AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – ELAINE COUGLER

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Welcome to this edition of Author Wednesday. I’m pleased to present a guest post from author Elaine Cougler, who’s been featured in the past on my blog. She’s the author The Loyalist’s Wife and the The Loyalist’s Luck. She hopes to publish the third in the series in a few months. Today she writes about one of my favorite topics. How do authors manage to write when real life keeps interfering? Here’s how Elaine manages!The Loyalist's Wife_Kindle_1563x2500

Writing Under Adversity

by Elaine Cougler

I’m one of those perfectionist people for whom planning is second nature—well, maybe even first! When I have speaking engagements they go off pretty much like the proverbial clockwork as I plan well in advance and execute my plan. It gives me comfort to know I have with me what I need for all eventualities. I also plan my writing schedule where I write five days a week in the morning, and I work pretty hard not to have that interrupted.

Book Two

Similarly, I had the timing of my second book (The Loyalist’s Luck) launch all figured out. The cover was perfect, the printer was ready to go with a schedule that would allow me to actually have books at my launch, and my interior book designer was on board. By the time I left for my cruise/reward, the book would be off to the printer.

Now the way my book designer works is I send her the completed manuscript and with magic software she puts it into the actual format for a book. No more Word document. Next, my pages come back to be proofed. I read them most carefully and if I find any errors either in my work or in my designer’s work, I print the page, circle the error with the correction, and send a copy of that page back to my designer.

Simple process, right? For the first book the system worked well. For the second book, days passed before I’d get the next batch of pages. This all meant that I had to keep editing and sending corrections to France while I was on the cruise. My schedule till launch was tight. Too tight. And the email on the Alaska cruise ship was not always reliable. Never mind, I got it all corrected and the final proofed pages sent off to my printer, gem that he is, and the book got printed. We do what we must.

Another time when working under adversity could have derailed me was just over a year ago when my younger sister unfortunately lost her battle with cancer. Of course it was an unbelievably sad and stressful time, but every morning I buried myself in my work, revising, rewriting, rereading, and losing myself in the historical fiction world I’d created. You see, I didn’t have to think about the horrors in my real life. I could lose myself in my writing, and for a few blessed hours, forget. Rather than hinder my writing this personal crisis helped me finish my final manuscript.

Five weeks ago I wrote in my blog that maybe I had appendicitis because of the pain in my side while I was working on that post. Two days later I learned the truth. That dreaded disease, shingles, picked me as its next victim. Even though my skin ached and the nerves in my side and abdomen stabbed me constantly I found a way to prop myself in my chair with my hot water bottle and type. Again, I enjoyed the writing because I forgot what was happening in my real life for those two hours that I worked on the rough draft of the third book in the Loyalist trilogy, The Loyalist Legacy.

Writers, then, often have a choice when bad things happen and it is up to us how we face our problems. We can let them steer us completely away from our writing—and I’ve done that many times—or we can ‘man up’ and find the positive in order to keep going. Now that I know this other side to adversity, I’ll choose to work through it more often. I hope you will, too.

ElaineCouglarAbout Elaine Cougler: A lifelong reader and high school teacher, Elaine found her passion for writing once her family was grown. She loves to read history for the stories of real people reacting to their world. Bringing to life the tales of Loyalists in the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 is very natural as Elaine’s personal roots are in those struggles, out of which arose both Canada and the United States.

 

 

Connect to Elaine by clicking below:

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Book 1: The Loyalist’s Wife on Amazon US

Canada

UK

Book 2: The Loyalist’s Luck on Amazon US

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UK

 

 

 

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – KERRY J. DONOVAN

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Author Wednesday returns with a bang (pun always intended) with crime, action, and fantasy writer, Kerry Donovan. I’m delighted to start the new season with such a talented and creative author. His series, The DCI Jones Casebook, features three thrillers, Ellis Flynn, Raymond Collins,  and the recently released, Sean FreemanTHE_DCI_JONES_CASEBOOK_sean_freeman (1)

Welcome, Kerry! I’m honored you’re the first author after my summer break. I can tell this is going to be an interesting interview.

