My Chocolate Bar Challenge

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Last weekend I was invited by my friend and fellow author, Tara Ford, to take part in the Chocolate Bar Challenge Blog Tour.

Ooh, chocolate, I thought. Ooh books, I thought. Ooh, chocolate plus books, I thought. What could be more fun? (Well… aside from wine of course). And so I have spent the past week sampling chocolate, because if you’re going to compare it to your favourite books, you need to do your research properly, right?

And now I feel fat and I have chocolate crumbs round my mouth, on my clothes, even in the duvet for chrissakes. So thanks a lot, Tara Ford.

For those who don’t already know, Tara is the author of the Calling All… series and her latest novel, Calling All Dentists was released earlier this year. Her genre is probably best described as chick lit and she is a very funny lady. If you like my humour then you will definitely like Tara’s.

To find out more about Tara and check out the result of her Chocolate Bar Challenge, visit her website http://taraford.weebly.com/blog/chocolate-book-tag-challenge

I have selected seven books for my challenge. Do check them out below and let me know what you think of my comparisons.

THE MAGIC FARAWAY TREE – ENID BLYTON

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This was by far my favourite book when I was a child. Enid Blyton had a fabulous imagination and with Faraway Tree novels (this was the second in the series, The Enchanted Wood being the first) created wonderful worlds for the reader to visit. The story follows four children – Joe, Bessie, Fanny and Dick (you couldn’t make this up) and their adventures at the top of the oak tree near where they live. There are many colourful characters living in the tree, Moonface, Silky the Fairy, Dame Washalot, who pours her dirty laundry water down the tree, and Saucepan Man, who is covered in pans and kettles. Together with the children they visit magical lands by climbing a ladder at the top of the tree, experiencing numerous adventures.

My chosen chocolate bar is the Kinder Surprise, as the lands at the top of the tree change every couple of days and the children never know what they are going to find.

THE SHINING – STEPHEN KING

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‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’ types Jack Torrance, lead character in The Shining. Well, I have chosen a Mars Bar for this story, as it will help Jack work, rest and play. Hopefully then he won’t take his axe and try to butcher his wife and little boy, Danny.

Jack is an author struggling with writers block and takes a job as winter caretaker for the Overlook Hotel. The hotel is vast and empty, albeit for Jack, wife, Wendy, and little Danny, and they are snowed in for the duration. As Jack starts to go slightly crazy, is it caused by cabin fever, or is there something sinister within the walls of the hotel? Danny knows something is wrong. He has the shining, a gift of seeing into the future. Can he use this to alert help before it is too late?

TALES OF THE CITY – ARMISTEAD MAUPIN

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After reading this book, I wanted to find a time machine to transport me to 1970s San Francisco.  Young, wide-eyed Mary Ann Singleton moves to the city and becomes the latest tenant at 28 Barbary Lane. TOTC follows the colourful characters who live there, including eccentric, pot growing landlady, Mrs Madrigal, hippy, Mona, womanizer, Brian, cagey man on the roof, Norman, and the recently ‘out of the closet’, Mouse.

Maupin really captures the colour and vibrancy of the city. The characters are all so different, but their personalities shine through and for this reason I have chosen Quality Street.  Mary Ann would be the vanilla fudge, Mouse the strawberry delight, etc, etc.

REBECCA – DAPHNE DU MAURIER

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I adore both Du Maurier’s book and the Hitchcock movie adaptation of Rebecca, a story for me that has a little bit of everything. Our protagonist is the second Mrs de Winter, a shy and innocent young woman in her early twenties, who has been working as a companion to a rich American woman. She marries Maxim de Winter, after a whirlwind romance and suddenly finds herself lady of the house at Mandalay, the home Maxim shared with his first wife, Rebecca. The new Mrs de Winter soon finds herself out of her depth, particularly when she comes up again the housekeeper, a bitter woman called Mrs Danvers, who was fiercely loyal to Rebecca.

There are many twists and turns throughout the book, which is in part a love story, but also has a much darker core. The foreboding Mrs Danvers is the domineering presence and for this reason I choose the smooth, fine and intense, but very dark, Bournville.

