Author Interview with Shannon Condon

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Author Shannon Condon is joining us today to discuss  her experiences as an author and her debut novel, Finding Magdalena.

Q. When did you realise you wanted to become an author?

A. I realized I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school and went to college with that goal in mind. Of course, life happens and it wasn’t until recently that I have had the opportunity to realize my dream.

Q. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

A. The message I want readers to take away from this book is abuse in teenage relationships and at the teenage level, whether in a relationship or not, is a very real thing. I think girls are particularly susceptible at college when they are away from home and looking for security which is often equated with a boyfriend. Abuse can come in many forms and I knew many girls who experienced it, myself included.

Q. What genre do you consider your book(s)?

A. My book has been labeled by the publisher as coming of age/ young adult. Due to the nature of the content, I would recommend it for 15+.

Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?  

A. I think the hardest part of writing this book was keeping the length to a reasonable length. I had a lot more I wanted to add to the book but had been advised not to go over a certain word count. Fortunately, that is what sequels are for.

Q. Do you have any advice for other writers?

A. My advice to other writers is not to get discouraged. I received lots of rejection letters before I decided to self publish. I am still sending query letters to publishers. Just because what you write doesn’t strike a chord with one agent doesn’t mean another won’t love it. The most important thing is to believe in yourself and make sure you EDIT your manuscript before you send any part of it to an agent.

Q. How long does it take you to write a book?

A. It’s hard to put a timeline on how long it takes me to write a book. I can spend a couple of months developing a book and the characters before I actually put a single word on my computer.  Once I begin writing, however, I would say it takes about six to eight months.  I am constantly rewriting in my head even as I am writing on my computer and this leads to deleted chapters and backtracking. It’s important to me that when I am done, the characters are strong and the story fluid.

Q. What books have most influenced your life most?

A. I think the books that have had the greatest influence on me are the ones that I don’t want to end. They draw me in so much that I am immersed in another world. Some examples would be my all time favorite, ‘Lord of the Flies’ by William Golding and the Hunger Games series.

Q. What are you working on at the minute?

A. Right now I am working on the sequel to Finding Magdalena. I am very excited about it because I feel that Maggie is growing as a woman and in strength. There will be a lot of surprises and I hope everyone who has been asking for a sequel will be asking for more!

Q. Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead characters from your book?

A. To be honest, I cannot think of any current actress who could play Maggie. She is such a unique character. I would envision a new face playing her if a movie was made of Finding Magdalena.

Q. What’s is your book about?

A. My book is about a girl named who suffers a terrible tragedy at fifteen. As she begins to recover with the help of her best friend, Graham, she meet’s her roommate’s older brother, Eric. He becomes obsessed with Maggie. His obsession becomes violent and he abuses and sexually tortures her. She flees to Spain to attend college and try to find her mother’s estranged family. Just as she settles into what she believes is a safe life, Eric finds her and she begins a journey across Europe to escape him that draws upon all her strength and shows her the woman she is meant to be.

Guest Post by Author Stephen Leather

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HOW MANY WORDS ARE ENOUGH?

Over the last few years my productivity has increased several fold. Ten years ago I published one book a year – usually about 120,000 words.

These days, in the wake of the eBook boom, I publish at least  three, sometimes four each year, plus several short stories. My published output is closer to 400,000 words. Before eBooks and self-publishing came along, publishers generally wanted one book a year. When it came out in hardback the book from the previous year would be reissued as a paperback. Most writers earned their living from one book year. And that’s how traditional publishing worked – they simply didn’t want more than one book a year.

EBooks changed all that, of course. Some of the most successful self-publishers now produce a new book every couple of months, and make a lot of money doing it. With eBooks there are no supermarkets to negotiate with, no bookshop shelf space to be bargained for. You just upload your book and it’s available for sale. The more books you write, the more you sell. In theory, at least!

The most published novelist in history – Agatha Christie – is estimated to have sold more than four billion books to date. But as productive as she was, she wrote fewer then 70 novels in her lifetime. And taken over the period of her writing career she averaged about a book and a half each year. Probably not more than 120,000 words, because her books don’t tend to be long reads. Barbara Cartland spent 80 years writing and produced 722 books, releasing one every 40 days, pretty much, though her books tended to be on the short side.

So how many words a day should a writer be aiming at? Horror writer Stephen King hits 2,000 words a day. Hemingway used to write fewer than a thousand. Right up there at the top is probably Belgian novelist Georges Simenon who published almost 500 novels and many short stories during his lifetime. He is credited with writing between 60 to 80 pages a day, sometimes more than 20,000 words.

Wow. That takes my breath away.

My most recently-published book is New York Night, the seventh in the Jack Nightingale supernatural detective series. It’s just over 73,000 words – which is quite short for a thriller – but it only took two months to write. I’m midway through my 13th Spider Shepherd novel –  Black Ops. At the moment I’m writing about 2,000 words a day, on average. With my deadline some forty days away, that’s a comfortable rate to finish on time.

