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Sophia, Ethan and Alistair are in the spotlight once again as their lives go forward (and back) in TRUST: BETRAYED, Book Two in the Trust Trilogy by Brazilian author Cristiane Serruya.
Dark secrets continue to plaque each member of the unique trio as their lives unfold from their past deeds. Sophia wants a relationship with Alistair, but can’t seem to find peace within herself and allow herself to move on. Needing redemption and feeling unworthy of love, Alistair tries to push Sophia away. He loves her and wants to save her from his own demons. Ethan, meanwhile, reeling from his loss of Sophia has created his own alternate reality. Still in love with Sophia, he will pay any price to have her back.
Misery, guilt, pain and fear surround these three main characters. They are tormented daily with their problems. The author continues to develop her characters, giving their more depth and expanding their emotions. She has created well-balanced characters that are realistic and easy to like, even with their bad flaws.
TRUST: BETRAYED moves at a steady pace holding the readers interest. There are twists and turns that keep you wondering what could possible happen next.
While dealing with secrets from the past, the author moves the story back and forth in time. Her smooth transition makes it easy to follow along without getting lost in a time warp. In addition, there are several steamy sex scenes.
The characters draw you in and the writing holds you spellbound until the end. Serruya’s writing has a mesmerizing rhythm, though she writes of dark and complex events. The story will leave readers looking forward to seeing how the trio fares in the next installment.
Author Cristiane Serruya’s website is http://cristianeserruya.com.br/ Trust: Betrayed by Cristiane Serruya, Book Two in the Trust Trilogy, CreateSpace Independent Publishing, @2013, ISBN: 978-1482586473, Paperback, 556 Pages
FTC Full Disclosure - An eBook copy of this book was sent to me by the author in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
As families split apart forming new units, the idealized notion of a traditional family can change drastically.
The family core is the focus of Amy Sue Nathan’s debut novel, THE GLASS WIVES: A Novel. She explores what makes a family unit and why traditional sometimes has to be altered.
Narrator Joyce Bean does an excellent job bringing these characters to life. Her varied vocalization gives each character their own distinct voice. Bean brings out the various emotions and energy the author has woven throughout the story.
Evie Glass never thought her ex-husband Richard could turn her world upside down again. But when Richard died suddenly in a traffic wreck, she found out how wrong she was. Now she is left to raise their twins on her own.
Richard’s second wife, Nicole, is also left to raise their infant son on her own. She turns to Evie, wanting to create a family unit with her and Richard’s other children.
At first, despite the tragedy of Richard’s death, Evie sees it as a way to free herself and the twins from ever dealing with Nicole and her baby again. She didn’t count on how deeply her children cared for their half brother. And she especially didn’t count on having to seek financial help to keep her home without Richard’s monthly support payments. When Nicole offers to pay rent and move in with her and the kids, Evie dismissed it, but soon realizes she doesn’t have a choice.
Just as things are settling into a familiar routine, Evie discovers Nicole may be up to no good, trying to pull off a scheme behind her back. Evie has to decide if she can trust the woman who had an affair with her husband and destroyed her marriage.
Nathan has created likable characters with realistic problems and emotions. While Evie came off a bit self-centered to me at times, she also had moments of compassion and tenderness for balance. Nathan also weaves in how secrets, even among friends, can sometimes be damaging. In addition, the author gives vivid descriptions and explanations for a Jewish life that add another layer to the story.
THE GLASS WIVES moves at a steady pace and holds the reader/listener’s attention with a few surprising twists and turns along the way.
The Glass Wives by Amy Sue Nathan, Performed by Joyce Bean, Brilliance Audio, @2013, ISBN: 978-1480514751, Unabridged, 8 Discs, Listening Time: 9 Hours, 6 Minutes
FTC Full Disclosure - This audio book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. Thanks for stopping by today. What interesting book are you reading/listening to today?
It’s my pleasure to welcome author Wendy Roberts here today to talk about her protagonist and the unusual profession she has. Wendy’s latest release is an InterMix mystery in her Ghost Duster series, DROP DEAD BEAUTY, that is available as eBook only.
Wendy’s protagonist is Sadie Novack and she is a crime scene cleaner and amateur medium. This is a fun combination that keeps Sadie’s life interesting and sometimes dangerous. Here’s a brief synopsis: Sadie Novack, crime scene cleaner and amateur medium, is going through a love crisis. While trying to renew her relationship with on-again-off-again boyfriend Zack, Sadie discovers that she’s pregnant which certainly throws her romantic plans for a loop! Now that she’s dealing with the fallout of her disastrous love life and her crazy hormones, Sadie needs a distraction from all the personal drama and finds it when Detective Dean Petrovich asks her to help with a murder investigation. This time the case involves Petrovich’s ex-wife who was found dead in a luxurious spa and Petrovich is named the prime suspect. After all of the years the noble detective saved Sadie’s hide during various investigations, Sadie is determined to pay back his kindness by proving he was framed for the murder. But Sadie is shocked when her supposed “relaxing” trip to the luxurious spa puts the killer hot on her trail. Now, with her life at risk and her love life a bust, the Sadie must focus on solving the case before Petrovich is thrown in the slammer for good…
Thanks to Wendy and the lovely Kayleigh at Penguin Group, I have an eBook copy of DROP DEAD BEAUTY to giveaway. Please see the end of the post for the details.
Wendy has graciously answered some questions about her protagonist and her writing.
Mason - How did you come to give your protagonist such a profession as crime scene cleaner and amateur medium? What inspired that?
Wendy: I belong to Crimescenewriter, an author information group with law enforcement professionals who routinely answer questions. While obtaining details about a crime scene scenario they also gave me information about trauma cleaning professionals. My imagination took it from there!
Mason - Now that the book is out, what surprised you the most as you were writing it?
