Saddle up for adventure and discover some good books

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Armchair adventure anyone?

What you, the followers of this blog have told me, is that you really love two things: finding out about new books, and hearing from the authors, so have I got a treat for you today! This one is jam packed with both of those, and more!

If you’re anything like me, summertime beckons a good old-fashioned adventure. But when you just can’t get out there yourself, there’s always a way to live through others, right?

Or course I’m talking about reading a well-told adventure book, and boy have I got three gems for you! They’re all a bit different: one’s on horseback, two are on foot, but all three tackle iconic trails most of us would never have the opportunity to experience except through reading about them. Stay tuned to the end because there are some additional books you won’t want to miss finding out about from my guest author, Jackie Parry.

A penniless adventure

The first, Free Country, A Penniless Adventure the Length of Britain, is by George Mahmood. George and his buddy set off only in their underpants (the British Union Jack pattern makes an eye-catching cover, y’all) to prove that A) Brits have a dry, hilarious and often unexpected sense of humor, and B) their fellow countrymen can be willing to go along with even the most off-beat requests, such as offering up a spare pair of trousers, a bicycle and/or some hot pub grub. “Tricycle with that cup of tea, fella?” Yes, this is NOT a hike I’d recommend to just everyone, especially with the bare, and I do mean bare…minimum. But George and Ben, who set out to cycle the “End to End”, from England’s Land’s End to John O’Groats in Scotland, accomplished it. So toss off your clothes and join the fellas, and I promise you won’t regret reading along.

Barley Mow

A typical pub where George and Ben might have washed dishes in exchange for a meal. (They would have been wearing pants by now.)

Next is Grandma Gatewood’s Walk, The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail, by Ben Montgomery.

grandma-gatewood

I stumbled on, see what I did there… this gem that wasn’t written by Emma Gatewood herself, but compiled by Ben Montgomery in a page-turning recount of the first woman who walked the Appalachian Trail alone. He read her cryptic journal, postcards and letters and newspaper articles, and interviewed her children and grandchildren. He weaves in her early years, and wow, now I know why she sought solitude in the woods. Yikes.

Emma packed less than $200, a blanket, some bouillon cubes and a few other items. One day, Grandma Gatewood, as she was called by the media, got up one day, told her 11 kids she was “going for a walk,” and disappeared into the woods. She was eventually tracked down by some journalists who got wind of her…yeah…so she began sending postcards home to a not-so-surprised family because as you can surmise, they already knew she was built of some strong stuff. Well, you’ll have to read the rest for yourself. Like the part where she wears tennis shoes instead of hiking boots and sleeps on piles of leaves instead of sleeping bags. (“too heavy” she said) OMG. Just read this.

DW Garden path

Only a few miles was this well-groomed when Emma walked the ACT. An article she’d read made it sound like this was what she could expect. Not. That’s why they say she saved the ACT. Her journey led to a huge overhaul for which we can all thank her.

In case you missed it, Bill Bryson’s iconic, A Walk in the Woods is a hilarious and honest account of his time on the ACT. Now a movie starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte, we have many ways to armchair experience this hike on steroids.

And the final one, and most HIGHLY RECOMMENDED book of this trifecta is:

A Standard Journey, 5 Horses, 2 People and 1 Tent, by Jackie Parry, who along with husband Noel, adopted, trained and conditioned five former race horses to ride the Australian Bicentennial Trail.

ASJ cover

A Standard Journey is more than a story of a couple adopting horses and deciding to tackle the Australian bush, it shows how we continue to discover new strengths in each other through the most dire circumstances.

Strength, determination. Yep, it’s all there. I’m the MOST excited about this one because, as you know, I grew up riding, and would have given my first bridle to go on this trip with Jackie and her husband Noel. I was so fascinated when I finished that I immediately contacted Jackie and asked her if she could stop by and visit with us, as she’s quite busy and already off on another madcap adventure, of which I’ll let her tell you about in a bit. This isn’t her first book and she promises me it is NOT her last, because she is not only out there killing it, guys, she’s a terrific writer.

Everyone, I’d like you to meet Jackie! (from here, Bev’s comments in red) 

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Jackie Parry, tacked, packed and mounted up, ready for Australia’s Bicentennial National Trail. “Be an encourager, there are far too many critics in the world already.” JP

What’s your latest news, and how has the book been received?

It’s all happening at once. I released A Standard Journey in June, and I’m thrilled to be sharing it with readers worldwide.

I donate 50% of my profits from this book to horse/animal charities, but more importantly large charity organisations around the world are buying up my book (at a reduced rate) in order to sell at fund-raisers.

