Pre-release book review

Book cover - Realms of the Mist by Jude Itakali

Ever-popular member of our WordPress community, Jude Itakali, is back in the spotlight after the well-received release of his poetry collection, Crossroads (Winds of Love) last year. Hot on the heels of its publication, Jude set about penning his first novel, which is now on the brink of publication.

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Realms of the Mist opens with a beautiful lyrical description which sets the scene and the tone of the book. Here, in the remote and rugged hills of eastern Africa we meet Kamau, a young man on the brink of his coming-of-age ceremony. But Kamau is no ordinary young man. He is one of the Gifted, a member of the Hadiza, a spiritual and stoical people with the ability to transform into wild animals, and whose duty it is to keep darkness and evil from entering the world. Kamau is burdened with grief over the untimely and unexplained death of his younger sister and his desire to obtain justice and peace for her spirit drives him onwards throughout the story.

Soon we learn that Kamau is tasked with a crucial mission, although the details remain unclear. He must join forces with other members of the Gifted, and through their collaboration, fulfil a destiny that only he can.

The quest begins and we learn that although there are powerful friends on Kamau’s side, even more formidable forces are at work; evil so great that it threatens the entire world unless Kamau and his small band of friends can complete their mysterious mission.

As the story progresses, we are introduced to other members of the Gifted. Those like exotic Ninuwe, one of the Femi, who radiates charm and oozes sensuality, so contrary to the rigid and unemotional culture that Kamau and his proud and beautiful friend Irina share. The rivalry and banter between the two young women heap up further confusion on Kamau as he puzzles his way through his mission, while bringing sympathetic smiles to the reader’s face.

The narrative builds towards a terrifying battle as Kamau is betrayed and the most potent of all evil is unleashed. Although one battle might seem to have been won, the story ends on a huge cliff-hanger, leaving the reader open-mouthed and anxious to pick up the next book in the trilogy.

Highly recommended for lovers of fantasy, adventure and fast-paced action. This is another great story to add to the pantheon of modern literature emerging from the African continent.

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Disclaimer: I did have a bit of behind the scenes input in the Jude’s book, but I can honestly say that it has not affected my review. From the first few chapters which Jude sent my way, I was bowled over by the story, Jude’s poetic use of language, his wonderful world-building and his charming and conflicted characters in whom I quickly became so invested.

I had such a blast discussing Jude’s emerging narrative via the magic of WhatsApp. Jude could have been in the next room, not 3000 miles away! Only authors could spend a happy ten minutes agonising over a particular word. There were many interesting asides too. Most memorable for me was our discussion of local food (that won’t surprise anyone who knows either of us).

I also sent myself down several rabbit holes between our discussions, such was my interest in the unspoilt and remote locations which Jude weaves into his book; places which I long to visit, from the lowland savannahs to the remote mountain ranges of eastern Africa.

Realms of the Mist is due for release on 14th March 2022
Be sure to look out for it. You won’t be disappointed!

Realms of the Mist in paperback and e-book

Keep an eye out for it on Jude’s blog: Tales Told Different

Launch Pad Round Up

Launch Pad Logo

Over the past half year I’ve enjoyed hosting the Launch Pad spot for some lovely guests. Now we’re approaching the end of the year, I thought it would be good to catch up with them and find out what they are working on now.

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First on the spot, back in May, was internationally bestselling author, Lizzie Chantree, who had just released her latest romance, Shh… It’s our secret. Checking in on Lizzie’s social media, she already has another book out, The Woman Who Felt Invisible. Now that’s impressive! Click on the cover to view on Amazon.

Working as a stationery supervisor and a sitter to a pair of internet famous, delinquent dogs, wasn’t how former cyber-specialist, Olivia, imagined her life turning out. Working in a tiny cubicle with a decrepit computer and being overlooked had suited her for a while, but now she’s fed up, lonely and determined to make the world ‘see’ her again. Old school friend, Darius, wants to fill Olivia’s days with romance, but their love of technology has taken them on very different paths. Gorgeous undercover policeman Gabe is steadfast in finding out if Olivia was part of an online scam, but something doesn’t feel right and he suspects someone else was manipulating her life. Can love blossom from the most deceptive of starts? And can someone who feels lost, find a way to flourish against all odds?

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Next on the Launch Pad was Jude Itakali, who joined us in June to promote his wonderful new poetry collection, Crossroads (Winds of Love). I had an inter-continental chat with Jude the other day, via the wonder of Whatsapp, and this is what he had to say about his current writing project:

Ahhh, what can I say? Writing my first novel has been a rollercoaster ride, weaving through hopes, fears and even moments of bliss. It has probably been the greatest challenge I’ve ever undertaken, but still a most enjoyable one.

The original inspiration for writing my upcoming novel was actually from a poetic story I wrote over a year ago on my blog. I remember many of the comments saying it would make an outstanding novel. Once I was done publishing my debut poetry book, I knew that it was possible to get a book out into the world, so I started working on the novel. My core drive comes from a deepest realization that writing is what truly feeds my soul; what makes me happiest. I have always had a dream to write and be read, and I’m living half that dream for now, but that’s plenty too.  

The initial promo campaign for my debut novel (coming in Spring 2022) starts January, so I can’t reveal much until we’ve decided on some marketing details with the publisher. Here’s a little teaser verse I wrote about a few of the themes you’ll find in the book:

“Be it born to darkness and sacrifice,
Or be it raised amidst love and hope,
Those who dwell under light and freedom,
Or those shackled to ways preordained –
The cruelest curses stem from our greatest blessings
And yet some are cursed, so that others may be blessed.”


