Book Review Friday – The Bone Church

BoneChurch

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The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty with its suspenseful moments and supernatural whispers places it in a unique category of historical fiction.

Set in Czechoslovakia between the years of 1943 to 1956, the characters are in constant danger, and one-step away from death throughout the entire book. Even when World War II ends, and Nazi Germany no longer controls the destiny of the Czech people, another world power brings a different set of troubles to the Eastern European country. It’s not certain if the occupation by the Soviet Union is an improvement upon the lives of the already downtrodden. If they managed to escape the war, it was only to end up in another type of nightmare where anyone—lovers, relatives, nuns—might end up as a spy and an enemy.

In the world portrayed by Ms. Dougherty, the characters of Felix and Magdalena are at first innocents caught in an evil and dangerous world. But with each betrayal and with every death, they lose their innocence as they scratch their way to survival.

The plight of Jews and gypsies provide the reader no surprises here; but the addition of priests, sculptors, and bankers into the complicated plot woven by the author, lend an air of constant tension to the book.

The plot moves back and forth from 1943-44 to 1956 to give just enough of a hint of what is to come and how they got where they are. Ms. Dougherty is careful to provide the chapter headings with dates and locations so the reader can easily move from one setting to the other. There’s no time to figure out the year or setting because the action never lets up in either time.

When the violence and trickery become overwhelming, the plot shifts to the paranormal where the spirits of those gone before come again to help give hope and advice to Felix and Magdalena. The reference of the Bone Church comes from a real church where human bones decorate the inside of the church. Ms. Dougherty describes in horrifying detail the interior from Felix’s point of view when he first sees it: “Nearly every part of the interior gleamed like the new teeth of an infant. Bones from some 30,000 dead Christians lay configured into pyramids, light fixtures, chandeliers, pinnacles, coats of arms, an altar, and a monstrous hydra of ribs and skulls that sat atop an intact spinal column.”

The terrifying place for Felix soon turns into his savior. The book comes full circle when the bones of one of the characters find its way to the Bone Church finally to find peace.

Ms. Dougherty’s imagery stands out from the heaviness of the plot’s action. I was captivated from the beginning with a description of Palestine, where Magdalena had visited as a child.

“The desert there had seemed to her a beautiful sleeping woman. If the mountains were her body, the desert was the palm of her hand, cracked with the lines of her destiny. The hot air was her breath.”

If you’re a fan of historical fiction, this book provides yet another experience of a dark time in Eastern European history. If you love suspenseful thrillers with spies lurking around every corner, then The Bone Church will surely keep you turning the page. And if you love a tale with paranormal assistance, you find it here. I hit the jackpot because I love all three of those elements within fiction.

Click here to purchase The Bone Church on Amazon.

 

#Maya Angelou – Aspire to her Greatness

Living Lightly

Maya Angelou at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993 Maya Angelou at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993

We lost a great one yesterday with the passing of Maya Angelou. But thank goodness she passed through this life and graced us with her presence.

I loved turning my students onto the poetry of Ms. Angelou. When she was called upon to write and recite a poem for Bill Clinton’s first inauguration in 1993, she had less than three months to write a poem on command for a world debut. As a writer, I can’t imagine the pressure that must have been, but Ms. Angelou did it. All she ever wanted was to be a blessing in this lifetime. She far exceed her own expectations.

The poem she created for the nation, On the Pulse of Morning, is chilling in its preciseness of language, thrilling in its dramatic contrasts, and loving in its portrayal of hope…

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Author Wednesday – Victoria Dougherty

typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Victoria Dougherty, who has just published her first novel, The Bone Church. Set in Prague over the past fifty years, this historical thriller encompasses political, cultural, and historical boundaries.BoneChurch

Welcome, Victoria. It’s my pleasure to have you drop by for an interview today. I’m always fascinated about the author’s journey, so tell us, when were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”

I don’t think there’s ever been a time when I didn’t consider myself a writer. But I didn’t see myself an author – honestly – until one of my essays got published in the New York Times. Not because I needed the NYT’s blessing to call myself an author, but because the sheer volume of mail I got from readers was staggering. I don’t think I had an imagination for how that would change my perception of what it means to be an author. It was a bit of a bucket of cold water, too, because as good as it made me feel, I also felt tremendously vulnerable. The only other times I’d felt that vulnerable was when I fell in love with my husband, and when my first child was born.

