Categories
Best Of Lists This Month's Reads

Writing Bloc’s Best of November: Contributors Share Their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads November Edition. Welcome to the fifth post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of October, we hear from Jacqui, Robert, Michael and Becca.

Jacqui’s Recommendation – The Humans by Matt Haig

Humans, as a rule, don’t like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead. But the definition of mad, on Earth, seems to be very unclear and inconsistent. What is perfectly sane in one era turns out to be insane in another. The earliest humans walked around naked with no problem. Certain humans, in humid rainforests mainly, still do so. So, we must conclude that madness is sometimes a question of time, and sometimes of postcode.

Basically, the key rule is, if you want to appear sane on Earth you have to be in the right place, wearing the right clothes, saying the right things, and only stepping on the right kind of grass.

I was first introduced to Matt Haig when I read his book of essays, Notes on a Nervous Planet. I instantly loved his writing style, and wanted to give one of his novels a try. I’m thrilled that I did, and I’m sure I’ll be reading his whole arsenal in the future.

I read The Humans in about three sessions, and it was a blissful combination of raw emotion and comedic timing. The Humans tells the story of an alien who takes over the body of a mathematician who is on the brink of a life-altering discovery. His mission? To stop this discovery from getting out to the general public by silencing anyone who knew of the breakthroughs that the mathematician had made. .

Through the lens of this extra-terrestrial, the reader views the human species – quirks, faults, and all. Through this novel we answer the question – why would anyone ever choose to be human?

 

Robert’s Recommendation — Redshirts by John Scalzi

Cover of Redshirts by John Scalzi

Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It’s a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship’s Xenobiology laboratory.

Life couldn’t be better…until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that:

  1. every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces
  2. the ship’s captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations
  3. at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

At first glance, Redshirts appears to be a simple spoof of Star Trek, specifically, “What would happen if the often-memed ‘redshirts’ realised their only reason for existence was to die dramatically on an away mission?” This alone would make the book worthy of examination, but I came to realise it was more. The premise may be whimsical, but Scalzi has written a solid narrative that stands alone, even if you’ve never watched an episode of Star Trek.

I listened to the audiobook version of this novel, narrated by Will Wheaton (Will-Friggin’-Wheaton narrating a Star Trek spoof people!), and it was brilliant. You can read more of my thoughts here.

 

Becca’s Recommendation — The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas took over my mind for the two weeks it took me to listen to the audiobook. Every night at bedtime, I would eagerly plug in my headphones, excited for the next chapter. It was hard to turn it off to go to sleep. Thomas brings the realities of police brutality to life through the eyes of Starr Carter, a sixteen year old girl who witnesses her childhood friend killed during a traffic stop.

Starr confronts the arguments we hear all the time– her friend’s life didn’t matter because he was a drug dealer, police officers are scared too, if people just obeyed the law, things like this wouldn’t happen, and more. And through Starr, we see incredibly clearly the fallacy in all of these.
Thomas shows the complexities of Starr’s life in the hood, and the codeswitching she must perform to assimilate in her wealthy white school, in a way that helps white readers like myself challenge their assumptions about race and poverty.

Especially moving is the tribute at the end to real victims of police violence. Viewing this major problem in our country through the eyes of a relatable young character makes the serious subject matter digestible and approachable This book should be required reading at every high school and college, and really, for every person in the U.S.

 

Michael’s Recommendation – A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Wow. I was blown away by this book, and I have no idea why it took me so long to read it. Not only is this a jaw-dropping analysis of the human condition, the role of free will versus societal blending, and evil itself, but the novel is written in an amazing and unique form. Written in first person, the story takes you through the perspective of Alex, who is a fifteen year-old in a dystopian future in which he and his “friends” get together and commit crimes and perform acts of violence on random people. When Alex’s friends turn on him and leave him to be caught by police, he is sentenced to fourteen years in prison for the murder of the woman whose house he was caught at. Interested in a shortened sentence, Alex agrees to be the first in an experimental “Ludovico technique” in which he is trained to be physically repulsed by violence and acts of criminality.

The novel is beautiful in that it includes Alex’s own dialect and slang, called Nasdat, which incorporates a wide enough vocabulary for some versions of the novel to include a glossary. However, the way the story is written and the events are described, there is no need for a glossary while reading. The character’s actions and perspective are clear enough that you can finish an entire page and look back at it realizing that you aren’t entirely sure of the meaning of half the words on the page, yet the understanding of what was written is clear as day. It’s a short book, and a real horrorshow to read.

An extra bit worth mentioning if you read A Clockwork Orange…

The version I got was at a secondhand store for a dollar. It was printed in 1972. The book is split into three parts, each consisting of seven chapters, or so I expected, but the third part in my version stopped at chapter six. I was curious about this and found out that copies of the book printed in the United States prior to 1986 omitted the final chapter, and this is the version Stanley Kubrick’s film is based upon, as well as the version Anthony Burgess loathed. I hopped over to the library and read the last chapter, and I can say that both versions of the novel are quite interesting. If you pick up a copy with the 21st chapter, stop at 20 and consider your thoughts before finishing the book as the author intended. Interesting stuff, indeed, and worth a conversation over. Either way, read this book.

Please share!
Categories
Anthology News News

Meet the Authors Behind Writing Bloc’s Escape! An Anthology

Cover for Escape! An Anthology by The Writing Bloc

Writing Bloc’s Escape! An Anthology is available for preorder now for your favorite ebook format (the Kindle link is separate, just click here)! The ebook is only $2.99 during this preorder phase, which is a steal for all of the stories you get from the amazing authors below. On New Year’s Day, the price goes up to $5.99, so grab your ebook today! Be sure to check out all of the author bios below, visit their sites, preorder Escape! An Anthology, and get the book to download automatically to your e-reader on New Year’s Day! Keep your eye out for the upcoming announcement about the print version…details coming soon!

For now, cheers to all these wonderful authors for their contributions to this amazing collection of short stories!

Jason Pomerance, Author of “Mrs. Ravenstein”

Photo Credit: Steven Murashige

Jason Pomerance has written film and television projects for numerous studios and production companies, including Warner Brothers, Columbia Pictures, FremantleMedia, and Gold Circle Films. His first novel, Women Like Us, published by the Quill imprint of Inkshares, debuted in 2016, and his novella Falconer was published in four parts on Nikki Finke’s site for showbiz fiction, Hollywood Dementia. He’s currently working on a new novel. Visit Jason at www.jasonpomerance.com, or on Instagram (@whowantsdinner), and Twitter (@whowantsdinner — and yes, Jason is always hungry!).

Jason’s “Women Like Us” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/womenlikeusnovel/

Buy Women Like Us in our store!

Susan Hamilton, Author of “Chrysalis”

Photo Credit: Dean Cerrati Photography

Susan K. Hamilton is the author of Shadow King, Darkstar Rising, and the forthcoming The Devil Inside. She lives outside of Boston with her husband, Jeff, and their cat, Rio. An avid equestrian, when she’s not tapping away at a computer, chances are you’ll find her at the barn. She loves fun movies, pizza, and pretty much any furry creature on the planet, and is currently working on a new, follow-up project to Shadow King.

Susan Hamilton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RealSKHamilton

Susan Hamilton on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/hamiltonsusank/

Michael Haase, Author of “Cedric”

Photo Credit: Margaret Haase

Michael Haase is the author of the forthcoming book, The Man Who Stole the World, to be published by Inkshares. Michael is a happy husband, father, musician, and spontaneous comedian who does nerdy stuff like study computer programming in his spare time. He lives intentionally near Cleveland, believe it or not

Michael Haase on Twitter: https://twitter.com/authormikehaase

Michael Haase on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMichaelHaase/

Michael’s blog: https://talltalestold.com/

 

 

Peter Ryan, Author of “The Time Behind Dying”

Photo Credit: Neil Cole

Peter Ryan is a sci-fi lover, motorbike rider, darts player, and T-shirt designer, as well as being an English professor at a university in South Korea. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia, and has traveled much of the world. While on the move, he has done a variety of jobs, including sales support at an insurance company, laborer on the building sites of London and Melbourne, chauffeur/minder for an English lord, and business English consultant in Shanghai.

