Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Author Interview: Krista Holle


Krista Holle, author of The Lure of Shapinsay. Read my book review here.


About The Lure of Shapinsay

Ever since Kait Swanney could remember, the old crones of the village have been warning her to stay away from the selkies. They claim that like sirens of old, the seal men creep from the inky waters, shed their skins, and entice women to their deaths beneath the North Sea. But avoiding an encounter becomes impossible when Kait is spotted at the water’s edge, moments after the murder of a half-selkie infant. 

Unexpectedly, Kait is awoken by a beautiful, selkie man seeking revenge. After she declares her innocence, the intruder darts into the night, but not before inadvertently bewitching her with an overpowering lure. 

Kait obsesses over a reunion deep beneath the bay and risks her own life to be reunited with her selkie. But when she lands the dangerous lover, the chaos that follows leaves Kait little time to wonder—is it love setting her on fire or has she simply been lured?

To know more about The Lure of Shapinsay, click here.


Hi Krista! Thank you for being on Bookingly Yours today. Can you please tell us something about yourself, your background, where you were born, live? Your work prior to becoming a writer.   I was born and raised in Midlothian, Virginia.  Midlothian is a slice of heaven on earth and I’ve recently returned.  I’m married to a wonderful husband with four feisty daughters who really keep me on my toes.  I work as a critical care nurse, but I dream of the day that I can write full time.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer?  I’ve written my whole life but I knew I wanted to tackle my first novel after the huge success of Twilight.  It occurred to me that there’s an insatiable audience of girls and women who crave not vampires but stories of true love.

Is this your first "published" book?  Yes, but there’s more on the horizon.

Was it easy to write something that is based on a myth?  I think it was easier writing a story based on a myth.  Though there’s not a lot of selkie tales out there, the basic premise of what a selkie can and can’t do has already been established for thousands of years.  For the selkie rookie, selkies are from Scottish folklore.  They are seal men and women who spend the bulk of their lives under the sea as seals but occasionally shed their skins and emerge on land as humans.  The men are notorious for luring human women to their deaths deep beneath the waves.

Can you tell us something more about the selkies? In the 1800’s on the Orcadian islands, selkies were a very real part of life.  Every drowning and mishap was blamed on them.  There are Orcadians today who swear they are descended from these mythical creatures and even tell of ancestors with webbed hands and feet.

Do you have any plans on writing another book about selkies or any other myths like mermen/mermaids?  I’m keeping my options open but no more nautical tales planned at this time.

Are you one of those writers who can write in a public place?  No, I’m the opposite. When the family is home, I type in silencing ear muffs.

Who are your favorite authors and why?  I love Tracy Chevalier, Shannon Hale, and Stephanie Meyers.  They are masters of escape and pulling the reader in as the main character.  Did anyone not enjoy being Bella as she experienced her first kiss with Edward?

What are you reading right now?  I just finished Monstrous Beauty.

What do you do when you are not writing and reading?  I enjoy collecting seashells, eating out, walking, and working on a sundry projects around the house.  I’m a do it your-selfer.


About Krista Holle

Krista has been writing since she was nine-years-old when she scribbled out her first adolescent work entitled Merish, the completely illogical but heartfelt story of a girl who was part mermaid, part fish. As a young mother, Krista added to her repertoire some middle grade readers and picture books she’s wary of mentioning.

In 2004, Krista began an intensive four year period working part-time as a critical care nurse while homeschooling her four children. During this hectic time, courses of writing were taught and learned, and rules of syntax were scolded to memory. Ironically this period of study equipped Krista with the tools she needed to enter the next phase of her writing experience. Now equipped with the mysteries of the comma, Krista was ready to tackle a much bigger project—a full fledged novel. 

After the kids were enrolled in public school in 2009, it occurred to Krista that there is an insatiable audience of women and girls who want to read books filled with stories about true love. Convinced that there was an unfulfilled audience waiting for what Krista loves to write—romance, she sat down in the family’s dungeon, a.k.a. the basement, and began to furiously type. In no time, her first novel was drying on crisp white paper.

Krista currently resides in Midlothian, Virginia with her husband, four daughters, and an eccentric cat with an attachment to the family’s socks. She continues to write obsessively every chance she can get.

To read more about Krista Holle, check out her website and blog.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Book Review: Saving Grace by Pamela Fagan Hutchins

Saving Grace

Author: Pamela Fagan Hutchins
Paperback: 278 pages
Publisher: Skipjack Publishing (September 24, 2012)
Amazon Link

Kindle Edition
File Size: 436 KB
Print Length: 279 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0988234807
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: SkipJack Publishing (September 23, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
Amazon Link

Note: I received a review copy of this book free from Pamela Fagan Hutchins. The review posted below is based on my personal thoughts while reading the book.