Wendy: In DROP DEAD BEAUTY, I was most surprised by the ending. While initially writing a book I don’t really know whodunit and sometimes it shocks even me!
Mason - What type of research did you do for this book?
Wendy: When I researched the series I spoke to people who worked as professional trauma cleaners. DROP DEAD BEAUTY allowed me to do some research in a spa – now that was fun!
Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that lead you to writing?
Wendy: I’ve always enjoyed telling stories and considered it a kind of hobby but attending a local writers’ conference gave me the tools I needed to take things to the next level.
Mason - If you could write a book with any author (living or dead) who would it be and what type of book would you like to write?
Wendy: I would love to write a story together with Stephen King and Janet Evanovich. I think Mr. King’s horror, combined with Ms. Evanovich’s humor would totally rock!
Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?
Wendy: I’ve written a number of chapters in a new paranormal mystery but I’m mostly in the research stage of that new story. I’d give you more details but then I’d have to kill you (in a book, of course!). Wendy, thanks for joining us today and sharing how Sadie’s professional career came to be. She does lead an interesting life.
Now I’ll share a bit about Wendy. She is an armchair sleuth, fan of all things mysterious but a huge chicken at heart. She is the author of the Ghost Dusters mystery series, as well as GROUNDS TO KILL with Carina Press.
She resides in Surrey, BC with her four children and a sluggish guinea pig. She happily writes about murder and is hard at work on her next novel. For more on Wendy and her writing, visit her website at www.wendyroberts.com GIVEAWAY DETAILS: As this is an eBook only, the giveaway is for a NetGalley link where the book can be downloaded. The giveaway winner must have a NetGalley account (which is free) in order to receive the book.
To enter the giveaway, please send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject line, “Win Drop Dead Beauty.” Your message should include your name and the email address you’d like the NetGalley link sent to. And, just so you know, I don’t share any of this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for an e-copy of DROP DEAD BEAUTY is 8 p.m. (DST) on Saturday, July 6. The giveaway is open internationally.
Thanks so much for visiting today. What do you think of Sadie’s profession? Think you’d like to be a crime scene cleaner? I’ll leave you with a book trailer for DROP DEAD BEAUTY to entice your reading and you can also view other trailers for Wendy’s books on her YouTube channel. Enjoy!!
I’m delighted today to welcome another ‘new-to-me’ author
Author Kfir Luzzatto
that acquired his love for the English language from his father, a former U.S. soldier and World War II veteran, a voracious reader and a prolific writer.
Author Kfir Luzzatto was born and raised in Italy and moved to Israel as a teenager. Writing has always been his passion. His new novel, ExtraLife, Inc., is a mystery/thriller. The book is scheduled for release on July 1 in paperback on Amazon.com, B&N.com, and as an eBook wherever eBooks are sold, including Kindle and Smashwords.
Here’s a brief synopsis of the book. The first two chapters of ExtraLife, Inc. is available here. David Wolfson, a Jerusalem scientist, claims to have found the cure for cancer. He and his wife, Tamara, seek the help of Richard Lunz, a Tel Aviv attorney, to fight the powerful bureaucrats who want to appropriate David's invention. Richard can’t resist the temptation to participate in what looks like the discovery of the century, and it takes a first death to make him doubt that something in the project is not what it seems. And then other people die. Following clues that take him to Eastern Europe and to America, Richard finds more answers than he wished for. But he just can't stop looking.
We all know how powerful books can be. They make us buy them when we say we are just going to look. Kfir joins us today to touch on this subject as he discusses ‘The Hypnotic Power of Fiction.’
Have you ever wondered why some books affect us deeply while others leave us cold? Of course, many factors come into play, including our personal tastes and inclinations; however, in order to touch us deeply the text must be able to actually hypnotize us – really, not as a figure of speech. And hypnosis is what happens when we are really enthralled by a book.
What is Hypnosis? Hypnosis is a heightened state of focus. When guided by a hypnotist you are focused on the words he uses and the sound of his voice. It is a state characterized by extreme suggestibility, relaxation and heightened imagination. It's not like sleep, because you are alert and fully conscious, but you tune out most of the stimuli around you and focus intently on the subject at hand, to the near exclusion of any other thought. (An informative discussion of hypnosis can be found here.)
So when you get immersed in a book and focus on the words, the story becomes your primary object and the room around you is forgotten; you are in a state of trance in which you can really enjoy what you are reading.
Reading is not the only example of everyday hypnosis. You can be hypnotized, for instance, by the water running in the shower, watching a movie and, most dangerously, driving.
Hypnosis is Good for You Let's be clear about one thing: being hypnotized (in most cases, self-hypnotized) is a good thing, because hypnosis is a state of heightened receptivity in which you can feel, understand and participate in the activity you are undertaking, fully and effectively. Hypnosis in real life has nothing to do with the tricks that you may have seen on stage, which are just that: tricks.
Which Book Will Hypnotize You? Having established that we want to be hypnotized when reading a novel, let's take a quick look at the prerequisites for a story to be able to accomplish that result. First of all, it has to have a plot that is enthralling, because you can’t go into a trance if you are bored. That is completely subjective, because if you are not into alien body snatchers you are not likely to get lost in a book that focuses on them.
But now comes the objective part. Much of your activity while in a hypnotic trance is essentially "daydreaming" and to give you the opportunity to really enjoy the story, the book must be written so that you are able to visualize the characters, the surroundings and the events. In other words, the book must be well written. Long and boring descriptions will make your attention wander and take you out of your trance.
It is also important to provide enough space in the story for the readers to daydream their own evolution of a branch of the plot, or an alternative chapter, or even a sequel to the book. If you read my upcoming novel, ExtraLife, Inc. (released on July 1st) keeping this post in mind, you'll be able to see a few points where I have left enough room for the reader to run ahead with the story and devise his or her own solution to some of the mysteries.
