Douglas Corleone Exposes Organized Human Trafficking in Good As Gone

Read & Tell

Meet Douglas Corleone, author of “Good As Gone“, an international thriller exposing the heinous world of organised human trafficking. You may have heard of this crime often, but you won’t get the full picture until you’ve read this newly available crime mystery. Introducing private investigator Simon Fisk, this book is masterfully written by the award-winning author of  One Man’s Paradise, a finalist for the 2010 Shamus Award for Best First Novel and won the 2009 Minotaur Books / Mystery Writers of America First Crime Novel Award. A former New York City criminal defense attorney, 1975-born Doug now resides in the Hawaiian Islands, where he is currently at work on his next novel.

Doug’s contemporary crime novels are published by St. Martin’s Minotaur, or in Australia by Pan Macmillan . I’ve had the honour to review this masterpiece and my review is attached at the end of this interview.


Hello Doug, thank you for coming in. First, congratulations on producing a marvelous story with such impressive characters and settings. Tell us, what compelled you to write Good As Gone?

As a society we tend to shy away from difficult issues like child abduction. But avoiding a problem has never helped solve a problem as far as I know. I’m under no illusion that my book is going to change the world, but if it sheds even a hint of light on the subject, I’ll feel as though I’ve done my job.  

Yes, you’ve successfully exposed to us the shocking world of organized human trafficking. Your book is so powerfully moving. You ripped readers’ hearts apart from the opening chapter. And along the way we can see you. How could you stand the bleeding of writing Good As Gone? Would you share this with us?

Writing this novel was difficult at times.  By the end of the day I usually found myself mentally and emotionally drained, which was an entirely new experience for me while writing.  I started this book around the time my son Jack was turning two and already developing this wonderful, unique personality.  In the morning I’d try to imagine what it would be like if he was suddenly taken from me, and I used those emotions to bring the character of Simon Fisk alive.  It took a lot out of me, but I think the depth of those feelings shows on the page.   At least I hope they do.

Yes they do, some parts are deeply harrowing, making readers think of the victims, of Simon/the families, and of numerous other people you described throughout the book. The kinds of lives they have are simply haunting.

Douglas-Corleone

“I’m under no illusion that my book is going to change the world, but if it sheds even a hint of light on the subject, I’ll feel as though I’ve done my job.”
~ Douglas Corleone, Author of Good As Gone.

 

Simon is decent, smart, and ruthless. How real are your characters?

When I set out to create Simon Fisk, I wanted to magnify the contrast between his outward appearance and his internal conflict. To other characters, Simon may appear stoic, but inside readers know he’s brimming with rage and anguish.  And only when he’s confronted by monsters who would cause children harm do we really see that rage spill out and when it does, it’s genuine and pure, and you wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of it.  I think we all can relate to having bottled-up feelings while wearing a brave face in front of others.  I think that’s what makes Simon real.

Your experiences as a criminal defense attorney inspired parts of this story. Would you like to share some highlights from that time?

Unfortunately, highlights in the career of a criminal defense attorney are generally considered lowlights by the rest of society.

Oh right, I was imagining your formidable Anastazja Staszak! 🙂

GOOD-AS-GONE-final-673x1024

 Good As Gone, crime mystery and international thriller by Douglas Corleone, introducing private investigator Simon Fisk, former fugitive hunter, retriever of missing children, the next hero to fall in love with.

Would you share with us a memorable moment in completing this novel?

The most memorable moment for me, when writing any novel, is when I first come up with the idea. For Good As Gone, the idea arrived while I was thousands of miles from home in New Haven, Connecticut, working on one final federal criminal case. That morning I’d spoken to my literary agent, and she said that my publisher would like to see something new from me (as opposed to a fourth Kevin Corvelli novel).  I’d read this one-page article online two years earlier about a private investigator from Tampa who specialized in retrieving children abducted by their estranged parents and taken overseas to countries that don’t recognize U.S. custody decisions, and that’s what immediately popped into my head. I spent most of that day creating Simon’s backstory, and most of the plane ride home deciding what would cause him to break his rule of not getting involved in “stranger abductions.”  That’s when Lieutenant Davignon of the French National Police was created.

Congratulations on creating these interesting characters! They sure are strong hooks for the next installments your Simon Fisk series.
Now, you’re currently at work on your next novel. What’s cooking?

The next Simon Fisk novel is under contract and I’m awaiting an editorial letter.

What’s the proposed title?

The second novel in the Simon Fisk series will be released next year. It’s titled “Payoff”, and it’ll take Simon from Los Angeles to the Caribbean and Central and South America in search of the teenage daughter of a Hollywood movie mogul.

Why is this a must-read?

If you enjoyed Good As Gone, I’m confident you’ll enjoy the sequel.

We’re looking forward to that!
Now, on writing. As a master in this art, what, in your opinion, are the most important elements of a great mystery thriller? 

I think the combination of deep characters and moving the story forward (which are often at odds with one another) is what makes a great novel, particularly in the mystery and thriller genres.

Thank you! Who gives you the most encouragement, Doug?

My readers. There is nothing that motivates me more than an email from someone who just finished one of books and tells me that they loved it and asks me to please keep writing.

Any writing tips?

Just the usual. Persistence is key to succeeding. Oh, and steer clear of anyone who tells you to write only what you know. One of the greatest joys of being a novelist is researching new settings and learning about new cultures and professions.

Thanks again! And you sure have done a marvelous job in learning. And personally, what did you learn from writing your novels?

I love writing, but not so much the business end of things.  I’m active on social media, but I’m not entirely comfortable tweeting and posting.  I love that I can interact with my readers, but I’d prefer that interaction to be one on one, in an email or letter, rather than holding conversations in front of thousands of other users.  I’m just as honest, but probably far less open when the conversation can be seen by others.

Where did you grow up? I’m imagining a lovely Italian home with lots of affection and endless yummy food—is this true?

No. I think if I had, I’d be writing something much different and certainly less noir. I might not be writing at all.

We are what we have overcome. The past have made you a great person, Doug, but I’m glad the past is over. Share with us your Hawaii home.

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“I love consistency, especially while I’m writing, and Hawaii gives me that.  I live on the leeward side of Oahu, where the weather is consistently brilliant and the people are consistently friendly.  It’s a remarkable place to live and work.”

Nice. Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.

Above all, my children. I have three. Jack is 4, Maya is almost 2, and Kyra is 3 months. They’re my world; they’re my everything.

You are so blessed! Enjoy the kids, they’re young only once, and only for a short time.
Thanks again for chatting with us, Doug. Best wishes for Good As Gone!

And readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting the fabulous crime author Douglas Corleone. Come follow Doug’s latest news on Facebook and Twitter. His amazing new book Good As Gone is available from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million iBookstore | IndieBound ~ and in Australia online from Pan Macmillan or from the shops beginning September 1, 2013.

Following is my review of the book.

 

GOOD-AS-GONE-finalThe Heinous World of Human Trafficking: “Good As Gone” Reviewed by Ia Uaro

 

Book title: Good As Gone
Series: Simon Fisk Novels (Book 1)
Author: Douglas Corleone
Publisher: Minotaur Books; St. Martin’s
ISBN-10: 1250017203 ISBN-13: 978-1250017208

 

6-year-old Lindsay Sorkin disappears in the middle of the night from a Paris resort-style hotel room. The National Police doesn’t want a media circus which will endanger Lindsay’s life as well as the country’s reputation; therefore Simon Fisk’s expertise is quietly sought.

 

Simon is a former fugitive hunter who now works privately retrieving children abducted by non-custodial parents. He is a very kind and sensitive man with nothing to lose. Carrying a heavy burden of loss, Simon agrees to take on the assignment to retrieve Lindsay so that there will be two less parents in the world walking aimlessly through their own hell on earth.

 

Simon’s clarity of mind and thought processes is astounding. He is focused, disciplined, systematic, thorough and meticulous. Like an eagle with the sharpest eyes he spots tiny details that other trained investigators have missed, while his brilliant logics connect dots with amazing precision. And all the while he hurts. He knows what the parents are going through and he feels for them. Genuinely worries about Lindsay’s welfare, Simon puts her priority in the foremost of his mind when making abhorrent decisions, such as, having to end his opponent’s life in self defence, even though, personally, in getting himself killed he has nothing to lose.

 

Good As Gone is masterpiece crime thriller that will keep readers on edge as Simon races against time to save an innocent life, from Paris to various international cities and alleys, dealing with dangerous lowlifes from smelly street thugs to the vilest professional criminals, and of course, corrupt law enforcers and treacheries.

 

Don’t mistake this as just another Madeleine-McCann-inspired story: Good As Gone is a highly original fast-paced ingenious suspense, and you will never mistake Douglas Corleone’s writing style with anyone else’s because Doug’s work is supremely above today’s other crime writers’. He is a lot like Simon Fisk:

  • Doug’s clarity of mind and thought processes is astounding, delivering the exceptionally complex plot in a clear voice and easy-to-follow methodical narration, which is a high achievement considering the fast pace of the intricate twists and turns.
  • Doug is focused, disciplined, systematic, meticulously thorough and logically brilliant, leaving no chance for readers to get confused in a convoluted maze, taking them along with him through dangers, action, and heart-wrenching pain.
  • Doug has perfect knowledge of the content, either from his professional research or experiences as a former defense lawyer.
  • Like an eagle with the sharpest eyes Doug spots tiny details to the tee, and this applies in both his superbly comprehensive story and flawless English, such as, though I received a review copy marked “uncorrected”, I could only spot a few tiny errors.
  • And unlike the majority of today’s men-fic, Doug isn’t afraid of honesty. He shows us how men too feel, and feel deeply, even those who often have to act with ruthless brutality. He is witty and he is polite in his speech, with very rare use of strong language. (Who did say, never underestimate the seductive power of a decent vocabulary?) In Fisk, you can see Doug clearly: he is caring, and he respects women.

 

Don’t miss reading this book, even though I’m sure a movie deal isn’t too far away. Simon Fisk and the story are that good you’ll be glad this is going to be a series.

 

 

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How to Create Your Own Book Trailer

 

This is  a copy-paste of my answer to a friend’s question. Create Space will do a fabulous job to make your trailer for you, IF you have $2200 to pay them. Still, even if you let somebody else to create your trailer for you, somebody who had not stayed up with you and cried with you while you bled completing your book, you may want to have a say in the making of it, and here are a few things to consider.

Fellow writers, tell me, what is a trailer? I have a chance for my Mermaid book to be spotlighted on Ngaire Victoria Elder’s blog and one of the things she asked for was a trailer if I had one. How does one go about making one?

Sydney’s Song Margaret, I do reviews & interviews videos which use the same principles. My two cents:

• To create a video, use Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker, or Apple’s iMovie. Or google other movie-maker programs. They are easy to use (google step-by-step instruction), and making a video can be fun.

• A trailer will show your author brand. Brand is how you want others to perceive you. Branding is communication: telling a specific target that you have what they want. Your aim is sales.


• You start making a trailer by deciding the content ~ for a book trailer it’s either an “appetizer” or a two-minute pitch.



 

• Write down the text for every slide. Remember your brand. At the end, supply the book-purchase link.


Remembering your brand, for every slide you choose either:
– a relevant illustration/picture to go with the text; or
– a blank canvas to emphasize your text (decide a theme colour); or 
– your headshot on a blank canvas for author’s quote/statement.
The key: LESS is BEST. A successful image-adviser gave me these tips: use minimum colors; minimum words; minimum font types.

 



• The optimum video length is between 60 to 90 seconds. (My videos are normally 2 minutes. But most people only watch for 90 seconds.)

 


• Choosing music is the most crucial step, as music really brands you and your work in its category and its quality (you can see from Mrs D example above that she’s chosen a winning music). Google royalty-free music. Some royalty-free music are free, some you have to pay. My trailer http://bit.ly/11IbpTH uses a paid royalty-free music; but most of the authors in my interview/review videos in http://www.youtube.com/user/IaUaro use FREE royalty-free music and they work fine (most of the time the music choice really suits the author’s personality).


• And oh, when you publish your YouTube, make sure to embed keyword-rich description for the SEO purpose.