Hi Pat, thanks for inviting me onto your blog. Great to finally meet you in the flesh, so to speak.

So let’s start it out with a question I like to ask all the authors. When did you first discover your voice as a writer?

Oh Pat, when I find my writer’s voice, I’ll let you know.

Seriously though, I find this quite difficult to answer. Currently, I write in three different genres, crime thrillers, action adventure, and fantasy. I think using the same voice in each would be rather restrictive. I try to set my voice according to the theme of each novel. It’s not easy, but if I keep trying for long enough, one day, I might get it right.

My father, an artist, once told me that if he were ever to be completely satisfied with a finished painting, he’d probably give up and start writing. I can’t paint.

I ask the question because it tells me many things about folks. I’m fascinated because I’ve often wondered if I’ve ever discovered a voice. Glad to know I’m not alone in finding mine. But I have a feeling you have a very strong voice and are simply too modest to admit it. Let’s move along to another favorite question. When were you first able to call yourself a “writer” or “author?”

Again, I’ll let you know. And again, seriously, I’ll call myself an author when people start recognizing me in the street and say, “Hey, isn’t that the author …” That’s unlikely to happen as I live in France and only publish in English. I rarely travel to the UK except to visit my three wonderful kids, and three (soon to be four) gorgeous grandchildren.

I had it happen at the gym the other day. Does that count? Probably not, since I’d just done a book signing there. Sweat and autographs — great combo. So let’s talk about how you write. Do you have any writing rituals?

Don’t really have any. I sit at my desk in front of my PC keyboard in my office in the attic and type. That’s it really. I rarely plot an outline but have an idea where to start and then I let the characters take over. I tried writing in the garden last summer, but the flies annoyed me, and I couldn’t see the laptop screen for the bright sunshine. I guess Hemingway didn’t have the same problem when using his typewriter, eh?

Probably not, but he did write in an attic in Paris, so you better get back inside. Do you try to convey any special messages to your readers, even though your writing happens organically?

I don’t. All I want to do for my readers is entertain them with the best story I can create. If writing a crime thriller, I want to thrill. If it’s a mystery I want to give the reader all the information they need to solve the crime but still give them a surprise ending. I hate stories where the author introduces the killer and the motive in the final scene so the reader can’t work things out for themselves. If writing a fantasy, I base it in the real world but add a little something strange and fantastical. I want the reader to ‘see’ and understand the concepts covered. You won’t find any vampires, werewolves, or ghouls in my books. At least not many. If writing a romance, I want the reader carried away on a sea of love and emo… hang on, I don’t write romances. My wife has told me I don’t have a romantic bone in my six-foot, three-inch body.  She’s probably right. In fact, she’s always right, or so she tells me.

All wives are always right. I see you get a little passionate with your answers, so perhaps there’s a romantic fragment in your funny bone. What’s going on with your writing these days? Describe your current projects.

Currently, I have two prime works-in-progress, although my laptop has dozens of unfinished and part finished works, and rough outlines. I like to have at least one book nearly complete—at least close to the beta read level—and one in production.

The nearly complete one, On Lucky Shores, is an action adventure set in the Colorado Rockies and follows down-on-his-luck travelling musician, Chester ‘Chet’ Walker. The story opens with Chet trying to find a gig in the picturesque, and fictional, lakeside town of Lucky Shores. On his way to town, he is involved in a car accident and receives a message from a dying man. In trying to give the message to the man’s daughter, Joey, Chet finds himself embroiled in an eight-year-old secret. He also becomes the target of a ruthless killer or killers who want the secret to remain hidden, and becomes the victim of Cupid’s arrow. Joey steals his heart.

Well, perhaps there is a little romance in my books after all.

My second WIP is the fourth installment of my DCI Jones Casebook series of British crime thrillers. In this story, one of my cast of characters hunts for the crooked cop responsible for the death of another cop. The villain is also involved in the illegal importation of weapons into the UK. I’m half way through the first draft of this one, so it probably won’t be ready for publication until the New Year 2016. As they say, watch this space.