My most prolific period was a few years ago when I travelled from Malaysia to the UK on a cargo ship, It meant being at sea for 16 days with no phone and no internet access. Each day was pretty much the same, because when you’re at sea there isn’t much to see, except sea. So I’d get up and have breakfast with the crew, then write, then lunch, then write, then dinner, a game of table tennis with the first officer, then more writing.  Even with a schedule like that I rarely managed more than three thousand words a day. That seems to be my maximum.

Mind you, three thousand words a day is pretty good going. Even with weekends off, that’s close to three quarters of a million words a year – eight or nine novels. But I seriously doubt that I could write nine novels a year – not good ones, anyway.

The thing is, at the end of the day it’s quality that matters, not quantity. There’s no point in bashing out 10,000 words if most of them are no good. All that matters is how many of those words feel right, which is why chasing a word count can sometimes be counter-productive.

But I can give you one writing tip that should help increase your word count, and keep the quality up.

When you are writing, and you’re getting close to finishing for the day, try not to finish on a scene. Leave It unfinished. Definitely don’t end at a chapter, and ideally stop writing mid-paragraph or even mid-sentence.

That way when you go to sleep, your subconscious will be working out what it has to do next. When you wake up, because you stopped mid-flow, you’ll find that when you sit down next day, you’ll be all fired up to start writing! It’s the best way of doing away with writer’s block that I know!

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Book Review: Contamination (Feast of Weeds #2) by Jamie Thornton

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Sequels can be hit or miss, however Jamie Thornton nailed it with her second book in the Feast of Weeds series, Contamination.

Although the story picks up roughly where the first left off when it comes to timeline, Contamination follows a brand new set of characters in their journey to survive the outbreak that is quickly turning the population into rabid zombie-like beings.

I really enjoy how Thornton ties in the past characters to the new ones, and I appreciate that the author gives some explanations as to how the virus began and the scope of the spread.

Another aspect of the novel that I like is Corinna’s backstory. The glimpses into her past make it easier to understand her decision making throughout her stuggles. As for Dylan and her “friend” Jane, well… I didn’t like them much however I don’t suspect that the reader is supposed to.

Honestly, I preferred Contamination over the first book of the series. It’s just as action packed as Germination however since Contamination is a full-length novel instead of a novella, I feel that Thornton was able to offer so much more to her readers.

All in all, Contamination is a can’t-put-down zombie thriller that will have you reading into the wee hours of the night.

NOTE: I received a free copy from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: A Dog and His Boy by T.F. Pruden

 

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Set in northwest Canada during the nineteen seventies, A Dog and His Boy by first time author T.F. Pruden follows one unconventional family and their lives in an isolated ranch as they learn to survive lost childhoods and broken homes.

Let me start by stating that A Dog and His Boy was a decent novel. While exploring themes of isolation, loss and family relationships, Pruden does a good job at giving the readers a sense of what life in northern Manitoba must have been like. I especially liked the strained dynamic between Tommy and his father and imagining how desolate it must be being a child growing up the way they did.

This being said, I found the novel to be very slow paced and I have to admit that I struggled to complete it. This could be blamed simply on personal taste; these types of novels/movies rarely appeal to me. Still, it didn’t keep me as engaged as I had hoped.

NOTE: This novel was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: He Knew a Firefly by Smita Bhattacharya

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He Knew a Firefly by Smita Bhattacharya centers on Akshara who has the ability to see the futures of the people she loves. However her “gift” is more of a curse than a blessing as it seems that every life she touches is thrown into turmoil. Akshara must try to light the dark paths of her loved ones before fear and guilt consume her.

Bhattacharya writes in a graceful, almost lyrical style that I’ve rarely encountered in past novels and this poetic talent is certainly her strong suit. Seriously, her writing is exquisite.

I also really enjoyed having a glimpse into some of the different cultures of India. The author does this with ease, even adding words from her native tongue into the dialogue of the story without losing her English readers.

Where I encountered some problems was in the plot. Bhattacharya has created three loosely connected stories, all tied together by Akshara’s relationship with them which in theory is great however I found the storylines were somewhat difficult to follow. Because of this confusion, it made it hard to connect with some of her characters.

If I were to give a rating on the story alone, He Knew a Firefly would get 3 cups of java. However, because I feel that Bhattacharya’s writing itself is so beautiful, I have given the novel a 4 out 5 cup rating.

NOTE: I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The “She” Stands Alone by Nadine Keels

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The “She” Stands Alone by Nadine Keels is a cute novella about bibliophile Sheridan Jones; a woman who has been scorned by love and decides instead to date herself.

I really liked the message of this story; you need to be cool with who you are before you can fully invest in a relationship with someone else. In short, it’s ok to be single. Its advice so few people follow and yet it makes perfect sense.

Also, the awkward interactions between Sheridan and mailman/neighbor Eugene were funny. He may have been a tad too short for Sheridan’s liking but I was rooting for Eugene!

What didn’t I like? Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about the cover art. If I had been scrolling through the Kindle store, I would have likely passed on buying this book and that would have been a shame.

