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Book Review of Shane Joseph’s Crossing Limbo

Just finished reading Crossing Limbo by Shane Joseph and below is my review as posted on Goodreads.

Crossing Limbo

by Shane Joseph,

published by Morning Rain Publishing

available at Amazon

at Chapters Indigo

And at the Toronto book launch this Saturday, July 8, 3 to 5 p.m. at Supermarket Restaurant & Bar, 268 August Ave. (in Kensington Market), Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Guest author readings by Sharon A. Crawford and Michel Dyet from their upcoming new books

The book’s title Crossing Limbo says it all – the main character or characters in each of these 13 short stories by Shane Joseph are stuck in limbo in their lives. In Greek mythology, the dead were ferried to the underworld by a boatman named Charron, who demanded payment. In Crossing Limbo, the characters have to make some payment, some trade-off to get to the other side of their limbo. For some the trade-off hangs in the future; for others it is now. Usually their past is a big factor. Whatever happens, Shane Joseph makes it original, yet the outcome is logical based on the main characters’ traits – on a scale of mean and nasty to troubled. All the stories reflect many current issues –divorce, online chat, finding a mate at a certain age, big developers versus property owners, writers who never make it versus jaded bestselling authors, death in the family, to adult “children” still living at home with dad. And Joseph brings out the emotions these characters go through when trying to cross their personal limbo, so that the reader gets it, even with the despicable characters.

In one of my favourites, Waiting for the Train, there are two main characters, an old man and a teenage girl who meet at night on the railway tracks. Both, for various reasons, are contemplating suicide, but their meeting and listening to each other forces a twist in their lives.

Then there ls the egocentric Arvind, the title character in The Supreme Leader’s Big Day, who  puffs himself up, as if he is God of the small country of Kanjipoor. Arvind forms secret pacts with his ministers, and orders killings. He is also a sex maniac who takes 16-year-old concubines to bed. On the day of the story’s title, he is expecting certain things to happen. But he gets a big surprise.

Perhaps the best story is also the most unusual – Shock & Awe, reflecting society’s attachment to their pet dogs, which is told from a dog’s point of view. Shep, a former police dog who got a little too violent with a drug dealer, is literally put out to pasture, living on a former police deputy, Bob’s, family farm/ Besides early retirement, Shep deals with many other issues akin to the human ones, love for a neighbour – Buster, the dog next door, dealing with Bob’s death in Iraq. But when what’s left of her family are faced with losing their home, Shep follows true doggy feat, proving that even with crossing limbo, dogs are still (hu)man’s best friend.

And in a world peopled by some of Shane Joseph’s characters in Crossing Limbo, that is a good thing.

 

 

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How self-publishing has changed – this editor’s personal take

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

The self-publishing business has evolved a lot in the last few years. It is no longer on the fringe but has moved more main-stream. Here is my take on some of what is happening. This will sum up my postings on the editor-self-publishing author relationship based on my talk on the Editors Canada panel April 26.

  1. Self-published books are now considered respectable and not vanity press. Authors of sp books can be members of The Writers Union, have their books in libraries, do library readings and presentations, and register the book(s) with the Public Lending Rights program
  2. Author has much more say in what is done, can be more satisfying but also lots more work and responsibility and cost. And no middle person for taking cut in book sales.
  3. Choice in how to publish (e-publish only or print only or both – Kobo, amazon, etc.).
  4. A lot more social media and the like (including doing book review trades with other authors) involved –author blog, Facebook, Linked In, Goodreads, etc.; author must organize and pay for any in-person book launch, but virtual book launches are becoming popular. As the title suggests, the author is glued to the seat of her chair at the computer for hours, but she has control over the time and length of her book launch – also much cheaper than in-person launches.
  5. Other online media authors can schedule – videos, including guesting on online TV shows such as The Liquid Lunch on thatchannel.com and join meet-up groups such as the Toronto Indie Publishing group.