Books to Remember You surely have read books that stayed with you quite a while after you finished reading and perhaps you are reminded of them every now and then. Why does that happen only with a few books? The simple explanation is, of course, that those are "good books." But what does that mean in relation to their hypnotic power? To understand it we must take a quick look at what a "post-hypnotic" suggestion is.
Broadly speaking, a "post-hypnotic" suggestion is a suggestion given to the subject while in the hypnotic state (or trance), which will cause him to behave in a certain way while in his normal, non-hypnotic state. For instance, a post-hypnotic suggestion given to a person wishing to lose weight could be that seeing a cheesecake will trigger a feeling of fullness (or disgust.)
When we are hypnotized by a book and are in a highly-receptive state, passages that we read are sometimes etched in our mind, much like a post-hypnotic suggestion. For instance, I can't see a can of spray of any kind without being reminded of Philip K. Dick's "Ubik" (if you haven't read it, now it's time to grab a copy), simply because – no spoiler –a can of spray plays a significant role in that outstanding book.
When We Can't Be Hypnotized Of course, there are external factors too, which can prevent us from going into a trance, but those pretty much depend on your individual power of concentration. I can easily get lost in a book pretty much everywhere, but some people may find it difficult to go into a "reading trance" on the subway or on a noisy beach. That's not too bad if you are reading escapist literature, which is purely recreational and requires little or no emotional participation, but I would not recommend it for books that require more reader involvement.
Those Who Don’t Get It Since getting hypnotized by a book is a good thing and a great way to enjoy your reading (at least, that's my belief), I was baffled to read an article titled "How to Read a Book Without Getting Hypnotized." Why on earth would people do that to themselves, is more than I can fathom. But then I also never understood masochism of any kind.
So next time you read a good book allow yourself to drift into that pleasant, blurry state in which you are fully immersed in the story. You may even want to try setting the stage for your trance, reading in a nice, quiet environment free from distractions. The Internet is full of useful tips on how to promote a trance. And if you find that your reading pleasure has been heightened, drop me a line!
Kfir, thanks for joining us today. I had never really thought about being hypnotized by a book, but now that I think about it - that’s what good books do.
Now let me share a bit more about Kfir. With a PhD in chemical engineering and a long family history that he needs to live up to, Kfir works as a patent attorney and heads the patent law firm that was established by his great-grandfather in Milan, Italy, in 1869. Kfir lives in Omer, Israel, with his full-time partner, Esther, their four children, Michal, Lilach, Tamar and Yonatan, and the dog Elvis.
Writing has always been Kfir's passion and for almost four years he wrote a weekly "Patents" column in Globes (Israel’s financial newspaper), which also yielded his only (if he can help it) non-fiction book, THE WORLD OF PATENTS, (a not-so-boring tale of what patents are about, in Hebrew), which was published in 2002 by Globes Press.
Kfir loves writing short stories but has too many novels waiting to be written (and possibly not enough years ahead of him to write them all), so now he mostly writes full-length fiction. His other passion is working with other authors on stories he loves and that's how he wound up serving on the editorial board of The Harrow Press as Anthology Editor.
You can read about Kfir's books here. He loves them all, but never had greater fun than when working on “HAVE BOOK WILL TRAVEL,” a YA fantasy that he wrote together with his son, Yonatan.
It’s my pleasure to welcome author Molly Cannon here today to talk about love, well more specifically that CRAZY LITTLE THING CALLED LOVE, her latest release.
Here’s what Donny Joe’s story is all about: Here comes trouble... Etta Green kissed Everson, Texas, goodbye years ago. A big city chef, she intends to return only long enough to settle her beloved grandmother's estate and then hightail it back to Chicago. But Grammy Hazel had other plans. In her will, she left Etta part-ownership of a B&B that's about to go bankrupt before it even opens. And what's worse--Etta's partner is Donny Joe Ledbetter, a handsome devil with some serious bad boy charm. Growing up, Donny Joe didn't give Etta a second glance. Now, she's got his whole attention. A far cry from the shy bookworm he once knew, sexy, spirited Etta Green is nothing but trouble. Yet Donny Joe decides to play nice. After all, the quicker they open the B&B, the faster this exasperating--and irresistible--woman will be on her way. Donny Joe has never been a one-woman kind of man. But one crazy little moment of unforgettable desire may change his mind--if he can convince Etta to stay for good...
Molly has graciously answered some questions about her book and her writing.
Mason - Your book features a B&B and your heroine is a chef. Are these elements you have experience with or was a lot of research involved? Molly: I wish more research had been involved! I love a good Bed & Breakfast, and I have a long list I still plan to try eventually. The idea to name the rooms in the B&B after desserts came from one I visited that named all of their rooms after famous composers. While I have experience working in restaurants, I have never been a chef. My style of cooking is more down home like Grammy Hazel. I do have children who are much more adventurous and experimental than I am. I’m happy to eat their culinary delights whenever I get an invitation.
Mason - Now that the book is finished, what surprised you the most as you wrote the story?
Molly: I’m a pantser, but I always have inklings about where the plot is going and give it nudges here and there when it tries to wander too far afield. Donny Joe wouldn’t be nudged, though. He was a stubborn son of a gun!
Mason - Have you always wanted to write or was there an event that led you to writing?
Molly: I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life. As soon as I realized that a person was sitting somewhere at a desk spinning these tales, writing seemed like the perfect way to spend my life.
Mason - Of all the authors (past or present) you enjoy reading, has any (one or more) been as influence in your writing?
Molly: When it comes to past authors I always name Lavyrle Spencer. She could take a simply impossible situation and make the reader root and care for the characters, using humor and drama equally and all with a dash of poignancy that made her stories stay with me all of these years later.
Kristan Higgins is one of the many current authors I’d admire. Her contemporary romances make my heart sing with her every day men and women who find love in the most entertaining ways. Her secondary characters are a hoot and her settings make me want to move in and get acquainted with them all. Mason - As a published author has your perspective of authors changed?
