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Posts tagged ‘Melange Books’

Agatha Christie Meets Nora Roberts

Killing at the White Swan Inn by Carole Hall.
Melange Books, 2017
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

whiteswannIf Nora Roberts, Agatha Christie, and Salman Rushdie wrote as a ménage à trois, Killing at the Swan Inn could be the story they birthed. Ms. Hall has written a tale that combines a cozy murder-mystery, with contemporary romance, and cultural differences, which converge in the Berkshires at Margot’s newly acquired inn (The White Swan). 

The characters who inhabit the inn, and who visit, are introduced in quick succession, with readers understanding, and cheerleading, for each to find release from an abusive relationship (Veronica Hewitt), forgiveness and redemption (Charles Allan Whittaker), safety from a vengeful family (Soraya and Omar Sulaman-Mamoud), and love (Isobel, Manager John, Charles, and Detective Adrian Reynolds).

Those who work at the inn, and mourn the loss of long-time owner, Isobel’s mother Claire, run the inn like a family, and try to make the well-known, and famous men and women that visit, a sense of it being their home as well. This sense of caring for one another is evident and visceral throughout, and one of the strongest characteristics of the story. Humanity at its best.

Killing at the White Swan is an enjoyable, and brief visit, with people you’d want to meet in person, let alone spend a weekend at the inn.

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He Is Closer Than You Think

OutOfSyncOut of Sync by Chynna T. Laird
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Out of Sync impregnates the reader with love, loss, fear, suspense, murder, and for good measure, a little laughter along the way. Ms. Laird has given forensic psychologist, Cheyenne McCarthy, and those within her world, a sense of intimacy, complexity, and above all, an evolving understanding of family.

The cold-blooded murderer, Marcus Harper, turns out to be closer to Cheyenne than she ever imagined, and as revealed by elder Chief Longfellow, a human being to understand and value, in spite of his violence, terror and the revenge he enacts upon Cheyenne and her friends. The supporting characters in the story all have there moments of tenderness and humor, including Officer Perry Fulton, Katherine Fulton, bodyguard Henderson Meyer, and nurse Marilyn.

Loss, and hate, can at times go hand in hand. Most of us don’t take out our pain on others, or become mass murderers, but the seed of grief is the same. Cheyenne must fight for her life, and her baby, and with the help of Chief Longfellow, she not only survives, but discovers compassion, and the importance of native traditions in recognizing our common humanity. Out of Sync takes us through one extended families circle, with mystery, suspense, and care.

It’s a Baby!

HavingMyBabyHaving My Baby Short stories by Imari Jade, Daphne Olivier, Tori L. Ridgewood, and Joanne Rawson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Having My Baby is fun to read whether you want a baby, have had a baby, don’t like babies, know nothing about babies, or are just curious. The book consists of four fictional stories that look at pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood in the present, past and future, and which are uniquely told in first and third person.

The Family Plan, by Imari Jade, follows the heir to a well-know clothes designer, Emily, and her unplanned pregnancy with Bekim, a man she despises. Emily has never wanted a child, let alone marriage, and Bekim is not the settling down kind of a guy. Can either of them change? The odds are forever not in there favor.

In Daphne Olivier’s futuristic Rock-a-bye-Baby, Cela and Cane win the lottery to have a perfect, modified child of whichever gender they choose. When they must decide what level of intelligence, and physical features, there son, or daughter, will have, they question there life-long desire to conceive, as well as the idea of “perfection”.

Tabitha’s Solution, by Tori L. Ridgewood, finds Tabitha and Alex desperately trying to induce labor, in order to avoid the hospital and any medical interventions. Issues many parents discuss, and must decide, before, during pregnancy, and at the time of birth, take on a personal and intimate nature, as the couple struggle with their preconceptions, beliefs, and desires.

