Saturday, 28 December 2013

Who said I was difficult to buy a present for?

As hoped for, one of my Xmas presents was a book but not just a book. Its interior is filled with old-fashioned goodies for me to ponder and I must admit I'm a sucker for sifting through copies of maps and old photographs. I thoroughly enjoyed the contents of the books 'evidence bags.'

'The Case Notes of Sherlock Holmes' by Dr John Watson (tongue in cheek!) will stay by the side of my favourite armchair until I am absolutely sick of seeing it and I doubt that time will come any day soon.

The Case Notes of Sherlock Holmes by Dr John Watson

Why am I so pleased with this?

I guess its a combination: - mystery, a battle of intellects, Holmes' tortured battle with his inner demon, the relationship of two very unlikely characters and their silent bond, the romance of a bygone age, plus the author's interest in the mysteries of his time some of which are still with us today.

There are books we read and then put aside. There are books we want to read but never get round to. There are also books we are pleased to own and will treasure as part of our collections .I have a small collection and focus only on the subjects or stories that inflame my imagination and spirit. I do hope you also received a book this Xmas that encouraged an eye-creasing smile or yelp of delight as soon as you ripped the Xmas paper from its cover.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

My Xmas gift that keeps on giving

Christmas is approaching fast and no doubt thousands of books will be wrapped and ready beneath trees for the big day, if not in paper form then on eReaders. I for one will be curious to see what volume appears beneath my tree as I am a difficult person to buy for (or so I've been told!).

There is one old Christmas gift, a book it took me a few years to get round to reading, which I would be happy to see under my tree every year. I am a strong believer that some books are meant to be read at the 'right' time in ones life and this was no exception. It had sat on my bookshelf, unopened and unread and then one day I picked it up.

It was a time when I needed something to distract me from an extremely busy life, one where I was juggling all the usual things that come under the banner: 'progress' - work, family, chores, social obligations, finding time to do everything at a good standard but finding that as a consequence time passed at too rapid a rate to reap the rewards of being able to have my cake and eat it. This book made me stop in my tracks and reassess what was important to me.

I read a few pages and then, I couldn't put it down unless it was to think about what the words meant and how the author had managed to pour a distorted, almost manic beauty into the word "quality." After all, quality is what all the running around like a headless chicken was about. Finding quality in life is hard work or, is it?

What books will you get this year? Will there be one that you will hug to your person and then be able to say: "I will treasure this"? If you do receive something special and personal to you then please share. I'll also post this request on the Google Community 'Needful Books' where I am moderator and (if you are brave enough!) post a photo of the book either somewhere interesting or with something you associate with it - the possibilities are endless.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Saving Joy for a Rainy Day

I cannot recall the exact year when an old Post Lady called "Betty" became "Aunt Betty." She always wore an old black mackintosh and black laced shoes while pulling her postal trolley around the estate. Her steely hair was tied severely into a tight bun on top of her head, the only colour in her ensemble being her well-weathered skin and a pair of sharp blue eyes sparkling with bright pinpoints. I can still see her sitting on our couch and animatedly gossiping with my mother.

Betty was also a miser and I didn't realise how far she took it until I went to her house for tea. A row of spent tea bags were pegged up on a string above the kitchen sink and she pulled one down to make two cups of tea, which accompanied the tartest apple pie I'd ever tasted. The apples had been picked from our back garden trees and Betty thought sugar was an extravagance. What with the weak tea and eye-watering pie, I was lost for words.

We sat in a spotlessly clean room, so clean in fact that it seemed Betty had cleaned all the colour out of it. The furniture was threadbare and would have looked well in Noah's Ark living quarters but it suited Betty, she matched her furniture. I stared at a black fireplace, shivering in my coat as my hostess had already told me that she only lit a fire once a week and it was a pity I hadn't called nearer the weekend. I asked about the row of shiny jam jars on a shelf nearby; each was filled with a different coin denomination and Betty looked proudly at them before saying: "Ah, I'm pleased you asked. You're never too young to get into the saving habit!"
The stout old woman stood up and flung open cupboard doors on each side of the fire place to show me a collection of home-made items. Cushions, table cloths, quilts, curtains - each item was meticulously wrapped in clear plastic.

