30 August 2015

Winner of the Salt Creek giveaway announced

Thanks to all those who entered last week's Friday Freebie, and went into the running to win a copy of Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar (thanks to Pan Macmillan Australia & Picador).

The giveaway was popular with 24 individual entrants, most of which qualified for multiple entries after subscribing by email, following on Google Connect or sharing on Twitter and Facebook etc. With these additional entries the total number of competition entries was 68.

The giveaway closed at midnight on Friday 28th August, and the winner was drawn today:

Congratulations Odette!!
Congratulations Odette, you'll receive an email shortly letting you know about your win and requesting your postal details, after which you'll have 5 days to provide a valid postal address.


I'd like to thank Pan Macmillan Australia for providing the giveaway, and all of you who entered, shared and tweeted. If you missed out this time, please enter my current giveaway here and try your luck again.

28 August 2015

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt

Available August 2015
RRP $29.99
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *

Today's Friday Freebie is the opportunity to WIN a print copy of Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt. See below for details.

Blurb
A deeply compelling and poignant story that, like the novels of Pat Barker or Sebastian Faulks' Birdsong, dramatises the tragic lessons of war, the significance of belonging and of memory - without which we become lost, even to ourselves.

Spring, 1945: A man wakes in a field in a country he does not know. Injured and confused, he pulls himself to his feet and starts to walk, and so sets out on an extraordinary journey in search of his home, his past and himself.

His name is Owen. A war he has only a vague memory of joining is in its dying days, and as he tries to get back to England he becomes caught up in the flood of refugees pouring through Europe. Among them is a teenage boy, Janek, and together they form an unlikely alliance as they cross battle-worn Germany. 

When they meet a troubled young woman, tempers flare and scars are revealed as Owen gathers up the shattered pieces of his life. No one is as he remembers, not even himself - how can he truly return home when he hardly recalls what home is?

Author Bio
Jason Hewitt is a novelist, playwright and actor. He was born in Oxford, and lives in London. He is the author of The Dynamite Room and Devastation Road.

Giveaway

26 August 2015

Review: Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell

Robin Maxwell is one of my favourite historical fiction authors and she's written about some famous and influential female figures from history, including: Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth I.

Signora da Vinci is told from the perspective of Leonardo da Vinci's mother, Caterina. We begin in 1452, when Caterina gives birth out of wedlock to Leonardo. Her heart is broken when her lover's family refuse to accept the match and rip Leonardo from her arms to raise in their - more noble - family.

Caterina is an apothecary after her father, who is a well-travelled, well-read and respected man in their little town of Vinci in Italy. When her son becomes a man, he moves to Florence and Caterina wishes to see him. Not being able to travel alone (as a woman) and fearing recognition from Leonardo's father, she disguises herself as a man and changes her name to Cato.

Her disguise works and the novel really takes off from here. Lorenzo de' Medici becomes Leonardo's patron and Cato one of his closest friends.

Signora da Vinci is filled with art (the great Botticelli is also a character), religion (including the making of the Shroud of Turin by Leonardo) alchemy and the pursuit of knowledge, however forbidden it might be. 

Cato is invited to join The Platonic Academy and I thoroughly enjoyed his deception and the insights Caterina was able to get from carrying herself as a man. I also have a new appreciation for the portrait of the Mona Lisa, but no spoilers here.

Not much is really known about Leonardo's mother Caterina, and so when reading Signora da Vinci you will enjoy it more if you suspend your disbelief and just dive in. It's fair to say that a number of liberties have been taken with dates and events, but the period has been well researched and this is a fun 'what if' read.

My Rating = ****


Carpe Librum!

24 August 2015

HFVBT Guest Post: Costuming the Modern Day Swashbuckler from J.M. Aucoin, author of Honor Among Thieves

J.M. Aucoin is an historical fiction writer and I'm pleased to host him on his Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tour today. He's the author of Honor Among Thievesa gripping tale of daring sword-play and political intrigue in 17th Century France.

