Trastevere

I recently returned from a trip to Italy where I spent time in Rome. One of the areas I visited while there was Trastevere where part of my novel, Not By Design, was set.

Not by Design

We cross the River Tiber and approach the archeological remains of rooms that were once baths made of black and white mosaics. My guidebook tells me that these were made in the first century AD. It’s hard for me to grasp that over two thousand years ago there was an entire civilization living on the ground I am standing on.

We are walking along the delightful district of Trastevere.  In Trastevere one will get glimpses of the “real” Rome. Marco and I have been here many times. To eat in their famous restaurant area, go to the theatre, the cinema or just mingle with the Romans in clubs and bars. Today our mission is different. We are visiting the church Bridget reserved for our wedding.
Marco and I are holding hands as we pass by boutiques offering handcrafted wares and clothing stores with magnificent styles.

As we approach Piazza Santa Maria with its spectacular fountain I stop to take in the church in front of us. It is a stunning Medieval church. Its façade glows with its series of faded mosaics honoring the Virgin Mary. I can’t think of a more romantic setting for our wedding. Even before entering the church I know that it is perfect. Except for one thing. “I can’t believe that my father won’t be here to walk me down the aisle,” I say.

 

Travestere (2)

To visit my author page click here 

 

 

 

Jacqui Murray: Against All Odds

It is ironic, I suppose, that my first post while learning how to use the new WordPress Block Editor is on Jacqui Murray’s latest novel Against All Odds. I say this because I am not very techy but Jacqui is a tech geek and trainer. I am quite certain that we’ll soon find some WordPress Block Editor tips on her blog.

https://jacquimurray.net/blogs/my-techie-side/

What has taken me hours to maneuver around this new WordPress editor and listening to YouTube tutorials would surely have taken Jacqui a much, much shorter time to process this new information.

Tech training requires analytical skills and sound research, two qualities which are present in her novels.

Spread throughout her novel are lovely literary gems bringing life to the many prehistoric settings the novel takes us to.

Xhosa increased their pace, up and down one rise and another, through a copse of lonely trees, and then around a rock formation as big as a family of elephants.

Xhosa trotted into the grove of narrow trees with spiky leaves, over a carpet of ankle-high leaves that muffled her footsteps. Her feet made a soft swishing noise as she walked, like the murmur of stream.

The enchanting names for her characters (Pan-do, Red Wolf, Spirit, Black Wolf, Seeker, Rainbow… give the story a fairy-tale fantasy genre. Although, Against All Odds is a fictitious story of migration in pre-historic times it also based on pre-historic reality.

Xhosa is the heroine and leader. She is on a mission to find for herself and her People a home base. She exhorts leadership traits such as empathy, caring for others, and collaboration with other tribes. Her kindness and persistence bring other tribes to join her fight for survival

…despite extreme adversity, well-equipped predators, and a violent natural environment that routinely asks them to do the impossible.

Jacqui Murray is a writers’ writer as well as being a writer for lovers of pre-historic fiction and strong female heroines.

If you’re feeling, like me, frustrated with learning this new editor, take a break and read Jacqui’s book. It will take you far away from the world of technology. Now how can I add a smiley emoji?

Bau: Portrait of a Dog

Portrait of Bau

Before the lockdown occurred I would go do volunteer work at a school in Point St. Charles which has been known as one of the Toughest Neighbourhoods in Canada.

Without sounding like I am bragging, the children and staff LOVED me. It’s nice to have someone show their appreciation towards you and openly express how happy they are to see you.

People don’t do that so much, I’ve noticed. As for me, I’m always happy to see my mistress and I can tell you that I don’t hold back. I race to her as soon as she comes in the door and jump up and down placing my front paws on her legs and sometimes even doing a little dance. I think people should take a lesson from me and show those they love how much they like being with them.

Because of the lockdown I haven’t been back to the school and so I keep this portrait (which Cameron, one of the young boys, drew of me) as a reminder of how great it feels for someone to care enough about you that they want to draw your portrait.

For all of you who love dogs

Artists will be featured virtually on our website, throughout our social media channels and in the Museum pending reopening guidelines, between August 24th – September 7th.

  

logo museum of the dog

 

 

 

 

Janet Gogerty: At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream

janet-gogerty At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream

 

Toby Channing, a young psychologist, is on a mission. His girlfriend Anna has gone missing. The problem is that he was the last person to see her alive and so her family (along with others) suspect him of murdering her. Did he or didn’t he?

In an attempt to find her, he uses his camping van and poses as a private investigator specializing in missing persons. As he tours around the many different areas he has gone with Anna, a slew of different characters approach him with their own cases of missing persons (one being even a robot). As Toby solves these cases his search for Anna intensifies.

