Tag Archive | Middle Grade

Book Review: The Hardy Boys Book 3, The Secret of the Old Mill by Franklin W. Dixon et al

Book Review: The Hardy Boys Book 3, The Secret of the Old Mill by Franklin W. Dixon et al

A Trip Down Memory Lane

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When I was young, just about every kid I knew was reading either a Hardy Boys Mystery or a Nancy Drew Mystery. I used to get one for every birthday and Christmas. If I was really good, there was the occasional one in between. By the time I was grown up, I had almost the complete set. When I moved away from Ontario, I gave the set along with all my encyclopedias to a family of five little girls. Sometimes I think about that action and mourn slightly, but, of course, it was the best thing to do at the time. You can only have so many books. I have enough for three lifetimes or a small village library.

Since the day I gave up my Nancy Drew set, I have been slowly buying them back again ( yeah, so I missed them. Don’t judge me.), plus the occasional Hardy Boys Mystery. The other day, it was lousy outside; rain, snow, darkness, you know a typical British Columbia winter day. I looked at the bookshelves where my short and sweet books are and lo and behold, there sat The Secret of the Old Mill by Franklin W. Dixon. A Hardy Boys Mystery!

So who was this Franklin W. Dixon fellow? I decided to check online and see what came up.

http://www.answers.com/Q/Who_wrote_the_Hardy_Boys_book_series)

According to missy7  on answers.com  a heckuva lot of ghost writers were Mr. Dixon, either that or the guy had the worse case of multiple personalities known to man. There were so many that I couldn’t bother to be as thorough as Miss missy7 was.  Wow! We are talking a whole pile. The series was the brainchild of the Stratemeyer Syndicate ( no we are not talking organized crime here) later bought out by Simon and Schuster in the 1980’s. So nowadays, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys are being pumped out by the ghost writers of Simon and Schuster. So there you have it—Franklin W. Dixon in a nutshell! Quite a guy.

This particular book is number three in the series, but already it had labelled the brothers as young detectives, and they were just taking after their Pa, a real life (or fake life….or well, just a fictional real life…) private eye. Yup, daddy was a detective too. So they were just taking after the old man.

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During this story they drive around in their buddy Chet’s ( real name Chester Morton, wow, which today would just mean a whole load of misery, and a kid in his thirties who ends up completely covered with tattoos and on death row) bright yellow, souped-up jalopy named Queen. Oh wow, those were the days. I remember naming my first car. They were always French names and male. My current Dodge Caravan (be nice) is named Anton; not quite Antonio as in Banderas, but in my mind he looks almost the same as we whisk along the highway, with our hair blowing in the breeze from the passenger windows open slightly at a safe level and the only rear window which works, open to get a little counter breeze.
I have, in my youth, driven in a few jalopies, which were fun and required no doors to open. You simply hopped in! Over the existing, seemingly always shut, door. Back then, I hopped. Today, it only happens in the kitchen when I step on something. Or in the bathroom when Mr. Lloyd Kitty has been particularly flamboyant with his cat litter.

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Back to the story…Chet is described as plump and constantly eating junk food, a description today which would have led to cyber bullying indeed. His buddies tease him in a good-humoured way because back then we just teased people out loud and to their face, not online—since there was no online. (Well, that’s not exactly true. I loaded the line every other day with the wash and my mother regularly asked, “What’s on the line? Did you bring everything in?” So yes there was “on line” but not the online we mean today. Whew!) Back to Chet. Chet is a constant homey in the Hardy Boys’ crib. He and Tony, their other buddy, show up here and there throughout the story and near the end help them jump a bunch of guys and get in a fight. Not quite your sweet little angels now, eh?! Heh heh heh.

Eighteen-year-old Frank and his one-year-younger brother, Joe, who is described as “blond and impetuous” (in other words, some little punk kid who probably gave his mother all the grey hair on her head) get involved with a boy on a bicycle who nearly gets hit by a car. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know they are involved with counterfeiters and Mill Wheels, and tracking paper at the local stationary story ( can you imagine walking into Staples and saying, “Can you tell me who bought this piece of paper?” ) wandering through tunnels, getting trapped in trucks, and having their dad get sort-of blown up and stuff like that. All the things which would put hair on the chest of a young lad in the 1950s!

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Throughout it all, they interact peacefully with the local sheriff who has no trouble telling them everything that’s going on in the rich underbelly of crime in their little berg. Today, if the cops know you by name when you walk into the station, it’s not because they respect your dad and want to give you an award or have you help them solve a crime. Nope, no way. We will leave that one there.

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So of course, they solve the mystery and their last words are nice and corny and no one ever swears, not even the bad guys. It was a nice time back then. Post WWII when the world was shiny and bright and mom was at home all day (not working like Rosie the Riveter in the munitions factory anymore and sitting out back smoking cigarettes, chewing gum and drinking beer with her buddies after work)

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cause the war was over, and dad smoked a pipe constantly (not worrying about his future lung cancer or emphysema) and sat in an easy chair and was home to listen to your troubles and give you good advice which rivalled the advice God gave Moses in the Bible.

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Man, I love the Hardy Boys. I think I’ll check the second hand store and see if they have anymore of the old ones. I don’t want to read the new ones in case Chet’s car is now a Jaguar XK XKR-S GT convertible which does zero to sixty in 4.9 seconds, and instead of having twenty bucks in his hand, he thinks nothing of popping a hundred in the tank every other day.

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And Mr. Hardy is smoking pot in the garage and rhyming off clever little gems that sound more like a Cheech and Chong rerun.

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Mrs. Hardy has just returned from drug rehab and had a couple of fentanyl scares. And Frank has piercings everywhere which occasionally get painfully ripped out in a fight or while he’s crawling through a tunnel underground somewhere chasing Columbian Drug Lords. And Joe, dear little Joe, has green and pink hair; no sweet little blond-headed moppet is he anymore, no he’s got muscles like the Rock,

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and mimics Vin Diesel on a good day.

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No, give me the old Hardy Boys. I like those guys. I’ll just sit in my rocker and daydream.

You can buy the Hardy Boys mysteries all over the place and especially at second hand book stores. Enjoy!

Have a nice day!

Lynne

 

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Interview with Author Renee Duke

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N&R: My guest today is author Renee Duke. Here’s a short biography of Renee.

          Renee Duke grew up in Ontario, and British Columbia, Canada, and Berkshire, England. Due to a treacherous re-drawing of county lines while she was out of the country, her little market town is now in Oxfordshire, but she’s still a Berkshire girl at heart.

As a child, her favourite authors were Enid Blyton, Anthony Buckeridge, and Thornton W. Burgess. When she became a teenager, it was Jean Plaidy, Norah Lofts, Robert A. Heinlein, and Edgar Rice Burroughs who fed her voracious reading habit.

Time for reading lessened after she went into teaching, as did time for writing, which she has been doing since she was seven (the age at which she realized stories were actually made up by someone). Her work has appeared in such publications as Reader’s Digest, Zamoof!, Stitches, and Our World 50+ (Canada); Spider, Story Friends, and Pockets (U.S.A.), and My Weekly, and The People’s Friend (U.K.).

Mother of one son and servant to two cats, she resides in Kelowna, B.C. with her widowed mother. She still does an occasional inter-active history unit with 6 to 12-year olds at an after-school care centre, but is otherwise ‘retired’ and able to concentrate on writing.

N&R: Hi Renee. Welcome to Natter and Review. It’s very nice to meet you.

RD: Thank you.  And thank you for allowing me to join you today.

Note to My Readers: We have a contest to win a copy of Ms. Duke’s book. The information is at the end of the posting. Good luck!

N&R: Can you tell us a little more about your early years? I see you have grown up in two different countries. How did that come about? And where exactly did you live in Ontario. That’s where I grew up and lived till I was forty-four.