VALENTINE – TOM SAVAGE

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This book is a hidden gem and although it has sold moderately well (and spawned a movie – which I recommend you avoid at all costs, as it takes everything that is clever about this book and throws it out of the window) it is a real shame more people do not know about it.

Jillian Talbot is a successful novelist who attracts the attentions of a Valentine stalker. It starts innocently enough, but things soon get sinister, and she begins to suspect there could be a connection to her past. In high school, Jillian was part of a clique, and a prank played on a fellow student ended with devastating consequences. If you like my novels, you will love Valentine. Tom Savage is a master of twists and red herrings and the plot moves at breakneck speed, leaving you going ‘Oh my God!’ at the final revelation.

I can’t give you my heart, but I will certainly give you my last Rolo if you try this book.

SUPERSTITION – DAVID AMBROSE

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You know those times when you are alone and think you hear the presence of someone else in the room? Well for that reason, Wispa seems the most appropriate chocolate bar for this supernatural tale.

I say supernatural, but the twist here is Superstition follows parapsychologist, Sam Towne, who sets out to prove that ghosts come from the human mind and not beyond the grave.  He invites a number of volunteers, including skeptical reporter, Joanna Cross, to take part in an experiment to ‘create’ a ghost. The experiment appears to be a success, but then things get out of control and when the volunteers start dying, it seems their ghost has taken on a mind of its own.

A THIN DARK LINE – TAMI HOAG

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I have saved my favourite book for last and as it is set in Cajun country in the deep swampy south of Louisiana, close to New Orleans, my final chocolate choice is Black Magic.

Pamela Bichon was horrifically murdered and the prime suspect, Marcus Renard, who relentlessly stalked her prior to death, has just been freed on a technicality. Detective Nick Fourcade blames himself for Renard walking free and goes after him in a drunken rage. Enter rookie cop, Annie Broussard, who comes across the scene and arrests Fourcade. This action sets the scene for the rest of the book, as Annie finds her alienated by her male dominated colleagues for turning on one of their own. Worse still, Renard is very grateful and Annie has just become the object of his latest affection.

Tami Hoag is a brilliant storyteller and the characters and the setting come alive off the page, making you feel the sticky swampy heat and Cajun flavour and as a reader you are really drawn in to Annie’s battle to do the right thing in a mostly corrupt police department.

If you have never read this book then I strongly recommend it.

 

So those are my choices for the Chocolate Bar Challenge and now it is time for me to hand over to three new authors, whose blogs will appear next week. They are all from across the pond, so I guess it now becomes the Candy Bar Challenge.

Say hello to Robin Hardy, Bryan Koepke and Megan Denby.

Robin Hardy is an award winning author, who has been writing Christian fiction for 29 years. She has dozens of novels to her name, including Chataine’s Guardian (runner-up for the Gold Medallion book award) and Streiker’s Bride. Robin says about her writing ‘What I have learned (and keep learning) is that the most powerful story in the world is that of redemptive love. So I keep working at it, trying to get the story right, and to adequately express something that is really beyond me’.

Robin is most prolific on her Facebook author page and this is where she will be posting her Chocolate Bar Challenge Blog. You can find her page here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Robin-Hardy/55052677826

Denver based, Bryan Koepke, published his first novel, Vengeance, earlier this year. The thriller follows Reece Culver, a former aerospace engineer turned PI, who is tortured by unanswered questions revolving around the mystery of his father’s cold-case murder. His latest case puts him on a collision course with the man who can provide those answers.

Bryan’s blog can be found at http://thewriterscabin.blogspot.co.uk/

Finally, onto Megan Denby, award winning Canadian author of A Thistle in the Mist, an atmospheric and epic tale of love, tragedy and murder set on the shores of Scotland and Nova Scotia. The story was inspired by her Scottish Grandmother. Megan is currently working on the darker and disturbing sequel, Lost to the Mist, which should be released later this year.

Find out how Megan gets on in the Chocolate bar challenge at http://www.megandenby.com/

 

Stumbling across a new story

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As part of my plan to stop being the laziest person on the planet, I have embraced spring and tried to get my butt outside for a walk and some fresh air as often as possible.

