Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Domestic Violence Awareness Month Donation - Please join me:

October is designated Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this month I would like to give to a cause I feel strongly about. I have blogged about domestic violence on a couple of occasions already, primarily when Forever Sunshine first came out in April. Since then, I have heard from multiple domestic violence survivors, and each and every one of them told me that Forever Sunshine was not only very real to them but also hopeful for those still in a situation to get out. Naturally, that was part of the message I was trying to send, but I also wanted to draw attention to the issue itself. Often domestic violence is a hidden matter, a family matter that no one truly understands or wants to get involved with. For emergency personnel, it is also a cause for concern. During my time in the Emergency Medical Services, scene safety was our first priority. When responding to a domestic violence call, we often required the backup of police personnel to ensure the scene was safe before we could enter.
There was one call where the husband was drunk, injured and required transport to the hospital, and though he was arrested the police officer followed the ambulance rather than riding in the back with me. As senior medical personnel I treated the patient, while my EMT (who was male) drove. The patient looked at me midway through the ride to the hospital and said, “I could kill you with my bare hands right now.” I must admit that I was a little unnerved, even though I reminded him coolly that we had an escort and a burly EMT up front. But that is how these people control their victims, through fear and intimidation. If a stranger would talk to another stranger so angrily, can we imagine how he must have spoken to his family?

Please do not get me wrong. Men are not always the offenders. Domestic violence can occur via women as well. The main point is that it is a problem for all involved, but there are means of escape and ways to get help for both the victim and the offender. Most importantly of all, there are opportunities to show that there is nothing to be ashamed of; there is help out there.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and in honor of this important milestone I am putting together a donation for every sale of Forever Sunshine to a cause that I believe is worthwhile. I have contacted a national domestic violence organization and am working with them on this plan. Though I would love to give to more than one organization, this time around I have chosen one site to focus on. Depending on the success of my venture, I will certainly branch out because this is a serious endeavor.

The Hotline is a 24/7 non-profit organization that operates nationwide in the United States. They offer crisis intervention, advocacy, and information to victims or possible victims. Their database includes referrals to over 4,000 programs and shelters, so they work hard every day trying to pass on the means and education to help others. In these difficult financial times donations are harder to come by, and this is why I am hopeful that by buying a decent story of hope, healing and survival others can find a way to pass a day and give back to those who need help. My latest blog review has been completed by Book Reviews by Tima. Please take a look to learn more about my story. The eBook Forever Sunshine is only $2.99 on Amazon; the paperback just $14.95. For my UK readers, please click here. Remember, you do not need a Kindle to purchase an eBook. If you would like to read on your computer or smartphone, Amazon offers an e-reading application. Get yours here.
So please join me in my attempts to give back to those in need and help me spread the word.

If you are in need, do not hesitate to call 1-800-799-SAFE or visit for immediate assistance. All it takes is one call to get the ball rolling.

Thank you all, my good readers!

Forever Sunshine:

Young and naïve Cherisse Bridwell had focused solely on completing her college degree and beginning her career until one hot summer evening when her frightened older sister, Shelly, arrives looking for help. Cher's carefully ordered life quickly comes to an end. Trapped in an abusive marriage, Shelly is terrified and has nowhere else to go but to her overworked and oblivious sister. Though Cher is not prepared to handle the effects of a controlling and violent husband, fate delivers help via police sergeant Brandon Nicholson. With his strength and guidance, he shows Cherisse and Shelly how to survive and how to live life to the fullest. As both women find their inner strength, Cher and Brandon fall in love and build a future together. However, life is full of ups and downs, and through it all Cher and her family must continue to face every day with a feeling of hope and optimism, even when it seems as though all hope is gone.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Up Close and Personal with Author Chris Thrall of Eating Smoke

Chris Thrall’s highly anticipated new release, Eating Smoke: One Man’s Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong’s Triad Heartland, is a powerful yet humorous autobiography about a man who hopes to start a new life in Hong Kong only to fall into a terrible drug addiction that nearly claims his sanity and his life. I am pleased to have had the opportunity to speak with Chris about this dramatic story, and I am proud to share what I've learned about his exciting and amusing story.
Collette: Thank you so much for joing me today, Chris. I'm thrilled to have you here. Can we start with a little bit about you. Who is Chris Thrall?

Chris: Chris Thrall left the British Royal Marine Commandos in 1995 to run his own business in Hong Kong, but less than a year later was homeless, in psychosis from crystal meth addiction and working for the 14-K, a Hong Kong triad crime syndicate, as a nightclub doorman in Wan Chai’s infamous red-light district.

Collette: What made you want to join the military? Was it a childhood dream or something that seemed right at the time?