RD: I grew up in both Canada and England because my family lived in both. During WW II, my mother and oldest brother lived in Scotland for a time, as well, to escape the bombing. My father was born in Scotland, and from childhood up, cherished a dream of playing the bagpipes. My Sassenach (English)-born mother was unaware of this when they met and married, and never did learn to like them. By WW II, my father’s family had dispersed to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and he served with the Canadian forces. He took his own branch back there afterwards, then back to England (twice – once on an extended visit, the other to live), and then back to Canada again, where we finally took up permanent residence in Kelowna, B.C. In Ontario, we lived Keewatin, which is close to the Manitoba border. I have dual citizenship, and an accent that I am told is neither British nor Canadian.

N&R: I see you had some favourite children’s authors including Thornton W. Burgess. I think I read everything he wrote. What were some of your most loved? Did any of those stories inspire you to create other works?

RD: My favourite Burgess books were The Adventures of Chatterer The Red Squirrel and The Adventures of Bob White. When I was little, I really liked Enid Blyton’s Noddy books, and when I was older, her Galliano’s Circus trilogy her Naughtiest Girl trilogy and the five books in her Secret series.  I don’t know that any of them inspired my own writing, but my very favourite childhood book was The Secret Garden, so that might have started me thinking that the past was ‘cool’.  And I do vaguely recall making up stories that featured characters from some books I read.  I won’t say which ones, in case their heirs decide to sue. (Let’s just call it ‘fan fiction’ – small children don’t understand plagiarism.)

N&R: I think most of us did that when we were young. Tell us a little about your teaching career. What ages did you teach and what subjects were your specialties?

RD: I was (and am still licensed to be) an Early Childhood Educator. From 1974 to 2000, I taught 2½ to 5-year-olds their ABCs and 123s, and threw in as much drama and history as I could.  In 1977, I went to Belize, Central America, with World Peace and Development, and spent the summer working with 3-8-year-olds. I was also a playground supervisor for Grades K-7 from 1996 to 2012.  From 2008 to the present I have been doing interactive history programmes with 6-13-year-olds in an Out-Of-School Care facility.

N&R: Wow, that’s amazing. So you sure haven’t lost your touch. You say in your bio that you started writing at the age of seven. I can relate to that. What kinds of things poured out of your heart at that age? Do you still have any of your early work?

RD: The first thing I remember writing came from having to choose a topic off the blackboard at school and write a story about it. I did one about the life of a banana peel. As I recall, it ran several pages. I do not, however, recall what it was about, other than there was a banana boat and a banana spider involved. The earliest work I still have (somewhere) is a short, syrupy poem about Spring that I penned when I was eight. How anything that awful ever got chosen for the school magazine, I will never know. I’m sure the Ralphie Rabbit readers another school printed out for use in the Infants Class a couple of years later were almost as bad, but I have no proof of that as we didn’t take any copies with us when we next moved. I was allowed to print those myself, with the help of three friends. We were supposedly under the supervision of our teacher, but he was rash enough to leave the room for a few minutes and came back to four ink-covered children (two girls, two boys). After scrubbing us reasonably clean, he probably went home thankful that we would soon be moving on to ‘big school’, which, in England, you did at age eleven. I also wrote plays and made a lot of comic books based on favourite TV shows, such as Thunderbirds).

N&R: Sounds like you were well on your way to a higher career. You certainly have a lot of stories out in the magazine publishing world. How did that come about for you? And was it all fiction or some non-fiction in the mix?

RD: I started sending stories and articles out to magazines when I was still in my teens. They came back with monotonous regularity, but eventually, some of them were accepted. My magazine pieces for children have been mostly fiction. Only two were non-fiction, an article on Jerusalem’s Biblical Zoo for Wonder Time and some turtle horoscopes for Zamoof! My adult pieces were all non-fiction, articles and humour pieces.

N&R: Are there any stories that our readers can get copies of?

RD: Some of the magazines are no longer being published, but they might be able to find back issues of Pockets (September 2003, April 2009), Spider (February 2006), Okanagan Life (June 2001, April 2005) or My Weekly (July 24, 2004). The People’s Friend is still being published, but its ‘Children Corner’ carried some of my earliest stories, and you’d have to go back quite a ways for copies of those (December 20, 1980, August 8, 1981, & April 3, 1982).

N&R: Did you lose the rights to those works that you published in magazines?

RD: No. I only sold First Time Rights. All other rights reverted to me, so I suppose I could think about posting them on my website—minus the artwork—which was created by other people.  Despite my childhood passion for doing comic books, I really don’t draw very well, but have been lucky in being matched with good illustrators. I especially like the great cover Marion Sipe did for The Disappearing Rose.

N&R: Glad you didn’t lose the rights. Some authors do and it is very frustrating for them. And that brings us to your recently published book, The Disappearing Rose from “The Time Rose Series” released by MuseItUp Publishing on August 23rd, 2013.

Tagline: The two little Princes in the Tower disappeared five centuries ago—so what are they doing in our time?

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Here is the back cover information from your book The Disappearing Rose.

            No one knows what happened to the little Princes of the Tower. That’s what Dane, Paige, and Jack are told when they start working on a medieval documentary for Dane and Paige’s filmmaker father. But then an ancient medallion transports them back to the fifteenth century and gives them a chance to discover the truth about the mysterious disappearance of young King Edward the Fifth and his brother Richard, Duke of York. But they’d better be careful. The princes are definitely in danger, and the person responsible for their disappearance just might decide that their new friends should disappear as well.

So, where did The Disappearing Rose come from?

RD: The Middle Ages have been my favourite time period for as long as I can remember, and I have been interested in the fate of the two royal brothers ever since I read about them in what my Grantie Etta character would call my ‘Tudor propagandist’ history text in school when I was about nine. Even at that age, the wicked uncle theory didn’t seem too convincing. That I would eventually want to come up with my own story about them was inevitable. Originally, I just planned a straight forward historical novel. The time travel approach came later.

N&R: How long did it take you to write the book?

RD: Due to the fact that I was involved in both the teaching and raising of children at the time, the actual writing took about two years. Research took considerably longer, and started before I had a clear idea of the book. For several years I was really just visiting places associated with the princes and their era, and learning more about it because I was interested. Though I was in London several times as a child, I never actually got to the Tower of London until my late teens, because I usually went with school or church groups and the Tower wasn’t on their itineraries.  Family visits didn’t work either because, on the one occasion we planned to go to the Tower, the queue was three quarters of the way up Tower Hill, and my father—who wasn’t big on waiting—wouldn’t. (We went to Madame Tussaud’s & the London Zoo instead.)

N&R: Were there any particular challenges or struggles to overcome to create the work?

RD: Not really. Just finding the time to do it. Now that I’m mostly retired, that isn’t quite so difficult.

N&R: When did you realize you had the makings of a series under your belt?

RD: Pretty much right away. The medallion that serves as the children’s time portal has been used by their family for generations. It has a definite purpose. In order for them to find and help the child it seeks, it must first take them to other children in trouble. The princes were the just the first of these.

N&R: Here’s an excerpt from the book, The Disappearing Rose, for our readers.

“After they had eaten, Dane remembered the paper under his hat. He took it out and studied his aunt’s translation but was unable to make anything of it. Holding it to one side so the others could see too, he read it out.

“Ancient portal, hear this plea,

Open for thy golden key.

Feel its power,

Know its might,

Put the Mists of Time to flight.”

Paige clicked her tongue. “Another cutesy little rhyme. We haven’t even figured out the first one yet.”

“No, but what it said about speaking words in proper tone had to be in reference to the ones in this rhyme. Trouble is there’s no knowing what they mean, either. ‘Open for thy golden key.’ What key? And how can a key have power?”

