Jan. 15, 2019: The Reader Expansion Challenge

A Biblio Paradise Reader Expansion Challenge

Since this is a blog about the love of books and reading and book-related things, I thought it would be fun to have a Reader Expansion Challenge, where we expand our own reading and share what we’ve discovered and enjoyed.

There are a couple of caveats:

–Most months, you will be asked to read a book by an author you haven’t read before in any of your regularly-read genres; a new-to-you author whose work you want to try.

–If you’re moving out of your regularly-read genres, and there’s a familiar author you trust across genres, that’s a great starting point.

–Extra kudos if it’s published by a small press and is by an author that’s not yet well-known, but don’t feel hemmed in by the suggestion.

–You CANNOT promote your own books. That’s not what this is about. This is about finding great books outside of your normal reading experience and sharing them. It’s not self-promotion for writers. This site has special dates for that. Although it’s a great way for writers to support each others’ work and find new living authors to support.

–Your discoveries and comments go on the main blog page on the designated page for that part of the challenge. Just post a few paragraphs about how you chose the book/author, your response to the book, and what you learned from the stretch. Please do not put it in comments on the Information page. They will be deleted.

Note: This post is on the Main Blog Page. I am setting up an additional page so people joining the party throughout the year have the information. 

–I encourage people to read books that fellow commenters enjoyed, and then share their experiences in a future post. I’ll also consider asking some of the authors to come by and do an interview, if there’s interest.

–Invite fellow readers and writers to join. Share the link. Use the hashtag #ReaderExpansionChallenge.

–Have fun with new-to-you books and authors that you discover, and that are recommended by fellow readers.

The dates are when you POST about the book you’ve read, not when to start reading. So you should start hunting down your book now that you will post about in February!

February 19, 2019: Read a book in a genre in which you don’t normally read.

March 19, 2019: In honor of International Women’s Day (which was on March 8), read a book by a woman whose work you’ve never read before.

April 16, 2019: Read a book in your favorite genre by an author whose work you have never read.

May 21, 2019: Switch it up! If you usually read fiction, read non-fiction; if you usually read non-fiction, read fiction.

June 18, 2019: Read a stage play. NOT a screenplay. It can be one you’ve seen, or one you haven’t. Libraries often carry play scripts, or can order them. Or browse Drama Book Shop or Samuel French or second hand bookshops. Note the difference between reading the script and watching the play.

July 16, 2019: Read a book of poetry. If you don’t usually read poetry, you have a wealth of choices. If you love reading poetry, try a new-to-you poet.

August 20, 2019: Re-read a favorite book from childhood. How have your perceptions changed? How do you feel about it now?

September 17, 2019: Read an anthology of short stories in your favorite genre that contains new-to-you authors (and it can also contain familiar ones). Are you going to read longer works by any of these authors?

October 15, 2019: Read something Halloween/Samhain-oriented in any genre you wish, by a new-to-you author.

November 19, 2019: Read something with a family-oriented theme, in any genre, that you haven’t read before.

December 17, 2019: Read a winter-holiday-themed book, in any genre, that you haven’t read before (and feel free to share any favorite winter holiday-themed books you read over and over again).

What next?

Read a book in a genre in which you don’t normally read about, and post about it on the February 19th post that will go up on this page!



The Book Boyfriend Dilemma

image courtesy of Pixabay

I’ve noticed a lot of talking and joking on social media the last few months about one’s favorite “book boyfriends.”

I have mixed feelings about that.

As a reader, when I’m reading a book, I want to understand and experience the story from inside the protagonist, whether we are similar or not. That includes “falling in love” within the context of the book with whomever the character falls in love with (although there are times when I separate myself out and go, “no, that one’s not right for you, what are you doing?”

Part of the power of reading is connecting or understanding or having a crush or falling in love (for the duration of the read) with characters in the book.

And, yes, after putting the book down, during bouts of singleness, I might wish I had someone in my life with traits similar to that of the character with whom I fell in love for the book.

There are plenty of love interests in books with whom I don’t fall in love, even for the duration of the book. Especially when they start talking about their love interests as possessions or as “mates for life” or any such thing. As a teenager, briefly, I thought that all-encompassing love was exciting; now I find it creepy. Even in a book. Even as a fantasy.

