Interview with Award Winning Author M. Catherine Berg

Miriam Berg BRAG

I’d like to welcome, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree M. Catherine Berg today to talk with me about her book, REVEALING MAY. Berg is a contemporary writer of murder mystery. Berg has a history in the world of TV promotional advertising and TV syndication. She lives with her husband in a small beach community along the coast of California.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I discovered indieBRAG when searching the Internet. I read their requirements for accepting books. I sent mine in and held my breath. How honored I feel to have Revealing May accepted into this wonderful group of books and authors. In addition, how appreciative I am for all that the organization does in helping to promote authors.

Please tell me about your book, REVEALING MAY.

REVEALING MAY is a Gracie Wentworth murder mystery. Gracie works for her uncle, the owner of Montgomery Group, a small, private investigation firm. In this book, Gracie reluctantly goes undercover as a reporter at the prestigious boutique winery Somerset Hills to find out who is framing her client, the owner Elliot Somerset, for murder. Elliot, fond of drinking more bourbon than wine, becomes a person of interest in the gruesome murder of a drug dealer who is found dead in Elliot’s private wine cellar. Elliot’s wife, May Somerset, is alluring and fragile, coping with a past that now threatens her family’s future. People start disappearing without a trace and the body count keeps growing. Gracie becomes deeply involved not only professionally, but also personally and starts to uncover a world of drugs, blackmail, money, sex, and lies.

Revealing may BRAG

Will you tell me a little about what Gracie and her mother, Lillian Wentworth’s relationship is like?

Gracie’s mother, Lillian Wentworth, is a world famous, wealthy author of lascivious sex and salacious murder novels. She is a very private, bestselling author and lives on a beach compound in Buena Del Mar. Lillian built Gracie a small beach cottage on the compound after Gracie’s tumultuous marriage and subsequent divorce. Mother and daughter have a strong bond and solid relationship. They not only relate as mother and daughter, but as single women with a strong work ethic. Both share a strong sense of justice being served, and they are sometime drinking buddies.

Tell me a little about Paso Robles wine country as the setting for your story.

My husband has been in the wine and liquor business his entire career. I have visited many wineries from Southern California, Northern California to France. I have seen the big commercial wineries, the small family owned wineries and everything in between. I love the Paso Robles wine country and enjoy visiting the wineries in that area. I knew that I wanted this book to be located there. For the book, I changed the name to Paso Miguel as the setting.

Who is Simon?

Simon is the winemaker of Somerset Hills winery. In a small boutique winery, the winemaker and owner work closely. Not only in proximity, but also in their vision of how they want the wines they are producing to taste. I found that relationship interesting. Not only the intimacy of the work but also what would happen if either one faltered in their attention to that relationship. Simon became the character and the catalyst of that idea.

How did you come up with the book title?

Each book will have a month in the title. The month will represent either a person’s name or time of year. The corresponding word will represent the story in some way.

Who did your book cover?

I work with a lady named Tara at Fantasia Frog Designs. I usually tell her my idea then sketch it out in a very primitive manner. I can’t draw worth beans so there is usually a good laugh involved. However, she works up a cover and she is usually dead-on. We do some minor tweaking and then go for it. I trust her and she is incredibly easy to work with.

How long did it take to write your story and what was your process?

The entire book from start to finish was approximately seven to eight months. My process is one that I am comfortable with and continue to use. I am a four-part structure girl. In addition, I always know my beginning, middle and end before I start. I usually have a vague overview of the story and a vision of the bad guy. Then I write a short version of the story from the bad guy’s perspective because he or she drives the story. I need to know what he hopes to accomplish with his evil ways. I then write what each character hopes to accomplish. Then I do a one or two line beat sheet for each scene from first to last. That could take me weeks. Once I have that done, I embellish each scene with a Scene Worksheet that will have everything from the time of day, characters in that scene, what is going to happen, the subplots, I throw it all in there as much as I can. When that is finished, that becomes my outline. I can flip through and read the story from beginning to end. If I need to rearrange, I move the pages around. Once I am comfortable with that, I start writing the rough draft. As the process moves along and other ideas pop up that I like and can use, I write them on the Scene Worksheet. I also keep a “Don’t Forget” list for each character that I need to fit in or mention. I try to be as organized as I can. As you can see, I am not a panster!  In addition, since this is a series, I need to keep track of things mentioned in previous books that carry over. I keep it all in a notebook in front of me.