Janet Gogerty  takes us into Toby’s head – his fears, his loneliness, his unpleasant relationship with Anna’s parents – especially her father who wants nothing to do with Toby as he suspects him of murdering his daughter, his relationship with his parents (rather warm) and his pregnant sister. The novel is a mixture of domestic gambol and a complex solving of finding Anna, the love of his life. It is a mystery full of suspense, romance and a study of ordinary people desiring to live a more satisfying life.

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like being a private detective, Janet Gogerty’s Toby Channing the Camper Van Detective, through his various cases, illustrates that the job is not all about solving murder cases. In fact, not all missing cases, as is pointed out in this novel, are about crime. But Anna’s case is.

 

Comparables: Where Does Your Book Fit In?

Not too long ago dgkayewriter  posted on her noteworthy blog a link to the app (I Write Like) which, when you paste a paragraph of your writing, the app compares you to famous writers by analyzing your word choice and writing style.

That amusing exercise got me thinking of comparables. Whether you are writing non-fiction or fiction, self-publishing or going the tradition route, comparables (comps) help the reader and book seller know where your book fits in. Knowing your comps will help you know where your niche is in the marketplace.

Where would your book be placed in a book store or library and within that category whose books would you compare yours to?

Michael Dellert, an award winning writer, editor, publishing consultant, and writing coach with a publishing career spanning 18 years posted an interesting article on comparables.

What makes YOUR book stand out?

Publishers and agents generally want to see “comparables”: other fiction books on the market today that have an audience comparable to yours, that have themes, settings, and characters comparable to yours, that have a market niche comparable to yours, and then they want to know what sets your book apart from those.

Editor Rachelle Gardner in a post titled Know Your Competition adresses the question of comps:

Search for possible competitive or comparable books using a variety of means; don’t limit yourself to one particular search term or one method. Go deeper than the titles to make sure you’re not missing anything. Search on various websites besides Amazon. If you’re writing a Christian book, use Christianbook.com.

And in another article on comps Rachel Gardener offers this advice:

Ask yourself, “Who are my readers? What are they reading right now?” Those are your comparable books.

Keep this line in mind:
“People who enjoy the following books are likely to enjoy my book.”

You can use that line in a proposal, then follow it with the comparable books, and for each one, a brief explanation of why your book would appeal to those same readers. This approach frees you from trying to decipher what an agent is looking for, and instead, use those comps to identify your audience.

It’s tricky finding comparables. For example, in my crime novel Warning Signs the protagonist finds herself in a relationship with a serial killer. The detective investigating the serial killer’s crimes has a romance going with a suspect. Taking those two important elements of the novel do I compare my novel with those which have serial killers in them or do I compare it to stories about romance? Warning Signs also deals with mental illness so should I compare the novel with other novels dealing with mental illness? Or do I compare it to a noir novel?

Here are some comps I found for Warning Signs. People who enjoyed these books are likely to enjoy Warning Signs.

The Perfect Husband by Lisa Gardner (What would you do if the man of your dreams hides the soul of a killer?).

The Last Victim by Karen Robards ( Obsessed with learning what makes human monsters commit terrible crimes).

A Good Marriage by Stephen King (a wife who discovers that her husband is a serial killer). Incidentally, when I took the I Write like Who the result was Stephen King.

The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thomson (a pitch-black glimpse into the mind of the American Serial Killer).

The Lies He Told Me by Sylvie Greyson (a police detective falls in love with his main suspect).

The Fix by Sharon Leder (Living with a Heroin Addicted Parent).

 

Warning Signs is now available in paperback as well as e-book.

Ana Linden: Frames

Ana Linden Frames

 

I’ve always liked Ana Linden’s books. She’s very good at getting inside her characters’ heads.

Frames consists of four short character driven stories. These are not ordinary characters and through their flaws Ana Linden gives us insight into relationships and human nature.

The subjects of her stories range from the damaged educational system, the cruelty of abuse, loneliness, losers and guilt.

Sometimes you just need to feel a bad day for what it is. Unpleasant. Unexplicable. Normal.

In the opening story, Choices, two strangers meet on a plane. One is planning a vacation while the other has been hired to follow her. It is a fresh twist to the “strangers on a train” theme, filled with its high dosage of suspense and an intriguing love story in a noir atmosphere.
The second story, titled Frames, is about two retired teachers, married to each other and disillusioned with the educational system and marriage. As the story progresses each character individually and separately finds meaning in his/her life and a closer connection to each other. It is a story filled with empathy, kindness and hope. Life is not all doom and gloom. There are treasures to be recognized.
Drive, the third story in the collection presents the sad, long term effects of abuse and the power of guilt. In this story, Ana Linden makes us see child abuse from the opposite angle where it is the mother who is the abuser and the father who silently stands by. The secret the son shares with his father is both touching and sad and as the young boy becomes adult we see how his abuse affects his relationships with women until he meets a woman who is worse battered than himself.

Read a sample of Drive here.

The last story Trespasser is also about abuse and once again here we have the woman abusing her boyfriend – both need each other in their twisted ways. Ana Linden presents a very in depth description of both characters and their inner workings, the abuser making the argument why they are not right for each other while the abused seems unable to let go. This is a good story for anyone interested in the dynamics between a dysfunctional couple and why someone stays in an abusive relationship.

Linden’s writing is not ordinary. She is unafraid to show the rawness of human nature in a unique literary voice. She is an artist using words as her medium. It is reflective writing.  The stories in Frames are the kind that you want to savor and allow the beauty of the writing sink in. There is no sermonizing in these stories and we understand what is not being said. This makes for quite satisfying reading.

 

 

Sincere Condolences

I have known one person who died from the Covid-19 virus. Her name was Doris and she was 86. I regularly visited her with my dog, Bau, through the Caring Paws Animal Therapy Association.

Bau and Doris had a special bond. As a patient who suffered from Alzheimer, Doris had lost much of her ability to verbally communicate. However, with Bau she tended to speak more and became joyful. Her sad mood lifted and Bau was always excited to see her. This is what animal therapy can do.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Millions of people have died from this virus and millions more have had their  souls and hearts ripped apart because of loved ones suddenly gone.

When my mother died I wrote Don’t Bring me Flowers, an essay which is in the Mourning Has Broken collection. In the weeks which followed my sister’s death, an urge to write an essay about her also emerged . It was at page eighty that I realized the essay had flown off on its own and that I’d given myself this mission: for one year I would write about mourning as I went about my life collecting memories as  myriads of emotions assailed me.

Through it all, I explored the meaning of life and the changes of my own beliefs, taking me through a journey of sorrow, guilt, regret, joy and hope.

 

Composite-Cover

Available as e-book and as paperback

With sincere condolences to all those who have lost a loved one through Covid-19 or otherwise. May your memories of your loved one comfort you.

 

Golf Traps

Sand trap

On Wednesday, it was Canada Day and I went golfing with my brother. Some Canadian Geese decided to show up to mark the occasion and add to the sand and water traps. Dreadful obstacles.

The geese seemed to have more confidence that I did about airing my shot over them. They were perfectly oblivious to my presence.

I, on the otherhand, had little confidence. I picked up my ball and called it a good Canada Day.

Happy 4th of July to all my American blogger friends

 

 

Bau: I Need A Haircut

 

Haircut

This is my Covid-19 Hairdo. It’s a mess, I know, and I can hardly see. I’m just grateful for my exceptional sense of smell!

A dog’s sense of smell is its most powerful sense…It is so sensitive that [dogs can] detect the equivalent of a 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

You can read more about my amazing sense of smell HERE.

My India: Juhu Beach

The photos in this post were taken in Juhu Beach, an upscale neighbourhood of Mumbai.  Juhu beach is also a preferred destination among filmmakers for the shooting of a lot of Bollywood films and therefore home to many Bollywood celebrities.

The area surrounding the Juhu beach is home to the houses of some of the most popular Bollywood celebrities including Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Ashit Lathia, Anu Malik, Mahesh Bhatt, Alia Bhatt, Anil Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor, Dharmendra, Bobby Deol, Sunny Deol, Hrithik Roshan, Anupam Kher, Shakti Kapoor, Paresh Rawal, and Varun Dhawan among a lot of others. It’s the same reason why Juhu is often referred to as the Beverly Hills of Bollywood.

In: Times of India. 

Not knowing any of these film celebrities, I was content to sit in the lobby of the hotel, either sipping tea or a beer and reading The Times of India and The Mumbai Mirror.

I was so exhausted from the stimulation of India that all I wished to do was absorb where I was. The only roaming around I did was in the area where I was staying.

Off Tara Road in Juhu Beach

market

A typical alleyway

Juno beach

Entrance to a Jain community

Jains community

According to Wikipedia :

  • Jainism is perhaps one of the most ancient religious traditions of not just India but the world.
  • Jainism is the only religion wherein all followers, both monks and practicing lay persons of all sects and traditions, are required to be vegetarian.
  • Jains have been an important presence in Indian culture, contributing to Indian philosophy, art, architecture, sciences, and the politics of Mahatma Gandhi, which led to Indian independence.
  • Mahatma Gandhi took many walks at Juhu Beach.

The beach is also famous for many Mahatma Gandhi walks as a protest during independence struggle.

There is no path to peace. Peace is the path.

 

Juhu Beach

This is the end of My India posts.

Thank you for sharing your precious time with me.