But author having more control can be good and prosperous. My writing colleague, Rena Natan who self-publishes some of her books is proof of that.Here is what she emailed me (in part) to use in my presentation:

“The process of promoting the book is time-consuming. I try to have it reviewed by friend authors (like yourself), by Midwest Book review (authoritative, free, but it takes about a year) and Goodreaders members.

Then I submit the book to all competitions that are not too expensive; I check them first on the website  www.pred-ed.com (preditors and editors).

When you win a competition you get, in general, perks, like free listing on a number of Websites, Bookdaily,  and the like. These help a little to sell.”

Rene’s books have won awards as you can see from the first page of her website. She also has more info on her books and what is happening with them here.

And for those who have trade publishers, some of these promotional activities can apply as today published authors have to take their publicity by the horns and do a lot of it themselves.

Which is good in that authors can connect more with their readers.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

Click on the Beyond Blood icon at the top to find out more about my Beyond books.

 

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Beyond Blood another book review on Goodreads

Hi all:

Sharon A. Crawford's latest in the Beyond series

Sharon A. Crawford’s latest in the Beyond series

Another review of Beyond Blood, this time by literary novelist Christopher Caniff, has been posted to my Goodreads account. Here’s the review and some links afterwards.

 

Sharon Crawford’s latest novel Beyond Blood is a story of murder, kidnapping, fraud, and abortion with a varied cast of characters led by an undercover security guard at Toronto’s Thurston Mini-Mall, Dana Bowman. To call this book a simple murder mystery would not initiate an expectation of this plot’s complexity. When Dana plans to start the Attic Investigative Agency in August of 1998 with her fraternal twin, Bast Overture (a former crime reporter), a series of events unfold which begin with a mall kidnapping, two others having occurred recently at other malls in Toronto, and the abduction of Dana’s son David at the agency’s opening ceremony. David’s babysitter Debbie Sangwell is found lifeless with a knife in her back. Dana leaves her job at the mall to work with police detectives Harker and Fielding and investigate the murder, as well as a seemingly unrelated string of burglaries, and in the process to find her son.

Frustrating and complicating her search are the Mini-Mall merchants Lois and Ray Chalmers, Dana’s ex-husband Ronald, her ex-lover Gordon Lambton, and her Great Aunt Doris. The loss of two of her friends and her aunt also cause difficulties as Dana continues to seek to elucidate the reason for all of the apparently unconnected events occurring around her. A television reporter, Charles Haas, is ever-present and confronts Dana and Bast about the burglaries and kidnappings. There are ransom demands made by the kidnappers as enquiries into a past hit-and-run become important.

As she progresses in her increasingly emotional exploration for answers to her son’s whereabouts, her past job becomes significant and illuminates information she would not have otherwise obtained. As Bast knew, “Dana was the one who wore her emotions on her sleeve. He was the twin who held it in.” This is shown throughout the novel and becomes central during confrontations both on land and, toward the end of the novel, on the water at Snow Lake Harbour.

The novel is told with the alternating first person viewpoint of Dana, and the third person stories of Bast, David, and the mysterious “him” produce a complex weaving of interrelationships that enriches the world these characters populate. While I do not normally read this genre, I would recommend this novel to both seasoned mystery readers and novices alike.

 

Thanks you Christopher. Here is the link to our Goodreads pages

Sharon A. Crawford

Christopher Caniff

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas or whatever you celebrate and a good 2016 with lots of writing.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

The book cover at the top links to Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping and my author profile on amazon.com

 

 

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Tales – good and bad – from the book promo trenches

Sharon A. Crawford channelling Dana Bowman from Beyond Blood

Sharon A. Crawford channelling Dana Bowman from Beyond Blood. Shane Joseph photo

Still promoting my Beyond books. But when you do this you also need to help other writers promote their books. It is only fair as we are all in this together.

And sometimes that can be fun as the photo at the left shows. Cut line explains it briefly but more on that shortly. First I need to mention the downside as other published authors may run into this, if not with this bookseller, but another one, or two.

Up to last week, my encounters with booksellers have been amicable and polite. All had said they would at least see about carrying my Beyond Blood in their store. One even opted to carry a copy of each Beyond book. A couple of others I have to follow up on but they are part of a big chain, which has been helpful at other branches, so we will see here.

