AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – LORI CRANE

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpg

She’s back! One of my favorite authors and a dear colleague and friend, Lori Crane (click here for previous interview) visits Author Wednesday to tell us about her new release, I, John Culpepper. Lori is quite popular and famous for her works of historical fiction, and this book is no exception. Here she is to tell us all about it.Culpepper_1

Hello, Lori! I’m so happy to have you return as a guest on Author Wednesday. Let’s get right to it. Give us the one sentence pitch for I, John Culpepper.

I, John Culpepper is a work of historical fiction based on the life of the 17th-century man historians refer to as John Culpepper the Merchant who was forced to rise against his father to achieve his childhood dream.

I know you usually write about your ancestors, so give us the scoop. Are you related to this fascinating man? 

John Culpepper is the progenitor of the modern-day American Culpeppers. He was my 10th great-grandfather.

I’m always amazed at how far you’ve been able to reach back in your ancestry to pull out these characters worthy of a novel. I’m very envious, but mostly I’m in awe. How long did it take you to finish the book, from idea to publishing?

I first had the idea to write his story in August of 2014, but the more I researched, the more interesting tidbits I found and it became four books with four distinct stories: his childhood, his life during the English Civil War, his rise to family patriarch, and finally, his coming to terms with his past, his family, and his beliefs. His story became the Culpepper Saga with “I, John Culpepper” being the first of the four books. From idea to publish, since I ended up writing four books at the same time, took nine months.

So we have more to look forward to. That’s amazing that you wrote four books in nine months. Is there a message in I, John Culpepper for us?

As a young man, John had to stand up to his father. For those of us who have stood up to a parent, we understand the pain involved in that process. At the end, John realized that, perhaps, his father wasn’t the bad guy after all. I think that’s a lesson we all learn when we finally realize our parents are only human.

I can relate as I’m sure many others can as well. I’ve been both the parent and child on that process! What is the best thing someone could say about I, John Culpepper?

I love it when readers tell me how interesting my family is, not realizing these stories are of our collective past. We are all the products of the survivors, the heroes, the brave men and women. I hope they see John as the hero he was. He was a bit of a rebel, but his rebellion is what eventually saves his family…on more than one occasion.

Thank you for saying that. Yes, it’s our collective history. What kind of research did you do to pull off this work of historical fiction?

I started with my family tree. I initially wondered how the Culpeppers of 16th-century England, with their stately manors and vast land holdings, ended up being the modest people I knew in my childhood in Mississippi. Why would they give up that kind of prestige to move to an inhospitable land filled with savage Indians and probable starvation? I also researched the school John attended, the ships of the time, the colonial records of 1630s Jamestown, and I spent a lot of time on the Culpepper family website called Culpepper Connections. In the second book, the English Civil War breaks out, so I researched everything from the timeline of the battles, to the generals and the king, to the transcribed minutes of the House of Commons. I spent three days reading those minutes. Even though I knew I had family serving in Parliament at the time, to read their names on the actual roll call was exciting.

I’m sure it was–history coming to life right before your eyes. Tell us about your favorite scene.

I have a couple. The first is at the wharf the day John is born. John’s father is quite a formidable character. The second is when John sees the product of his prank on his headmaster. I laughed out loud when I wrote it. The third is when John takes his brother aboard his ship for the first time. I can just picture the pride and excitement on John’s face.

When you become that invested in the writing, magic is sure to follow! Is there anything else we should know about the book or about John Culpepper?

John Culpepper was a very, very popular name in English history, and each John had a brother named Thomas. All of those Johns and Thomases had sons also named John and Thomas. Deciphering which John was which from English and Colonial records was difficult, but after reading other theories and putting all of the different names and birth and death dates to paper, I believe I got the family history figured out. I took great freedoms in giving some of the men nicknames, just to keep them straight, but be assured, in historical records they are all named John and Thomas. The nicknames are mine and mine alone. I didn’t take them from any records.

Thank you so much for stopping by today, Lori. I look forward to reading your I, John Culpepper. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it as much or even more than your other books.

1394868_10201454031930551_434799525_nAbout Lori Crane:  BESTSELLING AND AWARD-WINNING AUTHOR LORI CRANE IS A WRITER OF SOUTHERN HISTORICAL FICTION AND THE OCCASIONAL THRILLER. Her books have climbed to the Kindle Top 100 lists many times, including her book Elly Hays, which debuted at #1 in Native American stories. She has also enjoyed a place among her peers in the Top 100 historical fiction authors on Amazon, climbing to #23. She is a native Mississippi belle currently residing in greater Nashville. She is a professional musician by night – an Indie Author by day.

Click here to read my review of Elly Hays.

Click on the links below to purchase and connect with the author 

I, John Culpepper Amazon US 

Amazon UK

Website

Blog

Twitter

Culpepper Saga fan page

BOOK REVIEW FRIDAY – CROSSING TO SAFETY BY WALLACE STEGNER

Crossing to Safety

“In fiction, I think we should have no agenda but to tell the truth.” – Wallace Stegner

Thank you to my friend and colleague Christina Carson for pointing me to the literary genius of Wallace Stegner, both author and environmentalist.

