Sunday, December 16, 2012


Like many, I woke up on Saturday morning to learn the news of the senseless massacre at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

As the details of this horror act of senselessness filtered out, I became aware of the gravity of the situation and I looked to my own two children Xavier, 6 and Lucy 3. I tried to fathom what the parents of those children in Connecticut must be going through both then at the outset of the violence and now some two days later. 

My social media stream became filled with various reactions, stories and updates from this small town across the far side of the world. I read through the comments with an increasing sense of frustration at the outpouring of grief, emotion and platitudes and thought to myself "Words are cheap". 

So I set about looking for some way to make a tangible (albeit) small contribution which I hope will do something - ANYTHING - for those parents, siblings and families whose lives have been irrevocably affected by what happened on Friday morning. 

The Newtown Parent Connection is a grass roots organization which was established by concerned parents and other informed citizens of the Newtown Community, to address the problem of substance use and abuse among young people in their community. Its role has expanded somewhat to offer services and groups that manage a wider range of parenting and family issues. 

In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the Newtown Parent Connection established a fund to which people can donate to directly help the families and victims of the tragedy at the Sandy Hook Elementary School. 

I couldn't ignore this and so, I reached out and gave a donation via Paypal to the fund.  Their bona fides are sound. I would urge you, if you can, to give a little to this worthy cause. At this time of year, when so many families are readying themselves for Christmas celebrations, these families will be trying to make sense of their shattered lives. 

Why am I donating to this cause?

These are children - like yours, like mine...


Charlotte Bacon, 6 Daniel Barden, 7 Rachel Davino, 29 Olivia Engel, 6 Josephine Gay, 7 Ana Marquez-Greene, 6 Dylan Hockley, 6 Dawn Hochsprung, 47 Madeleine Hsu, 6 Catherine Hubbard, 6 Chase Kowalski, 7 Jesse Lewis, 6 James Mattioli, 6 Grace McDonnell, 7 Anne Marie Murphy, 52 Emilie Parker, 6 Jack Pinto, 6 Noah Pozner, 6 Caroline Previdi, 6 Jessica Rekos, 6 Avielle Richman, 6 Lauren Rousseau, 30 Mary Sherlach, 56 Victoria Soto, 27 Benjamin Wheeler, 6 Allison Wyatt, 6


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Constructing Promises - A Look At Sara's Promise by Deanna Sletten

I am pleased to be welcoming author Deanna Sletten this week whose latest release Sara's Promise hits the shelves and promises to deliver a heart felt and fully realized story that will appeal to lovers of fine romantic fiction. 

Deanna Lynn Sletten writes women's fiction novels that go beyond the basic romance novel. Her stories dig deeply into the lives of the characters, giving the reader an in-depth look into their hearts and souls. Deanna has also written one middle-grade novel that takes you on the adventure of a lifetime. 

Deanna started her writing career in the early 1990s writing articles for parenting publications and local newspapers. Over time she transitioned to writing for blogs and websites and was a contributing writer for the women's website, She Knows. In November 2011, she changed course and put all her energy into novel writing and hasn't looked back since.

Deanna is married and has two grown children. When not writing, she enjoys walking the wooded trails around her northern Minnesota home with her beautiful Australian Shepherd or relaxing in the boat on the lake in the summer.

So, onto the guff about Sara's Promise.

Do you believe in soul mates?

William Grafton had the perfect life with his lovely wife, Sara, and two teen-aged children. But one day his perfect forever was shattered when Sara died suddenly, leaving him alone to raise his children and wonder how he would ever get through life without his soul mate. Five years later, he finds himself looking into a familiar pair of blue-green eyes that remind him of Sara. The woman is the exact opposite of his late wife, yet he finds he is drawn to her. But after a few strange occurrences, he begins to wonder–are these just coincidences or has his Sara come back to him as she once promised in the form of this new woman?

Annie Paxton doesn't believe in soul mates or fate. She had watched her father die of a broken heart after her mother passed away and has since cast away any fairy tale ideas of love. Then she meets the man who has been haunting her dreams and she begins to see love in a whole new light. But her dream man is still tied to his deceased wife, and Annie doesn't know if he will ever be able to break away from his past. As strange occurrences unfold, Annie wonders if William could ever truly love her for herself and not for the traits that remind him of Sara.

Were William and Annie brought together by fate, coincidence or by Sara keeping her promise?


William Grafton stood staring out the window of his fourth floor office in Beaverton. The photographer was late. He checked his watch again. Okay, so she was late by only two minutes, but she was late just the same. He had better things to do than wait. It only made him brood more about having to waste the time to retake the photos that were done two months before. It wasn't his fault some idiot at the magazine had lost the photos, yet he seemed to be the one paying for it.