Peter Ryan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SyncCityJack

Peter Ryan’s website: http://www.synccityjack.com/

Buy Sync City in our store!

 

Deborah Munro, Author of “Ambition”

Deborah Munro is a scientist and biomedical engineer from Oregon who recently expatriated to New Zealand. She is passionate about writing, especially hard science thrillers that engage readers on current issues.

Deborah Munro on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DebMunro_Author

Deborah Munro on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DeborahMunro.Author/

 

Durena Burns, Author of “I Wish It Happened”

Durena Burns currently lives in Southern California and has worked for special education in elementary. She mostly writes biographical stories about her family. Her first published book ‘Call Me Whitehead’ is about her late uncle’s experiences as a black man in the Vietnam War.

Durena’s “Call Me Whitehead” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CallMeWhitehead/

Ferd Crôtte, Author of “Captiveedom”

Ferd Crôtte is an Internal Medicine hospitalist physician and is the author of ‘Captiveedom’ in this anthology. His debut novel, Mission 51, is currently in production by Inkshares. Ferd and his wife Gail live in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Ferd Crôtte on Twitter: https://twitter.com/FerdCrotte

Ferd Crôtte on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FerdCrotteMission51/?ref=br_rs

Christopher Lee, Author of “The Gilded Tower”

Photo Credit: Stacey Eichenauer

Christopher Lee is the independent author of Nemeton and Bard Song. Outside of his gig as an author, he is an avid history buff, amateur mythologist, bardic poet, Holistic Life Coach, Reiki Master/Teacher, Mindfulness Practitioner, and keeper of the old ways.

Christopher lives in Denver, Colorado with his wife and two cats.

Christopher Lee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChristLeeEich

Buy Nemeton: The Trial of Calas in our store!

Mike Donald, Author of “Something In Mind”

Mike worked for the BBC as a sound mixer, wrote for comedy sketch shows, and developed sit-com ideas. Brought up in Scotland and England, he worked as a script analyst for gap finance company Aramid Capital, and has written many award-winning screenplays.

Mike Donald on Twitter: https://twitter.com/smokingkeys

Mike Donald’s website: http://www.touchwoodpictures.com/

Buy Louisiana Blood in our store!

 

Christopher Hinkle, Author of “Cowboy For A Day”

Born in the backwoods of West Virginia, Chris Hinkle is a country boy down to his molecular structure. He now lives in New Zealand where he works for the Government and puts forth a reasonable effort at masking his inner-hick for the benefit of those around him.

Christopher Hinkle on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/christopherhenckel

 

 

Evan Graham, Author of “Breach”

Photo Credit: Plain Jane Photography

Evan Graham is the author of upcoming science fiction thrillers Tantalus Depths and Proteus. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Education Studies from Kent State University, where he triple-minored in English, Writing, and Theatre. He currently lives in rural Middlefield, Ohio and is extensively involved in local community theatre, both on the stage and behind the scenes.

Evan Graham on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorEvanGraham/

Tahani Nelson, Author of “The Faoii Of Ashwood”

Tahani Nelson is a Writer, Teacher and Nerd in rural Montana. Her debut series, The Faoii Chronicles focuses on strong female warriors in epic fantasy.

Tahani Nelson on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TahaniNelson

Tahani’s “The Last Faoii” on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheLastFaoii/

Buy The Last Faoii in our store!

 

 

Michael James Welch, Author of “Convict 45”

Photo Credit: Annette Sargent

Michael James Welch is a proud Western New Yorker, an even prouder snowflake, and above all, husband and father to a wonderful family. His first novel, PrOOF, will be published by Inkshares in 2019-20. He feasts on your derision and bathes nightly in your disdain.

Michael James Welch on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mikexwelch

 

Cari Dubiel, Author of “Art Imitates”

Photo Credit: Ed Dubiel

Cari Dubiel juggles writing, librarian-ing, mom-ing, and bassooning in Northeast Ohio. Her novel, How to Remember, is in production with Inkshares. She is a past Library Liaison to Sisters in Crime and the co-host of the ABC Book Reviews Podcast.

Cari Dubiel on Twitter: https://twitter.com/caridubiel

Cari Dubiel on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/caridubielauthor/

Becca Spence Dobias, Author of “Aspirant”

Photo Credit: Linda Abbott Photography

Becca Spence Dobias grew up in West Virginia and now lives in Southern California where she writes hard and moms harder. Her debut novel, Rock of Ages, is in production with Inkshares.

Becca Spence Dobias on Twitter: https://twitter.com/totallynotbex

Becca Spence Dobias on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeccaSpenceDobias/

 

 

 

 

Grace Marshall, Author of “The Marking”

Grace Marshall is an author, mother, and TV enthusiast. She writes technical documentation as her primary profession but has also been known to post randomly on her site escapeoftheinnermonlogue.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daniel Lee, Author of “A Grave Ordeal”

Photo Credit: Megan Annis

Daniel Lee is the author of the novel AFTER DEATH, which won First Place in the Nerdist Sci-Fi Contest and is forthcoming from Inkshares. He lives in Los Angeles, where he makes his living as an editor of movie trailers. See more of his work at Dan-Lee.net

Daniel Lee on Twitter: https://twitter.com/dannyboylee

Patrick Edwards, Author of “Wendell, Wendell, & Wendell”

When he’s not busy mushing words into silly stories, Pat spends his time battling inter-dimensional shadow monsters and having tea parties with his two daughters. His debut novel, Space Tripping, is currently available wherever books are sold. Check him out on Twitter @ThePatEdwards

Buy Space Tripping in our store!

 

 

Kendra Namednil, Author of “Catching”

Photo Credit: Arthur Koch

Kendra Namednil was born in Northern California and began writing when she was 26, publishing her first full novel at 30. She has volunteered for many organizations, though her greatest joy was working with behavior-plan dogs with the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Kendra Namednil on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Kendra1337

Buy Borehole Bazaar (A Vow Unbroken) in our store!

Jason Chestnut, Author of “Like Clockwork”

When not working on computers to pay the bills, Jason Chestnut is a writer, musician, avid reader, and gamer. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina with his wife Shannon, their two kids and lazy pug.

Follow Jason Chestnut on Twitter: @atomicboywonder

 

 

 

 

Don’t forget to preorder “Escape!” NOW!

Price goes up to $5.99 on New Year’s Day, so preorder your copy NOW for 50% off!

Just click here for Amazon or here for all other ebook readers. Only $2.99 for the ebook!

Thank you for your support!!!

Please share!
Categories
Anthology News News Writing Life

ESCAPE! Cover reveal and ARC giveaway!

Here at The Writing Bloc we have big plans, starting with an Anthology we are releasing in the New Year. On 1 January 2019 we are publishing Escape! An Anthology featuring twenty diverse stories by a great cohort of writers.

“As readers, we open books ready to be swept out of our seats and deposited in a world entirely new and exciting. Reading is an escape from our normal lives and thoughts,” says Michael Haase, founder of Writing Bloc.

Inside the book, you can expect contemporary fiction, westerns, science fiction, fantasy, paranormal fiction, as well as genre-bending tales. We have stories by published authors such as Tahani Nelson, author of The Last Faoii, Jason Pomerance, author of Women Like Us, and Patrick Edwards, author of Space Tripping. We also have stories from a number of talented emerging writers who you’ll want to get to know. You can read the full press release here.

Today, I’m excited to reveal our cover!

Cover for Escape! An Anthology by The Writing Bloc

ARC Giveaway

Would you like to receive one of 100 free advanced reader copies we’re giving away? You can sign up on this form here.

