Saturday, 25 February 2017

58. Moments and Memories

I like to pretend I’m cool, calm, and articulate (aka interesting), and for the most part, that’s very easy to do online. However, out in the real world that’s another matter entirely. How I envy those extroverts who can walk into a room, strike up a conversation with anyone, and immediately look as though they belong. How they manage to put everyone around them at ease is beyond my understanding. There are times though, when doing one’s best to blend in with one’s surroundings just isn’t going to cut it. In those situations, making the effort to force words out and hoping it sounds like intelligent conversation are worth every little cringe, panic, and fear I’m holding inside.

I apologise in advance for any embarrassment I may cause although there’s a better chance I’m just going to embarrass myself.

Since I began taking writing seriously, I’ve been blessed to have met some wonderful, talented authors both locally in my hometown in Queensland, via workshops in my region, online through RWA, (Romance Writers Australia) and those whom I contacted just because I loved their books and they were kind enough to respond. I’ve also had the good fortune to stay in contact with some of those authors and they’ve all willingly shared their advice and expertise on writing and the publishing industry. There’s been one author who’s been particularly wonderful to me, and I hope someday I can return that gift.

From the moment that we ‘met’ online at RWA’ s 2011 Clayton’s Conference, this author has been nothing short of amazing. She’s gone out of her way to give me tips, advice, critique when I needed it, praise when I earned it, and the benefit of her own experiences, yet all the while she made me feel like I was worthy of her time and interest. I never once imagined we might meet. Since life moves in mysterious ways, or perhaps as good fortune would have it, the big move to Western Australia came with an unexpected benefit – having coffee with the author I affectionately call my unofficial mentor. This is the person who, despite her VERY busy writing schedule, took time out of her day to meet and spend time with me.

I imagine the ‘unofficial mentor’ mention gave away her identity. Ms Jenny Schwartz is as wonderful in real life as she is online (as if there was any doubt.) And if she noticed my hands were shaking or that I could barely string sentences together in the first few minutes, she was kind enough not to mention it. We sat in a cute little cafĂ© that overlooked the most beautiful beach. It was cool, thanks to the playful ocean breeze, and the only other noise was the occasional car driving past, and most likely the hammering of my heart. So, while I may have looked cool, (totally thanks to the breeze) the frozen-with-excitement look on my face could have been mistaken for calm, was I articulate? Not even close. But then we started talking about writing and why we love it so much and I forgot how nervous I was. Instead, I hung onto every word she uttered. The muffin I ordered stayed almost untouched. My coffee went cold, and I probably unnerved the poor woman even though I tried to glance occasionally at my surroundings rather than stare at her the whole time. The best parts – one, that she liked a story idea I have and two (and more importantly) I could tell her in person that I love her stories and how much her encouragement and kindness means to me. Total fangirl moment right there.

So, before I embarrass either of us any further, thank you for being you, Jenny, and thank you for another story for me to read and review. :)

Book Reviews

Fantastical Island (Old School Book 2)

Someone is hunting the fantastical creatures of Catalina Island.

When a magical amulet gives marine biologist Naomi Twain the power to see through glamours it plunges her into a world of danger and intrigue. Fantastical creatures are everywhere, but hidden, on Catalina Island—and someone is hunting them, putting at risk a unique, magical ecosystem.

Corey Madrigal is bathing a behemi, a flying miniature pig, when Naomi crashes into his life. With a natural talent for seeing through glamours, he feels a responsibility to the creatures of his island home, creatures who were the friends of his childhood. Now, he’s a Hollywood special effects artist, and he’s going to be an amazing ally for Naomi in her quest to capture the hunters of the island’s fantastical creatures.

But the hunters have their own agenda.

And then, there's the ghost...

Intense danger, wild storms, and passionate loyalties put to the test. Fantastical Island is a stand-alone adventure in the Old School series.

Naomi carries a certain innocence about her, an inane sense to do right, and to provide protection for those she cares about, but she knows she can’t do it alone. When she realises Corey Madrigal can see fantastical creatures without the amulet on which she so heavily relies, Naomi knows he’s the one for her - the creatures, she meant the creatures. The fact that she trusts him wholeheartedly from their first meeting only adds to her belief that she has found an ally. And when it comes to protecting Catalina Islands most magical of secrets, she’s going to need all the help she can get. For the man who’s grown up accustomed to the protection and care these creatures share, any change to that safety net is an intolerable threat, but it’s nowhere near as threatening as the thought that Corey might lose the most magical gift of all - her.

What a sweet story woven through a serious amount of danger. And fantastical creatures are right because I’m torn between wondering whether they’re made up and thinking there’s some aspects of mythology and legend I just haven’t discovered yet. All I know is there’s a certain hybrid creature in a cave that I NEVER want to see. Taking out the magical / paranormal aspect, I think this could easily have been a contemporary story of activists fighting to keep the natural fauna and flora safe from poachers and that is itself a powerful message. This story had just the right amount of anticipation, dangerous climaxes and the sweetest of developing romances to keep the reader turning pages to reach the happily ever after.

Ms Jenny Schwartz - http://authorjennyschwartz.com/

Angel Fire

A family secret.

A lifetime of deception.