He’s known for his dedication in writing about the preservation of the West of the United States, but my introduction to him came from reading his novel, Crossing to Safety. I’ve already ordered his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Angle of Repose because I’m enamored of this gentle man’s prose and honesty in the telling of a compelling story. Isn’t that the standard to which all authors should aspire? I know it’s what I wish for myself.

From the very beginning, he drew me into his story as the narrator, Larry, and his wife, Sally awaken in a cabin in the woods of Vermont in 1972. There’s to be a meeting of some significance between their old friends, Sid and Charity, who own the property where they now find themselves.

From there, Stegner takes the reader on a journey back to the 1930s during the dark days of Depression when the two couples meet in Madison, both as young and eager professors and their wives, at the University of Wisconsin. The plot may not be filled with dark twists and turns. It doesn’t matter. The characters come alive under the lively pen of the author. Charity in particular fills the pages and overflows onto the margins and binding of the book. Her speech and her actions show us in absolute clarity that she is the queen–sometimes overbearing, but always with a heart firmly in front–of this foursome. Here’s Stegner first description of Charity when he steps into his small basement apartment:

“In the dim apartment she blazed. Her hair was drawn back in a bun, as if to clear her face for expression, and everything in the face smiled–lips, teeth, cheeks, eyes.”

Charity lives beyond this first impression. Sid, her husband, pales in comparison, except when Stegner describes his physicality, which resembles that of an ancient Greek god. Larry, the narrator, provides us the view of everyone else, although he remains an enigma through most of the novel. However, it is always clear his opinion of his best friend, Sid, and his controlling, yet caring, wife Charity. Perhaps it is Larry’s love of his wife Sally that tells the reader the most of his character. Sally, a victim of the vicious polio, remains the stalwart and force behind Larry despite her challenges. She’s my hero of the novel much more so than the dominant Charity.

Characterization stands as one of the most important aspects of literary fiction because without it the reader has no reason to continue reading, no glue to keep them stuck to the plot. However, the descriptive prose of Stegner kept me attached to the story as much as the compelling characters. His love of nature shines through the story. At times, I stopped reading just to absorb the beauty and clarity of his descriptions, as shown in this description of the Vermont woods, as Larry, Sid, and their pack-horse Wizard make their way to a camp on their first day of a week-long hike.

“Dust has whitened the ferns along the roadside, gypsy moths have built their tents in the chokecherry bushes, the meadow on the left is yellow with goldenrod, ice-blue with asters, stalky with mullein, rough with young spruce. Everything taller than the grass is snagged with the white fluff of milkweed. On the other side is a level hayfield, green from a second cutting. The woods at the far edge rise in a solid wall. In the yard of an empty farmhouse we sample apples off a gnarled tree. Worms in every one. But Wizard finds them refreshing, and blubbers cider as he walks.”

This example shows that descriptive prose need be neither showy or pushy to paint a portrait for the reader. In its simplicity, I floated above the scene taking in every detail, including the foam sputtering from the mouth of Wizard.

I am a fan left wondering how I missed reading Wallace Stegner before now. In his sixty-year career, he wrote thirty books, both fiction and nonfiction. Edward Abbey claimed, before Stegner’s death in 1993, that he was “the only living American writer worthy of the Nobel.” He never received the honor, but he does receive my highest praise for achieving what I only aspire to do as an environmental author of outstanding fiction.

Click here to purchase Crossing to Safety on Amazon.

 

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – S.R. MALLERY

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgI welcome S.R. Mallery to Author Wednesday today. This talented author recently published a collection of short stories, Tales To Count On with a unique combination of genres, including historical, Gothic, and fantasy—with many twist endings. If you’ve ever read any of the O Henry short stories and enjoyed them, you’ll be in for a treat with this collection. Full disclosure: I edited and formatted this book. The “work” became a labor of love as I fell in love with the characters and the delightful storytelling ability of Ms. Mallery. She has also published another collection of historical short stories, Sewing Can Be Dangerous. You can read my review of that book here.TALES_final_full

Hello Sarah or S.R. I’m so happy to have you grace my blog today. Since today is Earth Day, I’d like to ask you about something Rachel Carson (Silent Spring) once said about her writing. She said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Have you ever had this happen?

Talk about a subject choosing me!  I can still remember sitting with my father years ago, out on his little corner balcony way up on the 27th floor of a Manhattan apartment building.  As the sun was slowly setting and the lights were glowing across the Hudson River on one side, the twinkling lights of Manhattan on the other, he told me all about the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911.  According to him, not only was that day horrific—over 140 young women’s lives were lost—but how important that event was because of the building codes that were changed after that.

I sat there, riveted, envisioning those hapless immigrant girls, either leaping or falling to their deaths; girls who also piled up against doors that at that time only opened inward. So, several years later, when I wrote my very first short story entitled, “Sewing Can Be Dangerous,” it was all about that fateful day.SEWING_CAN_BE_DANGEROUS_full

Tell me about Tales To Count On and its eclectic short stories. 

My Tales To Count On is a mish-mash of stories.  The synopsis says it best:

Curl up and enter the eclectic world of S. R. Mallery, where sad meets bizarre and deception meets humor; where history meets revenge and magic meets Gothic.  Whether it’s 500 words or 5,000, these Tales To Count On, which include a battered women’s shelter, childhood memories, Venetian love, magic photographs, PTSD fallout, sisters’ tricks, WWII spies, the French Revolution, evil vaudevillians, and celebrity woes, will remind you that in the end, nothing is ever what it seems.