Wow – I’m very impressed. An article in The New York Times? That was my penultimate goal when I was a journalist. So now that I now I’m rubbing elbows with the elite, tell me your writing rituals?

Not interesting. I just sit down and type.

That’s it, isn’t it? It’s as simple, and as complicated, as all that. I’m a great fan of Rachel Carson, the author of Silent Spring. She once said in an interview that she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Has this ever happened to you?

I can’t think of a time when the subject didn’t choose me. Even when I’ve written speeches for others, somehow it always seemed like the subject was chosen for me. Go figure. In terms of my fiction, I grew up in what my husband describes as “the ultimate Cold War family” – with a little bit of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and World War II thrown in for good measure.  So, writing noirish Cold War spy thrillers with a ghostly twist sort of came naturally to me. That, and the fact that I live in a very old, haunted house may have helped. Maybe I just channel spirits or something and they tell me what to write.

I find that aspect of The Bone Church very compelling. What messages or themes do you try to convey to your readers?

My stories are about spies, killers, and dangerous pursuits, but they’re also about love. Of getting caught in history’s massive tailwind and blown to the other side of the world, yet despite everything, discovering the meaning of faith and love.

That’s the best message of all. Who has most influenced your writing and why?

The three authors who have made the greatest impression on me are Raymond Chandler, John Steinbeck, and Harper Lee. But Dracula by Bram Stoker is probably my favorite novel of all time – even though I’m neither into Gothic stories or vampires as a rule. It’s just so highly original and has given us a character that we’ll take through the ages.

Those are very noble choices. I would say John Steinbeck is one of the greatest influences on my writing as well. What are your current projects?

Right now I’m writing my second Cold War historical thriller. It’s called The Hungarian and it’s an adventure, a spy-thriller, and a love story all rolled into one. The Hungarian examines the intersection of three lives – a drifting ex-pat, a fugitive Russian diplomat, and a Hungarian assassin with a weakness for rich food and sadistic murder.

That’s sounds as intriguing as The Bone Church. What knowledge have you acquired recently that might assist other writers?

You are not an island and you cannot succeed without learning to market your work.

It sounds as if all your books have a common theme or thread. Would you say this is true? 

I’m interested in how people behave under intense pressure and how historical forces make sweeping changes in people’s lives. I also have a deep personal interest in faith and love – the two driving forces in my life, and I think, in most people’s lives in one way or another. I define faith very broadly, by the way, and include atheists and environmentalists in my definition. I, personally, have met few atheists who didn’t passionately believe in their atheism and didn’t – at the very least in a roundabout way – try to convert you to their way of thinking, and I mean that with great respect. I simply think it’s part of human nature.

How does setting play a role in your books?

My books are terribly atmospheric. I love writing about places I’ve lived in or visited and fantasizing about places I’ve always wanted to see. When you have wanderlust the way I do, how can it not make its way into your work?

We’ve all gotten them at some point, so I’m wondering what advice can you give to other writers about receiving a bad review?

Bad reviews sting no matter how tough your skin. However, I think they offer gems of insight. If enough bad reviews say the same thing more or less, you have an opportunity to improve your work and that’s what we all love about being writers, isn’t it? That constant trickle of improvement. Someone recently told me that writing was like golf in that way. I wouldn’t know.

Let’s talk a bit more about The Bone Church. What’s your one sentence pitch for the book?

In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, lives The Bone Church.

It’s an intriguing title. How did you choose it? Has it been the title from the very beginning?

Yes, I always knew I wanted to write about the Bone Church – which really exists – I just needed to build a story around it.

How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published?

Seven years.

What is the best thing someone could say about this book?

That it meant something to them.

What type of research did you do in the writing of The Bone Church?

I come from a family of spies, priests, and adventurers, so it was in my blood. I also lived in Prague for several years, so I got to know the part of the world I’m writing about very, very well.

Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

My favorite scene is actually very short and simple. It involves Magdalena, the love interest in my story, and describes a memory she has when the scent of her late mother wafts in through a courtyard window. It’s a sad scene, but a hopeful one.

It’s a beautiful scene. Where do you write?

In my home office or on my living room couch (where I am right now). I can never seem to write in a coffee house. Too many clinking glasses. And I look lousy in a beret.

I love my couch, too. But I do go to coffee houses–never considered wearing a beret! How does your immediate family feel about your writing life?

My kids are fascinated that I write books. Both my husband and I work from home in fact. It’s kind of funny, because we find ourselves having to explain to our children that most people actually don’t work the way we do – they have to go to an office outside the home, or a hospital, or a big building with security guards. That’s a head-scratcher for them.

