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Author, Avid Tweeter & Blogger, Lover of books, Teacher of Maths & Swimming, Mother, Speaks Spanish, Friend to many...

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Star Wars #TheForceAwakens

#TheForceAwakens is trending on Twitter and I know why since I went to see the movie today!

Copyright: Lucas Films
Let me tell you something - it was AWESOME! There is something about that soundtrack and the characters that brings it all back to life again... use the force!



The central character, Rey, is fantastic... I thought the actress, Daisy Ridley, did a great job as the "new Luke/ Leia". Feisty, enigmatic and curious - a lot like Anakin was portrayed in Star Wars, Episode I. It'll be interesting to see where her character goes as it grows.

Her partner-in crime - the new "Hans Solo", Finn, is a clever addition. He is not as funny as Hans and misses a sidekick, but I like the fact he has torn loyalties! He works well as a newbie and again we'll see what happens to him.

The fact Harrison Ford was back in the role of Hans was great! Just... oh, no spoilers! Watch & you'll see what they do... Boo hoo!

I'm not too convinced on the new "Darth Vader" - he is just as strange as Anakin became when he grew up - I guess this is the point? But, this is early days... there are more films to come for sure.

The challenge will be to keep the ideas fresh and the plot original. Personally, this film allowed me to get back into the "Star Wars" world after years of absence! 

There is no doubt there are familiar themes running through this new franchise. This may or may not be a good thing - depending on your point of view. Personally, I think it might hook in the next generation. But, I think the producers have to be careful not to annoy existing fans! 

We are not stupid, and if they simply roll out the same again on the next film, I'll be waiting for the DVD. Keep it original, please...

Here are some links for more information! Enjoy


Vanessa :)

Friday, 11 December 2015

Distraction for #Writers

It's not difficult to find something else to do at this time of the year! So much going on...

However, it has been my pleasure to help an author, A.G. Lyttle, I met a few years ago online to prepare his book for the market! He is planning to publish his book, based on the Easter Rising of 1916, in 2016 to mark 100 years since the occasion!

Not only is his book a fantastic read, but I have been having fun trying to design a cover too. All of this is great practice for my own book publication should I fail to get representation! (I might add that I am yet to send it off to any agents - chicken that I am!)

To read about the feedback I got on my new novel read THIS! I was thrilled to get the feedback, but am only now going over the edits!

I have also been reading a lot recently. I find that it relaxes me a lot, and feel that writing will come... no point forcing it. BUT, every day my mind conjures up new ideas, so I know my creative side will not be quashed!

I have gone back to teaching maths part-time and am enjoying it - I know some of you will doubt this, but I CAN make maths exciting! I am lucky to have a great group of children to work with.

Life is busy, but I'm happy. Ultimately, I love helping people too much to hide at home.

To all of you - have an amazing Christmas period! 

Spend time with friends & family and LAUGH a lot! Very therapeutic...

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Vanessa :)

Thursday, 12 November 2015

#Gibraltar Dolphins

I managed to go back to Gibraltar with my girls last month and we got to see the dolphins! So many this time ... parents & little ones!

I HAD to share some pictures... ENJOY :)

On our way...

A large pod of over 30 dolphins was waiting.

They had to come up to say hello!

And show off a bit!

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Victoria Hislop @IOWLF 2015

An inspiration!
I was lucky enough to go and watch Victoria Hislop on Friday at the Isle of Wight Literary Festival. The venue was St Mary's Church in Cowes, and it was a brilliant setting, made more funny by the fact that at times Victoria hoped anything she said would not be taken against her!

Her talk was fascinating and insightful, as she talked about her latest book, The Sunrise.

"In the summer of 1972, Famagusta in Cyprus is the most desirable resort in the Mediterranean, a city bathed in the glow of good fortune. An ambitious couple are about to open the island's most spectacular hotel, where Greek and Turkish Cypriots work in harmony. Two neighbouring families, the Georgious and the Özkans, are among many who moved to Famagusta to escape the years of unrest and ethnic violence elsewhere on the island. But beneath the city's façade of glamour and success, tension is building.

When a Greek coup plunges the island into chaos, Cyprus faces a disastrous conflict. Turkey invades to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority, and Famagusta is shelled. Forty thousand people seize their most precious possessions and flee from the advancing soldiers. In the deserted city, just two families remain. This is their story."

The blurb via Amazon tells you what the book is about, but it truly does help to listen to an author and understand their passion and reasoning for writing their novel. Every book is unique and should not be measured by another.

I have read her second novel, The Return, and loved it. I have started this one and can understand why she spends a lot of time describing the place - it's important to understand, as she said, that the place in her books is just as important as the characters.

I am enjoying the book a lot, but do think a lot of characters have come on the scene and I am struggling to keep up! I will review the book when I finish and give my verdict then.

FIND MY 4 STAR REVIEW BY CLICKING ON HERE

Overall though, I think Victoria was personable and interesting and I hope she continues to be inspired to write many more books in the future.

I have to admit that I was relieved when she told us it takes her 3 years to write a book, 2 years just for research! Since I have taken under 2 years to finish my first historical fiction book I can breathe a sigh of relief! It's normal! PHEW...

I hope you all have a fabulous week.

