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The Duck Springs Affair by John Isaac Jones Devoted mother Cassie Carter is hard working and dedicated to running her small farm in Georgia. She tends to her home and sickly son daily while her truck driver husband is away … Continue reading
This buttered no parsnips. One or two people said they simply didn’t have time for ‘that kind of thing’. These are people who would have dropped everything to do a newspaper interview or appear on radio. People who complained that their readership was falling and their publishing contracts were not being renewed. Even people whose readership was in the 12-16 age group, who (as yet) didn’t have a website despite the fact that kids of that age are enormously active online. One woman texted her daughter every five minutes whilst saying she had no time to write an 140 character tweet (lady, it’s the same thing). It was simply odd. Other writers and book trade professionals who were taking part in the social media revolution were, like me, bemused. Then some weeks later, I was verbally attacked at a public event by a writer who was mortally offended that I’d suggested she give it a shot (at worst you might not like it, at best it could revolutionise the way you work, I’d said. She hadn’t taken it well.)
Most of all this is an era where our digital rights are being defined and because so many writers consider it beneath them, many important issues are not being considered and decided by writers themselves but by the digital operations departments of major publishing houses, online booksellers and other corporate entities. I am not thinking only of digital copyright – Net Neutrality is probably the most vital issue for freedom of speech online and should be at the top of any writer’s agenda. Most don’t even know what that means (it’s that the fastest broadband speeds might be chargeable at a rate well beyond small scale bloggers or individuals). If net neutrality is abandoned, individual voices will download so slowly that they would be unheard. This has huge implications for writers, yet in the writing community net neutrality is largely unspoken. The net has provided a level playing field for criticism and comment – anyone and everyone is entitled to their opinion – and that is one of its greatest strengths. We’re all (quite rightly) demonstrating about library closures but I worry that at this critical time in our history that many people are thrusting their heads into the sand rather than opening their eyes to what is happening – both in terms of opportunity and possibility and the actual structure that will contain us as an online community if we allow it to do so.
Before Stephanie Dray wrote novels, she was a lawyer, a game designer, and a teacher. Now she uses the transformative power of magic realism to illuminate the stories of women in history and inspire the young women of today. She remains fascinated by all things Roman or Egyptian and has–to the consternation of her devoted husband–collected a house full of cats and ancient artifacts.
What age group is your Lily of the Nile geared towards?Lily of the Nile is one of those unusual books that straddles a few genres and age groups. Though I wrote it as an adult women’s fiction book, but was surprised by the level of interest from high school girls. I believe this is because it’s the story of a young princess who has to grow up very quickly to become a teenaged queen.
Into which genre would you say it book falls?It is historical women’s fiction accented with bouts of magical realism.
Tell us more?Lily of the Nile is the story of Cleopatra’s daughter. Selene came to Rome as a chained prisoner and left Rome a queen. That kind of journey, especially in such turbulent political times, is something that I felt deeply about.
What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?Wow, it’d be difficult for me to choose just one favorite scene. However, I’d love to give you a snippet!
The emperor seized me roughly by both shoulders. “And where shall I have my retort, Cleopatra? Shall I point out that you descend from an inbred line of fat kin murderers, most of whom squandered Alexander’s legacy until Egypt was an indebted skeleton for you to inherit at Caesar’s sufferance!”http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=0425238555&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrHe shook me until my teeth rattled. Still, I knew it wasn’t me he was screaming at. No, he was speaking to my mother. Perhaps he didn’t want to think that he had defied a goddess, or perhaps some part of him needed to grapple with my mother still.
We stared at one another, both of us aware of every sound in the room, of every breath. I’d brought this on myself to strike at him, and I felt both satisfied and unnerved by the effects. Though he had held my life in his hands since before I had even met him, he had never laid hands on me like this. He was a cool-tempered man who rarely spoke an unintended word, but now his fingers dug into my shoulders like talons. “You’re hurting me,” I whispered.
He looked right through me, trembling with rage. And his eyes—oh, his eyes. “Who are you?”“Selene,” I murmured.“No. You think like her. You talk like her,” he accused. Then his hand went to the nape of my neck, where he bunched my hair in his fist. My arms went limp at my sides, and droplets of blood splashed the woven carpet beneath us.
Have your characters or writing been inspired by friends/ family or by real-life experiences? I certainly never experienced the difficulties in my life that Selene faced. I’ve never been taken prisoner, I’ve never been orphaned and I grew up safe and loved. But I think every writer delves into their personal experiences and tragedies to write authentic emotions!
Can you sum the Lily of the Nile in one sentence?Heir to one empire and prisoner of another, it falls to Princess Selene to save her brothers and reclaim what is rightfully hers.
Who is your favourite character in your book and why?Selene is my favorite character because her life story moves me, but I admit that I have a soft spot for Augustus, who was Rome’s first emperor. He’s definitely the villain of my story but in trying to get into his head and come up with a consistent psychological profile that would explain his actions, I came to delight in his horrid behavior.