What do you do during your down time?

Spend time with my family. I try to savor every minute my kids still like me and want to hang around me. The clock is ticking on that one.

If a movie was made about your success as a writer, who would play you?

Anyone but a Kardashian. Are they even actors?

I’m not sure what they do, but I’m pretty sure not a one of them could portray you in a movie. You’re talented and interesting, and I’m delighted you stopped by for a few minutes today. Please come back when your new novel is released, Victoria.

VictoriaAbout Victoria:  Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Links to books and social media sites

Victoria Dougherty’s blog, Cold

Facebook Pate: Victoria Dougherty, Author

Twitter: @vicdougherty

Click here for Amazon purchase link

Book Review Friday – The Light Never Lies

Click on cover for Amazon page

Click on cover for Amazon page

The Light Never Lies is the second in the Crater Lake Series by Francis Guenette, and last fall I read the first in the series, Disappearing in Plain Sight (click here for the review).

What a pleasure to come back to the stars of that first novel and watch as they interact with each other and the new characters that come to Crater Lake and the secluded landscape of Northern Vancouver Island, Canada .

There’s so much to love about Guenette’s writing and storytelling ability, including landscape descriptions, characterizations, and diverse conflicts.

The characters are all my friends now even if I don’t really like some of them all of the time. They are flawed; they are immature; they are secretive; they are unkind; they are human. Somewhere along the way, Guenette manages to take their flawed personalities and turn those around into positive assets. The conflicts are inner ones within both of the novels in this series. If the characters can overcome the past traumas and neglect, they will be able to soar higher than ever before. But the tension of the novel throbs with questions about whether they can survive or not.

Within the characters, I find bits of myself and others in my life. That’s what makes The Light Never Lies so compelling. Even if I don’t like some of the behaviors, I still want to be a part of the book club and the baseball team. I want an invitation to Izzy’s house for a dinner prepared by Alex and Christina, both new characters who add another element to the whole concept of family as put together by Izzy and Liam.

Izzy is my favorite character, and even though on the surface she seems perfect—beautiful, smart, accepting—Guenette gives her insecurities as she deals with her father Edward who’s come to her to spend his final days. I want nothing more than to sit with Izzy in her garden and sip on a glass of wine as the moon rises above the lake.

In this new novel, Guenette adds another dimension through the child, Robbie, wise beyond his years, and in the baby Sophie who gives them all a touchstone. Robbie’s life hasn’t been easy thus far, but his internal understanding of the world and its tangled connections shows the reader how a soul at peace can be accepting of just about anything.

I’m in awe of this talented storyteller and the rich characters she has created. The Light Never Lies is definitely character-driven novel where seriously flawed people find themselves facing ordinary circumstances where they must cope or fail.

From the metaphysical abilities of Robbie to see light around and within people to the exploration of tribal rights and insights, Guenette has woven a rich tapestry using threads created from a variety of colors and textures. Learning to let go and love others unconditionally and without reservation stand as strong messages in this novel.

Even though she manages to find resolution for the major plot lines, Guenette leaves room for the next book in the Crater Lake Series.

If you enjoy character-driven dramas that allow characters to explore their flaws with the hope of redemption always a step away, then you’ll enjoy this second book in the series. While each of the novels can stand alone, I recommend reading both of them in the order written. Why deprive yourself of missing one single second of sheer immersion in life on Crater Lake?

Disclosure: I received an Advanced Review Copy of The Light Never Lies in exchange for an honest review.

Author Wednesday – Francis Guenette

typewriter.jpgIt’s Author Wednesday time once again. I’m so excited when I can welcome back a favorite author because she’s published a new book. Today I welcome back Francis Guenette who visited for an interview in November, and whose book Disappearing in Plain Sight, I reviewed back then as well. It is with great pleasure to bring Francis back for another interview, this time to discuss her new novel The Light Never Lies, a sequel to her first novel, both of which are contemporary fiction that deal with family issues and romance. The Light Never Lies - 3-D bookcover

Before we begin the interview, Francis is offering some prizes to celebrate the release of The Light Never Lies. Two softcover copies of The Light Never Lies will be mailed to the lucky winners. One for the blog host who achieves the greatest engagement with the post and one commenter – a name of a commenter drawn from a hat which includes all commenters on the blog tour. So please comment freely to win your copy. And look for my review of The Light Never Lies on Book Review Friday.