Author Website

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview M. Catherine Berg who is the author of, REVEALING MAY, our medallion honoree 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, REVEALING MAY, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag-team-member

Layered Pages Christmas Greetings

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Away in a Manger

Away in a manger, no crib for a bed,
The little Lord Jesus laid down his sweet head.

The stars in the sky looked down where he lay,
The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay.

The cattle are lowing, the baby awakes,
But little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.

I love Thee, Lord Jesus, look down from the sky
And stay by my cradle til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus, I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever, and love me, I pray.

Bless all the dear children in thy tender care,
And take us to heaven, to live with Thee there.

STEPHANIES-TREE

Christmas has always been an important time in my family’s life- not only because of the traditions we have shared but most importantly our faith in Christ’s birth. I often think of the candlelight Christmas Eve Services we have gone to and how meaningful they have been to us. I think about the gift of giving to others and seeing their faces light up with happiness. My memories are filled with favorite movies we watched together, favorite Christmas songs, baking goodies, playing board games and decorating the tree. Even though we still do many of those things, some of our traditions have changed as we have grown older, but some traditions have remained the same. I wish you all wonderful Christmas and holiday. May your new year to come be blessed and full of happiness and joy.

Have a Merry Christmas, everyone! God bless.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

 

A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Barbara Lamplugh

Barbara Lamplugh BRAG

I’d like to welcome, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Barbara Lamplugh today to talk with me about her life as a writer. She was born and grew up in London, studied in York and then moved to Shropshire. Her writing career started in the 1970s, inspired by a life-changing overland journey to Kathmandu in a converted fire-engine. This trip was followed by a journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway and several months backpacking around Japan and SE Asia. Her two travel books, Kathmandu by Truck (1976) and Trans-Siberia by Rail (1979) were the result. Another new experience – motherhood – came next. With two children to bring up, her extensive wanderings came to an end but she continued to write, turning instead to fiction. She has written several novels, though Secrets of the Pomegranate is the first to be published.

Her day jobs have included working as a librarian (her first career), as a project officer for Age Concern (inspiration for one of her earlier novels), running a Volunteer Bureau and, briefly, recording milk yields on Shropshire farms. She trained as a counsellor and worked in a voluntary capacity for two local organisations. At the same time she was writing articles for various magazines and newspapers, including The Guardian and Times Educational Supplement.

In 1999, she fulfilled a long-held ambition and moved to Granada in Spain. Having trained to teach English as a Foreign Language, she soon found work, a place to live and new friends. A job as English Editor followed, along with some freelance editing and translation. After a few years, she found her dream job as a regular Features Writer for Living Spain magazine, to which she contributed around a hundred articles over several years on topics as diverse as garlic, machismo, the life of a lighthouse keeper and the nightmarish experience of being trapped at an all-night drumming festival.

Her novels have always focused on ordinary people rather than the privileged or exotic. Working in the community and meeting people from all walks of life proved to her that everyone has stories to tell and that the most fascinating and unexpected are sometimes hidden behind a seemingly conventional exterior. Almost everyone has secrets – some that may never be revealed, others that are only revealed to a select few, but by their nature, secrets are always subject to discovery and, as in Secrets of the Pomegranate, may be catapulted into the open by a dramatic event. 

She is currently working on her next novel, set during and after the Spanish Civil War.

WHY DO YOU WRITE?

