The Divorce by Nicole Strycharz is an astonishing read. It grabbed me from page one and refused to let go, even when I wasn’t actually reading it. The story revolves around Jenzy and Chris, married for seven years, happily for five. The last two, for Jenzy at least have been slowly crushing the life out of her.
College sweethearts, they are complete opposites and their relationship – from dating to marriage – has been tempestuous, but the pros always outweighed the cons. Lately, however all the things that Chris used to love about his wife have begun to irritate him and he is so wrapped up in his job and the gym that he barely notices her anymore. Jenzy has tried everything to rekindle the flame, to little effect. Chris has forgotten so many things over the past couple of years and then to top it all he forgets Valentine’s Day, their special day.
It proves to be the last straw and hurt beyond reason, Jenzy leaves. Chris who despite a multitude of warning signs, doesn’t see it coming and is flabbergasted as the heart-wrenching process that is a divorce, begins.
I went through so many emotions reading their story. I laughed, cried, my heart broke – not once, several times – as little by little Jenzy’s reasons for such a huge step are revealed. I was so angry with Chris; I wanted to punch his lights out. His behaviour was thoughtless and cruel; in fact he was lucky that Jenzy had stayed as long as she had. The shock of her leaving, however, was the kick up the butt he needed and, accepting that he may be too late, he tries to win her back. Unfortunately, sometimes the hurt goes too deep and even though still you love the one who hurt you, the thought that despite all the promises, they may forget again makes you wonder whether the risk too great.
This book is a journey, a long, complicated, messy, tumultuous journey and probably reflective of many couples who have experienced divorce. It is also about the hard work that a keeps a marriage alive and a huge, big, fat, enormous reminder never, ever to take your partner for granted.
Jenzy and Chris are beautifully drawn and are so real they virtually walk out of the pages and I enjoyed reading the story from both points of view, with flashbacks to their first meeting and early romance. They each have traits that we recognise in ourselves, and hereby lies Nicole’s skill. Her portrayal of their disintegrating relationship strikes a chord, eliciting empathy for both Jenzy and Chris, while reminding us not to make the same mistake.
Although the subject matter is painful, I loved and was riveted by this book, desperately willing them to sort it out, that a great love is worth fighting for and sometimes we deserve a second chance to prove it. No spoilers though, you’ll just have to discover it for yourselves, it’s so worth it.
Wow! Wow, I am quite simply speechless (and trust me, that takes a LOT). What an incredible book.
Vehn Mathieu is a celebrity and seemingly enjoys the hedonistic lifestyle such status affords. Away from the lights and the cameras and the paparazzi, however, there is an emptiness in Vehn’s life, a hollowness that he believes will only be filled if he can find a woman who will see the man behind the fame and love him for himself.
Callie is a flame haired beauty who is pretty darn awesome in her own field, that of tattoo artist for Exotic Ink. On the surface she appears as feisty and vibrant as her fiery hair, but behind her mask, shadows from her past constantly threaten to undermine her long fought for happiness. Maybe I should mention that Callie also harbours a not so secret (to her friends and clients anyway) fantasy about Vehn.
A new tattoo artist and a fancy dress Halloween party provide the catalyst for Callie and Vehn’s first encounter. Callie however, has no idea that the sexy Spiderman with whom she has just spent a very passionate couple of hours is actually her fantasy. Vehn, wanting to be anonymous for a night, had introduced himself as Lee – Tegan’s roommate – and revelled in the fact that Callie was clearly attracted to him as a person not for his celebrity. Callie agrees to another date but when the man she believes to be Lee arrives and she recognises him for who he truly is, she does the most sensible thing in such circumstances, and faints.
Despite such an odd start, their attraction is undeniable and their relationship flourishes. Unfortunately, just as everything seems to be going right for once, outside forces and personal insecurities may yet tear them apart.
What I loved about this book was the strength of every character. Not just Vehn and Callie – who light up the pages – but the whole supporting cast. They are all beautifully developed, complex people, each with their own long history, both good and bad. The bond they share, the support they have for one another was almost tangible and even though we land in their lives at a less than auspicious moment, the rawness of what they are experiencing is so cleverly portrayed that I felt an instant connection with them. It was as though I’d know them forever.