Welcome, Francis. It’s so wonderful to have you back for Author Wednesday. Let’s tell readers a bit about your new book. What’s the one sentence pitch for The Light Never Lies?

If Disappearing in Plain Sight, the first book in the Crater Lake Series, was about how a group of people get over a devastating loss and move on with their lives, The Light Never Lies is about the messiness that is the inevitable consequence of moving on.

Yes, we must deal with those messes! How did you choose the title? Was it the title from the very beginning?

There were a few common themes that emerged early in the writing process – a young boy’s special ability, the play of the light on water, and how light relates to photography.

How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published product?

The book took one year. Here’s how that year broke down: two months doing research, notes and outlining; three months on the first draft; a month to let that draft rest; a month to do rewrites; two months working with my editor; two months of proofreading and final changes; and an intense month of formatting and preparing for publication.

You did well to keep to such a tight schedule. What is the message conveyed in this book?

Starting over is always possible, people do change, relationships can be rewritten and redefined and the concept of family is one we create as we go.

Those are some of my favorite messages as well. Explain how this book was conceived in your imagination.

Since The Light Never Lies is a sequel, most of the characters were already there, fully-developed and waiting for me to write the next chapters of their lives. I saw so much more conflict and ultimately growth for them. I started to examine the hard-fought ground they had gained for themselves in the first book so I could rip it out from under them. Being a writer is sometimes a cruel endeavor!

That’s the truth, but what fun it is to allow our characters to grow. What type of research did you do in the writing of this book?

With The Light Never Lies, I wanted to bring the reader right into the sawmill-woodlot operation and the organic bakery. I had to delve deeper, with research into each of those settings. I also did research for a particular character who had been a Native activist throughout most of his life. The places I wanted him to have been and the things I wanted him to have done needed to line up with his age and his appearances in other characters’ lives. This character needed to be able to speak convincingly about those places and situations.

I can tell readers that your research shines through in this book. Who or what is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

Both my books are written from the perspective of several characters. Depending on the reader, the protagonist and thus the antagonist shifts. In the interest of brevity, let’s assume Lisa-Marie, the feisty yet troubled and, at times, troublesome teenager, is the main character. She is the character who appears on the first page of both books, so there is a good case for her being the protagonist. In the first book, that meant Izzy, the poised and self-assured trauma counselor was the antagonist as she stood in the way of Lisa-Marie getting the guy of her dreams. In The Light Never Lies, the antagonist role shifts from Izzy to her new partner, Liam. He was once Lisa-Marie’s friend, but now he stands in the way of her primary desire to get back to what she considers normal. He is constantly calling her to a responsibility she doesn’t want to assume. I must admit, I do enjoy creating the drama and heartache that goes on in these characters’ lives. All for a good cause, mind you. It’s so nice to pull the characters back into the light – a bit older and wiser.

Interesting – I’ll have to think about that as I finish the book. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

My favorite scene is when two of the secondary characters, Maddy and Jesse, say goodbye. They have both been residents of nearby Micah Camp, a facility for troubled foster kids trying to get on with their lives, and they’ve had an intense relationship. A parting of the ways was inevitable. Even the thought of that scene makes me feel weepy.

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

The view that inspires the writing

The view that inspires the writing

If you haven’t read Disappearing in Plain Sight – no problems. The Light Never Lies is a stand-alone book, but expect to be hit with a large number of characters at the start. Rest assured though, everyone is necessary and all story lines tie together and find resolution by the end. Both books will make you laugh out-loud and sniffle now and then. You’ll come away from the reading wishing you could know these people and visit the fictional setting of Crater Lake. But since you can’t do that, you might consider a vacation to the northern end of Vancouver Island for a little taste of what you’ve experienced.

I’d love to visit. The setting is beautiful in both of these books, but I really want Izzy’s house. I’m so happy you stopped by again, Francis. It’s always a pleasure.

Francis Guenette - author photoAbout Francis: Francis Guenette has spent most of her life on the west coast of British Columbia. She lives with her husband and finds inspiration for writing in the beauty and drama of their lakeshore cabin and garden. She has a graduate degree in Counselling Psychology from the University of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. She has worked as an educator, trauma counsellor, and researcher. The Light Never Lies is her second novel. Francis blogs over at http://disappearinginplainsight.com and maintains a Facebook author page. Please stop by and say hello.

Click here for Amazon page for The Light Never Lies (U.S.)