 

Good luck and have fun!

 

Meet G.R. Holton, US Award-Winning Science Fiction Author

read-tellG.R. Holton, US award-winning science fiction author of YA novels, is visiting us today. Bob’s novella “Soleri” won the 2010 Best Science Fiction from Booksandauthors.net, while his horror novel “Deep Screams” won in 2011, the year Bob also won TheAuthorsShow.com’s “50 Best Writers You Should be Reading”. Bob also writes children’s picture book and screenplays.

Born in a little town in Massachusetts G. R. Holton served 4 ½ years as an Army Military Police officer until he had a severe breakdown caused by Bipolar. After a couple of failed marriages he found his angel who led him to Christ and changed his life. He appreciates those around him and loves life. We will chat with Bob about his soon-to-be-released novel “The Mob” and his writing life.

 

"I have three words that are printed out and taped above my monitor. They are Faith, Focus, and Patience. As a writer you need to have faith in your writing, maintain a focus on what you are trying to accomplish, and above all the patience to work the story through."

“I have three words that are printed out and taped above my monitor. They are Faith, Focus, and Patience. As a writer you need to have faith in your writing, maintain a focus on what you are trying to accomplish, and above all the patience to work the story through.”

 

Hello Bob, a warm welcome, a very happy wish on your birthday, and congratulations on your soon-to-be released novel THE MOB. Let’s chat about this one first. What is it about?

The Mob is a 1930s mobster story, a tale of a woman’s revenge for the death of her father. It is a new novel and screenplay due out on June 1st, 2013.

Would you like to give readers a one-sentence synopsis?

A ten year old girl swears vengeance for her father’s murder by a young mobster.

Where will it be available?

The book will be available on my website www.grholton.com, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Books a Million, and most eBook sites.

What compelled you to write this one?

It is a collaboration work with Producer Marlene Mendoza. She had the idea of a woman wanting to become a singer and then marries into the mob. I thought it would be great to have it start out as a little girl losing her father to a gangster and then having her living for nothing but revenge.

What sets this one apart from the rest of your books? Is this a repeat or are there new excitements? 

This is an altogether out of the box for me. My other works are science fiction and fantasy. I loved the thought of the 1930s and gangsters. I grew up around an old Italian neighborhood where the mafia was known to be.

Tell us about the characters. Which actors would you choose to play these characters in a movie rendition? 

Well there is of course Antonio Capresi, the husband of Maria. I would love to see someone like Leonardo DiCaprio. Maria the vengeful wife… Hmmm…  Jessica Biel comes to mind first.

Why is this a must read?

Not only is this a story of a woman losing her father, but it is about the depths she would go to make his killer pay and include anyone that gets in her way.

When is the planned release?

Tell us your latest news. The book is now in final edit and is slated for release by World Castle Publishing around mid-June.

Coming soon

Coming soon


Sample paragraph, please?

Once they landed in Cozumel, Antonio took her straight to the room. Maria unpacked the suitcases while Antonio stood out on the balcony smoking a cigar and drinking a glass of Scotch from their in-room bar. She then went out on the balcony and joined her husband.

“Antonio, do me a favor and pour me a glass of champagne?”

“Sure doll, but do you want to drink before we go to supper?”

“Yeah…we are celebrating, aren’t we?”

“You got me there. One sec and I will get it.” Antonio said as he turned and faced her. He looked deeply into her eyes, took her face in his hands, and kissed her passionately. Maria returned the kiss as she had many times before.

Antonio opened a bottle of champagne and poured them both a glass. Returning to Maria on the balcony, he handed one of the drinks to her. “Maria, a toast. To us—may we have many beautiful years together, and love as long as time itself.”

“Cheers,” Maria said, placing the glass to her lips.

“Okay, enough with the drinks. I hope you are hungry, because I made reservations at the most renowned five star restaurant in the area.”

“I am ready to eat. Can I go freshen up my makeup?”

“Sure dollface, you have plenty of time. Go do your thing and then we will go.”

Maria went to the bathroom and stared into the mirror. She knew what this was all leading up to, and it almost made her want to vomit, but she was locked in. There was no turning back now. She had to play it through no matter what it took. She fixed her makeup, and then the two of them went downstairs to the front of the hotel. There they took a horse drawn surrey around town before stopping at a beautiful restaurant called Sammy’s Place.

After they had dinner they went dancing, and Maria had a few drinks. In fact, she had planned to get a little tipsy, because she knew she could never handle what was to come if she was sober.

 

 

White Magic, Black Magic, Ogres, Trolls, Dragon’s, and Fantasy galoreWould you like to tell us about Dragon’s Bow too?
Two sisters both seek the power of a fabled bow to change their lives, but for different reasons.

How real are your characters?

I like to consider my characters as real people in my head. They are often made after people I know and not just by name. I add their character also.

How long did it take you to write Dragon’s Bow?

My mentor has a name for me… “the machine”. I can sit and write 5,000 to 8,000 at a time if the day is good. But usually I average about 3,000 a day. This book took me just under two months to write.

How did you come up with the title?

Actually like most of my work it came to me in a dream. I was walking in a cave and found the bow and as soon as I picked it up it began to glow and the dragon that protected it came around corner. I woke up at that point and came out and started to write.

What is your favorite paragraph in Dragon’s Bow?

It is the poem that my wife and I came up with to locate the bow: Above the altar the wall shall be the secret of the wall to see. The holder of the heart must own, and be placed upon the wizard’s stone.

When did you first know you just had to write?

Writing was never a thought for me until I met my mentor Derek Milton, a movie director/screenwriter. He let me read his work and I knew at that point I had to try. It became the best therapy I could ever do.

Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

Ray Bradbury is one of the biggest. There is something about his style that just forces me to read further. When I read Fahrenheit 451 I couldn’t believe the way he put me in that story.
What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

Well I am a disabled veteran. I said earlier that writing was therapy. I suffer from severe Bipolar disorder and can’t work around people. But with writing I can escape the real world and immerse myself into the worlds I am creating.

Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

I get my biggest encouragement from my Mom who lives with me and my wife. She is always asking me about my stories and telling me that I need to write when I am depressed or my manic side is getting the best of me.

How do you see writing Bob? And why?  

Writing is now my career. I love sitting and creating new worlds or new characters. It is either that or I go back to playing Farmville… I don’t think so…

How much do you have in common with your protag? 

I am nothing like my protags. They are usually very heroic, outgoing, and straight forward types. I am happy in my little house and to have my back to the wall whenever we go out to eat.

What are your hobbies?

I do a little bit of Fishing but other than that I play angry birds usually as a way to escape writer’s block. But that is going to change. I just found out I have congestive heart failure and need to make my hobby exercising.
When do you find the time to write?

Being disabled I am lucky I guess that I can write anytime that the people in my head want to talk. I usually do most of my writing in the late afternoon and evening. I am not a morning person.

Tell us a bit about who and what matters to you.

I am a fifty-year-old happily married man with three absolutely fantastic children, two cool step-children, and three of the most beautiful little granddaughters you could find. My granddaughters mean the world to me; though they are far away they are always in my heart.

How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?

My family can’t believe that I have become a writer. They support me and always want to be characters in my work. People treat me so nice when they hear that I am a published author and that I have won awards for it.

What one thing is important for your audience to know about you? Why?

I am an award-winning author and I am very proud of that. I won the 2010 Books and Authors.net’s Best Science Fiction for my book “Soleri” and again in 2011 for “Deep Screams”. I was also named as one of the “2011 Best Authors you Should be Reading” by The Author’s Show.com. I do the best I can at writing good stories people will like.

Any tips for us on reading and writing?

Yes… I have three words that are printed out and taped above my monitor. They are Faith, Focus, and Patience. As a writer you need to have faith in your writing, maintain a focus on what you are trying to accomplish, and above all the patience to work the story through.

Thank you so much for your time Bob, and I hope you will win many more awards. Best wishes for all of your books!

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting R.G. Holton. Come check out his website and follow his updates on

Click on the book covers in this interview for the books’ Amazon links.

Soleri100

 

 

Soleri: Three teens are teleported to another galaxy to help the aliens turn on a defense shield.

 

 

Deep Screams 100

 

 

Deep Screams: Horror and Death abound as a Space Station searches for a new Earth.

 

 

GuardiansAlliance 100

 

 

Guardian’s Alliance: A Science Fiction Space Opera where nine elite fighters brought together to protect the Heledrium Galaxy.

 

 

Click cover for Amazon US

 

 

SQUAZLES!: Teach your child with this picture book how not to judge others by appearance alone.

 

 

 

And here are my mini reviews of Soleri and Dargon’s Bow:

 

 SOLERI, reviewed by Ia Uaro 

Title: Soleri
Author: G.R. Holton
ISBN: 978-1938243707
Wesley, the son of an electronic engineer, builds a robot. When he uses Dad’s new transducer chip, he, together with his sister Macy, her best friend Ashley, and their dog Poston are accidentally teleported to an alien planet.  This planet called Soleri, and the Solerians are slaves of their cruel neighbours the Tojinians, who force them to grow food.  The Solerian leader informs the teen about an imminent attack from the Tojinians and he needs to activate his defense shield. However the shield controller, which will also needed to help the teens return to earth, is deep within the catacombs of Soleri and is under the control of the Tojinian guards.
Einstein once said that if you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it enough. G.R. Holton clearly shows a fantastic imagination in creating a brand-new planet and its inhabitants, and he knows how to explain it simply with just the right amount of fascinating details as the story flows.
Soleri is a steampunk science fiction peopled with likeable characters and filled with lively dialogues and suspenseful obstacles. Highly entertaining and moving, this is a book for readers of all ages.

 

DRAGON’S BOW, reviewed by Ia Uaro
Title: Dragon’s Bow
Author: G.R. Holton
ISBN: 978-1938243691
Inventive author G.R. Holton creates horrible creatures and beautiful humans in the island Kratonin and its surrounding fantasyland, and weaves fun interaction among them as he rolls out an exciting plot of white magic clashing with dark magic.
Evil Malahan plots to deceive the white-witch Queen of Kratonin in order to obtain a powerful offspring from her, and twin sisters Adria and Audra are born as the results of this mix black magic and white magic. Audra is determined to follow their father’s evil ways and conquer the world, while her twin is determined to cleanse her sister’s dark soul.
Trust Holton’s ability to give young readers an entertaining fun-pack action adventure and to throw in moral values without shoving it down their throats. The twins’ training and dangerous challenges are detailed with excellent imagination, as always, and thoroughly thought-out.

 

 

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Meet Reyna Hawk, US Author of Mafia, Murder Suspense and Psychological Thriller

read-tell

~If it is to be~it’s up to me~

(Reyna Hawk)

Reyna Hawk, American author of romantic suspense Valentine/Petrilo Series, the standalone paranormal Angels & Arrows, and the psychological thriller The Alter-Ego of Insanity, is with us today to chat about her novels and her writing life.  She is a 45 year old mother of one son and grandmother to one beautiful 4 year old little girl. Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio Reyna has always loved writing and story-telling. Her passion for telling stories began at a very young age when she was making up stories to tell her school friends. Reyna has an Associate of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology. Other than writing Reyna also has a passion for photography and image manipulation; when she’s not writing she can be found wandering parks and cemeteries taking photographs.

Reyna Hawk, US author of mafia, murder suspense and psychological thriller.

Reyna Hawk, US author of mafia, murder suspense and psychological thriller:
“I think each person needs to be grateful for the things they have instead of unhappy and miserable for the things they don’t have. It is also about time women woke up and realized that playing “dumb” and the damsel in distress routine is not attractive.”

 

Hello Reyna, thank you so much for coming in. Let’s first visit your newly release: The Alter-Ego of Insanity—a psychological thriller about a mafia boss’s son that discovers he’s a necrophiliac. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of this book?

At the age of 18 Gino Poletti discovers not only is his father the Boss to one of Chicago’s biggest crime families; but also that he himself is a necrophiliac?

You have an Associate of Arts in Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Cultural Anthropology.  Is this book based on your interest in these fields?

Somewhat, my Associate’s degree in Psychology helped me to understand and better write about those that are mentally ill. The Bachelor in Cultural Anthropology helped me to study those with the fascination for the dead and just how ordinary they see themselves; many seeing nothing wrong with their lifestyle.