Chris: I joined up for a bet. My friend’s father was a Marine, a veteran of the Falklands Conflict. Dan was telling people that the Royal Marines have the toughest infantry training in the world. We both left school with little qualifications, so he went on the Potential Recruits Course at the Commando Training Centre in the UK – a 3-day trial made up of swimming, gymnasium, endurance, assault course and military knowledge tests, to see if you have what it takes to enter the eight months of training to earn the coveted green beret. Having been accepted he came around to my house bragging and said, ‘Of course, you’d never be able to pass it.’ So I went to the recruiting office the next day.

Collette says: A bet? You're quite the daredevil.

Collette: How do you think your time in Northern Ireland and the Arctic influenced the path your life took in Hong Kong?

Chris: There’s not much need for Artic warfare and survival training on the streets of tropical Hong Kong! But understanding how covert organisations, such as the IRA, operate gave me an immediate interest in the Hong Kong triad syndicates.

Collette says: No need to dress for the cold there, I imagine.  

Collette: While you were in the military, you started a business in Hong Kong. How did that come about?

Chris: By chance. I got involved in network-marketing organisation, Quorum International. It involved selling electronic products – home, car and personal attack alarms and other security products – and sponsoring distributors into my ‘network’. I got to two positions away from the top of the company’s compensation plan – the top being financial freedom for life. Then Quorum opened for business in Hong Kong. I recruited a military contact there, a Hong Kong Chinese guy. Together we built a massive network in Asia and the first one ever in China. Our first month’s turnover was almost US$100,000, so I gave notice to leave the Marines.

Collette says: That would have been pretty strong motivation for me, too.

Collette: After you moved to Hong Kong, your business fell through and you were forced to turn to odd jobs. Can you tell us a little how you went from marketing to bouncing in a bar?

Chris:  After I’d moved to Hong Kong, Quorum International, our parent company, folded, leaving me no choice but to walk away from three years of hard work. I loved being in Hong Kong, so I took the first job available so I could stay. It was in a computer trading company where I was employed for my ‘white’ Western face. In my crazy boss’s eyes, this made his company look successful when clients visited. In my next job, I sold advertising space to corporations such as AT & T, Bell, and British Airways, in a business directory that didn’t actually exist! Finally, I got disillusioned with the business world and didn’t want to see my youth slipping away in a suit, so I took a job in Hong Kong’s infamous Wan Chai red-light district as a nightclub bouncer.

Collette: That’s quite a shift, businessman to bouncer. Now is that when you began using drugs?

Chris: No, I’d used recreational drugs during the House Music scene that took off in the UK in the early 90s. It was a phenomenal time for many in my generation with the most uplifting music we’d ever heard and the cross-cultural club scene breaking down social barriers and traditional prejudices. It was great fun and a big learning curve.

Collette: Like Grunge here in the U.S. Ah, those were good times!

Collette: Can you touch on your descent into psychosis without giving away too much of your story?

Chris: Crystal meth seemed like the perfect drug – the key to the lock, so to speak. Not only did I feel cool, calm and in control, accompanied by an immense sense of energy and euphoria, but it also made me very creative. I discovered ‘abilities’ – writing, poetry, drawing – that I was told I was a failure at in school. I just wanted to live on this amazing high everyday. Then a strange incident occurred. I was in a shop buying a blanket for my new apartment. I glanced at its label looking for a price tag – but what I saw instead changed my whole existence. I sensed a massive underground conspiracy. Everyday events took on new and subliminal meanings. In reality, the meth had overloaded by synapses and my cognition was breaking down. But it was impossible to appreciate this at the time.

Collette: How much involvement did your interaction with the 14K Brotherhood have on the situation you found yourself in?

Chris: It was 14K triads that ran the nightclub I worked in. When you consider that organised crime is a global conspiracy in itself and that the Hong Kong triads are well-known for using secretive methods of communication such as hand signs, gestures, clothing, symbols, etc, it didn’t do much to improve my own situation. I lived in a continual state of confusion, perpetually wracking my brain trying to differentiate one conspiracy from the other, or wondering if they were one and the same.  

Collette: You have been able to survive the trauma of Hong Kong. What do you do with yourself now that you are back in England?

Chris: I’ve purposely avoided giving too much of my current life away. When people read Eating Smoke, I want them to appreciate the fast-paced and thrilling story through my eyes at the time. The reader gets to experience as near to firsthand as is possible what it’s like to descend into mental illness while working as a doorman in a club run by the Hong Kong triads in the Wan Chai gangland. I think for the reader to have a picture of me in their head as my life is now would somewhat impinge on the story. Perhaps that’s the subject for another book.

Collette: Your intense, humorous and candid book, Eating Smoke: One Man’s Descent into Drug Psychosis in Hong Kong’s Triad Heartland is due out October 1st in the US. From what I’ve read so far, it is a shockingly blunt and honest depiction of your life at the time. Can you tell me a little about the writing process? What approach did you take to honing your skill to such perfection?

