Thursday, April 29, 2021

Grammar for a Full Life: How the Ways We Shape a Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us by Lawrence Weinstein -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



Welcome to Book Beginnings on Fridays, where books lovers gather to share the opening sentence (or so) of the book that caught their fancy this week. 

Please add the link to your post in the Linky box below. You can play along on your blog or social media, whatever generates a URL link. If you don't have a blog or social media account but want to play along, just share the first sentence in a comment below. If you do, please tell us the name of your book and author's name.

If you post or link on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag.


From Grammar for a Full Life: How the Ways We Shape a Sentence Can Limit or Enlarge Us by Lawrence Weinstein:

When my devoted wife, Diane Weinstein, was still living -- and avidly contributing her input on the first version of this book -- I had a cockeyed dream one night in which she played a crucial part.
-- from the author's Introduction.
To get what I required for survival and a good, full life, I must often turn the ears of others in my direction.
-- from chapter one, “Getting Noticed: Colons." 

You can tell by the title and cover that this is not your ordinary grammar book. I love grammar books and self-help books so I'm game! 

Later in the introductory sections, Weinstein explains that his book explores the idea of a "connection between grammar and successfully obtaining something we human beings require in order to live fully." The first section, for example, looks at agency as "a person's sense of agency is his or her foremost enabler." In chapter one, Weinstein argues that using more colons will help people build confidence and increase their sense of agency.

This is going to be fun!

Do you read grammar books? Would you read this one? Take a look at Weinstein's website before you answer. He might convince you. 


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The Friday 56 hosted by Freda's Voice is a natural tie in with this event and there is a lot of cross over, so many people combine the two. The idea is to post a teaser from page 56 of the book you are reading and share a link to your post. Find details and the Linky for your Friday 56 post on Freda’s Voice.

From Grammar for a Full Life:
Unfortunately, though, English is sorely lacking in grammatical constructions that do justice to the active-passive hybrid state of mind involved in pulling off most real deeds on Earth. Sentence after sentence, our language forces us to choose between active voice and passive voice.
This book is a dream come true for grammar geeks looking to delve into the deeper meaning of grammar. I think I'm going to love it. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Windhall by Ava Barry -- BOOK REVIEW



Ava Barry’s new novel Winhall brings the Golden Age of Hollywood back to life through a film noir lens. Eleanor Hayes was a rising star in the 1940s. As movie director Theodore Langley’s leading lady, she was the toast of the town. That is, until she was murdered during the filming of their last movie and her body discovered in the garden of Theo’s Hollywood mansion, Windhall. Theo was tried for her murder but let off on a technicality. He fled town, leaving Windhall empty and moldering.

Decades later, Eleanor’s murder is the hobbyhorse of investigative journalist Max Hailey, who thinks Theo was framed. When a young woman’s dead body is found near Windhall, wearing the same type of dress as Eleanor and killed in the same way, Max sees a story idea and an opportunity to investigate Theo’s innocence. Since the reclusive Theo has returned to L.A., the pieces fall into place for Max’s big chance.

The story is mostly set in present day. But Barry cleverly uses a journal of Theo’s to introduce scenes from the 1940s from Theo’s point of view. She used a different font for the diary entries, a font that looks a little like handwriting, which highlights the transition between the present day and historic storylines. The technique works well, especially when Theo describes making movies in Hollywood in the 1940s, as in passages like this:
When we need cowboys for a shoot, we drive over to Gower and Sunset, where all the unemployed cowboys hang out, waiting for work. They drift in from the desert between jobs wrangling cattle, because they know that film people pay a lot more money for a lot less work. The same goes for Indians and churchgoers, cops and priests – if you can’t find an actor to suit your needs, you drive around town looking for the real thing. He’ll turn up, sooner or later.
The technique works less well when, in several of the journal passages, Theo records entire scenes of dialog. This makes for a good novel, but an inauthentic diary. Maybe Theo could have written in an excuse like, “As is my habit with this diary, I’ll record the conversation exactly as I remember it. I may want to use it in a movie one day.” Or something to make the dialog passages less noticeable. But that is a quibble in an otherwise thoroughly enjoyable book.

Barry tells the story well, with plenty of twists and turns, Old Hollywood atmosphere, interesting characters, and an exciting finish. Fans of old movies and good mysteries will love Windhall.

