WILD ROOTS: Coming Alive in the French Amazon

Discover your own wild roots, or be an armchair traveler. Either way, Mulvenna’s stories make for a great read.

The Naked Reviewers

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Donna Mulvenna had everything she wanted in her modern Australian life: a rewarding career, a spacious home, and an around-the-clock connection to mobile technology. But for all these comforts, she couldn’t shake the feeling something was missing.

So when a Frenchman entered her life and invited her to move to France, she instantly daydreamed of strolling through lavender fields and sipping espresso in Paris. How could she have known he had two tickets to an obscure, mosquito-infested French territory in South America: French Guiana?

After that life got a little crazy. Donna found herself hacking through a perilous jungle, canoeing along anaconda-infested rivers, and overcoming a tropical disease: in a place that became more hostile by the minute. Harrowing ordeals became just another pothole in the road as she battled with bureaucratic nightmares, befriended a bizarre assortment of lively characters, and encountered oddball creatures in a chocolate-colored sea.

Then it…

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Book review: Swimming with Bridgeport Girls

This one was a surprise. I picked it by the title, which is a flimsy enough reason to choose a book. But what a find.

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I don’t know what is bigger: Ray Parisi’s dreams, his heart, or his gambling debt. Any way you slice it, this story is a fantastic ride.

Everyone wants a piece of Ray, from his bookie to the police (although not, much to Ray’s chagrin, his ex). You’d think his troubles are over when he unexpectedly inherits from his estranged father. Nope. That’s just another reason to hit the casinos.

I laughed, I cried, I winced through every horrible choice Ray makes (and there’s a lot of them). Needless to say, I stayed up late to find out how it all turned out. The way it ended, I’m wondering if there’s might be a sequel in the works.

I certainly hope so.

About the author: I was so encouraged to learn that this is Anthony Tambakis’s first novel and he’s fifty! There’s hope for us all. And I certainly hope there’s more to come from this talented writer.

Interview with author DeForest Day

About the only thing I like better than Belgian chocolate is discovering a good book. Blown Away (A Marital Misunderstanding) blew me away. Supremely funny, wickedly twisted, all the more appealing because I could imagine this scenario actually happening. Needless to say, I couldn’t put it down.
I don’t usually feel like Julie Andrews, but I must have done something good because I was lucky enough to score an interview with the lovely and talented author, Deforest Day.
Without further ado, let us proceed with the interview.61pY7ewitPL._UX250_
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Turn a profit before I die.
Day gazes wistfully at a calendar.
At 76, I need to get busy.
Which writers inspire you?
Lately I find myself rereading dead guys. John Updike, Faulkner, Elmore Leonard. This worries my therapist, but I think it is just simple memory loss. That, or today’s writers are all a steaming pile of—my therapists says don’t go there; I need to maintain a positive outlook during my Golden Years. I told him I’d have a lot more gold if I stopped seeing him, so I did.
So, what have you written?    
I have written, he said wryly, dozens of novels. Published is a touchy subject, but since it is just the two of us I will confide. August Ice, a mystery, was published thirty years ago, when an editor at St. Martin’s Press had a momentary lack of judgement. The publishing world is a pack of sheep, and one of them at Carroll & Graf followed his mistake by publishing two more. You can look at the covers at here, but thankfully they are out of print.
What are you currently working on and what is it about?    
Funny you should ask. I’m attempting a series of shorter humorous works, aimed at the attention span of the modern reader. I tell ya.
Day says this in a rather skillful imitation of the late Rodney Dangerfield. It ain’t easy, competing with 140 characters.
51z-M6p4PVL._SY346_I always say, my next book is going to be written in emoji.
What drew you to write in this genre?    
I published Blown Away, a dark domestic comedy, on Amazon. Sales were so stagnant President Trump used it as an example of a swamp that needed draining. So I dashed off a short story called The Nose Knows, staring two characters in the novel. Duane Munch and his bloodhound partner Bugle Boy. Sales of it skyrocketed into double digits, and I was off and running. A Nose for News quickly followed. I am furiously working on a third, and hope to earn enough for both a night on the town and bail money.
How much research do you do?     
I found that my ‘style’ has changed with the advent of the internet and Google. I probably use it a dozen times a day, researching small things that give depth to a story. I recently researched 1940’s women’s hats, and the value of a a first edition copy of Little Women. (five figures, so check you attic)
When did you decide to become a writer?     
I never consciously made a decision, I just started ‘writing’ around the age of five. At first I was following in the tradition of Homer, telling stories aloud as a way of holding my parent’s attention, because they ignored my demands for candy and comic books. Then came works on paper, done with crayons, and were one-page illustrated stories. Jimmy Crad was one.(spelling is still a challenge) My father always made up stories to amuse me, and the natural competitor that resides in small children responded with ones of my own.
Where do the your ideas come from?     
The Idea Store. A guy runs it out of his van, in the alley behind Kinkos.
Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?         

51dJ5r1li6L._SY346_I start with a character, and then watch where he takes me. Before he gets too carried away with the story I make notes, and try to put some controls on where he goes, and who he interacts with. It’s a bit like Second City improv. What looks effortless takes a lot of practice.

