Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

 

Title: Fragments of Life
Author: Anita R. Gibbons
Publisher: XlibrisAU
Genre: Fiction
Format: Ebook

This story is in a sense a complex tale that commences at the end. It relates the tale of a developing “rocky” love affair between its two major characters as they each discover their capacity to fall in love with another woman, the charting of which is seen through the eyes of the survivor.

Maggie Cameron is a thirty-something single mother who has already established a moderately successful publishing business in Vancouver, Canada. She is also struggling to cope with the strain of a failing marriage and the needs of her growing daughter. Then into her life enters Carla Green as her young personal assistant.

Carla quickly becomes an invaluable player in Maggie’s business and family life. Then everything moves smoothly for a number of years until the confluence of two major events brings their developing relationship to a climax.

Carla is forced to confront the reemergence of her childhood demons on two fronts when a previous illness brings her mortality into question again. Maggie undertakes to publish a lesbian-focused story by a well-respected novelist under an assumed name. Maggie is deeply worried about the latter, even after Carla offers to play a role in addressing her major concerns. However, it is of even greater concern to both Maggie and her daughter, Stephanie, now in her teens, that Carla’s shattering prognosis will have severe repercussions on their developing comfortable family relationship.

By way of devising a coping strategy, Maggie and Stephanie begin plotting a way to make Carla’s impending death as happy as possible for all concerned. However, Carla seems to be rejecting all their efforts until an opportunity emerges for Stephanie to spend part of her upcoming school holiday in France. After considerable persuasion, Carla finally agrees to accompany them on their planned grand tour of Europe. Hence, although the story is set primarily in Vancouver, Canada, it also incorporates their travels across Europe.

As they all set about arranging for and planning their holiday itinerary, Carla is also trying to address her long-held concerns about her own sexuality. She eventually discloses her fears to Maggie, whose initial reaction is less than positive, particularly as Carla also soon expresses her deep feelings for her boss.

This unexpected development causes Maggie to also attempt an analysis her own deepening feelings for Carla, but before she is able to draw any conclusions, an event immediately preceding their departure seemingly dooms whatever future their relationship might hold.

The saga then proceeds as a mini travelogue covering their adventures in France. Indeed, it is only when Maggie and Carla, having deposited Stephanie with her troublesome father, set off on their own adventure to Italy that they begin to address the changing nature of their relationship.

It is only when they reach the idyllic setting of the small coastal village of Positano that Maggie finally gives in to the perceived pressure from Carla and finally admits to herself that she has irrevocably fallen totally ‘in love’ with Carla. However, more problems emerge as they grapple with the issue of Maggie’s willingness to share her newfound knowledge with Stephanie and the outside world in general.

PURCHASE HERE

 

MY THOUGHTS:
This book runs through all emotions that you might have while reading. The plot and characters are both extremely well developed, and even though there are hard topics addressed the author flows through these with ease as the relationships are forged and hold strong.
A very good book that I would recommend.
After she was born in the United Kingdom, Anitaís family moved to Australia when she was still quite young. She studied her BA (sociology/politics) and MA (womenís studies) at Victoriaís Monash University. She met her life partner at age twenty, and they spent thirty-seven years together in their small home in the inner suburbs of Melbourne. They both enjoyed traveling, sailing, and sharing their time with an array of pet cats. Her writing has consisted of short stories, poetry, and articles for professional journals. Following her partnerís death in 2007, this novel finally burst out of its shackles. Her other major pastimes include presenting a weekly program for Melbourne community radio and still traveling whenever possible.

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Pixel Egypt DaveAfter a near death experience at age fifteen, Joseph Davida left his parents’ home and moved into Manhattan. Too young to get a “real” job, he started up what became one of the biggest weed delivery services in New York to support himself while he pursued his career as a musician and songwriter. For years he worked with some of the best musicians in the world, until a nervous breakdown brought his time in the music industry to an end. During this time he traveled the world before finally settling in Nashville, where he had two beautiful daughters and started a successful chain of retail stores. He now concentrates on being a good father, and actively plans for the coming revolution…while also working to get his many stories onto the page.

Q: What’s inside the mind of a travel memoir author?

A: Oh man… A lot of things! The kinds of things that would probably make my mother very worried. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out a way to save the world. I see the future that my daughters will be inheriting, and it’s starting to look pretty bleak. But I do have hope. I feel like the current political landscape has woken a lot of people up to the fact that if we don’t get our act together pretty soon, it may become too late.

