Sunday, 26 June 2016

51. Firsts

Where do I start? There’s been so much going on this month and quite a few ‘firsts’ to go with it.

This month’s column might be relatable for some. I’m sticking with the thought that I’m not the only person on the planet whose brain engages much later in the morning. It’s an unusual topic choice for me too, but seeing that woman roar down the street made the reality of something terrible happening that much closer. Maybe the morning brain hadn’t engaged, but my ‘parent’ brain certainly did. My apologies in advance for any preachiness.

Column
I don’t ‘do’ mornings. I might be up before sunrise, but my brain engages much later. Considering the antics at school drop off time, I don’t think I’m alone.

Mornings are stressful – tired and cranky family members, items forgotten or remembered at the very last minute, missing uniforms and lost hairbrushes – you name it, those things add up. So I understand how patience sails out the window on the school run, such as the woman who didn’t want to wait for another parent to reverse park the other day. She showed her displeasure at being delayed a whole minute by screeching around the other car and giving the driver a one digit salute before speeding down the street. Fortunately, no children had decided to cross the road in the meantime.

And after the stresses of a long day, the afternoons aren’t much better.

It’s difficult to avoid these stressful times, but perhaps exchanging a smile or an acknowledging look could make the difference to someone’s day. Considering most of us feel this way sometimes, if we allowed each other a little breathing room and understanding, those stressful mornings might become easier, and more importantly, help keep our kids safe.

Anthology Launch 
As mentioned in my previous blog, my writers’ group launched its anthology on June 18th. I’m pleased to say we had a decent turnout (they weren’t all family and friends –lol) and a few copies made their way out the door. I even signed a couple (on request). :) One of our long-term members welcomed our guests with a little history about the group that’s been around since my school days (yep, that long). It was wonderful to hear a few names and recognise the authors who went on to publish books. Then our President spoke a few words regarding the future of the group before welcoming our patron to speak a few words.

Our patron, I’m excited to add, is not only a former mayor of our town, but she also happens to be one of my favourite primary school teachers. I will never have a bad word to say about a teacher who encourages kids to read, and Mrs Sellers most certainly did that for me. She was excited to be our patron too because she thought it was the perfect marriage – the group loves to write and she loves to read. I’ve half a mind to ask her to edit my manuscripts, but I’m concerned at how many red pens she might use in the process.

Of course, mixing with our guests and attempting to act calm when asked which stories where mine, from where I got my inspiration and what was I currently writing was a little less calming. Introverted I might be, but it’s hard to contain myself when it comes to talking about reading and writing. Some of our guests’ ears may still be burning. With any luck, they’ll have forgotten about that by the time the next anthology arrives. And who knows, I might be a little braver and relaxed. (One can only hope.)

The billboard was fashioned for our book cover. :) What do you think? :)


And a couple of pics of the launch where I managed to hide behind someone every time. :)







Interview
Another first, for me personally this time, was recording my first ever interview.

Oh My God!

All I can say is thank goodness the interviewer and the cameraman were wonderful people who did their best to keep me at ease because frankly, I was terrified. How do the celebrities and professionals do it? How do they appear so calm, relaxed and natural and manage to speak so eloquently at the same time? And trust me; I am neither a celebrity nor a professional anything.

Before the interview began, the interviewer discussed what questions she’d ask and to word my answers so I utilised her questions. She told me to make sure I looked at her and not at the camera and everything would be fine. Then, as I was hooked up with a microphone clip and seated under the brightest light possible, (interrogation anyone?), she smiled and told me to relax.

Yeah, right!

I’m sure I looked very relaxed while I squinted against the glare above me wondering if only most of my laughter lines were showing or all of them. I blush easily, so you know what sitting under the heat of said light was doing, don’t you? So, wrinkles blazing, red face glowing and a hasty apology yet again for not being the most articulate speaker, and we were off and rolling.

I have no idea exactly what I said. I lost my train of thought a few times. And because I like to look at people when I’m speaking so they feel included in the conversation, I looked at the cameraman too – you know, the one thing I was told not to do. I did however speak about how wonderful it was to have authors visit my hometown and talk about their books, how much I enjoyed their workshops, and how generous they were to give aspiring authors like myself opportunities that our big city cousins take for granted. My goal – to have more of these wonderful people visit my town and share their passion for writing, which is the reason why I was asked to do the interview in the first place. :)

When the interview finished and I returned the mike, blissfully escaping the high-powered wrinkle, I mean, laugh line inducing beam, the interviewer and cameraman kindly told me I’d done well and they were pleased with my enthusiastic, animated responses, and sent me on my way. Bless them. If they laughed as they deleted my interview, I’ll never know. Then again, the red beacon that was my face might be all the rage at the Queensland Writers Centre and authors will flock to our regional areas. – go me! LOL

Reviews
More firsts, since it’s the first time I’ve read them, here’s my reviews on a few more of Ms Jenny Schwartz’s creations – DOCTOR WOLF and PLAGUE CULT, which are the fourth and fifth books respectively in Ms Schwartz’s Collegium series. She also managed to squeeze in a short story called FIRE ROSE.

Doctor Wolf –
The spiel - A werewolf in London romance.

Liz Jekyll might be the most wanted werewolf in London—wanted for dating, that is—but she doesn’t take it as a compliment. In fact, it’s a wretched nuisance because Liz has a vital secret to hide. What she needs is a disinterested werewolf who could pretend to be her boyfriend.

Carson Erving would be very interested in Liz if it weren’t for Gentiana Aeternae. The botanist werewolf from Alabama has found the legendary Elixir Gentian, and ruthless people will do anything, kill anyone, to get their hands on a plant that can grant an extra hundred years of life.