I hope that soon you will all walk, love, run and creep, along the thin line between blessing and curse, in my upcoming YA fantasy saga.

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In July, I had the pleasure of hosting Paul English, my writing buddy from up the road. Paul is another highly prolific author and back in July, the first book in his sci-fi trilogy, Scorched Earth: Arrival, had not long been published. We regularly get together for a ‘writerly chat’ over coffee and cake, so I’m well up on what Paul’s been up to. Here’s his comment between mouthfuls of carrot cake:

“Thanks for inviting me back on your blog. Since the last time I was over there, I’ve completed the second book of the Scorched Earth trilogy, Scorched Earth: Takeover. In a nutshell, the book takes up the story again about a month after the alien Drahux Empire arrived on Earth in Scorched Earth: Arrival. The tension rises as aliens are slowly taking over the planet, while our broken heroes are struggling to pick themselves up in order to fend off the alien threat before its too late.”

Not one to rest on his laurels, Paul is already busy with the final part of the trilogy. You can follow his progress over on his blog, Backroom Bulletin.

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Prehistoric fiction author, Jacqui Murray, joined us on the Launch Pad in August, where she shared her insights into how she found her writer’s voice and how this enabled her to follow her passion for writing the books she truly wanted to share with the world. At the time, her second book in her Dawn of Humanity Trilogy, Laws of Nature, had recently been released.

I caught up with Jacqui via email and this is what she said about her progress with the third book in the trilogy:

“After several months of stodgy progress, Natural Selection is finally moving forward.  Which is good because when it comes to writing, I have no Plan B. It either works or I’m f****. Yes, I understand all novels come with the warning, ‘some assembly required’. My fear is that when I’m done, there will be pieces leftover. None so far! Check back with me in January.”

Jacqui sent me the cover pic in the meantime. Doesn’t that whet your appetite?

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In September, I was delighted to host Michelle Navajas, international best selling poet, on the Launch Pad, where she shared her writing journey with us, setting out what has inspired her to write her ever-growing series of poetry books. This was her reply when I emailed her to find out what she’s working on at the moment.

“I am currently working on my 6th book which is the second edition of ‘After Rain Skies’ – a collection of true and inspiring stories of abuse and violence. The second edition will highlight other forms of abuse which I’d refused to write about in the first edition due to their highly sensitive nature. Now, I finally have got the courage to write about them.”

Here’s Michelle pictured with some of the awards she has earned in recognition of her unique, meaningful and highly accessible style of poetry.

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Next up on the Launch Pad was novelist and poet, Liz Gauffreau, whose deeply moving collection of syllabic poetry, Grief Songs, was published in October. A brief flurry of emails revealed some very exciting developments in Liz’s literary life.

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Here’s what Liz told me:

“Recently, I’ve had a short story, “New England Gothic,” published in The Chamber Magazine, a horror magazine, and another of my short stories, “A Formal Feeling Comes,” was published in Remington Review. Each publication is a bit out of the ordinary for me, as I’ve never written a horror story before and didn’t intend to with “New England Gothic.” “A Formal Feeling Comes” is a reprint. The first journal that published it changed the ending in a way that contradicted everything that came before it. (I won’t agree to that again!)

I’ve also just had a story, “Bonnie and Clyde Rob the Enosburg Falls National Bank,” accepted as part of a new venture that creates a video reading of the story as the means of publication. We’ll have to wait and see whether anything comes of it!

I have a collection of short stories planned for release in 2023. The stories all take place in my home town of Enosburg Falls, Vermont. “Bonnie and Clyde Rob the Enosburg Falls National Bank” is one of them.

Currently, I’m working on a new novel set at the Sheldon Poor Farm in Sheldon Springs, Vermont. It was the last poor farm in Vermont. The state shut it down in 1968, which is the year the novel takes place. I have a great deal of research ahead of me, so I’m more in the inspiration stage right now.”

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My final guest this year was Tom Burton, who joined us last month, having recently released his second collection of short stories, Pocketful of Time. Tom also shared some interesting insights into writing craft with his ‘Three Top Guidelines’, garnered from his own experience as a storyteller.

When I caught up with Tom earlier this week, I discovered that he’d had one of those writer’s eish! moments and accidentally lost quite a large chunk of the newest draft of his forthcoming historical short story collection. What with that and all the activity associated with the forthcoming festive season, Tom has had to postpone its release until next year.

If Pocketful of Time is anything to go by, be sure to look out for Tom’s new book in 2022!

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I’d like to thank all the authors who took time out to spend time with us on the Launch Pad spot last year, and who’ve just updated us about their latest progress and projects. If you’re reading this and would like a spot on the Launch Pad to talk about your new releases and literary adventures in 2022, please let me know.

In the meantime, I’m hoping to share news of my own new release next year.

Paperback Book SALE

Paperback book sale on lulu.com – Monday 30th November
My recommendations: ‘Fallen Star Rising’ and ‘Four’ by Tara Caribou, and the ‘Creation and the Cosmos’ anthology, edited by Tara, and including 5 of my poems!

Raw Earth Ink

Dear friends, I hope those of you who celebrate the US Thanksgiving holiday had a great day. Hopefully with friends and family and good food and better company. Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. Not only is it a time of food and friends, it’s a time where we set aside a few moments or hours to just be THANKFUL! Being grateful is so good for our minds, our attitudes, even our bodies. I am super thankful for each and every one of you who reads my website, buys the books that Raw Earth Ink publishes, comments, and supports with all your love. YOU are the reason that this website still exists, because there have been many days I’ve wanted to give up and disappear. It is the continued kindness and friendliness and art that keeps me here. So, truly, Thank You.