Chris: As far as English was concerned, I only had a high-school qualification and no experience of creative writing. I didn’t even know what grammar was, if I’m honest. I began to make a list of all the poignant memories I had of my time in Hong Kong, in addition to scribbling a rough prologue. I wanted to engage all readers in the Eating Smoke story, irrespective of their favoured genre. I’d spend an evening every four months or so doing this, until I had a chronology of memories, a prologue and a rough first chapter. Eating Smoke was still a pipe dream for me. In 2008, I found myself out of work. I put the computer on and six months later, I had a 230,000-word manuscript. Then using books, websites and forums, I spent a year learning the art of good writing and editing.

Collette: From the excerpts I’ve read, Eating Smoke is a fast paced and thrilling read. Did you add anything into the story to keep the momentum going, or is it all true to life?

Chris: The majority of the feedback I get is that Eating Smoke had the reader laughing aloud. It’s not all about drugs, gangsters and violence – in fact, there’s very little of the latter in the book. It’s more about a young man’s experience ‘finding himself’ in the world’s most amazing city, the crazy adventure ride I went on and the often-hilarious situations I found myself in. I didn’t add anything. I just edited the mundane bits out. Having said that, life doesn’t get more dramatic than descending into psychosis from crystal meth addiction while working as a nightclub doorman for the Hong Kong triads.

Collette says: Paranoia coupled with dealing with real-life dangerous gangs… my heart stops just thinking about it.

Collette: After everything you have seen and gone through, how were you able to incorporate such wry humor into your writing?

Chris: Commandos must possess a quality known as ‘cheerfulness under adversity.’ Even in the direst of circumstances, marines must have a joke at the ready. Eating Smoke isn’t a memoir of regret. Despite the highs and lows, I had an unbelievable time in Hong Kong. I experienced fascinating areas of life and am fortunate to come through it intact. Many of the situations I found myself in were very funny. And those that weren’t, well, you’ve still have to laugh.

Collette says: I think it’s fabulous that you laugh about it. I read a blog post you did about flying in Florida and had to giggle.

Collette: You are very honest in your depiction of the 14K and ‘foreign triad’. To people who know nothing about these groups, can you give us a quick explanation of who they are and what they do?

Chris: The triads – the ‘Brothers of the Marsh’ or ‘Water Margin’ – originated hundreds of years ago. Originally a clandestine brotherhood united in the Underground to fight against the oppression levied on the people by the ruling dynasty at the time, in recent years their philanthropic mandate has changed, somewhat, seeing them become a similar organisation to the Italian Mafia. As with the Freemasons and other secret societies, the triads communicate with secret hand signs, gestures and symbolism. Traditionally, only Chinese of pureblood are accepted into the Triads. The ‘foreign triad’ is a syndicate made up entirely of expats – foreign nationals that have formed their own crime syndicate.

Collette: With your brutal honesty, is there any risk of retaliation?

Chris: My honesty is in detailing my descent into psychosis from drug addiction. I happened to be working in a club run by the 14K Triad at the time. I haven’t divulged any information that you can’t find on Google or Wikipedia. That’s not to say that for people who haven’t experienced organised crime firsthand, Eating Smoke isn’t a real eye-opener.

Collette: What message do you think your book will send to readers?

Chris: I didn’t intend there to be any message – just an entertaining story. I like it when people tell me what they got from reading Eating Smoke.

Collette: Some people view writing as cathartic. Was this the case for you?

Chris: Enjoyable and educational – but not cathartic. To write Eating Smoke I had to relive old memories. Many brought a smile to my face – some had me laughing out loud – but others reminded me of how ill I was, the trauma I went through, and how I almost died. I don’t regret my Hong Kong experience, but I’m not sure how I feel about it, or writing about it, either.

Collette: The cover is very powerful: an ‘oh, so appropriate’ scene of someone literally on the edge. Who designed it, and how close to reality is it?

Chris: Tim McConville, based in the UK, flew to Hong Kong to take that Hong Kong and US cover shot. The model – ‘a man on the edge’ – is Andrew Dasz, an Argentinean actor and a martial arts expert. The building is in Wan Chai District, similar to the one I lived in. The picture sums up my Hong Kong experience to a tee – except I used to do handstands on the parapet.

Collette: Oh goodness, I'm hyperventilating again. J

Collette: You have a second cover with a man bearing a dragon tattoo. Is that the sign for the 14K?

Chris: I don’t know what the 14K tattoo is. In Eating Smoke, the reader will understand why that was a question I could never have asked. Two Associates designed the cover for Maverick House, my European publisher.  

Collette: Considering we mentioned two different covers, will you tell us the story behind obtaining your publishers?

Chris: I didn’t want to go down the traditional route to finding a publisher. I really believed Eating Smoke would interest people and didn’t want to see it chucked on a slush pile. Instead, I approached an author who I felt would connect with my story, to ask him if he’d be kind enough to read the first chapter. Tom Carter, author of CHINA: Portrait of a People, loved what he’d read, e-mailing me the next day to say his publisher, Blacksmith Books of Hong Kong, was interested in printing it. Maverick House then acquired the rights to market the book in Europe and other territories.