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#RomanceinAMonth – Behind the Altar

woman writerI’m taking the plunge this month. Starting on May 15, I began writing a romance with the trope–the well-known types of romance–of Forbidden Lover with an online group headed up by good friend and colleague, Rachelle Ayala. Every day for the next month we’re to write something, and by June 14, supposedly we’ll have the first draft of a true romance.

Rachelle supplies us with the elements of a romance such as plotting suggestions, conflict and tension, and climatic scenes. It’s our choice whether we write erotica, steam, or sanitized “G” copy. Mine will probably be somewhere in the middle.

The title of my book is Behind the Altar, and I already had the cover designed by the folks at Author Marketing Club. I’m a premium member over there so I’m entitled to one free cover per year.

Leah and Dean are the forbidden lovers and right from the first chapters, life conspires to keep them apart. Here’s a few lines from yesterday’s session:

64“You’re Dean?” Leah said when she found her voice. “You’re supposed to be dead.”

“I’m no Mark Twain, but it appears the reports of my death were greatly exaggerated,” Dean said.

Leah stood and came toward Jacob who reached for her hand. Leah didn’t want to be that close to him right now, not until she received an explanation of why Jacob and Geraldine had lied to her for the past three years that she’d lived with them.

“Why did you tell me he died, Jacob?” Leah asked. When her fiancé didn’t answer, she turned around to look at Geraldine. “Geraldine?”

“To us, he was dead,” Geraldine said.

“Why?” Leah asked. “Would someone please tell me what’s going on here.”

“What’s it to you, Miss Savior of the World?” Dean asked. “This is a family matter; it doesn’t concern the woman who’s been kicked out of the church hall for doing such a despicable thing as feeding the homeless.”

“You haven’t changed one bit,” Jacob said. “You’re still as nasty and spiteful as you were from the time you could throw your first mud ball. You can talk to me anyway you want, but please show my future wife respect. She’s done nothing to you.”

“Your future wife?” Dean stood looking at Leah but the sparkle in the eyes from a few moments ago seemed very far removed as these eyes flashed anger at Leah. “You’re going to marry this creep?”

Leah hesitated before nodding her head. “That was the plan, but nothing’s going to happen if I don’t get an explanation about what’s going on here.”

“I’ll leave you to your little fairy tale, princess,” Dean said. “Just know that all is not what it seems here in Baptist land. Beware of the serpents.”

Dean turned and walked out the same door he’d entered a few minutes earlier when he’d captivated Leah so thoroughly. No wonder he looked familiar, Leah thought, as she pulled away from Jacob. She ran to the door ignoring Jacob’s plea to stay there.

Time to go and write my pages for the day. I’ll keep you posted on my efforts. It’s good timing because I just finished the first draft of Native Lands, and now it’s in the hands of two Beta readers. Behind the Altar will help me pass the time while I wait for the trusted comments on a book that took far longer than a month to write.

Book Review Friday – Where It Began

Click on cover for Amazon page

Click on cover for Amazon page

Where It Began – Accidents of Birth Trilogy – Book One

I’m a fan of Christina Carson; perhaps that’s the reason I’ve read all her books, featured her on Author Wednesday several times (06/05/2013, 03/05/2014, 05/14/2014), and reviewed her previous two books, Dying to Know and Suffer the Little Children. Today I’m excited to give a review of her latest work, which is the first book in her Accidents of Birth Trilogy. Where It Began begins where all good stories begin—of course, at the beginning.

My first comment may sound as if it’s a criticism, but it’s not. It’s probably the best thing someone could say to me about one of my books. Where It Began ended far too soon for me. I was just settling down on the front porch with a cup of coffee so I could rock away as Imogene drank her tea and told her stories. But before I could take the first sip, Imogene was saying good-bye and telling me to wait for the next book in the trilogy.

Imogene Ware, a woman of substance in spirit, tells the story of the family where she works, and so Ms. Carson writes the narrative in the dialect of the African American south in the 1960s. This takes some adjustment, but once Imogene became my best friend, I found myself thinking in the same dialect. It takes a talented author to pull off dialect, but Ms. Carson is a master.

However, it is the powerful messages Imogene imparts to the reader that most resonated with me. Her faith and spirit are powerful, yet she attributes all that she is to her own mother. No matter its source, this spirit saves the lives of more than one person in Where It Began. I’m sure that will continue in the rest of the trilogy. [Note to Christina Carson: If you are reading this review, please go back to your computer and continue writing the rest of the books in this series.]