Like many other writers, I write because I have to; because it’s something I feel compelled to do. But it’s not a burden. I want to write. I feel more alive when I’m writing. It opens something up in me and gives me a high that’s like no other. Yet at the same time, I feel more grounded.

I first discovered this joy of creativity at primary school. I remember, at the age of about ten, writing an essay imagining I was a sailor on Captain Cook’s ship, describing the rats and the scurvy and the long days at sea. And around the same time with the same teacher, writing with passion about William Wilberforce and his attempts to end slavery.

I love using my imagination to create characters and stories, but I love equally the very different process of playing around with words, choosing the precise right one, finding the best structure for a sentence or paragraph.

I wrote my first novel when I was pregnant. I gave birth to the novel and my baby son around the same time. The novel left a lot to be desired but I learnt from my mistakes and discovered the joy of writing fiction, having previously written only travel. My son was perfect from the start!

HOW HAS WRITING IMPACTED YOUR LIFE?

It has had a huge impact on my life because it takes up so much of my mental and emotional energy and so much of my time, preventing me doing other things I might also enjoy. I try to keep a balance, ensuring for example, that I get enough physical exercise and time outdoors. This isn’t always easy – there never seems enough time in the day to fit everything in and I’ve realised this is because writing expands to fit whatever time is available, there is no end to it! I live alone and I’m happy writing so there’s a real danger of becoming isolated. However, I do manage to see friends and family and have a social life. What tends to get neglected is housework.

Publishing my novel, Secrets of the Pomegranate, has been a life-changing experience. Having appreciative audiences at my various launches and presentations, receiving positive feedback from readers and being awarded the BRAG medallion have boosted my confidence enormously and made me feel more justified in calling myself a writer. Previously, despite two published travel books and many years of journalism, I didn’t always feel I was being taken seriously as a writer.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO BEGINNER WRITERS?

I would say persistence is one of the most important qualities necessary to be a writer. Writing is hard work and getting published is even harder. It’s no good giving up at the first or even the hundredth setback. Good writing doesn’t come magically at first draft. Be prepared to rewrite and rewrite, to go on courses, learn from reading critically and by asking for feedback from those who will be honest and constructive and who read similar books. You have to be thick-skinned and not let criticism and rejection put you off. At the same time you have to be hyper-critical of yourself – or rather of your writing – to make sure it’s the best it can be.

WHEN DO YOUR BEST IDEAS COME TO YOU FOR A STORY?

Ideas can be sparked by something I read. But my best ideas usually come when I’m completely relaxed and my mind is open. This happens when I’m walking alone in the countryside. It happens when I’m near water – lying on the beach, swimming in the sea, walking by a river, or even in the bath or shower. It doesn’t tend to happen sitting at my desk in front of the computer.

Author Website

Facebook: Barbara Lamplugh

Barbara L Book Cover BRAG

Passionate, free-spirited Deborah has finally found peace and a fulfilling relationship in her adopted city of Granada – but when she is seriously injured in the Madrid train bombings of 2004, it is her sister Alice who is forced to face the consequences of a deception they have maintained for ten years. At Deborah’s home in Granada, Alice waits, ever more fearful. Will her sister live or die? And how long should she stay when each day brings the risk of what she most dreads, a confrontation with Deborah’s Moroccan ex-lover, Hassan? At stake is all she holds dear…

Secrets of the Pomegranate explores, with compassion, sensitivity and – despite the tragic events – humour, the complicated ties between sisters, between mothers and sons and between lovers, set against a background of cultural difference and prejudices rooted in Granada’s long history of   Muslim-Christian struggles for power.

 

Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Philip Dodd

PHILIP DODD
PHILIP DODD

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Philip Dodd to today to talk with me about his book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle. Philip was born in 1952, lives in Liverpool, England, has a degree in English literature from Newcastle University, and has been writing songs, stories and poems since he was twelve. His first book, Angel War, was published in April, 2013. A work of fantasy fiction, rooted in The Bible, it was chosen as a finalist in The Wishing Shelf Independent Book Awards in 2013. His second book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, was published in March, 2015. A work of light-hearted science fiction, it was chosen by indieBRAG as a Medallion Honoree in October, 2015. His third book, Still the Dawn: Poems and Ballads, was published in October, 2015.

