Those Were Our Days Volume 1

TWOD_Volume1

Before I announce the launch of those Were Our Days Volume 2, I want to draw your attention to the writers of Those Were Our Days volume 1. This group of writers came together under my leadership two years ago. Few had any experience of formal writing and were nervous about starting on a writing enterprise. By the end of year one, they had acquired enough confidence to turn-in some touching, funny and evocative stories. In spite of still needing to tighten grammar, we decided to publish.

Here is a book that will transport you back in time to a world that is vastly different from ours. Those Were Our Days aims to give the present-day reader an insight into the past and to preserve experiences and ways of life that might otherwise disappear with the passing of time. On these pages you will experience people, places and events that stretch back almost to the turn of the 20th century. Written by a group from York U3A, these stories are full of delight, evocation, humour and resourcefulness. This first book will leave you waiting for the next volume.

Enjoy reading.

Rose of Skibbereen – Book Review

Rose of Skibbereen

In Rose of Skibbereen, John McDonnell has brought us a book that captivates from start to finish.

Rose Sullivan meets and has to leave Sean McCarthy but has to say goodbye to him and her beloved rural Skibbereen for a new and better life in America.

From here, John McDonnell weaves a series of events that leads us through the life of these two people. Powerfully and sentively written, Rose of Skibereen draws us into the opposing pull of rural Ireland and a dynamic emerging America where life takes a series of twists and turns that will change Rose’s life and future plans.

The Characters in this story a vivid and real and create a strong sense of empathy and emotion in the reader. The narrative tension is subtly woven through the book, and will keep you turning the page again and again

If you like a love story full of romance, tension, twists and turns then this book is for you.

The end of Book One presents the reader with a cliff hanger that will make you want to order book two right away.

A brilliantly crafted novel that carries the reader to another place and time.

Elation

the_muse-233x300It was a wonderful experience to finally have copies of my new book in my hands. The writing task can seem long and unrewarding, that is, until the finished work is finally tangible. The Muse is pleased, but she refuses to let me stop…”Next project please” she intoned.

Published at Last

BookCover_NorthEastinEden_v2I realise I have been quiet in the Muse Shack for a long time now. Oh, I’ve been around, but over in the corner working on my book. The Muse has not been pleased, but she has been reminded that I have to make her other inspirations known.

So, at last ‘North East In Eden’ is published. A book of poetry exploring life as a place of joy, pleasure, sadness and pain. Rather than me try to explain it here, I am including this link where you can go for free and see two poems that contrast with each other:

I look forward to renewed contact here in the Muse Shack and invite you to share your writing ideas with all the others who drop in for inspiration and refreshment.

Successful Blogging

I was wondering what made for a successful blog and came upon this. Thanks to the author whom I have tried to contact without success:

How to get more page views for your blog
by Pete

This is a guest post by Kristina Chang, Evan Moore, Tony Xu, and Omer Rabin; students at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

“What makes a blog popular? What drives page views?” These are the questions that we’ve been trying to answer over the last few weeks. We were on a mission to dig into the data and analyze the strongest parameters that influence the flow of visitors to WordPress.com blogs.

Out of the 30+ million blogs on WordPress.com, we randomly selected a sample of almost 100,000 blogs to perform a regression analysis. Here are our findings, together with a few recommendations. We hope that this provides some new information, and kudos to you in case you’ve already incorporated these tips into your blog – the data suggests that you’re on the right track. Keep it up!

Make your blog easy to follow – It almost sounds obvious, but the simplest way to build more awareness is to make it easier to do so. Make sure that you have the follow widget as visible as possible. If your readers receive a notification every time you post, or see your post in their reader, there is a much higher chance that they will revisit your blog.

Comments, Comments, Comments – The most successful blogs, we found, created and encouraged a dialogue with their readers. The best way to make people more engaged with your writing is for you to engage back and start a conversation. In your posts, encourage people to comment. Also, make sure that you reply to people’s comments and continue the dialogue. This back and forth conversation is a significant driver of page views; holding all else equal, every additional comment can potentially drive up to 18 incremental page views! You can start by simply asking follow-up questions at the end of each post: ”have you ever done X?”; “do you think Y is acceptable?”. You can read some more thoughts on building a relationship with your audience in this post.

