Archive | September 2012

Interview with Author Nancy Marie Bell

Hi Everyone!

Today we are very honoured to have as our guest, author, poet and editor, Nancy Marie Bell.

Nancy and I have been friends for over thirty years. She was instrumental in getting me on the staff of MuseItUp Publishing and has been very encouraging of my writing for a long time. Taking a look at her biography, we see that Nancy lives near Balzac, Alberta with her husband and various critters—I can personally attest to seeing a number of horses, a cow, cats and dogs— is a member of The Writers Union of Canada and the Writers Guild of Alberta. She enjoys writing poetry, fiction and non-fiction. You can visit her webpage at http://www.nancymbell.ca , find her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/NancyMBell or follow her on twitter: @emilypikkasso .

 N&R: Hi Nancy, welcome to Natter and Review!

Nancy: Hi Lynne, thanks for having me.

 N&R: We have known each other for a long time and it has been wonderful watching your career as a writer and editor blossom. What factors, do you think, have helped you along the way to achieve these goals?

 Nancy: I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t writing. I have always had that urge to capture a moment and paint a picture with words to share with others. By far the biggest factor in my life is the horses and other animals who have blessed me over the years with their wisdom, their unconditional love and their acceptance of who I am. They taught me it isn’t what I look like or achieve in life that is important, it is who I am in my heart and how I treat others around me that counts. Animals look with the eyes of the heart and don’t expect you to be anything other than what you are.

The second biggest factor is my husband of 35 years who allows me to be crazy and stay up all night writing. His quiet support means a lot even though he never reads anything I write except under duress. <laughs>  Another huge factor was the accident I had with my horse in 2005. It effectively ended my corporate career and forced me to stop and fill my time with writing. The creation of Laurel’s Miracle saved my sanity at a time when I was struggling with the realization that life as I knew it ended at 6:02 pm MTAugust 2, 2005. It gave me a reason to get up and kept my brain busy with the huge amount of research required during the writing.    

 N&R: In what ways do you think being an editor has helped your own writing craft?

 Nancy: I learn so much from my authors: different ways of looking at things and expressing those things on paper. I write much tighter now than I used to. I love interacting with the authors I work with. It is certainly a team effort to get a book from rough manuscript to the polished final product. 

 N&R:  You are a Senior Acquisition Editor for MuseItUp Publishing, and I understand you will be at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference from October 19th to the 21st of this year, taking submissions. What kinds of things will you be looking for in a manuscript at that time?

Nancy: I will be at SIWC taking pitches on Friday October 19th and Sunday morning October 21st.

MuseItUp Publishing is interested in most genres with the exception of poetry, non-fiction and picture books. The key ingredients are well crafted characters which engage the reader quickly, a plot with a good hook early in the story to keep the reader interested, and a good command of the English language. We are open to agented and non-agented authors, and are willing to consider those with limited publishing credits. The quality of the work is what will impress us. For more specific information on submission criteria, please visit our website.

 N&R:  Do you have any quick tips to share with new writers that would help them with their own self-editing?

 Nancy: Read every word when you go over the manuscript; don’t skip over lines. Look for repeating words or phrases, or the same word beginning consecutive paragraphs. Know your subject. Do your research. Don’t make it up as you go.

 N&R: You have three books published right now with Muse. Can you give us a short overview of each?

 Laurel’s Miracle  

Have you ever wondered how you would handle it if your mom was terminally ill?  What if you were sent to stay with people you didn’t even know in another country because your father was at the hospital all day and night?

Laurel is faced with both of these realities, but what she really wants is a miracle. She wants her mom to be cured of cancer. 

Join Laurel as she searches for her miracle amidst the magic of the Cornish countryside. She is aided by her new friends Coll, Gort, and Aisling and helped along in her quest by the creatures of legend and myth: Vear Du, the Selkie, Gwin Scawen, the Cornish Piskie, Belerion the fire salamander, Morgawr the flying sea serpent who does Vear Du a favour, and Cormoran, the last giant of Cornwall. They must battle the odds in the form of bullies and confusing clues. Will they emerge victorious? Will Laurel have the courage to solve the riddle and make her miracle a reality? 

Find the answers in the pages of Laurel’s Miracle.

 A Step Sideways   

 Legend says that land once stretched from Lands End in Cornwall as far as the Scillies Islands thirty miles out in the Atlantic. To this mythical land, Gort Treliving escapes to avoid the pain inflicted by his abusive uncle. He steps away from his corporeal body and walks into the mist of oblivion, seeking only to find peace. To Gort’s surprise, he finds he is one of King Arthur’s knights, Sir Gawain. He is also the partner of a wonderful grey war stallion who can telepathically speak to him.