Now the bad and the ugly. I have also been approaching independent bookstores, but the latest venture there has left a sour taste in my mouth. Last week I entered Ben McNally Books in downtown Toronto. I always like to check to see if they already have a copy of my book. Ben McCally Books has a weird book placement system. No books by category – no signs either at the top of the bookshelves. Mystery,science fiction are all placed in with all fiction – alphabetically by author. So be it if that is the way they want to do it – their prerogative.

I approached the owner, Ben McNally about carrying a copy of Beyond Blood. As always, I stated it is not self-published but is published by a small Canadian trade publisher and handed him my business card and now that I have more – a couple of bookmarks. He barely glanced at them and said, ” Sorry, no.” He looked about as sorry as a person arrested who shows no remorse for his crime.

Being a former journalist and naturally curious, I asked “Why?”

He said he didn’t want books by small trade publishers.

So, I three him my kicker:

“Indigo (big Canadian book chain) has them in their stores.”

Then, I turned and left the store.

And you know, there weren’t many other customers in the store. Which says something.

I went directly to the big downtown Indigo store and what a difference. Manager very interested in carrying my Beyond Blood in that Indigo store. Indigo Chapters online has carried both Beyond books from day 1 for each, including print copy and e-copy (Kobo). Also this downtown Indigo bookstore is very busy – lots of customers. Because of the positive response, I bought a book there to give as a gift to a friend.

What goes around comes around.

And that brings me to what goes with the photo at the top.

I have started doing brief skits featuring Dana Bowman, the main character in the Beyond stories. I give Dana instructions to talk about herself and to read a bit from Beyond Blood.

Dana being Dana doesn’t listen. She does talk about herself some – but connects it to talking about me, her author. Dana claims she is instrumental in writing the Beyond stories. Oh, to a certain extent. I’ve been told I’m channelling Dana. I don’t mind her talking about writing and some of my quirks – if related to writing, but she can leave my plants out of it.

And when I say to read, she needs to read from Beyond Blood. And that hair in the photo above, taken by the editor at my publishers at their fall book launch, November 21? Dana has short “boy style hair.” Now she has decided to grow it somewhat. Really?

But the skit went over well at Blue Denim Press’s book launch. I was happy to bring along a few friends and to pre-promote the book launch and the authors launching their books, Shane Joseph and Chris Canniff, including reviewing their books in the two previous posts on this blog. The launch also had a Flamenco dancer and her husband providing the music on his guitar.

The funny thing here is Michael, the husband, used to come to my East End Writers’ Group when he and Lesley lived in my area. So did Shane when he lived in Toronto. And I knew Chrit from Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch.

See, we writers are all connected, so we need to help each other.

Certain booksellers need to learn that too. Then they might get more business.

Dana Bowman will be making one more appearance before Christmas on Dec.4 and Sharon A. Crawford will have her Beyond books for sale at the Toronto Heliconian Club Art and Gift sale, Saturday, November 28. See my Gigs and Blogs page for more info.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Sharon A. Crawford reviews Christopher Canniff’s Poor Man’s Galapagos

Canniff-back-cover-pic-e1442498323960-225x300Here is my review of novelist Christopher Canniff’s book Poor Man’s Galapagos, also being launched by Blue Denim Press November 21, 2015. But first a bit about Chris.

