Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘novel’

A Story to Savor

5168cuV1J3LMy White Dahlia (A Lesbian Romance) by C. M. Blackwood. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

I’m bowing down with gratitude to the literary goddesses that brought this book to my attention. C. M. Blackwood is a damn good writer, and My White Dahlia is a hell of a good book. Weave together some of the best suspense and mystery novels with a first-rate romance, and you’ll end up with this gem, which takes place in 1949 England, in the town of Kingston. It doesn’t take long before you will understand and love these characters. It is with that knowledge, and the author’s ability to reveal their history and past experiences, that your own emotions will become entangled with theirs.

The heroine’s name is Adette Salazar. This tale is told from her point of view. While listening to her friend, Henry, drone on about what he knows about the famous novelist who just hired Adette to be her personal assistant, she realizes, “At the ring of that final word, I finally began to be curious. It was the first moment I market it. It was the moment I remembered as the starting point, through all those long months that followed.” As Adette becomes more familiar with her new surroundings, memories from the past threaten to diss-rail her and ruin all she has come to adore.

Flashes of Adette’s childhood in Georgia (USA), before she is taken to the UK to live with her Uncle Henry after her mother has died, arise at crucial moments within her caring for her now invalid uncle, her new job, and ever changing relationship with Dahlia Frobisher (her boss). Dhalia’s housekeeper, Edwina, and Dahlia’s literary agent, Archie Willoughby, are first-rate characters and supporting players in the drama, as are Susan Heyward and Jane Albright. Though the focus is on Adette and Dhalia, everyone makes a difference, and has an impact upon readers.

One of the reasons that Agatha Christie is the best-selling author of all time, is because she had a knack for understanding human emotion and motives, and was able to describe place, time, characteristics, thoughts, and actions, with such clarity and insight. Everything and everyone, seemed somewhat familiar, yet one never knew for sure who did what and why until the end. Ms. Blackwood is cut from the same cloth of storytellers. My White Dahlia should definitely be made into a film. When you read the story the reasons will become self evident.

 

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After School Class

51DkXJGlttL._SY346_Ninja School Mum by Lizzie Chantree
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Skye is not an ordinary mother in a small town, and it turns out not everyone else is either. Reluctantly, Skye (and her son Leo), allows herself to become friends with Thea (and her daughter Florence, and niece, Allie). She also becomes “very close” to the landowner (Zack). Nobody knows Skye’s work history (or so she thinks), and she wants to keep it that way.

Ninja School Mum isn’t strictly a romance, suspense novel, or mystery, but more of a delicious stew with all three mixed in. Told from different points of view by the main characters (Skye, Thea, and Zack), it feels like you’re being taken into their confidence. It is impossible to not like them all, and understand their motivations for what they do, and how they interact with others.

The writing is pragmatic, with thoughts, feelings, and situations, clearly defined and explained. There is lots of drama, tension, emotion, and humor within these pages. Soon after Thea has met Skye, and they are in a bakery with her infant daughter (“Flo”), Thea thinks, “Im lusting after a slice of cake while my breasts have a mind of their own and are ready to combust with enough milk to flood this shop.”

If you think you know who did what when, and whether someone is tracking down Skye because of her previous job, you should be forewarned to not make any bets on your conclusions. Ms. Chantree has taken several genres and story lines and converted them into something familiar, yet also entirely different. Ninja School Mum is entertaining, romantic, suspenseful, and well worth the money and time.

A Search for Family

51LrMG-G4QL._SY346_A Dangerous Secret by Peter Martin
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

There are so many things to like about this story. It is well written, nicely edited, and engrossing from beginning to end. A Dangerous Secret turned out to be somewhat what I expected (from the description) and a lot that I didn’t.

The beginning finds Garry dealing with the loss of his mother. The grief he experiences is very true to life and expressed with great depth and understanding. What he learns just before she dies however, puts the wheels of the story into motion, and the search that continues from that day on.

I don’t keep reading a novel very long if I don’t in some way identify with, or have some empathy for, the main characters. That was not a problem in this story. Garry, his wife Delia (Deel), and their family (Cassie, Tom, Chris, Adam), are not only likable, but also very believable.

A Dangerous Secret is a well paced story, which gives just enough detail for each scene, without lingering too long either. It is as much a search for family, belonging, and understanding, as it is a mystery, genealogical exploration, and a wee bit of horror. Without giving anything away, there are shades of the film Get Out, though not to the same extent as the movie.

As is obvious, I liked A Dangerous Secret. It took twists and turns that I hadn’t expected, kept me fully engaged throughout, and gave me a new appreciation for this genre of mystery and suspense.

Agathe Christie & Willy Wonka

51E5HteP5iL._SY346_Thirteen Chocolates by Agatha Chocolats
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Take one of the best movies ever made, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (with Gene Wilder), and combine it with the most widely read murder mystery writer in the world, (Agatha Christie) and you’ll enjoy the sumptuous wedding feast of Thirteen Chocolates.

If you’ve never thought of the joy and pleasure of chocolate, in combination with murder and suspense, you will now. In fact, you may never be able to eat another rich, delicious chocolate again, without wondering who may be eliminated next.

