Thursday, 25 January 2018

69. Influential Books

Happy New Year, dear readers. :)



I hope your 2018 is magical and exceeds your expectations.

I’m looking ahead to a busy year. We’ll be moving to a new house soon, so I’ll have all the fun that goes with packing and unpacking boxes again. This will be our permanent home, so I’m looking forward to feeling settled, and cooking in a brand-new kitchen. At least I can open all the boxes and rediscover items I haven’t seen in over a year. Either it will be like Christmas, or I’ll be wondering why I decided to pack said item and drag it across the country when I could have conveniently ‘lost’ it in the skip. The most exciting part for me will be setting up my office, surrounding myself with books, and eliminating a few of the distractions I’ve had in the past year.

Influential Books

Not too long ago, I was asked which books influenced me over the years and drew me into writing. I thought it would be an easy question. Turns out I had to think long and hard about it. By influential, did they mean the books that stayed with me long after I read the words, ‘The End’? The ones that inspired me to write my own? The ones I wish I’d written? Or the ones I escaped to time and again when the real world became too much? So many possibilities and so many books from which to choose. In the end, I picked my top ten, in no particular order.

1. C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe’ - my favourite of the Narnia Chronicles and the first book I fell in love with. I was terribly disappointed to discover none of the wardrobes, or cupboards or doors in my house (then or now) led to this magical land. I was eleven years old and craving adventure. I wanted to be Lucy, the youngest sibling, and meet Aslan. I may not have found Narnia, but I certainly lost myself in this book.

2. Charlaine Harris’s ‘Sookie Stackhouse’ series – I love how well Ms Harris kept the first-person point of view and how her heroine didn’t always come through adversity without a scratch. I learned what it meant to be a flawed character here, and how sometimes those flaws could become strengths. Not to mention the diversity of paranormal characters I found here – Vampires, Werewolves, and Fairies – Oh my!

3. James Herbert’s ‘Domain’ – set in London after a nuclear bomb decimates the city, this was one of three dark and dastardly tales of sustaining life against the odds. Not for a moment did I feel like I wasn’t amongst the carnage and battling for survival along with the main characters. I was terrified by this story and what the characters did to survive. As for the ones who didn’t – I still get chills. Then there are the rats...so many rats.

Stephen King and Dean Koontz are on a par for me. They both terrify me, keep me awake at night wondering at the possibilities behind their stories, fascinate me with their brilliance, and these gentlemen are the ones who made me want to write too. While I have many favourites, these are a few of the standouts to me.

4. Stephen King’s ‘Pet Sematary’ – let’s all agree that when someone or something dies, they are meant to stay that way. Mr King is well known for his horror stories, and this was a doozy. I couldn’t put the book down. Not only did it give me chills, it brought me to tears many times. The empathy I had for the family and what they endured, the darkness, and the consequences of messing with that darkness – I’m getting teary just thinking about it. It was bad enough as a teen, but now that I’m a parent, some things in this book cut so much deeper.

5. Stephen King’s ‘Thinner’ – I have a thing about curse stories and this tale about a gypsy curse and revenge was brilliant. Again, this urged the reader not to mess with things they don’t understand, especially all things paranormal and magical. The main character tried so hard to right his wrongs, but some things cannot be atoned. The best part about this story was the twist at the end. After everything the main character endured, and what he did to elude his fate, I never saw this coming – and I’m saying that as a Stephen King fan who ought to know better.

6. Dean Koontz’s ‘Twilight Eyes’ – I loved the carney vibe and the main character’s ability to see demons within their human guise – I was in paranormal heaven. This book had everything – romance, horror, paranormal, deep emotional pain, and the promise that whatever life throws at you, you just keep fighting. The carnival backdrop fascinated me. While I’ve never wanted to run away and join a carnival (or the circus), the people and their deep sense of private community still hold my attention today. I think I was in my mid-teens when I read this, and for a long time, I took to staring at people intensely, just in case I could see the ‘demons’ beneath the surface. LOL

7. Dean Koontz’s ‘Odd Thomas’. As you know, I’ve been reading this series, but I did read the first book some years ago. Odd is another character whom I found fabulous and sad at the same time. It’s very hard to decide at times whether one’s paranormal ability really is a gift or a curse, and reading Odd’s take on life calls to me. I don’t know why I find this character so endearing. He emits from the page such gentleness, such deep caring for the people he loves, yet he carries such a heavy weight on his young shoulders. And despite this calm and passive demeanour, I know he’s capable of such dark things. A part of me doesn’t want to read the last in the series because I’m not sure I’m ready for Odd to end.

8. Wilbur Smith’s ‘River God’ – set in Ancient Egypt at the time of the Pharaohs. Its magic, intrigue, love, murder, and the overshadowing of politics had me on the edge of my seat. Politics isn’t my thing, but I did like the strategic way the characters went about getting what they wanted, even if some of them got what they deserved instead. I love how Mr Smith brought Ancient Egypt to life with all its customs, superstitions, and beliefs, and this is another book I didn’t want to end.

