Monthly Archives: September 2012

Guest post: The tarot, by Richard Long

Today I’m thrilled to welcome Richard Long, author of The Book of Paul, a cross-genre thriller. This post is part of the Novel Publicity Blog Tour for the book, so if you read all the way to the end you’ll see how you can win some amazing prizes including a Kindle Fire and a US$300 Amazon gift card. Richard has written a guest post about the Tarot and how it has influenced his novels. If you’re into that sort of thing, you’ll be intrigued. If you’re not, well it’s still a fascinating read. Take it away, Richard!

——————-

Richard Long

Laura gave me my first tarot deck. It was a Crowley. A lot of people get creeped out by Crowley decks, much as they would have been creeped out by Crowley, I imagine. He called himself ‘The Great Beast.’ To me, he seemed more like a big joke.

“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law!”

Stop it, you’re killing me.

***

You just read the opening lines of The Bone King, a prequel to The Book of Paul. They happen to be true. Laura gave me my first deck. I still have it and use it. In fact, I’ll be using it shortly to provide Skype tarot readings for two lucky winners of my Whirlwind Blog Tour. I’m looking forward to the readings. The winners? I suppose that depends on which cards come up.

Actually, I don’t give scary tarot readings, I just write about scary tarot readings. People have enough fear and stress in their lives without me throwing more gas on the flames. Besides, the three scariest trump cardsThe Hanged Man, Death and The Tower–can all be interpreted in very unscary ways. Most of the time.

William, the narrator of The Book of Paul, lives in the East Village/Alphabet City of New York in the years before gentrification made it a much less fun and frightening place. He makes a living doing tarot and numerology readings, same as the author did at the time. Like me, he is also a collector, but that’s where the similarities end. He collects ancient occult codices, some covered in human skin. He collects other things that are even more…disturbing.

The mythology of The Book of Paul is based largely on my very unique (so unique you’ll never see it anywhere else) interpretation of the twenty-two trump cards of the tarot. As William endeavors to unravel Paul’s nefarious intentions, he discovers an arrangement of the trumps that reveals the true story being told. In the following excerpt from one of William’s journal entries, Paul congratulates William on his discovery (which is not revealed, so no spoiler alert!) and rewards his efforts with a very special gift to add to his collection, and the promise of an even greater prize.

A fabulous tarot reading from Richard Long? A Kindle Fire?

No, William isn’t as lucky as three of you wonderful readers.

He’s about to have his very first look at The Book of Paul, a gift that comes with a very hefty price tag.

***

The Book of Paul, by Richard Long

“You’ve done exceptionally well here,” Paul said, “but you’re never gonna get to the bottom of this no matter how many of those old books you poke your nose into.”

“And that’s because…”

“For starters, those writings were deliberately intended to disguise the truth in countless metaphors and scrambled codes to keep the idiots at bay. They’ve been translated, and re-translated back into the original demotic, Coptic or Greek countless times, every scribe adding his own pontifical touch in his glorious interpretation. Of the more accurate writings, there’s more missing from the tracts than what remains, as you’ve seen in the Drivel of Mary. You’ve about as much luck hitting pay dirt in those dustbins as those literalist born-agains have of seeing the Rapture. However, I have a gift for you that should prove far more enlightening, if you apply yourself with half the dedication of these research efforts.”

He reached deeply into his pocket and told me to close my eyes. “Don’t go using yer second sight and spoil the surprise.” I nodded and felt him place a large rectangular object in my left hand. “Okay, open ’em.”

It was a tarot deck. Older than any I’d seen. The paintings were incredibly detailed and absolutely exquisite. I turned them over one by one, The Hero, The Herald, The Oracle—all the trumps labeled with Paul’s titles. “These are amazing!” I said, awed and yes, flattered by his incredible gift. I had a hard time spitting it out, but I managed to say, “Thank you.”

“You’ve earned it,” he grunted, taking the cards back before I had a chance to look at the rest of them, setting the cards down gently on the table. “But don’t stay up too late gazing at them. This deck can be quite…entrancing.”

“Is there something else I should know about it?” I asked apprehensively.