All the best,
Vanessa                                          

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Meet the Authors, @IOWLF 2015

Andrew Weale & "Spooky, Spooky House"
What a fantastic day! 

All of the authors I met today where brilliant and I thoroughly enjoyed watching their talks/ workshops!


First up, I watched Andrew Weale who read from two stories, including Spooky, Spooky House, which was so much fun with it's huge array of hidden surprises under a multitude of flaps!
Kev Sutherland



Next, was the "Cartoon Workshop" - more Comic workshop to be honest. Kev was incredibly funny, talented and entertaining!

I have to admit the fact he worked for The Beano made me in awe of him!

As a child, I wanted that job!







The amazingly talented, Diana Kimpton, was next...

She was excellent with the children.

They thoroughly enjoyed her various acts and role-plays (she chased children around), funny voices, and excerpts from her stories.

The children (& adults) asked a lot of questions at the end.

Very interesting overall.


The Big Draw with "Bridget Marzo"




Next up, was Bridget Marzo with her Tiz & Ott's Big Draw.

She had all the children and adults (myself included) on the floor drawing!

My youngest (aged 6) managed to see her at school and I managed to get her a signed copy of the book which she read to me tonight.

It truly is a brilliant book for children. Especially to encourage creativity with art.



Nicholas Allan




Lastly, I watched Nicholas Allan who entertained us not only with his books, but with magic tricks galore & an assortment of chocolate prizes!

What a brilliant way to end the day...


Tomorrow, you get the chance to see Andrew Weale, Diana Kimpton, and Nicholas Allan again... so come along and join the fun!


Ghost Walks to the Cellars!




You can even visit the ghostly cellars!

I highly recommend you come along to the IOWLF

Vanessa :)

For more information on the authors read my first blog! HERE

Friday, 16 October 2015

SJ Watson, @IOWLF 2015

After mulling over whether to do some work (i.e writing - I am on a roll at the moment) or go and be inspired by listening to a bestselling author, I chose the latter.

SJ Watson is the best-selling author of "Before I go to Sleep" - a book I really enjoyed back in 2012!

The same year I published my first novel coincidentally. Unfortunately, I have not had the same level of success...

I had no idea about his past and was intrigued to find out that he worked in the NHS, having an aptitude for Science (Physics), before realising he really wanted to be a writer. Having said this he always loved writing, but was put off it as it was not seen to be a viable career (boy, do I relate to this!)

He was approaching 40 and decided to go for it... (hmmmm, sounds like a lot of us writers think alike!)

Anyway, he worked part-time, enrolled on a creative writing course (that cost thousands) and worked on his debut novel for 6 months, before he fortunately met his agent (over a few drinks) who showed an interest in his novel.

Voila!

Lucky guy, he got the illusive book deal, not to forget the film, etc... I mean, come on COLIN FIRTH as a bad guy! (sighs!)

BUT, let's face it, if the novel had not been any good she would have sent him packing! So, it's a case of being at the right place at the right time, and having a fantastic idea!

His new novel, SECOND LIFE  sounds interesting, but I have to admit that he did not sell it to me enough to buy the £14 hardback - I'll just wait for the price to drop on kindle (sorry)

There have been a lot of thrillers on the book market recently and I have to admit that as much as I like to be shocked, I like romance too much to stray away for too long.

However, for SJ Watson, once you've got a taste of success, if you keep your readers happy you should be in the game for a long time.

What I found most interesting was the fact that he is an avid reader. I always struggle to understand how anyone can call themselves a writer and not be...

Anyway, I'll be heading off to listen to Victoria Hislop tonight! Can't wait.

All the best,
Vanessa :)

P.s. I did see Mary Berry today before her talk with Alan Titchmarsh (does a happy dance)

I took a photo for my daughter and even though I wished I could have stayed to listen to it, I knew I'd have to rush out to do the school run so did not think it was worth my getting a ticket and hovering in the background!

Besides, the room was PACKED!






Saturday, 3 October 2015

Isle of Wight Literary Festival 2015, @IOWLF

Well, October is here and it's that time again in Cowes!

AUTHOR TIME!

Last year I was fortunate enough to both volunteer and act as a speaker. To find out about my experience as a speaker click HERE, or to read about my thoughts as a reader click HERE.

It was fun, but I'm glad that this year I am only volunteering! (My nerves were in bits last year)

I am lucky enough to be responsible for authors in the Youth Program - which is amazing this year! The enthusiasm and drive of the volunteers organising this event never ceases to amaze me.

In a bid to get acquainted with their work prior to the event, I thought I would post a bit about them on A Reader's Perspective. I hope some of you will be tempted to bring your children along or look them up online. Find links to my post below by clicking on the authors. Read all about it...

If you are planning to visit, get your tickets now at the IOWL Festival Official Site - I know some events are already sold out!

Hope you enjoy finding out a bit about the Festival and look me up if you visit! I am always happy to day HELLO.

Vanessa :)

See you at the IWLF - get your YOUTH PROGRAM tickets HERE

On Saturday 17th October I will be introducing...

10:00 AndrewWeale SPOOKY SPOOKY HOUSE

11:00 Cartoon Workshop

14:00 Diana Kimpton GREEN SHEEP What Animals Might Say


15:00 Bridget Marzo TIZ & OTT’S BIG DRAW


16:00 Nicholas Allan A LITTLE BIT OF MAGIC

On Sunday 18th October I will be introducing...

