New Kid on the Blog: Zoe Tasia (@ZoeTasia)

This week of thankfulness and great shopping also brings another lovely thing with it: my special Thanksgiving edition of New Kids on the Blog, in which I have the privilege of sharing with you what I’ve learned of the beautiful Zoe Tasia! Book-lover extraordinaire, author and mother of two, Zoe is also co-author of a couple of wonderful books, which you’ll want to add to your TBR pile asap! Read the interview below to get to know Zoe a bit better, then grab a copy of one of her books to complete the experience. And have the Happiest Thanksgiving, or Thursday or whatever 😉

I remember the excitement I felt when I could pick out and read my first book. It brought me so much joy. I felt like new worlds were open to me and the experience seemed miraculous. I’ve been an insatiable reader ever since and always thought being an author would be the best job ever.

1. Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an Okie. I grew up in a small town and graduated from the University of Oklahoma where I met my husband. We have two sons. Our youngest was born in Scotland, our home for over seven years after which we moved to Texas and remain.
I remember the excitement I felt when I could pick out and read my first book. It brought me so much joy. I felt like new worlds were open to me and the experience seemed miraculous. I’ve been an insatiable reader ever since and always thought being an author would be the best job ever.

2. You are an author and the other half of a writing team. Tell us about your books.

I co-author with Minette Lauren under the name Zari Reede. We have three books out. Our first book, Daisy Dukes ‘n Cowboy Boots, is a west Texas romance.
When a rich banker hires handsome lawyer Nolan Anderson to find a way to acquire certain acreage, Ferina Kincaid must struggle not only to keep her ranch, but to resist the attraction she feels for Nolan.

Our second book, Blinked, is a zany fantasy.
Mindy Nichols’s job is to destroy the diverse, violent beings transported, or “blinked”, to Earth. Then she meets Winnalea, the first “blinked” being that didn’t viciously attack. Mindy can’t kill the sweet, helpful woman who calls herself a Brownie. To complicate matters, Mindy’s husband, Jim, has “blinked” to Winnalea’s home world. Follow them as Mindy fights to follow her conscience and stand up to her boss and Jim navigates a topsy-turvy fairytale world inhabited by Cyclops, witches and dwarves.

Our third book, available for preorder, is a psychological thriller, Sins of the Sister. Private investigator Lana Madison knows her twin sister lives and will stop at nothing to find her. No matter how dangerous it is.

Preorder here!

3. What motivates you to write?

It’s inherent and a part of who I am, my identity. I’ve always had a great imagination and told stories before I could write them down.

4. What is your writers’ Achilles Heel?

I dread editing, but the worst is writing blurbs. Coming up with only a few sentences to explain your book and entice readers is so difficult.

5. Your latest book, Blinked, is an urban fantasy set in the 70s. What is your personal connection to this historic period/the characters in your book?

My reason for choosing the time period was two-fold. I wanted the setting to be in the past so the characters would have communication difficulties and their world would be lower tech. However, I also wanted the era to be one with which I had some familiarity. I grew up in the 70s and it was a time of turmoil and eye-opening experiences, so I thought it was fitting.

6. What is your favorite thing to discuss with your readers?

I have readers?! I still get giddy about that. I’m happy discussing anything book-related. Be it my own or someone else’s. I particularly enjoy answering questions where I’m able to elaborate and share facets of the character that are not revealed in the book.

7. What is the most annoying question you get from your readers?

I can’t think of one particular question, but the attitude that anyone can be an author, easy-peasy and, that when I’m busy doing my job, it isn’t looked upon as being as important bothers me.

8. What are some of the life-changing books you’ve read, and why?

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was important because it was the first book I read by an Oklahoman author and, holy moly! The author’s a woman! I realized that yes, being a writer was possible. S.E. Hinton did it, maybe this Oklahoman girl could too. The Wizard of Oz by Baum was the first fantasy series book I read, my introduction to one of my most favorite genres. My love of it also made me more open to other genres like science fiction. Diana Gabaldon’s first book, Outlander, was published as Cross Stitch in the UK where I read it. In fact, I met her at a book signing there. I was amazed she had never visited Scotland until after she wrote her novel. I wouldn’t have guessed and it gave me confidence to write about places and things I knew nothing about, at least until I researched, or experienced.

9. What is the one book you wish you had written, and why?

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. The premise is clever, the humor cracks me up, and I love the unusual formatting.

