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Northern Comfort

Listening to Frank

Frank is the name I give to the mechanical voice in the Read Aloud function of Word who recites whatever document is open. Currently, Frank is reading aloud my novel, Northern Comfort, which I plan to self-publish soon. His voice has zero emotion and some of his pronunciations are a bit weird — although I love how he says “pop” — but he’s been the most helpful fellow while I proof this novel.

I wrote Northern Comfort when I lived in the Western Mass. hilltown of Worthington way over 15 years ago, and despite the efforts of an agent and my persistence, I couldn’t find a publisher willing to take it on. Too bad. It’s a really good story. (Alas, it doesn’t fit for my publisher’s genres of choice.)

So, I’m going to do it myself. I have gone over this novel countless times. I even used a program that catches grammatical errors. But I’ve found the most effective way is to hear it being read by somebody else, and that’s where Frank helps out. I read the words on my computer screen as he says them.

Here you can hear Frank read the opening chapter, Worst of Winter:

It is a time-consuming process, but now that I am nearing the end, I will admit Frank has done a great job showing me typos and missing words. There have been instances when a word or phrase didn’t work when he said it, and I made the change.

Next, I will send the book onto my son-in-law, Chris, who will bring fresh eyes to the story. Then I will turn it over to Michelle to handle its design.

So what is Northern Comfort about? Here’s the synopsis:

Willi Miller and her young son are a charity case in a New England town that holds dear to the traditions of making maple syrup, playing old-time music, and keeping family secrets. Willi does her best by Cody, who was brain-damaged at birth, supporting him by cutting hair and doing dye jobs. Their home is a cabin left by the grandfather who took them in after Junior Miller abandoned them. Then, on a snowy day, Cody’s sled sends him into the path of a truck driven by Miles Potter. Willi and Miles have known each other since they were kids, but until the moment her son dies, they are separated by their families’ place in town.

Northern Comfort is my novel about the harsh realities of rural life: A single mother raising her disabled child alone because his father doesn’t accept any responsibility; a girl abused by her stepfather, who threatens to leave the family poor if she tells; and a man of means feeling helpless after he is suddenly thrust into a tragedy.

Cody’s death has a powerful effect on the three people involved. For Miles, he discovers he and Willi have more in common than the accident that brought them together. For Junior, he faces his failings as a father and tries to make amends that matter to his child’s mother.

And Willi, a slight woman with a powerful resolve, is able to confront her dark secret and find peace after her son’s death. For the first time in her life, she feels optimism.

Northern Comfort will be the next novel I publish. I will certainly let you know when that happens. But first, I have to get back to following along with Frank.

MY BOOKS: Looking for something to read in the meantime? Here’s the link to my books on Amazon: Joan Livingston books

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The Twin Jinn

Let’s pretend

I had a childhood steeped in imaginative play. This was out of necessity as I lived a rather sheltered life. My parents, the children of immigrants, didn’t get the concept that we could play at a friend’s house. That’s what family is for. And so that’s what happened.

My chief playmate was my sister, Christine, who is three years younger. One of us would think up a fantasy to play with the invitation: “Let’s pretend …” I don’t remember all of the scenarios we or our TwinJinn_book_3b copydolls acted, but it doesn’t matter. What I do remember is that during those hours we spent together, we were delightfully in another world.

Another outlet was reading. Our mother would take us to the town library once or twice a week to stock up on books. In the summer, the bookmobile came to the church parking lot at the bottom of the street. I spent hours and hours — in the summer staying up late — lost in those words.

And when I became my mother, I enjoyed watching my children do the same.

Now the words “let’s pretend” is the motivation behind my writing fiction. I sit in front of my laptop and let my imagination take over. For my Isabel Long Mystery Series, it’s let’s pretend a former newspaper editor decides to solve cold cases in the hilltowns. Isabel’s elderly mother is her “Watson.” Her first case involves the disappearance of a woman 28 years earlier in her town.

The same is true for the fiction I’ve written for adult and young readers.

My most recent release is the first in The Twin Jinn Series. For this book, I circled back to those times in the backyard when my sister and I played, or upstairs in my bedroom reading a book I couldn’t put down.

First, I’ve always been fascinated by genies. Yes, there’s that Aladdin story. But my genies or jinn, as I prefer to call them, don’t live in lamps. In the first book — The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries — they live and have a magic act in a traveling carnival. Of course, their magic is just one of their many powers such as being invisible, flying, casting spells, oh, the list goes on. The twins are Jute and Fina, brother and sister who are 11 by human age. They are sweet but mischievous and like so many siblings, competitive. Their parents, Jeffer and Mira, are protective, but that’s because they tricked their evil master into letting them go. Yes, he’s trying to find them.

Pretending with The Jinn family is so much fun that I completed two more books, and a third is halfway done. I plan to continue publishing them, because I want to inspire young readers and anyone else who loves magical realism.

So how can you get a copy? The paperback is available. Note the great illustration by Ezra Livingston, one of my sons. If you like Kindle, that will launch March 6. Here’s the link to Amazon: https://mybook.to/TwinJinnAtHappyJacks

And thank you for joining me.

 

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Magical Realism, The Twin Jinn

Ta-da! Magic by The Twin Jinn and Friends

The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries — the first book in my new series — is now available for pre-order on Amazon, well the Kindle version for now. Click on pre-order and it will TwinJinn_book_3b copymagically appear in your device on March 6. The link is below.

This series has a lot of what entertained me as a book-reading child: genies, magic, and family. Now I offer it to middle grade readers, those who read to children, and perhaps adults who want a little light-hearted magical realism in their lives, especially now.

Here’s a brief synopsis from the back of the book:

Jute and Fina Jinn, twin brother and sister, and their parents, Elwin and Mira, are enchanted beings who seek refuge at a traveling carnival after escaping their cruel master. 

While in hiding, the twins must pretend to be 11-year-old humans, but mischievous and curious, they sometimes get carried away. Who could blame them? The twins have the power to fly, be invisible, and use spells. Thankfully, they have an outlet as carnival kids assisting their parents in a magic act and making friends with their fellow performers, including a shy boy.

Still, amid the fun, there is danger for the Jinn family because their former master, a man with evil intentions, is desperate to get them back, and having a magic act that turns out to be a huge hit could be their undoing.

You will learn more about this book as I lead up to the launch. But I wanted you to know, I relied on the creativity of two people to see this book materialize: Michelle Gutierrez and Ezra Livingston.

I worked with Michelle at The Taos News, where she was our editorial designer. She also did the layout for my novels, The Sweet Spot and Peace, Love, and You Know What. Here’s her website: www.mmgcreate.com. I love that Michelle is able to transform words and illustrations into a book.

Ezra Livingston is my son and an artist since he was a young child. He created the illustration for the cover, which I believe captures the playfulness of the book’s main characters. He created the illustration above.

So how can you pre-order my book? Here’s the link: The Twin Jinn at Happy Jack’s Carnival of Mysteries

I will let you know as soon as the print version is uploaded. I can hardly wait.

 

 

 

 

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Deep Level cover
Character Traits, Horror, On Writing

Character Traits: Meet Rosalind Brown of Deep Level

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Author Richard E. Rock

It’s time to feature a new character in this blog series. Richard E. Rock, an author from South Wales, writes about Rosalind Brown, who he created for his horror novel, Deep Level, published by Darkstroke Books. By the way, I love Richard’s comment below: “I like to think that Deep Level is a horror novel for people who don’t necessarily read horror.” Okay, Richard, I’m sold. Here. I’ll let him take over.

Before I begin, let me first thank you, Joan, for giving me this opportunity to tell your readers all about Rosalind Brown, my favourite character in my horror novel Deep Level.

Deep Level began life as a nightmare, a ferocious, vivid and terrifying nightmare. When I awoke from it my first thought was, “Wow! That was incredible! I gotta write that down!”

I first of all wrote my nightmare up as a short story, and in this incarnation there was only one protagonist, a frustrated bookseller called Rich who dreams of being an urban explorer. When I expanded my tale into novel length, I introduced three supporting characters, but one of them did not stay supporting for long.

Rosalind Brown refused to accept that she had a “place” and very quickly elbowed her way to prominence in my book, establishing herself as its heart and soul. She’s the character towards whom all others gravitate. When there is a decision to be made, they look to her. When advice is needed, she’s the one they call on.

She’s an unlikely hero for a horror novel, I’ll admit; a fifty-something archivist, happily married with two children away in university. But then, I do like to mix things up a bit. She began life not as a person, but as a taste in music. I loved ska back in the eighties — bands like Madness, the Specials, the Beat and the Selector — so I used that as my starting point when I set about establishing her character. Also, an ex-girlfriend of mine happened to have a made-ya-look resemblance to Pauline Black of the Selector, so I borrowed that attribute and even used that particular line in the novel.

I decided to make Rosalind an immigrant, because why not? She came to London from Sierra Leone as a young girl, only to find herself lost and bewildered by its vastness and its tides of people. When she discovered ska music she also discovered her tribe. The rude boys and rude girls on the 2-tone scene became her new family. Rosalind was on her way.

Fast forward 38 years or so and she’s married to a rocker named Phil and has two bright, intelligent sons, Callum and Nathan, and I’m happy for her. She deserves a happy life. She’s earned it. What a shame she accepted Rich’s offer to go and explore a secret underground Victorian train network. That was a big mistake.

When I write a sympathetic character, I always ask myself one question: “Would I hang out with this person?” If the answer is yes, they can stay. Rosalind stayed. I would definitely hang out with her. There is a little bit of my ex-girlfriend in her DNA, yes. There’s a little bit of my mother in there too. Amongst many other things, she’s an archivist. Rosalind also has other attributes and characteristics borrowed from various friends and colleagues. Over time, as I worked my way through multiple drafts, she grew to be a person in her own right, evolving independently. Eventually, she was telling me about herself and not the other way around. I love it when this happens.

When I began work on Deep Level, I knew that the horror element in the second half would only work if the reader fell in love with the characters in the first. Then, when Rosalind, Rich, Syeeda and Ffion descend into the dark tunnels beneath the streets of London and find themselves hunted by god-knows-what, we as readers experience the terror through them. Every shock and every loss of theirs will be ours too. We’ll hope and pray that the next turn of the page will see their escape and salvation. And that right there is my job as a writer, to create the impression that these characters have lives beyond the pages of my book. That, as people, they are too precious and valuable to die, because there are children who would miss them and partners who would mourn.

I like to think that Deep Level is a horror novel for people who don’t necessarily read horror. First and foremost, it’s a book about four friends — people just like you and I. The only difference is, they happen to find themselves in a situation the rest of us would rather avoid. So why not go and hang out with Rosalind and her little gang for a while? Meet up with them at Jason’s Cafe before they all go off on their adventure. Rosalind’s paying. I guarantee she’ll be good company.

AN EXTRACT FROM DEEP LEVEL

Rosalind ran a hand through her short, greying hair. She had always worn it short. It was part of the rude girl look.

Back in 2007, a lifetime ago, it seemed, she had taken her not unwilling sons to see an exhibition of youth fashion, photography and memorabilia at the V&A. Hand in hand in hand, they had followed the trail through the late seventies and into the early eighties. Quietly and politely, her boys had listened as their mum reeled off stories and memories and reminiscences brought back to life by the exhibits.

She brought them to a stop in front of a monochrome photograph displayed on an oversized canvas. On it were three teenage girls, all DM boots and cut-off t-shirts and attitude, frozen together forever in one immaculate moment.

“What do you think of this one?” she asked.

“I like the girl who’s smiling,” answered Nathan.

Rosalind considered the girl in the photograph, the only one not trying just a little bit too hard to project an image of threat. The only one who looked relaxed and happy in her own skin. Neither Nathan nor Callum realised that they were actually looking at their own mother as a teenager.

Rosalind had bought a copy of the exhibition book, a small token of immortality, which was now sitting high on a shelf in her Acton home. The home she would soon be vacating.

“You know, it’s not going to feel like home until this baby is hung up on the wall,” said Phil.

Rosalind looked over. He was holding in his hands his most prized possession, a framed LP. It was Black Sabbath’s debut album, a first pressing, of course, released in 1970. Beneath the glass, the gatefold cover was open, revealing the inverted cross which contained the track listing and a poem. Also, and this is what, in the eyes of its owner, made it almost as precious as his own children, if not more so: it had been autographed by Ozzy, Tony, Geezer and Bill. The original members. The Sab Four.

“It’ll feel like a home,” said Rosalind, “when I’ve got my feet up on the sofa with a glass of wine in my hand.” At that particular moment, she had her feet up on the sofa with a glass of wine in her hand.

SO WHO IS RICHARD E. ROCK?

Richard E. Rock is a professional writer based in Swansea, south Wales, where he lives with his girlfriend and their cat. By day he works as a commercial scriptwriter in the radio biz and contributes ideas to a legendary British comic for grown-ups. But by night … he writes horror.

He was inspired to do this after experiencing a series of particularly ferocious nightmares. After awaking and realising he could turn these into absolutely horrible stories, he started deliberately inducing them. Deep Level is his debut novel.

His favourite authors include Stephen King, Zadie Smith, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Franz Kafka and Shirley Jackson.

If you’re looking for him, you’ll probably find him wedged up against the barrier at a heavy metal gig, for that is his natural habitat.

LINKS

Find Deep Level on Amazon: https://t.co/u6SoL1tbB4?amp=1

Richard’s website: https://richarderock.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Fractured Globe final paperback covers
Character Traits

Meet Janet McElroy of The Fractured Globe

Janet McElroy is a character of Angela Fish’s mystery, The Fractured Globe. Angela is a fellow author at Darkstroke Books, and her The Fractured Globe is high on my t0-read list, especially after reading this post. Here. I will let Angela take over.

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Author Angela Fish

I’d like to introduce you to Janet McElroy. She is a part-time nurse, manages a charity (thrift) shop and also helps out a few nights a week at a “soup kitchen” for the homeless. She is not one of the two main protagonists but without her, the story would not hold together. She is the aunt of Kay Jones, one of two single mums, who meet when their sons are born on the same day, and whose lives intertwine over twenty-five years. She also befriends Tia, the other mum and it is the involvement with both girls that leads to a number of the misunderstandings, missed opportunities, and conflict throughout the story. It is also because of Janet that the mystery of an abandoned child is solved.

Janet had a shaky start. The novel evolved from a writing prompt at my writers’ circle and became, at first, a simple short story told from one of the sons’ point-of view. It was well-received by the group and it was suggested that I try writing something from the child’s mother’s point-of view. Not the same story, but something which complemented and added to it. That was fine, so I decided to continue and compile a series of about six such stories. Janet was next. However, at that time she had a slightly different role as a social worker, and I found that after a few paragraphs, I had nothing more to say so I abandoned her in favour of someone else. Unfortunately, I lost the plot (literally!) and put it to one side as the children’s books I had also been working on had been accepted for publication.

Some years later I attended a seminar on how to pitch to agents/ publishers and I had the idea to pull apart the short stories and reconnect them as a full novel. It took some time and the characters underwent many changes, especially Janet, who became both catalyst and lynch-pin. There was no real-life inspiration for her — she just grew into the role. As for her name, it just seemed to “fit” her character. She’s a strong woman who knows her own mind, and is quite different from her sister, Ruth, who is Kay’s mother. Janet chose to remain single to develop her career and, while she loves her life, she sometimes wishes she had a family of her own. The work that she does, her support of her sister, Kay, and Tia, highlight her practical and empathetic nature. I think if I met Janet, I’d like her very much!

EXCERPT FROM THE FRACTURED GLOBE

“You remember that girl I told you about, the one we’d seen hanging around the square? Well, she only turned up in a right state outside the shop and collapsed on the pavement. Looked like she’d been knocked about and I think she was miscarrying. The ambulance came right away and they carted her off to A & E. I did think about going with her, but I couldn’t leave Marge to manage the shop. You know what a drama queen she is!”

Ruth finished her tea and put the cup down quietly. “So, what happened?”

Janet grimaced. “I don’t know. I was going to go and see her later, before my shift started, but they’d taken her to St. Jude’s, not Rowan Tree District. When I thought about it, I convinced myself that it wasn’t a good idea to get involved. I might still go, though. What do you think?”

Ruth screwed up her mouth. “That’s up to you, love, but if it was me, I’d probably stay away. More tea?”

The sisters drank a second cup almost in silence, each thinking of Kay and the impact of her disappearance on their lives. Ruth leaned forward and tapped Janet’s hand.

“Before you go, there’s something I want you to see. It’s in the front room.”

They crossed the hallway and Ruth paused for a moment before opening the door and standing back for her sister to enter. Janet blinked as the room was in darkness except for a faint glow in the far corner. She moved towards it, then drew in her breath sharply.

“You still have it.”

She reached out her hand to caress a large snow globe and stood transfixed as a pale blue light flickered over the figure of Jack Frost that sat on a dead tree trunk. Everything inside the globe was made from crystals and as the snow swirled, the whole scene glistened and shimmered. Ruth flicked a switch at the base and Janet shivered as the haunting strains of A Winter Lullaby filled the room. She felt the hairs on her neck stiffen and realised that she was crying. Her! She wasn’t ever the soppy one.

As she gazed into the globe, she remembered how Kay had been afraid of it when she was small and that it had eventually been banished to the spare room cupboard. They’d all laughed at her at first; at her insistence that Jack Frost knew what she was thinking and that he was going to take her away. Now, in the eerie stillness of the room, Janet  thought she understood the little girl’s fears. There was something ethereal about the globe, something unexplainable, yet she felt a more positive energy from it. It took a lot of effort for her to stop looking at it but eventually she turned to Ruth who was crying quietly.

“I couldn’t bear to part with it. I never understood why Kay was so scared of it. When I plugged it in this morning, all I could see was her face in the snow. It just gives me some connection, some hope, you know?”

Janet nodded.

It was when Janet was driving home that she realised her niece’s baby was due any day, and that Ruth hadn’t mentioned it. She kicked herself again.

ANGELA FISH’S BIO

Angela has lived all of her life in Wales and has worked in Medical Research, Electrical Engineering, and Education. She has been an avid reader all her life and began writing at age seven, although did not contemplate publishing until many years later! The Fractured Globeis her first novel. She has previously had four children’s books published, as well as poetry, critical, and academic work.

She has a love of mythology, and myths and legends from around the world, and also finds the psychology of human behaviour fascinating, especially the nature/nurture debate, which is the focus of The Fractured Globe.

Angela loves books and cats, probably in equal measure. She also shamelessly eavesdrops, particularly on public transport, or in queues – for research purposes only, of course.

ANGELA FISH ON SOCIAL MEDIA

web: www.angela-fish.com

www.facebook.com/AngelaFishAuthor

Twitter: @angelaEfish

Insta: AngelaFishAuthor

Amazon Author page: https://tinyurl.com/y6zeyrk2

BOOKS

The Fractured Globe   https://tinyurl.com/y3y3hb7q    

Children’s  — all on Amazon Author page: https://tinyurl.com/y6zeyrk2

Ben and the Spider Gate

Ben and the Spider Prince

Ben and the Spider Lake

The Captain’s Favourite Treasure

 

 

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