THTH_final_4.jpg

Q: Tell us why readers should buy “Traveling High and Tripping Hard”.

A: Well, it won’t be for everyone…but for anyone who appreciates all of the things that can be learned from making bad decisions, I think they can enjoy it. It’s a chance to travel to exotic places, and experience some things that most people would probably never want to personally subject themselves to. Also, it will hopefully make some people laugh.

Q: What makes a good travel memoir?

A: Something where the reader really feels like they are there with you. Whether they become inspired to visit the same places, or make a conscious decision to never wind up there, you want the reader to feel like they’ve experienced it. You want something that can take you on a journey that captures all of the joy and suffering that life has to offer, without creating any of the actual scars that come with it.

Q: Where can readers find out more about you and your work?

A: I’ve just started putting together a new website. Not sure of everything that will be on it yet, but the address is www.josephdavida.com .

Q: What has writing taught you?

A: That the process is hard. But if one person can read what I have written, and have a moment to escape from their own life—it will have all been worth it. After all of the years of debauchery and self-destruction, at least that’s what I’m trying to tell myself!

 

Read Full Post »

Jody Gehrman has authored eleven published novels and numerous plays for stage and screen. Her debut suspense novel, Watch Me, is published by St. Martin’s Press. Her Young Adult novel, Babe in Boyland, won the International Reading Association’s Teen Choice Award and was optioned by the Disney Channel. Jody’s plays have been produced or had staged readings in Ashland, New York, SanFrancisco, Chicago and L.A. Her newest full-length, TribalLife in America, won IMG_0408the Ebell Playwrights Prize and will receive a staged reading at the historic Ebell Theater in Los Angeles. She and her partner David Wolf won the New Generation Playwrights Award for theirone-act, Jake Savage, Jungle P.I. She holds a Masters Degree in ProfessionalWriting from the University of Southern California and is a professor of Communications at Mendocino College in Northern California.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Watch Me. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: Watch Me is a dark psychological suspense novel about a professor caught up in a dangerous relationship with her charming but psychotic student. Writing this book felt important and cathartic. “Watch Me” is a dare, a command, and a plea. I was trying to put into words an experience I think many women can relate to. We go from always being on display in our twenties and early thirties to suddenly feeling invisible. The minute we hit puberty we start to feel eyes on us; we get so used to that state, we unconsciously accept it as a law of nature. When all those eyes turn away from us, it’s as if we disappear. My protagonist is thirty-eight, divorced, emotionally bruised, and disappearing. That perfect storm makes her vulnerable to an obsessive sociopath. He may be dangerous, but at least he sees her.

Q: What do you think makes a good psychological suspense novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

Watch Me CoverA: I suppose this is painfully obvious, but it has to be suspenseful. The reader has to feel a sort of dread that’s at once scary and also weirdly pleasurable.

The second element is also somewhat obvious but worth mentioning: the nature of the suspense should be psychological. What that means to me is we’re drawn into each character’s secrets; we get to explore his or her dark side, and in doing so, we explore our own. The element of fear isn’t centered on the supernatural or jump-scares but rather the shadow side of human nature.

The third element I look for as a reader and strive to achieve as a writer is atmosphere. I love it when the world of the book is so palpable I can lose myself in it, no matter what’s going on in my real life.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: I’m a playwright and a screenwriter in addition to my work as a novelist, so I’ve learned a lot about plotting from the screenwriting community. I’m a huge fan of the late great Blake Snyder’s book on screenplay structure and storytelling, Save the Cat. Once I got the basic idea for Watch Me I ran it through Snyder’s fifteen story beats. The overall premise came to me in a heated rush, but I was able to refine the various plotting elements by looking at it through the lens Snyder explains so beautifully. If you struggle with plotting I highly recommend his book.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing? In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: The book bounces between two very different voices—a writing professor and her protégé. It’s funny; since I’ve worked as a writing professor for two decades, I assumed her voice would dominate the book. Nobody was more surprised than me when her unhinged student took on a voice that just exploded on the page. I guess we all have a bit of crazy in us. I’ve discovered that taking on the point of view of a sociopath is both fascinating and weirdly therapeutic.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: The great thing about fiction is we get to fast-forward through the boring parts. I try to find the most dramatic, tense moments that will tell the story best.