“Indeed, there is. Get a good night’s sleep and meet me in the chapel tomorrow. I’m bumping you up to the advanced class, so make sure your eyes are bright and your head is clear. You’ve earned a little taste of the Gospel according to Paul.”

——————–

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Book of Paul eBook edition is just 99 cents this week. What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes. The prizes include a Kindle Fire, $300 in Amazon gift cards, 5 autographed copies of the book, and a look into your future through a free tarot reading performed by the author.

All the info you need to win one of these amazing prizes is RIGHT HERE. Remember, winning is as easy as clicking a button or leaving a blog comment–easy to enter; easy to win!

To win the prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of The Book of Paul for just 99 cents
  2. Enter the Rafflecopter contest on Novel Publicity
  3. Visit today’s featured social media event (details on the prize page)

About The Book of Paul: A cross-genre thriller that combines the brooding horror of Silence of the Lambs with the biting humor of Pulp Fiction. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the author:

Richard Long is the author of The Book of Paul and the forthcoming young-adult fantasy series The Dream Palace. He lives in Manhattan with his wonderful wife, two amazing children and wicked black cat, Merlin. Visit Richard on his website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

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On setting word count targets

"Writing", 22 November 2008

“Writing”, 22 November 2008 (Photo credit: ed_needs_a_bicycle)

I’ve been disappointing myself lately. After a great creative start to my revised life as a working mother, my novel has been suffering a little of late. This isn’t because I haven’t had time to work on it – as I wrote a few weeks back, I have lunch hours and the like which have me already sitting at a computer and which give me ready-made writing time. No, I’ve found myself faffing about during that time instead, checking the newsfeeds on the internet or looking at my blog stats or whatever. Basically, anything that doesn’t involve actual writing, I’ve been doing it.

Because of this, my word count has stagnated a little. I hit 90K last week, but since then my total count has actually gone down rather than up. Sure, I’ve been writing (a little), but I’ve been more active doing minor line edits than actually being creative; cutting things rather than adding them. I’m sure the manuscript is all the better for it, but that doesn’t really make up for the fact that I’ve been neglecting the creative side of it.

In order to slap myself into submission, I’ve decided to give myself word count goals – a minimum of 1000 words each day that I have time to sit down and write for an hour or more, and preferably 2000. I know I can do this (I’ve knocked up a 1200-word short story in about 15 minutes on occasion), I just need to be motivated.

I know that word count targets can be counter-productive. Writing just for the sake of writing often produces substandard results. However, this for me isn’t a long-term solution, more of a kick start (or a kick up the rear end). To finish my first draft I’ve got a lot of scenes that need to be written, but which I know will be dull to write. This is my way of making myself write them. If the quality is bad I can edit them later on; for now, I just need them done.

Naturally, simple goals often aren’t enough. I could be sitting at my workstation faffing around as usual, without paying attention to my goals and not feeling guilty in the slightest. However, if I use the carrot and stick method, it’s more likely to be effective.

The answer, for me at least, is chocolate. I will buy myself one or two chocolate bars each day, and leave them sitting on my desk. When it gets to lunch time, if I don’t get to 1000 words I don’t get the chocolate bar. I have to leave it sitting there, of course, as recognition that I didn’t do it, and as motivation for the next day. As someone who has trouble leaving a good Crunchie bar just sitting there uneaten, this is bound to motivate me. (If I manage 2000 words, I get two chocolate bars. Extra reward for extra effort.)

Will it work? Time alone will tell. But I have enough prompts in my WIP to give me the inspiration to write the missing scenes, so that shouldn’t be an issue. The question is whether I want the chocolate enough.

So, that’s my goal. 1000 words per day that I’m able to write for an hour or more. With any luck this dratted first draft will be finished in no time, and then I’ll be able to really go through and do a thorough edit. In the meantime, I was wondering – what motivations work for you? What have you tried to make you get your story finished? And did it work? Because, if my Crunchie bar method isn’t successful, I’m sure as hell going to need all the ideas I can get! :)

 

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Author interview and novel excerpt: Chris Ward

Today I’m very happy to welcome Chris Ward, a native of Cornwall, England, who currently lives and works in Nagano, Japan. He is the author of 33 published short stories and the novels The Tube Riders and The Man Who Built the World. Chris has very kindly offered to answer a few questions for me and even given a preview of his novel, to whet the appetite of all who read it. So, let’s find out what the fuss is about!

