Welcome Jennifer Spence

Today I welcome Jennifer Spence to my blog. Jennifer shares with us a brief history of her writing life; I love her  attitude – trying out different genres, listening to her heart!

I am currently reading Jennifer’s new release – The Lost Girls published by Simon & Schuster Australia. It is an absorbing read, within paragraphs you are catapulted into the middle of the action, the mysteries and  the many dilemmas. This is a unique read that discusses memory, family, aging, fate, love and time travel with an interesting overarching mystery that unifies the narrative.

the lost girls

Welcome Jennifer, I am very pleased to make your acquaintance and I look forward to reading your thriller too, one day.

 

Jennifer Spence:

I decided at the age of seven that I was going to be a writer. I could never get my hands on enough books to satisfy my craving to read, so I reasoned that I would need to make my own. Whenever I got hold of an empty exercise book I’d start a new novel: nearly always the story of a misfit girl who is sent to a boarding school, where she is bullied at first but proves herself in some spectacular way. Who knew that many years later J.K. Rowling would prove that this idea indeed had legs!

As I grew up I retained this wish to write, but the truth is that in my youth I didn’t have a lot to say. Without consciously planning it, I gave myself an extremely long apprenticeship. I studied English and Philosophy at university, became an English teacher for a while, worked in the theatre and wrote a few performance pieces, talked my way into writing television scripts for a year, and eventually wrote my first children’s book just to see if I could. Writing a whole book and getting to the end looked like such an arduous task, as indeed it is. I’ll never forget the euphoria of pulling off this modest little achievement.

After that I stumbled into a well-paid profession as a technical writer, which was also a valuable part of my training. Technical writing has to be sharp and to-the-point. Whatever you’re describing, you have to nail it. You can’t obfuscate, and this aligns with the kind of writing I respect and the principles I adhere to.

Finally, a few years ago, the stars were kind and I was able to take some time off work to write some more. I started with a second children’s book which I had already composed in my head – though it came out rather differently on paper – then a thriller that I had also thought a lot about. I was quite surprised when the publishers told me I was supposed to choose one genre and stick to it! But I did want to eventually write straight fiction, and I had several ideas queued up in my brain. I wrote sequels for the children’s book and the thriller, because the publishers asked for them, all the time trying to polish my writing style, and I confess I was about to move on to a dystopian novel.

But then ‘The Lost Girls’ pushed its way into the queue. Once the idea for this book popped into my head I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had to drop everything and write it, and I found in the process that it was a good place for a lot of the ideas I had been wanting to express.

I’m now working on another piece of straight-ish fiction. It’s an idea that I first had in my twenties, not knowing where it was going to lead. Now I do know, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the writing of it.

 

jennifer spencePhoto courtesy of Jacalin King

 

Guest Post – Sisterly Love by Helene Young

Sisterly Love 

Helene Young

 

Family relationships are very complex and for me the bond between sisters is one of the most fascinating. Part of the joy of writing Return to Roseglen was exploring that connection. The fact that I have a sister, and love her dearly, certainly coloured the relationship between two of the characters, Felicity and Georgina.

Return to Roseglen by Helen Young cover art

Felicity is ten years younger than Georgina and has always been the carer, working as a nurse for the last thirty years. Georgina is the trail blazer, a capable opinionated pilot who’s flying for an aid organisation in Europe. Nothing phases her until it comes time to care for their elderly mother, Ivy, an equally opinionated and indomitable woman.

 

Separated by distance the sisters have still remained close, but what will be the effect on that bond if Felicity decides it’s time to take charge? Will Georgina acquiesce or will she push back, an alpha female not prepared to give ground, even if her relationship with her mother is fraught?

 

Our patterns of behaviour are established early and can be incredibly hard to change. An older sister almost always sees her role as making decisions for a younger sister. That might be fine at first, but as they grow into adulthood and make their own way it can cause friction and estrangement. A once compliant younger sister can find a back bone of steel. How they navigate those early clashes can colour the rest of their lives.

 

Our sisters can be our harshest critics and our staunchest supporters. They can cut deep with their truths yet provide vital comfort at our lowest ebb. Being a sister is a job for life and the reward is knowing you always have someone in your corner.

