reading


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If you want to experience a truly versatile writer, spend some time with Colin Galbraith. He does it all: Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, web design, business writing. AND he’s the creator/editor/publisher of the new literary ezine THE RANFURLY REVIEW.

He’s one of those writers who can combine talent and skill with humor and professionalism. On top of that, he’s a loyal friend — which means he also tells you when you’re wrong!

His blog on the writing life, Freedom From the Mundane is a must-read, whether you’re an aspiring writer or a published one. In addition to commenting on the ups and downs of the writing life, he also opens windows onto moments of life in Edinburgh and beyond. Both Fringe Fantastic and Poolside Poetry portray everything from the ordinary to the absurd with stylish wordsmithery and wicked humor. His regular contributions to both The Scruffy Dog Review literary magazine and the SDR blog are delightful for both their range and their insight.

I liked his serialized novel Hunting Jack so much that I have a character in one of my novels read it on a flight!

If you haven’t made the literary acquaintance of this author yet, I encourage you to hop on over to one of the many links in this post and start reading. You won’t be sorry!

And come back tomorrow, when we chat with him!

Bio:

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

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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.

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

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My Dearest Friend
By Hazel Statham. KY: Wings e-Press Inc. 2008. $6 Download; $11.95 Paperback.

My Dearest Friend traces the growth of the love between Jane Chandler and Robert Blake, the Duke of Lear. Jane requests the Duke’s assistance in returning her wounded brother back from Portugal to England. The Duke, riddled with guilt because he could not save his own brother from the conflict, is more than eager to help. Along the way, they encounter adventure, treachery, illness, and find out that the Duke’s brother has a now-orphaned child. What starts as friendship blossoms into love between Jane and the Duke as they support each other through this difficult time. It’s when they are home and married that trouble brews, most of it caused by the tenant now renting Jane’s former home. How they are torn apart and fight to find a way back together over rocky emotional terrain makes a lively, warm, and intriguing read.

Regency historicals are tricky; Statham takes us beyond the confines of the genre in the best possible way with her depiction of the genuine friendship and caring that forms the basis for their love, instead of one party simply being determined to “tame” the other. The mutual respect and regard for each other makes this a cut above most books in the genre.

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.

How exciting to open the door yesterday afternoon, as I was trying to meet deadlines, and find a pile of books waiting for me!

Betsy Ross: Quaker Rebel by Edwin Satterthwaite Parry was published in 1930, and is the only biography of Ross for adults I’ve ever found. I remembered reading it while I was in high school and have tried to track it down ever since. I finally did, through Alibris.

A theatre friend of mine sent me some books she thought I would enjoy, and boy is she right:

The Wrong Horse by William Murray. I’ve read this book several times, but didn’t have a copy of my own. I love it. It’s about the horses he shouldn’t have bet on at the race track, but fell in love with anyway. I’ve got a copy of his companion book, The Right Horse, and he’s written some racing-based mysteries that are great fun.

Saratoga Hot, little novels by Hortense Calisher. She is a new-to-me author, and the title alone sounds delicious. I look forward to reading it!

Agincourt by Christopher Hibbert, about Henry V’s famous victory. I’m fascinated by the period, and can’t wait to read it.

Faeries by Brian Froud and Alan Lee. I have Froud’s Faeries’ Oracle, which is a very powerful deck, and I’m interested in the book.

So, these go into the stack, to be alternated with the books I HAVE to read for various assignments.

Woo-hoo! Getting books is always the best!

Yesterday, you saw my review of Rue the Day. Today’s the chance to chat a bit with the author, Cat Muldoon:

DE: Rue the Day’s mythological inspirations were intriguing. Do you find Celtic mythology particularly inspiring? Do you have a favorite myth, either in the Celtic or another pantheon?

CM: Oh yes I adore the Celtic stories, culture and music. It is difficult to choose only one story from that tradition. The music inspires me (when done well). While writing Rue the Day, I always had Celtic music going: Iona, Silly Wizard, Clannad, piobrach, Lorena McKennit, and others. That’s not mythology, you say? But often the songs are based on the old stories. As a matter of fact, a song about a human man taking in a wounded Selkie female and tending her wounds inspired my short story “Seal Skins” in WomanScapes, which got published on its first venture through the mail.

I love the Selkie. They are often called the sealfolk. They have a seal skin for water, and they can zip it off and take on human form. They often do this to enjoy … shall we say dalliance… with humans and known to be ardent lovers and fierce protectors. I have never lived near an ocean and cannot give any explanation (in terms of here and now) that I would find the Selkie so engaging, but there you have it. In Faerie (in my books) there are selkie as well, but they do not slip out of their skins as in the human world. They shimmer from one form to the other.

