A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Kristen Taber

Kristen Taber

Kristen Taber

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Kristen Taber to Layered Pages to talk to me about her writing. Born in Bangor, Maine, Kristen spent her childhood at the feet of an Irish storytelling grandfather, learning to blend fact with fiction and imagination with reality. She lived within the realm of the tales that captivated her, breathing life into characters and crafting stories even before she could read.

Those stories have since turned into over a hundred poems, several short tales, and five manuscripts in both the Young Adult and Adult genres. Currently, Ms. Taber is completing the five-part Ærenden series from her home office in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Kristen, why do you write?

My husband says I need to write to preserve my sanity. He means it as a joke, of course, but in some ways he might be right. For me, writing is as necessary as eating. My mind is constantly spinning, constructing tales, seeing characters living alongside real people. I make up back stories for strangers and daydream whenever I’m not too busy (and sometimes when I should be). Writing collects these spinning thoughts and brings them to life. It allows them to leave my head so I have room for something else. Sometimes that something else is actually real life duties, but often it’s more characters. I guess you could say my motto is “Create. Write. Repeat.”

What is your writing process?

I don’t have an extensive process, but I do have criteria that make it possible to write. I need a place where I have no demands. If at home, I wear headphones so I won’t hear the family playing upstairs. If I go outside the house, I like to find a coffee shop with enough background noise that I can get absorbed by it and not be distracted by something I can focus on (a lone conversation, a TV, etc).  Once I have the right location, I need a few hours. I’ve never been the type of person who could write in 15 minute bursts. It takes me about 30 minutes to get into my characters’ minds, then I stay with them for hours. If I’m interrupted, I lose my train of thought easily, so having that block of time is so important to making sure a book stays on track.

As to how I write, I’m a plotter-pantser. I have a whiteboard in my office where I keep track of the plot over the course of my series, detail characters and points I need to close out in each book, and jot down ideas as they come up while writing. I have a general idea about where the story is going, how it will end, and where I want it to go, but I learned long ago that my idea of what needs to happen and the characters’ sometimes vary. Most of the time the characters win when I fight back, so I go along with the plot twists they deliver and hold on tight. Sometimes these tangents get edited out in the second draft, but other times I wind up enjoying the new direction better. As an example, one of my main characters, Cal, was supposed to be a minor character. When his turn came to leave the book, he persisted in annoying me until I let him stay.

Kristen Taber book cover

How has writing impacted your life?

I can’t imagine life without writing. It touches every aspect of who I am. It allows me the chance to create, to invent, to feel like I’m constructing something new and valuable. Without writing, I wouldn’t have my self-publishing journey, and without that, I wouldn’t have many of the people in my life I consider friends. My editor, several authors, a few bloggers, even readers who I talk to on a regular basis all came into my life because of my writing. I’m grateful that my passion has led to so many blessings outside of my books.

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

Nearly all of my novels have started as random scenes that visited in the moments between wakefulness and sleeping, when my mind wanders most and my creativity runs wild. After a scene plays out, I’m usually snapped awake and have the compulsion to write about it. Needless to say, I have many nights of little to no sleep, but its well worth it when I can read the start of a new book by the time the sun rises.

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

Positive reviews always make me so happy! They give me the confidence to write the next scene. Negative reviews are great for learning. I read each one carefully, dissect what the reviewer has said and try to figure out if there’s a way I can make improvements in my writing. I hope everyone likes my books, of course, but I understand how subjective art can be. Opinions will vary, so I try to weigh all of my reviews individually and as part of a whole (especially when they contradict each other). Ultimately, no matter what they say, it’s great to know people are reading my books.

What advice would you give a beginner writer?

First and foremost, enjoy your stories. Don’t try to chase the trends, because those are always changing and if you write something because it’s what you think others want to read, but you don’t want to read it yourself, that will come across. Instead of becoming a living world, what you create will seem false. Second, while you don’t always have to follow the rules (grammar, structure, etc.), it’s important to know the rules so you know what you can break to make your story flow. And third, just write. No matter what you do and how busy your life might be, find time to write. As with anything else, exercising daily will keep your writing muscles limber and well-toned.

Links:

Website

Ærenden

Also, social links may be found here

 

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Sunday Book Highlight

A Rage to Live

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Victor Breitburg is a survivor of the Lódz Ghetto, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Rhemsdorf and Theresienstadt concentration camps. He was liberated with a group known as “The Boys”. Their experiences have been documented in Sir Martin Gilbert’s Book, The Boys:Triumph Over Adversity. Victor and many of “The Boys” are still in contact with one another, although as it is with WWII veterans, their numbers are slowly diminishing.

Victor’s journey from Lódz, to the camps in Europe, to England, Scotland and the United States and his new life in America is the story told in this volume.

Victor completed studies in America, became a successful businessman and an accomplished lecturer on the Holocaust, having received numerous awards and citations for his role as an educator.

He is a widower, having been married to his beloved wife Lucille for sixty years.

He currently lives in Coconut Creek Florida, and at 84 years old, occasionally speaks on Yom HaShoa. He has written some poems, short stories and is considering a novel based on the early days of the Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. Victor has two daughters, Denise and Myra. Denise is married to Mark and they have two children, Maya and Eli.

 Excerpt from Chapter 9: Resettlements and Goodbyes

We must have been traveling for several hours, with some stops to permit other trains to pass. We observed that eastbound trains were army trains and westbound trains were transports for the Red Cross. We knew that the Germans were suffering heavy casualties on the eastern front. Were they losing the war? Were they winning on the western front? Is this why they needed our help?

We stopped for the night and every one settled down to sleep. We still had bread and there was a barrel of water. If we had to go to the toilet, we put up a little curtain and went through a crack in the floor as we relieved ourselves down onto the railroad tracks. The mood on the train improved. Most were thinking that if they wanted to kill us, why would they use such a valuable train? We must have stopped a dozen times. Every time we stopped, we stood there for hours. This was the third day.