How real are your characters?

I think they are very real characters. They are the type of people that you would find living next door to you; then when the secret comes out about whom they really are everyone in the neighborhood is shocked to learn that these types of people would be living such normal lives.

What compelled you to write this book?

Well my niece and I had discussed a book with this basic platform; it did not originally start off this way. I can honestly say this is one of those books with characters that literally took over and wrote the book themselves. I wanted something different and dark from what I had normally written; and I sure got it.

How long did it take you to write The Alter-Ego of Insanity?
Surprisingly very short; if I add up the time of writing, editing, and proofreading then maybe a week.

How did you come up with the title?
I actually had help with that. I couldn’t decide and was discussing it with my cousin. I wanted something that spoke about Gino’s mental state and his desire to live a normal life. After turning over many titles my cousin suggested it and I thought it was perfect.

What is your favorite line in this book?

“Well ole Dave here is about to become part of the concrete slab in the new bakery.” Angelo laughed.

At the age of 18 Gino Poletti discovers not only is his father the Boss to one of Chicago's biggest crime families; but also that he himself is a necrophiliac?

The Alter-Ego of Insanity, a psychological thriller
by US author Reyna Hawk.
At the age of 18 Gino Poletti discovers not only is his father the Boss to one of Chicago’s biggest crime families; but also that he himself is a necrophiliac.

 

Reyna, how do you see writing?

I don’t see it as a job. I see it as my career but also my escape from reality.

When did you first know you just had to write?

When I was about 25 I had the overwhelming urge and desire to put the stories in my head onto paper and share them with the world.

Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

I would have to say there are several: Stephen King, Patricia Cornwell, VC Andrews, Mary Higgins Clark, and Charlaine Harris. Each one of them have a uniqueness about their writing that makes their stories not only believable, but pulls you into the scenes leaving you to feel to like you’ve lived the life of the character.

Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio Reyna has always loved writing and storytelling. From a very young age she was making up stories to tell her friends.” What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

The biggest joy is to have someone compliment your writing and tell you how reading the book really touched them in some way. I find it fascinating how each person will have a bit of a different perspective on the characters.

Tell us about The Valentine/Petrilo trilogy. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of each title?

The Valentine/ Petrilo trilogy: Twists and turns of Janie Valentine’s life when she becomes entangled in the Petrilo Crime Family’s webs.

The Valentine/ Petrilo trilogy: Twists and turns of Janie Valentine’s life
when she becomes entangled in the Petrilo Crime Family’s webs.

Looking Through Blind Eyes: Janie Valentine has to cope with the reality of learning that the love of her life is not who she once thought he was and the untimely suspicious death of her brother.

Reflection of Secrets: The world Janie has come to live and love turns out to be nothing of what she had dreamed it to be.

Shattered Visions Haunted Memories: Janie’s reality turns to suspicion and vindictiveness as the past comes knocking on her door.

Revealing Visions: This is where it all began for Janie, Daniel, Rico and Malachi are brought into perspective.

Seeing Karma: Twenty years has passed since Janie’s fateful fall off the cliff in NC, yet here that day is coming back to haunt not only her but also her and Rico’s daughter Sophia.

 

How  about Angels and Arrows, Reyna?

“Angels and Arrows”, a novel by Reyna Hawk and L.K. Russ,  based on true paranormal events that happened either to the authors or a close family member.

“Angels and Arrows” (Co-written by L.K. Russ) was released in October of 2012 and is based on true paranormal events that happened either to the authors or a close family member. 

Would you like to  elaborate on the true paranormal part?

Many of the events that occurred in the book occurred to me or someone close to me. I am currently in the process of completely revising the book and I think many people will want to read the new edition even if they’ve read the first one. I have included many events that happened during and after the first initial writing. I also have changed the point of view from third person to first person.

How do you find the experience of co-authoring and how did you manage this?

It was a bit tricky but a lot of fun to include one of the main witnesses to the events in on the writing.

Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

That would be two people, my cousin and best friend Lisa and my niece and also best friend Jen. It’s important because I feel that at the end of the day when I am doubting myself, there is someone in my corner to show me why I chose to publish my work and to knock sense back into me.

What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

Well right now I have two things in the works. I am revising Angels and Arrows and I am writing another “paranormal” stand alone titled Between the Pages. I will release more information on it as I get further along; right now it is the beginning stages and I don’t like to give too much detail about it.

reynas website

How much do you have in common with your protag?

Anyone who knows me would say a great deal! LOL

That means you’re a fabulous friend and mother 🙂 What are your hobbies besides writing?

Reading, photography, and spending time with my family and friends.

What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?

Here lately I have been tutoring but I would consider writing my profession. I write at any opportunity that I can or when an idea comes to me; albeit that may be at 3am.

You are a grandmother to one beautiful 4-year-old little girl. Would you like to share your most memorable experience/moment with this little one?

This little one cracks me up every day with her words and actions. I’ll never forget the day she came home from preschool and announced “I’m going to marry Preston when I grow up. Of course, after I go to college and get a career.” Smart girl!!

Tell us a bit about what matters to you.

Wow, there is so much! I believe wholeheartedly in the Golden Rule. To me if everyone practiced that there would be less drama, prejudice, racism, discrimination, and hatred in this world. I think each person needs to be grateful for the things they have instead of unhappy and miserable for the things they don’t have. It is also about time women woke up and realized that playing “dumb” and the damsel in distress routine is not attractive.

How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?

This has been good and bad. Many people have stepped up to show moral support and then others chose to walk away. I’m not sure why, but they have. However, instead of dwelling on it I chose to take the high road and understand they are the ones missing out, not me. Many have come forward and said that inspired them to begin writing again; which always brings a smile on my face. All I want is for my writing to matter and to make a difference to someone.

What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?

That I am a real person with real thoughts and feelings. Who I am online is who I am in real life. I am goofy, funny, and yes sometimes a dork but I’d have it no other way. I do not want to be this uptight proper person; it’s just not me. I want them to know this so that they know it is not an act. I am who I am. I get cranky, sad, hurt, happy, and goofy just like everyone else.

Any tips for other authors in marketing?

My suggestions are to try everything at least once and go with what works best. Keep in mind even though something may not have worked once, doesn’t mean next month it won’t work miracles.

Thank you! Really appreciate your visit. Best wishes for your work!

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Reyna. Her books are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Come follow her latest updates from her websiteGoogle+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook’s page and group, Goodreads, Pinterest, Author’s Den and AuthorsDB.

 

 And here is my mini review of The Alter-Ego of Insanity:

 

 Do Not Read This Book Before Sleep!

Book Title: The Alter-Ego of Insanity

Author: Reyna Hawk

ASIN: B00CB7ZQUO

Genre: Psychological Thriller, Mafia

 

The novella opens with the warning that it contains graphic language and graphic violence, that some scenes contains blood and gore; and that it is intended for very mature adults only. In other words, faint-hearted me shouldn’t be reading this. But I trudged on in trepidation.
Under one of  Chicago’s bridges Gino Poletti witnesses his father shooting his colleague and the violence gives Gino euphoria. The blood smells wonderful to Gino and the dead body thrills him. It is his 18th birthday; his mafia father wants him to learn the family “business”.
Alas, his father doesn’t kill for fun, but as the last resort. So Gino satisfy his newfound fascination for tortures by watching gore videos of an online necrophiliac community. However, this proves addictive and life can only get worse…

This is a very sad story written with clinical detachment by an expert of the mentally ill. Gripping my seat in fear, I’m not the right person to review this kind of material, but the author sure knows what she is talking about. Surprising and shocking, The Alter-Ego of Insanity shows readers the way some people live. It could be that charming neighbours of yours…

If you are brave, and strong, and curious, this one is for you. Just don’t read it before you go to sleep!

 

 

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Meet Jacky Gray—British Author of YA adventure novels “Hengist: People of The Horse”

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Meet Jacky Gray,  British author of YA adventure novels in the Hengist: People of The Horse chronicles. Jacky has extensive experience in software writing and teaching maths in high school. Her  first career was engineering and after 23 years writing software for telephone exchanges, she spent 13 years teaching children, occasionally introducing them to the delights of mathematics. She lives in the Midlands with her husband and three children, where she watches a lot of movies and some great TV shows like Merlin, Robin Hood, Dr Who, Ashes to Ashes and Being Human. She also listens to a lot of Journey and Queen and reads (apologies to the adverb police) voraciously, in addition to the names above: Preston/Child, Wilbur Smith and recently George RR Martin.

 

Jacky Gray, British author of Archer, first book in Hengist: People of The Horse

Jacky Gray, British author of Archer, first book in Hengist: People of The Horse



Hello Jacky, thank you for stopping by! Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of Archer?

Archer – One boy’s fight against adversity to find friendship, romance and the generosity to love his enemy.

How real are your characters?

Archer is like another son—as are Reagan, Slater and Geraint. Being a high-school teacher has given me plenty of role models to help all the characters seem like modern-day teens.

Who or what inspired you to write this book? When did you first know you just had to write?

Kevin Hicks was the bowman at Warwick Castle for over a decade. When I watched him firing 100 arrows in rapid succession through a loop of rope, approximately the size of a human head, it woke up the warrior buried deep within me. By the time I reached home that night, Archer was born, initially in a military thriller as the thirty-year-old bodyguard to a girl who could read people’s auras.

 I have been writing since I was about twelve—my first full length novel was based on a dream I had when I was 18—it took over 30 years until I published it.

But your perseverance has brought novels that will delight teens who are your target audience. How long did it take you to write the first book?

Archer took 18 days from start to finish—the words just tumbled out every night starting about 10pm and going on until 3 or 4 the next morning. The weird thing was that when I got up the next day and started researching what I had written about, it was all backed up by websites and experts in the various fields.

And hence the believable fantasy, as if they are real people and real events! How did you come up with the title?

Each book in the series is named after the protagonist—each boy has very different personality and skills. The sub-title “Hengist: The People of the Horse” refers to the fictitious people who live in a parallel universe where there is no electricity, computers or cars.

What is your favorite part in the book?

Catching hold of Patricia’s arm, Archer tried to think of something smart to say. In an instant that seemed to last an eternity, she glanced down at her arm; then up into his face. Her expression reflected extreme distaste; although he couldn’t for the life of him think of anything he had done to deserve it.

The right words would not surface and those that did tumbled out involuntarily. ‘Don’t you want to kiss the May King for luck?’

Her look seared his fingers on her arm with a frostbite so intense he had no choice except to release her. ‘I think the May King’s lips are still wet with the kisses of his adoring subjects.’

 

ARCHER: One boy’s fight against adversity to find friendship, romance and the generosity to love his enemy.

ARCHER: One boy’s fight against adversity to find friendship, romance and the generosity to love his enemy.

 

Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

Bernard Cornwell—he will always be the Master for me – his ability to transport readers back to bygone times is inspirational. I have also learnt a lot about creating realistic, engaging characters from Stephen King, Jodi Picoult and Stephenie Meyer and about credible, fascinating settings from JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins. For the leanest, meanest writing style and an enduring, character-driven action series, I am smitten with Lee Child.

What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

Archer is like another son—as are Reagan, Slater and Geraint and Rory is another daughter. Every minute I spend in the company of my extended family is absolute joy—I love to watch their lives unfold and share in their adventures. The challenge is to tell their stories in a way that other people can enjoy them as much as I do and the hardship is in coming back to spend time in the real world. If I could, I would spend every minute of every day writing, but unfortunately I have to earn a crust and my family do appreciate the odd minute or two of my attention, especially around Christmas and Easter.

I can relate to that. I hope one day soon you can write full time. Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

My very first supporter was my daughter Jo—she gave me so much confidence at the beginning. Several dozen people since then have given me plenty of support and encouragement, but the biggest compliment are the amazing comments from other writers – particularly the kind words from the ABNA competitors.

What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

The sixth book kinda finished itself on a serious cliff-hanger. I now have to wait for some free time so Aurora and Archer can tell me how this adventure concludes. It may be book number seven, or it could be that book six goes super-size.  

Have fun writing all that! And how do you see writing, Jacky? Why?