Windhall by Ava Barry came out in March 2021 from Pegasus Books.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Leaving Coy's Hill by Katherine A. Sherbrooke -- BOOK BEGINNINGS


book cover of Leaving Coy's Hill by Katherine A. Sherbrooke


Welcome to another week of Book Beginnings on Fridays! 

I got my second COVID vaccine yesterday and it's got me feeling pretty sleepy and lightheaded today. Not to mention my arm feels like I was hit with a baseball bat! But I am excited to have both Pfizer shots all done. Hubby has his too, so we are looking forward to doing some face-to-face socializing with all our vaxxed family and friends in the coming months. Woo hoo! 

In the meantime, I need a nap to sleep off these loopies! So I'll get my Book Beginnings post up and crawl into bed. 

Please share the opening sentence (or so) of the book you are reading this week or the book you want to highlight. Share the link to your blog post or social media post in the Linky box below. If you share on social media, please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag.


From Leaving Coy's Hill by Katherine A. Sherbrooke:

It has been years since I last spoke in front of such a large crowd.

-- from Chapter 1, "Chicago World's Fair, 1893."

Leaving Coy's Hill is historical fiction based on the life of Lucy Stone, a 19th Century advocate for women's rights and the abolition of slavery. Stone was the first woman from Massachusetts to earn a college degree. She broke new ground for women by becoming a public speaker and for keeping her own name after she married -- something almost unheard of in the mid-1800s. 

Although now one of the lesser-known of the first wave feminists, Lucy Stone inspired Susan B. Anthony and was admired by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. The three were most connected in the public's mind with the early women's rights movement in the United States. 

Katherine A. Sherbrooke breathes new life into the story of Lucy Stone with her novel, Leaving Coy's Hill. Stone's struggle to forge a marriage of equals; balance her career and family; and find fulfillment in a difficult profession, where emotions run hot and colleagues become rivals, is a story as timely today as it was in her time.

Read my earlier interview with Katherine A. Sherbrooke about her prior book, Fill the Sky, here.

Leaving Coy's Hill launches May 4 from Pegasus Books and is available for pre-order.


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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Leaving Coy's Hill:

I looked out on the crowd, feeling sure I had done well. Any relief I felt, though, turned quickly to anxiety as I realized I hadn't planned what to do next.

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Gail Hovey, Author of She Said God Blessed Us: A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church - AUTHOR INTERVIEW



When Gail Hovey was a teenager, she was emotionally and physically seduced by Georgia, the education director at her church. It took her decades, including a move to South Africa, to break free of Georgia's influence. In her new memoir, She Said God Blessed Us, Hovey tells her story with compassion and insight. It is a memoir worth reading for anyone whose family has been touched by abuse or who wants to understand dynamics and effects of abuse.

book cover She Said God Blessed Us: A Life Marked by Childhood Sexual Abuse in the Church by Gail Hovey

Gail talked with Rose City Reader about writing memoir, books that inspire her, and more: 

How did you come to write your new memoir She Said God Blessed Us?

I’ve been trying to write this story for more than 40 years. I tried and failed and tried and failed and tried again. The story, which of course kept developing, would leave me alone for years at a time, but never go away. News of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church began to emerge in the 1990s and beyond, and those stories provoked me. Dharma talks at a Zen retreat in 2005 included descriptions of desirable qualities in a religious teacher and reminded us of the power of first love. Hearing these talks wrapped me in unexpected sadness. My first religious teacher and my first love were the same person. That’s not how it’s supposed to be. I knew at that moment that I had to write my story as a memoir.

Your memoir is a deeply personal account of your intimate relationship with Georgia, the education director of your childhood church. Was it difficult to tell such a private story?

Once, sitting on a New York subway train, in the midst of some writing or relational crisis, I looked around. I remember saying to myself, “Everybody does it. What’s the big deal?” I meant that the elegant white woman across the aisle from me, and the hip young Black man, and the elderly Chinese couple next to him, they all had sex. We all had sex. What’s the big deal? It helped me to think that I was writing my version of an almost universal human experience.

Writing the memoir in my seventies didn’t make the difficulties of telling a very private story go away, but the most painful chapters happened a good long time ago. That helped. I was also supported by a community of women and by a partner who believed in the importance of my project. By this time in my life, not writing would have been far more difficult.

Did you consider turning your experience into fiction and writing the book as a novel?