What is the hardest thing about writing?         
It’s all hard, until you realize it’s done indoors, with no heavy lifting. (That’s my take on life. My mantra is “Life is good, considering the alternative.”)
Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?        
Does a short red dress?
How are you publishing this book and why?          
Amazon, because at my age I don’t buy green bananas. Finding an agent and then a publisher takes years. Which is another way of saying never. . .
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What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?        
I doubt if many buyers read the reviews on Amazon.They just glance at the stars and the numbers. My second hard cover thriller (A Cold Killing) got a very nice review in the Sunday NYT. There was no notice of a disturbance in the force.
Any amusing story about marketing books that happened to you?        
My first Book Tour was set up by the publisher, and consisted of a table outside a bookstore in a local mall. There were three of us, and I discovered the other two were self-published by a vanity press. (This was decades before Amazon.
What do you think of “trailers” for books?        
I think it is a good idea to include the first chapter of another book, with a link to Amazon.
Do you think that giving books away free works and why?       
YES! Short of setting yourself on fire in Times Square it is the best way of getting attention.
Excuse me while I make a note to return that fire-proof suit I just bought.
How do you relax?        
I think you are too young and innocent to learn the answer.
What is your favorite motivational phrase.        
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man with no feet.”
What advice would you give to your younger self?    
 “Stop staring out the window. There’s no money in writing fiction.”
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?        
Buy a pair of Nikes, and then Just do it.51TiMMDJfGL._AC_US218_
When you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go?     
If you create interesting characters they lead the way. And sometimes a walk-on will steal a scene, and then demand a larger role.
Where is your favorite place to write?      
My desk in front of the keyboard. That’s where the rubber hits the road. But every place else—awake or asleep— is where the dreams are born.
Thanks for meeting with me today, Mr. Day, and extra thanks for the laughs.
Readers in the need of more humor therapy should head straight over to Day’s Amazon page.

Interview with author Natasha McLear

This month, I am lucky to have the lovely and talented Natasha McLear here with me. When she’s not cooking up stories, Tasha is cooking up delicious food. She was generous enough to share a recipe for Italian Tzatziki today! Recipe at the bottom. Without further ado, on to the interview.

characetrsWhen you develop characters do you already know who they are before you begin writing or do you let them develop as you go? 

Oh, gosh, I can never write a word until I have a clear picture of my characters.

I start with one serious strength, and fill in smaller features around it.

In my last novel, my leading lady is a fast learner – and believe me, I’ve given her more than her fair share of pain and failure – she finds a way to learn from her mistakes and turns disaster to triumph.  She also has a gentle touch and a charming dimpled smile which wins over the grumpiest angriest people.  To go with the smile, I gave her sparkling eyes and golden highlights in her hair.  I gave her shoulder length hair so it bounces and dances when she tilts her head and grins.  When she’s thoughtful she looks down and her hair falls in a shiny curtain over one side of her face which she unconsciously tucks back behind her ear.

Bingo!

Now I can see how the leading man sees her and what attracts him. Which means the man had to be the opposite, he is visibly strong but when things don’t go his way he has no idea how to deal and only her gentle strength can take him out of his funk.

And that’s the basis of my story arc.

Do you ever get Writer’s Block, and do you have any tips for getting through it?

writers block

Oh yes. My Lord, yes.

The easiest is a burn-out block when I’ve been running the engine too long and too hard and I have nothing left in the tank.  I take a nice long break and wait until I want to write again.  I actually wait and wait until the desire to go back is irresistible and has me by the throat, then I go back to my waiting WiP.

Then there is the pushing a car up the hill block.  This is when I’ve done something wrong and the characters are confused and don’t know where to go or how. I have to get out of the car and push from one plot point to the next.  I hate that, of how I hate that because it feels like the novel just isn’t working anymore, I’m bored, my characters are bored and even my laptop keyboard is bored until everything grinds down to a standstill.  This block is caused by the writing, normally I’ve missed something, the conflict isn’t active or I’ve betrayed my characters, frog marched them somewhere they wouldn’t normally go.

Solution: Stop, breath, check what’s missing. Rewrite and the block dissolves.

The worst block of all is the emotional one. Something has gone wrong in my heart and I need to heal before I can write again. I call this The Terror.

Do you think that the cover plays an important part in the buying process?

ethiopian foodIf I know and love the writer, then I barely look at the cover.  If I don’t know the writer, then it’s like ordering food in an Ethiopian restaurant where the menu is written in Ethiopian and the ingredients are injera, wat and tibs.  Then I need the pictures to tempt me.  I want the picture to inspire me and promise me a magical journey but also to show
me what the ingredients are so I know if I want to order the dish or not.

 

 Any tips on what to do and what not to do when writing?

stick with winners
Surround yourself with the best writers you can find.  Yes it’s nice to have cheerleaders who say nice things, but are they helping me improve or are they more concerned about seeming nice? I say ‘seeming’ because there’s nothing nice about letting a fellow writer go out into the wolf-eat-wolf market place armed with a less than perfect novel.

Nothing wrong with putting out a 3-star novel if I happen to be a 3-star writer.  But there’s no excuse for a 5-star book when you’re capable of a 7-star novel.