I’ve also been working on an historical fiction Wild West romance:

The Dolan Girls by S. R. Mallery has it all. Set in Nebraska during the 1800s, whorehouse madams, ladies of the night, a schoolmarm, a Pinkerton detective, a Shakespeare-quoting old coot, brutal outlaws, and a horse-wrangler fill out the cast of characters. Add to the mix are colorful descriptions of an 1856 Land Rush, Buffalo Bill and his Wild West Show, Annie Oakley, bank/train robberies, small town local politics, and romance. It’s not only a taste of America’s past, it’s also about people overcoming insurmountable odds.

I’m really looking forward to reading The Dolan Girls. It sounds very exciting and like everything you write, it’s a grab bag of action and conflict. Your stories are set all over the world. Do you think setting plays a role in your stories?

Although I feel good characters are probably the most important part of any fictional book, with historical fiction, setting is EVERYTHING!  In that genre, authenticity is vital in the transportation to older times. That’s what makes you live and breathe that period alongside of your characters.  People have asked me how I am able to capture people in past times and make them so believable. Well, there is a tremendous amount of research that contributes towards that: reading about actual events, studying the lingo of that specific time, the culture, the dress. In other words, it’s all important.

But I also feel even with my more modern material, settings help ‘set the stage’.

 Are you planning to continue writing historical fiction?

Probably, although one never knows what the future will bring.  I will be continuing on with the Wild West book next and a tiny seed has planted itself inside my brain recently about perhaps writing a murder mystery that takes place during the 1920’s Jazz Age.  But who knows?

I love that period in American history, between the two world wars and during prohibition. Life was lived with a different attitude. How did you choose the title for the new book, Tales To Count On

As for the title for Tales To Count On, that was a hard one.  First of all, these stories are so eclectic and range from 500 words to 5,000 with various genres included.  Titles came and went and just when I thought I had something, then either Amazon already had that title listed, or it didn’t grab me or my supportive friends.  Then one day, my brother casually asked, “How ‘bout Tales to Count On?”  And that was that!

Smart brother! It’s a perfect title. Tell me how you came up with this unique idea for Tales.

Having decided to ‘clear out my writing cupboard’ to see if I could cobble together another collection, I started to put some of my flash fiction and other stories together. But unlike my Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads, which had the definite connection of sewing or crafting, just how could I link these very eclectic stories?  Then it hit me.  Since the ‘word count’ is so important for writers, why not link them that way?  Each story title would have the word count under it, and it would go by ascending order of numbers.  And…and…I could include a few of my stories that were lengthier, as long as I put the word count under their titles! Eureka!

It’s amazing how it all came together. I love these stories and I’m sure the book will be very successful. Congratulations on a job well done. I expect you back when The Dolan Girls is published. I’ll add that S.R. Mallery’s first novel Unexpected Gifts is under construction right now. She should have it up again sometime this summer. 

S.R.Malleryheadshot_04forblogsS.R. Mallery has worn various hats in her life. First a classical/pop singer/composer, she moved on to the professional world of production art and calligraphy.
Next came a long career as an award winning quilt artist/teacher and an ESL/Reading instructor. Her short stories have been published in descant 2008, Snowy Egret, Transcendent Visions, The Storyteller, and Down In the Dirt.

Click below to connect with S.R. Mallery

Website/Blog 

Twitter@SarahMallery1

Facebook Fan Page

Google+

Goodreads

PinterestS.R. has some good history boards that are getting a lot of attention—history, vintage clothing, older films on this site.

Amazon Author page

Tales To Count OnAmazon

Sewing Can Be Dangerous and Other Small Threads  – Amazon

Reality Creeps Into Fiction – #DeepwaterHorizon

seaturtle7

Oil spread to the beaches where sea turtle hatchlings would soon make their way into the oil-laden waters in 2010.

 

Five years ago today, the oil rig Deepwater Horizon caught on fire.  Even though the newscasters downplayed its significance that morning, I felt a black cloud deepen. I’d just moved to southwestern Pennsylvania where news of the Upper Big Branch coal mine disaster a few hours away in West Virginia still dominated local news. Twenty-nine men died in that explosion on April 5.

We soon learned that BP’s project in the Gulf of Project gushed uncappable oil and eleven men lost their lives. As I’ve done for the past two decades, when something bothers me, I start to write. The result from my sorrow and unease with both disasters resulted in the novel, Trails in the Sand.  The novel serves as a reminder of two preventable disasters that occurred within two weeks of one another in 2010. Forty men died and countless wildlife and their habitats were injured or destroyed. Both events touched my life in some way and both made their way into the writing of Trails in the Sand.

When the Upper Big Branch coal mine in West Virginia exploded, twenty-nine miners, doing their job in the bowels of the earth, lost their lives. Subsequent reports showed the company ignored safety regulations, which played an important role in the explosion. At the time, I was in the process of moving from Florida to western Pennsylvania. The mine is located several hours from my new home, so the local media covered the disaster continually for the next few weeks. The national news also kept its eye turned toward a small town in West Virginia where families mourned their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, and cousins. After April 20, the lens of the cameras shifted to the southwest.

