Monthly Archives: May 2014

BLOG TOUR: The Collector of Dying Breaths by M J Rose – Author guest post

Opening quote from The Collector of Dying Breaths:

“It is with irony now, forty years later, to think that if I had not been called a murderer on the most frightening night of my life, there might not be any perfume in Paris today. And that scent—to which I gave my all and which gave me all the power and riches I could have hoped for—is at the heart of why now it is I who call myself a murderer.”

Inspiration for the novel:

Perfume Bottle

“Perfume is … that last and best reserve of the past, the one which when all out tears have run dry, can make us cry again!” ~ Marcel Proust

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Guest Posts, Blog Tours

BLOG TOUR: An interview with M J Rose

mj-roseAs part of the blog tour for The Collector of Dying Breaths, I asked the author, M J Rose, a few questions which she was kind enough to take time out of her very busy schedule to answer. Thank you, Ms Rose!

Kell: Throughout your Reincarnationist series, your characters visit various different time periods. Which, so far, has been your favourite, and why?
MJ: Ancient Egypt because it has always been my favorite period and the one I most wish personally I could go back in time and visit – the culture was so rich and mystical yet intelligent and innovative in so many ways.

Kell: There is so much detail about the art of creating perfume, both modern and ancient. What drew you to weaving that into a plot involving reincarnation?
MJ: When I was in advertising I worked on a perfume account for four years. I’d already loved wearing perfume but learning about how it is made and how much of an art it is drew me to it. I am fascinated by how evocative a scent can be and how it works on our memory – that was really what sold me on the idea – since when we talk about reincarnation we focus so much on remembering the past.

Kell: How long does it take you to research your novels, and do you enjoy that aspect of writing?
MJ: I do enjoy it tremendously – and it can take from six years to a few months.

Kell: How do you manage to keep track of the threads of the story in different time periods, and does that make it more difficult to write?
MJ: I made a lot of chart so its not difficult.

Kell: Can you tell us a little about any other forthcoming novels on which you’re working?
MJ: The Secret Witch of Rue Dragon will be out March 31 and takes place in 1894 in Paris and there’s no reincarnation in it:)

My thanks, again, to MJ Rose for taking time out of her busy schedule for this little interview!

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews, Blog Tours

Review: The Collector of Dying Breaths by M J Rose

the-collector-of-dying-breaths-by-m-j-roseTitle: The Collector of Dying Breaths
Author: M J Rose
ISBN: 978-1455869503
Publisher: Atria Books
First Published: 8th April 2014 (hardback/audio)

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Fantastic Fiction):
Florence, Italy – 1533: An orphan named René le Florentin is plucked from poverty to become Catherine de Medici’s perfumer. Traveling with the young duchessina from Italy to France, René brings with him a cache of secret documents from the monastery where he was trained: recipes for exotic fra­grances and potent medicines – and a formula for an alchemic process said to have the poten­tial to reanimate the dead.

In France, René becomes not only the greatest perfumer in the country, but also the most dangerous, creating deadly poisons for his Queen to use against her rivals. But while mixing herbs and essences under the light of flickering candles, René doesn’t begin to imag­ine the tragic and personal consequences for which his lethal potions will be responsible.

Paris, France – The Present: A renowned mythologist, Jac L’Etoile – trying to recover from personal heartache by throw­ing herself into her work – learns of the sixteenth-century perfumer who may have been working on an elixir that would unlock the secret to immortality. She becomes obsessed with René le Florentin’s work – particularly when she discovers the dying breaths he had collected during his lifetime.

Jac’s efforts put her in the path of her estranged lover, Griffin North, a linguist who has already begun translating René le Flo­rentin’s mysterious formula. Together they confront an eccentric heiress in possession of a world-class art collection, a woman who has her own dark purpose for the elixir . . . for which she believes the ends will justify her deadly means.

Review:
When writing across two very different time periods, there is always a risk of confusing the plots and, consequently, the reader, and if takes the deft skills of a practiced writer to get it just right. Such is the case with The Collector of Dying Breaths – M J Rose manages to blend the two seamlessly to superb effect.