 

Please share!
Categories
Author Interview Writing Life

Interview with Novelist and Screenwriter Mike Donald

Mike Donald is a UK-based novelist and screenwriter. His current novel, Louisiana Blood, started out as a multiple award-winning screenplay that earned him some great attention in the Hollywood scene. Mike adapted the screenplay into a novel, and Louisiana Blood was published late last year. The novel is an incredible and thrilling mystery involving alternate history (more specifically, an intense conspiracy involving Jack the Ripper never having existed), and it is a thoroughly enjoyable read. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike about how his novel came to be and his perspective on writing. Enjoy.

When did the idea for Louisiana Blood first strike you?

Louisiana Blood was really an amalgamation of ideas. I’d been filming in New Orleans and found the whole place really atmospheric, so subliminally this is where the location came from. I went to quite a famous restaurant there called The Court of Two Sisters, which became Crawdaddy’s in the Novel. I’d also loved the film “There will be Blood”, and “All the Kings Men.” Which gave me more atmosphere, and the governor Huey Long as an important figure who believed in doing whatever it took to get the job done…a big picture man, not bothered by the niceties of sticking to the law.

I was working with a couple of producers at the time and from them I knew that a lot of productions were being set up in Louisiana so that gave me a nudge to that location for more practical reasons. I had recently read a book about one of the main Ripper suspects called Tumblety who fled England to the US and wound up in St Louis…so he became the way of linking Victorian London to modern day Louisiana. With all of these components whirling around like some sort of creative tinder, it only took a creative spark to ignite the fire that would end up being my crazy idea. That being…What if Jack the Ripper never really existed? At which point I imagine it was around 2008.

Once I had the general idea in my head I read as many Jack the Ripper books as I could get my hands on. My idea was to absorb all of the theories and suspects and blend perceived reality with fiction to produce a dramatic story, rather than to try and add to the supposed canon of authors claiming to have discovered the Ripper’s true identity.

How long did the process take to get from idea to novel?

Between 2007/2008 I was working on the research and screenplay. My producers were involved with a large Canadian film fund with access to around $600m in funding. As well as setting up a project with Ferrari to do the life story of Enzo, they were also budgeting $10m and $30m for two of my projects. I had written a supernatural cop film called DEADEYE in conjunction with a Jake West a director friend of mine who produced cult hits like Razorblade Smile and Evil Aliens.

Along with Louisiana Blood I had been commissioned to write a screenplay re-imagining Pumpkinhead as a militarised character to relaunch the franchise for producer Brad Krevoy (Dumb and Dumber.) So things were busier than normal. As happens all too often in the screentrade, the Canadian film fund fell out with our co-producers and this coincided with the 2008 financial crash which hit the fund badly. This left the project in hiatus.

In 2010 I took Louisiana Blood the screenplay to Hollywood via many contests and film festivals. It won or placed in about 20 of them and I got invited to L.A to tout my wares. Despite numerous meetings I couldn’t get anybody to option the script and so it went on the backburner. A few years passed and I decided that Louisiana Blood was too good an idea to for it die on the vine, adapted it into a novel. I’d heard about a new publisher called INKSHARES which was a mix of traditional publishing and crowdfunding. You had to demonstrate public enough interest to convince them it was a worthwhile project and they would publish. It took six months to raise the money and I finished off the manuscript in 2016. I had the cover designed to my spec and submitted the whole package to Inkshares. The novel was published in Dec 2017.

I’m hoping the success of the book will help me back-engineer the book into a film and I’ll get a second chance to get it onto the big screen. The feedback so far is amazing, mainly from female readers which is very satisfying as in my experience women are looking for a more emotional experience from a book than men. I think they are surprised that it isn’t as graphic as the word BLOOD in the title might imply. The phrase Louisiana Blood cropped up in my research as a description of the oil business as it was back in the days of the first oil strikes where money was made and lives were lost. One of the most fascinating images I saw during my research was of Huntington Beach…all along the coast oil derricks soared into the sky giving it a sort of demonic feel and bringing to mind the phrase Satanic Mills.

What is it about your characters that inspired you to carry them into a series of stories?

Well, it was part my love of the characters belief their longevity, and part fiscal prudence in wanting them to live on maybe in the small screen arena. Nowadays there is more money spent on Netflix and Amazon than some feature films. The budgets for boxed sets such as Westworld, The Man in the high castle and Game of thrones is huge. Looking forward to the second in the series, Bruges Blood, with Detective Hoog and Katja, I think it’s high time to plunder the ashes of Van der Valk and kick start a Bruges based detective series.

When I started writing Bruges Blood I imagined a series of catacombs beneath the police station where Hoog decimates cardboard cutouts on the firing range to the sound track of Dua Lipa’s “Be the one.” No one was more surprised to discover that there really are catacombs beneath the station! The police were very generous in letting me nose around.

 

And on that note VENICE BLOOD is another series I’d like to spin off. I’ve never heard of a Venice based police series and the place is really atmospheric. Controlling the interaction of all the detectives and countries they live in will be a challenge, but that’s all part of the fun.

Are there bits of yourself in your characters?

Mmmm, difficult to say. I think there’s parts of me reflected in Chandler and maybe the technical side of Roxie. But I generally try to remain omnipotent. I suspect that most writers are under the skin, control freaks.

Give us an idea of what your writing process is like.

I generally try to be down at the gym by 04:00, do some cardio till 05:00. Then back for breakfast, before going to the cabin down by the lake where I’ll write until the sun comes up which is when I do a jog round the lake. Then I’ll usually write straight through until I’ve done my 5000 word total for the day…is what I’d like to say! In reality my day is totally unstructured. I usually have around 2 Hrs a day during the week and longer over the weekend, but that is unfocussed time. I’m marketing Louisiana Blood at the moment and itching to continue with Bruges Blood and research Venice Blood. Once I can dedicate a specific time to write I’m pretty fast. When I was writing Pumpkinhead I was on holiday in Scotland and I was told they needed the script done in 2 weeks…I remember sitting down by the loch which was the only place I could get Wi-Fi at the time and sending stuff back and forwards. Once I’d finished I was told that the project was for the Sci-Fi channel…as a result my epic was way over their budget and they ended up doing a story which was pretty much featured an actor in a rubber suit. Like most writers it’s a constant battle to get momentum on a finished project while getting the next one up and running.

You are a screenwriter as well. What is the greatest difference between writing a screenplay and writing a novel? Do you prefer one over the other?

The greatest difference between a script and a novel for me is the amount of description and backstory you can add into a novel. That and the time scales. By that I mean in a script a man pulls up outside a house and we cut to the gun battle or whatever inside. In a book we follow our character as they head to the house, maybe ruminating about what he thinks he’s heading into. Show what the weather’s like, what the traffic’s like, show him checking his weapon, maybe a bit of internal thought on his choice of gun etc…on the one hand this is great because you can really give an atmosphere to the piece…on the other hand you have to write three or four times as many words as a script. Louisiana Blood was way too long as a script, probably around 130 pages, and I had to cut that down to 100 once I started showing it around L.A. This meant I had to lose a whole sub-plot that I was able to reinstate in the novel. Also because I was writing a book I was able to plot in all sorts of clues and characters that were going to interweave through the next two books in the series. But if I’m blunt the most important difference is that if you write a novel and get it published, that process isn’t governed by budget or an actors availability. It’s also a piece of creativity that is more permanent than a screenplay. A screenplay is like a blueprint to build something. It gives birth to a film and it’s the film that lives on through history. The script that begat it is consigned to the vaults and held in awe by nascent writers who read the work of their peers so they can see the nuts and bolts of the master at work.

Who are some of your influences?

From a screen-writers point of view, I’d say Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.) and Christopher Nolan, (The Prestige, Inception.) From an author’s perspective, I’m going through a Jack Reacher phase, also Michael Connelly and his Bosch series on Amazon. Growing up I devoured everything Sci-Fi, and was a big fan of William Gibson, Asimov and Arthur C Clarke. I’m also dipping into some of the more recent novelists that I’ve been introduced to on Inkshares. Sync City published by Pete Ryan, and another one he has in the works Destiny Imperfect, are both great reads in the hard boiled sci-fi genre.

