Stephen Holland, Author – An Interview

A warm welcome to my special guest, Stephen Holland, Fantasy author.


Steve Holland When did you first discover the desire to write was so strong in you?

I had always written songs, though had never considered writing a novel. It happened almost by accident. I just opened my laptop one day and started writing, I had no idea where the story was going to go, who the characters were going to be, or even what genre it was likely to fit in. It really took on a life of its own.

Do you usually write in the same genre you tend to prefer to read?

I write in the Fantasy genre I suppose, though my stories have no fictitious beings like Elves, Trolls and Orcs or any kind of magical element. It is fantasy only insofar as it exists in an imaginary world. My preferred genre to read has always been Sci Fi though I do enjoy Fantasy and Thrillers.

When reading, do you prefer traditional printed books or ebooks?

Printed for me, there is nothing like having a paperback in your hand (that’s probably an age thing)!

Have you been influenced and/or inspired by another writer, or writers?

I would love to say Tolkien, but in no way would I compare myself to that master.

Do past or current events in your life have an influence on your writing?

I don’t think you can avoid this; incidents within your life are bound to influence how you think whether consciously or subconsciously.

Have you got a favourite author, who stands well ahead of all others?

  1. William Horwood

In that order, Tolkien in my opinion ‘invented’ the fantasy genre, there have been many attempts to write in his style, but in my humble opinion none can compare.

Have you got both printed and digital books published?

I have both.

Do you try to write to satisfy what is fashionable, or do you write pieces that you would want to read?

I would be the last person on earth who would ever be fashion conscious so I write what I think I would like to read personally.

How do you fit writing into your life? Do you have set times for writing?

I cannot write to set times; I have to do it when I ‘want’ to do it. I can go weeks without writing anything then write 10,000 words in a day. It’s not ideal and I wish I was far better organised.

Do you keep every jotting of ideas, just in case they might be developed at some later date?

I tend to have a document at the end of my book in word format, so if I think of a good idea I put it in there and use it if it lends itself to the story.

Do you write freeform or do you faithfully plan every piece meticulously before you start on a piece?

I plan very little, certainly my first book Solace and Distress almost seemed to write itself, though I have tried to be a bit more organised with the sequel. I am finding the more I write about a particular story the more I need to keep a track of place names, rivers, mountain ranges and of course characters.

When writing, most authors now use a computer of some description. Which do you find more satisfying: writing using any means available, using a computer, using a typewriter or using a pen/pencil?

Always a laptop. My handwriting is almost undecipherable even for me!

Have you ever been somewhere and discovered a copy of a book that’s extremely difficult to find, and drooled over the discovery?

I once found hardback versions of some lesser known pieces of work by Tolkien in an antique bookshop in York. They have since been re-issued so probably more popular, but were certainly hard to obtain when I was collecting his work.

If you’ve had books published in print form, have you ever come across a copy of one of your own books by accident?

No, that hasn’t happened to me (yet)!

What is your greatest ambition in writing?

I am under no illusions, I am not about to become an international best seller. So long as there is somebody somewhere who appreciates my work then it is worth doing.

Where can readers find out more about your works?


Miscellanea of July 2013

A Q&A Post

First up, I have been kindly featured in W3 Sidecar, in a Q&A post.  My thanks go out to Marissa Bell Toffoli for the opportunity!

Blog Browser Day

Yesterday’s post about the new Blog Browser Day has been greeted with phenomenal success!  I already have several blog recommendations lined up for this coming Saturday (3rd August).  I would like to thank everybody who has made recommendations and/or given their support to the idea.  It is always a delight when such feedback is received so quickly!

A Little Disappointed

Having read about the success other authors have enjoyed by releasing their books as paperbacks, usually using Print on Demand (POD), I took the plunge, as you may know.  It is rather disappointing, then, that I have, to date, had not one sale of even one of my paperbacks.  While I love having my own copies  as paperbacks, I have to seriously consider whether the effort involved in getting there is worthwhile.  Perhaps I was mistaken in not using Amazon’s Createspace as the POD service, but after receiving not one response from them to a couple of simple questions, I decided to find a more responsive service.  I am very reluctant to now turn my back on skoobebooks, who put so much work and help into the books.

If there’s anybody out there with more experience of POD, I’d love to hear from you!  You can either comment here or use the blog’s contact form (which is private).

