Tag Archives: author

Book Review: As Far As I Remember – by Michael Bawtree

as-far-as-i-remember-coming-of-age-in-post-war-englandBook: As Far as I Remember: coming 
of age in post-war England

Author: Michael Bawtree

Publisher: Like No Other Press

Date: 2014 in England; 
2015 in Canada 
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 408

Price: $24.95 (CD)

My rating: very interesting, honest, and funny in all the 
right places

I was very pleased to meet the author, Michael Bawtree, at his book signing in April 2015. I hadn’t known about it until I entered the shop for a children’s book, but immediately bought a copy of As Far As I Remember and waited to speak with the author to have him personalize my copy.

I enjoyed this book, although it took me awhile to read all the way through due to my limited reading time when I purchased it. Mr. Bawtree wrote with revealing honesty about his childhood in England where he was born – his years in boarding schools, overcoming shyness, establishing himself as a successful student, a temporary rather nomadic life due to harsh economic times for his family, and many interesting events that occurred. Some incidents he tells about are downright hilarious, the funniest for me being an unfortunate situation that involved his proper English mother in a garden entanglement. There are many things he describes with just the right balance of humour.

This book is the first of two volumes about his fascinating life – the first covering his early years in England, the second volume will cover his life and career in Canada as an actor, playwright and director.

Although Michael Bawtree grew up in boarding schools, he had the opportunity to meet professors and dukes and many other important people, including world-famous C. S. Lewis and others who sometimes stayed at the inn his parents bought and operated. I hope you can read the back cover of his book shown here once you click on the image below to enlarge it.

as-far-as-i-remember-back-cover

His interest in literature, drama and music eventually led him to Canada where he embarked on a career in theatre and the arts all across the country, eventually bringing him to Nova Scotia where he now resides. As Far As I Remember, though, is everything leading up to then and is told in a natural and inviting way. It’s well worth the time to read this fascinating story. I’m looking forward to volume two.

 You can find As Far As I Remember: coming of age in post-war England on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂
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Interview with Diane Lynn McGyver & book giveaway!

01dlmcgyver-shadows-in-the-stone-smallI’m pleased to introduce to you Diane Lynn McGyver, author of Shadows in the Stone. Please read my review here if you missed it. 

Diane is a Nova Scotia native who is quite the romantic, which you will discover from this interview, and a prolific writer. If you are in NS you may have read her articles.

Diane, welcome to my interview corner. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Lynn, thanks for having me here. So, a little about me: I enjoy tea, chocolate, raw cranberries, tart Cortland apples, ice skating, sitting in a boat for hours and letting the tide move me, gathering around a fire with family and friends, John Denver, walking in snow-covered woods at night, learning, Scottish music, exploring, adventure, stories and laughing. I’ve worn many hats in my life time and worked at more than 25 jobs, looking for satisfaction I never found except in the words of my own stories. I had been told by many I couldn’t keep a job. It wasn’t until I was forty I realised, “the jobs couldn’t keep me.”

It’s good you discovered what does keep you. When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

I have never not wanted to be a writer, but I was told it was a hobby only. Still, that was all I ever wanted to do from as far back as my earliest memories. If I had to lay blame on one reason why I am a writer, it would be the story itself, or more accurately, the capturing of a story, so it could be read later, perhaps years down the road.

As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?

My first response would be: No, I don’t read a lot. But when I think about it, I read every day. If I had to tally up my reading time, it would probably be about six hours a day. I read fiction (novel and short story), nonfiction (for research, learning and pleasure), blogs (for the same reasons), email and various other types of writing.

The authors I enjoy most are Robin Hobb and Dr. Seuss. Oh the Places You Will Go is my most favourite. One by Richard Bach was the book that made me think the most.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

I feel like giving up several days a month, but I keep moving in the direction of becoming a more confident writer. I don’t believe I can without a doubt call myself a writer. Perhaps it is because I do so many other jobs or because I can’t make a full living from my writing income. Is being a writer a destination, or is it the journey that makes us writers?