Chris Ward

Tell me about the book. What inspired you to write it? What has the response been like?

I always had a rule in my writing never to write the same book twice.  While it looks like this is going to leave me poor and unknown forever, when I came to write Tube Riders I decided I wanted to write a big, epic sci-fi adventure because, while I had often written short stories in that genre, my novels had always been more mainstream.  I didn’t have much inspiration, so I looked through my short stories and came across one about a group of kids who hang from the side of trains for fun and get in trouble with a rival gang.  A couple of hours of brainstorming later I had expanded it into a sprawling dystopian novel.

The response … well, the handful of people who have read it have loved it.  I’ve had rave reviews, and I’ve even had fan mail.  However, so much stuff is being self-published that it’s been utterly buried under a slag heap of junk.  I’ve sold perhaps 40 copies.  I’m hoping it’ll be a slow burner and that by the time the second and third parts come out (tentatively summers of 2013 and 2014) it will be starting to catch on.  I guess time will tell.

How did you go about creating the dystopian landscape and atmosphere for The Tube Riders? Is it cautionary – it could happen if we take a couple of wrong steps along the way – or purely fictional?

Parts of it are very fictional, such as the scientific advances made by Mega Britain’s scientists.  I’ve very aware that it is impossible to cross a dog with a human due to the difference in number of chromosomes, but this is where it goes into Star Wars/X-Men territory and suspension of belief.  However, the world itself, with the perimeter walls, the restrictions on travel, the secret police, is very much based on real situations.  I live in Japan and am very influenced by the situation in North Korea.  We in the West can barely imagine living in a society where you fear for your life every moment of every day or are born into slavery because your grandparents dared to criticise the government, but there are hundreds of thousands of people currently in that situation.  Mega Britain is a kind of reflection of that and I tried to make it as realistic as possible.  That’s also why everything is in a state of disrepair – the Huntsmen don’t work properly, practically everyone is corrupt … I wanted readers to see beyond all the jumping on and off of moving trains to the dark underbelly of the world beneath, to understand what life is like in a failing society.

When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long had you been writing before you began to take it seriously?

I was about eight years old the first time I remember writing anything.  Through my early teens I dreamed of being a young sensation, but I was eighteen before I finished a novel.  It wasn’t very good and has never been edited.  Nor has my second or third.  I started collecting rejections on my fourth novel, written when I was 22.  By that time it was my dream to be a famous writer, however I’ve always been someone who liked trying new things so I kept my options open.  That’s how I ended up living and working overseas.

Why did you decide to self publish? How has your experience been?

It was pretty much a last resort.  I’d been collecting agent/publisher rejection letters for fifteen years and always saw self-publishing as a vanity way out.  I was at the point where my writing was good enough to sell to professional magazines and it was this that gave me the confidence in my work to try self-publishing, and the belief that had I been born thirty years earlier I would probably have broken through.  I still feel strange about it, because for me it was always about walking into a bookshop and seeing my books on a shelf.  That might never happen now.

As for my experience, it’s been slow.  I don’t sell much.  One thing I’ve learned is that quality has very little to do with what sells and what doesn’t.  Luck, coupled with a marketing brain seems to be far more important.  I’ve read poorly written rubbish that’s selling hundreds of copies a week.  A lot of the bigger selling authors I come across are retired or don’t work, meaning they have the hours to put into all the boring stuff.  As someone who works full and part time I have time for the writing but not much else.  Plus, I enjoy the writing whereas spending an hour trawling through Twitter kills me.  I’d much rather write five pages of another book than bust my gut trying to get one person somewhere to click on my book link.

What advice would you give to any aspiring authors out there?