What are some of the projects you’re currently working on?

I always have a selection of screenplays going out to producers and on top of that there’s obviously the Trilogy of novels Louisiana, Bruges, and Venice Blood.

I’d like to thank Mike Donald for the interview. Please visit the links below to explore more of his work or to purchase the incredible “Louisiana Blood”.

Mike Donald standing by Hollywood sign

Related Links:

Mike Donald’s Websites: www.touchwoodpictures.com www.louisianablood.com

Mike Donald’s blog: www.louisianablog.louisianablood.com

To Purchase “Louisiana Blood”: Via Amazon Via Inkshares


Please share!
Categories
Author Interview

Interview with Peter Ryan, Author of Sync City

It’s rare to be able to get excited for a new book to come out when it’s from a first-time author. Peter Ryan is an exception. His novel, Sync City, is a powerful, hard-hitting sci-fi romp through a dystopian future, and I have been patiently waiting for this book through its early production stages. Sync City grabs the reader from the opening lines and does not let up. If you enjoy hard-nosed science fiction, this is a book you do not want to miss. Here’s the book’s pitch:

“In a post-apocalyptic future, fractured timelines are wreaking havoc on the world. Only a tough, hard-drinking enforcer named Jack Trevayne can hold things together. This is gritty, hard-boiled sci-fi with attitude. The future is complicated. Jack is not.”

I had the opportunity to interview Peter Ryan about Sync City, being an author, and what it takes to be a writer.

How did you come up with the idea for Sync City?

I love sci-fi and hard-boiled detective fiction. I’m also a huge fan of dystopian/post-apocalyptic settings. I wanted to combine all three of these. The main character, Jack, came first. I was in Saskatoon, Canada at the time, and this provided the initial backdrop. Then I just started to write. The idea evolved as I went along.

What inspired you to pursue novel writing?

A party with a few mates of mine – we were lamenting the lack of originality in TV and movies. The next day, November 27th, 2013, I started writing a story titled Godspiracy. I’ve pretty much written every day ever since. Before this, I’d never even written a short story.

Who are some of your influences?

For Sync City, Richard Morgan in terms of concepts, William Gibson in terms of background/technology and James Crumley (a fantastic hardboiled crime writer) in terms of characters. My influences seem to change depending on what I write.

Did you have any moments while writing Sync City that you thought you might give up?

No, quite the opposite. I loved writing this story. So much so it’s ended up as a trilogy.

Give us an idea of your writing process.

Generally, in my writing day, I start writing strong and finish weak. So the first thing I do is tweak the stuff I’ve written the previous day. With my stories, I don’t work to a plan, so I don’t say no to any new ideas. I just write them until I write myself into a corner. The next day I find a way to write myself out of the corner and keep the story going. Some of my readers have commented that Sync City is almost serial in nature, which makes sense given the process.

Did anyone in particular inspire any of your characters, particularly Jack, Sync City’s protagonist?

Jack pretty much jumped fully formed into my head. In retrospect, he’s a combo of few people I know and a few characters from stories and movies. Clint Eastwood’s character William Munny in Unforgiven has to be a significant inspiration, as well as Mel Gibson’s Mad Max. The voice in my head when I write Jack is a mix between Harrison Ford in Blade Runner and Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica. Hmm, lots of movies there and not many books.

Author photo final.jpg

What were you doing when the idea for Sync City first struck you?

Sitting at my mother-in-law’s kitchen table getting slightly stuck on another story I was writing. I wrote the opening passage to Sync City imagining the events to be happening in her basement. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t look at the basement the same way anymore.

What other stories have you written or are you working on?

I’ve just finished the first draft of Destiny Imperfect, a video game based story. I’m doing the second draft of the follow-up to Sync City (working title: Sync City Jack), and I’m going to take a look at my very first story attempt (Godspiracy which is an American Gods-meets-The X-Files type thing) and see if I can hammer that into shape. I like to work on two stories at once if I can.

What advice do you have for writers working on completing their first novel?

Have an understanding partner or be single. Seriously, you have to have a lot of time to write. There’s no way around this. Stick your butt in front of a computer on a very regular basis and just keep writing.

What quality do you have that makes writing such a great fit in your life?

A strong enough ego?? Is that a quality? Deliberately or not, you put a bunch of yourself into a story. You then need to be confident enough that people are going to read it. You also need to be confident enough to deal with criticism of your work.

In what ways has your experience living in a country where the native language is not your first language shaped your writing?

Interesting. Probably not so much the language – my Korean is terrible, but definitely the culture. A few sections of Sync City are based on the experiences I’ve had while living in Seoul and the interactions I’ve had with Koreans in general. I also do a lot of writing in Sri Lanka. If you read Sync City and the background is all gray and urban, then I wrote it in Seoul. If it’s all leafy and green, then I wrote it in Sri Lanka – I only realized this after I finished the story.

All of the books on the planet are being destroyed. You can only keep three hidden and safe for you to read. Which three do you choose?

Right now? Altered Carbon by Richard Morgan. Burning Chrome by William Gibson. The Mexican Tree Duck by James Crumley. I owe them all another good read.

Sync City is released upon the world. Follow the links below to learn more and pick up a copy.

Peter Ryan’s bio:

Peter Ryan is a sci-fi lover, motorbike rider, darts player, soju drinker, and T-shirt designer, as well as being an English professor at a university in South Korea. He grew up in Perth, Western Australia. He has traveled much of the world and done a variety of jobs along the way, including sales support at an insurance company, laborer on the building sites of London and Melbourne, chauffeur/minder for an English lord, and business English consultant in Shanghai. Peter lives with his Canadian wife in Seoul, and has done so since 1999. There is no synchrotron in Seoul, though there is plenty of soju.

Sync City Links:

Peter Ryan’s website: http://www.synccityjack.com/

Peter Ryan on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/peterryanauthor/

Inkshares page for Sync City: https://www.inkshares.com/books/sync-city

Sync City on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1942645457/ref=nav_timeline_asin?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1

Sync City at Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sync-city-peter-ryan/1125339887?ean=9781942645450

Sync City at the Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Sync-City-Peter-Ryan/9781942645450

Sync City on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/33377334-sync-city?ac=1&from_search=true

Please share!
Categories
Author Interview

Interview with Author Michael Gaudet

Michael Gaudet is not your typical author.

When Mr. Gaudet approached me to talk about his book, I was immediately intrigued. He is a unique author to me, as he is someone who has suffered kidney disease for most of his life, to the point of requiring organ donation. Mr. Gaudet writes frankly and openly about his experiences, and his message is clear and important. Organ donation is a vital need for so many people out there, but it is something that has a strange stigma attached. Mr. Gaudet has taken his time and energy to write about his experiences to help educate the public about his personal journey and health for the betterment of all. Please enjoy the following interview and pick up a copy of his book, “Dancing with Rejection”.

michael gaudet holding book while receiving dialysis

Tell us a little bit about your book, “Dancing with Rejection”.

I particularly admire the review that was written by best-selling author Eldonna Edwards:

“Intriguing story of an enterprising muralist with an appetite for the mystical. Part magical realism, part biography, part how-to guide for the aspiring artist — Dancing With Rejection offers a unique narrative, embellished with spiritual and metaphysical undertones that border on the ethereal. Michael’s saga takes the reader on adventures that include his formative childhood, bohemian lifestyle, a near-death experience with kidney failure and eventual success as a renowned mural artist. This inspirational tale is tenderly painted with brush strokes of resilience and hope that will alter your heart’s canvas long after you put the book down.”

–Eldonna Edwards,  Living Donor Advocate and Author of  Lost In Transplantation: Memoir of an Unconventional Organ Donor.