Molly: Not really. I’m still in awe of writers who year after year continue to produce such great books. I hope I never think too much about the mechanics of the process and lose the ability to get lost in reading a wonderful story.
Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?
Molly: I have a Christmas short story that will be published in a e-anthology A CHRISTMAS TO REMEMBER on December 3, 2013. It also includes stories by Jill Shalvis, Hope Ramsay, Marilyn Pappano and Kristen Ashley. And in June 2014 my third book in the Everson, Texas series will be released.
Molly, thanks for joining us and giving a behind the scenes look at your writing. When the research is enjoyed by the author, I think it comes through in the writing.
Now a bit about Molly. She says she lives a charmed life in Texas with her nearly perfect husband and extremely large cat Nelson. When she’s not writing, she spends her days reading, taking dance classes with the hubby, and watching all kinds of sports.
It’s my pleasure to welcome author C.H. Admirand back to Thoughts in Progress today. She joins us to talk about the latest release in her contemporary small town series, ONE DAY IN APPLE GROVE.
Thanks to C.H. and the lovely Danielle at Sourcebooks, I have a copy of ONE DAY IN APPLE GROVE to giveaway to a lucky visitor. Please see the end of the post for the giveaway details. Here’s a brief synopsis of the book:
Welcome to Apple Grove, Ohio (pop. 597), a small town with a big heart. Caitlin Mulcahy loves her family. She really does. But sometimes they can drive her to her last shred of sanity—from her dad ("I'm not meddling, I just want what's best for you") to her eight-months-pregnant older sister to her younger sister, who will do just about anything to avoid real work. Cait just needs to get away, even if for only an hour. When she sees someone in need of help on the side of the road, of course she's going to pull over. She might even be able to fix his engine—after all, the Mulcahy family is a handy bunch. She's not expecting that former Navy medic Jack Gannon and a little black puppy named Jameson will be the ones who end up rescuing in her.
C.H. has graciously answered some questions about her new release and her writing.
Mason - What drew you to write about happenings and people in a small town?
C.H.: Having grown up in a small neighborhood of 20 – 25 homes with a bunch of dead-end streets, it felt as if we were a tiny town all our own. We moved 25 minutes north of where my husband and I grew up and raised our family in a tiny lake community that had everything we were looking for. A safe place for our kids to play and grow while experiencing the tight-knit community we loved. It was my former editor’s idea to write a series set in a small town, and I jumped at the chance to try something new. Mason - With the book’s release, as you look back what was the biggest surprise that occurred in writing the story?
C.H.: I really had no idea the little black ball of fuzz—stray puppy Jameson—would run out in front of Jack or straight into Caitlin’s arms, bringing those two together. Mason - What would you recommend visitors to your hometown do that they wouldn’t find noted in any tourist brochures?
C.H.: I’d tell them to take a walk and experience the wildlife that lives in and around our town. There are woods all around us and a large part of our town is watershed property, so it can never be developed. I really like that. There are so many different types of birds, animals, and creatures that crawl and slither… I’ve got this great idea for a children’s series based on the abundance of nature surrounding us here.
Mason - As a published author, has your perspective of authors in general changed?
C.H.: I suppose it has—having just turned in the copyedits for my 15th book, I wonder how my favorite authors have had the staying power to keep writing while dealing with all of the things that life tosses in our paths as roadblocks now and again. I have great respect for these women who have balanced life, family, writing, and the business side of being an author.
Mason - Has anything strange or unusual ever happened to you at a book signing, author event or literary festival?
C.H.: Hmmm…I don’t think it’s especially unusual, but I have been asked where the bathroom is more than once at book signings. What I find delightful, and never tire of hearing, is when readers come up to me and tell me how much they’ve enjoyed reading my books. Mason - What can readers look forward to next from you?
C.H.: The second book in my contemporary small town series: ONE DAY IN APPLE GROVE released on June 4th and the third book: WELCOME BACK TO APPLE GROVE releases on December 3rd. In between, I’ve re-released the first two books in my historical Irish Western Series: THE MARSHALS’ DESTINY and THE RANCHER’S HEART, and will be releasing the 3rd and 4th books soon. I’m working on a proposal for a new Historical Western Romance series…so keep your fingers crossed!
C.H., thanks for visiting with us again. Your love of the small town atmosphere comes through in your books, making it a place readers wants to visit.
C.H. was born in Aiken, South Carolina, but grew up in New Jersey. She has been delighting readers with her Secret Life of Cowboys Series, featuring three cowboy brothers with Irish charm, and is now working on the next book in her small town contemporary romance series, featuring the town and quirky characters of Apple Grove, OH.
She lives with her husband, who is the inspiration for all of her heroes’ best traits, in New Jersey. For more information on C.H. and her writing, visit her at www.CHAdmirand.com
Here’s what one reviewer had to say about ONE DAY IN APPLE GROVE: “The talented Admirand is able to write about these serious issues realistically but in a way that makes this book still feel light and fun.” — RT Book Reviews, 4½ Stars
GIVEAWAY DETAILS: To enter this giveaway, please send me an e-mail (email@example.com) with the subject line, “Win One Day In Apple Grove.” Your message should include your name and mailing address. The contest is open to residents of the U.S. and Canada only. And, just so you know, I don’t share this information with anyone other than the publisher nor use it for any other purpose. The deadline to enter this giveaway for a chance to win a copy of ONE DAY IN APPLE GROVE is 8 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday, July 3.
Thanks so much for stopping by today. Which do you prefer - small town life or big city lights?
Being able to meet authors from another the world is one of the many perks of blogging. I’m delighted today to welcome one such author to Thoughts in Progress.