Write and publish, but don’t get all whiny when it doesn’t work out.  Quit complaining about not selling and getting bad reviews.  The only way to make sales is to work hard to get your book noticed, and the only way to get good reviews is to get better.  Even then, you’ll occasionally get canned.  One of the best books I’ve ever read, The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffeneger, has something like 500 one-star reviews.  That book brought me to tears and the story broke my heart.  I thought it was a masterpiece, but clearly at least 500 people strongly disagreed.  Now, with self-publishing, you get people publishing five or six years before they can even write properly, then jumping up and down and having a fit if they get anything less than a four-star review.  It’s very childish.  Along the same lines, it’s really poor form to be jealous of someone else’s success.  Some of the arguing I see on author’s forums borders on playground behaviour.  These are supposed to be grown adults attempting to be professionals and they’re writing bad reviews of each others’ work, arguing, stalking, and basically acting like little kids fighting over who gets to go first on the slide.  Just don’t do it.  Switch off the internet, grow up, and use your time to write more, write better.

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Excerpt from The Tube Riders:

As the others said their goodbyes and left, Marta stood for a moment, looking out across the park towards the huge elevated highway overpass that rose above the city to the south. Half finished, it arched up out of the terraces and housing blocks to the east, rising steadily to a height of five hundred feet. There, at the point where it should have begun its gradual decent to the west, it just ended, sawn off, amputated.

Years ago, she remembered her father standing here with her, telling her about the future. Things had been better then. She’d still been going to school, still believed the world was good, still had dreams about getting a good job like a lawyer or an architect and hadn’t started to do the deplorable things that made her wake up shivering, just to get food or the items she needed to survive.

He had taken her hand and given it a little squeeze. She still remembered the warmth of his skin, the strength and assurance in those fingers. With his other arm he had pointed up at the overpass, in those days busy with scaffolding, cranes and ant-like construction workers, and told her how one day they would take their car, and drive right up over it and out of the city. The government was going to open up London Greater Urban Area again, he said. Let the city people out, and the people from the Greater Forest Areas back in. The smoggy, grey skies of London GUA would clear, the sirens would stop wailing all night, and people would be able to take the chains and the deadlocks off their doors. She remembered how happy she’d felt with her father’s arms around her, holding her close, protecting her.

But something had happened. She didn’t know everything – no one did – but things had changed. The government hadn’t done any of those things. The construction stopped, the skies remained grey, and life got even worse. Riots waited around every street corner. People disappeared without warning amid tearful rumours that the Huntsmen were set to return.

Marta sighed, biting her lip. Her parents and her brother were gone. Marta was just twenty-one, but St. Cannerwells Park was the closest she would ever get to seeing the countryside, and the euphoria of tube riding was the closest she would ever get to happiness.

She gripped the fence with both hands and gritted her teeth, trying not to cry. She was tough. She had adjusted to Mega Britain’s harshness, was accustomed to looking after herself, but just sometimes, life became too much to bear.

—————

Thanks Chris! If people are interested in reading more, you can find The Tube Riders (and Chris’ other works) at Amazon. Chris himself can be found on Twitter as @ChrisWardWriter, on Facebook, and (naturally) his own blog.

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Assorted writing tips #7 – finding inspiration

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898...

A woman searches for inspiration, in this 1898 painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

It’s not easy, is it? Finding inspiration on days when, quite simply, you’re just not inspired. After all, we are at the mercy of our muses, right?

Well, perhaps it’s not as simple as that. I’ve written before about dealing with writer’s block, and about just writing anyway when you have the time and opportunity to do so. And sure, that works, to an extent. It’s just not the same as doing it when you’re feeling inspired, though, is it?

So today I’m going to talk about ways you can find inspiration on days when it’s just eluding you. Ways you can perhaps pick up the threads and get going, rather than doing any number of writing exercises which, while they are generally beneficial, can also feel remarkably dull. Naturally these won’t work for everyone, but they will for some people so I figure that’s worth sharing.