As I like to say, “If you believe what you are reading, I offer irrefutable proof of ‘life after death’ in my writing. Dancing with Rejection: A Beginner’s Guide to Immortality explores the phenomenon of “After Death Contact” in a visceral, sometimes shocking way, that springs out of seemingly ordinary scenarios. Not for the feint of heart, this book can be very jarring, but always written with a loving nature that pleads for understanding and compassion.

What made you decide to write a book about your experiences with your health?

I have always written about my thoughts and observations since I was a teenager. So, I had a thick raft of long-hand on loose-leaf. I wrote about my “Near-Death Experience” at age 19, and the powerful influence that my deceased father had on my life over the years. Might sound strange, but my personal encounters with his spirit are undeniable, if not inexplicable. My brother Steven donated a life-saving kidney to me in 1979, after I was diagnosed with End Stage Renal Failure. His “Gift of Life” sustained me in excellent health for over 34 years. In May of 2014 I returned to dialysis. I purchased a laptop and began to transcribe all of my hand-written notes into a digital format. I was very determined to make the best of my twelve hours per week tethered to a machine. After all, there is no guarantee that a dialysis patient will survive the rigors of the treatment. In fact, many patients succumb to the precarious life of dialysis. So, the sense of urgency was top of mind, as I toiled away on the project to polish up my manuscript and get my story out to the world. I would not be deterred! Within about eighteen months I had succeeded in publishing my first book. About a year later, I succeeded in publishing my second book, called “A Work in Progress: The Life my Brother Saved”.

What sort of feedback have you had from others in similar circumstances?

Generally speaking, my books have been very well-received by my friends and colleagues that have experienced extreme health challenges, especially my fellow Dialysis Warriors and kidney transplant recipients, and living kidney donors. I think the big appeal is that they see their own stories reflected in a literary setting. I take this whole business very seriously, so treat the fairly delicate themes of “Near Death Experience” and “After Death Contact” with a lot of graphic detail. However, I do not mince my words; but rather, I forge head-long into that rather harrowing subject matter with unflinching honesty.
michael gaudet reading at a podium

Has speaking out about your health changed you or made things easier for you in any way?

I won’t lie. It was not easy to put down in writing all of the sometimes painful memories of my long, slow decline to the point where I came so close to an early demise. I really believe that my readers have appreciated  my candor. Some people have told me that they see themselves in the more “difficult” passages, and also can share my celebratory tones in the chapters that extol the human triumphs of renewed health and vitality. Now, reflecting on these places, times and (extraordinary) people can be a saving grace in and of itself. I am truly blessed that I had the opportunity and determined spirit that enabled me to record all of this for posterity.

Tell us about why it is so hard to receive organ donation.

Probably the most daunting aspect of living organ donation is dispelling the myths around the health challenges involved. Really, once the rigorous testing is completed for the potential living donor, it’s pretty smooth sailing in most instances. The actual surgery is often done “laparoscopically”, which means there are only tiny incisions, assisted by ultrasonic viewing. The recovery time is dramatically reduced, compared to the former, long incision used to harvest a kidney from a living donor. Having said that, it is still major surgery, so the willingness for a person to donate must be tempered by this knowledge. The reality is, once a willing candidate to donate a life-saving kidney to person who is dialysis-dependent is identified, a perfect tissue match is not a prerequisite! There is a protocol called “Paired Match”, where a willing, qualified donor can be paired with the best possible match in a National Recipient Pool. This activates the best possible donor from the pool to be paired to the original recipient. In some instances, the “Paired Match” protocol has brought over a dozen paired matches together!

What is it like having to go through hemodialysis?

Hemodialysis is a life-saving therapy that both cleans the blood of accumulated toxins and also, helps rid the blood of the fluids that add up between treatments. Generally speaking, the duration of treatments are prescribed to alleviate the threat of kidney failure, providing a fairly healthy lifestyle. Having said that, there are times when the dialysis patient feels “off”. Examples of this are “brain-fog”, shortness of breath, general fatigue, elevated blood pressure and of course, swelling of the extremities. In extreme cases, certain toxins such as potassium, urea and sodium accumulate and cause their own world of trouble.
I am one of the rare birds that self-cannulate, or, in other words, insert my own needles in the venus and arterial parts of my “fistula”, which are the sites on my left arm that have been surgically prepped to allow the therapy. Usually the pain involved in initiating the therapy is fairly minimal, mostly due to the fact that I am the one in the driver’s seat. Sometimes, when things go awry, the needles can “blow”, which means they pierce the fistula to allow blood to escape into the surrounding tissue, resulting in a sudden “ballooning” and then, fairly extreme bruising. The only relief is to apply an ice-pack over the site, and then move away from the spot for the next treatment, if at all possible.
My doctor has told me the my fistula is a) my lifeline, and b) the Gold Standard for dialysis. So, any tests, like blood-work or blood-pressure, must NEVER be using my left arm. My Medic-Alert bracelet states that salient fact clearly, in the event that I cannot speak for myself.
michael gaudet in photo session

What do you think is the most important thing you want people to learn from reading your book?

I want my readers to appreciate that a healthy and very productive life can spring from out of the chaos and confusion of a near brush with death. I can only thank my loving brother Steven for insisting that he donate a life-saving kidney in my dire time of need all those years ago.  “Dancing with Rejection” not only describes my own near-fatal experience, but also chronicles the heroic “Gift of Life” from my brother, and goes on to assure my readers that Steven went on to live a full and rich life in the aftermath. It is my (fervent) hope that this story will inspire many others to take the step to become a living donor, and also to reassure the millions of us living with the insidious condition of kidney failure that their day will come, when they are restored to vibrant health and wellness.

What other books have you written/are working on?

I have published my second book called, “A Work in Progress: The Life My Brother Saved”, that tracks some of my significant mural projects, portrays the “love of my life” and introduces the indomitable “Pearl”… who is my daughter. This second book terminates at the moment when I discover, after over thirty-four years of life with my “Gift of Life”, that I must return to thrice-weekly dialysis. Now, I am marinating a third book, that will constitute the complete “trilogy” of my memoirs. The third book, as of yet untitled, will be written in “real time” as I enter the next phase of my life with second “Gift of Life”, that will gain me back my seven days a week, God and all the angels willing.
Please visit me at www.mrgaudet.com to read more.

Enjoy the following video interview:

Related Links:

Please share!
Categories
Author Interview

Interview with Jason Pomerance: On Writing and Marketing

Today, Jason Pomerance is here to talk about his journey publishing his debut novel, Women Like Us.

Welcome Jason. First, I want to say congratulations on the release of your novel, Women Like Us, which hit shelves on July 26, 2016! How does it feel to be a published author?

Thank you for having me! I think pretty much almost nothing compares with holding your book for the first time. Most authors spend untold amounts of time — years most likely — thinking about his or her book, writing it, rewriting it, editing it, editing it some more, so that when it actually is a physical thing that you can leaf through it’s pretty astounding. Here it’s almost two years after pub date for Women Like Us, and sometimes I’ll pick it up and leaf through it and I still can’t believe it’s actually in my hands. Then other cool things happen — you see it on the shelf of a bookstore, or you see it’s been shelved at a library, or you look at reviews that pop up on Amazon or Goodreads, and if somebody really connected with it, that’s another totally sweet thing. Oh, and when it crossed over from hundreds sold into thousands. That was a nice moment.

Can you tell us a little bit about Women Like Us and what inspired the story?

The book actually began its life as a screenplay. I had in mind to write a mother/son road trip movie, but when I was outlining it, I just kept writing and writing until it began to feel more like a novel. So I just went with it and kept writing. But I have to say the whole thing didn’t really take off until the character Edith Vale started to take on a bigger role than originally envisioned. She sort of sprung to life fully formed; if you read the book you’ll see she’s quite bossy, and it’s like she started telling me what to do!! Anyway once she took on a life of her own, it became not just a story of a mother and son, but a story of a mother and her ex-mother-in-law. And people seem to love Edith, even though, quite frankly, she’s a little bit crazy. But probably everybody knows a person like her.

