Friday, November 25, 2022

Amazing thanks!

Woohoo - I'm celebrating again πŸ₯³

I've just had the most fantastic thank-you email from lovely author Simon Van Der Velde (see our interview here) and I just wanted to share it with you because it's made my day!

And if you've not read Backstories yet, do take a look (see the links below):
 
 

Hi Jane,

Thank you so much for reviewing Backstories.

I am grateful to everyone who has taken the time to review my work, but it has been a particular pleasure to work with you.

Your Q&A was fun, and avoided those overly predictable questions, and it's clear from your beautifully written review that you really took the time to engage with my writing - enjoying both the surface level of the 'who-is-it' game, and the deeper meanings and messages beneath. Your presentation was excellent. Your links worked! And not only was your review fun to read, but it was spell-checked too. (If that sounds patronising, I apologise, but these details count - and not everyone gets them riteπŸ˜‰ )

I am also particularly pleased with the level of engagement you got, which is fantastic for a new(ish) reviewer, but in no way surprising, given the quality of your work.

I'll expect to be reading your reviews in the Guardian in the near future. In the meantime, I'll be making the most of you while I can, and you may be sure that when Backstories II comes out, (in early 2023), Tweetables will be right up there in my list of top reviewers.

Thanks again, and very best wishes,

Simon

Isn't that lovely! I'm sitting here with a big grin on my face so thank you Simon and yes, I can't wait to read the second Backstories!

Find out more by visiting the author's links below:

Buy at: https://amzn.to/3j8D2Hp

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Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Sneaky peek of 'Bunky and the Walms: The Christmas Story'

As πŸŽ„ChristmasπŸŽ… is fast approaching (yes, I said it - sorry 😁), I thought it would be lovely to review a Christmas-themed book suitable for the whole family. My next offering is the charming 'Bunky and the Walms: The Christmas Story' and is aimed at 4-13 year olds, although its author, Aleksandra Tryniecka, says,
'It is also dedicated to the Readers of All ages who feel young at heart and would like to dive into an almost 200-page magical, peaceful world filled with hope, goodness, and dreams!'
 
You just know you're going to love it! It features Santa, reindeer and a sleigh in need of repair - will Bunky help and save the day?
 
Read more when my post goes live on the 1st December but in the meantime, why not take a look at Aleksandra's links at:
 
 
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Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Author interview with Martin Featherston

 

AUTHOR INTERVIEW

This month we’re meeting the very humorous Martin Featherston, and I have to say, he had me laughing from the start. I asked Martin to introduce himself.

‘Before belly-flopping into the deep end of the writing pool, I spent several excruciating decades in the business world. However, during that time, I did find great personal joy as a part-time lecturer at Montreal’s McGill University.  

Now, free from politically correct corporate-speak and the obligation to wear pants, I write short stories and fictional novels from my home in Canada.’ 

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a very vivid picture of how Martin writes πŸ˜‚ What did he teach, and why was it joyful?

‘I lectured to senior commerce and MBA students in International Business, focusing on Asian/North American corporate practices and culture.
All of my corporate experience has been with Japanese-owned companies. And I have spent a lot of time in Japan and China, and once, I flew over the Philippines – which, as far as I could tell, looked nice. I have much love for those Asian countries I visited and a deep understanding of their cultures.

The teaching process was delightful. The students were great, and we often stayed after class to discuss, debate, and tackle every global concern that haunts the planet. I’m happy to say we solved them all. Although… I’ve yet to see any of our solutions implemented. Which… now that I mention it, seems odd. Hmm, that does seem strange 🀣 He continues, ‘As a side note, about 50% of each class was of Asian descent. I’ll never forget watching these eager students scribble down notes while I droned on about their own culture. Surreal, to say the least.’

I can imagine! He was born in Rugby, England, but was ‘snatched from the crib and quickly immersed in all facets of British humour.’ He then spent his childhood looking for the meaning of life through a lens dominated by Goodies, Pythons and Galactic Hitchhikers. He readily admits that it should be no surprise that, as a grown man, his global perspective remains a tad bent! He continues,  
‘Unable to skate, I was considered an outcast in Canada and summarily banished to the small village of Elora, Ontario, where I’m outnumbered by cows. As such, I have embraced a dietary policy of ‘no red meat’ to pacify the more militant bovines in the neighbourhood. 

My hobbies include Amateur Radiology, Ardvarkian Philosophy and collecting pottery-based weapons.’

When I stop laughing,  I ask how easy it is to do amateur radiology, as I’d like to give it a go! He replies,
It’s a straightforward process once you finally get the machines up the stairs and installed in your spare bedroom - and secure a second job to cover the electric bills.’ 