In early drafts, it’s natural to avoid conflict to some extent. We get our characters into a tight spot, but we love them, so we want to make it easy for them to escape. In later drafts, my focus is on cutting off those escape routes and forcing the characters to sweat it out. I try to lose anything that slows the pace too much. I’m learning to put my beloved characters into impossibly tense situations and then, just when I can barely stand it, I turn the screws just a little more.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: I love weather. It sounds cliché, but sprinkling a scene with just the right wind or rain or sun really can add to the tension. I’m also very olfactory. Smells play an important part in my books. It’s one of the most powerful senses when it comes to connecting with emotion. If I could write a novel with scratch-and-sniff pages that would awesome : )

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: The idea that people—especially women—feel invisible after a certain age is central to this book. It’s what makes my protagonist vulnerable to a dangerous stalker. This is something I’ve thought about for years, but wasn’t able to express until now.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: I do think that’s possible, especially if you’re working with an editor who doesn’t fully get your vision. Both my agent and my editor were so completely on board with this book, though, I never worried about that. They saw ways to make it better, but the fundamental bones of the book remained unchanged.

Many writers, myself included, want to please everyone. This can be dangerous. I caution my writing students to sift through the feedback they receive with an open mind, but only act on the notes that truly resonate. The longer you do this work, the clearer you get about which voices to listen to and which ones to ignore.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Perseverance, audacity, but most of all a deep love of the work itself.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A: I guess that’s sort of true. I loved being a student, so I guess it makes sense that I’d want nonstop homework forever.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat is my Bible.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: It’s important to surround yourself with people who take your work as a writer seriously. Authors have enough rejection and ridicule to contend with in the public sphere; there’s no need to invite the same sort of energy into your home.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Fix Your Diet Fix Your Diabetes

Fix Your Love of Fructose

Fixing your “sweet tooth” may help save your life. Why fructose and most refined sugars should be public health enemy number one and why you should avoid them.

Research has confirmed that consuming the various forms of refined sugars is harmful to your health. The “bitter truth” however as explained by Dr. Lustig, Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology at the University of California, San Francisco, is that refined fructose is the deadliest from of refined sugars and should be avoided. This substance causes many medical conditions as well a metabolic damage to the body.

Fructose increases your risk for:

  • Insulin resistance, diabetes, and obesity
    • Elevated blood pressure
    • Elevated triglycerides and elevated LDL
    • Depletion of vitamins and minerals
    • Cardiovascular disease
    • Fatty liver disease, cancer, arthritis, and gout

Why is fructose bad:

  • The organ that metabolizes fructose is your liver which is a different process compared to glucose. This puts an unusually high burden on the liver leading to a fatty liver in many cases.
    • Our consumption of refined fructose is high, allowing its negative metabolic effects to occur.

Fructose from fruit is good and refined fructose is bad:

  • Fructose from fruits and vegetables is okay because it is eaten with fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and beneficial phytonutrients, all which moderate any negative metabolic effects. Refined fructose eaten in high doses causes negative metabolic effects.

When did we start eating fructose and why:

  • Fructose was invented in 1966 in Japan and introduced to the American market in 1975.
    • In 1972, Richard Nixon reduced food costs as part of his “war on poverty.” After partnering with USDA he subsidized the production corn resulting in its increased production and helped increase its export around the world. When corn prices fell and a surplus developed, Earl Lauer Butz (U.S. official under Nixon) championed the spread of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Due to the low costs of fructose, manufacturers switched from sucrose (table sugar) to fructose.
    • In the mid 1970s, dietary fats were blamed for heart disease (thanks to researcher Ancel Keys as mentioned in my video: http://bit.ly/FixYourFearOfFat), resulting in a reduction of fat in our diet. Fructose was used to make fat-free products more palatable.

Why is fructose different as explained by Dr. Lustig:

  • When you eat fructose, 100 percent of the metabolic burden rests on your liver leading to a fatty liver. The liver only has to break down 20% of the glucose you consume.
    • Glucose is a more pure form of energy utilized by your cells. Fructose, however is turned into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat. Fructose makes you FAT!
    • The fatty acids created during fructose metabolism causes fatty liver and insulin resistance. Insulin resistance leads to metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
    • Fructose metabolism results in waste products that increase blood pressure and causes gout.
    • Glucose suppresses the hunger hormone ghrelin and stimulates leptin, which suppresses your appetite. Fructose has no effect on ghrelin and interferes with your brain’s communication with leptin, resulting in overeating.