“The medallion’s gold,” said Jack. “Perhaps it’s the key. I don’t know what the ancient portal could be, though.”

“The door to some long forgotten temple in the middle of Armenia, I expect,” said Paige, standing up. “Maybe we should stick to uncovering secrets of the past that are closer to hand, like that secret passage you promised to show us.”

The boys got up, too. As soon as Dane had tucked the translation back under his hat, they went to the kitchen to ask Mrs. Purdom for what Jack called torches and he and Paige called flashlights. While she was getting them, Jack selected a key from a row of hooks hanging on the side of a cupboard and unlocked the cellar door at the back of the kitchen. “The cellar’s electrified,” he said, flicking on some lights, “but we’ll have to use our torches in the passage.”

“Mind you don’t get those costumes dirty,” said Mrs. Purdom.

“Someone else with a thing about clean clothes,” Dane murmured as they started down the cellar steps.

The cellar was a large one. It had other comparatively modern features besides electricity including a sink and, in a small room near the stairs, a chain-flush toilet.

“How come the secret passage is way down here, Jack?” Paige asked as they made their way past a row of wine racks. “In movies they’re always behind a bookcase or something.”

“It starts in an upstairs room in the oldest part of Rosebank,” Jack replied. “That room’s locked now, so we have to go in this way.”

Squeezing past some barrels, he led them into a storeroom. In keeping with the Wolverton family’s tradition of hoarding, Grantie Etta had filled it with disused furniture and other assorted junk. At the far end was a small wooden door covered by a curtain, a door Jack said was now the passage’s only entry point.

“It would have been the exit point once, wouldn’t it?” said Dane.

“No,” said Jack, pulling the curtain aside to unbolt the door. “The passage originally led out into a wood behind one of the gardens. The wood’s gone now, so that end of it was filled in and a door cut to give access to the cellar.”

He turned on his flashlight and shone it to one side of the passage entrance so the others could see the difference between the new masonry and the old.

“Come on,” he said, stepping inside.

Dane was sensitive to dust. His nose and throat quickly became irritated by the damp, musty odours that filled his nostrils as he and Paige followed Jack along the narrow tunnel they had entered. He wasn’t about to turn back though. He found the idea of exploring a secret passage just as intriguing as his sister did.

They walked along on level ground for a time. When not stepping over small piles of rubble, they had to take care not to slip on flagstones worn smooth by generations of feet. Farther on, winding stairs took them past the ground floor and into the upper part of the house.

At last Jack stopped in front of a stone ram that seemed to glare down at them from the wall. Handing his flashlight to Paige, he reached up and twisted the animal’s horns to open the passage’s other entrance. Much to his chagrin, nothing happened

“That’s funny,” he said. “I can’t seem to budge these horns.”

The ram didn’t respond to Paige’s efforts, either. Or Dane’s.

“The mechanism must be stuck,” said Jack. “Oh, well, there’s not much to see in there anyway. Just some old furniture and a painting or two.”

Dane pushed on the secret door itself, his medallion clinking against the stones at every shove.

Paige caught hold of it. “Hmm,” she said. “This thing’s supposed to open ancient portals. Let’s give it a try.” Stretching it out the length of its chain, she pressed it against the door. “It doesn’t seem to be working,” she said sadly.

“You didn’t do it right,” said Jack, entering into the game. “I expect it only opens things if you say the rhyme.”

“Oh, yes. I forgot about that. Okay, here goes.”

She chanted the rhyme in a silly, singsong voice, the kind of voice adults used for saying nursery rhymes to little kids.

“Well, that didn’t work, either,” she said, letting the medallion fall back against Dane’s chest. “I guess someone used up all its special power years ago.”

“You’re still not doing it right,” Dane said with a grin. “The words do have to be spoken in ‘proper tone’, you know. Let me try.”

The others giggled as he closed his fist around the medallion and held it next to his heart. They continued to giggle as he repeated the rhyme in solemn, majestic tones, emphasizing every word.

“Ancient portal, hear this plea,

Open for thy golden key.

Feel its power,

Know its might,

Put the Mists of Time to flight.”

Suddenly, sparks jumped at him from every side. Then a strange blue and white mist appeared, accompanied by a roaring sound. Within seconds, his ears were buzzing, and the whole passage spun around him.

Jack grabbed his shoulder in alarm.

“Dane, what’s happening?”

“I…I guess I did it right,” Dane gasped as the swirling mist engulfed them.”

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Picture from The Time Machine movie made in 1960 starring Rod Taylor and based on H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine.

Wow, that looks really interesting. I guess I will be getting the book asap. Time travel seems to be quite popular right now. When did you start being interested in the concept? And, well…do you think it is possible?

RD: I can’t remember if my first experience with the concept came from a book or TV, but I’ve long been intrigued by it and I do think it’s possible, though not perhaps in the manner often depicted in books.  I’ve read articles where people claim to have briefly stepped though into another time (such as pre-French revolution Versailles) but could not interact with anyone, merely observe for a time until the scene before them vanished.

N&R: I know what you mean. There are lots of recorded instances where people have claimed to have momentarily viewed another dimension or time. I would love to experience it but only if there was a guarantee of complete safety. LOL. Are the majority of your works geared toward Middle Grade readers?

RD: They are now.  I’ve really come to enjoy that age group since I started working with them.

N&R: If our readers wish to contact you, how would they get in touch? Do you have a website, twitter, blog etc?

RD: I don’t have a blog as yet. I do have a website and am on Facebook and Twitter. My son (actor/filmmaker, Richard Duke) is also planning a book trailer for the first Time Rose book, but that’s still in the idea stage.

N&R: Here are the links to purchase this e book.

Muse:   https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore/index.php/coming-soon/the-disappearing-rose-detail

Amazon.com: http://tinyurl.com/mhlyljj

Amazon.ca:  http://tinyurl.com/lostrov

Barnes and Noble, Nook Book: http://tinyurl.com/l2jjhuc

Kobo: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-CA/ebook/the-disappearing-rose-the-time-rose-series

            One last question, do you have anything you would like to share with our readers about the writing world or your experiences with the publishing industry.

RD: E-publishing is a new field for me.  I’m having to learn as I go along.

N&R: Well, thank you for dropping by, Renee. I have enjoyed getting to know you and am looking forward to reading your book in its entirety.

RD: Thank you for having me.

N&R: You can connect with Renee Duke on her website at http://www.reneeduke.ca/ .

Watch for Book Two in the saga: The Mud Rose coming in January, 2014.

 

Contest:

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Painting by Paul Delaroche.

            Okay my peeps, now you get to put on your thinking caps. Ms. Duke is offering a free copy of her book to someone who votes and leaves a comment as to why they voted the way they did. She will be watching for the most clever and interesting answer. You have five days to put on your thinking caps and file your vote. All postings must be pre-approved by me so don’t freak if they don’t show up right away. I will be watching from a distance and okaying the non-spam votes. Thank you for your participation in advance.

Here we go: What happened to the princes, King Edward the Fifth and his brother Richard, Duke of York, and who was responsible for their disappearances, is still unknown, so we are putting it to a vote, with our possible suspects being:

(A)   Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later Richard III), the uncle who reluctantly—or maybe not so reluctantly—took over the throne once the older prince had been deposed.

(B)   Henry Stafford, Duke of Buckingham, another uncle who thought the crown would look better on his head.

(C)   Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who became king after defeating Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth and strengthened his claim by marrying the princes’ sister, Elizabeth.

(D)  Margaret Beaufort, Countess of Richmond, mother of Henry Tudor, who knew from the moment he was born that her boy was better suited to kingship than any of those good-for-nothing Yorkists.