Life, Art and Possible Misbehaviour

My good friend Seumas Gallacher raises this sticky issue in his blog.  We all know that Life imitates Art, and vice versa, but when does this become an issue for real concern?  What happens, for instance, when Art imitates Art?  What is provable when, for example, you see a film that so closely resemble something you wrote that you feel convinced there’s theft involved?  If you’re a hugely successful author, then maybe the problem isn’t so big.  You probably have the power to go into battle.  What is the situation, though, for a new author, especially a self-published Indie, in the same position?  Do we really have any choice other than to just ‘suck it up’?  I know, for sure, that there’s no way that I could afford to charge into court and demand the rectification of the situation.  It’s a sobering thought.  As if we didn’t have enough to worry about with piracy of our books by more mundane means!

And with that, I’ll close today’s miscellanea!

~ Steve

Blog Browser Day

It’s very easy to become focussed on books and writing.  In point of fact, the Indie scene would be by no means so strong without blogs!  That’s right – blogs.  To give blogs their due recognition, I’m proposing a regular “Blog Browser Day”.

I recognise that not all writers have blogs, but the idea here isn’t to simply advertise our own blogs!  Indeed, not all writers publish books – many publish articles and/or write blogs, exclusively.  This means that focussing on authors who have published books actually deprives us all of some tremendous writing talents – and that’s something I’d like to rectify.  You can submit the name of any blog that you find useful to your reading and/or writing activities.  You can nominate your own blog no more than once every three months, so there’ll be no blog just sat there on every Blog Browser Day post.  Equally, while it’s very possible that a blog may be submitted for inclusion by more than one person, I’ll do my best to prevent duplication during the course of a month (preferably longer).

So what blogs qualify?  As I say above: any blog that you find useful in your reading/writing life.  There are a few restrictions: no blatantly adult blogs (that includes those containing erotica, strong language, and anything else which may be regarded as generally offensive or unsuitable for a general audience), no blogs dedicated to “self-improvement” (exercise, diet, beauty and other such blogs), no “make easy money” or “Coupon” blogs.  Other blogs are all subject to review and acceptance or refusal at my sole discretion.  Submissions must be made using the form below.  If information is missing from the submission, then I reserve the right to reject it without review – I have limited time and hunting for information is something I prefer to do for my own needs, sorry!

Note that these recommendations do not constitute nominations for the Imagineer Blog Awards!

Blog Browser Day Submission Form (maximum 1 blog per week per person):

“Defender” by Chris Allen – A Review

DEFENDER_mrDefender by Chris Allen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I started reading Defender just a few days ago. The fact that I have now finished reading it is very significant! I am not a fast reader, not by any stretch of the imagination. That’s a fact I always make very clear when asked to review a book. In this instance, I wasn’t actually asked to read Defender but I so enjoyed it, how could I not do so?

Those who have read my reviews know hat I say little that’s specific about storylines. I have no desire to give away anything of importance to potential readers – and how can I know what they think is important. So I’ll stick to my formula!

Defender introduces us to the shadowy Interpol branch: Intrepid. It launches us into the violent, tangled-web world that combines espionage, soldiering and policing. The agents are hard, efficient people dedicated to a cause: the protection of the innocent, whatever the cost, whatever the means. The world has turned hard and harsh. Criminals are just a small part of the tapestry of threat. Terrorists, brutal governments that don’t respect their own people let alone international law, arms dealers, drug dealers, business cartels interested in profit at any price, government agencies that cross the line between national interest and criminality. These are the shadows that Intrepid’s agents must navigate through, bringing justice, one way or another. And here, in Defender, we meet Alex Morgan, one of Intrepid’s best agents, locked in a battle to bring the coldest and most dangerous of criminals to book. A country wrecked to satisfy corporate and personal greed, a rogue with no loyalties except to himself, cravens and the callous. And behind it all, that corporate entity which directs it all. Caught up in it all are the thousands of innocent victims of a nation thrown into savage chaos, bystanders with no part in any of it, and a few brave ones, like Alex Morgan, other Intrepid agents, police forces as dedicated as those of Intrepid, and a young woman, Arena Hall, hurled into this most dangerous of environments.

Death stalks the pages of this book. Sudden, violent death. Can Alex Morgan and his comrades and friends bring justice where it is due? Only time will tell. But the campaign will travel across half the world, until it culminates in stunning climactic action in Sydney. Success and failure are never more than a heartbeat apart.

