Book Review Friday – David Lawlor’s “Liam Mannion” series

An author faces a monumental task when writing historical fiction. If one historical fact is wrong or an anachronism appears, the reader is likely to put aside the book in favor of one that achieves historical accuracy tempered with believable dialogue, heightened tension, and sympathetic, yet flawed, heroes.

If you are a reader of historical fiction who requires accuracy, suspense, and flawed, yet heroic main characters, then I suggest you go directly to Amazon and buy Tan or The Golden Grave or both by David Lawlor.

RESIZED TANI read Tan first because it is the first in the “Liam Mannion” series of suspenseful and historical novels written by Lawlor. I interviewed him on Author Wednesday a few months back and was intrigued to learn this journalist writes while commuting to his job an hour each way. This process works to create suspenseful fiction with colorful and unforgettable characters.

Set in England and then Ireland in the year after the end of World War I, Tan explores the war of a closer nature immediately following Liam Mannion’s release from the English Army in 1919. Here’s a guy forced to leave Ireland at a young age because of an act he witnessed after a night of drinking at a friend’s wedding. It’s here where the conflict of the story begins when the evil Webber blames and accuses the young Liam of an indecent act against a virtuous married woman. Webber’s fiction that forces Liam into exile begins a whole series of events that mark Liam for life.

Liam heads to England in 1914 and ends up in the English army fighting in France during the majority of World War I.

When Liam eventually heads back to England after the horrid and putrid rot of dead bodies that made up his memory of the war, he ends up in an insufferable situation, which leads him to homelessness, and then worse, as an officer of the crown as a member of the powerful and often repressive Black and Tan. Liam turns a blind eye to the atrocious behavior of his English comrades, only until it becomes evident that his loyalty to the Black and Tan extracts too high of a rent for clean clothes and warm bowl of soup.

Lawlor captures the uncertainty of the times through the examination of Liam’s uncertain future as he’s thrust into situations beyond his control. Precise and graphic descriptions of life in England and Ireland post-World War I show that despite the end of a tragic war on the mainland of Europe, Ireland faced an even greater war at home with the invasion and intrusion of the Tans.

I fell in love with Lawlor’s descriptions of the setting in Tan as I lost myself in the world of the Irish fighting for their lives and their homeland. Here’s an example of Lawlor’s powerful descriptive talent:

“They leaned against the viaduct’s promenade rail, looking out on their hometown, watching the slow huff of a steam engine as it trundled into the station, the smell of the sea mingling with the coke from Cumisky’s coal yard beneath them.”

Lawlor peppers the novel with descriptions filled with contrasting details that employ the senses to show the reader that the situation and the setting are both beautiful and polluted.

Tan is both tender and violent as the reader is drawn into the abyss of angry revenge and the love and loyalty of friends and family. It also shows that being born into a family does not guarantee such loyalty. The character of the individual breeds the kind of loyalty that would take a bullet and shoot a bullet to protect and exact revenge.

I highly recommend Tan if you like immersing your senses in the past of one hundred years ago on English and Irish soils bloodied from wars and stained with tears.

THE GOLDEN GRAVEI also recommend reading Tan before delving into Lawlor’s second “Liam Mannion” novel, The Golden Grave. Liam is once again in exile in England in 1920 when he runs into a war buddy from the trenches in France. The novel’s conflict is set almost immediately as a group of World War I veterans enter into a dangerous project that involves digging into the battlefield grounds of France to find the pot of gold.

The love and lust affair between Liam and Sabine offers some sexual tension, but also provides a buffer between the tedious task of unearthing the treasure and the trauma all the former soldiers feel upon returning to the arena of so many deaths—some of which they caused.

If the story verges toward romanticism, Lawlor skillfully and abruptly changes the tone with flashes of jealousy and flashbacks of war. He uses contrasts to create vivid sketches of the setting as he does in this scene when the veterans make it back to the small village in Flanders that became their touchstone during the worst days of the war:

“The road ran like a scar across Flanders’ ruined landscape. Amongst the straggling wild flowers and sparse grass patches, the animals watched beneath a noon-day sun that shone bright and pristine. A black rat paused in its scavenging; its head tilted high, the whiskers twitching expectantly as it listened to the soft shuffle of booted feet.”