Collette: So clever. A wise move. So do you have plans to continue writing?

Chris: I’m waiting to see the response from readers of Eating Smoke before I decide on the next project. I’ve had adventures in seventy-five countries, if people are interested to hear about them. I’d also like to try my hand at fiction.

Collette: Well, I would like to read about them. Count me in.

Where can we find you online?

Amazon US: 
Amazon UK:
Book Trailer US:
Book Trailer UK:

Collette: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Chris: What a pleasure it is to meet you, Collette. And thank you so much for your interest in Eating Smoke.

Collette: The pleasure is mine, for sure. Thank you so much for joining me, Chris! I wish you all the greatest success with Eating Smoke and joy in your future.

Eating Smoke is sure to hold you captivated and enthralled from the beginning until the end. With eyes wide with exictement and watering from laughter, readers will turn the pages hastily when the story captures their imagination. Make sure you check the links and have a read of this exciting bestselling book when it's released in October.

My review of Eating Smoke:

When Chris Thrall left England for Hong Kong in search of his fortune and fame, the outcome he received was most likely not the one that he had hoped for. Leaving a career in the military, he hurried out to Hong Kong to capitalize on a booming business, ready to entertain the wealthy and make a fortune. While he found a fun-loving group of friends, he also found the potent and dangerous drug, crystal meth. This blunt and entertaining read is the story of Mr. Thrall’s coming of age the hard way, and I mean hard.

Filled with ambition and the confidence that he could succeed in a new country, Chris begins his career in the business world only to realize that his need for adventure is not being met. He turns to the nightclub world, doing stints as a DJ as well as a doorman. During this time, Chris gives an honest and heartfelt impression of the inside of Hong Kong ethos, throwing little tidbits in while he’s making every effort to remain respectful of a culture in which he is the ex-pat. However, the drug takes a deeper hold on him and makes it impossible for him to remain long in each job, and his friends come and go. He ends up working for a club run by triads, and as his addiction increases he plays a dangerous game of inadvertently offending the most feared group in Hong Kong.

Chris does an exceptional job portraying his decline into the deepest forms of addiction. Once a self-assured go-getter, he becomes a shell of the man he once was to the point where his friends begin to fear him, his employers have no choice but to release him, and the locals all know of him. His confused and paranoid thoughts leave the reader confused and paranoid as well, all the while hoping that things will eventually get better for our hapless hero. Ever the survivor, Chris takes matters into his own hands, standing up to the triads’ games, facing his problem and fighting to take control back. We are left cheering on our tormented protagonist as he stands on the ledge of death or survival, eagerly praying he makes the right choice. This is a great, fast-paced and engaging read where one will laugh, cry and shiver with fear right along with Mr. Thrall all the way through. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A visit with Lord David Prosser of The Queen's Envoy

I am truly blessed to be able to chat with one of the most witty and charming men in my acquaintance. Lord David Prosser is the author of The Queen’s Envoy, a charming and humorous story that kept me giggling long after I finished the book. Not only does this story ripple with humor, but the characters come to life as very human and very fallible individuals that you can easily relate to.
Collette: When did you start writing?

David: Probably about 59 years ago but whoever saw my writing on the wall didn't recognise my true genius then.  I started writing Books this year around my 60th birthday after someone liked a fake diary entry I did of my day. She wanted more and so I wrote the first book. Not to worry though, she's better now.

Collette: And where did you get your ideas?

David: Mainly from real situations that are easily exaggerated. I think people identify with situations they've found themselves in though I'm not sure many would own up to the toothpaste accident from Book 1.
Collette: Were you inspired by someone to write the genre you’re writing in?

David: I would have said no but I've been told I write in a Wodehouse vein and I always did like Jeeves and Wooster.

Collette: What is your writing process?

David: Pen to paper, paper to computer and then change things as I type up. I don't have set times as I never know when I'll be free so I write when the urge takes me and when I can.

Collette: How did you begin to collaborate with Ilil Arbel?

David: We had a mutual friend that I hadn't heard from in a while and I wanted to know if she knew where he was......probably hiding from me. We became friends and it was she that got the phony diary. As I had no experience and she persuaded me to write she became my editor as a penance.

Collette says: Hiding from you… penance? No way! I don’t believe a word of it. J

Collette: Do you write full-time now?

David: No. Unfortunately my wife is very ill and I don't have much time. With my own health issues I'm thinking of booking a parking bay at the hospital. Maybe I can sit there and write.
Collette: My thoughts are always with the lovely Lady Julia.

Collette: For those who don’t know much about The Queen’s Envoy, could you summarize it in a sentence or two?
David: A totally naive man is appointed as an unofficial envoy to HMG. Sent out to save his country from embarrassment with nothing more than a stiff upper lip can he avoid the clutches of the bad guys and the good girls who aim to divert him?