Haunted by nightmares of fire, considered flawed by her adoptive parents, Andie Sherman just wants to be normal. She moves out of home, ready to start her life afresh, only to discover the dream that has plagued her for fifteen years is actually a memory of the night she lost her identical twin, Angel.

Then Angel’s spirit calls to her, begging Andie to save her.

With the help of Nick Foster, her brother’s best friend, Andie searches for answers about what really happened the night her sister died, determined to save Angel from whatever is stopping her from resting in peace.

Her quest leads Andie to the sinister Wood’s Estate and an unscrupulous doctor who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

And what she wants is Andie.

A little tablet could solve all her problems. One swallow and the voices and the nightmares will all go away. The stranger who looks exactly like Andie, who screams and begs for her help, won’t be able to bother her anymore. But taking that tablet means she’s weak and disturbed just like her adoptive parents claim. Not even her brother believes in her. But Andie’s world changes when she takes a chance on Nick, her brother’s best friend. He believes what she’s seeing is real, but when the truth is revealed, more than lies wait discovery.

This story, to me, had a timeless vibe. It could have happened in the 80’s just as much as a contemporary setting. It made me feel the way I did as a teen reading my first Stephen King and Dean R Koontz books – a little on edge, wondering whether I should read on, and then being compelled to read regardless. Ms Nolan knows how to make the reader despise a character just as she makes them want to cheer on the heroes. She also leaves you wanting more, which is why I was happy to learn a sequel, or possibly more is in the works. I hope she’s ready for more nagging, I mean, gentle encouragement. :)

Twitter: @ShelleyRNolan
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Realm Shift: The Balance (Book 1) Alan Baxter

Isiah is having a tough time. The Devil is making his job very difficult.

Samuel Harrigan is a murdering lowlife. He used ancient blood magic to escape a deal with the Devil and now he’s on the trail of a crystal skull that he believes will complete his efforts to evade Lucifer. But Lucifer wants Samuel’s soul for eternity and refuses to wait a second longer for it. Isiah needs Samuel to keep looking for the crystal skull, so he must protect Sam and keep the Devil at bay. Not for Samuel’s sake, but for all of humanity.

RealmShift is an engrossing Dark Fantasy thriller; a fascinating exploration of the nature of people’s beliefs and their effect on the world around them. Magic, action, and intrigue, from dank city streets to the depths of Hell and beyond.

Questioning the orders of a higher power is not part of Isiah’s agenda, but even he finds it difficult to believe a soul as disgusting and vile as Samuel Harrigan’s is worth saving. Would it be so bad to let Satan have him? Samuel believes himself clever enough to cheat the Devil. All he needs is the crystal skull recently discovered in a remote part of the Central American jungle and he’ll be immortal and beyond Satan’s reach. Isiah’s been to Hell and back more than once, but as secrets are revealed, Isiah becomes aware that nothing is as it seems and that even for the most devilish of human souls, they still have their part to play.

I enjoyed this story. One’s beliefs can be a powerful thing and that is evident in this story from how Isiah came to exist to the people he encounters. A soldier in the balance between Good and Evil, the lines are blurred when it comes to doing what he needs to comply with the task he’s assigned. Sometimes as a reader, it’s easy to see the difference, but then the writer twists the story to another viewpoint and you question who is right, who is wrong, and if everything is as clear as it seems. I also liked the way magic weaved its way through the story and the hints and nods toward other supernatural beings and beliefs. Although this novel is a stand-alone, there is more to Isiah’s story in Mr Baxter’s second novel, ‘MageSign.’


Ah, the memories. Almost forgot. ;) The novella I’m currently writing reminded me of a scene I’d written several years ago, so I went searching through my archives to see if I could find it. Now, I didn’t find the scene, but I did find myself reading a few chapters of an old story. I want to tell you it was good reading, but while there were (tiny) sparks of self-proclaimed brilliance in there, oh there were some shameful, shameful things too. There’s a reason we shouldn’t look back at our early writing and it’s a good one. Do I have a degree in Literature? No. Did I think I understood basic grammar and vocab? I thought so. Oh, the mistakes I found. Sentences that ran into lengthy paragraphs. Commas that appeared mid-sentence for no good reason. Adjectives and adverbs that annihilated any cool sentence I may have created. I am hanging my head, dear readers.

But it’s not all bad. Not finding the piece I was looking for means I won’t be repeating those particular mistakes. And reading the chapters came with many wonderful moments of times gone by. My emotions are forever captured in those words. The friends I made while writing them are still in my heart, and the healing I received through the power of putting those words onscreen hasn’t dimmed. It’s learning from those mistakes that have pushed me forward. And while I know I have a long journey ahead of me, and undoubtedly more mistakes to make, I don’t think I’d have it any other way. :)

News

The goals – Next month should bring results of the short story competition. The novella is down to its last few chapters after the third rewrite. I’m pleased with some scenes, but there’s still work to be done. Fortunately, there are victims, I mean, volunteers, waiting to attack it with their trusty red pens. Hubby has not worked his design magic yet for the other blog, but I’m working on the parts I can do, and I’m still on a high from meeting Jenny, which is an amazing, yet unexpected goal too. :)

Until next time, all the best for making your dreams come true. :)