"When I retire..." she winked. "I'll get the house done up and then open all these packages and use them."
"How long have they been in storage?" I asked.
"Oh, I've been busy over a number of years. You see, I have to find the right material and it has to be at the right price. That brings me to the jam jars. Every penny I save goes into a jar."

I looked at the jars again and my confused expression didn't thwart Betty. She continued:
"All the money I save from coupons, or walking instead of taking the bus, goes into a jar. Get yourself a piggy bank and then open up a bank savings account, you'll need it for a rainy day!"
"Like your cushions," I said innocently.
"Everyone gets a rainy day!" she told me. "You will not be exempt! I said the same to my husband and it didn't take me long to get him into good habits."

Betty then went on to explain some of these good habits.
"For special occasions go to a take-away and order one meal then share it. If you go to a party then take plenty of small plastic bags with you so you can bag-up some food for a future meal..." (I remember when Betty had been let loose at my 13th birthday party and made huge gaps in plates before my guests could help themselves!). "Also, there's no need to ever buy soap as it's free at most public loos so make sure you have a suitable container with you."

She died before she could retire. The funeral was held and true to his training, Betty's husband didn't bother with a ham sandwich spread afterwards but a week later he had cleared the house including Betty's cupboards, ordered a new kitchen, bathroom and decorators then placed a brand new car in his previously unused garage. Betty's years of thrift had left her husband in a very comfortable position. He retired.

When I was dusting off my copy of Dickens 'A Christmas Carol' I thought of Betty. I thought of her again when I flung open my wardrobe doors to take out numerous Xmas gifts for wrapping. She had so looked forward to her rainy day and had spent years looking forward to it but in the process of saving money she had also saved-up her enjoyment of life.

So Aunt Betty! - When I go to my Xmas parties there won't be one plastic bag about my person and to hell with it, I'll use one tea bag per cup! My jam jars contain only marmalade and honey and I'll put my feet up at my fireside to toast my toes at the roaring flames. I wonder if Betty is sat on a cloud somewhere still sewing her new wings? I wonder if it is a rain cloud?

Friday, 15 November 2013

A Simple Question

When my son was 4 he asked:
"Was everything black and white when you were a kid?"
His question threw me.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Coz in the old films everything is," he replied.

It took me a while to explain:
a) it was just how films were before film makers knew how to add colour,
b) I'm not that old!
Questions like that say with you.

I've blogged a lot recently about my own childhood experiences, the ones I've carefully chosen to remember and when I think about them, everything was black and white in one respect. The shades of colour were added as I matured and left behind simplicity.

When I was stuck in traffic recently, I glanced out my car window and saw a queue of 4 people at a bus stop. One was a child who was doing star jumps out of boredom. He was quite happily ignoring the world around him and the 3 adults standing near him who were idly staring out into space. If an adult was doing star jumps then I would have thought that he'd lost his marbles. I remembered my son's question.

You can only do star jumps at a bus stop when you're a child, everything is black and white, uncomplicated. I now tell my son: "You're only a kid once," knowing full well that he wants to go head first into a grown-up world. I tell my husband: "He's only a kid once," usually when he's struggling to understand an unintended but stupid action.

It surprised me nowadays that parents allow their tiny offspring to run riot through restaurants, screaming and throwing tantrums and yet they are quick to condemn teens when they stand on street corners chatting, stuck for something to do in a world catering for mainly small children and adults. For teens, star jumps have been replaced by skateboarding or hanging around fast food joints. Perhaps people become easily exasperated by them because inwardly they rage: "You're only a teen for a few short years, make the most of it!" But, what would you have them do? Study? Spend hours reading alone in a room? Clean the house so you don't have to?

When we look back at our earlier memories they always seem brighter, more colourful in our mind's eye. We fell in love in a second, suffered agony after the slightest of defeats, played the same song over and over, were passionate about something one day and it was then totally forgotten the next.

I saw on the news this morning that many old people are visiting their local surgeries because they are so lonely. Perhaps, for some, things return to black an white when they grow old and they seek colour wherever they can find it?

