28 May 2012

On The Radio

Donna Summer died recently. She was every bit an icon of my youth as Elvis was to my late sister's. One of my favorites was "On The Radio." It reminds me of "Killing Me Softly" by Roberta Flack--the listener is certain the song/letter is a truly personal ode suddenly made public

 Music has always been an integral part of my life and certain songs not only evoke remembered images but smells and emotions. For example, only a few days after Miz Summer died, Robin Gibb  of the BeeGees also passed on. "Jive Talkin" got me through the summer job from hell at a local short order restaurant prior to starting my junior year of high school. I can honestly smell the grease on the grill and the tallow used in the deep fat fryer clinging to the nasty polyester uniform I had to wear. Ugh. I truly hated that job, but "J-J-J-Jive Talkin'" was about the only decent song on the jukebox in the corner. Thank goodness the BeeGees did "Saturday Night Fever" my freshman year of college, else I would always associate "Bee Gee" with Burger Grease. 

Disco may have been lampooned (in many instances, rightly so) but there is no mistaking the quality and amazing range Donna Summer's voice possessed. She recorded a duet with Barbara Streisand and definitely held her own--even though she had pneumonia during the taping.  "On The Radio" didn't utilize as much of her vocal power as other songs, but it kept me tapping the steering wheel as I listened on long drives. It was a great song to howl along with in the privacy of your car.

Which brings me to Being On The Radio on Wednesday, May 30th. No, I won't be reading old love letters, but I will be talking about my writing, history, romance, and inspiration. Starting at 8:00PM Eastern time I'll be the guest on Lette's Chat on BlogTalk Radio for about forty-five minutes. You are quite welcome to call in and join the conversation at (347) 215-7302.  

We can pay tribute to The Original Diva of Disco, may she rest in peace.


20 May 2012

An Alternative Knights Tale: Interview with Liane Moonraven

The Broken Sword is a new look at the ancient legend of Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table written by Liane Moonraven. This  is an alternative version that, while inspired by the 2004 film, "King Arthur," puts quite a different spin on Antoine Fuqua’s retelling as well. As someone who adores history and research, I had a problem with the film being wildly inaccurate to begin with, but for some reason that didn't bother me as much while reading The Broken Sword. Maybe because in her foreword, the author is adamant that she is not a historian and the story is not meant to be a research project.  Or maybe the quite steamy erotic elements distracted me from the historical details? (ahem...)  No matter; once my brain grasped the Alternative Version concept, I jumped right in. Ms. Moonraven delves into the characters of the other Knights (as inspired by the film) through humorous and damned hot erotic scenes, but she also builds the tension and suspense nicely to the end.  The story:
Arthur is happily married, devoted to Lady Carlota Castus, whose former love disappeared and was presumed dead--until she learns years later he was conscripted by the Roman Empire as a Sarmatian Knight. The same Sarmation Knights who are under Arthur's command in Britain. Ooh, awkward... especially when Mathias realizes just who is Arthur's new wife. Betrayal to Arthur is definitely n the works--but by whom? 
The Broken Sword is available now in ebook and print format from Amazon; on Barnes & Noble for Nook, and on Smashwords.

Now for our interview:

Welcome, Liane, and thanks for granting this interview. Your novel, The Broken Sword, is a new take on the King Arthur legend--and a rather erotic one at that.  How did you choose to go in this direction? 
I have no idea--HA! A few years ago I was a role play writer for an online King Arthur group. I had created the character Lady Castus while writing with them. I got the idea for The Broken Sword after visiting Medieval Times on my birthday for the first time. We sat in the Blue Knight’s section on the front row and he was quite the showman. He tossed me the carnation and I was absolutely giddy. After the show, I met him. His name is Matt and he inspired the character, Mathias.

“Liane Moonraven is a beautiful pen name. Tell us about its origin and meaning.
Thank you, Jude. Each word of my pseudonym means something to me. Liane is my birth middle name; I find my strength by watching the moon and not only is the raven the most beautiful bird in the sky, but one of my favorite authors is Edgar Allen Poe and of course, he penned "The Raven." The name has extreme personal power for me and has been received very well.