All of sudden there was a commotion. We went through a gate and the train stopped. There was silence, and we knew we had arrived. Everyone put on their backpacks and waited for the doors of the train to open. I heard my heart beating. I was not at ease and my lips were trembling. My mother gathered us in her arms and told us to stay together. “If for some reason we get separated, we should not forget that our meeting destination is with my sister in Brooklyn.” She kissed us. I hugged my mother.

I said, “Nothing is going happen to us, we are going to stay together.”

I took Felek’s hand, but he pulled it away and said, “Take care of Sarah. I am twelve years old and am able to help myself.” I smiled at him. He certainly was growing up. I was surprised at his reaction. He turned out to be such a good-looking kid. He was a Breitburg; blond and blue eyed. I am a cross breed between the Wajnmans and Brajtburgs.

Waiting for the door to slide open was hard. We didn’t know what to expect. At that moment I felt we should pray to the Almighty, “Please let this nightmare end for us so that one day we might go to the Promised Land and serve you for eternity.”

victor-and-joe

Victor & Joe

Joseph Krygier is the Pastor of New Covenant Baptist Fellowship in Buffalo, New York. He has written about and been engaged in cross-cultural ministry for over thirty years. He has taught in Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Australia. His current overseas ministry is TheosDoulos Church Planting Movement, training pastors in the Philippines on the island of Mindanao. Before becoming ordained, he was involved in theater, dance and lighting design. His a musician and a composer and he is currently writing a one-man play, Chagrined, based on this book. An audio book version will soon be available with the talent of Lee Wilkof and other Broadway actors.  He is married to Deborah, who works for the Buffalo Public Schools and has a son Aaron, who is pursuing a career as a writer and an actor.

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Debrah Martin

Debrah Martin -BRAG

Debrah Martin writes under three different pen names and in three very different genres. She plots fast-paced and compelling thrillers as D.B. Martin, with the first in the Patchwork trilogy, Patchwork Man, having been recently awarded a coveted B.R.A.G. Medallion. The explosive conclusion to the series, Patchwork Pieces, is to be released on 13th April 2015. As Debrah Martin she writes literary fiction, where often the truth IS stranger than fiction, and two new titles are due to be released in 2015/16. And not to be overlooked is her YA teen detective series, penned as Lily Stuart – THE teen detective. Irreverent, blunt, funny and vulnerable. Webs is the first in the series and Magpies will follow in 2015.

So why not stick to just one name and one genre?

‘Variety is the spice of life,’ she says. ‘And I continually have all these new ideas – they have to come out somehow!’

Debrah’s past careers have spanned two businesses, teaching, running business networking for the University of Winchester (UK) and social event management. She chaired the Wantage (not just Betjeman) Literary Festival in 2014 and also mentors new writers.

Hello, Debrah! Thank you for chatting with me today and your B.R.A.G. Medallion book, Patchwork Man. I must say, what a fantastic title! It catches the reader’s eyes and leaves them wanting to find out more about the story. Before you tell me how your title pertains to the story, tell me about your book.

Patchwork Man

Lawrence Juste QC finds himself tricked into taking a case defending a juvenile against a charge of manslaughter by his clever – but dead – wife. Normally he wouldn’t even have opened the folder without her around to persuade him, but she’s left something else to do that for her; a list of all the unsavoury people and events from his past. The ones he’s carefully hidden until now and didn’t even know she was aware of.

Disconcertingly, the boy reminds him of himself – not only as a person but in the crime he’s supposed to have committed. Taking the case catapults Juste into a world that touches his own past with alarming regularity until it throws up the brother he betrayed as a teenager, the bully he’s done his best to avoid ever since and a disturbingly attractive female liaison. It also leads him on a journey in which he rediscovers the family he rejected, has to answer for the murder he should have ensured was fairly tried, but didn’t, and himself – or the principles the man who styled himself Lawrence Juste once wanted to observe. By the time the book closes, the links to his forgotten family have drawn significantly closer and so has the childhood bully. And the one person who still seems to be the linchpin for all of it is Juste’s dead wife whose influence oddly still seems to be very much alive and active…

Your story is set in two specific times – Lawrence/Kenny’s childhood is based in the 1950’s in Croydon, England. Run-down, poverty-stricken and dismal. The ‘present-day’ story is 1999, with Lawrence (born 1950) and now middle-aged, well-to-do, respected and living in London. How did you decide to write about these periods, topic and what was challenging about the themes? Also, please share a bit of research you might have done.

It all started with my mother’s description of how the rag and bone man used to tour the streets years ago. My mother is now eighty. It was such a vivid piece of living history I wrote it up straight away and then started looking around at what else was happening at the time. Next I hit on some information about what it was like being in a children’s home in the fifties and how some of the children desperately wanted to leave that past behind them when they left. I started to think about what it might be like for someone with an experience so bad they wanted to entirely forget it and turn their back on the whole of their past life, even the times before they were unhappy. That obviously provided the possibility of wanting past misdeeds to be hidden too, and for them to later come back and haunt the protagonist. He, or she, therefore had to be a ‘fallen hero’ and I particularly liked the idea of one who was ultra-respectable but intrinsically damaged – or dramatically failing to adhere to the principles they once aspired too. Lawrence Juste was ‘born’, and after having seen an adaptation for the theatre of To Kill a Mocking Bird, my long-time admiration of the book found its target in the principles of justice and fairness Juste aspires to, but lost sight of a long time beforehand.

The research was easy in some ways as some of my family had lived in Croydon in both the 1950’s and 1990’s. I, myself, lived in London in the 1980’s. The more difficult area to research was the state of children’s homes in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I was both disturbed and pleased to be told by someone who’d actually worked in a children’s home round about that time that my description was very accurate – of both the kind of buildings and arrangements in place as well as the incidents that occurred. Research for me is usually a mix of research using the internet, and interviewing people with recall of appropriate places and times. Personal remembrances are much more ‘alive’ than research conducted through books or the internet, but both are be necessary because the memory is fallible, whereas recorded facts tend not to be! I’m not a legal eagle, but I had a massive stroke of luck in coming across someone who introduced me to a British High Court Judge and he checked the legal and procedural sections for credibility and accuracy. He asked to remain nameless of course, but I’m indebted to him for his kindness in helping with Patchwork Man.

