November 23, 2011

Unread Interview - Dale Philips

Please welcome Dale Phillips for this week's Unread Interview! Dale is promoting hislatest book, A Memory of Grief!
Unread Interview is a series where I feature authors whose books I couldn't accept for review because of time or logistics issues.
From AmazonTroubled ex-con Zack Taylor is haunted by the accidental death of his brother years before. Zack's guilt and anger have pushed him into a shadowy, wandering life, with little purpose and few attachments. When he hears of the death of his close friend Ben Sterling, a supposed gunshot suicide, Zack finds he now has a purpose-- to find out what happened. Then his purpose becomes an obsession. Zack goes to Maine, where Ben died, and is a fish out of water, with no connections, no information, and no credibility. People don't want to talk about Ben's death, so Zack gets ever more frustrated, making enemies, getting into fights, and breaking the law in his search for the truth. The only bright spot seems the potential for a relationship with a sympathetic nurse-- if he can control his violent streak. To draw out the killers, Zack offers himself as bait. But without a gun, he must rely on his wits and his physical skills to survive a dangerous game of drugs and death. Though managing a measure of justice, Zack is changed in the process, and must learn to live in a very different world.
A Memory of Grief is also available in Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.

Tell us a bit about your book (s).

I wanted to set "A Memory of Grief" in the beautiful U.S. state of Maine, a corner of the country that's different from the rest. This is the first book of a new series, which I wanted for the recurring characters and the popularity of mysteries in general, and because I like to read the same type of work. My protagonist is a haunted man, who has to learn to deal with his guilt and anger from his past. He's a man of action who's also a serious thinker, who builds a life in a strange place after he is changed by events. The theme for each book of the series is echoed in the title, taken from great works of our cultural heritage, so there's more going on than just a straight action tale. I'd like my readers to come away with more than just an entertaining read.
Have you ever wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing "seriously"?
Yes, even when young I liked to tell stories, but it took a long while to get good at writing. I was lucky enough to train with the writer Stephen King in college, who is a superb teacher. We had to write quite a bit in his classes, so that was the start of the serious writing. It took years to complete a good first novel, and now they get written a bit faster than that. Now I can't imagine being anything other than a writer.

Do you read much? What kind of books do you usually read?
Oh, yes, I'm an omnivorous reader (I call myself an "infomaniac"), in many different genres, and read lots of non-fiction as well, including books about writing itself-- I'm always working to get better. If you go to my website, I comment on a number of writers and their books that should be read. I'm also on Goodreads, so one can find out my taste there.

What are your favorite or least favorite scenes to write?
Least favorite scenes are bridge scenes, where someone has to do mundane things and where not much is happening, and descriptions. I try to remember Elmore Leonard, who said to leave out the boring parts that people skip. My favorite scenes are action scenes, because they play like movies, and dialogue scenes, where people reveal themselves through what they say.

Do you relate more to any of your characters? Why?
Mostly to Zack, my protagonist, a man troubled by his past. He's seen the worst of the world and yet remains a good person who seeks the truth, and I relate to that. He also works to control his anger and inner demons. That's something a lot of us can certainly relate to.

Which genre do you feel it would be a challenge to write?
Children's literature, because you have to think like a child. Although some day I hope to try it, because I have a few ideas inspired by my own children.

What inspires you? And how's your writing environment - music, place, etc.?
Ah, life inspires me, the meaning of it all, and how we tell tales to establish rules and our place in the world. Stories are still important to us, and I want to tell important stories. My writing place is a desk with a computer in a bedroom, with inspirational messages around. I like it quiet during the writing, music afterward.

What would you say about the book - your words, no blurbs! - to convince someone to read your book?
The book combines the best of Travis McGee with Spenser, for those who like that action genre. For those who like it deeper, it's the Hero's Journey, and the Hero is changed by it, as he seeks for a way to live with immense, life-destroying grief and guilt.

What are your plans for the future, writing-wise? New books, sequels, publishing deals, etc.
A number of books in this Zack Taylor series, this Summer I'd like to put out my first book of previously-published short stories, then a pair of horror novels, and a few standalone mainstream novels. After that I've got two more mystery series planned, and more story collections. I'd like to make enough from writing fiction to do it full time-- I've got a lot of stories to get out. Luckily for me, the game has changed, and I can now publish works much quicker than under the old traditional system of a similar book a year. 

Thank you, Dale, for your time and, by the way, I loved the term "infomaniac". I believe we all are, in some level, infomaniacs.

November 11, 2011

Unread Interview - Fran Jacobs

Please welcome Fran Jacobs for this week's Unread Interview! Fran is promoting her latest book, The Shadow Seer!
Unread Interview is a series where I feature authors whose books I couldn't accept for review because of time or logistics issues.
From Amazon: For generations prophets have foreseen the birth of the Shadow Seer, the oracle of dark visions and fallen kingdoms. But by the time of Sorron, King of Carnia, their warnings have mostly been forgotten and his name is known only to a handful of scholars.