  • Watch a movie. Or read a book, or watch a television show, or something like that. The important thing here is to subject yourself to someone else’s creativity, and it’s even better if it’s in the same genre as what you’re trying to write. You can see how other writers have crafted their plots, put in the twists and turns, dealt with what are very likely similar problems to what your manuscript has. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t in that story, and perhaps it will give you some ideas for your own.
  • Try something new. Do something you’ve never done before. It doesn’t have to be huge – something as minor as trying out a new recipe or going on a walk around your neighbourhood using a route you haven’t used before, but test your boundaries a little. Give yourself a new experience and see how you react to it – was it enjoyable? Did you learn anything from it? Was it worth it? The thing about this is, once you start thinking outside the square when it comes to your own activities, it becomes almost second nature to do it for your characters.
  • Watch / listen to / experience something that moves you. Whether it’s the cannons in the 1812 Overturethe World Cup final from 1990 or the end of Forrest Gump, there is bound to be something out there that moves you in a significant way. With the Internet, it’s also available at your fingertips. Subject yourself to something that tugs on your heartstrings, makes you irrationally proud or elicits some other major emotional reaction. Succumb to it. Enjoy it. Live it. Because if you’re moved to that extent, then that can set the creative juices flowing like nothing else.
  • Talk to a child. Children have a very different take on the world than adults do, and they make you look at things in different ways. For example, my five year old told me quite authoritatively yesterday that if a playground has bark chips underneath the equipment, it’s called a park, because the word “park” is a contraction of the words “playground” and “bark”. (Okay, the word contraction wasn’t used, but you get the idea.) It’s amazing how a conversation like that can make you re-think things.
  • Exercise.Sure, a lot of you are probably sedentary sorts who would rather sit in front of the computer or television than go for a run. Heck, I would too. But getting some exercise and raising a sweat works wonders for your mental activity. It reinvigorates you, wakes you up and gives you a real boost in your cognitive processes. More invigorated and more alert = more likely to find that inspiration that’s been eluding you.

Like I said above, these things won’t work for everyone. But, if you’re looking for inspiration and there’s something on this list that you haven’t tried, then why not give it a go? You never know what might happen.

Good luck!

 

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Book review: A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, by Suzanne Joinson

 

A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, by Suzanne Joinson

 

This is a review of the book A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, by Suzanne Joinson. The novel follows the story of a female missionary in Kashgar in 1923, interwoven with a thirty-something woman’s search for self in present-day London.

I found this a fascinating read. Both stories hooked me in quite early, though I confess I found the story of present-day Frieda slightly more engaging. This is very likely because it was more relatable to a woman of similar age living in the same period, but it doesn’t make Evangeline, the writer-come-missionary, any less interesting. It was interesting to see how two quite disparate tales could have so many things in common, and it was quite some time before I made the connection of how they could possibly be joined into one story.

The amount of research that must have gone into this novel is staggering. To have the level of detail present in 1920s Kashgar (and elsewhere on the Silk Road) that’s given is incredible, but it doesn’t go to waste – the picture painted of the desert city ninety years ago, and the attitudes and behaviour of its inhabitants, gives a really vivid impression of what it must have been like.  Evangeline’s mix of naiveté and worldliness is also fascinating, but totally believable given her background; things which seem obvious to a 21st century reader are a mystery to her, but there is also a keen understanding of human nature which shines through and helps give her her strength.

Equally, Frieda’s story is full of vivid details that make it come alive and her adventures with Tayeb, the Yemeni refugee who she finds sleeping in her doorway one night, are symptomatic of someone who is still trying to find her way in life. I loved her confusion at inheriting the possessions of Irene Guy, an old woman she’s never heard of, and her attempts at working out the connection between them and of looking after the owl she finds in Irene Guy’s flat.

If there is anything that didn’t quite work for me, it is probably the myriad of minor characters who sprinkle both tales. Because the Kashgar and London stories are told in alternate chapters, they don’t flow as smoothly as they could and sometimes I had to find myself flicking back a chapter or three to work out who Evangeline (or Frieda) was referring to and what their role was. Once I had that sorted out, though, I had little trouble following either woman’s journey.