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All “the boys” as Jackie calls them, were former Standard Bred race horses, which had to be retrained for packing and trail riding.

Win-win! Who will enjoy this book?

This story will resonate with anyone who enjoys reading about ordinary people achieving truly extraordinary things, it’s also for adventurers (whether armchair or not!), and animal lovers too.

There’s plenty of humour and humbleness in there too, I’ve written it with searing honesty, and pull no punches when it comes to talking about the mistakes we made.

Hey, I resemble that armchair adventure remark! What are some favourite lines?

“We won’t even have a sink!’ I said, clutching the metal sides of our kitchen basin lovingly.”

‘That’s okay, we’ll use a billabong.’ My bearded bush-husband said.

and

“Are you kidding?’ said Noel. ‘You want me to take on a horse called Psycho Stevie?”

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L-R: Spirit, Dom, Stevie, Charlie and Ned. (and Noel astride…Stevie the Pyscho?)

“I waded in, knowing I was in danger, if Dom panicked I’d end up under him. But that didn’t stop me. I grabbed his head and tugged his nose out of the water so he didn’t drown.”

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That’s trust. Or exhaustion. Both?

“My scared boy was no longer a coward, he was leader.”

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The boys ready for the trail.

How long did it take you to write ASJ?

I took many notes during the journey – horrid, scribbled, shaky notes. I managed to decipher these, and I suppose all up it took about a year to put together into a coherent story. I wanted to craft the story just right – as perfect as I could get it. Horses are a great passion of mine, the boys in the story won my heart, and this story is incredibly important to me.

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The boys had frequent vet checks and the best of care along the way, as you can tell by how sleek they were.

How would you describe your writing style?

Honesty is my first thought. I don’t think about it too much, how I write is who I am, ie how I sound every day. There’s no pretense. I like to show the good and the bad, and reveal who I am – warts and all! I think we all have our own demons and mine are readily revealed! I find the line between sanity and insanity is a fine one. Not everyone will admit that.

Tell  us what else you’ve written and what’s in the future.

Of Foreign Build – From Corporate Girl to Sea-Gypsy Woman was launched at the end of last year and I am incredibly proud of how well it is doing and the wonderful reviews. My story has won the 5* Readers’ Favourite Award and many excellent write ups in 5star-shiny-webinternational magazines. This is the story of losing one man and falling for another, while trying to figure out who I am, and sailing around the world.

Cruisers’ AA (Accumulated Acumen) was the first book I published(with my husband Noel). It is for anyone who wants to set sail – runaway – live on a boat; or, indeed, if you are already cruising and want to learn more. It covers every aspect of living on a boat, from health, to beauty, to maintenance, to pirates, to navigation…..

Next: The title is still to be determined: After we sailed around the world on our thirty-three foot boat, and before the horse-trail riding, Noel and I purchased a sailboat in America. We wanted to experience the bejewelled Pacific Ocean again. This time we sailed further south to Easter Island, Pitcairn, The Gambiers, etc. It should have been an easier trip in a bigger boat, and with many miles experience under our belts. Instead the oceans were a struggle, and tested our fortitude. I had one of my most terrifying nights on that trip and many struggles to overcome.

Here’s Jackie in front of a canal boat she and Noel recently refurbished. OK, now we want to read about THAT.

What’s great about being an author?

Connecting with like-minded people; the readers who have made contact, are amazing. My first memoir, Of Foreign Build has inspired so many people to write to me with beautiful letters about their lives and experiences. My story has helped many people too, and it’s wonderful to hear about it.

Of Foreign Build is a deeply personal story about life in general and how to survive it, and steer the path you want – that resonates with a lot of people. I love hearing from readers.

When and why did you begin writing?

I began writing at school. Yes, we had to, but I loved it! During my ‘office-based-career’, I helped put together the corporate magazine. When Noel and I were sailing I wrote thousands of articles for magazines and naturally progressed into books. Being an ordinary woman who’s living an extraordinary life inspired me. Plus, I just can’t seem to stop writing.
What books have most influenced your life most?

A Fortunate Life by Albert Facey and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, not just because of their titles. (Note the similarities to mine!) I study books as I read them. These two books influenced my writing career. I learned from these authors, writing does not need to be flowery and tricky – it needs to be concise and clever.

What book are you reading now?

A Capable and Wide Revenge by Glen Barrera; it is leaving me short of breath, so much happens. Not only is it a thrilling read it is smart writing too. He has characters you are happy to invest in, scenes which are as vivid as if they are playing out in front of you.

Are there any new authors that have your interest?