So, if my son ever asked me his cryptic question again then I would reply: "Yes, everything was black and white when I was a kid and one day it might be again."
Adding colour

Friday, 25 October 2013

Alternative Sundays - Will you take the challenge?

After a childhood of Sundays spent at church then having a huge roast dinner followed by playing out or an MGM matinee, I decided to spend them differently during my late teens and early twenties.

It began one rainy Sunday morning when my friend and I were bored to tears with routines and I opened a newspaper. There was a Psychic Fayre advertised and so we decided to go as it wasn't far and it was something to do to kill time. I then spent the afternoon in a state of surprise, amusement, intrigue and there was a bar, which helped proceedings enormously.

After that, I scoured the papers each week and we found that there was always something to attend on a Sunday afternoon. The UFO abductees support group (we said we were interested in what they had to say and it was an eye-opener plus there was a bar open); making an alternative Sunday dinner in a hari krishna kitchen; learning Buddhist meditation; singing with gospel choir; sitting in a spiritualist church while someone spoke with the dead - all alternative ways of spending a day of worship. We became almost addicted to seeing what we could be part of next and met some weird but wonderful people.

Nowadays, Sundays are about ironing, catching up on housework or if I'm lucky, visiting a garden centre or mill outlet and of course, that huge roast dinner. I realised last weekend that I'd forgotten about all the wonderful things I used to do and also how to be spontaneous.

So, my challenge this week is to find something 'different' to do and take myself out of my comfort zone. It is a challenge I'll also throw open to you.

What do you usually do on a Sunday and do you fancy going on an adventure into somebody idea of Sunday? Just open a newspaper and find something, anything, even if it is something you would never consider in a thousand years. Let me know what you get up to and if you meet any interesting people.
Alternative Sundays


Friday, 18 October 2013

Life from a Window Ledge

My earliest recollection of solitary reading is of sitting across a window ledge in front of a plain frosted window in a pantry. I couldn't see out but if you looked in, you would see a young child's outline with her book balanced on her knees. It was 'Mrs Pepperpot' and I couldn't get enough of her tales.

My next, is of trying desperately to read Henry Treece's Viking Sagas through over-tired eyes while tucked up in bed. When I had to finally put the books away I could still see their stories enacted on my bedroom ceiling.

Much later, it was 'Far from the Madding Crowd' hastily picked up at a train station kiosk because I couldn't face hours of staring out of a train window. I hadn't read for years because I told myself I simply didn't have the time.

Since then, there's lying on a Balearic beach; my copy of Van Der Post's books still have sun oil patches. Pondering Pirsig's deep meaning while lazing on a garden swing bench. So many places, so many books but each with a time and place in my heart. It's much the same when writing except I recall snacks that kept me going, my food for thought: moist carrot cake in a Hebden Bridge cafe, hot spicy Caribbean toasties bought from a vendor and eaten on a park bench, tall cool glasses of rum and coke sipped through a twisty straw while sat in a cozy pub corner. 

Reading is a holistic experience affected by weather, mood, lateness of hour and perception of time. It's a luxury anyone can afford when all that is required is to spend time but it is a solitary experience. The imagination is given room to fly with or without extra food for thought. Each page I now read is a single step in a journey of discovery and even though I am still creating new memories of times and places, none are so comforting and safe as that pantry window ledge surrounded by aromas of strawberries and spice. 

To touch a reader with perfectly phrased words, even if only for a few seconds, was instilled in me from that first childish Mrs Pepperpot book. To master the art of allowing words to dance across a page unhindered, take a bow once done but know that a spotlight maynot come until much later. The joy of being able to pen words to make another human think, laugh, weep or just call to mind a memory once lost to them, is the greatest honour. So, the next time you read something that stirs you, write a review and allow your own experience to be heard, otherwise the writer may never realise what they achieved.
Reading is a holistic experience

Friday, 4 October 2013

Sword or Tongue? Which is sharper?

In one of the town's where I grew up, local kids both feared but teased a huge brick wall of a man wearing the overalls of a council street sweeper. "Zorro" had earned his name because he often did battle with leaves after they were blown into the air. Then, he would sprint down the street after them, brandishing his brush like a sword while roaring like a lion. Kids would hide his dustcart or deliberately kick up leaves to get him started.  His face was terrible, not helped by thick bottle-bottom glasses.