Celtic knotwork (interlace design) appears on the surface to be merely artistic, but there are deeper layers of meaning to it which I enjoyed playing with in the novel. The Faerie castle is an interwoven knotwork design, but spiritually, it speaks of the interconnectedness of all life. So although this is not from a specific story, it is part of the Celtic magical and mythic culture.

DE: Why do you think myths speak to us so deeply?

CM: Stories touch our soul and myths even more. They speak to us on a deep primal level. Also I believe they touch us because no matter who we are or where we live, the stories are similar. Oh certainly they have cultural differences and such, but they are uniting. Joseph Campbell studied the legends and myths of the world for decades, and he discovered that there is a common story among all humanity, which he called the “monomyth” or the hero’s journey. All the heroes of the world tread the same path of self discovery, and it is the same path that you and I walk when we accept the challenge and allow ourselves to become the hero in our own life. If this touches you, read The Hero with A Thousand Faces or The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell.

DE: Are you a trained herbalist, or did you research extensively for the book? What were some of your favorite sources on herbalism?

CM: I am self-trained, and I did no research for the book, which goes to say that so much is already within me that I did not have to look things up. I did check out some photos of rue and double-check my memory on a couple things, but that was it. I have no formal training. A brush with death from medication given me as a child caused me to seek out natural remedies. At the time, there was no internet and there were precious few books on the topic – and no, I am not THAT old. Also my spiritual tendencies to follow the seasons and honor the land and its creatures have led me to a curiosity about plants.

You asked for herbalism references, which I provide below, but there is a great deal of healing work in the book, so I am including some other references that may be of value. Also you can truly learn a method of personal shielding from the book.

Aromatherapy:
Hands of Light by Barbara Brennan and Jos A. Smith
Magical Aromatherapy by Scott Cunningham
Complete Aromatherapy Handbook by Susanne Fischer-Ruzzi
The Aromatherapy Bible by Gill Farrer-halls
Energy Medicine by Donna Eden, David Feinstein and Carolyne Miss
Anything by Carolyn Myss
Magical Herbalism by Scott Cunningham
Practical Herbalism by Philip Fritchey
The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman
The Encyclopedia of Herbs and Herbalism edited by Malcolm Stuart

DE: Will we learn more about Lynx magic in the next books? Will Aislinn have the opportunity to learn it and use it? The choice of Lynx as Aislinn’s house and the use of Bree are interesting.. In the Medicine cards, Lynx is the secret-keeper, and in the Druid Animal Oracle, Cat is a guardian, and I like the way you layered those associations in the book.

CM: Oh my, I am deeply impressed. There are so many interwoven aspects of the book that may go unnoticed by most. I appreciate your perceptiveness. In my version of faerie, the people are organized into clans which they call Households. Some are named after animals, such as the Lynx, and some after trees, such as the Willow. Faeries do not all look like shrunken Irishmen. They are as diverse as humans. There is a reason for this that I hint at in the book. But I digress.

I chose the Lynx consciously because of their association and also because Aislinn, our heroine, shows the catlike traits of her Household even though she has never known her true nature. Bree has a special role which I will not reveal. You know this already, Devon. Your readers will find out about him when they read the book. It will not be until the third book that she discovers how to use the magic peculiar to her Household. She will fight against learning how to use any magic at all in the second book.

DE: What kind of process did you use to world-build and create this particular land of Faerie and Selkie? Do you outline, do you create collages of visuals, and how did you put it together for this particular story?

CM: I created the world in my head and in my senses. Writing a book is a total experience for me, and I believe this comes out for the reader. I am mostly blind, so collages are a bit of a challenge, but I waited until the aspects of the world became clear to me before writing them. According to “the way it’s done” in typical fantasy, I suppose I should create a map, but if I did it would look a mess, and I feel my location kinesthetically. This also allows me to let you feel along as you see, smell and hear the world around you. I have notes about the land just as I do about the characters.

The castle is something I am particularly pleased with. Pity is that I’m not allowed to share that excerpt (at least not in written form) because of the publisher’s rules, but you can listen to me read that section on my website. The castle is a living organism, not a “building.” It also has an unusual shape. Rather than having the typical floors with stairs, it depicts Celtic knotwork. There appears to be no beginning or end. You know by the plants covering the walls where you are in the castle. The various rooms do not have printed signs, but there is a piece of what on this side of the mists we would call Celtic Knotwork with a design in the center. The kitchen door has a design of a pot artistically woven into knotwork, for example.

The first book takes place mostly around the castle and in the sea, some distance away, as well as at the elusive boundarylands between the human world and Faerie that are only perceptible when the mists are up.