09:00 Story-Telling & Fancy Dress

11:00 AndrewWeale SPOOKY SPOOKY HOUSE

12:00 Diana Kimpton THERE MUST BE HORSES


14:00 Sara Grant MAGIC TRIX

15:00 Nicholas Allan THE QUEEN’S KNICKERS







Thursday, 10 September 2015

Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

Well, 2015 is over half-way up and now that my children are all back at school I can reflect and decide what I want to achieve this year.

I have not published anything new in a while, mainly because I am working on a bigger project, and family life has taken over as you can see from the lack of blogs, etc. I also think that Social Media is not as exciting as it once was... (yep, the phrase "in the good old days" seems relevant).

I am guilty of the crime many others commit. I check what's going on and then leave. I barely have time for much conversation. It has become part of normal life to check on my emails, Twitter, Facebook, etc. When I started using them it was exciting. The possibilities seemed endless. Yet, as much as I love seeing the updates of my friends, family, and "connections" it seems empty if you don't actually talk to people.

Talking? What is that I hear you ask.

This is why I love books and reading. I can escape into a different world without any expectations other than those I seek. If I don't enjoy the story I leave it... especially when it's a freebie download via my kindle!

We all take what we want from this life. 

I have just bought two very interesting books...

HUMAN UNIVERSE

SAPIENS

I guess it is part of who I am that I want to know about my past and what makes me human. To try to understand why I am so irrational!

My interest in Science and Evolution should come as no surprise since I have written a paranormal novel based on the idea of a new evolutionary species. I am also working on a historical fiction novel, which has enabled me to analyse me ancestral past and how it potentially shaped me.

I wonder why we all strive to overachieve and, if we fail to do so, why we feel like a huge disappointment?

I feel like I am failing because I have not published a book since 2013, but I know that I have never been happier as a person. I love my family and feel truly blessed in many ways. This week I have also had some fantastic news which will put my fragmented jigsaw puzzle of a life back together again.

So, we should all try to maintain some patience. Life is not a race it is a journey. I love the expression "Every Cloud has a Silver Lining"... so, so true.

I hope things that happen to bring you down get offset by something to make you smile. Let's remember to pick up that phone, meet up, and talk to people. It's so easy to lead a hermit life. I know.


Anyway, to all my Gibraltarian friends & family - HAPPY NATIONAL DAY! Everyone will be in red & white today on the Rock! Have fun...

All the best,
Vanessa

Friday, 14 August 2015

Summertime is not writing time for me...

During the past few months, we have been having a lot of work done at our house and had to move out for 7 weeks. We are now back home, but there was a lot of cleaning up to do! Coupled with the kids being off holiday you can imagine I am getting no writing done at all!

Round the Island Race, Cowes, June 2015
As much as this is sad, there are many great book out there for you to read.

I hope some of you will be patient and wait for my next installment...

Either way, for anyone coming to my blog for the first time, thank you for taking the time. If you read any of my novels, I appreciate all the support you guys give me. My books have not died a death yet... PHEW!

Cake I won at a raffle in the "Race for Life" event
I attach several picture for you to enjoy.

All the best
Vanessa :)
London Holiday with my husband to celebrate 15th Wedding Anniversary

Art we saw in Harrods! Out of our price-range...

Thursday, 9 July 2015

FIRST DATE *~New Cover*~

I have made a new cover for FIRST DATE, which is currently *~FREE~* to download via Amazon!

What do you all think? Enjoy :)


Lose yourself in a collection reminiscing on first love, regret, and passion.

In FIRST DATE, when Alice gets invited to a ball, on Christmas Day, she is bowled over. No-one had ever asked her out on a date before, let alone invited her to a ball. However, the bubble bursts too soon. It turns out she is filling in for an ex-girlfriend. Even so, she puts on a brave face and heads for the ball. She can have a good time even if it does not lead to love. A ball is still a ball after...

In CARELESS CUPID, a mission becomes harder than expected... you are not supposed to fall in love with the person you are trying to help.

In THE ENGAGEMENT PARTY, Rachel might get a lot more than she expected on her big day. A stranger from the past flushes out feelings she had put aside. A lost love is hard to forget...

FIVE STAR REVIEWS:

“...a lovely little bite size treat easily devoured in a single sitting.”

“It is young love so fresh & new with all the trappings of heartache & embarrassment that can go with it.”

“This is Chick-Lit with a twist, and a squeeze of class. The style is comfortable, fluid and at ease with itself.”


“…delightful shorts, each approaching love from a different angle. The first reminds us all of how tumultuous young love or “infatuation” can be, never knowing how your heart truly feels until it's forced to decide. The second was my favorite because it threw a bit of otherworldly interest into the mix. I loved the idea of a cupid sent from above to help us out. And the final short reminds us that what once was can never be again. This book was a great way to spend some down time without having to get embroiled in complicated subplots and character analysis. Easy beach or before bed read!”

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

When other books get you down...

I had an amazing discussion online with a group on Facebook about the latest installment by E.L. James, GREY. Well, it seems the books are like marmite - love them or hate them.

Either way, I came across this article today in the BBC and it made me a bit sad.

Fifty Shades rewrite Grey breaks record in first week

So, basically if we all cut & paste, we could make new versions of our books and sell millions, right? Wrong...