There was also "Sir Walter Raleigh" who walked around carrying a Raleigh bicycle over his head. You could often see him walking around the town centre and causing havoc. He never once rode his bike but had huge arm muscles.

Or, "Hi Ya" who only knew one greeting but followed people around until they acknowledged him, sometimes following them home to their front doors and then shouting it through their letter box. I never heard him say anything else.

What happened to them? What I remember of Zorro and any of these strange characters is that you never knew what was going on inside their heads and it was very unsettling. They challenged normality but I must admit that after listening to some of the so-called sensible people of everyday life, I often wonder who is stranger?

Zorro had his brush and could terrify anyone but was never a real danger. It is not the likes of Zorro I think of when writing one of my stranger characters. People too interested in what others are doing or loudly voicing blinkered opinions over garden fences are the real definition of "strange."

The most dangerous part of the human anatomy is the tongue and often people use it as their Zorro's sword chasing fictitious leaves of their own creation; Walter Mittys with a flare for trying to create an interesting life out of a mundane existence.

As a writer, I create leaves of a book and to do so often look at various swords being wielded but I can decide who brandishes them and how. The pen is after all, mightier than the sword.

Other times, I look at the leaves people are chasing and can instantly see what makes them tick. Whether they are slicing the air with tongues, carrying around a burden and not thinking to place it down or using loud voices to gain acknowledgement, what would their lives be like if they stopped doing it?

Sword or tongue - which is sharper?



Friday, 20 September 2013

My Blunder into Social Media Heaven or Hell

I was using FaceBook search recently to look up an old friend, knowing only his name and town and was instantly taken to a profile page containing only the town location and a photo of a black dog. To my surprise all posts were public and so I began to read hoping I would gain some clues as to whether I was on the right track.

After a few minutes, I began to feel very uncomfortable and then during and after I realised what I had read, I experienced every emotion I had ever experienced. Some of them I am not so proud of.

The posts were daily, some 2 or 3 times per day and often during the early hours. I will not repeat what I read but give you only the gist.

"I couldn't sleep tonight and sat up in the conservatory just staring at where you used to sit. I thought I saw you sat there."

"I went for a walk in the fields today. Remember how you used to love walking in the long grass. It rained and I could smell the fields. Do you still go there?"

"It broke my heart. I hope you understand. I gave your bed to my daughter. They needed it more than me. At least it will be used."

It was only when I read the next post that it dawned on me:

 "I bought a cake today and lit a candle, Happy Birthday. I couldn't eat it though so it's still in the fridge. I'm so sorry old friend. I couldn't see you suffer. I couldn't look into your eyes each morning. You were the only friend to give me strength. You knew didn't you?"

I then looked at the photo of the black dog, deciding not to read any more. This couldn't be my old friend could it? I then decided to read one more post.

"Remember I'm always here for you as you were always here for me and Ivy. We both had to watch her suffer in silence. You were still here for me after Ivy went. What would I have done without you? What will I do now?  It was for the best."

I won't continue. Ivy had died of cancer a year ago. Her husband had posted her birth and death date. She was 68 went she died and they had been married for 48 years. It wasn't my old friend and I felt I'd intruded.

What was most surprising of all is that not one post had a reply, it was as though they had been written to the thin air. Had anyone noticed or was it only me? 

Immediately, I left his page and exited Facebook like someone who had just poked their head into someones open house door and taken something. But, I couldn't stop thinking about him and his old friend all day. I'm such a cynic that I guiltily thought: 'What a great idea for a book or film.' Then, I had to have a stiff drink, disgusted I'd even thought it.

I could have posted a reply, but what would I have said? Me, a total stranger and a writer to boot. Would it have been intrusive? It even crossed my mind that being elderly, he might not have known how Facebook worked. I wondered if even his family knew about it?

From that day I've seen social media in a different light. Perhaps it can be a portal into something else. If nothing else, then this post is my apology and I send it into the thin air.

This was our old dog 'Lass.' We kept her collar.

Friday, 13 September 2013

My Needful Books, My Midlife Crisis

Upon my bookshelf are 4 old childrens books. Why are they there? This is a question I cannot yet answer fully.