Yes, lots!

Mark Fine, author of The Zebra Affaire, an incredible story of a thrilling fusion of suspense and romance in exotic, yet brutal apartheid South Africa.

Rachel Amphlett, she’s on her fourth or fifth book now, I recently read her latest Mistake Creek, it kept me up all night, completely breathless!

Val Poore has written Harbour Ways and African Ways amongst others, I have read one of her books and can’t wait to read more.

Rochelle Carlton caught my eye with a beautiful romantic story set in New Zealand. Romance isn’t my usual choice, but this book is so beautifully written I couldn’t put it down.

Do you have any advice for other writers?

Keep at it. It isn’t easy, but it is worth it. It is a marathon not a sprint and the entire process will take longer than you think. Try to write every day, if you can’t then read, learn, research (that part never ends!). Remember too, once you have published your book, you then have to learn to become a marketing professional! People won’t buy your book unless they know about it.
Anything else to share with you readers before you have to go?  

Thanks for all your support, it is amazing and so appreciated. Please do write (contact information is below) and tell me what you think. Can I help you? Let me know, I am happy to discuss marketing, writing, life!

Also, take a look at the links there to photo albums of our travels on the horses and on board our boats. Plus all the goodies from Cruisers’ AA on navigation etc.

Jackie it’s been so much fun, thanks for visiting. Your projects and words of  encouragement are so inspiring. I hope you keep entertaining us and seeking new adventures. You’ve definitely inspired me, and expanded my TBR list, that’s for sure! I hope you’ll visit again when the next book is published.

Bev out!

Jackie’s bio:

Addicted to travel, adventure and writing, Jackie doesn’t sit still for very long. Originally from the UK she is now an ‘adopted’ Australian. She’s sailed around the world one and a half times and trekked in the bush with five rescued horses for several months. She has also trained to become a professional maritime captain and teacher. Currently she is exploring the European canals on a 1920s Dutch barge with her Australian husband, Noel. She’s written about her sailing and horse trekking escapades, and there is still more to come. Jackie donates 50% of proceeds from her horse trekking book A Standard Journey5 horses, 2 people, and 1 tent, to help rescue more horses.

Contact information to Jackie Parry links to her books and blog.

Author blog: www.jackieparry.com

Travel blog: www.noelandjackiesjourneys.com

Horse Charity/Donations: http://helpinghandforhorses.weebly.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jackie.parry.7543

Travels: https://www.facebook.com/NoelAndJackiesJourneys

Horses: https://www.facebook.com/pages/For-the-love-of-horses/1048526295173146

Amazon book links

A StandardJourney: http://geni.us/1j9w

Of Foreign Build: http://geni.us/ipq

Cruisers’ AA (accumulated acumen) – http://geni.us/3sKJ

Twitter

https://twitter.com/NandJJourneys

https://twitter.com/StandardJourney

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7157763.Jackie_Sarah_Parry?from_search=true

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jackieparry7543

Full photo album of A Standard Journey: http://goo.gl/1QgMp2

Full photo album of Of Foreign Build: http://jackieparry.com/of-foreign-build-photo-album/

Full photo album of Cruisers’AA: http://jackieparry.com/pics/

Meet “The Kaleidoscope Cast” – Walter

TK cast Walter

 

Here’s a scene featuring Walter:

One more piece of the puzzle, and the technology anticipated, even feared, would be born. If he’d calculated correctly, and Walter was meticulous about calculations, the day’s mail should contain the gem he’d saved and scraped for. Every tip, handout, or penny literally scraped from the gutter had gone into a jar, and last week he’d exchanged the sum for a cashier’s check and placed the order. If this final trial didn’t work, he’d lose everything he’d slaved over. His ideas were running out, his home was about to be razed, and what made the urgency even more crucial, he sensed “they” were about to discover his hiding place.

Flipping the wall calendar over his workbench, Walter circled a date two weeks hence. That would give him sufficient time to install the final part, to test, and make note of his achievement. Perhaps even enjoy it himself before he turned it over to the one who would carry it to the world, who could safely deliver the technology where it would do the most good. It was time to plan the handoff.

The sun’s rays pouring from a high window warmed and loosened Walter’s back muscles. The glint on the shaft of metal, as thick as a Cuban cigar, the length of a number two pencil, gave him more than a few moments of pride he’d not felt since the birth of his long-lost son.

He held the eyepiece up and sighted, spinning the dial. It caught and stuck in place. He wrapped it once again in the cloth, gently rested the device between the jaws of the vise and slowly cranked it shut, stopping at precisely the point where the Kaleidoscope would be held firmly in place, but not harmed by the firm grip. He filed and sprayed, working over the delicate prize until the dial spun like butter and the magnificent colors fell into place.