9. J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ series. This author made me believe in magic again. She made me feel the same wonder as an adult in Harry Potter that I found as a child reading #1’s book. I also take hope in the fact that she received several rejections (as did Stephen King) before she was published. Again, Harry Potter is about magic, courage, conviction, and they don’t need help from the adults, thank you very much. (Although having that parental love made a huge difference in the lives of the characters and the decisions they made.) I would love to have read these books as a teen, but Harry Potter certainly spoke to my inner child. I’m not sure whether I wish I’d written this series, but the thought of captivating so many readers and having them love the characters so much would certainly be an amazing feat.

10. Gordon Korman’s ‘I Want to Go Home’. I read this as a teen and I still read it now whenever I need a good laugh. The main characters, Rudy Miller (who’s an ace at everything he does whether it’s sport, dancing, or a game of chess) and Mike Webster (clever, shy, and not sporty in the slightest) are polar opposites. Yet their friendship and mutual hatred of summer camp are the catalysts to some hilarious moments. Korman’s characterisations are amazing, but in my teens, all I cared about was escaping summer camp with those boys. And as an adult, it inspires me to find the humour in tough situations.

  1. https://www.amazon.com/Lion-Witch-Wardrobe-C-Lewis/dp/0064471047
  2. https://www.goodreads.com/series/42636-sookie-stackhouse
  3. https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/james-herbert/domain
  4. https://www.amazon.com/Pet-Sematary-Novel-Stephen-King/dp/1501156705
  5. https://www.amazon.com.au/Thinner-Richard-Bachman/dp/1444723553/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1516775145&sr=8-1&keywords=Stephen+King+-+Thinner
  6. https://www.amazon.com/Twilight-Eyes-Dean-Koontz/dp/0425218643
  7. http://www.deankoontz.com/book/you-are-destined-to-be-together-forever/
  8. http://www.wilbursmithbooks.com/books/egyptian/river-god
  9. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_19?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=harry+potter+series&sprefix=Harry+Potter+Series%2Cstripbooks%2C397&crid=3INOPT1MIEP1L
  10. http://www.scholastic.ca/books/view/i-want-to-go-home

You’ll have noticed I didn’t put a romance book in there. It isn’t because I don’t have a favourite or that I’m not influenced by them. I am. But when I was growing up, there was no such thing as a paranormal romance. Whether there wasn’t an audience for it then, or we were waiting for break out authors to be published in the genre and set a trend that’s just as popular today, I’m not sure. The truth is I always planned to write darker stories and embrace the paranormal world, but my characters had other ideas and I came to realise that romance had a bigger influence on my writing that I’d previously considered. There are romantic elements in every book I’ve mentioned above, and they matter in each story, and that’s what I really fell in love with, and why romance in writing keeps finding its way to me. :)

The big question is – what books influence you? I’d love to know. :)

Book Reviews

Jingle Stars (Shamans and Shifters Space Opera Book 4) by Jenny Schwartz

When a starship decides to play Santa Claus…
Ahab is a mLa’an artificial intelligence embedded in the starship, Orion.
The campaign for AIs to be recognized as full citizens of Galaxy Proper is within reach of its extraordinary goal. The only thing that could stop it now is if an AI did something foolish…like take a space station hostage to save eight orphaned children.
***
And this is the letter to Santa that starts it all:
Dear Santa,
I don’t know if your reindeers work in space. But if you have room in your sleigh after you finish delivering presents to the lucky kids with parents and homes, can you come and get me and my friends? Please?
We’ve been good. Well, we haven’t been really bad. We’re on Station Elphame, in the junkyard, and Zoe is sick. She’s bad sick. I think she’d be better on a planet. We don’t need presents. We just need a way out of here. Ollie tried to sneak onto a trampship…he died.

Please, Santa, I don’t want any more of my friends to die.

Aiden.

Ahab’s goals are simple – to learn and grow in the world around him. As an artificial intelligence he, and others like him, can integrate on a technological level that surpasses all the known species of Galaxy Proper. But their artificial state means they’re not yet recognised as equals. While politics is a great concern to his fellow mLa’ans, Ahab is more concerned about nurturing his ability to identify with humans – another race yet to gain recognition in Galaxy Proper. The humans that live in the starship he navigates have claimed him as one of their own. When he intercepts a desperate message from a human child in need, politics, Galaxy Proper, and his position in mLa’an society are the last things on Ahab’s mind because nothing is more important than family.

What a wonderful tale to read over Christmas. Ms Schwartz’s story really tugs at the heart strings. To read what’s happening to the children, and the lengths they go to just to survive on the space station rallied such a mix of emotions. To a child, to believe that someone as magical and powerful as Santa could save them, and then discover one of Santa’s helpers controls a starship instead of a sleigh with technology at the helm rather than ‘eight tiny reindeer’ was such a clever twist. I was amazed at what those kids went through, but at the end – well, that’s when the tears, and the Christmas miracle, really came together. :)


Baron (Book 3 in the Dragons of Riddick series) by Mel Teshco

The dragons will search the universe for their one true mate...