A surprisingly creative process, radiology allows you to explore two extremes with the same machine. On one end, you can take very pretty pictures of the inner workings of clocks, cell phones, pacemakers, fish, the cat, Jehova’s Witnesses, and your own personal nether regions. And at the other extreme, you can heat up soup.’

πŸ˜‚  Have you any idea how difficult it is to think of sensible questions when youre processing these images! Comedy genius πŸ˜‡

‘Nothing Sacred’ was published in 2022 and is Martin’s first book, although he has another two underway. It’s published in the Fictional Humour genre (no surprise there!) and is book one in the ‘Anywhen’ trilogy. As I’m not reviewing the book, I asked Martin for a synopsis:

‘Meet Earl Grey, a down-to-earth but down-on-his-luck small-time newspaper reporter. Earl’s a bit of an unreliable mess, albeit loveable, if absolutely necessary.
Much to Earl’s lack of surprise, he is suddenly assigned a story far worse than his typical day-to-day drudgery. Two days after the earth-shattering arrival of an alleged God in Phoenix, Arizona, in 2005, Earl is appointed as Media Liaison to this extremely ungodlike man. One who has been apparently working miracles after being discovered dressed in Armani in the Arizona desert.
With ‘God’ now restricted to a hospital room, Earl suddenly finds himself with exclusive access to the Almighty. And with great access comes great demand, as our less-than-intrepid reporter quickly discovers. Meeting a feast of both loveable and despicable characters - each one not entirely what they seem. But one thing’s certain, they all want something from this newly arrived God and plan to go through Earl to get it. However, Earl, a lifelong atheist and skeptic, has very different plans and sets about to uncover the true identity of this unusual man before His time on earth runs out.
Thrust into global celebrity and a massive mid-life course correction, it isn’t long before Earl is overwhelmed, paranoid, and plagued with crippling self-doubt. But, as usual, he’ll have to sort out the whole mess for himself. Hopefully, before the world comes to an end.’

Intrigued, I asked Martin for a tweetable extract of one of his favourite parts of the novel that you can tweet (tweet here)

Morning arrived, as it often does, all bright and frisky and annoyingly full of hope. Another day dawned on the wickedly slow pace of planetary evolution. The earth rotates one more time. The moon disappears, and the sun resumes sunning - cyclical blessings from the patron saint of second chances.’

I wondered what inspired him to write this story, as it seems quite removed from his corporate working life. Has he been a journalist, or did he have to research?   

‘This could be an agonizingly long answer. 

So I’ll just say… 42. 
Not kidding, really. 42, Douglas Adams’ answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything from his Hitchhikers series. Mr. Adams changed my life. Perhaps saved it. 

As a youngster, I did not think like the others. I was not good at conforming. I drove my poor mother nuts with my anti-religious interrogations. And I adored science and philosophy. I seriously thought something was wrong with me (there probably is, but that’s another story). 

When I began to read Douglas’ works and watch Python and other British comedies of the time, I was changed. Perhaps I didn’t see it then, but my conversion was swift and absolute. I suddenly felt full of stuff I needed to say. The more I read or watched, the more I knew I needed to participate. 

My research? Over the years, I’ve read all the holy books cover to cover many times. I studied the comedy greats. I watched how they built a premise and then delivered the unexpected ending. The great John Cleese once said “great humour is not watching a person do something silly; it’s watching a bystander watching a person doing something silly.” I knew right away that if gut-splitting humour could come from graduates in history, philosophy and even divinity – my path was clear.’

It’s one thing to read works, but what inspired him to start writing?
‘An avid reader since boyhood. An academic father. Only child syndrome with a vivid imagination.’

If you’ve been writing for so long, what made you publish now?
‘One of my darkest character traits is pragmatism. As such, I moved towards a business career since it promised little chance of starving to death or being discovered in an opium den in Hanoi, overdosed on research.
But, in business, I always felt like a sell-out. I was good at it and rose to a high level, but it was unsatisfying and depressing. I swore that once I had enough money to live on, I would retire early and throw myself into completing the hundreds of storylines that permeated my stack of notepads. I started with short stories, of which I have hundreds. My intent was (and still is) to publish several books of short stories. But the Nothing Sacred concept would not yield to short storytelling. It persisted until I had written enough to produce two books. Thus, NS will ultimately be a trilogy with a fantastic climax, as we all like those.

As fate would have it, I happened upon a brilliant editor who lives in England and shares my odd sense of humour. We were and are perfectly pared. To ensure continuity, he will work on the following two books in the trilogy.

So that’s how this all came about. But, I am the type who would find something wrong with a winning lotto ticket. Thus, the N.S. books are not enough for me. I will try very hard to get this story onto the screen. I think the story and humour are ideal for a series (think Good Omens) or perhaps a movie (if I can get Selena Gomez to return my calls).’

And being a fan of series like Good Omens, I’m already planning how I can volunteer to be his P.A. when the call comes! He mentioned research, so does he complete a lot?