And…scene. What is he up to? Is he crazy? Genius? Dangerous?

 

Starting off on the right hook…not in a pirate sort of way.

This is part of a series I’m posting as I write THE KALEIDOSCOPE A Novel of Unusual Circumstances.

I’ve been reading about making great openings. As soon as I’d arrived at a conclusion (notice I didn’t say The End yet) of most of the story threads, I zoomed back to the beginning.

I don’t know about you, but when I read a novel, I want all the pieces to fit together and the journey to end in a satisfying, even in a clever way, that the author had my satisfaction in mind both from the first to the last.

The First FiftyI picked up a copy of Jeff Gerke’s First Fifty Pages and devoured it/lost sleep/highlightedtheheckoutof. Trained as a screenwriter (and having worked as an editor and successful author), he zooms right to several points I could understand how to implement, and WHY.

Last night, I had critique group to attend, so I printed out my first three pages. After some  a lot of tweaking. I even moved an entire scene to the beginning based on Jeff’s advice. My opening had bogged because it was a lot of blah-blah narrative. But I need the reader to know my guy, I whined.

So Jeff, when is it OKAY to give information? Here’s what he says:

A)   when the reader must want to know it

B)   when the story cannot go on without the information (Kindle loc 683)

As you know, I wanted to raise the bar on myself, so instead of beginning in dialogue or action, I had started out in my MC’s head, and that was borrinng, but he’s a complicated guy.

Aannnddd then I read Jeff’s advice and now I have my MC DOING something, the thoughts in his head are now generic to what he’s doing, even though he’s just on his way to work (I’m also establishing his normal, another necessity of an opening), we see a lot by how he thinks about what’s around him. Notice I said SEE?

So did my tweaking work for my critique buddies Veola, Ron, Ralph and Kelly?

You decide.

Here’s one of the opening paragraph for which I got several positive comments:

“He double-timed the staircase and sailed inside the office building. His steps clapped against tile, echoing around the bank’s tiled lobby. ID card drawn for the guard and swiftly replaced, he tapped a loafered toe to send a subliminal message to the couple selfishly absorbed in a personal discussion, and by 8:58, pushed the elevator button. Despite the challenges of the morning, it was going to be a good day.”

What’s interesting about this one is, I had it buried about five pages later, and when I read Jeff’s logic, I brought it forward to the opening. (BTW, he’s just bypassed a homeless encampment, and that’s why he’s in such a hurry…nice guy, right?)

Something else Jeff said resonated as I realized my “cuts” file is getting longer than my MS. “What you lose in detail, you more than make up for in reader engagement.”

To write complicated characters, which makes them more compelling and makes the reader want to know what happens next, you need to know a LOT of details and background yourself. In first drafts a lot of inner thoughts may find the page, but to follow Jeff’s most compelling nugget now burned into my writerly brain: “Can the camera see it?”

Sean Maxwell

Here’s my BIL Sean, an uber talented cameraman. (He’s smiling because he knows how the camera adds ten pounds. LOL. Or maybe just because he knows how all those gizmos work.)

Like I said, he was a filmmaker by education, but that explanation makes it so much easier to remember than the tired old, “show don’t tell” which doesn’t really say anything to the 21st century brain. But I get camera angles and the importance of “the visual.”

Also this week, I hit a low when I realized how long this was all taking, and I want the book done NOW.

But I read the terrific writer, Jess Walter’s BEAUTIFUL RUINS, a complex, character driven, yet plot complex story about an American actress, and the Italian hotel owner she meets when she’s looking for privacy…a great read y’all.

Anywhoo…Jess admits it took him fifteen years to get the story ready. FIFTEEN YEARS. But it’s a great read, recommended!Beautiful Ruins

A big shout-out of thanks to both Jeff and Jess this week. (And Rebecca’s critique group)

Writers, what’s helped you with your opening?

Readers, What keeps you interested past page one…or worse, what makes you toss the book aside and reach for the remote?

I’m having fun writing The Kaleidoscope, A Novel of Unusual Circumstances, where the main character, Harold, finds himself the custodian of a magical scope that reveals much more than just colorful shapes! Here’s a Pinterest board where I’m gathering images of the characters and setting for Kaleidoscope.

The Kaleidoscope

 

 

 

The Kaleidoscope – a novel from Inception to Conception

The KaleidoscopeI’m asked two questions most often about my writing. One is, “how do you come up with story ideas?” and the other usually centers on the actual methods…translate: how many hours are spent planning, plotting and preparing before actually setting pen to paper?

