Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Introducing seven amazing women writers...

I welcome to my blog today seven amazing women writers who have put together a boxed set of books featuring women as the main characters. These writers were first introduced to me via The Alliance of Independent Authors, and a few of these women I now regard as friends—friends I have not met in person yet.

The Authors of this brand new boxed set are Orna Ross, Joni Rodgers, Roz Morris, Kathleen Jones, Jane Davis, Carol Cooper and Jessica Bell, and they recently visited me here on this blog to tell me about this new venture - entitled Outside The Box: Women Writing Women which was released just a week ago.

Their press release says in part, "The idea behind the collective was simple: to gather independent-minded, unconventional authors offering page-turning fiction about independent-minded, unconventional women."


Ladies, why this rather ambitious project?

Roz: For me, these writers are the real superstars of self-publishing. They're storytellers dedicated to their craft, who have proved their worth with awards, fellowships and, of course, commercial success. Each author here is in charge of her own artistic destiny, embracing the indie path as a statement of integrity, yet writing fiction that speaks to everybody.

Kathleen: I’m intrigued by the contrasts and resonances that are set up when you put seven very different books and authors together. You know your work is going to be read by readers who wouldn’t normally have bought it. There’s an edge to that.


Jane: I’m really excited about the opportunity to showcase the diversity of writing that falls under the general fiction labels, ‘contemporary fiction’ or ‘literary fiction’ for example. I’m rather fond of Joanne Harris’ comment that she doesn’t like to insult her readers by assuming they only like to read one type of fiction. We won’t be insulting any readers. Within this set of seven books, we offer the full spectrum from light (although never frothy) to darker, more haunting reads that delve into deeper psychological territory.


Joni: Authors are pressured by agents and editors into tropes and style that sell - and that's not a healthy state for the artists individually or the art form at large. Readers will find the true artistic risk takers in the indie world, where we captain our own fate.



What drew you to each other as writers?

Carol: What unites this small group of acclaimed indie authors is our desire to craft our fiction to be the best it can be. This set of books will be thought-provoking and hugely entertaining. I’m thrilled to be part of it.

Jane: We looked for authors whose work we knew had been pigeonholed to their detriment by the traditional publishing industry, or whose work is difficult to define by traditional parameters. My second novel was turned down by my publisher because it wasn’t women’s fiction - they had published Half-truths and White Lies under their Black Swan imprint, but I had never set out to write only for women. A review of Roz Morris’s My Memories of a Future Life describes it as ‘stubborn and strange’, which made me want to track it down immediately.


Roz: It’s actually very hard to know how to describe your own work. You need others to be your mirror. I’d say our most important common traits are a similarity in outlook. We’re independent minded. We embrace control and we have a strong vision of our own art. Many of us have been encouraged to fit market trends and have resisted because it would compromise our books.


What does success look like for you?

Jane: One of our aims is to persuade readers to take a risk on authors they may not have heard of before. I would also like to change readers’ perception of self-published fiction, particularly those who are clinging to the belief that it’s the preserve of amateurs. I too was sold that line - and yet when I explored the option for myself, I found a diverse group, including authors who had walked away from six-figure deals, established authors who’d been dropped by their publishers after their latest book didn’t sell quite so well, talented newcomers building a readership, innovative authors whose work doesn’t fit the market, cross-genre authors who sell themselves as a brand and best-selling authors who have never tried the traditional route, but were there at the start of a publishing revolution. There is also a new breed of hybrid authors who look at each writing project and decide to submit it to their publisher or to go it alone. With the Society of Authors advising their members that publishing contracts are no longer fair or sustainable, my belief is that the predicted growth in self-publishing will come from authors who are currently under contract.

What are the advantages of being part of a boxed set group?

Roz: Together we have far greater power. We’ve already been interviewed by The Guardian books pages, Books + Publishing (the Australian counterpart of Publisher’s Weekly) and have interest from the arts programmes of BBC Radio 4. If any of us had approached them on our own - impressive though our CVs might look - we probably wouldn’t have got even a reply.’