The news began as a whimper before erupting into cries of outrage. An oil rig somewhere off the coast of Louisiana caught on fire on April 20, 2010. Soon the whole rig collapsed, and eleven men never made it out alive. Oil gushed from a well several miles below the Gulf’s surface.

As I made the transition to Pennsylvania, I still held my job in Florida, although I was in the process of leaving. I was a public relations director for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I made the trip back and forth sixteen times in 2010. I conducted meetings from a cell phone in airports, highway rest areas, and at a dining room table from our small temporary apartment in Pittsburgh.

Every time I started to give my two-week notice to my supervisors, something happened, and my wildlife biologist bosses pleaded with me to stay. During a crisis, the spokesperson for a company or agency suddenly becomes a very important part of the team. Scientists become speechless when looking in the face of a microphone.

Nothing much happened in those early days of the oil spill for the wildlife community, although as a communications specialist I prepared for worst-case scenarios, while hoping for the best. Partnerships between national and state agencies formed to manage information flowing to the media. By May, some of the sea turtle experts began worrying about the nesting turtles on Florida’s Panhandle beaches, right where the still gushing oil might land. In particular, the scientists worried that approximately 50,000 hatchlings might be walking into oil-infested waters if allowed to enter the Gulf of Mexico after hatching from the nests on the Gulf beaches.

seaturtle4An extraordinary and unprecedented plan became reality, and as the scientists wrote the protocols, the plan was “in direct response to an unprecedented human-caused disaster.”

When the nests neared the end the incubation period, plans were made to dig up the nests and transport the eggs across the state to Cape Canaveral, where they would be stored until the hatchlings emerged from the eggs. Then they would receive a royal walk to the sea away from the oil-drenched waters of the Gulf.

aptopix-gulf-oil-spill-1fee0422a0df6673The whole project reeked with the scent of drama, ripe for the media to descend on Florida for reports to a public hooked on the images of oiled wildlife. Since I was in transition in my job, they appointed me to handle all media requests that came to the national and state agencies regarding the plan. From my new office in Raccoon Township, Beaver County, Pennsylvania, I began coordinating media events and setting up interviews with the biologists.

As the project began in June 2010, I began writing Trails in the Sand. At first, I created the characters and their situations. Then slowly I began writing about the oil crisis and made the main character, Caroline, an environmental reporter who covered the sea turtle relocation project. Then suddenly I was writing about her husband, Simon, who mourned the loss of his cousin in the coal mine disaster in West Virginia. I didn’t make a conscious effort to tie together the environmental theme with the family saga unfolding, but before too long, I realized they all dealt with restoration and redemption of things destroyed. As a result, the oil spill and the sea turtles became a metaphor for the destruction caused by Caroline and her family.

I’m a firm believer in the subject choosing the author. When that happens, it’s best to let the muse lead me to the keyboard and let it the words find their way to the story. Trails in the Sand stands as my testament to the process.

3-D1Trails in the Sand synopsis

When environmental writer Caroline Carlisle sets off to report on endangered sea turtles during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the last thing she expects is to uncover secrets – secrets that threaten to destroy her family, unless she can heal the hurts from a lifetime of lies. To make matters worse, Caroline’s love for her late sister’s husband, Simon, creates an uproar in a southern family already set on a collision course with its past.

Using real-life events as the backdrop, Trails in the Sand explores the fight to restore balance and peace, in nature and in a family, as both spiral toward disaster. Through it all, the ancient sea turtle serves a reminder that life moves forward despite the best efforts to destroy it.

3-D2

 

 

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

Lori Crane

2a2It’s Monday! What are you Reading?

This week I read “Behind the Bar” by PC Zick.

81G7RBonO5L._SL1500_The first thing that came to mind while reading this story was the movie “The Breakfast Club” –except ten years later. The relationships are intricate and sometimes painful as there tends to be a lot of psychological baggage carried from teenage years into adulthood, especially when done in a group like these characters. Sometimes one must forgive and forget to move on, but in the case of Susie Williams, one must remember in the first place. Susie is a young woman who has blocked out a majority of her abusive childhood, until her friends help her piece the puzzle back together.

I absolutely loved these characters, especially Sally Jean, and the final conversation between Susie and Sally Jean literally brought tears to my eyes.

“Behind the Bar” is the second book in the “Behind…

View original post 136 more words

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – SIMI K. RAO

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpg

Author Wednesday day once again, and I welcome Simi K. Rao, who writes novels about the cultural transitions and assimilation from her native India to the place she’s chosen as an adult in the United States. She’s just published her second novel, The Accidental WifeThe Accidental Wife book covera contemporary romance with a multicultural twist that provides an insight into the Indian society as it stands today.

From the author: Some accidents are meant to happen…
Dr. Rihaan Mehta is a brilliant young neurosurgeon who has no inclination for love or marriage. According to him, wives and girlfriends are annoying accessories that one can do without. But when his mother dangles the sword over his head in classic Bollywood style, he succumbs, and sets out in search of a bride who would fit his “requirements.” But can Rihaan deal with what he gets instead?