As danger explodes around them, two very independent werewolves will have to do the unthinkable and rely on one another. But when Liz’s secret is revealed, who will die?

This story centres on Liz Jekyll, a wolf-were who happens to be Steve’s little sister (Collegium books one and two), and Carson Erving, also a wolf-were, who insists he’s too involved with his own projects to have a love life, but what’s the harm in a little flirting, right? That’s fine by Liz. She doesn’t need another were sniffing around courting her and leaving her uncertain as to whether it’s her or her considerable family connections they desire. Fortunately, Carson’s happy to pretend to be her boyfriend for a little while to put the others off. The only were who doesn’t get her message is Brandon Moffatt, a wolf-were who wants to be the Beo Pack’s (Liz’s family) next Alpha. Divorced with two daughters, there are those who believe he’d be the perfect mate for Liz, but Liz has secrets of her own. Their revelation has devastating affects not only for Liz, but also for Steve, Brandon and the entire were-community.

This was another wonderful story, which kept me guessing the characters’ secrets, only one of which I guessed correctly. The revelation of that character’s true intentions upset me and stayed with me long after the story ended, but that’s what made it such a great read. There are edge-of-the-seat moments in this book with quite a few plot twists, which I enjoyed. I also enjoyed the way characters from other stories in the series such as Steve and Fay Olwen (books one and two) made reappearance and added substance to the current story.

Again, this is a stand-alone, but it’s great to read the progression of the series, know who’s who, and understand their significance in the other stories. And did I mention the sensuality? Definitely worth the read. :)

Plague Cult
This is an advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review. Plague Cult goes on sale on June 27th. I am a very spoiled reader. :)

The spiel - In a small Texas town a desire for love becomes a curse that could unleash a deadly plague.

Ruth Warner is estranged from her family. She loves them, but her magic makes her an outsider in Bideer, Texas. Ruth has built a new life in New York. She’s a healer at the Collegium, respected and…lonely. Sometimes, you have to go home.

Ruth’s boss orders her to Bideer after a local coroner reports a suspicious death. Could the new cult in town, a lonely-hearts club, be playing reckless games with a death curse?

But if Ruth is going home, she’s not going alone.

Shawn Jackson is a Collegium guardian, a mage trained to fight evil. He’s also a man accustomed to keeping secrets. He’s a hollerider, a huntsman; one of those who birthed the legend of the Wild Hunt. When he unleashes his magic, terror rides with him.

As evil stalks an innocent town, the dedicated healer and battle-hardened marine must heal their own broken hearts to prevent a devastating plague.

***
Warning: “Plague Cult” includes a haunted house, an unconventional ghost, and a home renovation love story.

If you love your paranormal romance fast-paced, intense and chilling, “Plague Cult” is irresistible.

Ruth and Shawn are independent, brilliant at what they do, she a healer and he a guardian and have one very important thing in common – acute loneliness. They’re meant to help the mundane (human) town on Bideer, Texas, (Ruth’s birthplace) by dispelling evil before a magical plague is released on the population. Dealing with the cult-like behaviour of some of the town’s inhabitants is one thing, but facing the distrust and isolation by Ruth’s family is another matter entirely. And if they’re to learn anything about the Lonely Hearts Club and save her hometown, Ruth has to deal with her family first, the plague second, and her own lonely heart a very distant third.

This story contained characters of equal strength and ability who were ready to sacrifice everything to keep the other safe – my favourite kind. :) I love how this story helped heal Ruth and Shawn’s hurts – it’s amazing what a bit of communication can do – and gave them the strength they needed to fight the evil magic surrounding them. Oh and Carla – the ghost – I have a feeling her involvement is going to be instrumental in another book. I’ll have to wait and see if I’m right.

Fire Rose
The Spiel - Double the romance as two couples tangled in a sorcerer’s magic race to save innocent souls from eternal slavery.

In the mountains of Iran, a Persian dragon seduces a recently freed djinni, only to lose his heart; while an American ex-soldier is recruited by the woman he doesn’t dare love to rescue people forced into slavery.

*** "Fire Rose" is a paranormal romance novella.

When ex-soldier Ty finds a djinni and wishes her free, Laila doesn’t know what to do with her newfound freedom, but spending time in the arms of a handsome dragon who’s awakened by the powerful magic released seems like a great way to start. Darek’s convinced the one who released her is the same magician who stole from him, but Laila convinced the dragon that the human is no threat. Convinced he imagined the magical encounters, Ty continues his travels only to have Yasmeen, the woman he desires, find him and seek his help to free a group of women from slave traders, the leader of which seems too powerful to be human. When Ty finds Laila’s card in his pocket, he decides to ask her for help, unaware the slave trader leader is the same magician who stole from Darek.

This is a fast-paced short story. In fact, it’s a story within a story and I like the way the two interwove. Quick reads are popular these days, but this one lingers in your memory. Again, I like the twists and the way the characters interacted with each other. A fun read. :)

You can find these books and more right here: - http://authorjennyschwartz.com/

News
Now that the momentum has slowed somewhat and the launch is behind me, I’m back working on my novella. I had a few days where the muse was with me so the words just flowed. They make those days when writing is a hard slog so much easier. I’m very happy with the scenes and the way they moved the story forward. I can’t wait to share it. Of course, there’s just the small matter of finishing it, editing, rewriting, editing, loving it, hating it, loving it, editing it again and panicking, so I best get cracking.

Until next month, may happiness (and books) always find you. :)