If you’ll have me back closer to the time, I’ll be happy to give you more details. :¬)

I hope you’ll come back! My favorite authors always have a standing invitation. I do think there’s a romantic lurking inside waiting to jump out. You certainly like to keep things interesting from the Rocky Mountains to the UK, all the while living in France. Tell me a bit about the fictional folks in your books. Do you have a favorite character that you created?

Absolutely, he’s Detective Chief Inspector David Jones—never Dave or Davie. He’s a senior detective of the old school. I describe him as a veteran, dogged, empathetic, and successful. He’s about my age, but is slim-built, of less than average height, single (never married), and successful. In fact, he’s nothing like me apart from the age thing.

What stands David Jones apart from most veteran fictional cops is that he’s not allowed his job to make him jaded with life. He’s fiercely loyal to his friends and empathetic to the victims he tries to protect. He’s a tad OCD, but only in that he likes things to remain in order and in the correct place and alignment. David can see when something doesn’t fit and often uses this ‘ailment’ to solve crimes.

In my head, I see David Jones as looking like my dear old father. I love them both, but don’t tell David that, or he’ll look at you funny. He’s old school, see, not at all touchy-feely :).

We need him here in the States to help clean up a few things. Even though he’s your favorite, he’s not much like you except for his age, so if a movie was made about your success as a writer, who would play you?

Without doubt, that would be George Clooney, but he’d have to wear a much grayer wig. Oh, my wife’s just read that and fallen over in hysterics, excuse me a moment while I help her to her feet and give her a glass of water—she doesn’t drink whisky.

As an alternative to George, maybe you could find a James Stewart lookalike. Did I tell you I was tall?

Thanks for having me, Pat. I’ve so enjoyed our chat.  Blimey, now I’m a poet.

I hope your wife is all right, but tell her if George Clooney plays you, guess who gets to play her? Oh, that’s right, his beautiful Italian wife isn’t an actress. It’s been my pleasure, Kerry. So good to start off the new season of Author Wednesday with such a fun interview. I’m going to hold you to your word and expect you back with the very next release.

Kerry_J_Donovan - Web pagesAbout Kerry: Kerry J Donovan was born in Dublin. He spent most of his life in the UK, and now lives in Brittany with his wife of thirty-eight years. He has three children and three/four grandchildren, all of whom live in England. Family apart, Kerry has three loves: making furniture, sport, and writing (but not necessarily in that order).

 

 

Links:

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DCI Jones Casebook Sean Freeman Amazon US

DCI Jones Casebook Sean Freeman Amazon UK

 

AUTHOR WEDNESDAY – JENNY HARPER

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Hello and happy summer! I said I’d be on hiatus until September, but then I met the lovely author Jenny Harper from Scotland, and I couldn’t resist doing an Author Wednesday post in July. Jenny recently published the novella Sand in My Shoes, the perfect summer read for the beach. Here’s the concept: A trip to France awakens the past in this heartwarming and tear-jerking short summer readHead teacher Nicola Arnott prides herself on her independence. Long widowed, she has successfully juggled motherhood and career, coping by burying her emotions somewhere deep inside herself. A cancer scare shakes her out of her careful approach to life and she finds herself thinking wistfully of her first love, a young French medical student. As her anxiety about her impending hospital tests grows, she decides to revisit the sleepy French town she remembers from her teenage years – and is astonished to meet up with Luc again. The old chemistry is still there – but so is something far more precious: a deep and enduring friendship. Can it turn into true love?Sand in My Shoes web

Welcome, Jenny. I’m glad you stopped by to let us know about your new book. It does sound like an excellent read for the beach! I like the title. How did you choose it?

Sometimes titles for books come really easily, while at other times it’s like hammering away at a geode – it’s really hard to crack it open, but somewhere inside you know there’s a gem. Sand in My Shoes is a novella – the first time I’ve written something of this length – and my main purpose was to write a really satisfying and quick summer read. I wanted the title to be evocative, and also to try to capture something important at the heart of the story. This title achieves both of these things – but to find out why, you’ll have to read it for yourself!