The final story in the collection, Learner Mum, by Joanne Rawson, takes a confirmed child and baby avoider, Polly Wilkins, to her sister Wendy’s home to take care of her nephew, Josh, for two days. Polly tries to get out of it, but ends up in the thick of panic, and being overwhelmed by a person one quarter her size. Will this experience confirm her worst fears about children, or force her to see another side?

If you haven’t thought about pregnancy, childbearing, or raising children before, read Having My Baby. Though fictional, these stories ring true, in most cases. If you have already had a child, or are in the throws of doing so, you will laugh and cry with these characters, because they will be all too familiar.

Raven Song & Shadow Wolf


LongSnowsMoonLong Snows Moon
by Stacey Darlington
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A line in Long Snows Moon, that could be used to describe the story, says, “Find your mate, heal your mother, and teach wolf magic.” First people, animal totems, forest creatures, and a history of loss, love, and secrets, swirl around Jameson Jordan/Raven Song and Devon Danworth/Shadow Wolf. 

Jameson lives in the woods by herself, and Devon grew up in a life of city luxury. They are brought together as girls, when Devon’s mother adopts a half-breed dog/wolf, named Moon, for Devon, from Jameson and her mother (Doctor Joann Jordan). Jameson sees herself as a “half-breed” as well, having a white father and her Native-American mother.

Talking with, and to, owls, snakes, wolves, bears, and other living beings, comes naturally to Jameson, and later Devon, as they find their way to one another as adults. Speaking with, and hearing messages from, non-humans, has a major impact and influence on the characters and story. There are times when it is not clear whether humans are animals, or vice-a-versa, and some unexpected twists at the end of the story delightfully emphasize those qualities.

Long Snows Moon contains deep life-lessons, and ways of seeing things, without sounding like a philosophy textbook, or native cliches. Jameson and Devon are beautiful, strong, complicated, independent women whose love is strong enough to let each take the path they must follow, whether together or alone.

Moments Turns Into Years

My “brief” journey from story to screen.

Write down, or have a story idea, or concept, in mind.

Write the story. Rewrite and edit the book at least 10 million times.

Find a publisher who will publish the book, now known as The Last Conception.

Sign contract with Melange Books.

Obtain quotes and advance reviews.

Book published.

Book signings, promotions, connections and marketing for two years (year before and a year after novel is released).

Decide to write screenplay. One of my previous screenplays, Stellina Blue, was made into a film and another, Down On Earth, is optioned by Sybil Danning at Adventuress Films.

Work on screenplay for The Last Conception, continuing to revise and edit.

Workable, moving and entertaining screenplay completed.

Write up logline, summary of film and synopsis.

Research and obtain contact information for those who might be interested in script.

Start approaching executive producers, directors and production companies.

Elapsed time, from books inception to pitching screenplay (so far) is three years.

Presently, an award-winning and innovative director is attached.

Next step will be finding a producer and/or financing for film, and then festivals and/or distribution.

This timeline will be familiar to thousands of novelists, screenwriters and filmmakers. Some take less time, and some take more (from page to screen).

I hope for those just starting out, or venturing to put your toe in the water, this provides a little insight into the amount of patience, persistence and ordered chaos that can await on the journey to bring your story to the screen.

LastConception-Cover

Witty & Spicy Story of Love

zoenorthbook-new-2Here is a short love story from the same publisher (Melange Books) who published my novel, The Last Conception. It’s called Zoe North and is written by Joanne Rawson. It is a categorized as contemporary, women’s, and mainstream romance. The heat level is rated “Steamy”.

This is a witty, spicy, story of love, friendship and never expecting the inevitable. A night dancing at a salsa club leads to more than Zoe bargained for – an ultimatum that could change her life forever and a honeymoon she will never forget!

Excerpt:

The church organist hit the first chord to the bridle march, whereupon the congregation instantly reared from their pews and turned around trying to catch their first glimpse of the leading person for todays’ show. That would be me by the way, Zoe North, and giving the finest performance of my life.

