Shawn L. Bird

Original poetry, commentary, and fiction. All copyrights reserved.

Review: Shadow Between Us March 6, 2019

I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley.

I have read all of Carol Mason’s books, so I was delighted to have the opportunity to review this book which is scheduled for release the end of March 2019.

Carol writes “Women’s Fiction.” In other words, stories about women’s lives, beyond a basic romance story. In Shadow Between Us, she explores her deepest fear.  What if the worst thing you can imagine happened to you?  How would you cope?

Protagonist Olivia copes by abandoning husband and home in Seattle and holing up in the charming port town of Port Townsend, WA, where she meets a young veteran maimed in Afghanistan.  I was glued to the e-reader working out the clues.  What has happened?  Why has Olivia left her husband?  Will they get back together?  Why isn’t her daughter talking to her?  Will she stay in Port Townsend?

So much mystery! So much tension!

No spoilers here.  Let’s just say, I didn’t see it coming, which is always great.   It was a thoroughly enjoyable read.

I am an Amazon Affiliate, so if you buy from that link, I get a commission.

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blog chain interview with author Carol Mason September 9, 2013

 

Here is a blog chain contribution by Carol Mason.  Carol’s website is being stubborn, so we’re posting her responses here. 🙂

 

Thanks to author Shawn Bird for inviting me to participate here. You have asked some really great questions!

1. What inspired you to begin writing?

When I was graduating university, a fellow student was about to start writing Harlequin Romances. She believed she could write one easily, and that it would be a fast way to making money. Of course, she was deluded, as I’m sure she later learned. Writing is not easy, be it literary fiction or a Harlequin bodice-ripper! And getting published is even harder. But it planted the seed. I’d always wanted to write. So I thought, Ok, if she’s going to try it, maybe I will too…. (I started to try to write Harlequins then wondered what on earth was I doing! I didn’t even enjoy reading these books. But it gave me a starting point until I found my feet so to speak and discovered that it was women’s contemporary fiction that was my calling, not necessarily romances.

2. How does being a British ex-pat living in Canada impact your writing?

My voice is very British. Despite living in fabulous BC for many years, I still feel very British. But I want my books to be sold in more countries than just the UK so I have to remind myself not to use words that are too regional. Sometimes I try to sound more North American but it feels wrong. We have to be who we are at the end of the day, don’t we? That is never more true than when it comes to writing…

3. In your own books, who is your favourite character? Why?

I loved Leigh in The Secrets of Married Women, my first novel. Leigh is a bit of a dark, complicated woman, capable of having great fun and being a great friend, yet equally capable of deceit at the worst level. This makes her fascinating to me. Writing her, I was intrigued by what she was going to do next and how her friends seemed to underestimate her until there was an eye-opening event that changed everything… As far as my male characters go, then Mike in The Love Market. Mike is not your typical hero. He’s not tall. He’s not especially good-looking, or successful or ambitious, and he’s got strange dress sense. But no one could love their wife as much as Mike loves his wife – or, now, ex-wife. He’s the kind of guy we all want in our life – as a 100% reliable friend, definitely. As a romantic interest… well, you would have to decide. Yet as we discover, Mike might be a nice guy, but he’s not a door mat. Mike has a breaking point that gave me as an objective reader of my own novel, tremendous respect for him.

4. What author has inspired you?

So many! Rosie Thomas, initially. I remember reading her novel Other People’s Marriages and thinking Whoo! This is the kind of book I want to write! Then I read all of hers and didn’t dislike any of them. I have read so many novels yet this one always sticks in my mind for some reason. Then chicklit came along and some of it was good and so much of it was bad… I never totally latched onto a great, great chicklit author, preferring the more complex stories of the type Rosie writes.