Liam Mannion is impacted by the war, yet in him Lawlor has created a sympathetic and very human main character. He loves, yet he’s afraid of rejection so he holds back. He’s loyal, yet his temptations lead him to places that test his loyalty. He doesn’t always win those personal battles, but he manages to find his way back to remind us all it’s never too late to find redemption.

The Golden Grave is more graphic and more violent than Tan. The horror of war and its impact on individuals plays a role in the plot, but perhaps the quest for gold to quench an unquenchable greed drives the conflict and extracts tolls far more costly than war. It also points to human failings of the worst kind.

Lawlor’s talent is evident in the fast-paced and moving story of war, greed, and passion found within the pages of The Golden Grave. I’m not one for war stories in general, but The Golden Grave is so suspenseful and action-packed and filled with historical importance that I enjoyed every minute reading this book.

Note to Mr. Lawlor:  I hope there’s a third “Liam Mannion” novel in the works.

Purchase Links:

The Golden Grave: http://goo.gl/qMCTa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Wednesday – Catherine Feeny

typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday here on Writing Whims. Today I welcome Catherine Feeny, a writer from the UK. Her latest novel, Flower Girl tells the story of how a night of passion leads London florist Violet Lake to leave her former life behind, and fly off with her movie star lover to live with him in his Hollywood mansion. Once there, however, Violet’s fantasy starts to unravel, and she finds herself catapulted into an adventure which carries her across the entire American continent, and leaves her future happiness hanging in the balance. fg7

The plot for Flower Girl sounds very intriguing. When folks ask you what the book is about, what’s your one sentence pitch to hook them?

 “She went to bed with a movie star but woke up with a man.” Wondering what it would be like to live out that fantasy was the starting point for my story. In a way Flower Girl begins where other romantic novels break off.

 That is even more enticing! So I have to ask, what type of research did you do in the writing of this book?

Lots and lots of work on the Internet. Violet, my heroine, is a freelance florist, well-versed in the language of flowers, so I read up on all things floral. When Violet moves from London to California she encounters flowers that she has never seen before. I was able to use online gardening diaries to check when certain varieties would be in bloom, and how to care for them.

Flower Girl features a wide variety of locations. I based my fictional settings on real ones, and got to know them via Google Maps. I also read personal accounts of visits to some of these places, in order to pick up quirky details that only an insider would know about.

I am a committed foodie, and much of what my characters have to eat derives from menus I came across online. I now have a long list of must-visit cafes and restaurants across the USA!

Who or what is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

There are more than one, but my favourite is named Harold Acker. He’s a successful but embittered film actor, with a sardonic turn of phrase and a habit of going for the jugular. I don’t believe in the idea of characters “taking over,” but some are certainly easier to write than others. From the moment Acker first appeared, slugging whiskey and unerringly pinpointing Violet’s inner vulnerabilities, I knew I had got him.

Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in Flower Girl.

It’s hard to choose just one, because different scenes do different things, and you hope they will all be equally appealing. I am, however, particularly fond of the description of Oscar Night. I did a lot of research into what it is like to be there, and I discovered that the experience is a curious mixture of glamor and banality. That is a heady combination for a writer to play with, and I had fun conveying those contrasting aspects of the occasion.

What else do you want readers to know about your book?

First and foremost, Flower Girl is a story with masses of twists and turns. One reader likened it to “an emotional roller coaster, well worth the ride!” That is very much what I wanted it to be.

There is a component of escapism in my story, but along with it there are completely believable characters, many of whom have very real problems and issues that they need to deal with.

I think you have hit on the elements necessary for a good read. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

One reviewer said that an earlier novel I wrote had “a measure of magic” and “a sprinkle of romance” and observed that it would “make a wonderful film some day.” Flower Girl has more than a sprinkle of romance and, I hope, a good measure of magic. It was also intentionally written to be filmic. If readers find those qualities in it I will be a happy author!

Here’s to your happiness as an author, Catherine. I’m so pleased you stopped by today to share your work.

 

 

cmf1

From Catherine Feeny – I am the author of four previous novels, published by Hodder & Stoughton. I also teach creative writing, work as a freelance journalist, and write short stories and drama for BBC Radio 4. I currently live in Lincoln in the UK, but have spent time in France and Spain, and for four years I lived in the United States. My travels around America by Greyhound bus at the age of sixteen were among the inspirations for Flower Girl.