Irritated, he turned from the window, smoothing down the sleeve of his suit jacket over his gold watch. In his navy suit, cream shirt, and pinstripe tie, he looked every bit the business man that he was, partner in his own architectural firm Grafton & Hanover for seventeen successful years. They had offices in Beaverton and Portland to handle all the business that came their way. The town of Beaverton had grown increasingly in size over the past twenty years, and firms were needed to build condos, apartment buildings, banks, shopping malls, and office buildings. But playing the part of business man was not his style. He much preferred his den at home to working in this sleek office, leaving the paperwork and appointments to his secretary and accountant to handle, and coming in only when necessary. Over the past five years, he'd pulled himself almost entirely out of the commercial end of the business, leaving the large building projects to his partner, Jeffrey Hanover, and their staff. He preferred working with individual home owners, helping them draft the homes of their dreams. 

William ran a hand through his thick, black hair that he wore slightly long. A touch of gray tipped the ends now, but he was forty-four, and that was to be expected. And if age hadn't grayed him, then his children had, especially his daughter, Sandy. That's why he'd preferred working at home all these years, so he could try to watch over them and try to fill the gaping void in their household. But it had been too big a job, bigger than he'd ever imagined.

Four minutes late. How much longer would he have to wait? He paced the floor, wondering where she was. He usually didn't mind the publicity or the time it took to show off his work. Having photos of the homes he designed appear in a publication like Architectural Home always brought prestigious clientèle his way. But having to waste his time redoing something because of someone else's stupidity irked him. And her being late irritated him more. He'd give her five more minutes, and if she didn't show, he was out of here.

Connect with Deanna here

Facebook with Deanna here    

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Goodreads Deanna here   

Deanna's Amazon Author Page is here


In celebration of Deanna's new book release she is having a giveaway! Leave a comment on this site to have your name entered in the drawing for one of four prizes: Two $25 Amazon Gift Cards and 2 paperback copies of Sara's Promise. Be sure to include your email address so we can contact you. You can enter at each site of the blog tour for more chances to win! Giveaway starts December 10th and ends December 17th at midnight. Winners will be contacted December 18th after noon. 

Follow the tour schedule at Deanna's Official Site. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Bringing Chaos To Order - Conversations with Meg Eichmann

This past Saturday, I attended the South Australian Writers Centre Summer Book Fair at the Atrium in Rundle Street, Adelaide. It was a great event and a great opportunity to showcase "Gifts of the Peramangk" as well as meet some wonderful people. And one person in particular who kinda blew me away was up and coming South Australian author Meg Eichmann.

At just 16, Meg has already packed a considerable amount into her young life that has included overseas travel, schooling in some diverse and varied places and of course writing, which she has an untold passion for. Like me, Meg was present at the Summer Book Fair to promote her debut novel "The Order's Experiments" which caught my eye right away and made an impression - not only for what it promises as a story - but for the story behind the story. This writer's journey towards publication is worthy of telling in and of itself.

But let's start with the guff on "The Order's Experiments" which is a fascinating blend of sci-fi, urban dystopia and chase thriller. 

Kyra and Fallen have strange pasts. At six years old Fallen fled from his unconventional home to the streets. Kyra, born to an underworld movement known as the Order, ran away when she was eight to be free of it. Both live in the city as street kids, living as strays for years, repressing their pasts as they try to survive, but no one can run forever. When the Order persuades Fallen to join them Kyra, in debt to Fallen feels compelled to return as well and both of them start the long journey back into their memories.

Together they are made to delve into what was their past; face the harsh realities of the underground and find a way to help each other face their childhood demons. While training themselves into heartless killers their only hope is to reconcile their lives in time to save their future.

The Order's Experiments is written in a voice that is at once contemporary but it possesses a tension and a maturity that is testament to Meg's skill as a story teller. The dual protagonists in Kyra and Fallen engage the reader and invite you to accompany them on what is at times a harrowing psychological journey. Their journey is visceral and you feel it acutely. 

As mentioned earlier, Meg sat down to write the novel back in 2009 as a 13 year old. Juggling the demands of school and a young life in general is considerable enough but in talking with Meg she recalled to me that the initial draft took her about a year to write. Once it was completed however, she didn't know what to do with it, how to find a publisher or an editor for that matter. 

I then signed up with Xlibris in 2011, a self-publishing agency where you pay them to print and make the book available, however I still had to edit it myself. So I spent around six months editing and cleaning up the book with the help of friends and family until it was finished and I published halfway through this year. It was such a slow process and I was never sure what moment were the ones to celebrate. Certainly, the moment I finished the book, unedited but finished, years before was a good one. Finishing the editing too was fantastic and a huge relief. Now, all that remains is to see how the book fairs in the market place.

The Order's Experiments greatest strengths are its characters. They are vividly drawn and their motivations are real and compelling. I asked Meg how much of herself is invested in these remarkable characters.