Post Frequently and Regularly – Your readers want to know that you are there for them and that you are “on it”. If you post frequently and regularly and have enabled the follow feature as we mentioned above, checking your blog could become a daily routine for your readers. Even if it’s a short post, write something new as frequently as possible, and at regular intervals. (The Daily Post can help with ideas for this.)

While these three tips were shown to be the most important drivers of page views in our analysis, you might consider other parameters, which we found as having a partially significant effect: syndicating your post to Twitter and Facebook (using Publicize), for example, could lead to additional page views.

Happy blogging!

Self-publishing has taken Christian literature to a more honest place: A guest post by Brian Holers

Today I am re-posting this Guest Post from Emlyn Chand and Brian Holers. I hope it will inspire all you Christian writers to begin to expand your story lines. Oh…buy a copy of Doxology too…!

Posted by  on Mar 7, 2012 in BlogBlog Tour StopsGuest Posts | 3 comments

Self-publishing has taken Christian literature to a more honest place:  A guest post by Brian Holers
Please enjoy this guest post by Brian Holers, author of the literary novel,Doxology. Then read on to learn how you can win huge prizes as part of this blog tour, including $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

 

Not just for Christians

One of the beauties of self-publishing is that the gatekeeper has been fired. In this new world of books made possible by the Internet, no one is left to guard the door. To tell the reader what is what. This state of affairs may introduce an element of confusion for dogmatic readers, but the good news is, new breeds of literature are being created.

Self-publishing allows literature to cross over in new ways. Traditional Christian fiction publishers, for instance, disallow most references to sex, and even the most juvenile profanity. Self-publishing changes this. Not to suggest a writer should ever debase a genre—as writers we are obliged to choose our words carefully. But the old Christian books kept many readers away. “I’m not going to read that. That’s Christian. It’s boring.” Still, nearly every Christian I know periodically swears, fights, and even becomes amorous from time to time. Christians like good stories too, with depth of character, excitement, whimsy, action. The success of a book like The Shackshows the need for stories of real people dealing with real problems, in a faith-based context. It doesn’t even have to be good literature.

As humans, we all look for answers. Stories are stories. Conflict builds to crisis, which leads to a form of resolution. Sure, some people never doubt their faiths, even in the face of horrible tragedy. Others do. Some never ascribed to a faith in the first place, and instead spend their days casting about for a context to this condition we call humanness. The problem with much traditional Christian literature is this; when a character is pushed to a crisis, and the only change we read is “he fell on his knees, then and there, and accepted Jesus into his heart,” that incident may describe a beautiful sentiment, and may have value to a real person in real life, but as a reader, it doesn’t tell me anything. A reader wants details. He wants to see the sweat break out. She wants to hear the thoughts and words that accompany the character’s condition. Literature is literature. We want to see development. We want to get inside the characters. We want to get to know them. That’s why we care. Regardless of the genre label put on the book.

Doxology is a story in between. The book has a religious message; given its primary setting in rural north Louisiana, that message is Christian. But the characters are just people. They experience the same emotions all people do—love, joy, loss. Their conflicts grow and grow until they must be resolved. Like real people, they go astray, take paths of separation from God, or just from what is good for them. They experience desires that can never be fulfilled, want things that can never be had or even understood. They discover the traits in their lives that aren’t working, and set out to find new habits that will work. Many Christian values are universal—a belief, despite evidence to the contrary, that our lives are worthwhile. An understanding that letting go, and learning how little we are in charge, makes life more manageable. A certainty that the kindness and compassion we offer to others is returned to us a hundredfold.

Some say God. Some say the universe. But we all–when we’re honest, and when we pay attention, have a sense of something looking out for us, giving us what we need. Putting people we need into our lives. We give credit for these gifts as we see fit. Good literature promotes a point of view by showing the reader how a character’s modes of operation and beliefs work for her (or don’t). Good literature, whatever its genre, lets the reader inside. Lets the reader do part of the work. Doxology, in this vein, is a story at the crossroad of God and man. It presents God as the characters experience God, and as real people experience God, looking out for them, giving them what they need. Coming to understand how God has been there all along.