Writing is a way of life. It gives me more joy than anything else I could do (even dancing). I would love to spend every day of my life writing or promoting my books.  

May you wish come true soon!

 

AveburyStones2

“Archer has the same bad time at school that I did, digging deep inside to find the courage to survive the torment. Like me, he never fitted in and relies on himself to fight the demons that plague him, but it doesn’t stop him from helping people or trying to be honourable and do the right thing.”

 

How much do you have in common with your protag?

Everything. Archer has the same bad time at school that I did, digging deep inside to find the courage to survive the torment. Like me, he never fitted in and relies on himself to fight the demons that plague him, but it doesn’t stop him from helping people or trying to be honourable and do the right thing.

That’s beautiful, Jacky.

What are your hobbies?

Reading, walking in nature and any kind of live entertainment (especially theatre and rock bands). Watching movies and well-written TV shows, exploring the country, particularly historical/spiritual sites. And if I don’t have music playing, I’m quite sure my life will end.

What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?

I teach high school mathematics, but for the past few years this has only been part-time, allowing me to focus on writing the rest of the time. It has been bliss, but I started a new full-time job in March so there is way less time to write. L  The good thing is, this job is encouraging reluctant readers to read—awesome! 🙂

Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.

Showing respect and taking responsibility. Whether it is respect for yourself, another person or animal or the world around you is immaterial—I grieve for how little respect is shown in today’s self-centred, throwaway society. If everyone would take responsibility for their own actions instead of trying to blame someone else when things go wrong, it would be much easier to live in a state of joyful harmony.

A caring soul. Good on you, Jacky! Now, any tips for us on reading and/or writing?

Read everything you can get your hands on in your genre so you know what’s out there, and can find out what works for you and what doesn’t. More importantly, read outside your genre—there are always lessons to be learnt about how to write good/bad characters, scenes and dialogue.

Listen to the way people speak and read your whole manuscript out loud (not just the dialogue). If you feel uncomfortable saying it, your readers will feel uncomfortable reading it.

Write a little bit every day—even if it’s just a few lines, it’s good to do something that is creative and brings you joy.

And yours is one that is sure to bring joy to your target audience! Well done Jacky, and thank you so much for the chat.

 

RORY: How a naïve stranger can rise above his aggressors  and teach them about courage and honour. REAGAN: The chosen boy who decodes the mysteries of  white horses, crop circles and ley lines to save his people.

RORY: How a naïve stranger can rise above his aggressors and teach them about courage and honour.
REAGAN: The chosen boy who decodes the mysteries of white horses, crop circles and ley lines to save his people.

 

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Jacky. Come visit her website, blog, book trailer, video interviews on Archer  and on Rory.

Click here for her to buy her paperback or eBook  from Amazon UK, paperback or eBook from Amazon US, or from Barnes & Noble.

And now my mini review of the first book in the Hengist series:

Archer, reviewed by Ia Uaro of www.sydneyssong.net

WHBlaise5bTitle: Archer

Subtitle: Hengist: People of The Book

Author: Jacky Gray, ISBN: 978-1446150191

Archer is an orphan teen with special gifts. He is stronger and faster than other boys his age, and a champ at sword fights and shooting arrows. His personality and abilities win him female interest, but also jealousy from an ardent competitor who, for years, tries his best to give Archer a hard time.

Archer is the first book of the refreshing YA adventure novels Hengist: People of The Horse. Set in a new parallel world which is a mixture of the Middle Ages and modern England, these chronicles follow the lives of Archer and his friends as they go to compete in jousting and shooting arrows like medieval knights at Beltane, the Festival of the May, in well-executed exhilarating action-packed and fun-packed scenes.

This series comes from an author who has spent three decades writing software and teaching maths at high school, and it looks like these experiences have greatly shaped her habits, including in writing. Her flow of thoughts is systematic, the settings and the characters are well detailed, and her presentation of the story is very clear. You get immersed in the engaging storyline instead of trying to figure out what she’s trying to say. There isn’t a single confusing moment, even as she teaches us new vocabulary, fascinating historical details, and the intricate arts and fun of jousting and archery that make you see these characters and events.

ARCHER is a well-researched book that will entertain its teen target while showing them an example of honorable attitude.

 

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TRANG SEN: Why War Is Never The Right Path Towards Problem Solving

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My guest today is former U.S. diplomat Sarah-Ann Smith, author of Trang Sen—a love story that puts a human face to the Vietnam War and historical novel capturing the painful suffering of the Vietnamese. I will upload my review of this book at the end of this post, for now I will briefly quote the book blurb to introduce the subject matter.

 

 Overview 

 Trang Sen is the Vietnamese heroine and title character (her name means “White Lotus”) of Sarah-Ann Smith’s acclaimed new novel. War and loss dog the heels of her family, yet Trang Sen is defiant. Rebellious and headstrong even as a child, she struggles to make more of her life than seems possible. As she moves from her parents’ rice farm to the streets and alleys of Saigon, her world opens up. But as new paths become visible, others are shut off.

As much as she loves her brother, Trang Long, she also loves an American diplomat stationed in Saigon. Caught between her own dreams and the needs of her family, between her love for learning and the excitement of war-time Saigon, Trang Sen embarks on a memorable journey that requires heartbreaking choices.

 

 Author’s Bio

 South Carolina native Sarah-Ann Smith’s passion for Asia led to a degree in international relations and Asian studies and to a career in the U.S. diplomatic corps. Her tours of duty took her to Taiwan to study Mandarin Chinese and to the American Consulate in Hong Kong, as well as within the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the U.S. State Department. Smith’s interest in Southeast Asia was originally piqued by encounters with a number of Asian students and their critiques of U.S. policy at the height of the Vietnam War. Her professional and personal focus on Asian political and cultural life led her to write about it in fictional form in this, her first novel.

Smith’s life after the Foreign Service has focused on writing and teaching. In addition to Trang Sen, she has published numerous op-ed pieces and has taught China- and Southeast Asia-related courses at universities in Maryland and North and South Carolina. After leaving the State Department she moved to Asheville, N.C. for fourteen years, and now lives in Spartanburg, S.C.

 

And now, on to our interview.

 

Sarah-Ann Smith, former U.S. diplomat, author of historical novel Trang Sen. What matter to her: “Justice, reconciliation among peoples, living in harmony with others and with our physical world, equal sharing of resources across ethnic, economic, geographical lines. I think fiction and film often are the best ways to understand a culture different from one’s own.”

Sarah-Ann Smith, former U.S. diplomat, author of historical novel Trang Sen. What matter to her: “Justice, reconciliation among peoples, living in harmony with others and with our physical world, equal sharing of resources across ethnic, economic, geographical lines. I think fiction and film often are the best ways to understand a culture different from one’s own.”

 

Hello Sarah-Ann . I could relate so much to what you have written in this book. I feel humbled and it was a pleasure and an honour to review your beautiful work. Thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of Trang Sen?

Trang Sen is the story of a young Vietnamese woman seeking her own identity and destiny amidst the terrible circumstances of the Vietnam War.

Several of your deftly drawn characters fit the people I knew. How real are these characters?

None of the characters are based on actual people, though the circumstances of their lives are drawn from reality.

“Years of professional and personal focus on Asian political and cultural life impelled you to write Trang Sen”. Who or what inspired you to write this book? When did you first know you just had to write Trang Sen?

My first assignment as a diplomat was in the State Department’s Indochina section during the final two years of the Vietnam War, 1973—1975. In that capacity, I watched almost firsthand the unwinding of that war and the lives — Vietnamese and American — which were uprooted in that conflict and its aftermath. It was several years later, in the early 1980s, that I often watched the comings and goings of Vietnamese immigrants in an area outside Washington, D.C., where many had settled, and knew I was going to write a story about them.

It is very detailed and meticulously written. How long did it take you to write the book?

I began the first draft in the mid-1980s, and worked on it periodically. Many things intervened, mostly personal issues such as the final illness and death of my parents. About six years ago, the book was complete, and Andrew Reed, editor-in-chief of Pisgah Press, helped me polish it into final form.

How did you come up with the title?

I’m not very good at titles, slogans, catch words. I struggled to find a good phrase that could be used as a title, among other things scanning The Tale of Kieu in hopes something would appeal. Nothing did, and finally I decided simply to go with the name of the main character.

What is your favorite line in the book? (or paragraph)

My goodness, this is difficult. I find myself torn between rather amusing lines, such as the one in chapter 12 when the manager of the Roy Rogers fast-food restaurant instructs Trang Sen to say “Howdy, partner” and “Happy trails” to the customers, the meaning of which she of course has no clue. On the other hand, I still find this sentence from chapter 6 quite beautiful – “Unaccountably, a bougainvillea still bloomed there, its dark branches etched in shadow on a broken wall.”

Yes! I like those parts too. There are many poignant moments as in chapter 6 is very moving. And that chapter 12 is really funny. Word choices can be funny too. I’ll tell you what happened once when I took my children back to Indonesia, and they could only speak English. After a week travelling, our 10-year-old son boasted, “I know the word for ‘toilet’: it’s ‘wanita’!” I had to laugh, “You’ve been using the wrong washroom!”— because ‘wanita’ actually means ‘ladies’ 🙂

Back to you. Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

Three, quite different from each other, come to mind. Ursula K. LeGuin, for the way a turn of phrase paints a vivid picture. For example, “On soft sand by the sea’s edge a little boy walked leaving no footprints.” That sentence, with its simple words and lack of commas, immediately conveys to the reader that we are in another dimension. Jane Austen, for her amazing insight into the psychological sources of her characters’ actions and choices. And, finally, Yasunari Kawabata, for the utter simplicity of his style.

I loved Yasunari Kawabata!  Will check out the others.

Now, after the Foreign Service you have focused on writing and teaching. What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

I love writing. It is a joy always to be composing something, whether fiction, political analysis, whatever. Really, the only hardship is the difficulty of finding time to do as much of it as I would like. As for the challenge, specifically in relation to Trang Sen, it was finding the good way to get it published and in front of readers, which I definitely did finally find in Pisgah Press. A lot of the difficulty for first-time, unknown authors in general has to do with the conglomerate, sharply business-oriented approach of American publishing.

Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

At the top of the list is Andrew Reed, my editor and publisher. Since Trang Sen has been published, the universally positive reaction of readers has been both gratifying and humbling. How could I have managed to come up with a book that is garnering so much praise?

What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

Well, right now my time and energy has been taken up with publicizing Trang Sen. I do hope and plan to write a memoir in the form of reflective essays. I’ve met with a number of book clubs who have read Trang Sen, and the question of a sequel invariably comes up. I have no plans for such, but I find intriguing the comment of one reader, who found herself wondering about Laura, the wife of the attaché who becomes involved with Trang Sen. I didn’t deal with her in the book at all. I can’t imagine a sequel that fills in details of the characters I did write about, but it might be fun to write about Laura. 

Or heartbreaking! You must be very strong to stand the bleeding of the writing process.
How much do you have in common with your protag?

It seems to me that any writer has something in common with all her characters. In some ways I am like each on of them. I do not identify any more with Trang Sen than with any of the others, except that I know from my own experience how important it is for any young woman to try to figure out how to make her way in the world. When I was a young woman it was much rarer for a woman to enter the diplomatic service; the hurdles Trang Sen had to overcome included the traditional assumptions of what a village girl could and should do and the difficulty of access to an education.

“Friendships with a number of Asian students piqued your interest in Southeast Asia”. Care to elaborate? What makes you so deeply empathetic towards others’ plight?

I seem always to have had an affinity with Asians — Chinese, Japanese, Southeast Asians. Despite the cultural differences across that vast region, there is something about its many peoples that resonates with me. As a graduate student and as a teacher, as well as in my diplomatic career, that affinity has often seemed to work the other way as well, so that individuals from that part of the world have gravitated toward me. More generally, whatever empathy seems to have been part of who I am from as early as I can remember. I really don’t know where that came from. Perhaps part of it was from the example of my parents, who often befriended those that others in the tradition-bound southern American society shunned.

Do you have an unforgettable experience about adjusting to living in a foreign country, learning the local culture and using the local language for the first time?

