Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunshine on the Shore - Conversations with Abbie Williams.

Having written in the romance genre myself, I'll admit to not having explored the genre as deeply as a reader. Perhaps it is simply because I am male or that it doesn't usually strike me as my first choice for reading material... fact - both of these are a lie because if I am truly honest, I am a sucker for a good love story. I think it's perhaps more the case that good romance novels are hard to find - ones that balance good story telling with strong, believable characters and deliver the romance in just the right way that make you go all gooey. It takes a good author to do that. Molly Ringle (one of my Central Avenue Publishing stable mates), is an exceptional example a good romance writer. Likewise, Nichole Chase - a fellow Star Wars tragic and now bona fide New York Times best selling author is another.

New onto my radar in recent times and another Central Avenue stable mate is Minnesota based romance author Abbie Williams. Having connected via Twitter in the past couple of weeks, I have thoroughly enjoyed kicking off a conversation with Abbie which has ranged from topics such as our mutual love of bluegrass music, of course - our writing and the works of 17th century poet John Donne, which Abbie has caused me to fall in love with. 

Born and raised in Minnesota, Abbie has always been a writer. She pays homage to her home state, setting nearly all of her novels in Minnesota lake country, some of the most breathtaking scenery in all of the world. Her novels feature true love, passion and intensity, humour and the strength of family ties. She lives with her husband, three daughters, and a great deal of books. 

Abbie has built an impressive resume of titles for Central Avenue's romance imprint Everheart Books - the most notable of these is her Shore Leave Cafe series. Constructed around her love for the Minnesota country side where she grew up, Abbie's novels have those essential ingredients that make for, not just romance, but really good romance. 

I am presently reading her Shore Leave debut - Summer At The Shore Leave Cafe - and what I am finding already is a story that is very real, with vivid characters and a grounded narrative where I feel connected to both it and the people she has created.

From the liner notes on the novel;

Joelle Gordon is leaving Chicago and her cheating husband to head for her hometown of Landon, Minnesota. WIth her three beautiful daughters in tow, Joelle is bombarded with an onslaught of memories that Landon evokes. Landon -- home to the Shore Leave Cafe, the restaurant Joelle's family owns -- has some surprises in store for Joelle. Finding herself confronted with the reality of single motherhood, a mysterious but handsome young staffer at the Shore Leave Cafe, her upset daughters, and the prospect of returning to her husband for the well-being of her kids, Joelle must make decisions she never thought she'd face. 

A story about heartbreak, blame, family, desire, love, and the difficulties of returning home, Summer at the Shore Leave Cafe highlights hardships to which everyone can relate.

In our conversations, Abbie told me that she is inspired very much by real life characters - people who have influenced her and affected her. Likewise, Abbie has brought to life her beloved Minnesota with all the sounds and the smells and the visuals of a place that is very close to her heart. Not only is it immersive, is addictive and satisfying. I should add also, that her stories are also sexy, offering readers another satisfying, toe curling facet that will have the pages turning from beginning to end.

As a writer, Abbie has drawn on many and varied inspirations to bring life to her novels and I was particularly taken by the inspiration for Summer At The Shore Leave Cafe which Abbie recounting in a 2013 interview with Wovenmyst Magazine:

"I actually first had the idea for Summer at the Shore Leave CafĂ© from a commercial I saw years ago. It featured an attractive woman getting out of an SUV and unloading a surfboard from the back, all the time being observed by a group of cute guys, who were drooling over her from afar. After a moment, the passenger door opened and three girls (obviously her daughters, ages early teens to maybe about eight years) came piling out. The guys observing are like, “Whoa, she’s a mother!” as though they can’t believe it. It was funny and yet the idea was also in my mind that, Hey, mothers can be sexy, too! Mothers are women! I started thinking about a novel with a mother of rambunctious daughters as the central character. What the commercial advertising? I honestly don’t remember!"

Wovenmyst Magazine: Interview with Abbie Williams March, 2013.

I'm so pleased to have discovered and connected with Abbie Williams. As an author, she represents romance alchemy - great story telling, great characterization and vivid imagery. As a person, she is a breath of fresh air and I enjoy interacting with her very much. 

You simply must acquaint yourself with Abbie Williams. 

Tweet with Abbie Williams here.

Connect with Abbie on Facebook here

Visit Abbie's official website here.

Purchase Abbie's Shore Leave titles here


Friday, February 21, 2014

Swear & Shake Gearing Up.

I have previously described New York folk rock outfit Swear & Shake as quite possibly the most beautiful band I've ever heard. I have followed them loyally ever since their debut release "Extended Play" (2011) and their Kick-starter backed long player "Maple Ridge" (2012).

This year will see the release of their much anticipated follow up album "Ain't That Lovin" and it promises to kick up their sound a considerable notch - as is clear from these two music videos for their latest singles 'Fire' and 'Brother'.

Check out more from Swear & Shake at


Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Boy Who Went To Giza.

A few nights ago, I happened across a photograph of the Great Pyramids of Giza taken some time in the 1940's. It never ceases to impress me just how powerful the pyramids appear in images, regardless of when or how those images were captured. In fact, I would argue that those old sepia images carry something extra powerful in them - more-so than any high definition photograph you can find today. Anyway, it touched off a memory of a conversation I had with my grandfather many years ago.

