Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

We have a winner of Flying with a Broken Wing by Laura Best!

It’s always fun to give away a book, especially when I have had the privilege of interviewing the author. This time I am delighted to be mailing a copy of

Flying with a Broken Wing – by Laura Best

to one of the people who left a comment after the interview.

If you missed the chance to enter the draw, you can still read my review of Flying with a Broken Wing here and my interview with Laura Best here.

drum roll please ….

snare-drum-th

Using the Random Name Picker tool …

The Winner Is ….

a very fortunate person …

who will be receiving the book given by Nimbus Publishing as soon as the Post Office can deliver it … after I can get it into the mail, probably on Friday, April 25.

and that person … is ….

Barb!

Congratulations, Barb! Please send me your mailing address so I can get this copy of Flying with a Broken Wing on its way to you! 

Thank you so much to everyone who has been visiting, leaving comments, and who entered the draw. I hope you make it a habit to visit again. And thanks again, Laura Best!

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

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Interview with Laura Best, and book giveaway!

Laura BestIt is my pleasure to welcome author Laura Best to my interview chair for a second time as she was the first author I interviewed here.  Laura, who has lived in a small Nova Scotia community all her life, is the author of the award nominated “Bitter, Sweet“, and more recently “Flying with a Broken Wing” – my review of which you can read here.  Laura has been published in literary magazines across Canada, and in 2003 her short story “Alexander the Great” was nominated for the Journey Prize. Now on with the interview!

I am very pleased you agreed to this interview, Laura, especially since it provides a great excuse to give away a copy of your new book … and to pick your brain a little … and to give someone a copy of your new book, which I already said.  :) 
 
Near the end of our interview back in January 2011, which was after your first novel – “Bitter, Sweet” -  you said, “I’m working on another novel at the moment. I don’t often discuss my work with others. All I will say is that it is young adult and set in a fictitious community in Nova Scotia.” 

Flying with a Broken Wing Now we can discuss that project since it has come out into the spotlight as the young adult novel “Flying with a Broken Wing”

First, to address the obvious, you seem to enjoy writing fiction based in Nova Scotia. Why Nova Scotia?

Often, we tend to think that books happen in other, more exotic places, and not in our own back yard. When I was growing up, I never read a story set in Nova Scotia. I wouldn’t have even thought that was a possibility. I might even have thought it would be boring. I’m happy to know that is changing and there are many wonderful books out there that are set right here in Nova Scotia. For those of us living here, I think it gives us a sense of pride to have our home province as a setting for a book. And while Nova Scotia might not be exotic to me it might be for people living in other places. I love this province! It’s what I know best, that and rural life. Most everything I write also has a rural flavour to it. It’s a large part of my identity.

I love this province, too, Laura, and it makes me glad to find books that are set here. Your writing is doing Nova Scotia justice, for sure.

I’m always impressed and fascinated with the ideas that come together to create well-rounded characters, their life stories, communities, even worlds. Where did the idea come from for “Flying with a Broken Wing”, and how long did it take you to fit this novel together?

The book started out with the idea that I wanted to write a story with a visually impaired protagonist. My writing usually begins with the idea of a character first. While I begin with a broad idea of what will happen most times the character leads me through the story. Situations crop up as I write. In the beginning, I didn’t know for instance, that my main character’s caregiver would be a bootlegger or she’d make friends with a boy whose father was a “drunk and a bully.” These things emerged along the way as Cammie told her story.

I’d say it took about a year to write the book if I were to add it all up. A few months into the writing of this book, I stopped because I wasn’t sure that I was happy with the way it was going. After taking a break for a few months I went back to it, decided I liked what I’d written, and continued on until I finally was able to write, “the end.”

You’ve given a good example of what a little time away from a manuscript can do for an author to finish the story. I’m very glad you continued it. Did you have to do any research to make this story believable?

