Book Corner Chilling in April

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This is my second book corner chill post and I have to say I can’t believe how many enjoyable books are out there. Choosing them to feature is difficult. I did however want to have a link between the books, a commonality that overrode differences in genre. I wanted good reads providing time out, and radiating warmth.

You may have already gathered I am an avid reader. I have  been for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, I veered towards more serious books, mostly classics. These days I love to mix my genre, but I do have a rule before recommending, and this is something I don’t compromise. I demand a connection to the characters. I must either love or hate the protagonist enough to care what happens next. It’s that simple. Reading is a form of escape from the real world so the trigger, the escape mechanism, must have power. Nothing is stronger than the engagement with the characters, and surprisingly a book doesn’t have to be five stars to provide the magic for the reader.

Perhaps I shouldn’t but I will forgive editing issues and often even small plot holes if the characters are engaging. I want to feel what they feel even if I don’t like them. I want to wonder what will happen even as I make an educated guess that turns out right, I need to connect.

This lot of books I am showcasing are rural romances, and I am not a rural fan, but I loved the experience these books offered me. You see, connection also jumps genre boundaries. As an added bonus three of the novels are by Australians, Alissa Callen, Barbara Hannay and new author Jill Staunton. The two other books are by Jacqueline Rhoades, one of my favourite American authors, favourite because her characters are so lovable.

Let me know what you think.

Ciao for now,

Barb

The Long PaddoclThe Secret YearsReiver's Moon

 

Preston's MillChanging Times

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Cartoons to Romance, let’s look at art

Been giving a lot of thought to keeping the blog fresh and the one thing I keep coming back to is the people I meet in this career I have embarked on. I am a great believer in paying it forward and the people I meet every day encourage me to do just that and thankfully the blog allows me the space. Last month my focus was Australian author Jill Staunton and her wonderful book Reiver’s Moon and this month I want to introduce you to my cover artist, Christopher Brunton.

Pic 6Chris is a graphic artist and illustrator with nearly 30 years print media and advertising experience. He was formerly the Art Director for North Queensland Newspapers, but decided he was ready to branch out into freelancing, and here it is seven years later. Chris enjoys the fact that working for himself has offered an opportunity for a wider creative challenge. Although he is my cover artist Chris also does many other different things including some wonderful work with cartoons.

Chris original finish 1

I know through my own experience with him that he goes with the client need but doesn’t hesitate to offer input. I asked for something pretty for my poetry books and he provided exactly what I asked for. I wanted something soft on the eye because my poetry deals with life issues, and the things around us and I felt I needed to reflect this.

Chris original finish green 1 AmazonI loved the fact that he understood and gave my covers that softness I wanted.  At the end of the day you want someone that listens to you. Cover art is a partnership, any form of art is a partnership between the artist and the client.  I was so nervous, and it turned out I had no need to be.

When I made the decision to self-publish I felt I was taking a leap off a cliff; and trust me I am no bungee jumper. My son did give it a try, but I don’t want to think about that. Anyway, I had to make some decisions involving what I could do myself and what I couldn’t. The cover was the hardest thing to decide on, and I made a few mistakes trying to get my head around things. Finding Chris has made the process so easy. I tell him my ideas, he throws things back at me, and then it comes together.  All my eBook covers have been a very smooth experience.

unnamed (2)Later, working on a print copy of the cover for my romance novel we managed to encounter a few problems and he was amazing. So much had to go backwards, and forwards because of a glitch in the system (the actual self-publishing) and I just wanted to give up. He didn’t, and we got it done. I felt supported and writers need this as we are an emotional mess at times about our work. Putting pen to paper is such a personal thing and having someone listen about our work makes such a difference.

Chris has two passions, the gym and working with people to create artwork that makes them happy. The interesting thing is I have never met Chris and all our work together has been online, and the fact the process worked so well says a lot about his attitude to life and his profession. I am so happy to be able to feature both his online illustration portfolio, and his graphic art portfolio. They demonstrate his versatility (see the cover below).

Pic 1

I have provided links below for other samples of work. I hope you take the time to peruse them.

Online illustration portfolio:  www.cjbrunton.wix.com/brunton-illustration

Online graphic art portfolio:  www.cjbrunton.wix.com/brunton-graphics

Till next time,

Barb

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Paying it forward is not always easy

butterfly-shoulder-tattoo-croppedDo you ever get fixated on something? For me there are two things, butterflies and the whole idea of paying it forward. These two items are a song in my head, a tune that haunts me, delights me and often astounds me. The music can also disappoint the hell out of me but then that’s life.

Let’s take butterflies.  They are beautiful, fragile creatures with a short life span. Yet within that short period of time they change from something ordinary to something quite extraordinary.  My love affair with butterflies began with a television series I can’t remember the name of about a city with eight million stories to tell. There is only one place in the world where that might apply – New York. And, as we were living there at the time I think the show may have been The Naked City. I googled and it is the only one that fits. What would we do without Google?

New York was the first time I saw snow. It was a place where in winter children wore hoods where only the eyes and mouth were visible, wore gloves and beanies to cover the other two extremities, and thus the colour of skin was rendered irrelevant. New York was Pitkin Avenue in Brooklyn where the smells of foods from all over the world blended, and co-existed before the word multi-cultural existed.

I remember that in the series the main detective’s wife could neither speak nor hear; an unusual casting for the era where inclusion was a word yet to be invented. He was investigating a murder that involved a tattoo parlour, something which the detective explained to his wife via sign language. At the end of the show the wife surprises him with a butterfly tattoo on her shoulder. A few years later Goldie Hawn starred in a movie where butterflies represented freedom. I recalled this too when at age 40 I walked into a tattoo parlour and asked for a butterfly.

