Where She Will Shine by Sylvia Anderson

Today I’m featuring Fiona Maclean who writes under the pen name of Sylvia Anderson. Her first novel, Where She Will Shine, was self-published in April. Here’s the blurb:

Where She Will Shine is a contemporary literary work of fiction which concerns the life of a student, Mary MacDonald, in 1960s Scotland. It is a vibrant tale full of contrasts, colour and excitement. When Mary leaves the croft for the “big city” of Glasgow she meets individuals who will change her life forever. Her life is lonely and raw at the start until she meets David Cochrane, who has a life hidden from his mother, but Mary falls in love with him – her first “real love”. 

In the late sixties, the Beatles were in full swing and dance halls were popular as meeting places for young people. It was the generation of full employment and the post war “baby boomers” had a satisfying life. The characters in the book, however, battle with issues which were as topical then as they are now – coming of age, student life, parenthood, rape and homosexuality.

Fiona has written a lovely post about her inspiration for writing Where She Will Shine and, also, her characters. So, without further ado, I’ll hand over to Fiona.

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“My inspiration for my work, Where She Will Shine, came from a visit to a First World War Monument in Perth, Scotland.  The brave war heroes remembered, sacrificed their lives so that the youth of today could shine and make the world a better place.

I enjoyed my student years, for it was a world that my parents had not had the chance to experience.  I’m a ‘Baby Boomer’ and echoes of the war years were still around whilst I grew up – poor housing; austerity; rationing.  I wrote the novel for folk in a similar position, who cherished the chance to ‘shine’ and for others to see inside the emotional head of a first-year student in 1968.

Life could be tough for my eighteen-year-old protagonist, Mary, but it is never as hard as the life of Alice, the waif she befriends in Glasgow and whom she helps to move on and make her life a success.

Mary was an only child – when I think about it, my best friend when I was growing up was an only child and I did envy her having her parents all to herself – I was one of five.  She had a totally different life to mine with extremely caring parents who catered to her every need – be it the beautiful food she ate; her immaculate school uniforms and shoes (mine were hand me downs) or lovely skating dresses (we met at the local ice rink).

I have met poor teenagers like Alice in my work as an Occupational Therapist and always felt pity.  Despite Alice’s brave and gauche front, she longs to be looked after by ‘proper’ parents like Ruaridh and Mhairi.  In the end, this happens to her and she has a good life after a deprived and unsupported beginning.

I have never lived on the west coast of Scotland but have had many holidays there.  It is my favourite place in the whole of Scotland.  Breathtakingly beautiful white beaches and mountains covered with beautiful flowers, make it a place to relax and enjoy nature.  Mary belonged to such a place and it gave her, ‘an ache in her heart’ when she thought of it.  One can imagine the change in her lifestyle when she arrived in Glasgow in 1968 into a student world of riot; the end of the Vietnam War; an intolerance of everything ‘old’ and conmen and women (Jimmy and Yvonne) on every street corner. 

Where She Will Shine is my first novel. I enjoyed writing it and was greatly motivated by ‘The Writing Classes,’ which I joined when I moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2014.  My tutor, Anne Hamilton, was particularly inspiring.  This was a great experience for the other writers commented on everything one wrote and I looked forward to every Monday, for a new exercise.  Kuala Lumpur is a city of very poor and very rich, like most cities in Asia.  I communicated largely with other ex-patriot wives who had gone out there with their partners to support them.  In the sunshine, every day we would walk and talk in the KLCC Park under the Petronas Towers.  It was a magical time and amongst the ex-pat women (forty-four of them), I had understanding, tolerant friends.  I miss them!”

Many thanks for that, Fiona. It’s always delightful to hear about the success of new writers, especially fellow alumni of writingclasses. I’m looking forward to reading Where She Will Shine!

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Where She Will Shine is available as an ebook from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Where-Will-Shine-Sylvia-Anderson-ebook/dp/B06Y98WTQ4

 

My review of Dogged Optimism: Lessons in Joy from a Disaster Prone Dog, a memoir, by Belinda Pollard

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I say to Mum, “What do you think? It’s not as if I’m going to buy a puppy today. But you can cuddle one, I’ll buy you some coffee and cake, and then you can come back home for a nap.” She smiles. A glance passes between her and Dad.

When Belinda decided to adopt her first dog, she had no idea what she was in for. Killarney Karinya, named by Belinda for two special places she visited as a child, was an old-fashioned Australian terrier and the runt of her litter. While Belinda had grown up with dogs, she had never raised a puppy of her own. In this delightful memoir, Belinda recounts the difficult but happy years they shared together and how her time with Killarney changed her outlook on life.

Belinda relates several experiences which any pet owner may be familiar with, such as when she worried about Killarney’s health, her concerns about Killarney’s behaviour and training, and the many unexpected messes she suddenly found herself responsible for cleaning up. She also relates several incidents which won’t be familiar to most pet owners as they were unique to her life in Brisbane, Australia–an area known for its deadly reptiles and amphibians. Belinda talks about chasing poisonous cane toads around her yard, in an effort to keep them from getting near her beloved Killarney, who liked to chew on them, and calling the vet on numerous occasions due to Killarney’s being bitten by poisonous snakes. Of course, over time, Belinda learned to strike just the right balance between keeping Killarney safe and letting her learn her own lessons. And Belinda and Killarney had a lot of fun together too, spending time with family, making new friends and having new life experiences. Along the way, Belinda learned to accept the eccentricities of Killarney and the unpredictable nature of life itself.

Belinda’s memoir is heartfelt, funny and, occasionally, sad but it’s ultimately uplifting. Dogged Optimism will resonate with pet owners everywhere, regardless of species.

You can purchase Dogged Optimism as an ebook or in paperback from Amazon.

In the UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dogged-Optimism-Lessons-Joy-Disaster-Prone-ebook/dp/B018VVJ7KS/

In the US: https://www.amazon.com/Dogged-Optimism-Lessons-Joy-Disaster-Prone-ebook/dp/B018VVJ7KS/

Follow Belinda on Twitter: 

Check out her website: http://www.belindapollard.com/

The Third Note by Virginia King

Being a big fan of the Selkie Moon Mystery series, I was delighted when Virginia offered to let me be involved with the editing of book 3, The Third Note. Of course, I said I’d love to. One of the great pleasures of editing is being able to appreciate a book on a deeper level. Watching the story develop and take flight was a privilege. Getting to read it again later, as a regular reader would, only enhanced the experience.

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My Review

There’s a pattern here—the losing and the finding take me on incredible journeys of discovery. Things I need to know about myself. It’s what happened when I lost my memory and had to travel across the world to get it back. I mustn’t forget what I discovered then: that the answers are in my own heart.

Virginia King weaves a mystical web of suspense, psychic intuition and self-discovery in The Third Note. With Selkie now attempting to settle in Hawaii, her great-grandmother Bridie’s much delayed parcel comes as a huge surprise to her.  Why did Bridie wait until 35 years after her death to send it to her, and what is the significance of her mysterious gift? While Selkie knows that Bridie was Irish, she doesn’t know why she left Ireland nor why she chose Selkie as the recipient.

When Selkie meets up with her old friend Davina, she asks Selkie to accompany her on a trip to Ireland—Davina’s birthplace. Davina has secrets of her own which need investigating. Selkie figures it’s the perfect opportunity to do some research into her own family history.  What she finds will both shock her and have far reaching repercussions.

Exploring the idea that our past affects our present far more than we realise, The Third Note is a chilling, yet thoughtful, page turner with a good dose of humour thrown in to lighten things up.

If you enjoyed the first two books in the Selkie Moon Mystery series, then you’ll love The Third Note. In fact, even if you didn’t read the first two books in the series, chances are you’ll be fascinated enough by book 3 that you’ll want to go back and read them too. Oh yes, and, did I mention there’s a free prequel available on Virginia’s website?

The Third Note is available from Amazon.

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XT31XD3/

US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XT31XD3/

You can purchase the first two novels in the Selkie Moon Mystery series from Amazon.

UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Virginia-King/e/B00K2N9AGK/

US: https://www.amazon.com/Virginia-King/e/B00K2N9AGK/

Download Laying Ghosts, the free prequel to the Selkie Moon Mystery series here: http://www.selkiemoon.com/laying-ghosts/

Check out Virginia’s website to learn more about the series and Virginia’s writing: http://www.selkiemoon.com/

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/selkiemoonmysteries/

Follow her on Twitter: @selkiemoonbooks

 

My Review of Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain by Allan Ropper & B.D. Burrell

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“A confused person behaves in a way so foreign to common experience that it can be unnerving, even for professionals. It is an alternate state of being.”

Allan Ropper explores these many various states of being in his fascinating memoir of his days as an eminent neurologist at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. From investigating the effects of transient global amnesia—a dramatic, temporary memory loss—to differing treatments for Lou Gehrig’s disease and Parkinson’s, to the extreme and unpredictable results of various forms of brain surgery and everything in between, this is an absorbing exploration of an underappreciated area of medicine.