I want us to choose EACH OTHER. I don’t want to be dominated or owned or tamed. I want a partner, not a master.

Even in books.

I’m discussing this in terms of heterosexual couples, because that’s my experience. This isn’t meant to exclude same sex or pansexual couples. But I’m speaking from personal responses to the books and to the chatter.

While I’ve wished to have a partner in my life who embodies traits of a character with whom I’ve “fallen in love” (or lust, or a crush) in a book, I stop short of calling those men my “book boyfriends.”

Because I am not the woman with whom the various men fell in love with.

Sometimes (often), I wish I embodied those characteristics. But I’m me. I’m not this particular hero’s One True Love.

He fell in love with the heroine of the world they both inhabit.

One of the reasons he’s so attractive is that he loves HER. They found each other. They managed, in a world of thousands of possibilities, to sort through the noise and find each other, and build happiness together.

I’m happy for them.

Should I insert myself, Mary Sue-style, into their world, he still wouldn’t fall in love with me, because they found each other. Should I pull him out of his world and into mine, he might be dependent on me initially to learn how to navigate my world, but we still wouldn’t find true love together.

What makes an HEA work is that those two individuals in the book found their best match.

I’ve often said I believe there are a number of people with whom one can be content, or even happy, but I do believe there is one true love for each of us. Many don’t find that individual.

If this particular “he” turned away from his true love to me — be it in his world or my world — it would diminish him. He would no longer be the character with whom I “fell in love” in the book. That extra frisson of attraction that made him so enticing would be destroyed. I would have less respect for him.

I can’t be with someone I don’t respect.

Let’s face it — many of the traits we find attractive in fiction would grate on us in daily life. It’s fun to play with them for a few hours, to have that fantasy, but bring that character into day-to-day reality? How many of us could cope with each other then? Many of these characters lack the flexibility for the daily details that can make or break a relationship. Part of what makes them so attractive as a fantasy makes them irritating as a reality.

Am I over thinking? Of course! Talking about “book boyfriends” is a fun game and it makes one think about qualities that one finds attractive in a partner. It’s a fantasy, a daydream, an escape from the mundane.

And yet, yet, it always makes me feel uncomfortable when I do it. Not when other people joke about it or talk about it or whatever. I can enjoy their enjoyment. But when I try to do it, it feels wrong.

It makes me feel as though I’m intruding on an established relationship. Even though those in the relationship are fictional.

I am happy to embody the heroine while I read the book, “fall in love” during the book, and then go back to my life when I’m done. The characters continue their lives on their fictional plane. I continue mine on my own plane of existence.

All kinds of ideas can spin from these different planes of existence and interaction. Many have been done. Entire series have been built on a fictional character coming to life, or a person entering a fictional world.

What about as a writer? Do I write my ideal partner?

Yes and no. As a writer, in order to accomplish what I wish, when I write from inside a character, I embody that character, no matter what the gender. Each character in one of my books is me and is not me simultaneously. As I wrote in Ink in My Coffee, the piece, “Can Writers Have Friends?” — when I do my job properly as a writer, the character evolves away from the original inspiration — and away from ME — into a unique individual.

What I try to do, when I write romantic partners in my work, is write the ideal partner for the character. Not for me, but the character. Again, the characters are me and not-me simultaneously, and then evolve farther and farther away from me as the book grows.

Recently, two men entered my life, one romantically and one platonically, who inspired characters in upcoming work. However, as I wrote the characters these men inspired, they evolved further and further away from the men who inspired them. They became the right characters for the context of their fictional worlds, and my friends remained in the right context of this world.

“Book boyfriends” can be a fun game and a fun fantasy. But unless I turn into a different person, I’m wrong for all of them. I’ve worked very hard to become the person I am, flawed as that is, and I don’t want to be someone else. So, yes, I can indulge myself here and there. But then return to being the real me rather than a fictional combination of me & the heroine, and find a real person with whom to have an even better partnership.