Ratings: ★ ★ ★ ★

My thoughts:

Saving Grace tells the story of Katie Connell, an attorney from Texas, who has very much complicated problems in life and love matters. After her parents died in a tragic accident, she realized she has fallen for someone she couldn't have. And then there is one bad rape case that Katie's superior instructed her to manage. Everything seems wrong with her life so she takes a break and goes to St. Marcos, the island where Katie's parents met their tragic deaths. When Katie saw the rain forest house, she finds herself bewitched and suddenly wanting to leave her life in the city for the house. Saving Grace has it all - romance, friendship, horror, suspense and mystery but the ghost story didn't appeal much to me. 

I loved Katie's story, I can totally relate with her character. The life she's living seemed very real to me. Even the dialogue the author used felt authentic. While I loved Katie's story, I hated how the story ended. I can't tell why because that would be a major spoiler. I was so heartbroken with this book, I couldn't get over Katie's pain even a week after I finished reading the book. Wished the story didn't end that way. 

Overall, it was a fantastic read, the story flowed just right. I look forward to reading more from the author, Pamela Fagan Hutchins.

About the book: 

Sometimes the problem with running away is what you can't leave behind.

Winner 2010 Writers League of Texas Romance Manuscript Winner 2012 "Ghost Story" Houston Writers Guild If you're at all inclined to be swept away to the islands to fall in love with a rainforest jumbie house and a Texas attorney who is as much a danger to herself as the island bad guys, then this book is for you. In Saving Grace, Texas attorney Katie Connell escapes professional humiliation, a broken heart, and her Bloody Mary-habit when she runs to the island of St. Marcos to investigate the suspicious deaths of her parents. But she trades one set of problems for another when she is bewitched by the voodoo spirit in an abandoned rainforest house and, as worlds collide, finds herself reluctantly donning her lawyer clothes again to defend her new friend Ava, who is accused of stabbing her very married Senator-boyfriend. Is it women's fiction? A legal thriller? A mystery? Romance? A ghost story? Suspense? Check all of the above. Saving Grace is the book you'd get if Janet Evanovich had written Wuthering Heights meets How Stella Got Her Groove Back: zany, tropical, intense, and eerie, all at once. Readers of Lisa Scottoline will love Katie, Annalise, and the unique and beautiful Saving Grace.

About the author:



Pamela Fagan Hutchins writes fiction and nonfiction. She is a former Human Resources executive and employment attorney who lives with her husband and two high school-aged kids, plus 200 pounds of pets in Houston, but their hearts are still in St. Croix, USVI, along with those of their three oldest offspring. She has six books out wtih SkipJack Publishing: Saving Grace, Hot Flashes And Half Ironmans, How To Screw Up Your Kids, Love Gone Viral, Puppalicious and Beyond, and The Clark Kent Chronicles. She is also a contributing author to Easy to Love But Hard to Raise and the upcoming Easy to Love But Hard to Teach (DRT Press), Ghosts! (Aakenbaaken & Kent), and Prevent Workplace Harassment (Prentice Hall). She won Romance in the 2010 Writers' League of Texas Manuscript Competition for Saving Grace (fka Leaving Annalise), and she also won both Mainstream Fiction (2010, 2011 and 2012) and Narrative Non-fiction (2012) in the Houston Writers' Guild's Manuscript Competitions for Conceding Grace (novel) and How To Screw Up Your Kids (nonfiction book). She won top Ghost Story in 2012 from the Houston Writers Guild. 

Visit her website http://pamelahutchins.com 
Follow her on Facebook http://facebook.com/pamela.fagan.hutchins.author

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Guest Author: Lisa Gordon


Lisa Gordon author of A SEALED FATE 

When I left school I didn't have my career all marked out in the route planner, I didn't have a life compass - all I had was an abiding belief that things would work out as they were meant to. I studied law, then economics, then I took a serious left turn and became an astrologer, but nothing really clicked for me. I bumbled along with this belief as my comfort blanket until one day crisis hit - I turned 30! Suddenly I realised that I was nowhere, my belief that all would work out magically without any major planning on my behalf had lead me a merry dance;and while all my friends seemed to have it all sussed career wise and family wise, my life was a basket case. It really made me question my beliefs and wonder if there really IS a plan or a destiny for us all, or whether it's all down to free choice and our own strategic planning. 

This question about whether fate or freewill govern our life became the guiding theme of my novel, A Sealed Fate. 