Good question! I think it is in the attitude of one’s will on that journey, and the destination – both say ‘writer.’ Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I have a few favourite quotes posted at my desk or stored in the shadows of my thoughts for when I need them:

1) Be the hero in your own story.

2) Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.

3) It could always be worse.

Good ones! What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?

I was first published in East Coast Gardener magazine in 1998. It was a newspaper-style publication out of Yarmouth, NS. I became aware of it while working at the garden centre Lakeland Plant World in Dartmouth. When I went on maternity leave for my first child I became bored, picked up a pen and thought about submitting an article on gardening to the magazine. To my surprise the editor Carla Allen liked it and wanted to publish it. I was ecstatic. I think I received $25 for the 800-word article. The money didn’t matter though. My writing in print for all to read was the real reward. That one publication was all I needed for me to pursue a writing career.

An exciting start! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

In the nonfiction category I’ve had a few dozen articles published in local and national magazines. They were about gardening, genealogy, horses, homemade soap, photography, raising kids and writing. My first column ran for six years. It was all about gardening. My second column focussed on genealogy. It celebrated its eighth year in October. Roots to the Past is currently published in four newspapers in Atlantic Canada.

In the fiction category I’ve published one fantasy novel (Shadows in the Stone), one romance novel (Pockets of Wildflowers), one anthology (Nova Scotia – Life Near Water) and several short stories. 

 My most favourite of all is writing fantasy novels.

There’s no doubt you are a writer, Diane. What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

Step one: I write down the story as quickly as possible. I don’t look back and edit or I might stall or get stuck. Step two: I stash it in a drawer for a week or more. Step three: I read and edit it, then I go on the hunt for a list of words I’ve flagged (that, even, was…). Next I read it out loud and edit, then I print it and edit. And then…I read it and edit one last time. Then I send it off to an editor. When I’ve applied their suggestions I read it one more time. Then I’m ready to publish.

That’s something I learned when participating in NaNoWriMo, to not look back and edit along the way. I see it works well for you. What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I have a computer file where I stash ideas. If I have a title only, I write it on a piece of paper and tape it to the kitchen cupboard door. A few times I’ve dreamt entire books. When this happens, I immediately write a summary of the story, print it and stick it in a duotang.

What inspired you to write Shadows in the Stone?

When I was thirteen I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons. It shined a new light on dragons, fairies and magic, one that captivated me. I studied the D&D books and played faithfully every Friday night. Yes, while other teens were out doing things that might horrify their parents, I was in a room with like-minded individuals seeking adventure. We didn’t stop until I was about eighteen. Those adventures left a lasting impression, one I wanted to preserve in story. And Shadows in the Stone was born.

How long did it take you to write Shadows in the Stone? Did you have to do any research? And how did you come up with that title?

I began Shadows in the Stone in the early 1980s. I wrote the original draft which didn’t tell the story I wanted to tell, so I started again. The second book was better but still not what I wanted. In 1998, home with my first child, I picked up the story again, and this time nailed it. I spent years rewriting, adding characters, taking them away, researching fairy and druid magic, spells, healing herbs, castles, mediaeval clothing, primitive food and weapons like swords and daggers. Along the way I also worked on my writing skills, learning more about nouns and verbs, dialogue tags, plot, style, characters, point of view, engaging readers and anything else that would make my story better. I invested in several books and dictionaries to help me on my adventure. I read blogs and talked to other writers. It was a long journey but well worth it.

I chose the title Shadows in the Stone because there are many secrets hidden in the shadows of Aruam Castle. Some are good and some are evil. I also love stones and feel they possess their own energy. I’ve used this idea and gave the stones in this story their own powers.

The word stone is used in all three book titles in this trilogy: Scattered Stones (to represent the scattered characters who long to be together) and Healing Stones (to represent the healing that must be done for a happy ending).

I look forward to the books to come! Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?