I don't understand why this book has created an obsessive following, and don't see why so many should be desperate to read it.

I downloaded a sample and there was nothing there that pulled me in. He sounds like an obsessive creep and she comes across as pretty pathetic.

So yeah, I wish I could have these sales, I wish readers would download my free book in the same way they are willing to pay for this, but alas it's not to be.

Apparently, I share the same reason for writing as E.L. James. We both wanted escapism and got it.

BUT, her twisted trilogy became a bestseller and mine did not. Depressing to think about... moving on!

I know many writers out there, agents, and publishers must be pulling their hair out over this one too. I hope I'm not alone!

Well done, Mr Grey, you have controlled the masses via a book!

Hope you're all keeping well otherwise.

All the best,

Vanessa :)

Friday, 12 June 2015

When life takes over

I have not been blogging much or spending much time online recently since life is taking over. Since my eye operation last year I also find that I can't spend hours watching the screen! There had to be a downside to having lazer surgery...

Anyway, I wanted to share my recent online experience. I took part in the recent #PitchWars (an opportunity on Twitter to pitch directly to agents/ publishers) and was asked for a sample by a publisher. After sending a chapter, with a brief intro (took me 5 mins to write!) I expected not to hear from them ever again. But, a few days later they asked for the full manuscript. Trust me, this was shocking BUT... it made me suspicious.

In my opinion, any publisher worth anything should take some time to reply. The fact it was that fast made me wary. When I checked them online, they have only been in business since 2013 and have a limited track record at the moment.

For a new author, with no idea how to arrange eBooks, paperback themselves, etc, this is great. No upfront costs, editing advice, and they'd publish your eBook and get ready a print to demand paperback.

BUT, I effectively am just like them. I can do all of this myself. I guess I'm a publisher!

So, I sent them an email thanking them for the interest and basically said, 'thanks, but no thanks.'

To which they replied the next day, 'we have decided not to proceed with your submission'... erm, I rejected them!

So, it was the right decision.

New authors have to be careful. I would always recommend that you try to get an agent first, unless your book is for a specialist market. Also, if your book fits a niche, but will not be the next big read then this type of publisher might be ideal.

But, I have a dream... my book deserved to be in hardback form.

If I can't get an agent and mainstream publisher, then I'll do it myself after all.

The good thing is that I have finished the first book in my new historical fiction saga. Now, the editing begins!

I have decided that it can't be one book after all. It's way too long.

I'll update as it goes, but watch this space... and be careful authors. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

All the best & have a great weekend,

Vanessa :)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

You have to love ANNIE!

I went to see the film Annie with my youngest daughter last week and loved it! We went back again a few days ago at her request.

You have to love the kids showings via CINEWORLD, great value for money at only £1.75 per person! The popcorn box, which includes a drink & snack is also only £2 for these showings! I think we're going to see the Shaun the Sheep movie on Friday!

Today, I saw the DVD for Annie and bought it. For £5 you can't go wrong!

So, what's great about ANNIE? Where do I start?

I watched the original when it came out on cinema and I remember crying. It was so sad. Yet, the songs were fantastic.

Here's the original 1982 version of "It's a hard knock life" via YouTube


And a link to the 1999 version via YouTube


The songs in the original are hard to beat... and yet, this new modern version does an incredible job! I am so going to buy the soundtrack. I loved them all and the new ones are now fixed on the brain! Yep, even more annoying than Frozen!

I loved the voice of Jamie Foxx in particular, and was amazed Cameron Diaz pulled this off. Both are incredibly talented.

However, the stand-out casting in this movie was the little girl... Quvenzhané Wallis

I find it hard to believe that this girl, who is younger than my 12 year-old-son, can pull off such a massive role. Truly incredible. And what a voice! I would not be surprised to see here turn into a singer later on in life. Perhaps, she can be the next J-Lo?


Check out Wikipedia for the overview of the cast. It worked! Interesting to see the review via Rotten Tomatoes. I guess not everyone liked it. But, I thought it was great and it made my daughter and I laugh and sing! You can't complain to that...

Today, I went to see Avengers Assemble, Age of Ultron with my older kids and I got bored! Same old, same old. This got much better reviews, but personally I don't get a kick out of fighting, destruction & death! Oh well... apparently humans are all evil, apart from those that are "super". I guess I had that coming, having written a trilogy which also explores the theme of evolution!


Anyway, both offer great escapism. Hope you enjoy finding out about them and get some time to check them out.

Enjoy the rest of your week,
Vanessa :)

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Talking to Susan Ward

I met Susan Ward via Goodreads. She recommended her book on my Group and I decided to give it a go. After reading it and enjoying it a lot, I have the pleasure of welcoming her to my blog.

“The Girl on the Half Shell” is a fantastic book with a lot of layers. I thought it was an incredibly addictive read. Enjoy my review…

Stunning cover too! 
WOW... I am emotionally drained. This book has it all. What an incredible story.

Chrissie Parker is the daughter of famous rock star, Jack Parker. She is a very confused and traumatised 18-year-old girl, who carries a burden from years earlier. She believes that she had something to do with the death of her brother, Sam, and has self-harmed numerous times to help deal with the guilt that she feels. This is so sad and is portrayed brilliantly in the writing.