At school writing was actually my weakest subject and it was not until I was seventeen that my English teacher, Mrs Worth noticed that I had talent and gave me some really good advice; advice I still follow today. A great teacher really can make a difference and Mrs Worth was one of those gifted teachers who made a difference to so many of our lives.. However, I never considered writing as a career choice until at 30, during my little crisis, I had a psychic reading where the psychic told me that I must write as it was what she saw for me. I have always been an avid emailer and pen-friend - as we used to call it in the 80's, you never hear that word anymore do you - so I certainly fancied giving it a go. As an only child I spent most of my time by myself and so developing characters in my imagination and creating a fantasy world was second nature. 

Growing up in Johannesburg was truly an amazing experience which I will always treasure. It is a city of bright colors, vibrant people, stark contrasts and extremes: extreme wealth, extreme poverty, extreme emotions, extreme thunderstorms, often extreme violence and yet every minute I lived there I felt alive. As I sit here in safe and picturesque England I long to leave this sterility and head for the chaos of Africa where somehow every minute means so much more. Perhaps my image of my homeland is very much my metaphor for life: that at the extremes of existence one is truly living and experiencing this thing we call life to the full. I have tried in my novel to capture the vibrancy of life in all it's colour, the thrill of living.and the peak experience we have at life's ectremes. 




I am incurably inquisitive and very observant and I use my attention to detail to create vivid images which will transport the reader to the very heart of my story - making the reader put down the book thinking, "I've been there! I know those people!" 

The strange twists and turns of my own life and my own constant querying over whether I had a destiny or a fate inspired the theme of my novel. It's important to realise that life is a great mystery and that is part of the fun; you never know when things are going to change and when the best part of your life is going to begin. Writing a book was something I never expected to try and yet it is now my greatest love and my greatest achievement. I have written two more books which I hope to publish in the near future and as all authors know writing is a huge adventure which never ends. 

A SEALED FATE


Paperback: 226 pages
Publisher: Janus Publishing Company (September 1, 2009)
Amazon Link

About the book:

Upbeat and contemporary in style, this riveting narrative features an eclectic mix of characters awash with local color. To escape the pain of failed relationships and careers, both Valda and Larissa take themselves to the exotic locale of Dubai, seeking not only success but a general purpose in life. Valda does indeed find fulfillment and, to her astonishment, love but all is threatened when she is introduced to a billionaire Sheikh. Her clandestine relationship with the Sheikh propels her into a murky web of deceit, and she turns to her friend for help. As an astrologer, Larissa predicts that Valda and the Sheikh's destinies were decided from the moment of their first meeting, but she keeps the dire outcome foretold in the charts a secret. Together, the two women soon find themselves gambling in a game of cosmic Russian roulette where the stakes are their lives and their adversary is fate itself. Bravely merging genres and sensitively embracing personal relationships, this spiritual and gritty thriller illustrates the complex theme of choice versus chance.


About the author:


Lisa Gordon is a certified astrologer who appears regularly on BBC Radio.


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Book Review: Nolichuck by Jackson Keene

Nolichuck

Author: Jackson Keene
Paperback: 283 pages
Publisher: Treble Heart Books; 1 edition (September 21, 2011)
Amazon Link


Kindle Edition
File Size: 376 KB
Print Length: 220 pages
Publisher: Treble Heart Books; 1 edition (September 19, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
Amazon Link

Note: I received a review copy of this book free from Jackson Keene. The review posted below is based on my personal thoughts while reading the book.

Ratings: ★ ★

My thoughts:

I've only managed to read past the first quarter of the book. The review was due last week but I felt I had to try reading it again, still neither the story nor the characters held my attention. Just to be clear, I didn't have any problem with the author's writing style, the story just didn't work for me. To read positive reviews of the book, click here.

About the book:

TJ’s just an ordinary fourteen year old kid with extraordinary problems at home and school: A broken up family from his parents’ bitter divorce, evil bullies almost every afternoon, failing grades, boring classes, snobby girls, mean teachers, cut from basketball tryouts, few friends. Life is rough for TJ Cockrell.

And then that mysterious little green book had to go and throw him into the past. And not just any past, but into the untamed forbidding forests of 1802 eastern Tennessee along with the savage Indians, wild beasts, bloodthirsty robbers, backwoods ruffians, and log cabin living! Yup, it’s definitely not 2011 Knoxville anymore.

And he thought his present life was bad news! But TJ’s adventures are only beginning. Along the way, he fights off killer beasts and bandits and braves, gains a world of confidence in himself, finds his first real love, and meets a fantastic frontier family who really has it together. When he returns to the present, he’s a brand new person––ready to defeat deadly robbers in his own home, beat the bullies at school, win the girl, gain friends, and make great grades. He even gets his family back together again. Sort of. In the end, the little green book is really cool. And TJ can’t wait to go on another action-packed adventure into the perilous past! 