Is there a primary message in Women Like Us?

I believe there is. Women Like Us is really about family. Oh, it’s a fractured family to be sure, but it’s a family that comes together in a time of crisis. In any family good things happen and bad things happen, and I think the message is that even though bad things might happen, good can also come. It’s sort of a circle-of-life kind of thing too.

How much of yourself do you put into your books?

I think all authors put something of themselves into their characters. And of course often we’re writing from experience, even if the experience may be altered a little (or even a lot!).

Have you ever incorporated something that happened in real life into your story?

Yes!

If given the opportunity to start over, would you change anything in your book?

I still look through the book and find things I wish I could say differently — you know, a different word in a sentence, or a different sentence altogether. When it came time to turn the book in after the final edit, they pretty much had to pry the book from my hands. I love to tinker with words and sentences.

People believe that being a published author is glamorous, how true is that?

I’m pretty sure it’s glamorous if you’re lucky enough to get on a best seller list, but I think most authors toil away in a degree of obscurity that’s not exactly glamorous. But like many writers I’m sure, I’m not doing this for any other reason but to get a story out that I want to tell. For me, anyway, that’s the most important thing.

Do you enjoy book signings? And what is your setup?

I didn’t do a whole lot of book signings unless you count Goodreads Giveaways of signed books, which I actually love and did a lot of until Goodreads changed the price structure on giveaways. But I’ve been asked on a few occasions for signed copies, and I’m always happy to sign.

Tell us about an interesting encounter you had with a fan.

I posted about this on my instagram recently. I walk our beagles by several Little Free Libraries that have sprung up around our neighborhood. One lady had seen me leave a copy of Women Like Us in one, and after she read it she asked if I had written it. When I said, “Yup,” she said how much she enjoyed it and asked for a signed copy, So I was happy to oblige.

What do you do to market your own books yourself? Any advice on that front?

If you’re published under the Quill imprint of Inkshares you’re mostly on your own for marketing so, yeah, I’ve done tons of stuff. Closer to when the book was coming out, I did I whole bunch of guest blog posts — I reached out to a ton of bloggers really and got a good amount of responses but it’s a ton of work. I reached out to a bunch of local newspapers, big and small, and managed to get a little bit of press. Also, we decided to lower the price of the eBook, which I think is critical, unless you’re a brand — people are way more willing to take a chance on your book if it doesn’t cost them a whole lot. And if you want more readers, and you’re not a brand, I think there’s no other way. Then you have to get on a whatever discount ebook email blasters are best in your genre. I’ve had very good luck Book Gorilla and Ereadernewstoday. Promos on both got Women Like Us into the top 100 on Amazon in it’s top sub genre. Which was pretty amazing.

­Have you ever destroyed any of your drafts and started from scratch?

I started and stopped and restarted Women Like Us many times until I got the right tone but I’ve never totally destroyed a draft.

When can the readers expect another book from you? Any details that you can share?

Hopefully soon!! It’s written, although I’m still sort of tinkering and editing. I’ve been in a long agent query process and it’s down to about one or two agents who are reading. If they pass, I’ll go indie and put it out probably via Ingram Spark for print and eBooks. I’m hoping not to have to go that route, but I will if I have to.

Some details? It’s called CELIA AT 39, and it’s sort of SWEET HOME ALABAMA meets MOONSTRUCK. It’s definitely more of a Rom-com than anything else. It’s about what happens when a package mysterious shows up at a front door 40 year after it was mailed. When Celia Bernhart (successful in her career and engaged to marry her longtime boyfriend) decides to try to deliver the package to its rightful recipient, her whole life is turned upside down!

If you were given the opportunity to join a book club with your favorite authors, dead or alive, who would you want to become a part of the club?

I’ve said this elsewhere, but I’ll say it again — I worship at the altar of Anne Tyler. I’m just such a huge fan of almost every one of her books, and I read and reread them over and over again (which I think any author should do). So Anne Tyler for sure. Charles Dickens, of course, because Great Expectations is probably one of my all time favorites, and then maybe one of the hard-boiled noir writers like James M. Cain, who was just brilliant.

What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with or follow you (website, blog, Facebook, Goodreads, etc.) and links?

Readers can find me several ways!!

Instagram: @whowantsdinner

Twitter : @whowantsdinner

Website: http://www.jasonpomerance.com

Facebook: Women Like Us has its own page here: https://www.facebook.com/womenlikeusnovel/

Goodreads (author page): https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15205951.Jason_Pomerance

About Women Like Us

 

Order Women Like Us Today!

Susan Jones, a brash and ballsy chef who hopscotches from one demanding restaurant job to the next, was barely in her twenties when she married and had a son, Henry. But after her marriage to Andrew fell apart, she ceded most of the raising of the baby to her mother-in-law, the very opinionated Edith Vale, a woman as formidable and steely as her stiff blond bouffant, the veritable helmet that helps her soldier through life. Now, after letting Henry drift away, Susan is determined to make things right. But just as mother and son seem to make headway after embarking on a cross-country road trip, things take a dark turn. When the family reconvenes in California, everybody must fight to find courage and humor in the face of a situation that threatens to change them all forever.

 

 

Please share!
Categories
Best Of This Month's Reads

Writing Bloc’s Best of June: Contributors Share their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads June Edition

Welcome to the second post in our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. Robert Batten, Becca Spence Dobias, Michael Haase, Christopher Lee, and Jacqui Castle have a few titles to test the strength of your to-read shelf.

Becca’s Recommendation: Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry

I was perusing my local independent bookstore last month, when I saw something that made me literally squeal—the first book from Inkshares, the publisher my own novel is in production with, in the wild. It was Sorcery for Beginners by Matt Harry, and I bought it immediately, gushing to the owner about how excited I was.

Though it clocks in at over 400 pages, I finished the book quickly, partly because of its status as a middle grade novel, but mostly because of how fun and engaging it is. Sorcery introduces itself as a guide to the world of magic, explaining that it provides this introductory lesson through the tale of another young sorcerer.

That tale is heartfelt and believable. At 31, I still wanted to suspend my disbelief so young readers are sure to be even more enthralled. When the book explains that adults can’t learn sorcery, I tried to convince myself that perhaps I still count as a kid. Though it is intended for younger readers, Sorcery does not dumb itself down, and there are several references that adults will appreciate.

At times it is emotional and suspenseful, as the author explores themes like family, friendship, and moral responsibility with compassion. The characters have depth, and several have the potential for growth, which I hope we will see in sequels.

Sorcery for Beginners makes several nods, both direct and indirect, to Harry Potter. It’s clear that Matt Harry is influenced by his love for the series, and his debut book is one he could be proud to show Rowling.

The end of the book sets readers up for the follow-up, Cryptozoology for Beginners. I am looking forward to its release and another adventure with the young sorcerers.

 

Jacqui’s Recommendation: Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration

My recommendation this month is for a collection of essays from prominent YA authors. Hope Nation contains essays from authors such as Atia Abawi, author of The Secret Sky, and Ally Condie, author of Matched. Readers will find a diverse range of voices represented within Hope Nation‘s pages, as each author shares an inspiring story from their own past, or simply a hopeful letter to YA readers. The stories within Hope Nation were compiled by Rose Brock.

So what is Hope Nation? Simply, it’s a collection of unique and personal experiences shared by some of my favorite writers for teens. Stories of resilience, resistance, hardship, loss, love, tenacity, and acceptance – stories that prove that sometimes, hope can be found only on the other side of adversity. I’m so grateful to each of these talented writers for sharing their own paths to hope.

As with any compilation, some essays hit harder than others, and with a collection like this one, readers will certainly find those that reach out and pull them for personal reasons. My favorites included The Kids Who Stick by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely, Don’t Listen to the A**Holes by Atia Abawi, and Baseball Pasta by Christina Diaz Gonzalez.