(E) Elizabeth of York, who had been heir presumptive until those bratty brothers came along.

(F) Sir Thomas More, who was only five at the time, but he could have hired someone.

Please enter your vote for one of the individuals listed above and include your comment as to why you chose the person you did, in the “Leave a comment” section below this article.

We look forward to you suggestions.

Book Review: Return of the Grudstone Ghosts by Arthur Slade

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            I don’t know about the rest of you but I am one of those people who can’t walk by a library book sale without cringing because I know I could possibly be bankrupt by the time I leave the building or at least down a mortgage payment or two.

            Last year we hit one of those horrible ones where there are like seven thousand million books and everyone is a keeper. You know the kind.

            So I grabbed this sweet little book because it was for middle grade teens and I have never really grown up, so am always re-reading my Nancy Drews and always watch for anything that will keep me happily believing I am still 14.

            Imagine my surprise to discover this really was a Canadian book with Canadian terms and cities and lots of stuff that made me feel I was entrenched in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, a place most have never seen or at least can’t pronounce if they live south of our border.  

            This book keeps your attention from the get-go and is full of nice little twists and turns, a bit of historical fiction and some historical non-fiction (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UG9cdpMdow4 ) which is great. I did not know Al Capone hung out in Moose Jaw during prohibition and it was known as Little Chicago and filled with bootleggers. Did you?

            There are ghosts and scary bits here and there, teachers who don’t take any guff from the kids, polite Canadian children who are clever and witty without being obnoxious and rude. It was a a joy to dig into!

            I was pleased to see Arthur has lots of books available because I know I will be wanting more of his work.

            Great read! 5***** Five Stars all the way! Wonderful for your pre-teen and middle teen friends and family, and of course those who are like me, young at heart. :o)

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Canadian Author: Arthur Slade

Here’s his long bio from his website:

Well, it all started in a small hospital in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. It was July the 9th, 1967, a day that will live in infamy. I arrived a month early, and ever since I have been early for appointments.

I was raised by my parents (Anne & Robert) on a ranch in the Cypress Hills—a peculiar geographical upthrust that exists on the edge of the prairie. My parents also raised about 500 Herefords, countless gophers (Richardson’s Ground Squirrel), several dogs, 3 other sons and a variety of horses. Yes, I did learn how to ride a horse. Yep, I drove a tractor and threw bales. Yep, I hate that itchy chaff that sticks to your skin. No, I didn’t wear a cowboy hat.

As a kid, I’d spend my spare time at the library in the small town of Tompkins (Population 219) reading anything I could get my hands on (first the bottom three shelves, then as I grew I could reach the top three shelves). My favorites were the Old Norse, Greek and Celtic Myths, Ray Bradbury, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Robert Heinlein, and lots more.

I went to high school in the metropolis of Gull Lake (Population 1500). There I started writing my first novel and was finished it by the time I graduated. None of the eight publishers I sent it to wanted it. So I wrote another. And another. Meanwhile I attended the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon. Then I wrote another book. And another. Did I mention that none of them have been published?

I received an English Honours degree and then disappeared into the flashy world of radio advertising copy. I had a dental plan! A regular pay cheque! Then after five years, I was officially jingled out.

I jumped ship without a paddle (read: quit my job). I sent my seventh novel, Draugr, to Orca Books who were kind enough to pick it up. They also were kind enough to contract my next two novels The Haunting of Drang Island and The Loki Wolf. Then suddenly I was writing a biography of John Diefenbaker for young adults, a frightening ode to W.O. Mitchell, called Dust, an anthropology thriller called Tribes and…well, I shouldn’t tell you any more….

Oh wait, did I mention I got married in 1997? (I was early for the ceremony). Tune in maybe my biggest dream yet will come true: getting my own dental plan!

Return of the Grudstone Ghosts

A chilling tale of ghosts and villains. As soon as Daphne sees her teacher plummet from the belfry at the top of her school, she’s plunged into a spine-tingling mystery. Soon she and her friends Nick and Peach are all that stand in the way of a truly horrible criminal.

Published by Coteau Books

Winner of the 2003 Diamond Willow Award

Also in the Canadian Chills series:

Ghost Hotel
Invasion of the IQ Snatchers


 Return of the Grudstone Ghosts is available on

Amazon.ca at: http://tinyurl.com/mjvfrca

And from Amazon.com at: ht http://tinyurl.com/jw5g2l9tp://tinyurl.com/jw5g2l9    

 

Check out Arthur’s author page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Arthur-Slade/e/B001H6EMG4/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

Contact link: http://www.arthurslade.com     http://arthurslade.com/frontpage/index.html

 

Interview with Author Tammy Lowe

tammylowe

Today’s guest is author Tammy Lowe, a new member of the MuseItUp author alumni. Here is a biography of our visitor.

Tammy lives in Cambridge, Ontario, with her husband of twenty years and their teenage son.

From September to June, she is surrounded by preschoolers and covered in glitter and glue.

Once school is out, she grabs her hubby and son and takes off on some grand adventure. They’ve explored pyramids in Egypt and sailed down a river in rural China on a tiny raft,  slept in the tower of a 15th century Scottish castle, searched for the Loch Ness Monster and have even dined at a Bedouin camp in the Arabian Desert. She’s part Mary Poppins, and part Indiana Jones.

Tammy loves to explore this amazing world of ours.

As a kid, she loved to read books and watch shows like Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables.  She loved anything set in the “olden days”.

When she was about ten years old, Tammy began to wonder about time travel. Her biggest wish was to end up back in the pioneer era. She wanted to go and hang out with spoiled Nellie Olsen. When asked, Tammy can’t recall why she wished for Nellie over Laura Ingalls, but thinks it may have had something to do with the fact that Nellie’s parents owned the candy shop.

Tammy realized she didn’t want to live in the 18th or 19th century because she’d miss her family too much, and also she knew she can’t live without modern comforts but wanted the freedom to travel back and forth through time.

So strong was her wish to time travel, she even dressed the part, as much as possible, without raising anyone’s suspicions. She wore dresses to school every day, when all her friends wore jeans and t-shirts. She had to be prepared just in case it worked and she was whisked through time. One summer, Tammy even begged her mom to buy her a bonnet.  She did. Tammy wore that white bonnet everywhere.  If she had ended up in Walnut Grove or Avonlea, she was ready.

tammybonnet

By the sixth grade she was old enough to realize that time travel probably wasn’t going to be a reality for her, so she decided that when she grew up, she’d write a book about a girl who could travel back and forth through time.

N&R: And so I guess that is where we should start. It’s obvious I don’t have to ask you how much of The Acadian Secret has you and your childhood desires in it, so, I am going to ask, what did you want to cram into this book that you managed to succeed in doing?

TL: I wanted to include the tale of the Oak Island Money Pit. It is the longest running, the most expensive, and the deadliest treasure hunt in history…and it’s right here in Canada.  The discovery of the mysterious pit, by three teen boys in 1795, is a huge storyline in The Acadian Secret.

N&R: I’m into time travel as well. Did you contemplate other ways to get your heroine across the years besides using a necklace?

TL:  It was always going to be with a quartz crystal.  I learned about the electronic wonder of a quartz crystal watch and that sent my imagination into overdrive.  I find it amazing that a crystal can send off a vibration used to measure time.  I imagined what might happen if I had a quartz crystal bigger than one in a watch. I put it on a chain and gave it to Elisabeth.

N&R: Tell us more about the beginnings of this particular tale. Where did it spring from? Were there any specific catalysts?

TL: That is hard to answer.  The Acadian Secret is almost two stories in one and you don’t know how they tie together until the very end.  In a sense, it was written in layers and woven together over several years. There was no specific catalyst.

I felt as if I was following a trail of breadcrumbs. Doing research, something unrelated would catch my attention and I knew I had to go with it. I was never sure how it would tie in, but I knew to follow my intuition.

Many curious things happened during the entire process. For example, many of my characters were real people in history. There was one young lady I needed to include in the story, but I was having trouble finding her real name. Sarah, Sarah, Sarah kept floating around my brain, so I called her Sarah, with the intention of changing her name once I discovered it in my research. When I finished writing, and I couldn’t imagine my Sarah being called anything else, I discovered her real name. It was Sarah. That gave me goose bumps.

Everything seemed to happen that way, even after I finished the manuscript. I almost fell out of my chair when I heard back from the content editor who had taken on my book.  As fate would have it, she had also spent years researching the Oak Island Money Pit and knew all about it.  She was the perfect person to help me polish The Acadian Secret.

N&R: Wow, that’s pretty interesting. Even though you have traveled to Scotland and seen the place or places like the ones described in your book, how much research was required to turn out a convincing story of the time period described?

TL: There is a lot of research involved. Not just with Scotland, but with Nova Scotia’s mysterious Oak Island Money Pit as well.  I don’t want to give twists in the plot away, but the research goes beyond Scotland.  It’s taken me years to put it all together and lay the foundation for the follow up books.

TheAcadianSecret333x500

N&R: How about giving us a short write-up on the story to entice our readers?

TL: THE ACADIAN SECRET is a Tween/YA Paranormal Action-Adventure about a young girl who can…time travel.

Here’s the tagline: Elisabeth finds she can play in the past; when bosom friends, treasure hunters and tormented alchemists are still the norm.

BACK COVER:

Elisabeth London is keeping her new friends a secret from her parents.  Not only do they live on the other side of the world in the Scottish Highlands, they lived more than three hundred and fifty years ago. Her mom and dad would never allow her to go gallivanting about seventeenth century Scotland.  They won’t even let her go to the mall by herself yet.

Twelve-year-old Elisabeth is old enough to know there is no such thing as magic, but when her quartz crystal necklace has the power to transport her back and forth in time, she no longer knows what to think.  The only thing she is certain of is that she loves spending carefree days with Quinton, the mischievous nephew of a highland warrior, and sassy little Fiona, a farmer’s daughter.

However, Elisabeth’s adventures take a deadly turn when she is charged with witchcraft.  At a time and place in history when witch-hunts were common, those found guilty were executed, children included. Elisabeth must race to find her way back home, while trying to stay one step ahead of the witch-hunter determined to see her burned at the stake.

N&R: Can you share an excerpt from the book?

TL: Sure, let me just tie on my bonnet and get into the mood.   *clears throat*

“As the afternoon sun began to travel behind the mountains, it cast an emerald glow across the glen. The valley was littered with boulders, while a small river twisted its way toward a distant forest.

Malcolm Craig was stalking his prey. He was a tall, strong man with piercing blue-green eyes, a short beard, and wild black hair that gave him a crazed look. He smelled the boar before he saw it. Talbot, his hunting dog, lunged into the brambles after the wild pig which began to grunt in anger. That was when something to the right caught his eye. A young girl lay motionless in the heather.

“What the devil?” Malcolm said as he jumped down from his horse. While still keeping his hearing attuned to Talbot and the boar, he walked over and bent to peer at her. He breathed a sigh of relief to find she was fast asleep. Malcolm scooped the sleeping girl into his arms. “You’re lucky I found you, lassie, before that beast did.”

With a sigh, she rested her head against his chest and put her arms around his neck. “Daddy…” she said in her sleep.

Malcolm laughed. “Daddy? I’m nae your daddy. No daughter of mine would be dressed like this, wandering around barefoot in the middle of…”

Elisabeth’s eyes popped open and she let out an ear-piercing scream. She bit Malcolm’s shoulder and he dropped her.

“Och, child! You bit me!”

The silence in the valley broke as Talbot howled, the boar squealed and Elisabeth jumped to her feet and wailed in horror.

“Dinnae move, lass!” Malcolm yelled to be heard over the pandemonium. He reached for his dagger. It was almost time for the kill.

The enraged boar deserted his hiding spot in the brambles and charged toward the dog, its lethal tusks ready to kill. Talbot was well-trained so, instead of turning tail and running, he danced backward, facing the pig, luring it away from his master. With the boar now in pursuit of the dog, Malcolm did what was natural to any man born and bred in the Highlands: he ran at the beast as if he were a wild animal himself. Jumping on the boar from behind, he grabbed its ear, yanked its head up and slashed its throat.

Elisabeth continued to scream. Malcolm jumped off the boar as it fell limp at his feet and cleaned the blade on the carcass before putting it away. He walked toward Elisabeth, his bloody hands held in front of him.

“Enough, lass. It’s all right now.”

Her wide eyes fixed on the enormous man dressed in a skirt. “You’ve got a knife!”

“Aye. And a sword.” He smirked as he pointed to it.

“You’re armed!”

“I’m nae going to harm you, though. I was hunting.”

“Hunting what? Little girls? Where am I?”

Not waiting for an answer, she ran from Malcolm and toward the forest, her bare feet slowing her great escape.

“That lass is completely mad,” Malcolm grumbled while rubbing the shoulder she had bitten.

Malcolm mounted his horse; he couldn’t leave the terrified girl alone out here. It wasn’t safe and would soon be dark. She would be easy enough for a blind man to find again because she hadn’t stopped screaming. For some reason, he hadn’t stopped smiling.

His black warhorse was as large and intimidating as Malcolm was, and the animal’s powerful legs kicked up tall grass and thistles as it barreled along. The sound of its hooves seemed amplified as it raced toward Elisabeth. Malcolm caught up to her. Without needing to slow his horse, he reached down, scooped her up into his arms, and placed her in the saddle in front of him.

“There. Now be a good lass. I promise, I’m nae going to hurt you.”

And with that, Elisabeth fainted.

“Well now, that certainly makes things easier,” Malcolm muttered under his breath as he wrapped her in his plaid and nudged his horse on.”

N&R: That looks great. I love your humour, it’s wonderful. Great action and descriptions, too. So, I have to ask, has Diana Gabaldon had any influence on your work?

TL: Diana Gabaldon and Karen Marie Moning have been huge influences on me. They both write fabulous Time-Travel/Scottish Highland books that I can’t put down.

I remember thinking my young son would love the adventure of their stories, but I couldn’t read them to him because they’re definitely not PG-rated. However, those authors, and Julie Garwood, made me fall in love with Scotland and want to begin Elisabeth’s journey there. It was my way of letting children fall in love with the magic of the Highlands too.

N&R: Tell us a little about your profession: Pre-schoolers—how did that happen? When did you start this career? What are your favourite ages to work with? What issues do you think our country needs to address more carefully in the instruction and care of our children? If you were in charge, what would you change?

TL: I actually run a successful daycare for teacher’s children so I am only open during the school year. I used to work for the school board with Special Needs Children, but it was never a secure job. I only had contracts for weeks at a time. About ten years ago I opened up my own business and it’s been wonderful. I have a two year wait list for spots.

I love kids of all ages, but have rock star status with the two and three year old crowd.  Kids jump into my arms in the morning and fuss when they have to go home. I’m all about playing, imagination, and teaching kindness.

What I notice the most, and would love to change, is that many kids today have less and less imagination. If I put Lego out so they can build something, half the time is spent explaining why we are going to use our imaginations and we are not going to copy the picture on the box showing how it’s “supposed” to be built. You wouldn’t believe the anxiety this causes some of them.  To me, imagination is everything.  As Albert Einstein said, “it is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”

N&R: Well said. Are you working on any new projects right now? If so, can you tell us a bit about them without giving too much away?