10. What are some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome as an author?

While I lived in Aberdeen, I had viral encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain due to a virus. I don’t remember six weeks of my life. I had numerous seizures and memory loss. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t follow a simple sitcom. Time passed. I healed. I got most of my memories back and my short-term memory improved enough that I could read a book again. Prior to the illness, I took several writing courses and submitted some short stories. I felt I was really making progress and on my way to becoming an author. It took me a long time to get the confidence to write again, but eventually I did. My co-author suggested a writing exercise. She sent me the first paragraph of a story which I added on to and sent back. This eventually became our first book.

11. What are some of your triumphs as an author?

Getting published will never cease to give me joy and a sense of accomplishment. I’m thrilled that my first solo book, Kilts and Catnip (Book 1 of The Shrouded Isle Series), is coming out soon. I’ve been on a book panel and multiple book signings. Maybe someday, it will all seem commonplace, but now, every little authorly thing elates me.

We are lucky enough to get the very first look at the cover of Kilts and Catnip, Zoe Tasia’s first solo publication!

12. You have a book blog where you also review/discuss books. What prompted you to start blogging about books? Do you have a favorite genre and why?

At some level, I knew reviews were important, but I didn’t start writing them until I read a book by a new indie author and saw that he had just a handful of reviews. I couldn’t believe someone that wrote so well didn’t have more fans, so I wrote a review of his book to get the news out. I began a blog shortly before Daisy Dukes came out and quickly discovered that I’m not a big blogger. Since I already wrote reviews, I started posting them on my site.
I enjoy fantasy the most, where anything can happen.

13. What was the first book you blogged about, and why?

The first book I blogged about was Thicker Than Blood by Andrew Dudek. He didn’t have many reviews plus he had a couple of bad ones which can bring down the star rating quite a bit. I liked the book and wanted to be supportive.

Read the review here.

14. What is your greatest passion?

Reading and writing, of course. Cats, … I’m bonkers for cats and follow Catlady on social media.

15. Do you have other talents or hobbies?

I’m a bit of a fitness freak. As the kid that was the last one to be picked for a team, the fact that I ran a marathon amazes me. I love dancing and took classes as a child. I used to Greek dance with a group, but after I tore my meniscus, I gave it up. I tried belly dancing, which was great fun.

16. What are you currently reading?

I’m reading a fantasy book by Rick Gualtieri, Sunset Strip.

17. Are there any new projects in your future? What’s next for you?

I’m currently writing Book 2 of The Shrouded Isle series, tentatively titled Tartan and Thyme. I also plan to write Shrouded Isle holiday short stories. I have one ready to publish and several others I’m working on. I have written the first of another fantasy series that I need to edit and several projects I’ve begun and need to finish. I’m exploring other genres such as cozy mystery and magical realism.

18. And the question that everyone gets asked: Recommend one Netflix series I should watch ☺

The latest good one I saw was season one of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, but if you haven’t seen Red Dwarf or one of my “why-was-this-cancelled?” favorites, Wonderfalls, you should.

What a great lady! And some awesome new suggestions for reads and series! Thank you, Zoe!
Now, there’s really only one more thing left to do (apart from stuffing your face with turkey): go to AuthorShout’s website and vote for my own book, The Deermaster. You know you want to 😉

And have a wonderful weekend, filled with great new books!

New Kids on the Blog: An interview with Judy and Keith, authors of Children’s and YA fiction (@JudyandKeith)

Quote

This past week I had the profound pleasure of talking to Judy and Keith, who are not only writing partners, but have also been life-partners for more than forty years (they don’t look old enough for that!). Their story is such a selfless one, but not entirely smooth sailing on the publishing side of things. Read the interview below to find out more about them, their writing and their wonderful books. At the very bottom I will post a link to the article that sparked our conversation, and that can be of great value to anyone who hopes to publish Children’s fiction, or anything that contains graphic content, via Amazon Kindle.

Judy and Keith are also members of the WolfPackAuthors writers’ group. If you haven’t any idea what that is, visit @WolfPackAuthors on Twitter, and be sure to follow them. They’re pretty awesome, just like real wolves.

Keith & Judy

“Judy’s Big-nan told the best bedtime stories with witches, fairies, magic teapots…etc. Judy carried on the tradition with our children, and now we’re reaching a new generation.”

 

  1. Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself.

Judy and Keith mainly write children’s stories. Each story tries to emphasize a moral and has to pass the acid test: Would we be happy if our own grandchildren read it?

