A unique place in the desert

A unique place in the desert

Deep in the heart of the Mojave Desert is a unique gathering place for people who prefer to live away from modern society. It’s a fascinating place because anyone can live there without owning the land or paying rent. You just have to stake out a spot and call it your own! It’s called Slab City and it’s within a couple of hours drive of San Diego. There’s a bit of a catch though – it’s off the grid and there’s no running water. Now, I’m used to traveling in an RV so I know it’s possible to live without running water and without power, if you have a big fresh water tank and solar power. However, the temperature gets as high as 120 degrees in the summer. There’s no solar system invented yet that could cope with the air conditioning needed to cope with that! The other little drawback is that there are no rules or laws either. So there have been a few ‘scuffles’ (i.e. shoot-outs!) between residents. Which makes the place a great setting for a novel. I’ve interviewed award-winning author Corey Lynn Fayman before as he has such great ideas for his novels, which he follows through with terrific characterisation and plots. Here’s a quick Q&A interview with Corey: Desert City Diva is your third Rolly Waters mystery. What can you tell us about Rolly and how does this book continue the traditions established by the other novels in the series? Rolly Waters is a cozy mystery hero living in a crime noir world. He’s overweight, over forty, and lives in a small granny flat next door to his mother. He’s a talented guitar player and musician whose glory days are behind him, so he makes ends meet by working part-time as a private investigator. He doesn’t carry a gun and would probably shoot himself in the foot if he had one. His chief virtues as an investigator are his ability to make friends with almost anyone and an absolute dedication to helping his clients, even when their cases lead him into dangerous situations and criminal activity he never envisioned when he first took it on. Music has always been a part of all the Rolly Waters mystery novels, but in Desert City Diva it’s become central to solving the case. A special musical instrument and the ‘celestial’ notes it plays are keys to the mystery. It’s the first time Rolly’s had to call on both his musical and investigative skills to solve a case.   In Desert City Diva, Rolly takes on a missing person’s case from a golden-eyed orphan and dance-club DJ named Macy Starr. What’s special about Macy and why is the search for the woman who raised her so important to her? Macy is a willful and independent young woman who’s worked hard to create her own sense of identity. She’s never known her biological parents. She grew up as the daughter of the chief of police on an Indian reservation, but she’s not Native American. She knows nothing of her parents, or where she came from, except that she has some sort of ‘golden child’ status with her adoptive father. That didn’t help much on the reservation she grew up on though, where she was viewed as a bit of a freak. She’s taken that outsider view to heart in her professional life and created different DJ personas she uses to express herself. Macy is almost completely lacking in impulse control in both her speech and actions. Whatever comes into her head, she says it or acts on it. Rolly finds this attractive. It’s how he used to be. But it frustrates him too, and he knows from experience it can lead to all sorts of trouble.   The only clues Macy can provide Rolly are a curious one-stringed guitar called a Diddley Bow and a black and white photograph of a young girl with a man in a baseball uniform. What is the significance of these items, and why did you choose the Diddley Bow as the key to solving the mystery surrounding Macy’s case? I can’t remember exactly where I learned about the Diddley Bow, but I used it in the story because it’s a simple instrument that non-musicians can pick up pretty quickly to thump out some basic melodies. It’s important to the story because I needed an instrument that the members of a UFO cult could all play together simultaneously. They use the Diddley Bows to play alternate tunings of ‘celestial’ notes that will reflect their ancient heritage and serve as a beacon to interplanetary aliens. I didn’t make that part...

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Guest Author Interview with Norma Jennings