The premise of the book sounds very intriguing. I love the Bollywood style that you are perfecting. I know you have a whole other career in medicine, so tell me, when did you first discover your voice as a writer?

I think there’s been a writer concealed within me ever since I was little. I remember penning stories and essays in school with exceptional relish. Friends were drawn to my storytelling abilities, and I enjoyed improvising my lines in school plays. But unfortunately this part of me went into a state of suspended animation during medical school and subsequent years of building a career as a physician. It was only in the past few years that it resurfaced again, and I began to nurture it seriously.

I’m glad you recognized that instinct and followed it with such relish. One of my heroes, Rachel Carson (Silent Spring), said she never chose a subject because as a writer, the subject chose her. Has this ever happened to you?

Yes, this is true for most of my projects as well. The idea for my first novel Inconvenient Relations was born when I came across certain shocking incidences in my community, which young Indian women arriving in the United States as newlywed brides only to discover their husbands already married and with families. These women found themselves not only betrayed but also alone and helpless in a strange land and often without resources. I felt almost compelled to give this state of affairs a twist and write a story where the young woman takes matters into her own hands and redirects her destiny.

That’s the beauty of fiction. We can rewrite it so there’s a lesson and perhaps hope for deplorable situations. Are there any commonalities between your two novels, besides the cultural one?

My stories are generally woman-centric, and my heroines are usually strong, bold, and independent. Hence, you could say I aim to present positive role models to women.

Perfect. Do all your books have a common theme? 

So far, my work has the common theme of romance after marriage, arranged or accidental. But in the future, I plan to write on more varied themes including serious topics, such as drug addiction.

Good. That needs to be addressed in this country and elsewhere. You can present a strong voice on that topic. What made you choose your original theme of “romance after marriage,” which is an intriguing concept and seems quite upside down to traditional marriages in the United States?

I’ve chosen these particular themes because they interest me, and I believe I have some expertise in them. I also like to believe that my readers will relate with and take away something from my stories as the subjects I chose are very real and topical.

How does setting play a role in your books?

The setting is very important because it provides a background for my characters and affects the way they act and behave.

Are you planning to continue writing romances?

Maybe a couple of books, not more. I don’t want to get predictable and boring.

That’s important. I like to challenge myself in every book I write. If you had two seconds to describe The Accidental Wife, what you you say? 

Some accidents are meant to happen.

How did you choose the title for your latest work and was it your first choice? 

I chose the title The Accidental Wife because the premise of the story is based on accidents, therefore it seemed perfect to me. Yes, it has been the title from the very beginning.

What is the most important message conveyed in The Accidental Wife?

Sometimes certain things happen that have the power to profoundly influence the way we lead our lives. They can change our behavior, our outlook, our goals, often for the better. But many among us resist this change—we create a wall around us, we close our minds and are distrustful. All I want to convey through this book is no matter how much we think we have control over our lives, the truth is we really don’t.

Isn’t that the absolute truth! We’d save a lot of energy if we could just recognize that fact. I often paraphrase John Lennon, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans.” So you have several threads, themes and messages running through the novel, but tell me how you conceived the idea.

It just happened. One day I was struck by the number of online marriage portals available for Indians and how they seemed to make the process of finding a life partner so easy. I thought that it’d make a great subject for a story, then one thing led to another.

That’s rather amazing–I have no idea. Who is the antagonist in your book? Did you enjoy creating this character?

One of my protagonist’s, Dr. Rihaan Mehta, is the antagonist of my book. The story is about how his character changes over time, and yes, I really enjoyed creating him.

That’s a very important distinction. Dr. Mehta was his own worst enemy. Powerful. Without giving us a spoiler, tell us a little bit about your favorite scene in this book.

There are a couple of scenes that take place in the hospital setting and are very real and emotional. They are my favorite scenes because I’ve lived them myself.

That makes for a very vivid portrait for you novel. I’m looking forward to reading The Accidental WifeThank you for stopping by today, Simi. I wish you the very best success with both of your challenging careers.

P1020168 (3)About Simi: Simi K. Rao was born and grew up in India before relocating to the U.S., where she has lived for several years. The inspiration for her books, and other projects, comes from her own experience with cross-cultural traditions, lifestyles and familial relationships, as well as stories and anecdotes collected from friends, family, and acquaintances.

Simi enjoys exploring the dynamics of contemporary American culture blended with Indian customs and heritage to reflect the challenges and opportunities many Indian-American women face in real life. Much of Simi’s down time is devoted to creative pursuits, including writing fiction, poetry, and photography. She is an avid traveler and has visited many locations around the world. A practicing physician, Rao lives in Denver with her family.

Connect with Simi K. Rao by clicking below.

Website 

Facebook

Twitter: @SimiKRao

Goodreads

Amazon – The Accidental Wife

Amazon – Inconvenient Relations

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – MARGARET KELL VIRANY

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpgWelcome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome Canadian author Margaret Kell Virany, who writes romantic historical books based on her life and that of her parents. Her books include A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Voida love story, between an English young woman and a Canadian young man, set during World War I. Kathleen’s Cariole Ride is set during the same time period.Kells cover pic

Welcome, Margaret. Tell us a little bit about yourself as a writer. How do you envision yourself in this role?