Alternatives to your sweet addition:

  • First realize that you may have a sugar addition. So stand up, look at your audience, admit you have a problem, and start your journey fixing you “sweet tooth”. It’s hard to imagine but I promise your new life will be much better.
    • If you must, use organic cane sugar or raw honey but only rarely and in moderation. They are less harmful than fructose.
    • Avoid ALL artificial sweeteners, which can damage your health even more quickly than fructose. If you must a substitute, use Stevia or Xylitol.
    • Avoid agave syrup since it is a highly processed sap that is almost all fructose.
    • Avoid soda, natural juices, energy drinks, and sports drinks because they are loaded with sugar, sodium, and chemical additives. Better options are water first followed by teas and at times coffee. Try teas with a variety of flavors. Try coffee with non sugar creamers (I like coconut cream) and use vanilla flavor, nutmeg flavor, cinnamon flavor, and others.

About the Author

Tony Hampton

Dr. Tony Hampton has been treating patients with multiple chronic conditions for nearly two decades. In addition to his role as an Advocate Medical Group (AMG) family physician over the last nine years, Dr. Hampton currently holds multiple responsibilities within the Advocate Healthcare, including Medical Director of AMG Beverly, Vice-Chair of AMG’s Governing Council, Chair of Health Outcomes Committee and Co-Chair of Executive Diversity Council.

Over the last two years, Dr. Hampton has worked closely with AOS, successfully piloting advancements in AMG’s operations management systems. He is a champion for change that results in greater work-life balance for physicians and an enhanced patient experience. His interpersonal skills, clinical knowledge, and desire for strong patient/team engagement will continue to make Tony an asset to the AOS team.

A regular speaker for the American Diabetes Association and consultant for the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Initiative to Improve Diabetes Care, Dr. Hampton is passionate about empowering patients by changing old beliefs to new ones which better serve them using evidence-based medicine. Educating them on the root cause of disease processes and the importance of diet provides the path to positive health outcomes for diabetics, borderline diabetics, and patients not at their ideal body weight.

He is a Certified Physician Executive (CPE) and earned his MBA from the University of Phoenix. Tony authored the book Fix Your Diabetes, Fix Your Diet, Your Dietary Solution to Reversing Diabetes which was published in April 2017.

WEBSITE & SOCIAL LINKS:

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK

Read Full Post »

Gabriel Valjan is the author of the Roma Series and The Company Files from Winter Goose Publishing as well as numerous short stories. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he enjoys the local restaurants, and his two cats, Squeak and Squawk, keep him honest to the story on the screen. You can visit him at his website. He’s here today to talk about his new suspense series.
Thanks for this interview, Gabriel. Tell us about yourself.
I hide my love of dogs from my cats. English was not my first language, and I read fiction in more than one language. I was a sponsored triathlete. Cancer survivor. I weighed one pound at birth. Hearing-impaired. Ambidextrous. I went to school with Peter Dinklage.
Have you always been creative? When did you start writing fiction?
As a writer, no. I drew and painted at a young age. I read voraciously as a child, but when I did take an interest in creative writing, it was poetry. My first publication was a poem in 1989.
In this your new series, The Company Files, you move from the present Rome of your Roma Series to historical post-war Vienna. Why did you choose this particular time period?
I should state up front that I wrote The Good Man before I wrote Roma, Underground. To answer your question…History interests me. For those who don’t know, Vienna was divided into four zones, the American, the British, the French, and the Russians after World War II. Vienna would become, for a brief time, a Wild West.
It’s not the first time a city or country had been divided after a conflict. Vienna, however, bears a crucial distinction in that it became the crucible for the Cold War and the birthplace for the post-war intelligence community. Modern nation states in Europe then were designated as either friendly to US-led Western Bloc or to Soviet-led Eastern Bloc countries. There is, of course, the fun of researching the social mores of the era. Leslie in The Good Man and Bianca in The Roma Series are a half-century apart, and yet confront similar issues of survival in a man’s world.
The book is described as historical noir. For readers who aren’t familiar with this genre, can you tell us about it?
First, noir is a cinematic term. Film noir is, in my opinion, a visual display of Existentialist philosophy. The prevailing undercurrent to film noir and the crime fiction it inspired is that the Average Joe is doomed no matter what he does. He’ll make one bad decision after another, whether it’s planning a heist that goes wrong, keeping found money and unwittingly inviting the bad guys into his life, or lusting after the wrong woman. His life is a blues song. If he didn’t have bad luck, he’d have no luck at all.

Historical noir, as I use the phrase to describe The Good Man, is when characters make decisions within a certain context. The world is still morally compromised and fatalistic. The historical circumstances offer both flavour and plot device. The reader has the advantage of hindsight. November 22, 1963, for example, has only one inevitable conclusion. Genre sets the expectation, and I leave it to the reader to decide whether I abide by or violate those rules. Is there justice in the end? Does the guy get the girl?

