Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Book Review: DEAREST DARLING by Andrea Downing

It's my pleasure to introduce Andrea Downing, an author I've enjoyed reading for some time. Her characters are the kind that linger on my mind, always unique, funny, and up for every kind of adventure. 
#western historical romance #cowboys #Andrea Downing #Wyoming #Jackson Hole

Genre: Western Historical Romance
Length: 82 Pages

About The Book
Stuck in a life of servitude to her penny-pinching brother, Emily Darling longs for a more exciting existence. When a packet with travel tickets, meant for one Ethel Darton, accidentally lands on her doormat, Emily sees a chance for escape. Having turned down the dreary suitors that have come her way, is it possible a new existence also offers a different kind of man?

Daniel Saunders has carved out a life for himself in Wyoming—a life missing one thing: a wife. Having scrimped and saved to bring his mail-order bride from New York, he is outraged to find in her stead a runaway fraud. Even worse, the impostor is the sister of his old enemy.

But people are not always as they seem, and sometimes the heart knows more than the head.

Author Bio:
Andrea Downing likes to say that when she decided to do a Masters Degree, she made the mistake of turning left out of New York, where she was born,  instead of right to the west, and ended up in the UK.   She eventually married there, raising a beautiful daughter and staying for longer than she cares to admit.  Teaching, editing a poetry magazine, writing travel articles, and a short stint in Nigeria filled those years until in 2008 she returned to NYC.  She now divides her time between the city and the shore, and often trades the canyons of New York for the wide open spaces of Wyoming.  Family vacations are often out west and, to date, she and her daughter have been to some 20 ranches throughout the west.  Loveland, her first book, was a finalist for Best American Historical at the 2013 RONE Awards.  Lawless Love, a short story, part of The Wild Rose Press ‘Lawmen and Outlaws’ series, was a finalist for Best Historical Novella at the RONE Awards.   Dearest Darling, a novella, is part of The Wild Rose Press Love Letters series, and comes out Oct. 8th and Dances of the Heart, another full length novel, comes out in the next few months.

Thanks so much for having me here today, Lynda.  I always enjoy our chats and am grateful for this opportunity to talk about Dearest Darling.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?
A love of the west primarily, be it my western historical writing or my contemporary novel which will be coming out soon.  But also, I like to think I write slightly complicated plots, plots with a few twists other than just the complexities of the love story itself.  I like surprises!  And Dearest Darling certainly has a few…

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
That's a tough one. I love going out to the Tetons and Jackson Hole area, so I wanted to set this book there.  I wanted to try to convey my awe of that area and the people who homesteaded it, though it was difficult without making the setting the main focal point of the book. But that is what I enjoyed most, having a setting with which I am familiar, and to which I feel a great attachment.

What would you most like us to know about your new book?  This goes back to the surprises and complexities of the plot.  I'd like readers to know this is not your usual 'mail order bride' book; in fact, I never thought of it as being about a mail order bride until someone commented on that aspect!  If anything, it's more about the chances people are willing to take to lead the lives they want. 

How did you come up with the title?  When I heard The Wild Rose Press was doing a 'Love Letters' series I immediately decided this was for me, and how else do you start a love letter other than 'Dearest Darling?'  But that reference alone was too obvious so, with a little nod to J. M. Barry's Peter Pan and the Darling family, I named my heroine Emily Darling.

Can you tell us about your main character?  Emily Darling is someone who knows her own mind and is very strong-willed but is also a product of her background and the times in which she lived.  On the one hand, she has been forced to accept male domination in the personages of both her father and her brother in order to survive, but on the other hand she is brave enough to have not succumbed to a loveless marriage just for the sake of being married, and to take what opportunities come her way in order to experience a different life.  And she's curious about life, she wants to know what's out there, what this or that feels like, why someone did this or that.  She's patient enough to bide her time to wait for her opportunities, but when the opportunity presents itself, she'll take her chance.