This book ran the gamut of my emotions; it is funny, poignant, heartbreaking, revealing and most of all hopeful. I was riveted from page one until the last word and didn’t want it to end. The writing is exceptional and the style fast paced yet wonderfully detailed – oh and the sex scenes sizzle – just in case you were wondering!
Vehn is LS Anders’ debut novel and I cannot wait for the next in this series. If I could give it 10 stars I would. Superb!
Vehn is available worldwide on Amazon, and free on KU
Yes! Cowboy Games – another book in Audrey Randall’s Celestial Prophecy Series. Having read the previous two – Playing His Game and Playing Her Game – and could not wait for the third installment. This story follows Lana, one of the gaming team and Steph’s (our heroine from Playing Her Game) best friend.
Lana’s long time cyber friend, Solar Cowboy – aka Cody – persuades her that his ranch would be the perfect place for her and Steph to establish their coding school for underprivileged girls. This is an opportunity too good to resist and Lana travels to the middle of Montana, looking forward to meeting her friend face-to-face as well as sussing out the ranch. Unfortunately for Lana, Cody has conveniently forgotten to mention that he is way younger than he’d intimated online, that the ranch is owned by his older brother – Jesse (the sexiest cowboy Lana has ever seen) – and that he hasn’t actually asked said brother whether he would approve the scheme.
Jesse, assuming that Lana is one of his brother’s school friends, is floored when she arrives. Her green eyes, her multi-coloured hair and her curvy body captivate him and, inexplicably, he finds himself agreeing to show her around the ranch with a view to maybe, possibly allowing her to set up some kind of clinic. Lana, in turn is entranced by Jesse; this devastatingly handsome cowboy who is so tall and muscular yet has the grace of a jungle cat. He is doing things to her emotions that are positively illegal.
Confronted by feelings that neither expected nor wanted, Jesse and Lana are drawn to each other and despite being from completely opposite backgrounds, their attraction is undeniable. True love isn’t always a smooth ride though (see what I did there…) and there are a few hiccups along the way!
The thing I love about Audrey Randall’s books is that they are not just all about sex – steamy though it is! She weaves an interesting story around the couple, one that captures the imagination and hooks you in from the get go.
Her characters are so believable – normal everyday people who have normal everyday hang-ups, but who discover that they share a special something that fires the blood.
Cowboy Games does not disappoint and much as I love the previous two in the series, this one is my favourite. A hot cowboy, a nerdy gamer, a sprawling ranch – the perfect setting for a delicious romance – and who needs a joy stick when you have a horse! Go on – enjoy the ride!
Cowboy Games is available worldwide through Amazon from 9/1/17
Something that has become, to me anyway, quite noticeable recently, are the comments in certain book reviews. As I expect most people do, I tend to scroll down to the reviews before I buy a book, especially if it is a new author whose title has intrigued me. For the most part, reviewers are generous souls and even if they haven’t enjoyed the story, they try to put a positive spin on their comments. Obviously, there are some who will hate a book, for whatever reason and that is their right – although this doesn’t, necessarily, make it a bad book.
As a new writer, I appreciate more than ever, the blood, sweat and tears that goes into creating, in your own eyes at least, a masterpiece. The hours spent on research; in producing backgrounds for all your characters; in developing the storyline; in setting the scenes; choosing the place, the era, the clothes, the houses, the politics, the culture, the list goes on.
Then, after weeks of banging away on the keyboard, fighting writer’s block, waking at ungodly hours because a plot line just has to be pinned down, and forgetting to eat – you finish. There it is – 100,000 words or so drawn, in some cases, kicking and screaming from your imagination. You set it aside for a couple of days then begin the long haul of proofreading.
After you think you have edited it within an inch of its life, you ask one or two trusted (and responsible) friends/colleagues to read it for you, just to ensure it isn’t actually a load of drivel. Finally, after doing your absolute best to try to make it as perfect as possible, you upload it to one of the sales platforms in the hope that people are captivated by the synopsis and buy it. Waiting for the first review is a nightmare, this could make or break it, others will read it and decide whether you are an author worth trying or should be avoided at all costs. It’s gut wrenching.