Like in your Roma Series, you pay particular attention to team work among your characters. What draws you to this quality?
The Good Man is the result of my love for what I call the middle period of noir fiction, the 1940s. I’m not hard-boiled as Hammett’s Continental Op and Sam Spade from the 1920s, nor as violent as Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer in the 1950s. I envisioned a softer cynicism found in Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe.
In reading contemporary crime fiction, which I think harkens back to hard-boiled, I can appreciate the antihero and the protagonist who can’t catch a break, but I find most of it too nihilistic. While I don’t believe that Good always triumphs in real life, I found myself asking: Are we so cynical as to find value in the bleak and ultra-violent stories? Does it take visiting the darkest depths to feel better about our own lives?
Don’t get me wrong about violence and profanity. Mexican cartels are violent, but the Average Joe criminal is not that sadistic. My complaint is that there’s no glimmer of hope in a lot of contemporary crime fiction, unless it’s the razor blade on the sidewalk. Algren, Bukowski, and Fante wrote to show how the other half lived, but so did Upton Sinclair and Steinbeck. What is the point, if there’s nothing positive in the universe?
Writers have to compete with movies, with visual media, so why not work the vein of human relationships in close quarters? I’m not saying people can’t be flawed. The series Breaking Bad is a perfect example. People pushed to extremes are forced to work and trust each other, to some degree. In The Good Man, there is a triangle of characters who entrust their lives to each other. Jack, Walker, and Whittaker have a foundation – their shared war experiences – for trusting each other. Another triangle in the story is Leslie, Sheldon, and Tania: they have to prove themselves. There is history, camaraderie and debts, recognized and repaid.
Tell us about your protagonists and what makes them stand out.
Jack Marshall is the leader, principled but agile. Walker is the romantic, the fellow caught up in history’s current and unsure of his abilities. Whittaker is the doer, which doesn’t always require brains. Each man makes questionable decisions. Leslie is a woman with skills in an unappreciative world and she’s acutely aware of it. Sheldon is savvy, almost suicidal. Tania is precocious, another survivor, and a damaged soul.
Jack and Walker fought in the war together, depended on each other and owed each other something. In a life and death situation, would they choose friendship over duty?
Jack and Walker have a moment in The Good Man where they question Whittaker’s loyalty, but they extend the benefit of the doubt. Political pressure is hammering both men. Friendship and duty coexist and are in conflict with each other. The question is how long can they hold out. Jack and Walker choose Loyalty because of what they’ve experienced together. Few would understand it.
I found Walker and Leslie’s relationship sad. Does love have a place in their dangerous professions?
Their story continues in the sequels, The Naming Game and Diminished Fifth. My take on their relationship is that Leslie realizes times are changing and she is trying to hold onto her independence. The social mores of the day were especially hard on women. Women during the war years experienced a few years of financial freedom before the country asked them to return to the kitchen and home.
Leslie knows she has the credibility for a career in intelligence, but how much of that can she keep or maintain if she is perceived as ‘attached’ or ‘compromised’? I also believe Leslie is better grounded than Walker. He is trying to find his place in the world. I’m not sure Leslie can wait for him, or sacrifice what she has accomplished on her own. Their profession adds the complication that their lives are shrouded in secrecy and they must be ciphers to most people around them.
There are a number of intriguing secondary characters, like Sheldon and Tania. Were they difficult to write about? What challenges did you face getting into the mind of a vigilante and a 13-year-old Lolita-type character?
They weren’t difficult since I didn’t have to venture far to create them. As I mention in the Afterword, there were Jewish concentration camp survivors who were incensed that known war criminals were evading justice, so they became ‘vigilantes’ and hunted them down. Sheldon is a complex character and his “activities” are ambiguous, depending on your moral compass. The late Simon Wiesenthal hunted down former Nazis to have them arrested or exposed because so many escaped the courtrooms.
My opinion is that justice was selective and in the hands of the dominant player after World War II, the United States. There were businessmen and companies who benefitted from Nazi labor camps. Have a look at the I.G. Farben Trials, and note that none of the defendants was American, though Ford Motor Company, General Motors and IBM benefitted from their dark alliances with Hitler’s Third Reich.