We were born near Tamworth in the UK, met at high school, have been married for over forty years, and are now semi-retired, living in the South Bay, Los Angeles.
Judy initially followed a medical career as a radiographer and ultrasound technician in the UK and in her spare time gave piano lessons.
Keith followed a career first as an electronic engineer and later as a program manager.
In the mid-eighties, we relocated to Los Angeles where Judy switched profession to cosmetologist. We have two sons and two grandsons.

  1. You are both authors, and a couple?! Tell us about your books.

Keith writes, Judy edits—she says ‘why bark when you have a dog!’
Keith’s alter-ego writes adult material. Our grandson heard us discussing a story and wanted to read it. He was only eight. We promised to write a story just for him and asked what he wanted—answer, a wrestling story. Big T was the result. By the time we’d worked through all our grandchildren & god-grandchildren—we were on a roll.

Some of our earlier eBooks are no longer available individually, but we are republishing them as anthologies. The first two collections are available from Amazon, with Bedtime Stories following early in 2019.

Wicked Witch Anthology

Also available in print here.

Children’s Stories Anthology

Also available in print here.

  1. What motivates you to write?

It has to be our grandchildren.

  1. What are your writers’ Achilles Heels?

Some stories don’t resonate with Keith, and he procrastinates. A few glasses of wine in our rooftop garden usually works to break the deadlock.

  1. How do you negotiate plot ideas or differences in opinion about the content of your books? Is it a negotiation?

It’s a negotiation—usually involving a couple of glasses of wine. Judy is the big picture plot…Keith fills in the details.

  1. Your books are aimed at children and young adults. How did you come to work in this genre? What is your personal connection to the characters in your books?

See answer to Question #2
All characters are fictional…although, we do cherry pick the names we use so our grandkids can relate better to the stories.

  1. Of the books you’ve written, which resonates most closely with you as authors? Are there characters that hold a special relationship with your own childhoods?

The Wicked Witch series—Judy’s Big-nan told the best bedtime stories with witches, fairies, magic teapots…etc. Judy carried on the tradition with our children, and now we’re reaching a new generation.

  1. What is your favorite thing to discuss with your readers?

Nothing specific, although we do try and introduce morals and consequences into our stories.

  1. What are some of the life-changing books you’ve read, and why?

Keith fell in love with C. S Lewis’ Narnia series and E. S Nesbit’s stories…especially the blend of reality and fantasy. The idea that you can be living a mundane life…and a second later, a miracle happens…Judy’s the practical one…but, can make up a children’s story at a drop of a hat!

  1. You have had unique challenges with self-publishing children’s books and have overcome them in unique ways. Can you tell us a little bit about that, the illustrations and your process, also about your recently published article in regards to the challenges of publishing books for young readers?

Family and friends told us we’d reach a bigger audience if we had illustrations and the books in print. My son kept plugging away, so when Amazon offered this suite of publishing tools—effectively removing the barrier to play—we had to give them a try. The article goes into more details.
For us, we promised ourselves not to spend family money on what could be viewed as a hobby. The Amazon tools appeared too good to be true. It may be true…and in the future the tools themselves might become a profit-center, but not at the moment. We have a backlog of short stories—more than enough for two additional anthologies. We’ve turned it into a family affair, we all produce illustrations, help with marketing. Judy takes the lead with editing. Keith pulls all the parts together.
At the moment, except for the cover, we’re keeping the illustrations as pen-pencil. If these take off, we’ll consider full color. Our first front cover was home grown using an Amazon template, the second was the result of a competition.

  1. What was the first book you ever wrote?

Children’s stories…was Big T. It still appears on Amazon, but the publisher Devine Destinies has removed it from their website. We will include it in Bedtime Stories 1Q2019. The Mystery of the Broken Vase…still a short-story, but the theme is darker.

Big T

The Mystery of the Broken Vase

  1. What is your greatest passion?

Who knows? We don’t. Music’s a passion…dancing.
We firmly believe communication and doing things together are two of the three legs to keep a relationship fresh and new.

  1. Do you have other talents or hobbies?

Keith’s getting better at drawing illustrations…

  1. What are you currently reading?

Nothing in the YA-children genres.
Keith is a reviewer with TBRpile, so there is plenty of reading material. The last one was an adult detective story by Susan Laine.

