Authors We Like- Thanks To You All

Looking for a good book to read now that the holidays are over? These are the authors that participated in my little Authors We Like Holiday Event. I want to thank them again for giving me their words and their time. So if you didn’t read their posts or missed one or more, here they are again.

Jenny Schwartz

S A Hunt

Michelle Knight

Gregor Xane

Naomi Clark

AJ Goode

Rachel Sharp

Linda Hilton

I might do this again sometime minus the whole furnace dying crisis.

Authors We Like- Linda Hilton

I think I met Linda on Goodreads and we have been complaining to each other about books, authors, and the world in general since then. Not only is she an author but also a talented jewelry maker.

My favorite gifts were books.  My second favorite gifts were handmade.  It didn’t matter what the occasion was.  Books first, handmade second.

Every Christmas saw at least one book under the tree, whether at home or at a relative’s house where the family gathered for the big dinner, and often under both trees.  I distinctly remember a book of dog stories my grandparents gave me when I was maybe 10 or 11 years old.  The first story in the collection was by Albert Payson Terhune and was about a boy who had been entrusted with a large sum of someone else’s money.  When the money was stolen from him, he lived in shack with his trusty collie and earned the money to pay back what was stolen.  The last story was Walter D. Edmond’s “Hound Dog Moses and the Promised Land,” one of the most delightful stories I’ve ever read.

When I was in high school, my aunt’s mother gave me a world atlas and gazetteer, with all kinds of maps and information about places around the world.  I was far more interested in reading that than playing with my cousins and their new toys.

Of course there were the horse books, several of Walter Farley’s Black Stallion and Island Stallion books as well as Marguerite Henry’s.  Her King of the Wind was my favorite, with its scrumptious illustrations by Wesley Dennis.  I wish I still had that one, but like just about all the others, it is long gone.

Even while I still believed in Santa Claus, handmade was also an important part of Christmas.  Dolls, especially my Madame Alexander dolls, arrived with extensive wardrobes my mother made.  My grandmother knitted sweaters for them, and my grandfather made furniture.  Unlike the books that somehow disappeared, the dolls and doll clothes and doll furniture remain to this day.

Coming from a family of do-it-yourselfers, with an artist or two thrown in for good measure, I took all of this for granted.  I thought everyone had books in their homes, and that someone in everyone’s family knew how to sew and knit and had tools to make things.  I couldn’t imagine a house that didn’t have books and a sewing machine along with hammers and screwdrivers and wrenches and saws. Maybe that’s why the idea of writing my own books didn’t seem at all strange to me; it was just a natural progression and synthesis.

Along the way, and over a goodly number of years, I learned the craft of writing the way my mother and grandmothers learned to knit and sew, embroider and crochet:  I practiced, I made mistakes, I read the directions, I tried again.  And I got better at it.

The writing, however, was a conscious and deliberate effort.  I subscribed to writing magazines.  I bought how-to-write books.  I joined writers’ clubs.  I read published books in the genre I wrote in order to analyze them and compare them — as objectively as possible — to mine.  And of course I shared my works in progress with other writers for critiques.  The experience of reading works not ready for publication proved invaluable.  It taught me not only how to spot flaws in other people’s work but also how to fix them, skills that then applied directly to my endeavors

While I was focused on the writing, something nefarious happened in the background while I wasn’t paying attention.  Almost without my knowing it, I became a crafter.  As a child I had learned to knit before I learned to sew, but I suddenly found myself doing both.  I participated in my first craft show long before I sold my first book.  Before my first child was born I had made baby clothes and blankets, knitted sweaters and booties.  The next thing I knew, I was making handmade gifts: embroidered tote bags and crocheted afghans, knitted sweaters and quilted comforters, lace-edged pillowcases and doll clothes and . . . .

And then we moved.  Moving from one house to another a few miles apart was no big deal.  It was accomplished over a period of weeks and took many, many car- and truck-loads.  Moving from Indiana to Arizona, however, revealed the depth of what had become not just my problem, but my husband’s as well.