TL: I’m working on Elisabeth’s next adventure.  The Acadian Secret has a great ending and doesn’t leave you hanging, but it is the first of three books. I’m really excited about the next one, set in Ancient Rome.

N&R: What other things do you like to do in your spare time when you aren’t wrangling pre-schoolers, writing or traveling the world?

TL: I like to think I am a domestic goddess.*grin*

I love baking, gardening, home decorating, entertaining etc. I’m most comfortable nesting.

One thing I’ve learned from all my travels is there truly is no place like home.

N&R: I agree with you there. How supportive of your childhood fantasy is your husband, and dare I ask, teenage son?

TL: My husband and son are the best!

The three of us are extremely close-knit and will do everything to support one another’s dreams and goals. We help each other shine.

N&R: Can you share the links to your work and your own sites, please?

TL: The easiest place to find me is at http://www.tammylowe .com

I’m on FB: http://tinyurl.com/brsfrpa

The Acadian Secret is found at:

Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/ca7hk67

Amazon Canada: http://tinyurl.com/ccudxjp

B&N: http://tinyurl.com/cfruuxt

Kobo: http://tinyurl.com/c3nkg7u

MuseItUp Publishing: http://tinyurl.com/bpwgku9

iBookstore: http://tinyurl.com/ce5pudc

N&R:  Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers today?

TL:   I’d just like to thank you and everyone else for their time.  Have a great day.

N&R: Thank you so much for stopping by. We wish you well in your future endeavors, whether teaching, writing or traveling.

TL: Thanks so much for having me here today.

N&R: You are more than welcome. It has been fun and I am really looking forward to reading your book.

 

 

Book Review: Gracie and The Preacher by T. L. Peters

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“Brent Everett and his feisty dog, Gracie, hook up with a good-natured street preacher who, when he isn’t dodging the law, makes his living by holding fire and brimstone revivals across the country. Soon, however, Brent discovers that there are limits to what even the preacher can get away with.”

Published March 11, 2011

Available from Amazon Kindle and many other sites

186 pages

Five Stars *****

            One of the things I love about Tom Peters’ writing is his ability to grab your interest right off the bat and make you smile.

            Gracie and The Preacher opens with:

“Star and I got back just as Mom and her new boyfriend Pete were starting to roll around on the living room floor grappling and laughing. She’d met Pete at the gym where she went looking for all her boyfriends lately. Mom could bench press over 280 pounds on a good day. Of course, her arms were short and that helped her some.”

           Peters is so comfortable when he writes his stories in this voice. We have seen it before in  The Boy Who Delivered The Wind http://tinyurl.com/d27qg8r and An Imperfect Miracle http://tinyurl.com/ck2extq : a young boy from the back hills, telling the tale through innocent eyes, his quirky world colouring the scene, his naïveté describing adult situations with humorous perplexity.

           There are a lot of outright belly laughs and tongue-in-cheek smiles tucked into this little gem for the reader.

           Brent is a rough and tumble, somewhat street savvy kid, protective of his dog, Star—a ninety-five pound Rottweiler, who is on probation for aggressive behaviour. Their home situation is iffy at best and so one day Brent runs away and ends up hooking up with a revival preacher.

           Their journey together with Star—who becomes Gracie to hide his identity—is a story about running away from poverty and lack, and a seemingly uncaring mother, and seeking a new life, family and sense of belonging. Along the way, Brent and Co. travel all across North America, into South America, are involved in illegal smuggling activities, constantly change their identities, preach healing and finding God, and grow to love one another until they are more family than blood could ever make them.

           The Preacher is a combination of Robin Hood, Kenneth Copeland and a petty crook. He has a heart of gold and seems to know every back alley and hiding place in the U.S., Mexico and further south. His experience with the unsavory world and his occasional run-ins with the law, keep this tale fast-paced, fun and really hard to put down.

           I highly recommend the story. It’s Five Star ***** all the way.

A Short Bio of the Author, T. L. Peters:

After graduating with honors from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and the University of Michigan Law, Thomas Linden Peters made partner at a large law firm where he retired a few years earlier than most. Tom’s favorite activity is giving his dog long walks in the woods.  His second favorite is playing the violin, much like the character in the Dickens’ story who loved to play scales alone on his cello.  Tom’s musical repertoire is a bit more extensive than simply scales and leans toward the Baroque, but he nevertheless views his music, along with his writing, as mostly a solo pastime.  His favorite part of writing is when the book is finally done. 

Here is a brief Excerpt from Gracie and The Preacher:

“When we got to the edge of the field, we laid down in the tall prickly weeds and looked around again. We were close enough now to make out the tent sign printed in big black letters, “Preacher Zechariah’s Traveling Revival and Fiddle Show.” Most of the folks were bobbing their heads to the wailing sound coming from under the tent, and some little girls in bright white swirling dresses with pink bows in their hair were holding hands and dancing with each other on the grass.

The cars and pickup trucks and vans were all parked over near the tree line on some gravel that had been dumped out over the weeds and raked in a little. Most had Pennsylvania plates since the dinky little town where we lived was just an hour or so north of Pittsburgh. But there were a few cars from over in West   Virginia and Ohio, and even some from as far away as Maryland and Virginia.

“This must be a quite a show,” I whispered to Star.

Star must have thought so too because he barked a little. I still couldn’t see all the way inside the tent, so Star and me circled around to where we were about halfway back. Then I spotted a tall lanky guy way up front playing a beat up old fiddle. He had a nice pair of denim jeans on and a navy blue shirt and a red bandana wrapped around his forehead too, I guess because he was sweating pretty good. Besides fiddling he was stomping his foot and singing so loud that the veins were popping out all over his neck. Now and then he’d even blow on a shiny silver harmonica that he had strapped onto his shoulders somehow.

I couldn’t understand many of the words to the song on account of how fast and garbled they were shooting out of his mouth. But he sure could whip that fiddle bow around, and his fingers dazzled up and down the strings like lightning. After listening real quiet for a few minutes, Star got restless and started yanking me in closer. There didn’t seem to be anybody selling tickets, so I followed along until we were almost under the tent. Then I dug my heels in and wouldn’t let Star drag me one step farther. I figured that those folks went to a lot of trouble getting choice seats and wouldn’t appreciate some big dog running around growling and sniffing at them.

I could hear better now at least, and every few seconds the guy would sing out in a real strong voice “Hallelujah,” and the people would all holler “Hallelujah” back to him. And then he’d wait a few seconds and yell out “Praise the Lord,” and they’d all holler back “Amen.”

This went on for a good while and I was worried that Star might get bored, but he kept on staring at the fiddler and licking his chops like he wanted to go up and say hello to him. Then all of a sudden Star whipped his head around to the back, his teeth bared and shiny wet  and his black fur standing up in a sharp ridge along his neck. I turned to see what had set him off and spotted some skinny guy with a beat up old baseball cap on sideways standing up shaking his fist and hollering at the fiddle player.

“You’re just trying to rip us all off. Shysters like you ought to be tossed in jail.”

 

Tom’s work can be found on MuseItUp Publishing at http://tinyurl.com/d27qg8r

Amazon.com at http://tinyurl.com/d6dhteb

And his website at   http://tlpeters.blogspot.com

Look for Gracie and The Preacher at the following links:

Amazon.com  http://tinyurl.com/cksowlu   

Barnes and Noble   http://tinyurl.com/clxxdh8  

Amazon UK   http://tinyurl.com/bu6nktg

Kobo   http://tinyurl.com/bvd5nd7

See a full interview on Natter and Review with Tom at   https://natterandreview.wordpress.com/2012/10/28/interview-with-author-thomas-l-peters/  

And other interviews and reviews at the following links: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11950120-an-imperfect-miracle http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/tlpeters

http://www.amazon.com/T.L.-Peters/e/B004S7L05A

http://www.slideshare.net/thome12/book-list-8882241

http://ashtonthebookblogger.blogspot.ca/2011_04_01_archive.html

http://freebookreviews.blogspot.ca/2013/01/book-review-pittsburgh-affair-by-tl.html

http://www.acozyreaderscorner.com/2011_05_01_archive.html

http://www.cybils.com/2012-nominations-young-adult-fiction.html

            I heartily recommend this read and anything else Tom has written. You can buy it from Amazon.com for download on your computer or kindle right now for a whole 97 cents.