She is about to audition at Julliard to become a cellist, like her mother, and heads to New York with her crazy best friend. However, before she does she meets Alan Manzone, a rock star on the brink of disaster, who has been helped back to the road of recovery by Jack for the last few months. The attraction is instant and fate decides to give them a helping hand by cancelling her flight the next day. Alan comes to her rescue and gives her a lift on her private jet to NYC.

Chrissie is out of control and Alan is frankly too old for her (10 years older) but the chemistry that develops between them is unstoppable. I was totally hooked and loved how their story develops.

There are a few scenes that annoyed me a bit. She has a lot of baths, he washes her a lot, and the sex develops too fast and becomes too extreme considering her limited experience. I would have thought that if Alan truly loved her he would have realised she was really just out of being a school girl. These issues could have been avoided if she’d been in her early twenties, but I understand why it worked better to catch her when most vulnerable. Even so, at times I honestly thought he had pushed the boundaries in the relationship too far.

Saying this, Chrissie acts irrationally a lot. She is not a stereotypical girl. She does not do what you’d expect. I love this about her. We can all act a bit insane at times.

The ending is fantastic. I will not give a spoiler, but it is not what you would usually expect. Chrissie grows up and makes the right decision. Alan has helped her on many levels and it’s wonderful to see so many issues potentially resolved.

Overall, I found the author on Goodreads and asked to review her book! I am SO glad she let me do this and am so lucky to have come across this book. Definitely recommended, but not for those who can’t stand references to ‘Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll!’

*~Rated: 5 stars~*

Now, let's start with my questions. 

First off, I have to ask this… How does this story relate to your ‘real’ life? What inspired you to write it?

It is based in my hometown, in the world I grew up in, in the era I grew up in, and Chrissie is a composite of girls from my clique in high school and parts of her are me, but I won’t tell you which parts.

(I promise I wasn’t going to ask…)

Jack is based on a real person I knew all through my childhood. Chrissie’s house is modelled after a real house. The neighbourhood, Hope Ranch, is my childhood stomping grounds. Everything in the book is based on something real or really lived, either personally, or through a friend.

(I loved Jack as a character, I can understand why you made him so real now)

Your female MC, Chrissie is a very confused character. She has no idea what she wants from life. Was it hard to decide how old to make her? 18 is very young and can be considered to be when young people are most vulnerable.

We have five children. I’ve been raising girls for over 30 years. That’s definitely the way I was, growing up in a very sheltered environment before the world of technology. You have to remember this is before the internet age. For better or for worse, most of us, what we knew of the world, was direct experience.

(I must have led a sheltered life then… or at least, I know I kept away from many situations that could have gone bad!)

Us Santa Barbara girls were not sheltered and naïve about the world. As for girls, they haven’t changed. Eighteen is a very confused, volatile state for a girl, in my opinion having raised so many.

(I have two sisters and no brothers and we all kept away from trouble. But, I know friends who made mistakes along the way. I also have two daughter myself. If any of my daughters got together with an older man at 18 I’m pretty sure I would flip! Ha ha)

Your male MC, Alan Manzone, has such a harsh take-it-or-leave-it attitude. Yet, his honest approach made him more believable. As much as I wanted to slap him at times, I also feel head over heels for him. Funnily enough, his commitment to Chrissie was never in doubt.

Your reference to drugs and its use is harrowing and realistic throughout. Alan is one of the victims. Do you think drugs can be the ultimate escape for those looking for meaning in their life?

Drugs are never an escape or assist in finding the meaning of life. They are the trap that prevents both. However, having known addicts, it’s usually in recovery when they make their greatest personal growth.

(True, but I have seen many get into drugs for escapism or due to peer pressure. I said no, but many of my friends didn’t. In the end, it can destroy people, as I saw in the recent River Phoenix documentary! So sad…)

Many background characters add depth to this novel. Do you think Chrissie, like many at times, purposefully surrounded herself with ‘needy’ people? She comes across as very innocent, even though frustratingly stupid on occasion.

Most fragile people surrounded themselves with needy people. Those who need rescued personally often grab on to be people who need rescued. I’m old. This is a theme of human behaviour that hasn’t changed in my lifetime. Beneath every person I’ve ever known trying to rescue someone, is a personal crisis they need rescuing from.

The reference to sex in this novel is very raw and animalistic at times, definitely for over 18. How do you feel when you write these scenes? Are you ever embarrassed to talk about it with friends and family? I know, personally, I got a few looks from friends from some of my scenes!

My husband and children have not read my books. They don’t want to run into a sex scene written by mom J However, I’m not at all embarrassed to discuss my view on sex scenes in romance novels. Sex is the expression of who we are and our emotional state and should be consistent with that state. I don’t believe in writing a sex scene just to include a steamy bit. I have a novel that’s over 400 pages that is a bestseller that does not contain a single sex scene even though it’s romance. Not having sex was the physical expression of the state of those characters.
 
However, people in crisis, I’ve often found, become sexually intense. That’s why the scenes in Half Shell are raw and animalistic. Both Chrissie and Alan are dealing with intense, deeply buried emotional conflict. Those issues struggling to come out are expressed in their sexual interaction.

I think Alan expresses this pivotal point in his life with, “The opposite of death is not life, Chrissie. The opposite of death is you. You are my opposite of death.