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I have always appreciated the little things, such as the chirping birds, the blossom on the trees, spring flowers and the scent of fresh cut grass and I try to make sure I have my camera or phone on me to capture a few shots.

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Last weekend’s wander wasn’t the most picturesque, but we did stumble across what I believe is an old part of the Norfolk Lunatic Asylum. It is currently standing in a derelict state and from the signs up around the grounds work will soon commence to convert the building either into flats or office space.

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Of course it had my writer’s imagination running wild. What terrible tales could take place within the walls? I have the pictures and will return to them at some point to craft a story.

Watch this space.

Interview with Bryan Koepke, author of Vengeance

 

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It is my pleasure to introduce to you fellow author, Bryan Koepke, who has recently released his first novel, Vengeance.

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Bryan has been very supportive of my writing career and I am delighted to be able to return the favour. Below he talks about his novel and the journey to getting published. I hope you enjoy and please do check out Vengeance.

Tell us a little about yourself, Bryan.

I grew up drawing pictures of cars and airplanes and running through the fields and woods of Michigan and Oklahoma.  At a young age I got into motorcycles and enjoyed ridding dirt bikes.  Early in my career I had jobs that ranged from paperboy to sous chef.  I spent twenty-years working as an electronics-engineering technician and during this past decade had the privilege of being on teams that built, tested, and launched spacecraft from both Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.  Prior to that I worked on F-16 fighter jets, I got my FAA Airframe & Powerplant licenses, and later managed to get a private pilot’s license.  These days I work on the financial side of things at an aerospace company, and write a Blog called The Writers Cabin.

When I was in my teens I knew I wanted to be a writer and during much of my technical career I gravitated toward documentation and test procedures.   I’m married to a beautiful woman named Ildy, and we have a dog-named Daisy.

What made you decide you wanted to become an author?

When I was a teenager I wanted to become an author, but over time more urgent matters such as figuring out a way to earn a living replaced that pursuit.   A few years back at a time when I was reading tons of mystery and thriller novels I decided to write one of my own.  I spent the next two years writing two thrillers that are currently sitting in the bottom drawer of my desk aging like fine bottles of wine.  Book three became Vengeance.

Each author has a different writing process. Can you tell us about yours?

I do the bulk of my writing early in the morning before my day job and on weekends.  When I begin a novel I write scenes and chapters sequentially.  At some point in the process I’ll begin an outline mainly to use in the revision process.  Recently I’ve started aiming for a goal of 1000 words each time I sit down to write.  On weekends when I’m well rested I can crank out 3,000 or more words in one sitting.

Vengeance is your first novel. Tell us about your journey to getting it published. 

I began sending out query letters in the fall of 2013.  It was sometime after a visit to see my 80 something year old parents that I decided to start my own small publishing company, Writers Cabin Press, Ltd. and publish my own work.  I think the biggest reason I made this decision was that I knew that the traditional process of gaining the attention of an agent, going through additional revisions with them, and ultimately publishing the work could take two or more years.  I wanted to put a book into my mom’s hands sooner than later.

Can you tell us a little about the story?

Vengeance is the story of Reece Culver a former aerospace engineer tortured by unanswered questions revolving around the mystery of his father’s cold-case murder. When a seemingly desperate and seductive woman hires him in an effort to find her missing mother he ends up on a deadly collision course with the very person responsible for killing his father.

What was your inspiration for the book?

In September of 2011 I read an article about a woman who dreamed up a home invasion story to murder her husband and almost got away with it.  From there my story morphed into something completely different.

If Vengeance was turned into a movie, who would be your dream cast?

I would have someone young and outgoing like Bradley Cooper play the part of Reece Culver.  Scarlett Johansson would play Crystal Thomas, someone like Bruce Willis might play Sam Shanks, and I’d cast Anthony Hopkins as Vinton Blackwell.  I’d also cast Denzel Washington as Reece’s mentor Haisley Averton.

What are you working on next?