Walking down the aisle, aware that all eyes were on me, I knew I should be savouring this moment; the smiling faces of approval of my couture gown; tears of joy from my mother, who thought that this day would never arrive; laughing at my friends, acting like teenagers as they pulled silly faces and gave me the thumbs up sign, as if it were my first date. Yet all I could focus on was the man at the altar the man that, in a few minutes from now, would be promising to spend the rest of his life with me.

I turned to pass my bouquet to my matron of honour. Is this really happening? Am I really getting married today, or is it all just a dream? God knows I have dreamt of this moment for what seems like a zillion years.

The vicar smiled at me and then addressed the congregation. “God is love, and those who live in love live in God.”

This is it; this is usually the moment I wake up. Feeling a hand clasp mine, I turned just to be sure, he was real. Sure enough, standing next to me, smiling nervously was the man who had asked me to marry him.
Oblivious to the organist striking up the hymn, Love Divine, all I could think about was how it all started two years ago.

About the Author:

Joanne Rawson was born and raised in Derbyshire England. In 2005, Joanne and her husband gave up their hectic lifestyle, after ten years of managing branded restaurants around London’s M25, and now spends her time in England, Goa, and Malaysia, writing romantic novels and short stories.

Available at:

Satin Romance (Melange Books)
http://www.satinromance.com/authors/joannerawson/zoenorth.html

Amazon US
http://www.amazon.com/Zoe-North-Joanne-Rawson-ebook/dp/B00NG8YNFQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411035243&sr=8-1&keywords=Joanne+Rawson

Amazon UK
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zoe-North-Joanne-Rawson-ebook/dp/B00NG8YNFQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1411034457&sr=8-1&keywords=Joanne+Rawson

All Romance eBooks
https://www.allromanceebooks.com/product-zoenorth-1631543-177.html

Embryo Mama

LastConception-CoverAn excerpt from The Last Conception by Gabriel Constans.

Savarna was the first to arrive at five that morning. She placed her bicycle in the storage room, washed and put on her scrubs. She checked all of the incubators, work surfaces and electronic readouts, to make sure everything was operating as close to body temperature as possible. The machines were on twenty-four seven and alarmed. After all, she and her colleagues literally held the possibility of new life in their hands day after day. If anything goes out of whack, emergency calls are automatically made until someone responds. They have backup systems for backup systems. So far, in her eight years of working at Conception Sciences, the alarm had gone off only once, and that turned out to be a faulty reading.

“Hey, Embryo Mama, how are our babies doing?”

Savarna had just started looking at the results from the previous day when her work partner Johnny Cranston walked in. She’d known Johnny for five years and trusted him completely. If she were ever in the position of their patients, she’d want Johnny to be her embryologist. He was very tech savvy and gave a damn. Personally, he’d been through the ringer, was divorced and had his adored teenage daughter living with him part-time. He’d recently moved to a nice neighborhood just twenty minutes from work. Johnny was handsome, and he knew it, but he never let his guard down, especially in front of beautiful women. He considered Savarna to fall in the category of beautiful, but she was an exception to his well-practiced defenses.

“Good morning Sperm Daddy,” she replied.

“Where we at, darling? Everything cooking at the right temp?”

“I was just checking yesterday’s records and laying out our schedule. Will you take a look and sign off?”

“It would be my pleasure.”

Savarna always noticed the contrasts between them when they stood side by side. He had big hands with long fingers, and his skin was darker than hers. She was brown, like a lightly baked brownie, and he was as black as dark chocolate. He stood a foot taller, had broad shoulders, a muscular chest and shaved head. She had long jet-black hair braided and tied up in a knot for work, a distinguished nose, and hips that seemed to trump everything else from the waist down.

“Looks like we’ve got a lot of D1 and D3s to switch out today,” Johnny said, as he signed the checklist.

“Yes, and two D5s. I really hope Mrs. Shcneider’s takes this time and her Inner Cell Mass doesn’t get screwed up like her last two attempts. She was so devastated.”