Author Peter Maughan joins us from the Welsh Marches, the
borderland between England and Wales. He uses this area as the backdrop for his series, the Batch Magna novels. The series is set in a village cut off from whatever the rest of the world gets up to beyond the hills of its valley.
Here’s a brief synopsis of THE CUCKOOS OF BATCH MAGNA, the first book in the series: When Sir Humphrey Miles Pinkerton Strange, 8th baronet and huntin’ shooting’ and fishin’ squire of the village of Batch Magna in the Welsh Marches, departs this world for the Upper House (as he had long vaguely thought of it, where God no doubt presides in ermine over a Heaven as reassuringly familiar as White’s or Boodle’s), what’s left of his decaying estate passes, through the ancient law of entailment, to distant relative Humph, an amiable, overweight short-order cook from the Bronx. Sir Humphrey Franklin T Strange, 9th baronet and squire of Batch Magna, as Humph now most remarkably finds himself to be, is persuaded by his Uncle Frank, a small time Wall Street broker with an eye on the big time, to make a killing by turning the sleepy backwater into a theme-park image of rural England – a vacation paradise for free-spending US millionaires. But while the village pub and shop, with the lure of the dollar in their eyes, put out the Stars and Stripes in welcome, the tenants of the estate’s dilapidated houseboats are above any consideration of filthy lucre and stand their ground for tradition’s sake … and because they consider eviction notices not to be cricket. Each disgruntled faction sees the other as the unwelcome cuckoo in the family nest. So, led by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook, and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, RN (ret) – a man with a glass eye for each day of the week, painted with scenes from famous British naval victories and landscapes that speak of England – the motley crew run up the Union Jack and battle ensign and prepare to engage. But this is Batch Magna, a place where anything might happen. And does ...
Peter has graciously answered some questions about his writing.
Please tell us about your current release.
Peter: It's a Kindle edition called THE CUCKOOS OF BATHC MAGNA. It's what might be described as a feel good book, set in the mid-1970s in a river valley in the Welsh Marches, the borderland between England and Wales. The death of the squire of the village leads to the title and what's left of his estate being left through the ancient law of entailment to a distant relative. And so it is that Humphrey Strange, or Humph, as he likes to be called, an amiable short-order cook from the south Bronx, finds himself most remarkably to be the 9th baronet and squire of Batch Magna. Manipulated by his Uncle Frank, a small-time Wall Street broker with his eye on the big-time, and a new girlfriend with her eye on the title, Humph is persuaded he has plans for the old place: the entire estate is to be turned into a theme-park image of rural England - a vacation paradise for free-spending US millionaires.
The tenants of the dilapidated houseboats on the estate's stretch of the river are given notice to quit - and it is then that Humph's problems begin.
Each faction sees the other as the cuckoo in the family nest, so led by randy pulp-crime writer Phineas Cook and Lt-Commander James Cunningham DSO, DSC and Bar, Royal Navy (ret), a man with a glass eye for each day of the week, sporting details from paintings of naval battles and landscapes that speak of England, the motley crew run up the Union Jack and battle ensign and prepare to engage.
Can you tell us about the journey that led you to writing?
Peter: Well, I started out as an actor, and worked as a fringe theatre director and as a script writer (scripts for pilot films for independent film companies). I had quite a few short stories and non-fiction writing on the English countryside published, and a novel seemed to be the next logical step. And I was helped by that background – actor, director, script writer, I am all of those when writing. I write the script, see the scene through the eye, as it were, of the camera, and then act it out on paper.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Peter: Getting down on the page – I write in longhand first – what I, the director, ‘see.’ Somerset Maugham said that there were three rules when it came to writing a novel – the trouble is, that no one knows what they are. Well, as far as I am concerned, there is one rule that if not kept will leave your story on the page, when it should take on a second life in the imagination of your reader (because reading should also be creative). And it is this: you must ‘see’ the scenes you are writing – or, to put it more actively, you must ‘watch’ them happening, as they happen (particularly necessary I think for thrillers and crime novels, and noticeable when it’s absent).
Do you have a musical play list you listen to while writing? If so, what kind of music?
Peter: No. I need silence. I need to concentrate, to fully see and hear that life on the other side of the camera (‘Quiet please!’ on the set.)
What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Peter: I don’t think I have one. I’ve read about other writers arranging their pens or paper in a certain way before starting, and can only wonder at their evident neatness. I write in a blitz of paper, yesterday’s work waiting to be typed up, scraps of character details, bits of dialogue, notes on future scenes, etc.
Do you plan any subsequent books?
Peter: THE CUCKOOS OF BATCH MAGNA is the first in a series. I have two sequels finished and waiting their turn – and that particular hiatus is, in part, the reason I left my last publisher to go solo.
Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).
Peter: Interest (and so far it is only that) shown by a UK independent film company in the novels.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Peter: Yes: thank you. And to add that I have had quite a few references in reviews and other feedback to BATCH MAGNA being a place people have enjoyed visiting and were reluctant to leave. I find that extremely satisfying, the thought that I have taken those readers out of themselves, given them, as feel good books/films should, for that short while another world to live in. That, as a writer, will do me.
Peter, thanks so much for joining. BATCH MAGNA does sound like a place it would be hard to leave. I enjoy the fact that you write in longhand first. That is something I do and can’t seem to change no matter how much I write or what I write.
Now, here’s a bit more information on Peter. He’s an ex-actor, fringe theatre director and script writer, married and living in the Welsh Marches. All the books in his series feature houseboats, converted paddle steamers on Batch Magna’s river the Cluny, and he lived on a houseboat in the mid-1970s (the time frame for the novels) on a converted Thames sailing barge among a small colony of houseboats on the Medway, deep in rural Kent. He says it was an idyllic time, heedless days of freedom in that other world of the river which inspired the novels, set in a place called Batch Magna.
