Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Book review - The Art Collection by Carla Sarett


And now for something completely different....
This short, themed collection, centred around the art world, is as distinctive as anything I've read this year. In keeping with the subject theme, the style is art-like in its elegance. No worn-out tropes, no stock characters, no predictable plot lines here. Each of these three stories will disturb as much as it satisfies, and will leave you wondering; instead of wrapping everything up in a neat package, the stories open the mind to expanded thought and a whole world of 'what if's. 

Get The Art Collection HERE

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Book review - When Love Feels Like a Pocketful of Snails, by Georgina Ramsey

This charming novel traces the fortunes of a self-centred young wannabe who decides, for very little reason, to seek her fortune as a celebrity hairstylist in Paris. Her staggering ineptitude causes her to end up somewhere very different. I shan't say more about the actual plot for fear of spoiling.

Although the protagonist is technically adult, this is very much a 'coming of age' story and, like all Ramsey's work, written with warmth, humour and a wonderful willingness to depart from the beaten track. There's nothing 'same old' about this romance, despite its use of the age-old 'prince disguised as a frog' trope. It's original, well-written and, unlike so many 'romances' that one sees nowadays, pleasantly wholesome. I enjoyed it very much.

Readers of Ramsey's other work will not be disappointed, and new readers will no doubt clog the airwaves as they search out her backlist. 

You can buy this lovely book HERE.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Book review - Bitch and Famous, by Cat Caruthers

For those who fell in love with Shade Stevenson, the wonderfully bitchy, iconoclastic heroine of Best Little Sorority House in Texas, here is a sequel that will knock your socks off.

Like its predecessor, Bitch and Famous centres around Shade's efforts to become rich and famous. Comedy tends to live and die with the characters, and this is a particular strength of Caruthers'. Unlike many heroines of comedy fiction, Shade is a beautifully multilayered character. We're struck at first by her total bitchiness and ruthless pursuit of money and fame; yet as we read on we discover in this character a deep and solid core of integrity.

The book is beautifully written, funny all the way through, and just a delight from start to finish.

Bitch and Famous will be released on 15 July.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Guest post - Cat Caruthers

Today's post, on character development. is brought to you by Cat Caruthers, author of Sorority Girls With Guns.

How do you, as a writer, develop interesting characters? This is something I've struggled with for years. I would read books by my favorite authors and think about how wonderful, realistic and three-dimensional the characters were. Then I would wonder how to replicate that in my own work.

Ultimately, I decided it's all in the details. It's one thing to describe a person as “sloppy” or “filthy” or “unhygienic”, but I think this description is more interesting: “He's wearing an orange t-shirt that says, 'Forget candy, give me beer.' Given the color and subject matter, I suspect the shirt was intended for Halloween. Given the way he smells and the layers of stains on the shirt, I suspect he's been wearing it continuously since last Halloween – six months ago.”

You might have heard the phrase, “Show, don't tell.” That's great advice for writers, and it's especially helpful when developing characters. Don't just say that someone has a loud, irritating voice - describe how it sounds. Is it like fingernails on a chalkboard? Does it remind you of another annoying noise?

So where do you find all these interesting details and character traits? In the people you meet every day. I'm not saying you should base all your characters on people you know – for one thing, you'll eventually run out of people you know. For another, if a character is too much like someone you know, he or she might get mad and sue you. So you don't want to base a whole character on someone you know – but you can illustrate aspects of a character's personality with traits you've noticed in real people. It doesn't have to be people that you know well, either – it can be someone you saw at the grocery store, someone you met for five minutes in the mall and will never see again.

I once rode a bus with a woman who laughed a lot – in a very unusual way. Whenever she laughed, she sounded like someone trying to turn over the engine of an old car – and failing. That was all I could think for the whole bus ride – she sounds like an old car engine that won't turn over! I realized when the bus stopped and I finally – happily – got off, that that would be a good line for a future book, so I made a mental note of it. 