Overall, it is an epic tale of self discovery, happening over two centuries in two different continents. Both women learn a lot about their place in the worlds along the way, and both women eventually find themselves in situations in which, for once, they feel comfortable, their stories becoming inextricably interwoven along the way. If you like reading well-written, touching stories about adventurous women in very different circumstances, this book is for you.

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A Lady Cyclist’s Guide to Kashgar, by Suzanne Joinson
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
374 pages (paperback)
Available from Amazon.com as hardcover, paperback and e-book

 

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Dream a little dream

dramatic dream

dramatic dream (Photo credit: unNickrMe)

I’ve been dreaming about my characters lately. My subconscious has been putting them in all sorts of strange situations, and they’ve been forced onto the back foot and had to find a way out of them. The scenes generally have nothing to do with my novel, but they are interesting in their own right.

What this is doing, of course, is cementing certain characteristics and traits in my mind about these people I have created. By putting them through things that would never come up in the course of the narrative, I am learning a lot about them and they’re evolving at a rate of knots. Of course, they were pretty well fleshed out before – my earlier post about not knowing them well enough is now well and truly irrelevant – but now they’ve got a depth they were previously lacking.

I have to admit, I didn’t even realise they were lacking until this past week, but now I know better. It’s amazing what having someone dangling off a cliff, hanging onto a fragile root system for their very survival, is doing for their character. Or how someone else tries to save them. Really, it’s a fascinating process.

In this case I have my subconscious to thank. I’ve seen writing exercises where you put your characters in strange situations and see how they respond, but I’ve never really done one of those. (Yes, I know, I’m sadly lacking in this sort of thing.) In previous stories I’ve written I’ve known my characters so well that I was barely writing them, but instead putting them in a scene and then stage-managing and watching what they did of their own accord. I wasn’t quite at that level with these characters – nearly, but not quite. Now I am.

As such, I have in my own way learned the benefits of doing this sort of writing exercise. Sure, I wasn’t writing, but dreams are still your creativity at work and I was getting my characters well out of their comfort zones, even more than the novel requires. And of course I benefited enormously.

This has got me thinking. If this is so useful, then what other writing exercises should I be doing in order to get this manuscript as good as it can possibly be? My general tactic is to write the scenes from several different points of view, to make sure I get each person’s motivations and reactions right, but this is the first time I’ve tackled things that weren’t directly related to the story I’m telling. And it was brilliant.

So now I’m asking you:  What tips and tricks do you use to get your story right? What writing exercises work for you? Because if we all share our techniques and try new things, then we’ll all become better writers.

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Author interview and novel excerpt: A War Below, by Peyton Farquhar

Something a bit different today, in that I’m doing a hybrid guest author post – part interview, part novel excerpt. The reason for this is that the author, Peyton Farquhar, is not just plugging her newly-released books, but is also spruiking for charity as well. Peyton has decided that proceeds from her series will go to charity – indeed, a different charity for each of the three books released so far. I thought this was a fascinating approach for an author to be taking, so I asked her about her motivation for this, and of course about the books themselves.  The series follows Moses Jones, a slave whose attempted escape to freedom triggers events that force him into an underground world of espionage, revenge and murder. It is inspired by true stories from the Underground Railroad and its secret involvement behind the scenes of the American Civil War.

Tell me about the series. What inspired you to write it?

The series is about a slave, Moses Jones, who attempts to escape his evil owner, Simon Dred, just a month before the American Civil War begins. His escape triggers a series of events that force him into a dark world of revenge, espionage and murder. And while he fights to survive on the run, he’s forced to deal with his lack of faith and a secret love he’s always had for one of his fellow escaping slaves. The four books in the series track the four major stages of his reluctant transformation from slave to underground freedom fighter.

I initially wrote the story as an eight-episode mini-series screenplay over seven years ago and always wanted to see it evolve into something. So I went to work converting it into a fiction series about a year and a half ago. The story is inspired by actual events and sewn together with theory and fiction.

I wanted to show a different side to the Underground Railroad – not just scared slaves hiding from slave hunters. There were slaves that not only stood up and fought for their freedom, but some were also involved in secret operations during the Civil War. There was a secret organization of ex-slaves and free-born blacks that ran a clandestine war against the Confederates. I wanted to shine a light on those heroes.