Now, I just realized that my distributor…

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Tom Burton is on the Launch Pad!

Tom Burton’s short story collection, ‘Pocketful of Time’

It’s my great pleasure to welcome indie author, Tom Burton to this month’s Launch Pad spot. Like me, you may have come across Tom’s vivid creative writing on his blog. I happened upon it a couple years ago, my interest having been grabbed by his episodic story following the adventures of one Sergeant Craig Harper. Since then, Tom’s readers have been treated to many well-crafted stories across many genres.

So, let’s find out a little bit more about Tom. We’ll start with his official author bio:

Tom Burton is a British author with a passion for writing magical, mysterious and historical fiction. He lives with his family in Devon, his writing fuelled by the magic of dark chocolate and Yorkshire Tea.

His short stories have appeared in Spillwords Press, Literally Stories, Dreaming in Fiction, and Whatever Keeps The Lights On.

He has published two collections of short stories so far: Wildlands in 2020 and recently released, Pocketful of Time.

Published books by Tom Burton – Wildlands and Pocketful of Time

Before we get to Tom’s latest release, he’d like to share some of his own thoughts on writing, garnered from his own experience as a storyteller. Over to you, Tom!

Tom’s Top Three Guidelines

I know, I know. We’ve all read those wonder lists of the “Top Ten Tips To Write Right!” or whatever. Who on earth am I to give advice? Eww. *retreats under couch hissing like a cat*

So I’ll just call them guidelines, NOT rules. They’re not hard and fast tricks to success – these things never are. What works for me might not work for you.

But they sure helped my writing improve.

1) Entertain One Reader.

That’s it. You and your reader. All it is. Good writing makes your reader laugh and cry. If there’s no emotion? No buy-in to the story. If your book says what you want and how you wanted to present it? Job done. Whether people like it or not is entirely up to them.

Not everyone’s going to love your book. Harsh but true. If you try to write to please EVERYONE, you won’t end up pleasing ANYONE. If your work’s out there, readers who love your style and genre will find you. There’ll be a whole lot of ‘no’s’ along the way. But it only ever takes one ‘yes’.

You’ll get SO MUCH unasked-for advice from readers. Thank them politely. Read it. Shelve it to one side. Move on. They didn’t write your book. You did. Own it. Be proud of that glorious mess you made.

Someone once sent me an actual email cordially advising me to write longer flashfics as they come across more ‘writerly’ (???) and I sent them a reply that just said ‘Chapter One: No’.

”I really liked the idea but thought there should’ve been a twist in the end to make it like a thriller.” Which would’ve been, y’know, GREAT advice … for someone writing a thriller.

2) Immerse your reader.

Use different senses to plunge your reader into a scene: what can the character hear, smell, see? Getting the setting, mood and background senses right make the scene pulse with life and draws in your reader! Smell is often underused, but it really enriches your story. “The stench of a decaying carcass” paints a hugely different picture than “the sweet aroma of jasmine”.

Immersion pulls us right in the thick of the story. We feel like we’re living these stories because the author’s ensured we’re fully captivated. We forget that it’s words on a page that another person has written. We forget that hundreds of other people could be reading the story at that very moment. It’s our story. Just us and the characters and their world.

Immersing your reader is different than just hooking them, it’s keeping them hooked. It keeps them plugging along and (hopefully) conjures some kind of emotional response. (Preferably one that doesn’t involve hate mail.)

Omit dialogue tags (I said/you said/he said/she said) if it’s clear which character is talking. Words like “said,” “asked,” or “wondered,” drag down your story telling. Instead, spice up dialogue with action! Having that back-and-forth punctuated with action makes dialogue flow smoother, so your reader never gets yanked out of the story. For example:

“Get out of my room, you brat!” Evie demanded.
Mark glared at her. “Make me!” He retorted.

VS

“Get out of my room, you brat!” Evie tried to shove her brother into the hallway but his heavy bulk ruined her efforts.
“Make me!” Mark held his ground.

3) Keep it simple.

Less really is more. The delete key is your friend! Often the best days are when you have fewer words on the page than when you started. Window Prose helps: the kind of writing that’s so simple, clear and minimal that the audience doesn’t even notice they’re reading. They never have to stop to think, so it’s just like gazing through a window at the unfolding action.

Purple Prose uses large, complicated indulgent words to over-describe simple, clear descriptions. It’s flowery, excessive and breaks the flow of the reader’s attention. Don’t slip a ten-dollar word into a ten-cent simple sentence like “scintillating” and “incandescent”. It messes up the flow and makes the reader reach for a dictionary (BIG no no). Don’t drown your reader in unnecessary adjectives and adverbs. Run-on sentences bog readers down with unneeded elaborate detail and distract from the story. For example:

“The branch on the fire burst asunder with a muted pop as the coals underneath heated the gnarled length of wood to the point where a small cache of water that had somehow evaded the sun’s rays for untold decades exploded into steam” GAAAAHHH

VS

“The fire crackled.”

Seduce your reader, don’t burden them. Never use five fancy words when three simple ones will do. Be concise. Don’t fall in love with the gentle trilling of your smooth flowing sentences. Cut out what doesn’t need saying. You don’t want to be writing with a thesaurus in your other hand, choosing unfamiliar fancy words to replace simple, clear, familiar ones. Plain, clean language is the way to go!