Doxology is a love story. Faith plays a role, as it helps the characters find answers and resolution, improves their lives. Like Jody and Vernon and the others, we all look for redemption from brokenness of the past. They and we find it, as people both real and imaginary alike do, in family, friends, productive work, a sense of place, a faith in something greater. Doxology is a story, first and foremost. Its characters face problems. Their conflicts grow. They look for resolutions and ultimately find them, imperfect as they are. We the readers get to know them, and we care. We sympathize. They matter.

 

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the DoxologyeBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include $450 in Amazon gift cards, a Kindle Fire, and 5 autographed copies of the book.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Doxology for just 99 cents
  2. Fill-out the simple form on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event

About the book: Fathers, sons and brothers reconnect over tragedy in this blue-collar Southern tale of love, loss, and the healing power of community and family. Get it on Amazonor Barnes & Noble.

About the author: An arborist by day and a novelist in every moment he can steal, Brian makes up stories from the treetops. Visit Brian on his websiteTwitterFacebook, or GoodReads.

Angry Muse

The Muse is angry with me. When I showed up at the Muse Shack, she had all my creative stuff sat outside on the grass. She shouted at me from the window and told me to go write somewhere else.

That was the problem, I had been somewhere else. Ireland for my daughter’s wedding…Scotland for new opportunities…meetings for setting up groups. Writing just seemed to get set aside, and though it was important, other things seemed to scream against it. I longed for the Muse and the Muse longed for me.

Writing is a demanding, creative and spontaneous craft. It takes time that is dedicated to the creation of meaningful words. Time is not always our friend, and giving hours a day to writing may seem unrealistic and frustrating.

Take heart. A former Archbishop of Canterbury who was a prolific writer, told how he wrote his books in ten minutes a day. Do the sums. Ten minutes a day…every day…there is a piece in a week, an article or short story in a fortnight, a novelette in eight months, a book in two years (or two).

So, business kept me from the Muse and she was waiting. But, I am back and she is forgiving. After taking all my stuff back into the Muse Shack, I found a corner and started to write…she is pleased and my editors are even more pleased.

The King Whisperers

Just when you thought that royalty, politicians and  history were boring, along comes Kerwin Swint and The King Whisperers.

The King Whisperers breaks upon our senses at exactly the right moment. Society is growing tired of rulers and politicians, yet is excited by a film about a stuttering King that swept up all the Oscars and the fast-approaching Royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton –The King Whisperers positions itself as a worthy contender for our attention.

To be honest, when the book arrived by courier, I thought to myself, this is going to be a dry read. How wrong I was. Once opened, I could not put it down and was soon recommending it to all my colleagues and friends. The King Whisperers turned out to be an engrossing insight into the lives of charismatic, shrewd, masterful, cruel and downright devious puppet-masters who have shaped the course of events in palaces, parliaments and nations throughout history. Never was history so interesting and exciting to read.

Chronicling the lives of some of the most powerful and devious individuals who would stop at nothing to ensure their own ends, Kerwin Swint shows us human-nature at its darkest and most selfish, yet sometimes at  its most altruistic. Here is shameless cruelty and sometimes sheer love; often devotion and commitment to a person, nation or cause and for which the reward is cruel and premature death. Could you have the person you had loved and shared half a lifetime with, murdered for uttering one word out-of-place? Such was the fate of Ibrahim Pashar, known as the ‘most beautiful man in the state’.

The reader will be familiar with many of the characters throughout the book. However, preconceptions will be swept away as the author demonstrates that these puppet-masters were not simply motivated by personal ambition, the struggle for power or greed as we may assume, but also by altruism, ideology and devotion that transcended any sense of personal gain. In some cases, readers will discover a sympathy with elements in a character’s personality who before  may have been despised, such as the She-Wolf Isabella of France whose love and compassion for Mortimer at his end, (“Fair son, have pity on gentle Mortimer,”) softens the devious and scheming harshness that caused her to rise against her husband Edward II.