What do your plans for future projects include?  I have a full-length women's fiction novel coming out from The Wild Rose Press called Dances of the Heart, and I'm working on some more commercial fiction at the moment.  I also have a Civil War period saga in mind and, of course, there's always the next western historical to plot out.

      Thanks again for having me here today Lynda—much appreciated!

Excerpt: Dearest Darling
The mercantile was a marvel to her. A large store carrying about everything and anything someone could want out here. Barrels of apples, their perfume vying with the aroma of coffee. Rows of canned peaches and beans, brightly labeled. Bolts of fabrics and piles of overalls and blue jeans. Racks of handguns and rifles, cartons of ammunition. Rolls of chicken wire and shelves of implements, tools for farm and ranch and home. Jars of sweet candies and a stack of newspapers and books. Emily’s eyes were big with wonder and Daniel was rewarded to see it as she did, the color, the diversity, the spectacle, not just the practicality of things in a jam-packed shop with sawdust on the floor. And then he shook his head to remove the distractions, concentrate on the matter at hand.
“What can I do for you today, Dan? Not your usual day in town.”
His sideways glance caught Emily suppressing a smile.
“Dan?” she smirked.
He gulped a breath and ignored her. “Hey, Jason, how ya doin’? My cousin here is just out from New York, looking to make a new life. We wondered if there was any work going she might take up. And I do have a list, as usual.” He tried to put a cheerful, friendly note in his voice, something he was definitely not feeling.
The shopkeeper took the list and studied it, shaking his head. “No work as I know of. With summer coming, some things might open up. We always get folks moving in, mebbe starting up businesses, in summer. But nothing as yet. You might want to check back in a week or two. Or there’s the saloon. I heared Ben’s been looking for someone to clean up each morning, but whether you’d want your kin working there, well, that’s another matter.”
Emily stepped forward. “Where is it? The saloon?”
“No!” Damn woman. Daniel sucked in a breath. “You’re not working there,” he said more gently.
Jason’s gaze shot from one to the other. “’Course, I didn’t mean nothing by mentioning it. Mebbe shoulda kept my mouth shut.”
Daniel locked on Emily’s hard stare. Her anger was evident, but she stayed silent.
“Well. I’ll get this order together. Be about fifteen minutes. Can you wait?”
 “Sure thing,” Daniel said and grabbed Emily by the wrist. He dragged her outside after him, almost tossing her against the hitching rail.
“If it’s the only job?” She stomped her foot. “I don’t belong to you, you can’t tell me—”
“I can. And I am. You made yourself my responsibility...” They were shouting, and he lowered his voice, his gaze darting around. “You made yourself my responsibility the day you took those tickets and came out to me.” He let this sink in, reining in his own truculence. “You’re gonna do what I say, and I’ll make the dang decisions. You got that?” He waited for a response. “I said, do you understand?”
Emily crossed her arms. “You said, ‘you got that,’ not ‘do you understand.’” Smugness was written across her face, her lips a thin, tight line, her eyes round with the correction.
Daniel straightened. Then he laughed. And he laughed a little more. “Oh, heck.” He lifted his hat briefly, swept the hair out of his eyes, and set the hat back on his head. “How the hell did this happen to me?”

Lynda's Review:
As you can tell by the excerpt above, these are not just ordinary characters. They will slip off the page and stay with you for a while. This story makes you think about what risks people take in order to find happiness and the complication and hurdles that result. The element I love best about author Andrea Downing's writing is her absolute control and use of dialog. It's always snappy, character revealing, and plot progressing. And setting comes in second, because after reading one of her books, I can put the location on my 'been there' list. The descriptions are always rich and full of small details that make me feel as if I've actually experienced them. Thank you so much for a heart-thumping story, Andrea. I look forward to reading many more.

