Monday, September 26, 2011

Simon - A Life

How does one go on without a companion who gifted so much love, wisdom and life as Simon gave me? I shall remember and I shall never forget.

On September 23rd 2011, I said goodbye for the last time.

Rest my brother. Thank you.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

A First Look - Relatively Honest by Molly Ringle.

This is a red letter day to make me smile. Friend & fellow author Molly Ringle has announced her latest release, Relatively Honest for ireadiwrite Publishing

THE GUFF: Eighteen year-old womaniser Daniel Revelstoke leaves his native London to study at the University of Oregon, dreaming of seducing one American girl after another. But he soon meets a new kind of woman in classmate Julie French. Her cleverness and resistance land Daniel in love for the first time in his life, to his deep confusion.

However, Julie's long-distance boyfriend and a bizarre family secret stand in Daniel's way to winning her. Since he can't quit obsessing over her, he decides to hide a few truths in order to draw closer to her, hoping that maybe she'll return his love and, when she finds out his devious path, forgive him. It's a gamble, but all's fair in love and college.

THE AUTHOR: For those who know Molly, her whimsical style - which I loved so much in her previous release What Scotland Taught Me - is engaging & infectious. She is a master of rich characterization, sharp, funny and tender dialogue and intelligent plot construction that encourages you to live and breath her stories rather than just passively observe them. 

Relatively Honest will deliver more of Molly's trademark vivaciousness, wit & whimsy and I'm sure it will be a success in a very short time. If there is a Kindle purchase you must make this year, make it Relatively Honest.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dark Obligations - A Look At Mortal Obligation by Nichole Chase

Mortal Obligation: Book One of the Dark Betrayal TrilogyMortal Obligation: Book One of the Dark Betrayal Trilogy by Nichole Chase
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Seventeen year old Ree McKenna has three goals: get through high school, convince her crush she is more than his best friend’s little sister, and save money for college. Fate, though, has other plans for her. After the untimely death of her older brother, Ree is haunted by dreadful nightmares and terrifying visions. To make matters worse, Ree has started to suspect that something dangerous is stalking her from the shadows.

A night full of frightening surprises leaves Ree with unsettling news. Gifted by the gods with unusual powers, she must devote herself to a battle that could very well lead to not only her death, but the demise of everyone she knows and loves. After all, Ree is the only mortal standing between the Earth and utter darkness.

Set in Savannah, Ga, Mortal Obligation is the first book of The Dark Betrayal Trilogy.

Okay, I have to say this from the outset - it's kind of like - the elephant in the room. There has been an explosion of paranormal fiction in the young adult market over the past few years to the point where, for me now, it's almost too much.

That said, I am still a huge sucker for the genre, in part because of my total Buffy fandom which still resonates from years ago (YES I ADMIT IT - I AM A BUFFY FANBOY) but also because, every now and then, a book will come along that offers the genre something completely fresh and engaging. It may not be totally obvious what that 'something' is at first look but it's there and it grabs you right away.

Georgia native, author Nichole Chase.

And this is indeed the case with author Nichole Chase's debut "Mortal Obligation". This first book in the Dark Betrayal triology (as evidenced by the title) is a considerable achievement for Nichole because she has in a number of subtle ways, introduced a resounding freshness and character to the genre which I think has been lacking in a lot of other titles of late.

Nichole Chase introduces us to Ree McKenna, a earnest and popular 17 year old at a cross road that is familiar to many of us. Approaching the end of high school she is looking towards a college future and has a creative mind and heart that will see her go far. Already, she has an artistic flair that befits someone much older and her job in an antiques shop no doubt fuels her love for all things arty. Unlike a lot of protagonists, Ree is less a loner and engages well within her peer group. She's popular and independent yet she is imbued with just the right amount of vulnerability that lends weight to the romantic threads of the story. In my mind Ree is the whole package, a gutsy young woman who is worldly and wise.