What makes this author stand out from the rest though, is that he loves fencing and creating his own historical costumes. He doesn't just just write historical fiction, he lives and breathes it!
Author Bio
Author. Fencer. Sometimes actor. Full-time nerd. J.M. Aucoin is the product of when a five-year-old boy who fell in love with reruns of Guy William’s Zorro grows into a mostly functional adult. He now spends his time writing swashbucklers and historical adventure stories, and has an (un)healthy obsession with The Three Musketeers.

When not writing, he practices historical fencing, crafts historical outfits, and covers the Boston Bruins for the award-winning blog Days of Y’Orr. For more info visit J.M. Aucoin’s website and blog. You can also find him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and YouTube.

Author J.M. Aucoin, designs and makes his own costumes

Guest Post: The Sword & the Needle - Costuming the Modern Day Swashbuckler

Anyone who knows me knows how big of a swashbuckler fan I am. Zorro. The Three Musketeers. Captain Blood. Pirates of the Caribbean. If it’s a book or movie with someone wielding a sword, there’s a good chance I’ll love it. I’ve been like that as wee lad, watching reruns of Zorro starring Guy Williams on the Disney Channel. I must’ve gone as Zorro almost every year for Halloween as a kid.


Author J.M. Aucoin
Of course, not much has changed in the decades since then. I just have a slightly bigger budget and a finer appreciation for natural fabrics. And as much as the flashing steel glinting heroically in the moonlight caught my captivation as a small child, the clothing of 17th Century also caught my attention. The leather gloves, wide-brim hats with impressive plumes, bucket boots, spurs. Seriously. Who wouldn’t want to dress like these guys?

It’s this 17th Century cavalier/Musketeer look that I go for when I’m making my own garb. Along with writing historical adventure novels and piratical short-stories, I also sew and fence in the Society for Creative Anachronism. It’s been a perfect place to let me live out my childhood dreams.
J.M. Aucoin on the left, photo by Scott Tollefson.

Garb making for me has the added challenge of making sure it passes the SCA “armor” requirements. I won’t bore you with the details; just know that the clothing we wear while fighting also doubles as armor should a sword break (which is extremely rare) and then hit us. 

Like most things I do, I decide to jump in the deep end when I first started learning to sew. Most people would maybe start off with something simple like a sewing a winter scarf or maybe a puffy shirt. A handkerchief even. But being an “all or nothing” type guy, I decided I wanted to make myself a cassock and a 1630s-style doublet.
J.M. Aucoin’s first sewing projects.
Photo by Tricia Augustine Sobo.
 
  

A 100+ buttons later the cassock was done. Soon thereafter I had myself a fancy doublet. Having some go-to movies definitely helps pass the time when you’re hand sewing 100 buttons. Pretty sure I can quote Man in the Iron Mask from start to finish. 

I’ll admit, I had the good fortune of my fiancee, Kate, being an amazing costumer herself, and patient enough to teach me how make my own stuff. There were a lot of “Did I pin this correctly?” before running it through the machine. There were even more long nights with a seam ripper and rage quitting for a few days. A project isn’t official unless I’ve thrown it across the room in disgust, and Kate’s talked me off the ledge from abandoning it.

There are few things I take into consideration when making myself “fight ready” garb. The first being range of motion. I’ve used some doublet patterns that didn’t scale well in the armhole, which lead to restrictive moments, the clothing pulling at weird spots, and seems ripping. Limited motion isn’t exactly what you want when someone’s flashing 3.5’ of steel at your face.

So a lot of my doublets — especially some of the first ones I made — were sleeveless. Makes for full range and a little more breathability. And sometimes you just want some simple garb to fight to wear when fighting in the mud.

The second thing I think about is comfortability/heat levels. I worry a little less about this than mobility since I know I’m going to be sweaty fencing regardless of what I wear. Sword fighting isn’t a neat & tidy business, after all. But I’m not going to wear my thick brocade doublet and full-length wool cassock lined in silk when it’s 90 degrees out and humid as hell out… at least, I won’t do that again… I learned my lesson… kinda.
Real men wear lace

Lately, I’ve decided to up my garb game some more. Been looking at extent examples for inspiration and seeing some of the details used to adorn clothing in the 1600s. What type of trim they use and where they put it on their doublets and breeches. Clothes make the man, as they say.