What is an example of a choice or a path Lawrence takes that affects his life and how does he deal with it?

Laurence made a major life path choice in his teens when he decided he was going to cut himself off from his past. It derived from self-preservation, firstly after an incident at the children’s home he spent his teenage years in,

“… it was the determination to never be falling backwards with a knife in my gut that kept me safe until Jaggers arrived.”

And subsequently that determination to survive taught him how to subdivide his life and his emotions so he could operate almost robotically, and not be truly touched emotionally:

“… Keep everything separate; separate lives. That way the trouble of one life wouldn’t spill over into the other. The two versions. Fragmented…”

But this is only possible until he’s forced to become involved with people who operate quite differently to him; Danny – who might be his son, and Kat, who disturbs all kinds of hitherto stifled emotions. He’s never dealt in emotion or loyalty before. Facing his past as it collides with his present requires him to also face himself, and the man he’s become.

“… Advice can be good at the time, but time moves situations on and everything is changed. And to be a whole person the fragments have to be assembled …”

What is a Patchwork Man? And this must be how you came up with your title.

My patchwork man is Laurence,

“…Maybe we’re all patchworks, slowly adding to the pattern, piece by piece – some frayed, some neatly sewn, some brightly coloured and some dull and faded from over-use…”

But I think we are all patchworks, created out of our experiences and past choices. They inform our behavior, create our instinctive responses, and sometimes come unraveled if there’s a loose thread that someone or something tugs hard enough on. I’m also fascinated with how life can change dramatically from one moment to the next and what we thought was the pattern of our world can tangle or even become undone. That was what I wanted to portray in Laurence – the man who thought he’d got everything sewn up tight, only to find that single loose thread pulled, and with it everything else coming unstitched too.

How much time did you spend writing your story?

The whole trilogy took me just over a year to write. I worked on it more or less continuously during that year and the story took over and told itself after a while. I find that quite often happens when I get to know the characters well because what they choose to do is almost inevitable once I’ve understood them and their motivations and fears. Of course there is always – as with real life – the chance that they will act out of character because of a revelation, and Laurence does have one of those moments in the final book of the trilogy; Patchwork Pieces, out on the 13th April, but I’ll keep what a secret …

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I have a writing room which used to be my daughters ballet studio – until she gave it up. I could, if I wished, admire myself in two walls of mirrors whilst hanging off the ballet barre, but of course I’d rather sit at my desk and write! My day starts with a mug of tea and a review of what I did the day before. If I’m on a roll I might get a whole chapter down in first draft, but often it’s much more slow-moving. I tend to write a whole first draft before doing any editing, and once a first draft is completed I like to put it away for a while before going back for the first round of editing. It enables me to see it with fresh eyes. I don’t use Scrivener or any of the other tools some writers use. I have a spreadsheet detailing the chapters, the main plot points occurring in them, Sometimes there are quite detailed descriptions if I’ve already imagined some elements of the chapter in my head, like a conversation between characters or a specific turning point in the plot, or sometimes just a sentence I particularly like. The spreadsheet gradually gets scrawled all over as I think of things I’d like to change or add to, or the characters themselves dictate that something different should happen. I try to break the day up with a walk with my dog unless our English weather puts a stop to that. Otherwise, Rosie, my retriever lays just behind where I sit at my desk and reminds me from time to time that she’d like some attention too! My writing day usually ends round about 4.30pm when my younger daughter arrives home from school, demanding food – why are teenagers always starving? If, by then, I’m most of the way through a chapter, it’s been a good day, but often the progress will have been more in determining plot points, character development and collating research material in the early days of the book.

Who designed your book cover?

The cover design is mainly mine, but brought to life by a cover designer. After looking at a number of book covers in the genre, I decided I needed a theme for all of the books in the trilogy and chose the images with that in mind. The basic white background of the front cover was a natural choice because of the first image I chose and it also perfectly complimented the theme of something coming out of nothing. Laurence Juste starts out as a ‘nothing’ person – hidden secrets, hidden past, hidden emotions, and on the front of Patchwork Man he’s just about to break cover. The images progress through the spying eye of Patchwork People – and there’s a distinctly spying eye at the heart of the second book in the trilogy – to the handprint on the cover of the final book in the trilogy, Patchwork Pieces, where Laurence’s identity is sealed.

In your bio it say you write under three pen name. How do you keep up with that? *smiling* That is impressive!

With difficulty! I often have more than one book in progress, is really how. At the moment I’m working on Magpies, my next YA fiction, but I’m also plagued with all sorts of ideas for The Definition of Iniquity, which is to be my next suspense thriller. I also have Thirty times Thirty, another literary fiction underway. In progress too are a re-release of a novel now out of print from 2013, and waiting in the wings with my agent is Falling Awake – also a literary fiction. I chose to write under three pennames mainly on my agent’s advice. She felt that it would be confusing for readers to pick up a book written in one genre anticipating it to be a particular kind of story, only to find it was something completely different. I can see the sense in this and as long as the ideas and stories keep flowing and readers keep reading, I’m happy to be read under any name.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I first found indieBRAG via another author agented by my literary agent, A for Authors; Alison Morton. Alison also writes suspense thrillers and I was interested in the award she referred to having won for one of them as she is also an indie. I had a look around the B.R.A.G. website and was impressed by both its authenticity and its professional approach. I decided to submit Patchwork Man, although hardly daring think I would be awarded a BRAG medallion so you can imagine how delighted I was when I did. Being an indie author is tough at times. So many doors are closed to you by the traditional publishing world, yet I know from other indie authors that I have read that there are some extremely talented writers out there – more talented, dare I say, than some authors published by mainstream and major publishers. To receive an award based on a thorough and professional review is not only an honour – and an accolade very much worth having – it’s a validation of all the work that goes into writing a book and garnering the self-belief to self-publish it. What more can I say than that I am delighted to be able to BRAG about mine.

Where can readers buy your book?