  1. Are there any new projects in your future? What’s next for you?

One day at a time…finish the series of children anthologies. That covers 2019!! Bite the bullet with Harry Putter—a YA/NA romantic comedy…we’re stuck at 2000 words…

  1. And the question that everyone gets asked: Recommend one Netflix series I should watch?

Punisher…Keith
Orange is the new black…Judy

To learn more about Judy and Keith’s lovely children’s books, click here, or visit their Amazon Authors’ Page. Download their article on publishing Children’s fiction/graphic content to Amazon Kindle here.

If you are an author, book blogger/vlogger or book reviewer and would like to be featured as one of my New Kids on the Blog, DM me @StinavD on Twitter, or drop me a line at christina (at) christinavandeventer.com (please replace (at) with @).

Have a lit week!

New Kids on the Blog: An interview with Michael DeMarco (@HanlaBooks)

Quote

 

 

“I consider Paradise Lost to be the greatest achievement in all of English language literature.” – Michael DeMarco

 

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to get to know a little more about the inspiring Michael DeMarco. Wearing many hats, Michael is an author and Lit-vlogger who wants to revolutionize the way young people experience classic literature. By day, he takes on the world’s wrongdoings, but after hours, he’s a superhero championing the finer persuasions in life (Literature, Music, Art!). His Youtube Vlog is a must-visit for any book lover (see links below) and his commentary on how classic literature can be applied to modern life is a unique take on the power and influence of great books.  Michael isn’t just someone whose videos you’ll want to watch and whose book you’ll want to read, he’s someone you’ll want to get to know on a personal level. And now you can.

Read the interview below.

 

  1. Who are you? Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a civil litigation attorney with my own practice in greater Boston. As of now I will be accepting appointments from the state to represent children and parents when there has been a removal made by the Department of Children and Families.

2. You are an author. Tell us about your book.

My book is a work of historical fiction, in four parts, taking place in England, the Netherlands, Indonesia, and finally Puritan Massachusetts. A Dutch prisoner of war is freed by a precocious young girl in search of her long lost father. While she seems to have freed him out of mutual interest, she makes an obsession out of corrupting him, sabotages the love of his life, while catapulting him up the ranks of the Dutch East India Company.

3. What motivates you to write?

A love of language and a desire to create.

4. What is your writer’s Achilles Heel?

My weakness as a writer is that my taste is very classical, and so my style is more formal and dense than what is found on the shelves these days.

5. Your book, Redemption Lost, is about The Dutch Golden Age, and more specifically the East India Company. What is your personal connection to this historic period/the characters in your book?

I was an Economics major in college and in my senior year I took a seminar level history course on Puritan New England. I am from Massachusetts and the story of European settlement in America fascinates people who live here. Redemption Lost deals with the machinations of the “first modern economy” centered in Amsterdam, the distortions of bear market saboteurs, and that colonial, geographic arbitrage that the Dutch used to acquire high value commodities from Asiatic trade. The climax is in Essex County, Massachusetts, almost too predictably I suppose, ending in a witchcraft trial, the description of which allowed me to draw upon my experience as a trial lawyer.

6. What is your favorite thing to discuss with your readers?

I enjoy hearing their own original opinions that had not occurred to me, sympathies where I had not intended them, or a relation to one of the characters (it is always to Louisa, the main female character).

7. What is the most annoying question you get from your readers?

“Who is your target audience?”

8. What are some of the life-changing books you’ve read, and why?

This would be a long list:

Moliere’s Tartuffe

John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Goethe’s Sorrows of Young Werther

Montaigne’s Essays

Plutarch’s Lives

Tasso’s Liberation of Jerusalem

I do not know that these books changed my life, but they evolved my thinking, each of them is full of little bits of wisdom for the reader to take away. Moliere in particular mocks everyone who takes things too seriously; arguing in every play, it seems, that to live well is the only true philosophy, and to try too hard to avoid calamity will bring it on you. Tasso is a series of allegorical delights. Plutarch is a tract pertaining to all life on earth. Goethe’s exploration of inner torment is so naked and confessional – and accurate — that it is difficult to wade through.

9. What is the one book you wish you had written, and why?

I hope I will write a comedy some day.

10. You host a Youtube Vlog about Literature. What prompted you to start Vlogging about books?

I’ve come to the determination that academics have ruined literature for young Americans. The purpose of my channel is to try to be entertaining; which is to say, I hope to extract the entertainment value from what is presumed to be dry material and show it to be comedic, meaningful, and even sexual.