There was very little research required for the book, just a few small facts to check out to make the story more authentic since it’s set in 1949.When writing a story with a historic setting it’s important to know what was going on in the world at that time. In one place, Cammie makes mention of a movie star whose legs were insured for a million dollars. I love these little details and find them quite interesting. For instance, the Standard magazines, that were mentioned several times, are magazines I actually have from when the queen and king toured Canada right before the Second World War. I’ve always loved looking though those magazines and knew it would fit into a story one day.

While Tanner is a fictitious community, the story could have been set in any number of rural communities in Nova Scotia. There’s this common bond in rural communities, things that are passed down from one generation to the next. It’s a part of the fabric, an inner knowing, if you will, of the people and the lifestyle. Cammie’s whole way of speaking, the sayings she used, are all things I grew up hearing, and still hear today. No research required in that department. :)

You are a fine example of ‘write what you know’. :)Flying with a Broken Wing” is an intriguing title, and very suitable. How did you come up with it, and was that always the title you had in mind?

The title came from a line that appears several times in the book and also makes up the very last lines in the book. “‘They say birds can’t fly with broken wings, Evelyn Merry,’ I whisper. ‘But that doesn’t mean that we can’t. I promise you we will.’”

More importantly, the title suggests that we can fly in the face of adversity, just as the main character, Cammie, does. We all face hardships in life. We’re either born into it or we encounter it along the way. We can allow these things to define us, and accept our limitations for what they are, or we can do what some might say is the impossible regardless of our life’s circumstances. I think it’s an important message.

The title originally began as “Fly with a Broken Wing” and slowly progressed to “Flying with a Broken Wing.” 

Flying with a Broken Wing” works so much better! Who or what inspired you to make your main character visually impaired? 

Writing a visually impaired protagonist was challenging because I knew I’d be entering a world that’s totally foreign to me. Not only did I have to let the reader know what Cammie could see (or couldn’t see) her other senses had to come into play as well. I had to make sure the reader understood Cammie’s visual impairment and I had to do it in a believable way. My mother is visually impaired and has been since birth. I decided that Cammie would experience the world the same way my mother does. When Cammie takes her glasses off to read up close, or her ability to read Aunt Millie’s moods by listening to the sound in her voice and her body language, these are things I borrowed from my mother. Several times through the writing of this book I’d call and ask her to explain what her range of vision was with and without her glasses on.

You did an excellent job of portraying that; your mother must be proud of the results of your work. In this book you have several very interesting and spunky characters. Do you have a favourite, and why?

I do love Cammie, but her aunt Millie might just be my favourite. Many people have expressed their strong dislike for Millie, and she’s certainly a hard nut, there’s no denying that. She’s self-centered, tough, and a known liar. But she’s more than that. She’s a product of her environment, someone who does love but doesn’t know how to love very well. Her toughness is a matter of self-preservation. She’s a bootlegger. She has to be tough. Perhaps Millie’s my favourite because I don’t judge my characters. I simply observe their actions. I don’t become upset by what they do or don’t do. And then, of course, I know a bit more about Millie than everyone else. She comes off as cruel, not only because she’s physically abusive, but because of the lies she’s told Cammie over the years. But we can take heart in knowing that Millie didn’t simply invent these lies to be cruel. There are reasons for the things she’s told Cammie. We just don’t know what they are. I think that’s the way it is with the people in our lives. How many times do we pass judgment on others without stopping to consider what personal challenges they might have faced in the past or are facing at this very moment? Everyone has a story. We don’t always know what it is, but we’re often quick to pass judgment.

Excellent points! I’m learning we must know our characters well in order to portray them effectively to others. Which of your characters gave you the most trouble, and in what way?

That’s a tough question. I’m not sure I’d say any of the characters gave me trouble. But if I had to choose one I might say Cammie because her visual impairment was challenging to write. Still, I didn’t want this to be just a story about a visually impaired girl. More importantly, I wanted it to be about a girl with hopes and dreams, a girl who isn’t about to sit back and let life happen to her, a girl who decides to change her life, someone who isn’t defined by the things that make her different, a girl who just happens to be visually impaired. I’ve come to have such respect for the blind and visually impaired. I’ve heard so many stories from my mother about some of the people she went to school with and some of the remarkable things they went on to accomplish. If my readers gain anything from this book, I hope it’s a better understanding about people who are living with physical challenges and the things they are capable of achieving. 