I occasionally hear from book publicist supremo Paula Margulies. She let me know about an interesting new book from one of the authors she represents, and gave me the chance to publish an interview with the author, Norma Jennings: What is Passenger from Greece about? It’s a classic tale of love, lust, and criminal behavior, Passenger from Greece tells the story of Olivia Reid, a feisty, resourceful international flight attendant who falls in love with a handsome Greek olive oil tycoon. Olivia gets caught up in a seductive affair that spans the Caribbean, New York City, Crete, and ocean voyages on a yacht called The Adonis. The book opens with a big crash. Have you had personal experience of a crash? No, but when I was a flight attendant, some of my dear colleagues were involved in a plane crash (a mere scheduling conflict kept me off that flight). I went back to them and asked them for descriptions of feelings, thoughts, and misery of crashing into a swamp, which really happened. They described the terror of first experiencing an aircraft crash, followed by the horror of being trapped in a swamp until rescue. So, when I set up a story about international romance and mystery, I thought, what would be more captivating than to introduce the characters to each other in such an intense and terrifying situation? International drug trafficking is central to the plot. What compelled you to write about this topic? I had finished writing my first novel, Daughter of the Caribbean, and I was looking for another great story. I read about the Caribbean drug trafficking issues affecting my beloved Jamaica, where my family has an old sugarcane plantation called Twickenham. The headline-grabbing issues made me think about my next novel, which I wanted to be an international mystery. I also like to explore cultural issues and personal relationships about families and love, so I created a conflict that would impact two families in two different countries, each located in different parts of the world. The book addresses family relationships, infidelity, and mother/father influences. Why did you weave in these themes? Motivations. I wanted to create flawed characters whose motives and desires were rooted in their familial relationships: a daughter’s desire to please her mother, a son’s desire to please his mother, and a grandmother betrayed by her spouse. I asked myself: What lessons could be learned? What understandings reached? How could I write relatable situations that would draw in readers? Based on the core foundation of any person’s experience, one always comes back to his/her family beliefs, morals, and values. How are drug trafficking and cultural issues central to the plotlines and themes in your novels? The illicit drug trade is affecting my native homeland, Jamaica. I wanted to also dispel prejudice and ideas about Jamaicans and other Caribbean islanders. My books always deal with cultural differences though depictions of my own childhood experiences growing up at Twickenham with my grandmother, Sedith, who’s featured in both of my books. She was our family’s matriarch and had a tremendous influence on her children and grandchildren. I brought the stories she told and the lessons I learned in my own life to the pages of Passenger from Greece. Are you working on a new novel?  I’ve made good progress on a third book, which is an action-packed historical fiction novel about the brutal colonization of Jamaica by the British, and the barbaric guerilla warfare staged by the Maroons (runaway slaves) against the planters. Raw sexual moments between planter and mulatto slave mistresses, and a sizzling romance between a rescued concubine and a young guerilla chief are weaved into the novel, as it chronicles how ferocious and unrelenting resistance by Maroon men and women led to the abolition of slavery on the island, and ultimately to the country’s independence. You may also like:Book Review: Homing InstinctDo reviews have to be either honest OR kind?Guest Author Interview: Corey Lynn Fayman, Border Field Blues App EditionWhere 'Once Upon A Time' Failed, Paula Margulies...

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Where ‘Once Upon A Time’ Failed, Paula Margulies succeeds!

Where ‘Once Upon A Time’ Failed, Paula Margulies succeeds!

I confess to being somewhat obsessed with ABC’s ‘Once Upon A Time’ series. It’s my daughter’s fault, she knew I’d love it. It’s about fairytale characters who were cursed out of their magical forest kingdom and who have to live in the modern-day US. Characters include a kick-ass Snow White, a werewolf Little Red Riding Hood, and a brilliantly-played Rumpelstiltskin. Like many people, though, I’m disappointed that they haven’t [yet?!] included Pocahontas as a character. Perhaps it’s because she was a real historical person, not just a Disney princess (Mulan made the cut though). Author Paula Margulies has gone a long way to satisfy public demand for more on Pocahontas though. Her new book, Favorite Daughter, Part One, provides a new spin on the popular story. The book is set in the time of the Jamestown settlement and tells the story of Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, as she prepares to take her place as one of our nation’s earliest leading women. Wonderfully told in the first person, Favorite Daughter, Part One provides a very personal look at Pocahontas’ life. When I asked Paula about her motivation for writing about Pocahontas, she said: “I’ve always been fascinated by the Pocahontas story and have often wondered what it was like for her to witness the arrival of the strangers in her tribal village.” Paula went on to explain that her research unearthed some controversies. “I learned that many Native Americans believe her story was much different – and slightly darker – than what was reported by John Smith and the other colonists. I decided it would be intriguing to tell the tale from her perspective, in her own voice, so that we could experience the story from a new point of view. She matures into a heroine of tremendous nobility, courage, and heart.” I asked Paula if she is of Native American descent. “No, both of my parents are of Italian descent. But my father, Douglas Roccaforte, loved Native American history and was a collector of American Indian artifacts, so I grew up with a deep appreciation of Native American culture and history.” Paula told me that she tries to go to as many local Native American pow wows as she can. Living in in the San Diego area, that’s not too difficult, as there are quite a few held locally. Back to the book. I think it’s a wonderful idea to write the Pocahontas story using her own voice and it brings the story to life in a new and compelling way. I’m part-way through the book and will provide a full review when I’ve finished it. I’m enjoying it too much to analyze it just yet!   PS Paula isn’t just a brilliant novelist, she’s also a well-known book publicist.     You may also like:How to win Goodreads GiveawaysMatchBook - great news for people who like paperbacks AND Kindles!Do reviews have to be either honest OR kind?Guest Author Interview: Corey Lynn Fayman, Border Field Blues App...