Being a writer requires books, and books can take up a lot of space.  Being a crafter requires . . . all kinds of stuff.  And that stuff takes up a lot of space, too.  We had acquired a whole lot of stuff.  Some of it we packed up and took with us; some of it had to be left behind or sold before we moved.  It would seem as if that solves the problem:  The problem, however, is much deeper than a collection of wood and tools and yarn and fabric, easily accumulated and almost as easily disposed of.

The problem is what I’ve come to recognize as OCD — Obsessively Creative Disorder.  Not disorder as in a malfunction of some mental capacity, but disorder as in too much stuff to keep track of.  Too many things I know I have but can’t remember where they are.  Too many projects in progress so just the deciding which to work on next takes up half my available time.  Too many supplies, and too many friends who don’t have OCD who are eager to downsize and dump their supplies on me.  Too many items I want to make and have most of the materials for but just need one more thing.  Too many ideas.

Wait a minute.  Stop right there.  Too any ideas is the same problem I have with writing.  And that’s the obsessively creative part of OCD.  I can’t turn off the flow of ideas.  Nor do I want to.

I don’t suffer from OCD; I enjoy it!

I suspect most creative people have at least a touch of OCD, some just have more than others.  Some  of us have . . . . a lot.  There’s probably no cure, though it can be managed.  The bright side, however, is that OCD ultimately produces all kinds of terrific gifts.

Books, of course, make wonderful gifts, as I’ve known virtually all my life.  Writers write as a gift to themselves, writing the stories they like to read, rewriting the stories they didn’t like.  If you have a writer in your life who enjoys OCD, offer support and encouragement, and buy her another book or a dozen!  (Digital editions don’t even take up much space.  I have 4,000+ on my laptop!  But don’t tell anyone. . . . they’ll think I’m a hoarder.)

You can help out another OCD enjoyer by purchasing a hand-crafted gift.  Turn your back on the manufactured plastic crap, the sweatshop produced name brand logo clothes that make us all look like clones of each other.  Whether it’s a wheel-thrown pottery coffee mug or a handmade quilt or an artisan crafted wooden jewelry box or the jewelry to go in it — hint, hint, that’s one of my specialties! — give a gift that has meaning and love and passion and even obsession worked into its production.

Buy an author-published book, instead of just another offering from one of the big bottom line corporate publishers.  If it’s a poorly written book, let the author know!  Help that OCD enjoyer learn the craft to perfection.  And if it’s a well written book, encourage the author to write more.

Give yourself a gift of the unique.  Share your appreciation with those around you who may not yet have broken free of the gotta-be-like-everyone-else-or-I-won’t-fit-in syndrome.  I’m one of the world’s worst self-promoters, so it’s difficult for me even to suggest you buy something I made, something I wrote, but I’ll try.  Buy one of my books, if you like historical romances; the Kindle editions are not very expensive, and I think they’re well-written.  (See, I told you I’m terrible at self-promotion.)  If historical romance isn’t your thing, my Really Neat Rocks book combines my lifelong interest in rocks with my almost-but-not-quite as long passion for writing.

I began writing when I was in grade school, almost as soon as I learned to read, but the truth is that my love for rocks goes back further than that.  Though I’ve written about it, words can’t really express the fascination.  It only fully emerges when I have the stone in my hand and I’m turning it into a piece of jewelry.  Will a buyer see what I see?  I don’t know.  I can only try.  I can tell the story of where I found the rock or what I did to turn it from rough to jewel, but that’s only part of it.

The very worst that can happen when you buy or give a handmade gift is that you’ll catch a bit of OCD yourself.  There’s always a risk you’ll see something and the thought will creep into your head, “I could make that!”  Maybe you think you could make it cheaper or better or in a different color or size.  Some people would tell you, “Yeah, sure you could, but you won’t.”  They’re just trying to save you from a bad case of OCD.  First it’s the knitting needles and a skein of yarn, and it seems innocuous enough.  But that’s how it starts.

Believe me, I know from personal experience.  And I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Find Linda’s jewelry here and here.