You were obviously inspired by the 2004 film “King Arthur” for this story. What in particular about director Antoine Fuqua’s vision grabbed your imagination and compelled you to write The Broken Sword?  
What a great question! *laughs* I’d never heard of the movie until my husband brought it home one night. When I first saw the knights, I said to him “are you kidding me? THOSE are the knights??” Usually the Knights of the Round Table are shown as clean, honorable knights in shining armor ("First Knight" immediately comes to mind. Ew. Lol.)The shock of seeing them as they probably were – scrungy, dirty, with matted heads, really resonated with me. Also the level of violence in the movie during the battle scenes moved me particularly the death of a few characters which were so emotional. It was unlike any medieval movie I had seen before and I was sucked into it. Not to mention that Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Mads Mikkelson, Joel Edgerton, Ray Stevenson and Ray Winstone were pure eye candy for 126 minutes!

Hey, no Guinevere?  Not at all. *laughs* What’s up with that? (Not that I’m complaining…) Even though I love the King Arthur movies, I have disliked Guinevere because she betrayed Arthur. I also believe their whole marriage was political and not brought on by love. And even though Lancelot is quite the ladies’ man, I never bought the idea he would betray Arthur. Therefore, I wanted Arthur to have a true, deep and passionate love with a woman who adored him and whom he adored. I just never got the warm and fuzzies with Guin.

You make a point in your “Author’s Two Cents” to state that you do not claim to be a historian. How do you respond to readers who may take period authenticity rather seriously?  
I have to respect them. I recently got dinged pretty hard for that despite the disclaimer. Heck, she even dinged the disclaimer. HA! There are so many, many versions of this story about a man that we’re not even sure existed, so I’m hoping that readers will be able to absorb and appreciate the story for what it truly is – a work of fiction.

Tell us about your next project and what challenges you most when you sit down to write.
 I’m currently finishing up the sequel to The Broken Sword which is called, Shields of Blood. While TBS focused on characterization, Shields is about gritty plot. I also have a couple of short stories I’m working on as well as a horror based on a descendant of Tituba. She was really the reason for spawning the Salem Witch Trials.
Dost thou have a website and links you’d like us to explore?  
Yes, please! 
Twitter @lianemoonraven

17 May 2012

The Mishmash Days

When I was a young child, I always seemed to be waiting. Waiting to start school, waiting for it to end. Waiting for spring rain to stop so summer would bring swimming at the lake. I know I've used this song before, but it is so absolutely spot on:

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day 
Fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way. 
Tired of lying in the sunshine / staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long / and there is time to kill today.
And then one day you find  / ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run / you missed the starting gun...*

I've decided that the days you wait in anticipation of some grand event should be called The Mishmash Days. They aren't overly memorable because you're looking ahead. What you do, the things that go on during this time are often misfiled in your memory, mashed into the back of the filing drawer. But Life still happens on such days. They can have their Glorious Moments-- watching dozens of just-hatched tiny quail ( affectionately named "quaaludes" in this house) run madly behind their parents to cross the yard, enjoying the coolness of shade on a hot day, or enjoying a belly laugh with your child. These are treasures to be cherished, quiet and subtle to be sure, but every bit as wonderful as that vacation you've been planning for months. Maybe even better. 

So don't dismiss The Mishmash Days. Slow down, pay attention. Savor the smell of freshly cut grass and the feel of cool water on your tongue. We only get about 22,000 days; don't throw any of them away. 