When the Sir Humphrey Strange, squire of Batch Magna, a village on the Welsh borders, dies, the title and what’s left of his estate passes, through the law of entailment, to a distance relative. And Humph, a short-order cook from the Bronx, finds himself most remarkably to be the 9th baronet. He has big plans for the place and they do not include the houseboat (dilapidated Victorian paddle steamers) tenants on the estate’s stretch of the river. Eviction notices are sent out. In this chapter Phineas Cook, off the Cluny Belle, hurries with his notice round to the Commander and his wife Priny on the Batch Castle.
Phineas walked along Upper Ham, and through the door of what was once the ticket office and waiting room of the Cluny Steamboat Company, to reach the Batch Castle, and out onto the landing stage, all now part of the paddler’s plot and moorings. Both the building and landing stage looked much as they did in the photographs on a wall in the lounge bar of the Steamer Inn. There was a wooden triangular pediment still under the eaves, like that of an old branch line station, hanging baskets of geraniums, hollyhocks and foxgloves in the beds, and begonias blooming in the fire buckets. And a Victorian lamp-post that had once flared in the river mists, a yellow rambler climbing still up one side of the office door, and crimson roses under the windows, the heated air velvet with their scent. Phineas found the Commander standing at the starboard rail of the boat, bracing himself on his good leg, a pair of marine binoculars trained steadily on the wooded hills on the other side of the valley, as if watching for the smoke of the enemy. He lowered the glasses when Phineas came up the gangway, and wiped at the sweat on his brow with the back of his hand. “A buzzard,” he said. “Hear it whistling? There’s a nest up there somewhere. I love to see them soar, riding the sky, so effortlessly. And so free. I shall reserve a second life, after first returning as an otter, and come back as a buzzard.” He glanced at the letter Phineas was holding, the white envelope red-franked with the name of a firm of Kingham solicitors. “Ah, I see you received the same signal, my boy.” “So it’s not just me?” Phineas said, stuffing the letter into his shirt pocket. The Commander smiled. “No, old chap, it’s not just you. Ours came in the same post. As did one for the Owens. And presumably Jasmine’s been paid off as well.” “A hell of a blow!” Phineas said, and looked at the Commander as if waiting to be told otherwise. The Commander nodded solemnly. “As you say.” “And completely out of the blue.” “Oh, completely,” the Commander agreed. “Jasmine’s not there, by the way. Or at any rate her car isn’t. I was going to give her a shout.” The Commander motioned towards the living quarters. “The First Lieutenant,” he said, meaning his wife, “is in there now, ringing both you and Jasmine. Annie’s with her.” When storm threatened, those on the river tended to turn for the lee of the Castle. “And you’ve been given the same notice on your moorings?” Phineas asked. The Commander nodded. “Three months.” He and his wife, Priny, were the only ones to own their boat, buying it out of what was left of a venture farming edible snails in Cornwall, something else which had ended in a lively exchange of letters with the bank. “They don’t say what they’ll do if we haven’t moved by then. Sink us, I suppose.” “Well, at least he’s given us good notice. Two months more than he was legally obliged to. Which is decent of him.” Phineas thought again. “Or is it?” he asked himself suspiciously, seeing that it involved business and lawyers. He decided it wasn’t. “He’s probably got his own timetable. Besides,” he added indignantly, “the estate owes the Owens a bit more than that. A damn sight more than that!” “Oh, I quite agree. I quite agree,” the Commander said, peering at his wrist watch. “And what about you, James, you and Priny? What will you do?” “Emm? Oh, well, we’ll have to sell her back to the estate – always providing of course that they want her back. Or we could arrange a tow – if, that is, we can find somewhere to tow her to. And if, that is, we had something to steer her with. The old duck certainly couldn’t go anywhere without a push of some kind.” He looked at Phineas, as if Phineas had suggested she might. “There’s not enough of her plumbing left for anything else.” The Castlewas also the only one of the paddlers to still have the remains of an engine. “Although I’d dearly love to be able to do that for her. To take her out as she arrived …. To put a fire in her again … smoke and steam in the air… her wheels churning the water white round Snails Eye .…” The Commander’s good eye was distant and full of it. Then he remembered Phineas. “And what about you, Phineas? What will you do, my boy? What are yourplans? Will you stay here? Move on? Have you given it any thought at all yet?” he demanded anxiously, making up for it with a flurry of concern for his friend. “No – I don’t know, James. I don’t think I’ll stay. Not now. I mean, it won’t be the same, will it?” “No, old man, it won’t be the same. Not the same thing at all.” “And what about Annie and Owain? And after all this time.” “It’s an outrage. No other word for it.” “And Jasmine and her family,” Phineas went on. “Where will Jasmine go, with … with all those children of hers?” he said vaguely, never sure, like most people, like Jasmine herself seemed not to be sometimes, quite how many that meant. “As you say. As you so rightly say, my dear chap. Where will they go? Where will they go? It’s appalling, appalling.” “And what’s he going to do with the paddlers, that’s what I’d like to know? The notice doesn’t tell us much, does it? Just that he wants vacant possession. So what is he going to do with them?” “What indeed. What indeed, my boy. That’s the question,” the Commander said, frowning about him. “That is the question …” He found his stick on the deck table, a heavy blackthorn, cut and shaped for him by Owain Owen, the handle, with a shine stroked into it from use, carved into a badger’s head. He then fished about in his trouser pockets, searching for his fob, before remembering that he was using his wrist watch this morning. Life had suddenly become rather hectic. “What indeed. What indeed, my dear fellow,” the Commander muttered, studying the watch face. “That’s it!” he said then. “Wardroom’s open.” He was wearing a pair of creased white ducks, with a Royal Yacht Squadron necktie for a belt, and what was left of his hair sticking out in the heat in damp, greying, tufts. He had his head to one side slightly, favouring his good eye. Phineas peered at the glass one. The Commander’s leg had been shattered when, as