I believe readers of “Flying with a Broken Wing” will hear Cammie’s heart and root for her as I did. This is a book that should be encouraging to girls in whatever their situation. Which of your characters is the most like you in attitude and/or approach to life?

I’m probably most like Evelyn Merry. I’m the person who offers support to others, who cheers for the underdog, and holds other people’s secrets close to my heart.  

There are names which can be considered unisex, my name being one of those, and you created a male character with a female name that is very unusual for a man, at least not one I had ever heard a man called. Why did you choose to do that? And why that name?

I like unusual names. They tend to be the ones we remember, and I wanted Evelyn to be a memorable character, not simply Cammie’s sidekick. I’m really bad at choosing names for my characters but, thankfully, I have a book to look through. When I came across the name Evelyn, the book said that at one time it was a popular name in England for a man. I wasn’t sure in the beginning just how I felt about the name, but as time went on it really grew on me. I can’t imagine it being anything else. I love his name. 

It was really odd to me at first, but the more I got to know Evelyn the more I liked his name. Do you have another novel in the works since this one really leaves the reader hoping for a sequel?

 I’m working on several different stories at the moment. I didn’t plan for it to happen that way but it did. And while I am planning on a sequel to “Flying with a Broken Wing” my heart is pointing me in a totally different direction these days. I’m the type of writer who is led by the characters and the story. When a story demands that I work on it, and I try to ignore those demands, I’ll encounter all sorts of problems until I give in. While my logical mind might tell me to write one thing, I need to listen to the quiet whispers inside me. If I don’t pay attention I end up losing the joy in writing because I’m looking off into the future at the end result instead of enjoying the process along the way. So, for now, I’m working on a story that makes me truly happy and the sequel, I’m in the midst of writing, has been put on the back burner for a little while longer.  

I am so glad there will be a sequel! I think because you follow your heart is why your writing is so good. Is there anything you would like to add to this interview that I may have left out? 

I can’t think of anything I’d like to add only that it’s been fun, and some of your questions were quite challenging. I think that’s a good thing. Thank you so much, Lynn, for interviewing me about my latest book.

Thank you, Laura, for agreeing to share your writing wisdom and experience with us again. I am learning from you. Now let’s give away a copy of your new book!

Readers, if you would like to have a chance to win a SIGNED copy of “Flying with a Broken Wing” by Laura Best, please leave a comment about anything you found especially interesting in the above interview. On April 22 at 6:00 PM EST one name will be selected using the “random name picker” tool. At Laura’s book launch, Nimbus Publishing gave me an extra copy just for this event! So … remember to check your inbox in case you are the winner because I will be contacting you for a mailing address. :)

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)

Book Review: Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart – by Syr Ruus

Book: Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart
Author: Syr Ruus
Publisher: Breakwater Books
Date: August 1, 2012
Genre: fiction, comedy
Pages: 250
Price: $18.95
My rating: great reading for those looking for something different with humour and wit regarding the human condition
 

Having met the author, Syr Ruus, at another author’s (Laura Best) book launch, I made it a point to find this book. (It was on Amazon.)

Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart is an adult novel, fictional and amusing.

Emmanuel Taggart is a forty-five-year-old man who feels his life is stuck in a rut. His two sons are grown and out, leaving just his wife and him. One cold February day he feels ill so leaves the office early. From there the story takes the reader on an adventure unlike any this reader has journeyed before – in a good way.

Believing himself to be living his last months of life, Emmanuel Taggart sees doctors, endures tests by specialists, and meets people along the way whom he never would have approached before.  His mind takes him places he wouldn’t have dared to think until then, and he begins – not without feelings of guilt – keeping secrets from his wife. It gets more and more complicated, and more and more amusing, as he convinces himself that he is dying while he spins a web in which he traps … himself.

