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Don’t Spare the Horses

In case Sally’s description and Lesley’s review posted in Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore below don’t convince you to buy this  book, here is my review: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2471099115

via Sally’s Cafe and Bookstore – New Book on the Shelves – #WWI drama – The Dandelion Clock by Rebecca Bryn.

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A Date With . . . R.L.Andrew

My ‘date’ this week is a truly inspiring woman. R.L. (Robyn) Andrew suffers from the debilitating condition Psoriatic arthritis. This is similar to the condition which afflicted the English television playwright Dennis Potter. Being from Australia I wasn’t sure if she was aware of the English writer who I would imagine would be an inspiration. I sent her a link to Mark Lawson’ s tribute to him.

“I did not know that, Frank, and I truly appreciate the thought you’ve put into this question. He truly is an inspiration and proof of determination. I believe the man who wrote Simply Alice suffered from ALS. While not the same disease he achieved incredible things with basically no ability to physically move. I hope to inspire others in kind.

While I’m chronically ill I am still able to achieve many things albeit mentally and via technology. It’s only my physical self that’s inhibited, my mind is more than eager and capable of learning. I can’t do most of the stuff I used to be able to like work outside my home, surf, dive, swim, run etc but while sick I’ve achieved things I never believed I would. I’m about to have my second book published by an American Publisher, my first has won an award and has five-star ratings. I sell signed paperbacks at markets once a month when able and I participated in my first book fair. I’ve also met some amazing, wonderful and inspirational people through social media which has likewise opened up many doors. Instead of it being the end when I became ill, it’s become a new beginning.”

On her website she says her illness made her determined to “use the sponge like brain I have before it turned to mush.” I asked her to expand on that.

“Admittedly it took a couple of years before I realised I could not only be happy and in pain/suffering but have realistic goals. I’d always been physically and mentally active with a burgeoning legal career so when I first became sick that all stopped. My world crashed, what I had been, known or knew got stripped bare and thrown away. Pain quickly became my closest friend, enemy and confidant.

It’s almost impossible to see anything else when you’re consumed by body malfunctions, other diseases and damage that accompany it along the way, let alone dealing with different levels of pain. Your life starts being about medical appointments, tests and medication testing, instead of graduating law school. In the midst of it were my three daughters, husband, friends and relatives also affected by this. It’s a dark existence and in the process it’s easy to lose your own identity.

But, I’ve always been stubborn, determined, focused and have an unquenchable mind. I would not allow myself to be consumed by something I could not control.

I can’t change what happens to my body, yet I can change how I deal with it and how much attention I give to it. I swallowed my pride and accepted any external help I needed and continue to need. I also embraced technology and ways in which that could give me a life.

I’d written short stories and poems from the time I could write and I’d always wanted to write a book. When I put two and two together light returned to my day. I returned to writing short stories and found anthologies looking for submissions. One after another they were accepted and before I knew it I had fifteen plus in different anthologies.

a722b5b2-7652-4f9f-b774-5d78de60b408These not only gave me confidence but taught me about structure, working with editors and constructive feedback. I came across several Facebook writing groups and one in particular changed my writing life – Writer’s World. It’s an online critique group that offers other services such as novel writing boot camps. I signed up, swallowed my pride again and delved in. It’s a humbling experience and at the same time when you’re open to learning from others you become a much better writer. This is how my first book came to be and I met long lasting friends in the meantime.

Now I worry about plot holes and first round edits. I have gone a bit too far in that regard and sometimes forget about my health, but I’m working on it.

Long story short, never give up, never give in, and never let anyone tell you you can’t do something. The only person who can ever stop you, is you.”

Robyn lives in Victoria, Australia.

“I was born in Victoria and moved to South Australia at five until fifteen. At nineteen I moved to Sydney in NSW and had three daughters. We lived there for seven years and then moved back to Victoria. On and off I’ve lived here for around thirty five years. Despite several attempts I’ve not managed to move back to South Australia where I still have family, but Victoria seems to be in my long term future for a number of reasons, mostly my three daughters are in this state and the medical care is better here. Overall it’s a nice state but no matter where you live you can make it home.”

She published her first book last autumn at which point she was already working on two more. I wondered how these second and third books are progressing, given that her condition limits the amount of work she can do each day.

“My second one is in second round edits and hopefully will be published by mid year! It seems to take me about a year from first draft until it’s ready to publish and that takes into account my health. I do some writing every day. Some days I’m able to do a couple of hours in fragments, other days it’s less. However, the beauty of technology these days is that you can write on your phone or tablet. It doesn’t matter how much I do as long as I do some.

With the first one published I have to work at selling it which is difficult given my limitations, but I make it work. If I have to miss a market or something I will. On the same token I take as many opportunities as I can to promote it even if it means leaving my house.”

She writes about relationships with humour but her books are set in an alien world.

“No matter how crappy life gets you can laugh about it and it makes you feel better.

I’ve always been fascinated in life on other planets and I love making stuff up so it went from there.”