Patchwork Man is available on Amazon

As is the sequel, Patchwork People

And the conclusion to the trilogy, Patchwork Pieces, is available for pre-order

For YA fiction readers, my first YA fiction, Webs, is available here

You can also find Debrah’s website here

Her blog is here

Her Facebook Page

And she’s on Twitter as @Storytellerdeb

Thank you, Debrah! It was a pleasure chatting with you. Please visit Layered Pages again soon.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Debrah Martin, who is the author of, Patchwork Man, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Patchwork Man, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Shannon L. Brown

Author Shannon Brown

Author Shannon L. Brown

Shannon L. Brown read and read as a kid, particularly every mystery she could find. She didn’t plan to be a writer though. Although she earned a degree in journalism & communications then a second degree in education, she didn’t end up working in either field. Shannon wrote her first book, a clean romance, shortly after earning those degrees in the 1980s. Submitted to a publisher, when it was rejected she changed directions. Fast forward to a day some years later when she was driving and an image of a briefcase filled with feathers popped into her mind. She knew it was the idea for a children’s mystery and “The Feather Chase” was born. Shannon wrote the book while working in unrelated fields. She also began writing magazine articles on the side and gradually moved to doing that full-time. Now an award-winning writer, she has sold more than 600 articles for local, national and regional publications and, until resigning to finish the book, was the contributing editor for a jewelry publication. (This goes to show you, you never know where life may take you.) “The Feather Chase” was published in February of 2014. It’s a fun mystery and the first in the Crime-Solving Cousins Mystery series. Shannon’s now using those earlier courses in communications to write and those in education to speak to children about writing. Originally from Alaska, she currently lives in Nashville, Tennessee, with her professor husband and adorable calico cat Evie. The second book in the series will release in the summer of 2015.

Hello, Shannon! I am delighted to be chatting with you and congrats on the B.R.A.G. Medallion for your book, The Feather Chase. First I’d like to say that I love the title of your book. Could you tell your audience a little about the premise of your story?

Thank you on the title. I went through many possibilities before I settled on The Feather Chase. The story begins when twelve-year-old cousins Sophie and Jessica find a briefcase full of feathers while hiking in the woods. They’re spending the summer together in Sophie’s small town of Pine Hill and city-girl Jessica isn’t interested in much there including helping with what might be a mystery. When they realize someone is following them, they work together to solve the mystery of The Feather Chase.

Are there any characteristic similarities between Sophie and Jessica, besides their age, that your readers can relate to?

Readers often feel one of the girls is more like them. Sophie loves the outdoors —she’d rather be hiking or camping than almost anything else. She’s also a fan of jeans and sneakers, and an average student. Jessica’s a big city girl who currently calls London, England, home. She’s a very smart girly girl who likes to dress up and wouldn’t leave the house without makeup.

The Feather Chase

What is an example of how they work together to solve the mystery they stumble upon?

I’ll answer this without giving too much away. (I’m one those who covers her ears when someone talks about a book she’s read or movie she’s seen that I haven’t gotten to yet.)

Sophie promises still-doubtful Jessica chocolate if she’ll help her sort through a pile of debris to find something she’s sure is there. They find it and from then on face danger and find clues together.

Could you please share an excerpt?      

Here’s a scene from page 3 that begins with Sophie speaking:

“Maybe the outdoors will grow on you. Pretend we’re on a great adventure.”

“I think twelve’s a little too old for that.”

“I’m twelve too, and I don’t think so. My dad says you’re never too old to use your imagination.”

“Okay. We’re on a great adventure.” Jessica lowered her voice to a whisper. “We’re going to find a bunch of spies around that bend in the path.”

Sophie seemed startled, then grinned. She must not have known Jessica had a sense of humor.

As they rounded the next bend, Jessica pointed to the ground. “Look. There’s a briefcase.”

Sophie giggled. “You’re really getting into this.”

“No, I mean there really is a briefcase.”

Sophie looked in the direction Jessica pointed. “There is!”

A black leather briefcase, something like her dad used to carry papers to meetings, lay on its side, next to a big pine tree. Jessica knelt beside it.

“No!” Sophie shouted when her cousin reached for it. “Don’t you watch all those spy movies? The briefcase is booby-trapped.”

“You must be kidding.” Jessica poked at it with her finger. Then she picked it up off the ground. “Gee. Nothing happened.” Setting it on a boulder, she pushed on the

latches. “It’s locked up tight.”

“We’d better take it to the sheriff’s office.”

Will there be other mystery stories involving these two?

The second book in the Crime-Solving Cousins series will release in the next few months. This time Sophie and Jessica are searching for a missing treasure and they find themselves in danger once again.

I find it interesting that your book is contemporary with a fictional location but you have written non-fiction articles about your story. Could you tell me a little about that? I am curious.

I’ve written more than 600 non-fiction articles so I’m comfortable with fiction and non-fiction. I’m always curious about what’s behind the scenes so I enjoy sharing things such as the evolution of my book’s cover or looking at what makes a character tick.

What is the age target for this book?

Ages 8-12 are the target audience. I had thought my readers would be mostly girls, but boys are also enjoying it. There is a 12-year-old boy who enters the story about halfway through.

Who designed your book cover?

The amazing Jeanine Henderson illustrated and hand-lettered my cover.

How long did it take for you to write your story?

I normally write quickly but this story developed over a decade. At the time, I also worked full-time and had a lot going on in life. The next book in the series will be out soon and has been a much shorter process.

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I have a home office painted in a pretty light lavender. But I also like to work in coffee shops and libraries. I’m writing this from a great coffee shop in Nashville called The Well.

How did you discover indieBRAG and what has your experience been like with self-publishing so far?

I believe I discovered it in an article on ALLi’s website, The Allliance of Independent Authors. After writing for others for years, it’s both fun and challenging to have the final say in what I do. Indie authors have the obligation of putting out a product that is equal to that of a traditional publisher so we have extra work to do with hiring editors and cover designers. And then there’s marketing. A writer, any writer, could work 24/7 on marketing.

Where can readers buy your book?

The Feather Chase is available in print from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and local stores in Nashville, Tennessee. The ebook is a Kindle and Nook, and also on Kobo and ibook.

Thank you, Shannon! It has been lovely to chat with you.

It’s been a pleasure spending time with all of you.