It is the physical expression of our being, our emotional condition, and I hope, that how I’ve written the scenes. I don’t think anything less raw and animalistic would ring true.

With the advent of Fifty Shades, a book I am still to read, do you think people like to read about situations considered taboo before? Especially from the privacy of their kindle?

I don’t write about things I consider taboo. I try to write and speak to young women about the issues in their, in all our lives, that we don’t talk about. Poor Chrissie, however, is getting a handful of my contemporary women’s issues. She’s struggling a lot, for all of us.

Additionally, I wanted to write a character who self-burns in a way readers could understand her, maybe help someone who has issues. This issue has personally touched my life through someone I love. I’ve received so many emails from people with substance and self-harming issues, whether it be anorexia, burning, cutting that humble me, their kind praise and appreciation for writing this book.

You book is currently on a FREE promotion. How did you go about advertising it? Are you loyal to Amazon’s KDP program? Many authors, including myself, would love to know how you got into the top 100 in the US & UK! The Holy Grail…

The most important thing to me is readers reading my work. Some people chase NYT bestsellers list, US Today. Me I chase something I call shelf space. That’s the number of people who have read my books. Now, being virtually unknown last year, Amazon KDP offered me the best way to distribute my work to readers. Chrissie has been slowly growing in fan base for the past twelve months. This book is alive based on word of mouth. The readers who love it really love.

So, it was a combination of timing and word of mouth.

(AWESOME!)

I help back from ever offering her free until my one year anniversary. I wanted her book birthday to be perfect. I didn’t know any major promotion, Bookbub or Ereader News, I let my reader base know she was going free. I would say word of mouth and regular tweeting is how she got into the top 100.

Which is the character you have created to date and why?

Chrissie is my favourite. She is the narrative in my head, though you would never know it if you met me. Her uncertainty. The way watches the world. Her mess, all internally contained in your least likely women. She’s my favourite because I think she’s like most women.

Have you ever watched that Movie, What Women Want, (I have indeed – love it!) with Mel Gibson and he’s out walking and he hears all the women’s thoughts around him. I loved that because it’s true. We think, we worry, we doubt, we are hardest on ourselves.

The life in our head is often different than the life we live. Just like Helen Hunt’s in What Women Want. It’s so true.

Do you get a kick out of reader feedback? How do you deal with reviews that are critical?

It may surprise you but I thank ever reviewer, positive or critical, and if possible establish a discussion with the critical readers. I will never be able to please every reader with a work, we have five kids I’ve never been able to please all of them on a single day, but I love to listen, hear, get feedback and sometimes learn from the people who did not like my work. It’s the only way to grow in your craft. The productive review can often be the review that is critical of you. It also helps define who is and isn’t my reader market. I’ve learned a lot about the demographic of who my books appeal to and don’t appeal based on critical reviews. And what I learned surprised me.

Do you think social media is important? If so, how do you prioritise your time?

Very important. When I first released I wasn’t on twitter, Instagram, and had only 20 Facebook Friends, my kids & a few intimates. I didn’t know anything about social media. It took me 6 months and the help of a girlfriend who is a blogger for me to get up to speed, but it’s really improved my market exposure. Throughout the day, I periodically touch base. Pretty regularly actually. I try to leave my desk and relax my mind about every two hours. I go sit outside and stare at the ocean. That’s when I touch base with my social media.

What is the most important thing you have learnt, as an author, since you published your first book?

That I didn’t know a darn thing when I started. It’s hard work to sell a book, and it takes a village to do it. I have a tightknit of supporter and author friends, and we work together for each other. It’s made a definite difference in the level of success I have.

(I hear you on this… the road is long!)

Do you think books are timeless, or do you think some fads disappear?

Great books last forever because what they say to people is timeless. Enjoyable books can have longevity. The trite, trendy fad driven creation dies quietly. (This is true in all things. Fashion. Music. Cinema) However, no author knows which kind of book they’ve written until the readers tell them and they face the test of time.

What is the best book you have read and why did you enjoy it?

The best book I've ever read is Through a Glass Darkly. I thought it was an amazing accomplishment. The blend of history, drama and characterization. I just ached for Barbara on every page and got a definite feel for the time she lived in. It kept me flipping pages for 700 pages, and while I didn't want it to end the way it ended, I still love the book.

I thought it was an absolutely amazing read.

What is the best book you have written, and why did you enjoy writing it?

Without a doubt The Girl on the Half Shell. I enjoyed it because if readers what to see what I’m saying to women in that book, there is something to find. So many women have told me that this book has helped them. I get a lot of “how did you know” messages. However, if you just want an intense and raw story, you can have that as well. It’s a book where you can take away something different depending on what you want to take away after reading it.

Where we can find out about you and buy your books?

I’m exclusively on Amazon. Amazon buypage

Our you can visit my website and read my blog www.susanwardbooks.com

Or you can like me on Facebook

And follow me on Twitter @susaninlaguna


Thank you again for letting us find out more about you and for your honest responses!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

~*Book Recommendations*~

I have not been blogging very much due to several reasons. Time is the biggest culprit. I feel guilty if I am blogging when I should be writing. I have also been reading a lot recently and have now hit 50 books this year! My Goodreads target is 100... I think I'll make it!