Both time periods are written in such a way that all the senses are excited in a visceral manner, and the characters, both the actual historical figures and the fictional ones, seem to leap off the page to lead lives of their own outside of the words written there. One can imagine Melinoe wandering round the halls of her luxurious home, caressing her collections of art, while René, in another time, is concocting his perfumes for Catherine de Medici, and at the same time, Jac and Griffin are wandering the back streets of Paris to find a small, romantic cafe.

Although this is the sixth book in the series, it is the first one I have read. However, it is so well written that it works just as well as a stand alone novel (at present, I do not know exactly how it ties in with the rest of the series, but it will be fun finding out when I go back to read the rest of them!).

Rose has a way with words that grips the reader and won’t let go till exhaustion forces one to lay down the book or risk dropping it – it’s one of those books that one simply cannot put down unless absolutely forced, bu one is so caught up in the mystery that it simply does not matter. Indeed, nothing matters but finishing the next chapter. And the next. And the next, until the exciting conclusion is reached at last.

A word to the wise – don’t read this one in bed unless you can afford to be up all night and cancel your morning meetings!

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Tours, Book Reviews

Anna Belfrage author guest post

anna belfrage

Anna Belfrage Author of The Graham Saga novels

First of all, may I start by sweeping Lady Kell an appropriately deep curtsey. Thank you for hosting me!

Today I thought we’d talk a bit about manipulation – and how susceptible we all are to being manipulated. Not exactly breaking news, I know. Back in the very good old days, Alexander the Great’s equally great (if somewhat less handsome and definitely much more unpolished) father, Philip of Macedonia, had already established his manipulative tactics; divide and conquer.  This works very well for an emperor / king/ dictator surrounded by ambitious individuals who slaver at the mouth the closer they get to the intoxicating scent of ultimate power. It works less well with sycophants, as chances are all that dividing and conquering will result in an extremely ineptly run empire/kingdom – which of course mostly reflects on the emperor/king himself.

Several centuries later, Niccolo Machiavelli was to write the ultimate handbook of manipulation, The Prince. This is actually a little gem of a book, showing great insight into what makes most of us tick and tock. What comes across quite clearly is that most of us want to be manipulated, told what to believe. The masses prefer not to think – at least not too hard – which was why those ancient Roman Emperors were spot on with their “Bread and Games” policy. Keep people fed and entertained, and most of them will do as you want them to do.

The examples proving the above line themselves up in an interminable line. Hitler tapped into the same oratory, as did the leaders of The French revolution (Games here being replaced with Executions). However, as Serpents in the Garden is not set in 18th century France or 20th century Germany, I would instead like to turn your attention to London in the late 17th century – and a rather unappealing man called Titus Oates.

Let’s make some things clear here; I do not like Titus. The world would have been a better place without him, so it is a pity he didn’t die at birth or was carried off by the whopping cough before he was two. Not to be, sadly. Also, whatever manipulative lies Titus told, they were only believed because people wanted to believe them. People craved his lies, his simplistic view on life. Had someone in authority challenged Titus, torn the can of gigantic fibs he presented as truths wide open, Titus would have been out on his ear so fast no one today would remember his name. Unfortunately, the people with authority rubbed their hands with glee at Titus’ fabrications – just what they needed to further destabilise the political situation.

England at the time was seething with religious unrest – not an uncommon state of affairs during the 17th century. However, in the late 1670’s, things were rapidly coming to a head between the fanatic anti-Catholics and the somewhat more tolerant. The king, Charles II, had no son to take over – at least no legitimate sons – and so the heir to the throne was the Catholic Duke of York. Brrr. A shiver coursed through the limbs of the very Protestant Parliament.

How convenient then, that Titus should pop up and fan the flames of anti-popery even higher by declaring he had proof of a plot to kill Charles II, a terrible, terrible plot which, among others, implicated the king’s Catholic queen. Charles, to his credit, laughed and declared Titus a fraud. Parliament did not. They skipped with joy, clapping their hands at this most fortunate turn of events.