Lady of the Roses by Sandra Worth

Lady of The Roses
By Sandra Worth. New York: Berkley Books. 2008 $14.00 paper.

Sandra Worth, known for her beautiful Rose of York novels, has written a gorgeous, passionate novel about Isobel Neville. Isobel was a ward of Lancastrian Queen Marguerite, wife of the ailing Henry VI. But she falls in love with Yorkist John Neville, who is equally enamored of her. Fending off the advances of the Queen’s lover, Somerset, Isobel is determined to find a way to be with John, and John is determined to make her his wife. The writing is beautiful, drawing in the reader. The first person lets us experience the tumult through Isobel’s eyes, and live her always brave, sometimes frightening choices with her. The historical detail is meticulous and fascinating, the court machinations both mesmerizing and horrifying. The detailed research never gets in the way of the epic story; instead, it shores up the gravity and the despair of the ever-changing loyalties. This was an exceptionally painful period in English history, both in terms of political and personal costs. Set against the backdrop of the Wars of the Roses, this lush, exquisite novel shows how love survives in war. Most people only know a smidgen of the history and chaos of this period via Shakespeare’s history plays; here, one gets a glimpse of the individuals involved.

Sandra Worth holds an honours B.A. in Political Science and Economics from the University of Toronto. She is a frequent lecturer on the Wars of the Roses and has been published by The Ricardian Register, the quarterly publication of the U.S. Richard III Society and by Blanc Sanglier, the publication of the Yorkshire, England, branch of the Richard III Society.

She has won ten awards her Rose of York trilogy, including the First Place Prize in the 2003 Francis Ford Coppola-sponsored New Century Writers Award. Her work has been translated for publication in Spain and is forthcoming in Russia

Her website is www.sandraworth.com.

Interview with Yasmine Galenorn

Yesterday, I reviewed Darkling, Yasmine Galenorn’s latest book in her Otherworld (Sisters of the Moon) series. Today, she’s generous enough to take the time to answer a few questions.

DE: The books are all written in first person, the “first” being whichever sister is the focus of that book. Because of your intense schedule, where you’re usually writing one and in edits or galleys for another, do you ever find that sometimes the voice of one “bleeds” (no pun intended) into one of the other stories? Or does one of the sisters sometimes jump into a different sister’s book and want to say something from her perspective? How do you handle that?

YG: Actually, I’m very good at narrowing my focus and multi-tasking, so this hasn’t been the problem I thought it would be. The only time it was a problem was when I started Changeling, because I hadn’t realized my publisher wanted me to write the books from different POVs—I had planned that it would all be from Camille’s perspective. I tossed 200 pages when I figured out that I was writing Delilah the way Camille saw her, not the way she saw herself. Once it dawned on me that each sister sees herself differently than her other sisters see her, I was able to make the leap. I like the round robin approach because we get to see how Camille, Delilah, and Menolly view each other—and then how they view themselves, and the differing perspectives don’t always match up.

When I start a new book, it’s like I “jump out” of one skin, into the next, and settle in. Sometimes I find myself thinking, “Camille wouldn’t do it this way” or “Oh man, Menolly would react a totally different way” but I don’t think bleed-through ever presents a serious obstacle for me.

DE: Each of the sisters is involved in at least a triangulated relationship, if not a more complex web. The relationships show genuine love and growing trust in a way that is unique. That a protagonist can successfully have more than one lover is fairly new ground in traditional publishing. Laurell K. Hamilton deals with this in her books, but, in my opinion, it’s a means to a different end. Even many of the erotica publishers insist that once the protagonist and her “hero” have sex, neither character can have sex/make love with anyone else. Did you meet any initial or do you meet any ongoing resistance to that from your editor or publisher? Was that a discussion that happened early in the series, or have they simply trusted you enough to follow your vision?

YG: My editor(s) seem quite happy with the direction in which I’ve taken my sisters. I started out with a different editor for Witchling and Changeling. Christine Zika was also with me through all my mysteries—let me take this new series where I needed to take it. Then she was hired by a different house and I started working with Kate Seaver, my current editor, who is as wonderful—and innovative—as Christine was.