Another time, I saw some girls walking around my college campus in shorts that were so microscopically tiny, I thought they looked more like thongs with pockets than shorts. That got filed away for later. When I went out with a guy who hit me up for a loan to get his car out of impound on our first date, that got filed away. When I spent 24 hours sitting on a sidewalk in St. Louis, waiting to get into an American Idol audition, next to a guy who not only talked constantly but literally started every single sentence with the word I or my (“My training”, “My vocal coach”, “My experience”, “My play”, “My songs”, “I perform”, etc), I filed that away.

Depending on how much time I spend with the character in the story, sometimes I expand on these traits. I've made up entire characters based on one trait. The guy who started every single sentence with I or my? He became a love interest for the main character in a current work-in-progress. Since I'm relieved to say that I only met the guy briefly in real life and hopefully will never have to spend time with him again, I decided to delve into why he might be that way. What makes a person so self-involved that he can't start a sentence without using the first person? I don't know the guy, so I just made up reasons. Was he a child star surrounded by too many yes-man, and it went to his head? Maybe he had the opposite problem – his parents told him he was amazingly talented, but Hollywood didn't see it that way. Maybe no one ever believed in him, so in his own head, he had to exaggerate his importance. Maybe it was none of those things. (You'll just have to keep reading my books to find out!) Often I'll exaggerate a trait or quirk to make it more interesting (and less likely I'll get sued).

Sometimes the character is minor and doesn't require a lot of development, but you still want that character to be interesting while serving his or her purpose in the plot. I've read many books where a character was only in one scene, but was still colorful and fascinating, so that's what I strive for in my writing.

Sure enough, you'll find a character in Bitch and Famous (to be released on Amazon July 15) who has a laugh like a car engine turning over, and a guy in a Halloween shirt that hasn't been washed since last Halloween. You'll also meet some sorority girls wearing shorts that could be confused with underpants, a main character who bitches about reality shows on a reality show, a customer-from-hell who demands a refund after trying to use her shredder to grate cheese – and those are just a few of the characters you'll meet in Bitch and Famous.

As for writing advice, the best advice I could give anyone is to be observant. Notice the people around you – especially the ones you don't like or find annoying. What specifically do they do that's so annoying? As for the people you do like – great! Know someone who's the life of the party, or a laugh a minute? What do they say or do that you find funny? The bottom line is that great characters are based, if only in the tiniest way, on real people.

Good advice, and in Cat's published work, we may see how well it is put into practice. 

You can get Best Little Sorority House in Texas HERE, and its sequel, Bitch and Famous, will be released on 15 July. I've read it and I can say that you are definitely going to love it! Watch this space, for I shall be reviewing it tomorrow.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Book review - Rubberman's Cage, by Joseph Picard

In a world left behind after a devastating war, the survivors live in their underground bunker, maintaining their survival systems without any idea of what has happened to their world or even of what their world really is. One man escapes from the confines of his rigidly defined position, and his voyage of discovery through successive layers of a neo-primitive, regressed, rigidly defined society makes a truly gripping read.

The post-holocaust society is depicted with imagination and empathy and is completely believable. Tradition layers upon developed superstitions to produce a warped society, mechanically repeating activities for which the reasons have long been forgotten, if they were ever understood.

Rubberman's Cage is post-apocalyptic dystopian fiction at its finest. A must read for 2014.

To be released soon!

Friday, 4 July 2014

SHAME FILES # 140704 - COLES produce - Like Snow White's apple, perfect on the outside, rotten on the inside.

Yesterday I did some grocery shopping at Coles. The one on the corner of Doncaster Road.

Because I was planning to make stuffed capsica today, I bought, among other things, six red capsica and a bag of brown onions. It all looked very nice and perfect, not a mark on the outsides, lovely and firm in the hand, nope, nothing wrong here.

The capsica that I bought didn't look like this
on the inside.
More like werewolf capsica with all their black fur.

Sadly, when I started cutting into things today, I discovered that out of the six capsica I'd bought, two were rotten inside, with black fur growing all over their innards. God knows if that is even safe. I've only cut into one of the onions I bought, but it, too, was rotten inside, despite its firm, perfect exterior.

My onion didn't look like this when I cut into it!