11. What was the first book you Vlogged, and why?

I started with a series of podcasts on Paradise Lost because the core themes of that book were incorporated as homage in my own book. To put it simply, I consider Paradise Lost to be the greatest achievement in all of English language literature. It contemplates everything from domestic happiness, to his own theology, to his grapple with the correct relations within a free state. By the time I was done with the vlog, I realized I enjoyed the process. It is very clarifying to sit down and map out what I want to say.

12. What is your greatest passion?

I genuinely enjoy the practice of law and trial work especially. Reading, opera, classical music, the visual arts.

13. Do you have other talents or hobbies?

I get out on the bike for exercise during the summer and I ski during the winter.

14. What are you currently reading?

Maria Callas: The Woman Behind the Legend by Arianna Stassinopoulos.

15. Are there any new projects in your future? What’s next for you?

A Maria Callas video, the rest of Dante’s Inferno, and I must make a vlog on Moliere and Goethe!

16. And the question that everyone gets asked: Recommend one Netflix series I should watch:

Babylon Berlin

 

Follow Michael on Twitter @HanlaBooks or subscribe to his Youtube channel here!

If you are an author, book blogger or book reviewer and would like to be one of the New Kids on the Blog, contact me today!

.

Have a bookish weekend!

New Kids on the Blog

Are you a writer? Do you have an awesome book or project you’re just dying to share with the world? Then why don’t you contact me about being one of my New Kids on the Blog?! You can guest post or interview with me or, if you’re so inclined, send me a little bit of reading from your awesome new book to share with the entire populace of the wicked web! So, hit those keys and blog a tune for me. And share share share!

How to do the Kindle-thing

If you were born in the 90s, this post will probably seem surreal to you. Also, the idea of reading paperbacks instead of ebooks might seem surreal to you, because why, right? Ebooks are eco-friendly, easy to download, easy to access and you can store thousands of them on one device or in the cloud, all at the click of a button. What more could anyone want from a book?

But people do want more from books. They want books that represent time, struggles, memories and, sometimes, even status. I know readers who only buy literary fiction, because to them it’s better than genre fiction. I know those who only buy hardbacks, because anything else should, according to them, never have gotten published in the first place. And then there are those who snob for “real books” vs “fake books” (ie. ebooks), because for some reason if it hasn’t been printed on paper, the writer isn’t a ‘real author’. And though, to some, all of these things matter, they do not matter to me. What matters, truly matters, to me, is that people read. The more they read, the merrier I am. If they happen to read something I wrote, I become ecstatic. I dare say some other writers will agree with me. We don’t write because we want to fill a reader’s prerequisites for their books, or tick a box on a publisher’s want-list. The vast majority of us write because we have something to say, and because we want you, the reader, to find out what that is. All that being said, I commiserate with lovers of traditional books (previously known only as ‘books’), because to them it must sometimes feel like technology is ruining an ancient wonder and making it disappear. Humans are alike in that they don’t take kindly to change. So while I don’t want to convince you, yes you, who were born before the 90s, who had the privilege of living in a world where everything you said or did wasn’t scrutinized on the internet and could still get a book you actually wanted to read at your local library (or still had a local library!), I do want to introduce you to the ebook. This introduction ultimately serves the same purpose an infomercial serves TV-marketing: I want you to read my books.

What is an ebook?

The name ebook or e-book is the shortened version of electronic book, which when looked at from that perspective would be a more adequate name for an e-reader, the device you use to access and read the e-book on. Ebooks come in different formats, which means they have different file-names attached to them that allow for users to read them on specific reading devices. This is, in effect, the same difference between playing Tetris on an iPhone or an Android device. The game is still Tetris. The thing you hold in your hand to play the game on is what differs.

Do you need an e-reader to read ebooks?