I’m currently working on books 2 and 3 in the Reece Culver Thriller Series.  This next book is shaping up and will contain some interesting aerospace technology.

What are your views on social media and how it can help/hinder authors?

Social Media is a great tool.  It provides a great means of interaction and information between authors and their readers.

Tell us about what you like to do to relax when you’re not writing.

My favorite things to do when not writing are hiking, skiing, ridding my ATV, and fishing in the mountains of Colorado.  I also enjoy reading and traveling.

And can you tell us who the authors are who inspire you?

Stephen King, Raymond Chandler, CJ Box, Ernest Hemingway, and James Salter.

What date will Vengeance be released and where will readers be able to buy a copy?

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Vengeance is currently available on www.Amazon.com as both an eBook and as a 6”x9” Paperback.  It is also available on www.smashwords.com, and will be available shortly on Nook, and from many other distributors.  For more information about the book and links to amazon go to my website http://www.bryankoepke.com Stay tuned to the website for some exciting events that will take place next summer.

 

 

 

Interview with Megan Denby, author of A Thistle in the Mist

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I am delighted to announce this week’s interview is with Canadian author, Megan Denby, who you may remember wrote a fascinating guest blog on my site last year about the great-grandmother who inspired her debut novel, A Thistle in the Mist, and her road to getting it published. Her new novel, Lost to the Mist is due to be published later this year.

Take it away, Megan.

Tell us about yourself in 100 words? No more and no less.

Megan Denby is a novelist who grew up on a farm, where she spent much of her time riding the dirt roads on her bike and sprawled on the porch swing reading books. Writing for over thirty years, her debut novel, ‘A Thistle in the Mist’ was inspired by the turbulent life of her Scottish great-grandmother. Megan is an avid dragon boater, and, a true Canadian, she is a rookie goalie in the local women’s hockey league. Residing in the lakeside community of Port Perry with her family, Megan is currently working on the disturbing sequel, ‘Lost to the Mist’.

Tell us about your book.

‘A Thistle in the Mist’ is a fictional drama revolving around the life of a young highland lass named Meara MacDonald.

When Meara finds her mother dead, she cannot imagine how terrible her life will become. Up until the death of her mother, Meara has enjoyed an idyllic life on Isle of Skye, dreaming of the day she will wed the gallant Duncan MacLeod. Fate, however, has other plans and when Aunt Deirdre and Uncle Sloan arrive, Meara’s family is taken, one-by-one, for reasons she discovers are both personal and nefarious. Unable to reign in her spirit or her tongue, Meara falls prey to an intricate web of lies and deception and finds herself catapulted from Scotland to a household steeped in mystery in Nova Scotia. Guided by her strength of will, she fights her way back to the remains of her family; her heart and soul.

Bits and pieces of my Grandma Ross’s life are woven into the tale. Burdened with lies and deception, ‘A Thistle in the Mist’ is a fast-paced read set in Scotland and Nova Scotia in the early nineteenth century. It is entwined with family, humour, resiliency of the human spirit and characters that stay with you.

How did it feel when you first saw your book published?

It’s hard to put that feeling into words. I think I felt a mixture of disbelief, pride and relief – relief that I was finally able to let it go after 10 years!

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on book two, ‘Lost to the Mist’. It features Meara and her family and of course I am bringing back the much-loved villain, Deirdre. ‘Thistle’ is such a fast-paced story and I am finding it a bit of a challenge to keep that pace but it’s a challenge I’m up for! I have lots of twists and turns in store for my readers.

What words of advice would you give to any budding writers out there?

Never give up! If you have a story to tell, tell it. Edit like crazy and be sure to have it professionally edited. I believed I could edit myself but was extremely lucky to cross paths with a chap from the UK who generously offered to proofread and tone down my glaring ‘Canadianisms’. If you decide to self-publish, be certain to promote yourself through all avenues available and be careful not to cross the line between promoting your book and ‘shoving it down people’s throats’! Take the good with the bad and try and take something positive from every review you receive.

Social media seems to be playing a big part in the success of books these days. What are your thoughts on this and how active are you on various sites?