At first, the publishers weren’t even sure what the series was—and to be honest—neither was I. The story arc has evolved as I’ve written the books. And the sisters and their relationships have evolved organically through the writing. I think what helps it work in my Alterverse is that I haven’t tried to foist anything on the characters from the outside. Multiple pairings seem to be their natural bent, so the situations ‘feel’ natural in the writing.

The same with the bisexual and gay characters—I don’t have any agenda with regards to the sexual bent of my characters. They are who they are. My current editor did discuss the same-sex scene with me—the one Menolly has in Darkling. In no way did she ask me to remove it, but she gently reminded me, some readers might be uncomfortable with a F/F sex scene. I thought about it, but it had to stay. Menolly is bisexual, and with the background she has—with what Dredge did to her—she is leery of men. I refuse to tiptoe around the issue. She will—on occasion—have women lovers. Actually, all the sisters have the possibility, but for Menolly it seems to play out more. If it pushes a few buttons, well, then it will have to push a few buttons. The worlds I create aren’t sanitized—they aren’t nice and pat and tied up with a pretty bow.

For one thing, I’m openly bisexual (although I resist labels—I happened to fall in love with a man; it could have been a woman depending on who I met). Actually, when you look at human nature, monogamy is a social construct, for the most part. Now, I’m monogamous in practice, but I can understand the natural instincts to gravitate toward different partners. It can cause a lot of havoc, but it also opens up whole new avenues for plot and character development.

I also think that since I’m writing urban fantasy instead of romance (regardless of what you see on the spine of the book), there’s less resistance to the multiple pairings. I’m not focused on relationships or sex, they just happen to be part of the story—they aren’t the whole plot.

DE: Have you made any changes in your own spiritual practice as you explore the worlds and the practices of the sisters more deeply?

YG: No. The Otherworld Series—and the Chintz ‘n China Series, for that matter—while they have a background in folklore, and while actual magical practices can’t help but creep in, they’re both fantasy. Fiction.

My spiritual/magical practice is grounded in…what…at this point…28 years of magical practice I have as an eclectic shamanic witch. I do work with dragon energy and I’ve always worked with Faerie magic, but I consider my spirituality and my writing two separate parts of my life. I am a witch. I am a writer. I’m not writing metaphysical nonfiction wrapped up in the guise of fiction—I already wrote nonfiction books on the subject. While my spirituality guides the way I approach life, and being a writer guides the way I perceive life, they don’t necessarily overlap all the time.

DE: Have you created an overview for the whole series, with a specific ending in site, or does that shift from book to book? Is the series growing organically, or do you make sure to hit certain touchstones in each book?

YG: No—no specific ending. There will be an end to the spirit seal story arc eventually, but another story arc is opening up in Dragon Wytch (book 4, which will be out July 1st 2008) and there will be others. The series is evolving organically. Although, I have to say, by this point—I’m about to start book six—I have an extensive research notebook detailing story threads, subplots, characters, aspects of Earthside/Otherworld, etc.

DE: One of the things I love about the series is the strength of the love and the sense of hope between the sisters and those close to them, even when things are at their darkest. They’re active, and they use love as a catalyst rather than a reason to hide or not act out of fear of loss. It seems that so many decisions nowadays are made out of fear instead of out of love, hope, or integrity. Is that something rooted in your own belief?

YG: No, actually. I’m not an optimist by nature, and I don’t hold much hope for humanity’s future with the way things are going. But we can’t give up. In my opinion, we simply have no other option but to continue the fight, to do what we can, and cross our fingers that maybe, just maybe, it’s enough.

I make my decisions by looking at what needs to be done. What is my part in the scheme of life? I try to act out of a sense of honor. I’d defend my loved ones to the death, because nobody hurts those I protect/call family. I suppose, for me, a sense of honor with heart is a strong motivator. I do recognize, though, that some people confuse honor and pride—and that brings tragedy.

The sisters were raised to be the daughters of a Guardsman, they were raised to be courageous, to stand up for those in need, to follow through on promises made. However, each sister is a little different in the way she approaches danger and action.

As I said, Camille feels a strong sense of duty/honor to her family, to her father, to those she’s bound to by oath or by heart. Camille is the one who would go rushing willy-nilly into battle, screaming, “Do you want to live forever?”