Ropper focuses on the patients he meets, as well as his quirky co-workers. These come across almost as characters in a good novel. There’s patient Godfrey, a 55-year-old man who drives all the way from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Boston, Massachusetts before getting stuck on a rotary (roundabout) for nearly an hour before being pulled over by a traffic officer and sent to the emergency room. Then there’s Gordon, a 67-year-old bowling alley manager who loses his job due to increasing periods of confusion, one of which leads him to forget to turn up at work.  When Gordon discovers that his boss has fired him, he decides to take a walk to blow off steam. Having lived in the same small town his entire life, he’s shocked to find the streets becoming unfamiliar. Assisting Ropper in his diagnoses is his ever-capable senior resident, Hannah and the intensely knowledgeable (and very facetious) neurologist Elliot.

Reminiscent of Oliver Sacks’s captivating The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, Allan Ropper is remarkable in that he learned about neurological disorders and disease not from utilising state-of-the-art technology—which, of course, is crucial in diagnosing and treating neurological conditions–but from watching and listening to his patients, even when many around him were convinced that those patients were speaking nonsense. It is precisely because Ropper listened to his patients that he was able to write this book.

Although some of the stories in the book are sad, just as many are hopeful and have happy endings, of sorts. Through his study of the brain, Ropper investigates the basis of who we are and what makes us human. What is frightening is how close we all are to falling down our own personal rabbit holes.

Reaching Down the Rabbit Hole: Extraordinary Journeys into the Human Brain is available from Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reaching-Down-Rabbit-Hole-Extraordinary-ebook/dp/B00LRHW99U/

My review of The Flower Angel by Katrina Hart

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! To celebrate, I’m featuring my review of Katrina Hart’s latest romance novella, The Flower Angel. Some of you may remember that her book featured on my blog a couple of months ago. If you missed it, you can view that post here: https://kendraolson.wordpress.com/2016/12/05/the-flower-angel-by-katrina-hart/

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“Have you ever made a choice in a moment of complete panic and lived every day since praying you could go back and make it right? But you know you can’t, even when the present blurs with the past in your mind?”

The Flower Angel is a heartwarming story of love and forgiveness which is perfect for cuddling up with on a cold winter’s day.

When Chris checks into the charmingly quaint Forget-Me-Not-Inn for the weekend, he’s doubtful he’ll find love, even though the inn’s brochure promises he will. His well-meaning friends convinced him to take a much-needed break and see if he couldn’t find time for a little romance in his life. Since his girlfriend broke up with him and he found himself at the centre of a distressing car accident, he’s been plagued by nightmares and constant anxiety. All he remembers of the accident is seeing a young woman lying in the road, the blue forget-me-not-flowers he’d been bringing to his girlfriend now strewn across this stranger’s chest.

Meanwhile, Lara has also checked into Forget-Me-Not-Inn, hoping to forget the trauma of her car accident and the devastation it’s inflicted on her life. After her accident she’d spent several weeks in a coma and had to move back into her parents’ house as she couldn’t manage on her own. Lara can’t understand why the man who knocked her down couldn’t so much as apologise to her—she knows he all but disappeared afterward and his seeming indifference to her suffering infuriates her.

Of course, soon after checking in, Chris and Lara discover each other and begin to fall in love. But when Lara discovers that it was Chris who hurt her so badly, she is conflicted and finds it difficult to forgive him. Will the magic of Forget-Me-Not-Inn prevail?

Besides the lovely romance in the story, I enjoyed watching Chris and Lara learn to conquer their fears and come to terms with the events of their past. Featuring characters who suffer from anxiety and the  after-effects of traumatic brain injury, The Flower Angel presents a refreshing, fantasy-filled twist on the age-old notion of finding one’s soul mate in the most unlikely of places.

The Flower Angel is available as an ebook and a paperback. You can obtain the paperback from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrina-Hart/dp/1540629341/

The ebook is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

To check out more of Katrina Hart’s novels and novellas, visit her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Katrina-Hart/e/B013KPPUGK/

A new home for my Developmental Editing Service

Some of you may have noticed that my Developmental Editing Service page has now moved. I’ve decided to give it a home of its own and to keep this blog as a space dedicated to my writing and book reviewing.

You can visit my new website at: https://kendraolsoneditorial.com/

Besides my own editing service, I’ve listed a few other services I recommend for new authors. I’d love it if you visited  and let me know your thoughts. 🙂

Meanwhile, I’d better get back to my book reviewing–it’s been awhile!

 

 

 

Happy Holidays

With Christmas and New Year fast approaching, it’s time for me to log off and take a break. So, wherever you live and whatever you celebrate, I hope the season brings you and your loved ones peace, hope and joy. Thank you for following this  blog and for all of your contributions, reading and sharing throughout the year.

Have a wonderful holiday. I’ll be back in the new year.

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The Flower Angel, by Katrina Hart

This post is dedicated to Katrina’s lovely nan, Jean, who sadly passed away yesterday. Jean was an avid reader and a quiet encourager of writers everywhere, but especially of Katrina’s writing, and also my own. 

Today I’m featuring Katrina Hart’s latest novella The Flower Angel.

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The Flower Angel is an imaginatively written contemporary romance which also features elements of fantasy. Here’s a brief description of the story:

The Flower Angel: Two strangers. One past. Can the Flower Angel help Lara and Chris find love? Lara and Chris are strangers when they meet at Forget-Me-Not-Inn, the place where lost and lonely souls come to find love. Drawn to one another from the start, Chris soon realises that they have a traumatic secret in common – something that Lara will find challenging to forgive… Will the Flower Angel be able to work her magic and help Lara and Chris find true love together? Anything’s possible at Forget-Me-Not- Inn.

But I thought that, rather than tell you my thoughts on the story, I’d let you read a little of it for yourself. So, without further ado, here’s an excerpt:

One Year Later…

Chris swung his bag over his head and waved to his friends who’d insisted, a week ago now, that he take up their offer of a weekend at Forget-Me-Not Inn. They’d told him its secret: that all who entered fell in love with their soulmate, destined to find forever love. Of course he’d not believed either of his friends as they’d followed him about his bar reading the brochure out loud. He’d thought it most likely seemed that way because couples took romantic nights there together or something.

He knew his friends were only being kind and believed he should relax and stop working every hour at his country club. They never stopped reminding him that he should get back to looking for love after his break up with a girl who’d never really loved him in the first place, no matter how much he loved her. In truth he’d been hoping that every moment he was working he’d heal from the dreams that consumed his sleeping hours. The night the accident happened not only left him broken hearted, but with a tortured soul and many questions he might never have answers to.

He turned to face the huge stone inn and started walking through the tall grass towards the building with stained glass windows and flowers around the door. As he got closer he noticed that all the flowers were blue and open in the sunshine. A flash of those flowers landing on the chest of the young woman he’d crashed into a year ago had him clutching his chest struggling to breathe.

Katrina Hart has also kindly agreed to answer a couple of my questions about the story and the writing of the novella.

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Welcome, Katrina!

Thank you for having me on your blog Kendra.

Firstly, where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Well, The Flower Angel started after I completed Love in Little Snow, my first novella. I was inspired to write my new novella by the publisher who had published my first one (Love in Little Snow). However, while writing the story of Chris and Lara, I found that I was also inspired by my boyfriend–those feelings of new love and the idea of two people colliding in a life changing way. Also how one moment can impact on a huge part of one’s life be it in a good way or not.   

I’ve always been fascinated by angels ever since I was around seven. I think they watch over us when we need it most, in a spiritual way. But also there are people in life who try to help each other and bring love and peace into each other’s lives. They kinda remind me of earth’s angels, a bit like Sally and George at Forget-Me -Not Inn.

Where did you get the idea for a flower angel? I love this idea.

I’ve always loved the idea of angels and believed in them ever since I was around seven, because at that age I believed one flew into my window and she transformed into my mum’s nan who died that night. I didn’t actually know that my mum’s Nan had died until I told my mum about the experience. But ever since then I believed that angels watch over us from just out of our eyes’ view, unless they choose to let us see them of course.

So, when writing The Flower Angel I imagined all kinds of angels and that’s how The Flower Angel came about.

How have you found the publishing process? I understand that the novella was initially going to be produced by a publisher who unexpectedly stopped trading.

I’ve found the publishing process very interesting. It was exciting working on the cover with the cover designer and then having the book formatted for both Kindle and paperback. I think it was a great experience getting to grips with how the whole publishing process works and it’s possibly something authors should consider trying at least once, to get to see how it all builds up and turns into the finished book.

Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about this story or the writing of it?

The Flower Angel is a mixture of a moment that changed two people’s lives and their inner strength to try again.

Thanks so much for sharing your lovely novella with us and for answering my questions. Best of luck with The Flower Angel and with all of your writing!

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The Flower Angel is available as an ebook and a paperback. You can obtain the paperback from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrina-Hart/dp/1540629341/

The ebook is available from Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/Flower-Angel-Katrna-Hart-ebook/dp/B01N579TF6/

To check out more of Katrina’s novels and novellas, visit her Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Katrina-Hart/e/B013KPPUGK/

You can catch up with Katrina by visiting her blog: https://katrinamarie25.wordpress.com/

Checking out her website where you can also read her short stories: http://katrina134.wixsite.com/muses/books

Follow her on Twitter:@KatrinaHart2015

Like her page on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Katrina-Hart-1785712648319624/