I had great trouble putting this book aside, for any reason! It’s a breathless ride, with very few opportunities to relax. Would I recommend it? Do apples grow on trees? This is one of those books which I will treasure as part of my library! I can only offer my strongest recommendation to anybody who likes to feel their pulse occasionally! Yes, there are moments when you may be made to feel uncomfortable, but know that those passages reflect an ugly reality we are (mostly) protected from. This is a book for adult readers who enjoy the very best writing.

Five stars? I’d double that if I could!

View all my reviews

~ Steve

See also:
Review of “Hunter” (Intrepid #2)
The Intrepid Chris Allen

Meeting Victoria Zigler – A Most Remarkable Lady

Tori Zigler  “My name is Victoria Zigler, but most people just call me Tori.”  So says my very special guest for today.  Tori is a remarkable lady, and I use that term meaning all it infers, but I’ll let you discover that for yourself…


When did you first discover the desire to write was so strong in you?

“I’ve loved to read and write since I first learned how to. I was taught to read and write at the age of three because I wanted to do “homework” like my big brother. By the time I was in full time school shortly after turning four I was in love with the written word and already attempting to write short stories and poems. None of them were any good in those first few years, but by the time I was about seven I could write a good enough story to earn a medal in a writing competition. I still have the medal.”

Do you usually write in the same genre you tend to prefer to read?

“I’ll read almost anything, but my favourite books are fantasy books and children’s books, and since I write children’s books – often with a fantasy theme to them – I’ll have to say, yes.”

Have you been influenced and/or inspired by another writer, or writers?

“Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales, Beatrix Potter’s animal themed Peter Rabbit series, and both Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl’s books were a big influence to me growing up, and I think still influence my writing today.”

Do past or current events in your life have an influence on your writing?

“Yes, past events influence my writing. I think past events often influence someone’s writing. It’s something you can’t avoid happening. Although, with my Toby’s Tales series it was intentional.”

Have you got a favourite author, who stands well ahead of all others?

“I don’t think one author stands out. I have a few favourite authors, but if I pick one of them I’ll feel bad for not having picked the others!”

Have you got both printed and digital books published?

“No. I only have digital books published. It’s not that I don’t want to have my books available in print, it’s just that it hasn’t happened yet. Maybe one day, but not yet.”

Do you try to write to satisfy what is fashionable, or do you write pieces that you would want to read?

“I write what I have ideas for. If what I write is fashionable, great, but if not then I just have to hope it’s good enough to interest people. Besides, fashions change so quickly that keeping up with trends is difficult to say the least. Also, working with ideas that pop in to your head of their own accord is usually easier than working with ones that someone forces on you.”

How do you fit writing into your life? Do you have set times for writing?

“I don’t actually have set times for anything. I tried routines, but they don’t work for me, partly due to an irregular sleep pattern. The only way things get done at specific times in my house is if someone else sets the times (for example, medical appointments we have to get to, events we want to go to, or trains we have to catch to get to somewhere before it closes). So, I just write when I feel it’s a good time to write, which can be any time of the day or night.”

Do you keep every jotting of ideas, just in case they might be developed at some later date?

“Yes. I have my ‘notes and ideas’ file, with snippets of ideas for potential future stories and notes on ones I’m working on in it.”

Do you write freeform or do you faithfully plan every piece meticulously before you start on a piece?

“I write freeform. I’ll just let the words flow freely on the first draft, not even stopping to check for typos or spelling and grammar mistakes. Then I slowly go through it a few times until I think it’s done. Then I go through again just to be sure. I think I end up doing about five or six drafts before I’m completely happy with something. But one thing I don’t do is plan out the story. I tried planning, but I felt it took the life out of the story. I prefer to just go with the flow and see where the story takes me. I mean, I’ll have an idea in my head of where I want to end up at the end of the story, but how I’ll get there is usually a mystery even to me until it’s written.”

When writing, most authors now use a computer of some description. Which do you find more satisfying: writing using any means available, using a computer, using a typewriter or using a pen/pencil?

“I’ll write using any means available to me, but most of the time I use a computer. I have a laptop intentionally so I can have it to hand and take it with me if I go away somewhere. Not that I go away that often, but since my family is spread all over the place I want to have the option.”

Have you ever been somewhere and discovered a copy of a book that’s extremely difficult to find, and drooled over the discovery?

“Yes. I get unbelievably excited if I find a copy of a book I’ve been failing to get hold of. Discovering books you’ve been looking for is more exciting than Christmas!”

What is your greatest ambition in writing?

“I’d love to be a well-known author. I’m not searching for enormous amounts of fame or anything like that – though it would be nice. I just want to be well-known enough that there are several people waiting eagerly for my next book. And I’d love to be in the top sellers list somewhere.”

Where can readers find out more about your works?

Facebook author page


Tori: In Her Own Words

“My name is Victoria, but most people call me Tori. I’m a blind, vegetarian author of children’s books and poetry. Born in the shadow of the Black Mountains in Wales, I now live in the South East of England with my husband, Kelly, a West Highland White Terrier named Keroberous, and four degus whose names are Jacob, Jasper, Jenks and Joshua.

“My favourite things to do are reading and writing, but I also enjoy watching movies and some TV shows, listening to music, doing various crafts (such as knitting and cardmaking), playing roleplaying games (such as Dungeons And Dragons), playing figure games (such as Monsterpocalypse and Classic BattleTech) and doing the odd bit of baking. I also have an interest in history (especially Stone Age and Egyptian history) and love almost everything to do with animals and nature (except spiders and creepy crawly bug things).”


The Books of Victoria Zigler

The Magical Chapters Trilogy:

  1. Witchlet
  2. The Pineapple Loving Dragon
  3. A Magical Storm

The Toby’s Tales Series:

  1. Toby’s New World
  2. Toby’s Monsters
  3. Toby’s Outing
  4. Toby’s Games
  5. Toby’s Special School

The Kero’s World Series:

  1. Kero Goes Walkies
  2. Kero Celebrates His Birthday
  3. Kero Gets Sick
  4. Kero Celebrates Halloween (due for release October 2013)
  5. Kero Goes To Town (due for release November 2013)
  6. Kero Celebrates Christmas (due for release December 2013)

Stand Alone Stories:

Bluebell The Fairy Guide

Frank The Friendly Ogre

The Great Tadpole Rescue

Asha’s Big Adventure (due for release August 2013)

Snowball The Oddball Kobold (due for release September 2013)

Poetry Books:

Mr. Pumpkin-Head And Other Poems

My Friends Of Fur And Feather

The Light Of Dawn And Other Poems

Waves Of Broken Dreams And Other Poems

The Leaf Monster And Other Children’s Poems (due for release September 2013)

Background to “G1: The Guardians” #2

The State of Britain: The End Of It All

Immediately following the total collapse of the fledgling Confederation of Europe (CE), many individual nations were thrown into dreadful turmoil.In Britain’s case, Scotland and Wales immediately declared themselves fully independent.  The Republic of Ireland, which had somehow come off very lightly, moved forces of army and  police into the old British Province of Northern Ireland, which had plunged into a bloody chaos.  The Irish Union (IU) was born.  On the British mainland, the sitting government was swept away, along with the system which had survived for centuries.  A new, more compact, and more accountable, Government was established.  Unfortunately, the snowball effect was in full flow and even this did nothing to stop the chaos which gripped the nation.

As violence spread unchecked, the vast Irish population of Liverpool came together and seceded from Britain, applying to join with the IU.  The request was granted, even as the ‘British’ Government met with a total lack of co-operation by its armed forces.  Decades of cuts and then the final betrayal (as the armed forces saw it) of the Nation and of themselves to the ‘European Experiment’, left, for example, just a single Army Division.  Not only were they inadequate to deal with the growing emergency, previous Governments had eroded the civil police to a pale shadow of itself.  The Government simply didn’t have enough armed resources to respond to the endemic rioting, let alone Liverpool’s secession.  When nothing happened to Liverpool, the Isle of Man also moved into a close association with the IU.