Her experience as a Legal Executive “has not come into my writing at all as yet. I’m not sure it will.” Instead she “finds writing an escape from reality. I love getting absorbed in my worlds and characters. It’s so much fun and it’s often cathartic.”

She is published by JaCol, a small independent. I asked about her experience with them and editor Randall Andrews.

“I have loved every minute of it. It has not been easy, it’s been a lot of hard work, thinking, plotting, planning and tossing away parts that don’t work. Randall has a way of getting me to see where something doesn’t work or what I need to change without saying much. He also knows how to get the best out of me and my story and knows I’m prepared to do what it takes. I highly recommend Randall and Jacol to all authors. I want to see it grow bigger.”

I always ask my ‘dates’ about their writing space and time. Robyn’s is dictated by her illness.

“Until a week ago I wrote from my bed or couch but our former office is now my writing room. I have a motorised bed in there which lifts the feet and head however I need it and it vibrates! It’s also the warmest room and all my books, market and writing stuff in there. Now I’m on the third book with another five planned in this series I needed more room.”

She admires “so many [authors] it’s hard to choose one. Perhaps Edgar Allen Poe was the first author who really grabbed my attention and holds it to this day. My Great Grandmother had a full collection of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie. I read everyone of those too.”

Asked to reveal something about herself that might surprise her readers she admits to being “big into the UFO scene and spend time each day researching it. I’m also a keen gardener, such as I can, and a great cook.”

I am in awe of someone who manages to write something every day despite the obstacles life has placed in her way, with the ambition to complete an eight volume series. I hope you are, too. You can connect with Robyn on her website and Facebook. Better still, buy her book here. You can also arrange to receive a signed paperback copy via her website.

A Date With . . . Val Tobin

My latest ‘Date’ is with novelist and parapsychology graduate Val Tobin who hails from Ontario. As usual I began by asking her to tell me a little about her home state.

I’ve lived in Ontario all my life. What I love most about it is the beauty of the countryside and the tight-knit community we live in.

The downside is the bugs, particularly the mosquitoes in the summer. I’m not a big fan of winter either. I’ve learned to bundle up for it, but that doesn’t mean I’m enjoying it. Some folks here participate in winter sports, but the closest I get to a winter sport is reading in front of a fireplace.

Val writes across several genres but has no strong preference for any, preferring to allow the story to dictate the genre:

For example, when the idea for The Experiencers, book one of the Valiant Chronicles series, came to me, the UFO conspiracy aspects and the death-ray technology dropped it into SF. The action and suspense make it a thriller as well, and there’s romance in it, because you can’t have people interacting in pressure-cooker situations without something developing between them. It also contains supernatural elements.

I’ve written more romantic suspense than any of the other genres, which might make you conclude it’s my preference. Perhaps that’s correct. I enjoy when characters find deep connections with one another.

24169671_10155427444817982_1744726250_o-300x200In the Valiant Chronicles, one of the secondary characters goes through hell before he matures enough to enter into a monogamous relationship. This character treated women so cavalierly in The Experiencers that one reader emailed me to insist the character die for his sins in the sequel, A Ring of Truth (this was when I was still working on book two of the series).

At first, I’d been headed in that direction. I’d considered redemption for this character through death by self-sacrifice. But that’s not what happened when I reached that point in the story. He meets a woman as lost and broken as he is, and together they find healing.

What I enjoy exploring the most is flawed characters who manage to heal and grow towards their potential.

Her latest release, which I have just finished reading and thoroughly enjoyed, is set among the members of a writers’ group in which petty jealousies lead to murder. She tells me such rivalries do sometimes exist in real life groups, and goes on to comment about the latest scandal inflaming the world of publishing.

I’m a member of a number of writers’ groups. The majority, such as our Indie Author Support and Discussion group (IASD), are on Facebook, which makes them virtual groups. The Writers’ Community of York Region (WCYR) provides the physical connection I need and resembles the group in the story more except for the petty jealousy part. My preferred groups don’t have that kind of nonsense, but yes, I’ve seen it rear its ugly head over the years.

Every once-in-a-while you read about authors behaving badly and that stems from insecurity, fragile egos, and fear. The murderer in my story embodied all that’s toxic in any competitive industry.

It can be particularly appalling when writers get nasty. Written assaults can do more long-term damage than physical assaults.

poison-pen-ebook-cover-30june2017In Poison Pen, the character chose the ultimate physical solution: murder. Naturally, eliminating a competitor doesn’t pave the way for success, and that’s what the killer in my story doesn’t see. He can’t understand why, even with the guy he holds responsible for his failure out of the way, he continues to struggle.

If there’s a theme in the story, it’s that acting out of jealousy and envy destroys the perpetrator from the inside out.

Jealousy and envy can result in horrible behaviour. The movie I Tonya recounts how skater Tonya Harding‘s career was destroyed when her husband hired a hitman to kneecap rival Nancy Kerrigan.