Syr Ruus tells a marvellous story, one that has twists and turns and delightful visuals to keep the reader devouring the pages. It is enjoyable the way she words things, such as this when Emmanuel’s secretary, Rose, is concerned about him:  “I looked out and saw your car still sitting here in the lot. Then I started thinking you weren’t feeling so good and maybe you passed out or something, and I says to myself, Rose, you better check this out. And here you still are, Mr. Taggart. Are you okay? You don’t look so good.” Shivering. Pulling her coat together to protect her scrawny neck, sleeves blowing empty at the sides.

Can’t you just see those empty sleeves flapping in the breeze, and feel that shivery cold? brrrr

Emmanuel Taggart makes discoveries about himself along the way, and not only about himself. There are surprises – some nice, some awkward, some that shock him. And there are surprises for the reader. This is a novel to add to your library.

Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart by Syr Ruus won the H. R. (Bill) Percy Prize from the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia. I hope you will read it to find out why this author’s writing is so highly regarded.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

 

Book Review: Treasure Me, Book One in the Liberty series – by Christine Nolfi

Treasure Me by Christine NolfiBook: Treasure Me
Author: Christine Nolfi
Publisher: Christine Nolfi
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Date: April 19, 2011
Genre: romantic fiction for adults
Pages: 352
Price: $12.95 paperback; $5.00 Kindle
My Rating: Captivating characters and a story line that reels the reader in.
 

I received a copy of Treasure Me from Christine Nolfi to review.

Treasure Me starts out at a nervous pace, snagging the reader’s attention immediately. The main character, Birdie, is hanging from a ledge three stories above street level, trying to escape from a very angry man from whom she had just lifted a wallet. Now, is that enough to reel you in?

Birdie is a petty thief, taught by her mother. She has had a hard life alongside her mother who moved from town to town, stealing and playing her con games as she went, using her daughter to sweeten the con until cutting her loose at a young age, leaving her to fend for herself. Birdie learned well, and when the opportunity arose to strike it rich she grabbed at it.

Striking it rich, though, didn’t turn out to be as simple as she thought it would be. The only clue she had to hidden treasure in a lazy little town was passed down through generations and she could only hope it still existed. Little did she know her life was about to be drastically influenced by the unsuspecting people of that town in a way that would cause her much regret.

I won’t tell you any more! If this interests you then you will have to read it for yourself. ;)  But, beware: the author sprinkled flirtation, seduction and adult information (although not explicit) throughout so that this is not a book for pre-adult readers.  If it weren’t for that, I would recommend Treasure Me for advanced young readers because the main story line is a good one, well-executed with humour and mystery mixed into the interwoven relationships and fabric of the town’s history.

Christine Nolfi created memorable characters – although a couple are a little exaggerated, perhaps – who made Treasure Me a story in a fictional little town worth visiting.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

News about best-selling author Sue Harrison’s Alaska books! (Interview)

Today I’m doing things a little differently. For those of you who haven’t made this discovery yet on your own, I have an exciting announcement about Sue Harrison’s Alaska novels. Now you can purchase them for yourself for your electronic reader! Instead of a book review today, the rest of this post is a sort of interview and is dedicated to Sue for her relating of her e-book experience. Links are included to make it easy to find where you can purchase copies – if you are so tempted and just can’t resist. :)

My question to Sue was: Sue, I haven’t yet mentioned on my blog about your books becoming available as e-books. Do you have information for me regarding that? The following is her reply.

Lynn has asked me to share about the story of  the ebook release of my 6 Alaska novels, so this is a story about a little dream becoming a lot bigger than I ever thought it would.

In August 2012, my husband Neil mentioned that we really should look into my old contracts and see if we could get the ebook rights assigned to us by the publishers of my Alaska books, Doubleday, William Morrow, and HarperCollins. We weren’t all that motivated, thinking that it might take us a long time to jump through all the necessary hoops, but we dug out the contracts and were met with a very welcome surprise. We already owned the rights! The literary agent who represented my Alaska novels, Rhoda Weyr (now retired), had retained those rights – way back in the 1990s before ebooks were “invented,” and I am extraordinarily grateful for her foresight and wisdom.