Social Links

Facebook page

Twitter: @CatherineFeeny1

Visit Blog

Where to Purchase Flower Girl:

Amazon US: http://amzn.to/19IN56C

Amazon UK: http://amzn.to/16fbwIQ

 

 

 

 

Author’s Blog Chain

It’s my pleasure today to participate in the Author’s Blog Chain. Francis Guenette tagged me on her blog, Francis Guenette - author photoDisappearing in Plain Sight. I also reviewed her delightful novel, Disappearing in Plain Sight. Disappearing in Plain Sight - coverPlease visit her blog. She writes thoughtful pieces on the process of becoming and sustaining a career as an Indie Author. I’ve found many of her insights very helpful in my journey as an Indie Author.

The Author’s Blog Chain requires me to answer four questions about my writing life, so here goes:

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

Sketch of P.C. Zick by Jae at Lit and Scribbles

1. What are you currently working on?

I’m working on my next Florida Fiction novel, Native Lands. This work looks at who owns the land on which we live and how we should tend to that land as good stewards. There’s plenty of love and intrigue and nasty antagonists. I hope to publish it sometime before the end of the year. I’m also working on a nonfiction book, Odyssey to Myself, which is a collection of essays on my travels from 2004-2009 and how each trip held a significant life lesson. I’m also developing an editing and book formatting business, which I hope to launch very soon.

2. How does your work differ from others’ in the same genre?

I think most authors like to think their work is different from any other work, and I’m no exception. I’ve been compared to Carl Hiassen because I write about the disastrous effects of development on Florida; I’ve been compared to Anne Rivers Siddons because of my southern characters. I may have elements of those writers’ genre in my work, but I also write in-depth about nature and wildlife. I take a page from the John Steinbeck book of writing and try to create metaphors in nature that represent man’s actions. I aspire to write as noteworthy books as those I’ve mentioned!

3. Why do you write what you write?

Good question. I often refer to Rachel Carson’s (Silent Spring) comment on how she chose her subjects. She said that she never chose a subject, but rather the subject chose her. I believe I’ve chosen my path to help bring awareness on issues regarding nature and all its creatures. If we continue to live thoughtless lives without consideration of the natural world around us, then we’re dooming our future generations to some heavy burdens.

4. How does your writing process work?

I’m not sure I have a process. I write when the mood strikes, which is every day. I keep several journals going. I usually have a work in progress. I tend to begin with an idea and then plot it out, researching as I go. With every project, the process changes.

Now that I’ve answered questions about my writing life, I’m tagging three other authors so they can continue the Author’s Blog Chain.

IMG_0140 resized-framedChristina Carson – I discovered Christina Carson’s work through my social media channels and what a lovely surprise to find her. I’ve read one of her books, Suffer the Little Children, and reviewed it, and Christina wrote a guest blog for Author Wednesday in June. Her books are delightful reminders that novels serve as more than entertainment; they also show a way to live a more thoughtful existenceSuffer the Little Children-resized

From Christina: I was born in Chester County, Pennsylvania, when it still looked like the verdant farming country of England. Horses and dairy farming were prominent, and I chose horses. Educated as a scientist, I was a child of the 1960s, and one of the outcomes of that was my stance as war protester. Leaving a Ph.D. program and the United States in 1968, I settled in western Canada and fell in love with the wildness of the country and the tolerance of the people. The cold was a tad stunning, however. I’ve been writing nonfiction and poetry as long as I can remember, but eight years ago, I began to write fiction. In 1996, I came back to the States on the arm of a Vietnam veteran. Now there’s a story for you. Presently, I reside in Alabama with my husband, also a writer. Neither the adventure of life and its wonder, nor what it has yet to teach me seem anywhere close to an end.

Links:

Amazon Author Central

Suffer the Little Children

Dying to Know

Blog: Cristina Carson, Writer

100-0059_IMGDarlene Jones – Darlene Jones caught my attention when I came across her blog, Em and Yves. Her experiences from living in Mali made an indelible mark on her so much so she’s dedicated herself to writing books that reflect a country and culture living in poverty and pain. I usually don’t read science fiction, but Darlene’s purpose in writing her novels intrigued me. I was pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed reading, Embattled, which I reviewed on Book Review Friday. Darlene has also appeared on Author Wednesday.Embattled jpg for Kindle

From Darlene – A long time ago, I lived in Mali. Every single day, I wished I could wave a magic wand to relieve the heart-wrenching poverty. The story line of my books reflects my desire to wave that wand and make the world a better place. If only wishes could come true. And of course, every novel needs its love story, so along with the sci-fi magic, I’ve added the requisite romance.