Social media, I’ve learned, is an invaluable tool. Facebook, Twitter and Google + are a few sites I’ve taken advantage of. Besides promoting your book, it’s the best place to connect with other writers. I’ve been lucky to connect with some fantastic authors worldwide whom I now consider friends. The group I chat with are hugely generous and have helped me immensely. They also make me laugh every day. Personally, social media has been my best friend. My day job took me away from social media for awhile and I saw a drastic drop in sales. When I resumed self-promoting via Facebook and Twitter, I saw an immediate climb in sales.

Every writer must dream of seeing the big screen version of their novel. Who would you like to see playing your lead characters?

Rachel McAdams would make a beautiful and feisty Meara but she’s Canadian. If she could pull off the Scottish burr, she would be my first choice. However, if I were to stick with actors from the UK, I would choose Emily Blunt – lovely and quirky.

I think, UK actor, Tom Hardy would make a dashing Duncan. He also possesses that vulnerable quality I feel is an inherent part of Duncan’s character.

Without a doubt, Tilda Swinton is the perfect Deirdre. Not only is she Scottish, she is an amazing actress and does evil very well.

Another Scottish actor, Robert Carlyle, has the physical characteristics to be a convincing Sloan. He knows how to do ‘bad’ without going over the top.

If you could find out the answer to one of life’s mysteries, which one would you choose?

Why do all writers procrastinate?

What would you do in life if you knew you couldn’t fail?

I’d give up my day job, move somewhere beautiful on the ocean and spend the rest of my life writing and enjoying my family.

Describe the most terrifying situation you have ever been in?

I was nineteen years old the night the police called our house and asked for my dad. The police officer would not give me any information but when my dad took the phone, the look on his face as he listened, turned my stomach to ice. My brother had been in a terrible car accident. I will never forget the terror I felt during the ride to the hospital or the relief that filled me when I saw my little brother’s face. He was badly injured and spent weeks in hospital but he recovered fully, thank goodness.

And the cliché question, four guests at your dinner party (dead or alive), who do you choose?

I would choose my grandparents. My father’s mother passed away when he was a baby and I never met her. My grandpa always told me I looked just like her so I’d love to meet her and see Grandpa spend time with her again, if only for an evening. My mother’s parents, Nana and Grandad, were a huge part of my life growing up and I miss them every day. I’d love to see them both one more time.

To find out more about Megan and her book, please see the following links.

Amazon               http://www.amazon.com/A-Thistle-Mist-ebook/dp/B00B2XML88

Website               www.megandenby.com

Blog                     http://notyouraveragelassie.blogspot.ca/

Facebook            https://www.facebook.com/AuthorMegan

Twitter                 https://twitter.com/megan_denby

Do you really know your neighbours?

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A friend of mine has been engrossed with the news of Ariel Castro, the monster in Ohio who held three women captive in his house for ten years. She admits to finding it morbidly fascinating and cannot comprehend how he could have gotten away with it for so long.

As I pointed out to her yesterday, there is no telling how many other people are getting away with things, because truth is, unless they are caught we will never know. And as another friend added, people talk about the perfect murder, but if it has been committed we wouldn’t know, because if we did it would no longer be perfect.

It serves to prove that we really don’t know what our friends and family; neighbours and work colleagues are up to behind closed doors and as a writer with a highly imaginative mind, I find it intriguing.

The sweet little old lady shop assistant who serves me in the supermarket, how do I know she doesn’t keep her husband’s body hacked up in pieces in her freezer, having once poisoned his morning cup of tea?

The taxi driver who gave me a lift home last night, perhaps he sometimes likes to drive out to the woods, strip naked and howl at the moon.

The nerdy guy at work, who is always in such a rush to cycle home, is it because he has to feed the woman he has chained up in his house?

And how about the dog walker who passes my house twice a day? He looks innocent enough, but how do I know he doesn’t sleep in a coffin and keep vials of blood in his fridge?

It is fascinating trying to figure out what makes people tick and as a thriller writer it gives me plenty of material to play with.

Of course, the only crimes I commit are on paper.

Now I must go, I need to sharpen my knives… sorry, I mean my pencil.