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,
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Blogging as I have said many times previously is something I love. There is such freedom in being able to write on so many different aspects of life, and to be able to feature other people. Last month it was my cover artist Christopher Brunton and Australian author Jill Staunton, and next time, next month, who knows?
This medium, the blog post, allows for #authorssupportingauthors or #artistssupportingartists (I know this isn’t Twitter or Instagram, but I wanted to emphasise how wonderful it is to be able to support each other and serves to remind us that those hash tags do help. It has helped me find more people to support and an amazing following I never expected). All of us I am sure want to help and support others but too often don’t know how.
The truth is that there are a million different things we can do if we really want to help someone else. The desire will lead us to where we need to go if we listen to our internal dialogue, the good one. Sometimes it is just simply sharing the blending of perfect voices in this very beautiful song I am presenting this post. The result is pleasure and if that isn’t supportive, then I question what is? The dancing is stunning, but it is Andrea and Jennifer, two completely diverse artists harmonising that brings a delicious sense of well-being.
I wanted to share that and hope you enjoyed it. At times I do have to mention my books and my writing. This is my website and I am hoping I am a writer, or at least coming closer to it every day and it means I must adhere to practicality. This week though I thought I might just enjoy the sharing.
Lots of love
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Another birthday has come and gone but I’m not the least bit bothered. I am doing things and age can’t and won’t get in the way. Three years ago, I took the plunge into self-publishing and even though I haven’t hit a best seller list, and may never do so, I can’t complain because I love what I do and I have earned the right to do it.
I still get the occasional niggling question – why not a traditional publisher? Or my favourite, why did you give your character that name? I still cringe at the words (internally), but I choose silence (externally). In any case, what could I say?
Of course, I would love a publisher to find me, but it’s not like I decide I want it to happen and magically someone offers me a contract. And to be honest, I like not stressing over query letters, a synopsis or an outline, or that awful wait for someone to get back to you. And I may have to do a lot alone, but at least I dance to the beat of my own drum. (I didn’t pick the names of my characters, they introduced themselves and I had to lump it, just in case you wanted to know.)
There is an insane belief that we can question the actions of a self-published author in a very personal way. I am beginning to believe it is because we explain ourselves. I know I have, and frankly I have done it far too often. At first, I did it because I wanted to share the process. It helped me clarify what I was doing. Secondly, I wanted to encourage others out there to have a go at whatever they felt they wanted to do. Both were and are great reasons but somewhere in there I found myself sharing too much and wondering if I was undermining the necessary belief in the self that keeps us going. I decided I wanted to re-think and re-process.
One of the perks with self-publishing is being able to re-evaluate based on input, and then re-edit and re-publish. Controlling what we do is amazing. We pick when and where. So as I said, I documented the journey, all of it – the first publication, the re-edit, publishing again and so forth. I can truly say I did it in good faith, wanting readers to understand I knew changes were needed.
But I wonder if it wasn’t also way of excusing myself, showing myself in a positive light. I mean, it would demonstrate how thoughtful I was, how self-aware, wouldn’t it? Emotional blackmail of sorts? I don’t think that’s true, at least not intentionally, but I have decided perhaps an element of this existed and exists, and perhaps sharing needs limits. Readers need their illusions as well, and it seems wrong to pull them into our mistakes. And it also feeds the writer a constant diet of subconscious self-doubt.
The truth is good or bad, independent authors rock. Putting ourselves out there to fulfil a potential in our lives is brave given normal avenues for whatever reasons are not open to us, and we stand alone. Being a wordsmith (working with words), a fellow Australian author Jill Staunton would say, is incredibly satisfying. I also think it a little dangerous. Words are fuelled by thoughts. And sometimes there is a clashing between life and the manuscript we need to be wary of. This quote from Frank Outlaw (his background appeared complicated but I like the quote Mareo McCraken chose in his post and went with it) says it all.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
These words led me back to re-read three posts I had written fail early, fail often and fail forward not so long ago. The posts shed a light I didn’t want. I discovered that without meaning to, a part of me was documenting far too often not to be seeking to validate my less than perfect outcomes. But, validation is a means of gratifying the moment, and then what? My destiny was becoming more re-write blow-by-blow orientated instead of new project orientated. I forgot to fail forward. Acceptance of errors is the way we improve. I don’t need to explain. I need to improve.
Kelsie Engen in a recent post says she has learned three valuable lessons as a writer.
Most obviously, I’ve learned to be a better writer. With complete honesty she tells us that looking back on her earliest writing she shudders until she sees how far she has come.
Writing takes you beyond writing. One of her examples was writing about a horse jockey when she had never spent time on a track. I know what she means. As readers we see this all the time. I have had to learn to research in ways I never dreamed of for just one word. I am Italian, my characters are Italian but that is not enough to ensure correctness. Kelsie says, “There needs to be a vein of truth.” She’s right; readers connect to truth.