Which comes first for you – characters or plot?When I’m writing historical fiction, much of the plot already exists in the historical record, so it’s up to me to weave an additional sub-story through that timeline. It’s my job to fill in the blanks. But in creating my characters and getting to know them helps me to figure out how they might behave. For example, once I conceived of Augustus as a man who was obsessed with Cleopatra–a woman who killed herself before she could appreciate his genius–the story flowed naturally from there.
Who is your publisher and where are your books available? Are there e-books and hard copies available?Lily of the Nile will be published by Berkley Books, available wherever books are sold, and I’m told it will be available in both print and electronic form.
Are there any upcoming signings or appearances you’d like to mention?I just turned in the manuscript for the sequel and I’m taking a little break but I expect to have some events and signings in the coming months. I’ve been thinking about a toga party to celebrate the book launch!
Do you have an agent, or have you gone alone?My agent is the fabulous Jennifer Schober of Spencerhill Associates. Jenn was one of the very first agents I contacted about representing Lily of the Nile and I was shocked when she got back to me so quickly. All in all, I would say that my agent hunt took about a week. I realize that this isn’t normal, but Jenn is also a “Cleophile” and no one could have worked harder to make this book a reality for me.
What marketing have you been doing to help sales?Because Lily of the Nile is the first of a series, I’ve tried to give it the strongest push that I can. First, I’ve planned a long three-month blog tour. I’ve put up a giveaway on Goodreads and I’ve tried to be an active presence on twitter. I’ve also invested in bookmarks and scheduled appearances. For example, I spoke in front of four high school classes yesterday. I loved that!
What is the most productive time of the day for you to write?Honestly, it’s late at night after everyone has gone to bed or early in the morning before everyone has awakened. Twitter, email and phone calls distract me quite a bit with the business of the day.
Do you start your projects writing with paper and pen or is it all on the computer?I do all my work on the computer or a laptop. When I was suffering from tailbone pain last year I tried writing in long hand, but it was a misery. That’s just not how I compose.
What do you draw inspiration from?I draw inspiration from the lives of women in history who have faced worse obstacles than we face now. I draw inspiration from trailblazers who have made our lives easier, happier, and more fulfilling. I also draw inspiration from the unconditional love my husband gives me and the strength of my family.
Do you set yourself goals when you sit down to write such as word count?Absolutely. Because I work on deadline, I try very hard to do a fast draft and then edit it later. To that end, I try to write about 2,000 words a day during writing sprint months. If I’m taking it easier on myself, I will drop it to 1,000 words a day. However, that pace isn’t sustainable for me every day. After about nine months of doing that, I’m taking a vacation in which the only thing I write is blog posts!
What drives you to choose the career of being a writer?I love to entertain people and enthrall them with stories. This is something I’ve always loved to do, even when it seemed utterly impractical.
What are you working on now that you can talk about?I’m starting to think about my proposal for the third book in the series, which will tell the last part of Selene’s life, follow the fate of her daughter, and of course, explore the end of the Augustan Age.
What is your writing process like? Do you do a lot of background research? Do you plot every detail or do you prefer the characters to move the story in new directions, or a combination of both?I try to do all my research upfront. I immerse myself in history books and compile a list of research questions and things to include in the novel. When I’m finished with that I start plotting out the major scenes in the book. It’s the minor scenes and the subplots where I allow my imagination to run wild.
How long does it take you to write a book? Have your written other books?I’ve written romances that take me about a month, but with historical fiction, it’s a long slog. Lily of the Nile took me five years to complete, though I did take some time off in between. The sequel, Song of the Nile, took me less than a year to complete but only because I was really pushing myself.
How did you get into writing? Did you always want to become a writer?I always wanted to be a writer but my mother very sensibly suggested that this was a foolish career option and encouraged me to be a lawyer instead, but it didn’t take.
Are you working on another book? Possible to have a preview snippet or blurb of that?I’ll be happy to show you a snippet from the prologue of Song of the Nile which is narrated from the perspective of the goddess Isis:
I am nature. I am the mother of everything that has ever been or will ever be. I am all goddesses. And you know me, for I live inside of you. I am in the part of you that feels magic when the wheat is harvested and cleansing wind separates the golden grains from the chaff. I am in the part of you that sees a woman dance by the firelight and understands the sacred power of her body. I am in the part of you that has suffered dark winters of the soul and survived to see the dawn.
You know me, because I am every strong hand that has ever stretched out to help you up. I am every soft kiss that has soothed your tears. I am every warm meal that has ever filled your hungry belly. I have a thousand names, and yet, you know me.
I am the good goddess. Bona Dea. Call me Hecate or Cybele, Venus or Inanna, Tanit or Kore or Demeter. I will answer to them all. But I am properly known as Isis, for it is by this name that the world has best worshipped me.
They tell stories of how my husband was murdered, and how I raised up my son to avenge his father. This story is true, but it is a son’s story. A daughter’s journey is different. She is the keeper of my legacy. That is why there are other stories they tell about me. Stories of how my daughter was taken, pulled down into the underworld, and how I refused to work my magic until my beloved daughter returned.
This is one of those stories.
What advice would you give aspiring authors?Learn the market, learn the market, learn the market. If you’re writing for yourself, then you don’t need any advice, but if you’re writing to be read, then you really want to make sure you know who your target audience is and how to reach them.