So far so good, your reviews are mostly positive, then horror of horrors someone complains about the grammar or your syntax or your style or your spelling. If I’m honest, I too find it disconcerting when I read a book that looks as though the writer/editor didn’t really care about the final product. If you haven’t tried to proof your manuscript at all, or haven’t had someone else check it, then you may deserve some criticism.
The price of professional proofreaders
Now this is a bit of a sticky issue. I have noticed that, on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, some people go on and on (and on) about getting your work professionally proofed and edited. Yes, I agree it is vital that your work should be presented in as professional a manner as possible, which is all fine and dandy until you look into the costs of these services. Some writers might be fortunate enough to have a friend who has proofreading experience and is happy to check their work, but I imagine that many indie/self-published authors are not so lucky.
Not long ago, I had occasion to check the costs of proofing and it is staggering. Ranging from $15/1,000 words to $30/1,000 words, or some offer an hourly rate, somewhere between $20 and $60/hour (usually presuming 1,500 words/hour, which does leave it rather open to exploitation). I accept that this is someone’s livelihood and they deserve a decent income along with the rest of us, but herein lies a problem for self-publishing writers.
My books tend to be around 80-110,000 words, making for me the average cost for proofing around AUS$1,000. A huge amount when you take into account that the majority of self-published authors will never make that sum of money on all of their books, never mind the one they are trying to get proofed.
Thankfully, all hope is not lost. I discovered Word Refiner through twitter, an excellent proof-reading service and most affordable. Moreover, there are ‘pages’ on Facebook, offering free beta reading, and seem legitimate. I know a few fellow authors who have found them to be eminently satisfactory. Of course, any beta readers need to be interested in the genre in which you write and, more importantly, have the time to scrutinise your manuscript thoroughly.
Further, even books released through reputable publishers are not always as well edited as they could be. It makes me wonder whether far too much reliance is being placed on the ability of whichever word refining application the manuscript is run through to pick out mistakes that are then, never re-checked. Quite frankly, if I followed every suggestion Word offered me, my books would resemble a Scrabble board.
So – yes, I’m getting to my point – please, do review our books. For the most part reviews are awesome! They are what attract others to our work; it is the number of good reviews that increase our rating within particular genres and, if you are listed on Amazon, reviews are what get you a recommendation. All I’m asking, is that you remember what went into a book, and that sometimes there may be mistakes. Sure – give feedback on such things, but do it constructively. You might be at a distance when you write your review, but the phrase the pen is mightier than the sword was coined for a reason and the nibs of the most benign looking pens can still cut.
Wow, so I am reliably informed that it’s Spring here in Australia. Bearing in mind that by this time last year we’d had a few days in the high 20’s and so far this month it’s barely reached 19 (that’s centigrade), I’m reserving judgement. Still, as Spring conjures up the idea of new things on the horizon and a promise in the air, I realised that an update was timely.
I have been pretty busy since my last post. The Regency Romance, Once Upon an Earl is now available, worldwide, through Amazon (for UK link click here). I decided to have two covers done, one for the USA market and one for the rest of the word, to see whether different design styles make any difference to sales.
Initially, this novel was only going to be released as an e-book, but I’ve had quite a few requests for the paperback version, so that should be added soon. My, long suffering, technical support is away at the moment, but on his return we (or rather he) will organise that side of things. It’s quite a time-consuming process and I prefer to let the expert handle it!
I am excited to share with you that prequel to the Hannah’s Heirloom Trilogy is finished – yay! It ended up being quite a bit longer than anticipated and is not far off a proper book…certainly longer than the novella I was aiming for. Much as it’s taken quite a while to complete – researching Roman Army battle strategies, the Armenian campaign and the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem prior to the Great Jewish Revolt has been fascinating.
To complicate matters further, I decided that Maxentius and his soldiers would travel on foot from Armenia to Masada, as opposed to travelling part way by sea. A not inconsiderable distance, the soldiers would have followed well-worn trade routes, which gave me the opportunity to investigate some of the cities that they would have passed on their journey. Some, already regarded as ancient in AD62, were undergoing redevelopment usually as a result of Roman occupation, most especially, Palmyra and Damascus.