In Kyra, I tried to avoid making her too much like myself, but I very much wanted to use aspects of myself that I hadn't explored much to build her, and through that she evolved into a person of her own. She takes up aspects of humanity that can be seen as bad, like a great need and love of power and strength, but crafts them into tools for her own usage. Through her and Fallen, I've taken traits that might often be associated with villains, because of our own perceptions of the wrong in these traits, and explored them as survival tools, kept in check by the characters. 

My main male character for instance, Sorric Fallen, has an extremely cold and unsympathetic temperament, which he uses to survive but still has a moral code to keep himself in check. He is attracted to the humanity in Kyra, and recognizes that they have a similar understanding about these negative aspects of themselves, that they were all they had to keep themselves alive. 

Through the book, I wanted to use it as a tool to question our common day moral beliefs and explore the changing meanings of right and wrong.  

Meg Eichmann was born in Elizabeth, South Australia in May 1995. After moving to New South Wales, where she spent seven of her schooling years, her passion for writing was first sparked. She moved back to South Australia with her family in 2010 where she currently resides and attends high school in the city. Aside from writing, Meg enjoys archery and bush walking. 

Meg has also travelled extensively, spending time in Eastern Europe where she volunteered at an orphanage in Romania. This experience in particular had a profound effect and has shaped her conscience.

My Romanian experience was very much a journey of self discovery. I wanted to see what I was capable of in travelling and volunteering and working with children, because it really is very hard work. 

Romania itself was wonderful, the culture and the landscape, and the way the orphanage was run I thought was fantastic and I learned a lot from them. They had a very open, community setting and it seemed to work well for the children. I with my elder sister worked with the younger children and in particular two toddlers for twelve hours a day. We stayed inside and tried to keep them entertained and after midday the rest of the kids would come home and were wanting attention too. 

I am really glad I did it. The two toddlers, Alex and Maria I will remember for the rest of my life, Alex in particular I looked after. We think he might have been autistic, as he seemed really intelligent but didn't like being touched, but I found that if I held him as though my arms were a swing - that cheered him up no end, and I grew really fond of him. 

But I have to add, other parts of that trip included the freezing cold, sorting through donations with numb fingers and colds, and a lot of stress. However we also had a fantastic time in Romanian Castles, and trips out to the forest with some kids. I'm really glad I did it.

Meg's priority going forward is to complete her secondary education in 2013 after which she'll explore university - but it is writing and travel, with volunteering included that Meg sees as her priority.

The Order's Experiments is available now.

Purchase The Order's Experiments from Xlibris Publishing

Purchase The Order's Experiments from Amazon

Purchase The Order's Experiments from Bookworld Australia 

Purchase The Order's Experiments from Barnes and Noble 

Connect with Meg at her Official Site here

Facebook Meg here

Meg Eichmann at the SA Writers Centre here


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Lost Songs Found - Coversations with Stephen Ormsby.

Recently, I had the pleasure of encountering a fellow Gippslander and author Stephen Ormsby who approached me to ask if I would be interested in being featured at his website. Stephen is an enthusiastic supporter of independent authors, artists and musicians and in a short time he has welcomed an impressive roster to his site and the result has been a really interesting and diverse conversation that has become a weekly staple for me. 

It follows then that I just had to return the gesture and feature Stephen over here because Stephen, himself, is an author of significant talent whose new release "Long Lost Song" is creating all sorts of buzz.

There is no doubt that Stephen is worldly, a seeker of inspiration and also a deliverer of it. He started out as an IT professional and toiled away in that industry for twenty years, whilst travelling extensively, reading widely, exploring music and raising a family with his wife that now consists of two beautiful children and a mad cut named Smudge. He made the brave decision to pursue a more creative life which has been something of a life changing thing that has served his well being in more ways than he anticipated. He love of writing has always been a central part of who he is and the idea of writing novels has been a natural extension of that. Indeed, Stephen has already written four full length novels whilst still encumbered by the demands of his chosen profession but when the idea for Long Lost Song came along,  Stephen knew this was the project that demanded to be published.

The guff on Stephen's landmark novel is thus:

A virus is decimating America today and Michael Decker is the culprit.  Or is he?

Is it the work of a curse recorded into a song by 1930’s blues musician Ricky Jensen?

Long Lost Song tells the story of Ricky and Michael as they battle their personal and real demons while the world reaches end times of biblical proportions.

One question remains. How do you stop a devil of a song made to break a crossroads deal?

Long Lost Song draws together several favoured elements of Stephens - the deep south and the ubiquitous blues music, the supernatural, voodoo and melds it together to form a narrative that crackles with tension and intelligence, while giving the reader respite in elements of romance that Stephen handles with a deft hand so that it balances the overall tome. The music of the south plays well with the novel and the reader should consider taking out some John Lee Hooker or Muddy Waters even some Ry Cooder to complement the reading experience. Trust me, it works really well, delivering you into the heart of the story and holding you there until the charged climax. 