I’ve always believed we can’t be the only beings existing in the vastness of the universe. There must be others “out there somewhere,” and I brought some of them along for the ride. The setting stays, for the most part, within the realities of our world, but I’ve found that I love the magic the sci-fi element of other beings can bring to the story.

Links:

Blog: http://emandyves.wordpress.com

Books: http://www.amazon.com/Darlene-Jones/e/B005ZVH88G

PicturePaffi S. Flood – One of my blogger friends, Staci Troilo introduced me to Paffi S. Flood. I’m very pleased to meet her and add her to the growing list of author friends I’ve met since starting Writing Whims. Her novel A Killing Strikes Home is another in the series of Mystery, Ink by Goldminds Publishing.Picture

From Paffi – Ever since I worked on the school newspaper in the seventh grade, I had a passion for writing. Although I pursued software engineering in college, being a writer was always in the back of my mind. A decade ago, I attended writing classes and workshops and was encouraged to chase my dream. A Killing Strikes Home published by Goldminds Publishing, LLC: in January 2013 is my debut novel, and I’m currently working on my next one.

Links:

Website: www.paffisflood.com

Twitter: @paffiFlood

A Killing Strikes Home on Amazon

Please visit these other authors and their outstanding work. They’ll be posting their Author’s Blog Chain on February 3.

Keep Moving with a Thick Skin

Living Lightly

DSC03075Many of you know that in addition to writing this blog about all topics pertaining to living consciously and lightly upon the planet, I also write fiction. In fact, writing novels consumes me most of the time these days. In the past two years, I’ve published two novels and re-issued two traditionally published novels.

Like most writers, I’m sensitive but have been forced to develop a tougher exterior. It doesn’t come easily and in the quiet moments of self-doubt, that bulky facade falls away, and I bleed from any slights I might receive for my passion. I recently read a quote that said, “It’s only work if you’d rather be doing something else.” That fits me. There’s nothing else I’d rather be doing despite the often lackluster sales of my books, the frequent ignoring of what I do by relatives and friends, and the sometimes thoughtless comments made by others…

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Book Review Friday – Shadow of Eden

Final cover smaller_1Shadow of Eden by Louis Kirby, M.D. is a thriller of a book, but it’s so much more than that.

The different levels run the gambit from our society’s obsession with thinness at any cost to the sway of power and money with an even higher price tag.

I usually don’t read this type of action-packed, plot driven novel. However, after finishing Shadow of Eden in two days because I couldn’t leave it alone, I wonder why I’ve put limits on my reading list. As usually happens, when I step out of my reading pigeonhole, surprising things happen.

At first, the number of characters and the changing names with each new chapter caused some confusion. However, as the layers of the story began to coalesce, I forgot about trying to keep all the names straight and went for the enjoyment of losing myself in the story. While the characters and their traits are important to the story, they aren’t as important as the speeding plot heading for a collision with the climax of the story.

I like the short chapters, too. This technique allows the plot to move forward quickly, and I didn’t have much of a chance to wonder if I knew who everyone was or if I was enjoying the genre or not. Who can stop to analyze when the novel’s train has already left the station and sped around the corner? That’s a good thing for me when I read. As a writer myself, I spend far too much time taking apart the guts of what I’m reading. When I stop doing that and allow myself to be transported into a story, then I know the author has done what all good writing should do. Good writing gives the reader the opportunity to forget they’re reading. Good writing transports the reader into the cockpit of a jet, even though the reader has never been inside of one. Good writing transcends believability because no matter what comes next, the reader has become lost in the setting and conflicts and plot. Dr. Kirby’s writing falls into this category.

Dr. Kirby delved into subject matter that required a tremendous amount of research. His standing as a respected neurologist and founder of a facility specializing in human drug testing gave him very specific knowledge of the body and its reaction to foreign substances; his knowledge of jets, government infrastructure, and corporation duplicity shines through in this novel for a fast read and a vast amount of tracks to explore.

