Veronica's #WritersDiary, Celebrating #Writers: My Top 3 #Books for 2020!
Merry Christmas! The most wonderful time of the year is here and it's time to announce my Top 3 #Books for 2020! This year has been a banner year for great #reads in all genres. I've been privileged to read at least one book per week this year and the #WritingCommunity did not disappoint!
In this year like no other, I'm pleased to announce these #authors and their works as my Top 3 Books for 2020 (HUGE APPLAUSE!): U.K. author, Colin Powell--The Last Days of Purgatory; U.K. author Elijah Barns--The Shadow Cutters; and Canadian author, Kerri Davidson--Soul's Choice. Each of these books went that extra mile for me--making me laugh, quake in my boots, shaking my head at the marvelous characters, and transporting me to new worlds. These reads were the perfect anecdote for the trials and tribulations of 2020 and are highly recommended!
I'm pleased to share the comments and inspiration that inspired each writer for their extraordinary books. Ladies and Gentlemen, Colin, Elijah and Kerri, in their own words:
Author Colin Powell, The Last Days of Purgatory; The Martian Apocalypse of Victorian London
The Last Days of Purgatory is a story set in the imaginary world of Victorian post-apocalyptic Britain. It is in an alternative dystopian 1898. I often wondered what people might do to survive, and of course, this my third dystopian such story set in H. G. Wells’ War of the Worlds – Martian invasion realm. A pastiche of the Victorian author’s science fiction work.
For this particular story, I was inspired by some memories that my mother and aunt told me as a child. I was further inspired by a controversial wall mural I saw somewhere. It might have been a Banksy graffiti work. This wall painting was of a nun holding a rifle. I wondered of a world turned inside out. Where a moralistic and devoted nun could be accepted to be armed in such a way. Where might it be acceptable? I thought of an old wrinkled and severe looking nun that my mother and aunt told me about when I was a child.
My Mother was a few months old with an older sister when she was evacuated to a convent. The war had started and all children were moved out of London. I remember my mother saying she had no knowledge of what her Mother looked like and she never visited them during the entire war. She and her sister, (Aunt Gladys) had many other siblings evacuated to other parts of the country. My Grandmother was buried alive during a bombing raid towards the end of the war. She spent months recuperating well beyond the war’s end. Therefore, my mother was almost six years old when she saw her mother for the first time in late 1945.
Both my aunt and mother often reminisced about the convent with unkind memories. They said the nuns were very strict and often beat the young girls of the convent. But there was one old wrinkled nun with ill-favoured looks who protected the girls. She would often scold and defend the girls from the other nun’s excessive strictness. As a consequence, many of the little girls would try to be close to the old nun. She was haughty and stern in her manner but never hurt the little girls. I don’t know what her name was but I based the character in The Last Days of Purgatory on her. Also, the wall mural to enhance the heroic nun’s character for the story.
The only other thing I remember my mother and aunt telling me, was how afraid they were when this particular nun passed away before they left the convent. She actually died, while the evacuated girls were still in the convent and many of them feared the other nuns with no guardian or protector to watch over them.
In many ways, I suppose the story is a small tribute to the memory of an unknown old haughty nun who had a heart. At least my mother and aunt thought she did. Therefore, I resurrected the memory of her for The Last Days of Purgatory and picked all the areas I knew as a child growing up in East London. I certainly remember the hospital and the Blackwall Tunnel under the River Thames. The Dockers hospital is no longer there. Pulled down about 1984. I was taken there when I cut my wrist on some broken glass in 1971. I fell over playing outside and went running home. My mother drove me to the old Dockers hospital to get stitches, etc.
I think we all like to take a collage of memories and invent stories from the mixture. Take things you know and then re-invent from a different perspective. I did this unashamedly for The Last Days of Purgatory and had great fun doing it. I even re-invented myself as a boy to go on the adventure with my sculptured nun with a gun character. I wanted unusual misfit types and picked them from real recollections and tales I was told.
🎀🎄"Merry meet, eat my feet"🎄🎀
Author Elijah Barns, The Shadow Cutters; Book 2 The Witch & Jet Splinters
Thank you Veronica for showing such an interest in what has actually been an exceedingly interesting life, which, were I to go into detail about would leave you thinking I was a blatant fantasist, so I won't.