Stephen's readership have enthused at Long Lost Song's powerful story telling and it has become a well earned favourite right across the globe. 

Stephen Ormsby has achieved a fascinating blend of voodoo, misguided desire, death, and the unconquerable human spirit. Here, for all to relish, is the one single essential ingredient of the human condition—the capacity to love.

Norman W Wilson, PhD

Long Lost Song is just the opening to a planned schedule of releases by Stephen that will see him further cement himself as an author of considerable talent. Already, he has continued his considerable work rate by producing a series of shorts under the title "Leftovers from the (Writing) Table that are available now and show case his abilities in an (arguably) more restrictive genre (ie. the short). 

Purchase Long Lost Song at Amazon  

Purchase Long Lost Song at Smashwords     

Stephens Short Story Series "Leftovers from the (Writing) Table" can purchased from Amazon and Smashwords

Connect with Stephen Ormsby here

Facebook Stephen Ormsby here

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Spotlight on Gifts of the Peramangk.

Just a couple of small updates I'd like to share with you.

I'm happy to see that my new novel "Gifts of the Peramangk" is beginning to receive some great reviews out there and one in particular I wanted to highlight was Wendy Hines' critique which went live over at the "Minding Spot" this past week. 

Wendy praised the novel as "a poignant, thought-provoking novel that deals with the real issue of racism, and with characters that are so well developed, I wept for them and I cheered for their triumphs, however tinged they may be with diversity and hopelessness."

The Minding Spot is running a give away for a copy of the novel in digital format and I've pledge to send the winner a personally signed 'Peramangk' lobby card as an additional prize. 

Likewise, the team over at the "Reading Lark" is featuring "Gifts of the Peramangk" and are offering their own giveaway of the novel in digital format. Again, I have offered to sign a lobby card for the winner and send it out to them.

This past week, author Rob Guthrie welcomed me to his RABMAD family. What's RABMAD? you ask. Well RABMAD stands for "Read A Book, Make A Difference". Essentially, it's a group of authors who have decided to give back by donating a portion of the sales of their books to a favorite cause. My chosen cause is the Michael Rice Center for Paediatric Haematology and Oncology here in Adelaide, South Australia. For more details on my RABMAD cause, hop on over to my page and take a look. 

This coming Sunday, I will be signing copies of "Gifts of the Peramangk" for readers at Venturas Visions Gallery in Auburn, South Australia. If you are in the area, or are thinking about a day trip from Adelaide, why not stop by. I'll be conducting a talk about the novel as well as answering questions for readers. 

For now, that's about it. But I'll be back soon with some new features.


Sunday, November 25, 2012

Faces Of The Peramangk.

In crafting the story that has now become my second novel, "Gifts Of The Peramangk", I returned to the well worn practice of looking for people and faces who would inspire my imagination and give a face to the names of the characters I have created for the novel. Over a period of some time, I added faces to a collage that graced the wall of my office at home - faces who became imprinted on the characters I created. I added and subtracted to this collage many times - it was no easy task and it took me a long time to settle upon a group of individuals that would best represent the "cast" as it were. 

The following is a veritable who's who of Australian and international public figures, stage and screen actors. They each possess a quality about them that enabled me to draw the characters in the novel vividly and with a sense of realism.

Of particular note is the physical representation of the dual protagonists Virginia and Ruby. I almost impossible to imagine them both separately as children and so I chose to imagine them as looking very similar across the two time periods that feature in the novel. I also want to make a special mention of songwriter and comedienne, Chemda Khalili, who formed the inspiration for the character "Khalili". Though Khalili is a male in the novel, I wanted to imbue him with the spirit of this wonderful woman who, in the seven or eight years I have been listening to her radio show, has taught me more about identity than just about any other person I know. She really is one of a kind.    

Young Virginia Crammond (Australian actress Everlyn Sampi).

Old Virginia Delfey Crammond (Lowitja O'Donoghue Australian Aboriginal Rights Advocate and Public Administrator).

Agatha Penschey (Australian actress Essie Davis).

The stateliness that Essie Davis carries in her character of Phrynie Fisher in the ABC TV series "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" was a perfect fit for the pivotal character of Agatha Penschey in the novel.

Ruby Delfey (Everlyn Sampi).

For the past two years, this is the image I've had pinned to my wall in my office which I used to help me visualize the central character of Ruby Delfey in the novel. Everlyn Sampi, who shot to world wide attention in Phillip Noyce's superb "Rabbit Proof Fence", was always the image I had in my head of Ruby.

New York singer/songwriter Chemda Khalili served as the inspiration for the character Khalili in the novel.