Christopher Canniff is the author of Abundance of the Infinite (Quattro Books, 2012) and the forthcoming Poor Man’s Galapagos
(Blue Denim Press, 2015).
Christopher has been mentored by two of Canada’s top writers, MG Vassanji and David Adams Richards, at the Humber School for Writers.  He is the current President of the Canadian Authors Association Toronto Branch (www.canauthorstoronto.org).
He shortlisted for the 2010 Matrix Litpop Awards for fiction, and he won a short novel contest with LWOT Magazine in Montreal. He has published in Descant Magazine Issue 152 (Spring 2011), and he also shortlisted in the 2012 Ken Klonsky Novella Contest with Quattro Books. He has sold two radio scripts to Falcon Picture Group in Chicago, Illinois, USA for a nationally-syndicated radio program, and he has published with Tightrope Books in Toronto.
Christopher moved to Ecuador to begin writing.  There, he read over fifty books of world literature, learned a new language and culture, and taught English at an Ecuadorian university for WorldTeach, a non-profit and non-governmental organization based at the Harvard Institute for International Development. While in Ecuador, Christopher began work on two novels, one of which became Poor Man’s Galapagos.  He lived briefly in Quito (the country’s capital) and, for six months, lived with an Ecuadorian family in Portoviejo (literally translated, “old port,” a dusty town 30 kilometres from the coast, said to have been relocated from beach dwellings as pirates chased the residents further inland.) Christopher took culture, language and history classes about Ecuador, and worked with Plan International, an organization with the aim of improving Ecuador’s faltering rural education system.  Christopher obtained a Mechanical Engineering degree in 1995 from the University of Toronto, and he is a registered Professional Engineer in the province of Ontario.
He is married to Roxanne, and lives with his son Colin and daughter Abigail in Windsor, Ontario.

Book Review

Christopher Canniff’s latest novel Poor Man’s Galapagos is the coming-of-age story of an 18-year old university student, Tómas Montgomery Harvey. But that’s where similarity to the usual coming-of age novel ends because of the complicated plot Canniff has woven. First there is the setting – a small Ecuador island, Isla de la Plata. The novel is set from August 1987 into 1988. A war between Ecuador and Peru has been ongoing for many decades. Military conscription is mandatory and the bottom line for Tómas is he is afraid to go to war, afraid of being killed. This is first hinted at in the novel’s beginning when Tómas, working with student revolutionaries, does not have the nerve to light and throw a Molotov cocktail at a passing government vehicle.

Friends and so-called friends of Tómas and his father have differing approaches to keep Tómas out of the military. His friend, Juan Carlos, the newspaper editor of the island newspaper and a former lawyer, tries to go the court route with conscientious objection. Edwardo Delgado, a long-time friend of his father, at his father’s wishes, hires Tómas to work as the engineer in charge of the large hotel resort Edwardo is building, which provides a means for Tomas to get a military card and an exemption from military service.

Tómas goes along with both, with disastrous results. As Juan Carlos tells Tómas “What people perhaps should do, and what they actually do, is often very different.” That includes Tómas’ father, the legendary freelance photojournalist, Montgomery Harvey. All his life Tómas has lived in the shadow of his father, always feeling no love from his father, who spent more time travelling for his stories, than with his son and wife, Veronica. As the novel opens, Montgomery has been linked in the press with embezzling funds and after a meeting with Tómas on the beach, he says he is leaving for good. After his father departs, Tómas decides he has to reconnect with him and find his birth mother. Only by choosing his own options, and following through, despite many hurdles, is Tómas able to transition through the murky road of becoming an adult.

The novel is told with the alternating viewpoints of Tómas and Montgomery Harvey, which works well to provide details to the reader, but never revealing too much at a time. To avoid any spoilers, let’s just say that Canniff builds up the plot, piece by piece, keeping the reader’s interest. Although the novel, starts a bit slow (despite that Molotov cocktail), hang in there, it picks up very soon. Your best bet is to keep on reading to the end in one sitting, if possible, like I did while a wind storm occurred outside.

Reviewed by Sharon A. Crawford, author of Beyond Blood and Beyond the Tripping Point

Christopher’s books are available at the usual places such as Amazon and Indigo. He is also on Goodreads.

Christopher’s Website

Christopher’s Blog

For more information about Shane’s books and where they are available go to his publisher’s website.

Christopher Canniff’s book is one of two being launched by Blue Denim Press Saturday, November 21, 2015. For more details, check the flyer below

See you there on Saturday. I’m the guest author.

Cheers.

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Author interviews – learning from both sides of the fence

Cover of Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press. Click for link to purchase e-copies

Cover of Beyond Blood by Sharon A. Crawford, published by Blue Denim Press.

Interviewer. Interviewee. Authors can get to do both. Which do you like best?

Last week I sat on both sides of this author interview fence. I posted my review of Rene Natan’s The Woman in Black on this blog and included a short interview with Rene. She also interviewed me for a posting on her blog page and did a book review of Beyond Blood on Goodreads. This interviewing got me thinking about interviews I have done (many, many – around 30 years’ worth) when I was a journalist.

But I have a somewhat unique perspective from the interviewee’s seat. Granted, answers to interview questions for guest blog posts can be carefully thought out. But what about those where the answer has to be spontaneous – such as for most of the profiles and feature articles I wrote where it was either in person or by phone. (Disclaimer: some were via email and could be thought out). Often I would get “don’t print this” or “this is off the record” but you can’t do that when you are being interviewed in front of an audience or on TV. (although TV interviews can be edited).

The bottom line is I get a rush from being interviewed and interviewing other authors. But I also like public speaking and reading from my book in public. Maybe it’s the drama queen in me or perhaps I’m a frustrated actor, but I get in character when I read and when I speak about something I am passionate about – such as writing, I get carried away. And I hope I carry my audience away with me too.

So being interviewed on TV doesn’t faze me, at least not anymore. I never know what some of the questions will be or what I will come up with for answers. But I always pitch right in with an answer – even when the interviewer goes a bit off track as Hugh Reilly did when he interviewed me about Beyond the Tripping Point in fall 2012. He got into Canadian mystery series and British series so I answered his questions and then got it back to Beyond the Tripping Point.

Ditto for being interviewed by Tom Taylor for his cable TV program Writers & Readers. Instead of one 10-minute interview he sprung it on me that there would be a second one about my editing and writing career.

The one that almost threw me for a loop goes back 25 years or so when another journalist (broadcast and print) who was a former mayor of Aurora and I were on an Aurora Cable TV show. I was supposed to be interviewing him – which I did. Then he ended the first segment with “when we come back I’ll be interviewing Sharon about her writing and community work.” (paraphrased).

I had about 10 minutes to catch my breath and mentally change chairs.

At least I didn’t have to prepare questions for this part.

It went off okay, but I think it helped teach me to be spontaneous. So does doing interviews – because you can prepare questions but the interviewee (or subject as journalists call him or her) may go off on tangents, clam up or as one artist did, look at me with dismay when she saw my recorder.

I told her “this is for accuracy,” and she settled down.

Being as accurate as you can, in the moment, is part of the bottom line when interviewing authors (or anyone) or being interviewed as an author. The other important bottom line part is being yourself.

Oh, and if a TV interview, don’t wear white. It interferes with the lighting.

You can read Rene Natan’s interview of me at http://www.scribd.com/doc/251460632/Interview-with-Sharon-Crawford

Rene Natan’s book review of Beyond Blood is on Goodreads at http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23160706-beyond-blood

For something completely different check out when I was interviewed about Beyond Blood and writing on radio station Northumberland 89.7 FM http://bluedenimpress.com/authors/sharon-a-crawford/

All my TV interviews are posted on You Tube. Click on “Video” at the top right of this blog

Check out my website www.samcraw.com for more information about Beyond Blood and my writing workshops. I do update it.

The book cover at the top links to my amazon.com author profile and my books.

Cheers.

 

Sharon A. Crawford

 

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Sharon A. Crawford presents Rene Natan and The Woman in Black

Romance/suspense author Rene Natan

Romance/suspense author Rene Natan

As promised, here is a look at suspense/romance novelist Rene Natan and her writing, including my review of The Woman in Black

 

How do you come up with your novel ideas, particularly with The Woman in Black?

 

From events in my life, the life of a person close to me or from the news. When my house got destroyed, I felt a deep sense of disruption, almost of abandon. I tried to portray this feeling in my first novel, Mountains of Dawn. What triggered me to write The Woman in Black was the difficulty a police officer encounters when she had to impersonate a call girl

 

What is your process for writing a novel? Do you do an outline first? Rewriting and editing as well?

 

Normally I write an outline to start with. However this first outline changes as I go along, mostly around the first half of the novel. After that, the personas almost write their own story.