           So go for it, take a leap of faith. That’s what Brent did and it changed his whole life.

 

Interview with Author, Thomas L. Peters

 

 

My guest today is the very talented and prolific author Thomas L. Peters. Tom and I have worked together, at MuseItUp Publishing, on Tom’s most charming story The Boy Who Delivered the Wind. I hope to get the chance to work with him again soon. In the meantime, I have been reading some of his other books and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Here is a short biography of our guest.

 After graduating with honors from DuquesneUniversity in Pittsburgh and the University of MichiganLaw, Tom Peters made partner at a large law firm where he retired a few years earlier than most. Tom’s favorite activity is giving his dog long walks in the woods.  His second favorite is playing the violin, much like the character in the Dickens’ story who loved to play scales alone on his cello.  Tom’s musical repertoire is a bit more extensive than simply scales and leans toward the Baroque, but he nevertheless views his music, along with his writing, as mostly a solo pastime.  His favorite part of writing is when the book is finally done. 

N&R:  Hi Tom. It’s so nice to have you drop in to speak with us.

Tom: Thank you very much for having me. To begin I must say that you are one of the best editors working in the publishing field today, and I very much enjoyed our collaboration on The Boy Who Delivered The Wind. 

N&R:  Well, thank you very much. I certainly appreciate the compliment. Feel free to tell that to my boss. LOL. First, I have to tell you, I thoroughly enjoy reading your stories. I love your sense of humour, the tongue-in-cheek dialogue and activities of some of your characters, and their voices. Your talent as a writer is multi-dimensional and covers a lot of territory, from unique characters, simple effective story telling, to adult action thrillers and romance. I have to ask, where does all this come from?

Tom: I know one thing for sure. I don’t deserve such words of high praise. Where what little talent I have comes from, is a mystery.

N&R: I see you are a classically trained violinist. I am also a classically trained musician—my instrument being the piano—and I am aware of what it has given me. What about you? How has the world of music affected you and your writing?

Tom:  It provides me with some sense of the grand dimensions and the wonderful possibilities of art in general and also instructs me on the necessity of pouring one’s passions into the work, be it music or writing.

N&R: Have there been any authors who have influenced you? And if so, who, and in what ways?

Tom: I like Flannery O’Connor for her sheer brilliance and Steinbeck for his mastery of dialogue. Otherwise, I try to keep the influences of other writers to a minimum, I guess out of fear that I might lose my own voice.

N&R: Yes, I certainly understand what you mean. You also have a background in law. What kind of law did you practise? How helpful has that study been to your work?

Tom: I practiced corporate law. Legal and creative writing are so different that I really don’t believe there is much interchange.

N&R: Do you find writing gives you the same degree of satisfaction as legal work did?

Tom:  An honest job done as well as one is able, always seems to provide some measure of satisfaction.

N&R: I love Jake Stone’s legal world. It seems pretty crazy sometimes. Should we consider some of the legal events of Jake’s characters as ‘enlightening’ or as mostly ‘fiction’?

Tom:  It’s all fiction.

N&R: Well, that’s comforting to know. Have you written other books which are similar in style and/or character to An Imperfect Miracle or The Boy Who Delivered the Wind?

Tom: Gracie and the Preacher and A Puppy’s Progress.  Both stories are highly recommended for dog lovers.

N&R: Here’s a short description of Gracie and the Preacher.

            Brent Everett and his feisty dog Gracie hook up with a good-natured street preacher who, when he isn’t dodging the law, makes his living by holding fire and brimstone revivals across the country. Soon, however, Brent discovers that there are limits to what even the preacher can get away with.

            And a short description of A Puppy’s Progress.

            A mistake from birth, half Lab, half Rottweiler, weaned in a puppy mill and dubbed “Star” for the white furry blotch on her chest, the valiant pooch unwittingly becomes the “bag man” in a diamond heist when the thief, hoping to hide the stones from his greedy wife, implants them under the puppy’s skin. After Star is mistakenly sold, the bumbling villains set off to retrieve the diamonds, but are bested at every turn by our feisty canine hero.

N&R:  When comparing your Jake Stone characters to the more spiritual or innocent ones, as in Miracle or The Boy, do you have a preference?

Tom: No. I think they all come from the same place.

N&R:  Are there any challenges to overcome in creating either of these characters?

Tom: I think that one simply has to let the writing flow as honestly as one can.

N&R: I love the invisible ghost dog ‘Chewy” in An Imperfect Miracle. He certainly touched my heart. Please tell us more about the dogs, both past and present, in your life?

Tom: Chewy is largely based on my dog, Star, who is also the model for the dog in A Puppy’s Progress . The Dog in Gracie and the Preacher is largely based on my Golden Retriever friend, Buffy. 

N&R:  Of your prolific list of writings, can you share with us which ones you like the most? Can you tell us a little about some of your work and perhaps give us an excerpt from each?

Tom: I’ve listed below a selection of my works of which I am especially fond.  Here is an excerpt from Book Three of the Jake Stone Thrillers, The End Game.

             (Blurb: In this third installment of The Jake Stone Thrillers, Jake may have finally met his match when he confronts Snowflake’s long lost sister, Sandy. Will his beloved Snowflake come to Jake’s rescue one more time, and will Detective Crisp nail Jake for his increasing litany of crimes? Check out this fast-paced and action-packed new series filled with plot twists, crazy schemes and wild brawls galore.)

             “Snowflake grabbed Jake by the throat and then rocked her entire body backwards, in the process jamming her bare feet against his naked chest and flipping him headlong behind her.  Groaning and wincing in pain, Jake landed in a small sand dune. As he rolled onto his belly, he watched a mature male blue crab with brilliant blue shading on his shell and claws scamper sideways for about a foot and then descend into a tiny hole next to a red bay shrub, its dark leathery leaves shimmering in the early evening ocean mist.”

             Here is the opening paragraph of Gracie and the Preacher.

            “Star and I got back just as Mom and her new boyfriend Pete were starting to roll around on the living room floor grappling and laughing. She’d met Pete at the gym where she went looking for all her boyfriends lately. Mom could bench press over 280 pounds on a good day. Of course, her arms were short and that helped her some.”

            This is the opening paragraph of a short novel, Stock Boy.

            “I’d just gashed my finger on a rolling wooden crate crammed with Jones of New York dresses and was feeling a little raw and ornery at the world. I hated those crates because they always gave me splinters whenever I unloaded them solo from the delivery truck to the loading dock. The containers weren’t so much heavy as awkward, and if the driver didn’t back the truck in just right there was always a little crack where the truck bed ended and the metal dock floor began. Then I’d have to get a running start to cajole the crate to roll smoothly out onto the dock.”

             And a little blurb about Stock Boy

            Clarence Smith, a lonely stock boy toiling away in an upscale department store, entertains visions of a grand life when he tries to hook up with a beautiful and aloof store executive. But when he begins to shoplift expensive merchandise to sell to a shadowy fence in order to raise enough money to impress her, his life, as well as hers, take an unexpected turn when he discovers that she has been shoplifting too, but for a wholly different reason.