Perhaps the unhappiest aspect of Liverpool’s secession was the forcing of those opposed to the act into what became known as the Everton Enclave.  This was, in effect, a ghetto filled with all those unwanted by the new Irish County Liverpool.  It was to be nearly seven full years before negotiations were finally concluded to permit the newly established Realm of England access via the Everton Corridor.  This corridor was achieved only by the surrender of three other towns with an Irish majority citizenry.  The political  fallout resulted in not only the sitting Government falling, but the Chief Minister (CM), Sir Arthur Pangbourne, was assassinated.  The new CM was no surprise.  Roberta Harcourt Churchill had been working on both the restoration of public order and the establishment of a strong Government.  She won a landslide victory, gaining some eighty-two per cent of the vote in an Emergency General Election.  Churchill immediately acted upon her declared manifesto.  The existing governmental services were swept away and replaced by a new structure that made oversight far easier and put an end to the endemic corruption which had plagued the services.  At the same time, recruits from around the world, all British expatriates, flooded into the Armed Forces.  Churchill’s agents had assembled these men and women during the preceding five years, promising them a far better future than the primary employment most had entered: mercenaries.  A Royal Charter was also issued, signed by Queen Margaret, which guaranteed the preservation of all the Armed Forces, with no right of Government to dictate to them on any issue.  The Armed Forces were also renamed, becoming: the Royal Guard (Land), the Royal Shield (Air) and the Royal Maritime (Navy).  Field Marshall Lord Aiden Eustace Linton was appointed as Royal Chief Martial, effectively the supreme commander with only the reigning monarch (theoretically) able to overrule or pass orders to him, and his successors.

The Churchill regime proved very effective, if often almost brutally so.  The numbers of civil police were swollen by a combination of new recruitment campaigns and the introduction of many ex-police and ex-military.  It would be a crime against Truth to say that the people were happy, but they were ready to accept the almost tyrannical Government if it meant the ending of chaos.  It also became a matter of pride when another Region (rural areas) or Municipality (urban areas) succeeded in earning the right to be placed on the Roll of Honour, held in the throne room of Windsor Palace.  Each such entry was given a symbol, which was then added to all official Royal Standards.   To achieve such honour, violence and rebel activity had to fall to below five per cent in the whole Region or Municipality.

There have been five other CMs since R H Churchill.  Her descendant, William Hartwell Churchill is the current CM.  He has begun to relax some of the draconian measures and methods employed prior to his taking office.

Throughout all of this upheaval, the Guardians have pursued their mission without hindrance, thanks to the protection afforded by an unnamed individual in government, who appears to have a talent for retaining a position of considerable influence and power whatever the political situation.

Copyright © Steve K Smy, 2013.  All rights reserved.

Book Promo Day: 25th July, 2013

An exception to normal Book Promo Day entries:

Smashwords Sale from Sarah Baethge

Smashwords is having a sale!
If you want a cheap read, now is the time to check out Smashwords.

My short story, Right Now is free with the code SSW75 .

My novel, Panoptemitry is only $1.25 with that same code: SSW75 .

My other two short stories are always free, you can get to them from my Author Page.

Fraudulent Robert Spake Fraudulent by Robert D. Spake

It’s the late 19th Century. William Traven is returning home to England after four years of travelling. Along the way he feels as though he’s lost himself, so he comes home hoping to recapture his lost spirit. However, he’s worried that a sense of belonging will still elude him and if he can’t find it at home he fears that he’ll lose all hope. There’s also Eleanor, the girl who promised to wait for him while he went away. He feels an obligation to marry her but he doesn’t know whether he can carry out his duty if he doesn’t truly love her, or whether he can be the man his parents expect. He’s torn between honour, duty and love, and death hangs like a shadow over him as he struggles to find a place in the world.

Purchase details:

More information:

Amazon author page
Author’s Blog

Letters Home: Afghanistan by Teresa Jones

Letters Home: Afghanistan is the story of a soldier and his family that experience the ups and downs of a year of deployment to an active war zone. In this story we watch as the son John, deals with the reality of war in addition to missing out on all the wonderful things that come along with being part of a family and a community. We also get a peek into how the family on the home front deals with their son being so far away and in harm’s way each and every day.

Together they must find the strength to stay strong and positive while struggling daily to be a constant source of encouragement and support to each other.

~This book is a novella that is the first in a set of four from the “Letters from War” series. ~
~This book reads like a packet of old letters instead of in typical chapter formation~

Available exclusively on with Createspace version coming soon!

Purchase Location:
Current Price: 0.99 cents!

Contact the Author:

“Sunflower” Blog Tour

Sunflower by Cass J. McMain

Final Digital Cover Published June 15th 2013

Hardback (203 x 127mm):
£19.99 / USD $29.99
ISBN: 978-1-909374-44-7

Paperback (203 x 127mm):
£11.99 / USD $19.99
ISBN: 978-1-909374-45-4

£3.99 / USD $5.99
ISBN: 978-1-909374-46-1

£3.99 / USD $5.99
ISBN: 978-1-909374-47-8

BIC Code: FA

Michael is a metalworker with a name for building good fences. He’s even known by some neighborhood kids as Mr. Fence Man. But he wants to be something more: an artist like his former business partner, Alex. An artist, like his girlfriend, Jess, wants him to be. The commissions are starting to come in, and along with steady work making fences, things are looking good. The only problem he has is with his closest neighbor, who won’t allow visitors to pass through a gate between their properties. This dispute becomes a fight and Michael, enraged, makes a wrong choice.

Haunted by the result of his choice, Michael starts to fall apart: a death weighs down on him, exposing the weaknesses in the persona he was creating for himself, the weaknesses at the heart of him.

Sunflower is a story about a man having a bad day and making one bad choice. But underneath that, it also about his coming to terms with himself: who he is – and who he is not. Ultimately, Sunflower is about how we define ourselves as people, and how we seek to be what we are not.

An extraordinary and beautiful novel.

Editor’s Review:

I was pointed in the direction of Sunflower by a friend who had seen it on a writing forum. Within a couple of pages I was sure that this was worth reading, and approached Cass through the mutual friend. She duly sent me the manuscript, apparently a little surprised at my interest.

I realised then how long it was – 140,000 words, a real epic. Too long, according to conventional wisdom – surely too long unless it contained suitably epic events and huge cast of characters.

One Saturday late morning I opened the Word document and, seated at my desk, began reading. I read straight through, stopping only for coffee. 140,000 words in one day. Very little happens in the book, to be truthful, and what there is doesn’t happen quickly. Characters? Well, there are maybe three or four who are central, and perhaps a dozen (including a waitress and a salesman who appear for a few lines) in all. The style is simple, and there are no great phrases, no extended analyses, no bravura passages. I felt as though I had read a brief, simple book, and as though I had been immersed in another life.

Above all I knew this should be published.

It is hard, though, to describe or characterise. If it was a painting it would undoubtedly be in the impressionist style – or some midway point between pointillism and the obsessive twisting strokes of Van Gogh. There is a rhythm and a repetition, an extraordinary care with each word, each sentence, each punctuation mark, but it is true art, for one is never aware of the effort nor of the innate skill.

The reader is taken into the lives of the characters, the life, above all, of Michael. Like most lives his is composed of small moments, small worries, and small ambitions; as with most lives there is a fragility to his. The fragility is in part due to a fault line in him – the kind of fault line we all have. One particular small moment has a butterfly effect on the whole; the structure begins to crumble, quietly, almost unnoticed, and a life of quiet desperation emerges.

Throughout there are those moments that strike home and for me there was one particular moment: a telephone call, innocuous and unimportant, that made me stop reading for a little while, so personal was the recognition. There is throughout a kind of gentle descent – and the most gentle dissection of a person one can imagine. Yet in the end this about strength and hope, about life-giving light as well as life-denying darkness.

It is indeed a story of small things and profound truths.

Robert Peett

image About the Author

Cass McMain was born in Albuquerque and raised in the far North Valley, among the cottonwoods. Her first love was always houseplants, and she now maintains a house full of them.

Her background as a greenhouse manager led to a long career in garden center management, but when the bottom fell out of the local industry, she took a new path. Or rather, an old path; Cass started writing at the age of six, knocking out stories on her typewriter.

While her love of nature came in part from her father, a man with the heart of a farmer and the soul of a philosopher, much of the writing Cass did as a child was done to please her mother, a woman with the heart of a philosopher, the soul of a demon and the unquenchable thirst of the mind reserved for the brilliant.

Recently, Cass’s writing muse has again been speaking to her: a voice she stopped paying attention to a long time ago. Her plants, some of which she has had since she was nine years old, remain the heart of her life, but now she has a desire to express herself in other ways.

Bowed, but not broken, Cass keeps her eye on the horizon, looking for a greenhouse to manage. Her favorite saying these days is “that was then; this is now.”

An Excerpt from Sunflower:

Michael got home late in the afternoon, and he was worn out. He didn’t feel like working on the Tragedie piece. But if he didn’t do anything on it, he knew Jess would nag at him. Maybe he could sort of review it, without a lot of work. Those guys had taken a lot of energy out of him. He mixed himself a gin and tonic and walked out to the shed.

