Welcome Isla Grey!

AsylumHarbor

Trouble is the last thing Devon Brown needs when she leaves the painful memories of her past behind and heads to Shell Island.  As the Salty Dog’s new bartender, she finds herself drawn to Kerr, the Shell Island harbormaster.  But finding her happily-ever-after is difficult when dealing with an obnoxious bootlegger who supplies the bar with illegal liquor and a jealous coworker.

Sounds pretty interesting, doesn’t it? Well, just wait till you hear from the amazing author who wrote this story. She’s stopped by today and I’ve forced her to answer some questions. Then she’s going to share a bit from Asylum Harbor, her latest release from The Wild Rose Press. It’s Book One of her Salty Dog series. So let’s hear a bit from Isla Grey:

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  • When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I can’t think of a time where I wasn’t writing.  When I was younger, it was just little bits of rhyming words that I’d write in cards for my grandmother.  Later on, I remember winning a school writing competition and after the principal told me I should keep writing, I think my fate was sealed, it encouraged me to keep going.

  • What inspires your writing?

A little bit of everything.  It could be a unique place I pass while walking or driving on the road or a conversation I hear—some of the stories I can tell just from things I hear people say!

  • Who is your favorite character that you’ve written? Why?

I think Kerr from “Asylum Harbor” has been my favorite.  He’s good but not too good—he has that bad boy streak.  He’s also the type of person who doesn’t let others too close to him, so he’s hard to know.  You have to dig the layers away to find the true character underneath.

  • What would be your dream writing getaway?

I would love to spend a week at the beach during the summer where I can spend the days writing on a deck overlooking the water and I can walk the beach at night for ideas.  Usually when I go on vacation, I get very little writing done.

  • Who are some of your favorite authors or what are some of your favorite books?

There’s so many!  I’m a big fan of J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter books.  Right now I’m loving the “Miss Peregrine” books by Ransom Riggs.  I also have a soft spot for Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe for my macabre side.  I also love some of the classics including “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte, which is probably my “go to” book and “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier.

  • Tell us a bit about this latest book.

Asylum Harbor tells the story of Devon Brown who packs up and leaves her home to become the new bartender of the Salty Dog on Shell Island.  She’s not looking for trouble or romance, but she finds it in abundance when she finds herself falling for the brash and brooding harbor master, Kerr.

If you’d like to find out more about Isla and her work, you can catch her at:

http://www.islagrey.com/

http://www.islagrey.com/islas-inklings

https://www.facebook.com/AuthorIslaGrey

You can find Asylum Harbor at:

The Wild Rose Press and Amazon

Here’s that peek at Asylum Harbor I promised:

“You already got dibs on this one Kerr?”

Porter shot an evil glare at the opposite end of the bar and looked back toward her.  “I’ll see you tonight.”  He flicked his tongue.  “After work.”  He raised his glass in a mock toast and chugged it in one gulp.

The lights dimmed for Victoria’s dance of the night.  Devon watched Kerr, who was usually headed for the exit by now, and breathed a sigh of relief when he remained glued to his seat with his back to the stage.  He wasn’t staying for Victoria’s peep show.  There must have been something about this Porter character that got under his skin in a bad way.

Devon was eager for the quick break.  She hustled to the back as the chords to “Simply Irresistible” began to pelt over the speakers and ran some cold water over her forearm.  A red welt was beginning to show where Porter had held onto it.  She hoped he would be gone by the time she got back.

Making it out before mid-song, Devon rounded the bar when someone snagged her wrist and thrust her hard against the bar, knocking the wind out of her.  She could smell Porter’s alcohol-laced breath as his weight pinned her under him.  One of his grubby hands shot under her shirt while the other wrestled with the button on her pants.  “Let’s give them a real show.”

She struggled to reach the Equalizer, but it remained hidden, out of her grasp.  Devon hoisted her knee toward his crotch, but Porter lost his balance and fell backward before she could make contact.

Kerr towered over him.  “Get your hands off her.”

Asylum Harbor book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sDfqmyddcQ4

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Looking Past What You See

It’s hard being judged. No matter whether it’s for your gender, your age, your body or any other surface aspect, knowing someone is looking at the outside of you and making determinations about what’s on the inside is discouraging, to say the least.

People are like icebergs. We only see the tip and unless we take the time, we never know about the hidden depths below the surface. It’s easy, and lazy, to look at someone and determine their intelligence, their creativity, their life skills and their worth by an outer inspection, or even a casual glance. Such neglect robs the viewer of the surprise of true character.

This is even more apparent for a writer. Characters need layers as much as they require physical descriptions. There should be hidden depths that add spark to the story and make the reader long for more. I would caution those who wish to hone their writing skills with an admonition: if you are depending on the surface to tell you about the inner person, then likely you are writing stereotypes and not real characters. Be careful you don’t judge away the best part of your story.

Leni Riefenstahl, Eminem and Kate Breslin

Today I was made aware of a controversy raging in the world of romance. The gist of the storm centers on a debut novel by Kate Breslin titled For Such a Time. Released in 2014, the story focuses on a rather unusual couple, a Jewish woman placed in a concentration camp and the commandant of said camp. Not every reader’s cup of tea. The outrage spun into a tornado when the book was nominated for the RITA, a prestigious award given by the Romance Writers of America.

Most reviews agree that it is well written. And many of them believe it to be the story of a captive who develops Stockholm syndrome and falls for her abusive captor, who is the hero of the story. They feel the development of the story is problematic and it should have never been published as it is offensive and racist.

I read many of the comments and reviews about the story and its controversy. Doing so reminded me of something I have found to be true about both art and artists: artists come with an agenda. All of them. Let me explain it with a couple of examples.

In a film class I took in college we discussed the work of Leni Riefenstahl. She pioneered certain film techniques and had a blossoming career. Then she became Hitler’s propaganda machine. Over the years of WWII she made films promoting the Nazi party, a choice for which she paid dearly after the war. The fact remains that she was a creative and talented filmmaker. She was good at what she did.

I was introduced to the music of Eminem by a co-worker. I found his music brutal, honest and engaging. Many people found his music misogynistic and racist. But he was and is a talented, creative musician. He was good at what he did.

From the reviews I read, Ms. Breslin is a talented writer, capable of excellent visual imagery. Her writing talent does not appear to be in question. One of the strongest complaints against the novel is the fact that at the end of the book, the heroine converts from Judaism to Christianity and this is what “saves” her. Kate Breslin is a writer of Christian fiction. That’s her agenda. From what I’ve read it sounds as if she wanted to show that no one is beyond God’s love and the teachings of Jesus can bring hope and salvation to anyone, even a Nazi.

Honestly, I doubt she looked beyond that agenda when writing this story. One of the other complaints about the story is they felt she worked so hard to make this “romance” work that it actually didn’t. In spite of her struggle to be as historically accurate as possible, she bent her own rules by forcing her hero to be a Nazi. She ignored the fact that no one who achieved a high enough status as to be in charge of one of the death camps would be anything less than a completely committed follower of Hitler. Her story needed him to have some qualms, so she gave him some. Doing so fit her agenda.

With her focus on accomplishing her goal with her story, the idea that many would find her work offensive likely never occurred to her. As I said, I believe every writer, every artist has an agenda. There’s a reason every woman in Nora Roberts’ books ends up empowered, and usually in business for themselves. Female empowerment is her agenda and the romance is part of that. When I pick up a book by Sherilyn Kenyon I know going in that the hero, and probably the heroine will have suffered a painful and abusive childhood. Her agenda is to demonstrate that can be overcome through love.

And that is the big question to me. How important is our own agenda when we write? Do we recognize what our agenda is? And do we recognize it in the work of others? There were a number of people who commented that this novel should never have been published, that it was so insensitive and so offensive it should have been rejected. But we need to remember that the publisher and the author share a common agenda: to spread the word of Christ. Simply because we may not share that agenda doesn’t mean they aren’t entitled to have it.

Rather than censoring the work, it might be better if we understood and evaluated that work in terms of the agenda behind it. There are always going to be things out there which grate on the edges of our nerves, or stir intense and disturbing feelings in us. Even better, they make us stand up and say this is wrong, this is bad, this is hurtful. The more we practice standing up for what we believe, the more chance we stand of changing other people’s agendas.

I Read, Therefore I Judge

I’ve been reading the comments sections of posts. Perhaps a bit too much:

trollThe black cloud of negativity, who says things like:

“George R.R. Martin is the most overrated writer in the history of fantasy/sci-fi. His books read like a contract and substitute shock value for originality and talented story telling.”

“You want fluff, read a Dragonlance novel or that shite Gabaldon series.”

And I won’t even go into the comments on the #AskELJames fiasco on Twitter.

For the most part, those in many professions don’t get critiqued by total strangers online. Artists have become, for some unfathomable reason, the target for a kind of criticism that goes beyond taste. It isn’t enough these days to say a particular work isn’t the type you enjoy. It must be slammed into the ground, the artist portrayed as stupid, untalented, etc.

“I don’t like it” isn’t acceptable anymore. The very fact of dislike now impugns not only that work but everything an artist does and even who they are.

I wonder if those who do this have ever considered that wiping out the confidence and the desire of those who make art may leave them without anyone to criticize at all. How many artists give up under the weight of uninformed and untrue insults their work receives? And how many careers are damaged by the platforms so easily available to those whose only talent is to criticize?

I am reminded of an old adage: those who can, do. The twist these days comes in the second part of the saying: those who can’t, criticize.

Why I Have A History Degree

I get a lot of polite smiles when I tell people I have a BA in History. Even my dad shook his head and told me how much he hated history classes, how boring they were. I get it, I really do. The feeling isn’t the same for me, but I understand why people’s eyes glaze over sometimes when they read history books. Too many of them are written by people who act as if they’re still doing it for a grade.

My story is pretty simple. I have a degree in History because of Math. Don’t get me wrong, I do have a passion for history. What I have is much less passion for Math. In fact, I don’t have any passion for Math. Nor any real aptitude for it. It’s a truly loveless relationship.

It isn’t that I didn’t try. I made it a week and a half in the math class I took at the local community college (the remedial one that failing the automated test puts you into so you can learn enough to take the lowest level of real math). I understood more of what was going on in the French class I took.

When I left to complete my BA at a university, I worried about the obstacle of another math class. Then I perused the requirements of the History department. The classes sounded great and there wasn’t a single math class listed. It was made for me.

I studied medieval and reformation Europe, the history of Africa and Germany along with a class on the fall of the Soviet Union. It was awesome. Don’t ever let anyone tell you college doesn’t have a place for everyone. Even History geeks can survive.

A Writer’s Life is Complicated

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(This is me, trying to have it all)

Writing is an obsession. Writing is a chore. It’s the strangest dichotomy I know of to love something that makes you want to pull your hair out. Stories never stop meandering their way through my head. The problem is they don’t meander onto the paper, or the computer screen, at least not with anything resembling ease.

A second level of frustration, for me at least, is the vast difference in those stories. I love to write humor, to know that people are laughing at the words I put together. But I also love to write gut-wrenching emotion. I like mayhem and destruction. I write dark and sometimes morbid plays, humorous romance novels, contemporary murder mysteries and fantasy short stories. Perhaps I need mood management more than lessons on my craft.

And a bit of shameless promotion:

The latest review for my novel, Ghost of a Clue, from The Wild Rose Press can be found here: http://www.drcpromotions.com/2015/05/review-a-ghost-of-a-clue-by-debra-doggett/

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Do you know what this is (besides a testament to the amazing graphic skills of cover artist Debbie Taylor)? It’s a testament to perseverance. Or possibly to procrastination, depending on how you look at it.

I started this book about six years ago. Today I got the release date for it: August 19, 2015. It even won a prize. Yes, I was one of those people who submitted the first three chapters which they had honed to perfection without ever finishing the whole thing. An editor requested it. Did that motivate me to finish the damn thing? Nope.

You know how they tell you that if you write even a paragraph a day you will eventually complete a novel? It’s true. It’s also true that if you only write one paragraph every six months, it will take you a hell of a long time to complete that novel.

Each paragraph of this came out of me with a bit of blood loss (okay, that may be a bit of a dramatization) but it is my triumph over my inner critic, who is always quick to tell me I suck at writing. This is possibly the best writing I have done to date. I hope you’ll check it out this August. Of course, I will be happy to remind you.