The unforgettable experience is really how easy it was, in terms of lifestyle, cultural patterns and habits. I did have difficulty becoming fluent in Chinese. The first few months of living in Taiwan were frustrating because of that. I often found myself coming out with French when I meant to be speaking Chinese. Much later, it was the other way around. Traveling in francophone Quebec, I would find myself speaking Chinese when I meant to be stumbling along in French.

Would you like to share your favorite thing from lessons learnt in the East?

I suppose the best thing I learned from my years in Asia, among Asians, was to be silent, to wait to hear what people might say to me, not to fill the lulls in conversation with my own chatter.

You wrote, “Trang Sen is not intended as a historical account of the Vietnam War.” But you show readers a vivid portrait of Saigon during the maelstrom of the war that is sure to move many hearts. I think this book should become a recommended read in high school because it has the potential to encourage diplomatic solutions and prevent more wars. In your opinion, what is the best solution to international conflict?

First, I want to say that the feedback from readers has demonstrated that whatever I intended, Trang Sen is to many of them a book that illuminates for them that time and place that was wartime Saigon. The best solution to international conflict? Negotiation, negotiation, negotiation. Listening, listening, listening, trying to understand the other’s point of view. With very rare exceptions, war solves nothing. Certainly, the most recent wars, from Vietnam to Afghanistan, have caused much suffering, upheaval and death, with little, if anything, accomplished by them. 

Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.

Justice, reconciliation among peoples, living in harmony with others and with our physical world, equal sharing of resources across ethnic, economic, geographical lines.

What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?

I taught several courses about China during and just after the cultural revolution, using Chinese films and fiction of the 1980s for insight into how those events impacted individuals in China. I also used fiction and films in courses I taught on Southeast Asia. I think fiction and film often are the best ways to understand a culture different from one’s own.

What are your hobbies?

Cooking, especially Chinese; films, especially foreign; figure skating as an observer.

Thank you so much for the chat Sarah-Ann. Best wishes for Trang Sen!

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed the interview with Sarah-Ann. Grab your copy of her book, highly recommended. Check out my review here:

 

Trang Sen by Sarah-Ann Smith: a human face on Vietnam war, a love story and historical novel capturing the painful suffering of the Vietnamese.

Trang Sen by Sarah-Ann Smith: a human face on Vietnam war, a love story and historical novel capturing the painful suffering of the Vietnamese.

 

Why War Is Never The Right Path Towards Problem Solving

TRANG SEN, Reviewed by Ia Uaro

of http://www.sydneyssong.net/ and  BookPleasures.com 

This is the story of Trang Sen, or “white lotus”, a brave and brilliant Vietnamese girl who had to grow up during the Vietnam War. Masterfully written by a diplomat who has extensive experience and knowledge of the cultures, the settings and human psychology, the book follows Trang Sen’s journey from her first encounter with an American when she was a child in a Vietnamese village in 1957, her teen years in the alleys of Saigon as the war raged, her coming-of-age and love life as the war worsened, to her life in the late 70s after the U.S. army pullout from Vietnam.

Trinh Trang Sen is different from all other children in her village. She dreams to be allowed to work the fields with the buffalo like the boys do instead of doing a girl’s chores. She dreams to read books and get proper education like amazing Eldest Brother who is away in a university in France. She dreams to ride an elephant and lead her people like her country’s proud queens of old.

Before she knows it, her first dream is granted. Not as she wished it though, but because Second Brother and Third Brother must go to the war, and help her parents she must. She toils in the fields in great hardship in the following years, miserable despite being a successful plough-woman.

When refined Eldest Brother comes home from France, Trang Sen’s dream to study is granted too and she moves to a convent school in Saigon. She still studies even when the war eventually necessitates that she look after her remaining family members. Trang Sen is so smart that she wins further scholarship—they are making plans for her to attend a university in France when love happens.

U.S. officer Arthur Billings cannot forget the very beautiful girl he once met deep in a humble Saigon market where local refugees dwell. When they meet again, he is determined not to let her go. Alas, unlike the tea-girls who live at the beck and call of the foreigners, Trang Sen is not your average peasant girl. She is respectable, principled, proud and has set her sight for higher education. What can he offer her in the war-torn Saigon, to change her mind about going to France? 

Trinh Van Long has returned home from his beloved Paris to do his duties to his family and his country. The war has torn the land, destroyed villages, displaced families and divided his people. While the American army in Vietnam is guaranteed supplies for their living, the hapless Vietnamese suffer abject poverty and being ruled by foreigners who don’t understand them. Long has secrets and blood in his hands, and if in the middle of all this chaos and heartaches one good thing could be salvaged, it is First Sister, the beautiful and intelligent Trang Sen who has worked so hard for her studies while looking after the family. Long contrives to get her to Paris, because only there can she be safe and indulge in her dream of intellectual pursuit. He owes her that.

Caught in the maelstrom of the war in fears and hopes, what choices will Trang Sen make? She alone will have to live with the consequences. 

Trang Sen is the kind of those very rare books that grab your attention from the first paragraphs, take you on a journey to where you knew not, entertain you, educate you, make you care about the people and the topics visited, and then leave you reeling, stunned, and you emerge at the other end thinking, looking back, and thinking again—because the author has changed your understanding forever. The characters are very human and the events flow naturally that reading this book I found myself looking at the cover again and again, staring at the words “A Novel”, because the author has the skills to connect readers to her characters and make the story feels very real.

Sarah-Ann Smith opens Trang Sen with the legend of the brave queens of Vietnam and proceeds to show us the portrait of a beautiful land teeming with lives, in vivid colours that we can see, sounds that we can hear, along with scents, tastes and texture. Not only does she introduce us to the exotic culture and habits of the attractive locals, she delves deep into their fascinating minds with intriguing insights —expertly with the skills that reminds me of the long ago Pulitzer award winner Pearl S. Buck, whose work once upon a time I read when, as a charity case, I learned the English language in a Catholic high school eerily similar to the one Trang Sen attended.

That is before Sarah-Ann empathically touches the issue of the war, which scenes remind me of Sartre. She opens our eyes to what it was really like out there. I had followed the Vietnam War as it was all over my mother’s newspaper when I was learning to read, and I followed their plight in the aftermath when thousands of refugees were stranded in the islands off Sumatra where they had to wait for so many years in limbo before finding new homes. I remember they were viewed as burdens and treated with hostility. I don’t remember anyone writing anything close to Trang Sen then, but I wish there had been because this book certainly opens eyes and powerfully evokes compassion.

That war is over but others are still raging. I would like people to read this book. Trang Sen is an excellent read for high school students, all other young people, and all adults who have the power to make a difference, because this book clearly shows why a war is never the right path towards problem solving, achieving peace, or preserving human dignity. Love for all, hatred for none.

 

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Meet Carlyle Labuschagne, author of Young Adult urban fantasy.

Read & Tell

 

 

 

 

My guest today is urban-fantasy author Carlyle Labuschagne, a firm believer in YA saves!  This South African PR and Marketing Manager holds a diploma in creative writing through the writing school at Collage SA.

 

Carlyle Labuschagne, South African author of urban-fantasy novel The Broken Destiny, voted #3 in Goodreads Debut list 2012

Carlyle Labuschagne, South African author of Young Adult urban-fantasy:
” My goal as an author is to touch people’s lives
and help others love their differences and one another.”

 

Carlyle is working her way into the hearts of international readers. Her debut novel “The Broken Destiny” was voted #3 on the Goodreads Debut list for 2012. Today, she has agreed to chat with me about its sequel, which is due to be released later this year .

Before we start, let’s visit the first novel for a bit to help readers who are yet unfamiliar with The Broken series.

 

Book One in The Broken series: The Broken Destiny 

Prologue

All my life, I had searched for something, something I thought I ought to be. I felt like I was living someone else’s life, waiting for the awakening of my own. I felt like an empty shell burning for life. That was, until the day I lay dying in the prince’s chambers. I could no longer feel the pain from the tear in my gut. The only sensation left was a hollowed-out feeling that I had made a huge mistake in assuming that taking my own life, would have stopped the ancestors’ spirit from raging out. I had given up. I didn’t want to see myself killing the ones I loved. I was the Chosen one, but I threw it all away for what I thought would save a life. Could you end a life to save a life? I did, and I have regretted it ever since. I realized then that things like me are not meant to exist. What had been missing my whole life? It was I. To find myself, I had to lose myself in the worst possible way. The consequences of my actions became the legend of The Broken.

 

The Broken Destiny , YA novel by Carlyle Labuschange, South African urban-fantasy author. This is the first book in The Broken series. "The Broken" is genetically enhanced human race. They live with other races in planet Poseidon after the destruction of the earth.

The Broken Destiny, urban-fantasy YA novel
by South African author Carlyle Labuschange. This first book in The Broken series was voted #3 in Goodreads Debut list 2012 .
“The Broken” is genetically enhanced human race. They live with other races in planet Poseidon after the destruction of the earth.

 

The Setting

Poseidon, a complex dystopian planet where humans migrate to after the earth was destroyed. Beautiful, mysterious, exotic. The Council rules Poseidon’s inhabitants the humans, Minoans, and Zulus races.

 

Blurb

“The Broken” is a race of genetically enhanced humans. 16-year-old Ava, third generation of The Broken, knows much more, and feels much more than she is allowed to. When she starts questioning her origins and the destruction of Earth, things go horribly wrong for her. She is saved by a Minoan boy from an attempted kidnapping on her life–the perpetrators are evil Zulus and their dark ancient magic. Humans and Minoans are forbidden to interact with each other, and as she is taken back to their village she finds out why–they know of her, her kind and her destiny to save a dying race. Ava must rid them from the Council’s ruling and free the galaxy of The Shadow. Her destiny is to rise above the fall, because within her soul is the key to an archaic weapon that has been missing in the mix of a genetic code since the time of the ancients. As the prophecy unfolds she learns of her bloodline–a bloodline that makes her less human than she could ever have imagined. She alone has the power to destroy or save, but the mind-shift is a horrible thing. Ava will become what she hates to save the ones she loves. Beaten, poisoned, possessed and betrayed by her own emotions, she has no choice but to rise above it all… for that is her Destiny. 

 

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16-year-old Ava discovers her destiny is to save a dying race.
Beaten, poisoned, possessed —and betrayed by her own emotions,
she has no choice but to rise above it all.

 

Now let’s meet the fabulous author and check out the sequel.

Hello Carlyle, thank you for stopping by. What is the book title of Book Two?

Evanescent A Broken Novel

Would you please give our readers a one-sentence synopsis of Evanescent?

Her fall has just begun and only HIS touch can save her from the mind-shift that could destroy it all.

Where do you get your inspiration for this sequel? Did you base the sequel on what readers like from the first book or your own inspiration? 

I knew with my first book it was going to be a series. Sequel is a bit of what my imagination had in mind for me and a dash of what my readers liked from book one.

Tell us about the characters. Which actors would you choose to play these characters in a movie rendition?

I have a vast cast, form Zulu’s to Ancient Minoans and then the genetically enhanced kind. Please visit my Pinterest board.

What sets Evanescent apart from your first book? Is this a repeat or are there new excitements?

This book is very very different from book one. Its an entire new world!

Why is this a must read?
I’ve incorporated so many hard hitting issues that teenagers and most people crave for closure, I just did it in a creative way:

-Love in all its forms. Of one’s self , the good and the bad.

-Differences between races and people.

-The journey, the struggle, anger, betrayal, disappointment, rape, suicide, murder.

-Of believing in one’s self.

-Fighting to make your own destiny.

Sample paragraph, please?

It had been written many times over, been portrayed in so many Earth movies. Those flashes that pass through you before you die. But to me, it was not my life I was leaving behind, it was the choices I had made which had brought me to this moment, the moment before the reckoning. The shift had caused a rift within me. When the first blood-shift came, it tore through flesh and blood, threatening to bend me, break bone, shatter my mind and entrap my heart with its honeyed seductive poison. It came with vicious intent, moving my thoughts, altering me forever. It had many ways out, and when it was released, there was nothing that could stop it. No one was safe when it entrapped me in its claws of foul lust. Crooked, damnable, depraved, destructive, hideous – your kind would call it many things. In my blood, runs the thing our kind call The Shadowing disease. It shadows over, and turns everything to its will. I, however, had the only antidote against the evil that becomes me – his touch alone has the power to release the spurs of a sweet darkness that clung on for dear life. I knew what I had to do; the desperation pulled my mind with the deep determination of a hungry predator. But, by the time the revelation lifted me from the dark dungeon of our bounds – it was too late.