I did write my story as fiction, in three different versions, with three different agents over fifteen years. None of these novels found a publisher. My last agent told me, in the late eighties, that the novel was too straight for the gay market and too gay for the straight market. True or not, what I appreciate now is that I had yet to take in the full impact of what had happened to me. Only after more lived life could I see that my relationship with my religious teacher, beginning when I was a teenager, had multiple dimensions -- physical, intellectual, and spiritual. The novels had hidden as much as they had revealed. I was ready to stop hiding and write the story as memoir.

What did you learn from writing your book – either about the experiences you describe or the
writing process – that most surprised you?

Writing memoir, my public life is present as context and playing field for the unfolding of my very private life. That public life—writing and activism that began with the civil rights movement and grew to include solidarity work with people’s movements from southern Africa to Hawaii—I chose that life for reasons very connected to my private story. Twining these two together and making the personal public, I am whole and honest in the world for the first time. This was the biggest surprise.

Can you recommend any other memoirs that deal with sexual exploitation in a church setting,
especially of women, with the honesty and forgiveness you put into yours?

I know of no other book, memoir or novel, that tells the story of a religious woman who abused children. I know of no other memoir that addresses the life-long consequences of childhood sexual abuse. The valuable books I’ve read about sexual abuse in the church are all written by men. Martin Moran’s The Tricky Part: A Boy’s Story of Sexual Trespass, a Man's Journey to Forgiveness is the only memoir. The rest are novels or short stories: Anthony Wallace, The Old Priest; Andrew O’Hagan, Be Near Me; Thomas Keneally, Crimes of the Father. My memoir takes place within the Protestant church community. The books mentioned here are all within the Roman Catholic community.

What kind of books do you like to read? What are you reading now?

Because of my long involvement with southern Africa and the struggle against colonialism, I read many books related to Africa. I have just completed Maaza Mengiste’s The Shadow King, a novel of the 1935 Italian invasion of Ethiopia. Two others I admire greatly are Hisham Matar’s The Return: Fathers, Sons and the Land in Between, and Jenny Erpenbeck’s Go, Went, Gone.

I have also just completed Robert Jones, Jr.s’ novel The Prophets. Two enslaved young men on a plantation in the deep South before the Civil War who form a forbidden union.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the authors you read?

Robert Jones has quoted Toni Morrison: If you don’t find the book you need, write it. Jones has written a story we need, men who loved each other, even under slavery. Morrison’s quote encouraged me too, a long time ago. I wrote the book I needed. Morrison’s novels, her essays, her presence during my lifetime inspired, amused, humbled, and changed me, over decades.

James Baldwin was writing his novels and essays when I was a young woman, and like Morrison, he taught me.

Adrienne Rich is the poet who gave me the language I needed to begin to understand my life.

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?

Publishing a book in the midst of a pandemic and a fraught political season is not something I would ever recommend! During the lockdown, I’ve been grateful for the book groups that have Zoomed with me, the readings I’ve given and the interviews I’ve had. These are available on my website. I look forward to the opening of opportunities: reading in bookstores, presenting my work in seminary and college classes, discussing my memoir with book clubs. My promotional work now is reaching out to begin to schedule such events.

What’s next? What are you working on now?

In 2017, I was invited to return to Hawaii, where I lived for fifteen years—years skipped in my memoir, as they tell a different story. In Hawaii, I worked for Native Hawaiian community organizations, especially Ka’ala Farm / Cultural Learning Center. To honor its 40th anniversary, Ka’ala’s story needed to be told: how its founders discovered ancient archeological sites, returned the land to the production of native plants, and gathered people, especially children, to teach them Hawaiian culture and its importance in the 21st Century. My job was to interview those who led the organization over the decades, from the elders to the youth involved today. Now that my memoir is published, I will return to this project and bring it to completion.



Saturday, April 17, 2021

Rare Book Cafe - Guest Appearance


I was a guest this morning on the Rare Book Cafe, a video podcast hosted by Portland rare books dealer Ed Markiewicz. I met Ed through Instagram because we are both here in Portland and both love books. I'm not a rare book collector, by any means, but I've bought some collectable editions from Ed's Montgomery Rare Books, and think he's a delightful guy.

I had a terrific time chitchatting with Ed and artist Mary Kay Watson about books, favorite authors, book blogging, and bookstagramming. We had a lively discussion! We dug down a bit into how traditional blogging differs from bookstagramming and the visual focus of Instagram. 