I’m far from an master tailor. I’m a competing costumer, but I’m merely a novice in terms of researching historical clothing. There’s always something new to learn, something new to try. In the past year I’ve started adding the lace falling bands and hand falls to my doublets, giving that extra splash of dashing rogue that captivated me as a kid. A silk sash to show off an officer’s rank and a sense of valor. I’ve even drafted my own spur leather pattern and learned the basics of molding and finishing a cavalier hat (tip: it’s all about the plumes).

If you told me 10 years ago that I would be making my own clothing and some of it would be made of lace, I’d probably die of laughter. And yet here we are.


Adventure always awaits.
--------------------------------------
When not sewing or swashbuckling, J.M. Aucoin writes historical adventure novels. His debut full-length novel Honor Among Thieves is available in paperback and for KindleTo keep up with his swashbuckling adventures, visit www.JMAucoin.com.

For more on historical fencing or to follow J.M. Aucoin’s historical costuming projects, visit TheTavern Knight’s BarracksFor more on his cosplay, please visit his Deviantart page.


Check out the other stops on this blog tour below.


Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, August 24
Kick Off & Giveaway at Passages to the Past
Guest Post at Carpe Librum

Tuesday, August 25
Spotlight at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book

Wednesday, August 26
Spotlight at Book Babe
Spotlight at CelticLady's Reviews

Thursday, August 27
Review at Book Nerd
Excerpt at Boom Baby Reviews

Friday, August 28
Guest Post at Back Porchervations
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Saturday, August 29
Spotlight at Svetlana's Reads and Views

Sunday, August 30
Excerpt at The Never-Ending Book

Monday, August 31
Review at Genre Queen

Guest Post & Giveaway at Let Them Read Books

21 August 2015

Friday Freebie: WIN a copy of Salt Creek by Lucy Treloar

Available August 2015
RRP $29.99
* Copy courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia & Picador *

Blurb
Salt Creek, 1855, lies at the far reaches of the remote, beautiful and inhospitable coastal region, the Coorong, in the new province of South Australia. The area, just opened to graziers willing to chance their luck, becomes home to Stanton Finch and his large family, including fifteen-year-old Hester Finch.

Once wealthy political activists, the Finch family has fallen on hard times. Cut adrift from the polite society they were raised to be part of, Hester and her siblings make connections where they can: with the few travellers that pass along the nearby stock route - among them a young artist, Charles - and the Ngarrindjeri people they have dispossessed. Over the years that pass, and Aboriginal boy, Tully, at first a friend, becomes part of the family.

Stanton's attempts to tame the harsh landscape bring ruin to the Ngarrindjeri people's homes and livelihoods, and unleash a chain of events that will tear the family asunder. As Hester witnesses the destruction of the Ngarrindjeri's subtle culture and the ideals that her family once held so close, she begins to wonder what civilization is. Was it for this life and this world that she was educated?

Giveaway

19 August 2015

Interview with Honey Brown, discussing her new book Six Degrees and upcoming events at the Melbourne Writer's Festival

Bestselling Australian author, Honey Brown
Thanks for joining me today Honey, and congratulations on the release of Six Degrees (6D) this month. I understand you’ve just come home from the Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, how was it?
It was my first time at the festival. It was lovely to discover how outdoorsy it is – marquees, green rolling lawns, sunshine, a truly “festival” vibe. One of my favourite moments was chatting with Jane Caro. We had one of those unexpected and terrifically candid conversations. (Green Rooms are good for that.) I also loved sneaking into the back rows of the other events and listening to the other speakers.     

What was the hardest part of writing Six Degrees? Were you embarrassed or did you feel vulnerable at all writing such a sexy and erotic novel? (I remember the sex scenes in Red Queen were just as HOT!)
I actually really enjoy talking about and writing about sex. If not for my obsession with fiction writing, I’d probably study to be a sex therapist. Writing a good sex scene is always a challenge though. The characters need real depth for the sex to be truly sexy. That’s always the hardest part – making the characters real and their responses real.  