I believe every character has a bit of me in them, including the ones who are not so nice. Bronwyn has my shyness and lack of confidence when it comes to issues of the heart, and he has my sense of honour for doing the right thing even when it doesn’t benefit him. Alaura possesses my dedication to getting the job done which sometimes makes her appear as an unfriendly individual. She also shares my love of nature and horses and learning. I gave Isla my serious side, my curiosity and sense of adventure. Tam is my quiet side; he thinks and does more than he talks. He’s strong, silent and keeps his troubles to himself. I didn’t know he was like this until after I knew him for a few days.

My favourite? That’s a difficult question. I suppose Bronwyn is because he possesses the high sense of honour with a dash of hidden humour I enjoy.

Why did you decide to publish your book in the non-traditional way?

Although I easily had nonfiction articles published since 1998, fiction was another matter. I had submitted several different stories to dozens of editors for more than ten years without success. Many times I had positive notes from editors, and even once was told the story would be accepted except they didn’t have room for it. I read about the many things others did to get published but nothing worked for me. Then I read about only one percent of submitted stories get published. It sounded near impossible for me to get accepted, or at least it would take years to receive the acceptance letter.

The final straw was the summer I submitted Shadows in the Stone to DAW in New York. They wanted the entire manuscript, not just the first few chapters and synopsis. It cost me almost a hundred dollars to submit, and I received only a simple rejection letter after waiting about three months.

That rejection hurt more than the dozens I had received beforehand. I had invested a lot of time, emotion, energy and money in that submission and got nothing for it. For several months afterwards I walked around in a daze, thinking I was going to give up, break the pencil and never write again.

Then I learned about self-publishing. And I learned this powerful quote (or something like this): Don’t let anyone else—not even an editor—tell you your story isn’t good enough for others to read.

I immediately began to learn how to self-publish and never looked back. It was the best decision I made in my writing career.

I can understand why you did what you did, although it’s a tough decision to make. What do you most enjoy about writing?

I most enjoy putting my feet in the shoes of the characters and telling their stories. Writing the first draft is the best part.

How do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

I make it a priority. I write every day without fail. It is the best part of my day. It’s why I rise, how I continue to make sense of the world and what makes me who I am.

What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I have many interests. I love photography, drawing, painting, raising goats, watching movies, gardening, fishing, biking, hiking, camping, riding, baking, watching the stars, shovelling snow, yoga, reading, archery, boating, dancing, rock collecting, beachcombing, travelling, genealogy and exploring. I like sharing all these things with my kids.

How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals– daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

I make goals every year and break them down into months. I try to write 1,000 words a day, but I will settle for 500. I have also set goals to what I want to have accomplished in five years and ten years. In the next five years I’m supposed to have fifteen novels and two nonfiction books published. It’s a tough goal, but when I break it down to years and then months, I realise it’s not impossible.

Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?

This year I’m working on several projects that are in various stages. My next romance Twistmas should be out in February. It was supposed to be out in December, but family turmoil threw me off course in the fall. The novella Fowl Summer Nights, a humourous story about a retired Canada Post worker, is due out this spring/summer. I’m excited about this project because it’s my first attempt at writing humour. It makes me laugh out loud, so I hope it makes others do the same.

Also due out this spring or summer is Scattered Stones, the second book in the Castle Keepers series. The fall will see When a Boy Becomes a Crow. It’s another attempt at humour.

Through my pen name Candy McMudd, I will release Throw Away Kitten in the spring. It tells the story about a problem many farmers have with people dropping off unwanted kittens. I’m in discussions with our local vet hospital to see if they will offer the youth novel for sale in their office. A portion of the profit will go into a fund which will pay for spaying or neutering of cats owned by people who can’t afford to get their animals fixed.

Wow! You are busy! What a nice thing to do with your Throw Away Kitten book. Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

My advice is to write. Apply butt to chair and write every day if you can. Don’t give up on your dream. Keep learning about writing. It will inspire you to write more. Attend workshops and join writers groups. Don’t let anyone tell you your writing isn’t important, that no one wants to read it. It is, and you will find readers.