Palmyra was an important centre long before it fell under Roman control. Archaeological finds date the settlement to the Neolithic era and the city was first documented in the second millennium BC. An established caravan oasis, it linked Persia, India and China with the Roman Empire, and these diverse cultural influences were manifest in its art and architecture.
As with Palmyra, Damascus, positioned at the crossroads of the East and West has always been of tremendous commercial and cultural significance and is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world. Although the earliest visible physical evidence is dated to the Roman period, the name ‘Damascus’ appears in the 15th century BC on a geographical list, and human settlement can be dated to around 6300BC. Mindful of the current destruction being wrought on these beautiful cities, I felt it appropriate to include them.
Herodion was another must on their itinerary – well, if they had to march, they might as well have some fun on the way (there was a swimming pool)! Herod the Great, arguably an architectural visionary and considered one of the greatest builders of his time, had this palace constructed between 23 and 15 BC to commemorate his victory over the Parthians.
It is the only site which bears his name and believed to be where he was buried. Nine years after Maxentius and his soldiers visited, it was destroyed by the Romans.
Now – while frantically editing – my biggest challenge is to come up with a title for this prequel. I usually find that this, along with a synopsis is harder than writing the book itself – seriously! I have a couple of possibilities floating around, so hopefully I be able to choose one soon.
As for the second Regency romance – it is coming together nicely but is on hold while I prepare the prequel for release. It does keep intruding into my thoughts though, so I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to resist! Then there’s the mystery series….*clutches head* I need another me!
Thank you for taking the time to read my blurb, I hope you have a great day!
August already, this year is flying by. I have been quite busy with a few projects and thought you might like to hear about them.
I mentioned previously that I was working on a prequel to The Pomegranate Tree – and I still am – but even though this will be more of a novella than a full length book, it is taking much longer than I anticipated.
This is more to do with trying to get my head around both the machinations of the Armenian campaign – which Maxentius was part of prior to his transfer to Masada – and the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem, where Hannah was living.
On top of this, the sections relating to Maxentius are quite technical – what with battles, shifting frontiers and political alliances. Yes, I realise that it’s fiction, but I wanted to try and demonstrate a sense of what this chapter of his life was like. I must admit, though, it has been good fun being able to include things that occurred in both Hannah’s and Maxentius’ past, which are alluded to in the other books.
I also decided, after releasing Embers of Destiny, that it might be an idea to add a compilation to the mix. So The ‘Hannah’s Heirloom Trilogy’ is now available through Amazon as an e-book only (being much too big as a paperback, although I may try and work out how to release a box set at some stage).
In between researching Armenia and Jerusalem, circa AD58-66, I have written a Regency Romance (otherwise known as a ‘bodice ripper’… although to be fair, bodices mostly stay intact in mine …). It is a style of novel that I have only only recently started reading but one, which I have discovered, I can easily lose myself in. The basic scenario, like most romances, includes a hero, a heroine, an underlying plot – and of course – the romance. When I hit writer’s block during ‘Echoes,’ I began one, thinking it to be a useful distraction until I could refocus on ancient stuff. The characters wormed their way under my skin, however, and I found that I needed to see their story through to its conclusion and thus, I ended up with a proper novel.
As an aside – part way through writing Hannah’s story, I contemplated the notion of writing the odd story, set at random points throughout history each mentioning the clasp. No connecting of souls, no time shift, simply a way to follow it’s journey from my Hannah of the ancient world, to her descendent in the modern day. As they would be stand alone novels, there was no reason for them to be written in any particular order, so I decided to include the clasp into my Regency story, for although barely mentioned, now I have my first link in the chain.
As with the compilation, the Regency romance will only be released as an e-book initially, to see whether there’s enough interest to warrant a paperback version. Until I started on this story, the history surrounding the Georgian or Regency era was something about which I knew very little, so researching it has been fascinating. The Napoleonic Wars, along with the social and political changes that were occurring in England during the first quarter of the nineteenth century, offer great backdrops for a plot line, as are the shenanigans of the nobility. It’s in editing at the moment and – as seems to be a habit of mine – I loved it so much that there is a second novel in the works, involving the same characters.
