ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Monday, 30 November 2015

The Seven Deadly Sins of Writing ... over at Yolanda Renee's blog.

Hello all!

Well, I'm a bit under the weather in more ways than one. I've just been visiting in Northern Queensland and boyohboy is it hot already, then there were huge thunderstorms in Brisbane last night, so my flight home from Townsville was delayed. Got home at 4am!! So, lack of sleep and a good dose of heat exhaustion, and here I am...to tell you I'm over at my mate Yolanda Renee's today, talking about the Seven Deadly Sins of Writing Paranormal Romance.

Please click the link to Yolanda's blog and check out what I've dredged up over the past year or so as I wrote my paranormal, Under the Tuscan Moon.

Once I get a few chores done, I'll be over. Then at 6 in the morning I fly to Melbourne for a few days R&R...and cooler climes I hope (usually is!).

See you for the IWSG!

Then tomorrow, the InLinkz list goes up at Write...Edit...Publish (WEP) for the science-fiction challenge...Holiday Celebrations that are out of this world (literally). Soon I will add the link to my sidebar.

Currently, we have the awesome Alex J Cavanaugh guest posting at WEP, giving us a few pointers for writing science fiction. Please hop on over there if you'd like a little sciency help. You might join us for our December challenge. Postings begin on Dec 16th and continue to the 19th.

Thanks for coming by...



Monday, 23 November 2015

A real-life #horror story. The Case of the Missing Heir. Where there isn't a will, there's no way.

Well, okay, there were a lot of Halloween/Supernatural/Horror writing challenges doing the rounds during October, and I've enjoyed reading the little shops of horror flashes, sometimes based on true stories, that were submitted to WEP for our Halloween challenge.

Now sitting down to read the Sunday papers recently, I came across this shocker, and the sad part is that it is quite a common occurrence, not just in Australia, but worldwide. Who'd want to end up like this? Here's Henry's story...

William Henry Florence died a lonely death. But he was not alone--he was surrounded by pile upon pile of murder mysteries.

Known locally just as Henry, he lived as a recluse in his rundown inner-city Brisbane home. Now just looking at the home, it's a wonder alarm bells didn't ring. Brisbane is a self-conscious city, squeaky-clean city, and the council is likely to pounce on you for not keeping your garden tidy, your exterior presentation up to scratch, or any unsightly rubbish lurking in your front yard is a no no (so smart citizens dump it out front for said council to collect.)


So Henry's house was highset, quite visible from the street in quite a ritzy suburb, yet the exterior was almost completely covered by vines and the trims looked rather the worse for wear. Life trundled on outside this abandoned-looking home, while the 94 year old's entombed body lay undiscovered for seven weeks. Ironically found by an 'honest' burglar who called his find into the police, Henry was found inside where every room of the home was crammed with floor-to-ceiling novels. He was a fan!


A sketch of Henry
Henry died of natural causes. Had no will. So he's sparked his own posthumous true-life mystery called: The Case of the Missing Heir. His considerable estate remains unclaimed. His fortune stays buried.

Now as that abandoned Paris apartment turned up in several recent novels, I'm seeing novel potential in poor Henry's case. But was he 'poor' Henry? Certainly not in financial terms. Perhaps in the fact that no one missed him. But chances are, he was probably living his perfect life, surrounded by what he loved...books! I can raise my glass to Henry for that!

So, abandoned houses are rich fodder for ghost stories. When we come across a real-life house such as Henry's, it's just not so scary or thrilling...as just plain sad.

FOOTNOTE: There is AUS $21,000,000 (USD$15+) in deceased estates up for grabs just in Queensland.

How about you? Do you get distressed by stories like this? Do you know of a similar one? Share with us.




Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Guilie Castillo Oriard's The Miracle of small Things blog tour. Let's learn about Curaçao...

 THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS
A Novel in 13 Stories



Mexican tax lawyer Luis Villalobos is lured to the tiny island of Curaçao anticipating a fast track to the cusp of an already stellar career. But the paradise we expect is so rarely the paradise we find.

Map of CuracaoI've invited Guilie to my blog today, to share with us something of her life in Curaçao, a jewel in the Caribbean. Since I found Guilie's blog through WEP, I've read her posts about her everyday life in this exotic locale. I've been reading her book and it's a quirky collection of tales, unique. So, being the traveller that I am, I asked her, as part of her blog tour, and since her 'miracle' book is set in Curaçao, to share how she was inspired by her setting.

Denise, thank you so much for having me over today. It’s such an honor to be part of your community, and to get the opportunity to introduce you to Curaçao. This island, both the setting for The Miracle of Small Things my home for the last decade, is a place very few people have heard of, let alone visited. I had no clue even where it was, when I volunteered for a six-month transfer back in 2003. And, boy, did it take me by storm.
This island has the potential to change people. It changed me, twice. First it lured me into postponing the flight back to Mexico, and then into staying. A decade later, it engineered the epiphany that drove me to leave a great job and write full-time.
But change is something we resist, isn't it?

It takes time to train your eye to see past the large, past the spectacular, to the tiny bursts of color, the ethereal fragility. To the miracle of it all, teeming, just below the surface.
(fragment of Interlude #3, from The Miracle of Small Things)


Curaçao is not for everybody. I’ve lived here long enough to see people arrive, fresh and hopeful, and it’s always a coin toss: will they last?

Curacao’s is a prickly kind of beauty.
Rough around the edges, camouflaged in the humdrum, the unremarkable, even the unappealing. It’s a rare beauty, sudden and abrupt; the beauty of a cactus flowering in the wild, blooms of impossible grace hidden in thorns and the tromp l’oeil of shadow in the blazing sun.
It’s the kind of beauty that, like the cactus flower, lives in total ignorance of ostentation.
The kind that the traveler seeking glamour or sycophantic perfection will never be able to see.
(Interlude #1, The Miracle of Small Things)
  
The Caribbean is the world’s original melting pot of culture, and Curaçao is a prime (and unique) example. It’s an island rich in history, and in historical exchange: from the European discovery of the Americas to the ongoing conflict with Venezuela; from slave trade to modern global finance; from the war between the Netherlands and Spain to World War II. Curaçao, tiny as it is—171 sq. miles, population 150K—is home to fifty nationalities. Diversity is the rule here, not the exception. Tolerance is a way of life.
But it’s a special island, choosy in whom it reveals its charms to.

Curaçao is contrast. Clear blue ocean; stark land of cacti and rock. Water and fruit are expensive; gas and cigarettes cheap. Ten political parties; two bookstores. The tragedy of slavery; the joy of Carnaval. Jew and Muslim having a soda at the snék. The black-and-white couples and their beautiful children of corkscrew curls and eyes of jade. Europe’s open mind, Latin America’s open heart—both wrapped in Caribbean laid-back.
Dutch houses in Caribbean colors (and refinery smokestacks in the background). Dutch vocabulary at Latin volume with Caribbean cadence. Merengue and tumba and André Hazes. On New Year’s Eve, people hug and say cheers at 7:00m—midnight in Holland—and a Caribbean steel band plays.
To speak two languages is a handicap; to speak only one is a freak show. It’s cosmopolitan and provincial, sophisticated and naïve. It’s a diorama of the world.
And, for a certain kind of person, it’s paradise.
(Interlude #13, The Miracle of Small Things)

On behalf of the gang at Truth Serum Press, responsible for getting this book in top shape and then sending it out into the world, and an armload of gratitude to you, Denise, for being part of the Miracle Tour. I hope you and your audience enjoy these Curaçao soundbites (wordbites?), and I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this place I’ve adopted—and which has adopted me.

Thank you so much Guilie, for evoking the landscape of Curaçao in your post today.



Available as paperback, and in Kindle, epub, iBook, and Kobo formats. Find it on Goodreads and Facebook.