I’m a fan of both Dr. Kirby and the action-packed thriller after reading Shadow of Eden.

Author Wednesday – Louis Kirby

typewriterWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today it is a privilege to introduce Louis Kirby, MD, the author of Shadow of Eden, a medical-political thriller. Dr. Kirby describes the novel as “Crichton meets Baldacci.” The book is chilling in its authenticity of miracle weight loss drugs at any cost, corrupt politicians, and greedy moguls ready to make a buck at the cost of human lives. At the center is a lone doctor determined to learn the truth before more people die, including the President of the United States. It’s fiction, but its lure is in its haunting plausibility.

Welcome to Author Wednesday, Dr. Kirby. I’ve just finished reading Shadow of Eden so I’m curious about how you find your topics. Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Is that true of your writing?

My career as a neurologist and principal investigator on countless pharmaceutical studies gave me front line experience in the whole process of drug development: the good, the bad and the ugly. This process is not well understood by many, and I wanted to tell the story about a small drug company’s manipulation of the system. In addition, the specific side effect featured in the book is very real and deadly so I combined them both into a story that is highly disturbing in its implications. So, yes, the subject grabbed me like a rabid dog and wouldn’t let go.

I can understand why you had to write it. Who has most influenced your writing?

The most influential book was Syd Field’s Screenplay. Shadow of Eden was originally a screenplay (I’m ready, Hollywood) but Syd’s lessons on the structure of a story resulted in Shadow’s structural bones; yet the story feels organic and natural. The second thing Syd taught is to get into a scene late and exit early. No unnecessary chitchat, no wasted descriptions or fluff.

As I read the book, I kept envisioning it on the screen. What knowledge have you acquired recently that might assist other writers?

Once I published Shadow of Eden, I started directly contacting authors in my genre, both to learn from them and to offer my thoughts. I found them all to be very receptive. This is a gratifyingly open community. I have enjoyed making new author friends.

I agree. I’ve heard horror stories about competing authors in the same genre, but fortunately I haven’t run across any of them. It’s been a very gratifying experience for me as well to share and receive. That’s why I started Author Wednesday so I could probe others’ minds. So back to Shadow of Eden. Do you have a favorite character from the book?

To some extent all of them are my favorites even though not all are likable. They all have different personalities, agendas, skills, and roles. If I had to pick one, I’d say it was Valenti, the damaged goods private investigator that the main character recruits to help him. Valenti is funny, profane, sarcastic, and unpredictable, yet smart and capable. He was very fun to write, as he has no filter on what he says. He makes a good foil for our hero, and ultimately, they form a tight relationship.

That’s true. Valenti helped break up the tension when it almost became too much. Good job on his characterization. Are you planning to continue medical thrillers?

I love science, medicine, and exploring their frontiers, in particular how they shape our culture, religion, and philosophy. Think how “the pill” shaped our cultural psyche and led to the sexual revolution. In Shadow of Eden, Eden, the blockbuster weight loss drug, exploits the obsession America has with attainable physical perfection, and the extent to which we will go to achieve those ends. My next project also explores science and interface with the social fabric.  I feature a scientific expedition to discover the Garden of Eden, specifically looking for the tree of life and the fountain of youth its discovery would unlock.

I look forward to reading it. I’m always asked how long it took for me to write my novels, and I’m never quite sure. So I’ll ask you , too. How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published?

The whole process took about five years. I took two years to research the story, from talking my way into the cockpit of a 747 while in flight; speaking at length to a top gun pilot and the former deputy director of the CIA; to personally exploring the physical layout of the National Cathedral and Smithsonian institutions. The book writing took another two years and edit. The last year I spent closely re-(and re- and re-) reading with my editor and proofing the final manuscript.

I wondered how you were able to be so precise in that opening scene in cockpit. Who or what is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

I have two, really. The first is Viktor Morloch, the charismatic, patrician CEO of the Trident Pharmaceuticals. He’s smart, ruthless, calculating, and absolutely unflappable. Think Roy Scheider in pinstripes. The other is an ex-FBI assassin, Kirk Mallis who is cool, poised, relentless, and cunning. Yet they are written as real people. We get inside each of their heads, we see their successes and their frustrations, and I want the reader to care about what happens to them. Great villains make great heroes. Walter White of Breaking Bad is a complex and fascinating character that roped us in with his feelings and his conflicts, yet he does bad things. And we watched in droves.