The first three books in the series are now available in the Kindle Store, the iBookstore and the Nook Store. Visit my website for links:http://www.awarbelow.com/


What made you decide to donate the proceeds of your books to charity?

I was inspired by the real-life heroes that were the basis for the characters in the series. They risked their lives (and some died) to help others. That’s something many of us couldn’t begin to imagine doing. I thought it would be pretty cool to allow their acts to continue helping people nearly 150 years later.

How did you choose which charities to involve?

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital has always been a charity I’ve supported. I was blessed with a healthy childhood, but some are not so lucky. The last place a child should be is lying in a hospital facing death, and St. Jude’s is doing amazing things to fight childhood cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Their daily operating costs are $1.8 million, and that number is primarily covered by public contributions. So every dollar donated is important. (http://www.stjude.org)

Wounded Warrior Project is an amazing organization that helps injured military service members. These individuals fought and sacrificed for my freedom and the least I could do is help an organization that helps them transition back into their “new normal” life. WWP provides wounded veterans with everything from employment opportunities to combat stress recovery. (http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org)

Help-Portrait is a very unique movement, and that’s what I love about it. While St. Jude’s and WWP help those in need by way of “straight-forward” or “conventional” methods, Help-Portrait takes a different approach. They are a global collection of photographers that donate their time and talent to provide portraits to those in need. Every time I describe this charity to a friend, the reaction is always the same. The idea of giving a person in need a photo of themselves seems too simple and useless. But I urge you to visit their website and listen to some of the stories of those that benefitted from this movement. I’ve always appreciated people that take a different approach to things. Help-Portrait does just that, and I’m happy to support them.  (http://help-portrait.com)

—————————–

 

A War Below series by Peyton Farquhar

 

Excerpt from the first book in the series (A War Below: Run)

Suddenly, a dark silhouette moved out of the shadows of the bunkhouse across the yard from Moses. He was startled by the shadowy figure quietly creeping toward him.

“Have you made your decision?”
It was Solomon Vesey.
“How did you find me?” Moses asked.
“The others told me you might be here,” Solomon replied. “So?”
“So, what?”
Solomon walked closer and sat down on the step next to Moses.
“I asked you a question. Have you made your decision?”
“I thought I told you earlier today. Did I not make myself clear?”
“Yeah, but I thought I’d give you some time to think about it. I have the count from the others. There are five going. That means we’ve got one more spot. What do you say?”
“I say piss off,” Moses replied.
Solomon stood up and took a few steps away from Moses. He paused and turned around.
“I’m not going to fill the spot,” Solomon told him. “If you change your mind, there will still be room.”
“I’m not going to change my mind. Leave me alone.”
Solomon stared at Moses through the darkness for a moment. He turned to walk away but stopped. He spun back around, walked over to Moses and sat down next to him once again.
“There was this one slave about four or five years ago. My partner and I were running the same scam on his plantation owner. Back then we were moving smaller numbers. We didn’t have the number of folks we do now, so it was harder to move big groups. We would only move about one or two slaves at a time. So it was important to pick the right ones. It always took some time for me to weed out the ones that deserved to go. I would only pick the leaders, the smart ones, the strong ones – the ones that would be more likely to make something of themselves once we got them North. We thought that maybe they would join the cause and help others get to freedom. As I was saying, there was this one slave…what was his name? Doesn’t matter. Anyway, he was smart…smarter than you, Moses. No matter how much I tried to talk him into it, he wouldn’t run either. I guaranteed his safety, but he still wouldn’t do it. When I asked him why, he told me he was afraid. When I asked him what he was afraid of, he just shook his head and walked off. And then I figured it out. He wasn’t afraid of being hurt or killed. He was afraid of being nothing. All of his life, he had been the smart one. He had been the one that every slave looked up to. He was the king of slaves on that plantation, and he thought that if he left that plantation and went out into the real world, he would be nothing. He knew that nobody would ever respect him the way that those other slaves respected him. That’s why he didn’t escape. He was afraid of being nothing.”
Solomon stood up.
“But there was something he didn’t realize, Moses,” Solomon added. “When you’re a slave, you’re already nothing. You’re just plain property. You see, getting free is like getting born. In one push, you become your own person. Regardless of how much respect you get from others, you’re finally your own person. And when you have that, there are only two things that lie in front of you…life and possibility. And those are two beautiful things.”
Moses looked back up at the stars.
“We are meeting inside the barn at the north end of the plantation at midnight tomorrow night,” Solomon said. “I’ll leave the spot open for you. Come if you want.”
Solomon turned and walked away. The night swallowed him up.