I thought the Coles produce was quite cheap, at $4.98 per kilo for capsica and $1.88 for the brown onions.

It looks a bit different, though, when you have to throw away 1/3 of what you buy. According to my calculations, this would drive up the price of the capsica to $7.47 per kilo. Not such a bargain after all, not to mention that I now have 1/3 of my capsicum stuffing mixture already made up and nowhere for it to go. Not to mention that if I'd been shopping for that night, I might have found myself short of enough to feed my kids.

 Australian consumer law calls for a product sold to be 'fit for the purpose for which it is sold'. I don't think this includes vegetables being rotten. They were not, after all, sold in the garden section as compost.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Book review - Marlene and Sofia, a Double Love Story, by Pedro Barrento

A classic in the making, this wonderful book is literary fiction at its finest. In the neatly double-layered story, which deals on one level with the writer and on another with the characters, we are treated to a rich tapestry of human life and of humanity's great preoccupations, including themes of love, death, politics and sex. It is the kind of book that one can read again and again, each time taking away something different from it.

That said, Marlene and Sofia is far from being the kind of self-consciously intellectual work that appeals only to the literary snob. Its earthy humour and finely drawn characters, and the farcical situations in which those characters are combined, are vastly entertaining at any level, and taken as pure entertainment the work perhaps shines even more brightly. There will be many hearty belly laughs for the lucky reader who ventures upon this work, and more than likely a few tears as well.

All in all, a deeply satisfying book, and a must-read for 2014.

Marlene and Sofia is available in both ebook and paperback HERE

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

My Cover team - the wonderfully talented people who made the Dance of Chaos cover a reality.

I've often heard it said that behind every great man there's a woman. Nowadays, of course, we wouldn't say that - it would be something like 'behind every successful person there's someone who helped them enormously and got very little credit for it.' It doesn't have quite the same pithy sound, does it, but sometimes that's the price we pay for fairness and integrity.

In my case, although I can hardly call myself a great man, there are four people who deserve a great deal of credit for helping me put my latest book together.

Of course, I write everything myself. The insides of my books are all my own work (well I have had a bit of help with formatting, but the content is all mine. Though I blush to say it, I have to admit that I edit my own work, despite constantly telling people never to do this. Just pretend you didn't hear me say that, ok?)

The covers, however, are another matter. Not only do I not do them myself, but I have had very little to do with them beyond choosing between several photographs and approving the final layout.

So here, I give you my team, the wonderful people who make my dreams into reality.


Patti is the brains behind the whole cover. She takes the basic concept and runs with it to create my awesome cover designs. Sometimes, as with the Fiona books, I supply the pictures. Other times, as with most of my short fiction, I give her nothing except a couple of lines describing roughly what the story is about. Then Patti exercises her magic witchcraft and sees inside my head, forming my dreams into reality. You can find her at PARADOX BOOK COVERS.


Cindy is the public face of Fiona MacDougall, eponymous protagonist of both my novels, Gift of Continence and Dance of Chaos. Despite her ravishing looks, Cindy is not a professional model. She is a hairdresser, and owner of the Point of Origin hair salon. I'm proud to say she is also my niece, a kick-arse mother, and completed the Tough Mudder challenge just thirty days after giving birth to her first child, without any training. I really think Cindy could do anything she set her mind to. She is the daughter I wish I'd had. You can find Cindy HERE.


Darrell is the photographic mastermind behind Glimmarpics Photography. Although we had not even met at the time, he kindly volunteered his time for a professional photoshoot for the Dance of Chaos cover pictures. There were so many pictures, and they were so wonderful, that it took me days to narrow down my choice to the two we finally used. You can find Darrell and see more of his amazing work  HERE.


Kylie, makeup artist extraordinaire and proprietor of KMB Beauty, also volunteered her time and skills for the Dance of Chaos photoshoot. Due to my complete ignorance about what goes on at a photo shoot (I wasn't there) I didn't even know about this at the time, and poor Kylie received not a word of thanks for her very generous contribution until I found out, just recently. She should have an award for her wonderful talent and for her kindness and generosity to a total stranger. You can find Kylie HERE.