Piper Meadows hates her strange ability that allows her to sense supernatural beings; it’s made her an oddity and an outcast in her small town. It’s at a party she doesn’t want to attend that her ability is suddenly triggered, making her aware of someone not human. A pity that someone is also the best-looking male she’s ever seen. Not that it matters, a man like Baron wouldn’t look her way twice … would he?

As captain of a mighty dragon army, Baron Alsharma has been exposed to a whole world of violence. Then he sets eyes on the gentle and remarkable Piper, and there is no way in hell he’ll give her up. He doesn’t care that she’s not a rare breeder. If he has to forcibly make off with her to convince her they’re perfect together, he will, even while having to keep one step ahead of the Tantonics, his sworn alien enemy. Except the Paranormal Detection Agency is also on his tail and will do anything to capture a shape shifting dragon, even if it means hurting Piper to get to him.

Piper Meadows is keeping secrets. Some people have noticed she’s different, but they don’t know her true capabilities, and apparently, neither does Piper. But that’s about to change now that a dragon shifter has her in his sights, and he sees more in the gentle loveliness that is Piper than all the stupid men on her home planet.

Baron Alsharma is duty bound to survive and meet with his fellow dragon shifters a year from now. The last thing he planned was becoming side tracked by a human woman, especially one he’s certain isn’t capable of breeding with him and ensuring the survival of his species. That’s his duty too. A pity his heart and mind have other ideas because now that he’s found Piper, he doesn’t want to give her up. His alien enemies and their newfound adversaries on Earth might think they can keep them apart, but Baron and Piper have other ideas. A pity then, that no one told them the Paranormal Detection Agency has a new weapon, one that can change everything.

Ms Teshco’s third book is every bit as entertaining as the previous ones. There are parts of the theme the reader comes to expect, but Baron’s story has a satisfying twist and introduces new possibilities to the series. The previous stories have been about the male dragon shifters, but the next in the series is about Princess Dahlia, and I’m looking forward to how a female dragon shifter attempts to blend into the human world. Something tells me she’s going to be a very strong character. :)


Maid for the Rock Star (Romance Island Resort Series Book 1) by Demelza Carlton

A maid at the exclusive Romance Island Resort, Audra knows how to handle rock stars, billionaires, and celebrities. She keeps their secrets, cleans up their mess and makes sure their holiday is a memorable one. There's just one rule: no relationships with guests. And Audra never breaks the rules.
Jay Felix is rock royalty and he knows it. When one of his bandmates threatens to break up the band, he goes into hiding at the Romance Island Resort. Looking for a distraction, he sets his sights on the unattainable Audra. But what's a rock star to do when the girl he wants is the one woman he can't have?
Welcome to paradise, where the romance is as hot as the weather and the tides aren't all that's surging beneath the surface.

Jay Felix’s massive ego has served him well in the rock star world. He’s at the centre of everyone’s attention, especially his own, always. What he didn’t expect was for a maid to see through his blustery façade and see the real person he fights to hide. Surely, if he makes her another of his many forgettable conquests all will be right in his world. After all, who doesn’t want to bed a rock star?

Audra is a hard-working woman who’s determined to build a better life for herself. A job at a beautiful island resort is a stepping stone to her dream career in meteorology. Education isn’t cheap, and when you come from a poor, struggling family, any job is precious. Which is why she has no intention of succumbing to her teenage crush’s ‘very’ tempting offer. She has goals and dreams of her own and she’s not shifting track for anyone or anything – is she?

There’s many believable aspects to this story. Another life time ago I worked as a maid on an island resort in Far North Queensland. Cleaning is hard work, but working on a beautiful tropical island brings with it an appealing visual aspect. There are strict rules about fraternising with guests, long working hours, a constant changeover of staff, and a clash of personalities like the ones described in Ms Carlton’s book. Now, what happens on island resorts, stays on island resorts, but let’s just say she captured the life perfectly.


From last month’s blog you might remember I planned on reading another of Ms Carlton’s books – ‘Blow’. I put it in a safe place (or so I thought) so it wouldn’t get packed with our other books. I’m sure it will turn up at the new house, (in a box of books no one claims to have packed) and I’ll read it then.

News

Along with my partner in crime, Emily, our BIAW coordinator, I’ll be undertaking a new role within the RWA structure this year as co-host for our Q&A sessions. This means we approach the many wonderful authors, publishers, editors, book cover designers, agents, and other aspects of the writing industry and have them guest on our eLoop to chat about themselves and their experiences. Our aspiring writers then can ask questions and have the experts share their knowledge.

I’m excited about the possibilities considering the quality of the guests we’ve been blessed with previously thanks to our previous Q&A coordinator – Julie-Anne. If you listen carefully, you can hear my inner fangirl is already squee-ing. LOL

Once I’m settled in my new office, along with my personal editing and writing to my goals, I hope to expand the copy-editing venture. This means I get to read some awesome stories and help the writers and authors polish their manuscripts – who wouldn’t love that?