5. You frequently write about your travels on your Facebook page. What is your most memorable travel story?

Just the other day my husband and I were recalling our visit to Tuscany 2 years ago, and laughing about this. We were in the very charming Montepulciano, and it was April and not especially warm. There were few tourists around and we were looking for a place to eat dinner. A charming young Italian lured us into his restaurant with a very long and engaging speech about the purity of his ingredients, his wife’s skill as a chef, and a certain kind of local and rare wild boar that his wife specialized in cooking. (my husband speaks Italian). Anyway, we love our food and his restaurant sounded amazing, so we dutifully trotted back there at 7pm when he opened for dinner. Basically it was a small place of about 10 tables, and his wife worked the kitchen and he worked the floor. There was no other staff. We were to receive a 5 course meal he told us, but little did we know that each course would be introduced with a lengthy description of the origins of the food, his wife’s rationale for pairing ingredients, the history of the various condiments that were served with each course…..a twenty minute lecture on the various types of wine that would accompany each dish… It was a bit like going to cooking school, only instead of the teacher addressing a classroom, this young man addressed each table individually, repeating the same story with everyone who walked in the door, which left him little time to actually serve food. By the time all 10 tables were occupied and he’d repeated his spiel 10 times, we had been in there two hours before we’d even seen the first course – a rather disappointing pasta with dry bits of beef in it. The build-up to his famous wild boar main course was almost more than any of us could stand. Wasn’t that the real reason why we were all here? We had certainly worked up an appetite. My husband and I were salivating with anticipation, as were the two Americans at the table next to us. I had a feeling we were in for something fabulous that would live in our memory for years to come as our truly authentic gourmet experience of Italy. I even had my camera at the ready. When the boar finally arrived, my husband and I looked down at our plates just as we heard the American woman say, “It’s a slice of ham!’ And it truly was. No adornment. No accompaniment. Just one, thin, flat, pink slice of pleasant-enough but highly boring old ham. We suffered through the courses that followed – each one more underwhelming than the one that had gone before. Then the chef came out to take a bow! Yes. And we applaud her because we felt so bad for her, plus we were just glad the whole thing was finally over. I could have gone to the theatre and had dinner and after-theatre drinks in the time we sat there. We weren’t let out until nearly midnight. I suppose I should have known – you know, Boar=Ham. But somehow, being in Italy, and being wooed by a handsome young restaurateur who seemed so passionate about food, I had hoped for a fabulous experience. Well, an experience it was, but fabulous, not so much!

6. Do you have a favourite writing quotation to share?

“If you can’t tell stories, create characters, devise incidents and have sincerity and passion, it doesn’t matter a damn how you write.”  Somerset Maugham. Because it’s true. Being a good writer is not even close to enough.

7. What do you like about writing for ‘women’s fiction’?

I can explore issues that interest me, or ones I’ve personally had experience with, or am familiar with through my encounters with friends. I can really get into that endlessly fascinating territory of what makes women tick – the good, the bad and the entirely preposterous. I don’t have to do massive chunks of research. Nobody is going to think I’m an idiot when I wrongly interpret history. Sometimes I get to shock people because they assume I’ve experienced everything I write about! If only that were true!

8. What has been the most interesting thing that has happened to you because you are an author?

For the launch of my first novel, my publisher, Hodder, invited me to The Grove (a very posh destination spa/resort in England) for a media event. It was attended by 10 other authors – many of whom I admire, and whose novels I have read. It was a fancy event with many of the country’s major media present, complete with an overnight stay and fabulous meals with ever-flowing champagne. I felt so privileged to be included among so many successful novelists. I could never have afforded to stay there if the publisher hadn’t been paying. I got to dress up. I wrongly assumed a writer’s life would be glamorous like this everyday. It isn’t. But I still wouldn’t change a thing about it.

9. Which of your books was the easiest to write? Why?

Send Me A Lover. For some reason I really related to the young widow who wanted so badly to believe her husband was up there looking after her and helping her find new love. Plus it includes a lovely trip to Greece where I had recently been. And the young widow’s mother is a lot like my own – so I felt I could write their quirky dynamics so easily! It was a funny and sad book that somehow just flowed for me.