Thank you for this encouraging advice, Diane, and thank you for an interesting and detailed interview. 

Now for the giveaway: Are you interested in winning a copy of Diane Lynn McGyver’s book Shadows in the Stone? Please leave a comment about what most interested you in this interview for your chance to win. At 6 PM EST on Tuesday, February 4, not one name but TWO NAMES will be pulled from the basket! Yes, you have two chances to win!

Diane said, “I’ll give away two eBook copies of Shadows in the Stone with this interview. I’ll provide coupons to Smashwords, so they can choose the format they wish to have.”  

I will be contacting the winners after 6:00 PM EST on February 4, so be sure to check your email. You could be a winner of Shadows in the Stone. 🙂

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

Book review: Being Frank – by Donna W. Earnhardt

Being FrankBook: Being Frank
Author: Donna W. Earnhardt
Illustrator: Andrea Castellani
Genre: picture book, for ages 5 – 7
Publisher: Flashlight Press
Date: September 26, 2012
Price: $16.95
My rating: a “must have” beautifully illustrated storybook with a moral presented in an entertaining way
 

I met the author, Donna Earnhardt, online in a writers chatroom maybe three years ago when she was still hoping to write the children’s book that would be accepted by a publisher. Well, it has happened! Being Frank is her first picture book to be placed into the hands of eager children, and it is a beautiful one.

The story begins with these words: Frank was always frank. “Honesty is the best policy,” he said.

While that motto is a very good one, it got Frank into big trouble. Although he knew how to be honest, he didn’t know anything about tact. Eventually, everyone was upset with him, he was being ignored by his friends, and he didn’t understand what to do about it. Enter … his grandfather. Yay! for grandparents!  😉  What he learned from his grandfather Ernest changed how Frank handled his honesty so that he could still be honest but without hurting people’s feelings.

Although Being Frank is a story with a moral, it does not come across in a preachy teachy way that could put children off. It is entertaining and funny while getting the point across.

Donna has everything in this book that should appeal to a child. Words used are fun and a little challenging, there are amusing situations, she uses great names that describe the characters – another example being Mr. Wiggins, the school principal who wears a toupée – and she has brought out true feelings expressed by her characters. It is believable and entertaining for children (and grown-ups, too.)

A fabulous picture book story falls short when there are not great illustrations to back it up. Well, there is nothing amiss in this book! The characters in Donna Earnhardt’s Being Frank are brought to life through the bright and colourful illustrations of Andrea Castellani. (His name is pronounced An-dray-a.) When my grandson and I read this book together he was busily taking it all in, there is so much to see and enjoy that goes with the words.

Being Frank by Donna Earnhardt is a wonderful book to add to your bookshelf.

You can find Being Frank listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Please come back on Thursday, March 14, for my interview with author Donna Earnhardt. There is a picture book to win! 🙂

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

 
 

Book Review: Mother Earth Father Sky – by Sue Harrison

This is a slightly edited repeat, first posted June 24, 2011. I am re-posting because I have had the pleasure of an interview with the author, Sue Harrison. After the interview (coming January 17) she will be giving away one of her books to one of you – winner’s choice which title!  🙂

imagesBook: Mother Earth Father Sky
Author: Sue Harrison
Publisher: Doubleday
Date: June 1990
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Pages: 313, hardcover
Price: US $19.95; CDN $24.95
My rating: Amazing, startling, satisfying read
 

Mother Earth Father Sky is the first book in a trilogy that takes us into the lives of an ancient North American people in Alaska. If that sounds boring, don’t be fooled.

To be honest, I hardly know what to say about this book.  At the writing of this review, having just finished reading it I’m barely back to the here-and-now, and the story of Chagak is still fresh in my mind. To say that Sue Harrison wrote an amazing prehistoric fiction novel scarcely describes what she masterfully accomplished. Over the course of nine years she studied, researched and lived in her creative mind the tale of a long ago culture in Alaska, focusing on one Aleut woman’s struggle to survive and overcome a very harsh reality. That woman, Chagak, lived in a primitive time consisting of warrior tribes, legends, crude customs, myths, and magic, but also love, family ties, and community. The author made it all come alive through the power of the written word in a very easy-to-read style. I was held from the beginning of this book to its last page – left wanting to read more about the people I had come to know.