He has had poems published in his local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo, The Dawntreader, a quarterly poetry magazine, published by Indigo Dreams Publishing, Mallorn, the Journal of the Tolkien Society, and Greek Fire, an anthology of poems inspired by Greek mythology, published by Lost Tower Publications.

He enjoys posting his poems in the Poetry group on Goodreads, on poetry group sites, like Uncaged Emotions, on Face Book, and on his WordPress blog

Here is the link to his web site:

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I first heard of indieBRAG when I read on Face Book that a book by Elisabeth Marrion, which I had read and reviewed, had been made a Medallion Honoree. I was then led to the indieBRAG web site. I then decided to enter my own book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, for the same award.

Please tell me a little about your book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle.

My book is a light-hearted science fiction story. Basically, it is the biography of an inventor. His name is Klubbe, a turkle who lives on the planet, Ankor. Turkles look like turtles only they walk on their hind legs, have yellow golden skin and back shells, and they have the gift of language and the ability to create their own culture. To amuse myself and, hopefully, others, I wanted my book to contain the opposite of the high seriousness and complexities of the science fiction novels I have read by such writers as Arthur C. Clarke, Greg Bear, H.G. Wells and Jules Verne. So I created a bird brain, simple story about an inventor called Klubbe who invents the first flying craft on his planet, which is powered not by an advanced technology, as in a serious science fiction novel, but a larger version of the battery which lit the bulb in the toy torch he had as a child. I wanted to write a story without any villains, conflict or darkness, in which all the characters are good natured and helpful to one another, something which those who have read and reviewed my book have appreciated as a refreshing change.

Philip Dodd Book Cover BRAG

What is the planet, Ankor like?

Ankor is very much like Earth as it was in its early ages before the industrial revolution. Turkles are its guardian race. They live in cities, towns and villager’s, but travel everywhere on foot, unless they journey by barge on one of its canals or in a cart or carriage on one of its roads, drawn by hill ponies. Most of the planet is uncivilized, left to be wild, complete with forests and jungles. Some of its birds, beasts and fish, like the Great Glom, for example, cannot be found anywhere else.

Tell me a little about them pyramid priest.

I wanted Turkles to seem like a real people who live on a real planet, so I gave them their own religion. Many aliens in science fiction novels and films have an advanced technology but appear to have no spiritual life or religious beliefs. Ubbtosh, the pyramid priest, I created to represent the spiritual side of turkle life and nature. He holds in his hand a copy of The Zump, the sacred book of Ankor. He is the key to the turkle version of God, who they call Nunkturnom, and the angels who serve him, who they call the Esur.

Who is Archy Eopta?

I got the name Archy Eopta from the name of the earliest bird, Archaeopteryx. On Ankor, the Archy Eopta is the king of all the birds on the planet, considered to be a myth, until his home is found in a mountain cave by Klubbe and his company of explorers.

Tell me a little about the setting and period of your story.

Most of the events in the story take place on the planet, Ankor, which is a very primitive planet until Klubbe invents its first flying craft. In space, Klubbe and his crew members, on board his flying craft, the Golden Star Coracle, encounter space stations and space ships, manned by aliens from advanced planet civilizations, and when they land on Earth it is Earth as it is now in the twenty first century.

What are you currently working on?

In October, 2015, I published Still the Dawn: Poems and Ballads, a collection of poems and ballads I wrote between the years of 1983 and 2015. I started writing songs and poems when I was twelve in 1964. Now I enjoy writing poems and posting them in the Poetry group on Goodreads, poetry groups on Face Book, like Uncaged Emotions and Literary Feast, and on my WordPress blog. I have written fragments of a sequel to Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle. It is called Assinarc, which is the name of a star city invented by Klubbe. I may finish it one day. At the moment, I am content to write verse.