So true. I believe both the antagonists and the protagonists must be balanced to be believable. I imagine you have a fairly full schedule, but when you do have down time what do you like to do? 

I get physical. Twice a year I climb the Grand Canyon, top to bottom and back out in one day. Consequently, I have an incentive to stay in shape because once down, there’s nobody else who’s going to haul out your sorry carcass. My wife, daughter, and I also travel a lot, and I take my camera, which is my second hobby, and take pictures. I posted a sample of our trip to Lago di Como on my website.

That’s a major physical accomplishment. Sounds like you’ve found a way to enjoy your time away from work.

Thank you for your very interesting questions and an opportunity to participate in your blog. I wish you all the best success in your own writing.

Thank you. I hope you’ll come back to Author Wednesday when your new book comes out. And most of all, I look forward to reading another thriller from you.

LK in UK crop _1Bio: Louis Kirby, MD has specialized in research and treatment of neurodegenerative diseases, chiefly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, during his professional career as a neurologist. Louis served as principal investigator on nearly 400 human clinical trials at Pivotal Research, a company he founded. He has given presentations at national and international conferences on drug development and consulted for the government and the pharmaceutical industry. Throughout his life he has always been drawn to writing. While in medical school he published several stories, one landing him in hot water with the Dean of Medicine.

Contact Louis Kirby

Email Louis Kirby at:  lk@louiskirby.com.

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-of-Eden-ebook/dp/B00EN86WRU

Website: LouisKirby.com

Twitter: @lou7is (the 7 is silent)

Facebook Page

Goodreads

Shadow of Eden Purchase Links

Kindle

Trade paperback

Author P.C. Zick

Elite Book Design put together the video trailer for A Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier. Check them out – they do fantastic work!

Elite Book Design

PCZick_color_smallP.C. Zick’s career as a writer began in 1998 with the publication of her first column in a local paper. By day, she was a high school English teacher, but at night and on vacations, she began writing novels and working as a freelance journalist. By 2001, she left teaching and began pursuing a full-time gig as a writer. She describes herself as a “storyteller” no matter the genre.

After gigs as a reporter, editor, publisher, and public relations director, she now writes fiction and two blogs. In 2012, she entered into the world of the Indie Author. Since then she’s released two new novels, Live from the Road (Route 66 novel)and Trails in the Sand (Florida fiction). She also re-issued two previously published books, Tortoise Stew (Florida fiction)and A Lethal Legacy. In 2013, she also published two works of nonfiction. From Seed to Table is a…

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Blog Tour – The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman

I’m happy to have Carole Brown stop here for a guest post during the blog tour for her novel, The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom of the post to enter the giveaway.

Redemption of Caralynne HaymanTitle: The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman 

Author:  Carole Brown

Published:  October 21, 2013

Publisher:  Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas

Word Count:  90,000

Genre:  Women’s Fiction – Christian Suspense, Romance

Content Warning:  Contains adult subject matter, such as abuse within cults

Recommended Age:  16+

Synopsis: How far would YOU go to avenge the murder of a daughter?

Caralynne Hayman is angry and bitter over the abuse and death of her eleven-year-old daughter from the hands of her religious group, The Children of Righteous Cain. When her husband suffers a sudden heart attack, she does nothing to help him. In her eyes someone needs to pay, and if that means all of the men in the group, then so be it.

Dayne MacFarland is sent away to college by the senior elder of the group to learn ministry. When he returns after finding salvation, determined to bring the truth to the people he’s known all his life, he rediscovers Cara and realizes the love he once felt for her is still deeply embedded within his heart.

Dayne faces men unwilling to turn their backs on the cult training he despises. Cara faces men who follow their leader in abuse toward their wives and the young girls of the group. Cara is considered rebellious and inappropriate to befriend. Dayne is the apple of Elder Simmons’ eye—until he takes a stand against their teachings.

Can Cara overcome the feelings that have governed her most of her life? Can she learn to trust Dayne, and most of all a God whom she sees as uncaring—if he’s really there at all? Only Dayne’s prayers and love can reach Cara and show her the way to redemption, and Cara must recognize and accept God’s love and forgiveness before she goes too far.