Delilah, well Delilah’s trying to find her courage. She’s trying to grow past her fear. You’ll see—in Death Maiden—how she is evolving out of the ‘Scaredy Cat” into a courageous young woman/feline, ready to stand her ground.

And Menolly, oh yes, for Menolly it’s all about the underdog. She does what she needs to, even when it’s uncomfortable or ugly, because she’s unwilling to let the sadists and the perverts of the world win. She’s been to hell and back, and she’s determined to prevent others from falling to the same fate.

All in all, the Otherworld series is really about the underdogs of the world. The heroes who get thrust into the journey rather than the ones who go looking for it—the people who are scared out of their minds but they know they have to fight and so they somehow find the courage to face their demons. Really, my Alterverse is all about the misfits who band together to save what they can, to help where they can, and to have one hell of a party doing it. And by gods, if they’re going to fall to the enemy—they’re determined to take the bad guys with them! ~grins~

(And no, do not read anything into that—I’m not killing off the Sisters. Or Maggie. I promise you this: Maggie may be in danger at times, but Maggie the Gargoyle will never be tortured or killed).

DE: Thank you, Yasmine!

USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes the bestselling urban fantasy Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon Series for Berkley (Witchling, Changeling, Darkling, etc.). She also wrote the paranormal Chintz ‘n China Mystery Series, and the Bath & Beauty Mystery Series (the latter written as India Ink) and eight nonfiction metaphysical books. She’s been in the Craft for over 25 years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos. She lives in Bellevue WA with her husband Samwise and their four cats. Yasmine can be reached via her website at www.galenorn.com and via MySpace: www.myspace.com/yasminegalenorn.

Darkling by Yasmine Galenorn

Yasmine Galenorn. New York: Berkley Books. 2008. Paperback. $7.99

Darkling is the third book in Yasmine Galenorn’s riveting Otherworld (Sisters of the Moon) series. Camille, Delilah, and Menolly D’Artigo are half-human, half-fae, sisters and members of the now-crumbling Otherworld Intelligence Agency. As war and political intrigue escalate in Otherworld, they are increasingly cut off from their home and family, and left to face an ever-growing assortment of dangers on Earth as more and more preternaturals enter the plane through portals with their own agendas for the future of both human and fae.

Each book is told in the first person from the point of view of one of the sisters. Darkling is told through Menolly’s eyes. During an OIA mission gone wrong, Menolly was captured by the Elwing Blood Clan, tortured and turned into a vampire by a sadist named Dredge. She and her family have learned to live with her needs and functions, but it’s a daily struggle for her to balance her hungers, her desires, and her inability to trust anyone outside of her immediate family.

A series of brash and brutal murders hits Seattle, with some of the murdered turning up as newly-turned, vicious vampires, put both human and vampire communities at risk. Menolly and her sisters suspect the Elwing Blood Clan, and, specifically, Dredge, are behind it. When the psychopathic floraed, Wisteria, escapes from her prison and joins them, the sisters know it’s only going to get worse. Queen Asteria sends the incubus turned bounty hunter Rozuriel in for added muscle and skill. Roz has his own axe to grind with Dredge, who destroyed Roz’s family. Menolly must risk her life to return to the Otherworld in search of the seer Jareth, who can break Dredge’s bonds, but at a cost. In addition to facing down Dredge one last time, Menolly must also make a gut-wrenching choice that will change her life and the life of a friend forever.

As usual, Galenorn spins an intriguing, fast-paced, breath-taking tale of magic, power, mystery, love, lust, family, betrayal, and the need to fight for one’s family (and the greater family) in the face of incredible odds. She creates complex, fascinating characters who can’t get away with making the easy choices. Their emotions, and the sometimes surprising ways they connect and interconnect with each other, trying to balance love, lust, duty, and their places in the bigger picture make all of the Otherworld books both a treat and an addiction.

The earlier books in the Otherworld (Sisters of the Moon) series are Witchling (from Camille’s point of view) and Changeling (from Delilah’s point of view. Darkling is available now, and Dragon Wytch, again through Camille’s eyes, will be available in July of 2008.