10. Which of your books was the most difficult to write? Why?

I think my first one. Or at least, the first one to get published (The Secrets of Married Women). Mainly because I had what I thought was a structure, then it had to change as my editor at my literary agency thought it wasn’t working. Then it went through so many edits when my agent found me a publisher. I constantly felt like it was 100% good enough, only to be told that I still had far to go before it was up to the standard it needed to be at. It really showed me how you can write a good book, in fact a knockout book, but there are lots of other published writers out there writing knockout novels, and the competition is very very stiff. If you’re not as good as the best, then you simply aren’t going to compete. You won’t get published. Then you won’t stay published.

11. I remember you telling me that someone broke into your house and stole your computer, and the two completed novels on it. Was losing those works a blessing or a curse in the long run?

Those were the two Harlequin novels I wrote in the very beginning! I was really just cutting my teeth on them. I learned how to start a book, finish a book and give a book a middle. So that was valuable, of course. At the time it felt like a huge trauma to have them stolen. But really, it was probably a blessing. I really don’t think they were all that great anyway!

Next in the chain!

I am going to ask 11 questions of Kim Hornsby, author of The Dream Jumper’s Promise and Necessary Detour, to name two. http://www.kimhornsbyauthor.net/ Kim, here goes…

1. Describe the type of books you write, as I believe you also write under a pen name.

2. You were once photographed with Sylvester Stallone. Is there something about you that we need to know?

3. What is your ultimate dream as a writer if you could map the course of your writer’s career?

4. What is the best novel you have read recently and the one that disappointed you the most, and why?

5. Describe your writing process – to plot or not to plot, before you begin?

6. Since you first started writing, up until now, how would you say you have grown as a writer?

7. How do you come up with a book idea?

8. How secure are you as a writer (given that creative people are thought to be quite insecure about their art)? If you had a great book idea and 5 of your writer friends shot it down, would you write it anyway?

9. Without giving away any plot, what is your favourite scene in a book you’ve written?

10. If you were forbidden from writing novels, what would you do that might come close to satisfying you?

11. Tell me about Beach Read Authors. What can readers hope to find there?

 

interview- blog chain from Jodi McIsaac to Carol Mason September 7, 2013

In August I met the lovely Jodi McIsaac at When Words Collide Writers Conference in Calgary.  I loved her excellent novel Through the Door.   Jodi has invited me to participate in an author blog chain.  She asked me eleven questions. Here are my responses.

1. What do you love about the YA genre?

YA is awesome because it encompasses everything that the teen years encompass- pathos, angst, joy, celebration, challenge, success, energy, dreams, fear, possibility, and hope.  Whether it’s fantasy, sci-fi, horror, adventure, sports, drama, or romance, if it’s YA it has that vital spark of youth.  I love that.

2. What do you hate about it?

I don’t think there’s anything to hate.  It’s so diverse a genre that hating anything seems a bit shallow and pointless.  I do dislike authors who write for a young adult audience like they’re preaching and teaching to idiots.  I know teens are capable of deep thought and understanding.  They deserve a respectful attitude.

3. What was the first story you ever wrote?

I don’t know for sure, but my mother found a story called “Minnow’s Pride” that I’d written in grade three or four.  It was about a pride of lions.

4. What is your favourite mythological creature?

I quite like griffins.

5. Do you write on a regular schedule, or just whenever you can find time for it?

When I have a project on the go, I try to keep a regular schedule of about 6000 words a week.  I aim for 1200 words a day, Monday to Friday, and if I don’t reach that, then I have to have it done by Sunday night.  I tend to write throughout the day in three or four spurts.  I’m most active at night, though.

I’ve also done NaNoWriMo in November.  This involves writing 50,000 words in the month, averaging 1867 words every day.  This is a killer pace!  I prefer Camp NaNoWriMo in July because you can set your own goal.  I chose 28000 words which was much more humane pace for me.

When I’m working on the editing and re-writing I tend to procrastinate a lot.

6. What is your ideal writing space, and how does it compare to what you have now?

I want to write with a view of the lake and hills, but my current windows are too high for a view of the hills visible from the front my house, and my house is about five feet too low for a lake view, so….