So, I think that’s brought you up to date! Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Have a great day.
Recently I read Palatine, the first book in The Four Emperors Series by LJ Trafford. It is an outstanding novel, well written, fast paced and totally absorbing. I love this period of Roman history, the utterly convoluted nature of the political arena with those jockeying for power, all within a year. Set just prior to the death of the Emperor Nero, we see how the events affected those ‘behind the scenes,’ the bit-players as it were, some of whom became vitally important in the ensuing chaos – the imperial staff, the slaves, the soldiers and their families.
I read this first book so quickly, I had to go back and read it again, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything and was really looking forward to the sequel, which did not disappoint. In fact, much as I didn’t think it possible, it is even better than the first one. I was so absorbed that I read almost two-thirds of it in one sitting – to the detriment of everything else I was supposed to be doing.
Galba’s Men begins six months after the death of Nero, towards the end of AD 68 and those within the palace at Rome are managing quite well without an Emperor in situ thank you very much. Even the ineffectual Icelus, Galba’s secretary doesn’t derail the smooth administration of Empire, as the palace-trained scribe, Philo, effortlessly absorbs his workload. Galba himself is delayed in the provinces, dealing with the upheaval within the army caused by Nero’s death.
The ensuing events lay the foundation for the infamous Year of the Four Emperors, this honorific alone enough to conjure up the utter pandemonium that would be ushered in following Galba’s promotion to the top job – dissension, shifting political alliances, murder and mayhem – perfect ingredients on which to base a gripping tale.
Nothing goes right for Galba; even his arrival is marred by a riot as he approaches Rome. The sailors of the Misenum Fleet who wished to be recognised as an official legion bring a petition to Galba, intercepting him at the Milvian Bridge. Galba refuses to deal with it there, indicating that they should follow official channels and petition in Rome. A scuffle follows and whether intentional or not, suddenly the cavalry bear down on the angry sailors straight through a crowd of civilians who had come to cheer their new Emperor, killing dozens.
Not the most auspicious start and, unfortunately for all involved, set the tone for Galba’s rule. Almost as an aside, it is at this point that we are also introduced to Otho, a genial sort of chap, a man who is in fact the complete antithesis of Galba and something to keep in mind throughout this tale. Otho wholeheartedly supported Galba’s bid for Imperial glory, mostly in the hope that he might be named son and heir. However, as time passes, the new Emperor’s advisors persuade him out of what would have been a popular decision and Galba confers this title on another, thereby pretty much signing his own death warrant.
As with Palatine, the story unfolds from the perspective of those behind the scenes, the movers and shakers of the administration, Galba’s staff, the Praetorians and those working within the palace, many of whom we met in the previous book. Dragged mercilessly into a vortex of chaos simply by being in the right place at the wrong time.
Corruption, treason, executions, love, marriage, death and general all round mischief come together in a tale that keeps you gripped from the first page. You become part of the narrative, the characters – no longer words on a page but people you know and are vested in, to the point where I wasn’t sure I wanted to get to the end in case any of my favourites didn’t survive the telling and … no, I’m giving nothing away … you’ll have to read it for yourself.
LJ Trafford weaves a masterful tale; fast paced and full to bursting with flamboyant personalities whose lives are inextricably entwined with the fortunes of the Emperor. Her descriptions of their world, of the palace and of Rome itself are so vivid that the scenes virtually manifest in front of you. It is one thing to read the history of this period, but this book brings it to life. I cannot recommend Galba’s Men highly enough. If you enjoy intrigue, drama and enough humour to lighten the dark edges, all neatly wrapped up in antiquity, do yourself a favour – treat yourself to a copy, sit back and enjoy the ride.
Authors Spotlight is a blog doing exactly what it says – placing a spotlight on authors. Its founder, Dave Mayall, someone I have ‘met’ through twitter, contacted me to ask whether I would be interested in promoting my books though his site. As I have said before, self-publishing is all well and good, but that’s just the beginning. The burden of getting your work out there is all up to you the author and any opportunity to spread the word is a boon.