About the author:

Jackson Keene is the pen name of Jack Olen King. Mr. Keene is a former advertising man and senior marketing executive with a love of writing and history. In his free time, among other things, he volunteer coaches youth basketball and is a coach-player on his own men s team. He lives in Plano, Texas, where he enjoys creating stories about less celebrated yet equally exciting periods of the past and present. Nolichuck is his debut novel.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Guest Author: Christopher Ryan


12 Things I Learned at My First Book Fair

The thing about self-publishing is eventually you have to sell what you write. And while the digital book world continues to grow, I keep finding people who only want to read my book in print. As I have committed to the learning experience of being a self-publisher, this is an avenue I feel compelled to explore, and it has lead me to … the book fair.

My experience was at the Collingswood Book Festival 2012, an event held annually in Collingswood, NJ.

Full disclosure, my experience is a total of one book fair, so expertise? Not so much.

But I learned a lot of practical information from this initial foray and want to share these dozen lessons with you.

1) Carefully read what is being offered. I expected a few things to be provided, and what I had actually purchased with my very affordable $30 participation fee was a 10′ by 10′ space in the street. When I reread the agreement, it was all spelled out clearly. Any false expectations were my fault. So …

2) Bring a table, chair, and, if the event is outside, a booth tent. The latter has a metal frame that opens and collapses easily. Every other seller at the fair will have one, and the sun will shine brightly on you all day if you do not, or will send rain clouds to ruin your books. It was the former for me, and I didn’t even …

3) Bring sunblock. You. The sun. All day. Bring protection. And also bring…

4) Clear packaging tape. Use it to tape your signs up, your table cloth down, and to secure whatever else needs securing. It looks better than black electrical tape, trust me. How do I know? Don’t ask. While we are discussing necessary materials, also bring …



5) Pens, or some other kind of writing utensil, in case people want you to sign the books they buy. Hey, you hit the big time! Sort of. Which calls to mind another crucial requirement: bring…

6) Realistic expectations. Have enough copies of your work to be prepared for a robust day of literary commerce, but prepare yourself for … not so many sales. People don’t know you yet, and it is difficult for them to commit to a stranger’s book, especially if he is staring at them or she is giving the hard sell. Welcome them to check the book out, but also give them some room. I placed my books at the right end of the table (closest to them as they passed in the traffic flow) and sat a little left of center to provide a bit space without ignoring. I found a simple “good morning” to all was welcoming but not intimidating. Another good is idea is to …

7) Print up flyers about your book. I printed up a couple of articles on the book, which garnered some attention, but not nearly as much as printed versions of the Amazon.com reviews. Those left with potential customers at a three-to-one margin. And if you do offer flyers, bring something cool to hold them down. I used a piece of counter top left over from a bathroom remodeling. It garnered several compliments, which was nice, but not as crucial as remembering to bring…

8) A lunch box, with water, snacks, whatever you need to sustain yourself over several hours especially if you don’t ….

9) Bring a friend, partner, or fellow published author. This person will help staff the table, especially during bathroom breaks, can help handout flyers, attract potential buyers, and keep things going. But if you do partner up, and want to go see what else is going on, remember…

10) You are there to sell your book, not buy twenty other books from people. Lots of writers are also book junkies, so … Beware. Don’t spend more money than you make. Instead, use that leg stretching to …

11) See what the competition is doing, how their booths look compared to yours, and where the action is. You may find that your booth is not situated for optimum sales. Don’t beat yourself up, you didn’t know. And don’t blame them, you didn’t ask. What you should do when you book these events is request to be put as close to the main book sales action as possible.

12) Don’t freak out if one booth has an exceptionally long line. Investigate if you can. Most often you will discover the writer at that booth is actually a local celebrity like a goalie for the nearest NHL hockey team, or a reality TV star. These people are not your competition.

Bonus:

13) If you do run across your competition, someone in the same genre as you who is doing better business, don’t get mad, get educated. Assess what this person is doing. It may be as simple as she or he has eight books out and you have one. You know the solution there. It may be a bigger booth, advertising, cookie give always, who knows? Observe. Assess. Adapt.

I hope these lessons help should you consider participating in a book fair. Is it a cost-effective endeavor? I broke even financially, but experienced making sales (very fun), learned a lot about how something like this works, met and learned from other self-publishers, and made a key contact I hope will pay off soon. As a result, I count this as a profitable experience, if not a get rich quick strategy. For someone who tends to stay home and write, this was a big step forward. Whether it proves to be a steady component of my business remains to be seen.

Christopher Ryan is author of City of Woe, available digitally everywhere, and in print at Amazon.com. For more info, click here.