I caught Scarlet Fever when I was 11 and reluctant to remain in bed, I commandeered the living room sofa where I remained enwrapped in a crochet-squared blanket. My Aunt Bridie brought me a box of books her own children had outgrown, a full set of Bancroft Classics.

There were 48 of them, all abridged but nevertheless a meaty read and I got through a good chunk while wrapped in that crochet blanket. Within a few months I had read all of them.

They were the books that forged my reading taste and not only did I hang on to every word but each hardback cover boasted a beautiful printed scene and I would gaze at them long after I'd finished reading.

I arrived home from school one day to find they had gone. My mother told me: "But you'd finished reading them and they take up so much room." Grief didn't quite cover it.

Years passed and the books were forgotten until this year. I found 2 volumes in a broken cardboard box beneath a flea-market stall. They cost just 10 pence each. As soon as I picked one up, memories and emotions became so thick it was like brushing away a thick cobweb that entangled me. I recaptured one of the few happy memories I have of childhood and reconnected to a Godsend that shaped my future.

I found another in a Whitby antique shop and one recently in my local olde worlde bookshop, it was lying on a wooden spiral staircase. My mission is to find all 48 BUT not via the internet, that would be too easy. I prefer the hunt, rummaging around in dusty places, the thrill of knowing I have a mission whenever I got to somewhere new.

I look at my 4 old books and see beyond what they meant to me. Recapturing youth? Yes, but there is a deeper connection and I will call it my 'midlife crisis'. There's a greater significance and I can't quite yet put my finger on it.
My Needful Books


Friday, 30 August 2013

Punching a Zombie Pig

A few weeks ago, while in a supermarket, my son asked me: "Would you punch a pig?" I then asked: "Why would I want to?" and he replied: "Coz he was attacking you."

As I was on automatic pilot, busy with my weekly shop and engrossed in choosing which brand of washing detergent to buy, I instantly said: "Only if it was a zombie pig."

Somewhere at the back of my mind this would make it alright and supermarkets always lull me into some kind of stupor anyway. I then had a battle on my hands, to get my wobbly trolley through a group of people just idly standing around and chatting in the middle of an aisle.

My son went a step further. "But Zombies don't stop and keep coming at you so you'd have to keep punching it."  We got some strange looks at this point but again, I had an answer: "Zombies always walk really slow so there's no problem." Then, for some reason the thought grabbed me: "The best thing to do would be to guide it to a treadmill and then you'd be safe to punch it any time you pleased." (This isn't my everyday sort of supermarket conversation and I feel sorry for people who are not tried and tested by teens who thrive on that sort of stuff).

Having just returned from an interesting but exhausting vacation, separated by time and distance from the big bad world, media, routines and everyday concerns, I was surprised at how negative and downright depressing Press, TV and Internet news is. Sensationalism sells, wise cracks have reached all-time dangerous levels and everyone is an expert. It struck me that people are gradually being de-sensitised to a general shift in collective perspective. Statistics say crime is down but yet acts of violence and terror are commonplace.

I had to look hard for a light this week; a flicker of good news, inspiration, illumination to the end of my summer. I was worried that, as an adult, I could soak up all the negativity being shoved in our faces but how does it affect kids, teens who flick through the Internet, YouTube, respond to the hundreds of mobile shares they and their friends ping to each other by phone?

It was then that I remembered the Zombie Pig on his treadmill and how my son's initial question had been a bolt from the blue. It's too easy to make sweeping statements and worry unnecessarily where all worldly bad vibes are taking us to. As long as we have a moment of madness, the understanding that kids these days do have more social pressures because of the way people's perspective has changed and that they rise above it often through the genius of imagination, then I doubt we have anything to worry about.
Looking for a light to guide you



Friday, 16 August 2013

The Authors Sheep Trail

The first writers workshop I attended was held in a dark, dismal basement of a London Soho nightclub.

I rushed from the underground thinking I'd be late but I was the second member of the audience to arrive. In the loo, I shared a mirror with the first member, a 6ft 4" transvestite who had impeccable dress sense and a gorgeous blond wig but a voice so deep it would have impressed Barry White. We both touched-up our lip gloss.