Having listened to Chemda's talk show "What's My Name" and "Keith & the Girl" for the past 7 years, I have come to admire Chemda's outlook on life, the skill with which she draws conversation from people and the message of love, acceptance and positivity she has shared with her loyal audience.

Rex Delfey (Australian actor Aaron Pederson).

Virginia Delfey's son / Ruby Delfey's uncle Rex Delfey was crafted early in the writing of Gifts of the Peramangk and his role in the story became important if uncomfortable. Australian actor, Aaron Pederson (The Circuit/SBS TV) served is the visual inspiration for Rex.

Belle Delfey (Australian actress Lisa Flanagan).

Celebrated stage actress Lisa Flanagan served as the visual inspiration for Ruby's outwardly callous aunt, Belle Delfey. This image in particular struck me as a perfect embodiment of a woman struggling to keep her fractured family together. As we shall see in the story, Belle's exterior hides torturous secrets...

Jeremy Delfey (Australian actor Luke Carroll).

Ruby's fiercely loyal but extremely troubled cousin Jeremy Delfey became a prominent character in 'Gifts of the Peramangk' after spending a good deal of time on the peripheries. Australian actor Luke Carroll who shot to prominence in 'Australian Rules' served as the physical basis for Jeremy in the novel.

Asher Delfey (Australian actress Marissa Gibson).

Minty Delfey (Australian actor Brandon Walters).

Vernon Penschey "The Pastoralist" (Australian actor William McInnes).

This might be a curve ball for some Australian fans who are familiar with him, but the inspiration for the brutal character of 'The Pastoralist' in the novel came from one of Australia's best loved actors William McInnes. His stunning performance in the mini series 'My Brother Jack' influenced my decision to write The Pastoralist with him in mind.

"Davo" (Australian singer/songwriter Dan Sultan).


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gifts of the Peramangk Signing Event.

Hambledown Road Imprints & Central Avenue Publishing in association with Venturas Visions Gallery, Auburn SA present and afternoon with acclaimed author Dean Mayes.

Join renowned South Australian artist Tracy Vandepeer as she welcomes Dean to her gallery in the picturesque Clare Valley to talk about his latest, landmark novel "Gifts of the Peramangk", participate in a Q & A session about the novel and his writing journey and to sign copies for readers.

Guests are invited to an afternoon of wine, literature and art with Dean in this gorgeous art space in the heart of South Australia's premium wine and art regions so bring your cushions, your picnic baskets and your wine glasses and indulge yourselves.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Hammering A Nail Into The Setting - Conversations With Molly Ringle.

Through my association with Central Avenue Publishing, I have had the opportunity to meet and befriend a number of really talented people - both staff who work behind the scenes and bring our books to gorgeous life in the world and fellow authors who are resplendent with talent and and great stories to tell. One of those colleagues who I have really enjoyed working along side (as well as with) is Molly Ringle, the Seattle based author of the titles "The Ghost Downstairs", "What Scotland Taught Me" and "Relatively Honest". 

Molly has been one of the wisest people I've encountered and also one of the most hilarious and I have to admit here to having a significant amount of affection for her. Not only does she write truly wonderful stories, Molly is about the only person I know who loves the soundtrack to the early nineties movie "Singles" as much as I do. More recently, I discovered that she is a huge fan of Dead Can Dance, a group whose principal member, Lisa Gerrard, I have met personally on a couple of occasions. For those of you who are scratching your heads right now (*who the heck is Lisa Gerrard???*), think the "Gladiator" soundtrack - specifically the track "Now We Are Free" upon which Lisa Gerrard's voice can be heard.

Molly has racked up two decades worth of writing smarts and several best selling titles and she divides her time between her family, her writing and blogging where she's become renowned at the art of 'reworking' such classics as Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter into hilarious parodies. Molly was also a critical sounding board for me on my new novel "Gifts of the Peramangk" and she really helped me shape the story into the final product. Over several months I was sending her the disparate parts of the whole to her and she would review them and get back to me with the most amazing advice and suggestions. Her help was a diamond. 

Today, I've invited Molly along to discuss the importance of setting in writing and how critical the element is in crafting a good and convincing story.

I started by asking Molly about how she learned about the importance of setting as a cornerstone to writing.

Ah, setting. I love setting almost as much as if it were one of the characters. And in a good novel it nearly is. What would Les Miserables be without the magnificence and squalor of Paris? What would the Harry Potter series be without smoggy London and the mystical Hogwarts castle grounds, complete with Whomping Willow and Shrieking Shack?

In my own novels I've learned the hard way that I must use a setting I can connect with, one that has its own form of beauty. Pathetic but true story: while living in the dull, flat, boring Sacramento Valley for grad school, I tried writing a novel that was set there. The whole novel failed; it lacked emotional connection throughout. There may be many reasons for this, but I blame the fact that I hated the setting. (I plan to rewrite that story someday, moving it several miles east to the much prettier Sierra Nevada foothills. Maybe that'll work.)