Can you give readers a taste of what is in the boxed set?
Blue Mercy by Orna Ross:
Will you side with mother or daughter?

When Mercy Mulcahy was 40 years old, she was accused of killing her elderly and tyrannical father. Now, at the end of her life, she has written a book about what really happened on that fateful night of Christmas Eve, 1989.


The tragic and beautiful Mercy has devoted her life to protecting Star, especially from the father whose behaviour so blighted her own life. Yet Star vehemently resists reading her manuscript.


Why? What is Mercy hiding? Was her father's death, as many believe, an assisted suicide?


Or something even more sinister?


In this book, nothing is what it seems on the surface and everywhere there are emotional twists and surprises. ("Breathtaking, and I mean literally -- actual gasps will happen" said one reader review).


Set in Ireland and California, Blue Mercy is a compelling novel that combines lyrical description with a page-turning style to create an enthralling tale of love, loss and the ever-present possibility of redemption.


Crazy for Trying by Joni Rodgers:
This brave debut novel by bestselling author Joni Rodgers, was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a Discover Award finalist.

Seeking to escape the shadow of her infamous mother—a radical lesbian poet who is larger than life, even in death—Tulsa Bitters, zaftig, bookish and freshly orphaned, takes a westbound train, determined to reinvent herself. She gets a job as a late-night disc jockey at a radio station in Helena, Montana. It’s 1979, and people aren’t accustomed to hearing a woman’s voice on the radio, but for Tulsa, far away from all the people who loved and hurt her, midnight rock’n’roll feels like home. Painfully aware that she’ll never be beautiful, she discovers the benefits of being invisible.


Michael White Wolf MacPeters, half Blackfoot, half raging Irish, hears her voice on the radio and finds himself on the phone with her one night. The conversation evolves, smart, funny, and full of compassion, and Mac begins a careful courtship, her voice in his ear, his voice in hers. Despite the baggage of his damaged past—from the suicide of his half-breed mother to his own bloody passage in Vietnam—Mac allows himself to believe it could work, but the unlikely romance is cause for horror among Tulsa’s friends and Mac’s drinking buddies.


With love-struck energy and sharp-tongued tenacity, Rodgers loads up a tight circle of lovers, adversaries, dysfunctional family members and comically flawed friends, driving them down a fresh road through hard-earned love, a dangerous western solitude, and the old sexual politics.


My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris
If you were somebody’s past life…

What echoes would you leave in their soul? Could they be the answers you need now?


It’s a question Carol never expected to face. She’s a gifted musician who needs nothing more than her piano and certainly doesn’t believe she’s lived before. But forced by injury to stop playing, she fears her life may be over. Enter her soulmate Andreq: healer, liar, fraud and loyal friend. Is he her future incarnation or a psychological figment? And can his story help her discover how to live now?


A novel in the vein of The Time Traveller’s Wife, Vertigo and The Gargoyle, My Memories of a Future Life is much more than a 'who was I' tale. It’s a provocative study of the shadows we don’t know are driving our lives, from our own pasts and from the people with us right now. An examination of what we believe, what we create and how we scare and heal each other.


Above all, it’s the story of how one lost soul searches for where she now belongs.


The Centauress by Kathleen Jones:

Bereaved biographer Alex Forbes goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of celebrity artist Zenobia de Braganza and finds herself at the centre of a family conflict over a disputed inheritance. At the Ka┼ítela Visoko Alex uncovers a mutilated photograph, stolen letters and a story of indeterminate gender, passion and betrayal. But can she believe what she is being told? In order to discover the truth about Zenobia, Alex travels to Istria, Venice, New York and London and, in working through the narrative of Zenobia’s life, Alex begins to make sense of her own and finds joy and love in a new relationship.

An Unchoreographed Life by Jane Davis:
At six years old, Belinda Brabbage has amassed a wealth of wisdom and secret worries. She knows all the best hiding places in her Worlds End flat, how to zap monsters with her pig-shaped torch and that strangers will tempt you into their cars with offers of Fizzy Fish. Even so, it’s impossible to know how to behave when you don’t really understand who you are. Mummy doesn’t like to be plagued with questions about her family but, when she isn’t concentrating, she lets small nuggets slip, and Belinda collects them all, knowing they are pieces of a complicated jigsaw.

Exhausted single mother Alison hasn’t been able to picture the future for some time. Struggling from day to day, the ultimatums she sets herself for turning her life around slip by. But there is one clock she cannot simply re-set. Deny it though she may, Belinda is growing up. Having stumbled across Alison’s portfolio that mapped her life as a prima ballerina, her daughter already has a clearer idea of who she once was. Soon she’ll be able to work out for herself who she is - and what she does for a living.


With options running out, Alison travels to London’s suburbs to consult a blind clairvoyant, who transports her to a past she feels exiled from. However unlikely they sound, his visions of pelicans and bookshelves appear to herald change. A chance meeting with an affluent couple affords a glimpse of the life Alison desperately wants for her daughter. But can their offer of friendship be trusted?


More 'What Maisie Knew’ than 'Belle de Jour’, Davis’s unflinching new novel of a mother who turns to prostitution is populated with a deeply flawed and inimitably human cast, whose tumultuous lives are shored up by carefully-guarded secrets.


One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper
One man dying of cancer. One struggling journalist. A group of single Londoners. One night that changes everything.

The trouble with speed dating is that three minutes can last a lifetime, and ever since he was diagnosed, Sanjay doesn’t have a lifetime to waste. For one booze and hope-fuelled night, the lives of a group of 30-somethings criss-cross. As well as Sanjay, lawyer Laure, divorced doctor Geoff, beleaguered mother-of-four Karen and traumatised ex-con Dan all face each other across the Jacaranda’s tables in their quest for love, solace or amazing sex.


Undercover journalist Harriet is after a by-line, not a boyfriend. She’s a struggling freelance with a live-in lover, who unexpectedly has to choose between the comfortable life she knows and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness.


As Laure, Sanjay, Geoff, Harriet, Karen, Dan and the rest of the bunch discover, it’s not just about finding someone who’s dynamite between the sheets. It’s about finding yourself, and that’s not always where you expect.


White Lady by Jessica Bell:
Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she’s determined to make it work.


It does work. Until Mia, her lover’s daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia’s back. It isn’t long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.


But is protecting the kids really Sonia’s motive?


Here's the link to get your own copy of Outside the Box: Women Writing Women.

I've personally picked up my copy and can't wait to dig in. I urge you to do the same!





Thursday, February 19, 2015

Why I No Longer Write Christian Fiction

This blog posting will take a slightly different tone than my previous rather fun posts about this Indie writing journey of mine. This is also the most personal blog I've ever written, and one that I've wrestled long and hard about putting up for all to see.

I recently received a one star review for my latest novel, Night Watch. The only problem the reviewer had was that it was "touted" as a "Christian novel" but "was anything but." 


First of all, Night Watch has never been touted as a Christian novel by me. Or by anyone.


It’s not good manners, it’s not good Karma, it’s not good anything for an author to ever clash with a reviewer. This has happened online and it’s not pretty, and I'm not going to join their numbers. But, I have had a few personal emails and Facebook messages about this shift of mine, so maybe it needs to be addressed finally. 


The truth is, I never really wanted to write fluffy Christian fiction in the first place. Since I started writing novels, my dream has been to write mainstream mysteries. I love the fiction of Sue Grafton. I love, love, love Ruth Rendell and Martha Grimes. I sincerely wanted to join their numbers. I also love the dark horror of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.


At the one and only Christian Booksellers Association convention that I ever attended, I met with an editor of a good-sized and up-and-coming Christian publishing house. When I told him I wanted to write mainstream novels in a Christian context he said, No problem. So did they. This was their new vision.


He handed me a book by a new writer of theirs, Jane Kirkpatrick. I remember becoming so engrossed in Love to Water My Soul on the flight home that I contacted them within weeks and said, “Yes, if this is the type of stuff you are publishing, count me in.”


That was the early ‘90s.


Normally, historical novels aren’t my cup of java, but Jane is a wonderful writer and a personal friend and I still treasure that book. (I actually treasure all of her books.)


All of this, however, didn't work out the way I planned. It was proving difficult to get “Christian” novels labeled as anything but “Christian” and I kept getting contracts with Christian publishers. Since they called me, I figured—a bird in the hand. Plus, it was easy. Having grown up in the conservative church culture of the 50s and 60s, I knew the lingo inside and out. I was pigeon-holed and for awhile it was comfortable. I even made friends. But while I wrote Christian novels for publication, I wrote darker short stories and kept them in a file. And all the questions I’d had about my faith since childhood, I hid away in a back corner of my mind.


While I wrote and raised children and did laundry and cleaned my house and made supper and canned peaches and vacuumed my floors, things in the Christian world were subtly shifting. To this day, I scratch my head and wonder when and how did it happen? When was I not paying attention? When did it become heretical to believe in anything but a young earth six-day creation? When and how were these lines between science and faith drawn? When did anything but a very, very literal reading of every verse of the Bible become suspect?


Because even though my childhood was very conservative, very fundamental, I don’t remember these very drawn political lines. I don’t remember how we got to the place where you are labeled a heretic if you are not opposed to gay marriage for example, or where you dare question the doctrine of the rapture or Adam and Eve.


And that, I guess, has become the crux of my problem. I was ending up with more and more questions about my faith at a time when questions were becoming less and less permitted. Yet, I continued to hide my doubts while I went to church and wrote my novels with their happy “everyone gets saved” endings. I was told I had to do this in order to get a contract, so I did. It was a job, after all.


During this time of questioning, I devoured the books of Brian McLaren, and kept saying, “Yes! That’s me! That’s exactly me!” on every page. I followed the journey of Frank Schaeffer, because back in my Bible college days, (I graduated from Moody Bible Institute in 1971) his father, Francis Schaeffer was our hero. 


These days I regularly visit the blog of a very smart young woman, Rachel Held Evans. As well, I’m currently reading Torn, the memoir of a young, gay Christian man, while I adore the angst-ridden bluesy tunes of a talented young gay Christian musician, Jennifer Knapp. (I plan to read her new book - Facing the Music - but haven’t yet.) I am going through the books of N.T. Wright and Tim Keller and learning so much. I am listening to both the Free Believer’s podcast and the God Journey podcast and identifying with every word.

I’m also aware that some of the above writers and musicians don’t have the "evangelical approved" stamp. So maybe that means I don’t anymore, either. And maybe that means I’m finally coming out of the closet. Maybe that means I’m finally coming to a better understanding of my Christian faith—that it’s not about rules and judgment but about love and acceptance.


I’m finally admitting that I don’t have all the answers for my serious questions. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe it’s not. I don’t even know anymore. All I know is that, at this stage of my life I need and want to write what I want to write—and that is dark stories and mystery novels.


If there is a label for me now, it’s probably not Evangelical Christian. Maybe from now on I will call myself Searching Christian.


There is a song by U2 which totally characterizes this strange and circuitous journey of mine—I Still Haven't Found What I’m Looking For.


And it’s true. I haven’t. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe it just is.


Friday, February 6, 2015

Today - guest posting!

Today I'm being interviewed over on  suspense writer, Jacquie Biggar's blog. Do hop on over and let's have the discussion over there instead of here.

Here's the link for her blog.

Also - my novel Night Watch is on sale for .99 until next Wednesday, Feb. 10. Since the eBook is regularly 4.99, this is a really, really good deal. Today I'm featured on ebooksoda.