a wartime naval pilot on the deck of his carrier, a Swordfish aircraft, coming in after him, and with the pilot wounded, had landed nose down, shredding the air with splinters from the wooden propellers. When the same accident later caused him to have an eye removed, the Commander commissioned a miniaturist to paint a collection of plain glass ones, depicting naval battles and landscapes that spoke of England, and one flying the Union Jack when a bit of swank, a bit of defiance, in the face of whatever was called for. “The Stubbs,” the Commander told him. “Huntsman and Horse.” “Ah,” Phineas said. Phineas followed his friend up the steps to the wardroom, a room stuffed with books and bottles, and copies of ancient charts, like storybook charts, marked with brimming treasure chests and spouting whales, and warnings of monsters, and cherubs with winds on their breath. Here, the Commander pursued his theories of such things as time, and of moons that had shone down on this planet before, and monsters that still lived here, and the location of lost Atlantis. Carrying their drinks, they came out into the dazzle of sunlight and white-painted upperworks as Priny and Annie Owen left the sitting room opposite. “Ah, there you are, darling,” Priny said when she saw Phineas. “Jasmine’s not here,” she added to her husband. “She’s gone to Shrewsbury for the day, the babysitter tells me.” She smiled at Phineas. “What is it about your legs, Phineas, that reminds me I was once a mother?” Phineas frowned down at his legs, in a pair of white shorts. Annie laughed. “It’s because they need fattening, like the rest of him.” “I was hoping,” Phineas said, “they’d look less sort of obvious, once they got a bit brown again.” “Leave the man’s legs alone. He’s got a perfectly good pair,” the Commander said. “The sort of knees that helped carve out an empire. His shorts could do with a press, and his hair’s too long, I grant you. And he needs to straighten up a bit, stop slopping about the place. But his legs will do.” “At least he’s got the sense to wear a hat in this heat,” Priny told him. “Put yours on, James, please. You’ll boil your head.” The Commander had caught the sun on a trip yesterday in their mahogany dinghy, pulling strongly upriver, with a lunch hamper in the stern. His leg, which rarely failed to let him know it was there when on land, forgotten. “I can’t, Number One, you’ve hidden it. She’s always hiding things,” he told Phineas. “Something to do with her age, I expect.” “Where’s Owain?” Phineas asked, while Priny located the ancient red-and-white striped rowing cap her husband had left on a deckchair. “Helping out on a pigeon shoot over at Boden,” Annie said. She smiled sympathetically at him. “You’ve got notice as well, then, Phineas?” Phineas nodded. “Yes. He hasn’t wasted much time, has he? And to not say anything to you when he was here!” He shook his head. “Incredible.” “Oh, I’m sure he didn’t know it at the time, Phineas. He couldn’t have.” Annie looked appalled at the thought. “He’s a businessman, Annie. A money man. To them, people go in one drawer, profit in another. And they never confuse the two.” Annie had met the American at the Hall when he was over briefly to inspect his inheritance, and had liked him, as he had seemed to like her. She hoped he hadn’t known that one of the houseboats was hers, that with a few impersonal words that weren’t even his own, he was pulling over twenty years of family memories up by the roots. “And Owain doesn’t know about it yet?” Phineas said. She shook her head. “No. No, none of them do. Not yet.” He saw she had been crying, the kohl she wore on her eyes smudged, and never very good at that sort of thing, made an awkward job of hugging her. “Drinks!” Priny said brightly, looking at their glasses. “What a good idea.” “Where’s Pink Gin?” Phineas asked when they were seated. Pink Gin was the Cunninghams’ aged mongrel, a dog who, when the drinks came out, usually liked a drop of something in her bowl. “Too hot for her, darling,” Priny told him. “She’s getting rather ancient now, I’m afraid.” “She’s inside,” the Commander said. “Dreaming of past glories. Ratting and rabbiting in her sleep.” They were sitting at the round white plastic deck table, under a large, Patio Living pink-and-white striped parasol, an oasis of shade and the chime of iced drinks. Priny lifted her glass. “To survival.” Like her husband she was good at that. Priny couldn’t be kept down for long, no matter what the weather. Even Hitler, with his promise to bomb Malta to dust, couldn’t do that when she nursed there during the worst of it. Not even the matron of her hospital could do that. She was wearing a wide-brimmed sugar-pink straw hat, and what she called her mad old bag spectacles, emerald green, with two electric-blue butterflies perched on the frames, crimson lipstick to match her nail extensions, a poppy print shirt and floral Capri pants. A party of one in full swing, a Plymouth gin in one hand, a cigarette in an amber holder in the other. “I’m just surprised the General didn’t do anything about all this in his will, you know?” Annie, who’d been thinking about it, said. “I mean, it’s not just us, is it. It’s the paddlers, and all that. Part of the history of the place, the old CSC. Our old tub was named after his mother.” She shook her head. “Just didn’t think, I suppose. That would be it. Poor old love.” “It’s this place. We are childrenhere!” Phineas cried suddenly. “Strolling heedlessly along, smelling the flowers and admiring the view. With no thought of what might be on its way round the next bend.” He shook his head incredulously at the sheer folly of their ways. “Well now it’s here,” he said, looking at them accusingly. “Now it has found us.” Phineas’s newfound maturity, worn over the past few days with a solemn, aloof sort of air, like that of a visitor from an enclosed order to the frivolous world he’d left behind, was now less in evidence. His expression, as he gazed hotly out across the water, more that of an aggrieved teenager who had done what he’d been told to do, had taken a more mature, a more serious, responsible view of things, and had ended up getting evicted. “Bound to happen sooner or later, I suppose,” the Commander said equably, tamping his pipe down. “It’s the times, my boy, the times. O tempora o mores. The new order. It goes under different names but always calls itself progress, and we are in its way. And the last sad squires ride slowly towards the sea, and the new lords take the land. Lords who look at our labour and laughter as a tired man looks at flies. With bright dead alien eyes. Something like that.” He put his pipe in his mouth, and then took it out again. “Come to think