What mistakes do you see new writers make?New writers tend to frontload their books with exposition and info dumps. Or, going to the opposite extreme, they withhold information from the reader for no compelling reason whatsoever.
What is your website and/or blog where readers can learn more? Can they friend you on Facebook or Twitter?I love when folks visit my website. Come see me at http://www.stephaniedray.com/ and contact me at www.twitter.com/stephaniehdray!
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B0041KLF9K&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrAlso writing paranormal romance as Stephanie Draven
The film producers were two women I met when I founded the Los Angeles Chapter of Sisters in Crime and who really liked this story of four such different women having to learn to get along during wartime.
Could Mrs Lieutenant still be made into a film?
I still believe the book can be made into a film. I’ve even written the first draft of a screenplay (I took screenwriting courses at UCLA Extension).
Amazing, who would you have to play the four women?
I’m not sure. They are all quite young – 20 to 22. And what’s nice about the women’s appeal is that they include an African-American, a Puerto Rican, a Southern Baptist and a Northern Jew. Would any readers like to make suggestions?
In addition, I’ve given the novel to a woman to read to consider acting in the story as a play. This could be the first step to getting a movie made. There’s a section on the Mrs. Lieutenant website titled “Using Fiction to Teach U.S. History” – http://www.mrslieutenant.com/fiction-teaches-us-history/ – something of which I’m a strong proponent.
I particularly wanted to preserve the point of view of women during the Vietnam War because almost all the books and movies covering that period focus on the point of view of the men fighting.
Do you have a favourite scene in the book? Can we have a snippet?
Do you think your eduction has helped you develop as an author? Oh, yes, my education has definitely helped me as an author. Both the formal writing classes I’ve taken and the books on writing I’ve read (mostly Writer’s Digest Books) as well as the novels I’ve read. Years ago a good friend who always believed in this book told me to stop reading only mysteries and read the type of novel I was writing. I listened to her excellent advice and it paid off!
About the author:
Margaret Tanner is an award winning multi-published Australian author. She loves delving into the pages of history as she carries out research for her historical romance novels, and prides herself on being historically correct. No book is too old or tattered for her to trawl through, no museum too dusty. Many of her novels have been inspired by true events, with one being written around the hardships and triumphs of her pioneering ancestors in frontier Australia. She once spent a couple of hours in an old goal cell so she could feel the chilling cold and fear.
Things you probably don’t know about Margaret Tanner:
- Her favourite historical period is the 1st World War, and she has visited the battlefields of Gallipoli, France and Belgium, a truly poignant experience.
- Margaret is a member of the Romance Writers of Australia, the Melbourne Romance Writers Group (MRWG) and EPIC.
- She won the 2007 Author of the Year at AussieAuthors.com. She also won it for a 2nd time in 2010.
- Margaret has two publishers. Whiskey Creek Press and The Wild Rose Press.
- Margaret is married and has three grown up sons, and a gorgeous little granddaughter.
- Outside of her family and friends, writing is her passion.
Historical romance is clearly your passion, can you reveal more about why you write in this genre?
Like the heroines in my novels, my forebears left their native shores in sailing ships to forge a new life in the untamed frontiers of colonial Australia. They battled bushfires, hardship and the tyranny of distance in an inhospitable and savage land, where only the tough and resilient would survive. They not only survived but prospered in ways that would not have been possible for them had they stayed in England and Scotland.
Other books from Margaret Tanner (The Wild Rose Press):
Holly And The Millionaire
The Trouble With Playboys
The Frontier Wife
Reluctant Father – release date September 17th 2010
To know more about Margaret Tanner or buy books from The Wild Rose Press visit: http://www.thewildrosepress.com/margaret-tanner-m-281.html
Visit Margaret Tanner at: http://www.margarettanner.com/
Linda Acaster is a three-times mainstream published novelist and writer of over 70 short stories covering an array of genres published in the UK, USA and Europe. Her latest novel, Torc of Moonlight, she indie authored as a POD paperback, and has subsequently published two of her rights-reverted backlist novels as ebooks. I asked for her thoughts of the process of becoming a POD and an ebook author:
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=1906558752&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrTorc of Moonlight is a contemporary thriller with supernatural overtones, what my past agent and various publishers’ editors described as a cross-genre novel. No matter how they applauded the writing, it wasn’t going to find a UK publisher because it didn’t fall neatly into one of the industry’s pigeonholes. Such is life for the UK writer. Writers in the USA don’t have this problem. Cross-genres are embraced by a plethora of publishers, large and small, with the best novels coming across to the UK under licence and given the sort of publicity budget and self space that leaves Brit writers breathless.But new technology is starting to level the playing field. Print On Demand paperbacks have been around for a while, but like all new technology its costs were high. In 2008 the first of the lo-cost POD publishers started up, and in 2009 Legend Press opened a POD arm, New Generation Publishing. Torc of Moonlight was sitting in a drawer, so I submitted it.Lo-cost POD publishers work by leaving typesetting and editing to the author. They claw back their investment when a novel sells, much the same way as does a mainstream publisher, and the royalties paid to authors are similar. ‘Typesetting’ is simply a case of following instructions. Editing is a whole different matter and why self-published fiction, either as POD or ebooks, is still fighting suspicion.