CITY OF WOE
by Christopher Ryan


File Size: 438 KB
Print Length: 359 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1475159234
Publisher: Seamus and Nunzio Productions, LLC; 1 edition (November 30, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Amazon Link

About the book:


What if Paul Farrington, a veteran fixer for a shady corporation, found himself targeted for elimination just as he was trying to finance his daughter's Ivy League education? How far would he go to provide for his family and keep them safe?
    
What if detectives Frank Mallory and Alberto "Gunner" Gennaro were forced to play catch up with a killer who may or may not be a demon and who leaves trails of Dantesque murders, each one occurring further south in Manhattan and deeper into his version of The Inferno?
    
How could these situations be connected?
    
How long can the detectives stick to strict police procedural facts when confronted with increasingly bizarre events, especially once they begin invading Mallory's private life? And how does he find a balance between his rejection of the case's alleged demonic elements and his strong desire to believe his dying father's visions of long dead relatives beckoning him to heaven? When must a detective reconsider what exists outside man's law?        
 
These are the dominant concerns of City of Woe, a novel combining Ryan's personal
experiences, knowledge of the family business (the NYPD), an understanding of literary classics and a love for classic rock and roll. Running 327 double-spaced manuscript pages, readers have noted obvious references to Dante's The Inferno, subtle nods to Joyce's Dubliners and Ulysses and the influences of Elmore Leonard, Walter Mosley, and Richard Price.


About the author:


I've been living with Mallory for a long time. In college, I wrote a novel treatment featuring him as an FBI Special Agent. Only one word from that manuscript survives: Mallory.

After college, I was an award-winning reporter for eight years, covering The Bronx during the crack wars of the late 1980's and early 90's. It got so bad we ran body counts on our front page's teaser box -- usually something like "12 Dead, 23 wounded" -- every week. And the victims were mostly kids 14 to 18 years old. I started feeling guilty, like I was making a living off the dead and wounded. I began thinking I wasn't doing enough, and nearly joined my family's business - the NYPD. My father, brother, and cousin were all cops. Maybe that was my calling.

Nope. On a bet I took a teaching job "just until the next Police Academy class starts." That's what I thought I was doing. No one tells you about the Teaching Bug and how it can hook you like a drug. Suddenly I was surrounded by live kids --living, breathing, laughing, thinking kids-- as opposed to the corpses and corner boys I had been writing about. Let's just say that when the NYPD came calling, my dance card was full.

But all those dead and wounded kids still haunted me, and I believe Mallory evolved from the experience. These days, he's a detective in the NYPD. At least once of us made it onto The Job.

Eventually I wound up teaching seniors at Hackensack High School, and the curriculum included Dante's Inferno. Over the years, it all began to merge; my old writing life, the body counts, my world view, and annual discussions with my Hackensack students about good and evil, heaven and hell, and Dante's epic vision. Sometimes the students dove in, sometimes Dante's ornate language became an obstacle, and I started wishing for a way to lead modern readers to Dante's work and ideas.

At least that's how it started.

CITY OF WOE ended up being a distant echo of his work, perhaps a study or imagining of how that subject matter might be handled in today's world. I knew the language would have to be accessable, and the pace would have to move, have to entertain, have to thrill. No epic poem here; a modern tribute would have to appeal to as many people as possible. I hope this does.

From there Mallory, and the incorrigible Gunner, took over.  This is a detective story first, a suspense thriller with a supernatural twist next. The details of the case are dealt with from a cop's matter of fact perspective. What actually happens, well, that's for you to decide....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Book Spotlight: Clive Hindle's THE EIGHTH SQUARE

The Eighth Square
by Clive Hindle


Author: Clive Hindle 
Pages: 231
Publisher: Janus Publishing Company Ltd 
Amazon link


Synopsis:


REVENGE IS THE ULTIMATE STALKER

Successful lawyer Jack Lauder is rather puzzled when he is commissioned to tie up the UK assets of his former friend Sir Vincent Haringer's estate. Jack and the entrepreneur adventurer were once close friends, however of late Jack, although always loyal, had felt the need to distance himself from Vince's often dubious affairs especially when a key witness in a libel case Vince was involved in dies suspiciously.

It all seems simple enough and Jack makes his way to the cliff edge priory on St Cuthbert's Isles to begin cataloguing Vince's collection of rare books and manuscripts. A couple honeymooning on St Cuthbert's Isles immediately attract Jack's attention. Something doesn't fit? Their behaviour is odd and what is the purpose of their early morning rendezvous with a fishing boat and low flying small plane.

People from Jack's past life as Vince's lawyer begin to crop up inexplicably and a strange series of coincidences indicate that this is not a simple assignment but a game of chess where the faceless players are always one move ahead.Jack, once a man of simple pleasures, who enjoyed nothing more than climbing in the mountains and a good old game of chess is dragged into a deadly world of deception, where truth and fiction become inseparable, and the life he knew will be changed forever.

And why does Rachel, Jack's former wife who died in a climbing accident begin to haunt him in dreams and visions. Did he really see her in Nijmegan? Her body was never recovered after all. . His sense of reality is on the verge of collapse, but that is the least of his worries; caught up in a web of drug-smuggling and murder, Jack will have to think several moves ahead to survive this hostile game against an opponent who will stop at nothing until Jack is annihilated.

It seems Vince never forgave Jack, for what he imagined as disloyalty. Did Vince set set up a series of intricate traps to lure Jack into, to discredit, humiliate and ultimately destroy him. Is Harry, Vince's brother orchestrating this game now Vince is dead?

Jack finds himself pursued by corrupt cops and the NorthEats England version of the Mob as he picks through the interlaced strands of the two cases he has been lured into by this implacable opponent.

Chapter 1

The medieval priory loomed out of the mist. A web of seaweed and gale-force winds conspired to make the causeway to St Cuthbert’s Isle treacherous underfoot. It now played host to visitors. Jack Lauder held out a protective hand to the young woman who trod cautiously behind him.

‘Not like you, Sarah, to be two paces behind.’

‘You really know how to show a girl a good time,’ she grumbled.

‘I told you, I didn’t guarantee fun,’ he laughed and it seemed like the first time in ages that he had really laughed.

While she laboured to catch up, he stood a moment,surveying the island. It had many attractions. Some were man-made like the ancient, ruined priory. Others were natural. The tiny archipelago of which the island formed part was the first landfall of many migrant birds and a dearth of vegetation meant they were easily observed. New species landed every year.

Back on the mainland, one of the local fishermen had mentioned seeing shrike, particularly during strong easterlies. ‘It’s party central, then, isn’t it?’ Sarah had chirped up. The old guy didn’t quite catch her drift, but Jack cracked up at his PA’s deadpan humour. She did make him laugh.

The excuse for bringing her on this trip was he’d need the skills, which made her over qualified for the role on offer at his firm. A history doctorate with a specialisation in the analysis of antique manuscripts, of which there were reputed to be plenty at the house they were about to visit, was over the top even for a personal assistant to the senior partner of a busy provincial law firm. She wasn’t bothered; she was new to the area and needed a job. After that he’d soon begun to enjoy their working relationship because they shared a wicked sense of humour. He couldn’t take the credit for her appointment. His partner, Dominic Drake, had seen to that during his stay in hospital after the accident in which he’d lost his wife, but Dominic had rubbed her up the wrong way and when Jack mentioned his name, she responded with ‘That tosser!’ Wow, he thought, wondering what had brought that on. He decided not to go there. You don’t have to love everyone you work with.

For her the trip was a little ill timed – she was starting a week’s holiday on Monday and would return to the city the 
following evening. The idea was Jack would drive down on Monday morning. In the meantime they would do their best to make an inventory of the English estate of the late Sir Vincent Hardinger, an old friend of Jack’s and unconventional entrepreneur, once knighted for his services to British exports. Vince (as Jack had always known him) had since been largely disgraced as a result of a number of scandals which had rocked his business empire.

As with all larger than life, extravagantly rich, self-made men, he had enjoyed, even after his demise, something like cult status in the business world, particularly abroad. Much of his wealth had emanated from Africa. He was rumoured to have stage-managed a coup d’├ętat in a small country in the Dark Continent. He and Jack had enjoyed common interests: stargazing, sailing, and chess. But their relationship hadn’t lasted. It was years since they’d seen each other and when the news of his old friend’s death broke, a lot of things had been left unsaid.

The request to wind up his estate had come out of the blue when, one morning at work, his junior partner, the same Dominic Drake who had incurred Sarah’s hostility, handed him a telephone message from a Major Hicks. The note read:

Please call him back. He says he has something important to tell you and will be available until noon.

The number was a Central London hotel. The major sounded like one of those gentlemen of Victorian times who had bought his commission. 

‘My dear fellow,’ he said, ‘Hicks here, Major, retired of course. I’ll come straight to the point. I have the honour of 
being one of the late Sir Vincent Hardinger’s executors. You know, I suppose, the great man is dead?’

He had the habit of posing a question and then talking on without awaiting the response.

‘We were holiday neighbours on Montserrat. Do you know it?’ Before Jack could answer, he boomed on, ‘We had houses there before the volcano. Ironic that, don’t you think? Bit of a one for natural disasters, Vincent, eh? You’d think the things were following him around!’