Want to enhance a scene? Use precise, punchy nouns and strong vivid verbs that heighten the reader’s sensations, paint strong mental images, and avoid wordy descriptions and overused adjectives.

> Smell = stench, aroma, scent, fragrance.
> Small = tiny, petite, minuscule, miniature.
> House = cabin, mansion, cottage.
> Group = horde, team, gang.
> Woman = lady, mistress, matron.

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Tom’s latest book of short stories is Pocketful of Time, a splendidly vivid collection of historical tales. You can read my review here.

The image shows Tom Burton's new book, Pocketful of Time in paperback and ebook
Pocketful of Time ~ paperback and ebook

Now, over to Tom to tell us a little more about his book and how he came to write it.

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Thanks ever so much for hosting me, Chris! It’s such a privilege to be invited to a great outlet for indie authors. Really excited to be here and share my latest book Pocketful of Time on your blog. Also, thanks for giving me the opportunity to share my writer’s thoughts with your readers!

I’ve always loved history from an early age. It’s fascinating to have that unique viewpoint into the living, breathing world of our grandparents and ancestors – that shock of the intimate past that reaches out to jab us in the ribs. Historical fiction’s made such a triumphant comeback recently; Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Sarah Perry’s The Essex Serpent, Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way and Ian McGuire’s The North Water are all  critically acclaimed for transporting the reader into rich evocative worlds that capture the audience’s imagination.

I also studied history at Uni, which I’m sure helped.

Pocketful of Time grew out of that childhood fascination for history. Being a part of our wonderful WP blogging community for the past several years really gave me the inspiration to help my writing blossom and take the leap to self-publish for others to read via Kindle Direct Publishing.

Short stories were something I was slowly getting better at, so I thought: why not self-publish eight of these together in a collection? So I did. Big advantage of publishing a collection: if the reader doesn’t like one particular story, they’ve got plenty more to choose from.

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The blurb

A world-weary cynic rediscovers his faith. A soldier is haunted by his duty. A prisoner faces her last night on earth . . .

These visceral tales dive into the depths of humanity, exploring the darkest deeps of despair and mortality. Human history is often a grim legacy of bloodshed, misery and despair. Yet still there is hope, the triumph of the human spirit against overwhelming odds and enduring courage in the face of adversity.

Poignant, gruesome, chilling and triumphant, this collection of adult short stories has a little something for every reader.

Fancy diving into William Tyndale’s struggle to publish the first English Bible? Guy Fawkes’ last days in the Tower of London? A lone German citizen’s non-violent resistance to the Nazi regime? Then feel free to check these stories out!

Pocketful of Time is available in paperback and ebook – get it here: Amazon US / UK

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Stop Press!!!

Tom’s second historical collection Only Human is due to be published in time for Christmas! Fourteen short stories including:

> the final voyage of Lady Jane Grey
> the swashbuckling life of pirate Mary Read
> a trapper boy’s childhood down the coal mine
> the last arctic mystery of the doomed Franklin Expedition
> a suffragette’s fight for the vote in pre-WW1 England.

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Tom’s social media links

Website: Slumdog Soldier

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Tom-Burton

The image show Tom Burton's new book, Pocketful of Time with a good luck message and the Launch Pad logo from luna's online
Pocketful of Time, by Tom Burton, available in paperback and e-book

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Would you like a spot on the Launch Pad?

If you’re a writer with something to say about you new book I’d love to hear from you. All mainstream genres are welcome be it fiction, poetry, memoir or even non-fiction (am I the only person who reads cookery books cover to cover?). I’m particularly keen to support fellow Indie Authors, although by no means exclusively.

Book your ‘First Friday’ spot now, especially if you have a book release lined up in the coming months. Just drop me an email at chris87hall@gmail.com and in response I’ll explain what I’ll need from you and when.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

Elizabeth Gauffreau is on the Launch Pad!

Elizabeth Gauffreau and her new poetry book, Grief Songs

It’s my great pleasure to welcome Elizabeth Gauffreau to this month’s Launch Pad spot. Like me, you may already be familiar with Liz through her blog, and others of you will know her through her wonderful novel, Telling Sonny, a book I thoroughly enjoyed when I read it earlier this year.

So, let’s find out a little bit more about her. We’ll start with her official author bio:

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. After a misbegotten stint teaching high school English and Latin, she spent her career in nontraditional higher education.

Her recent literary magazine publications include Woven Tale Press, Dash, Pinyon, Aji, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, and Evening Street Review. Her fiction and poetry have also been featured in several themed anthologies, including Ad Hoc Monadnock, Shifts: An Anthology of Women’s Growth through Change, When Last on the Mountain: The View from Writers over Fifty, Familiar, and Poetry Leaves. Her 2018 debut novel, Telling Sonny, was inspired by a family secret and a lot of research into small-time vaudeville.

Learn more about her work at http://lizgauffreau.com.

Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband. Their daughter has flown the nest to sunny California.

Grief Songs ~ paperback and ebook

Liz’s new book of poetry, Grief Songs – Poems of Love & Remembrance, is just out. It’s a deeply moving collection of poetry which speaks to an album of her family photographs. I just finished reading it yesterday, such a wonderful bitter-sweet collection, it moved me deeply. You can read my review here.

Now, let me hand over to Liz to tell us about the background to her new release.

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Thank you for hosting me on your blog, Chris. I greatly appreciate it.