Lover of life, language and literature. Note-taker, journalist, editor, author. I write. Little things turn me on, like scraps of paper in a keepsake box and the memory of strawberry socials, harvest suppers and silver teas. The act of being a witness, a record-keeper, a storyteller, and the one who remembers has always excited me. I feel like I am part of a wider community. My ideal is to help others “see eternity in a grain of sand” (William Blake) and gain access to the best truth we have. As the historian, Sallustius, said in 4 A.D, “What happened is what always happens.”

I love that. It’s very poetic, which is very fitting based on your style of writing. Do all your books have a common theme or thread?

Yes. Love is my theme. It comes in various specialties:  the romantic love of a young couple, parental love, filial love, family bonds, charity, love for other human beings, and the all-embracing divine love brought to earth and presented as an ideal by the Gospels. For me, it was a personal pilgrimage of going home to my parents after finding their love letters had been left in a keepsake box, surely for some purpose.

What a wonderful and powerful perspective. Why has it been so important to explore this theme of love? 

If people don‟t get or give enough love, they go searching for it, and a good book can be their voyage. When I was coming of age in the fifties, it was still a bit of an anomaly for a woman who had children to work outside the home. Women, like my mother, came out of a world, both deprived and romantic, that had untold, inestimable influence on the direction of children, husbands, and society. Such love practices inspired the line, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” (William Ross Wallace, 19th century Indiana poet)

That’s a perfect quote to express what you’ve done in your writing. What‟s the best thing said about one of your books by a reviewer?

“Virany‟s account of their (her parents’) adventures … is riveting. (She) has the natural gifts of a born storyteller who keeps you caring about the characters no matter where they are. When the Kells finally return to civilization the pace of the narrative doesn‟t flag.” From a review by Ellen Tanner Marsh, New York Times bestselling author

I’d be very proud of that review as well. Very nice and I’m sure rewarding. How did you choose the title, A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void?

In my years spent studying English literature at the University of Toronto, I noticed certain things about classics. I wanted to do things that would identify my memoir as that category of book. Fortuitously my family name, Kell, is the same as that of the most famous manuscript of ancient western civilization, The Book of Kells. Millions of tourists go to look at it in Dublin each year, so it would have a familiar ring even for those who couldn‟t pin it down. Beginning the title with “A Book of …” gave it a serious, nonfiction tone. My literary background also led me to load my title with words that had multiple meanings and associations which would give clues to the type of content inside. My parents lived their married life as if it was book. There is an ancient concept of life being one‟s “book of days.” For dates and event, I leaned on my parents‟ daily diaries. The title could also refer to the Bible, the book that most guided my ancestors and parents. I hit the jackpot, I felt, when I discovered that the root of the name Kells was, according to some scholarship, a synonym for all Celts, the dominant tribe who inhabited the region north of the Mediterranean Sea in 500 B.C. This was generic; anyone with a name with the “Kell‟ prefix is one of the tribe so the word should have wide appeal. Another meaning for “kell‟ was a hair net or covering and that was an appropriate symbol for my upbringing as a minister‟s daughter. My title might make people think it was a family history, which it partly was, at least for the most recent four generations.

That’s fascinating. I’m always interested in the creative process, so how did you decide to write this book? 

I wanted to write it as a romantic novel while sticking rigorously to the facts as I knew them or was able to reconstruct them by careful logic. It should have a beginning, middle, climax and end but these should not be superimposed. They should emerge from what I could find out; the story must be allowed to tell itself. It was a test to see whether the literary structures I had been taught really worked. I had to discipline myself not to make things up. I already had on my hands a self-described knight and lady who had rubbed shoulders with real prime ministers and princes. They courted and treated each other accordingly. I did not have to manufacture their raw emotions because I had their seventy-two authentic love letters from the 1920s. I had been blessed by a bonanza in a keepsake box; I just had to call forth my muses to elicit it and do it justice.

Here is a beautiful quote I just received as a comment on my “About” page on my blog. “Memories are a nursery where children who are growing old play with their broken toys. Kells is an extraordinary book, presenting the extraordinary story of extraordinary people living in extraordinary times.” John W. Bienko

That is lovely. I’m so glad you stopped by today, Margaret. Yours is a unique story and one worth telling.

MargoncanoeAbout Margaret Kell Virany from Margaret:  Born on a farm on the northern fringe of Toronto, I got a degree in English Language & Literature and married my Varsity heart throb. Early employment was at the Toronto Telegram, Maclean-Hunter and freelancing for the Globe & Mail, Toronto Star, Montreal Star, and Montreal Gazette. My most fun jobs were as professional public relations secretary first of the Montreal YMCA and then of the Toronto YMCA, and as a program organizer of CBC-TV’s first live nationally televised conference The Real World of Woman (1961). Following a move to Canada’s capital region, I became editor/co-owner of the weekly newspaper in my home town of Aylmer, QC and had the busiest, best career of a lifetime. Upon discovering the keepsake box full of love letters, journals and photos my parents left, I published A Book of Kells: Growing Up in an Ego Void. It records my family’s lives and my uneasy coming of age as a minister’s daughter. Then I wrote Kathleen’s Cariole Ride recounting my parents’ transatlantic courtship and adventures living on a Cree reserve in the north. At the 2012 Centennial Conference honoring the literary critic, Northrop Frye, I learned that my notes of his lectures would be among those posted on the fryeblog, available for public download. This success brought me back to the day when I dropped out of college for a year and learned shorthand on my very first job, as a receptionist at the ‘Tely’.