 

 

Thanks Helene. Relationships are complex, again your words resonate. Thanks so much for stopping by my blog.

 

 

 

Guest Post:Six Ways to Sunday – Karly Lane

Six Ways to Sunday

Six Ways to Sunday

Karly Lane

Allen & Unwin

ISBN: 9781760296766

 

Description:

When city naturopath Rilee Summers meets gorgeous farmer Dan Kincaid, sparks fly. A whirlwind romance follows, and the next thing Rilee knows she’s married and living on her husband’s family property in a small rural community.

Never one to shy from a challenge, Rilee is determined to win over her in-laws and the townsfolk of nearby Pallaburra, but her city ways and outspoken views only seem to alienate her further.

Opening her own naturopathy practice has always been her dream. Although Pallaburra isn’t Sydney, and despite the fact she’s not exactly inundated with new clients, she’s not ready to give up. Things get even worse for Rilee when she champions the issue of teen pregnancies in the deeply conservative town.

Worn down by the ill-will towards her and what she sees as Dan’s lack of support, Rilee flees the station to think about the future. Can her marriage survive – or is she destined to leave Dan and move back to the city?

Six Ways to Sunday is a rip-roaring tale about a woman determined to stand up for her convictions even at the risk of jeopardising the future she envisaged with the man she loves.

Brenda’s Review:

Rilee Summers had her life’s path planned out in front of her. A naturopath, her dream was to open her own practice in Sydney – the past four years of working at the local pub while she studied had brought those dreams closer. But when she met Dan Kincaid, she had no idea her plans were set to change; Dan was a farmer from the property, Thumb Creek, near the small New South Wales town of Pallaburra. Three months after they met, they were married and Rilee was steeling herself to meet Dan’s parents…

Ellen and Jacob Kincaid were shocked and dismayed to meet Rilee – and didn’t bother to hide it. Over time their attitude toward her didn’t soften and Rilee felt she was fighting an uphill battle. But still, she did everything she could to have Dan’s parents like her – but whatever she did, they rejected.

Rilee could see that Pallaburra needed help – no doctor in town, and only a pharmacy with an old-fashioned pharmacist whose outdated ideas beggared belief. She was determined to open her naturopath practice, but the community weren’t interested and did their best to stop her in her tracks. Was it worth the battle? Rilee was starting to wonder.

But it was when Dan’s support for her plans vanished like they’d never been that Rilee had had enough. Her future looked grim – in fact she was no longer sure if any of it was worth fighting for anymore…

Six Ways to Sunday by Aussie author Karly Lane is a brilliant story of courage in the face of adversity; of fighting for what you believe is right; and the way some small rural communities are left behind and forgotten in the advancement of time. Rilee is a wonderful character; kind, empathetic and genuine – I felt for her and silently encouraged her to keep going! I loved her parents too 😊 I have no hesitation in highly recommending this 5 star read, Six Ways to Sunday, to fans of the rural romance genre.

With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my hardcopy to read and review.

Author, Amy Andrews, Talks About “Limbo”

I had the virtual pleasure of meeting author Amy Andrews when she released her genre bending novel Limbo back in 2015.

In the words of the author this book is “urban-noir/paranormal-lite/mystery/romance mash up” and I would add PI in the mix, and a great mix it is too. This is a great contemporary feel good romp that had me smiling and laughing out loud. The characters are quirky, flawed and very very real. I had visions of Tom Selleck’s Magnum PI as the male protagonist, the female lead – hmm, maybe a young tough version of Rachel Griffiths works for me I think. Fans of Kathryn Ledson’s Erica Jewell series will also love this read.

 

Limbo has been re branded, has a new cover that relates specifically to a character in the book  – you will love the new  look.

 

Click on the video to see what Amy has to share with us.