The piece stared at him. He wondered again why the owner of this restaurant was so determined to have such a somber image as their icon. That reminded him about the curls he was going to try on the cheeks. He set his drink down and took up the coil he had experimented with before. The heat from the torch had definitely brought out some different coloring. Michael decided to give it a shot on a grander scale.

Working with a much larger strip of metal, Michael fashioned a coil about a foot across and two inches thick. To change the color of it he fired up his torch and played the flame across the metal. This gave the coil some irregular markings that brought out depth and made it more interesting. Michael ran his hand along the edge and realized it was dangerously sharp, so he ground down the edges and ran the torch over it again. He doubted anyone would be actually petting the artwork, but it wouldn’t be smart to take the risk.

Once the metal was curled, he welded it to the cheek of the mask, under the left eye. The mouth was unevenly curved by design and as Michael worked he came to the conclusion that the second curl should be placed lower, to follow the direction of the mouth. He stepped back to look at the piece from a distance, and bumped into the table which held his drink. Michael caught the drink before it spilled, and absent-mindedly swallowed it at a gulp. The ice had melted; he had not realized how much time had passed, and it was now after 5:00.

Michael set down the glass again. It can’t be that late, he was thinking, when he heard Jess pull into the driveway. It was indeed that late. He went out to meet her.

She stepped out of the car. Her cotton skirt blew out behind her as she moved toward him, making her look almost like she was floating.

“Hi sweetie,” he called to her. “How was your day?”

“Was OK, how about yours? Get anywhere on your mask?” She caught up to him and gave him a peck on the cheek.

“Yeah, come look at this idea I got,” Michael said enthusiastically. “I really think this helps the piece look less formidable.” He led Jess to the shed.

She looked in at the mask. “The curlicue?” she asked. When Michael nodded, she said “I like it. Doing another on the other side?”

“Yeah,” Michael said. “Down lower though, to keep with the mouth.” He pointed at the spot. “Think it helps?”

Jess agreed that it did make the mask less frightening. “But it still looks mean,” she said. “It isn’t supposed to look mean, it’s supposed to look sad.”

“Well, I don’t know what else I can do,” Michael said. He was irritated, but he tried not to let it show. Easy for her to say, he thought. “What do you think I was trying to do with the curls?”

“Honey, don’t get upset,” Jess replied. “I just mean—well here, why don’t you add some turned down eyebrows?” She took up a notepad nearby and sketched. “Like this.” She held the pad up for Michael to view.

It was perfect. It would only take a couple of hours to do, and it would completely change the piece. Michael was stunned and, he hated to admit, resentful. She did in three seconds what I couldn’t do in three weeks, Michael thought. Just like Alex.

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A Case of Personal Crisis – “The Guilty” by Gabriel Boutros: A Book Review

The Guilty by Gabriel Boutros

I received the ebook version of this novel from the author.  This has not influenced my judgement in any way with regard to this review.

I have to start this review by saying what a remarkable novel this is.  It  is in a genre I have never read before, and it has left me wondering what I may have missed.  Gabriel Boutros demonstrates a true gift for his craft as a writer, right from the beginning, and manages to draw you into the story with consummate skill.  At the outset, his protagonist is anything but likeable.  He’s arrogant, self-satisfied, ready to declare his personal genius to all and sundry with or without prompting.  Yes, in the beginning, his relationship with his daughter is shaking him, but not in the ways it should.  He belongs very firmly in that subspecies: homo sapiens lawyerensis.  There is only the vaguest hint of humanity about the man.  So how come you carry on reading about this undesirable?  Because you want to see his fall!  You are drawn along waiting to witness his utter ruin.  There’s a part of you, sparked into existence by the brief sentence on the cover, which is also waiting to see just when and how this reprehensible person will meet his personal epiphany and explode into a Fury of Retribution.  And that’s part of Mr Boutros’ skill.  He has lived the life and knows it intimately.  Not that he bears any resemblance to his protagonist, of course, but he must surely have encountered those who shared at least elements of the character’s personality.