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The reluctant business-woman

The reluctant business-woman

I’ve had a ‘failed’ business, one that I decided to close down because it was obvious that it wasn’t going to give me a decent living. Now I’m a full-time author, I really don’t like to think of myself as being in business, because that has bad connotations for me. So it has taken me two years to finally admit the unpalatable fact – I’m actually in business again. Not a bricks & mortar business, a writing business. The one I’ve been doing all this time but just couldn’t accept the fact that it was a business, rather than a creative calling. Many authors, like artists, are more comfortable with the idea of starving for their art and remaining ‘pure’ than about getting serious about their business. I trained in Internet Marketing and have been the tech and writer for a couple of start-up companies. I did enough of it to make me recoil from doing it for myself! It always felt manipulative and greedy. I guess I classed the opposite of greed and manipulation as poverty and struggle. I didn’t see the middle ground. Until, that is, I formatted a book for a wonderful author, Julie Ann Hart, who specializes in intuitive coaching. We chatted and I spoke about my reluctance to consider myself a business person, because of my past history. She said, “You know, you are a business-person, you’re a heart-centered business-person.” That took my breath away* and made a monumental difference to my attitude about my life and work. I am heart-centered – love the expression – but I’m not in the habit of wearing my heart on my sleeve, so no-one knows about it. Yet I love other heart-centered business people. People like Oprah Winfrey and Marie Forleo – they are highly successful, kick-ass business-women but they donate huge chunks of time and money to deserving causes and they provide extensive, free information and advice to help others. All while being super successful themselves. We don’t think of them as being greedy, just because they are successful; or manipulative, just because they use certain marketing techniques. For me, it’s the old “put your oxygen mask on first” thing. We need to look after ourselves before we can be in a position to help others. If I’m not successful enough myself, I won’t be able to help struggling authors. If I don’t start to think of my work as a business, then I won’t be as successful as I could be. Getting serious about my business means that I have decided to give up the small projects and bits and pieces that I’ve been doing. I’ve gone through my royalties and discovered which of my books and pen names are giving me the most return and I’m going to focus on building those brands and those genres. I’m not going to start spamming people and filling my books with cheesy Internet Marketing messages and affiliate links. I don’t see anything wrong with running a newsletter and building a list of people who want to subscribe to it, though. Internet Marketing doesn’t have to be manipulative – it can be transparent and immensely helpful. I’ve started following Steve Scott’s helpful book marketing advice on his blog and decided to spend more time on my friend Cathy Presland’s site. Cathy is an International economist turned book coach and a great example of the type of business-person it is possible to be: a successful authorpreneur who always has time to help people. I’m also going to use a technique I learned from Kristen Eckstein (the Ultimate Book Coach). She advises authors to ask their existing readers to be beta readers/reviewers for future books. Kristen sends her latest book out to her list of beta readers and they report back with any typos that her proof-readers and editors have missed, and write reviews that can go on Amazon when the book is launched, as well as in the book itself and on marketing copy. It’s about getting smart, not getting greedy. It’s about taking yourself seriously and being professional and forward-thinking. I’m going to give it a go.     *The city where my son lives, Liverpool, has a funny expression for this emotion. They call it feeling ‘gob-smacked’ – as if someone just slapped you in the face! Quite fitting, I think.   You may also like:Goodbye To ColaMo The Talking Dog Is Live!Book Review: Homing InstinctWhere 'Once Upon A Time' Failed, Paula Margulies...