The Authors Spotlight blog is a way for authors from all genres to share something about themselves, such as what inspires them and why they chose that particular style or category, the background to their work and so on, as well as offering a tantalising glimpse into the books themselves and the person who wrote them.
It is a free service, working on the basis that if Dave features an author they will return the favour and spread the word about his blog and, its a good blog. It features some very interesting posts, not just on authors, but also some rather beautiful poetry by Dave himself, along with a plentiful selection of useful tips for writers.
In this day and age of self publishing and indie authors, even authors lucky enough to land a traditional publishing deal, I believe supporting people like Dave, is important. People who create blogs and webpages purely because they love books and are interested enough to create user friendly platforms, easily accessibly to a broader public, many of whom under normal circumstances would likely never discover some of these amazing writers.
Check out Authors Spotlight, you never know who you might find there!
I am delighted to tell you that the third book in the Hannah’s Heirloom Sequence is now available worldwide on Amazon Kindle (paperback version will follow shortly). Called Embers of Destiny, it is set in the north of Roman Britain, along the frontier which would eventually be defined by Hadrian’s Wall. It is AD80 and although much of this distant province has been pacified, the borderland is not quite subdued.
In recent times, aerial surveys have discovered that there were several forts along this frontier, established long before the famous stone wall constructed during Hadrian’s reign. It is thought that they were set up by Agricola to police the newly subjugated northern border, while he continued on into Scotland (or Caledonia as it was then known). Originally these would have been temporary marching camps, evolving into wooden forts before eventually being rebuilt in stone, indicating long term settlement.
Magnis, where my story is set is one such fort and was still in use in AD160, by which time it had been completely rebuilt in stone, marking it as one of the permanent forts. Even though plenty of artefacts have been found confirming later occupation, there was a dearth of remains for the time period I was writing about. This was very useful as I could weave the story around what we did know and add my own ‘finds’ to suit myself. Soon I was engrossed in learning how forts were organised and what everyday life on the edge of Empire was like. A garrison like this was usually made up from vexillations, or detachments of soldiers, drawn from two or three legions based elsewhere in the province. So having worked out which legions would likely supply soldiers to these outposts, I then augmented them with a contingent of Maxentius’ soldiers who had accompanied him from Rome.
It was also fascinating to research how local tribespeople lived; those native to the area who had been subjugated by the invading Romans. How they lived, what their dwellings looked like both inside and out, their clothing and their language. I admit to getting quite lost in the world of Roman Britain for several weeks and loved every minute of it.
Embers of Destiny is the culmination of that research and is the final book in the sequence – well it should have been. However, as happened when I wrote The Pomegranate Tree, I wasn’t quite ready to let go, so I have begun a prequel. This will be a short story following the lives of Hannah and Maxentius before they meet on Masada. There won’t be any falling through time and my modern couple are not part of this tale. I was just interested in my ancient couple’s journey and in the challenges they faced; one as a young soldier fighting on the troubled eastern fringes of the Empire and the other as a healer in a city descending in chaos. I’m probably about half way through and trying to get my head around Roman Army battle tactics is keeping me out of mischief!
I am very honoured to be included in the May edition of the Silverlight Cafe Online Magazine , one of ten authors in this edition. The other nine are an incredibly talented group of people and definitely worth checking out.
This is a great way of promoting self-published, indie and new authors and gives the reader a chance to see something of the writer’s background and what inspires them.
One of the greatest challenges facing self-published authors is getting the word out. So you’ve written a book, got a great cover and told all your friends about it, now what? Trying to promote and market these novels is very hard – there are no books shop owners inviting you to display your novel in a prominent position by the door, or asking you to come and do a signing. No posters in windows encouraging people to pop in and browse through the book. It is very easy to come unstuck and begin to feel rather despondent.
Social media offers a light in the darkness, especially online magazines, of which Silverlight Cafe is a wonderful example. It’s a way of ‘meeting’ a group of authors – not always from the same genre – all in one place without having to flick back and forth between websites. It’s a chance to see what they’ve written and why, maybe read an except, even get a link to their books.
If you are interested in what makes writers tick, I’m sure you’d enjoy this magazine, just click here , or on the link above.