In the late 1980's Pa revealed to me that he had a long held dream of returning to Egypt and visiting those pyramids. I knew he had been there before as a young man, but it wasn't something that he spoke very much about. In this conversation he provided a fascinating glimpse into his past that I'd not previously known.

Australian Soldiers at Giza (circa 1915).

Somewhere on that ancient, majestic structure, etched into one of the thousands of sandstone bricks placed there thousands of years ago is an inscription - "E.G. Mayes". They were chiseled there by my Pa when he was only 16 years old & was wearing the uniform of an Australian soldier at the beginning of World War 2. 

Yes - he was one of those wide eyed young men - boys really - who'd lied about his age so that he could sign up for the Australian Infantry at the outset of hostilities in Europe. By the time Pa found himself in the Egyptian desert, he was already a hardened soldier, having seen action in Palestine, Syria and Iraq. During a respite in the desert, around the time of the Tobruk campaign, he & a mate climbed to the top of the pyramid & left their marks as many young soldiers apparently did - in case they didn't make it home. It was a small, otherwise insignificant act but I got the feeling that, by then, the wide eyed optimism he had carried on this great adventure was well and truly gone. That he wouldn't make it home again was, in his mind, a very real possibility. By signing his name in that great monument, he was saying - I was here. I existed.


Pa never made it back to Egypt. Diagnosed with adeno-carcinoma in 1991, his health deteriorated quickly thereafter and by 1993, he was gone. The pilgrimage remains unfulfilled.  

I would very much like to find that inscription some day...


Monday, February 3, 2014

On The Consideration Of A Paid Review

Yesterday - being Monday here in Australia - I submitted my 2012 novel "Gifts of the Peramangk" to, arguably, two of the most recognized book journals in the United States - Kirkus Reviews and the San Francisco Book Review.

Both these journals offer, respectively, a paid service whereby I as an author can submit a published work to them, pay a fee and have my book reviewed by a professional reviewer which can then be published in their respective publications and used as promotional material by myself going forward. 

The catch with these service is that there is no guarantee that the review I receive for "Gifts of the Peramangk" will be a positive one, though I can choose - as a part of the conditions of each program - not to have the review published at all. 

Last year, I took the step of starting a crowd funding campaign via Pozible in order to raise funds to submit my novel to both publications. People could pledge to the campaign for a reward (of which I offered quite a few) or they could simply invest in the campaign. The campaign was successful and I did raise the funds fairly quickly. 

The programs offered by both Kirkus and SFBR have, as I have already mentioned, a fee attached to them and, in the case of Kirkus at least, the fee is considerable. To receive a review of my novel by Kirkus, with an 8 week turn around, costs $425(USD), while SFBR charges $125(USD). In the case of SFBR - if the review is negative, I can opt to take up an offer of advertising in their journal rather than the publication of the review. 

As part of crowd funding campaign, I made the commitment that I would proceed with the publication of the reviews in both journals regardless of the outcome - which is a significant commitment to make, given that the reviews in both cases could well be negative. What I am banking on, I guess, is the body of opinion that is already out there around "Gifts of the Peramangk" which is widely positive. 

So you may be asking - why then, submit to Kirkus and SFBR at all?

Both journals are considered to be major sources of learned opinion by all sorts of people involved in the publishing and book industry. Careers have been made (and in some cases broken) on the strength of opinion provided by these two journals alone. While I don't believe that their opinions about "Gifts of the Peramangk" will necessarily propel it into the publishing stratosphere, their stated commitment to providing a professional, industry recognized review makes me believe that they are both worth a shot. Garnering reviews from reputable sources is becoming harder and harder for authors like myself. Mainstream publications here in Australia avoid pretty much anything that hasn't been produced by a major publishing house. Believe me, months and months of working the phone, writing (yes writing) letters, physically visiting newspapers and magazines here in Australia have taught me that. Kirkus and SFBR at the very least, offer an alternative. 

Of course, I regard "Gifts of the Peramangk" as a significant literary achievement on my part. I believe in the novel and the work I poured into it. So, I'm approaching this with a certain amount of self belief. I don't want to sit by and pass on a chance for success if I can do something to help it succeed. 

The other question you may be asking is - is it unethical to pay for a review?

Believe me, I have mulled over this particular question a lot have looked through the body of opinion regarding the ethics of paying for a review. I opened up a veritable hornets nest over at Kindle Boards last year by posting about my intentions in order to see what the mood was. Though I won't get into the details here - you can click over and view the shit storm that I created subsequently. It wasn't very encouraging. 

Seeking a more level headed opinion, I had a number of conversations last year with best selling author and social media consultant Rachel Thompson - an extremely level head - who distilled the argument down for me succinctly by pointing out that both journals carry considerable weight in terms of the reviews they provide, that you as the author cannot influence the outcome of the review despite paying the required fee and both journals are required to review based on a set of guidelines that are regarded as industry standard. In my mind, the ethics here are clear. 

So, the submissions being in, all I can do now is patiently wait. Both journals have provided me with a tentative date of April 7th when the reviews will be available. At that time, I'll assess them both and plan for their release. 

Am I nervous? Of course I am. 

Am I committed to them? Yes. 


Broken Pieces by Rachel Thompson - Available Now.