A setting can be fairly small. In my novel The Ghost Downstairs, nearly the whole book takes place within one house in Seattle. But it's a large, old, elegant, haunted house, so it gave me a lot of room (or rather, rooms) to explore. In What Scotland Taught Me, the setting encompasses the whole city of Edinburgh and, briefly, other cities and villages in the UK as my protagonist travels through them by train.

The genius of Molly's story telling is through her remarkable skill of describing setting - almost as a character in and of itself. She explains that this skill has been informed in part through her passion for travel. 

I'm a serious Anglophile--or rather, entire-British-Isles-o-phile--and I spent a few months in Edinburgh myself on a work-abroad program in my youth. I was smitten with it. The city is beautiful, with medieval architecture and gardens and a gigantic castle on a crag right in the middle of town; but it also has a brutal and fascinating history of murders, witch-burnings, plagues, and other harrowing deaths. So naturally I had to include a ghost-hunter among my characters, and freak her out by sending her to some of the world's most notoriously scary cemeteries. Viewing the city through the eyes of newcomers--American work-abroad kids, like I used to be--turned out to be a handy way to showcase Scotland's attractions.

Where travel was not readily available to Molly, she resorted to more creative and research based methods for building setting and layering it into her work.

I went the other direction for my novel Relatively Honest: I had a London lad move to Oregon (which is where I grew up) for university, and undergo his own bit of culture shock. Since I have plenty of love for London too, I did take the opportunity to use it as a setting for some chapters of Relatively Honest. Thousand-year-old Westminster Abbey, in the summer rain, at night--how could I resist that as a romantic setting?

For both Relatively Honest and What Scotland Taught Me, I was writing from way over here in Seattle, and couldn't (alas) take the time and expense to visit the UK and verify my facts about Edinburgh, London, and stops in between. Google Maps and Street View are fabulous tools (and fabulous distractions) for checking details, but even those websites have their limits. Therefore, not wishing to get anything wrong, I sent my manuscripts to British friends and got myself a proper Britpicking--dialect, setting details, and all. Any remaining mistakes, as I say in the acknowledgements, are my own fault.

In crafting setting and populating her resultant worlds with her pivotal characters Molly sums up her passion for this aspect of the craft by contrasting the reading experience with travel it self.

Novels are a form of escape, and in that sense they're a kind of mini-travel. I hope through reading my novels, you get to see, smell, hear, taste, and feel some of the settings I've loved.

Connect with Molly Ringle here.

Tweet with Molly here

Facebook Molly here.

Purchase Molly's books here.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Defining Heaven - Conversations with Author Madelaine Standing

Every so often, an author appears from out of the cacophony of authors and you just know right away that there is something unique about them - something that you can't quite quantify in words. There is a magic about them, the way they devote themselves to the craft,  the subsequent offerings they present that seem to transcend genres and the enthusiasm which they project in talking about the craft. You just can't help but be encouraged in your own enthusiasm for the craft that we share as authors and you want to share it around as much as you can. 

So when I happened across author Madeline Standing this past month and struck up a conversation about her craft and her life more generally, I was immediately captivated by her spirit, her desire to connect and foster a sense of goodwill in the world. 

Standing describes herself as an author and writer, but she has embraced so much more onto her palette that is worthy of highlighting. From yoga instruction, to volunteering for charities devoted to women recovering from abuse, Madelaine's accumulated life experience, her vigour and positivity stand out as something really beautiful.

Her journey towards writing began when Madelaine left home at the age of seventeen after completing high school requirements in the state of Florida. She took a sort of left turn by enrolling in a semester of acting classes and, though theatre life was one of intrigue and fun, Madelaine recounts that it wasn't long before she became wrapped up in the world of words written by Anais Nin and Ayn Rand, thanks to her older sister’s suggestion. 

I began travelling down the California coast starting in Santa Cruz, California and I stopped at Santa Barbara for a few months where I took a side route and immersed myself in painting with the locals on the mountainsides.  A writing course at a Northern California Institute of healing and fine arts led me back on the trail of expression through letters.  

Soon after, Madelaine moved to Los Angeles where she lived and worked in a building housing an independent movie production company.  

Before too long I was being given scripts to read and study, and eventually report on by writing synopses on them.  When one of  my  feedback points regarding a movie script was incorporated into the movie by the director, I realized then, that I might understand stories more than I was yet to understand.

A year later while living in the Midwest in between European travels with extended family, Madelaine began to explore her own way with words.  

My first attempts were comical both to myself and to those close to me in reading them, but that did not deter me. Through perseverance over the next six years, writing notebooks atop notebooks of ideas and stories I came to understand that writing, for the strong at will, is a gift that can be nurtured, thought it may not be first nature at the start.