Michael’s Recommendation: Fool by Christopher Moore

I cannot get enough of Christopher Moore. He is a national treasure, in my humble opinion. He made his great break with the bestseller, Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal, and he has been owning the comedic novel scene ever since.

I love Christopher Moore for his comedy, his lack of restriction, and his ability to tell a story. With Fool, he riffs off of the master of storytelling himself, William Shakespeare.

Fool is designed to be a satire of King Lear, but it is oh so much more. The story follows Pocket, King Lear’s fool, as he finds himself in the middle of (and partially responsible for) an impending war between kingdoms. The story is expertly told with such great pacing and appropriate homage to Shakespeare himself, I can’t help but admit that I reread this book at least once every year. It is a great tale with an excellent protagonist (who earned himself a starring role in another one of Moore’s great books, The Serpent of Venice.

I’d go on, but I’ll let the book itself warn you of what you’re in for should you read it:

“This is a bawdy tale. Herein you will find gratuitous shagging, murder, spanking, maiming, treason, and heretofore unexplored heights of vulgarity and profanity, as well as non-traditional grammar, split infinitives, and the odd wank.”

Robert’s Recommendation: The Seclusion by Jacqui Castle

Book Cover: The Seclusion, by Jacqui CastleI’m going to have to call out something in the interests of transparency before I get into my recommendation. The Seclusion is written by Writing Bloc contributor Jacqui Castle, which may mean I approach this with some bias, but I just finished reading my copy and loved it so much I’m going to recommend it anyway.

The Seclusion is the debut novel from journalist Jacqui Castle and it’s a ripper. The story is set in a dystopian future America that has been twisted into an isolationist authoritarian nation, separated from the rest of the world by the enormous Northern and Southern Security Borders. All history predating the walls is banned and information is tightly controlled. In this new America, the people are ruled by a faceless board and mindless patriotism is favored above all else. Into this setting we meet Patricia. As an environmental scientist, she’s one of the few people permitted to roam beyond the city walls. It’s while on one of these research trips she stumbles upon a trove of forbidden information that triggers a harrowing sequence of events.

In the year 2090, America has walled itself off from the rest of the world. When her father is arrested by the totalitarian Board, a young woman sets out to escape the only country she’s ever known.

While on a routine assignment scouting the viability of dwindling natural resources outside the massive urban centers most American citizens call home, Patricia ’Patch’ and her co-worker Rexx discover a relic from the past containing dangerous contraband―unedited books from before The Seclusion. These texts will spark an unquenchable thirst for the truth that sees Patch’s father arrested by the totalitarian Board.

Evading her own arrest, Patch and Rexx set out across a ruined future United States, seeking some way to escape the only home they’ve ever known. Along the way, they learn about how their country came to be this way and fall in love. But their newfound knowledge may lead to their own demise.

There’s no pretending The Seclusion isn’t political. It was written before the election of Trump, but many will see it as prescient, with the world it paints an extreme conclusion to the right-wing populism currently sweeping not just the USA, but many other countries as well. Basically, if you’re a racist, right-wing conservative who doesn’t believe in human rights, you’re probably not going to enjoy The Seclusion. Suck it.

I loved this novel. Patricia is a great protagonist who grows throughout as events spiral out of control. The world, though extreme, is well realized and the journey from present-day to dystopian future all too believable.

Disclaimer: I read an advance review copy of this novel. However, I had already pre-ordered and paid for a retail copy before receiving the version I reviewed. The Seclusion is out September 4th.

Christopher’s Recommendation: Wordsmithy: Hot Tips for the Writing Life by Douglas Wilson

The writer’s life is full of pitfalls and it is important to have an arsenal of strategies and solid framework in which to work. I myself am an obsessive reader of non-fiction, and one of my favorite nonfiction topics is about my craft. There are literally thousands of books on the craft for you to choose from and each one has at least one valuable lesson for writers.  I keep a couple of writing books in my laptop bag at all times for instruction or inspiration, one is Elements of Style, another is the Writers Boot Camp 2, and the third is Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson my recommendation for this month.

I chose Wordsmithy for this month because it is unique in its approach. Many writing books sugar coat the dirty details of the craft and Douglas Wilson does a fantastic job at not only revealing the truths every writer needs to know, but he also provides thorough, practical advice for how to address the most difficult aspects. I agree with Wilson when he says “Writers do not need another pandering, pat-on-the-back, feel-good writer’s manual.

While other writing manuals offer the same ten tips, Wilson digs deeper. His sage advice penetrates to the deeper matter behind the many points in which a writer can trip themselves up. It is a no-nonsense, practical guide to improving your craft, that I believe every writer needs to have in their toolbox. The best part is it is a very quick read! I suggest reading a chapter every day and installing the advice into your writing repertoire. The extended reading list that Wilson offers also packs a formidable punch!

SaveSave

SaveSave

Please share!
Categories
Best Of This Month's Reads

Writing Bloc’s Best of May: Contributors Share their Favorite Book of the Month

Writing Bloc’s Best Reads May Edition

This is the first post in what will be an ongoing best reads series in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. This month, Robert Batten, Michael Haase, and Jacqui Castle all chimed in with their recommendations. Check out the first three books that made the cut.

Robert’s recommendation: The Fireman by Joe Hill

My book of the month is The Fireman, by Joe Hill. It came to me as a recommendation from one of my editors, which is high praise in itself. The Fireman is an apocalyptic horror by best-selling author Joe Hill. It takes us to a version of our world that is burning. Literally. A mysterious disease, known as dragonscale due to the markings it creates on the body, is causing mass spontaneous combustion. With the sheer number of people catching fire, almost everything else seems to be going up in flames too, including civilization. Into this setting we meet Harper, an uncompromisingly positive nurse with a fondness for Julie Andrews. Harper is amazing. She’s a charming mix of innocence, courage, and intelligence. Experiencing the world through her point of view is a delight.

“Harper put the novel back on his desk, cornering the edges of the manuscript so it stood in a neat, crisp pile. With its clean white title page and clean white edges, it looked as immaculate as a freshly made bed in a luxury hotel. People did all sorts of unspeakable things in hotel beds.”

The story is a slow burn, building the intensity as the disasters mount. The world is well-realized and the dragonscale fascination, but throughout it’s the characters and the prose that shine. The novel telegraphs each of the disasters and betrayals beautifully, letting you stress as the tension builds without spoiling the moment when it finally arrives.

“Almost as an afterthought, she put a box of kitchen matches on top of it as a paperweight. If her Dragonscale started to smoke and itch, she wanted to have them close at hand. If she had to burn, she felt it only fair that the fucking book burn first.”

If you enjoy dystopian / apocalyptic fiction, you should absolutely read The Fireman.

Michael’s Recommendation: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

I enjoy reading and writing humor and satire, first and foremost. Somehow, this book slipped through the cracks. I never had this book recommended to me, so I feel obligated to push it forward. Yes, it’s a little older, as it was published in 1980. But wow, this book is so interesting and unique, a tale woven like no other. I haven’t read anything so clever and unique since Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. 

This is an odd book, admittedly. Ignatius J. Reilly, the protagonist, is almost as antihero as they come. He is fractious, disrespectful, and flatulent. He is a highly educated man who manipulates his environment to appease his fastidious needs. Ultimately, he is a man who is unable to see his own difficulties, constantly diverting his problems onto others while scraping by ina strange, purposeless existence. He is thirty years old, living with his mother in the heart of New Orleans, and his antics inadvertently set in motion events that change the lives of all the other characters around him. His is simultaneously lovable and repulsive, and the balance is held tightly by the magnificent writing. Ignatius might be strange and difficult to visualize as a hero, but he is infinitely quotable. For example:

“I am at the moment writing a lengthy indictment against our century. When my brain begins to reel from my literary labors, I make an occasional cheese dip.”

Ignatius, to me, is some of the most lovably worst parts of us with an unlimited vocabulary. The entire book is filled with oddball characters, each with their flaws and difficulties. But, in the end, you cheer for all. Go into it expecting a book like no other.