While he is caught up in a wild chase across the countryside to rescue King Arthur’s kidnapped queen and her lady, Gort as Gawain, tries to puzzle out the strange visions of another life that assail him at the most inopportune times.

There is intrigue, mystery, sword play and a dash of romance. A Step Sideways is a rollicking romp of an adventure that borrows inspiration from the Arthurian legends with a decidedly quirky cast of supporting characters.

After the last page the characters will linger in your mind and you’ll wonder what happened next.

 Christmas Storm  

 All Michelle wants for Christmas is peace of mind. The only thing bigger than the storm in her heart, is the blizzard raging across the Alberta prairie outside her window. Finding an injured stray dog is the last thing she needs. Add to the mix the handsome new vet who is taking over her beloved Doc’s practice and peace of mind is not in the picture.

Cale Benjamin is too nice to be for real. Michelle is still smarting from being jilted by her high school sweetheart fiancé and not in the mood to trust any man, let alone one as drop dead gorgeous as Dr. Cale Benjamin DVM. The injured stray, Storm, keeps putting Michelle in Cale’s path whether she likes it or not. She is distressed to find that the handsome young vet is sliding past her carefully erected defenses and into her heart. A few well placed nudges from Doc’s match maker wife, Mary, help the young doctor’s cause, but will it be enough to make the lady rancher allow him into her life?

The answer lies in the pages of Christmas Storm, find out for yourself.

 N&R:  I loved Laurel’s Miracle for the story, the mesmerizing descriptions and the wonderful voyage into the mythology of the location. What are the messages that you feel are important to share from this story?

 Nancy:Laurel was a journey for me. I guess the main message is to never give up and to look within yourself for the strength and courage you need to face the obstacles in your life. Gort’s situation is a reminder that no matter how bad you think your life is, there is always someone out there battling bigger odds than you are. 

 N&R: Do you have any tips on how to create inventive descriptions of people, places and events?

 Nancy: I’m not much help here, I’m afraid. I just write and the scene plays out for me, so I simply record what I see, feel, smell and hear as the tableau unfolds. Something to remember though, in most cases, less is more when it comes to description. Be concise and succinctly portray the scene without using lines and lines of ‘information dump’ to describe something. 

 N&R:  I felt A Step Sideways, the second in the Cornwall Adventure series, was much more of a grown-up book. I was blown away by your ability to move convincingly from the mind of a teenager to that of a grown man and back again. Not all writers can do that. Were there any challenges involved to achieve that goal?

 Nancy: As you know, A Step Sideways grew out of Laurel’s Miracle. Gort/Gawain gets all the credit I’m afraid. I just wrote down the story he gave me. My characters tend to take on a life of their own and as the author I trail along behind them recording their activities. <laughs>  My favorite character in this story is Ailim, the war stallion. 

 N&R: Christmas Storm is probably my favourite of all your books. How much of you is between the covers of that story?

 Nancy: A lot of me, I’m afraid. Storm was inspired by a dog I met while out feeding stray dogs on a reservation near Calgary. She didn’t make it through the winter and her eyes have haunted me ever since. My Storm has much better luck than the black momma dog with no name. Recently, I fostered a black dog with an injured leg, and her six puppies. She looks so much like the dog on the cover of Christmas Storm, that we have called her Storm. She is rapidly gaining weight and soon her ribs will no long poke through her skin. I’m an accomplished horsewoman and have always had horses in my life. Living on a farm and having had my son raise pigs and cows to help pay for university, the incidents in Christmas Storm are taken—and embellished in some cases—from real life experiences. My oldest son is an equine surgeon and I picked his brain for all the vet related information in the book.  I always seem to have some stray or injured animal at my door.    

 N&R:  What can we look forward to in the coming months from your very talented pen?

 Nancy: I am working on the story of Laurel’s grandmother; how a Cornish girl born and bred came to be living in southern Alberta. Readers will learn how she first meets Gwin Scawen and Vear Du. Daniel plays a key role in this part of the story as well.

I am also entertaining ideas about a sequel to Christmas Storm. There is tons of fodder there for follow up books like finding out what happens with George and Stacey, not to mention Mary and Doc, and Rob and Kayla. I just have to make the time to get to it.

 N&R:  If my readers wish to purchase your books, where can they obtain them and in what formats are they available?

 Nancy: While I am on Amazon, the best place to get my books is at the MuseItUp Publishing book store.