Ms. Carson’s description of the Deep South creates a vivid portrait where the reader is captivated through all the senses. In this scene, she’s describing the hotness of August with imaginative imagery: “You smell it by what burning up around you. You taste it as dry dust gritting up on you teeth. You see it, its light so blinding white you think you in the presence of an angel. An you feel it, scorching all it touch.”

As the metaphors seeped through my skin, the philosophy of life filtered through the pages of this book for me to savor in the late hours as I waited for sleep to come. Imogene’s mama told her, “My work is to love the world.” Simple, yet powerful language Imogene pulled out to assuage her aching body and heart during the worst of times working for folks with despicable ways for loving children hurt in the wake of those ways.

This book filled me with hope and with a reminder to approach life with love in my heart, which will lead me to the proper places for healing the hurts and hatreds of the world. Ms. Carson uses Imogene’s character to show us that it’s one thing to talk about loving and doing the right thing, but that the true integrity of a person shines through when we live the talk of love. Some folks are harder to love, and there are times where it’s easier to feel bitterness in our hearts, but in the end, we all make the choice on how we live our lives, and whether or not we allow ourselves to be enslaved by the chains we’ve created.

If you’re looking for a good story with a moral heart, you’ll enjoy this read. As the story envelops you in its warm embrace, the subtle lessons will climb up into your lap as you sip your coffee or tea. You won’t even mind the scorching heat of a Mississippi summer.

Disclosure: I was given an Advanced Review Copy of Where It Began in exchange for an honest review.

Author Wednesday – Christina Carson

typewriterWelcome to Author Wednesday. Please give a warm welcome to one of my favorite authors, Christina Carson. Her novels are gems filled with wisdom and love. She’s here today to talk about her latest endeavor, Where it Began.

 

Click on cover for Amazon page

Click on cover for Amazon page

Where It Began: Book One of the Accidents of Birth Trilogy.

 Breaking the Cardinal Rule

Patricia has been kind enough to interview me once before for Suffer the Little Children, once again for Dying to Know, and now a third time with my latest release, the first book in the Accidents of Birth Trilogy entitled, Where It Began.

I’d always been taught that a writer should stick to what they know, especially in matters of gender, culture, and race. I’d always been in complete agreement with that. Part of my commitment to the notion arises from simple logic, the rest because my favorite voice is first person. Thus, I’ve never felt adequate to have even a male protagonist in my novels because genders are universes unto themselves. However, on the day I met Imogene Ware, that commitment fell away, and though I may never feel need to do it again; Miss Imogene wooed me across the line, sweetly, humorously, and without a blink of judgment.

The Accidents of Birth trilogy is a story in three parts, all of which take place primarily in the last half of the twentieth century. The theme running through all three books centers on the fact that though we may hold tightly to many aspects of our lives out of our dire need for control, the one thing that is total happenstance, yet the most critical issue of all, is where and to whom we are born. Miss Imogene was a black woman living in the century’s-old freed-slave enclave called Small Town and born to a woman of deeply primal spiritual connections. Katie Gayle Sutton, a child prodigy, was born into a white family of adequate means, the father from New Jersey, her mother southern backwoods and fundamental, both living with their four talented daughters in rural Ellensburg, Mississippi. I tell you all this because this is where I became a fallen writer. It was not my intention to have a black protagonist. All along, I thought the child Katie Gayle was taking that role. So in explanation, if you’re curious, here’s the back story of my fall from grace.

It was a low point in my life. I had suffered my greatest fear, and it had changed nothing for the better. Unlike an alcoholic who hits bottom and then begins to rise, I just sat there in the mire of my life as desperate as I’d ever felt. I was in the middle of another novel and all of a sudden the idea of accidents of birth came floating into my consciousness. I brought up an empty screen on the monitor and sat staring. I realized in that moment that what I yearned for was a love I’d felt only once in my life, which was offered to me by two black orderlies when I was in hospital as a child. I was so stunned by their inclusiveness, their honesty and tenderness that I’ve never forgotten those moments over all these years.

As the beauty of that memory wrapped around me, I began to write with the intention of creating a character fashioned after those two people from the past, so I could be with them again until I found my way home. I wrote chapter one, and it just fell onto the page. I hadn’t intended the character I was creating to be the protagonist, as I feared all the ways in which my intentions could be misunderstood. The audacity of crossing race lines is usually attributed to a sense of outrageous hubris rather than what was driving me. I sat with the uninviting consequence of treading in unknown territory and all the discord that could arouse. But in chapter two, there she was, Ms. Imogene Ware, and she stepped up to the mike and took over the story.