The undersea world of the Selkie is hinted at in Celtic lore but not described. I had great fun considering what the needs of a sentient underwater species would be in terms of shelter, food and so forth as well as their sensibilities and artistic nature. So when you read about the Selkie home, you can gain a great deal of insight into them as a people, just as you can when you read about the Faerie castle.

DE: What is a typical writing day for you? Is it difficult to set boundaries, or have you organized your life to support the writing?

CM: I have another life outside of writing, so it is generally late at night that I get the chance to write, and I’ve been known to be typing while half asleep. Of course, since I use a speech program to hear what’s happening on the screen, this works out reasonably well. My dream is to be able to support myself from my writing and speaking .

DE: What advice would you give to writers early in their careers, who are having trouble making the time to write?

CM: I’ve certainly made the mistake of letting life get in the way. Goodness, I never even meant to write a novel when I wrote one! But even at that I did fairly well at my goal of producing a short story a month. Now for 2008 I’m going for 2 short stories a month written and circulating plus the 2 next books in the Undercover Heir series.

I would say set a goal and figure out what you need to produce each week to make it. Also be sure to read good quality books, some in your genre and some things you would probably never imagine yourself reading, because that way you can improve more skills and broaden your horizons.

I believe that the reason my book appeals even to people who would never consider picking up a fantasy novel is that I read other kinds of fiction, from horror to romance to children’s books to science fiction to the occasional mundane book (not my favorite generally), and it makes my writing stronger. I never lock myself into “the fantasy formula” or any other, because I read diversely. But it is only once you understand the structure that you can break the rules successfully.

And in case you’re wondering how I read books as a blind person, I get books on audiotape from the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped. They’re great but very behind. I’m still waiting for book 7 of the Harry Potter series and the last book in Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series. However, if you know anyone in the states who is losing their vision, please get them hooked up. http://www.loc.gov/nls/ will get you to the appropriate branch for your state.

DE: How does your tai-chi practice influence your writing practice?

CM: What I do most of the time would better be called energy-centered movement than the true practice of tai chi. When I take time in meditation to breathe or breathe and move, wonderful ideas present themselves to me. I have dreamed stories before. Two of those are currently in circulation (seeking a publisher). A “daydream” (waking meditation) also inspired some of “Seal Skins,” which will be a 3-part set of short stories that form a novel once I get the other two finished.

I take some deep breaths and expect a story before bed, and I always get them, occasionally in dreams, but one way or another the ideas are flowing more than I could possibly ever have time to write them all. I laugh at writer’s block, because I think it is something writers talk themselves into when they don’t know how to jumpstart their brain.

Breathing and feeling the connections between all things, such as experiences that happen to me, people I meet, nature, etc., I open myself to abundant creativity.

DE: Rhoedrie and Eliatha are two of my favorite characters in the book, and I hope to see more of them in the next two books of the trilogy. Would you ever consider placing Rhoedrie at the center of his own book, such as his time away from his homeland during his training? The hints about it in Rue the Day are intriguing. Or would you consider short stories with some of Eliatha’s previous experiences?

CM: Ooh you just made me smile big. Thank you! Yes I have considered both those options. The characters are so real to me that if the readers are willing, I could easily write a number of spin-offs. Both characters will appear in the next two books. Most of the people you have met in Rue the Day will be in the next books, plus of course a few new ones.

Let me pause here and mention that Rhoedrie is a healer who has spent time away from his people (who scarcely EVER travel away from their own) to pursue new methods of healing. He is just returning to Faerie as the events of the story unfold. He is an Empath, which for the uninitiated means that he feels the emotions and pain of those around him. Rhoedrie very much likes the idea of a book centered around his adventures.

Eliatha is the premier Bard. A bard in Celtic tradition is a musician-storyteller-historian. If you look to the tales of Taliesin (often called Merlin), you will see an example of a bard. She keeps the history of Faerie and has a love interest in one of the other characters. Although she may seem to be a bit of a “hot house flower,” she has a bold spirit.

Devon, what is it about each of these characters that captivates you?

DE: Rhoederie’s spirit is captivating. He’s an empath, but he doesn’t let strong emotions or his reactions to those emotions stop him in his tracks. He finds a way to keep going, to overcome obstacles, in order to find a positive solution. He’s not afraid to think outside the box, to find out how things really work rather than sticking to the status quo, and that’s something I find appealing both in fictional characters and in people. Eliatha intrigues me not just because she’s a female bard, but because I feel we haven’t yet seen the full range of her intelligence and resources. A bard has to have an extraordinary memory and the ability to communicate sensory details and enthrall an audience. Those gifts can be used in many ways. I want to see her actively using them more. So often in this book she is reacting instead of initiating, and my sense of her is that there are so many more layers that we have yet to see, which I assume will come forward in the two next books! After all, you can’t put it all in the first one, can you? 😉

CM: One of my favorites is Fiona, who is Aislinn’s bodyguard and helper. She has definitely had some adventures that I would love to let her tell. I am also quite fond of the Selkie Corlath, who at first has little use for Faeries but because of knowing Aislinn he must face his disgust.