This bestselling novel is not newly released but was published in 1990. I was fortunate to be gifted a copy and I’m so glad to have received it. If you come across Mother Earth Father Sky and you are not offended by the cruel reality and graphic descriptions of the belief system of prehistoric man, then do grab the opportunity to read this book.

You can find Mother Earth Father Sky listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings! :)

5 authors give writing advice to hopefuls

As you know, I sometimes take the opportunity to interview an author. You can find those interviews by scrolling through my Book Reviews & Author Interviews page. One of the questions I asked specifically is if he or she had any advice for hopefuls? They all generously complied with some great tips from their own experience.

This seems a good time to refresh your memory and give you a little encouragement. I have excerpted from our interviews and included the name of the book being promoted at the time. Here is what those authors had to say:

1. Laura Best – author of Bitter, Sweet

“The best advice I can give to hopefuls is to write as much and as often as you can. Pay close attention to any comments that editors send your way. Forget the notion that your work can not stand to be improved upon. Everything can be improved. You’ll start to know when you’re getting closer to publication. Those comments will be laced with a sweet touch of sugar as your writing gets stronger. Lastly, don’t give up. If you believe in your talent keep working at it, perfect it to the place where someone will want to publish it.”

Check out Laura’s blog here. Reread our interview here.

2. Billy Coffey – author of Snow Day

“The best advice I can give? I’m a firm believer in the power of perseverance, so my advice is to always try once more. If you write a story you decide is awful, try once more. If you get a rejection, try once more. In the end, it doesn’t matter who gives up on you. All that matters is that you don’t.”

Check out Billy’s blog here. Reread our interview here.

3. Penny Zeller – author of Kaydie (of the Montana Skies series)

“When I meet a reader or fan face to face, I love to chat with her about what she envisions herself doing for God’s Kingdom and how can I pray and encourage her in that pursuit. If she is pursuing her dream as a writer, I tell her that one of the most important things to remember in being a writer is that if God has called you to do it, He will guide you every step of the way.

I would advise her to give her writing to the Lord and to not give up! I speak from experience when I say that when He closes one door, He opens another (much better) one.”

Check out Penny’s website here. Reread our interview here.

4. Jan L. Coates – author of A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk

“My best advice would be to read everything you can in the genre in which you’re interested in writing – I’m constantly amazed by how much I can learn from studying how great authors put words and stories together. And, of course, write – every day, if you can. Also, read your work out loud – it’s surprising how easy it is to pick up weaknesses that way. If it doesn’t sound right, it probably isn’t.”

Check out Jan’s website here. Reread our interview here.

5. Delia Ephron – author of The Lion Is In

“The important thing for all aspiring writers is believe in yourself, be driven and never give up.”

Check out Delia’s website here. Reread our interview here.

When you enjoy again the above-mentioned interviews, you will glean many more tips and advice you can apply to your own writing. What I have included here is only what was in direct answer to my question.

Have you found any of these authors’ advice to be useful to you? What other things do you do to keep on track?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

I received The Versatile Blogger award!

It is always nice to receive positive recognition and appreciation, isn’t it?

It was seven weeks ago (yikes! has it really been that long?) I learned that I was the recipient of a blogging award, given to me by a fellow blogger. That’s how most of them work.

This is my second Versatile Blogger award, but my first one is no longer prominent, it was moved to My Awards and Badges page because of the theme I was using. This one I will stick right on the front page for awhile.

You can read about my first one HERE. Laura Best gave that one to me when I was in desperate need of the encouraging boost it provided me – and didn’t even know I needed it. This second one serves as encouragement to keep on, even when things in my life get complicated and time for writing is harder to find.