Creative Writing classes at Emily Carr Art Institute and University of British Columbia with Paul Belserene, in addition to the course taken in Northern California, helped give her a basis for the craft of novel writing.  Books by Steven King, Betsy Lerner and others also gave her a great deal of insight along the way and from these seemingly separate threads a tapestry was beginning to weave itself together, forming the direction that Madelaine was destined to take - the destination being her first novel.

In Croatia and the United States I wrote the first draft of what is now Heaven in the Meat Packing District, my debut novel.  My travels, my love for humanity and the natural environment have fuelled me and continue to do so in my creative process.

Heaven in the Meat Packing District follows two seekers of enlightenment, Valencia and Kai, on their path to realizing the power within themselves. Kai and Val become the subject of science experiments within the Meat Packing District of New York City. When Sheldon, the man conducting the experiments, is threatened by the police into taking the participants out from his care, Ana McKenna, an investigative reporter, is called on to deliver justice where it is believed to be deserved.

The book will be released in three parts over the course of the remainder of 2012, culminating in a completed work by December.

As the title suggests, the novel is set in the Meat Packing District of Manhattan. It is a thought-provoking piece in the sense that it invites readers to explore the natural environment’ s current day challenges, but it is also highly-entertaining - as attested to by its accumulated readership thus far.  

I wrote the book on the premise that readers are given the opportunity to delve into the world unseen that well-written fiction offers, while the book also encourages readers to consider their individual place within the world.  I hope people will leave the book upon completion with the sense that they are a unique human being, as well as the notion that there is still so much more for us as a collective community to wonder about when we step out the front door in the morning and look around.

There is still much work to be done, as Madelaine begins to continue work on her second novel.  She actually has three books in total she plans to share - the second, with the working title of "Tova" takes place in her home town of Virginia Beach in the United States.

Outside of her writing, Madelaine lives in Vancouver, British Columbia where she balances her career as an author with study, learning and teaching holistic arts such as varying types of Yoga, Meditation, Pilates, Life Exploration, and Reiki.  Looking from the outside in, one might wonder how she manages two professions of such contrast.  She explains how they effortlessly balance one another.

Hours of sitting at the writing desk, glued to my computer, leave me needing to not only meet up with community, but also to move! And, vice versa, so much time spend outward, socializing, and helping others through the craft and vehicle of the healing arts, leaves me needing to go within. Be still. Reflect, and then express the discoveries that arrive from having done so.

Madelaine keeps busy by volunteering for women’s resiliency after encountering abuse.  She has been incredibly passionate about playing a part in the lives of other women since March 2011.  EmpowHer classes have been offered, funds have been raised at the local community organization she’s played a part at, and hearts have been lifted.  

Madelaine and her book Heaven in the Meat Packing District cannot be pegged into any particular genre. Her unique approach to life and writing are as interesting and diverse as any author I've encountered and I applaud her for it. She is all kinds of beautiful.

Madelaine's Official Site is here.

Connect with Madelaine here.

Purchase Heaven in the Meat Packing District here.


Dean's landmark new novel "Gifts of the Peramangk" is available now.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Secrets of the Peramangk - Cover Art Revealed.

During the planning stages for the cover art for "Gifts of the Peramangk", I had a vision of what I wanted for the cover and, uncannily, my publisher had a very similar vision - that was, we both saw an image of a violin being held in an embrace by two delicate arms representing the dual protagonists of Virginia Crammond and her granddaughter Ruby Delfey.

Cover design is perhaps the most important aspect of the writing process for me after the actual writing itself and I firmly believe that nailing a good cover is important to the success of the project. They say that one should never judge a book by it's cover but I personally don't buy that maxim. Without a well thought out and eye catching cover design, your book might sink before it gets the opportunity to swim.

I had wanted to achieve this image by returning to the skills of my good friend and Hambledown photographer, Melissa Alexander, and we talked about the possibility of photographing a young Aboriginal girl whom Melissa knew. Unfortunately, time constraints and the eventual unavailability of the girl meant we had to abandon the idea but the vision remained. 

So I turned to the web and spent, literally, hours scouring the various stock photography websites looking for an appropriate image that the art department at Central Avenue Publishing could use. But, I just wasn't finding anything that came close to what I wanted. There were some close calls and I short listed about a dozen images of both girls and women holding the violin - but none of them really had the requisite passion that I envisioned. Stock photography is a curious beast. Depending upon what you're after, it can either be a feast or a famine...and in this case, it was definitely a famine. 

Weeks rolled by and I agonized over the images I had available to me. I grew increasingly dissatisfied with them and of course, I ended up abandoning my entire short list completely. Late one night, while everyone was asleep, I tossed and turned in bed ruminating over my dilemma and eventually I got up. I tip-toed down to my study and flipped on the laptop and in the darkness, I began a bleary eyed Google search at 2 in the morning.