* "Time" --  Mason, Waters, Wright, Gilmour (aka Pink Floyd)  Album: The Dark Side of The Moon

09 May 2012

JIM WOODS ~ Part Three

Jim Stone finally becomes the central character in Gemstone, my novel in work and the one I wanted to write from the start. Because it is to be saga length, the complexity and detail is tedious as I strive to make it an important work, to me anyhow, and hopefully for my publisher and the reading public. Currently, the completed word count is greater than my first novel/novella, The Outlander, and I anticipate it could end up twice the word count of Assassination Safari. My character, Jim Stone, as a young man arrives in South Africa in the mid 1950s. His life and adventures run through current times; the ending not really in sight because I haven’t come the The End. When I do, the era of Jim Stone’s saga will correspond to the era of South Africa in the news at the time. The following compacted excerpt shows the beginning of Jim Stone becoming the force in Africa that I foresee:

EXCERPT, GEMSTONE, a novel in work, by Jim Woods

The Liverpool-registered freighter Frances Newton was outfitted with eight passenger cabins on the second deck, one level safely removed from the sometimes-perilous cargo handling operations topside. Never in the ship’s thirty-two year years of service had it sailed with all cabins occupied. When the ship was commissioned the owners had visions of adventurous travelers willing to pay lucrative fees for leisurely passage to distant, obscure, exotic and sometimes surprise-scheduled destinations. They miscalculated; the bare-and-spare Newton just could not compete with the cruise liners that offered dance floors, intimate cocktail lounges and midnight buffets.

Passenger amenities on board the Newton were limited to eating at officer’s mess, a library of well-used paperback books, several decks of equally well-thumbed playing cards, a checker board, a chess set and ample opportunities for carnal encounters with the mostly-Irish boiler tenders and British deckhands. Captain Perkins had observed over the past seventeen years— he was only the second skipper of the Newton since it first was launched— that the worst offenders of the latter were married women traveling with their husbands, older women traveling with like companions, and young men traveling alone. The occasional younger single women, or married women who booked single-cabin passage, seemed to gravitate to officers. The American, Jim Stone, was neither passenger nor crew nor officer of the Frances Newton, yet he was all three.


08 May 2012

JIM WOODS, Part Two ~

Guest Blogger Jim Woods continues his series today with Part Two...

Jim Stone turned up again in my follow-up novel, Assassination Safari, but as a minor character at best. If it were a movie, the character would not be listed in the credits. The book was a notable improvement over The Outlander though, in storyline, complexity, cast, writing time and word count—more than ninety-two thousand words. A slightly more detailed look at Jim Stone is offered in this excerpt:

EXCERPT, Assassination Safari, Champagne Books (2009):

“Hello Mister Stone. Thank you for taking my call.”

“Not at all, Willem. I was pleased when my girl told me that it was you on the line. We haven’t talked for too long a time. Obviously it has been too long if I am ‘Mister Stone’ instead of ‘Jim.’ What can I do for you?”

“I have heard that you have some space available in your camp next month? Willem turned the statement into a question as he had observed the English do.

“I see that there are no secrets in the safari business. Yes, I did have a late cancellation. Did you have some clients for me?”

“As you know, my son Marek and your hunter Nigel were planning on making partial use of your vacancy with their personal hunt. I’m speaking for Danie Schwardt who has an American client who can come on short notice if you can accommodate him.”

“An American? By himself? Of course I can accommodate him, and I certainly owe the favor to Danie. I know that he is fully booked. Yes, I will take his client for him. I appreciate your call.”

“That’s good Jim. Danie will appreciate it too . . . but there’s more. If you have the space, I wish to get in a little bird shooting. Would it be convenient for me to join Marek and Nigel for their hunt?”

“You certainly may join Marek, and welcome, but with the American and yourselves, and the remaining party that’s still on, I’ll have a full camp and I’m afraid that I must put Nigel back to work. I’ll have him guide the American, but either you or Marek can go along with him as the second gun. Perhaps the two of you could trade off day-to-day in that capacity. As the paying hunter, the American must be given priority, of course, but you and Marek as my personal guests should be able to get in all the bird shooting you want, even a springbok and an impala for the freezer if you like.”

“That’s very kind of you Jim, and could I prevail on you to not mention to Danie that I was in camp? I would not want him to think that I traded on his good reputation with you.” Nor would I, Willem thought, want him to know that I was in camp to personally check on Leo in spite of what Danie has reported. He would be furious, and rightfully so, if he knew….