The simple answer is no. The lengthy answer has to do with what your reading preferences are. These days you can read most ebook formats on your computer or phone with the download of a simple app or via an online service such as Amazon Kindle, Scribd, Smashwords and many more. But if you want to experience and interact with the ebook in the same way you are used to with traditional books, an e-reader might come in handy. On an e-reader (there are many different kinds out there, such as Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and so forth), you can have your whole library in one place, highlight or underline passages you particularly enjoy and even write notes in the margins. Sort of. Each e-reader comes with its own set of pros and cons, and some with limitations others don’t have. What is unique about e-readers is that they have been developed to enhance the reading experience, not detract from it. Not only do they use a special eye-saving technology called e-ink, but most of them also have font-size adjusters and paper/text colour adjusters for vision impaired individuals. To add to their appeal, some of them come with backlit screens to facilitate reading in the dark and font choices, in case you just can’t read another Times New Roman word! And most importantly, they’re lightweight, so they won’t break your nose if you accidentally fall asleep while reading in bed.
For a similar reading experience (minus the vision saving e-ink experience) your phone or tablet might be a good second choice. What’s great about reading on your phone is that, the way most people use their cellphones these days, you’ll always have a book with you, no matter where you go. Waiting in line at the bank or doctor’s office? Read. Too little fiber in your diet? Get some Kelloggs Allbran flakes. See what I did there? 🙂
Seriously, though, no one at a bookshop ever gave you a book for free, did they? So while you still haven’t decided what you think of the whole ebook-revolution, why not try reading one of thousands of free ebooks to get a feel for it. You don’t have to fully adopt, you can still read paperbacks too! Nothing is stopping you from having your bread buttered on both sides!

So, how to do this Kindle thing:
Great news! If you’re reading this blog, you already have all the tools necessary to attempt reading an ebook!
Step one: Go to www.amazon.com or www.amazon.co.uk and download the Kindle reading app. Similarly, on your phone or tablet, go to your app store and search for ‘Kindle’. Download the app.
Step two: Now that the app has downloaded, you need to create a user account. In order to do this, follow the prompts on the app (it happens automatically), typing in your email address and a password of your choice. Memorize this password!
Step three: Following the prompts, choose the genres/book types you generally enjoy reading.
Step four: Look for the search bar (it has a tiny looking glass picture in it) and type in the words ‘Christina van Deventer’. Some books (by me!) should appear. Some of them are free. Choose your preferred title and click/choose ‘Buy now’ or ‘Buy now for free’!
Step five: Wait one minute while the book of your choice downloads to your device. Start reading!

Repeat.

It has literally never been easier to buy books and start reading them. Easier still is finding any book you want by simply searching for it.

Now, go give it a try. Who knows, maybe you’ll even like it a little.
If you go before the end of August (today is the very last day!), you might even find more than one FREE title by me. Because I’m just that nice!

If you want to get there faster, click here!
And just to prove that I am, in fact, a ‘real’ writer, here’s a picture of some paperback copies of my book, “The Deermaster”. You can order your own copy by clicking here.

PS: If you felt condescended to in this post, it was most likely because it hit a bit close to home for you. Or you don’t like it when people explain perfectly obvious things. Well, it’s not perfectly obvious to EVERYONE, and I want EVERYONE to read my books, so I’m willing to chance being condescending to attain my goal. Don’t take it personally 🙂

Happy reading!

Goodreads Fantasy Week and a Kindle Countdown Deal

What’s better than fantasy week? Getting cheap/free books during fantasy week!

Yes, you read that right. This week is the Goodreads Annual Science Fiction and Fantasy Genre week and I’ve got just the thing to celebrate with: A YA Fantasy novella with rogue reindeer and evil clauses: The Deermaster.

So, in honor of the awesome service Goodreads provides to readers and lovers of scifi/fantasy everywhere, The Deermaster will be available as a Kindle Countdown Deal from 24 August, 2018 until 31 August, 2018! That means MASSIVE savings on an awesome book! Who can beat that?! The sooner you drop by, the cheaper you get the book, so don’t delay!

But wait! There’s more!

To sweeten the deal even more, you will also be able to get my romcom-scifi short story “Out Of This World” for FREE during the last two days of August 2018! Because embarking on out-of-this-world adventures is what reading books is all about!

Happy Spring! (if you’re in the southern hemisphere, like me), or happy Fall! (if you’re not) 🙂

And most of all, happy reading!

Remember the three Rs:  “Read, Review, Recommend”.

 

 

Book review: I see London, I see France

CAUTION: Spoilers ahead!

In 2017 I had the incredible privilege to undertake a great European road trip with my husband and parents. For nearly four weeks, we hopped from country to country, ticking things off our bucket lists at every stop. Mom wanted castles and culture, dad wanted nature and walking, my husband wanted to bump fists with statues of musical greats and visit their homes, my own pleasure is art, literature, fairytales and magic. We all wanted wine, great food and to experience something new together. And we did, everywhere we went.
But while backpacking, or road-tripping, through Europe is the adventure of a lifetime for anyone, what makes it life-altering is not so much about where you go as it is about who you go with. Which brings me to I see London, I see France by Sarah Mlynowski.