Once inside the main room I was dismayed to see rows of dated red velvet-seated chairs squashed to capacity, dusty wooden floorboards and a tiny stage at one end. Behind the table on the stage I could see a very amateur-looking pirate ship obviously meant for some cheap theatre production.

My second dip of dismay was to see people arrive armed to the teeth with notebooks, paperback novels and business cards. The room soon filled and then the panel arrived - an agent who didn't once look directly at the audience, an old ex-actor who waxed lyrical about all the 'luvvies' he'd met and was very, very boring, a young illustrator with little to say, a traditional publisher who was part of the "Yah" brigade and an ePublisher who looked as though he had just stepped from a building site.

The next 2 hours was an excruciating experience. The panel began to paint a picture of struggle, despair and shattered dreams. During question time they were besieged. I could taste desperation in the air and realised that I was probably one of the few would-be writers in the room as I listened to tales of being bitten by sharks, hopes trampled underfoot and some writers had been hard at it for a number of years.

I came out into daylight feeling totally deflated and headed for the nearest pub. However, during the long train journey home I realised something had changed. It had been most probably the best workshop I could have attended. I may not have known what to expect or what I wanted but I came out of it knowing the worst and what I definitely didn't want to happen. I also knew the type of people involved in the industry.

The next day I listed a lot of new questions and knew I would have to learn a hell of a lot more before I even considered pitching my work to anyone. 

Books about the publishing industry and advice are a great help but there's a huge difference between reading about it and then sitting with other authors and publishing professionals and soaking up the atmosphere with the lows and highs of what it is to write a book and then get it out there.

I dread to think what would have happened to my life's ambition if I hadn't sat in that miserable Soho basement on that fateful day and in hindsight, I met some of the bravest people I have ever met. They put themselves out there and believed in their work even if others did not and most impressive of all is that they persisted, picked themselves up after each knock and then re-invented their wheels.


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Genre Bashing

My love of film began at an early age during the days of local cinema flea-pits, mine was The Esoldo. Children could spend a Saturday morning enjoying a variety of cartoons and Famous Five-type adventures, that is if possible to hear above the din of excited screeches or see through a fog of penny-sweet wrappers.

It progressed to the MGM movie. Glorious technicolour fantasies that drew me in and then spat me out after every tear of excitement, sadness and laughter had been wrung from me.

During my late teens, Mad Max reignited the excitement again and I returned to a different type of cinema: huge with chandeliers and red plush seats but the odours were the same. Often, after long evenings of pure blockbuster spectacular, I would emerge from the cinema rotating doors having unintentionally taken on the mantle of one of the characters. It was only much later when I watched Woody Allen's 'Zelig' did I laugh at how easy it is to morph inwardly, although Woody did take things to extremes!

I love film, all genres. The one I choose to peruse during each viewing session depends entirely upon mood and not necessarily whats 'in.' It is the same with books. I can dip in and out of genres with no particular favourite.

Then, there's my own books, described as contemporary drama with humour and they too, often dip in and out of genres much like the day in the life of just about anybody. How many times do you morph during a typical day and don't realise it? How often are events only seen as humorous when time has distanced them enough to be able to look back at otherwise weird and disturbing memories and then see the ludicrous side?

My genre is evolving into something much darker and maybe, like those MGM movies, all the humour is being squeezed dry. BUT, after re-reading the first chapter of my third book (still in editing) I laughed out loud at the first experiences of a serial killer - weird or what?

So many films...


Friday, 2 August 2013

A compelling glimpse into the world of Daniel Wetta

I've always said that life is stranger than fiction and my recent interview with Daniel Wetta is no exception although Daniel has successfully channelled the 'strangeness' into his books...

Interview with Daniel Wetta
Author of “The Z Redemption”
Daniel in Mexico
"I retired too young from a career as hospital CEO in a for profit hospital chain at the age of 54. Feeling like I no longer had an identity, I hop-scotched through several temporary jobs. Finally, I went to live in Monterrey, Mexico, for over a year in 2009 so I could immerse myself in the culture and improve my Spanish. Monterrey is a city of four million people, and it is Mexico’s most affluent and educated city. I had no idea when I went there what a dynamic and beautiful city it is.