The sex in Six Degrees is meaningful and sensual while still being racy and exciting and anything but gratuitous. How did you achieve this balance?
In regard to the sex being meaningful, I made sure there was a point to each encounter, and that the sex was an extension of the character’s personalities. And with regard to making it sensual and racy, that’s a tough one to answer. It is such a balancing act. There’s some trial and error involved, lots of rewriting and editing. It comes down to being careful with each and every word, shooing your vanity out of the room, and writing truthfully and honestly. 

I love that phrase 'shooing your vanity out of the room.' I read an article in The Age on 24 July where the reporter said you were a self-confessed neat freak. I also read that you have to tidy first before you can write. This is really interesting, can you tell us more? Can you describe your writing area for us?
I feel in control and calmer if things are tidy around me. There’s a level of practicality to it too – if all the housework is done before I start writing, I don’t have to stop to hang out washing or stack the dishwasher. I have two different writing spots, one at the kitchen table and one in my home office. At the kitchen table I have a great view out over the paddocks and down the driveway. In my office, I’m a bit more boxed in, but that can be a good thing. When I’m writing I like to have a selection of well-written books beside me, and if I get stuck, I flick through them and read short passages; a dose of clever writing and good prose kick starts my creativity.   
Honey Brown is reading
R&R by Mark Dapin

What are you reading at the moment?
I’m reading R&R by Mark Dapin. I’m smitten. Mark’s way of describing things is incredibly unique. Every second line is a revelation. I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t kick some ass at awards time.

I haven't read R&R, but I've read two others by Mark Dapin and interviewed him here two years ago. Great Australian writer. So, tell us, do you have a secret indulgence you’d be willing to share?
I eat dark chocolate every day, but that’s pretty common and not much of a secret. …Actually, I do have something, but I’m all for people having a few private indulgences, and keeping them forever secret. 
  
Oooookay, moving swiftly along (giggles), so, what's next? Will you be in Melbourne for the Melbourne Writer’s Festival later in the month?
Yes, I’m on a crime panel and an erotic panel at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival this month, and both are on Sunday 23rd of August. Then on the 31st of August I’m at the Next Big Thing Wheeler Centre event, doing a reading of Six Degrees. And on the 3rd of October I’m at the Coal Creek Literary Festival

Wow, sounds like a busy few weeks. What do you have in the pipeline after that? 
At the moment I’m midway through my sixth psychological thriller. I’m doing bits and pieces when I can, and champing at the bit to get solidly back to it. After that I’ll be writing an erotic novel.

Oooh, I can't wait to read another psychological thriller, I have no doubt it'll be another page turner. Thanks so much for your time today Honey and congratulations on being shortlisted for the 2015 Davitt Awards for Through The Cracks, I’ll definitely have my fingers crossed for you. 

Click here for a FREE extract of Six Degrees.

14 August 2015

Review: Pro Resumes Made Easy | Andrea Drew

I'm a firm believer of personal and professional development, so when I came across the work of Australian writer Andrea Drew (when reading a review of her novel Gypsy Hunted), and noticed her book on resume writing Pro Resumes Made Easy, I purchased it straight away.

You see, when I'm not immersed in my love of books and reading, I have my own business called Extra Edge, where I prepare resumes for clients and edit the odd manuscript.

Given Drew's success and her claim on the cover to Get more Job Interviews in 30 days or less, I was looking forward to learning from her expertise. Sadly this didn't happen.

Drew includes several samples of cover letters and resumes but they're largely from the US. The examples are available for free online and she's pulled these into her book to provide a helpful resource for readers, however they don't support the advice she gives in her book. 

Some of the things she tells us not to include in a resume (such as horizontal lines and italics etc.) are all included in the examples she provides, which is a frustrating contradiction. It was also disappointing to find that the content within the samples was mostly American, despite being clear that the e-book was using Australian spelling. If you're going to write for an Australian audience and use Australian spelling, then why not include Australian examples and templates?

I guess Drew is reluctant to share her own (Australian) templates for the same reason I don't; and that's because she would be giving away her IP and could lose potential clients as a result. I understand this, but in her case readers/clients have already paid for some of her IP by purchasing her e-book, so perhaps she could have been more forthcoming.

The best part of Pro Resumes Made Easy was the list of power words / action verbs at the end but I wouldn't recommend this book to jobseekers. I'm confident there are better books on the topic.

My rating = **

Carpe Librum!