And because of the strength of Nichole's protagonist, Mortal Obligation's plot moves crackingly along. Part mystery, part thriller, part romance, the story follows Ree as she is forced into a potentially world ending battle with the Dark Ones - a group of evil Vampires who are obsessed with enslaving humanity. Balancing the everyday real world with the world of fantasy, good verses evil struggle and mythic ethos is a challenge that Nichole Chase has mastered in spades. Her mythic creation draws upon familiar thematic derivatives but she has molded them so attractively that - again - there is freshness and originality that one cannot help being drawn to. Nichole has a innate sense of tension, romance and humour and she taps into the reader's emotions to draw out the adrenaline, the warmth and the laughs when it is required. I am always drawn to books that encourage me to feel the story rather than be a passive observer of it and in this case, Mortal Obligation is no exception.

Settings and mood are also a strength of Mortal Obligation and this is no doubt informed by the fact that Nichole Chase herself resides in Georgia - the setting for the novel. Thus she has been able to capture a genuine feel for place, which clearly translates well onto the page. Georgia has featured prominently in many books and films that I have sat down with and I freely admit to being a fan of that most southern of icons. In Mortal Obligation, Nichole Chase adds another facet to my overall impression and I like it's personal feel. It's probably the most real of any impression I've experienced.

As the first book in a triology, Nichole has created characters and situations in Mortal Obligation that are attractive and emotive. There is modern coolness, theatrical tension and old school romance that that makes you root for the characters. Thus, I look forward to subsequent entries into this series with gusto.

Mortal Obligation with leave you wanting for more - even before you have turned the last page.

ABOUT NICHOLE CHASE: Savannah, Ga. native Nichole credits sucking badly at maths for her emergence as one of this year's most exciting YA authors. According to Nichole herself - "just ask any of the math teachers that had the misfortune of seeing my name appear on their class schedule". 

Despite this apparent (and I'm sure inaccurate impediment), a fertile imagination has become the hallmark of this engaging young woman who juggles parenthood and life with an insatiable desire to write and create wondrous stories of magic and myth that push the envelop and challenge the reader in new and exciting ways. Oh! And there is this little obsession Nichole has with pistachios but we're not gonna go there...just now.

UPDATE: Wednesday September 7th 2011. 

Following on from my feature on Nichole Chase and MORTAL OBLIGATION, I'm pleased to welcome Nichole herself, into the DFA green room to talk about her amazing writing journey and her breakout first novel. 

1. Thanks for stopping by today Nichole! Now, firstly, tell me a little about your writing journey - how it was that you came from being the maths teacher's worst nightmare to one of this year's most appealing YA authors?

Oh boy. Well, I’m still terrible at math! My strength lies in other places. I’m one of those creative types. I draw, paint, and craft. I also love to read. I can’t remember when I started reading, but I do know that it was early. I guess that the combination of my imagination and my love of reading would inevitably lead to my need to write. When younger I would get lost in day dreams (often in math class, of course) and those stories would consume my mind. Eventually I realized that the only way to get them out of my head was to put them down on paper- or computer screen, as it is now. If there is one thing I hope that people, especially the young adult readers can take away from my experiences, is that it is okay to not be good at everything. That isn’t an excuse to give up, rather a challenge to find ways that your strengths can help you.

2. That is a great philosophy and one that I think we as parents should encourage as much as possible. Your debut novel Mortal Obligation represents, to my mind, all that is good about the YA paranormal genre in that it is populated by accessible characters - people could be as famailiar as our next door neighbors - and situations that have a cinematic, almost epic feel to them. How did you balance the two did you find it a challenge to keep them balanced?

I wanted the reader to be able to truly imagine themselves being caught in the middle of something that was so unbelievable. For me to get lost in a story, I have to be able to relate to the characters. The decisions need to feel real, the reactions need to feel authentic, and the interactions need to feel genuine. I believe that those things are the keys to balancing a large, intense scene. If your characters are genuine to themselves and to real life then that should translate in their actions during extreme situations. 