As far as inspiration for my Witch and Jet Splinters books goes, well, from as far back as the distant past will allow me to recall I have held a rather affectionate obsession with witches, monsters, faeries, folklore, mythology, ghosts, flora, fauna, Egyptology, superheroes, superheroines... in fact, just about anything that is out of the ordinary.
Then there was music. Another tasty mystery to add to the already spicy cauldron.
Just to complicate matters, my musical tastes took in Rock, Folk, Reggae, Soul, Metal, Prog, Punk, World, Indie, Pop, Jazz, Grunge, Classical & Medieval strains, to name but a few genres.
There was good music and bad music - that's all, just as there are good people and bastards.
Music pretty much took my life over from being fifteen years old when I got my first bass guitar (a one string Burns Vista Sonic that had been lying, mouldering for years in some battered old case) from then on, I covered almost every aspect of working within the music industry, but that's a story all of it's own.
When I was quite young I would embark on long bus trips to the mystical area of Pendle, Lancashire, dragging baffled girlfriends along to sample the thrill of climbing the majestic Pendle Hill. How they loved it! Ha!
I would sit on grass, dry stone walls, riverbanks, dreaming and somehow, inexplicably, reminiscing about bygone days in this fabulous, unchanged terrain.
Some of my musings would produce music, some, mainly my surroundings, would produce what would later become literature.
The three protagonists in the Jet Splinters books are actually based on three very real women of my acquaintance, with Jinny Lane (a country thoroughfare in Pendle, by the way) perhaps being the most fictitious of the trio. Riz and Lou's characters needed very little embellishment as they already existed and I already knew them!
The three cats, Jet, Spike and Stripes are alive and completely unfictitious. Trust me, magic is all around us.
After quitting the long, laborious hours of running a music venue, I sat down one day (I wasn't used to sitting down) and began to type the beginnings of "A Bustle In The Hedgerow" - title nicked from Led Zep, of course)
I had a long list of characters that I had collected over the years, all their little quirks written beside their names, and the vaguest of storylines.
What I then proceeded to do was completely ignore every idea, character and quirk I had ever dreamt up and simply lost myself in this fantastic land I called Windlestraws (I think I robbed this name from Aleister Crowley) with these three beautiful, clever, mad, funny women and their strange little familiars.
I swear I had no idea what was going to happen next and I was as surprised as anyone with what ensued. At one point, I actually sobbed uncontrollably at what had happened to one of the characters - none of it planned.
It was slow to get going, the first book. It really kicks in when all the girls reunite on that fateful day near the pub and pet shop.
I read it back and laughed and cried in almost equal measure. Lisa Green from Green Cat Books read it and apparently it had her in tears of laughter so she offered me a publishing deal - I can't even remember how all that came about - it was a bit like the book, it just happened of it's own volition.
I was quite proud of book 1, but I always thought the beginning was a bit ploddy. I tried to alter it but it didn't work without the ploddy beginning, so it stayed.
Book 2 "The Shadow Cutters" just came roaring out of the blocks - same premise - nothing planned apart from revisiting the main characters - it just kind of wrote itself. There was no stopping it.
I have no idea what writer's block feels like - I've never experienced it. I just sit down, trance into Jinny, Riz and Lou's world (no drugs involved, believe it or not!) and it's all systems go.
I started writing book 3, I think at the end of 2018 but there were too many factors involved in me losing my concentration and not being able to access Windlestraws satisfactorily, so, my partner and I decided to move house to somewhere more rural - it took fourteen months to complete the move!
And it doesn't get much more rural or rather wilder than where we now find ourselves.
As soon as all the work that needs taking care of on the house is complete I'll be happily back at Windlestraws in a heartbeat, continuing the tale that was to be called "Madame Citronella: Reader Of Souls" but will now be entitled "Lightning Is My Girl".
And I can't wait to find out what happens next!
🎀🎄"This Yule, come codiwomple with Elijah Barns..."🎄🎀
Author Kerri Davidson, Soul's Choice
My writing career began with a series of graphic novels. The Chronicles of Henny – drunken chicken humor for “grownups” – are everything Soul’s Choice is not.
So what prompted me to write Soul’s Choice?