My husband set to work finding a company that would scan my novel MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY in preparation for us to self-publish the novel in ebook format. We found Golden Images LLC, and Stan Drew and his people did a super job for us. However, our plans did an abrupt turn around when I received an email on November 7, 2012, from Maggie Lichota Crawford. Maggie was the Avon paperback editor for my first two Alaska books, MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY and MY SISTER THE MOON. Maggie wrote that she was now working at Open Road Integrated Media, a digital publisher based in New York City. She told us that Open Road publishes many distinguished authors digitally, including James Joyce, Pearl S. Buck, Pat Conroy, William Styron, Anne Perry…. 

And they wanted MY novels?  Wow, serious happy-dancing.

The next few months were filled with fun activities like updating and submitting my biography, reviewing cover artwork, and posing for new author photos. (Thank you, Erin Johnson!) The six novels were released in May 2013, and are available from Open Road and all ebook retailers. What a dream come true!

These are links to each novel (click link to see where to purchase book):

ebook mother-earth-father-sky 

 

Mother Earth Father Sky

 

ebook my-sister-the-moon

 

My Sister the Moon

  

ebook brother-wind

 

 

 Brother Wind

 

ebook song-of-the-river  

 

Song of the River

  

ebook cry-of-the-wind

 

Cry of the Wind

  

ebook call-down-the-stars

 

 

Call Down the Stars

 

But wait, we weren’t finished. Open Road decided to send producer Corey Maloney and cinematographer Luke Locurcio to our house to shoot a publicity video. Here’s the finished product:

Meet Sue Harrison   <– click here to watch the video

For those who are wondering, most of the video was shot here at our house and on our beach and surrounding woods. The hand hefting the axe is my husband’s. And no, we do not have that spectacular waterfall in our backyard. That is Tahquamenon Falls, located about an hour and a half drive northwest of us, and is one of the most recognized landmarks in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Open Road had another big surprise for us in September 2013. It was a Tuesday, and I had begun the mundane work of washing bedding, cleaning, and generally getting back into a routine after a three-day weekend of company. I sat down at the computer and buzzed through the emails that had accumulated and just happened to notice that one of them was from my aunt, Ruth Danner. Ruth’s message said that she’d turned on her Kindle and up popped a very nice advertisement about my novel MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY.

I immediately did a little sleuthing, found an email from my publicist Laura at Open Road and discovered that MEFS had been selected as the Kindle Daily Deal. Wow! Was that a shocker.

The rest of the day, I was pretty much involved in watching the numbers. (I know that’s vain.) Wednesday was more of the same. Although my novel was back to normal price, people were still buying it. During those two days, MOTHER EARTH FATHER SKY rose to #3 nationwide for Amazon ebook sales, and my author ranking rose to #4 nationwide . That author ranking lasted only a few hours, but I have to admit that it was heady to see myself ranked higher than Stephen King and Clive Cussler.

Despite all this talk about fame, please know that I know fame is a very brittle, unstable foundation for life, for self-worth, or for happiness. I’m so grateful that I don’t need accolades to tell me that I’m loved. My Bible tells me that. My family tells me that. My friends tell me that. I don’t need high author ranks to motivate me to work each day in whatever way God intends. But I did enjoy my 15 minutes of fame, and this is my opportunity to thank all of you for your support, for your help, for your kind words, and for reading my books.

Sue Harrison

Thanks, Sue, for this fabulous and thrilling story of the revival of your books! 

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

Book Review: Adventures in Mother-Sitting – by Doreen Cox

Adventures in Mother-Sitting by Doreen CoxBook: Adventures in Mother Sitting
Author: Doreen Cox
Publisher: Olmstead Publishing
Date: January 1, 2010
Genre: Memoir (adult reading)
Pages: 266
Price: $18.00; Kindle under $6.00
My Rating:  A good book for anyone caring for a loved one with dementia

* from the book blurb: ADVENTURES IN MOTHER-SITTING is a memoir that speaks to a journey through grief, through losses of many kinds.