 

Why do you write suspense romance novels?

 

Love is the main force in life, being parental love, conjugal love, or forbidden love. I wouldn’t dare to write anything without SOME kind of love. Suspense is needed to keep the reader turning one page after the other. Will the two lovers get together? Would the abducted child be rescued? Would the police capture the sadistic killer? The writer is the deus ex machina; he can forge the characters to his liking and take the reader along, in a journey of emotional “high,” fun and anticipation.

 

Rene Natan Bio:

 

Rene Natan was first attracted by the myriad possibilities offered by computers and pursued a career in information technology. The desire of being a storyteller, however, never left her since plots kept taking shape in her mind. After following a number of online courses on fiction writing, she started to jot down her stories. The Blackpox Threat won the first prize in the 2012 Five Star Dragonfly Award and was one on the four finalists in the 2011 Indie Excellence Award competition.

 

Book Review:

Cover of The Woman in Black by Rene Natan

Cover of The Woman in Black by Rene Natan

The Woman in Black by Rene Nathan is a romantic suspense novel set in the fictitious town of Varlee, Ontario the end of 2000 and beginning of 2001.

Chief Detective Conrad Tormez has a lot on his mind. His mentally challenged teenage daughter has been missing for two years and he needs to nail the criminal gang causing havoc in Varlee. The latter requires going to the head of the gang. To find the gang’s leader, he takes advantage of something this criminal doesn’t know – his girlfriend Clara Moffat has just died in a vehicle accident. So he hires a former police officer and friend, Savina Thompson, to impersonate Clara and set up the next wealthy victim. Using a newly-designed voice emulation system and another friend, wealthy businessman Denis Tailllard, to play this victim, Tormez hopes to rid Varlee of the thieving gang. Despite Tormez’s various plans for possible scenarios, he cannot foresee everything.

For nothing is simple and anything that can go haywire does.

As the story unfolds, the characters, plot and subplot become connected. Natan uses a multi-layered approach that peels like the proverbial onion to constantly reveal something else unexpected. Just when you wonder why a piece of plot or another character appears, it soon becomes relevant and adds to the suspense. The events leading up to and including the climax will keep the reader on the edge. Warning: be careful if reading The Woman in Black on public transit or while walking down the street – you might miss your stop or bump into someone or something.

The complicated plot and many characters, at times can get a little overwhelming. But Natan‘s listing of characters and short chapters help keep the reader oriented.

If you like intrigue, The Woman in Black is for you. However, it might be wise to block some time to read it. As this reviewer discovered, reading it in chunks may not work as you will want to continue reading to see what happens next.

Reviewed by Sharon A. Crawford author of the Beyond mystery books – Beyond the Tripping Point (Blue Denim Press, 2012) and Beyond Blood (Blue Denim Press, 2014). See www.samcraw.com for info about Sharon’s books and social media links.

 

Partial list of Rene Natan’s published novels:

 

The Woman in Black, ebook, 2014, $2.95 US, http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00QQZ08QE

The Loves and Tribulations of Detective Stephen Carlton, ebook, 2014, $2.99 US, https://smashwords.com/books/view/471255

Fleeting Visions, ebook, 2013, $3.75 US, http://www.amazon.com/Fleeting-Visions-Rene-Natan-ebook/dp/B00HNG53LU

The Bricklayer, ebook, 2012, $2.64 US, www.amazon.com/dp/B007PKCHBI

The Blackpox Threat, 2010, $4.27US, www.Oldlinepublishing.com, http://www.amazon.com

 

http://www.vermeil.biz

http://www.facebook.com/rene.natan.7

https://mobile.twitter.com/redmanor

http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4891285-rene-natan

E-books can be purchased on Amazon.com (Kindle). The Bricklayer and The Blackpox Threat are also available as print on Amazon.com

Cheers and Happy New Year

Sharon A. Crawford

P.S. Rene Natan turns the tables on me when she interviews me at http://www.scribd.com/doc/251460632/Interview-with-Sharon-Crawford

 

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