Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Book Review (& Tour): Antique Magic by Eileen Harris

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Linzé: I reviewed the first book in the series. Keep an eye out for reviews on the next ones.

It is a fact that I have mentioned on several occasions: I am a huge fan of the amateur sleuth mystery genre, and I have found another author to add to my to-read list.
I volunteered to review the Alicia Trent series written by Eileen Harris, and what a find that turned out to be. The first book, Antique Magic, introduces the series and the main character, Alicia, aka Ali to the reader. I fell in love with Ali, and her partner Barry, almost from the get go. Together they own an antique's store and while I am no collector, the passion the characters show for their vocation could almost convince anyone to start up the hobby.
Antiques come with histories, good or bad, and invariably some mystery will be attached to those histories making for a good background to the series. I like Ali's persistence and enthusiasm to get to the bottom of the mystery she is investigating. Barry is a good supporting character to provide the sidekick role in the series.
The reader are drawn into the details as Ali digs deeper into the mystery and murder that results as the story unfolds. There is a little romance happening, which adds to the realness of the main character, while other characters are depicted in a likeable and realistic way, each with their own uniqueness.
The magic component to the story was unusual, but not overwhelmingly in your face. Ali gets a clue or two from the magical items, but the mystery does not depend on this alone. A definite point in the author's favour.
Like all good mysteries the truth is well concealed, but could be detected by the reader who pays very close attention to the story, and not only to the clues. Even if you are not a sleuth, the story is very enjoyable and the aha! moment not so much of a surprise that it cannot be believed.

Antique Magic earns a well deserved four stars for the first book in a series.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Me, myself and I - my addiction to writing revealed

Linzé Brandon, author fantasy, adult fiction
Linzé Brandon
I am participating in the Writing Contest: How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life. Hosted by Positive Writer

Writing often feels the same as getting those unwanted hair waxed, it hurts. Especially that first time. The pain is excruciating, and makes you wonder what the hell made you do it in the first place. Then you go back for the second time. It still hurts, but by now you expect the pain and yet you go back for the third, fourth and fifth time. By then the pain is not so bad anymore and you are fast becoming friends with your beauty therapist.
This is exactly what happened to me. I am talking about writing, the waxing part came later.
Fifteen years ago I wrote my first story. It was not great, but I finished it. Then I wrote another one and another. And by the end of the second year I had my first novel on my desk. I had no idea what to do next, except to keep writing. I tried my hand at the traditional publishing option, but the inevitable rejection followed.
If this sounded like the best time to give up, I probably would have, but by then I was hooked on the pain. Every excruciating word. I had to write. I. Had. To. Write. And I have not stopped since that fateful day in 2001.
Did I want to be writer growing up? The thought never even crossed my mind that I could become a writer. No one in my family has any job outside the usual doctor, lawyer and teacher options. Yeah, then I decided to study engineering. Not a writer, but definitely a first for the family. I started a trend. Every single cousin younger than I, barring two, went on to study engineering. Including my own brother. Some of them, like I, also married engineers. Must be that thing engineers are so good at that clinched it for me. (No, it's not the numbers) That alone should have told me that something was brewing. I loved being an engineer, then I became a specialist and added a second speciality. I went on to study for a masters degree in engineering management, not because I wanted to be a manager, but I wanted to start my own business. It finally hit me: I wanted to be my own boss.
Sometimes even us brainy types can be a bit slow when it comes to life decisions. I wanted to be my own boss. Fancy that. And I was my own boss for ten years. It was then that I started writing.
When self publishing became more widely accepted, I jumped on the bandwagon and got my first novel published, twelve years after I wrote it. What a high! It is that same feeling you get when smoothing your hand over that waxed skin, so soft and smooth. Skin unlike anything you have touched before. Worth the pain? Every time!
Twelve published fictional titles to my name - one more novel this year and two non-fiction books also in the making. My pain has become my addiction, my stress relief from the daily grind, my happy hour every day. And I write every day. Fiction, freelance articles, blog posts like this one, a book review or a technical article. Weekdays and weekends. At a cool word count of over one and a half million fictional words already behind me, I still get a delicious thrill when I get to that point in a story where I can type, the end.
Seeing my name in print...indescribable joy.

Do I want to be a writer when I grow up? Yes, please!

Can you live without your passion?

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Linzé Interviews: Massimo Marino of the Book Garage

I welcome my Facebook friend, Massimo Marino to my blog today to chat about his new business.

