Sunday, April 10, 2016

Stella Hervey Birrell: Novelist in Waiting

Thanks for hosting me on your blog Maggie, as I navigate the choppy waters of publishing for the first time.

This is my first novel, and it is available on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Nook.

Let's sneak a look into my main character's past, present and future…

Her present: Melissa lives in Edinburgh which certainly beats working two dead-end jobs in a dead-end town and staying with her Mum. Thank goodness for her friends. 

Julie, her bestie, always has her back, even if she does have a new boyfriend-shaped growth. 

Gerry regularly introduces her to eligible men, so it’s OK to ignore his belief that women belong in the kitchen. 

And the new guy James…perhaps he could be more than just a friend?

Her past: Melissa can’t stop thinking about things her dad said when he was alive. Re-playing warnings about teenage boyfriends and the over-use of the phone might not help, but it’s all she has left of him. Will obsessing about her past block the path to happy ever after?

Her future: Stressful days with a toddler, filled with love, paint, wee (or is it just water?) and ‘I’m not eating that!’ Is every day to be a solo-parenting day for Melissa?

It’s hard work searching for The One when you’re a modern, independent, strident, lonely feminist. From noisy pub to folk club, from broken heart to new start, you’ll end up rooting for Melissa, despite her despicable decisions and massive mistakes.

A story about frog-kissing, bed-hopping, sliding off your lily-pad with embarrassment, and croaking with joy.

Photo by Gordon Bell
And this is me, pleased as punch just
after Crooked Cat signed the book.

You can find How Many Wrongs make a Mr Right? at these fine booksellers!

And you can find Stella here!

Please come and say ‘hi’ in any of these places

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dictators in History: Alfredo Stroessner

Let's start the year with an interesting bit of history from Tim Taylor!

Hello, Maggie, lovely to visit you again.

My novel Revolution Day follows a year in the life of Latin American dictator Carlos Almanzor. Carlos is a fictional figure and is not based upon any particular individual. Nevertheless, his life and career share many elements with those of real dictators and in some cases I consciously drew on historical events in writing the novel.

I thought it would be interesting to explore, in a series of blog posts, the lives of some real-life dictators, and to look for similarities and differences between their careers and characters and those of my own fictional dictator. Today I am discussing Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay.

Alfredo Stroessner Matiauda was born in Encarnacion, Paraguay in 1913, the son of a German
immigrant and the daughter of a prominent local family. He joined the army in 1929 and enjoyed a successful military career, distinguishing himself in the Chacos war with Bolivia in the early 1930s and subsequently in the Paraguayan civil war in 1947, where he supported President Higinio Moríñigo. He became a brigadier in 1948 and Chief of Staff of the army in 1951.

In May 1954 Stroessner led a coup to overthrow President Federico Chaves. He was then the only candidate in a presidential election which duly elected him in July. He was elected seven more times, but in one election he was the only candidate and in others his overwhelming share of the vote does not suggest a fair contest. For much of his time in power, his own right wing Colorado party was the only one permitted, and membership of the party was effectively a prerequisite for high office.

Positive achievements of Stroessner’s regime major infrastructure projects such as the founding of Ciudad del Este, now the second largest city in Paraguay, stability and economic growth. These were at the cost of high levels of corruption and a very poor record on human rights. Stroessner declared a ‘state of siege’ which allowed him to suspend public liberties; this remained in force until 1987. Public works projects too often had a heavy human cost: for example, the building of the Itaipu dam displaced 80,000 people. As a staunch anti-communist, Stroessner at first enjoyed good relations with the United States, though this changed in the 1970’s when the Carter presidency baulked at his regime’s human rights abuses.

Stroessner’s long reign finally came to an end in much the same way it had begun, when his relations with certain generals deteriorated, precipitating the coup that deposed him in February 1989. He spent the last seventeen years of his life in exile in Brazil.

Stroessner and Carlos

I chose to write about Stroessner because of some striking similarities to my protagonist, Carlos Almanzor. This is not to say that Carlos was inspired by him (although some aspects of his life and career were inspired by other historical dictators) – but writing the novel prompted me to do a bit of research, and when I came across Stroessner I was struck by the parallels.