I am a fiction writer by training, so I never expected to be releasing a book of poetry, much less a book of poetry written in tanka. However, being a part of our wonderful blogging community for the past several years has given me the inspiration to take my writing in new directions and the courage to publish the results for others to read.

Grief Songs started with the last poem in the collection, “Portland Head Autumnal,” although I had no way of knowing that when I wrote the poem. I had been following Colleen Chesebro’s poetry blog, “Word Craft: Prose & Poetry,” for some time and growing more and more curious to try my hand at syllabic poetry adapted from Japanese, such as haiku and tanka. I wrote “Portland Head Autumnal” as a tanka after a trip to Portland Head Light in Maine on a cold, gray, windy day in September when I could not recall any time I had been to Portland Head when the sky and water were gray, rather than bright blue.

Two months later, my mother died, leaving me the last person in my immediate family. As people do, I turned to the family photograph albums in an attempt to keep my mother with me just a little longer. As part of that process, lines of poetry started coming to me. Tanka seemed the appropriate form to give those lines shape and purpose. In the book, photographs are paired with poems to tell the story of a loving family lost.

Grief is a deeply personal experience, yet it’s an experience many of us have in common, particularly as we get older.  What prompted my decision to go ahead with publishing Grief Songs were readers’ responses to some of the individual poems I shared. The poems prompted fond memories of their own loved ones. For me, striking a responsive chord with a reader’s own experience in any number of different ways is what poetry is all about.

Thanks again, Chris, for featuring Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance on your blog and giving me the opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers.

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The blurb

When a loved one dies, the family will often turn to the photograph albums as an act of solace, to keep their loved one with them just a little while longer, Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance arose from that experience. The collection opens with three free verse expressions of raw grief, followed by a series of photographs from the author’s family album, each paired with a poem written in tanka. Taken together, they tell the story of a loving family lost.

Praise for Grief Songs

“A beautiful, personal collection of family photos and poems that express the author’s most inner feelings. Nostalgic and heartfelt, Gauffreau’s poems are written in the Japanese style of tanka, simple,  thoughtful, and full of love. Filled with wonderful memories of the past.” 

~Kristi Elizabeth, Manhattan Book Review

“Poetry readers willing to walk the road of grief and family connections will find Grief Songs: Poems of Love & Remembrance a psychological treasure trove. It’s a very accessible poetic tribute that brings with it something to hold onto–the memories and foundations of past family joys, large and small.”                        

~Diane Donovan, Midwest Book Review 

Book Trailer

So lovely, I’ve watched it again and again…

Grief Songs is available in paperback and ebook from all your favourite online bookstores – buy it here

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Liz’s social media links

Website: lizgauffreau.com

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Gauffreau

BookBub: www.bookbub.com/profile/elizabeth-gauffreau

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/egauffreau

Poets & Writers’ Directory: www.pw.org/node/1079971

Facebook: Facebook.com/ElizabethGauffreau

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/liz-gauffreau

Twitter: twitter.com/LGauffreau

Grief Songs, by Elizabeth Gauffreau, available in paperback and ebook

Michelle Navajas is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome international best-selling poet, Michelle Navajas, to this month’s Launch Pad spot. Some of you will already be familiar with Mich through her blog, where she posts her unique and highly accessible style of poetry and prose with awesome frequency!

So, let’s find out a little bit more about her. We’ll start with her official author bio:

Philippine-born Michelle Navajas, currently residing in Malaysia. Michelle authored the book After – Rain Skies: A Million Stars, for Perak Women for Women Society (PWW) during their Million Stars campaign. It’s a collection of true and inspiring stories of victims and survivors of abuse and violence in prose and poetry.

Graduating with a Master of Education majoring in English in the Philippines (University Of San Agustin – Iloilo), Michelle was a former college professor, teaching literature, speech and oral communication, creative writing, drama, and theatre arts. She is also a graduate of Mass Communications major in Journalism (Centro Escolar University – Manila).

Michelle is active in her writing profession and works as a freelance creative writer.

She blogs passionately at www.michnavs.wordpress.com, where you can find her prose and poetry on love, life, motherhood, and her advocacy on abuse and violence.

I’d originally approached Mich to introduce her fourth book, I Would Fly To Where You Are, which she wrote during the deepest time of Covid and which was released in May 2021. However, between then and now she’s released her fifth volume of poetry, I Will Love You Forever, Too. Published just a few weeks ago, this latest collection of Mich’s poetry went straight to the number one spot on both Amazon and Kobo on its first day of release: an impressive achievement that most authors can only dream of. Also impressive is the fact that Mich has produced her five books in just two years!

I’ve just finished reading I Will Love You Forever, Too – you can read my review on Goodreads here (or over on the side bar, depending which device you’re using).

Now, let me hand over to Mich now to tell us about her writing journey and how her wonderful poetry books came to be. Over to you, Mich!

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Thanks for having me on your blog, Chris. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Dreams do come true. And it can happen unexpectedly, anytime, anywhere, when you really deserve it. This has been my life’s mantra. I love to take things slowly and carefully and let things unfold on their own by the grace and power of the universe.

I remember, as a little girl, I’ve always dreamt of seeing my name in the newspapers, magazines, or in a book. And I told myself, one day I will make it happen, though at that time I didn’t know how to make it happen, not even how to begin.

My first book, After-Rain Skies, a collection of true and inspiring stories of abuse and violence in prose and poetry, was born in 2019, unexpectedly. Four decades after the conception of my dream.