When is the planned release?

Evanescent due for release late 2013 – between Oct and Nov.

And we’ll be looking forward to Evanescent. Now, would you like to share a bit about yourself? What are your hobbies?

I love to swim, fights for the trees, and I’m a food lover who is driven by passion. I also write for IU e-magazine—an inspirational non-profit magazine that aims at inspiring the world through words.

What matters the most to you?

The drive behind my author career is healing through words. My goal as an author is to touch people’s lives and help others love their differences and one another.

Very commendable, Carlyle, my best wishes on that.

Want to share your latest news?

Latest news: The Broken Destiny just hit the local bookstores!

Congratulations! Good luck for The Broken Destiny, and thank you so much for visiting Carlyle—keep in touch!

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Carlyle. Follow her on Twitter @CarlyleL , Goodreads, Facebook, and check out her website, blog and book trailer. Her book The Broken Destiny is available from Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.

And of course, here’s my review of the first book:

 

The Broken Destiny, reviewed by Ia Uaro

 

Author: Carlyle Labuschagne

ISBN: 978-1612048727 (paperback),  ASIN: B009I3TE9S (eBook)

 

“The Broken” is a race of genetically enhanced humans, survivors of the destroyed earth who have migrated to Poseidon, an exotic dystopian planet. Three races cohabit this new planet: the Broken (humans), the Minoans, the Zulus—but strict apartheid segregation rules forbid them to interact. Poseidon is ruled by The Council. It is here 16-year-old Ava, third generation of The Broken, questions her existence, challenges the boundaries and gets into trouble.

Meanwhile some evil Zulus want to take over the planet for sinister purposes and they want Ava because she alone has the key to save the planet—whether she is willing or not. Ava learns more about herself after being abducted by the Zulus and saved by the Minoans. Apparently, she is The Chosen One. She has been predestined to be the planet’s Savior.

And her path isn’t easy. It involves internal and external struggles—and boys and black magic and various dangers. Dealing with these complex issues, the headstrong girl reluctantly journeys from being a self-absorbed teen to become a responsible savior. Yeah, this part reminds me of a book from the 80s about a reluctant Jesus who’d rather stick with his day job as a mechanic instead of becoming the Savior as predestined, if only he had a choice. However, despite traces of influences from the South African local politics and a rigid salvation dogma, the talented and imaginative Carlyle Labuschagne has invented a highly original new world packed with actions and tangled with intrigues that is sure to delight fans of dystopian fantasy.

THE BROKEN DESTINY is a complex weave of dystopian science fiction and urban fantasy, paranormal, mystery, and YA romance with mild sexual references. An entertaining coming-of-age novel with message.

 

 

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Meet Alex Knight, a Canadian Accountant Who Plots Murder During The Day

Read & Tell

 

 

 

 


Meet Alex Knight, author of murder mystery novels born in Toronto who have lived in a number of cities in Canada and the United States.

 

"I admire those who stand up for others and who protect those who cannot protect themselves, whether they are protecting people or animals."

“I admire those who stand up for others and who protect those who cannot protect themselves, whether they are protecting people or animals.”

 

Hello Alex, so happy to have you joining us. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of BODYGUARD, The Adventures of Anya Orlova?

This is the story and back story of a young woman who had to grow up with an unusual gift that often threw her into the path of danger.

How real are your characters?

Almost all of my characters are composites of people I know or have known so some of them are all too real.

 

Bodyguard by Alex Knight

Bodyguard by Alex Knight

 

It started as a short story in September 2010, inspired by a random comment a colleague had made about a little tavern. That’s usually all it takes to get me started, a random word or comment that brings out the best (or worst) in me.

But always entertaining, Alex. When did you first know you just had to write?

Like many other writers, I’ve been an avid reader from an early age. I knew that I wanted to entertain others the way that I had been entertained over the years. It’s always hard to take that first step, especially if you’re plagued with self-doubt. After putting it off for decades, I made it a goal to be published before I reached my 50th birthday. I was and I haven’t looked back.

 


How long did it take you to write Bodyguard?

As mentioned earlier, it started as a short story in 2010. Over the course of the next two years the protag whispered to me constantly, telling me her back story. In 2012 I started working on it again and released it in January 2013. While it didn’t take three years of writing, it did take that long to realize it was going to be a novella and to get it written and published.

How did you come up with the title?

The working title changed a number of times from start to finish. When it was time to create the cover I had to provide a title; eventually it presented itself.

What is your favorite paragraph in Bodyguard?

“Heed our advice and our warnings. When you are no longer a child we can no longer guide you.”
“But Grandmother, I stopped being a child yesterday.” This terrible truth was confirmed by the gravity of my tone and my solemn expression.

And she was only six, poor Anya. Alex, who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, John D. MacDonald, and Mickey Spillane were the authors I read and admired the most when I was growing up. I think one of the things I like the most about their writing is that it stands the test of time. Their stories are still quality entertainment.

 

"The Haunting" by Alex Knight  is a collection of ghostly tales with unusual twists

“The Haunting” by Alex Knight is a collection of ghostly tales with unusual twists

 

What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

When I first started to write I enjoyed some immediate success and so I thought I was ready for bigger and better things. Apparently, according to the much copied, photo-copied rejection letters I received from a major magazine, I wasn’t. (I didn’t even merit an ‘original’ photo-copy, addressed to me, or signed.) That brought me back down to earth pretty damn fast. However, if you don’t try you’ll never succeed.

But many likes your story.Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

Alongside of my family, it would be a great group of writers that I have had the pleasure of knowing for well over a decade. Write Stuff is comprised of several very talented writers that I often refer to as my extended family. We have shared each other’s joys and sorrows and celebrated each other’s victories as if they were our own. Their belief in me has made it possible for me to believe in myself.

What are you working on right now?

I have six NaNoWriMo novels that I have done nothing with since having ‘won.’ My goal is to revisit them and do some serious editing this year. I hope to release them all before the end of the year.

Tell us your latest news.

I am working on a love story. It’s a bit out of the ordinary for me and it’s going to be extremely difficult not to throw in a murder, or two.

And why not? 🙂

Do you see writing as a career or distraction?

It definitely isn’t a distraction, but I don’t see it being a career until I retire.

Why?

There aren’t enough hours in the day to continue to work full time, work part time at home, run a household, and write and edit my writing. Until I can devote at least eight hours a day to my writing and editing of same, I can’t call it a career.

How much do you have in common with your protags?

Every protag is a bit of me, a bit of my daughter and a bit of my sister. Of course being the eldest, both of them tend to be rather like me so perhaps all of the protags are a lot like me. The humor, bits of sarcasm, the courage, the second-guessing, the self-doubt, the loyalty, the willingness to pack up and start over – all of that is me. The physical characteristics are mostly a combination of the three of us.

What are your hobbies?

Besides reading, I love watching old classic movies, listening to music, making jewelry (natural gemstones set in silver or copper) knitting, cooking, and fishing.

A woman of many talents! What is your other profession?

I am, what is affectionately known as, a bean counter (accountant.)

 

“What Luck” is about greed, violence, unconditional loyalty and a love that refused to die; not your typical vampire fare.

“What Luck” is about greed, violence, unconditional loyalty and a love that refused to die; not your typical vampire fare.

 

When do you find the time to write?

I often plot about murder during the day. Finding the time to actually write it all out is more difficult; like most other writers I grab spare minutes here and there.

Tell us a bit about who or what matters to you.

I admire those who stand up for others and who protect those who cannot protect themselves, whether they are protecting people or animals.

How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?

I mostly write about murder so I truly hope I haven’t influenced too many people. As to their attitudes towards me, they either love me or tend to avoid me.

What one thing is important for your readers to know about you?

They should take everything I say with several grains of salt.

Why?

Seriously, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is usually not serious at all. Often the second thing that comes out of my mouth isn’t much better. I laugh at life and myself a lot and if we can’t laugh at ourselves then the joke is truly on us.

Any tips for us on reading and writing?

Read as much as you can, whenever you can. Open yourself up to new genres. (I used to say that I loved all music except Country & Western and Opera. Having explored both, I can no longer say that.) You can like one genre more than another, but if you don’t explore and open your mind you can miss so many wonderfully written books that could truly change your life for the better. As to writing, you need to read as much as you can in every genre, not just the one you want to write in. Do not let family and/or friends discourage you. Like everything else in life, if you want it badly enough you have to work for it. If you don’t give it a shot you’ll never know.

I hate research. I love reading about a wide variety of topics—for entertainment purposes. The minute I ‘have to’ read about something—it becomes work.

And we can only give readers something that we love, right?  Thank you so much for chatting with us Alex. Best wishes with the books!

And readers, here are here you can find Alex and her books:

Find Alex on The Web Links:
Alex_Knight_1 (Twitter)
https://www.facebook.com/alex.knight.940
http://www.amazon.com/Alex-Knight/e/B004O4K35A

 

Click here to buy Alex's books on Amazon.

Click here to buy Alex’s books on Amazon.

 

 

 

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Meet Sue-Ellen Holmes—Neuroscientist and Science Fiction Author

 

read & tell

 

 

 

 

 

Sue-Ellen Holmes, Australian author of several science-fiction and urban-fantasy novels for young adults is with us today. Sue is different from most authors. She is very shy, humble, but she writes about outspoken, passionate heroines who would fight for justice.

 

SueEllen Holmes, Australian author of best dystopian Young Adult novels

Sue-Ellen Holmes, Australian author of best dystopian and urban fantasy Young Adult novels

 

Hello Sue, lovely to have a neighbour stopping by J It was so entertaining your book BRINK. Would you be so kind to give readers its one-sentence synopsis?

In the near future where the intellect rules and science offers civilisation’s only salvation, a mad-man bio-terrorist is determined to purge the planet of its human stain and the only one standing in his way is defiant hyper-immune girl called Io, whose ridiculed physical gifts may just give her the upper fist.

The setting of Brink: Maverick Institute of Advance Thought, in the near future.

The setting of Brink: Maverick Institute of Advance Thought, in the near future.

 

How real are your characters?

Well it’s really important to create characters with the full range of human emotions, complexity and depth, but whether I succeed or not is for the reader to judge. Often what’s in your head is not always transcribed well on the page no matter how hard you try because real people are actually quite confusing and their motivations are often obscure. I have a Psych degree, but as in life, I find that’s no help at all. As you can tell, I’m good at nailing confusion!

You’re good at building the characters! Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’m a Neuroscientist, so many aspects of the physical world fascinate me. If I had my time over, I think I’d specialise in bacteria and viruses—they’re such perfectly nasty little suckers. So, it was only natural that I wrote about something I’m very interested in. Also, many people write about catastrophe in retrospect and I thought it would be fun to see an extinction event as it unfolds. BRINK was actually the first full length novel I attempted and it’s ten years old now. Unfortunately, if I’d had the skills back then to clean up the story and edit it to a higher standard, I might have beaten the current slew of dystopian/post-apocalyptics flooding the market. Still, despite the poor timing, it’s a far better story now that I’ve practiced and schooled myself in the art of writing and I’m grateful for the delay.

 

Brink by SueEllen Holmes: a mad-man bio-terrorist is determined to purge the planet of its human stain and the only one standing in his way is defiant hyper-immune girl called Io, whose ridiculed physical gifts may just give her the upper fist.

Brink by SueEllen Holmes: a mad-man bio-terrorist is determined to purge the planet of its human stain and the only one standing in his way is defiant hyper-immune girl called Io, whose ridiculed physical gifts may just give her the upper fist.

 

The catastrophe is well detailed. When did you first know you just had to write?

I’ve been writing creatively since primary school—poetry and short stories—but didn’t attempt a full length novel until I was an adult. Now writing’s like breathing and I can’t imagine a day without it. I resent anything that interferes, such as mortgage-paying jobs and maintaining personal hygiene. All of my jobs involve either academic writing or educational writing, so I guess it’s always been deep in my bones.