Click below for links to Margaret’s books and website:

Cozy Book Basics

Website

Amazon Author Central

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

BOOK REVIEW FRIDAY – RISE TO POWER

RisetoPowerRise to Power by Uvi Poznansky is a stand alone historical novel, even though it is Volume 1 of the David Chronicles box set. It is also the first book in the AT ODDS WITH DESTINY box set. Rise to Power chronicles the story of King David with a little bit of Goliath and a whole lot of Saul.

I’m picky about the historical fiction I choose to read. When it’s done well, I’m a fan. I’m also a fan of Uvi Poznansky (Author Wednesday) and her contemporary work of literary fiction, Apart from Love (Book Review Friday)so I began reading with confidence that Ms. Poznansky’s deft hand could change genres with aplomb.

Historical fiction recounting a familiar story requires a creative mind to make the story fresh, even though we already know the ending. It’s why the Greeks saw hundreds of versions of Oedipus and Elizabethans never tired of watching Caesar mutter, “Et tu, Brute?” Readers and play- and movie-goers alike desire to be entertained with a perspective they’ve not yet imagined.

The task demands a command of plot structure, development of characters, and a unique unfolding of events. Ms. Poznansky achieves it all in Rise to Power.

Even more challenging for the author is point of view. In this novel, the reader jumps right into the mind of David, who takes us on his journey from his job as Saul’s court jester and musician to his encounter with the Philistine Goliath and beyond. The first person point of view sets it apart from other retellings because now we’ve entered into the realm of the author’s imagination as she envisions how David might have felt at all the junctures in his life.

The story of Kind David recounts the magical myth of a man–perhaps the original story of poor boy triumphant in his rise to glory. Going inside the mind of the man himself provides us with more than a mere recounting of the details we already know. His rise to glory–seen through his eyes–follows the universal contrasts of fear and bravery, disgust and lust, joy and depression, love and hate, disapprobation and respect.

The author captivates the reader with the first line of Chapter 1: “I am so thrilled.” This chapter is preceded by a Prologue set later in David’s life where he expresses anything but the joy of this first glimpse into his mind as a young boy summoned to play before King Saul.

Let the roller coaster ride to power begin. I am now anxious to read Volumes 2 and 3, A Peek at Bathsheba and The Edge of Revolt. I’m impressed with all aspects of this work of historical fiction, so I am certain the rest of The David Chronicles will follow suit.

FREE during April

FREE during April

Trolls and Easter Eggs: For Whom the Bell Trolls

Here’s a new box set from some very talented authors. Short stories with a twist.

Carol Ervin's Author Site

I started smiling when I saw the title page of For Whom the Bell Trolls, and though I hadn’t yet reached the first of the “25 Tales of Terror, Triumph, and Trolls,” I knew they were going to be more fun than terrifying.

My first smile was for the drawing of a horned, top-knotted troll head resting in (or coming out of?) the shell of an Easter egg. He didn’t look too terrible, just goofy. But what was the significance of the Easter egg? I looked it up. According to Wikipedia, an Easter egg is an inside joke, something hidden, as in a treasure hunt. In this collection, the illustrations are studded with “Easter eggs” representing the 23 authors. Clues to their meanings are hidden after each story in its author bio.

I was right, a few of these tales have serious themes and a touch of horror, but…

View original post 463 more words

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – DAVID RHEEM JARRETT

cropped-cropped-typewriter.jpg

Wecome to Author Wednesday. Today I welcome David Rheem Jarret who stops by today to talk about his novel Last Straw, a thriller filled with crime and suspense. David admits the main characters is actually “an anti-hero who some readers will actually see as the protagonist, even though some of the crimes he commits are heinous.”  Add two young police officers–an intelligent, sensitive male and a strong, attractive female–who must not only deal with catching him, but also with their own steadily increasing attraction to one another to throw some romance into the mix.  It all sounds exciting, but I’ll let David talk about himself and the book. Welcome, David!

The Writing Life and the Last Straw by David Rheem Jarrett A1RubOdlbwL._SL1500_

I discovered my voice as a writer while in high school but was not able to call myself an author until June of 2014 when I published Last Straw.  I have no writing rituals, although my favorite time to write is two hours in the morning during what I call my quiet time.  This time is after I’ve brought my wife coffee in bed, had a couple cups myself, and read all the current news and mail on the computer.  Once this quiet time is over and the events of the day begin, there’s no point in trying to write.

I have no illusions about being a great writer, although I believe I use the English language well, and my vocabulary is fairly extensive.   I try to avoid clichés and use language that is perhaps more sophisticated than others in my genre.  I try to create plots that are believable – things that could actually happen in today’s world – and characters that are believable also – no superheroes jumping buildings in a single bound or dispatching entire groups of bad guys singlehandedly.  My stories are usually “morality plays” in which good triumphs over evil.  Even in Last Straw, even though I identify and sympathize with my anti-hero, he has to lose in the end.