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Guest Author Interview: Corey Lynn Fayman, Border Field Blues App Edition

Guest Author Interview: Corey Lynn Fayman, Border Field Blues App Edition

Corey Lynn Fayman is a San Diego-based musician and multimedia developer who has combined his skills to release an amazing, interactive book. His award-winning mystery novel, ‘Border Field Blues’, is now much more than a book, it’s an interactive app. I’m a techno-nut so was thrilled to get the chance to interview Corey to find out more about his unique book. Here are his As to my Qs, as Marie Forleo would say! Q: What inspired you to create an interactive edition of Border Field Blues? I did a lot of research for this book, visiting Border Field Park and reading books (both fiction and non-fiction) that related to the Tijuana River Valley and the San Diego/Tijuana border. I’d seen some interesting interactive books developed for non-fiction titles, but they often involved what I’ll call “gadgetry” within the text, such as interactive graphics, charts, and videos. The fiction books I read were more like games, with text section as part of the game world. I felt like those kinds of things interrupt your reading, which may be okay in non-fiction since those features are often used to illuminate a key concept. But with fiction, you don’t want to interrupt the flow of the text. The author has worked hard to make it flow and capture the reader’s imagination. I wondered if I could include of those interactive technologies, while still keeping the traditional qualities that make a book a good read. Q: What’s included in this new App Edition? First, there are my author’s notes and photos on how I came up with plot, locations and characters, as well as some background information on some of the social and political issues touched on in the book. There are also related videos from YouTube and Google Map presentations for each of the locations in the book. Additionally, the app allows users to add their own comments to each chapter, which other readers will be able to read. Readers can also email me directly from the app or share the information on Facebook. And it’s very non-intrusive. There’s just one button at the bottom of the page that provides access to all of the features. Q: What role do you see technology playing in the book/publishing realm? I think books will remain books. They’re a proven technology, that’s lasted in basically the same form for over five hundred years. They’re still the most direct form of communication between one person’s focused thinking and another person’s focused processing of those thoughts. But I do think ebooks can expand the world of any particular book, so that readers can more easily follow up on ideas, themes, and topics touched on in the book. In a sense, the app edition of Border Field Blues is like the longest, most complete book club presentation I’ve ever given, but readers can choose how much of it they want to listen to. They don’t have to hear me talk for ten hours. And the additional material is updatable, so I can add to it as readers communicate with me. I think that’s the greatest value of this technology. Also, readers can email me immediately if a passage in the book was so wonderful they just had to let me know, or if it made them so angry they just had to let off some steam. Hmm, maybe that email function wasn’t such a good idea. Q: What was involved in creating this App Edition? I started this project as part of a twelve-week sabbatical I received from the Art Institute of California, San Diego a few years ago. I was teaching Web Design there full-time and working on the text for Border Field Blues in my spare hours. Apple’s iPad had come out recently, and along with it the iBooks store. I knew from my background in web design that HTML5 and web technologies were part of the epub specification, but that most apps were built in specialized programming environments, like Xcode. Part of my sabbatical assignment was to investigate new technologies, so I could make an assessment of what we should teach in future classes. As usual, each system had its pros and cons, but I ended up working with Apple’s iBooks Author program and combining it with my skills in HTML5, CSS and Javascript. This is still pretty new stuff, so you kind of invent it as you go along. I’d think of a feature and try to figure it out. I didn’t get every thing I wanted, but that’s the software business. I’m pretty happy with how it finally turned out. Q: How is the interactive version of your...

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Do reviews have to be either honest OR kind?

Do reviews have to be either honest OR kind?