When Sorron's grandson, Prince Candale, falls deathly ill, the Seer's legends are brought to light once again by his saviour, a witch named Mayrila. She believes that Candale is the fulfilment of those long forgotten prophecies. She believes that he is the Shadow Seer...

Tell us a bit about your book (s).
Ok, well the book is called the Shadow Seer, it's the first in a series called Ellenessia's Curse. In it the hero, prince Candale of Carnia, learns that he might be a foretold prophet, the Shadow Seer, whose visions are said to lead to the destruction of the kingdoms, a generally chaotic, nightmarish future. Candale doesn't want to believe it, understandably, but not long after he is told this about himself he starts to see a strange, tortured figure of a child, who calls him the Seer and warns him that Ellenessia is coming. Confused, and frightened, he runs away from home, to the mage school of White Oaks, in search of answers, and things go on from there.

Have you ever wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing "seriously"?
I've always written, and told stories. As a child, at school, I actually got in trouble for telling stories that scared some of the other children! I started taking it more serious when I was in my early twenties, although even then I felt I was too young for the publishing world to take me seriously. But, in the end, you just have to go for it, so I sent out my first short story. It was still a few years later before I was brave enough to send out my book, the Shadow Seer.

Do you read much? What kind of books do you usually read?
I used to read a lot when I was younger, any vampire book, when I was a child, and then, any fantasy book, when I was a teen. These days I'm a lot more picky. I guess because as I now write seriously I view other people's books from a  writer's point of view, so I'm less forgiving of errors, or weak plots and so forth. I love writing but it has, in many ways, ruined reading for me.

What are your favorite or least favorite scenes to write?
I hate writing battle scenes, or fight scenes or anything like that. It's hard for me to picture how a thing like that would go to be able to describe it properly, and to juggle lots of characters all at once. My favourite scenes to write are scary ones.

Do you relate more to any of your characters? Why?
I relate to the hero and his female bodyguard, Trellany, the most, probably because they contain aspects of my own personality. Trellany as a strong, outspoken woman and Candale, the hero, as a clumsy, naïve idiot.

Which genre do you feel it would be a challenge to write?
Romance. I'm not a big fan of romance generally and I think that writing a story where romance is the main point, rather than a side line, would be rather difficult, and rather boring!

What inspires you? And how's your writing environment - music, place, etc.?
My inspiration is random. For the start of my novel I was inspired by a song, some of the places in my books are inspired by places I've been, or want to visit. My writing environment is the dining room table, with the TV on behind me. I find I work better when I'm distracted, because then I don't think too hard about what I'm writing, and obsess over tiny details or the fact that what I'm saying sounds crazy! I'm usually helped by a kitty, or three, meowing for attention, sitting on the laptop, biting my feet, that sort of thing.

What would you say about the book - your words, no blurbs! - to convince someone to read your book?
Well, I would say that it was a character driven fantasy, from the point of view of Candale, a boy forced to reveal the plans of a vengeful demon, shown to him through visions. I think that point of view, from the side of the supernatural evil, even though the hero is not evil himself, is part of what makes the book different from other fantasy novels. As does Candale's position as a seer, as, although prophecies are fairly common, those who have them are not.

What are your plans for the future, writing-wise? New books, sequels, publishing deals, etc.
At the moment I'm currently working on the third book in the series, Children of the Shadow. After that I have another book planned, the Forest of Ghosts, which is a standalone fantasy. I'm hoping to take that further, to a mainstream, traditional publisher.

November 10, 2011

Review: A Vine in the Blood - Leighton Gage

Well hello there and welcome.

As you may or may not have noticed, I`ve been on a blogging hiatus. It needed to be done and now I feel like I can finally be a blogger again (hopefully).
And this is the first review I am writing completelly after I started posting again, it's a review of a book by an author I hold dear, his name is Leighton Gage and he's a very interesting man, so I'm opening an exception here, as I don't usually talk about the authors themselves, and go for it.
Leighton is an author of crime fiction, best known for the Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigations series of novels set in Brazil. This is the fifth book on the series and, well, since I'm Brazilian, Leighton thought I would have an interesting opinion on it.
He's spent 20 years living in Brazil and his wife is Brazilian, so he can talk about Brazil, but, of course, it is an american story - told to americans, not to Brazilians. Before having a writing career, he was an international creative director for a major advertising agency. He won over 120 awards for advertising excellence and served on the juries of the Lions Festival in Cannes, the Art Director’s Club of New York, the Clio Awards, and the Australian Writers and Art Directors Association - which is all really really cool, specially for me, who work in advertising but can only dream of those prizes - internet advertising doesn't really win awards, even if they show awesome results.
A Vine in the Blood is a police book, along the lines of Law & Order and other police tv shows. A Brazilian Soccer player's mom is kidnapped and the best of the best are recruited to solve the crime before time runs out and everything is ruined.
To add more tension, it's the period right before the World Cup and the game against Brazil's largest rival - Argentina, which would have no chance to win, except if that one player was off his game.
So Chief Inspector Mario Silva is assigned to this task, with his boss always bugging him, trying to be updated and giving stupid advice - also, trying to step on the spotlight, because whoever catches the kidnappers and "saves" the brazilian soccer cup is definitely going to be a star.
Thrillers and police stories aren't my favorite genres, but I just had to read Mr. Gage's story, since it was something so appealing to me, with the whole "Brazil seen from the outside". I believe he managed to capture some of Brazil, not all, of course. I won't even say that he doesn't show the beautiful sides of Brazil - Law and Order doesn't show how wonderful NY is either. Some small things don't seem customary to me, but that doesn't mean they're not Brazilian - that just means I live on the most Southern state and I might just be a bit biased since I don't even know large parts of Brazil myself. Those things didn't bother me and most likely wouldn't bother anyone that likes fiction, even because Brazil is huge and there are different ways of doing things here and there and everywhere.
I didn't think the plot was easy, also I didn't find it hard. It was a police book, where you get new facts here and there and you usually don't get the suspect right on the first guess, but you understand it with the investigator and you come to the same conclusion almost at the same time.

Leighton Gage is the author of five novels in A Chief Inspector Mario Silva Investigation book series: Blood of the Wicked (2008), Buried Strangers (2009), Dying Gasp (2010), Every Bitter Thing (2010), and A Vine in the Blood (2011). His next book Perfect Hatred, the sixth in the series, is scheduled to be released in North America in December of 2012. The Ways of Evil Men, the seventh, in December of 2013. He also shares a blog Murder is everywhere, with seven other authors of “international mysteries”.

I invite all of you to read his book, not only to get to know more about Brazil but to read a great story, with characters that have a personality and a background history, that aren't there just to fill in, but they make sense and make a difference on the story.

You can buy A Vine in the Blood after December 27th, in the USA (Kindle Edition and Hardcover), and now, in Kindle Edition, everywhere else ;)

November 08, 2011

Review: Dust on his Soul - Jason Blacker

Cruel and painful. I wasn't sure I would like this book. I love history, but I didn't know I liked South African history. More than that, I wasn't sure I cared.

As a woman and a feminist, I relate to all sorts of struggle, but I have always had a problem with most people who claim they've been a victim of some sort of prejudice, they don't always have. It happens that a person's own problems are so deep within them that they think everything is caused by that, but that's not how it always goes, sometimes you just aren't fit fot it. That is not the case here, however.

The book is amazing: cruel, painful and shocking, but very real. While it isn't a true story, it is inspired by and based on Steve Biko's life, a South African black man, a hero, who fought the Apartheid.

The story starts with Stephen (Bankulu) in jail, remembering parts of his story that were vital to his getting there. Of course we don't hear only from him, but from his parents and friends as well, since we get to know all sides of the story and some extra information on why things happened. We follow most of the things that influence his life, from his childhood, happy and sheltered, as much as it was possible, to his bitter teen years and his sad but strong adult years.

After he loses his father (hopefully that's not too much spoilery), Stephen starts to think there isn't a reason to fight the regime, maybe he should just dodge it and try to live a life, a good life, as much as he could, he's just so angry... And that made me think, that's what we all do, usually. We just ignore the system, we just try to pass by and live without getting caught by the ugly ends of the regime. But they always get us, when they're too ugly.

Any black person living in South Africa during the Apartheid was destined to an awful life, one way or the other, never going too high, being beaten down and tossed aside by force. So the only other choice was to fight.

Stephen takes a long road, takes a few wrong turns, goes around, and finally finds that out. And decides to fight. That's what ends up taking him to jail.

He narrates his time in jail, how they are decently fed and get time out in the Sun, for a while, and suddenly the prison starts getting crowded and they're not getting more food, so they start to starve and not get enough time out, so they get weak and sick.

(The real Stephen Biko to your left) Eventually, Stephen is tortured. We were all waiting for it, but when it comes, no one is ready for what you read. It's raw, it's cruel and it's way too graphic. No tv crime show prepared you for what's to come. They beat him up but keep him awake and aware, he narrates what he's feeling and which parts of the body he's not feeling anymore. He's hung and they're trying to beat information out of him (not really effective, people, really!), but they're more making him faint than talk. He's got his convictions and he's not going to talk - specially if they're doing exactly what made him fight in the first place.

I started to do some research on the Apartheid and the South African old regime and all, and I was amazed to find out how recent it was and how badly we were taught. In Brazil, we learn Brazilian history and "world" history. But we don't get any non-European History. Not even North American. It's just briefly mentioned, not in-depth, so I didn't know, for example, that Mandela was only elected in '94. It sounded so old history to me, he looks (no offense) so old that I'd guess he was a president, oh say, 40 years ago.

I love history, so I find myself offended that I didn't know that. I think it's very rude of me not to know. And I was just thinking... What else don't I know? I know there is much I don't, but I'm trying to find the information. And what about all those people who were educated in the same system as me but will never go and find the information? They'll never read about it or absorb that kind of information and they'll never know how bad it was, how much they suffered and the kind of heroes they were.

And that makes me think about all that's wrong with the educational system here. And that's a lot. But that's story for another day, of course.

It is better to die for an idea that will live, than to live for an idea that will die. (Stephen Biko)

You can buy Dust on His Soul here  Or the Kindle version here.