The book follows first year college (university) students/best friends Sydney and Leela on their great European adventure.
This is the trip they’ve both been dreaming of ever since they started reading books as teenagers. They have a bucket list of their own to work on, complete with stinky cheese and high tea, but they also have to budget to make it through four and a half weeks of traveling.
Each of them also come to the experience with an extra piece of baggage: Leela is recently broken up with her college boyfriend, with whom she was supposed to go on this epic trip. Sydney leaves behind an agoraphobic mother with her sister who, despite having grown up in the same household, just doesn’t get what it takes to take care of someone who fears leaving the safety of their own environment. The story is told from Sydney’s POV, and everywhere we follow her, so does her guilt over abandoning her fragile mother and teenage sister. But it is only for four and a half weeks, she constantly reminds us, and she said she’d go straight back if either of her selfish family members can’t deal with her absence.
Speaking of selfish, the really selfish person is Sydney’s best friend and travel partner, Leela. Not only does she count on Sydney to do all the planning, but she repeatedly changes her mind about where to go and about who she would or wouldn’t like to share in the experience. That is because, despite the breakup that caused Leela and boyfriend Matt’s plans to fall through, Matt and friend Jackson follow in Sydney and Leela’s wake on a trip of their own. This complicates matters to no end and is also the main plot-twist in the book, because it turns out Jackson is both easy on the eye and an interesting, if not exciting, travel companion, and Matt and Leela have unfinished business. Throw in selfish Leela’s jealousy over Sydney’s new college friend, Kat, and you’ve got yourself a story with plenty of intrigue, twists and turns and a few OMFG moments to boot. But it wasn’t the story so much that had me riveted. Not that it wasn’t riveting, it was. It was just that, truth to be told, once Sydney and Leela started going places, trying new foods and experiencing new countries and cities, I was there again, or for the first time, experiencing Europe as though it was as new to me as to the two characters portrayed in the book. And I thought what a marvelous job Sarah Mlynowski had done with the thing that some would consider secondary to the story; the traveling. At every twist and turn in the book I thought: ‘Poor Sydney! If only she could have done this with her mother like I did,’ or ‘Poor Leela, if only she would see how much work her friend put into trying to make this trip awesome for her,’ and I walked up narrow staircases with them and snapped selfies of great tourist attractions with them and when I put the book down, it was as though I had just returned from Europe again with my family, who had trusted me so completely to plan a trip that on the day we left for Europe, they still had no idea where we were off to. And it was magical and romantic and new and exciting and fun. Lots of fun. Both times.
So if you haven’t done the Great European Adventure yet, choose your travel partner(s) carefully. And read ‘I see London, I see France’. You can call it research. Or you can just experience the great European adventure, which is what this book is. Don’t go to Europe and act like Leela. Be the better friend, the traveler who is open to new experiences, the person who eats the snails even though they look disgusting. And if you ever go see a sex-show in Amsterdam, don’t be the idiot who gets up on stage with the performers. Be the idiot who takes video proof to show that you were there, then deletes it, to show that you care.

My travel companions, waiting for the bus in Florence, Italy.

Happy travels!

A short story about my home town, Rustenburg

When I was a little girl growing up in Rustenburg, I was the only girl living on our street. There were boys aplenty, though, and I soon understood that if I simply watched them play cricket and rugby and cowboys & crooks and cars, I was going to miss out on some of the best years of my childhood. So I was known as a bit of a tomboy. A girl among boys. Playing with their toys. Playing with Hot Wheels cars in the dirt or racing against them on ancient consoles while eating peanut-butter sandwiches. Those are the childhood memories that stick with me most: the way we looked at those cars and imagined the real thing, the speed at which a toy car could be launched into the air on a homemade ramp with a little bit of help from a rubber band, the cities we built with cereal boxes and plastic crates. I grew up loving those cars and what they represent, and at least in that way, my new short story, Hot Wheels, is an homage to my earliest associations with Rustenburg. The N4 highway came much later, and later still the ghosts of memories of those lost too early.

Hot Wheels is centered around a toy Hot Wheels car and the way such a small thing can sometimes touch a life or shape a future. It’s a story of loss, of grief and guilt, but more importantly, it’s a story about motherhood and it is now available on all major digital platforms for free for a limited time. Not too limited though, so share the news. There’ll be plenty of time for your friend, lover, brother, mother, grandmother, colleague and neighbour to download their copy.

Check out the links below to get your copy today, and as always, if you liked what you read, please rate and review at your preferred outlet!