There are rules to be followed for such awards, this one has three, so here goes:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog.THANK YOU, Renee Johnson! I do appreciate it.  Check out Renee’s blog: http://writingfeemail.wordpress.com
  2. Reveal 7 things about yourself.
    1. Thirty-five years of marriage and I love my beloved more now than ever. The trick is to never give up when the going gets rough.
    2. I have always made my home in  Nova Scotia, and love this beautiful province!
    3. I love being able to access the Internet because of all the contacts I have made/am making and all I have learned/am learning that are helping me in my writing pursuit. Some of my dearest friends I have never met in person yet.
    4. I love hilarious laughter and making people laugh.
    5. I love the ocean – my healing place – the sounds, the smells, the awesomeness, but even though I love the water, I do not swim.
    6. I’m discovering another good reason to never grow old is to be able to “think like a kid” when writing for children.

    7. I am discovering my love of writing but have yet to mine the depths of what I can do, who I really am as a writer. Perhaps this is something about me we are discovering together .. you and I .. as time goes on.

  3. Nominate and link to 15 bloggers. Then be sure to let them know! Now, this took me lots of time to choose people who have not already received this award and are deserving of it. First, I wondered how I would find fifteen, but then it was so hard to narrow it down! I hope you will visit each one, because they all have something great to offer, being writers. And even if you are not a writer and this would not interest you .. please check them out. They have more to say than just about writing, they are smart, creative people.

1. This Kid Reviews Books – Erik is a ten-year-old you will want to meet

2. Sue Harrison – a successful author and wonderful person with a diverse blog, including the sharing of her writing experience

3. Catherine Johnson – a Canadian writer of children’s stories, who also loves to write in rhyme

4. Diane Tibert – a talented writer here in Nova Scotia

5. Jamie Dement – one smart cookie who writes great stuff

6. Darlene Foster – Canadian author of adventure series children’s books

7. Sheri Swift – finding joy in the journey as an author

8. Linda Cassidy Lewis – author of newly released book

9. Donna Martin – focused on encouraging and inspiring other writers

10. Denise Bruce – enthusiastic children’s writer

11. Julie Hedlund – writer, great helps on her blog, creator of writing challenge for 2012 ( 12×12 in 12)

12. Shelli Johannes– Market My Words – great blog with loads of writing information

13. Jennifer Kearbey – aspiring author who makes me laugh on her blog

14. Linda Leinen – writing from a lifetime of experience and experiences

15. Rob Sanders – provides a daily guide to picture book writing

Book Review: Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

Book: Magic Under Glass
Author: Jaclyn Dolamore
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Date: January 2010
Genre: Fantasy (paranormal)
Pages: 225, hard cover
Price: $16.99 US
My Rating: Intriguing, entertaining, hard to put down

I first learned of Magic Under Glass in a writer’s chat room where I ‘met’ the author. Enthusiasm for this book was high so I added it to my long list of “must reads.” I don’t regret it. Once I started reading this novel it didn’t take long to make my way through it. Why? I didn’t want to quit until reaching the end!

The story is about Nimira, a young dancer and singer who left her own country to make her fortune elsewhere. As is often the case, she fell on hard times instead, but eventually she is approached by a wealthy gentleman (who happens to be a sorcerer) who has better plans for her – an offer she is willing to chance. From that point the author swept me into a fantastical adventure of mystery and magic, murder and mayhem, but also love and loyalty and hope.

Nimira is hired to sing as the accompaniment to an automaton that is rumoured to be haunted and that plays music on a keyboard. What Nim discovers impacts her life and draws her into the power struggle between good and evil, fairies and men, hope and impossible love.

For the reader who enjoys paranormal and fantasy, Magic Under Glass isn’t overly involved and has a bizarre side to it that is quite inventive.

I enjoyed this novel, the first I’ve read of its kind, but – yes, there is a ‘but’ – it ends so abruptly I was taken aback. I was so into the story that I was expecting another chapter, at least. It left me asking, is there more? Is there another book to finish this? So, well done, Jaclyn Dolamore!

You can find Magic Under Glass listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