 ….“Hello Danie . . . Yes this is Lucas. How are you? . . . Of course I can come the first of the month,” responded Lucas cautiously, wondering if Danie had forgotten that he had agreed that The Vengeurs were to provide Lucas’ expenses and fees for such a safari and mission. Understanding came slowly as Danie continued….

“…And, sorry Lucas, but it will not be me that meets you in Johannesburg, or guides you this time either. I am fully booked, but I found a tent for you with Gemstone Safaris. Jim Stone is the outfitter . . . Yes, I know that he is an American and that you wish to have your own safari outfit here, but Jim Stone has been hunting here since the 1950s. He even predates PHASA. If fact, if not for him, I and many other South Africans would not be running safaris today. PHASA might not even exist but for his early work. He’s an institution in South Africa’s game capture and relocation business. A lot of us owe our livelihood to him.”

“Yes, of course I know about Jim Stone. Almost anyone who has safaried in South Africa knows about Jim Stone. I look forward to meeting him … and thanks again Danie. Even though we can’t hunt together this trip, if you get a break in your schedule, perhaps we can get together for a Lion Lager and a talk. I’ll call you when I get to South Africa.”

“Ya. That would be good. Call me from your hotel before your hunt. I’ll make time to stop by and have that bier with you.”

~Stay tuned for Part Three Tomorrow!

Jim Woods has published some four hundred articles in national magazines, contributed to various fact and fiction anthologies, and is the author of sixteen print and e-books with treatments ranging from writing tutorial to fictional political assassination. He’s a current world traveler, so far having logged his presence in eighty countries. He also is a former Editor, Managing Editor and Editorial Director with (then) Petersen Publishing Company of Beverly Hills—Guns & Ammo and Petersen’s Hunting magazines; and Senior Field Editor with (then) Publishers Development Corporation, San Diego—Guns and Shooting Industry magazines. He’s a former big-game hunter and has written extensively on African safari, both the hunting and camera varieties. He lives and writes in Tucson, Arizona.

07 May 2012

Guest Blogger Today: JIM WOODS

Today I'm honored to present a Guest Blogger for the first half of this week who is one of the most prolific writers in Tucson: Jim Woods. Jim has published some four hundred articles in national magazines, contributed to various fact and fiction anthologies, and is the author of sixteen print and e-books. He lives and writes in Tucson, Arizona.

Upon one of my early press trips to South Africa, representing my publisher/employer’s guns and hunting magazine, I determined the exploits of one of the professional hunters I met there would be transferred to a fictional character of my creation. His was an epic lifetime of accomplishment in the interrelated game capture and relocation, game ranching and safari industries of not only South Africa but several of the neighboring southern Africa countries as well. My novel of this larger-than-life individual had to be of epic proportions too. My primary obstacle was that I was a journalist, not a novelist. The four hundred articles I had published in various outdoors magazines over the prior twelve years did not prepare me for writing a novel; the only fiction training I could claim was that of an avid reader. 

I recognized I required education to be a novelist and set about a self-training regimen. How hard could it be?  Up to now I created and assembled the flow of words for my own magazine feature articles and my monthly column, and the primary side of my job was editing other authors’ works. All I had to do was work through an initial novel to learn the ropes, and then get on with the saga of my vision. As long as my downstream saga would be set in South Africa, it was an easy decision to set my first effort in the country as well. 

That first book, The Outlander, was more difficult and time consuming than I could have imagined at the start, and it contained its share of first-novel flaws. At its final fifty thousand words, it fell in between the norm for novel or novella, and it was more novella than novel in its limited complexity. It just didn’t fit most publishers’ requirements, but I thought it a pretty good story. It didn’t get published on its own merit, but finally did see print when it was packaged with a handful of short fiction to make collection of acceptable word count. Those supporting short stories were not set in Africa, as was the primary story, but were of a theme allowing them to be packaged together under the umbrella title, Gunshot Echoes, by Champagne Books. And while it was never intended to be part of a series, The Outlander introduced my epic character-to-come, Jim Stone. In this first fiction, Jim Stone was not an actual character but merely a reference in narrative, as seen in this excerpt: