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Thursday, 9 December 2010

Children's writer - Lynne North with Gertie Gets it Right (eventually).

Gertie Grimthorpe comes from a long line of witches. Unfortunately, she hasn't really got the hang of it. Being blonde haired, blue eyed and free of warts isn't much of an advantage. Try as she might, Gertie's spells fall flat. She manages to give her bat-headed umbrella the ability to talk, but then wishes she hadn't when all he does is complain and insult people. Even finding an owl to be her Familiar doesn't help. Then again, he is extremely shortsighted...

Gertie is sent to The Academy to improve her spell casting skills. She soon has a best friend in the form of Bertha Bobbit, a big girl, with a matching appetite. Add to that a Moat Monster with a flatulence problem, the weirdest array of witch's Familiars possible, and a warlock determined to ruin Gertie's chances of success, and the story unfolds. Not to mention the demon...

A children’s sword and sorcery fantasy novel aimed at the nine years of age to mid teen market. Zac is a fifteen year old stable boy whose life is turned upside down when he finds himself in the midst of demons, magic and a perilous quest. The land around Albemerle castle is under attack, and the only hope of survival for Zac and the people he loves is to find the great wizard, Aldric. Men have already died trying. Strange dreams mark the beginning of Zac’s life changing events. Armed with a magic sword, ring and crystal, he sets out with a group of soldiers to find Aldric. Demon attack almost ends Zac’s quest as soon as it begins. Zac refuses to give up, and soon finds himself accompanied by unusual travelling companions. Many dangers bar their way. Only Zac’s determination and the unexpected help he receives can make it possible to find and free Aldric, and return for the final battle to save the land…

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

A History Lesson from the 1500s

Here's a history lesson I'd like to share with you. I'm not sure who the author of this is, or even if it's true! But it's interesting all the same.

The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be. Here are some facts about the 1500s:

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot and then once a day it was taken and sold to the tannery.- if you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor". But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn't even afford to buy a pot. They "didn't have a pot to piss in" and were the lowest of the low.

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell, brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour - hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children and last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!"

Houses had thatched roofs,-thick straw-piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying "It's raining cats and dogs." There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.

The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt - hence the saying "Dirt poor." The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a threshold.

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Every day they lit the fire and added things to the pot. They ate mostly vegetables and did not get much meat. They would eat the stew for dinner, leaving leftovers in the pot to get cold overnight and then start over the next day. Sometimes stew had food in it that had been there for quite a while. Hence the rhyme: Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot nine days old. Ugh!

Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, "bring home the bacon." They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around and chew the fat.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous.

Bread was divided according to status. Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or the upper crust.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of holding a wake.

England is old and small and the local folks started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a bone-house, and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside – they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, saved by the bell or was considered a dead ringer.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Maryann Miller - a diverse writer of columns, short fiction and novels - is here!

As a journalist and author, Maryann Miller amassed credits for feature articles and short fiction in numerous national and regional publications. The Rosen Publishing Group in New York published nine of her non-fiction books including the award-winning, Coping With Weapons and Violence in School and On Your Streets, which is in its third printing. Play It Again, Sam, a woman's novel  and One Small Victory, a suspense novel, are electronic books available on Kindle, Nook, and other e-book reading devices. One Small Victory was originally published in hardback by Five Star. A mystery, Open Season, is a new release in hardback from Five Star Cengage Gale. The young adult novel, Friends Forever, is her first book for BWL Publishing Partners. She has also written several screenplays and stage plays and is the Theatre Director at the Winnsboro Center for the Arts. Miller is currently the Managing Editor of WinnsboroToday.com, an online community magazine for a small town in East Texas where she lives on some acreage with her husband, a horse, two goats, four cats, two dogs, and a variety of wild critters that wander through.

Hello Maryann, and thank you for talking to us today. To start the interview, tell us a little about Open Season.
Wow, this is like asking a mother to talk a little about her child. (smile) Open Season is the first in a mystery series, and it started as a film project idea when I was working with Dallas filmmakers, Allen and Cynthia Mondell. They were looking for their first feature film project and asked if I could come up with a story idea that would be entertaining as well as looking at the social issue of racial problems in the city and in the police department. As happens in the film industry so often, the project never got made, but I had done so much research I wanted to use it. So I started working on the novel. I finished the screenplay as well, and it was a semi-finalist in the Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellowship.