Come back tomorrow to read an interview with Yasmine Galenorn!

USA Today bestselling author Yasmine Galenorn writes the bestselling urban fantasy Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon Series for Berkley (Witchling, Changeling, Darkling, etc.). She also wrote the paranormal Chintz ‘n China Mystery Series, and the Bath & Beauty Mystery Series (the latter written as India Ink) and eight nonfiction metaphysical books. She’s been in the Craft for over 25 years, is a shamanic witch, and describes her life as a blend of teacups and tattoos. She lives in Bellevue WA with her husband Samwise and their four cats. Yasmine can be reached via her website at www.galenorn.com and via MySpace: www.myspace.com/yasminegalenorn.

Interview with Colin Galbraith

You read about some of his work yesterday; now get to meet HIM!

Interview with Colin Galbraith

DE: How do you decide in which format to explore an idea? Do you decide “I want to write a poem” and then try to figure out what to write; do you get an idea and play with it in several formats until it fits; how do you find it most often works for you?

CG: Devon – thanks for inviting me onto Biblio Paradise.

For poetry I need a concept first. That’s the most important thing. I need a perimeter with which to work inside so that I can push and pull all the sides into various shapes and images and produce a body of work as opposed to a single poem. Very rarely do I get the inspiration for a poem from an emotion or memory – I tend to source a concept first, let it mature in my head and then run with it.

The first draft of all my chapbooks have all been written within four weeks, and I find myself writing like a mad man at times. After that the craft takes over and they undergo major surgery, which is where I’ll select the poems to include and then edit them satisfactorily, all of which adds on up to another few months just to get them right.

Sometimes I get a concept that I can’t fit anywhere. One day it’s a novel, the next a short story, the next a poem. I had one idea, a story called The Hill that began life as a short story but never worked out. Then I thought it was because it should be a novel, but then that failed too. So I tried it as a poem and as a stage play – all failed.

I’ve still to write that story, but it’s one of my most inspired ideas so I’ve never let go. I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ll know how to write it when I reach a certain level of skill or have an epiphany or something. I had that idea nine years ago and I’m still living with it.

DE: How do you feel that fiction, poetry, play-writing and non-fiction feed off each other? Are they ever in conflict with each other?

CG: I answered this question last because it’s so tough. I wish you’d asked me what my interests were outside of writing, Devon, then I could have said: “Hi, I’m Colin and my interests are pop music and going to the pictures.”

DE: That wouldn’t be any fun – giving you easy questions! 😉 Seriously, it gives me a chance to ask questions rolling around my head, inspired by your work, but that I’ve never gotten around to asking.

CG: Non-fiction requires a different hat altogether for me, and is totally separate from anything else I write. I have to be in an objective and logical frame of mind in order to produce, and I have to have my mind firmly in the real-world and in business. So there are no conflicts there other than time management.

Very often though, while reviewing something or writing about particular subjects in an article, I am fed ideas that I often use in my fiction, so there is a natural cross over. I’ve written one play, and that was developed on the basis of a short story so there’s another link, albeit a tenuous one, but as for poetry, that’s on the other side of the spectrum altogether.

In the same way I have to be in dedicated non-fiction mode to write it, I have to be in dedicated poet mode in order to write poetry – it just won’t work for me otherwise. The key for me is switching those hats around instantly, in order to cover as much ground during the writing day as possible.

I’m still not sure I’ve answered this question the way I was meant to!

DE: What is the biggest lesson that Colin The Writer has learned from his experience as Colin The Editor?

CG: I’ve learnt why editors appear strict and rigid – because they have to be. You have to detach from the creative side entirely and try to put aside the fact that someone has ploughed so much of their time, effort and love into a piece of writing, only for you to have to write to them to say you never liked it. And that’s the hardest thing of all; knowing what goes into a story or a poem, knowing what rejection feels like, and knowing you are doing it to a fellow writer.