 Amazon | Barnes & Noble | GoodReads

How the Redemption of Caralynne Hayman Came About

By Carole Brown

My husband and I have traveled a lot through the years. We’ve run across some interesting and unusual situations, counseled some odd cases, and ministered to some strange people. We enjoy it, and I suppose that’s why we enjoy keeping up with different current events throughout the country.

One such event caught our attention awhile back: the Texas cult. As I was looking for another plot idea (I’m a suspense writer) my husband, Dan, came up with the plot of a cult. But we needed to answer certain questions to develop the plot fully.

  • What was it about the cult that was unusual?
  • Ÿ Who would the primary character be?
  • Ÿ What would cause a conflict between them?

Answering those led us to these questions that needed answers.

Since we’d decided on an abusive cult, what habits/rules did they push? I wanted something that could be (supposedly) traced back to ancient Biblical days (which I didn’t go into great detail in TRofCH, but hope to in the sequel.

I wanted to show how twisted misguided people can become when they “overdose” on too much authority and power and also a mild warning against believing everything promoted to us, even when it comes under the name of church, leadership, or well-known.

ŸThe main character, we decided, needed to be–not just a woman–but a mother who loses a daughter because of the actions of the cult. It intensified the emotions and created a problem that was at once humongous and dangerous.

I had to make Caralynne likeable, hence her great love for her two remaining daughters, her fierce loyalty to her friends, and her strength even when faced when fear from her circumstances and wicked people.

Yet to make her realistic, I also had to show her anger and bitterness: the major reasons for her lust for revenge. How can a mother lose a daughter–anyway is hard, but from abuse? It’s beyond thinking about. How much blame does a mother shoulder? Is it hard to forgive the perpetrator? Of course. Some can never get to that place. Some don’t want to. Yet I hold to the belief that for a person to have peace, there must be some kind of forgiveness. For the purposes of this book, that’s what I aimed for.

The death of a daughter would evoke emotions in a mother: anger, bitterness, and for Caralynne–a woman who has never seen real Christianity–a desire for revenge. Misguided, yes, but feelings that could easily rise up in any normal mother although most would rein in those feelings.

Once we’d brainstormed these the plot exploded.

I researched tattoos and shopped for just the right one that would symbolize what I wanted for a “cult brand.” It also had to go along with the first chapter, and be the right tattoo that would bring fear in certain situations. In this case, for a child. Ordinarily, the eye I chose wouldn’t bring fear, but for a child, seeing something fearful along with that, it was the perfect tattoo.

As I gathered more information about cults, This was vital because to bring the story alive, I needed to see how they tick. What brings people to the place where they will give their lives for a cause–in normal people‘s eyes, wrong causes? Why do people believe their leaders are correct? What kind of background could cause members to honestly think their group correct?

I needed just the right names for Appalachian people.

The setting had to hold an atmosphere of closeness and secludedness that would seem real, scary, and appropriate for the events in the book.

It was a tough book to write in many ways. I acknowledge it’s also a tough book to read to many–definitely not for the weak-hearted. I tried to show hope shining through the darkness throughout the book, and if I succeeded, if I caused readers to show more sympathy for the hurting people in the world, if I encouraged one abused soul that there is hope, then writing this book fulfilled its goal.

CaroleBrownAbout Carole Brown: Besides being a member and active participant of many writing groups, Carole Brown enjoys mentoring beginning writers. She loves to weave suspense and tough topics into her books, along with a touch of romance and whimsy, and is always on the lookout for outstanding titles and catchy ideas. She and her husband reside in SE Ohio but have ministered and counseled nationally and internationally. Together, they enjoy their grandsons, traveling, gardening, good food, the simple life, and did she mention their grandsons?

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Book Review Friday – Two Books by Julia Gousseva

Today I review two books by the same author. Julia Gousseva stopped by Writing Whims a few days ago for Author Wednesday. I’ve been waiting to post reviews of both of her novels Moscow Dreams and Anya’s Story.CoverAnya'sStory

CoverMoscowDreams

 Both of these novels forced to revisit my attitudes and feelings about the Soviet Union—attitudes and feelings that were ingrained in me from a very early period by every single person in my orbit from my parents and my teachers to the political leaders I admired from afar. Recently, I saw a program on Billy Joel who spoke about his visit to the USSR.

“They were just people like me,” he said.