I fell in love with her the moment she began to speak, fascinated by her, and I knew this was who I was hoping to find and spend time with. She didn’t allow me to reduce her part to a supporting role. She was the protagonist, and I just had to trust she knew what she was doing. My job became to record her experience and allow her to heal me in the process.

I don’t know who might take umbrage with this trilogy; if they need to, they will. But Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to the likes of this beautiful lady when he referred to people of his race who served a slower but powerful route to freedom by seducing with kindness. I have lost count of the black women I’ve been privileged to know who stand in that place like Miss Imogene, offering a hard honesty and a sweet love born out of hardship and suffering. If there was any way I could help you to know them too, this is my best chance to seduce you with their kindness. For I am a writer and my books grow out of a yearning to share with people a more encompassing perspective, greater possibility and deeper love. And as I sit here finishing this interview, I can hear Miss Imogene encouraging me one more time with what she so often said, “You be fine, child, you be juss fine.”

Summary of Book One: Where It Began

Having accompanied her mother to the Sutton household since Imogene was 10 years old, she thinks she has learned the job sufficient to carry on when her mother is taken ill and dies. What she didn’t notice in those years of training, however, was that not only must she keep house, but also withstand the tides of the emotional storms that wash through the Sutton family. This first book covers ten years (1956-1966) of Miss Imogene’s initiation into life without her mother and into domestic circumstances she never imagined, all the while watching the world outside the Sutton household being rocked by racial unrest that is now touching even her isolated corner of rural Mississippi.

IMG_0140 resized-framedAbout Christina Carson: I am 68 years old and have worn many caps and walked many roads. I started in research as a scientist even before graduation, then taught in nursing for a number of years, owned a masonry contracting business with a mate and worked at that and building houses. I went on to farm. I am a creature of the land and love animals. That life was a dream until it ended. I then went on to become a stock broker, which I hated, and then the aimless period began with intense doubt and chaos. I was there for years making it up as I went along and spending a great deal of time afraid and despairing.

I will forever consider Canada my home, but I returned to the states in 1996 after 30 years in Canada to marry a man I met in Vancouver where I lived for five years. He and I are perfectly suited to one another in intent, direction and integrity and as for the rest, we play that by ear.

Click on titles below for Christina’s books:

Suffer the Little Children

Dying to Know

Where It Began

Christina’s Social Media:

Twitter: @CarsonCanada

Facebook

Websites:

  1. Books that Entertain and Inspire
  2. Asked and Answered

 

 

Many thanks, Pat.

C

 

Book Review Friday – Heart of Palm

Heart of Palmsmall

Click on cover for Amazon page

Laura Lee Smith’s Heart of Palm captured my heart first with its setting in north Florida where I lived for thirty years, and second, with its quirky Bravo family drawn in the best of southern family traditions.

The Bravo family lives in the fictional small town of Utina on the Intercoastal just a short drive from St. Augustine. The development all over Florida forgot this sleepy little village until one day it becomes apparent that this gem of a location might be the perfect spot for a new resort.

The mother of the Bravo tribe, Arla, came from the upper crust of St. Augustine society when she married the hapless Dean. A typical story, except that Arla is anything but typical, and her relationship with her husband is anything but a love story after the first forays of lust in the heady days of a Florida summer.

The family defines the overused concept of dysfunctional. Arla’s son Frank holds the family together the best he can while pining for the love of his life who just happens to be married to his brother Carson. It’s a messy pile of sand spurs on a desolate beach of missed chances and tragic accidents.

Just when the story falls into the Pat Conroy fold of family heartbreak and insanity, a developer happens along to perk up heads and hold out hands.

I loved the pace of the story and enjoyed getting to know the characters created by Smith. She knows north Florida and expresses her passion for Florida, although I would have enjoyed a bit more description of the landscape. That’s just my personal preference, especially when the setting is Florida between the Intercoastal and the Atlantic Ocean.

The title puzzled me, until I thought about it. The inner core of certain palms is called the heart of palm, and it is removed to create a tasty salad. At least I thought it was tasty, until I found out in some species of palms its removal results in death of the whole tree. The author doesn’t make this obvious, and I only figured it out because of my knowledge of heart of palm salad. The title Heart of Palm is well suited for the plot.