———————–

Peyton Farquhar is from Nashville, Tennessee, USA.  The first installment of A War BelowRun (currently available from iTunesAmazon andBarnes & Noble) was released in February 2012. Hunt and Run followed later in the year.  Peyton has written a guest post for this blog before, which can be found here. You can follow Peyton on twitter @peytonfarquhar, and you can find out more about the series at www.awarbelow.com.

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The Sunshine Award!

Wow. Last week the stars must have been shining on me particularly brightly, because I was nominated for not one, but four different blog awards. *blushes* Of course, they all have their own rules about acceptance and re-nominations, so rather than overwhelm you with all the different facts about myself and lists of other bloggers I want to nominate, I’m going to do them one at a time, say three or four weeks apart.

This week, I’d like to give a huge thank you to Lynn Thompson, who nominated me for the Sunshine Award. Thanks Lynn! *hugs* Lynn has a wonderful blog over at http://lynnthompsonbooks.blogspot.com/ and I urge you to go check it out as soon as you can.

“Sunshine on my shoulders makes me happy”

What I have to do now is answer eight questions about myself and nominate ten other bloggers for this award. So, here goes.

1. What is your favorite Christmas/festive movie?  I’m hugely sentimental, so things like Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life are guaranteed to leave me a slobbering mess. This of course means I love them. :)

2. What is your favorite flower?  I like white flowers, especially white daffodils (the kind that are all white, not white with a yellow centre) and white tulips. I have no idea why, they just appeal to me.  I’m not a big fan of roses, but if someone wants to give me some I’m not about to say no.

3. What is your favorite non-alcoholic beverage?  I’m a tea drinker, so I’ll probably say that, but it has to be strong, and made with real leaves rather than a bag. Aside from that I am rather partial to lemon, lime and bitters.

4. What is your passion? My family, my kids. Then, probably, my writing, though sport comes very very close.

5. What is your favorite time of year? Good question! I don’t really know. I think all the seasons have their good points and their bad ones. Weather-wise, probably spring or autumn, when it’s not too hot or too cold, but I love taking the kids swimming on a hot day, or sitting in front of a fire in the middle of winter. In other words, they’re all good!

6. What is your favorite time of day? Afternoon. Despite having young children I’m not really a morning person, but I also go to bed early so I can’t call myself a night owl. That time between lunch and dinner, though, is lovely and also when I’m at my most productive.

7. What is your favorite physical activity? Another good question, because I’m not a hugely physical person. I do love swimming, though (with or without the kids), and I love a bit of yoga though it’s been a very long time since I’ve done it properly.

8. What is your favorite vacation? My dad has a beach house on the coast about an hour’s drive from our place. The local bakery is fantastic and the beach is long, white and unspoiled. I love it.

Right. Do you feel you know me a little better now? Good. Now I have to nominate ten other bloggers for this award, so here they are:

Devoted Eclectic, by Elizabeth Lheude
Novel Girl, by Rebecca Berto
Poeta Officium, by Virginia
Sendero, by Max Tomlinson
Margaret Lynette Sharp
Here She Goes Again, by AD Duling
Can You all Hear Me in the Back? by Darlene Craviotto
Totallytawn, by Tawn
A Little Shelf of Heaven, by Kristy
Joseph Eastwood

I hope you have bookmarked all these sites and will go and follow them all pronto, because they’re great bloggers who thoroughly deserve this award. Thanks again to Lynn for the nomination, and happy reading! :)

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