Where can readers buy your book?

Readers can buy my book on Amazon.com Amazon.uk, Lulu.com and Barnes and Noble.

How did you come up with the title for your book?

I found a tiny plastic model of a turtle, designed to fit on the end of a pencil. It looked odd, for it stood upright, on its hind legs. So I decided it was not a turtle at all, but only a creature that looked like one. I changed the second t in turtle with a k to get turkle, and gave him the name Klubbe, who lived on a planet called Ankor. His first invention, the Golden Star Coracle gave me the full title of my book, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle.

Who designed your book cover?

I chose the picture for the cover of my book from Shutterstock. The design team at Publish Nation did the lettering.

A Message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Philip Dodd who is the author of, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, our medallion honoree 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, Klubbe the Turkle and the Golden Star Coracle, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

 

 

 

Book Spotlight: The Ice Queen by Bruce Macbain

The Ice Queen: Book Two of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga By Bruce Macbain

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Publication Date: November 30, 2015 /Blank Slate Press /eBook & Paperback; 285 Pages

Genre: Historical Fiction

The second volume of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga takes up Odd’s adventures as a skald (court poet) in the land of the Rus. Here he is drawn into a dangerous love affair with the passionate and cunning Princess Ingigerd of Novgorod, and is forced to break with his sworn lord, Harald the Ruthless. Along the way, Odd devises a stratagem to defeat the wild Pechenegs, nomadic warriors of the Russian steppe, and goes off on a doomed mission to explore the distant reaches of the Black Sea. The novel concludes with Odd sailing into the harbor of Constantinople, bent on a secret mission, which will almost certainly cost him his life.

Eager, curious, quick-witted—and sometimes wrong-headed—Odd Tangle-Hair recounts his story with candor, insight, and always an ironic sense of humor.

 AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | BOOKS-A-MILLION | INDIEBOUND

About the Author

03_Bruce Macbain

From boyhood, Bruce Macbain spent his days in reading history and historical fiction. The Greeks and Romans have held a special fascination for him, and this led to earning a master’s degree in Classical Studies and a doctorate in Ancient History. Along the way, he also taught English as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Borneo. Later, he taught courses in Greek and Roman civilization at Boston University, and published a few dense monographs, read by very few. In recent years he has turned to writing fiction, a much more congenial pursuit, beginning with two historical mysteries set in ancient Rome (Roman Games and The Bull Slayer). Now, he has turned his attention to his other favorite folk, the Vikings. Odin’s Child , the first novel of Odd Tangle-Hair’s Saga, was published in May, 2015 and is now followed the sequel, The Ice Queen. A concluding volume will follow next year.

Bruce spends his spare time in the kitchen, cooking spicy food.

 WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | GOOGLE+ | GOODREADS

 

2016 Historical Novel Society Indie Award Announcement

I have the great pleasure to announce that I have been honored of being the short-list judge for the Historical Novel Society Indie Award alongside Steve Donoghue HNS US Indie Review Editor and author Janis Pegrum Smith – and the Finalist judges: James Aitcheson (author and historian) and Anna Belfrage author and 2015 Indie Award Winner. -I am in good company!

Here’s the full long-list – the nine selected shortlist titles will be announced here on 1st January.

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Stephanie M. Hopkins

Calling All Readers!

pic of BRAG Books Banner

Thank you to readers who have submitted applications to indieBRAG– we are so glad to have you join us!

We still need more readers so be sure to tell your friends!

Genres provided: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance, Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult, Children and Non-Fiction.

We will provide the ebooks for free and you will be a part of a global reading group attempting to shine a light on worthy self-publishing books.

Apply Here

Thank you!

Stephanie M. Hopkins

indieBRAG Team Member