My mother threw her hands in the air (she was Italian) and be-moaned the fact before the event – that people would talk and I would be considered a fallen woman.  I am still waiting as it may have lent a certain excitement to my life it lacks. I have time I guess.

I have never been sorry, the butterflies roam around my books and give Lia reason to remember her mother, and a butterfly sits on and will continue to sit on the front cover of my first and last book in The Unexpected Series. This is by virtue of Chris Brunton, my very talented artist (he has two links which I have provided) who understood I needed this and was very creative with it.

Why do we fixate on particular points or things? I don’t know but the same thing occurred when I watched the film Paying it Forward. The whole premise fascinated me and still does.  It too has a kind of fragile beauty that makes people afraid to reach out and be a part of the world it represents. Can something good be frightening? Yet if we all paid forward imagine what would return to us in bucket loads. With authors, paying it forward comes in the form of support for other writers, and for their readers.

By re-tweeting their tweets, liking them on Facebook, reading their books and reviewing them, writers help other writers stay buoyant in a competitive world. Writers support their readers by trying incredibly hard to improve on what they do. Readers support by reading and reviewing and recommending, and if we are lucky, by following us. It’s a cycle and a beautiful one when it flows. I love being a reader as much as being a writer especially when I come across books that I enjoy.  Shifter's Magic

I have another two this post, both rural and both full of warmth, family feeling, romance and naughty behaviours that people indulge in when they find the one they truly love. I have no hesitation recommending them and have provided links. The first, Shifter’s Magic, had such a lovely flow of feeling. I wanted to live in that community.  The second Finding Home was tender and sweet and full of nice people.  I wanted to live there as well. These two books were very different but both had people paying it forward in their own distinct fashion.

Finding HomeIn life strangely enough paying it forward is pretty much the same. We support our families and friends, the people around us, and we teach our young to be generous, helpful and loving, and they spread the word and teach their young the same.  My one-year-old grandson can already blow me kisses. It isn’t hard to be a community yet somehow we make it so by being too busy with our own thing, our own lives. We fixate on that rather than finding butterflies. I think I would rather the butterflies, lots and lots of them.

What do you find fascinating and how does it impact on you and your world? I’d love to know.

Alla prossima

Barb

Reviewing, not the horror you imagine

tbrLast post, among other things I discussed reviews.  For some reason many people shy away from giving these.  Some people just don’t want to commit themselves on paper, some are not sure what to write and some are just afraid to express their opinion.  I’m not an expert but I just put down what I feel. Liking it is just as important as perfect grammar and formatting.  For me reading is respite.

Sometimes liking the story or the characters, is enough to overlook the small little bits and pieces that prevent perfection. Perfect doesn’t  guarantee enjoyment. Mentioning flaws however doesn’t hurt. They help the author improve their craft.  I know that is how I learn.  For instance I want to take my novel to print but print is forever so another good look at the manuscript is necessary. Reviews are incredibly helpful to me in that process.

I try to maintain a sense of integrity by not shying away from things I see but it is important to remember reviews are subjective. Writers expect their reader to be subjective, expect them to be true to themselves.  I don’t do critiques when I review a book.  A critique is a whole different ball game. You pull a book apart as an intellectual activity. I just tell people how the books made me feel, or what stood out that has me willing to tell the world I liked it. Reviews are a great way to share something that has given you a few hours of escape.

So from now on I am going to post reviews when the opportunity arises.  I have read some enjoyable books and I don’t mind putting it out there and sharing that.  I urge you though to remember that these are my impressions.

 Changing Times (A Hidden Mountains Novel) ★★★★★

Jacqueline Rhoades

51zupwlvailThe characters in this book are wonderful. Lorelei who we met in Preston’s Mill (Book 1) features strongly in this and it is her growth that we follow and much like Cob we are captivated. You don’t have to read the first in the series but you should because it is a beautiful read. This particular one, Changing Times, brings hope to all of us dreamers out there, that men like Cob exist and can see through all the pretence to the real woman underneath. It is a universal logic that we react to our surroundings.  For more       https://goo.gl/RkHnS9

 

 

The Stationmaster’s Cottage ★★★★

Phillipa Nefri Clark

 the-stationmasters-cottageThere are two love stories here, even if they are generations apart, and both of them stand at the precipice of the happy ever after.  The reader is caught up hoping that those involved will stop wasting time.  What is wonderful about this novel is that it a gentle lesson in life.  We set our own limitations to our future when we don’t question what is in right in front of us.

Both Martha and Christie ironically do the same thing in two different ways and it sets off a chain of misunderstandings, both deliberate and otherwise, that hurts them and the men in their lives.  It demonstrates so clearly to us how we are shaped by our environment and upbringing.   For more   https://goo.gl/fA1L0f

 A Deep Thing ★★★★★

A.K. Smith

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I found this book a wonderful surprise.  The story was quite simple. A widow discovers her husband was not all what he appeared when she is contacted with a strange request.  A truculent step-son, and a need for answers that incorporates the beauty of Mexico, and a possible romance makes good reading and then just as we except this we are lead into the unexpected.  The little twist at the end is an added bonus that leaves you wondering long after you finish reading if more is to come.  It is not a cliff hanger.  It is a very clever piece of writing. For more  https://goo.gl/TcYupi

 

Till next time

Barb