We also mused about whether bookstagram makes people more creative and if, as a digital platform, it is contributing to the death of the paper book. What do you think?

Click to watch the video. Follow the Rare Book Cafe on Facebook for more bookish conversations.

Mary Kay went on to discuss James Audubon and his bird paintings. That may seem like a 180-degree switch! But Audubon's bird paintings were originally made to order and delivered to subscribers who came to love his beautiful and informative pictures of birds. He went on to inspire Audubon Societies for the preservation of birds and their habitats. That is not unlike bookstagrammers who inspire their followers with beautiful pictures of books!

Mary Kay is the creator of the Tangled Shakespeare series, a retelling of Shakespeare plays in gorgeous illustrations. Check out her work!


Rare Book Cafe a weekly live-streamed program about antiquarian books, ephemera, and related materials, and the people to collect, curate, and sell them. The producers describe it as "the book lovers' rendezvous."

Usual topics include antiquarian books, rare books, collectible books, unusual books, vintage photographs, antique maps, rare prints, and ephemera. Guests typically include antiquarian booksellers, authors, collectors, and anyone else with an interest in these topics. 

Rare Book Cafe is live streamed every Saturday at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Time on Facebook. You can find replays on YouTube and on the Rare Book Cafe page on Facebook.

Friday, April 16, 2021

The Real Hergé: The Inspiration Behind Tintin by Sian Lye -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



It is a gorgeous spring week here in Portland, but a crazy busy one for me, work-wise. I'm off to my first face-to-face office meeting in a long time. Thanks to the lovely weather, we can meet outside. And I can walk to the meeting. All in all, a terrific way to spend the day. I hope yours is as nice!

Before I head out, here is my belated Book Beginning post. Sorry I didn't get it up last evening. 

Here on Book Beginnings on Fridays, participants share the first sentence (or so) of the book they are reading or want to highlight this week. Leave a link to your blog or social media post in the Linky box below. Use the hashtag #bookbeginnings is you share on social media. 


Hergé, otherwise known as Georges Prosper Remi, is one of the best-loved authors in history, yet also one of the most controversial.

-- The Real Hergé: The Inspiration Behind Tintin by Sian Lye. I admit I didn't read Tin Tin books as a kid, although I saw the charm in them as I grew older. But this new biography of the popular Belgian author caught my eye. His life sound interesting and I want to read more. 


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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.

Hergé denied any accusations of anti-Semitism or bias towards the Nazis, and it was thirty years after the book was published that he would admit that part of The Shooting Star concerned the rivalry for progress between Europe in the United States. 

At the point the comic strip was published, Hergé's brother was still imprisoned in Germany, and according to one of Paul Remi's classmates, Albert Dellicour, who was imprisoned with him, Hergé's depictions in Le Soir caused a great deal of anger in the prison camp.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Anglophile's Notebook by Sunday Taylor -- BOOK REVIEW



by Sunday Tayor (2020, Spuyten Duyvil)

Towards the end of my freshman year of college, I went through a glum patch. It was a combination of homesickness and Tacoma. I made plans to transfer. But instead of choosing a school close to my home in Portland – a logical cure for homesickness – I latched on to the idea that, as an English lit major, I wanted to study English literature in England.

That is how I ended up spending my sophomore year in Oxford, England in a program for international students. I joined the Oxford Union so I could watch the debates and study in the library, went crazy driving a stick shift on the left side of the road, lived in a bedsit with a dotty landlady named Mrs. Mumford, and did, indeed, study English literature in one-on-one tutorials with Oxford dons.

I also spent weeks at a time in London, returning to Oxford on the train only for classes Tuesdays through Thursdays, thanks to a classmate with an aunt and uncle “on safari” for several months. With unimaginable hospitality and trust, they turned over their Hammersmith townhouse to three of us, giving me a chance to explore London’s museums, parks, churches, and Harrod’s. Mostly Harrod’s.

Which is the backstory for why The Anglophile’s Notebook jumped out at me as soon as I saw it. This is the book I would write if I had the talent to write a novel. It’s the story about an English lit lover who impulsively moves to England. I get it! I understand why the protagonist, Claire Easton, would do something a little goofy like head off on an extended work trip to England at the same time her marriage was hitting the rocks. And why, when her marriage falls apart, she decides to stay.