He roared with slightly incongruous laughter, whilst Jack had the image of a malevolent tempest, a sort of whirlwind in the shape of a huge Dracula figure, hunting down a fleeing Vincent Hardinger.

‘You’ll know he was lost with his yacht in the Asian tsunami, eh?’ Still not waiting for Jack to respond he rattled on. ‘Survivors said he went down trying to save the boat. Vincent’s brother, Harry, splendid fellow, organised the funeral.’

Delivering this with scarcely a pause, as if every titbit of information had to be compressed into a minimum amount of time, Hicks wouldn’t let Jack get a word in edgeways. 

‘I think Vincent would have chosen to go like that. He was always larger than life and I bet you and I could exchange a couple of stories …’

Jack tried to interrupt there. ‘You can say that again,’ he said, but his caller was a man in a hurry.

‘To practical issues, then! Although he didn’t have much of his estate in Britain – inheritance taxes are so punitive here, don’t you think?’ The tone of the question suggested that Jack should be doing something about it.

‘There are some quite important items to deal with and I will dispatch to you my power of attorney. If, of course, you accept this commission.’

At those words Jack had the queasy feeling of a piss-take.

‘I give you carte blanche in the knowledge that you will deal scrupulously and fairly.’

Despite the if, there was no argument about it. Hicks just assumed Jack would accept.

‘Vincent specifically asked me, in the event of anything happening to him, to persuade you to handle this as a mark of his respect. He felt that he didn’t always show his appreciation of your efforts during his lifetime. I’m sure he very much regretted that he didn’t get to see you before he died.’

That redeemed everything, the sentiment overcoming Jack’s immediate reaction to Hicks’ vicarious expression of regret. Vince never apologised. He had always seen it as a sign of weakness so Jack had to be special for him to break a golden rule.

‘Well, that’s very thoughtful …’ he tried, but the military voice boomed on.

‘You can of course charge exactly as you think fit, but it’s probably worth my saying that the principal asset in this 
jurisdiction is Jomsborg on the St Cuthbert Isles.’

Jack permitted himself a smile at the name of the house, as he was probably the only person alive who knew its provenance.

‘And there’s a bequest of £50,000. He left it to you, but on condition that you take on the rest of the commission.

You have to catalogue the contents and sell the house, deduct the £50k and your charges and then pay the balance to me. In particular, the library is very important; some very old, very valuable books and manuscripts. The house could be difficult. It’s right on the edge of the cliff and, what with global warming, etc., it’s probably slowly crumbling into the sea! Ha! See what you can do, eh? That’s the assignment!

Mission impossible, eh? Ha ha! The will also instructs me to enclose a cheque for £10,000 in the hope that this will take care of any immediate expenses. This is in addition to the bequest, which he also wants you to have free of any taxes.’

Taken aback by his old friend’s largesse, Jack couldn’t speak. Not that it mattered.

‘The only thing is I need you to act strictly in accordance with my timetable. I will soon be in the Middle East, then Japan, China and Australia. Therefore, I need you to get up to Jomsborg and get an inventory done before everything disappears! I’ve heard the burglars don’t hang about in those parts, so please don’t delay! I need you to do the inventory this weekend. I need it out of my hair.’

Hence the inconvenient timing as far as Sarah was concerned.

‘Good! That’s settled, then. I hope to have the opportunity of meeting you soon and, like our mutual friend, being able to call you my friend.’ The major had no time for reciprocated sentiment and, after giving Jack a Zurich contact number, he rang off.

Almost as soon as he put the phone down, Jack’s new assistant came through the door. She might be up for an unusual commission up the coast.

‘You can put that qualification of yours to the test,’ he jested.

Surprisingly, despite the short notice and her planned holiday, she jumped at the chance.

‘It won’t be that interesting!’ Jack exclaimed. ‘I don’t guarantee fun!’

The papers the major promised arrived in the Friday post, but with nothing to explain them, not even a letter.

Hicks had simply assumed he’d know what they were! 

So, here they were on the causeway, the ruined but still majestic priory shimmering in the near-distance. It appeared to shift as he looked at it and he hoped there was nothing wrong with his vision now, although the doctors had said it might have been permanently damaged by the Cordillera snows. From each side waves yelped at his feet.

Sarah looked aghast as a strong surge slithered over the brown stone, the suds resembling a knot of shining eels. Retreating over the precipice they left nothing more than a meniscus round their boots. The weather was typical of the island: swirling rain battling for control with vast pillars of sunlight. One of these pillars illuminated Gardas Castle on the mainland promontory, the site of strongholds since prehistoric times. Now, as quickly as its huge battlements fought their way out of the mist, they disappeared again.

The weather was closing in and the causeway would soon be impassable.