It was written and published in 2019, with the sole intention of creating awareness on abuse and violence, with the hope of putting an end to the culture of abuse. It was received so well by many that I followed it up with an eBook copy made available via kobo.com.

The pandemic happened in 2020. We were all forced to stay at home and work from home. That’s how I started writing poetry almost every day. Surprisingly too, my long-time readers and followers, love my love poems. It inspired me to write even more. 

What If Snowflakes Don’t Fall In Winter? is my second book, a collection of poems about the nature of love. The success of my first book made me realize that I can be a love poet as well. After-Rain Skies taught me that love, more than anything else was what kept these victims going and hoping; their love for themselves, love for their children, their families, friends, and relatives, and most of all, their desire to want to love again and build a life around its seasons. Celebrate how love always changes, just enough to get better and better and better.

The world stopped during the pandemic. It prompted me to write poetry celebrating humanity’s perseverance and resilience. Oh! Dear One, was born to soothe everyone’s soul amidst the outbreak of a global pandemic. 

The outbreak of a global pandemic has led to lockdowns and isolation, which eventually led to the separation of families, loved ones, friends, and colleagues.

I Would Fly To Where You Are is my fourth poetry book, a collection of poetry written during the height of the COVID-19. Reflective of each and everyone’s love and desire to be with their loved ones – the special occasions we all missed to celebrate together like birthdays, anniversaries, baptisms, and many other milestones, and also, reflective of the moment we failed to say our final goodbyes to our loved ones who went ahead of us during the pandemic. This is a collection of poetry on love; love, surviving against all odds.

We celebrate love, no matter how much it hurts and no matter how painful it is.

We celebrate life and love because there is always tomorrow, a better and kinder tomorrow.

My fourth book is definitely an epitome of true love. The kind of love that only gets better and better over the years and that no matter what it takes, it’s the kind of love worth taking the risk, worth taking the big leap, and worth keeping forever.

Finally, my most recent book: I Will Love You Forever, Too, is a compilation of poetry on the greatest love one can ever have. The kind of love that makes you want to write sappy love poems all the time (even if you are not a poet), the kind of love that makes you want to believe in “happily – ever – after” or “dreams – do – come – true”, it is the kind of love that makes you reflect on all of your “what ifs” and “maybes”, it is the kind of love where you will completely miss your beloved, strangely, even though your loved one is gone just briefly, and it is the kind of love that gives you the courage to commit to love forever.

This book also includes selected poems I wrote, which were requested by some of my very loyal readers and followers.

Book links

After-Rain Skies

What if Snowflakes Don’t Fall in Winter

Oh, Dear One

I Would Fly to Where You Are

I Will Love You Forever, Too

Mich is all over social media – pop along and see what she’s up to!

Amazon Author PageMichelle-Ayon-Navajas

Blog:  michnavs – poetry by Mich                                

Instagram: @michnavspoetry

Facebook: Poetry by Mich

Goodreads: Goodreads author Michelle_Ayon_Navajas

You Tube: Poetry by Mich

Jacqui Murray is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome Jacqui Murray to this month’s Launch Pad spot. You may well already be familiar with Jacqui through her blog, WordDreams, others of you will know her through her books. It is Jacqui who introduced me to the wonderful world of prehistoric fiction, a genre I hadn’t heard of before, but now I can tell you, I’m totally hooked!

So, let’s find out a little bit more about her. We’ll start with her official author bio:

Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular prehistoric fiction sagaMan vs. Nature which explores seminal events in man’s evolution one trilogy at a time. She is also the author of the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers and Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. Her non-fiction includes over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, reviews as an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Her next prehistoric fiction, Natural Selection, is due for release in winter 2022.

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Before we come to Jacqui’s latest book release, let me share what Jacqui as to tell us about her journey into self-publishing and finding her authorial voice.

Finding my Voice – by Jacqui Murray

I have been writing fiction for about 25 years (non-fiction longer, but that’s a different story). When I started, I wanted to write the biography of a prehistoric female – how she survived when experts said she shouldn’t. I took some classes, attended conferences, read a bunch of books, and got excited about writing as a craft. An agent suggested I not write prehistoric fiction because the market was too small so I switched to thrillers. I wrote one, another, both well received but they didn’t sell much. I figured if I was going to write and NOT sell, I might as well write what I wanted so I switched back to prehistoric fiction. My first novel, Born in a Treacherous Time, was rejected over one hundred times but still, I wrote another, Survival of the Fittest. That too was rejected one hundred times (I stopped sending out queries when I received my 100th rejection).  Repeat for two more and then I stopped submitting to traditional publishers. I got whatever message they were sending and decided to self-publish. Yes, I was confused and intimidated, like a web browser with nineteen tabs open, seventeen of them frozen and one with music blasting but I couldn’t tell where it came from.

But none of that mattered. I was in charge of my destiny and that felt good. I peacocked for a while and then went back to work.

Somewhere along the line, I figured out my voice. That was scary at first, putting a book out to the public written the way I wanted but I felt good about what I was writing. I knew the rules, which to follow and which to bend, and understood the importance readers place on how a story is told. In fact, that is as important as rules. By the third book written my way, I began to gain traction and sell enough that I could even call myself a writer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some success. A first place in a writing competition. Quarter finals in a national competition. I even had an agent for a while… That’s another story. I’ve tried quitting, but I’m back at it within weeks, like an addict. I know people who quit smoking and their rough period starts when they quit and continues till they die. Is that what being a reformed writer would be: “Hello, my name is Jacqui and it’s been ten days since I edited my last novel.” I get the shakes thinking of that.