I’m lucky in having a lot of experience in this field, and in being a member of a local authors’ support group which pulls no punches. However, there’s little excuse for any writer being slap-dash – it’s all down to a careful eye during proofreading. But if your writing skills are in the early-medium stages of development it could save a lot of heartache later to pay for an analysis now. No editor can make a silk purse from a sow’s ear, so handing over a full script for ‘editing’ can be an expensive flop. Sending the first 50 pages for a critique, rather than an edit, will show up flaws, and armed with that knowledge a novelist is in a better position to make future decisions. Websites such as Authonomy.com offer something similar via peer evaluation, but your writing might be at the mercy of a peer at the same stage as yourself. As a first step, though, what is there to lose?
Torc of Moonlight came out as a paperback at the end of 2009, and because it had been allotted an ISBN number it was listed in the major distribution channels: Amazon (UK and USA), Waterstone’s, WH Smith, Book Depository, but getting it onto bookshop shelves, even in my own area where the novel is set, was no easy matter. The amount of effort in gaining publicity in general should never be underestimated, a problem faced by authors of mainstream published books as well.In January 2010 Amazon USA announced that it was opening its indie authoring ebooks scheme to those living outside of the US, and with rights already reverted to two historical romances I began the research to bring these to new readers using new technology. The Kindle e-reader uses Amazon’s proprietary AZW format as well as its own ASIN numbering system. Other formats, most notably e-Pub on its way to becoming universally accepted, are catered for by Smashwords.com which will issue a free ISBN number so a novel can be included in its premium catalogue for e-readers such as the Nook, Sony e-reader, and Apple’s new iPad. Formatting and editing is again down to the author, and the same advice as above applies.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B003MNH4BA&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrSo why an ebooks and not POD paperbacks? Hostage of the Heart, my Mediaeval Romance, won an award when it was first published; Beneath The Shining Mountains, set among Native Americans in the 1830s, sold just over 30,000 copies. Both remain very decent reads as reviews are beginning to attest, but readership patterns have changed, and continue to change at an accelerating rate. I’m no longer aiming for a reader who indulges in an easy afternoon browsing the shelves of a bookshop, but one who logs on, chooses a read, and expects it to arrive either on a PC or direct to an e-reader within a minute. This is why many indie authored ebooks are priced for impulse buying, $3 or less. Torc of Moonlight will follow in October and the good reviews I’ve gathered for the POD copy should help promote the ebook.
http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=wiswor0a-21&o=1&p=8&l=bpl&asins=B003VTZZNO&fc1=000000&IS2=1<1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifrAmazon is accelerating its rollout of the new generation Kindle and its UK ebook store has been open since the beginning of August. The UK iPad store is open for anyone who can fathom its use, and Waterstone’s online has been selling e-books for Sony’s e-reader for a while. At the moment I read both e-Pub and Kindle formats on my laptop via the free PC applications, and they are so good that an e-reader will be on my Christmas list. And I won’t be the only person doing that, which means that my prospective readership is growing all the time.
And sales for the Historicals? Slow, but I didn’t expect otherwise as I’m in a learning curve with publicity. However ebook readers, like POD book readers, embrace cross-genres. They are looking only for a ‘damned good read’, not a publisher’s stamp of pure-genre approval. And Amazon allows an ebook to be listed under five of its categories, more than enough for any cross-genre novelist.
Torc of Moonlight -What happens when a Celtic past reaches forward to a disbeliving present with determindation, resoursefulness and sexual avarice? First in a trilogy set in univeristy cities aruond North York Moors.
Available from most online bookshops including Amazon UK and USA, and the Book Depository for free shipping worldwide, or to order from your local bricks and mortar retailer.
– Amazon UK http://tinyurl.com/39jpmlf
– Amazon USA http://tinyurl.com/38qyyhq
– Book Depository http://tinyurl.com/39oqlxv
To read the first chapter visit http://www.lindaacaster.co.uk/
Beneath The Shining Mountains – Historical Romance set among the Apsaroke people of the Northern Plains of America in the 1830s
– Amazon US Kindle http://tinyurl.com/35sfkhq
– Amazon UK Kindle page http://tinyurl.com/27trs49
– Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/18144
– Review 5 wings Classic Romance Revival http://tinyurl.com/2wodfco
Hostage of the Heart – Mediaeval Romance set on the English-Welsh borders in 1066, dealing with battle hostages.
– Amazon US Kindle http://tinyurl.com/3a2dyz5
– Amazon UK Kindle http://tinyurl.com/24xbekn
– Smashwords https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/14120
Both Historicals are available from Kindle stores Amazon UK and USA, and for other e-readers from www.smashwords.com/books/view/18144
To read the first chapters visit http://www.lindaacaster.blogspot.com/
Tell us about The Hunted of 2060
Summary: Set in Alaska in 2060, when April enters her sophomore year at University, she thought Robert might be the love of her life, but as she discovers, she is hiding something inside her, something the rest of the world believes to have died out. She struggles with who she was and who she is becoming as she learns of a family she never knew existed and of enemies she will have to outrun, outfight or outwit to survive. As April embraces her new identity, will she have to leave the life she loves behind?