The plot for The Good Man revolves around Operation Paperclip, where the U.S. collaborated with allies to shield former Nazis. The physicist Wernher von Braun is a notorious example. His work accelerated the U.S.’s space program. Reinhard Gehlen, another example, traded in his Nazi Army shoulder boards to become a Communist hunter. Eichmann’s whereabouts were not a complete mystery to U.S. intelligence, but it took the Israeli Mossad to defy both the U.S. and international laws to kidnap him from his apartment in Buenos Aires in order to bring him to Jerusalem to stand trial.

Tania was a wonderful creation. She’s flirtatious and, like most victims of sexual abuse, she acts precocious and manipulative. Her pedigree as a victim, however, runs deeper. As a Slav, she had dodged the Nazis, who would’ve worked her to death in the camps; had she presented herself as a refugee seeking asylum in Vienna, the Americans would’ve seen her as a Communist. There is also her ideological heritage: her father was a casualty of a Stalinist purge. She is a young girl without a country.
Were you thinking of Sheldon when you came up with the title?
Yes, but I think the question, “Are you a good man?” can be put to Jack, Walker, and Whittaker, too.
Post-war Vienna came alive for me in the story. Tell us about the importance of settings.
Context and circumstances are everything. I tried to develop the noirish aspect of time and place. I mentioned earlier that Vienna was a unique historical situation. Vienna was a playground for intrigues and for the Cold War, the silent world war. Whereas Berlin had a literal wall to divide antagonistic ideologies, hotels and landmarks designated the governing powers in Vienna.
With the War over, the Americans and British were now uneasy allies. Russia, an ally for the Americans, was now the new enemy. The bad guys, the Nazis with special insider information, became tentative allies. That the entire drama plays out in a German-speaking Austria was not lost on me. Austria, Hitler’s birthplace, while German speaking, is not Teutonic in the sense that it’s Protestant and its division into Bundesländer, or city-states, came after the dissolution of the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy.
In the café scenes, I tried to capture this sense of a world that had fallen away from what Stefan Zweig called The World of Yesterday. Walker is out of his depth in not knowing the German language and Austrian culture well, and both he and Jack are also caught up in the clashes of American and European, and West with East, when they encounter Sheldon and Tania. 
What appeals to you about European settings? Have you been in the places that appear in your books?
Differences in perception and outlook. Travel and living abroad have educated me. My use of settings is more than just ‘colour’ in my novels. While I have not been to Vienna, I’ve visited Austria. I’ve travelled around Great Britain (attended graduate school there), been to France, Germany, Italy, and the former Yugoslavia. I try to illustrate and incorporate cultural differences; how people interact with each other and relate to authority. In the Roma Series, I explore the unresolved North and South divide in Italy, among other sensitive issues.
I witnessed a balance between Work and Life in Europe that does not exist in America, whether it was Ferragosto in Italy, or strikes in France by all workers to protest raising student fees in France. Americans work longer and harder and our health suffers for it. If American education and healthcare were run according to the business model of rewarding performance, then there would be true reform.
I find it morally reprehensible that, for a country of such wealth and resources, the U.S. has the worst rate for maternal deaths in the Developed World, with 26 deaths per 100,000 live births. Sense of perspective: The World Health Organization tracks 180 countries and the US ranks 137 on that list for maternal deaths. Other findings are sobering and irrefutable. Will McAvoy, a character on Aaron Sorkin’s The News Room, summarized it in his answer to the question, “Can you say why America is the greatest country in the world?” You can find the clip on youtube.com
Experiencing Europe, I realized that Americans and European society are socially engineered around a different definition of ‘citizen.’ I’m not naïve: Europe is a tiered society and mobility is limited, but I think it’s disingenuous to think America doesn’t have a class society. I’m not blind to disconcerting parallels between the U.S. and Europe, such as the uncanny similarities between Berlusconi and Trump.
Americans, however, have drunk the ideological Kool-Aid and I’m afraid we are losing our standing in the world. I cited ‘citizen’ as an example, so let me provide an example of distorted logic. There were protests against Obamacare. The idea of national healthcare is still derided as ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism.’ Protestors claimed that in other systems, a patient died waiting for care.
There is no such evidence. President Obama himself said he watched his mother worry not about the ovarian cancer that would claim her life, but rather how she would pay for healthcare. I’ll set aside the obvious ignorance that Socialism and Communism are apples and oranges, but nobody has considered the European view that healthcare is a citizen’s right, and that healthy citizens are an investment in Society.
For this book, how much and what type of research did you have to do?
With any topic that is not native to your experience, research is required; it’s a matter of ethics. I had to read history books and memoirs about the period covered in The Good Man. I cited some of them in my Afterword. With respect to people who lived during that time, those I knew are dead now. I am aware that with people I knew, the material is anecdotal and subjective, the lens of history made hazy.
The Good Man tries to show decent people in terrible situations. Mistakes were made, people fooled, and terrible compromises made. There was also a consolidation of extraordinary power in individuals such as the Dulles brothers at the CIA, and J. Edgar Hoover at the FBI. The United States would see a similar nexus of power again with the Kennedy brothers.
I do believe that the CIA was founded on the noble (and necessary) premise of national security, but the nature of spy craft and politics is such that it’s a losing proposition. When governments resort to secret agencies or programs, or leverage the methods of their former enemies Hermann Göring’s propaganda and Stasi surveillance methods are alive and well then what do we have? Enemies yesterday, friends today; and friends today, enemies tomorrow. Case in point: President Reagan continued Operation Cyclone to counter the Soviet presence in Afghanistan, funding mujahedeen leaders who would later become the founding members of the extremist al-Qaeda.
In general, what do you struggle with as an author?
Visibility. It’s a struggle because there are so many books out each month.
What is a regular day like for you? Do you set yourself a minimum amount of words or hours on a daily or weekly basis?
I write in the mornings. I find that my mind is clearer and focused then. While I understand setting goals as a form of discipline, Word Counts mean nothing to me. I don’t lack discipline. The way my imagination works is that I envision a scene and I write until it is done, whether that takes one day or several days. I see writers posting daily Word Counts, and I don’t know what to make of it. Quantity over Quality? A form of humblebrag? Jack Torrance sat every day at his typewriter and typed, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy …” and look how that turned out for him.
How do you set yourself challenges and grow as an author with each new book? For example, what lessons did you learn with your first series that you now implement in this new series?  What are you discovering about yourself as a writer while writing these new series?
I challenge myself by writing in different genres. Horror. Crime fiction. Cozy mystery. Genre gets bashed as low-brow, and not as “Literary Fiction,” which I think is nonsense. Genre is like poetry. You have to know the rules, the meter, and the expectation. Break the rules after you’ve mastered them, but learn them first and appreciate their inherent challenges. The same approach applies to reading in and out of your comfort zones. I mentioned earlier that I read foreign literature. Translators have made other writers available. Read a French ‘polar’ and ‘policier’ and observe the space dedicated to describing violence and exposition. As with any foreign culture, note workplace hierarchy and formalities.
What can readers look forward to in the sequel? When is the next book coming out?
The Naming Game delivers more of the Walker and Leslie relationship. Readers will become acquainted with the turf war between the nascent CIA and J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI during the Red Scare in Los Angeles.
What do you look forward to as an author in 2018?  
I look forward to reading more of Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano. I hope to meet readers at conferences such as Malice Domestic, and New England Crimebake. I have not made a decision about attending Bouchercon in Florida.
What else would you like to tell readers?
If you are at a conference and know that I am there, please stop me and say hello.