Find Linda’s books on Amazon Kindle.

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Authors We Like- AJ Goode

 

I “met” AJ on the KDP forums and then discovered her blog. Her post brings to mind all the past holiday meals where the power failed, the pie refused to be a pie, and when my mom and I decided that we didn’t need the good dishes, silver, and linen tablecloth; we just needed to be together.

 Christmas mocks me. Well, not the whole holiday. Just the dinner.

I screw up my family’s Christmas dinner every year.

It’s not that I’m a bad cook. I’m actually a pretty good cook the other 364 days of the year. I’m not ever going to win any awards for it, but I’ve managed to keep my kids pretty well-fed for eighteen years, and even my ex-husband has been known to call on occasion for one of my recipes.

To be fair, I call him for recipes, too, but only because he got custody of the recipe file box in the divorce.

At any rate, something goes wrong with the holiday meal I prepare every single year. At first, it was because I was far too ambitious in my meal-planning. I tried to make a turkey, mashed potatoes, homemade gravy – which always turned out as a vaguely gravy-flavored ball – sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, biscuits, and more. I tried to do too much and ended up overwhelmed. Half the meal would burn while the other half was undercooked. Nothing ever hit that midpoint where it was actually edible.

Then there was the year I cooked the ham in the crock pot and someone – who has yet to confess, even after all these years – turned it to the “keep warm” setting when I wasn’t looking. I think it was done around noon the following day.

There was the year we ran out of propane and I had to cook the meal with nothing but an electric skillet and a microwave.

My family still talks about the year I served them coconut cream soup for dessert. It was supposed to be coconut cream pie, but it refused to “set up.”

One year, I got hit with a stomach bug late in the day on Christmas Eve. By Christmas Day, I was violently ill. I still cooked the holiday meal between bouts of vomiting, and my family ended up eating their dinner at the table while I stretched out on the bathroom floor throwing up things my ancestors ate.

My favorite memory – or lack thereof, actually – is of the year I started with a shot of Bailey’s in my morning coffee and moved up to mimosas by the time I washed the breakfast dishes. It was all sort of downhill from there.

The year I finally stopped trying so hard was the year my children got new sleds from their grandmother for Christmas. The kids played with their new toys all day and talked about sledding, but never seemed to get around to it. That year, all the food turned out perfectly. Everything was done at the same time. The table was set with the special holiday dishes and my grandmother’s tablecloth. It was perfect.

But when I called them to the table, all I saw were their horror-stricken faces and a lot of tears.  “But Mom!” they wailed. “We never got to try our new sleds, and now it’s dark out!”

What was I to do? Out they went, in the dark, riding their sleds up and down the driveway under the big yard light, while their father and I watched from folding chairs by the front window and ate our Christmas dinner off of paper plates.

That was the year I realized that it doesn’t matter what I cook or how I cook it, as long as we all enjoy our day together. I now start the ham in the crock pot the night before (and God help anyone who touches the dial). I make mashed potatoes from scratch, but the corn is canned, and so is the gravy. For that matter, so are the biscuits. I skip the sweet potatoes and green bean casserole because no one ever ate those anyway. It’s a pretty simple meal, made up of foods we all love, and nobody stresses out over it.

The kids have plenty of time to play with their toys and games, and I have time to get out of the kitchen and enjoy a good book. It’s the perfect Christmas.

And the dessert? My mom’s traditional lemon meringue pie, of course.

 

Find all of AJ’s books here.

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Authors We Like- Rachel Sharp

My apologies to all, I’ve fallen behind on my Authors We Like Event because of the eminent demise of Old Faithful the furnace. Since I live in Michigan I hope you will all understand my near obsession with getting a replacement ASAP. All I want for Christmas is heat.

Here is Rachel Sharp.

I was raised with no religion. My parents, far from being anti-theist, seem to have decided before I was born that the best thing for a kid is to let them figure it out for themselves. I’m fairly certain that my mother believes that the universe it its own higher power, forever bending towards justice, and my father has some vague hope that there is a heaven and that when you go there, you get to see all of the dogs you ever had.

Left to draw my own conclusions about the holidays (free of gods, saints, prophets, kings, and flying spaghetti monsters), I arrived at the following.

The holidays are a time of year, in the dead of winter, when people try harder than usual to make the world beautiful and be nice to each other. We feed each other. We write more thank-you notes. We call and Skype and send pictures, and travel by plane, train, and automobile to see the people who have known us our whole lives.

New York City lights up in red and green. In Portland, Oregon, the reindeer on the Old Town sign gets a Rudolph nose in celebration. Phoenix, Arizona pretends that snow might fall, and when it doesn’t, they put up plastic snowmen and smile anyway. In Montpelier, Vermont, volunteer firefighters wind strings of lights up the lamp posts all the way down State Street.

People scattered all over the earth watch silly Claymation movies. They drink and they dance and they sing.

Does it have to be magic? Does it have to be God? I don’t think so. I think it can be beautiful without names, sects, or even tradition. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is welcome to whatever power makes it happen for them. Faith can be beautiful. Tradition, too. For me, the attempt at peace on earth and goodwill towards men and women is its own cause, and its own reward.

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Authors We Like: Naomi Clark, author of Cold Night Moon

Like John I met Naomi over in the Amazon forums sharing our love of UF/paranormal among other things. Not content with working full time and writing like mad when she isn’t looking for runaway snakes, Naomi also has a lovely shop on Etsy, Common Brimstone, full of lovely scents.

Illuminite Caliginosus

This one’s from a good friend from the UK- Naomi Clark: office drone, Cthulhu enthusiast and werewolf aficionado.  Nome and I go back a few years over a love of UF and a dislike for… well, I’ll leave that one alone.  Anyways, Cold Night Moon is the lastest offering in her Urban Wolf series featuring a lesbian werewolf (yeah, you read that right) and I highly recommend you take a look.  And here’s a few words from the lady herself.

I’m really excited to be sharing my latest release, COLD NIGHT MOON – book five in my Urban Wolf Series. This is a series that’s really so close to my heart for a lot of reasons, and it’s great to be back in Ayla and Shannon’s world. I’ve been with these characters for six years now, and I like to think that each installment, whether it’s a short story like…

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Authors We Like- Gregor Xane

There are very few authors that can make me never want to see their work released but Gregor is one of them. Why, you ask, because Gregor is one of the best at promotion. His promos start months ahead and they are sly, subtle, hilarious, freaky, creepy,  entertaining, and appear when you least expect them. I don’t read horror but I look forward to Gregor’s promotions the way I look forward to the next Louise Penny release.

10 NON-HORROR BOOKS YOU MIGHT LIKE TO READ (NOT WRITTEN BY ME OR ANYONE I KNOW)

The gift-giving season is upon us, so I thought I’d put together a post with a bunch of book recommendations. Yes, I am a writer, but for this post, I’m a reader recommending books to other readers. And, yes, the stuff I’ve written and published so far, more or less, falls into the horror fiction category, but I figure most folks who visit this site on a regular basis don’t read much of that nastiness, so I decided not to highlight horror. Instead, these recommendations are from my reading outside of that genre.

I also want to make it clear, just in case the title of this piece wasn’t enough, that this post isn’t some sort of secret promotion for my author buddies. None of the books recommended below are by people I know. I’m plugging all of these books as an avid reader, not as a writer scratching the backs of my author pals.

One more thing before I get to the recommendations. Although these books aren’t horror, they may contain horrific elements and horrible things happening to nice people. But you’ll find that sort of thing in almost all genres.

Oh, and some of this stuff is fucking weird.

I do like it weird.

So, let’s get started.

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  After Dark, by Haruki Murakami – You’ve likely heard of Murakami’s 1Q84 and Kafka on the Shore. But the size of those books can be a bit intimidating, so I always recommend people start with this short work. If you like the flavor of this one, you’re safe to venture into his longer stuff. I find Murakami’s writing charming, compelling, and mysterious. Part of his appeal, to me, is that I have no idea how he achieves the effects he does. There’s a strange sort of magic at work here.