It does evoke memories of the beach. Now you’ve provoked my curiosity! Since it’s a novella, how long it actually take you to write it?

This piece of work has been exceptional. Mostly I write complex and multi-layered novels with a word count of around 80-90,000 words – full length novels, in other words. I had just finished writing Mistakes We Make (due for publication next summer), and I’d really had to wrestle with it. (I’m delighted with it now that it’s finished, by the way!). I was heading off to India for a couple of weeks’ sunshine, and I fancied having a go at something more straightforward – a work that would restore the spontaneity in my writing. I had the idea before we left home,  planned it on the plane, and wrote 15,000 words in a fortnight. I finished off the week after I came home. And it was a joy to write!

I’ve recently ventured into writing novellas after writing full length novels. It’s a big change but a welcome one after finishing a huge project. How did you come up with the idea for Sand in My Shoes? 

My four published novels are loosely a series called ‘The Heartlands’ series. They are all set in or near a fictional town called Hailesbank, notionally just east of Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, where I live. To date, the characters haven’t overlapped (although Mistakes We Make features characters from People We Love a few months on). I really wanted to take one of the minor characters in one of the books and see what happened. It was a writing buddy who suggested Nicola Arnott, who is the head teacher in a primary school in Face the Wind and Fly. And oddly enough, although I was writing it while I was in India, it was a place in France I visited last year that was nagging away at my mind. Arcachon is a delightful small seaside resort, a little old-fashioned but very pretty and family friendly – and that’s where I sent Nicola when she discovered a lump in her breast.

What kind of research was required? 

Nicola is waiting for results at the beginning of the story, and her daughter nags her to do something different with her summer. Researching the setting wasn’t difficult, although I had a lot of fun viewing images of some of Arcachon’s beautiful old houses online. They remind me of the architecture in New Orleans – or perhaps that should be the other way round, as I presume New Orleans was influenced by French colonists? However, I did talk to a number of people about their experiences with breast cancer, and also researched tests and treatments online. I discovered that this does vary quite a lot depending on where you live.

Yes, I believe France informed New Orleans. What’s the best thing someone could say about this novella?

My editor called me when she had read it, and she was still a bit incoherent ­– apparently I had made her cry twice as she’d been reading it! Now, far be it from me to want to make people cry, but as a writer there is a great sense of achievement when you can involve people so deeply in your storytelling. Which leads me to share something I’m quite proud of – bestselling author Alexander McCall Smith has just offered me a quote for the paperback of People We Love. He says, “An engaging and delightful read. Jenny Harper is a most gifted storyteller.” I’m so proud ­– all I really want to be is a great storyteller!

Both of those statements are things for which you can be very proud. Congratulations! Are you traditionally or self-published? 

I’ve been writing for some time. I eventually decided to self publish a couple of my novels (Face the Wind and Fly and Loving Susie), then I was picked up by Accent Press, who have since published Maximum Exposure and People We Love, and the novella, Sand in My Shoes. They have also offered me a contract for another novel (not in the Heartlands series) called Between Friends, due for publication next spring), and the fifth in the Heartlands Series, Mistakes We Make, due for publication next summer. I’ve started on my next book, which I’m loving writing, but I’m not going to give anything away about it right now!

Congratulations all the way around. I look forward to reading your books. I’m so very happy to have met you through the group eNovel Authors at Work. Please visit again when you have your next release. eNovel Authors at Work

Jenny CC 5 web croppedAbout Jenny: Jenny Harper lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland. Now Jenny is writing  contemporary women’s fiction with bite – complex characters facing serious issues.

 

 

Click links below to purchase Jenny’s books:

Sand in My Shoes

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Face the Wind and Fly

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Loving Susie

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Maximum Exposure

Amazon UK

Amazon US

People We Love

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

Contact Jenny by clicking links below

Jenny Harper website and blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Purchase Links:

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