Writing taught me to accept who I am. In agreement. Writing brings out the truth in us and we can’t run from it. We can learn.
My mind lives in the spin of a never-ending washing machine cycle of words but you know what, that’s okay to share.
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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.
Chris 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.
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.
I 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.
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).
I have provided links below for other samples of work. I hope you take the time to peruse them.
This blog post I am thrilled to be doing something different, and presenting a piece on Australian Jill Staunton, author of Reivers Moon, a beautiful read which I thoroughly recommend. I haven’t known Jill long, but what I know I like, particularly her passion for the land. It is inspiring.
Generally, I am not a big rural fan, but I will read the odd one here and there. I do however like to read new Australian authors and I am so glad I came across this. I joke and say the sao biscuits and vegemite cemented my love affair. They probably did. It’s an Aussie tradition even a migrant child can relate to, although my Italian cousins ran screaming when I offered it to them to try. It is also a very inexpensive snack in hard times. I grew up understanding that, despite the cultural differences. There is a moment in every book that connects us and often it can be a small thing. I found myself inside a world vastly different to mine but completely fascinating.
I won’t touch too much on the plot except to say the novel is a mixture of family drama, hot romance and the kind of crime people on the land should never be subjected to. Their lives are hard enough. Beautifully crafted the novel is an insight into Australian outback life and one that people everywhere can relate to. So much of that is due to the author’s skill in the use of descriptive language, and to the love of the land that shines through in every word. It draws the reader, no matter their background, into the world of farmer, the man on the land. I will let Jill tell you a little more about that, and the book.
Meet Jill Staunton
So many things inspire me to write. Mostly, I write because I love writing – love putting together a story, playing around with words until I find the ones I’m happiest with, the ones that give me the shades of meaning I really want.
Someone once called me a wordsmith and the first time I heard the term, I was thrown back to my childhood and my uncle whom I could always track down in his smithy. He taught me to work the bellows while he beat red-hot metal into shape on an anvil, then dunked it into a bed of coals – which I had to keep red-hot for him by pumping the bellows. He could make anything he needed for the farm; there was artistry in his hands. He came from a line of artists – painters and woodcarvers – and women who could crochet, knit, sew, cook and garden the way we don’t today. So many of those skills have diminished or been lost to us. He, and they, were smiths in the true sense of the word.
I wondered then what value there was in being a wordsmith. Compared to my Scottish and Irish predecessors, I had little to show for my art. Or so I supposed. There were no crocheted bedspreads, or intricately laced tablecloths; no knitted dresses or patterned jumpers; no deliciously fluffy, light sponge cakes; no colourful bottles of pickles, relishes, jams and preserved vegetables lined up in the pantry and no oil paintings positioned proudly above hand carved wooden mantelpieces. Words on paper were largely invisible in a home filled with such useful treasures. Still, I loved words.
And my parents loved the land and taught their children to love it too. I soaked up the language of the bush like dry ground soaks up a rainstorm and found that words had their own kind of magic and artistry. They enabled me to write about the country I loved, about a way of life that mattered and still does.
It matters because farmers are artists too and their palettes are living blocks of land upon which they must constantly position and re-position crops and livestock in ever changing environmental landscapes and moods. Whether we are vegetarians or meat-eaters, we need our farmers. And we need to respect their knowledge, skills and artistry in managing our survival. Yes, our survival. For without farmers, we’d all die.
So, when I see organisations like PETA, scurrilously slandering our farming communities, words spill from my mind and swirl into poems of protest like this one.
Drought-dry paddocks sit brown and bare,
Devoid of grass and seared by the sun
Their friable soils fragment, crumble undone
And rootless, they lift into hot dry air.
Blown by bitter winds, dust clouds flare
Across outback towns and cattle runs
As life succumbs to a burning sun
And bleaching bones lie bereft of care
While you, PETA, arrogant, ignorant, urbanite
You, who live in comfort through oblivious days
You, who shop for bloodless foods, prettily pre-packaged
You dare to vilify those whom death stalks, unites,
Who look into dull, glazed eyes and euthanaise
Day after drought-dry day? Shame on you and your sacrilege!
I also write Outback fiction – a blend of romance and adventure based around real rural issues such as reiving. Now there’s a word my Scottish ancestors would have used! I like to take a romantic and optimistic viewpoint in my stories so ‘Reiver’s Moon’ is an Australian Outback romance and rural crime story about cattle theft in north Queensland, set between Townsville and Hughenden. Annella MacAdam and Mitchell Fallon are the key characters and as the lead says, Annella MacAdam loved a lie and didn’t know it. Mitchell Fallon was the lie and knew it.
What inspires me is my love of the Australian bush, my family, a sense of justice and my delight in playing with words. I think writers simply love creating stories.