Barnes & Noble

Kobo

Amazon (USA):

Amazon (UK)

Scribd

Smashwords

Indigo

Have a great weekend! Drive safely.

My short stories now available on Scribd!

If you’re a reader, which I sincerely hope you are, then you’ll have heard of Scribd by now. If you haven’t, here’s the low-down: Scribd is a subscription service for all things bookish and a lovely way to pay a little for a lot of reading material. Each month, for only $8.99 you get *unlimited access to their large catalogue of books, magazines, audiobooks and documents, which can be accessed from your phone, tablet or computer at your convenience! And now, to make the deal even sweeter, my short stories are available for Scribd subscribers both in Afrikaans and English! The full “Nuwe Stories” short story series (Afrikaans Edition) is available for your reading pleasure. The series consists of three anthologies: Nuwe Stories, Nuwe Stories 2 and Nuwe Stories 3, each comprising a collection of Afrikaans language short stories from millennial writers such as myself. And of course my own short stories are there too. Look out for “Onder die Brug” (Nuwe Stories), “‘n Kis vir Boel” (Nuwe Stories 2) and “Utopia” (Nuwe Stories 3).

Nuwe Stories, ISBN 9780798156448. Now available on Scribd!

Nuwe Stories 2 – ISBN: 9780798164627. Now available on Scribd!

Nuwe Stories 3, ISBN: 9780798167987. Now available on Scribd!

If Afrikaans isn’t really your thing, I have a special treat for readers of the slightly more widely spoken English language. My latest short story, “Hot Wheels“, is now also available on Scribd.

Hot Wheels: A Short Story. ISBN: 9780463642849.
Now available on Scribd!

So get clicking and start reading, and remember, if you liked what you read, review and recommend!

Get your Scribd subscription here. Click on the book names above to read each book on Scribd.

Happy reading!

Three Short Stories about Johannesburg by Elizabeth Pienaar

I have a confession to make. I love short stories. I love reading them, I love writing them and I love recommending the good ones to my fellow readers. A lot of people tell me they don’t like to read short stories, because they “get to spend so little time with the characters”, or “just when they get into it, the story is done”, or even, and this surprises me, “short stories don’t give authors enough scope to exhibit their abilities”. While you are allowed to have that opinion (if you happen to share in it), allow me the chance to change your mind. I know just the short stories that’ll do it.

I’ve mentioned Elizabeth Pienaar here before, because I adore her writing. The previous time I wrote about her, it was about her book “Bobby”, a beautiful tale about a dog’s life, based in truth and told from the dog’s perspective. But today I want to talk about her new series of short stories, collectively named “Breaking Down The House”, in which Elizabeth takes a very candid look at life on the streets of Johannesburg. The first story, Pius, is about the stark reality that faces every South African today; that no place is really safe anymore, that work is scarce and hard to hold onto and that sometimes life takes you on the roads you’d rather not have travelled. This story won the South African PEN Award, which is a much better endorsement than I could ever make. Nevertheless, I’m telling you, read it!

Get “Pius” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

The second story, “Breaking Down The House”, placed 2nd in the PEN Award. It takes a whole new look at the interplay between rich and poor and how, by helping someone else, you can sometimes also help yourself. It’s smart, intriguing and, even though it’s a short story, the characters are so well developed that you’d struggle not to identify with them. It’s short enough to read while waiting at the doctor’s office and it will keep you hooked until the end (or when your name gets called, whichever happens first).

Get “Breaking Down The House” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

The third story, “Rejoice”, was the story that really got to me. I’m a sucker for hero types and flawed characters and I’m an even bigger sucker for stories with heart. This one’s got all of that and more. It’s about the relationship between a worker and employer, and the many facets of the human condition, of relationships founded on uncommon ground. This story was so good that I’m biting my tongue not to tell you any of the details, because it’s something you should experience first hand. And it has all the scope of a full length novel without the time-investment of reading a four hundred page book. If you can only afford to get one, this is the story you should get! But really, you should just get all of them.

Get “Rejoice” on Amazon Kindle by clicking the link below.

Now, if after reading these you still don’t like short stories, there’s probably no ointment for that particular condition. If you did, feel free to scroll down for more recommendations!

Find out more about Elizabeth Pienaar by visiting her website at www.elizabethpienaar.com.

As always, be kind and review. Authors don’t only want to know what you thought, they want others to know what you thought and they depend on your reviews, shares and endorsements to get the word out.

Have a great week!