My writing group started back today. It was lovely to see everyone and to share our writing exercises. I’ve rewritten the last two chapters of a novella and that’s currently being beta read. Novel next, and then the first of the two new stories. I also finished a proofread for a debut author who will soon be releasing her book baby into the world. Stay tuned for a review and interview with this lovely lady. :)

Meanwhile, I’m wondering whether I should invest in a Dictaphone so I can work on my stories as I pack, clean, and unpack over the next few weeks. Preferably one that automatically edits the ‘extra’ swear words that may slip out in the process. Oh dear!


Until next time, may beautiful words soothe your soul. :)

Monday, 25 December 2017

68. A Broken Star

Greetings, lovely readers. :)

We had our anthology launch for ‘Ripples’ on the first of December. It was a lovely turn out. So wonderful to meet some of the other contributors and have them sign my copy. It was a bit surreal to be asked to sign copies too, but it was such a fun experience. It was good to feel part of something special too considering it is Rockingham Writing Centre’s first release. :)



The following day I attended the official book launches of Ms Carolyn Wren for her new book – Love Under Fire, which I reviewed in a previous blog, and Ms Demelza Carlton for her latest release -Blow, which is next on my TBR pile. It was a small gathering due to so many other events being on that day, but what an opportunity to sit and listen to two experienced writers sharing their path to publication and answer our questions. We had our very own masterclass and a captive (and captivated) audience. It was brilliant. :)

 

Book Reviews

I’d planned to read the next Odd Thomas book, but it’s still packed in a box somewhere. Meanwhile, I had these wonderful stories to read instead. :)

Shattered Earth by Jenny Schwartz

The scum of the galaxy are using Earth as a nuclear winter death camp. It outrages pirate captain Kohia Jekyll’s sense of justice. No one deserves to die agonizingly of radiation poisoning, especially not on the planet humanity had to evacuate seven generations ago. So Kohia intends to close the prison camp down.
She didn’t count on an infuriating shaman healer hitching a ride aboard her starship.

Nairo Bloodstone isn’t going to Earth to be a hero. He learned the hard way that when you’re a healer, doing your best for people is never enough. One miracle leads them to demand another and another. Heroes die exhausted and alone, and the galaxy continues with billions of people still clamouring for a miracle-worker to save them.

No, Nairo isn't going to Earth to be a hero. He intends to change what it means to be human.

Kohia Jekyll is not a captain you want to cross. A space pirate she may be, but her desire for justice is a deeply ingrained part of her psyche. Her loyal crew are ready to follow her perilous rescue mission and she trusts them all, except perhaps the alien from their newly created alliance, and the human shaman healer who makes her inner tiger purr like a kitten – damn the man. His kind of distraction is the last thing she needs.

Nairo Bloodstone has his own agenda for hitching a ride aboard the pirate starship. It has everything to do with his research. He wants to study the pirate captain, learn how the ‘sha’ energy builds around her and others like her. His only goal, to help them reclaim the ability to shapeshift their Earth ancestors once had. It has nothing to do with the woman herself, does it? But when their mission goes horribly wrong, and disastrous secrets are revealed, protocol and research are the last things on their mind.

I loved the inner strengths of the main characters in this story, which were so opposite the ones they showed to everyone else. The action flowed well and continued to up the ante with every chapter. It amused me the way Kohia and Nairo reacted toward each other – two strong characters who thought they didn’t need anyone, yet wouldn’t settle for anything less than the best they had to give, and when it counted, they gave it all. The perfect read while waiting for the next book in the series. :)


Billie the Kid (Sky Fire Chronicles) by Paul Summerhayes

Readers describe this book as The Magnificent 7 meets the X-men.

A young woman's family is cut down by a dark god's emissary, forcing her to pick up a gun and sword in defence of all she holds dear. At this time, she is an unknown, little more than a child, but one day everyone would know and fear her. They call her Billie the Kid.

The old gods stir. Their celestial war spills into our world, ending the American Civil War in an inferno that extinguishes life in large parts of the country. Under cloudless skies, legendary characters roam the wastelands while mutants and demons do more than infest people's nightmares. They lurk in the darkness, waiting to spring into action at the whim of their vile masters.

The Sky Fire Chronicles is a fantasy series set in America during the late 1800's.

Life is harsh in the American West. The late nineteenth century is staggering under the weight of an apocalypse, a continuing battle between the old gods who are desperate to reclaim Earth as their own. Young Billie Antrim can’t remember what her world once was. All she sees is desert, desperate times, and danger just a heartbeat away. Yet she remembers a dark stranger who gave her a single silver coin, a token she’s kept secret from her family for almost a decade.