3. Your central protagonist, Ree McKenna is such an engaging and fully rounded heroine in the story. Who or what was the inspiration for Ree and how did she develop from your initial "sketchings" of her as a person.

Honestly, Ree came to me just as she appears in the novel. She isn’t based on anyone that I know, but rather an image that developed in my crazy imagination while driving through the downtown area with the radio playing. In my mind I saw a blonde teenager walking through one of the lush green squares that fill the city center. She was walking with a purpose, checking over her shoulder with a look of determination. I knew instantly that she was aware that someone was coming for her, and that she also knew she was going to have to make a stand. From there I had to know what was coming for her, and how she was going to defend herself. It’s hard to explain in a way, that I saw so much in her imaginary expression, but something there caught me. 

4. The story and place in which you situate Ree is almost sumptuous in it's detail. As a reader, I found your style to be evocative of imagery and emotion. Did these qualities develop organically for you whilst writing the story or did you have a fully developed structure before you began with a good idea of the visual and emotive elements?

Thank you, Dean! I felt Mortal Obligation as I was writing it and I’m glad that the emotion translated to the reader. Honestly, though, Savannah lends itself to beautiful, yet creepy scenery. The backdrop for this story is a character in its own right. So many of the historical spaces here are beautiful in the daylight and more than a little sinister at night. I had an outline for the novel, but I had wiggle room for things that might develop as I wrote. I think that because I had room for the characters to do their own things, it gave the book a very natural flow.

5. That was one of the things I loved the most about the book - it's natural flow - that is an awesome descriptor. You've introduced a mythology into Mortal Obligation that hums with presence and feels complex and well researched. Did you do any research into mythical archetypes and if so what formed the basis for the characterizations in the novel?

I’ve always enjoyed mythology and I think that I had a pretty good base of information to start my research. The gods and goddesses have characteristics of the stories that have made them famous (or infamous) through history. I introduce a different set of mythological elements, so wanted the more familiar ones to be recognizable. I did spend some time researching African deities, and Native American religions that was completely enthralling. I hadn’t delved into those particular subjects before, and may bring some of the information I learned into future stories

6. Now you're a wife and mother with big demands on your time and inevitably, forces competing your time to write. You've bedded down the first in the trilogy. How do you find time to write each day and do you employ any particular strategies to squeeze as much quality writing time?

First, I have to get the toddler in bed! I only get uninterrupted writing time when everyone else in the house is asleep. My husband is incredibly supportive of my writing, and I occasionally escape to a coffee shop (I know, terribly cliché.) on weekends to write. I have found that writing down notes as inspiration strikes really helps too, even if it is only a short clip of a scene. That makes it so much easier to sit down and pick it up from there when I do get to write.

7. I'm totally with you there. Having a note pad surgically attached to my hip is something I'm looking into right now. I've garnered from your tweets recently that you are a Star Wars fangirl. Is this correct and where have you been all my life? (insert canned laughter here).

Yes, yes I am. And I’m not ashamed of it! Now, can you please explain to my husband how awesome that is? Seriously, I managed to marry one of the only men in the world that doesn’t appreciate my love of all things Star Wars. *shakes head* Go figure!

8. I think I married one of the only women in the world that doesn't appreciate my love of all things Star Wars. Shall we elope now? Seriously though, what's next for Nichole Chase and how is that "what's next" coming along?

The next thing for Nichole Chase includes more writing. I am currently working on book two of the Dark Betrayal Trilogy. Mortal Defiance will be available in December of this year and I am really excited about it. Once my first draft is finished, it is off to my beta readers for a read through. Once it is ready for editing, I will send it to Anne at Victory Editing and start the process over for book three!

Nichole, it's been a pleasure having you stop by today and I wish you all the best for the upcoming 2nd installment in the Dark Betrayal trilogy. I've already reserved space on my reader for it. 

And you can keep abreast of Nichole's happenings and writings at her official site and follow her tweets at the place where it is appropriate to do so.    


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