Monthly Archives: March 2014

St Patrick’s Day interview with Irish author Eddie Stack

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Being St Patrick’s Day, we have a treat for you – an interview with wonderful Irish author, Eddie Stack. Eddie hails from Ennistymon, County Clare, where many of his stories are set, although he now divides his time between Ireland and California.

“If I wasn’t teaching at UC Berkeley, I’d be back in the west of Ireland,” he says. “That said, I do really like California, especially around San Francisco. It’s a good place to winter in.”

Borderlines is a collection of three stories by Eddie Stack. Hilarious and heart wrenching, beautifully written in cinematic prose, these stories show the true Ireland and the real Irish people: funny, zany, complicated, love-crazy and always entertaining! Eddie’s a master of the short story and these long reads are gems.

borderlinesCarnival Cop describes the fall-out after a lady constable gets obsessed with a raggle-taggle roadshow. Stack gives us unique characters and a touch of Fellini in a small Irish town.

 Bonzo is a local mystery man who everyone likes, but few know anything about. This excellent story is set during Ireland’s Celtic Tiger era and captures the greed and the recklessness with stark images. It’s a story about good and evil and has a terrific and unexpected ending.

 One for the Rover is the longest story and is set in the alternative and artistic community in the Clare hills. Eddie Stack makes this scene very real, with singer/songwriters, crystal-toting hippies, gurus, music managers and love stories. This shows off Stack’s talent for capturing delicate relationship scenes with realism and sensitivity

Are you working on any writing projects?

I’ve a few short stories marinating and I’m finishing a non-fiction book about the traditional arts of Doolin, where I spent much of my youth.

Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?

I find all writing hard. Fiction comes a bit easier to me maybe. And the process of fiction fascinates me — the twists and turns a story can take and what the subconscious can throw up. With non-fiction, I’ve to decoupling the mind in a different way and deal with facts.

 How did you become a writer?

There was no conscious decision to be a writer, I just rambled down this path. I grew I just rambled down this path. I grew up in a small pub, not far from here. A few old storytellers used drink in our pub and they used tell me tales in Irish. Séalta Grinn they were called, funny stories. I could tell stories long before I could write them! The first bit of writing I did was in Irish — I wrote a short poem when I was 10 or 11. Then I remember putting words to a tune and turning it into a song when I was in my early teens.  A friend of my parents, Caitlin McNamara was married to Dylan Thomas, so I heard a lot of talk about him when I was growing up. I was in awe of him.

My first job was in Dublin and the literary scene there was just post-Behan and Kavanagh. I knew John Jordan and Liam O’Flaherty and they encouraged me to write more. I flirted with poetry for a good while before trying my hand at short stories. It took me years to figure out how to craft a good story. And more years passed before I got one published. That was a story called ‘For the Record’, and it was published in a literary review that also included Seamus Heaney, John McGaharn, Kathleen Raine and others. After that, a few doors began to open for me. A while later, my first collection of stories, The West, was published and things began to happen for me.

What is your writing process?

Stories begin for me with a germ of an idea or a feeling. Generally I’ll make some notes with pen and paper and transfer them to computer later. Some stories come easy and I’ll have them down in a couple of drafts. Others are with me for years and go through a good many drafts and rewrites. I rarely give up on a story. They haunt me until they see the light of day. I try and write a few hours in the morning and rewrite and edit in the evening.

Which authors most inspire you?

Raymond Carver, Anne Beattie, Dylan Thomas, Seán O’ Faoilean, Frank O’Connor, Gabriel Marquez, James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Alice Munro, Flannery O’Connor, Peter Carey, Cormac McCarthy, TC Boyle, William Kennedy. And last but not least, my friend Willy Vlautin.

What prompted you to write Borderlines?

I had these three long stories written and they weren’t long enough to be novellas so I called them ‘borderlines’…then I figured that some of the characters were sort of ‘borderline’ and that the stories had a commonality. So I bunched them together as a book.

Where did you get Mariah?

Mariah is an archetype, a dharma butterfly. I’ve met her a few times in my life and in the oddest of places. Deep down she’s a sweet old soul, but a bit ditzy. She’s also a conjurer.

So are you Barry in the story?

No, unfortunately.

Hope that’s got you in the St Paddy’s Day spirit! If you’d like to know more about Eddie and his writing, you can find him in the following places:

Website     Blog     Amazon

Writing with your best friend

I guess most people think of authors as solitary creatures. That to write a book, you’d have to lock yourself away somewhere quiet and uninterrupted. Well not Genie Davis and Linda Marr. These two friends decided to write a novel together:

Genie & Linda promo pic

“Don’t tell me you were writing in that office all day long,” Linda’s husband remarked as we finished up work one Saturday and dumped our practically scraped-clean lunch dishes onto the counter that separates her family room and kitchen.

“I could hear you laughing in here,” he continued somewhat accusingly,  “You were laughing a lot.”

Well… hmm… yes, we suppose that’s true.

            We do laugh a lot.

And ironically, that helps us work a lot. You see, first and foremost we’re best friends. Then we’re also two writers who have already been successful in our own careers for a number of years. But along the way, both of us felt that something was missing in all those hours we spent getting to do something as cool writing for a living. Something like – dare we say it? – fun.

            It’s not like we don’t like writing by ourselves. Genie has already published a number of different books including several award winning romantic suspense novels and a mystery. Linda comes from the world of television where she’s worked on everything from comedy to reality to news. And we both know a thing or two about romance, or at least we like to think we do. Romance certainly factored into a lot of our conversations. So for two best friend writers who like to talk romance it was just a small – albeit relatively work intensive — step to actually writing about it.

A romantic suspense novel, to be exact.

The way we figured, with all the differences in the way men and women think, there’s bound to be a little suspense to any romance. We just wanted to push the envelope a little — to situations, and love interests, that might be way beyond what could happen to us in our every day lives. It was just a simple matter of finding the right story. That, and figuring out what we wanted to eat for lunch.

Seriously.

Two good girlfriends, food, and making up our own romantic rules where, in the end, everything comes out all right. Meaning, of course, the way we want it to. As women and writers, what could be better?

Many of our friends and a few total strangers have asked us why we wanted to write together, all lunches aside. After all, doesn’t writing conjure up images of sitting alone in a room, an intense internal struggle raging inside a writer’s head?

Well, we do struggle. We just do it loudly. Together. If Linda’s husband didn’t actually have to work, he’d hear us go at it quite a bit as we discuss story and characters. In fact, it can seem like we’re having a bad time when actually we love the exchange, talking about ideas, about what romance means to us, what sizzles, or what keeps us in suspense.

We also love that when one of us is a little off, the other one can step in. Basically, what we’re doing is telling each other stories. About our own past, about our hopes and dreams, about other people’s lives whose emotions reflect our own experiences. And we also get to dish on the juicy stuff, like favorite romantic getaways, how we like the men in our lives to treat us, what turns us on. Okay, that means we are essentially gossiping, but its all in the service of telling a good story.                                               

            And isn’t telling a good story and sharing feelings what friendship’s all about? Whether we were writing together or not, we’d be sharing together.

            As Anais Nin famously said “Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” When we’re writing together, we do just that.

The way we see it, friends take the ride that is life together– including the hard work and the discouragements; they don’t just wait for the accolades to come streaming in. No matter what, friendship rekindles the enthusiasm and joy. That’s what writing together means to us. And that’s what we hope shines through to our readers.

            All in all, the combination of writing with a good friend and just being with a friend is pretty much unbeatable. Then of course, there’s lunch.

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And here’s the fruits of their lunches, erm labours . . .

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BetweenTheSheets500-1.

Between The Sheets

Romance writer Jenna Brooks lives an ordinary life in a quiet Oregon town, putting her sensual heart into her fiction rather than her everyday life. But suddenly, Jenna finds herself drawn into her own stories, literally. When the seductive, mysterious Riley Stone rescues her from an attempted hit and run, she’s plunged into a reckless, wild relationship unlike anything she’s ever experienced — except on paper.

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Genie Davis is a multi-published novelist and produced screen and television writer. Recent releases: mystery thriller: Marathon,  romantic suspense: Executive Impulse, The Model Man, and Five O’Clock Shadow, literary fiction: Dreamtown. Her erotic romance Rodeo Man won an RWA Passionate Plume award.