Linzé: Why did you start the business?
Massimo: We started BookGarage because we are convinced that self-publishing is here to stay, but we also think that successful self-publishing is not a do-it-alone thing. Rather, it requires the collaboration of professional experts, just like any other business venture. We do think that any committed author—no matter of how good he or she is—needs assistance with things like editing, proofreading, cover design, marketing, and the like. With BookGarage we want to create a community of like-minded people and be the one-stop shop for everything related to professional self-publishing.

Linzé: With all the publishing companies already in existence, what makes BookGarage unique?
Massimo: First, and just to be clear, BookGarage is not a publishing house, meaning we don’t publish books. Nevertheless, one of the services we offer is assistance with publishing. So, if a self-publisher needs help with the publishing of his or her book on, say, Amazon Kindle or Apple iBooks, we will do that, and we can take care of the technical details to make the book available on major retailers.
Regarding competition, other companies offering publishing services focus on authors and freelancers. Our business model is built on interaction between not only authors and freelancers, but also readers. This is important because bringing readers into the equation is about discoverability. And that is one of the main challenges for any author, with thousands and thousands of new books being published every day. Additionally, readers are frustrated for the same reason: it is difficult to discover authors who approach self-publishing in a professional way, we think readers will be pleased to discover authors who work a lot—and, thinking of Hemingway, bleed on the keyboard—and books that are polished.
In this sense, too, we think of BookGarage as a community of like-minded people, having a common goal, producing and enjoying well written books.
There are other features, too, which make BookGarage unique. For instance, the way we approach crowdfunding. We will discuss this more in detail on closer to the launch of that particular service.

Linzé: What services do you offer for the author?
Massimo: The services we offer to authors are:
File creation and conversion
Book cover design
Blurb and synopsis writing
Design and management of author websites
Video trailer production
Aggregated distribution

We have just posted our first article on professional self-publishing, and why a committed self-published author needs a team to turn a manuscript into a book.

Linzé: How can an interested author get hold of you?
Massimo: An interested author can get hold of us via our website, can register to our newsletter, and contact us directly via email. We are also reachable on our social media pages, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.

Linzé: Thank you Massimo. My fellow authors it looks like the Book Garage might indeed be the one stop service you have been waiting for. Take a look at their website and share the news on your social media timelines.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Research Comes in Two Flavours: Reblogged from an email by Richard Benyon

full dark house, christopher fowler
The kind of research that writers do preparatory to writing their novels comes in two flavours. 
On the bottom shelf, in the pale pink bottle, there’s the sort of research you do in order to get the elements of your story right. 
You’re writing a police procedural? Well, then, for goodness sake find out what the relevant police procedure is. 
Writing a medical thriller involving illegal organ harvesting? Then attend a kidney transplant to get the pictures of the surgery firmly fixed in your mind. (And if every surgeon in the country turns down your requests to attend such an operation, then look online until you find what you’re after. It’s all there, believe me!) 
But there’s a different kind of research. It comes in the emerald blue bottle on one of the upper shelves. It’s not the solution to a problem – but the inspiration for story. 
At the Oxford Literary Festival, the thriller writer Christopher Fowler talked about a novel he was writing set in London during the blitz. He’d read all the usual books on conditions in the city at the time, he’d watched documentaries, he’d done his homework. 
But then he remembered that his mother had herself lived through the Blitz. 
“She’d worked,” he said, “as a legal secretary in The Strand.” He wondered what she remembered about the period. 
“Oh,” she said, “I remember the telephone directories.” The telephone directories? What telephone directories? “Well,” she said, “when shop windows were blown out, they filled them with sandbags – but when they ran out of sandbags, they used old telephone directories to fill the windows. Used directories.” 
Now that, Fowler said, is not something that you’d ever find in histories of the time, or online. It’s a detail that could only have been reported by someone who’d been on the spot. And it was a detail that, he said, he used to great good effect in his novel. 
So when you need the sort of textural detail that simply brings a story alive, don’t rely only on the “official” history – seek out someone who was there (if that’s possible), and ask them what they remember, what struck them with particular force about the event they witnessed. 
This goes for more than specific incidents. You’re writing a story that involves a horrific motor-car accident? Well, then, go talk to a tow-truck driver, or a paramedic, who’s attended more horrific motor-car accidents than you’ve had hot dinners. 
Ask him to tell you about what he looks for when he arrives at the scene of an accident. Ask him for details of the sorts of things that he’s seen thrown clear of the colliding motor-cars. Ask him what he most fears as he’s racing to the scene, and what he most hopes for. 
And then allow these impressions to guide you as you develop story around the fictional accident in your novel.

Note from Linzé: The post was reblogged with permission. Keep a look out for another post from Richard coming in June.

The CreativeLife in review - planning, time management, and the creative life

  Hey there, creative friend! It's been a week or more since my last post but mostly because I have been taking time to do other things....