I have to admit I was a bit blown away by "THE DUFF" - I loved both the film and the book and did not mind the fact they were so different.

Very different takes on the same theme. I admit that I'll never be to old to relive the drama of growing up!


Read on to find out more about the books I recommend. For full reviews visit my Goodreads page.

Click on the Amazon links to download...



Bargain Reads - Under £1/ $2


~*FREE*~ Reads




Bargain Reads - Under £1/ $2


~*FREE*~ Reads




Bargain Reads - Under £1/ $2


Thanks for reading and let me know what books you recommend in the comments. I am happy to review if I enjoy! 

All the best,
Vanessa

p.s. In case you have not read my debut novel yet, please take a look and review if you enjoy. Thanks a lot :)

HYBRID *~FREE eBook~*


Find out more about me, how I wrote The Evolution Trilogy, and more, on my blog... http://www.theevolutiontrilogy.blogspot.co.uk/

I would also love some more likes on FACEBOOK


Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Happy Easter

I am heading off to a Center Parks in Belgium for Easter.

Can't believe it was 10 years ago when I last went there!

We used to go to Eperheide a lot when we lived in Rotterdam and it has an amazing ball park which I am sure my youngest will love.

Even though I had to add the cost of the ferry, it still worked out cheaper than booking a UK one! And you get to experience a different culture...

So, I hope the rest of you enjoy the week. I can't imagine I'll be online much - but, I will be reading a lot!


Enjoy your time with family, friends, and CHOCOLATE! If you need some ideas for Easter baking click on the LINK

All the best,
Vanessa

Monday, 30 March 2015

Tonia Parronchi and the food of love...

Thank you, Tonia, for agreeing to be featured on my blog.

I read “The Song of the Cypress” after getting a copy via Rosie’s Book Review Team. Here is my review…

4 stars – Review on Amazon and Goodreads

“It's hard to even begin to explain what I thought of "The Song of the Cypress". This novel is so unique and beautifully written that I feel inept at writing down my own views about it.

Ultimately, the story is about the self-discovery of Ann (or Annie). A woman who needs to find herself as a person, spiritual soul, lover and member of a community. Until she dreams of the "Cypress" her life has been depressed. Following the needs of her mother, she has no time for herself. When her mother dies, she finally gets the freedom she desires and leaves everything she has in England to start a new life in a remote cottage set on the mountains in Italy.

Once here, she explores her spiritual side through an eccentric old woman, or local "witch", who guides her in finding out about a connection with the Cypress tree that spans many centuries. The ability of the spirit or soul in this book is interesting and it beckons us (the reader) to seek out our true instinct as human beings and the role we have play with nature.

Her relationship with Joe is interesting and cleverly done, although it did have a ring of perfection that at times felt unbelievable. Every relationship has some trauma. This had barely any. Annie also seems too content in her own skin towards the end. It certainly is something for us all to strive towards.

Without giving any more away, this is a book you can taste (I got hungers pangs from some of the descriptions), smell, feel and almost touch.

My own upbringing in Gibraltar came to mind as the author described the traditions and mannerisms of Italians. My distant relatives were of mixed origin, but many descendants of Gibraltar come from Genoa. We definitely like our food!

I have rated it a 4 because as much as I loved it at times the pace slowed too much for me and I needed more than excellent descriptive writing. But, this is a personal preference.
I highly recommend this and think it should be studied as part of an English course on how to write creatively. I certainly don't think I could ever achieve this level!”

What do you think of my review?

I was very pleased to have this honest review. I was surprised and flattered by your praise and also understand some of your doubts and am glad to have the opportunity here to explain a few things. My intentions do not really matter, as each reader has to get what they feel from a book, but here are my explanations.

Joe - yes, he could be seen as a bit too perfect. However, I wanted someone solid and at home in his own skin, to counterbalance Annie. Joe knows what he wants and has the patience to wait until Annie is ready for life and love. In my head he was the sturdy oak, the gateway to another realm and she the cypress, constantly reaching for the ethereal sky.

I did not base Annie on me but can say that my own spiritual journey has led to me now being very content in my own skin. I tried to make Annie have this awareness and peace as she moved ahead in the book. There will always be moments of stress and upheaval in our lives but if we learn to really know ourselves, shadow side and all, they become easier to deal with.

Finally, the pace of the book, which at times you found a little slow. I tried hard to follow the rhythms of nature within the book and it is certainly not a tale of adventure but of a gentle unfolding of life, love and deep universal connection.

Thank you again for your words.

I certainly felt this way in reading it. It was a journey, beautifully written at that. What inspired you to write this story?

Walking in my Tuscan hills, seeing new life unfurling in the woods in spring, while the ancient cypresses remain unchanged season after season, made me want to capture the beauty in words.


I had written about seven chapters but was unhappy with it when we went away for the summer months on our sailing boat. There, far away from my valley, as I sat mesmerised by the ever-changing waves, I realised that what was missing was the sense of magic I feel when walking there, as if connected to the universe in some strong way. That is how the character of the cypress came into being. The cypress is an ancient spirit that can dream through centuries or concentrate on the intimacy of a second and through its wise council my main characters can gain access to that spiritual dimension we all dream of attaining.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to publish your book? What was the editorial process like?