The Shadow Year, by Jeffrey Ford – In my introduction, I said I didn’t know any of the authors of the books represented here, so, in the interest of full disclosure, I feel the need to tell you that I did meet Jeffrey Ford once. I had him sign a book at a convention. We didn’t strike up a friendship or anything. I was nervous, got my book signed, and left him alone. Jeffrey Ford’s my favorite living author, and I went to this convention mainly to have a book signed by him. Anyway, The Shadow Year is a wonderful novel by Mr. Ford. It’s a coming-of-age story with a few supernatural accents. For example, the main character’s little sister seems to be unknowingly predicting crimes before they happen with the placement of clay figures in a replica of their town her older brothers have built in their basement. This book is funny and strange and makes me nostalgic for a place and time I never knew (1960s Long Island).

 

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Palimpsest, by Catherynne Valente – A rich tale, spanning multiple cultures, told in gorgeous poetic prose. This one also features contagious flesh markings which resemble maps and sex acts that unlock portals to a bizarre fantasy world. ‘Nuff said.

The Facts of Life, by Graham Joyce – This is a multi-generational family saga set in London in the aftermath of World War II. Joyce was a master of characterization. All of his characters seem drawn directly from life. This book won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, although the fantastical elements are quite subtle. A mother and a daughter just might have a touch of the old ESP.

 

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Black Hat Jack, by Joe R. Lansdale – A rare western told from the perspective of an African-American cowboy. It’s got plenty of frank humor and shoot-outs and action and a bunch of gritty characters with attitudes true to the time period. Great stuff. Joe Lansdale is a national treasure.

Flicker, by Theodore Roszak – The premise of this book is pretty much the same as Marisha Pessl’s Night Film—a mystery surrounding a mysterious filmmaker who makes mysterious films—though this was written twentysomething years beforehand. I prefer this take on the premise over Pessl’s. This book is darker, richer, and has a much better, although similar, ending. I’m a sucker for stories in which the lone investigator, in search of a mysterious person or artifact, gets drawn into a dark, dangerous underworld.

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The Man in My Basement, by Walter Mosley – A down-on-his-luck black guy is approached by a mysterious creepy white guy who offers to pay him a large sum of money if he agrees to keep said creepy white guy locked in a cage in his basement for a specific span of time. Oh, and he’s not allowed to tell anyone he’s got a creepy white guy locked up in a cage in his basement. Folks who’ve read Mosley’s detective fiction might be interested in giving this one a look to see another side of this fine writer. This would be a great one for some heated book club discussions.

Railsea, by China Miéville – I’d say this is a middle-grade book. Maybe YA? Shit, I don’t know what it is, but it’s good. Like all of Meiville’s adult books, his unique imagination is the main attraction. This one is essentially a retelling of Moby Dick but set in a world covered with train tracks. Here, the quarry is a giant, white burrowing mole, and our protagonists are chasing him down with a steam engine.

 

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Dying Inside, by Robert Silverberg – This is a science fiction novel but there are no spaceships, robots, aliens or ray guns. It doesn’t really read like a science fiction novel at all. I once likened it to Portnoy’s Complaint but with telepathy.

Children’s Hospital, by Chris Adrian – This is a literary novel that takes place during God’s second great flood. This time it’s not a giant boat that carries the only survivors, it’s a floating children’s hospital. This big peculiar thing has elements of science fiction, horror, absurdism, and religious allegory. The medical details are extensive but feel natural (not like research data dumps) and are somehow communicated in an almost poetic manner. An excellent novel that’s not for everyone but will reward those with a dark sense of humor, a bit of patience, and an open mind.

 

So, there you have it. This list gives you a good idea of the kind of thing I like to read, so if you’ve got some recommendations, feel free to send them my way. All I ask is that you don’t recommend anything you’ve written or anything written by anyone you know.