of it, I had a letter from one of them only the other day.” Priny laughed, the sound pure bottled nightclub. “James thinks the bank manager’s been taken over by an alien.” “It’s the only possible explanation,” her husband said. “That’s what happens, darling, when you leave your hat off in the sun.” The Commander ignored her, and lifted his glass. “Here’s to the General,” he said, and winked mysteriously at Phineas. Annie laughed then, suddenly, at her own thoughts, and wiped at her nose with a hand. “He’ll go mad, Owain, when he hears. Go mad, he will. Probably take an axe to the old boat, the work he’s put in on her. He only got round to finishing the paint job a couple of months back, her letters and scrollwork and all. Hopping, he’ll be. Bloody well hopping.” “Perhaps that’s what we should do to all of them,” the Commander said. “Rather than simply hand them over. Hazard them ourselves. Sink them. Blow them up. Send them to join their sister ship, the Sabrina. Better that than into the hands of the enemy, and God knows what indignities. It could be said we owe them that. Both the little ships and the General.” The PSSabrina, the old Roman name for the River Severn, and the vessel that had made the full complement of the CSC, had blown a boiler two years into service, when her crew, in an attempt to beat a previous time from Water Lacy, tried to shovel more speed out of her than her maximum eight knots safely allowed. She lay upstream of the Cluny Bellenow, a diving board for generations of village children, and with moorhens nesting in her broken wheels. “What, a few limpet mines on their hulls, you mean, James?” Phineas asked with interest, remembering a film he’d seen recently on television. The Commander shook his head. “No. No need for that, old man. A few sticks of something in the bilges should do it. Linked to a central detonator.” “A plunger. Yes, yes, I know,” Phineas said, nodding at it. “Then bang!” The Commander leaned towards him. “And we’re far enough away from the village not to cause civilian casualties or to take the Masters’ Cottages or the pub up with them. The General wouldn’t want any of that. No, it would just be our party. Us and a plunger. Bang!” he said again, the huntsman’s pink in the Stubbs like blood in his eye, the good one with enough blue life in it for two eyes, twinkling away, signalling devilment like a ship’s lamp. “At night, of course?” Phineas said. These things were always done at night. “Well, of course at night, old chap. Not a lot of point in fireworks during the day now, is there.” The Commander’s head reared up at a sudden thought. “Of course! The very thing. The very time. On the day of the Regatta. A grand finale to the fireworks. It could scarcely be more appropriate. The little ships started the whole thing, let them finish it. Let them have the last, loud word. Eh? Bang …!” “I think,” Priny put in, “that perhaps we should try something a little less explosive first, darling.” She could never be entirely sure with either of them. There was a part of her husband, she always felt, that had yet to return from the war. And Phineas, despite being in his middle thirties, had still to grow up. “And do bear in mind, James,” she told him, just in case, “if you are inclined to get any silly ideas, that the Castle is all we have in the bank at present.” The Commander sighed heavily. “Yes, I know, Number One, I know. I’m sorry, Phineas, old man. It’s age. It makes misers of us,” he said dolefully. “Counting out our lives in small change from a thinning purse.” Priny ignored it. “We’ll meet tonight. In the pub for the happy hour, and see what we can come up with. Jasmine should be back by then. I’ll pop round and leave a note for her, in case we miss her, and she throws a drama.” Annie finished her wine. “And I’ll get over to the Hall now, see what else I can find out.” “What shall I do?” Phineas wanted to know. “I’ve got you down for keeping an old party company over another glass in the wardroom,” the Commander told him, getting up stiffly with the aid of his stick. “It’s not over yet, Phineas my boy. Not over yet, my dear fellow,” he said then, quietly, confidingly. “Did I tell you that a few days back I saw an otter? No, not a mink,” he insisted, as if Phineas was about to suggest it might be. “A mink is much smaller and a darker brown. No, it was an otter. On Snails Eye. Disporting itself on a bank there. Sliding down a mud run and splashing away without a care in the world. A lord of time, with a fine set of whiskers.” The Commander stopped and looked at him. “Time for animals like the otter, you see, Phineas, is different from, for example, time for a farm animal. On the whole, time for farm animals stands still, scarcely moves from where they’re grazing. If we were able to represent it on a clock face, you would see that in the evening, when it’s time to sleep, the minute hand had barely moved from where it was in the morning, when it was time to start eating. Which of course is how it should be.” The Commander started and stopped again. “Time for wild animals, on the other hand, you see, my boy, is almost constantly on the go. Here and there, this way and that. It leads them by the nose, as well as the belly. And when they’re not questing or eating, or engaged in sundry other matters, then they’re squabbling. And when they’re doing none of those things, they are playing. And then they are lordly, lordly. Time for us, Phineas, we humans, is a poor shackled thing in comparison. We are tied to it from birth, and burdened with its future as well as its past. The baggage of our lives, and our fears of what might be. And the usual spree of youth aside, we spend it with one eye on the clock. Unlike animals such as the otter, who chuck it about as if there were no tomorrow. Which of course, for them, there isn’t. They live only in the present. They cannot knowtime and so are free of it. And lords of it. With fields of time, seas and rivers of time, and all the skies to play in.” The Commander shook his head with sudden impatience. “Anyway, anyway,” he said, moving again, and as if Phineas had diverted him. “The point is – the point is, my dear Phineas, that I have never, in all my ten years on this river, seen an otter here before. Never.” He stopped again, and sighted Phineas with his good eye. “You do realise what this means, don’t you?” he said. “It means, it means, old chap,” he explained patiently, when Phineas appeared to have no idea, “that the General is once more among us. And why? That’s the question, Phineas. That is the question, my dear old fellow. Why? Why nowof all times?” the Commander asked, and winked.
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