When mutants murder her step father and leave her mother for dead, Billie vows to join the posse with her brother to capture them. The Wild West may be no place for a woman, but Billie isn’t about to take a step back and let the men take charge. They, and the mutants they’re hunting, are about to learn there’s more to this ‘kid’ than meets the eye.

Wow – take what you know about the traditional story of Billy the Kid and push it to the furthest corner of your mind. Then consider a mix of mutants, the supernatural, and an alternative time line that’s completely unexpected. Billie’s path from child to young woman is a perilous one filled with demonic creatures, surprising encounters, and help from an interesting source. It’s this ‘source’ that I found the most intriguing twist when compared with the traditional story’s events. And it’s something I will be keeping in mind as the series progresses. :)

Mr Summerhayes shows a forte for young adult adventures. I think this series will appeal to many readers, not only for the gunfights and battle scenes, but also for the strengths the lead characters possess.


Ripples – Rockingham Writing Centre’s inaugural anthology – various authors

What an amazing collection of stories. There was something to interest every reader in here. Stories on romance, science fiction, memoirs and recollections, suspense, and horror fill its pages. The first story blew me away with its depth of emotion, (I could have done with a ‘needs tissues’ warning.) And the last story filled me with intrigue waiting for the final twist, and it was a good one too. The best part is most of my writing group has a story in the book. :) Very proud of us all. :)

Copies available through Bec Thomas - rockinghamwriterscentre@gmail.com

On my reading list, Demelza Carlton’s Blow, Jingle Stars by Jenny Schwartz, and Baron by Mel Teshco.

It appears I’m feeling nostalgic this year, so I’m sharing a short story I wrote a few years back.