 Laurel’s Miracle    http://tinyurl.com/c5alx7p         A Step Sideways  http://tinyurl.com/86ubqdz    Christmas Storm   http://tinyurl.com/97s3nm9

 Laurel’s Miracle is available in softcover print, and as an ebook in the following formats: epub, prc  and pdf.   A Step Sideways will be available in softcover print by November, 2012 and it is available currently in ebook format: epub prd and pdf.   Christmas Storm is available in ebook formats: epub prc and pdf 

I have a soft cover book of poetry, Through This Door, which is available by contacting me directly.  Irish Fireside Tales is available through CreateSpace or myself.  This is a collection of Irish legends—retold in my words—which I wrote as part of a course I took.

 N&R: Thank you so much for coming today and please keep us posted on your adventures and your writing.

 Nancy: Thank you so much for inviting me. I have enjoyed my visit immensely. I understand congratulations are in order for you as well. Your short story A Hallowe’en Tale is to be published by MuseItUp Publishing in the near future. I’m sure it will be the first of many successes for you.

 N&R:  Thanks Nancy, I appreciate your kind words. And thank you again for stopping by and giving us some insight into your work as an author and editor, and into your life as a horsewoman and activist in the world of animal rescue. It’s been most enlightening. We wish you well in all your endeavors.

Hello Everyone!

Welcome to my blog.

This  blog is dedicated to Book Reviews and Chatting with Writers. It is written by  V. L. Murray, who works both as a  freelance editor and an editor for MuseItUp Publishing, an online publishing company.  You can find out more about my work and that of my Muse clientele at  www.vlmurray.ca  and http://museituppublishing.com/. I hope you enjoy this humble effort.

V. L. Murray

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay © 2007

http://www.moviefone.com/movie/sarahs-key/10047056/main?flv=1 Trailer for the movie which was released in 2010.

Background:

            In 1942, on July 16th and 17th, 13,152 Jews were arrested in Paris and its suburbs, deported, and then sent to Auschwitz to be executed. Between the time of their arrest and their deportation, 1,129 men, 2,916 women and 4,115 children were packed into the Velodrome in Paris by the French police.

Review:

            Sarah’s Key is one of those books that draws you in from the very first moment you begin to read. It held me firmly in its grasp from start to finish, forcing me to pore over every single word and absorb every minute detail of its heart-wrenching tale. When I was done, I felt like I had stepped into another world and lived a whole lifetime there; and now that it was over, it was time to review, regroup, re-assess and rest before I talked to God and we determined what would come next.

            Sarah’s Key is two stories, told through alternating chapters until they can no longer be kept apart and must join into one. It is a horror story, which sucks you into the darkness of history through the eyes of an un-named child. We do not learn the main character’s name until deep into the blackness of her nightmare. That tool, on the part of the author, gives great dimension to the events that take place. We are able to identify clearly with the people involved, seeing them less as ‘others’ and more as ‘ourselves’. It makes the point of view, our own.

            Although it is a fictional account of a real-life drama that began to unfold in France during the Nazi occupation, I think I would be accurate in suggesting most of it did take place. The actions, the thoughts and certainly, the emotions were all played out thousands of times on those few days in history.

            It also depicts an historical personal tragedy, which only Shakespeare or the Greeks could ever imagine; the kind of tragedy that leaves you stunned and dazed; the kind that could kill your soul.

            In the modern tale, we follow Julia, an American in Paris, a journalist, wife and mother, who seeks answers to this mystery of how did it happen, where, why, and most importantly, how could it happen?

            Julia is dragged through her search by the ghost of history. She has no more choice of paths to take, than the child whom the French Police arrested in the night.

Julia is driven forward by time and a desperate sense of urgency, the source of which is not revealed until the very last page of the book. And so in that aspect, this is also a ghost story, although no references of that sort are ever suggested.

            It is a love story, one of love lost and love found. It plays out as a paranormal thread, weaving itself through history from a child’s stricken soul to a woman’s found heart. I read the last two pages of the book over and over, crying my heart out with Julia, hanging onto the end of the tale with desperation like the child of the story held onto her mother. It was hard to let it go.

What do we do with this tale? Well, that would be the answer to “How could it happen?” Events like these are unfolding somewhere on this planet right now. And so, what are we doing about them? Are we ignoring the genocides? Are we turning our eyes away, thinking we are protecting ourselves and our family, when in truth we are simply killing our own soul?

            When you finish reading this book, and all of you must read this book, might I suggest you look around and see where this exact scenario is taking place, today. Take a long look at those who are being dragged into similar, if not identical, nightmares, and decide what you are going to do about them.

            How can we live in this century and still condone genocide? Yes, we condone genocide when we allow it to occur. If we do not speak up and say, “No!” we are as guilty as those who mastermind it.

            And so, more than anything, this should be a book of inspiration, for history is useless if we do not learn from it. If there is no lesson in our history, we risk becoming the catalysts of the nightmares of the future, instead of the healers of the wounds of the past.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay     Available where most books are sold.

5 STAR, Highly Recommend.