Website

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Shannon Brown, who is the author of, The Feather Chase, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, The Feather Chase, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

A Song of Sixpence by Judith Arnopp

JA Picture

Judith, who is from Wales in the UK, is the author of seven historical fiction novels. Her early novels, Peaceweaver, The Forest Dwellers and The Song of Heledd, are set in the Anglo-Saxon/Medieval period but her later work, The Winchester Goose, The Kiss of the Concubine, Intractable Heart and A Song of Sixpence, concentrate on the Tudor period. She is currently researching for her eighth novel about Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry VII. Judith is also a regular blogger and author of historical articles.

A Ssong of Sixspence By JA

Blurb of A Song of Sixpence

In the years after Bosworth, a small boy is ripped from his rightful place as future king of England.

Years later when he reappears to take back his throne, his sister Elizabeth, now Queen to the invading King, Henry Tudor, is torn between family loyalty and duty.

As the final struggle between the houses of York and Lancaster is played out, Elizabeth is torn by conflicting loyalty, terror and unexpected love.

Elizabeth must choose between supporting the man claiming to be her brother, or her husband, the king?

Set at the court of Henry VII A Song of Sixpence offers a unique perspective on the early years of Tudor rule. Elizabeth of York, often viewed as a meek and uninspiring queen, emerges as a resilient woman whose strengths lay in endurance rather than resistance.

London – Autumn 1483

Ink black water slaps against the Tower wharf where deep impenetrable dark stinks of bleak, dank death. Strong arms constrict him and the rough blanket covering his head clings to his nose and mouth. The boy struggles, kicks, and wrenches his face free to suck in a lung full of life saving breath. The blanket smothers him again. He fights against it, twisting his head, jerking his arms, trying to kick but the hands that hold him, tighten. His head is clamped hard against his attacker’s body. He frees one hand, gropes with his fingers until he discovers chain mail, and an unshaven chin. Clenching his fingers into a fist, he lunges out with a wild inaccurate punch.

With a muffled curse the man throws back his head but, keeping hold of his prisoner, he hurries onward, down narrow, dark steps, turning one corner, then another, before halting abruptly. The boy hears his assailant’s breath coming short and sharp and knows he too is afraid.

The aroma of brackish water is stronger now. The boy strains to hear mumbled voices, low and rough over scuffling footsteps. The ground seems to dip and his stomach lurches as suddenly they are weightless, floating, and he senses they have boarded a river craft. The invisible world dips and sways sickeningly as they push out from the stability of the wharf for the dangers of the river.

The only sound is the gentle splash of oars as they glide across the water, far off the clang of a bell and the cry of a boatman. He squirms, opens his mouth to scream but the hand clamps down hard again. The men draw in their breath and freeze, waiting anxiously. A long moment, a motionless pause before the oars are taken up again and the small craft begins to move silently across the surface.

River mist billows around them; he can smell it, feels it seeping through his clothes. He shivers but more from fear than cold.

He knows when they draw close to the bridge. He can feel the tug of the river; hear the increasing rush of the current, the dangerous turbulence beneath. Surely they will not shoot the bridge, especially after dark. Only a fool would risk it.

The boy wriggles, shakes his head, and tries to work his mouth free of the smothering hand. He strains to see through the blinding darkness but all is inky black. The boat gathers pace and, as the noise of the surging river becomes deafening, the man increases his hold, a hurried prayer rumbling in his chest.

The whole world is consumed in chaos, rushing water, clamouring thunder, biting cold. In the fight for survival, the boy continues to battle fruitlessly for breath, struggle for his freedom. The body that holds him hostage tenses like a board and beneath the boy’s ear beats the dull thud of his assailant’s heart. The blanket is suffocating hot, his stomach turning as the boat is taken, surging forward, spinning upward before it is hurled down again, between the starlings, shooting uncontrollably beneath the bridge.

Then suddenly, the world is calmer. Somehow the boat remains upright on the water. It spins. He hears the men scrabble for the oars, regain control and his captor relaxes, breathes normally again. Exhausted and helpless, the boy slumps in the soldier’s arms, his fight defeated.

All is still now; all is quiet. The oars splash, the boat glides down river, and soon the aroma of the countryside replaces the stench of the city.

His clothes are soaked with river water; his stomach is empty, his body bruised and aching. Defeated and afraid, the man releases his hold and the boy lies still in the bottom of the boat.

He sleeps.

The world moves on.

Much later, waking with a start, the boy hears low, dark whisperings; a thick Portuguese accent is answered by another, lighter and less certain. This time when he blinks into the darkness, he notices a faint glimmer of light through the coarse weave of the blanket. He forces himself to lie still, knows his life could depend upon not moving but his limbs are so cramped he can resist no longer. He shifts, just a little, but it is too much. His kidnapper hauls him unceremoniously from the wet wooden planks.

The boy’s legs are like string. He stumbles as they snatch off his hood and daylight rushes in, blinding bright. He blinks, screwing up his face, blinking at the swimming features before him, fighting for focus. He sees dark hair; a heavy beard; the glint of a golden earring, and recognition and relief floods through him.

“Brampton!” he exclaims, his voice squeaking, his throat parched. “What the devil are you doing? Take me back at once.”

Brampton tugs at the boy’s tethered arms, drawing him more gently now to the bench beside him.

“I cannot. It is unsafe.”

“Why?” As his hands are untied the boy rubs at each wrist in turn, frowning at the red wheals his bonds have left behind. His Plantagenet-bright hair glints in the early morning sun, his chin juts forward in outrage. “If my father were here…”

“Well, he is not.”

Brampton’s words lack respect, but the boy knows him for a brusque, uncourtly man.

“But where are you taking me? What is happening?”

“To safety, England is no longer the place for you.”

The boy swallows, his shadowed eyes threatening tears. Switching his gaze from one man to the other, he moistens his lips, bites his tongue before trusting his breaking voice. “Where is my brother? Where is Edward?”

Brampton narrows his eyes and looks across the misty river. He runs a huge, rough hand across his beard, grimaces before he replies and his words, when they come, spell out the lost cause of York.

“Dead. As would you be had I left you there.”