DE: Fiona cracks me up because she’s part warrior, part favorite aunt, and that combination makes her endearing. I’m looking forward to seeing how Corlath develops. Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview!

Visit Cat Muldoon’s website, or visit Wings ePress to learn more about her and to buy the book.

Upcoming author visits:

Jan. 9 & 10: Hazel Statham
Jan. 17 & 18: Colin Galbraith

For the daily ups and downs of one freelance writer’s life, visit Ink in My Coffee.

If you need help in setting the goals for your writing career, check out the Goals, Dreams, and Resolutions for 2008 up on Wordish Wanderings until the 31st of the this month, and join us in the journey meeting them in 2008 on Ink in My Coffee.

Rue the Day: The Undercover Heir Book I
By Cat Muldoon. KY: Wings ePress Books. 2007. ISBN 978-1-59705-218-4. Digital Format $6. Paperback $11.95.

Cat Muldoon has created an alternate universe that sometimes collides with ours. Lynne searches for her runaway cat, Bree, in the fog. After spending years in foster care, Bree is her one true comfort. She finds Bree, but is also found by Cian, who claims to be her kinsman and calls her “Aislinn”, the name her mother called her years ago before disappearing in a similar mist, abandoning Lynne. Cian has come to return Aislinn to her true home, the land of Faerie, because her mother, Neala, is very ill. The weaker Neala grows, the weaker Faerie magic grows; both Cian and Aislinn’s father, King Nevin, are afraid of a coup attempt to restore the magic.

Forced to hide her identity as the Princess, but brought forward as a representative of the House of Lynx with the right to take over the Queen’s care, Aislinn is plunged into politics, intrigue, magic, and machinations unlike anything she’s ever known. She must find a way to restore the Queen’s health and defeat whoever is trying to destroy the kingdom. With allies such as Cian, his lover the bard Eliatha, the healer Rhoedrie, her guardian Fiona, the silversmith Bryan, the Selkie Khadri, and, of course, Bree, Aislinn has to learn the customs and nuances of Faerie to save both her mother’s life and her parents’ kingdom. She learns that the fey rely on intuition and consider her blocked and somewhat damaged; whereas she can combine the intuitive street smarts she picked up during her hard-knock life, and combine it with her use of the five traditional senses to come up with solutions and ideas to dilemmas facing the kingdom.

Deeply rooted in Celtic, animal totem, and Selkie mythologies, Muldoon has spun a tale rife with love, lust, greed, and the need to discover who one can trust and whom one can love. Beautiful touches such as the strong characterizations of the animals and clever uses of traditional knot work and herbs add both depth and whimsy to the book.

Bio: Cat Muldoom sharpens her claws and her wit daily. Her varied interests include singing, teaching, cooking, archery, and tai chi. Most of her stories are romance, paranormal, futuristic, science fiction, fantasy, and suspense. But with Cat, you never know what she’ll dream up next. Several projects are in the works. And yes, Cat adores felines. She has two of them. Visit her website at www.CatMuldoon.com.

To purchase the above book, visit Cat’s website, or visit Wings ePress

And come back tomorrow, for an interview with the author!

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Want more on the ups and downs of the writing life? Visit Ink in My Coffee.

Here are some of my favorite books from the past few months’ reading. While they may not have been published in the last few months, I’ve read them in the time period. And they stayed with me long past turning the final page. I’ve been fortunate to read many excellent books in the past months, but these are stand-outs.

Bridge of Dreams by Chaz Brenchley. A lyrical, beautiful fantasy novel.

Hell’s Belles by Jackie Kessler. Urban fantasy extraordinaire, with succubus Jezebel on the run from Hell, learning what it means to be human.

The Drawing of the Dark by Tim Powers. A fascinating, compelling book about myth, reincarnation, and love.

A Girl’s Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky. One of the cleverest, warmest, funniest books I’ve read about the magic of love in a long time!

Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee by Charles J. Shields. A lovely, sensitive, thorough, and respectful (in the best possible sense) biography of this woman who insisted on running her career on her own terms, and not bowing to outside pressure.

Diaries of Lavinia Riker Davis. These diaries, edited and privately published by her family, are a wonderful portrait of this author who wrote mostly children’s books in the 1940s and 1950s.

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