Read Full Post »

View More: http://aislinnkate.pass.us/joejoseph-miniBorn and raised in Florida, M.J. Joseph maintains membership in the English Goethe Society, the Siegfried Sassoon Society and other literary associations. He is a supporter-member of the Society for the Study of Southern Literature, as well as an Associate of Lincoln Cathedral. Prior to retiring, Joseph enjoyed a lengthy and rewarding career with an industrial firm where he served as CEO and managed the company’s merger with a larger international corporation. He divides his time between Europe and his home on Florida’s northern coast. M.J. Joseph and his wife Ann have two children and reside in Florida.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Lübecker. To begin with, can you give us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it?   

A: Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to spend time with the Phantom! First, The Lübecker may be regarded as a work of historical fiction, set primarily in the American South, Western Europe and the Middle East between 1882 through 1915. It is structured upon individual narratives of a merchant’s son from the Hanseatic German city of Lübeck and an American doctor’s daughter and their families. While the mythos of the book is not confined to any particular age, the story utilizes the milieu’s erumpent social, religious and intellectual issues and the political dynamics roiling nineteenth-century Europe and the Near-East, finally culminating in World War I.

I was motivated to write The Lübecker as a result of my interest in the life and work of Lou Andreas-Salome, philosophical and religious considerations, my family history and the incredible variegation of conflict and changes in nineteenth-century Europe and the Ottoman Middle East.