A Broken Star

Melanie gave her eyes another furious rub as if the act alone would force the tears to disappear.
It was so unfair! How could Dad punish her when it was her stupid, clumsy, little brother’s fault? How could he not understand how important the ornament was? Had he forgotten how precious it was to Mum? How much it meant to them all?
Thoughts of her mother brought fresh tears to the twelve-year-old’s eyes, the kind of tears that no amount of denial or heavy handedness could chase away.
Oh, how she missed her.
It was so hard to believe the last time she’d seen her was almost a year ago when she’d kissed Melanie and her brother goodnight before going to work. The accident happened so fast that it was over before any of them realised she was gone. She’d been running late, having stayed long after her shift at the hospital was over. Melanie’s mum was a careful driver. She’d seen the results of far too many accidents in the Emergency Room over the years. None of them thought she’d ever be in the room as a patient, however brief a time it was, and all because some drunken idiot talking on his mobile phone had run through a red light. Her mother never had a chance.
Melanie moved off her bed and walked over to the wall that separated their bedrooms. She pressed an ear against the cool surface and heard the odd shudder of breath that accompanied the aftermath of heartbreaking sobbing. She felt dreadful.
Maybe she shouldn’t have yelled at him. After all, he was only five. He hadn’t meant to break it.
He’d been so excited when their dad said he could take the gold ceramic star out of its many layers of tissue, packed and unpacked with so much love and care over the years. He hadn’t wanted to pass it to Melanie to hang atop the tree though. He’d wanted to do it all by himself, and that’s when everything had gone wrong.
If she closed her eyes, Melanie could still see the fragile star as it fell from his chubby fingers just as she reached down to wrench it from his grasp. The echo of it hitting the tiles, and bouncing once, then twice, before breaking into half a dozen glittering pieces still swam in her ears in ever-increasing circles.
‘How dare you?’ she had roared. ‘That was Mum’s favourite decoration.’
Handed down from Great Grandma, to Grandma, then to Mum, one day, it was supposed to be hers. And then she’d leaned down and yelled that he was the biggest, stupidest jerk for letting something so precious drop and ruin everything.
Melanie’s dad had stepped in just as she was about to raise her hand and slap his already teary little face.
Melanie drew away from the wall and moved over to the window, her guilt about her little brother weighing down on her already heavy shoulders. She could see her father moving about in his shed, rearranging things to the point where Melanie wondered if he had acquired a disorder. He’d never done that while Mum was alive. In fact, she was forever at him to tidy the place up. Now it seemed that’s all he did.
Well, he went to work, he made sure that she and her brother went to school, and the like, and then he would disappear into the shed again.
Since the accident, neither he nor her brother seemed to have a lot to say about anything, and Melanie never felt more alone.
She turned away from the window with a loud sigh and wiped another tear from her cheek as she flung herself back onto the bed.
What a way to spend Christmas Eve! Banished to her room, her brother miserable, and her dad, well, who knew what he was really doing out there. This time last year, she and her mother had been busy making Christmas Cookies, and the kind of rumballs that were known to put an unwary driver over the limit should they dare to have more than a couple of the decadent treats. As for Jared, her brother, he was dragging out some pitiful looking carrots from the bottom of the crisper. He waved them in the air with one hand, and yelled at Mum to give him some cookies so he could leave them for Santa. Meanwhile he’d spilled the milk he held all over the kitchen floor.
Melanie allowed herself a tiny smile. She could almost smell those cookies baking.
Then she sat up so fast she almost fell off the bed. She really could smell cookies baking, but that was impossible.
She rushed to the window. Her dad was still in the shed, and she could hear the odd sniffle coming from the next room, so she knew Jared hadn’t moved either. Besides, he couldn’t reach the oven controls to turn it on, let alone make the dough, and she hadn’t been in her room long enough for her dad to have time to make a batch either. Melanie turned and took in a deep breath, filling her nostrils with the delicious scent.
She couldn’t be imagining such a tantalising aroma, could she?
Another delicate sniff drew her closer to her bedroom door. The scent seemed to be wafting up from underneath it. Her dad had banished her to her room for the rest of the afternoon, but Melanie hesitated for just a second longer before she opened her door and stepped out into the hall.
She didn’t notice the sound of the door opening behind her as she walked past her brother’s room, nor was she aware of Jared poking his head out the door, all set to yell at her that he was going to tell Dad she was out of her room. She didn’t realise that he’d stopped, sniffed at the air, and was now following her down the hall. Melanie headed towards the kitchen, because that’s where the smell was coming from, wasn’t it?
However, when she got there, it was as if the trail had gone cold. She couldn’t smell a thing. She turned and spied her brother. His wide-eyed look of shock told her that she hadn’t been imagining things. He did a little hiccup as he drew in a breath, turned in the direction that led to the bedroom her parents had once shared, and then looked back at Melanie with a toothy grin, holding out one chubby little hand to her.
‘This way,’ he said, surprising Melanie as much by talking as she’d been shocked to discover the mysterious aroma.
Melanie glanced down and smiled. She never could stay angry with him for long. She held tight to his hand, gave it a little squeeze, and followed him. They walked into the bedroom, the smell of baking once more leading the way. Jared stopped at their mother’s bedside table. He didn’t open the drawer though. He waited for his big sister to do it. Giving him another smile, Melanie pulled open the drawer as if some priceless treasure was about to be revealed. Her mouth fell open as her mother’s cookery book emerged, the one that held her favourite Christmas recipes.
Mum had always kept it on the shelf with her other recipe books. How did it get in here?
Before she could give any proper thought to the matter, Jared was putting the book in one of her hands, and tugging on the other to lead her out of the room, his little button nose held aloft as he sniffed at the air like a dog on the track of something too delightful to ignore. Melanie drew in another breath, and this time, she could smell the pungent mix of rum and coconut.
In minutes, they were in the lounge room, not that Melanie wanted to go in there. That’s where the Christmas tree was, all trimmed and beautiful, yet missing the beautiful star that should be sitting atop it. It reminded her why she was sad and what had upset her in the first place. Still, she let her brother lead her towards the empty box that had held all the decorations. Only it wasn’t empty anymore.
Her mouth agape, and her eyes wide as she looked inside the box, was the golden star. What’s more, it was intact. It was as if the ceramic treasure had never been broken. Melanie couldn’t even see the joins where her dad must have glued it together.
And he must have done it, mustn’t he?
She had to remind herself that he was still out in the shed. With great care, Jared reached in, picked up the ornament, and turned to give it to his sister. Melanie put down the cookery book, put her arms around her little brother’s waist, and picked him up. Together, they managed to reach the top of the tree and set the star in place.
***
Lured inside by the smell of baking, their father froze in the doorway. His tears of anguish became tears of joy, and his heart was light as he watched his children working together at the kitchen bench. He didn’t mind that there was more flour on the floor and on his son’s face than in the bowl. He didn’t care that quite a lot of rum had disappeared from the once full bottle, or that the neck of said bottle lay hidden under coconut and chocolate sprinkle fingerprints. He leaned against the door and smiled at the joy that adorned his children’s faces, and in that moment, the scent of a familiar perfume invaded his nostrils.
At first, he was startled, and then he remembered a long ago promise he had made with his wife. She had found a way to let him know that wherever she was now, that she was okay, and in his heart, he knew that he and their children would be okay too. She was watching over them, just as the golden star watched over their little family all these years. He would pick up the pieces from the container he’d placed them in, and somehow try to fix it in just a moment. For now, he was content to bask in the happiness of his children and enjoy the scent of Christmas baking, and the hint of Chanel No. 5 that lingered in the air.

The End.

News

My copy-editing jobs are done for the year, and our writing group had a wonderful little Christmas party with too much delicious food. We already have our assignments for the first meeting next year and I look forward to another ‘term’ with Romance Writers Australia (RWA) in my ambassadorial role. The goals are coming together. I still want to attempt that script, I’ve finished editing one story and started another, and I have two new stories to write. And I’m sure I’ll find a competition or three along the way. 

There’ll be more copy editing to do to keep me out of mischief, but in the meantime, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year to all who celebrate it. For those who don’t, I hope you enjoy special times and your own celebrations with your loved ones too. And big hugs for those who find this time of year difficult.