Jacqui’s Recommendation: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Okay, so I didn’t actually read this in May. I read it a few months ago. But, I wanted to start this series out by recommending this book because it had such a strong impact on me. The Knife of Never Letting Go is is one of those books that sticks with you, haunts you long after you’ve put it down. There are two other books in this series, and though I know I will love them, I haven’t picked them up yet for fear of what they might contain, whether I’ll be able to handle what comes next for our main character, Todd. I’ll get there…

In the town of Prentisstown, everyone can hear everyone’s thoughts. They refer to this as their ‘noise,’ and though the noise may get louder or softer, it never ceases. Every single person in Prentisstown is constantly surrounded by their own noise, and the noise of others, even the animals. If you think you have heard all the great stories there are to tell about a boy and his dog, think again. And have tissues nearby once you are ready to embark on this journey.

Todd’s world gets thrown upside down when he stumbles upon an area of silence. What is behind the silence, and where will it lead him?

I can hear it.

Well, I can’t hear it, that’s the whole point, but when I run toward it the emptiness of it is touching my chest and the stillness of it pulls at me and there’s so much quiet in it, no, not quiet, silence, so much unbelievable silence that I start to feel really torn up, like I’m about to lose the most valuable thing ever, like there it is, a death…

I hesitate to explain more about this story without delving into spoilers. All I will say is, read this immediately, and be ready to have it f#@k with your head long after the last page.

Please share!
Categories
Author Interview

Interview with Author Jason Pomerance

(Read through to the bottom, where there is a link to a free novella by Jason Pomerance!)

There’s a novel out now called “Women Like Us,” and it deserves your attention. It is a wonderful tale of a broken family picking up the pieces, trying to find compromise amidst dysfunction. Each character is wonderfully crafted, and the tale itself will move you to laughter as well as tears. The novel first caught my eye on inkshares.com, as its prose is honest, emotional, and flowing. I was caught up in the story immediately, and when I finally received my copy last month, the book did not disappoint.

“Women Like Us” is the debut novel of Jason Pomerance, who is no stranger to storytelling, being an author of screenplays (as well as a filmmaker). He was kind enough to grant me an interview, and I hope you enjoy getting to know this emerging author.

jasonheadshotBW-2.jpg
Jason Pomerance, author CREDITED BY: Steven Murashige

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Jason.

I’m just your typical writer/reader/food-obsessed sometime chef and surfer (although I’m a much better surfer in my head than I am in reality. In reality I sort of suck at catching waves. But I just keep at it!).

What was the inspiration for Women Like Us?

I’m a huge fan of road trip stories. Maybe because there’s such great potential for transformation. There’s just something about being on the road that seems to have meaning in terms of growth and change for characters. So the original inspiration was to do a story about a mother and son on the road. In fact it started out as a screenplay, but the more I wrote an outline version the more it was feeling more like a piece of fiction so I just kept going.

How long did the novel take to write/what is your writing process like?

It’s hard to say exactly how long because I didn’t sit down and write it start to finish all at once. I’d pick it up, but then be pulled onto some other project and I’d go back to it when I’d get the chance. My process is not to outline too much or think too much about it ahead, but just let it flow. In fact I have to say on this book, the characters totally took me by surprise.

Edith Vale, for example, is the character who many people say stands out the most, but she started out as just a minor player. Then she sort of took on a life of her own and the plot diverged from where I thought it was going — so it became not just about mother and son but also about mother and slightly demented mother-in-law! I have to say also Mrs. Vale sort of came to life fully formed — I’m not sure what I was channeling but it was very clear early one who she was and what she was about.

Are there any autobiographical elements to the novel?

I think there’s always a part of us in whatever we write, so I’d say yes, for sure. Susan, for example, is a chef, and although I’ve never worked in a restaurant kitchen, cooking is big part of my life. There’s a little bit of surfing in the book and, like I said, I try to surf as best as I can. Like Edith Vale, I enjoy the occasional Manhattan (well, for her it’s pretty much nightly) and like Edith I can be a little persnickety about the way I think things should be done!

Do you have any advice for other authors and artists?

This might sound a little cliched but just follow your gut and follow your voice. There’s always going to be plenty of people telling you that you can’t do something, or you’re doing it wrong but if you believe in what you’re writing (or whatever you’re working on, if it’s some other art form) it doesn’t matter. The nay-saying is just noise. Also, never quit. Never give up. Just find a way to forge ahead no matter what because in the end it will pay off.

Like with Women Like Us. There were points I never thought this book would see the light of day, but now I can hold the book in my hand, which is such a great thing. I’ve seen it on the shelf in a couple of local bookstores and I see people writing reviews of it on Amazon. It’s all very gratifying but if I’d listened to the doubters it never would have happened.

Do you have any other stories or projects you are currently working on that you’d like us to know about?

Yes. I’m trying to get to the finish line on another novel. CELIA ON THE VERGE might fall more into chick-lit territory (for some that’s a good thing, for some not so much!). It’s about a woman who thought she had her whole future planned out but everything becomes upended when a package arrives in her mailbox 40 years late! When Celia tries to complete the delivery to its rightful recipient, many complications ensue!!

You are a filmmaker as well. Tell us a little more about your work in film.

I’d hesitate to say filmmaker because I’d reserve that for directors and I’ve never really felt the pull to direct. But I’ve been a Writers’ Guild-card carrying member of the movie business for a long time. I’ve sold a couple of pilots on the TV end, and worked and many studio projects. But it’s always tough seeing anything through to its final form — kind of like the book business but maybe even tougher because as a writer you have very little control.

I am a co-producer of a project that’s been a passion — it’s my screen adaptation of Charles Dickinson’s novel THE WIDOWS’ ADVENTURES, which until recently was set up with Diane Keaton and Jane Fonda attached to star. I fell in love with this book from page one, and somehow I am determined that the movie will come together at some point. It’s another crazy road-trip story, which makes sense because as I said I love them, but in this story, the one who does the driving on a cross-country journey is blind while her beer-swilling sister gives direction (they only drive on backroads in the dead of night and very, very slowly!).

The book, by the way, is available on Amazon in both physical and eBook versions — Anybody who likes road trip stories should check it out, or one of Charles’ other novels. He’s an extremely talented writer.

You are donating a portion of your profits to the Beagle Freedom Project. Tell us about the charity and what inspired you to work with them.

I’m not sure how I stumbled onto the Beagle Freedom Project, but we already had one beagle when I heard about the work they do — I had no idea beagles were even used for medical and cosmetics tests, and what The Beagle Freedom Project does is negotiate with the labs to get them released when the labs are done with them. Whether or not you are for or against animal testing, I don’t think anybody could condone what most labs do, which is euthanize the dogs (or other animals — BFP also works to free cats, rabbits, pigs and other animals).

Anyway, we signed up to foster and then adopt one of these dogs. Derric was part of a group called the Midwest 10!! He’d been in a lab for the first five years of his life. These poor guys have spent their lives in cages and don’t know how to do anything (never really even been outdoors) but he’s been a joy to have and I can’t imagine life without him! During the pre-order phase of Women Like Us, I did a couple of contests that were connected to a Beagle Freedom Project donation, so I just decided I’d continue it as a thank you, because there are a lot of supporters of the group, and they were very supportive of Women Like Us. Their link, by the way, is http://bfp.org

IMG_3393.jpg
Jason at home with his happy beagle, Derric

 

Related Links:

To view and buy “Women Like Us” on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Women-Like-Us-Jason-Pomerance/dp/1942645104/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1472761204&sr=8-1

The “Women Like Us” page on GoodReads:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30007119-women-like-us

Jason Pomerance’s Website:

http://www.jasonpomerance.com

Jason also has a FREE four-part novella called “Falconer”, which you can read here: 

http://hollywooddementia.com/author/jason-pomerance/

 

Post originally appeared in Renderosity Magazine, 09/13/16

Please share!