I set up an editorial process which I’ve adapted over time, to ensure I give each submission I receive the time and care it deserves. But this also means I now understand those editors who complain when people don’t do the simple things that are set out in the requirements. There’s nothing worse than opening a submission only to find the writer has only looked for the email address on your web site to submit to, and hasn’t even bothered reading the requirements or anything to do with the publication. I throw those ones in the bin almost immediately because if they don’t put in the effort, why should I?

Also, if a piece is really good either in concept or whatever, but it has obvious mistakes in it, I talk to the author to see if they are willing to make changes and improve the piece. I really appreciate it when editors take the time with me to develop an idea – which doesn’t often happen – but the ones who have I’ve never forgotten them or their advice.

On the flip side, I take much more care when making submissions of my own. I triple check everything to make sure that I’ve adhered to all the requirements, and I try harder to make myself get noticed by the editor. I’ve stopped using standard templates for my submissions, and I try to make them personal to the publication and the person reading them. I’m not ashamed to say that some of the more outstanding cover letters I’ve received have found their way into my own submissions.

I’ve also discovered just how hard it is to find good short fiction out there. I get poetry by the bucket load, more than I know what to do with, and it presents a problem when compiling the issues. I get lots of flash too, but short fiction – good short fiction – is extremely thin on the ground. This is good news if you’re a serious short story writer, as there seems to be a hole in the market for it.

DE: Would you ever consider writing again in a serial format? Or a shared world anthology? What kind of parameters would you want in that kind of project?

CG: I wrote Hunting Jack as a serial back in 2004 and I loved doing it. It was a great way of developing a story in a challenging and fun format, and in an interesting marketplace. I would do it again if I had a story that was good enough, and I think I would write half of it first before pitching the idea. Nothing I’ve come up with since then has fitted the serial format though, apart from the idea of a sequel to Hunting Jack maybe.

I love the idea of doing a shared world anthology, purely because it’s an exciting thought moving into someone else’s story and seeing what comes out of it. I think the more open and the less parameters that were place on that idea, the better. The charge of ideas would be what makes it, and I’d jump at the chance to do a project like that.

DE: How do you feel your writing has expanded your reading?

CG: This is a tough question because I’ve only ever thought about this in the reverse i.e. how my reading has expanded my writing.

My writing has grown (or shrunk depending how you see it) into bi-polarised sources: crime fiction and poetry. So from that point of view, I am reading more and more crime fiction, discovering new authors and styles, and getting lots of ideas for my own stories.

Also, I’m reading more poetry both from well known poets and independent ones who publish through small presses or by themselves. You’d be amazed at the talent there is, and by doing this, not only am I enjoying more poetry and benefiting my own writing skills, but I’m also meeting a lot of fascinating people from all walks of life by doing so. It’s a very fulfilling cycle.

DE: What new direction do you want to explore, writing-wise, in this New Year, and what attracts you to it?

CG: I’m delving back into children’s poetry and stories. I got such a buzz from doing Silly Poems for Wee People Vol.1 a couple of years ago, that I’m planning a second volume for this year.

What attracts me to writing for children? Well, I’m a big kid and have never fully matured (just ask my wife), so when I write something that makes me laugh I know it will make a kid laugh. When I wrote “River Monkeys”, I couldn’t stop laughing, and it went on to be published in a national children’s anthology.

I’m also a Dad, and one of the best things to come from having a kid is learning to tap back into your own childhood through their experiences, remembering how the world looked and felt back then, and then putting it all down on paper.

And it’s such fun to do. Writing for kids is such a departure from the serious business of fiction writing – and the occasional grim hardness of crime fiction – that it acts as cathartic release. It helps me move far enough away from the world of novel writing, that when I look back it allows me to see everything with a clear head again.

Thanks, Colin!


Colin Galbraith is the Chief Editor and Publisher of The Ranfurly Review, and an Associate Editor at The Scruffy Dog Review. He has published short stories, poems, non-fiction articles and reviews, in both print and online publications.

His novel, Hunting Jack, was serialised in 2004 by a US-based publisher, and his first chapbook, Fringe Fantastic: The Poet’s Experience of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, was published in paperback in December 2005 to critical acclaim. Poolside Poetry was his second paperback, published in March 2007.