See you next year. :)

Saturday, 25 November 2017

67. Ripples

Hello dear readers. Can you believe it’s been twelve months since my family made the big move west? I can’t. I’m not sure where the time went, but we did manage some exploring of our new state.

We visited an interesting little place known as Gnomesville in the Ferguson Valley. Now, few people know how Gnomesville came to be. Some say it started as a joke. Some say a statue was left behind and people began leaving gnomes and other ornaments there so it wouldn’t feel lonely. It’s not lonely now considering there are an estimated five thousand gnomes there, and tourists are leaving more ornaments behind with each visit. While my youngest loved the place, and so did the many other kids scrambling around, I can’t say Gnomesville was my kind of town. Maybe it’s my paranormal side showing, but there were too many pairs of eyes following my every move...


Fortunately, our trip to the valley led to a more interesting place (for me) and we wound up at the Moody Cow Brewery. I’m giving away a family secret here – my youngest has a changeable temperament, and her nickname is Moo Cow, so we had a big laugh when we saw the name of the brewery. My youngest, however, didn’t understand what was so funny. After a delicious lunch, I came home with a small keg of their homemade chilled cider. It was divine. Come to think of it, it’s about time we returned so I can refill my keg. :) I’ll save Gnomesville for the visitors – the lucky devils.

We also ventured to the Perth Zoo. I think meerkats are gorgeous, and I was stunned to learn lemurs really do sit similar to us. I thought that was just in the animated movie, Madagascar, but here’s the photo to prove it.



We also took in the sights of Perth’s main street mall, shops, and laneways. (You can tell we’re not big city folk, right?) And we ventured south to Margaret River and visited a winery, (I’m sensing a pattern here – lol) and we sampled many, many treats at the Chocolate Factory. :)

In my last blog, you would have read about our adventures to Kings Park and Araluen Gardens. The kids settled into their new schools, and my hubby into his new job. We’ve made some great new friends here as well as catching up with a few old friends too. We survived our first ‘real’ winter, well, real for us, and blossomed into our first wildflower filled spring, although we could have done without the hay fever. Now it’s time to discover if there’s some real heat here because our first summer in WA was decidedly cooler than expected. Maybe we’ve acclimatised now. At least I know we won’t be in for a humid Christmas, for no matter how much I miss my family and friends back home, I certainly don’t miss the humidity.

I’m settling in too though. I’ve met one of my writing idols, Jenny Schwartz, whose latest book I’m reviewing. I’ve also met some fabulous authors whose writing I admire, dare I say envy, and like every author I’ve met, there are so many wonderful people here who are generous with their time, advice, and encouragement. It’s been wonderful to meet them in the real world, and not just chatting online. I’ve attended some fabulous workshops and book launches, which leads me to sharing the cover of Rockingham Writers Group’s inaugural anthology – Ripples. :) I love the cover. :)


If anyone in the area is free to attend, we’d love to see you there. :) They have printed copies for the launch, but if there are plans for an e-book version, I’ll let you know. I’m excited to read the other stories and poems, and I hope everyone enjoys my contribution too. :)

Book Reviews

ASHER – SCI FI ALIEN ROMANCE (DRAGONS OF RIDDICK) by Mel Teshco

The dragons will search the universe for their one true mate...

Riddich king, Asher Mannett, has more to worry about than the agony of shifting into his dragon form. Tantonics, his alien enemies, will do anything to invade and destroy him and his people, and extract their vital energy.
When the last Riddich stronghold is breached, Asher boards a craft and escapes his planet along with a handful of his people. They crash land on Earth, where a rare few human women can breed with his species, giving his people hope of continuing their genetic line.

Thanks to her now dead fiancé, Luke, Marissa Kinkaid’s life has gone from one of decadent luxury to hardship. But then a huge, wounded dragon bursts into her life and opens her eyes to the dreary existence she’s accepted as her own. A life she no longer wants.
Despite her fear of abandonment, leaving her drought-affected farm with Asher seems far less complicated than facing Asher’s Tantonic enemies. She can’t imagine a life without the big, sexy alien in it. But will she lose him too before they’ve even had a chance at love?

Asher is the king of a destroyed planet. While the few remaining survivors are scattered throughout the universe, he, his sister, and a few of his closest friends have sought sanctuary on Earth. He wished he’d listened to his younger brother, Kadin, but now they’re on the same planet, perhaps they can make amends. But first, he must find safety before the Tantonics, the enemy, or the local inhabitants find him. Injured in the crash landing, he escapes the burning spacecraft and staggers into the most beautiful woman he’s ever seen, but could that attraction simply be because he senses in her the ability to renew his decimated race?

Marissa thought love died when her fiancé did and she’d never find happiness again. That changes the moment a giant of a man charges into her life with a look in his eyes that is anything but human. Thoughts of his true nature are brushed aside when she realises he needs help. But that assistance comes at a price because Asher’s enemies are now her enemies, and Marissa’s about to learn her past isn’t all it seems either.