Politically, the two are at opposite ends of the spectrum, at least to begin with ­– Stroessner on the right, Carlos on the left (though he moves to the right as his regime progresses). In other respects, however, they have much in common. One parallel is longevity: Stroessner was in power for thirty-five years; Revolution Day begins on the thirty-seventh anniversary of the revolution that brought Carlos to power. A second is the measures both men resort to in order to remain in power. Both men desire the legitimacy conveyed by democratic elections; both subvert the democratic process to ensure the desired result. Both also rely on an oppressive security apparatus, subjecting dissidents to torture, imprisonment, execution and ‘disappearance’.

The third and most striking similarity is that both men faced their greatest threat from someone who appeared to be their staunchest ally. In Stroessner’s case, it was General Andres Rodriguez, his son-in-law, friend and confidant for many years, who led the coup that deposed him. The threat to Carlos comes from Manuel Jimenez, his long-standing Vice-President and Minister for Information and Security, who is dissatisfied with his subordinate role. The main storyline of the novel follows the progress of Manuel’s plan to overthrow Carlos. Lacking a military power base, he must proceed not by force but through intrigue, misinformation, manipulation and blackmail. As to whether he succeeds, I will leave that for readers to find out!

Information about the book and excerpts can be found on the Revolution Day page on my website:!revday/cwpf.

Connect with Tim E. Taylor

Who is this Tim E. Taylor, Anyway?

Tim was born in 1960 in Stoke-on-Trent. He studied Classics at Pembroke College, Oxford (and later Philosophy at Birkbeck, University of London). After a couple of years playing in a rock band, he joined the Civil Service, eventually leaving in 2011 to spend more time writing.

Tim now lives in Yorkshire with his wife and daughter and divides his time between creative writing, academic research and part-time teaching and other work for Leeds and Huddersfield Universities.

Tim’s first novel, Zeus of Ithome, a historical novel about the struggle of the ancient Messenians to free themselves from Sparta, was published by Crooked Cat in November 2013; his second, Revolution Day in June 2015. Tim also writes poetry and the occasional short story; he plays guitar, and likes to walk up hills.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Claire Stibbes: A New Detective on the Case

It's a busy week around here. We have another guest for your entertainment and all for your delight. Crooked Cat colleague Claire Stibbes is here to talk about her writing process and her new books! 

Hi Claire, what's up?

Hi Maggie!

Thank you so much for inviting me to your website this chilly, snowy December morning. Well, it is here in New Mexico, USA, where cedar fires are burning in every hearth and people are already slugging down that eggnog by the jug.

I just want to say WOW, is it December already? That means National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) has ended. Congratulations to some of the Crooked Cat Publishing authors who took part in it and finished.

Crooked Cat Publishing released the first in my Detective Temeke series, The 9th Hour, in November of this year. One of the hardest obstacles of writing is the perfectionism we authors have with our books. Does it read well? Does it makes sense? Is it even interesting? We know every word counts and venturing onto that blank page with words that either stick or get deleted the following day is a daunting task. I’m always wandering between the park and my office in the search for scenes, words and great dialogue. I brainstorm, tell and re-tell. I watch the weather for signs, smells and sounds.

In my fictional world, the characters are the ones who lead the book. They take me to places my structure never knew existed and trample on any specific sequence of events I may have penned in advance. With fiction, it’s all smoke and mirrors and outlines… Eh? What’s an outline anyway?

I loved writing The 9th Hour because it became spontaneous, exciting and nothing like I imagined it would be. Detective Temeke strayed off those pages into a world of his own and I had to run to keep up. He can be downright stubborn and thoughtless, but his sniffer is the most accurate yet. The only problem is, Temeke is the one who, by hook or by crook, always raises the stakes. Any conflict with him is going to be high.

Malin Santiago becomes larger as the series grows. In the second book, Night Eyes, she is more settled in her role as Temeke’s partner. She watches and learns as one does in a new job. It’s not until the third book that she literally jumps off the page.  I have tremendous respect for her and Temeke as I do for real detectives in the real world. If it wasn’t for the detectives I’ve spent valuable time with, these characters would be as flat as a cow pat.

When I finished the second book, Night Eyes, there was a round of applause in my house and a time of great celebration. As I embark on the third in the series over the next nine weeks, I’m reminded of a small voice saying — finishing is the single thing that separates those who want to write from those who actually have. So I keep learning and I keep writing. There’s nothing I’d rather do.