With underlining themes of how prejudice breaks human connections and animal/wildlife conservation, this novel which has received rave reviews will leave the reader flipping through the pages of April’s story.)
How long did it take to write the book?
I began writing it in March of 2010 and began professional editing in June 2010. About 3 months to write and 1 month to edit.
And what inspired you?
While in Thailand teaching Kindergarten I had a vision of a woman who could transform into an animal and thought what a fun idea.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I write novels from passion. If I love the idea, I will write the story! A few main characters come quickly to mind as they develop throughout the writing process. Other characters usually easily emerge later…the beginning and ending are usually clear, but sometimes the ending is blurred until I approach it. The bulk of the story forms when I take the journey with my characters and allow them to make it their own story. Writers can’t force a story for characters. I usually have to research a bit when writing paranormal and when writing historical I research constantly. When writing my novel The Day the Flowers Died set in 1930 Munich, I used YouTube for videos of that time period for music, sound, place and to set me in the right frame of mind.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
A sense of appreciation for the wildlife and forests on earth and a better idea of how prejudice can lead to cruel and unnecessary consequences. I hope my readers are entertained while learning. All of my novels have something to teach, but are also very entertaining.
Any other links or info you’d like to share?
http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000483080700 these are three great sites to gather information about The Hunted of 2060 as well as learn more about me and other paranormal authors.
At my apartment I thought I was safe from it, from myself, but my arms began to itch. I scratched. The tingling returned. I knew what to expect — sharp, intense pain. Unbearable. I threw myself onto my oversized bed propped up on steel bars and held myself. My hands clasped my shoulder bones. My head pushed into the pillows. My teeth gritted into the sheets. My fingers raked my skin as if I were an addict in need of another fix. My body shook with convulsions. My eyes shut. Instinctual, not of volition. It will pass.A sound bellowed from my lips, a sound I’d never heard before tonight. I curled up like a baby in need of her mother and let the aching pass. It always passes. It always takes too long. Every minute felt like forever. I need him. I need him to help me get through this. When the violence inside my body soothed, I called him on my phone. He will come. He always comes.The knock at my door drew me from my bed and to him in one fluid motion. He stood at my doorway with an orange tulip in his hands, my favorite. But I didn’t even have time to thank him for his thoughtfulness. My pain needed his comfort. My mind needed his words. My body needed his touch. He hurried through my door to the foot of the bed. He sat in his dark blue jeans, still wearing his crimson sweater. Too desperate for games, I just told him the truth.‘I need you.’ The words flowed so easily. He drew close to me and I rested my weary head on his chest. The chill from his skin cooled my warm temperature.‘What happened?’‘I don’t know.’‘Tell me where you hurt. Let me help you.’ The fine lines breaking in his forehead revealed his fear for me.‘Everywhere,’ I grimaced.‘Tell me what to do.’ The longing in his words mirrored the longing in his heart. He wanted more from me than I could give him right now.‘Nothing,’ I said shortly, looked up into his pleading blue eyes and then gave him just an inch of what I knew he wanted. ‘Just be here.’He smiled and didn’t question me more about it. Robert had seen me hurt before, twice, and learned not to ask me questions. They brought out the agitation in me. With his lips closed, his gentle hands took care of me. I abhorred hospitals. He held me in his embrace. His heart beat fast, too fast. I heard it too well, better than I should.Never mind. He’s here with me now. Everything will be fine.I rested on his chest, wrapped up in his arms, his large toned arms. He fell asleep, peaceful. I never sleep so still. Every sound, every motion usually kept me awake. But with him near me, I slept soundly.
* * *I covered my eyes in the bright daylight at first. We strolled out of my apartment and down the block over the chipped sidewalks. The sky cars in various metallic colors flew past us like birds overhead. Their revving sounded like whistles blowing. The black apartment walls stayed in the shadows of the day and the windows glowed in fluorescent lights laced around their borders.The electrical newspapers beamed in and out against the shop walls and displayed current events. America clones President Strossey in an attempt to derail assassination attempts. The news faded out while the next page faded in. A trip to Mars is scheduled for next weekend: September 14th, 2060. NASA says the highly anticipated Anti-Matter Propulsion is ready to use for distant travel. On the next slide of news, another space-related event emerged onto the screen. The RAM Jet Fusion Engine will reach the Space Walker today to transport food and water to the Moon Station. Go Green, Go Hydrogen!The gray clouds rolled in like a tumultuous sea about to storm. The thunder crackled and a few rain pellets began to fall. Robert took out his compact umbrella stashed inside of his front jean pocket. He wrapped his hand around the miniature, rectangular tool and hit the silver button with his forefinger. The shape of the umbrella unfolded around us and clicked into place. People on the busy streets brushed past us in dark raincoats and silver radiated umbrellas. The silver color lit up against the lightning. I wrapped my arm around Robert’s and fastened my other hand over my waist.‘Are you…’ He stopped his sentence. I knew what he wanted to ask, …alright today? He knew I didn’t enjoy those questions. He cleared his throat, ‘…hungry?’ I smiled at him and shifted my eyes to the chipped sidewalk like a coy animal.‘Sure, I could eat something.’ In truth, I was famished. I hadn’t eaten dinner last night even though I’d been feeling more hungry than usual.‘Where would you like to eat? We have the whole day to ourselves.’ His strong blue eyes shone lighter than the sky. ‘Thank God for Saturdays,’ he smirked with a scar over his wrinkled chin from playing hockey. We ambled to the end of the sidewalk. A sky car slowed down, dropping out of the sky in front of us. Its wheels, in mechanical precision, lowered out of its body and hit the aluminum street. The car’s angular tip and short rounded frame propelled down the road and disappeared after turning a corner.‘We could eat at Uro’s Deli,’,I suggested. ‘I’m craving a roast beef sub.’‘Uro’s it is.’The silver, black and white checkered walls of the deli stood out between two buildings. The low brick building to the left reminded everyone of designs long gone. The spiraling crisp white tower to the right reached into the clouds. Music somewhere between disco and techno permeated Uro’s (a name based on the monetary exchange of America since 2025) and the sounds seeped out the deli door and onto the city as we approached.Robert pointed to the spiraling tower with his forefinger. ‘I would’ve positioned the base more to the left and the tip more to the right, placing the spiral off center.’‘Crooked?’ I arched a brow. He loved architecture, he studied architecture, but his ideas could be grandeur.‘Interesting,’ he corrected. I grinned. Robert tripped over cement on the other side of the street.‘Damn sidewalks. Do you know when they’re going to rebuild them?’ he asked, agitated. I don’t have answers. I can only think of my own pain. I can think of nothing else.‘No.’ I walked ahead toward the door.‘They’d better reconstruct them with nano-ceramic soon before someone gets seriously hurt.’ He followed. The entire city began to look like one large piece of nano-material, a substance that wouldn’t bend or break in chaotic weather or over extended periods of time.Robert sat across from me in the oversized black booth with his concentrated expression. We punched our orders into the Electric Order Form, an efficient device, much like the internet fifty years ago. Square, about the size of a book, it fit into the table on each side near the end. It eliminated the need of waiters.Robert fiddled with his projection watch. He looked like a budding professor playing with the technology in his hands. Despite his strong body and model-like appearance, he maintained a 3.5 GPA and tutored some of his buddies on the hockey team. He hit the silver button on his watch and the hologram of our Biology textbook appeared over the table. He clicked the arrow button and it turned page after page until he stopped at page ten.I brushed my onyx hair away from my face. ‘You want to show me something?’ I placed my elbows on the table and nestled my head in my left hand. My palm cupped my chin and my hazel eyes shot up at him.‘I forgot to mention, Mr. Crougar said this was going to be on the quiz Monday.’Monday? I can’t even think about tomorrow. I have to take this one day at a time…whatever ‘this’ is.I nodded like I cared about a quiz, like I wasn’t thinking about something else over every word he read. He hit the arrow button again and the page turned. As he finished highlighting the important parts, the Intelligent Service Robot, dressed in the deli uniform of silver, black and white checkered shirt and pants, carried our orders on its metallic arms. Its back squeaked as it bent over to place our plates before us.‘Do you ever miss it?’ I said in almost a whisper to Robert.‘Miss what?’‘Actual people serving food?’ The ISRs were manufactured and found in every business by 2050 and in most homes by 2055. They brought a great relief to the extra workloads carried by most people, but they also took away many jobs. People were angry at first, until new employment opportunities for the manufacturing and upkeep of the ISRs became available.‘Sometimes.’ Robert winked and began to eat his chili sandwich, one of his favorites at the deli. The smell of roast beef spun my head in a dizzy frenzy and I began to feel the aches in my bones again.All I can think about is the meat.
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Ami Rebecca Blackwelder is a forbidden romance writer in the paranormal and historical romance genre. Her unique experiences from travels in Asia for eight years allows her an original perspective and a plethora of ideas to entertain readers. She graduated from UCF with a BA in English and published her first work after winning the best Fiction of 1997 at UCF and subsequently achieving the semi-finals in Laurel Hemingway Short Story contest of that same year.
From 1995 Ann Swinfen chaired Dundee Book Events, a voluntary organisation promoting books and authors to the general public. Her first three novels, all with a contemporary setting, The Anniversary, The Travellers and A Running Tide were published by Random House, with translations also into Dutch and German. Her latest novel, The Testament of Mariam, marks something of a departure. Set in the first century, it recounts, from an unusual perspective and within a human context, what has been called the greatest story ever told.
Ann Swinfen now lives in Broughty Ferry, with her husband, formerly vice-principal of the University of Dundee, a cocker spaniel, and two Maine coon cats.
She is being discussed on the review site YouWriteOn and her book, The Testament of Mariam is being described as “something to make you think”. As historical novels go, this is one to read.