Another delightful story from Ms Teshco that tugs at the heartstrings and keeps her readers turning pages. Oh, and a little bit of her signature naughtiness for added flavour. This is the second in the Dragons of Riddick series and all the twists and turns are just as inviting. Even better, book three is out now. :)


ODD HOURS by Dean Koontz

Intuition has brought Odd Thomas to the quaint town of Magic Beach on the California coast. As he waits to learn why he has been drawn there, he finds work as a cook and assistant to a once-famous film actor who, at eighty, has become an eccentric with as long a list of fears as he has stories about Hollywood’s golden days.

Odd is having dreams of a red tide, vague but worrisome. By day he senses a free-floating fear in the air of the town, as if unleased by the crashing waves. But nothing prepares him for the hard truth of what he will discover as he comes face to face with a form of evil that will test him as never before...

With his supernatural gifts taking the lead, Odd Thomas finds himself far from the town of his birth. He dreams of a cataclysmic event, but nothing makes sense. What’s more puzzling is while he can sense so much death and destruction, the bodachs he associates with these events are nowhere to be seen. And what does it all have to do with the mysterious Annamaria, a young woman who also appears to have a tight grasp on the psychic world? And why, when she asks if he’d die for her, does Odd say yes without the slightest hesitation? In Magic Beach, it’s not clear who’s friend and who’s foe, but if Odd wants to make it out alive, he must learn to tell the difference fast.

This book had a different feel to the previous ones in the series. While I enjoyed it, there wasn’t the same sense of urgency in Odd Hours. I did however, love the short timeframe in which the events took place and the way Odd internalised his experiences. I felt rather than be taken along by the events of the story, he was more proactive. I found a few of the secondary characters intriguing, and I’m keen to discover if they make a reappearance elsewhere in the Odd series. While Odd Thomas remains a fictional character who I wish I could meet, Odd Hours sets its own pace before it reaches its climax. I’m keen to find out what happens next.


COSMIC CATALYST (SHAMANS AND SHIFTERS SPACE OPERA – BOOK 2) by Jenny Schwartz

Everyone has secrets. But some people will risk the galaxy to protect theirs.

When starship shaman Jaya Romanov and her new mate partner, galactic bounty hunter and robot wolf shifter, Vulf Trent, saved the galaxy from the deadly actions of a determined geriatric terrorist, they forgot that old Earth truism: no good deed goes unpunished.

Now, the galaxy is exploding with unexpected aliens, greedy politicians—well, that’s normal enough, it’s what the politicians will attempt that is worrying—and a radically new aspect to sha energy that has the potential to change everything.

And then there’s the mystery of Jaya’s father…who is he? Some big secrets are lurking in Jaya’s past, and to save those she loves, she’ll be forced to risk the galaxy in a shoot ’em up, take-no-prisoners rescue because sometimes there’s no fighting your destiny.

Fortunately, Vulf is always ready for a fight!

Political campaigners use dangerous tactics when members of the Human sector decide they want more power in the Galaxy Proper – a consortium of alien races. The last to join the consortium thanks to another of the alien races taking pity on the humans who’d destroyed their own planet, Jaya and Vulf find themselves political pawns in a game that has dire consequences for all involved. New alliances, old enemies, and those with their own agenda come together in this story of political greed and power. And through it all, Jaya must rely on her shaman gifts and her love for the promise of family that Vulf offers if she’s to succeed where so many others have failed.

I enjoyed this twist in storyline Ms Schwartz used. In fact, I could easily picture the book in my mind as if I was watching a sci fi movie with all its twists, negotiations, double dealing, and humour. There was great attention to detail with the world building for this story, and I can already see how it’s going to work for future stories in the series. All the elements are there. And leading the reader from one book to the next is something Ms Schwartz does so well. And if you click on the link provided, you’ll find the next book in this series has just been released. :)


On my list next month, the next in the Odd Thomas series, Paul Summerhayes’ latest release – Billie the Kid from his Sky Fire Chronicles series, some snippets from the Ripples anthology, and Ms Schwartz’ Shattered Earth. :)

News

It’s been another busy month, and I’m starting to feel repetitive on that point. There’s several family birthdays in November, and three of them are in my immediate family – and that’s counting one of the dogs. Everyone’s a year older and a year wiser, except the dog, although I suspect two years for a pup is much too young to be wise. Anyway, with everything going on, I must admit I’ve cheated. The baking tins are still packed, so the family enjoyed a store-bought cake this year. This meant they were saved from my questionable attempts at decorating said cake too. :)

My latest editing job involves some strong philosophical themes, so I’m reading a few intense theories. I have the anthology launch to look forward to, and a book launch to attend for a lovely author’s newest release. My writing group will be interesting considering we’re sharing the opening paragraphs of our current works in progress. I look forward to some great feedback there. My personal editing is progressing, but it appears the script I planned to work on may spill over to next year’s goals. You never know, Christmas is a time for miracles, so I may just get it done.


Next month means a free story for you, yay! But until then, may beautiful words fill your souls with wonder. :)