I rented a condominium and made several close friends, most of them young. One was Israel, a great guy, a law student who also sold Volvos at a neighborhood dealership. He was 26. We worked out in the gym together, discussed investments, and enjoyed an occasional dinner out with his roommates. He met a beautiful young girl at a party and fell in love. She didn’t tell him that she was the estranged wife of a drug cartel leader in Monterrey. A couple weeks after they were together, the cartel kidnapped him from his work. They tortured him, shot him, and left his body in a vacant field. The young wife disappeared and is presumably murdered as well.

There was no justice after this for Israel. I decided that when I wrote my novel, I would let people hear his screams. However, I did it through voices of the living, in particular through the voice of his roommate in the novel, Enrique Santos. When people are murdered, the living victims are the people left behind who loved them."

What is the title of your book and could you tell readers what it’s about?

“The Z Redemption” tells the story of ordinary people and world leaders who deal with a crisis in Mexico, a military coup that occurs because of the ineffectiveness of the corrupt federal government and police forces. Public safety breaks down. Ana Valdez, a Mexican housewife who through blogs and social media had become a national leader of victims’ rights and peace movements, finds herself in a passionate affair with a much older man, David James, a gringo who is a retired CIA operative. He had a history with Mexico and loves the Mexican people. Together, Ana and David form the “Zs,” a public safety guardian force that trains in martial arts, free running, and urban gymnastics. They try to protect citizens by confronting the warring factions, but without the use of weapons."

Does your work fall into a genre or a crossover of two or more?

"I might call it an international narco-thriller. It is a complex novel full of passionate people, and it is full of plot twists, double identities, politics, and the steamy erotica of true lovers."

Are you working on a new book at the moment and do you have a target date for completion?

"Although “The Z Redemption” stands alone as an emotionally satisfying novel, I spent time with character development so that I could write a prequel and a sequel to the novel. Currently, I am writing a sequel called “Corvette Nightfire,” which I hope to have published by Christmas. Whereas “The Z Redemption” took place largely in Monterrey, Mexico City, and Houston, “Corvette Nightfire” sets its scenes in Las Vegas, Monterrey, and Barbados. Ana Valdez, David James, and Enrique Santos return in the second novel along with one of the bad guys from the first.  

After that, I am co-authoring the prequel with Bob Selfe, the extraordinary editor of my books. We will start that the first of next year. That novel will trace the adventures of David James in Latin America when he was younger, in the times of Pablo Escobar."

Would you say that you are still experimenting with different styles of writing, or have you settled into one that feels uniquely suited to you?

"I want to know what is in the hearts of people and why they do what they do. My writing style reflects that. I spend time letting the inner voices of characters speak out loud, so the reader can hear them. As a person, I am fast paced. I love literary fiction and language. So I believe I have developed a writing style that derives from my personality and interests."

Which comes first to you, story or characters?

"What comes first is the message. I think about who the readers might be and then try to think of ways in which the story will grab them so that they will pay attention to the message. My characters tend to be exaggerations of real life people. How do I form them so that they will be believable in the story line? This is what I consider: The characters have to have some faults, and they need to have a degree of unpredictability. For example, for a character who is set in her ways, I might introduce a circumstance that forces her to change. I try to do it in a way to surprise the reader, while making this have credibility."

How do you approach character development?

"One way I do this is to let the reader know something about the characters’ childhoods or life events that made them be the kind of persons that they are. In real life, I dig deep into the backgrounds of anyone I find interesting by asking them a million questions about their past. I am a thief of lives. A woman I met in Mexico told me, “What Mexico needs is heroes, Daniel.” I stole her life, elaborated it with fictitious happenings, and made her into a genuine heroine. Then I took what she told me and made it a motto that is on all my business cards for The Z Redemption: “We need more than heroes. We need heroes who lead!”

For Ana Valdez, who is a heroine in the novel and its sequel, I also wrote a supplementary short story about her childhood in Mazatlan, Mexico. The story is not in the novel. It is called, “Awakening from the Golden Sleep.”

At what age did you decide writing would become your method of creative expression?