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Book Review: Mist of Midnight by Sandra Byrd

01_Mist of Midnight

Publication Date: March 10, 2015 Howard Books Formats: eBook, Paperback Pages: 384

Series: Daughters of Hampshire Genre: Historical/Christian/Romance

 **********

Mist of Midnight is an opening story of a series I’m told. Set in Victorian England is the perfect backdrop for this story. A young girl, Rebecca Ravenshaw, returns to England from India. Her parents-missionaries-died in the Indian Mutiny. When she arrives no one believes who she says she is. A year before someone else claimed to be her and was quite convincing. The imposter died and Rebecca’s Father’s estate and his investments where given to a distant relative. His name is Captain Luke Whitfield. He and Rebecca quickly form an attraction for each other. However, her rights and who she says she is hasn’t been proven and you soon wonder what her fate will be. So begins the challenge or adventure I should say to convince everyone that she is the real Rebecca Ravenshaw.

I enjoyed the gothic mystery feel to the story and how Byrd portrays each of the characters. Even the secondary characters play an important role in the story. I was really intrigued with the details and culture of India that Byrd includes and she gives you a richly sense of time and place. Beautiful prose throughout, suspense in the right places and Byrd proves yet again you can write a good story without the vulgarity and foul language one finds often in books. This story is considered Christian Lit and Byrd does a splendid job with her characters dealing with real life situations. Often times I read in this genre and have been disappointed. I felt the characters weren’t believable and there realities seemed artificial. Sandra Byrd will not disappoint you with Mist of Midnight. In fact, she is one of my favorite writers and one of the few writers who I think can write brilliantly in this genre. I am so thrilled with this story and I will be on the lookout for more! Can’t wait!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 Praise for Mist of Midnight

“Intriguing secondary characters and lush scenery contribute to the often sinister, even creepy, moments readers will come to anticipate. Infusing her story with mystery, tension, and emotion, Byrd (To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn) strikes a fine balance between the darkness of a Gothic mystery and the sweetness of a captivating love story. Byrd—and Brontë—fans will enjoy this first of the new Daughters of Hampshire series.” – Publishers Weekly

“A marvelous mingling of mystery and deeply moving family and romantic love, Mist of Midnight kept me guessing until the very end. A house on a cliff, a Victorian-Gothic atmosphere, a cast of suspicious characters including a dark, brooding hero and a strong heroine: shades (or mists) of Jane Eyre and Rebecca! I look forward to the next novel in this compelling new series.” (Karen Harper, New York Times bestselling author of Mistress of Mourning)

“Mist of Midnight is wonderfully atmospheric, with all the right elements for a true Gothic novel, from sounds that go bump in the night to characters who are not at all what they seem. The spiritual underpinning is solid, comforting, even as we’re trapped in the author’s finely spun web of mystery, romance, and a sense of foreboding that doesn’t lift until the final page. Charlotte Brontë? Victoria Holt? Meet Sandra Byrd, the modern mistress of Gothic romance!” (Liz Curtis Higgs, New York Times bestselling author of Mine Is the Night)

“Among the many things I love about reading a Sandra Byrd novel is knowing that her words will transport me to another place and time, that she will win me over with intriguing and complex characters, and that I’ll savor every word. Mist of Midnight is no exception. I loved this book! Sandra Byrd could belong to the writing group of the Bronte sisters if they’d had one. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre along with crumbling mansions, mysterious distant cousins, and one woman’s journey to prove who she really is are just few layers that ripple through the mists. Bravo, Sandra! Another winner.” (Jane Kirkpatrick, award-winning author of A Light in the Wilderness)

“Richly written and multi-layered, Mist of Midnight blends traditional England and exotic India in a historical feat worthy of Victoria Holt. Breathless danger, romance, and intrigue made this series opener by the ultra-talented Sandra Byrd a compelling must-read!” (Laura Frantz, author of Love’s Reckoning)

“Once again, Sandra Byrd delivers a richly layered story that will leave you eagerly awaiting the next book in this brand-new series. Mist of Midnight has it all: intriguing and memorable characters—including a central female protagonist who is both complex and inspiring—a plot chock-full of mystery and suspense, and a Victorian gothic setting, impeccably researched and artfully and evocatively relayed. Prepare to be transported!” (Karen Halvorsen Schreck, author of Sing For Me)

“Mist of Midnight is a beautiful, haunting tale. Sandra Byrd masterfully weaves together both romance and suspense among a cast of mysterious characters. I was immediately swept into the wonder of this story, and I loved unraveling all the secrets and discovering exactly what happened at the old Headbourne House.” (Melanie Dobson, author of Chateau of Secrets and The Courier of Caswell Hall)

“Sandra Byrd’s trademark attention to historical accuracy combines with an eerily building intrigue to envelope readers in a sense of dark foreboding that hinges precariously between hope and desperation. Mist of Midnight is a subtly haunting, beautifully atmospheric, and decadently romantic Victorian tale that will find a comfortable home among the best Gothic romances of days gone by.” (Serena Chase, author of The Ryn and contributor to USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog)

“Not since Jane Eyre have I read a Gothic romance that has captured my heart so completely. From the exotic India to an English estate shrouded in mystery, Byrd’s eye for detail shines through on every page. Romance lovers are sure to devour the tale of Rebecca Ravenshaw and her search for the truth behind the mysteries of Headbourne House and the handsome young captain who lives on the estate.” (Renee Chaw, reviewer at Black ‘n Gold Girl’s Book Spot)

“From the first word to the last, Mist of Midnight is a completely absorbing romantic, and mysterious, novel. Ms. Byrd’s writing is splendid, and her characters are so complex and endearing that they leap off the pages. I couldn’t put it down. An absolutely irresistible read!” (Anne Girard, author of Madame Picasso)

Pre-Order/Buy the Book

Amazon

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About the Author

03_Sandra Byrd Author

After earning her first rejection at the age of thirteen, bestselling author Sandra Byrd has now published more than forty books. Her adult fiction debut, Let Them Eat Cake, was a Christy Award finalist, as was her first historical novel, To Die For: A Novel of Anne Boleyn. To Die For was also named by Library Journal as a Best Books Pick for 2011 and The Secret Keeper: A Novel of Kateryn Parr, was named a Library Journal Best Books Pick for 2012. Roses Have Thorns: A Novel of Elizabeth I published in April, 2013.