I read this book with the intention of reviewing it, especially since I also am a caregiver of a loved one.

Adventures in Mother Sitting is a book written by the daughter of a woman with Alzheimer’s disease. Doreen Cox wrote from raw and real emotions and experiences. She took the reader through her journey, preserved in journals, in a way that draws the reader into her life, and into her home which she shared with her mother for whom she became a “care bear”.

Three things that stood out to me in a less positive way are:  1. I have never read anything where the author used quotation marks as freely as in this book.  2. It felt as if chapters 11 and 12 yanked me right out of the story and were not necessary.  3. Some repetition seemed unneeded as the reader can understand what was said and will likely remember most of it from before when encountering things that relate back.

Now, that out of the way, the great things about this book are the honesty with which the author wrote and her willingness to share it all. She told in great detail, some parts difficult to read because of the exposed reality of the disease, about how Alzheimer’s (dementia) steals from its victim. Not only are memories stolen, but the memory of how to do even the simplest things disappears. The brain is confused and damaged by the disease, affected in such a way so as to make it stop relaying the usual messages we all take for granted, such as how to eat, dress, carry on a conversation. There is so much to learn about Alzheimer’s, so much to understand in caring for someone afflicted. Doreen opens a window into seeing what it is like living with that horrible disease, and how acutely needed are love, compassion, patience, understanding.  She also bravely shared how it sometimes became too much for her when she was sleep deprived and exhausted, and how she coped – or failed to cope – with the demands on her.

Adventures in Mother Sitting is told with humour, love, and tenderness, but also with a sometimes shocking truth. It is raw, revealing, and perhaps awkward for some people to read, but it should be read anyway.

Two years ago I wrote a review of Still Alice  – a fiction novel about a woman who learned she had Alzheimer’s, and covers two years of her life as the disease gradually takes over her brain’s ability to function. It is a book highly recommended among caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, and during our Alzheimer Caregiver Support Group meeting this month I recommended Adventures in Mother Sitting by Doreen Cox.

If you are facing dementia in any way, particularly as a caregiver of someone so afflicted, I suggest you read this book. It will help you to understand more from the viewpoint of the caregiver, enabling you to see from the author’s experience how the disease changes a person’s abilities and mind to that of total dependence.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

Book Review: Operation Bonnet: a novel – by Kimberly Stuart

Operation BonnetBook: Operation Bonnet
Author: Kimberly Stuart
Publisher: David C. Cook
Date: February 1, 2011
Genre: comedic fiction
Pages: 266
Price: $14.99
My Rating: An enjoyable read with tasteful humour; not totally predictable.
 

I won this book from somewhere, I think perhaps on Twitter.

This is the first Kimberly Stuart book I have read, and I enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure if a book written about the Amish community would hold my interest, but it certainly did. It isn’t even all about the Amish, but gives some insight into that lifestyle, while also following the main character in her own life in the mainstream community.

Operation Bonnet is about a young woman, Nellie, who wants to be a private investigator, but living in a small community she can find no one needing a PI. That is, until she meets Amos, a young man who, of his own accord, left the nearby Amish community and the girl he loves. He is forbidden to visit so hires Nellie to spy for him. To do that Nellie has to somehow infiltrate the strict community, so she pulls some trickery in order to get herself into the home and kitchen of the feared and respected matriarch of that community. It’s a nerve-racking experience for Nellie, for although she is quite good at keeping up in the kitchen (she loves to cook) she has trouble keeping out of trouble.

Even though Nellie is trying to help another in the romantic front, her own heart is tried because of her best friend, the guy with whom she grew up. As smart as she is she just doesn’t see what is happening in her own relationships.

What added another interesting dimension to this story, for me, is the fact that Nellie is trying to take care of her aunt who has dementia and resists allowing her parents to place her aunt in a home.

I don’t want to tell you anymore about the story because it is worth your reading it yourself. Kimberly Stuart writes with humour and heart, creating believable characters and realistic dialogue that I think you will enjoy in Operation Bonnet.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)