In an ideal world you would find talented writers, intelligent critiquers who also happen to love your work.  But if I couldn’t, and I had to choose, I’d take a talented writer and a plain-speaking critic any day. I want my friends to push me when I’m being lazy, careless or wrong.

Does honest feedback hurt sometimes? Sure it does.  But if you want a gentle soft life, don’t be a novelist.

Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?

She’s a 29 year old artist who loves the colour green.  In all its hues and shades. She started out in fine art, painting lush spring landscapes. Then a traumatic experience ruined her confidence, and she never picked up a paintbrush again.

bespoke 4 (2)But the human spirit is not easily killed.  As she healed she started designing jewellery, mostly using green gems.  Very soon, she was asked to create individual engagement rings, bespoke piec
es and by the point the novel opens, she’s very successful and her creations are considered works of art.

Then she gets a strange invitation to paint again and the door to the past opens unto a guilty secret, a long buried pain and a forgotten love.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

Anywhere with plenty of this.coffee- (2)

About Natasha:

Natasha (Tasha to her friends) started making up stories when she was five because no one had the time to read them to her all day long.  In the end she had to learn reading so she could raid her mum’s bookshelves.  By the then, the trick of making stuff up had become deeply ingrained.  She spent her childhood and adolenscence always hiding behind the pages of some book.  By the time she was 16, she had to smuggle books into the bathroom and read there because her family had declared an imbargo on novels in an attempt to force her to study for her A’Levels.  “Do you want to go to university or end up working in kitchens?”

Although Tasha did go to a good university, she now spends far too much time in the kitchen inventing recipes.  Last month she discovered the wonderful world of Twitter and shared her favourite recipes with her followers.

Her latest novel is about heartbreak, so she tweets a lot about that, too.

Connect with Natasha on Twitter.

As promised, that heavenly recipe:

Italian Tzatziki

The heart and soul of this recipe is topquality, sun-ripened tomatoes,

the kind that smell divine.

You’ll need:Italian Tzatziki
10-12 cherry tomatoes cut in half or 3 large tomatoes cubed

500ml (2 cups) Greek yogurt

3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Slice the tomatoes. Put into a large bowl and season with salt. Leave for 10-15 minutes to let the tomato juices collect in the bottom of the bowl. Stir in the yogurt.

Meanwhile, slice the garlic very thin into a small non-stick frying pan.  Add cold olive oil. Place over the lowest heat setting to allow the garlic and oil to infuse gently.  When the garlic starts to turn dark gold, remove from heat and pour over the yogurt and tomato mixture.  Stir gently to allow the flavours to mix.

Serve with hot crusty bread.

Interview with author Fanni Suto

This month, I have Fanni Suto with me. In addition to writing, Fanni is a fan of owls, sloths, street art and a collector of earrings.
FannieSuto

On to our main topic. What do you most enjoy about reading and writing fiction?

The fact that we have the power to change reality. I can make up whole new worlds or I can take ours and bend the rules. I can also show a slice of my world to other people and make them understand me better than it would be possible in other ways.

When you get a writing idea, what is the first thing you do with it?

I make notes, either in Evernote on my phone or in one of my fancy notebooks, ( I keep buying them, I can’t help it!) then I create a Pinterest board, it helps me pin down the mood. (Pun intended… well, sort of.)

Does any part of the story have roots in your own personal life? Was anything in the book inspired by your own personal tales?

Stories of travel, self-discovery and finding our place in the world is very close to my heart.

Fitting in is sometimes very difficult and you have to have the strength not to give up. I’ve been living away from my home country for roughly 2 years now, I lived in the UK and now I live in France. It was my decision so I’m much luckier than the people who have to flee their homes but feeling home is sometimes still difficult. This feeling , I think, is recurrent in my writing. For example, in my urban fantasy novel, Londemonium, I have an immigrant angel who leaves the crumbling and corrupt heaven behind to find a new home in the efficient and liberal (but also cruel and somewhat capitalistic) Hell.

nolan-issac-38299Do you have any strange writing habits or rituals?

I like to have a cup of tea or coffee by my side. I usually forget about it though, so by the time I remember my coffee, it’s usually cold. My strangest and most annoying writing habit is that scenes come to me in a very random order so my stories usually look like strange Frankenstein experiments when I try to patch the parts together.

What cultural value do you place on storytelling?

I think storytelling has an utmost importance. I can’t wait to have children to tell them bedtime stories. In our world which is very product focused and efficiency driven stories might seem outdated or unnecessary. I think, however, that today’s world is a bit like a young child on a rampage. It demands everything it sees and breaks (almost) everything it lays its hand on, what it really needs is a warm hug and stories to teach it about the things that are really important.

More about Fanni:dakota-corbin-211690

Fanni Sütő is a writer, poet, dreamer who believes in fairy tales even if they are dark, disenchanted and deconstructed. She writes about everything which comes in her way or goes bump in the night. She has been published in Hungary, the US, the UK and Australia. She  is very happy to do collaborations, art exchanges, cross-art projects, so if you’re interested in such things, please get in touch on her website and travel blog.