I decided to self-publish "The Song of the Cypress" because trying to find a UK publisher while living here was not easy. I was lucky to find the lovely Sunpenny Publishing House for my second book, "A Whisper on the Mediterranean", which is a true tale of our family sailing adventures when our son was a small baby. It is a funny book, full of beautiful places to visit and has easy recipes at the end of each chapter. Believe me, if I could make these dishes on a constantly moving boat, anyone can!

A great friend of mine, Valerie Poore, is also with Sunpenny – what a small world!

The process for each book was very different and each had pros and cons. With Sunpenny I had the benefit of a proper editor to sharpen my text and bring it all together well, whereas with this novel I relied on the help of friends, who did a wonderful job but maybe with a different editor I would have ironed out some of the things that did not work for you, Vanessa.

The easy part is writing. Editing is hard because it is not a simple thing to have the proper detachment needed. I wait until months have passed and I am not so emotionally involved before beginning to edit and need to print off pages and read them instead of using the computer or I miss lots of mistakes.

I know all about the editing process! I agree on walking away for a while. Best advice is to forget it for a while.

Do you think social media is important? If so, how do you prioritise your time?

It is very important if one wants to become known. I am a real dinosaur when it comes to technology. I have a mobile phone but turn it on maybe once a week! I have really struggled with this aspect of being a writer but have now managed to set up a website, a Facebook page and am beginning to tweet along merrily, even if it seems a bit potty to me. I try to do all my social media stuff when I wake up, with my second coffee in hand, because my husband is usually still in bed then and I can concentrate better. When I get stuck or have a technical question I have to wait for him to wake up and come rescue me!

Ha ha… my husband is clueless when it comes to technology! I had to work it out for myself – I am a computer geek really J

Do you have a favourite author or genre? Did anyone inspire you to start writing?

Oh, I have so many! How can I give you a favourite? I am an eclectic reader and have been since a child. I love poetry and certain lines stay with me while doing the house work, like song tunes do. Sometimes they then trigger off something that I want to write about in my own way.

I love books with a hint of what Joanne Harris calls "everyday magic" and I really love her books.

I also enjoy a good murder, adventure stories and even science fiction as well as literary fiction. I remember reading "My Sweet Orange Tree", by José Mauro de Vasconcelos, one Christmas morning when I was quite young. It was in my stocking and I always woke early to open that. I started reading and could not stop. I cried my eyes out and my parents were worried that they had chosen the wrong sort of book until, through my tears, I managed to tell them it was the most beautiful thing I had ever read.

Personally, I loved your description of Italy and the food. Can you tell us your favourite places there, and why?

Well, my valley of course, the Valdarno, with its pretty hill villages and wild countryside full of olives and cypresses. It is not as well-known as the Chianti area but for me is far more beautiful. I prefer wild nature to perfectly groomed hills.


I also love the Mediterranean islands that we sail around each summer, in particular Ponza. When you approach Ponza by sea on a spring morning the scent of yellow broom wafts down from the cliffs and Ponza harbour looks like a rainbow with its multicoloured houses rambling up the hillside.

Can you name an Italian dish that you love and another you hate?

Dishes that I like are easy because there are so many. The fresh vegetables used for each seasonal dish are amazing. Right now the asparagus is beginning and last week I bought a slender stemmed bunch and made pasta with asparagus and bacon. 

An unusual dish which is being eaten right now that your readers may not have heard of is fave with pecorino. 

This is perfect picnic food. Fave are small, tender, broad beans which are served in their pods. You break them open, pop out the beans and eat them with fresh pecorino - wonderful.

I used to peal these with my grandmother when I was growing up... I love them!

What do I dislike? A Roman dish called pagliata, is made from the intestines of an unweaned calf and I cannot bring myself to think about it! 

Ahhh.. this does NOT sound (or look) good at all! I have a feeling my parents have eaten this. Sounds like tripe? I tried it once - and did not like it! 

I am feeling ill now... 

In Gibraltar, we have a lot of Italian descendants. Might explain why the food is so familiar to me. My mother's maiden name is Olivero. 

Where we can find out more about you and buy your books?

You can have a look at my website, www.toniaparronchi.com , for more information. I also write a blog, Tonia Parronchi at Wordpress and am on Facebook. I really love to hear from my readers and make sure to reply to any messages I get as soon as I can.

The best places to buy my books are through Amazon or the Book Depository which has free delivery worldwide. Your local book shop will be able to order the books for you if they are not in stock.

Anything else you want to share with us?

I have just finished a new novel called "The Melting of Miss Angelina Snow" which I hope will make my readers laugh as much as I did while writing it.

Frosty estate agent, the formidable Miss Angelina Snow, has no time for romance or other such frivolities or so she believes, until her well-ordered life is turned upside down by a very troublesome client, Leonardo Marconi.

This book is set in England but with a very Italian hero and I am hoping it will be published this year. Sounds exciting! Best of luck with it.

Now I am thinking about a new story. At the moment it is a jumble of ideas dotted on post-it notes and in notebooks but it is slowly taking shape and will be more similar to my first novel in so far as it will be a literary novel. I am fascinated by our relationship with water and want to explore that realm with all its mysterious charm. A tentative title would be "Mermaids Breathing".

Fantastic! Keep writing and living the dream. Thank you for being here. I look forward to reading your next book!