Claire is a 40-year old writer and magazine editor who goes to London on assignment for her travel magazine and with a plan to research a book on her favorite author, Charlotte Brontë. A couple of lucky breaks put her on the trail of a Brontë discovery and a new romance. When Claire’s friend sets her up with a collector of Brontë memorabilia to help him organize his collection, Claire starts traveling between her new boyfriend in London and Phillip’s stately home in Yorkshire, near Hawarth Parsonage, the Brontë family home. Like in the Victorian novels Claire loves, she may find more in Yorkshire than she anticipates.

The story takes place over Claire’s first year in England, during which she goes through a divorce, falls in love, turns her career in an exciting new direction, meets new friends, faces adversity, and starts to put down roots in her new home. This all unfolds against the backdrop of a cozy, literary England of independent bookshops, homey flats, chats in small museums, lunches in Covent Garden cafes, ancient pubs, and charming villages. Don’t come to this book looking for trauma and anguish. The Anglophile’s Notebook is all about the romantic ideal of starting over at 40 and having all the pieces tumble into place.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

March Wrap Up - My March Books



March was a good reading month for me. I didn't have a clunker in the bunch. I continued to climb Mt. TBR, as seven of the ten books I read had been on my shelf before the year started. Some have been around a long, long time! 

Two of these were books for my TBR 21 in '21 Challenge (Old Filth and The Library Book). The other five TBR books count toward my Mt. TBR Challenge goal of 60 total off my TBR shelves. Otherwise, I made no progress on my 2021 reading challenges.

Here is the list, in the order I read them, not the order in the picture:

The Lighthouse by P. D. James. This is the penultimate book in the Adam Dalgliesh mystery series. This may be my favorite of all mystery series, so I hate to see it end, although I plan to read the last book, The Private Patient, this year. I don't usually keep mystery books after I finish them, but I keep all my P. D. James books because I can see myself rereading all of them one day.  🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

The Anglophile's Notebook by Sunday Taylor. This was a charming romance with a literary theme and a bit of a mystery. This was one of the three new books I read last month. I got a review copy and my review is on it's way! 🌹🌹🌹🌹
The Midnight Line by Lee Child. I was a diehard Reacher Creature, and this one was pretty good, but after 22 books, I think I’m fading on the series. I read that Lee Child decided to retire and is turning the series over to his brother, who is also an author. There are two more books after Midnight Line written by Lee Child, then two written by Lee Child and his brother Andrew Child (both pen names, by the way). I plan to read the last two Lee-only book and call it quits. I'll retire along with Lee. 🌹🌹🌹🌹
The Library Book by Susan Orlean, which is a history of the Los Angeles Public Library using the devastating 1986 fire at the central, downtown branch as the organizing feature. This was a fascinating book. It makes me want to read more of Orlean's books, many of which are on my TBR shelves. 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹
A Visual Life: Scrapbooks, Collages, and Inspirations by Charlotte Moss. I loved this gorgeous book, which I read as part of my project to read all my coffee table books. I'm trying to read one a month. 🌹🌹🌹🌹
Missing Joseph by Elizabeth George, book six in her Inspector Linley series, another fave of mine. I read this one with my ears, even though the book book was on my shelves. Focusing my audiobook borrowing on my existing TBR shelf is one of my reading resolutions for 2021. 🌹🌹🌹🌹
On The Wealth of Nations: Books That Changed the World by P. J. O’Rourke, which I read to bone up on an Adam Smith study group I’m in this year. 🌹🌹🌹🌹
Old Filth by Jane Gardam. I finally read this and loved it! I've already raced through the other two books in the trilogy, which will show up in my April wrap up. What a wonderful story of marriage, friendship, and the legal profession! 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹
One Corpse Too Many by Ellis Peters, book two in her Brother Cadfael series. This was the second new (to me) book I read. It was not on my shelf and I borrowed the audiobook from the library. I’m not sure I will stick with this series. I have so many others I prefer, including her George Felse series. This one just isn't grabbing me as much as it does other people. Am I wrong? 🌹🌹🌹
Mystery Man by Colin Bateman. Oh my! I laughed so much when I listened to this!  I looked like a mad woman, walking around my neighborhood park, snorting with laughter. This was a new to me book and author my law partner insisted I read with my ears. She gifted me the audiobook from Audible. Why have I never found his books before? I loved the narrator's Irish accent and now I can't wait to listen to the other three books in this hilarious mystery series. 🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Blue Desert by Celia Jeffries & When in Vanuatu by Nicki Chen -- BOOK BEGINNINGS



So many new books come out this time of year that I have another twofer this week for Book Beginnings on Fridays! I'm not complaining! Who doesn't love new books?

Please share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are highlighting this week. Add the link to your blog or social media post in the Linky box below. No blog? No problem! You can always play along by leaving a comment right here with your opening sentence. Just please remember to tell us the name of the book and the author.


From Blue Desert by Celia Jeffries:

"I wish for once the post would land upright in the box."

Blue Desert comes out April 20 from Rootstock Publishing and is available for pre-order now from many sources. See Celia Jeffries' website for more information.

Alice George lived in the Sahara desert with the nomadic Tuarig tribe during the years of World War I. 60 years later, she gets a telegram telling her that her former lover from her time in the Sahara has died. The story braids the two narratives of Alice's time spent with Abu in the desert and 1970s London, during the week she tells her secrets to her husband for the first time. If you like historical fiction with a feminist bent, Blue Desert is the book for you.

From When in Vanuatu by Nicki Chen:

Diana was high on hope that morning.

When in Vanuatu launches April 27 from She Writes Press and is available for pre-order from many sources. See Nicki Chen's website for more information.

Nicki Chen's new novel, When in Vanuatu is the page-turning story of expats Diane and Jay, living in Manila when, for various reasons, they decide to move to the South Pacific island of Vanuatu. Although Vanuatu is the beautiful tropical island where James Mitchener wrote Tales of the South Pacific, their new home is not the idyllic paradise it first appears. While Diane and Jay become part of a captivating international community, the couple faces disappointments that test their marriage and lead to Diane's personal transformation.


Please link to your Book Beginnings post not your homepage. If you post or link on social media, please use the hashtag #bookbeginnings, with an S.

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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Blue Desert:

I don't want to keep these secrets anymore. They're heavy and bite my neck and constrict my throat and maybe I was wrong in thinking I would lose Edith if I told her the truth.

From When in Vanuatu:

She didn't ask how he could complete a mission that was supposed to take ten days in three or four. This time, when he insisted she stay inside and be careful, she didn't roll her eyes.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Q&A with Arlana Crane, Author of Mordecai's Ashes -- AUTHOR INTERVIEW


Author Arlana Crane lives in Calgary, Canada but her earlier years on Vancouver Island in British Columbia inspire her fiction. Mordecai's Ashes is the first book in her Larsson Investigation series, set in Victoria, B.C.

Arlana talked with Rose City Reader about Mordecai's Ashes, her favorite authors, and more:

How did you come to write Mordecai's Ashes?

The idea of a younger man inheriting a detective agency and trying to be a detective with no formal training came to me years ago, and I started a story along those lines, only to get very stuck over the central case in the plot. When I revisited the idea a couple years ago, I decided to make the main character more like someone I might know and suddenly it all came to life again. The idea for the main crime at the middle of the story was actually my younger brother’s, as it happens.

What part does the Vancouver Island setting play in your story?

It’s a major point in the plot, the fact that it’s an island and that so much of it is very sparsely inhabited lent itself nicely to a drug running concept, and it provided a nice, atmospheric background for the story as well.

Mordecai's Ashes is described as Book 1 of the Larsson Investigations series. Will we see Karl Larsson and his sidekick Kelsey again?

Oh yes, I’m working on the sequel now, and hope to have it out by the end of the year.

What did you learn from writing this mystery – either about the subject of the book or the writing process – that most surprised you?

I think just how difficult it can be to get a story out of your head and onto paper. I think the most apt analogy for the drafting process was the idea that it felt like a cat trying to hack up a hairball. Annoying, massively uncomfortable, but so satisfying when you actually manage to do it.

Did you start with the end of the mystery in mind and work backwards? Or did the ending come to you as you wrote the story?

I did have the twist ending in mind before I had even decided on the central theme of the book, but I originally ended the main "case" of the book much earlier than in the published version, only I wasn’t satisfied with the way it felt. I was complaining to my brother that I would never be able to write a really exciting novel, like some of the authors we both enjoy, and he said that all I needed to do was “add more explosions” to my story, which is exactly what I ended up doing!

What is your work background and how did you transition to writing fiction?

I’ve worked in administrative office jobs for most of my adult life, which I have to admit, aren’t the most conducive to create pursuits, but they do provide a certain amount of "daydream time" in the course of average work day, and writing in my spare time has become my way of keeping myself from losing my mind in the day to day grind.

Who are your three (or four or five) favorite authors? Is your own writing influenced by the authors you read?

That’s a hard one. I grew up loving all the "Queen’s of Crime" -- Christie, Sayers, and the like. I’ve always been a big fan of Jane Austen and I love most of J.K. Rawling’s work. But I think my writing is probably most influenced by authors like Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. I love the way they handle the English language. If there were any author I wish I could emulate it’d be one of those two.

What are you reading now?

I’m currently in the middle of both The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, and the Discovery of Witches series by Deborah Harkness. Don’t ask my how I managed to start two series at the same time, it just happens. I have no control over it.

You have a terrific website and are active on social media, like twitter and Instagram. From an author's perspective, how important are social networking sites and other internet resources to promote your book? 

A website seems to be a must for any author and I enjoyed the process of putting mine, Arlana Writes, together as an opportunity to get some of my short fiction out into the world, as well as touting my novel.

As for social media, I’ve found it very useful, not only for reaching potential readers, but also for connecting with other writers and just having that chance to share ideas and encourage each other. Twitter is really great for that. My Twitter handle is ArlanaCrane. I highly recommend following the #WritingCommunity hashtag to any new authors on that platform. My Facebook and Instagram accounts, @ArlanaCraneCrimeWriter and @Arlanawrites respectively, are more about letting anyone who is interested see a more personal side of me.

Do you have any events coming up to promote your book?

Sadly, events are difficult at the moment, however Mordecai’s Ashes is up for the Crime Writer’s of Canada award for first time crime writers, which is pretty exciting!

What’s next? What are you working on now?

My big focus at the moment is getting book two in the Larsson Investigations series written. It’s a bit of a quirky plot, but I think readers who enjoyed book one should find book two just as much fun.



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Blood and Oranges by James Oliver Goldsborough & Princes of the Renaissance by Mary Hollingsworth - BOOK BEGINNINGS


Thank you for joining me once again for Book Beginnings on Fridays! I have two books this week just for a change of pace.

Please share the first sentence (or so) of the book that has captured your attention this week. Add the link to your BBOF blog or social media post in the Linky box below. Please use the #bookbeginnings hashtag if you post or share on social media.


book cover of Blood and Oranges: The Story of Los Angeles

It began on an ordinary morning at the rancho, of which there been too many lately.

This fast-paced historical novel tells the story of Los Angeles from the roaring twenties to the uproarious nineties. Goldsborough brings the research skills of his nonfiction writing and the crisp style of his years in journalism to this tale of tale of urban glamour, corruption, crime, beauty, glitz, and grime that is as sprawling and fascinating as Los Angeles itself. 

Blood and Oranges launched in March from City Point Press and is available for pre-order

The sea was calm on 5 August 1435 when Alfonso V of Aragon set sail along the southern Italian coast in search of a small Genoese fleet which, according to his spies, was in the area.

-- from Chapter I, "Usurpers: Alfonso of Aragon & Francesco Sforza," in Princes of the Renaissance: The Hidden Power Behind an Artistic Revolution by Mary Hollingsworth (Pegasus Books). 

Hollingsworth's new nonfiction book also came out in March. It tells the history of the patrons of the art and architecture of the Italian Renaissance, during the tumultuous period of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. 

Princes of the Renaissance is a beautiful book, filled with photographs of the places and color pictures of the art described.


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Freda at Freda's Voice hosts another teaser event on Fridays. Participants share a two-sentence teaser from page 56 of the book they are reading -- or from 56% of the way through the audiobook or ebook. Please visit Freda's Voice for details and to leave a link to your post.


From Blood and Oranges:

Sadness was a big part of Willie's life. What could there be in this pretty young girl's life that brought sadness?

From Princess of the Renaissance:

However, Alphonso I was no longer the political force he had once been. In the summer of 1449 he had become infatuated with a nineteen-year-old Lucrecia d'Alagno, and she was now his publicly acknowledged mistress, treated as his queen and seated at his side to celebrate court festivities.

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