Sandra has also published dozens of books for tweens and teens including the Secret Sisters Series, London Confidential Series and a devotional for tweens.

A former textbook acquisitions editor, Sandra has published many nonfiction articles and books. She is passionate about helping new writers develop their talent and their work toward traditional or self-publication. As such, she has mentored and coached hundreds of new writers and continues to coach dozens to success each year.

Please visit www.sandrabyrd.com to learn more, or to invite Sandra to your bookclub via Skype. You can also connect with Sandra on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Mist of Midnight Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 2 Review & Giveaway at Unshelfish Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, March 3 Review at A Chick Who Reads Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee

Wednesday, March 4 Review at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Thursday, March 5 Review at Reading the Past Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation Review & Guest Post at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Friday, March 6 Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Monday, March 9 Review & Giveaway at Historical Readings & Views

Tuesday, March 10 Review at Just One More Chapter Interview at Oh, For the Hook of a Book

Wednesday, March 11 Review & Giveaway at The Lit Bitch

Thursday, March 12 Review at Book Drunkard Spotlight at Books and Benches

Friday, March 13 Review & Giveaway at Forever Ashley

Monday, March 16 Review at Flashlight Commentary

Tuesday, March 17 Review at Layered Pages

Wednesday, March 18 Review at The Eclectic Reader Review at The Book Binder’s Daughter

Thursday, March 19 Review at CelticLady’s Reviews Guest Post & Giveaway at Passages to the Past

Friday, March 20 Interview & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

04_Mist of Midnight_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL

 

 

 

A Writer’s Life by B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Lorraine Devon Wilke

Lorraine Wilke-BRAG

Lorraine Devon Wilke

I’d like to welcome Lorraine Devon Wilke back to Layered Pages to talk about her writing. She is an author, photographer, singer/songwriter, started early as a creative hyphenate. First, there was music and theater, next came rock & roll, then a leap into film when a feature she co-wrote (To Cross the Rubicon) was produced by a Seattle film company, opening doors in a variety of creative directions.

In the years following, she wrote for and performed on theater stages, developed her photography skills, and accrued a library of well-received feature screenplays (The Theory of Almost Everything was a top finalist in the 2012 Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest; A Minor Rebellion a Quarter Finalist in that same event in 2014). She kept her hand in music throughout – songwriting, recording, performing – leading to the fruition of a longtime goal to record an original album (Somewhere On the Way). Accomplished in collaboration with songwriting/producing partner, Rick M. Hirsch, the album garnered stellar reviews and can be found at CDBaby and iTunes (one tune from the collection is even featured in the epilogue of After the Sucker Punch). She continues with music whenever she can (which, she maintains, is never, ever, enough!).

Lorraine, why do you write?

Not to sound trite, but it seems I must. Truly. It’s the most effective, most pleasurable, most succinct way for me to organize the thoughts rumbling around my consciousness that need to get out—a formulating plot, a necessary commentary, a passionate letter. To sit down at my computer and let those words flow from my head, through my fingers, and into some cogent, tangible, readable form, seems the best way to communicate what I’m thinking. I was that person who wrote Letters-to-the-Editor; I could settle a family battle with a thoughfully composed missive; my visual stories unrolled into screenplay format, and when I finally had a narrative I felt could sustain the novel format, I wrote my first novel. There’s something about the process—thought, through hands, to words—that is so powerful, so clear and understandable, that makes the form, to me, one of the most perfect ways to communicate. There’s also the matter of knowing there is a reader on the other end of those words. The idea of conveying ideas, concepts, great stories, emotions, to another person through your words feels like a tremendous exchange of give and receive. Very interactive and synergistic. I love the sense of getting caught up in creating a world, people, and a story, and knowing someone else will read those words and, hopefully, be transported, or moved, or entertained, or impacted in some way that is transformative. It feels like a gift I I’m able to give and so I do… always with hope the receiver enjoys it!

After the sucker punch

What is your writing process?

I can’t say I have a specific process. Or ritual. Or way I must do things. No special spot to write, shirt to wear, music to listen to. Which is good, I think, because it allows me to get to work pretty much any time inspiration hits. I work with a laptop, so I can write anywhere and often do. I can write with others in the room, noise going on, madness ensuing around me, or I can write in complete silence and solitude. Very internal process for me, learned, I suppose, as one of eleven children in a very loud, chaotic family! Of course, if someone wants to endow me with a good cup of coffee or an excellent piece of chocolate on a regular basis, I could easily make those items part of an excellent writing process.

How has writing impacted your life?

In a way, it’s saved my sanity, given me a place to focus, organize, and explore my never-ending thoughts, both creative and editorial. As a blogger/editorial writer/essayist, I often found that, as I’d note something happening in the world, read an article that provoked me, or heard some nonsense in the news that demanded a response, I was compelled gather my swirling thoughts into words. It wasn’t ego or arrogance; I simply HAD to say something or I felt like my head would explode! I took to blogging, and when someone at one of the bigger news sites printed two pieces, I knew I had my outlet. And since it was likely I had more to say than anyone would ever want to publish, I started my blog, Rock+Paper+Music, which is kind of a column for me, and from there I was invited to write for The Huffington Post.

When I’d get response to topical issues that expressed relief or commiseration, telling me I was giving voice to those who felt the same way but didn’t have the ways, means, or desire to speak out loud, I felt like I was providing a public service. Very noble. Until I discovered, and become enmeshed in, the grinding, hashing, redundant vitriol that seems endemic to topical writing. After years of that gauntlet, weary and in need of a figurative shower, I got out of politics, deciding I had to focus on more creative, positive, productive avenues for my words. Again, for my sanity. See, it’s all about my sanity! 🙂

So now my writing is built on a creative platform. I often find a way to put my editorial opinions and perspective into the mouths of characters or the prose of my narrative. That ability to fashion a completely original, imagined story, peopled by characters who bring life and humanity alive for me—and, hopefully, readers—has been an exhilarating exercise, given me a sense of tremendous creative joy.