1. Tell us about your current book?
The Testament of Mariam is set in the first century, partly in the southern part of Roman Gaul, near present-day Marseille, and partly in the Roman-occupied province of Palestine, known to its Jewish inhabitants as the land of Judah. Mariam has fled her homeland thirty years before and settled in Gaul, since when she has closed her mind to what happened in her childhood and youth. Now she hears that the last of her brothers is dead – murdered – and the past begins to haunt her as she slips into her last illness. The story continues, weaving these two timeframes together, as Mariam’s past and present resonate with each other.
A rebellious child, unhappy in the restricted life of a Jewish peasant, she adores her older, gifted brother, Yeshûa. At fourteen she is betrothed to his friend Yehûdâ, but the marriage is not consummated, because Mariam and Yehûdâ both follow Yeshûa as he sets out in the hope of persuading people that they can find a new kingdom, a new dispensation, through kindness and love. ‘We were young. We were going to change the world.’ Ironically, Mariam feels they have failed, when her brother is crucified and she and Yehûdâ are sent by him into separate exiles.
The seed of the idea was a desire on my part to try to work out what the real man and his family would have been like, buried underneath 2,000 years of theology and church hierarchy. Jesus (Yeshûa is the Aramaic form) had sisters, although Mariam is fictional, and I wondered what it would have been like to be the sister of such a man. Mariam can never quite accept that he is divine and constantly tries to find rational explanations for events that others accept as miracles. This is neither a religious nor an anti-religious book, but an attempt to portray what it must have been like to live in an occupied country whose inhabitants never accepted Roman rule, but constantly rebelled, to be put down finally, bloodily, at about the time Mariam dies. I also found it intriguing that many of Yeshûa’s followers were women, at a time when a woman was expected to stay at home, under the total power of her father, until she was handed over to the control of her husband. Yet these women wandered the countryside and were present at the crucifixion (when the men had fled). In the years that followed, women were driven away from the centre of the church by the misogynistic church fathers.
It isn’t a genre novel, unless you call literary fiction a genre!
This is the type of fiction I mainly read. I have nothing against genre fiction, it just isn’t the kind of thing I want to write, so I suppose you could say that the stimulus is that I write the sort of fiction I enjoy reading. Don’t we all?
All my novels are literary fiction. The first three had contemporary, or near-contemporary, settings, but also strands from the past. This latest is historical, but it too has two time-lines, interwoven.
The Testament of Mariam is stand-alone, as my previous novels have been. When my first novel (The Anniversary) was published, my editor at Random House was keen for me to write a sequel, but I felt that it was complete in itself. I had said all I wanted to say about that group of characters. I can see the advantages for both writers and publishers of series, particularly crime series, but I’m always eager to move on to something new.
No, not really. Though I think all writers draw on their own life experience, however much that may be modified and shaped in the course of writing. Our knowledge of people and their hopes and fears, our familiarity with the relationships between people and between individuals and society – all of these have to come from our own experience, but experience is transmitted and transmuted through the creative imagination to become something new and fresh.
I’m superstitious about this! I never talk about my work-in-progress until the first draft is completed. All I can say is that it is again a literary novel in which two stories are interwoven, stories which are very widely separated in time and space.
I’m not sure I have a favourite, but here is part of the betrothal in The Testament of Mariam.
I have an agent, I’m with Greene and Heaton (fairly recently). My original agent was Murray Pollinger, and when he retired the agency was sold to David Higham Associates. I wasn’t happy there, so I was glad to move. However, in the current economic climate my agent wasn’t able to place The Testament of Mariam with a mainstream publisher. A lot of editors were very keen, and it looked at first as though we would have an auction between three of them, but the money men gave it the thumbs-down, so I decided to go with the Arts Council subsidised YouWriteOn scheme.
My first three novels (The Anniversary, The Travellers and A Running Tide) were published by Random House. The Testament of Mariam was published by YouWriteOn. On the whole, I have been happy with the latter, which gave me complete control over the appearance of the book, and the quality is very good. Also, as I have worked as an editor, that aspect of preparing the manuscript gave me no problems. There have been just two things I’ve not been totally happy with. The first is having to do all the publicity and marketing myself, which I don’t feel I’m very skilled at. The second is the fact that YouWriteOn only allows a 10% discount to retailers. In a market where 30% is considered a poor discount and 50% is the norm, this means that bookshops are very reluctant to stock your book. This low discount is supposed to ensure that authors receive £1 per copy sold, but if bookshops won’t stock your book, how many will sell? The books are available from a number of online booksellers (Amazon, Waterstone’s, Barnes & Noble, W H Smith, Tesco, etc.), but inevitably you lose out on all the people who would simply see your book and pick it up in a bookshop. No one is going to buy your book online unless they have already heard about it somewhere else.
Probably, but I still have the reservations I’ve mentioned.
Yes, I think the traditional publishers will find that all the new methods of publication are going to have a profound effect on the whole world of book production. At the moment, I don’t think they see SP as a threat, probably because there have been a lot of poorly written, badly edited, sloppily produced SP books in the past. That is changing. The physical quality of SP books can match anything the traditional publishers can produce. As long as authors who self-publish reach a good standard in their writing and employ a professional editor, then SP books will be a serious rival to commercial books. However, the main disadvantages will be, again, the two things I’ve pointed out already – adequate marketing and discounts to match what bookshops expect. Another rival to traditional publishing is the ebook, but, personally, I don’t like them. I prefer my books to have individual personalities, not to be just a mass of grey-on-grey on a screen!