“You got that right. Nothing we could do though. Hear what I’m saying?”

“Yeah, yeah. I know the mantra. Don’t beat ourselves up for what’s out of our control.”

“Well, well. You actually remember your own advice.”

They both chuckled underneath their masks.

Everything in the laboratory had to be done perfectly and on schedule. Mistakes were not allowed, though inevitable.

Day zero, which they referred to as DO, was egg retrieval day. That was when they retrieved eggs from the woman and sperm from the man and put them together in a dish. On Day Two, which they called D1, they checked to see how many of the eggs were fertilized. They looked through the microscope to see if there were two pronuclei inside. If they couldn’t see any or what they saw consisted of only one or three pronuclei, that meant it was a wash and they couldn’t be used.

Day Two is when the embryos start to divide. A healthy embryo consists of two to four cells. That is when Savarna and Johnny would start to grade or evaluate the embryos on a scale of one to five, with one being perfect and five being poor. It takes about one minute to look at fifteen embryos. They had to do it quickly, so they were not outside of the incubator for long.

Day Three should be showing six to eight cells per embryo. If some of these are healthy, they can transfer them on the same day or put them into an extended culture for a Day Five transfer. If they go into extended cultures, they need to move them into a new growth medium that is made for the next stage of development.

On Day Five embryos have grown much bigger and gone from six to eight cells to fifty to one hundred cells. The coating around the egg is very thin at this stage and each embryo has two cell types – the inner cell mass, which becomes the baby and the trophectoderm, which becomes the placenta. This is the day when transfer usually takes place. One to two embryos are transferred to the patient’s uterus. Any extras are frozen or cultured to Day Six. On Day Six, anything that is left is either frozen or discarded.

“You can have the honor of icing any leftovers today,” Savarna told Johnny.

“Thank you, great ice queen. It will be an honor to preserve someone who may one day be our next Albert Einstein or Maya Angelou.”

“Or Charlie Manson or Hitler,” she said, half-joking.

“Not possible. These children are too wanted and adored to turn out like that.”

Freezing embryos is no minor task, though it may appear to be a simple procedure. When a healthy and viable embryo is frozen, it is placed into a computer- driven freezer in liquid nitrogen and is slowly brought down to minus thirty-five degrees centigrade. When cells are frozen, they are made up mostly of water and have to be dehydrated before freezing or ice cycles can destroy them. They are passed through solutions that by osmosis move in and out of a fluid buffer. Freezing takes about an hour and a half. When they are thawed, it is important to get rid of the ice crystals right away, so they are pulled out, held in the air for thirty counts and put in a thirty-degree water bath for forty-five seconds until they are thawed. They are then placed in solutions that reverse the process and put water back in. Within forty minutes of being de-thawed, an embryo can be transferred. Some patients successfully use an embryo that has been frozen for over ten years.

Savarna and Johnny sent out the morning report to all the physicians and case managers by 7:30, so they would know which patients to call to come in for their procedures or which ones needed to change their medications. Then they started working on egg retrievals, sperm analysis and triple-verification with each, to make sure they had the correct specimen for each individual. Retrievals started around 8:00 a.m. and continued every forty-five minutes, while transfers generally began at 10:00 and took place every thirty minutes. By noon, they were inseminating the eggs. Somewhere in the controlled chaos, they tried to make their way to the bathroom and catch a bite to eat. At 1:00 they made a break for the small lunchroom squeezed into the back corner of the two-story medical building.

“What?” she asked, looking up from her salad bowl.

“Come on. I’m about to burst. Did you tell them?” Savarna smiled, took a drink from her homemade chocolate smoothie and sheepishly looked down at her Greek salad. “You’ve got to be kidding?”

She shook her head. “My Mom was–”

“This is crazy… after all these years. They’re adults. They’ll understand.”

“Let me explain.”

“What’s there to explain? You chickened out again.”