While the king did not believe Titus’ lies, he was somewhat constrained in what he could do to defend the poor Catholics who were now rounded up and accused of one terrible crime after the other. To appear too sympathetic to Catholics could be dangerous for the king, and he had no intention of ending up like his father did – beheaded, to a large extent due to religious issues.

Over a period of xx months, Titus’ unsubstantiated accusations lead to over 15 people being executed – all of them Catholic. The political powers had achieved what they wanted; a headless Catholic party. When Titus was no longer of any use, he was accused of sedition and thrown in jail – a very different existence to that he led some months back, when he had rooms at Whitehall palace and was wined and dined by the peers of the realm.

 When Charles II died, the former Duke of York became king as James II. He had scores to settle with dear old Titus, and so Oates was pilloried, he was brutally whipped – but survived. Three years later, James II was history, replaced by the very Protestant William & Mary. Titus Oates was released from prison and given a generous pension for the rest of his life. I guess the powers that were felt they owed their pet liar for having rid the realm of all those dangerous – and innocent – papists.

Anna Belfrage is the author of The Graham Saga – so far five of the total eight books have been published. Set in seventeenth century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, The Graham Saga tell the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him.

Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Guest Posts

Review: Serpents in the Garden by Anna Belfrage (The Graham Saga #5)

serpents-in-the-gardenTitle: Serpents in the Garden (The Graham Saga #5)
Author: Anna Belfrage
ISBN: 978-1781321737
Publisher: SilverWood
First Published: 27 February 2014 (Kindle) / 1 March 2014 (Paperback)
No .of pages: 396

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis (from Amazon):
‘Serpents in the Garden’ is the fifth book in Anna Belfrage’s time slip series featuring time traveller Alexandra Lind and her seventeenth century husband, Matthew Graham. After years of hard work, Matthew and Alex Graham have created a thriving home in the Colony of Maryland. About time, in Alex’s opinion, after far too many adventures she is really looking forward to some well-deserved peace and quiet. A futile hope, as it turns out. Things start to heat up when Jacob, the third Graham son, absconds from his apprenticeship to see the world – especially as Jacob leaves behind a girl whom he has wed in a most irregular fashion. Then there’s the infected matter of the fellow time traveller Alex feels obliged to help – no matter the risk. Worst of all, one day Philip Burley and his brothers resurface after years of absence. As determined as ever to make Matthew pay for every perceived wrong – starting with the death of their youngest brother – the Burleys play out a complicated cat and mouse game, and Alex is thrown back into an existence where her heart is constantly in her mouth, convinced as she is that one day the Burleys will achieve their purpose. Will the Burleys succeed? And if they do, will the Graham family survive the exacted price?

Review:
I only came to this series of books at the fourth novel (see my review HERE) but found it surprisingly easy to pick them up from this point and not be lost to what went before (indeed, it has made me resolve to go back and read the others on account of the story and writing being so good!).

This is the fifth book in The Graham Saga and it is every bit as good as the previous installment – I suspect the whole series is of the same level, as Belfrage’s writing has thus far been of a consistently high calibre that should be the envy of many other authors: She achieves, seemingly with ease, what all writers strive to reach, but is often out of their grasp.

Our favourite characters return; Alex and Matthew Graham continue to carve a life for themselves and their ever increasing family in The New World, but their past is catching up with them and old feuds are resurrected by the return of the Burleys (ooh, how much would I like to get my hands on those guys and wring their necks myself?!); their third son runs off to sea, but not before creating complications with the girl he loves; and other family trials are threatening to tear the family apart. Is there anything life won’t throw at these good people? It makes for gripping reading and I found myself often on the edge of my seat, never wanting to put down the book, even when other things in life demanded my immediate attention – that’s exactly what a good book should do to readers!

I find myself wondering if Belfrage can put a foot wrong with this series? It would seem not, and I, for one, am incredibly glad we have another three books of the saga still to be published – I can hardly wait to get my hands on them! Till then, I shall content myself by going back to the beginning and reading the series from the very start…

Leave a comment

Filed under Blog Tours, Book Reviews

BLOG TOUR: An interview with Andra Watkins

to-live-foreverTo Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis has been described as a genre-bending novel. How would you describe it and on which bookshop shelf would you place it?
I call it a genre-bending novel. It’s a mix of historical fiction, paranormal fiction and suspense/adventure fiction. Some readers have described it as magical realism and as young adult. At the end of the day, I fear we are too hung up on categories. I just tried to write a book I’d always wanted to read, and I hope other readers will feel the same way.

The novel is a great concept – what first gave you the spark of an idea to write the story, and what was your greatest inspiration when writing it?
Thank you! I first thought about writing the book when I was working in Nashville. I was rushing to a meeting in the West End. When I looked to my right, there was the Parthenon, this historic end of the Natchez Trace. I looked to my left, and there was a tiny road sign that read “Natchez Tr.” I started thinking about how Meriwether Lewis died on the Trace, and my imagination took it from there.

Research is a large part of a writer’s work. How long did you spend on research for this novel, and do you enjoy that side of writing? What do you enjoy best of all when writing?
I read academic works and biographies for several months as research for this novel. I also drove the entire Natchez Trace over two separate trips, and I spent time in New Orleans, both touring sites for the book and interviewing people who’d lived there for decades. I’ve always been a history geek, but I never wanted to write straight historical fiction. A book like To Live Forever gives me the ability to dive into research and still make up a new story, which is the kind of writing I enjoy best of all.

Do you enjoy the promotional side of things, such as public readings and signings? If so, which has been your most enjoyable experience?
I’m a former stage actress (Ooh, me too! How exciting!), so promotional things are really fun for me. Parnassus Books in Nashville hosted me for an author event and book signing, and I was honored that they chose me. I loved meeting readers and hearing their stories. That’s the best thing about writing: meeting the people whose lives are touched by my words.

Can you tell us a little about what other work you have in the pipeline?
To launch To Live Forever, I was the first living person to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did. I did it in 34 days. Because my novel is about a girl’s relationship with her father, I took my almost-80-year-old father along on the trip. I’m writing a memoir called Not Without My Father, about the importance of taking the time to have a five-week adventure with my father at the end of his life. It will be available Fall 2014. I’m also working on a sequel to To Live Forever, which will be available Spring 2015.

Author Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Google+
Pinterest

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Interviews, Blog Tours

BLOG TOUR: To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis – Author guest post

natchezNatchez Trace Walk

The Natchez Trace is a 10,000-year-old road that runs from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee. Thousands of years ago, animals used its natural ridge line as a migratory route from points in the Ohio River Valley to the salt licks in Mississippi. It was logical for the first Native Americans to settle along the Trace to follow part of their migrating food supply. When the Kaintucks settled west of the Appalachians, they had to sell their goods at ports in New Orleans or Natchez, but before steam power, they had to walk home. The Trace became one of the busiest roads in North America.

To launch To Live Forever: An Afterlife Journey of Meriwether Lewis, I will be the first person of either sex to walk the 444-mile Natchez Trace as the pioneers did since the rise of steam power in the 1820′s. March 1, 2014 to April 3, 2014. Fifteen miles a day. Six days a week. One rest day per week. I will spend each night in the modern-day equivalent of stands, places much like Grinder’s Stand, where Meriwether Lewis died from two gunshot wounds on October 11, 1809.

I will take readers into the world of the book. You’ll see the places that inspired scenes and hear the backstories of different characters, with running commentary by my father, who’s tagging along with me.

I’ll also have a daily YouTube segment where I answer reader questions about the book, my walk, my arguments—I mean—interactions with my dad, and whatever readers want to know. Ask me anything at mystories@andrawatkins.com

You might see yourself on this site during my tour.

 

Author Links

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads
Google+
Pinterest

Leave a comment

Filed under Author Guest Posts, Blog Tours