9781614935247-JacketGray_Lubecker COVER.inddQ: What do you think makes a good novel? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

A: Frankly, I enjoy a wide range of fiction, where elements of plot, character, intellectual challenge and pace are given varying degrees of dominance, depending on the author’s preferences, ability and discernment. I do really enjoy reading novels utilizing demanding plot structures, well-developed characters and ideas.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

A: Developing the book was challenging, as I conceived it as the first book of four to convey a story.  The Lübecker was designed to steep the reader’s imagination in the arc of the narratives, the characters and their fates, while preserving a good deal of the story’s depth for the next three books, some told from points of view of individual characters.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

A: I approached the development of both protagonists, remember, there are two, very distinct narratives, by concentrating on the development of important, ancillary characters, especially those whose points of view will carry the story in the subsequent books. This enabled me to sketch the protagonists as responses to the developed characters and shape them as I moved them within the narratives.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

A: Nearly all the important characters, and some minor characters, were conceived to represent archetypal concepts and very basic, elemental forces. The villains were not exceptional in this and in executing some of the period’s most proscribed immoral and illegal behaviors, they were given context within the looming conflicts that would eventually inform the story.

 

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

A: Because great weight was given to the development of the book’s protagonists and main ancillary characters, the story was moved along in part by carefully timing the reintroduction of the narratives, building latent elements into the story and bringing the protagonists into the same conflict.

A tip: don’t hurry.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

A: The Lübecker moves in its action among several different settings, each reflecting the milieu and the progress of the Bildungsromane of the protagonists.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

A: Yes, I began the project by defining the theme.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

A: Editing, at least for me, is an essential part of inspiring and nourishing creativity. The initial creative thrust provides an edifice to build a story upon, but, for me, exploiting it editorially allows the formation of more ideas and images to bring the project to fuller realization.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

A: Three, very fundamental requirements to be a successful novelist are: an intense fascination with words and language, erudition and the ability and willingness to devote a sufficient amount of time to writing.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

A:  Fiction-writing, at least in my case, is fundamentally a very selfish exercise, done only to meet my own self-imposed requirements. I believe that I understand what the author means by “homework”, but I just don’t relate to the statement very well.

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

A: I would urge any writer to seek-out and explore websites and periodicals offered by literary societies representing the work of authors they appreciate. Reading short-form work available in popular magazines and popular, formulaic, relatively short novels is useful to anyone seeking to improve their ability to render ideas clearly, explicate plot and develop a style. Finally, I would recommend spending time auditing literature classes at a local community college, college or university, and participating in any discussion groups that might attend the courses.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

A: I really believe that everyone has a book in them, and those who wish to bring their books forward must find that the act of writing their book is sufficiently fulfilling.  The author must be prepared to accept the idea that, perhaps, their book will have value and interest only to later generations who happen to find the banker’s box into which the author proudly committed it, unpublished.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

the-good-man-by-gabriel-valjan_1Title: The Company Files: The Good Man

Author: Gabriel Valjan

Publisher: Winter Goose Publishing

Release date: December 2017

Pages: 251

Genre: suspense/espionage

Find out more on Amazon

It’s 1948, post-war Vienna. In this tale of international espionage, friends and ex-army buddies Jack Marshall and Walker are trying to gather intelligence for the Company in a time when Americans are ruthlessly trying to keep ahead of the Russians. To do so, they must sort Nazis out and question them. But a vigilante with a vendetta against former Nazis is getting to them first. Can Jack and Walker trust a vigilante killer to help them, and if yes, at what price? Add to the mix a beautiful Company analyst as well as a young Russian refugee girl who happens to be under the care of the vigilante. And at the core of it all, a rare priceless coin. As tension escalates one of them must become bait in order to unmask the traitor amongst them.

In a world of intelligence and counter-intelligence where an ally can turn into an enemy—and vice versa—at the flip of a coin, who can you trust? The Americans, the Russians, the British? Who is working for whom in this ruthless race for power?

I thoroughly enjoyed this historical noire. Valjan’s skillful and often witty prose flows elegantly through the pages. The setting is excellent and post-war Vienna comes to life during winter, especially the refugee areas with their gritty bleak streets, run-down cafes and dark cold rooms. There’s an array of interesting and well-crafted characters and the mystery accelerates at a steady pace until the very satisfying ending. In sum, I recommend this read for lovers of spy and international intrigue novels a la James Bond.

 

The Company Files: A Good Man is book one in Valjan’s new Company Files series. He also has another series of international suspense set in the present titled The Roma series. Check his Amazon author page to learn more.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: