Categories
Books Reviews

Free At Last!

There’s good news in this post.

Release. What an amazing feeling. To be free to walk, on his own, out of the police station. Free to go in any direction, do whatever he liked. No one pushed him or shoved him or shouted commands at him. He took deep breaths and released them into the cold, welcoming air.

Miriam Drori, Style and the Solitary

Finally, it’s the end of his incerceration, or so Asaf believes. In the Liberty Bell Park, his elation is boosted:

The path was almost deserted on this dull, wet day, but the bell welcomed him with its message of liberty.

Sadly, these feelings are short-lived. And so it is with the novel itself.

Yes, Style and the Solitary, published by Darkstroke Books, is free to download for a short period only, so get it while you can, no strings attached.

I do, however, have a little request. If you enjoy reading it, I would very much appreciate a review. It doesn’t have to be long and detailed. “Loved it” is fine – really.

Review

Here’s the latest review on Amazon.com: “I loved this innocent young woman who stood by her social phobic coworker when he was accused of murder. Her compassion and tenacity for finding the actual killer puts her in danger but demonstrates how much Nathalie cares for Asaf. The help she gets from her roommates is funny and caring as they bumble their way toward freeing Asaf. Will they survive this investigation, or will the murderer lead them off the deep end. Great story. Nice setting.”

Thank you, Sandy.

About the Novel

An unexpected murder. A suspect with a reason. The power of unwavering belief.

A murder has been committed in an office in Jerusalem. That’s for sure. The rest is not as clear-cut as it might seem.

Asaf languishes in his cell, unable to tell his story even to himself. How can he tell it to someone who elicits such fear within him?

His colleague, Nathalie, has studied Beauty and the Beast. She understands its moral. Maybe that’s why she’s the only one who believes in Asaf, the suspect. But she’s new in the company – and in the country. Would anyone take her opinion seriously?

She coerces her flatmates, Yarden and Tehila, into helping her investigate. As they uncover new trails, will they be able to reverse popular opinion?

In the end, will Beauty’s belief be strong enough to waken the Beast? Or, in this case, can Style waken the Solitary?

Categories
The Power of Belief

The Power of Belief: Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson is an author of culinary cozy mysteries. (She’s in the US, so the ‘cozy’ spelling is correct.) Here’s her take on the power of belief.

The Power of Belief is a wonderful concept that I employ when writing characters, especially in mysteries with “good guys” and “bad guys.”

First off, I think belief is our relationship to truth and how we have processed it and packaged it. Our grasp of truth cannot be perfect and entire, but we try to get as close as we can with what we believe.

My friend consistently mentions that our brains process information by talking about it. Thinking about it, rehashing it, replaying it, and yes, talking about it, are all ways of processing it all into beliefs.

What do you believe happened in that situation? What do you believe they were really trying to say? What do you believe about yourself or that person or thing?

That filter of belief makes all the difference. It’s the difference between passing a polygraph test and failing it, a verdict of guilty or not guilty, and the difference between a confident person and a timid one. In my stories, it’s the difference between the hero and the murderer.

It’s all belief.

I think that is a wonderful gift. That means we can choose. We can choose which person we want to be. We pick a lane and go farther and farther down that path.

I think about this a lot while I am writing characters.

My “good guys” are making selfless decisions because this is who they are choosing to be and who they believe they are. More interestingly, my “bad guys” are making decisions that may be destructive to others but are self-interested. He is doing what he believes will be good for him. In that way, he believes he is right, and those are my favorite kinds of villains.

Violet, my main character in “A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide,” is a “good guy.” She tries to help people, she seeks justice, and she genuinely cares about the people around her. She may get caught up in her plans, her cooking, and her pursuit, but that just makes her human. The point is, she chooses to be “good” and she believes in herself and the people around her.

Without giving away any spoilers, my “bad guys” from both “A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide” and the first book in the series, “A Caterer’s Guide to Love and Murder,” both believe they are right, too.

Didn’t they deserve what I did?

I had to do it or else they would _____.

It may have helped me, too, but I was doing it to save other people!

These are all examples of ways they have justified their actions to themselves. Right or wrong, these are the beliefs they have as a result of their choices. The twisted ways they have packaged their ideas into beliefs that work in their best interest.

After all, isn’t that what we all do?

Thank you for that, Jessica. Plenty of food for thought, there. (Oops!) No really, I mean that.

About the Author

When Jessica discovered mystery novels with recipes, she knew she had found her niche.

Now Jessica is the author of the Amazon best-selling culinary cozy mystery, A Caterer’s Guide to Love and Murder, and will be publishing her second book of the series, A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide, on October 19, 2021. She is active in her local writing community and is a member of the Writers’ League of Texas and the Storymakers Guild. She received a bachelor’s degree in Horticulture from Brigham Young University but has always enjoyed writing and reading mysteries.

As an avid home chef and food science geek, Jessica has won cooking competitions and been featured in the online Taste of Home recipe collection.  She also tends to be the go-to source for recipes, taste-testing, and food advice among her peers. 

Jessica is originally from California, but now has adopted the Austin, Texas lifestyle. She enjoys living in the suburbs with her husband and young children, but also enjoys helping her parents with their nearby longhorn cattle ranch.

Links

A Caterer’s Guide to Love and Murder A Caterer’s Guide to Holidays and Homicide

Website, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter.

Categories
Holidays

Switzerland – Your Other Questions Answered

There was only one more question, but it’s a good one.

Olga Swan asked: “Did you read the article by Maureen Lipman, who said she’s never going abroad again, saying airports (esp LHR) are hell on earth? How did you cope?”

I hadn’t read the article, but I found it here and read it. While I sympathise with Maureen’s trials and tribulations (probably somewhat exaggerated for effect), I didn’t experience them. First of all, she went for five days. We’d already decided that short hops are no longer worth doing, unless you want to spend half of the time taking PCR tests, checking for updated rules and filling in forms.

Maureen’s other main problem was with the crowds and hassles at Heathrow Airport. We’ll think twice about landing at Heathrow if we ever make it to the UK. Ben Gurion and Zurich airports were nothing like that. Zurich airport seemed almost normal. They checked our vaccination certificates and entrance forms quickly and efficiently and we were soon out of there. Before the return flight, they checked our required PCR results, again with no trouble. At Ben Gurion, everything seemed normal going out. When we returned, we were pleased not to get stuck behind family members greeting each other and blocking the exit. (Anyone not flying is no longer allowed inside.) Instead, we had to go for our tests, but they were done very quickly and we soon found ourselves outside the building.

The (negative) results of the PCR tests arrived in plenty of time for me to go to folk dancing the following evening.

Travel, these days, isn’t what it was, but most of us don’t have the awful experiences that make it to the news.

Categories
Holidays

Switzerland – Your Unvoiced Questions Answered

On 20th August, after completing all the usual preparations and some extra ones, David and I were delighted to be sitting in a plane about to take off.

About four hours later, we landed at Zurich Airport, ready to spend two glorious weeks doing what we love to do – hike, admire views, travel in boats.

You: Why did you go?

We needed a rest, a break from routine.

You: Why did you go abroad?

We live in a small, crowded and tense country. There’s plenty that we love about our country and what it has accomplished. But sometimes it’s nice to get away and experience something different.

You: Why did you choose Switzerland?

We’ve been there many times. We know what to expect. It’s perfect for hiking, with lots of footpaths and excellent public transport. The views are amazing. Our first choice would have been the UK, where we have family and friends and are at home with the language. But current restrictions there are too complicated and limiting.

Let me ask you a question. Why are you asking so many questions?

You: We’re still in a pandemic. Don’t you think you should stay at home?

We stayed at home for nineteen months, most of it literally at home. When we tried to visit places, we found we had to book, and the places we tried were always full for the times we wanted. The pandemic, we’ve realised, isn’t going away soon, so it’s time to get out and enjoy ourselves, taking whatever precautions we can.

You: What did you notice in Switzerland regarding the pandemic?

In general, people are good about wearing masks. The ones who aren’t, in our limited experience, tend to be young men, who sit in a train carriage for the whole journey with their can of drink, presumably so that, if challenged, they can claim to be drinking and hence exempt from wearing a mask.

Even in Switzerland (but less so than in Israel) we saw masks discarded on the streets and on footpaths – even on this path high up in the mountains.

Any more questions?

Categories
Books Reviews The writing process

Creativity Matters

This post is part of the blog tour organised by Reading Between the Lines.
It’s a post I’m pleased to have been invited to write, and one that I now tackle with enthusiasm and, well… embarrassment, but only a little.
Read on…

The blog tour is for the book Creativity Matters: Find your Passion for Writing, which is compiled by Wendy H. Jones.

The Blurb

Have you always thought about writing a book but don’t know where to start? Are you an experienced author and want to spread your wings? Are you looking for inspiration for every step in your writing journey? This is a book for everyone who wants to write, whether history or contemporary, science fiction or humour, local fiction or set in a made-up world, fiction, non-fiction, memoir, there’s something here for you. Join thirteen authors as they share their passion for why you should write in their genre and find your own passion as you read.

It’s time for you to spread your wings, follow your dreams and find your passion for writing.

My Review

Here begins the embarrassing part.

You see, when I was asked to take part, I was away, hiking in the Bernese Oberland and other parts of Switzerland. I know, I haven’t blogged about that yet, but I plan to. I digress.

Since returning home, my time hasn’t been my own. I’ve had to attend to family matters and in particular to culinary matters, and the result is that I didn’t spend much time on creative matters and I
Didn’t finish reading the book.

However, I did warn the organiser in advance, and I’ve read enough of the book to have something to say about it, which is this:

I love it and am looking forward to reading the rest. All the participating authors are clearly passionate about writing in their particuar genres, and their enthusiasm is catching. Each one answers the question ‘why write?’ rather than ‘how to write?’ and yet the ‘how to’ question is answered in a ‘show don’t tell’ sort of way – by example.

The chapter on writing drama particularly appealed to me because it was written as a drama. I’ve never even considered writing drama before, but this might even get me started. All I need is time!

If you have time and want to write in any genre or to switch genres, this book will spur you on.

Links

Amazon buy link for Creativity Matters
Website
Facebook
Twitter
Amazon Author Page
Instagram

Categories
Books Reviews

The First Cut

As soon as I saw this title, I thought of this song:

and I couldn’t help singing it as I read the novel.

Beautiful as it is, I’m not here to talk about the song or Rod Stewart, but about the novel, The First Cut by Val Penny, published by Darkstroke Books and officially launched today. Like all Val’s novels, it’s crime fiction and this is the first of a new series. Jane Renwick has appeared in previous novels, but she now has her own series and we discover her roots.

Jane’s unfortunate early years are related so poignantly that the reader can’t help being drawn in and touched by the story. On top of that, there’s a dangerous killer at loose, and the police are working hard to find out who the killer is, but sometimes they’re misled.

There are stages in the process of writing a novel:

  • Formulate ideas.
  • Plot the story.
  • Write the first draft.
  • Write more drafts.
  • Edit.

Each of those stages contains various steps. Clearly, the author put a lot of laborious work into most of them. That’s what made the novel so easy and quick to read. And enjoyable, too. There must have been a lot of thought about how much information to reveal and when to reveal it. The hints at facts unknown to the police make this story a thrilling one to read, as the reader watches the police following the wrong paths.

There’s a lot involved in editing, too, and unfortunately it feels as if, for this novel, that stage was rushed. In particular, I was bothered by one sentence I didn’t understand. I’m not sure whether that was because of a typo, but I didn’t follow why it caused Jane to burst out crying and then decide she had to explain her tears by relating part of her childhood. Very possibly, I’m to blame for that. Also, there were places where I didn’t understand the use of italics, first/third person, tense and repetition.

But I want to stress that most of the novel is excellent, and probably other readers wouldn’t notice these small things. So do read it; it is what it promises: “fast-paced, gripping police procedural…set in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland.”

About the Book

Sometimes it’s hard to escape a brutal past. That’s the case for DS Jane Renwick, who learns via DNA a serial killer could be a family member.

This gripping police procedural is set in Edinburgh and Glasgow. A vicious killer is on the loose and victims include an academic and members of Edinburgh’s high society. But Jane is banished to the side-lines of the case and forced to look on impotently when the hunt for the killer ramps up, because the Murder Investigation Team believes the killer is related to her.

Has someone from Jane’s estranged birth family returned to haunt her? Could one of her relatives be involved? Where will the killer strike next?

This exciting novel is the first in Val Penny’s new series of Scottish thrillers.

About the Author

This is the first in the new series of novels, The Jane Renwick Thrillers. Val Penny’s other crime novels, Hunter’s Chase Hunter’s Revenge, Hunter’s Force Hunter’s Blood and Hunter’s Secret form the bestselling series The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. They are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by darkstroke Her first non-fiction book Let’s Get Published is also available now and she has most recently contributed her short story, Cats and Dogs to a charity anthology, Dark Scotland.

Val is an American author living in SW Scotland with her husband and their cat.

Author Links

Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads / Amazon / Bookbub

Links to Val Penny’s Books

Hunter’s Chase / Hunter’s Revenge / Hunter’s Force / Hunter’s Blood / Hunter’s Secret / Let’s Get Published / Dark Scotland / The First Cut

Categories
Books Israel Social anxiety

Transport

Transport is the word I’ve chosen to describe all three parts of this post.

1. A Tour

My latest novel, Style and the Solitary, is going on tour from tomorrow with Reading Between the Lines – Online Book PR. Watch out for social media posts using the hashtag #styleandthesolitary.

2. An International Event

Smashwords even travels to the other hemisphere (which is more than I’ve done). That’s why their current sale is called The Smashwords Summer/Winter Sale. Even my book, Social Anxiety Revealed, has travelled further than me. Try it. It might transport you to a world you don’t know, or one you know all too well. In either case it will further better understanding.

Fear of other people? Most of us feel this occasionally, when giving a presentation or being grilled in a job interview. This is not social anxiety disorder.

Fear of what other people think of you? We have all felt this, too. It is why we dress as we do and generally try to behave in a way that is expected of us. This is not social anxiety disorder either.

But when those fears become so prevalent that they take over your life? When they cause you to hide away, either literally or by not revealing your real self? When you keep quiet in an attempt to avoid those raised eyebrows and the possible thoughts behind them? That is social anxiety disorder.

And it is much more common than you might think. In the mental health table, it comes third – after alcoholism and depression – and yet most people don’t even know it exists.

If you have social anxiety disorder, this book is for you.

Even if you don’t have social anxiety disorder, you might have a friend, a relative or a work colleague who does. You might see it developing in your son, your daughter, or a child you teach. This book is for you, too.

Social Anxiety Revealed is created by people who yearn to ditch all these problems and live their lives to the full.

Can you help? When you have read and understood, you’ll be in a much better position to do that.

3. A First

My granddaughter is now old enough for her first form of self-driven transport.

And somehow, despite raising three children and definitely having one of these in the house, I’ve only just discovered the name for it in Israel: Bimba. What do you call it?

Categories
Books Israel

The Journey of a Stone

This post is about a new novel. It’s one that covers four thousand years and follows a stone on its travels close to home and then further afield. I was lucky enough to read a draft, about which I made suggestions that have been incorporated by its author, Olga Swan (pen-name). I look forward to reading the final version, which has just been published as The Meleke Stone.

Here’s the author herself to tell you about it.

Thank you so much, Miriam, for allowing me on your blog. I’ve been working towards The Meleke Stone all my life. Included are all the times, and perpetrators, from 1900 BCE to the present when the Jewish people were ousted from their land. It’s a novel with a strong underlying message. Here’s the blurb:

“A meleke stone from the ancient plains of the Dead Sea is passed down by generations of females through four thousand years.  

In 2019 Sami, the son of Egyptian immigrants in Toulouse, is traumatised by the family’s hardships in France and plots revenge.  

Menes, Sami’s father from Cairo, had emigrated to France in search of peace. An unlikely friendship forms with Holocaust-survivor Moshe, each recognising their past struggles.

Suddenly, a terrorist bomb explodes in a Toulouse synagogue. Moshe asks his son, Simon, to produce a film showing the true history of his people from the time of Sodom and Gomorrah.  

What will happen to Moshe’s and Menes’ special relationship when an intrepid French detective’s efforts to find the terrorist reveal the horrifying truth? 

In a soul-searching conclusion in Jerusalem, having no female descendant to whom to give the meleke stone, there’s only one thing that Simon can do to maintain the survival of his people for all eternity. 

…..are you ready for the four thousand year journey of the meleke stone?”

Follow the story as it moves between Toulouse, Warsaw, Cairo and through to Jerusalem. Read the historical truths about Sodom and Gomorrah, the Maccabees and what happened during the Six-Day War in the Sinai.  But above all, recognise the lifelong friendship between a Jewish man and an Egyptian Muslim. Enjoy!

About the Author

Olga Swan has a B.A. Hons. (Open) in English language and literature.  For many years she worked at The University of Birmingham, following which she spent twelve years living in S.W. France before returning to Birmingham in 2017.  She has had 7 books (3 non-fiction) published by indie publisher Crooked Cat Books, which has now closed. Three of Olga’s works are narrative non-fiction, one of which (Pensioners in Paradis) is approaching one million pages read and is already a four-times international best-seller.  A second edition of this and of An Englishwoman in America have now been reprinted. Three novels form a series set in wartime Germany, France and Poland. Dunoon Assassin  moves between NY, Dunoon and Amritsar.

Olga has been writing her blog every Sunday for 13 years with hundreds of regular readers each week from around the world.

She can also be found on her Amazon author page, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linktree.

Categories
Books The writing process

The End of an Era

I joined NaNoWriMo in 2012. I wrote eight novels inspired by NaNoWriMo. Four times, I reached the goal of writing 50,000 words in a month. Today, I deleted my NaNoWriMo account.

Why?

When I joined NaNoWriMo, it was to connect with writers around the world. It didn’t matter to me what they wrote or how they wrote it. What mattered was that we were all in this together. It was the cameraderie that drew me in and kept me updating my profile and creating a new project every year (except for one).

Recently, NaNoWriMo has shown itself not to be the organisation I joined. They’ve taken sides in an incredibly complicated conflict, showing themselves to be swayed by popular belief and unable to comprehend even the existence of another side. Rather than bringing writers together under the common theme of writing, they’ve pushed them apart by taking a stance in a conflict they clearly don’t understand.

I didn’t leave on a whim or in a bout of fury. I wrote to them and received an unsatisfactory response. Then I waited for three weeks before making the final decision. I’m sorry to leave, but I think it was the right thing for me to do. I would never encourage anyone else to do the same.

I will continue to write. I will probably continue to write novels in November, spurred on by my local writer friends; I’m not leaving our Facebook group. And I discovered a wonderful video that explains how to create NaNo-type, word-count graphs.

Bye bye, NaNoWriMo. We had great times together. I’m so sad it’s over.

Categories
Books The Power of Belief

The Power Of Belief: Catherine Fearns

After a break for multiple reasons, the Power of Belief is back, and the multi-talented author and musician, Catherine Fearns, takes the theme in a new direction. Over to you, Catherine.

Miriam’s new blog series instantly leapt out at me, because ‘the power of belief’ is a major theme in my books. The characters are motivated by religious beliefs, and the readers are free to interpret my novels according to their own personal beliefs. The main concept running through the Reprobation series is the dialectic between truth and belief. The truth is only what we tell ourselves happened; there are infinite alternatives. We act based not upon the truth, but upon what we believe to be the truth. And since reality is only that which conjures itself into being, beliefs can become truths; they can act as self-fulfilling prophecies.

Christianity has been a constant presence in my life, but I have always been a spectator on the side-lines rather than a genuine participant. I attended a Church of England school where we prayed and sang hymns, every day, from the age of four through eighteen. I can still recall in their entirety countless hymns and prayers all these years later. My grandfather was the warden of an eleventh century Norman church in the Lake District, and I spent my weekends and school holidays running in and out of the gravestones and pews and messing about on the organ. I attended Christ Church college, established by Cardinal Wolsey, functioning as Oxford’s cathedral, and with religion at its heart. I gravitated towards the religious topics for my history degree – the European Reformation, the architecture of Wren, the writings of Bede. I married into the Greek Orthodox church, where religion is very much something you ‘do’ – Easter, Christmas, saints’ days – they are all as important for the family, the food and the ritual as for the belief. I adore exploring churches, listening to religious music, even reading religious texts. I’ve read the Bible many times. 

And yet I remain an atheist. No, that would imply believing in something. I’m an agnostic. I was never moved. Why? Billions of people practise a religion today, base their lives around it, draw comfort from it, kill for it, believe in it. I’m the one in the minority.

I have had ‘spiritual’ experiences in my life, sure. The births of my children, for example. The times I experimented with drugs as a student. And nowadays when I go to a heavy metal concert, yeah, I get it. But God? I can’t get past the notion that if God exists, he’s kind of a bad guy.

In the Reprobation series, Detective Inspector Darren Swift is a confirmed atheist, an eternal cynic, who is gradually drawn towards the supernatural, towards a possible world beyond our own, by the realisation that people act based on their beliefs.

Sister Helen Hope is a nun who breaks her vows, loses her Christian faith, but then gains another sort of faith.

As for the criminals and victims in the books, I’m not giving away any spoilers, because what they believe would give it away! But every crime in my books has a double interpretation, depending on the reader.

And as for what happens to Mikko Kristensen, the devil-worshipping death metal guitarist – well, you’ll have to wait for book four, which I have almost finished writing!

Recently I have been trying to work all this out. It’s no good saying ‘religion is bollocks’ when many of the world’s conflicts and injustices are based on religion. It’s important to understand how and why people believe, because it will help us to be more tolerant. And to understand why people believe in dangerous things like conspiracy theories. Climate change denial, anti-vax campaigns, populism – these are the movements that will bring about the apocalypse far quicker than the Second Coming.

Stephen Hawking famously said that ‘if we discover a theory of everything, then we would truly know the mind of God.’ Many scientists are religious, and even those who are not acknowledge that religion is unfalsifiable.

Recently I’ve been trying to work all this out. I have been reading a lot of Rene Girard. In fact, I had to stop underlining passages in ‘Things Hidden Since The Foundation Of The World’ because I was underlining the whole book. I’ve been reading about synchronicity, about esotericism, about Judaism, Islam, Eastern religions. I’m learning about the function of religion, how if God didn’t exist humanity would have created him anyway. And perhaps I’m approaching the beginnings of a faith of my own; no sudden revelation, no thunderbolts from heaven, but perhaps an acceptance of the presence of magic and mystery in the world.

Ok, I’ll give you a clue about Mikko Kristensen. He’s one of my most popular characters, a nihilistic Norwegian death metal musician who covers himself in blasphemous tattoos and screams songs about Satan. But why is he so obsessed with Satan? In ‘Lamb Of God’, he decides to try Pascal’s wager. The philosopher Pascal posited that rational beings bet with their lives whether God exists or not. It’s safer to believe. So Mikko tries Moore’s paradox: he tries to believe in something that he knows is not true. What happens? You’ll have to wait for ‘Lamb Of God’.

The Reprobation series is available from Amazon:

And also from the Reprobation online shop, where you can also buy exclusive merchandise. All merchandise profits to Sefton Women and Children’s Aid.

Author Links