I was just searching for the most random things surrounding the violin and still, I wasn't coming up with anything. Frustrated and sleep deprived, I got to the point where I gritted my teeth and typed angrily into the keyboard 

"Show me a picture of a woman holding a violin!!!"

The result began as a predictable miasma of unrelated images and close but no cigar images. 

But then...

About half way down the page, my eyes focused upon this image...

I blinked right away and clicked through to bring up the bigger version...

Right away, I knew there was something special about this image. The hands and the violin, the embrace that I was looking was all there in this wonderful moment. 

Clicking through to the source page for the image, I discovered I was looking at celebrated violinist Anne Akiko-Meyers.

Anne Akiko-Meyers is an American concert violinist. Meyers has toured and collaborated with a number of symphony orchestras, Il Divo, Chris Botti, and Wynton Marsalis. Meyers tours with a 1730 Stradivarius violin called the "Royal Spanish". She is also the owner of a 1697 Stradivarius called the "Molitor", which is purported to have been owned by Napoleon Bonaparte. She purchased the 'Molitor' from Tarisio Auctions on October 14, 2010 for US$3,600,000, the highest recorded auction price for any musical instrument in history  until the Lady Blunt was sold on June 20, 2011. Meyers was featured on MSNBC's Countdown with Keith Olbermann on October 26, 2010.

From the profile information on Anne, I discovered the photographer for this image was Lisa-Marie Mazzucco. Based in New York, Lisa has become renowned as the photographer of choice for many musicians and artists and has amassed a catalogue of well over 100 album covers to her name. Born in Canada, Mazzucco originally trained as a classical ballet dancer and figure skated competitively before transitioning into photography. She has traveled widely as a make up artist, collaborating with her husband, Raphael Mazzucco, himself a photographer and they work together frequently on various projects. 

So, bleary eyed at 2 in the morning, I grabbed as much information as I could on both Meyers and Mazzucco and quickly tapped of an email to my publisher, Michelle Halket, up in Vancouver. This was the image I wanted to use. With a little re-touching, I was confident we could make this work. However the catch would be whether we could actually use the image. 

Michelle, as equally excited as I was, immediately went to work and got in touch with Lisa-Marie Mazzucco herself. After discussing our project with her, Lisa was both intrigued and a little excited by what I was doing. The only catch was putting the idea to Anne Akiko-Meyers herself. A week or two went by from there as we waited patiently to see if the celebrated artist would agree to our using the image for the cover. We were not to be disappointed. 

Michelle received word back from both Anne and Lisa that they would be thrilled to have the image used for the cover and they were excited to see what we would do. 

The image was then put into the hands of Central Avenue Publishing's art department who set about re-imagining the photo to mine and Michelle's wishes. We wanted the attention placed on the hands and arms embracing the violin - a representation of both Virginia Crammond-Delfey and her granddaughter Ruby. 

Obviously, this required a darkening of the skin tone to reflect the Aboriginal heritage of the two main protagonists as well as removing Akiko-Meyers face. In our discussions, Michelle and I agreed that the face wasn't a necessary image to have in the cover as the focus was less about the face of the character but rather, the character of the violin and how it influences both protagonists. 

Once we were satisfied with the final image, we talked about the text and how it should be portrayed. A classical look was sought for the font, something that would imply dignity and hint at the classical nature of the music that would feature in the novel. 

While this first iteration came very close to being the final, after a few days getting used to it, Michelle began to question whether the text was too dominating on the plate. It seemed to drown out the beautiful imagery we had achieved underneath. So we toned it down somewhat and reduced the size of both the font and my name in order to highlight the beauty of the image itself.

The addition of the patterning complimented the image after a suggestion by me that we should try and source some Peramangk iconography from actual Peramangk artwork. I made inquiries to see whether this would be possible and I came close to being able to secure some art but the costs involved in being able to use it were too prohibitive and ultimately I abandoned it. The patterning we adopted still hints at the indigenous character of the novel and works well in the final design. After sharing this iteration of the cover around among a circle of friends closely associated with the project, I received some feed back from good friend and author Nichole Chase, who suggested that we should dial up the prominence of my name. She said "You put yourself into this thing, don't be afraid to show it" - or something like that. After a little retooling, trying different coloring in the font for my name, we arrived at the final cover art for "Gifts of the Peramangk".

The essential ingredients of this final cover include the prominence of the image in portraying the dual protagonists of the story and their connections to their indigenous, Peramangk, heritage. It also gives prominence to my name and the title over the story without over powering the image and of course, the violin is easily recognizable as a "character". 

There is no denying that the cover art for a novel can have a powerful effect on a potential reader. In itself, it tells the story, hinting at what the reader can expect by delving into the heart of the literary journey contained within. Careful consideration must be given to cover design and it should be a collaborative effort with a group of people who are acquainted with your project and can contribute many ideas that can benefit.