I recall a writer who was so angry with a teenage reviewer that he tracked her down and smashed her over the head with a wine bottle. Another author once wrote on her blog suggesting that J.K.Rowling stop writing books for adults. I’ve heard of authors receiving fake one star reviews the way my murder victim does in the story.

As I write this, #Cockygate rages on. For those who haven’t heard, an author has trademarked the name “Cocky” and has sent cease-and-desist letters to other romance authors who have the word in the titles of their books.

I find that with a number of the books I release, life reflects art. Releasing Poison Pen just as Cockygate broke was an interesting coincidence. Instead of wanting to own the whole cocky pie, the author should have considered doing a cocky anthology with other writers who use the word in their titles.51xtkof2hbl-_sy346_

In my opinion, cooperative competition is the way to go. Just because a reader falls in love with one author’s books doesn’t mean he or she won’t ever read books from another author. As a voracious reader myself, I consume works from a huge variety of authors and am always hunting for my next favourite author.

When I find that author, I make a point of following them. I’m never confused about whose book I’m picking up. Any author can use the words “in Death” in their title, but I’ll recognize Nora Roberts’s “in Death” books because they’ll say “by J. D. Robb.”

Indie author Eric Lahti doesn’t have to trademark the word “henchmen” for his readers to recognize that if they come across a book with henchman in the title and it’s by Joe Author that Eric’s not the author. Cockygate would be laughable if it wasn’t so devastating to those authors facing frivolous and expensive lawsuits over it.

I next asked her about that parapsychology degree and her interest in the paranormal, something she shares with a previous guest.

I’ve been attracted to the paranormal all my life, probably because my mother was interested in it. My father, who was a tool and die maker by trade and heavy into math and logic, read palms. I suppose it’s part of the search for meaning or the quest to learn what’s beyond the physical realm.

51yqcxlkull-_sy346_While working in the computer industry, I obtained the B.Sc. in Parapsychic Science and then I went for the master’s degree in parapsychology. I also became a certified Reiki Master/Teacher in 2005 and an Angel Therapy Practitioner© with Advanced Training certified by Doreen Virtue in Kona, Hawaii in March and October of 2008. I returned to Hawaii for mediumship and spiritual writing courses in 2010.

This provided me with hands-on training in addition to the theory I was getting from my other studies. If you’ve never tried to develop your psychic skills, you might be sceptical that it’s even possible, but I draw on these skills and experiences in my novels.

In the Valiant Chronicles and in Walk-In, I have characters with psychic abilities and much of what they do and how they do it reflects my training. When Carolyn glances down and to the right as she connects to a spirit, she’s doing it the way I do it. It’s not something I was taught to do — it’s something I do instinctively — but it works for me.

When I first started the quest to develop my psychic abilities, I was convinced they didn’t exist.

I had experienced enough by that point to be open minded about others having psychic ability, but I was positive I was, well, a Muggle.

The surprises came slowly, but they came. Developing psychic intuition when you’ve blocked yourself or when you’re sceptical is difficult and takes commitment and dedication. It’s time consuming and frustrating but well worth the effort.

Val is about to embark on her first attempt at a non-fiction work, based on her masters thesis. I wondered how much she enjoyed all the work that goes into such an enterprise.

I’ve always loved research. Most of the courses I’ve taken involved a lot of research and essay writing. In my software developer years, I wrote for on-line magazine Community MX about web development using Macromedia products. Somehow, I have this burning desire to be both creative and logical.

I wrote my thesis on the after-effects of near-death experience (NDE) and think it would make a fascinating book. Not only are the lives of those who’ve experienced an NDE changed, but those who hear their stories and interact with them are impacted as well. Research has shown that you don’t have to have an NDE to have your life changed by it. You can be affected by it vicariously. Many of the effects are beneficial, though not always. I’ll delve into all that in the book.

She doesn’t rule out the idea of traditional publishing but is happy with her present status as an independent author.

I have one little story in a traditionally published, non-fiction book (Doreen Virtue’s Angel Words published by Hay House), so you could say I’ve dipped my toe in traditional waters. However, when I wrote The Experiencers (my first novel) and consulted on the subject of trad versus indie publishing with a hybrid author who has been writing books since the 1970s, he made a good case for me to go indie.

518tswurnpl-_sy346_Of course, I don’t rule out traditional publishing, but at this time, I like the freedom and control I get form being an indie author. It certainly has its trials, and it’s expensive to pay for covers and editing myself, but if I have to do my own marketing anyway, I might as well stick with the indie way.

She works from a home office with no door where you can find her most days “from morning to dinner time.” I wanted to know if dinner was taken in the middle of the day or in the evening. She confirmed that it is the latter.

Asked to reveal something that might surprise her readers she certainly surprised me!

My readers might be surprised to learn that I’ve had a cameo in two indie lesbian films. One was Route of Acceptance and the other was I Met You First. Route of Acceptance is out and available for download and I Met You First is still in production.

Find her on Facebook, Twitter and her blog where you will find links to all her books.