Collette: Very well put! I did so love the young beauties trying to seduce his innocence away from him, and Lady J’s stoic reminder that he’s one step above ‘oblivious’.

Collette: How did you come up with the idea of The Queen’s Envoy?
David: I had to produce a history from before Lord David gained the Title and I didn't think a job in Local Government was quite gripping enough.

Collette: How long did it take you to complete?

David: About 6 weeks in total but I had less time limitations then and bucket loads of enthusiasm.

Collette: Lord David goes from humble man to secret spy. Why do you think he maintains his innocence while he is thwarting assassins, blackmailers and financial gurus?
David: I think he's always been a little shy and certainly naive. He feels that it's luck that helps him solve all the problems so gives himself little credit.

Collette: Can you describe Lord David in a few sentences? What is he like? What does he want? Goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
David: I wonder which one you want? He's rather Edwardian in look and dress, mainly quietly spoken and tries to be a gentleman in every sense of the word. He wants world peace but is not so naive as to think it likely to happen. His goals are to keep his family safe and his strengths are that he will not be diverted from right as he believes in justice. His weaknesses are probably that he will not be diverted from right and he believes in the law rather than justice which don't always seem to be the same thing.

Collette says: That sums him up perfectly.
Collette: Sir Oscar plays a rather large role in keeping Lord David humble. Can you tell us a little bit about this star of the show?

David: Oscar is the unofficial alarm cat in the household who knows that only Lord David is daft enough to wake at the first mioaw, and if he doesn't then he will move at the second scratch or the third bite. Oscar has the usual high opinion of himself that cats have and he's now decided that the universe of the village revolves around him. He's actually 17 now and becoming much more of a house cat though he's never admit that in his blog.

Collette says: My favourite spot in the book was Lady J tossing Oscar at the postman. She seems like quite the lady! Can you tell us a little bit about Lord David’s better half?

David: Lady J is probably the only master Oscar recognises. She's a sweet natured person but tends to be much more practical than David so perhaps appears on occasion to be a little short with him. There's no doubt she loves him, but like most women likes to be the winner when it comes to a difference of opinion. She also has the knack for levitating his wallet out of his pocket without him noticing. Loves animals especially her horses and riding is the only thing that makes her get up early. Someone you'd always want on your side.

Collette: Lady J and Ysabel also prevent Lord David from becoming too egotistical. Why do you think that is?

David: I think they're just trying to show they retain the common touch and that the Title hasn't changed them though they accept the Title has given them certain privileges. They feel that people will lose respect if they act too high and mighty even though they have a position to maintain. David hasn't changed at all but they foist all their worries on to him rather than accept it may be them.
Collette: You based many characters on your real-life acquaintances. What sort of reception have you received from them?

David: I take the phone off the hook and tell them I'm the Butler and his Lordship is out. In reality no-one has minded so far though one person asked why I'd given her only one eye, and I didn't even remember I had. If I ever become a best seller I think I'll arrange guided tours round the local spots in books one and three.
Collette says: We shouldn’t forget Oscar’s lawsuit, right? I wonder if he will relent now that you are giving him his due J.

Collette: Are you still writing? If so, what will your future projects entail?

David: I have started book four but circumstances have brought it to a halt for now. This is a sequel to The Queen's Envoy, and I am offering friends the chance to appear in a chapter each based on their home town and using their own skills to help me solve a case.  I freely admit this is a device to boost sales as hopefully they'll all want copies for their families. I might even make double figures in sales like this.

Collette: Can you tell us a little bit about The Barsetshire Diaries?

David: This is an attempt to remind people of life in a small village and the eccentricities of those who live there. When Anthony Trollope wrote about Barsetshire it had the gentry and the towns and villages. Seventy years later Angela Thirkell updated the stories and continued along the same theme. Seventy years later I've tried to do the same but in a humerous way.

Collette: How often do you read?

David: I try to read for an hour before sleep each night. The longer I stay awake the longer I read so I'm on two books a day now.

Collette: What is your favorite genre to read?
David: Very difficult. I like books by John Grisham, Terry Pratchett, Dick Francis, Sue Grafton and Harlan Coben so it covers a lot of genres except romance because I can't afford the tissues.

Collette: Where can we find you online?

Website:   includes Oscar's Blog
Facebook: David Michael Prosser and Author Lord David Prosser

Amazon:  Lord David Prosser Lord David Prosser 

Other:  The Red Room,, Authorsden.

Where is The Queen’s Envoy available for purchase?,,, B & N

Collette: What formats are your books available in?
David: My Barsetshire Diary and The Queen's Envoy are in paperback and on Kindle. More Barsetshire Diary is paperback only at the moment.

Collette: Do you have a release date for your next book?

David: Not by a long chalk having done only a chapter and a half at the moment.

Collette: Every little bit helps. I wish you the best of luck with your future projects. If they are anything like The Queen’s Envoy, we are sure to enjoy. Thank you so much, David! I am so happy to have had this chat with you. What a hilarious story you have. A great read!

David: It's been a real pleasure Collette. Thank you for giving me so much leeway, it was fun.

Collette’s review:

If you are looking for a charming and entertaining read in which you will giggle your way through, then this book is it! From almost the very first page I was bubbling with laughter, and the trend continued to the end.

When a young government official, whose only concerns in the beginning stem from a minor motor vehicle accident and his wife's penchant for swiping his wallet, is suddenly the bearer of the title, Lord of Bouldnor, and pressed into Her Majesty's service, our small-village gentleman suddenly becomes an English hero. With characters such as wife Lady J and daughter Ysabel, who keep Lord David humble, and Oscar the cat, who reminds Lord David on multiple occasions just who is the boss in his family, Lord David fills his new role with the humility of a saint. Sent on various missions, Lord David swiftly and matter-of-factly saves the crown from financial ruin, blackmail, and diplomatic assassinations with the ease of a pro, only to return home to his loving wife and daughter and his eternal nemesis, Oscar, as though nothing ever happened.

With characters such as Dr. Jekyll and a cafe owner who inadvertently poisons him as well as a small village that spreads gossip via jungle drums, Lord David's story is entirely way too entertaining not to enjoy. Though not a fast-paced spy adventure, you will laugh your way through and love this humble James Bond with his self-deprecating humor and eager to please disposition. I highly recommend David and Ilil's story for a great laugh.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Meet Reagan McGuire, author of Can You See The Music?

What would you do if you were offered the chance to extend your life indefinitely? Would you use that gift for good or evil? Would you take life for granted or treasure every day? Reagan McGuire has posed that question in his novel, Can You See The Music?, in a honest and powerful view of how humanity has much to learn about life and living, and I am pleased to feature him on my blog to talk more about his novel.
Collette: Thank you for agreeing to answer my questions, Reagan. Can we start with a little bit about you? Who is the man behind the story?

Reagan: That is a very hard question for me to answer. I am the adopted grandfather of two twin Navajo children age 9. I worked for the last 6 years at Northern Arizona University doing bark beetle research. I am an avid reader and a left wing liberal. 
Collette: When did you start writing?

Reagan: I started in December of 2010. I did not know I could write until the words spilled out of my head and onto the page. 20,000 in the first twenty days. The dam was broken, the flood then came.
Collette: Where did you get the inspiration for Can You See the Music?

Reagan: I wish I could say it was something I had thought about and sat down and wrote on purpose, however it was not. What I can say is that the work came out of a lifetime of observation of the human condition.
Collette: Were you inspired by someone to write the genre you’re writing in?

Reagan: I am always inspired by the great writers throughout history. Balzac, Tolstoy, Conrad. I could go on and on.
Collette: Do you write full-time?

Reagan: No I write when the spirit moves me. Sitting down and trying to write seems a bit silly to me. If it does not come from the depth of my being, I do not want it on the page.
Collette: If not, what do you do to pay your bills?

Reagan: Damn, pay the bills??? Hell now I know why those pieces of paper keep growing on my desk.
Collette says: Ha ha… I know, those pesky little things always seem to pop up too regularly. Maybe if you close your eyes they’ll go away! J

Collette: Can you tell us a little about your work?
Reagan: My book Can You See The Music? is a timeless tale about time. I use life extension which will be a reality soon to take up important issues that all humans face.

Collette: How did you come up with the idea of Can You See the Music?
Reagan: This book was inspired by this quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson “It is not the length of life, but the depth of life.” Within two decades life-extension will be a fact. The biology is there. People will be able to live to be 125 to 160 years old. This is something that needs to be discussed.  This book is an attempt to start that conversation.

Collette: How long did it take you to complete?
Reagan: Six months.

Collette: Your story has a touch of science in it with a very powerful message. Can you describe your research into your subject?
Reagan: I wish I could say that I spent hours researching the book, but alas I did not. Whatever scientific and philosophical ideas that are exposed in the book came from reading and thinking on the deeper issues life brings us.

Collette: Can you describe Richard in a few sentences? What is he like? What does he want? Goals, strengths, weaknesses, etc.
Reagan :Richard is a flawed man who early on in life gets on a mission to save those he loves from dying. His lifelong dream causes him to create a formula to extend lifespan. He never realizes until deep into the story that 'in all creation, the seeds of destruction are sewn.'

Collette: Are any of your characters based on real-life friends or acquaintances?
Reagan: Most of them are composites of some of the remarkable people I have been blessed to have known.

Collette: Do you ever incorporate yourself into your characters?
Reagan: Richard would be me on many levels. Inspired but flawed.

Collette: Are you still writing? If so, what will your future projects entail?
Reagan: I am now co-writing a romance novel. Shakespearean love denied by the reality of ones life. 

Collette: How often do you read?
Reagan: Often , I have no life :-)

Collette: What is your favorite genre to read?
Reagan: I love reading Science anything that has to do with the evolution of human consciousness. I have been reading Henry James and John Le Carre' recently.

Collette: Ebook, paperback or hardcover?
Reagan: Paperback and hardcover.

Where can we find you online?

Collette: Where is Can You See The Music? available for purchase?

Collette: What formats are your book available in? Epub, PDF, Kindle
Collette: Reagan, thank you so much for sharing a bit about you and your work with me today. I wish you all the best of success, and keep up that philosophical thinking. You have made some very thought-provoking and valid points in your story. It was a pleasure to read and learn more about you.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting to know Caroline Barnard-Smith

Today I am lucky enough to have a visit from English author, Caroline Barnard-Smith, author of Jinn Nation, an intense trip into the dark world of vampires, fae and the frighteningly violent jinn. With an imagination rivaling Stephen King, Caroline has come to visit to talk more about her work.

Collette: Hello Caroline, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I’m so glad to have you appear on my blog. Can we start off with an easy question? Who is Caroline Barnard-Smith?

Caroline: Well, in a schizophrenic sort of way, I'm lots of people. I'm a mum and wife first and then a writer, although I must admit I'm guilty of dreaming up plot ideas while changing nappies or washing out bottles. ;)

I understand you began writing at a young age. Tell me a little bit about how you got started?

It was something that felt normal, something I thought everybody did I suppose, because my mum was and still is a writer. She wrote children's stories and tried them out on my sister and me, the perfect test audience. My mum inspired my love of stories and the written word and I'll always be grateful for that.

Were you inspired to write by a person, place or thing, or did it just happen?

Aside from my mum who started this whole thing, when I got seriously into reading I was inspired by epic fantasy stories. If it had a dragon or a wizard in it, I wanted to read it. My own writing has found its home in dark fantasy and at the moment specifically, the realm of the vampire, but I'd love to write my own epic fantasy series one day. When I finally come up with an idea that doesn't rip off Tolkien, I'll give it a go.

You've also made writing your lifestyle. Tell me about your other publications and activities.

I suppose since deciding to indie publish, it has become my lifestyle. You have to be your own publisher and marketer, and in many cases your own cover designer, type setter and web designer too, but I have to say I've enjoyed every minute. Maybe that's because I'm a control freak ;) I have one other novel out called Dunraven Road which was published by a small press in 2009. I learnt a lot from that experience and without it I probably wouldn't have had the guts to go it alone with Jinn Nation, but it also made me realise there was nothing involved in the publishing process that I couldn't do for myself while retaining 100% artistic and financial control. I've just regained the rights to Dunraven Road, another vampire story which introduces Dylan, my lead character in Jinn Nation, so you can expect to see that published as an e-book and repackaged paperback very soon. I'll also be releasing some small collections of short stories before the end of the year.

Let's talk a little about Jinn Nation. If you could sum it up in 30 words or less, what would you say?

The last surviving vampire of a once ruthless kin finds salvation in the desert, in the form of a woman with awesome powers she doesn't yet understand.

How much research did you complete for the story?

I did quite a bit actually, because Dylan and Christa were visiting many places where I had never been. I've never travelled to the United States for instance. Yahoo Answers is a lot of fun to use for that sort of thing, my favourite question being “What would someone eat from a gas station in the Southern United States?” to which a very kind poster replied with some good information before adding, “Weird question.”

That’s great, Caroline!

I noticed that you included not just vampirism, but also 'fairies'. The characters also travelled a bit. Can you tell me a little about your research into their locations and legends?

I've always been interested in Celtic faery lore and faeries will often pop up in my ideas and stories. These faeries aren't little Tinkerbell type flower fairies, though. They're very old and very powerful and you certainly wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of them! I didn't do any specific research when developing my fae characters, I just let my imagination have free reign although I suppose the things I've read in the past would have fed into my interpretation.

Tell me a little about Dylan.

Dylan is a vampire with serious issues about being alone in the world. After watching his kin burn at the end of Dunraven Road he turns to the jinn, a race of nasty creatures who eat human organs in order to glean their power, and has jinn stones sewn into his stomach, making him one of them. Dylan also has a weakness for powerful women, a fact that piques his interest in the mysterious Christa and later in Bredia, a maniacal jinn goddess.

Tell me a little about Christa.

Christa starts out as a seemingly timid, curious character who has the unique ability to read minds and control people's actions; powers she doesn't really understand and later on finds hard to control. The reader is slowly told more of Christa's back story as the novel progresses and by the end of the book she is a changed person.

Who was your favorite character to develop? Why?

I had the most fun with Dylan :) There's something very freeing about playing with a character who can walk through life without fear (as long as there are no jinn around, of course!), who doesn't fear consequences or reprisals. I think that's a secret wish most of us have had at one time or another.