If you like a clean romantic comedy, I recommend giving The “She” Stands Alone a try.

Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange with an honest review.

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Book Review: I’m Not Your “Baby” by Joy Jennings

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I’m Not Your “Baby” by Joy Jennings is a poignant look at one woman’s personal experiences with sexual harassment, assault and rape.

Telling this story must have taken a great deal of courage on the part of the author. Victims of sexual violence are so often silenced by their fear and I commend Jennings for putting it all out there. And trust me, there are tons of terrible encounters to tell. Many instances in the book were very uncomfortable to read and I can’t imagine how it must have felt to actually live them.

What I found most distressing throughout the book was how Jennings’ experiences with sexual harassment and assault were so often downplayed by those around her. Being told to “just ignore it” or the ever popular “boys will be boys” excuse is unfortunately so reflective of our society. All too often, it seems as though the victims are pegged as the problem and that they should be the ones to change their behavior or appearance as to not entice abusers.

Another aspect that struck me was the degree of frequency Jennings was harassed and assaulted. I feel as though this woman has to be the unluckiest person in regards to the men. It’s so disturbing that there are women out there who repeatedly have to endure sexual violence. I feel blessed to have a fair amount of male friends – none of which would ever behave remotely close to the way hers did.

Normally, I feel uneasy about reviewing a memoir. There are so many useless memoirs out these days (I’m sorry, but having parents and a childhood doesn’t of itself qualify you to write a memoir). When I agreed to review Jennings’ story it was because I felt that there was something to be learned by the horrifying events that happened in her life. I respect the author immensely for her bravery and for sharing her story with her readers.

Note: This book was given to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: Pretty Dancer by Cora Graham

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Pretty Dancer is a contemporary YA romance novel by first time author Cora Graham. The story revolves around Lilly, an aspiring dancer who hasn’t had the easiest home life so far. As she fights to overcome her past, she must also learn to trust and open herself to the possibility of loving again.

Yes, it was a little long and dragged on in some places. Yes, there were some minor typos. And yes, the dance choreography descriptions weren’t my favorite aspects of the story (I blame this on being a dance instructor myself – occupational hazard).  But honestly, those minor issues didn’t take away from how much I loved this book. Let me say it again; I. Loved. This. Book. It had so much heart. Lilly’s relationship with her twin brother Luke was my favorite depiction of sibling dynamics in a book so far. As the story progresses, you begin to understand why Luke’s overprotectiveness is so appropriate regarding Lilly. The intrigue surrounding their father and what happened between them keep you guessing until the very end and for once, I didn’t see the truth coming from a mile away. And Carter? SA-WOOON! Holy hell. Seriously, the build is so slow it felt like the biggest literary tease ever. However readers don’t despair; it is so worth the wait. The car scene between Carter and Lilly? HOT, HOT, HOT.

The only things I would change about this book are some minor editing and the removal of the prologue. Honestly, the book would do nicely without it. It seemed unnecessary and actually had me thinking that I wouldn’t like the book (which, thankfully, I totally did).

If you’re a fan of YA, teen angst and romance then pick up Pretty Dancer. You will not be disappointed!

(Also, enter to win a free ecopy of Pretty Dancer here -> Pretty Dancer Giveaway, contest ends November 20th at 9pm Atlantic time)

Note: I received this novel by the author in exchange with an honest review.

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GIVEAWAY! Pretty Dancer by Cora Graham

Do you know what’s better than books? FREE books, that’s what.

Enter your name and email in the comments section below for a shot at winning an ecopy of Cora Graham’s novel Pretty Dancer. Contest ends November 20th at 9pm Atlantic time.

pretty dancer

Meet Lilly – talented dancer, quick mouthed, take no shit tough girl who’s also good at hiding the fact that she’s scared. She doesn’t believe in true love or happily ever afters. Unless you count the unbreakable love she has for her overprotective, bullheaded twin brother, who also happens to be her knight in shining armor – which she doesn’t. Kind of hard to love when you can’t trust, and trust was something that got shattered along with the rest of her years ago. A lot was taken from her at a young age. She’s never gotten over it as much as she’s just refused to deal with it.

Her twin brother and quirky best friend are the only ones she lets see her true self. Her only dream is to get accepted into The Elite Academy of Dance and spend the rest of her life dancing on a stage, away from all that haunts her. To her, that’s easier than dealing with the demons from her past and the scars they left on the person she has become today. She’s more than willing to tuck all those dark and nasty things away, and go on pretending. Never hoping for anything more. Never allowing herself to feel.

That is, until a certain guy walks into her life like he was always meant to be there and refuses to go away. He turns her world upside down and confuses her to no end. He makes her wonder if there really is something more worth fighting her demons for. But then a secret comes to light that has her questioning if her shattered heart could have been saved all its hurt so many years ago.

A story about a girl who fights to overcome her past and dances her way into the future she wants. And maybe, just maybe, along the way finds a way to trust again, to love again.

Love, Humor, Passion, Artistry, a story of acceptance.