 

Buy Amy’s book here:

http://books2read.com/u/mvYA1e

Guest Post: Anna Romer

Beyond the Orchard

Anna Romer, author of  Thornwood House, Lyrebird Hill and Beyond the Orchard  explains her fascination with family secrets and past and present lives being interwoven in each one of her novels:

I’ve always loved stories. It didn’t matter where they came from. Books, movies, or real life family histories. People intrigue me; I love trying to work out what drives them to behave as they do, what secret fears or desires influence the way they connect (or fail to connect) with the world. My great-grandmother used to tell me to always try and see the good in others, and her philosophy touched me deeply. In trying to see the good, I sometimes had to unravel quite a lot of bad, which taught me that everyone – even the dullest among us – are a lot more complex beneath the surface than they seem at first glance.

Every person you meet is an untapped reservoir of emotions, relationships, fears and dreams and longings. It’s possible to know someone for 60 years at close proximity – a husband, say, or a sister – and you think you know everything about them there is to know. Then one day they take you by surprise, and you realise that you don’t know this person so very well after all. Who are they? How is it possible to have known them for so long, and yet not really know them at all?

These sorts of questions actually keep me awake at night. Of course, there are no definite answers. That’s why it’s such fun to explore them in stories. By using a number of viewpoint characters and weaving two or three – or sometimes more – timelines together, I can create a patchwork of personalities, who each bring another layer of intrigue into the tale.

 

I’ve always really loved ‘cold case’ mysteries, where a crime has remained unsolved for many years. It seemed only natural that my novels revolve around an unexplained crime. Going back and forth between different timeframes lets me tell part of the story through the eyes of the people most affected by the crime. This adds emotional weight to the mystery. If the reader gets involved with my historical characters, and comes to care about them and understand their motives, they’re more likely to respond to the emotional punch at the end when the mystery is solved.

 

When you use a similar plot structure for several novels, and often explore related themes, making each new story different takes a bit of thought. Of course, character traits and backstories, settings, and the core mystery take each book along a very different path. But I also like to infuse all my stories with a distinct tone or mood. The best way I’ve found to keep the freshness alive from one novel to the next is by making an inspiration wall. For every new project I collect photos and postcards and pictures torn out of magazines. Each image in some way embodies the particular mood and atmosphere of the book I’m working on.

 

For Beyond the Orchard, I had lots of stormy dark seascapes and tall castles shadowed by trees. I take snapshots of the TV and print out favourite characters from movies or TV series. I like group shots with interesting expressions and body language. I reinvent scenarios for them which helps me keep track of the relationships between my own characters.

 

I stick all these pictures on my wall to create an enormous collage, and constantly refer to it while I’m writing. I also make a playlist of tracks that reinforces the mood I’m cultivating. For me, anyway, the tone or ‘feeling’ of each story is distinct. The mood board and music helps me to visualise the setting, but they also stir up the emotions I’m trying to portray. They help me feel more intimately in tune with my cast of characters and the mystery that links them.

 

Guest Post – Bram Connolly Talks About Experiences and Influences on His Writing

Please welcome Aussie author Bram Connolly to my blog. Bram talks books, reading and reading influences.

bram-connolly

“As a Special Forces officer, Bram Connolly served several tours in Afghanistan and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for leadership in combat. He takes you deep into the world of high-intensity combat few have experienced.”https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/crime-mystery/The-Fighting-Season-Bram-Connolly-9781760290382

 

When I joined the Army there was a period of a few years where I didn’t read very much. The weekly training was intense and the sudden existence of a fortnightly wage saw me pursue other less wholesome pursuits on the weekends (drinking with my mates and chasing girls mostly). Don’t get me wrong; there were certainly lots of opportunities to read. One constant of being in the Army is that there is much sitting around and waiting involved: waiting for work to start, waiting for the next lesson, waiting for your turn at something, waiting for lunch, waiting for knock off – the list goes on. Soldiers are good at amusing each other. Dark humor and situational comedies are the main narratives of their tales; and we are colourful liars when it’s required to “sell” the story. I love this about us.

I fell into reading again by necessity when I was sent off on a six-week exercise to Weipa in Far North Queensland with a section of nine men. I remember we all took books to pass the time, knowing that sitting around an airfield in Northern Australia, as static defence, was going to be a boring undertaking. I discovered Robert G. Barrett’s books about Les Norton. In later years I also found these were the easiest to wrap in a small sandwich bag, secured by rubber bands, and thrown in the bottom of a military rucksack. Barrett’s books seemed to be impervious to the Tully monsoon rain that could seep into everything. I would sit under my individual shelter out in the middle of the jungle, as the rain pounded down, and immerse myself in Les Norton’s world of Sydney nightclubs and summer beaches. Easy reading and with strong Australian characters, the books reignited my passion for storytelling. With Barrett’s books complete, I graduated myself onto Jack Higgins, The Eagle has Landed and then every other book he ever wrote.

In the late 1990s, I was influenced in what I read by some of the older members of the battalion. The following books were considered required reading:

1 – Devil’s Guard by George Robert Elford. The story of a German SS officer who, with the rest of his Battalion, was seconded into the Foreign Legion at the completion of WWII, this book begins on the eastern front and continues into the First Indochina War. I remember it mostly because of the detail the author went into regarding the German operations. It was initially published as non-fiction but I understand that over time it was suggested this was a work of fiction. Either way, The Devils Guard is a riveting read and worth having on the bookshelf.

2 – As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me. Written by Bavarian novelist Josef Martin Bauer, this is the story of a German World War II prisoner of war Clemens Forell (Cornelius Rost changed his name to avoid detection by the KGB) and his escape from a Siberian Gulag in the Soviet Union back to Germany. Rich in its description of the landscapes, Bauer does a great job of making the reader anxious for Clemens the whole way through.

3 – Chickenhawk by Robert Mason. The story of Mason’s experiences as a ‘Huey’ UH-1 Iroquois helicopter pilot during the Vietnam War, this is full of detail required to operate the aircraft. The book chronicles Mason’s entire career from his enlistment to his experiences in Vietnam, and his experiences after returning from the war. I think a generation of us who read this book believed we could jump straight in and fly a helicopter. I wouldn’t like to test that theory though.

4 – Marine Sniper. With 93 confirmed enemy kills, Carlos Hathcock was the most lethal sniper to emerge from the Vietnam War. This book describes his career and outlines the art of sniping in its purest form. I particularly like the details of the difficulties faced by those conducting operations in the jungles of Vietnam, something I could relate to at the time because of the intensive training we had also undertaken in jungle operations.

5 – Bravo two Zero by Steven Mitchell (writing under the pseudonym Andy McNab). This was the must have book of the 1990s. It was the first time a member of the British SAS had broke ranks completely to tell his story and give an account of what it was really  like for the men on the ground. The book inspired a generation of soldiers in the UK and Australia to attempt Special Forces selection.

6 – The Feather Men by Sir Ranulph Fiennes. Based on the story of four British soldiers targeted by a hit squad known as ‘The Clinic’ on the orders of a Sheik whose own sons were killed in Oman by British forces, this book created real controversy in the UK when it was released. Sir Ranulph added much fuel to the speculation at the time about whether or not it was a disguised factual account by branding it fictional and contesting that elements were true, a great marketing plan. He also wrote Where Soldiers Fear to Tread, a brilliant book full of romantic images of the Middle East and well worth a read.

The books on this list are rich in characterisation and landscape description, skills I take great pride in developing as a writer. The books I read as a young adult demonstrated to me that fiction can be written within an historical context. It’s a complex balancing act to not let one aspect overshadow the other, but if you get it right then the story really sings.”

 

 

Bram has a new book out – see how his personal experiences and reading have influenced his written work.

 

the-fighting-season

Introducing Matt Rix… Australian commando. An explosive thriller from the heart of Afghanistan.

The Fighting Season is military fiction of the first order: as tough as nails and packed with the insider knowledge of someone who has done it for real.’ – Matthew Reilly

‘Action packed, gritty and authentic to the core.’ – Merrick Watts

An explosive thriller from the heart of Afghanistan

Outside the wire, Uruzghan Province, Afghanistan, 2010…

In the badlands of central Afghanistan an Australian Special Forces platoon is fatally hit by a roadside bomb.

A shadowy Taliban commander, codenamed ‘Rapier’, is identified as responsible for the deadly attack. Matt Rix, the ultra tough commando who led the ambushed platoon, swears vengeance. Rix is one of Special Forces’ most lethal operators. He’ll neutralise Rapier – whatever it takes.

But in Afghanistan’s brutal war, not all things are as they seem.