The book was released in paperback this past August, and has received enthusiastic feedback:

“The combination of money and sex always creates an irresistible dynamic. Add more than a few dogs to the mix, and Guilie Castillo Oriard has created a tale as beguiling as the seductive ambiance of Curaçao itself.” ~ Peggy Vincent, author of Baby Catcher: Chronicles of a Modern Midwife

“Curaçao is lovingly rendered, past and present, as a character itself — post-colonial, starkly beautiful, and captivating. You cannot read this book without checking airfares to Curaçao.” ~ John Wentworth Chapin, author of Alexandrite and founder of 52|250 A Year of Flash

“A richly enchanting story of lives and loves unfolding against the backdrop of the Caribbean.” ~ Silvia Villalobos, author of Stranger or Friend

Read more feedback at the publisher’s website, or read a full-length review by Lynne Hinkey at the Internet Review of Books.

To celebrate the e-book release (Kindle, epub, iBook, and Kobo formats, Nook to follow shortly), THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is going on (virtual) tour. Several blogs will be hosting author Guilie Castillo Oriard during the month of November to talk about writing, about the book, its island setting and its characters — including a 100-lb. monster dog rescued from the streets — and to discuss some of the issues MIRACLE touches on, such as the role of large and small things in the realignment of our values, and the power of place in our definition of self.

 

Come join us. Come meet Curaçao.
But come as Luis Villalobos should have come to the island:

prepared for a drastic readjustment of the things you value most.

Guilie Castillo Oriard is a Mexican export; she transferred to Curaçao “for six months” — and, twelve years later, has yet to find a reason to leave. Her work has been published online and in print anthologies, such as Pure Slush’s 2014 A Year In Stories and gorge. THE MIRACLE OF SMALL THINGS is her first book. Find Guilie on Facebook and Twitter, at Quiet Laughter where she blogs about life and writing, and at Life in Dogs where she blogs about… well, dogs...




Thanks for coming by. Please take a moment to leave Guilie a comment.


  •  Have you been to Curaçao? I’d love to hear your impressions if you have. Or were you like me, totally clueless as to the existence of this island? Do you think you’d be the type to love it, or hate it? Where would you go for the vacation of your dreams?




Monday, 16 November 2015

Vive la France! #BooktagsBlogHop. My book this week: Paris Hangover by Kirsten Lobe

Okay, I've been right off writing ever since I heard about those #ParisAttacks on Friday 13th. Like many others, it took my breath away, leaving me no motivation to do what seemed frivolous things, like write for #NaNoWriMo or prepare a blog post. Then blogger friend Toi Thomas reminded me that today is the day I write about a book I've read recently. At first I thought I can't do this, then I thought, yes, I can. So everybody, and Toi, I'm sorry if this is going to be a little outside the square, but I'm presenting my reading my way.
Booktagbloghop
Lobe tells us in a dedication at the beginning of the book that: "...mother taught me to believe in the words of Henry David Thoreau: 'Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.'"

Well, we saw on Friday 13th, that not everybody accepts the dreams we follow, seeing watching a game at a football stadium, eating at restaurants, walking down the beautiful Parisian streets, watching a rock concert where an American band was performing, are things to die for. Those 'soldiers' mowing down innocents with Kalashnikovs then blowing themselves and others away with suicide bombs obviously thought that dream of living and loving in Paris was anathema.

My favourite author, Ernest Hemingway, has a few lines in The Sun Also Rises, where he says, 'Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working...You hang around cafes.'

That might sound like Hem would be on the side of the suicide bombers on Friday, but no, no one liked hanging around cafes quite as much as he did, so don't take it out of context. I deliberately included it as I think that it is a radical opinion of how Westerners enjoy themselves. Didn't we all think that hanging around cafes was not an action punishable by death? Until Friday, that is.

Which brings me back to Paris Hangover, the book I'm supposed to be talking about today. Okay, not exactly ISIS-preferred reading!


Image result for paris hangover kirsten lobeDefinitely women's fiction, or chick lit, Lobe writes very autobiographically, so even though this is a work of fiction, it is obviously a pretty true account of her life. The premise (and what she did in her real life), was to ditch her super-glam life and apartment in New York City and relocate to a tiny walk-up Parisian apartment in Saint Germain. Fleeing her Big Shot boyfriend, the main character, Klein, starts over in Paris, plunging into the mysterious world of Gallic Men. She lives a life full of Moet and Gauloises, dating Frenchmen and waking up with a hangover most mornings.

Klein/Lobe describes her life in her chosen city: 'Living in Paris is an experience like no other. It's like being on a ride at an amusement park: wildly exciting, a bit scary, a little overpriced.' 

As she settles into her new apartment she considers her dream:
"This dream has the perfect soundtrack. To awaken each morning to the sound of doves cooing and church bells ringing. C'mon, it doesn't get any more beautiful than that...The first sounds I hear as I come into consciousness are usually the tender voices of mothers and their children, up early and out on their morning outing to the boulangerie down the street to buy brioche and croissants. The gentle, 'Maman...' followed by, 'Comment, ma cherie?' is like music.'
On re-reading this passage, I couldn't help wonder how Parisian mothers spoke to their children on Friday 14th. 'The President has asked us to stay indoors today, cherie. Something bad has happened.'

But back to Klein. This American in Paris never had it so good--vin blanc at Cafe de Flore, painting in a garret, afternoons in the Jardins du Luxembourg--or so bad. But Klein's passion for France and its men allows her to press on through some dastardly experiences.

There's something for everyone in this book. It's first and foremost a love story to Paris and its literary giants. Lobe peppers her story with quotes from French philosophers, French poets, and French writers. One of my favourites is her quote from Marcel Proust:
'We are not provided with wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one can take for us, an effort which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.' 
Sadly, Friday's attackers' wisdom must be questioned. Have they discovered wisdom for themselves, where they see executing innocent civilians as somehow more holy than attending a rock concert or hanging around cafes, or have they been brainwashed into a point of view?

My feelings for Paris/France are not a well-kept secret. Tonight I will stand in solidarity with them at a special event in front of our City Hall, which once again will be bathed in the tricolour.

Books set in Paris are always so full of life and love, which is why I read so many, and am working on writing one myself. Thank you Kirsten Lobe for this quirky little love story to Paris. I hope you are safe in your chosen city!

  • If you think this post is worthy to share, please press my buttons!
  • How have the #ParisAttacks affected you?
  • Go here to read more #BooktagsBlogHop posts.



Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The Daily Bread - my love story to Italy

Hi all!

This is not a devotional piece, but it is a love story to Italy and Italian food, all brought on because I raided one of my Italian recipe books today and am making Chicken with Basil Cream Sauce tonight. Browsing through the recipes brought me back to my travels in Italy. Many of you know my tendency to wax eloquent on the topic of Paris and France, but for sheer love of life you can't go past the Italians. The French as a race tend to be reserved, while the Italians are polar opposites.

My travels in Italy have enabled me to verify that yes, depending on which region you're in, like France, the food will be different, depending on the local produce. But one thing that doesn't change much is the bread. Got to say, I'm not a fan of Italian bread. The real thing would make an excellent cricket bat if it was a little longer. Why? We got to the nitty gritty of this tough bread when staying in Tuscany on our first trip.


During WW2, Italy, like many countries, suffered terribly. Starvation was rampant, with the food going to occupying forces, leaving the local populace short. They lived on bread, but couldn't afford the salt tax, (salt helps preserve bread and adds a softness.) By the way, the Romans were one of the first to produce salt by evaporating sea water. It then became an export.

Tuscany,Italy:
The hills of Tuscany today
So, after the war, much like the bells that toll at midday in some Italian cities to remind the populace of the destruction wrought by war--executions, occupiers terrifying the occupied, or the bravery of the resistance, the Italians decided to keep salt out of the bread so everyone could remember the hardships of war every time they ate bread, which they do every day, often three times a day.

The Italians know a thing or two about bread. It has an almost transcendental role in Italian eating habits. Bakers are the high priests of cooking. In the '50s and '60s, commercialism came calling with mass-produced bread. Common sense and the Italian love for tradition defeated the invaders. The bakers, the panettieri, resumed their traditional role.

The popular pasta dura bread, typical of the Emilia-Romangna region, is considered to be the oldest type of bread, going back to Egypt, via Rome. The extraordinary breads originate on the two largest Italian islands--Sicily and Sardinia, but the most unusual bread is the carta da musica (music paperbread) from Sardinia. Made from unleavened dough, this wafer-thin bread was originally used by Sardinian shepherds during their lengthy periods away from home.

In my recently-released Under the Tuscan Moon there is a lot of food and drink consumed. Well, they say to write about what you know, lol! Set during medieval times, the basics were home-grown wine, home-made bread, home-produced cheese and grapes picked from the vines. I hazard a guess that things haven't changed that much!

Here is a brief excerpt from the end of Chapter One and the beginning of Chapter Two of my paranormal romance. The two vampires, Vipunin and Cuchulain watch wistfully as two humans enjoy a picnic in the forest...
  "The male lifted a flagon of red wine and held it in the air, until the moonshine lit its liquid contents like a flame to a candle. It was an ancient, dusty bottle, probably a vintage from the Tuscan vines planted on the hillside overlooking this very forest.  Those vines he intended to visit for the vendemmia, the great harvest feast.
  Those vines belonged to him.
  As did the woman...


  Vipunin gritted his teeth as he recalled the richness of the wine he once drank from his favorite pewter goblet while he watched the sun set over his vines. He could taste it now, wild and musky as he swirled it around his mouth. Once his life had revolved around the pleasures of the harvest, the pleasures of women, and the pleasures of wine-making.
He turned his attention back to the male and female, watched as they sipped from silver goblets engraved with a family crest. A thirst more powerful than his thirst for human blood overcame him. He drank nothing but blood, but now he longed to pour every delicious drop of that wine down his parched throat. Tearing a strip of bark from the tree, he pushed it into his mouth and crunched it to a paste. No one would hear him cry like a newborn. 

  ‘Not now, Master.’ Cuchulain clamped him on the shoulder. ‘Not now. Soon. Now I ask you to wait. I am enjoying this watching.’ 

The female reached into the basket and drew out a red cloth-wrapped parcel. Ah, freshly baked bread. Vipunin inhaled its yeasty freshness, recalling the fragrance wafting from the kitchens below his rooms each morning on waking. He recalled sharing it with his betrothed at breakfast one morning after sharing a night of most delicious sinfulness with her in his secret chamber. 

Drawing a dagger-like knife from the folds of his topcoat, the male hacked chunks of the doughy stuff onto a pewter platter. The female reached inside the basket, withdrawing a package enclosed in chestnut leaves. As she unwrapped it, the rancid smell of cheese drifted across the clearing, assailing the vampires’ twitching nostrils. 

 ‘Always hated the stuff,’ Cuchulain sniffed. ‘My parents kept a cellar full of pecorino in various stages of ripening or rotting. I hated it when they asked me to cut a slice for the table. I never understood the appeal.'  

‘You’d wonder at the mortals’ choice of food,’ Vipunin allowed, ‘but it is a good choice to accompany that vintage they drink. Ah,’ he laughed softly, ‘let them have their moldy cheese. And that superb wine. See that perfect bunch of grapes the male feeds the female? Picked from my vineyards, doubtless. Let them enjoy their last meal. They’re only human.’"

If you'd like to read more, check out my book in my sidebar. It's 99c, available from Amazon worldwide. 

Now I'm off to create my Italian meal:

CHICKEN WITH BASIL CREAM SAUCE


Ingredients:
4 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons flour
freshly ground pepper and salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter

BASIL CREAM SAUCE
1 tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
125ml (4 fl oz) chicken stock
125ml (4 fl oz) cream
60ml/2 fl oz lemon juice
2 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
freshly ground pepper
sea salt

Method:
1. Combine flour, pepper and salt in a bowl and coat the chicken, shaking off the excess.
2. Heat oil and butter in a pan, add the chicken, cook over medium heat for 5-6 minutes each side. Remove from pan and keep warm.

3. BASIL CREAM SAUCE: 
Wipe out the pan, heat the butter, add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock, cream and lemon juice, bring to boil, reduce a little.
4, Just before serving, add the basil, season with pepper and salt, and serve the sauce over the chicken.

SERVES 4 (or 2, depending if you've starved all day doing NaNoWriMo!)

AFTER DINNER REPORT: Absolutely delicious! I'll be making this again with fish next time. The flavours will work well...

Thank you for coming by!





Wednesday, 4 November 2015

#InsecureWritersSupportGroup, #IWSG post -- me? insecure?

Hello everyone!

First Wed of Every MonthWow, November already? The month I volunteered to be an IWSG co-host and help Alex J Cavanaugh with the commenting. I'm #16 on the list so I go way back with IWSG!  Please enjoy reading the posts from far and wide across the globe, and comment in a helpful, supportive, empathetic way. My other co-hosts are: 
Tyrean Martinson Karen Walker  and Stephen Tremp

I hope, unlike me, you're not insecure about anything this month, although most writers I meet have some form of insecurity, particularly about their published works. And IWSG is the forum to chat about what's getting you down, or contrarily, what's gee-ing you up!

I'm going to keep this post blissfully short--in respect of those of you who should be writing their NaNo novels rather than blogging...and well, I should be doing the same. 

So...my insecurity today--well, I finally self-published my paranormal romance in time for Halloween. I did not submit to traditional publishers as I wanted to experience the self-publishing model myself and learned...it's damned hard work. I ended up doing most of the work myself even though I hadn't planned on it! Oh boy, I really did find out what those formatters and cover artists get paid for! So, okay, now it's up...and I may submit traditionally after all.

Amazon publishes 1,000,000 books a year, so how do you get noticed? You can't unless you find a way to shoot to the first few pages. I've got a few creative ideas I'm going to try to do just that. We're all looking for something new, aren't we? 

I've been blogging since 2007. I've hosted bloghops to encourage writers, I've bought blogger books, reviewed blogger books, hosted bloggers on my blog (can you believe I hosted Alex as part of my Publication Party series before he released his first novel, CassaStar?) Whoa, takes me back. But in this cover-reveal-book-launch-guest-post-weary environment, it will become increasingly difficult to find bloggers to host new authors. We need new promo ideas, don't you agree?

My novella is Book One in a series. I'll be using NaNoWriMo to complete the next book...and maybe the third as well. High hopes! No harm in being an optimist!

And I've gone over to the dark side in more ways than one. After deleting 3 Word Press blogs due to the level of difficulty in building them, I've finally persevered due to the large influx of WP bloggers to WEP. So my new WP blog is up and limping along. More to do yet. But if you're a WP blogger and have trouble commenting on my blogspot blog, go to: Denise Covey, Cafe Writer.

Some IWSG notes:


We are still trying to get the IWSG site listed as one of Writers’ Digest’s Top 100 Best Websites for Writers! Please email them atwritersdigest@fwmedia.com, subject line 101 Websites, and suggest the IWSG - http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/
Don’t forget we have a Facebook group - https://www.facebook.com/groups/IWSG13/
Image result for images blog divider
If you'd like to read my novella for FREE and review it, please leave a comment with your email address or email me and a copy will wing its way to you.

If you'd like to host me on your blog, please tell me in the comments or email me.  

Go HERE to read more IWSG posts.
  • Are you a published writer, either traditional or self published?
  • Have you been inspired or disappointed with the publishing experience?
  • Have you any tips for newbie published writers?
  • What, in particular, are you insecure about with your published books? Or are you blissfully secure?



MINI BLURB (courtesy of Michael di Gesu, that man with a golden pen!)


Within the velvety Tuscan sky, a harvest moon glows like liquid amber. Mysterious shadows seep noxiously through the unsuspecting forest, preying on the vulnerable, whose blinded gaze mocks their senses.
A man.
A woman.
Forever locked in a sensual embrace...