Monday, March 31, 2014

Summer At The Shore Leave Cafe by Abbie Williams.

Summer at the Shore Leave Cafe (Shore Leave Cafe, #1)Summer at the Shore Leave Cafe by Abbie Williams

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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.

Romance can be a tough genre to write convincingly in, but Abbie Williams has achieved something akin to romantic alchemy with Summer at the Shore Leave Cafe. She combines strong narrative, threading multiple plot threads around the protagonist Joelle Gordon's central arc with a convincing cast of characters that feel so real you'd swear you know them. As a reader you are taken on an emotional journey with these characters that fully invests you in them. You care for them, champion them and sometimes you rue them, where appropriate. Williams has also crafted scenes of steamy eroticism that strike a perfect balance in advancing the story whilst giving the reader something to sweat (pleasurably) to.

I also really liked the warmth of the story and how immersive it was for me. Abbie Williams has a keen sense of place - a clear and abiding affection for her native Minnesota, of people and their emotional arcs and she blends these together effortlessly, creating a visual and tactile tableaux, one that stays with you.

Summer At The Shore Leave Cafe - the first in Abbie's Shore Leave series - is a bespoke literary creation and a superlative achievement.

Abbie Williams has been addicted to love stories ever since first sneaking her mother's copy of The Flame and the Flower; since then, she has been jotting down stories of her own in notebook after spiral-bound notebook.

Abbie Williams teaches English at the high school level (which she dearly loves). She spend her days with her own true love, their three daughters, and a very busy schedule. Abbie says she is most happy when she can sneak in a few hours to write and thereby indulge in visiting the characters in her stories.

When Abbie is not writing, teaching or spending time with her family, she can be found listening to her favorite musical groups of all time: Alison Krauss and Union Station, the Wailin' Jennys, and The Be Good Tanyas. If there's time in the evening, she might watch a few episodes of Hell on Wheels and eat a jar of crunchy peanut butter.

Discover Abbie Williams world here.


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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Disconnectedness Of Connection.

I just sat through a re-watching of one of my most favourite films of all time yesterday afternoon - the 1997 Robert Zemeckis helmed "Contact" starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey. The movie explores the relationship between science and faith within the context of the scientist, Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster), discovering a radio signal transmitted to Earth from deep space and the ramifications of that discovery for the entire human race.

Copyright © 1997 Time/Warner Inc. 

Among the the many ideas that the film offers up, one in particular resonated with me in 1997, and it continues to do so now. It's the question of whether science has advanced us as a species, whether it has been of benefit to our connectedness to one another or whether it has isolated us. 

What impresses me most about the film is the portrayal of the man of faith, Palmer Joss (Matthew McConaughey). Palmer Joss is a theologian and writer, a former priest whose search for his own truth has led him away from the Church. This facet of the character interests me less than the ideas he puts forward throughout the course of the film.

Matthew McConaughey as Palmer Joss from the motion picture Contact. Copyright © 1997 Time/Warner Inc.

I am especially drawn to this line of dialogue, in a scene Palmer Joss shares with Larry King during an interview to promote a book he has written. King asks Joss if he is against science, to which Joss replies by saying, no. 

"What I'm asking is... are we happier, as a human race? Is the world fundamentally a better place because of science and technology? We shop at home, we surf the Web, and at the same time we feel emptier, lonelier, and more cut off from each other than at any other time in human history..."

This line of dialogue resonates and it is an especially powerful observation when you consider that this was scripted pre-social media and indeed when the internet as we know it, was in its infancy. 

There is no doubt that science and technological advancement have been immeasurably beneficial to us as a species. I'm thinking in terms of practical applications such as health, education, agriculture, research, communication - even science itself. However, conversely, when I walk down the street today or ride the tram into town and see so many people with their heads buried in their smartphones, ear buds firmly positioned in their ears, I am often reminded of Palmer's line of thinking. And I observe it on social media - I'm as guilty of it as the next person - but increasingly, I find that it is empty of real interaction and engagement. The endless memes, the reposting of news articles that receive little engagement or, when they do,  the rampant tribalism housed in the comments sections of on-line news articles. People shouting to be heard by being as partisan as they can be.   

Connected yet so disconnected.

It has lead me to question...

I think people have come to rely on social media as a means of avoiding real contact with one another. They stay indoors, don't pick up the phone, put off opportunities to gather together. Rather, they depend upon the cocoon of the internet - the comment or the like; make themselves believe that that form of contact is adequate.

Now, obviously this doesn't apply to everybody - particularly among those who interact with people across continents and I'm not arguing that this form of interaction should be discouraged entirely. If you're are interacting only with those people at the expense of others in your own location, then I believe you probably need to take stock.

Jodie Foster as Dr. Elenore Arroway in the motion picture Contact. Copyright © 1997 Time/Warner Inc.

I've felt it. That loneliness that Palmer Joss spoke of. Weeks might go by and I've woken up one day to realize that, in some cases, it's been months since I've caught up with real friends in real interaction, real engagement. And it has lead me to re-evaluate where I stand in terms of my own connectedness to people, friends, family...even loved ones. 

Science and faith and the human condition have rarely been examined as eloquently as they are in the movie Contact and for that particular truth, I think Contact will stand as an important document for many years to come. Palmer Joss, as a character, asks us to question our connectedness to one another and whether we need to do more to bridge the gulf between us. 

I, for one, believe him...


Monday, March 3, 2014

March Sweepstakes - Win Signed Print Copies of Dean's Books.

How about a random sweepstakes for readers?

My novel "Gifts of the Peramangk"  has been nominated for the 2014 EPIC Award for Contemporary Fiction. The winner will be announced during a gala event in San Antonio, Texas on March 15th 2014. 

To celebrate the nomination, I am offering signed print copies of both my novels "The Hambledown Dream" and "Gifts of the Peramangk" as well as digital copies of my short stories "The Regenesis Cluster" and "Feast" to one lucky reader. The sweep will run for two weeks, starting today, March 4th and will end at midnight (Australian Central Summer Time), March 18th 2014.  

To enter, all you have to is answer the following question, 

"What is the working title of Dean's current writing project?" 

Post your answer by commenting on this post below and I will choose a winner from the entries received and notify that winner by March 21st 2014.

To give you a clue to the answer, all you have to do is read up on my bio (see About section) or visit my Pinterest page where the answer will pretty much hit you in the face. 

Entries are open to Australian, North American and U.K. residents. 

Good luck.