He has published three e-books of poetry; Brick by Brick (2005), Silly Poems for Wee People Vol.1 (2006), and Selektion (2007). He edited his first anthology, Full Circle – An ARS Concordia Anthology in 2007.

He lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, with his wife and daughter, and his website can be found by logging on to www.colingalbraith.co.uk


Visiting Authors:
February 8 & 9: TBA
February 24 & 25: Sandra Worth


Want to learn more about the ups and downs of the freelance writing life? Visit Ink in My Coffee.

Interview with Hazel Statham


Yesterday, you read my review of Hazel’s new novel, My Dearest Friend (scroll down to the post below if you haven’t yet read it). Today, you have a chance to sit in on a chat with the author.

DE: What is it about this time period that intrigues you?

HS: I love the romance and elegance of the Regency and Georgian periods and it is this that inspires me to attempt to recreate it in my work. History has always fascinated me but it is these two eras that I find the most inspiring.

DE: What sort of research do you do for your books?

HS: I have several reference books and have been an avid reader of Historical Fiction since in my teens. Also, the internet is an invaluable tool and I can spend hours perusing the various historical reference sites.

DE: Have you ever come across a piece of information while you researched one book (such as an anecdote or the contents of a letter) that inspired something completely different, and how did you follow through with it?

HS: Very often I find just snippets of things that start the creative process going. The theme for ‘The Portrait’ came from just one line from a song in the film Hawks : ‘I want to be the man that you think I am’. This inspired all kinds of ideas. The beginning of My Dearest Friend came from a dream, which I expanded on. One element of the story came on me quite by surprise as I just found the words coming out of the sergeant’s mouth and then went with the flow. It just added extra depth to the story.

DE: Do you find anything particularly liberating in this time period? If so, what?

HS: It takes me away from the harshness of the present century and allows me, if only briefly, to escape into the world of my characters and live within the mores of the age. I hope this is what my readers experience too.

DE: One of the things I particularly enjoyed about the book was how the friendship developed into love, instead of love following irritation. What inspired you to make this choice, and did you get a hard time for re-inventing the formula in such a positive way from anyone?

HS: I’m pleased you enjoyed the book. I don’t write to a formula. I write what I would like to read and develop the plot accordingly. In fact, when I was writing Robert and Jane’s story, I wasn’t aware that I had strayed from the norm. I know now that I diverted from the usual guidelines for the genre, but was unaware of it at the time of writing, I don’t think I’ve followed it with any of my works. Each one has its own story to tell and none are similar. I guess I wasn’t aware that I was taking a risk in their composition. As yet, no one has commented on it

DE: What are you working on now (if you’re at the stage where you can talk about it)?

HS: My current work-in-progress is going slowly at the moment as I have a lot of research to do. It’s still a Regency but that is its only similarity to anything else I have written. I can’t really divulge its theme, only that it is the story of a young bride who absconds from her husband after just one month of marriage. Her reasons are what drives the story. However, you can be assured of a happy ending.

Thank you, Hazel!

Bio: Hazel Statham lives in Staffordshire, England. She started writing at fifteen and has written on and off ever since. She has always been fascinated by history and writes mainly in the Regency and Georgian eras, although she has been known to occasionally stray into Medieval times. Writing is a compulsion she just can’t ignore and her work has been mainly influenced by Heyer, Bronte and Austen, although over the years, she has read many authors who have inspired her. When she was a child, she often told herself stories and this just progressed to committing them to paper to entertain family and friends. However, there have been gaps in her writing years where marriage and employment have intervened, but now that she no longer works, she is able to return to her first love and devote her time to writing. She had her first two novels published in 2005.

She has been married to her husband, Terry, since 1969 and have a grown daughter and beautiful grandson. Apart from reading and writing historical novels, her other ruling passion is animals and until recently, she was treasurer for an organisation that raised money for animal charities. She currently shares her home with a lovely yellow Labrador named Lucy, who is her constant companion. Lucy is a real sweetie, but it’s not always easy working at the computer with a large Labrador trying to get on your knee!

Her website is www.hazel-statham.co.uk

Her books is available at the Wings Press website.


To read more about the ups and downs of the freelance writing liffe, visit Ink in My Coffee.