If you’re trying to find your voice, here are my suggestions:

  • Know the rules of writing in your genre
  • Talk to professionals in that genre about your writing
  • Then, write the way you want to, with passion and energy. That’s your voice. You’ll find a group of people who like it and that will be good enough.

Someone once said about the death of one particular amazing writer whose stories seemed to be effortless:

Talent on loan from God. Talent returned to God.

When you find your voice, that’s what it feels like, as though someone greater than you is whispering in your ear and you darn well better listen.

~~~

Jacqui’s latest release is Laws of Nature, the second book in her Dawn of Humanity trilogy. I finished reading this only last week, and I recommend it whole-heartedly!

The Blurb

A boy blinded by fire. A woman raised by wolves. An avowed enemy offers help.

In this second of the Dawn of Humanity trilogy, the first trilogy in the Man vs. Nature saga, Lucy and her eclectic group escape the treacherous tribe that has been hunting them and find a safe haven in the famous Wonderwerk caves in South Africa, the oldest known occupation of caves by humans. They don’t have clothing, fire, or weapons, but the caves keep them warm and food is plentiful. But they can’t stay, not with the rest of the tribe enslaved by an enemy. To free them requires not only the prodigious skills of Lucy’s unique group–which includes a proto-wolf and a female raised by the pack–but others who have no reason to assist her and instinct tells Lucy she shouldn’t trust.

Set 1.8 million years ago in Africa, Lucy and her tribe struggle against the harsh reality of a world ruled by nature, where predators stalk them and a violent new species of man threatens to destroy their world. Only by changing can they prevail. If you ever wondered how earliest man survived but couldn’t get through the academic discussions, this book is for you. Prepare to see this violent and beautiful world in a way you never imagined.

Book information

Title and author: Laws of Nature
Series: Book 2 in the Dawn of Humanity series
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Editor: The extraordinary Anneli Purchase
Available (print or digital) at: Kindle US   Kindle UK   Kindle CA   Kindle AU  Kindle India

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Follow Jacqui here!

Amazon Author Page:          www.amazon.com/Jacqui-Murray/e/B002E78CQQ/

Blog:                                      https://worddreams.wordpress.com

Instagram:                             https://www.instagram/jacquimurraywriter

LinkedIn:                                http://linkedin.com/in/jacquimurray

Pinterest:                                http://pinterest.com/askatechteacher

Twitter:                                   http://twitter.com/worddreams

Website:                                 https://jacquimurray.net

Paul English is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome Paul English to this month’s Launch Pad spot!

Paul lives just up the road from me in Somerset West in the beautiful Western Cape of South Africa. You might remember him from the book signing we co-hosted back in 2019. It’s such a pleasure to have a fellow author close by with whom to exchange ideas and discuss the ups and downs of a writer’s life, although much of this has had to be virtual over the past year or so of lockdowns.

Paul’s an ardent superhero and sci-fi fan and has a love for mysteries, all of which has contributed to the writing of his novels. Originally inspired to create his first superhero character by watching an interview with the late great Stan Lee, Paul is an encyclopaedia of knowledge concerning anything and everything related to Marvel and DC comics. Paul’s also a keen follower of pro-wrestling and enjoys dabbling in drawing his own comic books and writing the stories. You can find him blogging about his writing and his books on his blog, Backroom Bulletin.

Paul’s book, Scorched Earth: Arrival was released earlier this year and he’s here to tell us about it. Take it away, Paul!

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Thank you for having me on your blog today Chris, I’m excited to tell you about my latest book which is the start of my Scorched Earth trilogy.

Scorched Earth: Arrival is the seventh book in the Fire Angel Universe, the new superhero universe which I created when I started my writing and publishing journey. Once I’d introduced several compelling characters over the course of my previous Fire Angel books, I decided it was time for all these characters to come together, and what better time for superheroes to meet than during an invasion from an alien empire? Given the fact I’m a science fiction fan it seemed the obvious choice and hence the Scorched Earth trilogy came into being. This first book deals with the arrival of a powerful alien force, an empire bent on the invasion of yet another planet: Earth.

Writing the Fire Angel series has been really enjoyable, although each book has come with its own set of challenges. The Scorched Earth trilogy is proving no different. I’m currently nearing the completion of the second book, Scorched Earth: Takeover, so keep an eye out for that when it comes out.

The Blurb

The Earth is being invaded. A hero falls.

As a ruthless alien empire sets its sights on Earth, the time has come for courageous people to step up and defend the world.

When Project: Guardian’s leader, Kat Palmer goes AWOL, Randy Wilson is next in line to lead the clandestine government task force against the most serious threat the human race has ever faced.

And now, when both the military and the police have their backs against the wall, humanity needs new heroes too. Alexandra Grant answers the call, not only to save others, but to redeem herself for condemning the superhuman, Fire Angel.

Meanwhile, the members of the underground Society of Science, are working against the clock to find a chink in the invaders’ armor and stop them before it’s too late.

So begins the war for humanity’s freedom…

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Discover more of Paul English’s books on Amazon

Read them in order:

Fire Angel: Genesis

Fire Angel: Turning Point

Fade: Shadows of the Past

Fire Angel: Igniting the Spark

Family Portrait: A Fade Spin-Off

Scorched Earth: Arrival

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Here are Paul’s social media links. Pop over and say hi!

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FireAngelUniverse

Blog: https://backroombulletin.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FireAngeluni

Pinterest: https://za.pinterest.com/AuthorPaulenglish/fire-angel-universe

Amazon Author page: https://www.amazon.com/Paul-English/e/B07YSP6B41