Links to Social Media:  
Twitter:  @andidowning 

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Blog Tour and Interview - H20 by Virginia Bergin

About The Book

#Survival #Rain #Psychological #Drama

In this tense, psychological drama, debut author Virginia Bergin crafts a tale of desperation and survival about a world in chaos. Anyone who’s been touched by rain or tap water is dead. With a fascinatingly unique premise, a heroine that takes daunting risks and slim chances of survival, H2O’s fast-paced, unputdownable mystery and emotional survivor’s story will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Fifth Wave and The Hunger Games

One minute 16 year old Ruby Morris is having her first real kiss at a party at Zach’s, and the next she’s being bundled inside the house by Zach’s parents, yelling at them to get inside. They don’t believe it at first. Crowded in Zach’s kitchen, Ruby and the rest of the partygoers laugh at Zach’s parents’ frenzied push to get them all inside as it starts to drizzle. But then the radio comes on with the warning, “It’s in the rain! It’s fatal, it’s contagious, and there’s no cure.”  Two weeks later, Ruby is alone. Anyone who’s been touched by rain or has washed their hands with tap water is dead. The only drinkable water is quickly running out. Ruby’s only chance for survival is a treacherous hike across the country to find her father—if he’s even still alive.

Author Interview:

Thank you for asking these tricky questions, Lynda!

Virginia Bergin is the author of the young adult novel, H2Oa story about what happens when a totally ordinary (and utterly unique, because everyone is) teenager finds herself in a global apocalypse. Virginia works as a writer for TV, eLearning and corporate projects. Most recently, she has been working in online education, creating interactive courses for The Open University.  She lives in Bristol, England.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

Very early on in the first draft of H2O, I almost lost my nerve. Not because I didn’t think I had a story to tell, but because I suddenly realised how brutal and horrific that story was. It’s all very well thinking, ‘I’ll write a story about an apocalypse’, but once you’ve got a real character down on the page and you’re starting to have to feel what she’s feeling and think what she’s thinking and you know how much she’s going to be hurt and frightened . . . you start to have doubts. Well, I did.

My first doubts were for readers. When I was 14 I watched a zombie film I wasn’t really ready to watch. I saw it with a bunch of friends and they all seemed fine about it. I was scared out of my mind. It gave me nightmares. The storyline of H2O was so horrific I worried I could traumatise someone, and it felt really weird and horrible to be imagining the deaths of so many people, but . . .

. . . once Ruby (my main character) had walked onto the page and found herself in the situation that’s she’s in, I knew I couldn’t leave her. It was too hard to walk away. In real life, there are kids and teens who can’t walk away from situations that would smash any adult. So I stayed, even though I didn’t want to, because I felt I should see it through . . . and because I couldn’t leave Ruby on her own.

What was your favorite chapter to write and why?

Because it had been so dreadful, getting Ruby through those first few days, I think – from that point of view – my most favourite chapter, emotionally, has to be . . . Fourteen. I don’t want to give too much away, but that’s when Ruby starts to see glimpses of a future, even though she does not - and cannot possibly – realise it. For the first time, she starts to make decisions that are not based on the past, but based on the present.

And I like this chapter because it’s a total mash-up between horror and comedy – and human compassion.

Why do you feel you had to tell this story?

Uh . . . that’s so hard to answer. When I started out, it seemed like such a simple thing: I just wanted to tell a really good story, the kind I wouldn’t be able to put down myself. Yes, I just wanted to tell a cracking good story.
Then I started writing it, and a whole load of other things piled on in. Things I feel very strongly about: the pressures teens are under, the state of the planet . . . and more specific, factual things – like us over-prescribing antibiotics to the point that they no longer work, and . . . so we all need water – but if you live in the Western world do you even know how that water gets to your faucet?

It didn’t stop there! There were much more philosophical things: who, really, is responsible for what? What would happen to religion and politics if we were all faced with a global catastrophe – and if there was such a catastrophe, how would it play out? Who would the government save? Who would you save – and what kind of decisions would you have to make? (About other human beings, and about animals . . . and about pets.)