It’s sometimes difficult  to write reviews with thorough explanations without using a spoiler. Therefore, I will simply say that the ending was not as satisfying as the rest of the novel. All in all, it’s a good romp through the sea oats and marsh grasses of north Florida and a grand visit with a southern family at its zaniest best.

Author Wednesday – Therin Knite

typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome science fiction/mystery writer, Therin Knite. Therin is a college student, whose first novel Echoes was published this year.

Click on cover for Amazon page

Click on cover for Amazon page

 

Welcome, Therin. It’s exciting to have such an accomplished college student as a guest today. It makes me wonder when you first discovered your voice as a writer.

Age fifteen. I had a grand idea for a story one day and realized it might be nice if I tried to write it down instead of just thinking about it. So I started my first manuscript. Seems like forever ago now, given how much I’ve been through since then. I was a sophomore in high school. Now I’m a graduating senior in college!

That’s a great accomplishment for a teenager. Do you have any specific writing rituals established yet? 

Let me see. I rewrite the beginning of a novel at least three or four times before I get it “right.” Then I move on to the rest of the story, using the beginning as a reference for how to write the rest. Also, I generally write at night but edit during the day—I feel more creative at night and more serious and disciplined during the day, so I arrange my work accordingly.

That sounds like a good plan for success. Describe your current projects.

I’m currently working on a contemporary mystery/thriller, which I intend to be the first in a short series. I’m also working on the sequel to Echoes, called Epitaphs. The mystery/thriller is in the draft stage, and Epitaphs is in the planning stage; my goal is to have the mystery/thriller out by the end of 2014 and Epitaphs out by early 2015.

You’ve set a very ambitious schedule, but I’ve no doubt you’ll achieve it. Does setting play a very large role in your novels so far?

Setting in my books usually defines culture and thus defines how my characters perceive the world. It also influences their personalities. I go for settings that have complex social implications, like societies recovering from apocalyptic situations or experiencing rapid technological advancement, things that set up questions about identity, human nature, and the “correct” path for the human race. These questions usually filter into my characters’ personalities and back stories.

You started with science fiction and are working on a thriller. Are you planning to continue writing in these same genres?

I’m hoping to branch out into three different genres eventually: sci-fi, mystery/thriller, and urban fantasy. I have the first one already and a little of the second, since Echoes is a sci-fi mystery, but I’m looking to write more contemporary mystery/thrillers as well. I have a thing for police procedurals. For the urban fantasy—well, that’s my favorite brand of fantasy, and I have a few ideas brewing for that one.

I have to say these aren’t my genres, but I will have to check them out. I’m often pleasantly surprised when I step out of my comfort zone. What’s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

One thing? Almost everything my reviewers say makes me happy, but if I had to choose one comment, I’d say the reviewer who claimed I was in the top one percent of all Indie books he’d ever read. What a way to make me smile.

That would make me smile, for sure. You need to print that and put it near your writing space. How did you choose the title for Echoes? Has it always been the title?

I wanted something simple and easy to remember because the first book is also the name of the series. It’s had the same title since the beginning—Echoes—because that’s the name of an important concept that defines the series as a whole.

I’m always asked how long it took me to complete a novel. So here it is thrown to you! How long do you estimate it took you to take the book from an idea to a finished, published work?

Eighteen months. I don’t think that’s too bad for a first book, but I’m going to try and cut down my write-to-publish time for the next few. I had a lot of rewrites and editing to do for Echoes, and I ran into a lot of unexpected pitfalls. I think it was a good learning experience, seeing how different missteps cost me time and effort. Hopefully, I won’t make quite as many the next time around.

That’s not too bad from what I’ve heard and experienced myself. It’s been a pleasure to get to know you, Therin. And congratulations on Echoes and your college achievements. I hope you’ll come back when your next book is published.

About Therin Knite:  Therin is a 22-year-old college senior who occasionally writes speculative fiction and has the odd delusion of literary stardom. Knite lives in a humble little place known as the Middle of Nowhere, Virginia and spends every possible second of free time reading books and writing what may possibly qualify as books. Echoes is Therin Knite’s first novel in what will be a futuristic sci-fi/mystery series.

Links to books and social media sites

Echoes on Amazon

Echoes on B&N

Website: Knite Writes

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TherinKnite

Tumblr: http://knitewriter.tumblr.com/

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/therinknite/

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/13610995-therin-knite