Very true!.. It helps that he was pretty sexy too.

Who was your least favorite character to develop? Why?

I don't think I had a least favourite character, but I found Christa the most challenging. I've been criticised in the past for creating female characters who are too weak and needy, so I tried really hard to make Christa harder and more self-reliant. I suppose having super powers helps!

I enjoyed Christa the most. I think I actually liked her even more than Dylan.

Jinn Nation is broken into three parts. Each section focuses on a different aspect of the story. Without giving away any spoilers (unless you want to, of course), can you tell us a little about the process you had when you were laying out the book?

The story grew in very interesting and quite diverse ways. I started out with the clear idea that I wanted to take my characters on a road trip, so the planning of the first part of the novel was very structured and heavily researched. I would have taken Dylan and Christa to more places but as usually happens, the story began to outrun my careful planning and I very quickly realised my anti-heroes were building to a showdown in New York, which is where they spend Part Two. That section grew fairly organically and characters like Thad Gorski and Ramon popped up at will, often refusing to tell me why they were there at first. Part Three, of course, is where I had to tie it all together so more planning was required, although not rigidly so. I prefer to let a story go where it wants, but within a vague framework so I don't go completely off the rails and get lost in writer's block Hell.

I know exactly what you mean about letting it flow. I’ve tried to plan out novels, but I always end up in a totally different place as the story takes over. J

You have a very whimsical yet dark cover, fitting with the story itself. Who designed it for you?

I'm a very lucky girl because my sister's partner is pretty awesome at graphic design and he put it together for me. I'm rubbish with any sort of graphic design software so he saved Jinn Nation from a truly horrific cover. The idea was mine, I'd had quite a clear idea of how I wanted the cover to look while I was still writing the novel, and I sourced all the stock photography myself. The backdrop is an amazing night time shot of New York, which is where I feel the novel really gains its purpose and momentum.

Yes, it sure does. Part II is where I started getting tensed up waiting for what was going to happen.

Will you be doing a sequel?

I definitely left it open for a sequel, but I'm not planning one for the immediate future. Dylan is a character who refuses to stay quiet for long though, so who knows?

Do you have much time to read?

I have a new baby so not as much time as I'd like! I do read whenever I can, particularly since I've had my Kindle because I can read one-handed - very handy when holding a little one.

What are your favorite genres?

I still love fantasy and horror. I've actually just decided to try reading the epic fantasy series I've missed out on over the years while I was reading Anne Rice and Stephen King, which is quite a feat when you consider how many books some of them run to. We'll see how it goes.

What is a day in the life of Caroline like?

Sadly, it's usually quite boring! I get up when my daughter wakes up and give her some breakfast, then I check my emails and mooch around on the internet while I have my coffee (my brain doesn't really function before it's been injected with caffeine). It's hard with a baby but I'm trying to get into some sort of routine now where I do admin type things in the morning and then write new material in the afternoon. It's a balancing act because I also like to get the Sprogling out for as much fresh air as possible, something many writers don't see a lot of!

Haha! I know the feeling.

Where can we find you online?







Where is Jinn Nation available for purchase?

Kindle UK:

Kindle USA:



What formats are your book available in?

Jinn Nation is available as an e-book for the Amazon Kindle, or for every other e-reading device via Smashwords. A paperback version is available from or CreateSpace.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you for having me!

It was my pleasure, Caroline. I wish you all the best of success, and thank you for taking the time to answer my questions!

About Caroline

Twenty-something year-old Caroline Barnard-Smith has been writing stories since she was five years old. Having graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a bachelor's degree in English Literature, she now lives in Devon, England with her husband and baby daughter where she writes about ruthless vampires, lovelorn zombies and heinous blood cults.

Her short stories have been published in numerous small press magazines, including Ballista, Hungur and Night to Dawn, and on the web at Dark Fire Fiction.

Caroline's debut dark fantasy novel, Dunraven Road, was published by Immanion Press in June 2009. For various exciting reasons she's since turned her hand to indie publishing and has recently published a novella for the Amazon Kindle called The Undead Alliance. Jinn Nation is her first full length, independently published novel.

When she's not writing, Caroline is busy running her handmade craft business, CazzCraft, selling both online and at craft fairs.

Jinn Nation

Once, the vampire Dylan had feared nothing and no one. He'd rampaged throughout the world on a seemingly never ending quest to fill his eternal years with the finest, most outrageous extravagances; with exquisite, soft-limbed young women and copious amounts of rich, vibrating blood. But life, however full of joy, inevitably changes.

Finding himself alone for the first time in his long unlife, Dylan turns to the preternatural race of savage creatures called the jinn - a path that inevitably leads him to Christa, a strangely childlike woman with the power to control minds and read thoughts. Mutually intrigued by each other, they set out on a blood-soaked road trip that crosses the United States and the Atlantic Ocean, finally leading them beyond the world itself to the mysterious fae kingdoms of the Inbetween.