If you enjoy psychological thrillers mixed with a little Scandinavian noir, The 9th Hour is available on, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Smashwords. It is also on sale for 99c / 99p for a short time over the Christmas season.

Thank you for hosting me!

Thanks so much for coming, Clair! Now how about some links?

Connect with Claire Stibbes

LIKE Claire Stibbes on Facebook

FOLLOW Claire on Twitter

Check out her website

Why not sign up for her newsletter

And of course, Buy Claire's books at (amazon, all regions) The 9th Hour

About Claire

Originally from England, Claire lived in Hong Kong for three years before eventually finding a second home in New Mexico, USA. Her genres include Historical Fiction, Action and Adventure, Psychological Thriller, Mystery and Suspense.

She has also written short stories for Breakwater Harbor Books. The collection won Best Anthology of 2014 in the Independent Book Awards hosted by eFestival of Words.

She has completed the second in the Detective Temeke series and is currently working on the third book in which she explores how even in the darkness of criminal depravity the light of faith is never entirely extinguished.

Other books by Claire Stibbes

Monday, December 21, 2015

Shaman's Book Sale!

Today I'm doing a little favor for the extraordinary Ailsa Abraham. If you don't know her yet, you might want to pop over to her lovely blog.  For now, here's her post!

We celebrate the Winter Solstice or Yule, so as my gift to you readers I would like to present — for the two days of 22nd and 23rd December only — both books in the Alchemy series at 99p or 99 cents each for an e-book. 

Come on, less than a cup of coffee? Lasts longer and keeps you awake better!
Click on this link to see them on Amazon in YOUR country.
Universal Amazon link - anywhere in the world

Plenty of five star reviews for both books, and the third one is on the way. Grab them while they're this price!


Book 1 ALCHEMY  

A world without war? Professor Sawhele Fielding stumbles across an invention that would 
change the world; something so monumental, it could spell the end of environmental disaster and conflict. With the help of her father, a shadowy figure in the world of international banking, she begins to set into motion the biggest upheaval the planet has seen. But in a changed world, dark forces are threatening the fragile peace. Where modern technology is proving useless, old magic from a bygone era might just save the day. Adrian Oliver, expert in ancient religions is skeptical until faced with incontrovertible proof that ancient evil is abroad once again. 

How could a Utopian dream of free fuel and peaceful co-existence turn into a nightmare? Iamo, a priest of the Mother Goddess and Riga, a Black Shaman assassin captain, are thrown together - reluctantly at first - to face a threat that nobody could have imagined before "The Changes". ALCHEMY is the prequel to Shaman's Drum which features the adventures of Iamo and Riga through their world in the near future, where the established religions of our own days had been banned. 

England in the near future. Mainstream religions have been outlawed, and the old gods rule again. Iamo has been a priest of the Great Mother and is sworn to celibacy, but his love for Riga, a Black Shaman, a magical assassin, caused him to break his vows. After being imprisoned apart from each other for three years, Iamo accepts an offer to earn them both a pardon and the possibility of marriage. If they survive. Iamo and Riga must discover why demons are breaking through from the other side. 

Which of the cults are renegades who allow the demons through? Who can they trust? Combining their powers, they face the ordeal with the help of a band of eclectic pagans, spirit creatures, Riga's Black Shaman brothers, an undercover Christian granny, and three unusually energetic Goths. It's a tough assignment, but the hope of a life together keeps them fighting.

Are you ready to read now? Here's the link again to the Kindle download that's perfect for where you live.

About Ailsa Abraham

Ailsa Abraham retired early from a string of jobs, ending up with teaching English to adults. She has lived in France since 1990 and is married with no children but six grandchildren. Her passion is motorbikes which have taken the place of horses in her life now that ill-health prevents her riding. She copes with Bipolar Condition, a twisted spine and increasing deafness with her usual wry humour – “well if I didn't have all those, I'd have to work for a living, instead of being an author, which is much more fun.”. Her ambition in life is to keep breathing. She has no intention of stopping writing.

Shaman's Drum published by Crooked Cat 
(nominated for the People's Choice Book Prize)

Four Go Mad in Catalonia – self-published, available from Smashwords

Twitter - @ailsaabraham

Facebook AilsaAbraham

Ailsa's Web page

Writing as CameronLawton