Where would we be without Groupon? I would have had a lot less massages and experience days! Just before Christmas I went on an afternoon canal cruise with my fiance. We had bought the coupon as a birthday present for my Dad but he developed a knee problem and couldn’t get down the tiny steps onto the canal boat – and the coupon was due to expire. We decided not to waste it. My fiance is fond of canal boats – they’re generally really long, colorful boats with cheery painted canalware on top, buckets, pots, and the like. The colorful items that appear on other canal boats! So off we trotted to the meeting point, which was a restaurant overlooking the canal. This was in the morning so the restaurant wasn’t serving food and there weren’t any staff around, which was a pity as it left us and three other couples to stand around wondering if we were in the right place. After a little while a member of staff wandered out of a back room and told us we were and they were just waiting for the boat driver. 40 minutes later we were still waiting. When the driver arrived he just called us to go with him – no apology. I don’t mind having to wait (I have the Kindle app on my cellphone!) but I do find it irritating when the people keeping me waiting don’t apologise. So I, for one, wasn’t in the best mood. But this is Britain, where people are used to queuing and being kept waiting and generally do so without complaining – just some low level grumbling when they think no-one can hear them! Our first view of the boat that we were going to be cruising on didn’t lift my spirits. It was small, about the length of a van. It looked like it had been used for moving freight in the past, with high, solid sides and very small windows above them. That was where we sat, the eight of us, around a table. The driver busied himself in the kitchen area (two cupboards and a kettle) of the boat, clanking around. He eventually explained that he was late because he wasn’t the scheduled driver (who had been held up in traffic) and had had to come a long way. He then started serving our lunch, before we set off. Fair enough, it would have been dangerous to try to drive the boat while serving hot food! Unfortunately, the only food was a meat stew – I’m vegetarian and my fiance rarely eats meat. No alternative. I was quite glad I wasn’t eating it when I saw it! Afterwards we were offered coffee or tea – without milk, as the driver forgot to pick some up! So off we went on our ‘cruise’. Due to the height of the sides of the boat, we were unable to see out while sitting down. Standing on a slow moving boat isn’t too much of a problem if you’re fully able bodied, I guess, but I’m not (my ankles were crushed in a car accident years ago), so that was annoying. There wasn’t a lot of point standing up anyway because the windows were made of some kind of see-through plastic, which held onto rain drops so it was hard to see out. So we had occasional periods of standing to try to see where we were, and long (LONG) periods of sitting looking at the passengers around the table. After a while we came to a bridge. The driver – without a word of explanation – stopped the boat near the canalside, hopped off, and threw a rope roughly in the direction of a little pillar. Then he went to the bridge to operate the controls that would swivel it to let us through. He apparently had some trouble with it as he continued to stab at the control panel for some time before picking up a telephone handset and shouting into it. We all peered through the little windows to see what he was up to. It was one of the other passengers who first noticed that we were moving, drifting gently towards the middle of the canal and the bridge that blocked our path. We weren’t in any real danger – a small bump into the bridge was about the worst it would get – but it was a bit disconcerting and one of the other ladies got panicky. Thankfully, humor helped, with people wondering out loud if anyone had ever been lost ‘at sea’ while on a Groupon experience day and others responding...

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MatchBook – great news for people who like paperbacks AND Kindles!

MatchBook – great news for people who like paperbacks AND Kindles!

MatchBook – Free/Discounted Kindle Books Amazon have just written to authors to announce a new program they are calling MatchBook. It’s a fantastic idea – and one that my daughter has been asking them to introduce for over a year! They are allowing publishers and authors to offer the Kindle versions of their books at a discount to anyone who buys the print versions. This is fantastic news for both readers and authors. Authors will benefit from more downloads of their Kindle books – the more downloads you get, the higher up the bestseller rankings you rise, so more people see your books, so more sales. Readers will benefit because they will be able to get Kindle versions of their favorite books at a much reduced cost – free in some cases. I think this is the best news I’ve read in a long time and I’m very excited about it, as you can probably tell! Amazon are rolling out the program in the next couple of weeks and – here’s the best bit – it will be available for print books you have bought previously (if their publishers/authors enrol in the program). PS – If you are an author and you don’t have your eBooks available as print editions yet, now is a great time to do that. You may be interested in my course on how to use CreateSpace, which is the quickest way of getting your book into print and listed on Amazon.   You may also like:A Little About MeMo The Talking Dog Is Live!Book Review: Successful Minute TakingThe reluctant...

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