The two authors who have most influenced my writing are John Sandford and Michael Connelly.  They both write gritty crime/police procedural thrillers, and they write their stories with great realism and accuracy.  One of my pet peeves as a reader is reading a crime/thriller/suspense novel involving firearms in which the author obviously has no real knowledge of them.

My current work in progress involves a rather complicated scenario.  It is also a thriller of sorts, but not what I would all a classic one.  A man and his wife, fed up with life in the city, retire early and move to a remote rural area of California where they own property.  A Native American Vietnam veteran, feeling he has not lived up to his heritage, moves to the same area and tries to live in the woods alone in order to experience the lifestyle of his ancestors and perhaps vindicate himself, at least in his own eyes.  The actions of these characters are often seen through the eyes of a great bear, a character in its own right, that the Indian saves from a poacher’s trap early in his odyssey.  There is political intrigue as the local power company uses a nefarious scheme to coerce the county commissioners to vote to dam the river on which the ranchers depend in order to create a recreational area and power plant.  In addition, there is constant tension between the city man and the perverted poacher, who hates him and covets his wife.  As of now, the book is too long and needs to be cut somewhat, and I am in the process of editing.  It is a very ambitious project and may need to be longer than planned in order to be able to tell the whole story.  As yet, I have no title for this WIP.

I chose to write Last Straw because of the shenanigans being pulled by members of the financial community during the lead-up to the Great Recession in the United States.  An enormous number of people, myself included, got hurt because of their actions, and I felt compelled to write about one fictional person’s response.

My favorite character is Thomas Pickering.  He is a product of the school of hard knocks.  He is not a young pretty-boy and has character flaws.  However, he is smart; he is tough; and he believes as I do in “an eye for an eye.”

I use third person omniscient past tense in all my writing.  I detest the use of first person or third person limited, as neither has the ability to show the reader the thoughts and feelings of each character.  I use italics to describe these inner thoughts, and though some do not like this technique, I do, and as long as the italicized passages are not too long, I believe them not to be objectionable to the reader.  I never use present tense narration as I think it sounds stupid.

As far as bad reviews are concerned, not everyone is going to like every book.  You are going to get a bad review now and then.  They are usually emotionally driven and not constructive, but learn from the ones that are thoughtfully written and that actually might help you in your future writing.  Always remember, though, that writing is an art, as is music, painting, or sculpture.  It is not a science, and therefore whether you are happy with it determines whether it is worthy or not.  Of course, if you are writing solely to make money, this changes the paradigm and you must write what the public wants to read — hence the plethora of romance novels and series novels so prevalent today.

Last Straw tells the story of a bitter man, robbed of his future by unscrupulous financiers, who finds and punishes them in very creative and ugly ways, and the attempt by two young police officers, themselves embroiled in an escalating affair, to discover enough evidence to arrest and convict him.

My wife actually chose this title, and since she has been so supportive of my writing and a good beta-reader, I deferred to her judgment.

This book took approximately three years from inception to publication.  It was self-published as an e-Book primarily because I could not obtain representation from literary agents (Do not get me started on that subject, as the diatribe will go on forever).  I decided if the e-Book were well-received, I might order print copies also, but I am finding it hard to find enough readers, even though almost all reviews have been positive, to justify the trouble and expense of doing this yet.

Simply put, the message conveyed in the book is “if you mess with the bull, you are going to get the horns!”

The best thing someone could say about this book is that it kept him or her turning the pages from beginning to end without ever becoming bored or tempted to skim.

Conceiving this book took little imagination. I was financially damaged by the same type financiers as my character, Thomas Pickering. The book was my vicarious way of getting even.

Thomas Pickering is the antagonist (although some may feel he is the PROtagonist depending on their point of view), and I don’t think I have ever enjoyed creating a character more.

Any prospective reader must know that there is both graphic sex and graphic violence in the book, but the story does not dwell on either.  These are necessary to provide the elements of a thriller, but the actual book is more about feelings, relationships, and right versus wrong.

As I have said before, John Sandford is the quintessential crime thriller writer, with Michael Connelly a close second.  They both would be welcome to share dinner and a few cocktails with me.

I have no rituals, no music while I write.  I usually write in my bathrobe and slippers in my study/computer room prior to the day’s other activities. My immediate family is highly supportive of my writing. I do use places with which I am familiar as the settings for my books.  I do not like travel unless I can do it in our motor coach; therefore I will probably never write novels set anywhere but in the USA.

If one were to make a movie of me, Bruce Willis would be my pick for my character.

Dave - Publicity photoAbout David: David Rheem Jarrett was born and raised in Berkeley, California. After graduating from Dental School, he and his wife and two daughters moved to Reno, Nevada, where he and two others started the first group practice in the state, and practiced general dentistry for thirty-five years before retiring in 2005.  Since then he has been doing what he promised himself he would do years ago – writing novels. He is active in physical fitness, golf, fly fishing, firearms, and gunsmithing, RVing, computers, and reading.  He and his wife have been married for fifty-two years, and enjoy spending time together and with their three children and seven grandchildren.

Click Links below for more information on David Rheem Jarrett and Last Straw.

Amazon

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

Website

Facebook 

Goodreads

Twitter