            Here is the opening paragraph of a rather quirky novel, Say Nuthin’ Bad. (Two boys attempt to solve a series of assaults and murders gripping a small rural town.)

             “Charlie was long and skinny and always wore baggy pants that he sometimes bought but mostly stole from the Army Surplus store.  They had big pockets all over them where he kept his important stuff — knives and matches and playing cards and little sharp edged rocks good for throwing at some kid’s head who was giving him trouble — and these skinny cigars he smoked that looked like cigarettes except they were brown.  He had a long nose and short curly blond hair and his teeth were all crooked.  His mom claimed that his crooked teeth would make his jaw grow in funny and had tried to get him to wear braces the year before.  But Charlie had kept yanking them out at night and twisting the wires all around until she gave up.  He must have felt funny about being so tall because he always walked around with his shoulders tilted forward a little, like the wind was blowing strong against him and he had to lean into it to keep from getting knocked over.” 

             Finally, this is the opening paragraph of another short novel, The Falling Ascent of Adrian Loft(Adrian Loft sees a strange vision, ordering him to do something that may subject him to vicious public ridicule and perhaps ruin his career and even his life. Adrian tries desperately to write off the vision as some psychic quirk, but things keep happening to him, things he can’t ignore.)

            “Around two-thirty on a Tuesday afternoon in conference Room 6C after the other lawyers had all slithered back into their cubicles, and while Adrian Loft was munching down the last of the firm’s complimentary stale glazed donuts because he had worked thirteen hours straight without a decent meal, which was unusual for Adrian since he was a slacker of some note, the Word came to him: Hurry down to the corner of State and Main, between Jake’s Tavern and the whorehouse masquerading as a jazz club, and pick up the black leather bound book lying on the rusted manhole cover, open it to page 126 and read aloud in a strong voice the text beginning at chapter 1.  Continue reading until you come to the end of the passage on page 171.  If you finish the entire assignment, place the book back onto the manhole cover and your task is complete.  If for any reason you are unable to finish, take the book with you and complete the assignment later, either all at once or in installments.   Remember that you must read the text aloud in a strong voice in the presence of strangers.  When you have read the entire passage in this way, return the book to the manhole cover.  Your job is done.  Do not be alarmed.  You are, after all, a halfway decent lawyer.  You can do this.  It is really not all that hard.”

N&R: I have to add, at this time,an excerpt from The Boy Who Delivered the Wind. First a little blurb about the story…

            Little Sammy needs ten thousand dollars, and fast, if he is to save his home from foreclosure and his family from catastrophe. Russ befriends the lonely boy, and soon the two embark on a series of adventures that reveal the sorry underbelly of humanity and the glorious mysteries of nature.

            And now, my favourite scene…

 “He must have been glad to see me because he grabbed my shoulders and gave me a big hug and then stood back to look me over. He said I was the prettiest sight he’d ever seen and he’d never met anyone as honest before. I was about to tell him that I didn’t much like being called pretty, and that I wasn’t all that honest either, but he broke in before I had the chance.

“I laid awake all night worrying you weren’t gonna come.”

“I told you I was. Why wouldn’t I?”

“I figured you’d keep all that stuff for yourself. I never knowed nobody who was honest before. Not even my folks. I gotta watch everybody around here like a hawk. My brothers would steal the pants right off me if I let ’em.”

Just then a whole pack of little runts flew past and spilled over the porch and out into the yard. They whipped up such a wind going by, that the shirt I was wearing puffed out a bit along my shoulders.

“How many of ’em are there?”

Sammy shrugged and then lowered his chin down to where it was almost touching his skinny little chest.

“Hard to say. Mom pops ’em out one after the other and then gives ’em away so she can get some welfare money from the state. Then a few weeks later, we find ’em in a crate on the front porch. Somebody’s always coming and going, but I’d say most time, there’s about fifteen of us holed up here, not counting Mom and Dad, and any uncles or aunts or nieces or nephews who happen to be hanging around. That don’t count the dogs either. I think we got about a dozen dogs, although they’re always having puppies, so it’s hard to keep track.”

“How do you all fit into this little house?” I asked him, squinting into the haze.

Sammy shrugged again, but this time his face seemed to perk up a bit.

“I don’t really know. Now at least, you can see why I’d like to have that ten grand. As wild as things are, it’d be a whole bunch worse if we had to all live out in the woods.”

“I can see that,” I said, taking one more look around. “Now that you have your stuff, I think I’ll be going.”

“Don’t you want a share of the proceeds? You earned it.”

“You can do with the profits whatever you want. You need it more than I do.”

Sammy gave me another hug, but all that yelling and screaming, barking and whimpering and yelping was starting to freak me out; not to mention all the dust flying around which was making me sniff a little. I pushed Sammy away and was about to make for the highway as fast as I could, when I felt Sammy’s hand on my wrist holding me back. He had a pretty firm grip for such a little runt, strong enough anyway to delay my exit for the time being.

“That’s the problem,” he mumbled. Sammy usually talked real crisp and sharp, so I figured he must be embarrassed about something and it was turning him a little mushy. “I can’t really do what I want.”

“How come?”

“We don’t got a car, and even if we did, I don’t know how to drive and my old man would never take me anywhere. He don’t ever do nothing for nobody but himself, unless Mom beats the snot out of him. I wouldn’t want to go riding with him now anyhow, seeing as how much he’s been drinking lately.”

Sammy whirled around and slapped his hand through the air fast enough to blow some of the dust away, to where I could see a whiskered-up old guy in blue overalls, sitting on a stool by himself in the middle of the floor, holding a torn umbrella over his head, like it was raining.

Now if it had been storming outside, instead of being a nice sunny day, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a thick gush of water had found its way down past the roof and into the house, but that morning, it was dry as a bone—outside and in. Sammy pointed at the old guy’s feet, which looked more like gnarled up tree stumps, and he kind of chuckled a little. I guess when things get that sad, chuckling is about the best thing you can do to keep up your spirits.

“He’s sat like that for two days straight and hasn’t said a word since last Thursday. It always happens when he mixes beer and whiskey.”

I would have asked him where his mom was, but I didn’t see the point.

 N&R: Thanks Tom. What a great selection of writing. I hope my readers will have a look at your work. I think there’s something for everyone in your portfolio. Well, we’ve read your bio and discussed the lawyer, musician and pet parts of your life, but when I read the fight scenes in the Jake Stone series, I am amazed at the descriptions of the action. Do you have a background in boxing, wrestling or martial arts? What else do we not know about you that we might be seeing glimpses of in those pages?

Tom:  I did take a rather aggressive kick boxing class a few years back, but that’s about it.

N&R: What are you working on right now?

Tom: Absolutely nothing.  I have just started reading, however, Graham Greene’s classic, The Power and the Glory.

N&R: That is one of my favourites. Now, if you could help some budding authors, in regard to the writing or publishing world, what would you like to tell them?

Tom: Don’t be afraid to self-publish. It’s a lot more reputable these days with the advent of electronic books.

N&R:  Well, thank you so much for coming by and visiting with us today. We have thoroughly enjoyed learning more about your creative world and your life, and we hope you can come and visit again in the near future. I look forward to eventually reading all of your books; I know I will enjoy them. That’s a given. Thanks again.

Tom: Thanks for hosting me, and before I go I can’t resist putting in a plug for your new short story, A Hallowe’en Tale, which is available from MuseItUp Publishing at:http://tinyurl.com/9kv8494

N&R: Thanks Tom. I certainly appreciate your support.

Tom’s blog can be found at http://tlpeters.blogspot.com.  A full listing of his books and where they are sold is also located on that site.

The Boy Who Delivered the Wind is available from MuseItUp Publishing at http://tinyurl.com/8bohxqv  as an ebook and should be out next year in hardcover.

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.