Guest Post: Cassandra Webb on her YA fantasy novel ‘Life’

Today on the blog, Australian author Cassandra Webb shares her press release for debut YA fantasy novel Life due for release in July 2015 with Sparkle Publications.

A SPECIAL LAUNCH FOR FREEDOM

cassandra Webb

What would you do if you’re dream of publishing a fantasy novel came true? Donate your proceeds to special needs kids – or at least that’s what Cassandra Webb is doing during this years Byron Bay Writers Festival and at events in Ballina.

Special Needs Children will be the recipients of release sales from Cassandra Webb’s young adult fantasy novel Life. Cassandra Webb is a children’s and young adult author. Her first children’s book, Adorable Alice, released in 2014. Cassandra was inspired by the many hours of reading picture books to her three children. She spent six months working on the concept for Adorable Alice and waited twelve months for New Frontier to pick up the idea. It took another twelve months for the hardcover edition to hit the shelves.

“It’s been a roller coaster ride, but I’ve loved every minute of it,” Cassandra said. Recently Adorable Alice was released in soft cover for $14.99. Cassandra would like to invite you to purchase your copy from your local bookshop – they all stock it – or online at http://www.newfrontier.com.au/books/adorable-alice/900.html

And this author isn’t going to stop there. New Frontier has contracted her for another children’s book, as well Sparkle Publications taking on a third title. She also has a three book young adult paranormal deal with Driven Press and the first in her young adult fantasy series A Magical Saga is due to launch this year.

“The first title in my A Magical Saga series is called Life. It’s about a teenager in a medieval type fantasy world who finds herself in a lot of trouble. The kind of trouble that has her questioning her morals and pushing her limits to survive. There’s a bit of magic, her best friend is a horse, and there’s a cute guy who keeps saving her life.”

Life will release at the end of July 2015, in time for the Byron Bay Writers Festival and all money made by the author during the release will go towards the purchasing of art supplies at a Special School.

The book, Life, is set in a world where Magic is outlawed, but slave trading is a legitimate profession, which causes some problems for Kemla when she’s captured by slave traders and accused of possessing magic. This series is highly recommended for all the Tamora Pierce fans out there. With a strong female protagonist, who manages to get herself into a lot of trouble, and a cute male slave trader who keeps making sure she can’t escape.

“The book has strong themes of freedom,” says the author. “Story telling is a type of freedom, and so is making art. A way of setting your imagination free and I want to encourage every child to experience that freedom.”

To preorder your copy go to: www.sparklepublications.com.au or the ‘purchase’ tab at www.cassadnrawebb.com Just for the last week of July, 2015, readers can grab a free digital copy from smashwords, to get a taste for the story before snapping up the paperback. Just enter the code: QQ65C

We hope you love it, enough to then head over to www.sparklepublications.com.au and purchase a copy – if you haven’t already done so. All preordered copies will be signed by the author and delivered at the beginning of the launch, with the author’s proceeds going directly to special needs children.

The author is also looking forward to organizing a launch party in Ballina, which everyone is invited to.

“Chasing your dreams isn’t always easy, but I encourage everyone to keep at it. It’s worth the effort,” says Cassandra, who has her sights set on releasing many more books in the future.

life

 

 

 

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Blog Tour: The Writing Journey of JM Pearce

On the blog today, debut Australian author JM Pearce stops by on her blog tour to chat about her writing journey and how her background in policing has influenced her writing style.

Set in the Queensland bush, A Time to Run is a tense, gritty crime thriller featuring a cop-turned-victim and a chilling serial killer.

JM Pearce

JM Pearce

 

It’s been an interesting journey to become the author of a published crime novel. Especially since I set out trying to write picture books. It’s a bit of a jump from rhyming verse for five year olds to serial killers but I see now it was a no-brainer.

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I wrote my first novel when I was seventeen. I banged it out on a typewriter on whatever pieces of paper I could lay my hands on. So the paper was multi-coloured and the plot was patchy. I think I still have it somewhere in a drawer – what I don’t have is the fortitude to read it again. I’m fairly certain it is awful.

I studied journalism thinking this would be a way of combining my love of writing with the need to earn a wage. It did exactly the opposite. It sucked the life out of writing for me. For nearly fifteen years after that, I didn’t write. I didn’t feel inspired. My life was busy.

But then I became a mother. I read to my children from a very early age. I read books I’d loved as a child, plus books I had never heard of. Time and time again, with a book in hand and children in my lap, I would think “I could do better”. So I tried to channel Dr Seuss. Zany stories about children and animals, written in rhyme. The first competition I entered into, I came about 145th out of 150 entries. Pow! Take that!

But I was writing again, and I felt the compulsion to keep at it. I quickly realised two things. Publishing is an enormously competitive industry and having kids is not enough to qualify you to write children’s books. But then I saw that I did have something that set me apart from other writers. I was a police officer. A serving police officer, with many years experience. I had a point of difference, a voice of authority and the badge to prove it.

Everything in my story is fictional, but so much of it has been inspired by things I’ve seen, people I’ve worked with or jobs I’ve been too. The old adage of ‘write what you know’ has given me the edge.

My characters are usually an amalgamation of actual people. I can hear them talk as I’m writing their dialogue. The investigative procedures are based on real experiences. I know the legislation. I also know the difficulties and the constraints. Although I’ve never investigated a murder before, I have sworn warrants and raided houses, I’ve apprehended a wanted criminal, I’ve caught out liars in interviews. In know what it feels like.

I also believe taking police statements has affected my writing style. There is a certain artform in listening to someone’s rambling, jumbled version of events, and turning it into a crisp cohesive story which can be easily understood by whoever picks it up.

Police work isn’t like a TV show. Crime shows aren’t real. Even the reality-type shows cut out the boring bits, the nitty gritty left behind after the adrenaline-soaked action subsides. So that’s where I’ll hang my hat. I write an authentic account.

Yes, it’s fiction but it could really happen like this. I know it could. Trust me. I’m a copper.

lego

 

For more information about JM Pearce’s novel or blog tour, check out her blog @  http://jmpeace.com/2015/06/18/blog-tour-a-time-to-run/

Be sure to stop by other book blogs on the tour for lots of great reviews, blog posts and interviews.

Friday June 26 Sandi Wallace blog – Q&A

Wednesday, July 1 Cops and Novels (JM Peace author blog) – extract

Friday, July 3 Tien’s Blurb – Review

Saturday, July 4 Carpe Librum – Review

Monday, July 6 – Reading, Writing and Riesling – Review

Tuesday, July 7 – Tien’s Blurb – Guest Post

Wednesday, July 8 – Debbish.com – Review

Thursday, July 9 – Reading, Writing and Riesling – Q&A

Friday, July 10 – Reading, Writing and Riesling – Giveaway

Monday, July 13 Carpe Librum – Q&A

Tuesday, July 14 – Debbish.com – Q&A

Wednesday, July 15 –Two Little Humans and Me – Guest Post

Thursday, July 16 Book’d Out – Review and Guest Post

Friday, July 17 –Book Muster Down Under – Review

Monday, July 20 The Australian Bookshelf – Guest Post

Wednesday, July 22 – All the Books I Can Read – Review and Guest Post

Thursday, July 23 Confessions from Romaholics – Review

Friday July 24 A Happy, Healthy Life – Review and Q&A

 

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Guest Post: Fiona McArthur on midwifery and storytelling

Today on the blog, Australian author and midwife Fiona McArthur stops by to chat about how her midwifery background has influenced her storytelling. My review for The Homestead Girls was posted here yesterday.

Fiona McArthur

Hi Lauren, lovely to be here on The Australian Bookshelf to celebrate the release of The Homestead Girls. You asked me ‘how my midwifery practice has influenced my storylines.’

The short answer is it took me a long time to realise that my midwifery and telling the stories of inspiring women, births and midwives was my mission in life.

The longer story is that when I first began writing with a view to being published, I wrote what I thought the publisher wanted. So, the standard Mills and Boon short romance with a boss and a secretary that I’d read. Not surprisingly, it didn’t ring true (because I’ve never been a secretary) and it sounded stilted even to me. I’ve been a nurse (and then a midwife) since I was seventeen. Not surprisingly, I never finished that book.

I tried a couple more secretary books, but then moved a little closer to the hospital and tried a dietician and a doctor. Again, not my forte, and my characters remained ‘adequate’. Didn’t finish that one either. My newly learnt lesson – if the author is bored it’s a bad sign!

Then I wrote a student nurse manuscript – getting closer – but another three chapters and a rejection and no real growth in my writing.

Thankfully I was having yearly doses of enthusiasm at the Romance Writers of Australia conferences, or I would have given up years ago. After the one in 1998, I started a book with a midwife as heroine, threw in all the complimentary therapies that were just taking off in my hospital in the mid ‘90s that I dreamed about implementing, added a doctor who hated them for personal reasons, and started to live the story. I finally wasn’t bored.

I made finalist in the first chapter competition, then three chapters, but this time I listened to beautiful, wiser heads and finished the book. I sat on it for a month, then polished the story, and packaged it up, paid my $30 postage, and sent the book to London. That story was Delivering Love, first published in 2001, and has just been re-released (ouch). I would have loved to have gone through it and updated it but I’m not complaining. I wrote it with sincerity. It’s actually fascinating to see the changes in society through my eyes when I was fifteen years younger and I even had a review recently that said “the author obviously knows nothing about midwifery”. LOL

Which brings us to 35 medical romance books and, I hope, writing growth later, to writing Contemporary Rural Medical for Penguin. My first book for Penguin was Red Sand Sunrise and the feeling I had when I wrote that book was like parachuting. It billowed out catching my breath, and I loved the women, the drama of birth, the outback landscape and the scope of writing about more than two people. Though, as in real life, there will always be a love interest for someone, it’s just not my focus.

The Homestead Girls is another step on the journey of sharing my absolute awe, admiration and faith in women and the overall goodness of people. Of course, somewhere in the story, we have a birth. So yes, my midwifery has not only influenced my storylines, but the people I’ve met through my profession have made a huge impact in my life and I feel very fortunate.

Have a fabulous week, everyone.

Warmest regards Fi

The Homestead Girls

After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and in desperation has opened her station house to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .

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Aussie Book Review: The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur

The Homestead Girls  The Homestead Girls by Fiona McArthur

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Penguin Random House, June 2015

 Synopsis- After her teenage daughter Mia falls in with the wrong crowd, Dr Billie Green decides it’s time to leave the city and return home to far western NSW. When an opportunity to pursue her childhood dream of joining the Flying Doctor Service comes along, she jumps at the chance. Flight nurse Daphne Prince – who is thrilled to have another woman join the otherwise male crew – and their handsome new boss, Morgan Blake, instantly make her feel welcome.

Just out of town, drought-stricken grazier Soretta Byrnes has been struggling to make ends meet and in desperation has opened her station house to boarders. Tempted by its faded splendour and beautiful outback setting, Billie, Mia and Daphne decide to move in and the four of them are soon joined by eccentric eighty-year-old Lorna Lamerton.

The unlikely housemates are cautious at first, but soon they are offering each other frank advice and staunch support as they tackle medical emergencies, romantic adventures and the challenges of growing up and getting older. But when one of their lives is threatened, the strong friendship they have forged will face the ultimate test . . .

 Review- The Homestead Girls is the second novel by Australian author and midwife Fiona McArthur. It follows the lives of three women in the fictitious town of Mica Ridge.

Billie hopes for a new start with her teenage daughter Mia when they relocate to her childhood hometown and she takes up a position with the Royal Flying Doctor Service (FDS). They move onto the property owned by Daphne, a generous nurse on the FDS team.

Soon, the three women move onto large working farm run by Soretta, a strong young woman whose struggling to make ends meet when her grandfather is admitted to Hospital. It’s not long before word gets out about town that these single women are forming a close bond and supporting each other. Lornetta, an older woman, joins them for a little adventure as she fears she’s losing her mind. The women find a way to work through their fears and find hope in the future. Even young Mia does a complete turnaround with some guidance and her new hobby looking after the animals on the farm.

I didn’t really get into the novel until halfway through as there were a number of characters and viewpoints to familiarise myself with and it made it difficult to really connect with a single character until they were more developed. There’s a couple of romantic subplots in the story as well, though I didn’t really warm to Morgan who was Billie’s love interest. There was some chemistry, but I felt their interactions were a little stilted. Quite a contrast to the relaxed, romantic nature of the relationship that develops between Daphne and her co-pilot Rex. I think I’d have enjoyed this novel more if the characters were better fleshed out which could have been achieved with it being a longer novel (it’s only 286 pages), or sticking to the viewpoint of 1-2 characters. Overall it was an easy and quick read and the FDS influence on the story was particularly fascinating and the most engaging element of the story for me.

Please stop back by tomorrow to read the guest post by Fiona about the influence of her midwifery background on her storytelling.

Overall Rating

3.5/5

“I really liked this”

The Homestead Girls can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2015 challenge:

Book #14 reviewed

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Book Review: Girl at War by Sara Novic

Girl at War  Girl at War by Sara Novic

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Hachette, June 2015

 Synopsis- Zagreb, summer of 1991. Ten-year-old Ana Juric is a carefree tomboy who runs the streets of Croatia’s capital with her best friend, Luka, takes care of her baby sister, Rahela, and idolizes her father. But as civil war breaks out across Yugoslavia, soccer games and school lessons are supplanted by sniper fire and air raid drills. When tragedy suddenly strikes, Ana is lost to a world of guerilla warfare and child soldiers; a daring escape plan to America becomes her only chance for survival.

Ten years later Ana is a college student in New York. She’s been hiding her past from her boyfriend, her friends, and most especially herself. Haunted by the events that forever changed her family, she returns alone to Croatia, where she must rediscover the place that was once her home and search for the ghosts of those she’s lost. With generosity, intelligence, and sheer storytelling talent, Sara Nović’s first novel confronts the enduring impact of war, and the enduring bonds of country and friendship.

 Review- A wonderfully confronting fictional debut novel that takes the reader into a young woman’s experience of the recent Bosnian-Croatian war.

Ten-year-old Ana Juric happily plays with her best mate Luka, but as a civil war looms her sense of safety and security is turned upside down. Air raids, invasions and racial killings are just the beginning. Her carefree childhood is transformed into fear and conflict. Her parents are stressed, her baby sister Rahela is ill and Ana is trying to make sense of all this change. Her parents manage to get Rahela across the border so she can seek medical assistance in the United States, but upon their return Ana is faced with a tragedy, and the memories will last a lifetime.

Orphaned and disoriented, Ana stumbles into a rebel group as her only chance of survival. With some help, she escapes the conflict and flees to America to be fostered by the family who cared for her sister. Though she is reunited, educated, provided stability; the memories of the war that she has so keenly suppressed finds its way to the surface. It’s at college that Ana has a realisation about the role her past has played in shaping who she is- her strengths but also her weaknesses. Terrified of facing the emotional pain she left behind, she learns it may be the only way to move forward and heal her fragmented sense of identity.

Told in Ana’s viewpoint, the narrative alternates between Ana’s childhood experience of the war and the adult Ana (in her 20’s) who faces her past on a trip back to Croatia. Girl at War is a confronting novel drawing on the realities of war, the individual experience and the transfomative power of friendship, culture and sense of identity. I’d highly recommend this novel.

Overall Rating

5/5

“Highly Recommended!”

Girl at War can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

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Aussie Book Review: Leap by Myfanwy Jones

Leap Leap by Myfanwy Jones

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Allen & Unwin, May 2015

 Synopsis- A few weeks after finishing their final exams high school sweethearts have an argument at a party. Joe wants to go – Jen begs him to stay. They fight in the corridor, following their usual script, and then he walks out and leaves her. A few hours later she dies.

Three years on, after burning up his own dreams for the future, Joe is working in dead-end jobs and mentoring a wayward teenager not dissimilar from his younger self. Driven by the need to make good, he spends all his spare time doing parkour under an inner-city bridge, training his mind and body to conquer the hostile urban environment that took his love and blighted his future.

Somewhere else, a middle-aged woman, Elise, is treading water in her life as her marriage breaks up. We watch as she retreats to the only place that holds any meaning for her – the tiger enclosure at Melbourne Zoo, where, for reasons she barely understands, she starts painting the tigers and forms a close connection to them.

Joe is broken by grief, but the outside world won’t let him hide forever. A cool and bewitching girl turns up on the doorstep of his share house, somehow painfully familiar to him. Then there is the skateboarding chef at the bar where he works, the girl with the Cossack-blue eyes, who wants to be his friend. And someone going by the Facebook tag Emily Dickinson wants to reminisce about his dead girlfriend and won’t leave him alone.

Can Joe staunch the flooding return of desire – or is it time to let go of the past? And will he make the nine-foot leap from girder to pillar or does he want to fall too?

While at its heart is a searing absence, Leap is driven by an unstoppable and exhilarating life force, and the eternally hopeful promise of redemptive love. Funny, moving, quirky and original, Leap is an effortlessly enjoyable novel that quietly creeps up on you until its final jaw-dropping pages and a narrative twist that will take your breath away.

Review- This book turned up unexpectedly and I was very close to dismissing it due to other reading commitments. But when I saw that it was by an Australian author and it was a relatively short novel I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did!

 I was drawn into this story almost immediately. Written in first POV of Joe, a young man in his 20’s who is just drifting through life. He works two jobs, shares a house with a couple of mates and has the intriguing hobby of ‘jumping’ at all hours of the morning and night. He builds up his strength and endurance and pushes his body to the limits.

 When a young nurse answers an ad for a spare room at the share house, there’s an instant attraction between them.  Joe finds himself being challenged emotionally and psychologically as their relationship develops only in the darkness of the night. Meanwhile, he develops a deeper friendship with colleague Lena who he starts to share his story with. Joe is an interesting character with many strengths and flaws. He is grieving the loss of his ex-girlfriend, wracked with guilt and struggling to find a way to move forward- or whether he has any desire to do so. He’s been punishing himself for years.

 The parallel story with the POV of newly separated mother Elise who has a secret, she likes to study the tigers at the local zoo. Every week at the same day and time she sits and watches, draws them and fantasises about their inner world. This connection allows her to understand her own grief and loss and find a way to get her relationship back on track with her husband. The connection between Joe and Elise isn’t revealed until much later in the story.

What I found so mesmerising about this story, was the sharp writing style, often abrupt and to the point. There’s no fluff in this book, every word and sentence serves a purpose. I liked that and it made the story flow and intrigued me to turn the pages faster. Though Leap is passable as a YA novel (or new age?), the contrasting story with Elise prevents it from falling into this genre. Leap is a character-driven novel, uniquely structured and written and trusts that the reader is smart enough to figure out the messages that lie beneath the text. I’d definitely recommend this novel.

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

Leap can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2015 challenge:

Book #13 reviewed

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Aussie Book Review: Season of Shadow and Light by Jenn J. Mcleod

Season of Shadow and Light  (The Seasons Quartet)  Season of Shadow and Light by Jenn J. Mcleod

Paperback

Review copy provided by publisher

Simon & Schuster, May 2015

 Synopsis- Sometime this season…

The secret keeper must tell.

The betrayed must trust.

The hurt must heal.

When it seems everything Paige trusts is beginning to betray her, she leaves her husband at home and sets off on a road trip with six year old Matilda, and Nana Alice in tow.

But stranded amid rising floodwaters, on a detour to the tiny town of Coolabah Tree Gully, Paige discovers the greatest betrayal of all happened there twenty years earlier.

Someone knows that truth can wash away the darkest shadows, but…

Are some secrets best kept for the sake of others?

Review- Season of Shadow & Light is the third in a loosely linked series by Jenn J. Mcleod. On a whim, Paige takes off on a two week holiday with her Nana Alice and her six year old daughter Matilda to escape relationship problems with her unfaithful husband. She also hopes to find out more about her deceased mother by returning to her hometown in the country.  But there’s flooding and car issues so their road trip takes a detour to Coolabah Tree Gully, much to Alice’s dismay- she’s pretty keen to get on the road and keep a close eye on Paige. However, Paige and Matilda quickly make friends with the local townsfolk and Paige particularly enjoys the attention of local chef, Aiden.

The narrative alternates between Aiden, Paige and Alice and it’s through these differing viewpoints that their past, secrets and dreams are unveiled. I quite enjoyed how Mcleod lets the story unravel slowly, the past catching up with the present and placing an obstacle in the paths of the characters who wish to create a better future. At times I found Alice a little frustrating, I really wanted her to come clean with Paige much earlier on, but the suspense does carries the story toward the climax at the end. Aiden and Paige are likeable, realistic characters and Mcleod sensitively allows their attraction to blossom while allowing Paige the space to process the breakdown of her marriage. Matilda adds energy and life to the story, while Alice adds wisdom and complexities to the character development and the plot.

An enjoyable, character-driven read with just the right amount of suspense and small-town antics to make this a worthy addition to Mcleods Seasons series.

Overall Rating

4/5

“I loved this book!”

Season of Shadow and Light can be purchased from Fishpond and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2015 challenge:

Book #12 reviewed

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