Arriving at the village, they booked into the hotel – separate rooms, of course. Jack intended staying at the house the next night if it proved habitable. That way he could work late. The hotel proprietor seemed surprised to see them.

‘I thought the weather had put everyone off,’ he said,

‘so you’ve got a choice: sea view or priory?’

Not much fancying even a monastery graveyard, Jack was shown to his sea-view room, where he deposited his backpack. Sarah joined him as he emptied the minimal belongings he had brought for the weekend, just enough not to stick to the furniture. She confessed to having brought a few glad rags.

‘Don’t want to look a mess at dinner,’ she said. Then she gasped in surprise and when he turned to follow her gaze the sight which met his eyes was of a Viking longship, its square sail set, sailing out of the storm on its way to the beach beneath the castle.

‘Wow!’ he exclaimed. ‘This coast is renowned for its theatrical reproductions of ancient battles, but that’s spectacular! The construction cost of a replica like that must have been phenomenal.’

‘I read about this,’ Sarah replied. ‘It’s that film director guy, isn’t it, the one who’s got the castle? He’s making an epic about the Viking raids on this coast.’ She snapped her fingers as if trying to remember.

‘Darius Lockyer!’ he said for her. ‘Would you believe I know Darius? He was a great pal of Vince’s.’

His face wore a smile and Sarah, having begun to read him, smiled herself.

‘What?’ he asked, crumbling beneath that silent interrogation.

‘You’re thinking something wicked,’ she laughed.

‘No,’ he replied, laughing with her, ‘I was just thinking about how the media portrays celebrities and great men.

Almost as if they’re mythical heroes, demigods, totally invulnerable to the same sort of problems as ordinary mortals.’

‘And aren’t they?’

‘Well, these two kind of bought into each other’s hype.

Vince was your typical captain of industry, a throwback to the robber baron age, born in the wrong time ...’ He paused.

‘And Darius?’

‘Well, Darius is a charlatan. They were both charlatans, larger-than-life con men. They just outdid each other.

Despite all the propaganda about his family tree, Vince was a working-class lad who made it good because of energy, determination, a restless intelligence and a bloody ruthless streak. But he absolutely loved arty things. He craved celebrity. Finding a tart like Darius was just perfect for him.’

He couldn’t help but wonder what Darius had made of Vince’s death. They were once inseparable. But he suspected that the film director, with his disturbed imagination, which created proportionately disturbing theatrical images, could never really be devastated over the loss of another person.

Conscious of Sarah waiting for him to say more he shrugged. ‘Let’s get to work,’ he said.



Thursday, October 18, 2012

Book Review: Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Fifty Shades of Grey

Author: E. L. James
Paperback: 528 pages
Publisher: Vintage; 1 edition (April 3, 2012)
Amazon Link

Ratings: ★ ★ 

My thoughts:

When I started reading this book, it didn't occur to me that I would be reading a BDSM book. My friends made me picked-up this, they all loved Christian Grey so I didn't bother to check out other book reviews.

I enjoyed reading the first quarter of the story. The plot and characters sound familiar (Twilight-y), but then again, I'm having a good time reading the story so I didn't care. However when the contract was revealed, and a few more chapters after that, from then on, I decided I can't continue to read further. I had to look for the reviews in Amazon to make sure I'm labeling this book right. So yes, this is indeed a BDSM book and I don't read that genre. I'm just not into it. I even had to give up reading my favorite Anita Blake series for the same reason. 

I can understand why this became a controversial read. Just imagine Twilight (Edward as Christian Grey and Bela as Anastasia Steele) add porn and you now have an idea what this book is all about.

About the book:

When literature student Anastasia Steele goes to interview young entrepreneur Christian Grey, she encounters a man who is beautiful, brilliant, and intimidating. The unworldly, innocent Ana is startled to realize she wants this man and, despite his enigmatic reserve, finds she is desperate to get close to him. Unable to resist Ana’s quiet beauty, wit, and independent spirit, Grey admits he wants her, too—but on his own terms.

Shocked yet thrilled by Grey’s singular erotic tastes, Ana hesitates. For all the trappings of success—his multinational businesses, his vast wealth, his loving family—Grey is a man tormented by demons and consumed by the need to control. When the couple embarks on a daring, passionately physical affair, Ana discovers Christian Grey’s secrets and explores her own dark desires.

Erotic, amusing, and deeply moving, the Fifty Shades Trilogy is a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.


About the author:



E L James is a former TV executive, wife and mother of two based in West London. Since early childhood she dreamed of writing stories that readers would fall in love with, but put those dreams on hold to focus on her family and her career. She finally plucked up the courage to put pen to paper with her first novel, Fifty Shades of Grey.

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