‘Research filled three notebooks years before I sat down to write this story. While travelling the world, I took copious notes about the fun and unusual characters I met along the way, plus intriguing facts about their countries and cultures. In addition, I researched the locations of every scene in the Nothing Sacred, right down to street names and native foliage.’

Whaaat? Three notebooks? How much was used, and what will he do with the rest?
‘There was a lot left over. Somebody should have told me to stop.
A great deal of situational humour was transferable to book two. Half of book two was written before I even sat down to contemplate. Right now, I’d say roughly 75% of book two is complete (pre-editorial dismemberment).’

So, having made the decision to write, what does he enjoy the most about the process?
‘The escape. Creation. Sending messages or thoughts I could not convey in any other medium.’

And what about the least?
‘Writing is easy. I have over 100 short stories (many planned for a compilation book), and my follow-up novel is almost ready for editing. Getting published is a nightmare. Torture. An exercise in both humility and self-abuse.’

Oh dear, I fear I’ve struck a nerve! What’s been so hard? Would it be easier with a traditional publisher?
Don’t get me started!!!!’ Oops! 
‘Ok, I’m resettled. A glass of bourbon and ice beside me in case there’s a flare-up.’ It sounds like I’m going to need some too! He continues,‘The book industry is a nightmare. On the one hand, you have FIVE mega publishers that control everything. And they have no interest in new authors (unless you’re Selena Gomez).

Then there’s the self-publish industry (a friend once called it the Sh*t Volcano). Thousands of books are published every day. Most are without editing, advice, decent covers or an actual story (think 50 shades).

I went in-between – a hybrid publisher. The main reason? I’m a writer, not an editor, typesetter, cover designer, or Kardashian. And I know enough to realize when I need specialized help.

I am happy with the final outcome. The hardback version is gorgeous. Beautifully typeset on brilliant paper. No regrets. But I learned a lot.

If a Trad Publisher came to me now for books two and three, I would probably pay attention. Despite the potential loss of my ownership rights, which goes with this option, the fact remains that all I want to do is write. And the post-publishing world for authors is now a full-time job of social media, advertising, shows, readings, events, and higher-quality opium dens in Hanoi.’

I love how Martin reverts back to humour, but he does make interesting points. So, on a lighter note, what does his daily writing routine look like? 
‘During writing season (Canadian winters), I begin my regiment every day after lunch. If the creativity isn’t there, I spend the day researching and building the story’s structure. If creativity abounds, I’ll write until the wee hours of the morning.’  

And does he read reviews of his books?  

‘Of course. So far, almost entirely 5-star positive - good for the ego. Some even offer critiques that are constructive and instructive. Nothing wrong with that. Writing is a lifelong learning process.’

Are there any scenes he found difficult to write? 

‘Any sex scene (so I avoided all). I am by no means a prude, but every time I tried to write a scene for my protagonist, it felt forced and out of place.’

I can’t blame him for that - nobody wants to win the annual ‘Bad Sex in Fiction Award!’ Some of his characters appear very different from him, so what’s the most difficult thing in writing them?
‘Empathy. I find writing about characters younger than myself easier since I can apply genuine empathy toward their condition. Writing about older characters, or those from different counties or cultures, requires far more research and a few good contacts to verify the authenticity.’


So, he’s done it now; his book’s in print - was it as he’d imagined all those years ago?
 

‘It was a wonderful moment. I held the book in my hand for quite some time. It felt right. But with it came anxiety. 

You see, N.S. ends in a bit of a cliffhanger. And since the feedback so far has been uniformly positive, there is now a need to complete the trilogy in a reasonable amount of time. Deadlines!!! Suddenly, this has become work. Albeit, the best job in the world.’

That sounds like a great problem to me! I ended the interview by asking if there was anything else he’d like to share with us?
‘I write humour, but I live in a constant state of bemusement with the world. If I didn’t laugh, I doubt I’d still be here. Of the many philosophies I live by, I can probably sum them all up with, “Life; it’s a bit silly when you really think about it.”’

Well said! After our chat, I know I’m going to read his book! If you’d like to find out more, please visit Martin’s author links below:


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Monday, November 14, 2022

This is what it's all about!

I just wanted to share  a lovely blog post with you, written by the fabulous Maximilian Sam today. 

I know some people shy away from social media (and rightly so when you hear of trolling and people hiding behind anonymity), but I have to say, my experience has been a community of like-minded people coming together to support one another, buying each others books and generally helping promote everyone's work, and Max is one of those generous souls who goes above and beyond (as demonstrated by all the awards he recently won - listed in the photo).

If you're not already following his blog, do take a look as he posts a wide range of topics, for example, his next one will be about the software tools he uses for putting his books together. Check out his latest article here or read our interview together here 

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