"I was an imaginative kid, and I used to write short stories even when I was about 12 years old. I started several novels when I was young. However, I ended up in a business world and career and did marketing and business writing as part of my jobs. My experience in Mexico transformed me. When Israel was murdered, I decided to write fiction again."

Outside of your family, who has been your greatest supporter in this endeavour?

"Without hesitation, I can answer Bob Selfe. He is an incredible editor. I am so fortunate, because we have been best friends since Kindergarten. He taught English and grammar for thirty years. As an editor, he is grueling. As a friend who offered encouragement…well, I needed him. It is going to be so much fun and hard work to write the third book in the series with him."

In terms of writing, what do you see yourself doing in five years? Is there a specific goal in mind?

"I would like to write one book a year for the next 20 years. My objective is to entertain people and give them adrenalin rushes."

What has been the biggest surprise about your success?

"That I could write the kind of novel that I have enjoyed all my life."

If you had one piece of advice to share with someone starting his or her first novel, what would that be?

"As you write, keep asking yourself, “Is this believable? Is it consistent with the characters? Would I want to read what I have written?” In addition to this, please be sure that your writing has clarity. Among other things, this means that the rules of grammar need to be applied. No matter how good you think you may be as a writer, or how expert you think you might be in grammar, do not fail to have an editor examine your work before you publish it."


Daniel's website






Wednesday, 24 July 2013

I interviewed Sophie Kate of 23 Revew St...

This week I interviewed a very interesting book reviewer, Sophie Kate of 23 Review Street...

"23 Review Street was created by me; Sophie Kate because of my love for books. I live in the UK and I will be going into my third and final year at University in September. Though when I am not studying, I am reading or buying a new book, to add to my ever-growing collection."

How long have you been a book reviewer?

"I started reviewing books late last year, after my love for novels stemmed into writing reviews on sites like Amazon and Goodreads, to starting my own blog."


What pivotal moment made you think "I want to review books"?

"I loved so many books and for some of them, I couldn’t see many reviews online that gave a more interesting take on reviewing a book other than “it was a good book” and that made me want to tell people about some of the amazing books that were out there that not everyone was giving the time of day."

What is the title of your Blog and could you tell readers if you have a goal?

"My blog is called “23 Review Street” and my motto is “where books live”. I would say my goal is to make less known books more widespread and discussed online, to tell people that there is more to a book than just the cover and to explore more reading choices out there."

What are your favourite genres and why?

"I love chick-lit, romance and crime. Chick-lit because it’s a genre that usually houses comedy and funny one-liners with some drama, and that’s always a fun read. I like Romance especially, because who doesn’t love a little bit of Romance in a book? There’s nothing like a good love story. I’ve also loved the Crime genre for quite a while because I love the criminology aspect of the novel, because I study it at University, and because I love getting involved in trying to solve the crime and read between the lines of the mystery."


What is your favourite book and why?

"I love all Nicholas Sparks books, but since reading Safe Haven a while ago (before the film) I just fell in love with the novel, the characters, the plot…it was an amazing read."


What interests you most - story or characters?

"I would probably say a bit of both. The story and plot is quite important, because that’s the first thing we read about before buying a book. Though, once we’ve picked up a novel, we read about incredible characters, so both things are quite intriguing."

Who has been your greatest supporter(s) in what you are doing?

"My sister; Becca, was a book reviewer before me for about six months on her blog “Pretty Little Memoirs”, and she really helped me when I started up my blog and she also got me interested in the Young Adult genre as well and showed me how important it was to add Social Networking for my blog to get more known in the Blogger world, which helped so much. My parents were also great supporters in my blogging too!"

Has your life changed in any way since becoming a reviewer?

"One thing I noticed was the way I buy or look for books. Before, the covers were most intriguing, but now the story grips me more and I spend a lot more time not judging books by the cover. Also, since being a regular reviewer for Hodder & Stoughton, getting my blog mentioned on the Publicity announcements for a series I review for, that was a huge highlight for me."


Do you have one piece of advice to share with any budding authors?

"I would say that making a story and the characters very relatable is always something I know a lot of people look for in a novel, so writing characters that some people can empathise or understand is a quality I love in a book."