Kerwin Swint presents his characters in a lively and engaging format, making this book an exciting read. Unlike the turgid flow of many histories – The King Whisperers sparkles with the pace and interest of a CNN or BBC report. In spite of the one negative review on Amazon, this is a book that will appeal to everybody, from the biography tourist to the serious academic in search of new information and sources. The language is accessible to all and stimulates enquiry. By the end of your read-through, you will be heading to Amazon to purchase biographies of the favourites you have bookmarked through almost 300  pages of ruthless self-serving and compassionate demise.

The only disappointment for me was that I was left wanting to know more. Now!

I didn’t want to have to run off and order copies of the lives I had read about; I was engrossed in certain characters such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Francis Walsingham. I wanted to see them in action; to see the twists and turns as they played with their masters and the affections of followers and nations. I realise however, that with 47 distinct individuals to discuss, such in-depth treatment was not possible in a single book. One thing is certain, Kerwin Swint has ensured that there will be more biographies of some interesting, though often disturbing shakers and movers on my bookshelf.

The book itself is a whisper. Each vignette is like a secret whispered in our ear, stirring the imagination and our own devious need to inform as we discover something new about one of the players.

I found myself meeting with a poet friend who had written a piece about the Battle of Towton; I had come across a little known snippet in the chapter on Kingmakers…did my friend know it, I wondered. He didn’t! I felt for a moment a little of what it was like to be a Richard Neville or a Francis Walsingham…I had passed the whisper on, and in so doing, became part of that history of shaping thought and controlling outcomes that is part of all of us.

The King Whisperers will entice, excite, educate, stimulate and motivate to further reading. I’ve already decided that Clairvaux, Walsingham and Isabella will be on my bookshelf. I am hoping that Kerwin Swint will be the author of one or more of these lives. I wonder whose schemings you will rush to read after observing The King Whisperers at work.

Tour Notes:

Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official King Whisperers blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.

The next word for the book give-away is (PUBLICITY). Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official King Whisperers blog tour page. The other 2 copies are being given-away courtesy of the GoodReads author program, go here to enter. And don’t forget to stop by the Q&A with Kerwin Swint Group to discuss the King Whisperers (including questions from the official book club guide), the author, and his previous works.

Time For Reflection

Do you feel the well has dried up? Have you hit a blank page? Has the light gone out? Is the Muse departed? Is the flow of your imaginings dammed up? Yes, I know you are probably reading this and screaming ‘mixed metaphors!’ But I have a purpose.

Whatever genre of writing we are involved in and however much we may wake up full of vigour for the writing task – the truth is, when we least want it, need it or expect it, our gift vanishes. That’s why the Muse and I have so many spats…I love her dearly, but she goes away without a word…like a morning cloud vanishes from the mountain top. When the gift is gone, the worst thing we can do is stress and try to make it work. Here’s my suggestion for restarting the flow:

Take a seat in a quiet and favoured spot and relax. For me it is the old log outside the Muse Shack that is a fallen tree. Something happens when I sit there. I connect with something beyond myself…a stirring begins that is different every time, but looks a bit like this:

All the pent-up and unacknowledged stresses of my life are laid down as I give myself to the inspiration of my landscapes. As soon as my body and hands interact with that ancient seat…I become aware of all the things I could not experience five minutes before…textures, colors, smells, scents, sounds (minute some of them), feelings, emotions, desires, wishes, memories, people, places, events (gone and yet to be), pain, happiness, special joys, accolades, disappointments, fears, hopes, dreams, places that fascinated, dark places I never want to see…and shall I go on? In a few minutes of respite in a favoured place, the well is flowing, the light has come on…get the picture?

The secret is to allow yourself to feel, to sense, to smell, to hear…extend every little thought and experience out in a ‘free-flow’ way…what does it feel like when a bug from the tree is crawling up my leg? There’s a character in there…a scene…a  moment of hilarity or anger in the past. Sight of a Damselfly and the scent of Barley fumes sparked my poem ‘North East in Eden’. I’m sure you get my drift!

You see…the Muse is never far away! She is always ready to fly to my need…all I need to do is allow her freedom and then sit quietly and let her know I need her. She never disappoints.

Oh…I carry a notebook and a sharpened memory because the Muse gives me a hard time if I forget what she has brought to my attention.