The chapters in this book are uniquely rendered backwards, starting out with Chapter 13, and ending with Chapter 1. Thus, corresponding to the number of apparent heirs who are at the famous Chandler’s Mansion, vying for their inheritance in a challenge that soon turns deadly.

The story is first rate, with great dialogue and metaphors, “That girl’s flakier than my Aunt Elma’s pork belly pot pie crust”; believable characters; and a well thought out plot. It’s always been difficult for me to figure out “who did it” when reading mysteries, and this was no exception.

If you love chocolate, you’ll devour this book. If you like murder mysteries, or suspense novels, you’ll delight in the similarities and differences included within its pages. If you are up for something completely different and decadently enjoyable, I encourage you to go ahead, have a bite, and read Thirteen Chocolates.

 

 

Fictional Realities

41jh2yi72qlThere is a friend of mine, who worked with me as a nurse at hospice a few years back. One day, after work, I met her husband. When I asked her the next day how they’d met, she told me she’d been married to his brother. Well, I thought, that’s interesting. Tell me more. What arose from her telling was a story that sounded like a movie. She isn’t the kind of person who jokes around, so I knew she was telling the truth, though it could have been the best of fiction. That’s when I decided to make it just that – a fictional story based on real life. Loving Annalise was the result.

After years of poverty, heartbreak, loss and betrayal, Tomas enters Annalise’s world and shatters the iron casing she’s erected around her heart. Tomas is kind, intelligent, romantic and handsome, but he’s also her husband’s brother! Once Tomas and Annalise meet, they are forever intertwined and repeatedly ripped apart by fate, self-doubt and blackmail. Her husband, Jens, is a brilliant, jealous and manipulative scoundrel who keeps her psychologically under lock and key, until her passion for Tomas sets her free.

Writing Loving Annalise is the second time I’ve written a novel based on historical realities. Buddha’s Wife was the first. Though most of the people in the story existed, and some of the places, times, and words are reported to have been accurate, the majority of the conversations, interactions, and story-line were imagined. Like Loving Annalise, Buddha’s Wife is based on history, and people that were living breathing beings.

Loving Annalise, and Buddha’s Wife, are the only time I have written stories in this fashion. Normally (whatever that is), I either write straight fiction, or non-fiction, about a specific person, place, or issue, and do not attempt to combine these disparate genres. That doesn’t mean that parts of my life, and personal experiences, do not influence or become part of my writing, but not intentionally (that I am aware of).

It Only Gets Better

51M50efHnMLCrowded by Eleanor Green
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

Bree is a sex addict. Jane is a killer. Anna is a hard-working florist. Each is distinct and completely different from one another. Bree has no problem meeting, and using men. Jane hates men and protects other women from them. Anna loves the man she meets, Pratt, and is always questioning herself. We follow each woman, and their experiences in New York, with alternating chapters focusing on one or the other.

Ms. Green has written believable and contrasting characters, who appear to have little in common. The characteristics of each person are so well defined, that even without chapter headings it would be easy to know who is speaking, what they are thinking, and what is taking place. As Bree continues trying to avoid love, and Anna searches for it, Jane is destroying possibilities of love, and those who abuse others.

As the story continues, and more details are conveyed, readers’ may be able to ascertain a few overlapping connections, but each could be a book unto itself. Bree would be about a woman living in the moment, and not wanting attachment, similar to Diane Keaton in Finding Mr. Goodbar. Jane would be a serial killer murder mystery. And Anna, would be a contemporary romance.

Crowded gets better with each page, as we come to understand how Bree, Jane, and Anna, see themselves, those they are in relationship with, and the world around them. The past has a powerful impact on the present, and the present is a different experience for each character. Am very pleased to have been encouraged to read this book.

 

Connect the Stories


Some writing “experts” once told me that the best way to write a novel is to first write short stories. They said, “If you can write a good short story, with a beginning, middle, and end, then a novel will easily follow. All you have to do is use the same characters in one short story after another and string them together.” Turns out that they were right, in most respects, but not always.

From my experience, it is extremely difficult to write a good short story, and more difficult to string a number of them together for a book. I’ve had some success with shorts, with some of mine appearing in Go World Travel, Listen, Los Angeles Journal, Japan Airlines/Wingspan, Omega, Enigma, and the Roswell Literary Review. As you can see from the following description of my collection of short stories, Saint Catherine’s Baby, which was released 7 years ago, I hadn’t yet figured out how to keep the same characters and storyline for a novel.

Saint-Catherines-BabyAn eclectic collection of short stories that include Ruthie and her obstinate elderly student from Germany (The English Lesson); Stephanie, who waits for the unorthodox return of her deceased father (Dressed In Black); Walter O’Brien, who discovers a young couple and their child in an abandoned monastery on the West Coast of Ireland (St. Catherine’s Baby); Shannon, on the run at a shoe store in Chicago (Sizing Up Shannon); Jacque, meeting Rosalita’s shocked parents in New Mexico (Framed); and Joshua Johnson, a school custodian whose mother may have interfered in his love life for the last time (The Sweetest Man).

It still rings true,  writing a good short story is a great beginning for a novelist, and also some of the most difficult writing to do. Character and scene development, crisis, insight, and/or conclusions, must all be created within a limited number of words. Some writers can also write great books, without ever having written a short, and vice-a-versa. To this rule, if you choose to call it that, does not apply to everyone.

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