 

GREGOR XANE lives in southwestern Ohio. When he’s not typing, he can be found in his workshop building dangerous remote-controlled toys. He’s the author of the horror novellas SIX DEAD SPOTS, THE HANOVER BLOCK, LOVING THE GOAT, DOCTOR PROCLIVITY & PROFESSOR PROPENSITY, and the forthcoming BRIDES OF HANOVER BLOCK.

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(The poor quality of the book covers is my fault not Gregor’s. Sorry, my laptop is being mean to me.)

 

 

Authors We Like- Michelle Knight

I will be posting two authors this week because I go diverted by the ongoing furnace problem, I think Old Faithful is on its way out. I found Michelle on Booklikes and she’s just the right amount of crazy and a lot of fun.

Hello there! Welcome to the slightly crazy world of Michelle Knight.
Seriously, life gave me a torch, pointed at the dark pits of humanity
and unceremoniously shoved me down one or two of them. I’ve got loads of
scars and bruises but I’ve at least made it this far!

I can look back on many things in my life now, and laugh. I mean, how
many have walked through the financial district of Munich with a skimpy
body, thigh high boots and a cape? I have. It was going great until I
got my stiletto heel stuck in a steel stair mat; you know the ones, with
loads of little diamond shapes. I don’t speak German and the doorman
didn’t speak English. I had to grip my heel with both hands and tug at
it, before the bloke got the idea that I needed help!

If my writing was a pie it would have a filling of real experience,
spiced with humility and topped with a crusty pastry of hilarity,
because I do like to laugh.

I’ve always been a creative soul. In my early twenties I took up
photography and was published in a few small magazines. I also started
to write and got some short stories in print as well. My first
specialist adult book was actually published as long ago as 1996. You
could have knocked me down with a feather when I saw it on Amazon
recently for sixty pounds! (Near a hundred $US) It is currently
unavailable, but it has one three star review; from me saying, “Don’t
buy it at this price!”

So here I am, twenty years further on with more experience under my
belt; both in terms of writing and also life. I’ve worked in a bakery,
driven light trucks, photographed weddings and much, much more. I’ve
even lived for a few years as a submissive under contract, so I know the
reality of what many have written as fiction. Long story short, I tend
to write honestly and from the heart.

Indeed, my return to writing sees the final book in the Submissive Heart
series nearly ready for publication. The project started as a film
script in 2005, but then became a book in 2014 when I couldn’t find
someone to take it on. Surprisingly, people wanted more so I wrote
another three. It is summed up best by one of the alpha readers…
“Overall I have finished reading the series with impression that these
books are meant to inform and educate rather than serve as fantasy
material for evenings in on one’s own. Which makes a refreshing change.
I do feel more informed and it has made me ask questions about my own
life as well as about legislative hypocrisy.” …I usually find that
other people can tell you more about me than I can!

With the Submissive Heart series done, I intend to focus on Science
Fiction and Fantasy; with a healthy dollop of comedy. The first of those
books is, “Check Mate,” and was released earlier this year. Now that
I’ve managed to survive a year of being published and no one has come
after me with torches and pitch forks, I plan to write longer, deeper
works.

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Find Check Mate at Amazon

here or here (uk)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The list of current books can be found here –
http://msknight.co.uk/books.html – but you’ll find so much more in the
site, like fan fiction that I’ve written, how-to’s and even a, “Behind
the scenes,” of one of my upcoming books, “The White Wizard,” where I
show you my thought process and how I started to craft it, because some
people like to see those sorts of things.

For a sample of my personal photography, look here –
https://www.flickr.com/photos/msknight/with/8683016210/ – and for you
bibliophiles, the door knocker half way down the first page, is on the
door of Holy Trinity Church in Stratford; where William Shakespeare’s
body rests. The train crossing at the top is Glenfinnan viaduct, the one
that features in the Harry Potter films and I’m leaning out of the last
carriage in order to get the shot. There’s usually more to a picture,
and a person, than what you see!

Rather than shock and go for the quick thrill, my aim is to write honest
and deeper works; and I’ve been gifted more than enough laughter and
tears in life to be able to do it.