Basically, it all spiralled out of control . . . but, luckily, I didn’t have to work out the answers to any of those things. I had a character, Ruby, who was going to work them out for herself . . . in her own way, and in her own time.

So: ‘Why did you feel you had to tell this story?’ . . . because I felt an obligation to Ruby and to all young people who are going through unbelievably hard times. H2O is not the answer to anything, I’m sure, but I’d hope it’d be a story that at least raises some useful questions.

How did you come up with the title?

This is such a good question.

The answer might seem obvious – dur, it’s water?! – but to me it is the story itself:

·         It’s science. H2O is the scientific name for water and this is a story with a lot of science).
·         It’s Ruby. The title stuck as H2O because first draft around I couldn’t stop to work out how to drop the ‘2’ below the line, as it should be . . . but then I realised - if I couldn’t stop to work it out, why would Ruby?
·         It’s about . . . the connections between things. Between molecules, between people, between ideas.

The UK title is ‘The Rain’ – and that works just as well . . . because this is a story about how simple things can get really, really complicated.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Writers...How do you visualize your story? Why Not Pin Your Way to Inspiration

Follow Lynda's board Stormee Waters - Coming Soon on Pinterest.
Follow Lynda's board Payback in Wayback - Published on Pinterest.

The old saying 'Seeing is Believing' works so well for me. I love the process of story boarding on Pinterest. I start the process weeks before I actually begin to write and continue all the way through till I finish the book. Often new images inspire additional plot points, ideas for deeper characterization, and fabulous descriptions.

As a writer, what do you do to help visualize a story? As a reader, do you enjoy viewing author's story boards?

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Saturday, October 4, 2014

Book Review: WAGES CREEK by Jeffrey Hickey

About The Book:
Amazon Link

There was once a campground on the Northern California coast where a fresh, bubbling stream met the vast Pacific Ocean. The sandy beach was large, the grasses were tall and soft, three ducks had a problem, one man had a cold, and a horseshoe pit was in the middle of the solution. This is the story of a trip my family took to Wages Creek.

Breeze's Review:
As a parent I am always excited to find books that my children genuinely like to read and when I find one that ALL of us enjoy reading, I get truly excited. This is one of those books. It has the writings of a great imagination, adventure and a lot of humor that both parents and their children will enjoy. The family was on a camping trip when dad got sick and stayed behind at the campsite while the family went out and you won't believe what follows! He has a great adventure with some ducks and the illustrations absolutely add to the story. I highly suggest listening to the audio book while reading this story! I hope many more families get to enjoy this book! 

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Book Rreview - WHEN A SPIDER COMES TO STAY by Rebecca Crosdale

About the Book:
One day, while sitting in her den, a little girl comes upon a small spider. The spider does not scare her or offend. The spider is a comfort, especially as the girl watches the spider spin in circles. The spider is so full of life, and the girl hopes to be the spider’s friend—but what does the spider want? Why does she sit in the den? The girl and the spider don’t speak the same language, but after a while, they learn to communicate. The girl even tries to share food with the lovely spider, but the spider doesn’t want apples and cheese; the spider needs flies and other bugs to eat. Despite their differences, they remain friends. Still, the spider can’t stay in the den forever. Miss Spider must make a web somewhere outside to catch her prey. The little girl is just happy to have made a new friend—one that is fun, fascinating, and not very scary at all.

Breeze's Review: 
This is an interesting children's book that can be used in educational settings such as a student teacher discussion. The book already contains a section of Discussion Points for teachers to use. There are lots of not so obvious lessons that children can learn but I certainly suggest using the questions in the book when reading to students or if you are reading to your child because there were a lot of good points that I didn't catch until I read the discussion points.The story is meant to teach children how to communicate better with someone who may be different than they are. I enjoyed sharing this book with my daughter, she liked all the illustrations of the spider.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Tour and Review for ROUND THE BEND by Alistair McGuiness

About the Author

Alistair McGuiness grew up in the UK in a town called Luton, which lies 30 miles north of London. Family holidays were spent in County Donegal, Ireland, staying with his Grandmother in their large family home where she had once raised fifteen children.
It was these annual trips that made Alistair realise his Great Uncles were SeanachaĆ­s (Irish story tellers). After a few pints of Guinness in the family bar, brothers Barney and Francis would entertain the evening crowds with their recitations of life in rural Ireland. As their rustic voices carried across the crowded room, Alistair would watch and listen as the animated tales mesmorised the overseas visitors.
44 countries and four decades later, Alistair now calls Australia home and in the tradition of Great Uncles Barney and Francis, loves to recite stories. He lives between the beach and the forest with his wife, two young boys and a fun puppy called Peppi. After decades of adventurous escapades Alistair is calming down and has decided to write more and bungee jump less!
He works as a Business Improvement Specialist and has just spent three years as a fly in fly out employee at a remote iron ore mine site in Western Australia. As a trainer and facilitator, he has worked in Europe and Australia and is passionate about helping people and organisations to become successful.
A fun family day for Alistair would be fishing from the local jetty with his boys, taking the puppy for a walk along the beach at sunset and cooking a scrumptious curry in the evening with his wife.
An ideal adventurous day for Alistair would be a days walking and scrambling in the Lake District with friends, followed by a visit to a village pub nestled deep in the English countryside.
For More Information
About the Book:

From the Amazon to the Andes and Kilimanjaro to Cape Town. This adventure story
captures the reality and exhilaration of leaving home to undertake Gap Year travel in South America, Africa, Fiji and Australia.
Three things happened simultaneously. The lioness charged, Alistair fled across the parched savannah and his wife screamed for him to run faster. Stuffed deep inside his tattered rucksack was a guidebook containing advice on what to do in wildlife emergencies, which he planned to read if he survived the next thirty seconds. Future plans to climb Kilimanjaro, teach English in the Amazon and live in Australia were temporarily forgotten as he turned to face the pouncing lioness, thinking back to the words of advice from his mother-in-law. "Don't do anything silly, and look after Francine." From deep underground in a remote Bolivian mine to the scorched Australian outback, Round the Bend is an adventure travel story. It explores the turbulence of redundancy, the excitement of travel, the anguish of leaving home and the challenges of starting a new life in Australia.

For More Information

  • Round the Bend: From Luton to Peru to Ningaloo, a Search for Life After Redundancy is available at Amazon.
  • Pick up your copy at Barnes & Noble.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads
Lynda's Review:
I did so enjoy this book. Right from the beginning, I connected with the author as he struggled to make a life-altering decision, and then to try and learn a new language in a very short time. There is so much fun and adventure in this quest for a new direction in life. I'm impressed with the courage it took for this couple to complete their preparations and then to follow through. The story has great pacing, wonderful descriptions, and an ever-constant flow of unique travel and resettlement problems and successes. I highly recommend this book.

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

'Pantser' BUZZ - Get Yourself Out of the Closet

Get Yourself Out of the Closet

Two diverse communities, commonly known as Plotters or Pantsers, inhabit the same world where story crafting is king. Because Pantsers seem to be the rebellious kid on the block, the marcher who is consistently out of step with the standard beat, should we slink to the side or create a revolution?

I'm a Pantser. I can't help it, I'm wired that way. I'm tired of constantly striving to conform to the ideology that plotting is the only legitimate avenue to true bookish success as a writer. And I'm convinced that there are a lot of other writers who feel the same way. So, I'm issuing a 'call-to-action'. And before anyone yells at me, I know that some writers blend both styles. If you fall into that category, by all means, come play with us.

Let's create a 'Pantser' Buzz. I'll chronicle my journey right here on my blog by issuing 'Pantser' promps, challenges, pointers, harassment, slap on the wrists, updates, suggestions, diy's, and much more. You can march (skip, jump, or hop) shoulder-to-shoulder with me, using whatever method you prefer. Let's create a common celebration of all 'Pantsers'. And since we 'Pantsers' are usually in our own 'la-la' zone, let's have some fun while we celebrate.

Ready to get started? I see you slouching over there. Sit up straight and pay attention. (*wagging my finger)
It's time for: Pantser Buzz #1: Get Yourself Out of the Closet

True courage means taking action even when fear grips your throat. Have you ever sat in a seminar by a successful author who is expounding the virtues of plot and structure and felt that the literary police were about to yank you out of your seat and charge you with the heinous crime of impersonating a writer? That may be a little dramatic, but I've felt something close to it on several occasions. When given a chance to differ, did I speak up? ARE YOU KIDDING ME! Stoning is still a viable form of execution in some parts of the world. I wasn't chancing it! Blogging seems to be a safer option. So how about you? Are you brave enough to identify yourself as a 'Pantser'? Shout it out, either by leaving a comment here, or in whatever style suits your Pantsing personality.

Lynda Coker - Romance Writer - Blogger - Fiber Artist

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Book Review: SLAPSHOT OF LOVE by Gary Pearson

Length: 356 Pages
Genre: Satirical Romantic Comedy
Amazon Link

About The Book:
Slapshot of Love by Gary Pearson is a satirical romantic comedy in the tradition of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary. Geri Halton is a young woman with an all too real life, working in an seniors’ residence in an industrial town, who finds herself thrown into the glamorous, but artificial world of a reality TV dating show called Slapshot of Love. Smart, funny, attractive, but not ‘model pretty’ or remotely glam, Geri must navigate the phony world of television and determine if her relationship with Ryan, the handsome hockey playing star of the show, is real, or contrived for the TV audience. The hilarious circumstances at both a seniors’ residence and the set of a reality TV show propel the characters through a comic story that also has a lot of heart.

Lynda's Review:

~ "I guess we'll cut it there." Josh said, but Tremblay was having none of it.
"Keep rolling. I want to keep talking to this one. She's pissing me off."
"Geri laughed and stood up. " I've had enough, I can go. This guy doesn't like me." Ryan looked perplexed. He was angry but this seemed unfinished. ~Page 136

Any story that's set in the middle of a reality dating show should promise both drama and humor. Slapshot of Love by Gary Pearson delivers both. While our heroine, Geri, discovers the unreality and bogus truths of the television-world, she also finds an unusual environment in which she can actually discover realities about herself and test the validity of her own hopes and moral foundation. 

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Book Review: PUMPKIN TIME by Erzsi Deak

Genre: Children's (4-8 Years)
Length: 32 Pages

About The Book:
The day Evy slipped on her gardening boots and began planting seeds in the soft, black earth, she saw a feast waiting to sprout. Evy is so focused on watching her garden grow, that she misses all the silliness going on around her- pigs dancing, donkeys flying, and sheep having a picnic.

But after nurturing her garden all summer and harvesting in the autumn- it’s Pumpkin Time! And what better way to celebrate than with a delicious feast for everyone.

Gorgeously illustrated by New York Times and IndieBound bestselling illustrator, Doug Cushman, this charming picture book features pumpkin facts, delicious recipes that parents and children can share together, as well as a step-by-step walkthrough of Evy’s pumpkin growing process (in case you were too focused on all the silliness).

Pumpkin Time captures the beauty and bounty of fall and harvest time, and encourages parents and kids to try their own hand at gardening.

Breeze's Review:

Pumpkin Time is a fun book that I was happy to review. The book immediately caught my attention because of the illustrations. They are well done and contain so much detail that children who are not of reading age will still enjoy this book tremendously! The story line is creative. My girls and I followed Evy around while she is oblivious to the events around her because she is working on a very special surprise. I just love how interactive this book is with a recipe and fun facts section in the back. This is a cute, creative and interactive book that anyone with young children would love. 5 stars!