I dream of a writing turret set as a third story with a wall of floor to ceiling windows on the front and wrapping six feet along each side.  On the rest of the wall space, I’d like floor to ceiling book shelves.  Following Stephen King’s instructions, the desk will be in the middle of the room.  There will be a comfy arm chair with room for dogs, who will readily climb the spiral staircase with a skill that amazes guests.

I keep mentioning this wonderful writing space to hubby, but so far he has not bought into the brilliance of my plan, hired the architect, or scheduled a builder.  (I do have a friend who’s an architect and my brother is a builder, so I could make this happen with the barest of encouragement…)  😉

Now, I write all over: lying on the couch, at a desk in the living room, in the bath…

7. What is your best strategy for dealing with critical reviews? 

If it’s a reviewer you trust, consider whether there’s any  observations there to take in order to improve the next project.  If there aren’t, and it’s just a matter of the reviewer having different taste or expectations, ignore it and focus on the positive interactions with those who enjoy what you write.  No point dwelling on the negative.  I had one review where the reviewer plainly hadn’t done more than skim the book, because she made several blatantly incorrect statements about the plot.  What can you do?

8. What is your best piece of writing advice for young writers?

Read.  Write.  Read.  Write.  Repeat.

Kids don’t accept the simplicity of that, though, so here’s what I repeat ad nauseum in my English classes to encourage them to do the above:

The words are in the pen.

The act of writing frees the words.

Don’t think: write.

Write crap.

First drafts don’t have to be good, they just have to be written.

Yes.  You can.

9. Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter?

Harry Potter.

10. If you could be one of the characters in your books for a day, who would it be?

Auntie Bright.  (I”m giggling as I type that).

11. Who is your literary hero, and why?

Diana Gabaldon.  She is a brilliant writer, crafts characters so real they are like dear friends, builds relationships with her fans, generously shares her wisdom with new writers, and encourages excellence.

.

And now onto the next person in the literary chain! Let me introduce you to Carol Mason,  best-selling author of The Love Market, Send Me A Lover,  and The Secrets of Married Women.  The books are published in more than thirteen countries and available in more than nine languages.   I met Carol at the Surrey International Writing Conference where she was presenting a workshop on writing a good pitch.  She coached me through the writing and polishing of mine.  Her advice was so good the publisher requested  three chapters.  Carol is from Britain, but lives in Vancouver, BC now.

1. What inspired you to begin writing?

2. How does being a British ex-pat living in Canada impact your writing?

3. In your own books, who is your favourite character?  Why?

4. What author has inspired you?

5. You frequently write about your travels on your Facebook page.  What is your most memorable travel story?

6. Do you have a favourite writing quotation to share?

7. What do you like about writing for ‘women’s fiction’?

8. What has been the most interesting thing that has happened to you because you are an author?

9. Which of your books was the easiest to write?  Why?

10. Which of your books was the most difficult to write? Why?

11. I remember you telling me that someone broke into your house and stole your computer, and the two completed novels on it.  Was losing those works a blessing or a curse in the long run?

Now stay tuned to see how Carol replies!  I’ll provide a link when she does!)

 

the other side of the pitch February 18, 2012

When I attended my first writing conference- the Surrey International Writers’ Conference in 2009- I was told about The Elevator Pitch. This is the 30 second blurb about your book that establishes the protagonist, conflict, theme and audience. You need one, because every time you’re asked, “What’s your book about?” you should be able to answer concisely, in a manner that catches the person’s interest. I worked with author Carol Mason to polish mine, and when I presented it to Crystal of Gumboot Books that afternoon, it earned me a “Yes, we’d like to see more!” and eventually a contract.

I wondered at the time, what is it like for an agent, publisher or editor at these events? They’re the ones being pounced upon by every would-be writer in the building. Everyone there has something to pitch, and the APEs are the ones being pitched at. The image in my head is someone standing in the middle of the room, frantically covering his head while baseballs rain down from every direction.

Mark Glenchur has written a delightful poem that gives a hilarious view from the APE side. Unfortunately, the writer in the poem did not have a 30 second elevator pitch polished and ready.  Read and learn.

 

 
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