Her novels Night in Shanghai, The Last Chinese Chef, Lost in Translation and A Cup of Light are in print in more than twenty-two languages and have received multiple juried prizes, including the Kafka Prize (year’s best work of fiction by any American woman) and Kiriyama Prize (finalist; for the work of fiction which best enhances the understanding of any Pacific Rim Culture).

Mones’ nonfiction writing on China has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Gourmet, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. She is a member of the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations. For more information visir www.nicolemones.com,

Tour Schedule: hfvirtualbooktours.com/nightinshanghaitour

Tour Hashtag: #NightInShanghaiTour

Night in Shanghai_Tour Banner_FINAL

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Talking with Ruth Hull Chatlien about Betsy Bonaparte, Women in History, Writing, and Dream Vacations

Hi Ruth! Thank you for joining us today at Oh, for the Hook of a Book! We are happy to have you. Hopefully spring is around the corner for all of us, at least here in Ohio, we are hoping. How has 2014 treated you and your book, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, so far?

Ruth: To be honest, 2014 got off to a rough start for me. Not only was it the coldest winter in northern Illinois’s recorded history, but I was also diagnosed with early stage breast cancer on New Year’s Eve, so for the first three months of the year I had to undergo surgery and radiation. But I’m finished with all that now, and as an official cancer survivor, I’m looking forward to the future. The book has been one bright spot in all of this. It’s been well received by readers, which gives me great joy.

Erin: Oh, Ruth, I am so sorry to hear that you went through that, and so recently as well.  We have dealt with that with some of our family members and in the previous two years I was President of the Board of a local Cancer Association where I live and we worked and assisted many patients, more than half with breast cancer. I know what a struggle that can be and I am glad to hear you made it through. Best wishes to you to continue on your road to recovery. What a joy to have your book launched and well-received! I certainly enjoyed it!

It’s a bit chilly here, so I’ll still opt for a pot of tea. Would you like some tea or coffee? Then we can have a seat and discuss your novel and your writing. Let’s show the cover first, which I believe you helped illustrate.

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte

Ruth: Coffee would be great as long as it’s decaf. Oh what the heck. Since it’s virtual coffee, maybe I can splurge and have the caffeinated kind.

Erin: That is so true about it being virtual, that said, why not throw in a scone or cookie as well. No calories on the computer screen! Let’s get started then!

Q: The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, your debut novel, is about the American wife of Jerome Bonaparte. Being that your specialty in your non-fiction work is U.S. history and world history, it was interesting that you were able to tie the two together. How did your idea for your book come about?

A: I first learned about Betsy and Jerome from watching the Horatio Hornblower series that showed on A&E in the 1990s and early 2000s. The young couple’s struggle to get to France to obtain the emperor’s approval of their marriage was portrayed in the last episode. When I googled their names to find out if the episode was based on historical fact, I learned that Betsy’s story was far more complex and interesting that the snippet shown in the TV show.

Erin: Yes! I forgot that. That was a great series….cool!

Q: I have never heard much about Betsy Patterson Bonaparte. How much has she been spoken about in the history books? For non-readers (who haven’t yet read your book), how well-known is her story?

A: Betsy was a well-known celebrity throughout the 1800s and into the early 1900s, and there were several biographies and even novels written about her. After the 1960s, her story fell off the radar, but her reputation is making a comeback. Two academic biographies have been published about her within the last few years (one of them after my novel came out).

Q: What kind of research was done for your novel? Did you have any challenges or find out anything extremely interesting?

A: I used six different biographical sources for Betsy alone, some of which contained excerpts from her letters (which are held by the Maryland Historical Society). I also read about Jerome, Napoleon, Dolley Madison, the Caton sisters, the War of 1812, Baltimore architecture, period clothing, and an early explorer’s expedition to Niagara Falls. My husband and I traveled to Baltimore to visit period homes, a 19th-century ship, and Fort McHenry.

Erin: Very interesting. My son just did his historical research project on Dolley Madison. I would love to visit Baltimore, exciting.

I learned a lot of interesting things while researching. For example, Betsy carried a porcelain bourdaloue with her when she traveled. A bourdaloue is basically a fancy, French porta potty shaped something like a gravy boat—a handy thing to have for those long 19th-century carriage rides. I find it difficult to imagine Betsy hiking up her skirts and taking a tinkle in a public coach, but maybe she used it in the shrubbery during stops along the way. And she and Jerome did travel extensively in their own privately owned coach, so theoretically, she could have used it there.

Erin: Oh my goodness, too funny!

Q: Betsy Bonaparte seemed like an extraordinary woman. What types of things do you think that women of today can relate to in regards to her? Does she teach us any lessons or hold admirable qualities that should be remembered more fully?

A: I think some of the forces Betsy fought against haven’t gone away completely. We still have religions that teach women to be subservient to men. We’re still seeing attempts to limit women’s ability to plan the size of their families. Perhaps reading about the struggles of Betsy—and her poor mother—will help remind women not to be complacent about our own rights. In addition, women can learn from Betsy’s example about prudent financial planning. (I know I could learn a thing or two from her in that regard!) I also think women of today can learn a negative lesson from Betsy. In my opinion, the friends who urged her to try to use her talents to find happiness were right, and her life might have been more satisfying if she had focused on doing some type of meaningful work instead of seeking after rank.

Erin: That is such a wonderful answer, thank you!

Q: What kinds of struggles did the wives that married into the Bonaparte family have?

A: To be honest, I haven’t done much research into the other wives who married into the Bonaparte family. I’m planning to write a non-Bonaparte book next, so I’ve been away from this subject for a while. I do know, however, that Napoleon tried to impose political alliances on many members of his family. Josephine’s daughter Hortense, who married Napoleon’s emotionally erratic brother Louis, was very unhappy in her marriage. There were even rumors that her son, who became Emperor Napoleon III, wasn’t a Bonaparte at all.

Q: How long did it take you to write this novel? Are you a plotter or a pantser (write by the seat of your pants)?

A: It took me a little over two years from the beginning of research through the final edits before publication. I’m mostly a plotter, although I will deviate from my outline if my characters insist on taking the story a different way. (For instance, in one chapter, Bo has a tantrum, which came as a complete surprise to me.) With this book, the events of Betsy’s life were already laid out for me, but I did fill in the known events with a lot of fictional episodes. I decided most of those ahead of time, but a few came to me as I was writing.

Q: You’ve written a long time for your day job. What other types of interesting people do you speak of in your educational materials? Who else might make an interesting book?

A: One interesting project that I did a few years back was a young adult book that included the biographies of several modern American Indian leaders, both men and women. I really enjoyed learning about their different ways of leading their people. I also did a fascinating unit on Magellan’s voyage a couple of years ago. It’s one of the most amazing adventure stories I’ve ever come across and would make a fantastic novel, but it won’t be written by me. I’m more interested in writing about women who live during times of conflict or change.

Erin: I am interested in reading book about the women too. I hope you write more! So many stories to tell!

Q: Who do you feel are the most instrumental women in U.S. and/or world history?

A: The word instrumental throws me a bit because it seems to imply someone who was a major player in leading the nation. However, as a writer, I’m not especially drawn to people in the political sphere, so I’m going to take this in a different direction. Some of the women who stand out for me in U.S. history are the ones who really tried to make a difference in the lives of others: Elizabeth Cady Stanton (fighting for women’s rights), Harriet Tubman (leading hundreds of slaves to freedom), Jane Addams (working to educate immigrants and help them adapt to their new communities), and Eleanor Roosevelt (helping the disadvantaged and promoting equal rights). A similar figure from world history is Florence Nightingale with her work to improve hospital care. Each of these women fought to make the world a better place.

Erin: Yes, I feel these women were instrumental. Elizabeth Stanton has come up in so many interviews lately, I think she needs some attention! I do think that the legacies all these women left behind were instrumental in making American culture what it is today or where it still need to go. And Eleanor is a personal favorite of mine, as I am from the same family tree as she and very proud of her work.

Q: What is your best advice for writers? Maybe name three important things.

A: I think the first thing all writers should decide is why they want to write. Some people want to gain commercial success, while others write primarily for self-expression or to create art. Either goal is fine, and the two can overlap, but usually one dominates. A writer needs to be clear about his or her primary goal because the career strategies and standards of evaluation for each will differ. The second piece of advice I’d offer is to listen to the work. You have to pay attention to what’s going on in the story and be willing to change your preconceived ideas about it if they aren’t working. Finally, find a support network because writing can be lonely and difficult. I was fortunate; I met my husband in a writer’s critique group, so we provide great support for each other because we know what the process is like. Even so, I still seek support from other writers I’ve met through blogging and online discussion groups.

Q: Do you have plans to write any other books in the near future? If so, what will they be about?

A: Yes, I’m in the research stage of another historical novel based on the true story of a woman taken captive during one of the most brutal Indian wars in U.S. history. Her story will be very different from Betsy’s, but the two women share the quality of being fiercely determined survivors.

Erin: I love stories such as these, I would really like to read that when you complete it.

Q: For fun, what is your dream vacation? Maybe a perfect writing spot?

A: That’s easy. Seven years ago, my husband and I took a month-long writing sabbatical by renting a beach cottage on Amelia Island, Florida. It’s in the northeastern part of the state, and there’s a quaint town called Fernandina Beach. We love it there. I’ve been itching to go back lately, but it will have to wait. Our next vacation is going to be a research trip for the novel I’m working on.

Q: What books have you read lately that you enjoyed? What are some of your favorite all time books?

A: I recently read Queen’s Gambit by Elizabeth Fremantle and was very impressed with the book. It tells the story of Henry VIII’s last wife. And I’ve recently become hooked on Louise Penny’s Inspector Armande Gamache mystery series. My favorite all-time books are Little Women, Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, and The Lord of the Rings. Nothing too out of the ordinary there I’m afraid.

Erin: Ah, yes, but classics. I love all of those. I liked Queen’s Gambit too, I reviewed it here. She has a new one coming out looks good too.

Q: Where can readers and writers connect with you?

A: I’m on Twitter using the handle @RHChatlien, I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ruthhullchatlien, and I blog at ruthhullchatlienbooks.com.

Erin: Thank you so much Ruth! We certainly enjoyed you stopping by for a hot cup of coffee with us. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors.

Ruth: Thank you, Erin, for putting together such a comprehensive and interesting set of questions. I enjoyed spending time with you.

Erin: Feel free to come by anytime!

The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte, Synopsis~

The Ambitious Madame BonapartePublication Date: December 2, 2013
Amika Press
Paperback; 484p
ISBN: 978-1937484163

As a clever girl in stodgy, mercantile Baltimore, Betsy Patterson dreams of a marriage that will transport her to cultured Europe. When she falls in love with and marries Jerome Bonaparte, she believes her dream has come true—until Jerome’s older brother Napoleon becomes an implacable enemy.

Based on a true story, The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is a historical novel that portrays this woman’s tumultuous life. Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, known to history as Betsy Bonaparte, scandalized Washington with her daring French fashions; visited Niagara Falls when it was an unsettled wilderness; survived a shipwreck and run-ins with British and French warships; dined with presidents and danced with dukes; and lived through the 1814 Battle of Baltimore. Yet through it all, Betsy never lost sight of her primary goal—to win recognition of her marriage.

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Author Ruth Hull Chatlien, Biography~

Ruth Hull ChatlienRuth Hull Chatlien has been a writer and editor of educational materials for twenty-five years. Her specialty is U.S. and world history.

She is the author of Modern American Indian Leaders and has published several short stories and poems in literary magazines. The Ambitious Madame Bonaparte is her first published novel.

She lives in northeastern Illinois with her husband, Michael, and a very pampered dog named Smokey.

When she’s not writing, she can usually be found gardening, knitting, drawing, painting, or watching football.

Connect with Ruth Hull Chatlien at her website or on Facebook.

 

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