Saturday, March 24, 2018

Writing Through The Roof - A Conversation With Dean Mayes.

This past week, I was pleased to be the in-studio guest of Melbourne based writer and podcaster Madeleine D'Este on her weekly program Write Through The Roof. 

Over the course of an hour or so, Madeleine and I discussed my writing career, the techniques and quirks I employ as a writer and I was given the opportunity to drop some tid-bits about my forthcoming novel "The Artisan Heart".

If you're on iTunes, you can listen to the episode here

If you're on Stitcher, you can listen to the episode here

For all other podcatchers, subscribe and download the episode here.

Originally growing up in Tasmania, Madeleine D’Este now lives in inner city Melbourne surrounded by books.  After studying law (and never practising) and travelling the world, Madeleine now lives a double life, immersed in the corporate world by day and writing female-led speculative fiction by night. Madeleine hosts a weekly speculative fiction review radio show/podcast on as well as the podcast for writers Write Through The Roof.

When not writing, Madeleine enjoys podcasts, knitting, forteana, indie films, kettle bells and likes her coffee as ‘black as midnight on a moonless night’.


Friday, March 23, 2018

Countering Resistance - A Look At Counteract by Tracy S. Lawson.

I'm always up for a compelling dystopian tale - especially one that is frighteningly possible. From the outrageous Mad Max series to the seminal cyberpunk classic Blade Runner to the oppressive The Handmaids Tale, visions of the future that play on our fears of what we see happening in the present a ripe for great storytelling. A series of books from Ohio native Tracy S. Lawson have really captured my attention this past month. Titled the Resistance series, this collection of four books follow a group of freedom fighters in a near future America that is straining under the yoke of a totalitarian regime who seek to control the population through fear and oppression.

Having completed the opening salvo in the series, "Counteract", I've moved onto book two, titled "Resist" and I am completely in thrall with Lawson's storytelling, characters and world building. For today, I'd like to showcase "Counteract" in the hopes it will whet your appetite for the series. 

Two teens discover the government is staging terrorist attacks to exploit and control the public in Tracy Lawson's eerily believable YA debut novel.

In an alternate reality version of 2034, terrorist attacks on American soil continue after the events of 9/11. The Office of Civilian Safety and Defense, created in 2019 to oversee domestic security, rises to unprecedented heights of power by exploiting the people's overriding fear of terrorism.

When Tommy Bailey and Careen Catecher meet during one of the bogus terrorist attacks, they discover the OCSD's darkest secret: an antidote distributed by the government to "protect" people from the effects of imaginary toxins in the air is really being used to lull them into a state of submission.

Tommy and Careen face a difficult choice: stay quiet about what they know--or risk their safety and anonymity to join an underground rebel group that's determined to break the OCSD's grip on the nation.

Counteract explores the nature of power and the consequences and difficulties created when government attempts to control minute details of citizens' daily existence.

I found Counteract to be a taut, engaging & thrilling first entry in Lawson's Resistance series. Its alternative future setting remains anchored in our own real world so, visually, it wasn't a stretch to see it in my minds eye. 

Our post 9/11 paranoia around terrorism has reached a fever pitch, and Lawson explores this and the lengths to which some will go to take advantage of a nations collective fear. Lawson's cast of characters led by the appealing, earnest and resourceful Careen and the enigmatic Tommy - a young man beset by tragedy that is intertwined in the politics of the time, Counteract moves at a crisp pace. 

Its unfolding drama is rife with tension, great character moments and occasional levity that see saws effortlessly with the action. Lawson's writing style is at once accessible and she balances this with an intelligent plot and a fully realized future world that is scarily possible.

As a first entry, Counteract set me up for the subsequent entries and I'm eager to see where the series heads in Lawson's capable hands.

Once upon a time, Tracy Lawson was a little girl with a big imagination who was obsessed with telling stories. Her interests in dance, theatre, and other forms of make-believe led to a twenty-year career in the performing arts, where “work” meant she got to do things like tap dance and choreograph musicals.

Tracy S. Lawson (image credit: the author).

Her greatest adventures in musical theatre included creating disco choreography for forty middle schoolers on roller skates in Xanadu, building cast members’ endurance during an extremely aerobic jump rope number in Legally Blonde, and wrangling a cast of amazingly enthusiastic teenaged tap dancers in Crazy For You. She can also spin plates on sticks while she tap dances. Just ask her. She’ll be happy to demonstrate!

Though teaching dance and choreographing shows was a great outlet for her creativity and boundless energy, Tracy never lost her desire to write. Faced with her only child leaving for college and her husband’s simultaneous cross-country job relocation, it seemed she’d found the perfect time to switch her focus. But fear not—she has maintained her ties to educational theatre by returning to choreograph a few shows a year at Bexley City Schools in Columbus, Ohio, so she can continue to nurture students and share her passion for putting on a great show. 

The Cincinnati native now has to her credit an award-winning nonfiction history book, Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More: Explorations of Henry Rogers’ 1838 Journal of Travel from Southwestern Ohio to New York City (McDonald & Woodward, 2012), based on the writings of her great-great-great grandfather. Pride of the Valley, a companion volume to Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, followed in 2017.

With the release of Revolt on July 18, 2017, Tracy's award winning YA dystopian Resistance Series is now complete. Counteract, Resist, Ignite, and Revolt chronicle the adventures of Tommy and Careen, two teens who meet during a terrorist attack and discover a conspiracy that could destroy their country.

In her spare time, she blogs about YA and classic dystopian books and hosts Between the Covers with Tracy Lawson, an author interview program on the Liberty.Me network.

Tracy, who is married with one grown daughter and two spoiled cats, splits her time between Dallas, Texas and Columbus, Ohio.

Purchase the Resistance series here.

Visit Tracy S. Lawson here

Tweet Tracy S. Lawson here.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Destiny's Power - Conversations with Elizabeth Jade, Author.

Over the past little while, I've had the pleasure of conversing with a remarkable young woman and author Elizabeth Jade. Elizabeth's debut novel "Akea - The Power Of Destiny" -  a powerful tale - represents a journey we all take in life in that, in order to find our destiny, we must first find ourselves. Elizabeth has grown up with some unique challenges, requiring her to discover different methods of interacting with the world. Having found writing, Elizabeth has been able to express herself in ways that transcend the day to day. As a result, she displays a formidable talent that is well worth taking notice of.

I've invited Elizabeth to pen a piece that I'm really proud to present here this week. I hope you enjoy it.

I always knew I had a unique take on life, but I only found out two years ago, at the age of 18, that I had Aspergers Syndrome (an autistic spectrum disorder). People have never made sense to me.  In fact, I've made a habit of avoiding contact with them as much as possible. On the other hand, I love animals; and what’s more, they love me.  We understand each other on an almost telepathic level. This affinty with animals lead me into volunteering; first with horses, then dogs, and finally cats.

I've loved working with animals. It was the people that were the problem. We just didn't understand each other and at that time I didn't know about my Aspergers. My mum tried to give me some coping strategies, but I still kept getting confused and in the end I got so depressed and anxious that I couldn't keep it up.

Elizabeth Jade, author (image credit EJ).

After years of struggling, my mum insisted that I see someone about my anxiety and depression.  I have to say that my experience with CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) was not at all pleasant, but it was here that the possibility of Aspergers was first explored.  Cats Protection then opened a re-homing centre on the edge of town and my mum spoke to them about my talents and difficulties.  As it turned out, the staff understood exactly where I was coming from and they were certain that volunteering would be beneficial for me as well as the cats. They quickly dubbed me the Cat Whisperer and I gained a great deal of satisfaction from seeing pussy personalities changing, even though I mentally struggled to go in as often as I would like. 

Another outlet for my depression and anxiety has been in writing stories; animal stories naturally. The stories come pre-written in my head and fight at all hours of the night to make their way onto paper. In an attempt to boost my self-confidence, my mum decided to prove how good my stories were by finding me a publisher for my book ‘Akea’- not an easy task.

Akea - The Power Of Destiny.

Akea is a Siberian husky who was born into a family of sled dogs and a life which should have followed a predictable path, but from the day she first saw the wolf Kazakh, Akea knew her future lay beyond the safety of her home.  She soon leaves her family and with the help of Kazakh and the wolf pack, she finds her inner wolf, but unexpectedly the pack turns on her, casting her out to fend for herself. After spending some time in an animal shelter where she learns the fate of her first family, she is sent to live with a new one, but when Kazakh finds her again, she willingly abandons them too and follows him. Kazakh is well aware of the reason for the wolf packs animosity, but Akea’s destiny is clear and he must make sure she is in the right place at the right time, even if it costs him his life.

My brain then went on to write book 2 and parts of books 3, 5 and 6.  It seems I have as much control over what order I write in as when I write it, which isn't much, but as this was obviously planning  to be a series, I added ‘The Power of Destiny’ to the first title to help me keep track of things.  Cats Protection was good enough to let me have my book launch at the Re-homing Centre last summer.  It was this familiar setting that enabled me to actually attend and 25% of sales on the day were donated to Cats Protection as a thank you. 

Marketing is a challenge for any author, but for me it’s virtually impossible.  I can’t handle any of the personal appearance methods; to be honest, I’m not up to any marketing and again it’s something my mum plays a big part in. Through our social media connections we have come across some great advice and some equally great people. We have been given the opportunity to include Akea Book 1 in a new magazine for parents and we hope this will lead to some more sales, helped to set up a newsletter and shown how to approach newspapers in a way that is more likely to get you accepted. 

I still have more bad days than not so bad ones and my self-confidence is still pretty low, but I am immensely grateful to all those who continue to support me in doing the things I love most.

Purchase Akea - The Power Of Destiny here.

Visit Elizabeth Jade here.

Tweet with Elizabeth Jade here