He was amazed as I was to put a face on a monster only to learn that monster never existed except in the minds of the people buying the propaganda spewed out to keep our enemies in view through a cheesecloth-covered lens. With this clouded view of a stereotype such as the looming mushroom cloud of the Soviet Union, no clear picture ever emerges of the individual.

No clear picture emerges that is until literature, music, art, or travel opens our eyes to the truth. Human beings the world over have more in common individually than we ever realized. Cultural traditions, languages, and governments may be different, but human emotions of love, hate, joy, and anger emerge the same.

Julia Gousseva uses the craft of prose in her novels to expose the truth beyond my childhood teachings. Moscow Dreams and Anya’s Story showed me the personal side, which left me echoing Billy Joel’s sentiment. Russian folks are people just like me.

From the moment Moscow Dreams opens, the life of a teenager in Moscow in the early 1990s reveals a life different from any I ever imagined about growing up in the Soviet Union in the twentieth century. Ms. Gousseva takes the life of Marina, in her last two years of high school, and turns it into more than just a coming of age book. The novel begins in 1991 as Boris Yeltsin makes his bid for power against the first elected Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, and the turmoil felt by those living through it is confusing, painful, and powerful.

No one is more confused than Marina about the changes that occur in the next four months as the communist leader Gorbachev is routed out of his role by Yeltsin. Soon communism and party affiliations are banned and the young people in Ms. Gousseva’s novel must suddenly switch alliances to make good for their college applications. The state-owned sources of food disappear and suddenly the customs, tastes, and habits of the western world appear on the streets of Moscow. Capitalism has come to this country, and while the choices are exhilarating at first, soon the people realize their wages do not rise with the increase in food costs.

Through it all, the life of Marina and her family and friends endure the changes and still manage to find hope. It’s through Marina’s parents and her babushka that the reader learns of why change is feared and why the government is seldom to be trusted.

Anya’s Story is set in the same place and same era. To read this book is to take a step into the world of Moscow and Leningrad from several decades ago. The descriptions of Moscow and Leningrad created such a lovely picture in my mind that for the first time in my life, I feel attracted to Russia. Julia Gousseva wrote a novel in Anya’s Story that created the urge to travel to these cities and experience the magic and beauty firsthand. “Magic and “beauty” are not words I’d ever associated with this country shrouded in so much mystery and danger based on my upbringing in the United States in the 1950s and ’60s.

The characters reveal a telling picture of the universality of the individuals who lived in a country that often kept its people in a world where their livelihood and sustenance came at the whim of a sometimes disjointed and confused government. Despite never having been so dependent upon a secret government whose decision affected the lives of its people quickly and decisively, I was drawn to the characters of Ms. Gousseva’s novel. It is through the close examination of individuals that we can pull down the curtains of mystery and distrust created to win a nasty and Cold War.

I was taught the distrust and dislike, not of individuals such as the Anya of this story, but of governments that wanted to overpower the superpower status of the United States. The U.S.S.R., once an uneasy ally, became the enemy during my elementary school days. We did drills with thought in mind of an invading enemy from a Russian decorated with a fur hat and tall boots all the while swilling back vodka and wiping drool from large red noses. My neighbors and a few family members even built bomb shelters with fear of a Russian attack on the United States as the motivating factor.

Julia Gousseva has once again written a book rich in the cultures of a country with many subparts. The story floats from Moscow to Leningrad to the northern reaches of Russia to the warm state of Georgia creates a vast and expansive view of a country as varied as the one in which I live.

Through the individual stories, I learned about the very personal nature of the different faces of the Soviet Union and Russia. While in the United States, our political leaders may change every four years, we’ve never known what it was like to suddenly wake up one morning only to be told everything we ever believed and known, never really existed in the first place. Unlike books such as Orwell’s 1984 where a cold impersonal view of Communism is impressed upon the reader and where the characters never seemed quite real to me, Dreams of Moscow and Anya’s Story present very real teenagers who are different in what they want from life, but are similar in their tastes for love and excitement.

I’m very happy I found this author and her work because she managed to transport me to a very different and beautiful place through her vivid descriptions. It’s a view of Russia I enjoyed. That is perhaps the greatest thing about her novels. The gray view I’ve held of Russia all my life thanks to the Cold War of my youth, disappeared into bright and focused views of another place with people not so much different from me.