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Linda Marr is a producer/writer on America Now. She’s also co-writer of the comedy book Dear Neighbor. Her many television projects include the NBC comedy The Mommies, HGTV’s House Hunters and Design on a Dime, a Nickelodeon skateboarding special, and some of the most successful infomercials on the air.

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Best and worst things about being a writer

We love this funny and insightful guest post from Scott Cramer about the highs and lows of being a writer:

writerBest and worst things about being a writer:

Best – Not having a boss.

Worst – Not having a boss! Once in a while it’s good to be told what to do.

Best – Being selected by a sixth-grade reader to be their “author” in their school author fair.  Thank you, Katie.

Best – Naming a tropical storm, ‘Katie’, in my next book, and naming a hurricane (which plays a very big role), ‘David’.  David’s Mom is a YA book blogger from Chicago and David pitches in to write reviews every now and then.

Best – Having a reader write to say they are well beyond the young adult years (72 years old) and they loved the book.

Worst – Trying to come up with tweets and facebook posts when I have nothing to say.

Worst – The psychic torment/the pain in the soul/the gut wrenching sense of imbalance that I find myself experiencing during a first draft, which can last for months and months.

Best – Surviving the above.

Worst – You tell someone you have written a book. They immediately respond that they like to read and then tell you about the book they are reading.

Best – Getting to know people from Bulgaria (my cover designer), Portugal, Sweden, UK, and the US (beta readers) and bloggers from everywhere.

Worst – Reading the work of so many talented authors and thinking, wow, incredible, what command they have of the craft… and then realizing there is no way I can do that; it is simply a talent gap that exists.

Best – Realizing that I have something to offer that nobody else does… I can be me, with a unique point of view, and if I really stay true to who I am and how I think and speak and view the world,  then talent doesn’t matter as much.

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Book 1 in Scott’s fantastic YA sci fi Toucan Trilogy is currently FREE, so I’d definitely bag yourself a copy. It’s a great read!

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Espionage, Thrillers and Women – Guest Post from Libby Fischer Hellman

Libby-HellmannWith ten novels and twenty short stories published, Libby Fischer Hellmann writes compulsively readable thrillers, suspense mysteries, historicals, PI novels, amateur sleuth, police procedurals, and even a cozy mystery. At the core of all her stories, however, is a crime or the possibility of one.

Today, Libby is sharing some of her thoughts and recommendations on spy thrillers both in literature and on the screen. As well as a look at where women fit into the genre. Enjoy!

I started reading spy thrillers around the time of Watergate (Hmm… think there’s a connection?). The first two I read were The Wind Chill Factor by Thomas Gifford and The Eye of the Needle by Ken Follett, and I was blown away by them both.

spy 1The Wind Chill Factor – Thomas Gifford

I love this political thriller with a difference, centered around a group of Nazi survivors who viewed their WW2 defeat as a temporary setback rather than the end. They have plans. They have people waiting to spring into action in powerful corporations and capital cities across the world. And the world will soon be theirs… unless someone can stop them. Enter John Cooper, who holds a secret too explosive to be kept as he races against time to redress the balance of good against evil. Classic political suspense from an excellent storyteller.

Eye of the Needle – Ken Follett

Eye of the Needle is a spy thriller without equal. It’s set during WW2 again, this time the story of an enemy spy who knows about the Allies’ greatest secret, a ruthless aristocratic assassin called The Needle, who holds the key to Nazi success. One Englishwoman stands in his way, and she’s in danger of falling for the killer who has entered her life. Suspense, intrigue, love and danger… what else could a nice girl who does noir girl want?

All the L’s

Inspired by these two novels, I worked my way through most of the good old household name standards like John Le Carre, Robert Ludlum and Len Deighton… whom I call the “L’s”. Unsurprisingly, all the authors I read were men except for the marvelous Helen MacInnes (who is definitely not an “L”).

After a steady diet of these authors, though, they all started to sound the same: the world was about to blow up, the hero saved the world from blowing up, then he walked into the sunset with his girlfriend. Looking back now, after publishing ten books of my own, the writing—except for Le Carre—wasn’t especially gripping, either.

So I stopped reading them, and broadened my reading to include mysteries.

But that was then.

Episode 312Things have changed. Like the TV show “Homeland,” thriller authors have learned to appeal to women in their stories. It’s about time—we make up 80% of the reading market.  As a result, the espionage authors I enjoy most today feature strong women as protagonists and/or major characters. These protagonists do everything (and more) that men do, and there is often a complicated romantic thread that makes the stories even more compelling. Here are just a few of the authors I’m loving now.

Daniel Silva

I’ve mentioned him before, but Daniel Silva is so good it’s worth repeating. If you’ve read all his excellent Gabriel Allon books, we’re on the same page. But have you checked out his earlier novels featuring Michael Osbourne and his lawyer wife Elizabeth? They’re a bit wordier, but still excellent stories. And since the introduction of Chiarra and Dina, his women characters play more prominent roles. Frankly, he still has a way to go on that score. But his plots are grounded in reality, his prose is elegant and easy, and Gabriel Allon is a hero we can admire. His novels tend to come out in July (can you tell I’m ready now?). Here’s a link to Silva’s books on Amazon.

Christopher Reich

Christopher Reich is new to me, but he’s a seriously good New York Times best-selling writer who creates top notch stories. I’ve only read two of his so far, The Prince of Risk and Rules of Betrayal—yes, I know I read out of order—so I’m excited to dive into the rest.  His pacing is excellent, his prose as well, and I enjoy the twists and switchbacks in his plotting.  Most of all, though, I am fascinated by his female characters. His “Rules” series is practically a role-reversal, as you can see in Amazon’s synopsis of Rules of Deception:

“Doctor Jonathan Ransom thought he knew everything about his wife Emma until she was killed in a tragic skiing accident in the Swiss Alps. They had been married for eight years, eight blissful years in which they had travelled the world together. But the day after her death a mysterious letter addressed to her arrives at their hotel. When he opens it, his beliefs begin to unravel — fast. .

In the envelope is a railway baggage check to a suitcase that reveals an Emma far removed from the down-to-earth nurse who has been his constant and loyal companion all those years. In it he discovers the clues to a double life. Was she having an affair? When is your wife not your wife? And when she is not your wife, who is she?

In The Prince of Risk, his latest novel, a female FBI agent takes center stage. Talk about difficult to put down! Here’s a link to Christopher Reich books on Amazon.

Jason Matthews

Jason Matthews wrote the superb novel Red Sparrow, his first so far, and it has just been nominated for an Edgar. Like Reich, Matthews gives us both a male and female protagonist who, of course, become lovers. But just to throw in a major obstacle, the man is a CIA agent, but the woman is a Russian spy, who may or may not be a double agent by the end of the story. Can you say “suspense?”

Here’s what Goodreads says about it:

The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service.”

But where are the female thriller writers?

Even though women are featured more prominently, there’s still a problem. As you have undoubtedly noticed, all the authors I’ve mentioned are male. So where are the female thriller writers? And are they writing strong female characters?

There’s Gale Lynds, who fell cracked the genre’s mostly-male bias when the female president of a New York publishing house agreed to buy her debut spy thriller, Masquerade, then changed her mind because “No woman could have written this novel”. This was despite the fact that Lynds used to work at a Government think-tank and had Top Secret security clearance. She eventually found another publisher for Masquerade, which became an instant bestseller. Here’s a list of her books:

  • The Book of Spies (2010)
  • The Last Spymaster (2006)
  • The Coil (2004)
  • Mesmerized (2001)
  • Mosaic (1998)
  • Masquerade (1996)

There’s Stella Rimington, the first ever Director General of MI5 who worked there between 1992 and ’96 and based her books on her experiences. And how about Leslie Silbert, a Harvard graduate whose debut novel The Intelligencer connects Christopher Marlowe’s 1500s spying with an international conspiracy set today? She works as a private investigator in New York, guided by a former CIA officer mentor. Like Lynds, she walks the walk as well as talking the talk.

Sure, there are female thriller authors like Jamie Freveletti, Zoe Sharp, and yours truly, but it says something that I’m having trouble finding female authors who write spy novels. And it’s even more interesting that the three women I did mention have all worked in the field, living the life before writing about it.

 Your turn

What about your favorite espionage or spy novels?  Especially those who feature women in key roles? I know I’ve missed some.

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Libby’s own award-winning Georgia Davis PI series is showcased on eBookSoda today, where, for a limited time, you can get the boxed set of 3 for just $1.99.

 

 

Here’s where you can find Libby online:

Website    Goodreads    Facebook