Jude Itakali is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome Jude Itakali to this month’s Launch Pad spot. Many of you will already be familiar with Jude through his blog, Tales Told Different, but let’s find out a little bit more about him from his author bio.

Jude was born and lives in Kampala, Uganda, and when not being an athlete on the rugby field, or crunching down numbers on a computer for work, he delicately pens the epiphanies from life and its different relationships and encounters.

He writes about all sorts of topics, finding a way to relate them with each other because no one theme exists in a vacuum.

Empathy is sometimes considered a gift, and Jude has it in abundance.

Jude has recently released his first book, Crossroads (Winds of Love) – a collection of poetry, prose and short stories. Here he is to tell us all about it. Take it away, Jude!

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Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today, Chris. I’m excited to tell you all about my book, which is entitled Crossroads (Winds of Love).

This is my debut publication and I used poetry because of its ability to touch a variety of people in a variety of ways. I admire the creativity it gives and the outlet of emotions that might otherwise fester within. The ability to exercise the breadth of language to pass on a message has always captivated me because it touches and evokes much deeper than plain words.

CROSSROADS (Winds of love) is a collection of poems, prose, and short stories written in verse. Many times, romantic love is depicted as a formula: advice on ways in which to get the best out of love. In my time and experience through many kinds of love, some my own, many from the people closest to me, and a few from the world testimonies and stories, I have come to understand that each situation is different, and not all advice is applicable for everyone. Love is not bound by rules, and in most cases, it does not make sense.

I wrote and compiled these poems and stories to show multiple aspects of love, to show the reader that they are not alone, that they should not be judged, and even though love’s pleasures may come with even greater pains, that in the end, the power to change it or discover it in its best form, lies within us.

This precious gem of a book has poetry in structured forms including, but not limited to sonnets, haiku, etheree, tanka, cinquain, shadorma, and many more. It also contains free verse poetry and a splattering of short stories. It takes us on an adventure through longing, intimacy, heartbreak and healing.

Click here for some of my latest reviews and some short extracts from the book.

The Blurb

In the corridors of love,
At the crossroads of loneliness,
We stand at our most vulnerable.
As the winds of love swirl, we are often ill-prepared for the portends and promises they carry;
The longing, fear, and deception.
The intimacy, and the horrors of heartbreak.
But also the hope, renewal and strength from the trials we have survived.

May these poems, prose and short stories touch each in their own particular way,
And bring us all perspective, compassion, hope and ultimately;
Love!

Find it on Amazon in ebook and paperback: USA ~ UK ~ IND ~ AUS ~ CAN ~ ESP ~ Rest of the World

If it’s available in your region, I’d recommend you order a paperback copy – so much better for poetry.

My copy arrived just a few days ago.

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Follow Jude here!

Goodreads: Goodreads Author Jude Kirya Itakali 
Blog: WordPress – Tales Told Different
Facebook:  Kirya Itakali Jude
Twitter:  @jude_clutch 
Instagram: judeitakali

Contact him on email: judekirya37@gmail.com

Lizzie Chantree is on the Launch Pad!

It’s my great pleasure to welcome international best-selling author, Lizzie Chantree to the first of my Launch Pad spots!

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor, running a popular networking hour on social media, CreativeBizHour, where creatives can support to each other.

This week I picked up a copy of Lizzie’s Networking for Writers. What a useful little book it is, containing lots of useful tips for any author navigating their way though the minefields of marketing and social media.

Lizzie’s novels are full of friendship and laughter, and are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Lizzie has a new book out and she can’t wait to tell us all about it. Take it away, Lizzie!

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Thank you for inviting me onto your blog today Chris. I’m excited to tell you all about my latest book, which is called Shh… It’s Our Secret.

The story is about a woman called Violet, who has lots of insecurities since losing her parents at a young age. Violet has been looked after by her older sister, but feels that the local community around the café that she runs, have become her surrogate family.

The café that Violet works in is very run down, but she can see it’s potential. Unfortunately the current owner, who is also her boyfriend, does not see things her way. Violet has a secret that could help the local community and her makeshift family, but first she has to pluck up the courage to leave a man who doesn’t appreciate her, rebuild her confidence and find her voice. Can someone who shies from the limelight, step out of the shadows and show the world how incredible she really is?

The Blurb

Violet has a secret that could change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works. After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them.

Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.

When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidently discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered.

Find it on Amazon: Shh… It’s Our Secret

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Discover more of Lizzie Chantry’s books

The Little Ice Cream Shop by the Sea

Networking for writers

If You Love Me, I’m Yours

Ninja School Mum

Babe Driven

Love’s Child 

Finding Gina

Shh… It’s Our Secret

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Lizzie is all over Social Media. Catch up with her here!

Website: www.lizziechantree.com

Author page: www.viewAuthor.at/LizzieChantree

Twitter: twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LizzieChantree

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/author/show/7391757.Lizzie_Chantree

Instagram: www.instagram.com/lizzie_chantree/

Pinterest: www.pinterest.co.uk/LizzieChantree/pins/

FB Groups: www.facebook.com/groups/647115202160536/

BookBub: www.bookbub.com/profile/lizzie-chantree

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/lizziechantreeauthor

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCop-RlAcGqggZG3JfE-Mw