How long did it take you to write Brink?

The writing process is very quick for me, it’s the editing and fine tuning that takes a long time. I finished an entire re-write of the first version of BRINK for a contest (ABNA 2011) in four frenzied days. It’s taken months since to fine-tune.

How did you come up with the title?

I wanted a word that represented not only the visual image of teetering on a cliff, but also one that auditorily came to a screeching halt. I spent a long time messing around with crappy titles, until BRINK finally hit me.

What is your favourite phrase in Brink?

“They’ll come” because it encapsulates a particularly unexpected instance of treachery and provides a bit of a cliff-hanger in a book that is mostly stand-alone.

 

Coming soon... Click here to find out more about Sue's next novels

Coming soon… Click here to find out more about Sue’s next novels

 

Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

The list evolves, as there have been so many. I know it’s cliché for fantasy writers, but I love Tolkien or any author who can transport the reader to a place that, although utterly strange and unreal, seems likely (of course, J K Rowling). Dr Seuss is the earliest genius I remember encountering. Everything he’s done is just so gleeful, yet also imparts a subtle, valuable message. I read Dune when I was quite young and even though it necessitated a dictionary and periods of extensive confusion, I just loved the grand scope of that series, the tantalising possibility of it all. At the moment, I’m enjoying Laini Taylor and her exciting new spin on angel mythology. It sounds harsh, but I cherish any writer who can effortlessly keep me turning pages. Currently, I put so many potentially good YA stories down unread due to boredom and it’s such a shame.

What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

I’m a fairly solitary creature so the great stretches of time alone writing don’t bother me, as it does some people. Besides, I’m surrounded by the characters I conjure on the page. It’s when I’m forced to venture outside the comfortable sphere of my study, even in virtual realms that I find being an author testing. Discoverability is something I’ve struggled with and failed miserably to master—letting the target reader know you’re actually there. And reaching teens is not the easiest in reality, let alone across the world wide web. Plus, if you’re not determined to overcome the self-doubt, the lack of financial reward, the constant rejection and less than glowing opinions, forget about it. So in essence, real thick-skinned writers never give up!

But getting immersed in your writing is a wondrous adventure and a reward in itself, right? Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

Selling the odd book tends to give me an enduring high… My family, while not effusive in their encouragement, are stoically non-critical of my crazy dream to work full-time as an author. They weather the tears and gin-abuse with eye-rolling fortitude. My adorable  long-suffering husband no longer bothers to compete with the computer for attention and now sleeps with his surfboard. It doesn’t matter how much external validation you get, if you don’t ‘back’ yourself nothing anyone can say will make a difference—which is supremely ironic given this entire career choice is about the subjective opinion of others. Go figure…

Sounds rather like my long suffering, accepting family! What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

I’m attempting to work on completing the trilogies for each of the novels I’ve published on my website http://www.unrealya.com . Unfortunately, I’ve a few rather annoying jobs that eat up far too much time, so the endeavour is patchy at best. And I’m toiling to complete a space opera that is my own personal favourite, Able Unwilling.

You’re very creative  and courageous! Do you see writing as a career or distraction? Why?

A career, without doubt, because it’s the thing I most love doing (except in my pesky day jobs, which are the true distractions!). You know that old adage ‘do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’? It’s true. Now, if I could just make enough/any money as an idle, gin-swilling, hammock-swinging writer…

 

Other books by SueEllen Holmes, now available. Click here to find out more about these books.

Other books by SueEllen Holmes, now available. Click here to find out more about these books.

 

And we can’t possibly give to readers something that we can’t love. How much do you have in common with your protag?

Io is head-strong, highly strung and anti-authoritarian, while I am as meek as a lamb. <I read this aloud and assorted family members were on the floor in tears of hilarity. I admit to being slightly miffed at the implication I am in any way oppositional. I am so not!> Okay, so maybe Io and I share some character traits. But she is also elegant and athletic, the opposite of clumsy old me (her abilities are wishful thinking on my part, perhaps).

I could see you when I was reading her 🙂      What are your hobbies?

Writing, painting, writing, running, writing, reading, writing, surfing (sort of, see comment above)… Oh, and that elusive past-time of doing absolutely nothing for a stretch longer than thirty seconds. Not to mention shamelessly embarrassing my adolescent children at every opportunity.

What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?

I’m a Neuroscientist by trade, but am working as a monkey-slave running research for several sets of doctors at the moment. Squeezing time out of the day is the biggest challenge right now and writing is relegated to the weekend, much to my irritation. This means I’ve been working seven days a week now for two and a half years. My body is frozen in the seated position, which makes jogging particularly challenging (and fairly awkward).

Sue, come tell us a bit about who or what matters to you.

My husband and my children are the world. They provide me with that other essential ingredient in a life worth living: laughter (even if it’s often at my expense).

Wonderful family!  🙂  Now, how has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?

I’d have to say it’s barely made a ripple to the exchanges I have with others. In the beginning, I had too many friends apologising for ‘not getting around’ to reading my stuff, which just made everyone fidget and stare at the floor. Unless I morph into Stephanie Meyer overnight and people beg me for a profound sound-bite (and despite what people think of her technique, that woman is a brilliant example of connecting with her target audience. I’d take tips from her any day), I’ll be sticking to my ‘keep quiet and don’t startle the nervous/apathetic/guilty associate’ approach. Clearly, self-promotion is not my forte.

What one thing is important for your readers/audience to know about you? Why?

I work my bum off to avoid boring readers… I study television and movies to see how tension is maintained, strive to first and foremost write entertaining adventure stories where the protagonist struggles to prevail, much like everyday life, only bigger, harder and in much weirder places, usually with a generous helping of the supernatural or technology or my friend ‘the germ’. Boredom is the enemy of good story-telling.

Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?

If I were to offer tips on writing technique, the underlying inference seems to be that I am somehow an expert, which I do not feel is true. There is always something more to learn about writing. Reading good books is the best thing an aspiring writer can do—find examples that you love and try to discern why they push your buttons, what you admire. See if you can somehow emulate them with your very own twist. The best I can suggest is to keep writing and endure—never give-up on yourself. Oh, and remember when receiving criticism that planet earth would be a very boring place if we all liked the same things. Even Harry Potter got a one star now and then. So, have a laugh and go in search of a large gin to toast the honest effort.

What you’d like people to know about you apart from the questions above?

That I sing like a nightingale, am exceptional at ballet, have an IQ to rival Hawking and speak ancient Hebrew at parties just for the smart-arsed hell of it… I harbour a secret desire to be a dark avenger and right society’s wrongs ala Dexter Morgan, only a little less messy as I’m averse to doing housework. Well, Ia, you didn’t specify it had to be true (except for that last part)!

 Hahahahaha… you forget to mention your sense of humour!  

It’s been fun Sue, good luck with all these marvelous books, thanks again for coming!

 

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed meeting Sue. And now my review of BRINK, here it goes:

 

Book title: Brink

ASIN: B007DMWZXS, 306 pages

Author: Sue-Ellen Holmes

 

The year isn’t clear, but BRINK takes place in the future when science dominates our earth. This first book in the Maverick trilogy is the story of 17-year-old Io Calypso, originally of Maverick Institute of Advance Thought. Here intellectual brilliance and obedience are the most valued assets, but alas, rebellious Io is a freedom-craving girl with physical gifts and a penchant for rock climbing instead.

On the day Io gets into trouble for challenging Maverick’s constrictive rules, a mad bio-terrorist places humankind at the brink of extinction by permanently covering the land with hazardous pollution and deadly disease. To survive, Io and 14 other survivors must take refuge in a shielded subsurface pod, protected from harm. Io loses her entire family in the disaster, except her grandmother. Or so she believes as she grieves.

Concerns for her grandmother’s health cause Io to sneak back to Maverick, their former luxurious home, one year later. Unexpectedly, impossibly, she encounters a surprise survivor, and learns that the disaster which she had thought was an accident was actually a sabotage staged by a devious and dangerous enemy, and that more survivors exist. Is her beloved brother Iz among them?

Enter Io’s pod members, geniuses who have shielded the deviant girl from the truth for her own “good”. At the head is her bossy, crafty grandma; at her side is Wim—an over-protective friend; around her is an assortment of interesting characters who now must back Io as this tough girl embarks on her lethal mission to free Iz from the clutch of menacing evil.

BRINK is a gripping dystopian science fiction that will delight smarter readers. Io is of your typical teen-against-the-world variety, but she has an extra-ordinary immune system and splendid determination. Sue-Ellen Holmes plays the early events by flipping the present and the past back and forth. These frequent flips wouldn’t allow me to lose myself in the mood of the scenes at the beginning, but once the story flows Io’s adventures through dangers are carefully plotted and original, the catastrophe and treacherous grounds vividly detailed, the descriptions imaginative, and the narration at times chilling.

 

 

 

Click here to enter Sue's website

Click here to enter Sue’s website

 

 

 

Meet Diana Wilder: Author, Historian, Animal Rescuer, Cat Shows’ Judge

Read & Tell

 

 

 

 

A philanthropist,  animal rescuer, cat shows’ judge, historian, journalist, researcher, and an author who works in the insurance business, Diana Wilder is the creator of fabulous historical books “THE CITY OF REFUGE”, “PHARAOH’S SON”, “A KILLING AMONG THE DEAD”, and “THE SAFEGUARD”. This weekend, she has kindly agreed to grace my Read & Tell with her visit.

 

DMW with cat

Diana Wilder: “The most important character in my books is the character that is reading it. That person is the reason the book was written—to entertain him or her, to tell him or her a story, to take him or her on an adventure, and meet others. They are why the books are here. They are the most important.”

 

Hello Diana, thank you for stopping by. Would you be so kind to give readers a one-sentence synopsis of “The City of Refuge”?

A routine inspection of the ruined city becomes a quest for vengeance, understanding and healing.

How real are your characters? Who did you base Lord Nebamun and Khonsu on?

Lord Nebamun and Khonsu came fully into being during the course of the story—who they were, what they were trying to do.  Their types were people of different classes, each with its own particular characteristics.  Khonsu is what we would call a middle-class working man.  His family has served the governors of his province as messengers for years, and he has risen to command their armies.  Lord Nebamun, on the other hand, is a man without a past who seems to be a wealthy aristocrat, born to privilege and trained to warfare, as the sons of such families were.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I had read of the city of Akhet-Aten (sometimes called ‘Amarna’ now).  The pharaoh Akhenaten (Nefertiti’s husband) had commanded that it be built for him, clean, new, in a site never used before. It was beautiful.  But when he fell from power it was abandoned and ruined.  I had a picture in my mind of a group of people who had traveled to that ruined city for a reason and were camped by the river Nile waiting for supplies.  I wondered why they were there, what were they expecting, who were they?  My thoughts solidified into the story.

 

cityofrefugecoverfixedsmaller1

THE CITY OF REFUGE by Diana Wilder:
“But you must know that Horus does not challenge Set because he is assured of victory, but because it’s the right thing to do. He fights because it is wrong to hold back for fear of the cost. If he knew at this moment that he might fall through treachery, he would face set nevertheless for the sake of Honor and of justice.”

 

How long did it take you to write the book?

From start to finish, it took me about six years.  But is any story ever really finished?  The danger with being a writer is that the temptation is always there to tweak wording, to adjust descriptions.

True, that’s the danger. As an assessor I’d say the challenge is to assemble this danger into a compact final product, but I have seen the extensive work you put into The City of Refuge and the result is awesome!  How did you come up with this title, by the way?

The ancients understood justice and vengeance, and they understood degrees of wrongdoing.  If a person was murdered, it was the duty of a kinsman—usually the eldest son—to exact vengeance on the murderer.  It is a recognized theme throughout ancient literature.  But what if the death was an accident?  Was there a way to escape the avenger?  In biblical times Cities of Refuge were set up to allow guiltless (accidental) killers to take refuge and escape death.  Vengeance plays a large part in the plot of The City of Refuge.  WAS Akhet-Aten a city of refuge?  That question is answered during the course of the story.