“No, I didn’t. We were interrupted. My mother was trying to get me married off for the umpteenth time and just as I was about to tell her why I would never marry a man, the rest of the family burst in. There wasn’t any good time after that. It was her birthday after all, and I didn’t want to ruin it.”

“Ruin it?”

“You don’t understand.”

“Try me.”

“In Indian culture marriage is the biggest and most important celebration there is.”

“And you don’t think that’s true for other cultures?”

“Well, yes, of course,” she replied, taking a deep breath and looking him straight in the eyes. “But in India it can actually be a matter of life and death. Women are still defined by whom, when and if they marry. I don’t care if this is California and my parents have lived here for decades. I don’t think they even realize how deep this tradition is ingrained in their psyches.”

“So, its fair to keep them in the dark and keep hoping?”

“Of course not, but I’m not always as strong or as confident with my family, as I am with you. I don’t want to hurt them.”

“I think you’re hurting them more, let alone yourself, by not standing up and letting yourself be counted. They just want you to be happy, and they see marriage as the means to attain that happiness. We both know it’s not always what it’s cracked up to be, but I don’t see anything wrong with them hoping it’s the answer for their spinster daughter whose childbearing clock is ticking.”

“Spinster, my ass.”

“Tell them I’ll take you off their hands, but only for a good dowry.”

Savarna raised her glass, as if to throw it in Johnny’s face. He backed up his chair in mock surprise. Savarna’s phone rang. She put down her cup, laughing, and took the call.

“Hi, Magdalena. What’s up?”

Johnny winked.

“Tonight? It’s only Monday.”

Savarna closed her eyes for a moment as she listened.

“Which club?”

She nodded, “OK. OK. Pick me up at nine.” She clicked her phone shut and put it on the table while Johnny went to the sink to put away his plate.

“She’s a wild woman,” he said upon returning to the table.

“It’s fun. Nothing serious.”

“Yeah, I know about fun, but is that all you want?”

Her phone rang again.

“Hey, Charley. How ya doing?” Johnny rolled his eyes. “This weekend? I don’t know, I’m usually pretty wiped out by then.”

She turned away slightly in her chair, as if to keep the conversation private.

“In that case, let’s do it. I’ll call you later. Take care.”

“Wish I had that many women calling me up,” Johnny wisecracked, as they stood and both prepared to re-gown and get back to work. “Where to this weekend?”

“Charley got a great deal on a bed and breakfast place in the redwoods over in Santa Cruz. She says it’s just what I need for some rest and relaxation.”

“So, you really prefer men after all.”

“You know Charley is–”

“I know, I know. Just goofing. You know my offer is always good. If you ever want to get turned around, I’ll show you what a real man is like.”

“Yeah.” They both laughed. “You and a thousand other men.”

“Hey, did you hear what one egg said to another when they saw millions of sperm on the horizon?”

“Only a zillion times,” she said. They made their way down the hall and entered the pressurized lab. “But if it floats your boat, go ahead and give me the punch line. I’ll act like I’ve never heard it before.”

“Now you’ve ruined it,” he said.

The automatic door opened and she went ahead. A cartoon they had taped on the door had two eggs and millions of sperm surrounding them. The caption next to the first egg read, “This doesn’t look good, I think the odds are against us.” The other egg said, “Looks good to me. It’s just what the doctor ordered.”

The Last conception:

Passionate embryologist, Savarna Sikand, is in a complicated relationship, with two different women, when she is told that she MUST have a baby. Her conservative East Indian American parents are desperate for her to conceive, in spite of her “not being married”. They insist that she is the last in line of a great spiritual lineage. In the process of choosing her lover and having doubts about her ability, or desire to conceive, Savarna begins to question the necessity of biology and lineage within her parents’ beliefs and becomes forever fascinated with the process of conception and the definition of family. Threads of Dan Brown (DaVinci Code), Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Sister of My Heart) and the film The Kids Are All Right, are tied together in this colorful tale of awakening, romance and mystery.

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

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