What is your favourite scene in your book? Can we have a snippet?
 It's hard to pick one scene as a favourite, but I have always liked the opening scene that introduces Sarah Kingsly. She is being interrogated by Internal Affairs because she shot a young black boy in a drug bust that went bad. Her partner was killed in the bust, so this is an extremely difficult moment for Sarah.
Sarah took a deep breath and faced Quinlin in the stuffy cubbyhole of an office. The room was hot and musty. Dust motes floated in the slivers of sunshine that had penetrated the haze of accumulated grime on the windows of the old building. The scent of his cologne hung heavily in the still air. Chaps. Rich, masculine, and too easily a distraction if Sarah thought about it.

Dressed in a dark, somber suit, Quinlin didn't speak. He watched her with the careful scrutiny of a snake. A trickle of perspiration rolled down Sarah's back and dampened her white tee shirt. Shifting in the wooden chair, she contemplated the wisdom of taking off her jacket, then decided against it. He would interpret it as a sign of weakness.

She thought she was prepared for this. She'd rehearsed a million times, remembering the images, nailing down the sequence, readying herself for his opener, "Detective Kingsly, tell me what happened that night."

She recalled the moon playing tag with a few heavy clouds, casting weird, disorientating shadows on the crumbling buildings. She remembered wishing the clouds would give way to rain, anything to relieve the oppressive heat that had pounded the city relentlessly for weeks. The heat made people do crazy things.

Maybe that's why it had happened.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Ford Street Publishing

Wardragon (The Jelindel Chronicles, Book 4)Paul Collins is the author of over 100 books for children from picture books through to young adults. He's probably best known for The Jelindel Chronicles and The Quentaris Chronicles.

He's both publisher and author.  He's been self-published, turned his hand to POD, and is now an indie publisher with his own company Ford Street Publishing: http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com/ 

Ford Street is a successful small independent Australian publisher of children’s books. They aim to publish picture books through to young adult fiction. Ford has a strong presence in the market place through INT Books and Macmillan. Authors and illustrators submitting their work are strongly advised to study the types of books Ford publishes.

What is your role within Ford Street?
Everything rolled into one! Commissioning editor, publisher, proofreader, publicist, warehouseman, printer liaison, administrative/reception person. You name it. I do freelance out some editing and all the design work, though!

What is your typical day like?
I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time promoting Ford Street's books. Mostly via social media, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, contacting online booksellers, etc. In order, though, take the dogs out for a run, shower, read the paper, breakfast, by which time's it's 9:30am and then it's on the computer and the day really starts as per the "most job" description.

Do you get many unsolicited enquires?
I get one or two a day. Everyone gets replied to. Some of our best titles came through the unsolicited pile.

Would you consider a children's book from further afield such as America?
I only publish Australian authors. The reason for this is that they're here to promote their books. Authors and illustrators can go on tour here and promote their books in municipal and school libraries, and this is where a lot of our sales come from. Take this market away and it really is a struggle to make ends meet. 

Are you a self-publisher? Do you charge any fees?

Sow And You Shall Reap - debut novel by B.P Smythe

Sow And You Shall Reap
B. P. Smythe

How cruelty, sexual abuse and greed created this monster of a former care home Matron and the haunted hotel that hid her evil secret.

Just released from prison after their care home atrocities; former Matron, Elizabeth Waverly, and her accomplice, Norman Christie, team up and see an opportunity to inherit two million pounds. But first they have to kill the main beneficiary, Elizabeth Carragher, with Elizabeth Waverly taking on her identity.

At the reading of the will they see their plans back fire when a second will is found and a long lost brother, Victor Carragher, turns up and claims it all.

What follows is a series of terrifying events including flashbacks of the main characters, the breakdown of their early family lives and how cruelty, abuse and greed, installed with a liberally wielded trouser belt, can manifest itself later like a cancer on their morals.

All author royalties and profits will be donated to cancer research uk.
Barry Smyth will be book signing in September. I'll let you know the date and venue soon!