From your writing I can read that you have a very kind heart, deep wisdom, and you have huge tolerance to those who are different. I have many favorite lines in The City of Refuge. What is your favorite paragraph?

Something Lord Nebamun says:  “But you must know that Horus does not challenge Set because he is assured of victory, but because it’s the right thing to do.  He fights because it is wrong to hold back for fear of the cost.  If he knew at this moment that he might fall through treachery, he would face set nevertheless for the sake of Honor and of justice.”

What’s your opinion about today’s historical fiction? What makes your books stand out from the others?

There are a great many truly fine historical novels available to read nowadays, and it’s a privilege to have my work among them.  History is about people, and people are enjoyable, interesting and amusing.  I remember once being told that the best way to learn a period of history was to read good novels set in that period—and to understand that different writers would interpret the facts differently.  How are mine different?  Well…  They are different because I wrote them, and it is I who am telling the story.  They have my own philosophy and understanding.  Otherwise, they are part of a good group.

Who is your favourite Egyptian personage? Why?

History is about people, and people are very amusing.  Aside from Ramesses the Great—who was the only Egyptian king with a nickname, and was known as ‘Good King Ramesses’—I like the little brat of a child in Alexandria who sent a letter to his parents scolding them for traveling without him and threatening to hold his breath until he died.  I laugh whenever I think of it, speaking as one who was a counselor at a children’s summer camp.  I think I knew that boy.

You did thorough research for your material. Why Egypt? Why not ancient Greek/Viking/Chinese/etc.?

The story was set in Egypt and arose out of Egypt.  I have other stories set in other places and times…  Paris in 1830, Imperial Rome, the Middle Ages, the American Civil War.

When did you first know you just had to write?

I was nine-years old, and my teacher had been talking about writing poetry.  I thought it was a good idea, so I wrote a poem.  Being a nine-year-old girl, I was horse-mad, so I wrote about a horse.  The praise I got from my very kind famille made me decide that I LIKED writing.  I was hooked.

Who would you say have been the most influential authors in your life? What is it that really strikes you about their work?

I’ve loved a lot of books—Tolkien‘s magnificent trilogy, Elizabeth Goudge‘s work—books that brought history alive for me.  I have to admit that one book really caught my imagination for a rather odd reason.  It is Richard Adams‘ book WATERSHIP DOWN, a splendid tale of hardship, treachery, revenge, heroism—it has characters that could have fought at Troy, leaders who match for the most admired leaders of history.  Love, suffering, mysticism—it is all there.  I was transfixed… And I kept forgetting that it was about rabbits.  Rabbits, by golly!  Amazing!

And you put all those elements in your own beautiful writing. What story would you like to share about the joy, challenge, or hardship of writing?

It is something you have to experience yourself.  It is hard work, and you have to be honest about it and do your best.  Often it is thankless.  But then—someone contacts you, writes you—however it happens – and tells you that what you wrote touched them to the heart, gave them an insight into something that troubled them, expressed something they had always loved.  And that makes all the hard work, all the sneers (people do sneer at writers from time to time), all of it well worth the effort.  You sit back and smile.

Who gives you the most encouragement? Why is that important to you?

I have friends who are honest with me (honesty is necessary everywhere) and they encourage me, even if they aren’t crazy about what I write about.  They can understand what I am saying. Encouragement is hard to find, especially in the early years.  I wish I had joined a writing group.

 You’ve produced commendable covers. Tell us about your graphic design.

Well…  I like art, I come from an artistic family, and I really wish I was an artist.  It’s enjoyable, engrossing (infuriating at times) and I haven’t yet struck anyone blind with my endeavors.  What more can I ask?

Do you see writing as a career or distraction? Why?

es.  No, don’t hit me!  It’s something I have to do.  It’s part of me, a way I express myself, a gift to others.  I can’t stop doing it.  By the same token, it intrudes at the most inopportune times.  Sitting at dinner and someone says something, and I crow with delight, whip out my notepad and start jotting, ignoring the friends and family sitting around me and rolling their eyes.

Hahaha! I’m sure they are used to it and love you nonetheless 🙂 What are you working on right now? Tell us your latest news.

I’m trying to finish a sequel to The City of Refuge.  MOURNINGTIDE takes place eighteen years later and has many of the characters from City.  It follows one man—Seti, one of three major characters in City—as he deals with the death of a son through a needless mistake.  He is a man of power and influence, and he needs to go away from his own world to a place where he can be private and deal with the loss of a child, however he may have grown up. 

mtideunderconstruction1

MOURNINGTIDE by Diana Wilder: a man of power and influence needs to go away from his own world to a place where he can be private to deal with the loss of a child.

That promises to be interesting—I remember the brave, young Seti. And we may have something in common in our WIPs.

If you could pick a time to exist in the past, would you pick Egypt and what period would that be? Why?

If I were to pick Egypt, I would want to live in what they called the ‘Middle Kingdom‘, several centuries before the time of The City of Refuge.  It was a time of peace and stability, with a strong government and people that were not encumbered by the notion of being a superpower.  That was a very stable society, ruled by the rhythms of a great river, prosperous, content (as much as people can be).  Food was plentiful, people smiled.

I see. The Middle Kingdom was the period which started with Prophet Joseph being the treasurer and adviser to the King of Egypt, and they helped the refugees from their famine-struck neighboring countries. Right?

 

Diana Wilder: "I would like to live in a more simple time, where everything is not done for us, where we can use our imaginations and spend the day handling our own concerns."

Diana Wilder: “I would like to live in a more simple time, where everything is not done for us,
where we can use our imaginations and spend the day handling our own concerns.”

 

I would like to live in a more simple time, where everything is not done for us, where we can use our imaginations and spend the day handling our own concerns.  If you think about it today everything is done for us, food is packaged for us, and unless we watch carefully, we miss a chance to do the small things that make life interesting and enjoyable.  So…  when did they have a chance to do that?  Let’s say prior to the Industrial Revolution. 

That’s the ease of living in a modern country. I suppose you are right. I had lived in a few simpler countries. One was my grandparents’ village in Sumatra, where I spent my 7th grade. There you first had to build a single-use stove using the grain’ husk before you could cook, but the flames made the food taste better. And the hard work didn’t make people unhappy; I watched my grandma’s workers working the fields and singing poems. That was how they “talked”—they bantered by singing instant, clever poems; clearly enjoying life. I don’t know whether they still do that, now that they have electricity and modern machinery.

How much do you have in common with your protag, Diana?

Khonsu is observant, affectionate, tends to stand his ground on important subjects, and has a good imagination.  He solves problems and he can ‘get inside the head’ of someone he is trying to understand.  I’m observant and affectionate, certainly.  And I try to be understanding.  I don’t think he’s ideal by any means, but he has in him qualities that I admire (though he’s a bit of a worrier…)

You are such a compassionate animal rescuer.  Tell us about this.  And tell us about cat shows.  What would you say to FB-ers who say cats should be banned from FB.

Who can resist anything that needs to be rescued and loved?  We have so much to share, let’s share it!  And cat shows—in the US—have classes for all sorts of cats, from the tiniest purebred to the three-legged family pet rescued from a pound.  They’re all beautiful, and I enjoy watching them all and letting people know that their pets are absolutely special! (I have dogs, too…)

I’ve seen cats and dogs on Facebook. Some of them speak far more sensibly than their owners.  I might say that Facebook would do better to ban idiots from their pages.  The problem is that under some applications, all of us being human, that would depopulate Facebook. Oh, my!

Hahaha! Oh my indeed J Tell us also about your love for horses, sailing, and your other hobbies.

Can I tell you about my love for cooking Chocolate Stout Cakes?  That is a real smile-spreader! …although if you love the feeling of speed, there is nothing that can compare with sailing close to the wind on a one-man sailboat.  Perhaps one day I can do that in Sydney harbor!

Oh yum, I can smell heavenly chocolate… mmm we really must meet someday! A fireball? Cool!

You moved around a lot while growing up and have travelled a lot. How has this shaped you and influenced your writing?

I was very fortunate to have parents that enjoyed people and encouraged my family to see different sights, experience different cultures—and respect them—and realize that we all are fabulous in different ways. We would pile in the car on a Sunday and just drive around looking at the scenery, stopping to talk to people… Getting acquainted with our surroundings and enjoying what was unusual and beautiful about them.  I thought everyone did that, but I learned that many people, camped on the doorstep of Heaven, prefer to look back where they came from and cry because they aren’t there.

Right, many of those who go out can’t wait to go back home to their Facebook or electronic gadgets; they are so chained to these they don’t know what else to do.

What is your other profession? When do you find the time to write?

I work in the insurance industry.  I think we all know how difficult it is to find time in our busy lives to do the things we enjoy, that are important to us.  The best of us find a way to find the joy in whatever we do.  Practically speaking, I carry a notebook down and jot things as they come to me.  

And loving it, I believe 🙂 Tell us a bit about who or/and what matters to you.

Being content in my own self is important.  Knowing that others know how much they mean to me, knowing that I am important to others.  It’s hard to express.

How has your published work influenced others and their attitude towards you?

I hope it has entertained people.  I do believe most people think writers are either completely nutty or fabulously exotic.  As a group we can be nutty, but then so can all humans. 

You’re definitely of the fabulous variety, Diana!

What one thing is important for your readers to know about you? Why?

My readers need to know that the most important character in my books is the character that is reading it.   That person is the reason the book was written—to entertain him or her, to tell him or her a story, to take him or her on an adventure, and meet others.  They are why the books are here.  They are the most important.

Any tips for us on reading and/or writing?

I’d say sit back, enjoy the story.  But if a story does not appeal to you, if you dislike it—there is absolutely no reason to suffer through a bad story, even if a million other people like it. I knew someone who made it a point of pride to finish any book she started no matter how wretched.  I honor her perseverance and courage.  If I did that, they would have to put me in a straight-jacket.

What a considerate writer! Lovely to chat with you, Diana. Thanks again for visiting 🙂

Diana writes "real" historical books with thorough research for each one. Click here to check them out on Amazon.

Diana writes “real” historical books with thorough research for each one.
Click here to visit Diana’s website which has links to her blog, her books, and sample chapters.

 

One Sentence Synopses of each of Diana published works:

Pharaoh’s Son(a fast-paced romp set in Egypt of Ramesses the Great): Something great and terrible is stirring, hidden deep within the temple, something they must bring into the  light before those who walk in darkness take it and turn it to  evil.

A Killing Among the Dead(set in the dying days of Egypt): It is up to Wenatef to discover who is robbing the royal tombs and disfiguring the dead, how deep does the conspiracy run, and who among his friends can he really trust?

The Safeguard (set during the 1860’s in the American Civil War): A passel of wounded Yankees quartered in her house, a troop of freed slaves and the local Confederate militia combine to provide  an unforgettable summer of courage, loss and love for Lavinia.

Diana’s books available from Amazon US and Amazon UK

 

My review of The City of Refuge by Diana Wilder:

 

A richly detailed intriguing mystery.

The former glory of Pharaoh Akhenaten’s reign, the imperial city of Amarna has been abandoned after his death, and now lies in wreck on the edge of the Nile. To study the viability of reopening of the city’s stone quarries, the ruling pharaoh sends a delegation from the Memphis temple of Ptah, headed by its second-ranking priest, an enigmatic man without a past who is not afraid of ghosts, curses or the dead.

Police Commander Khonsu from the nearby city is assigned to guard this expedition, only to find himself entangled in a web of betrayal, murder and revenge from the city’s dark past.

Presented in a skillful flair of the English language, Diana Wilder peoples her story with real humans and uses practical philosophy as she visits the paths of righteousness and peril of these scrupulously developed believable characters.

From an author with a degree in Ancient History who has done extensive research for her writing, you can expect The City of Refuge will enrich readers’ knowledge with fascinating details from the past. But The City of Refuge is so much more than a well-written historical novel because  Diana Wilder is, first of all, an observant human being with deep empathy for those around her.  She brings the ancient world to you and makes it look and feel so real, as if you were together with her characters and could see what they wear, observe what they do, as well as understand their perspective. Diana shows us the human side of seasoned war generals that is touching, and keeps us in suspense until the end.