I mentioned the main character meeting his personal epiphany.  Well, it demonstrates Mr Boutros’ skill that he so easily handles the fact that very few truly  experience an epiphany!  Our awakening is rarely one of those single, dramatic, life-changing moments.  In fact, it can be, and usually is, a slow, painful, confusing process.  As a reader coming from books which require episodes of intense action, The Guilty proved to be a remarkable experience for me.  There were, very definitely, events, but none were exactly describable as action.  I was amazed to find that I had been drawn along with such excellent writing that action sequences really weren’t required.  Indeed, they may well have turned an excellent novel into something far more ordinary.  Like a patient angler, with a prize fish (you) on the line, Mr Boutros allows you to twist and turn on the line, your mind darting off down  side alleyways of possibilities, but always, inescapably, you are drawn ever closer to the waiting net – the conclusion.  And I will say only this: the conclusion is very satisfying – though the characters are, by then, so a part of you that you’d love to hear more about them.  I genuinely regretted the book ending.

If you’re looking for a Perry Mason or other similar fictional lawyer, then you’ll be disappointed.  There’s a disturbing ring of honesty about the portrayed lawyers’ defects.  You’ll find those you can happily despise, but you’ll also be confused by those who exhibit more humanity than you would expect.  They are complex people.  They have lives.  You could, with little effort, imagine how they live their lives away from the spotlight of the  story.  There’s everything from the ‘wet behind the ears idealist’ youngster, just beginning their lives, to the jaded veteran who simply does what they’ve always done, without ever considering the consequences because they live only with the Law – not real people.  And of course the full spectrum  in between the extremes.  I haven’t read anything with such strong, real characters before.  Everything else, I could always take refuge in the underlying knowledge that I was reading fiction, even when it got a little too uncomfortable for my liking – or especially then.

I’m not going to include details of the plot or the events even in broad terms.  This book is too good a read to spoil with anything beyond general observations about its worth.  I do, however, have a request: when you’ve read The Guilty, come back and tell me whether you’re pleased that I recommended it to you, or not!

My rating?  A very definite 5 stars!  Who would I  recommend this book to?  Anybody who enjoys reading!

More information:

Author’s website

I’m Back and a Roundup of News

My Gratitude for Many Kindnesses

During the last couple of months, I have been well and truly blessed with numerous demonstrations of that old-fashioned thing: Human Kindness!    It is astonishing and not a little overwhelming to have received so many kind  wishes from so many people.  I am humbled.  Deeply so.  There is certainly no way that I can ever repay such warmth.  My recent incapacity was met with even more such kindness, for which I can only offer my most sincere thanks!

I hope that things are now returning to normal.  The most significant aspect of my absence was an unpleasant tendency to fall asleep without warning with great frequency, which made focussing on anything impossible.  It may sound not particularly trying, but it was unfortunately associated with other even less tolerable factors,  So it’s fingers crossed time, that the problem has passed.

My thanks to my son, Damien, for posting about my absence and fielding comments as best he could!  Considering how busy he is himself, it was no small thing for him to do on my behalf.

I Must Refuse!

Recently, I have had several emails from, apparently, other authors.  These offer to ‘send business my way’ if I join the person’s network by clicking on a link in the email, which always involves the website  I would like it to be known that I will not ever,under any circumstances, take up such invitations.  I have a very strong suspicion of all such things, I’m afraid.  So, if you have my email address in your contacts and you choose to subscribe to whatever this service might be, I would be grateful if you ensured that you do not submit it to the service.  I should point out that I have attempted to bar such emails, and ‘unsubscribe’ from them, to no effect, which suggests that things are worthy of suspicion.

Last Week’s ‘Book Promo Day’

If anybody’s wondering to last week’s Book Promo Day, it’s a shame but there were no submissions for the day. It is a source of some amazement to me that it can often be such hard work to persuade my fellow authors to take advantage of free advertising!  If you’ve availed yourself of the offer yourself, and maybe even derived some benefit from having done so, perhaps you would be so kind as to suggest to your own contacts that they might like to do the same.  So far, I have received just one submission for the next Book Promo Day.

The Ossilan Affair Reviewed!

I am delighted to say that my novelette, The Ossilan Affair, has been reviewed.  The review can be found on Amazon and is also to be found on  I’d be very grateful if you took a look at one location, or both, and maybe leave some feedback, if you feel so inclined.  Personally, I have to thank Lizzie Ross for her kind review, the award of four stars and her very useful observations.  It is an excellent demonstration of how a review can be helpful to both potential readers and the author.

~ Steve