As for impact on a career level, it’s been very exciting to be in control of my destiny as a novelist. With so much of the “business of art,” there is the waiting to please/win-over/convince gatekeepers just to get in the door to hopefully please/win-over/convince the next set of “permission givers.” Hopefully, once one does that, it’s “all steam ahead”—in the case of publishing, to get the book out to readers. So far, I have not had the particular experience of working with a publisher. I’ve been “doing it for myself” and there’s a certain purist beauty in that: to pursue the stories that move and provoke me, to write my narrative in a way that meets my creative standards and in my particular voice; to choose my title, my cover artwork, and then, with the help of professional editors, formatters, designers and selective readers, produce a book I’m proud to put out. Then… click—it’s in the hands of readers.

That’s an amazing bit of artistic empowerment that has allowed me to pursue this writing path without the obstacles too often put in our way.

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

I’m a power walker and it’s during my walks that my creative Muse most often visits with ideas for a story, suggestions of where to take a plot, or notes about what I might have forgotten, left out, or misplaced. Walking helps clear my mind and make room for that “channel” of inspiration I tend to count on. And it’s good exercise. Win/win!

Hysterical Love

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

Good question. On a topic that seems to have given birth to a lot of silliness in the world of book reviewing, particularly for indie writers. When you see very mediocre books with hundreds of 5-stars reviews clearly written by family or friends within writers groups; when you read threads on Goodreads or other sites where writers beg each other for review swaps (“you like mine and I’ll like yours!”); when industrious book sites charge writers ridiculous fees for reviews; when authors get friends to attack or negate revewiers who didn’t like their books; or when trolls go out of their way to collectively bash writers they don’t like for one reason or another, the whole process and value of reviewing becomes moot, corrupt, and tarnished. Which is too bad, because good, honest, thoughtful reviews can be very helpful to an artist. As for my own, I’ve made clear I would no more want a fake, traded, or purchased “good” review than I’d want a unfair, mean-spirited negative one. I want readers who’ve taken the time to read my books to leave their honest, authentic responses to the work, whatever that is. I’ve been fortunate to have received largely positive reviews on my first novel, After The Sucker Punch, some so/so reviews, and a few “meh” reviews. None have been solicited, none have been “trades,” none have been manipulated. Happily, none have been throat-slitters either! But I’ve certainly received negative reviews on work in other arenas: music, movies, plays, etc., and you learn as an artist to take the bad with the good. Develop thick skin. Feel the hit, then let it go and move on.

I figure if I did the work to the best of my ability, if I “spoke” in my true, authentic voice as an artist, if I delivered the work I wanted to deliver, then how a reader receives it is his or her prerogative. I don’t deliver my work until I’m completely happy with it, and, if I’m happy with it, then I’ve done my job. Of course, I’m THRILLED when others are happy with it as well, but I respect anyone who honestly has a different opinion. It’s a very wide world out there and we all look at what we read, listen to, watch, through the filters we’ve gained from a lifetime of experience; every artist must be clear on that… if not, public consumption can be a painful thing!

What advice would you give a beginner writer?

First of all, you must be an absolute pro about the work: study and learn your craft, gain experience, write-write-write! Find the best people to offer critique (and be selective… everyone has an opinion; that doesn’t mean it’s the right opinion—or the right one for you); then listen, be humble, try things, experiment, but never lose sight of your own voice. Never.

If you are going the traditional route, expect to spend a considerable amount of time querying agents, with all the arcane rules and expectations that go along with that particular path. Be utterly professional, deliver the best possible work in whatever format or increment is requested, never get surly or argumentative; be gracious and resilient. Go after it with everything you’ve got, but realize all the “rules” you’re told to follow can and will change from agent to agent, so also be prepared to be flexible and tenacious. It can be a long haul, but if that’s the way you want to go, learn everything you can about the agents best suited for the kind of book you’ve written, then go after it like nobody’s business.

If the “indie” route is the one you opt for, understand that you will not only be the artist, the writer; you will also be the “business person”: the publisher, marketer, promoter, and publicist. That aspect of it can be confounding, frustrating, exhausting, brutal, dispiriting, and endless, but if you do it right, with eyes open to every good possibility, clarity about your goals, and a bracing sense of reality about your work and how it fits into the marketplace, you can have quite the successful ride! It can even be empowering, vindicating… fun!

But don’t publish until your book has been polished, fine-tuned, written, rewritten, read, critiqued, edited, copyedited, formatted, and put together with a professional designed cover. Do NOT cut corners; that not only reflects upon you as a writer, but on the indie community as a whole. Those unfortunate stigmas attributed to self-published writers by many in the media and the publishing industry—“amateurish, sloppy, poorly edited, loads of typos and misspellings, horrible covers, bad writing, lousy plots”—didn’t emerge out of nowhere. They came from too many books that did have those problems, mucking up the waters for all indie authors. Be someone who raises the bar. Do it right. Be as good as you can be. Be the kind of writer, with the kind of book, that could sit next to any legacy writer at Barnes & Noble and be right at home. Don’t publish until you’re sure you have a book like that.

Then keep writing!

Thank you, Stephanie! I appreciated being a part of your “writers series”… and thanks for all you do for independent writers. It’s much appreciated!

HYSTERICAL LOVE, with a publication date of April 7, 2015, and is available for pre-order at:

Amazon

Smashwords .

AFTER THE SUCKER PUNCH B.R.A.G Medallion Page: B.R.AG. Medallion Honoree

After the Sucker Punch Amazon page

After the Sucker Punch Smashwords page

Information links:

Lorraine’s website: www.lorrainedevonwilke.com

Contact: info@lorrainedevonwilke.com

For all publicity inquiries contact: www.JKSCommunications.com

Lorraine’s other web links:

blog

Facebook  

Facebook Writer’s page

Twitter

LinkedIn

Goodreads

AboutMe

Pinterest

Other Items referenced in bio: To Cross the Rubicon

Somewhere on the Way (CD):

@ CDBaby.com

@ iTunes

Fine Art Photography site

Column @ The Huffington Post