It was New Year’s Eve 2019 when I heard about the 85K Writing Challenge through the Merry Writer hashtag on Twitter. I checked it out, signed up that evening, and began writing the next day.
The story of Amy, a young girl who has simply never fit in, was one I’d been wanting to tell for years. I don’t know how many times I put the pen to the paper or my fingers to the keyboard and began this story, but I was never able to get past the first few chapters.
The 85K Writing Challenge was exactly what I needed to motivate me. By writing every day (whether I wanted to or not), I was able to maintain that flow and keep the story moving.
I ended up writing not 85,000 words, but 98,000 in forty-one days.
Yes, it was my first novel without pictures so 20,000 of those words ended up being cut in revisions, which took a lot longer than drafting.
What surprised me most when I sat down and allowed those writing juices to flow was Amelia (Amy’s mother) turning up dead on page one. But who was I to argue with my muse?
So, I ended up telling the story I set out to tell about Amy, but through the perspectives of Amy and her mother Amelia who watches over her from the afterlife.
As the back cover says – Amelia’s dead but she’s not gone. She doesn’t just sit around in the In Between. She has an Earth family to watch over, new worlds to explore, and her own mind-blowing discoveries to make.
At this point I like to stress this book is not a religious experience. It’s more spiritual. I don’t pretend to be an expert on the afterlife or anything related to it. This is just where my imagination took me and I was pleased with the outcome.
The story of Amy was hard for me to write at times because it delves deeply into depression, loss, and body image issues. In a way, I had to become Amy and experience all her highs and lows as they played out. It may sound silly, but I found myself drawing on Amelia’s presence for strength and comfort while I wrote.
The ending was a cliff-hanger because that’s simply where it ended. I knew what happened and what was going to happen next. However, since it was my first full-length novel, I didn’t want to commit to a sequel until I knew people wanted one.
They did. I wrote and published the sequel, The Soul Must Go On less than a year later.
The two books combined result in a journey that manages to drag the reader through the depths and shines a light of hope at the same time.
While Soul’s Choice and its sequel are classified as Young Adult Paranormal Fiction, I like to call them paranormal fiction with heart. I have received many, many comments from people of all ages that were deeply affected by the depth of emotion in these books, both the good and the bad.
Since creating these books, I’ve written and published Beneath the Snow, drafted Eyes on the Road with my coauthor Mark Gelinas, and have a third installment for the Journey of Souls series in mind.
However, none of these works would exist if I hadn’t accepted the challenge and written Soul’s Choice. While the future of the 85K Writing Challenge is uncertain, mine is not. I will always be writing.
🎀🎄"Tis always the season for spirits..."🎄🎀
Holiday mayhem this week from the writers of Twitter...
Author Amy Reade, The Worst Noel (The Juniper Junction Holiday Mystery Series Book 1), 5⭐
For jewelry store owner Lilly Carlsen, Black Friday should be the kick-off for the holiday shopping season. When she opens her store in the early morning hours, she finds a pearl necklace missing--has she been robbed? She soon finds her answer when she trips over a body on the floor of her store front, the missing pearl necklace found. It's the cantankerous store owner who has a bone to pick with everyone--how did her body end up on Lilly's store floor?
The police are on the case, including Lilly's brother, Bill. When Lilly's fingerprints are found on the pearl necklace, she becomes a person of interest. Will she be able to sort through the clues before she is charged? To make matters worst, not all of her chamber of commerce members are in favor of expanded shopping hours--will she be able to recover from the lost holiday sales?
Another murder and threats lead Lilly further into the holiday mayhem. Will she be the next victim? Egos, jealousy and family drama abound this Yuletide season. Author Reade weaves a page turning whodunit as we learn more town secrets and deadly motives. The holidays are never dull in Juniper Junction--a fun holiday mystery, highly recommended!
Next up in the #reading queue:
This epic novel (800+ pages) will be the first #bookreview of 2021⏬
#HoHoHo It's Our Christmas Special!
Join us in our #Christmas finery as we chat all things fun and books with guest UK author Sheila Patel of The Magic Vodka Wardrobe fame!
Welcome to my world. Have a very Merry Christmas friends!🎀🎄
Crowns and Kisses,
P.S. From our house to yours, wishing you the happiest of celebrations! Gemma and Rikkhe approve! 🎀🎄