How long is a piece of string? A lot depends on the amount of research involved, and I always seem to write things which require massive research! I’ve never completed a book in less than a year. Once the research and planning are completed, I have been known to write a first draft in six weeks. It’s the preparation beforehand, and the editing and polishing afterwards, which fill up the rest of the year.
Always the characters. Generally the characters in an initial situation. The plot evolves as the characters evolve. I don’t write detailed synopses in advance, as I find that is the kiss of death to creativity. I know where I’m starting and I generally know roughly where I’m going to finish; I know a few milestones on the way. The rest develops as I write. Before I start each chapter, I usually note down (briefly) the scenes I want to cover in that chapter, though things can change in the course of writing.
Yes. I learned to read very early, at the age of three, and books and writing have been an essential part of my life ever since. I wrote as a child, became uncomfortably self-conscious as a teenager, then did a great deal of academic writing (lectures, research papers and the like). I also did quite a lot of journalism. Finally, I said to myself that I’d better make up my mind to get on with the creative writing if I was ever going to do it. The Anniversary was the result.
The commonest mistake is to try to write something perfect as soon as pen touches paper or finger touches keyboard. New writers will often worry away at that first chapter, or even those first few pages, going over and over them, without progressing. Eventually the words become almost meaningless, enthusiasm wanes, self-doubt overwhelms the poor writer. (And we all suffer from self-doubt.) The most important thing is to forge ahead to the end of the first draft. Never mind if you feel it’s rubbish. Finish it!
- Write the kind of book you enjoy reading.
- Read and read and read good writers.
- If you need to do research, do it before you start, but realise you may need to look things up later. When you hit such a point in your writing, make a note of what you need to check later (at the editing stage), but keep writing, unless the point is so crucial that you must look it up. However, don’t let yourself become distracted!
- Complete your first draft before editing and polishing.
- If you find it difficult to start each day, read through what you wrote the previous day. This will usually remind you of what you wanted to say next.
- If you find yourself truly stuck, either do something completely different – go for a walk or a swim, meet a friend for coffee – or else write something which is not part of your novel. Quite a good trick is to write a letter to yourself, complaining about the writing problem. Sometimes articulating it will solve it.
- It’s often a good idea to set your completed first draft aside to stew for a while, before you start editing. You will come back to it with a fresher eye. If ideas occur to you during this period, make a note of them for later use.
- Polish your manuscript until you cannot make it any better. If there are any passages about which you feel uneasy, you are probably, instinctively, right. Cut them or rewrite them.
- When it’s as good as you can make it, try to find some one who is not emotionally close to you to read it. You need someone with good literary judgement, who isn’t afraid to hurt your feelings! A writers’ group, a online peer review group, or a reputable literary consultancy are all possible.
- Have the courage of your convictions! Send it out to agents and publishers or self-publish. Remember that every great writer was once a beginner.
Thank you Ann, it’s been a pleasure.
Shawn Kleiner has it all: money, fame, a skyrocketing career as an international musical phenomenon, his beautiful girlfriend Amy, and all the women he wants—until the night Amy has enough and abandons him in a Scottish castle. He wakes to find himself mistaken for Niall Campbell, medieval Highland warrior. Soon after, he is sent shimmying down a wind-torn castle wall into a dangerous cross country trek with Niall’s tempting, but knife-wielding fiancee, pursued by English soldiers and a Scottish traitor who want Niall dead.Thrown forward in time, Niall learns history’s horrifying account of his own death, and of the Scots’ slaughter at Bannockburn. Undaunted, he navigates the roiled waters of Shawn’s life—pregnant girlfriend, amorous fans, enemies, gambling debts—seeking a way to leap back across time to save his people, especially his beloved Allene. But he finds himself liking Shawn’s life…
Author, Laura Vosika grew up in the military, visiting castles in England, pig fests in Germany, and the historic sites of America’s east coast. She worked for many years as a freelance musician, and has taught general music, band, and private music lessons for twenty years.
In addition to The Blue Bells Trilogy, Laura has several other novels in progress and two non-fictions, one on raising a large family and one on Scottish history. She is the mother of nine, living in Minnesota.
Today in history, in 1274, Robert the Bruce was born, most likely at Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire.
The third of ten children, he was the oldest of five sons. His older sister, Isabel, became the queen of Norway. His younger brother, Edward, briefly took the throne of Ireland during the Scottish Wars of Independence. His other three other brothers, Neil, Thomas, and Alexander, all died at the hands of the English, being brutally executed.Bruce remains today one of Scotland’s greatest heroes, alongside William Wallace of Braveheart fame. In the wake of Edward Longshanks of England’s invasion of Scotland, he eventually became King of Scots and led Scotland to victory against a much stronger army at Bannockburn on June 24, 1314.
To read more about the history click here.
See the full review at Joan’s blog, Random Thoughts of An Accidental Author