Since I’m all about FRESH STARTS here, and I am beginning a new stand-alone novel, The Kaleidoscope, a Novel of Unusual Circumstances, (This is my working title, and as with everything else here, open for discussion.) I thought it would be terrifying  fun to post along the process as the story takes shape.

THE CHALLENGE

I’ve added some personal challenges (besides blogging the journey) to up the ante. I want to grow as a writer, and as I study from some terrific teachers, I will post what I’m reading and studying.

So please, join me as I take you backstage so to speak, as my idea becomes a finished book.

Practice, practice, practice.

Practice, practice, practice.

If you’ve written before, or heck, learned or practiced anything while others watched, maybe a new sport, talent or craft, you know how it feels to bare all. I applaud you for that. The accountability can be scary, right? But we’re all friends here. Can I get an amen?

Most writers are advised to do several things: take classes, go to conferences and join a critique group (and/or find a critique partner who isn’t related to you…or in your employ, LOL.) Check, check, and check.

I’m proud to say I have had some of the most awesome critique partners who speak truth in kindness. (Shout out to Rebecca Farnbach and her group; and Ashley Ludwig, Dona Watson, and Joanne Bischof!)

Joanne and Bev

L-R, Ashley, Joanne, me, Dona

I’m eager to get your input, so if you have a question, have read a great book or site that adds to the conversation, or even if you sense a wrong turn, see a misstep or catch me in a foul-up, please weigh in. I welcome your input and always covet your prayers.

And if you’re writing, I’d love to hear from you!

Beverly on Sissy

I used to show hunter-jumpers, and when my green horse got comfortable taking small hurdles, my coach would remove the pegs, and raise the top rail for a higher challenge. Literally, I am raising the bar on myself, and hopefully this preparation will bring me a clean round when it’s showtime.

 

Let’s Roll!

Here’s how I conceived of “The Kaleidoscope.”

One of the techniques I wanted to improve upon was to “deepen my POV,” to build believable characters who are dimensional and complicated. To write a book where the people begin to seem so real, you know their thoughts, childhoods, secrets and shames.

imagesThat’s good casting, folks.

You have to test a character’s chops to discover motivation, and one way is to offer them a challenge. So I searched for a method or idea to really scare the daylights out of my main character (MC).

01I used to work in the properties department of live theatre, providing handheld items for actors to carry, so props are special to me, close to my heart. I searched for something that would be used throughout the book to further the trouble my MC would face, something he would learn to love and hate. (Every story needs trouble in River City!) Beware, I will use a mash up of theater and horse riding metaphors, LOL. #selfediting!

I considered using a snow globe for my prop. Somehow the MC finds or becomes its guardian. But that bothered me for two reasons: a) it’s kind of cliché, overdone, and b) I also wanted the image revealed to be a secret, visible only to the viewer… so my MC would have to get to know the person better after they looked.

snowglobe purchased istockphoto

Snowglobes evoke winter, another reason I passed on using one.

Voila, I decided a magical kaleidoscope would work! (I’ll discuss exactly how the MC is terrified by it in a future post, but don’t worry, we’re not writing horror…um…I don’t think.)

Before I was settled on a ‘scope, though I also searched Amazon to see if there were many books using Kaleidoscopes as a motif, and found a few, but none using the plot device I plan. Perfect.

As you’ll notice, I haven’t identified what genre I am going for. Yet. But I’m beginning to see lines forming. Because I will attempt to write deep POV, I’m dabbling in literary fiction (with my little pinky), and a magical ‘scope, so the fantasy element is now there. (NEVER thought I’d write fantasy.)

I’ve been writing for mainly a female audience until now (THE SEASONS OF CHERRYVALE), and I wanted to really stretch myself, so I decided my MC should be a man.

I’ve been reading “Million Dollar Outlines” by David Farland, and he reminded me that by casting the MC as a man, I might attract more male readers. (More on this EXCELLENT book in a later post.)

Aaannd…not only will I no longer be able to fall back on “how would a woman think/react,” I will have to do my homework and pay attention when I write how a guy thinks.

Which is a perfect setup for the next post, which will cover some terrific books I read to prepare myself for laying down the groundwork for the plot, setting, characters and other tools.

To see the pictures I’m gathering around the casting and setting for Kaleidoscope, check out my Pinterest board.

I’d love to hear your stories of making fresh starts, thoughts about writing, or what new talent, hobby or endeavor you’re challenging yourself with. If I’m really inspired, I might enter you to win random giveaways from my overstuffed shelves.

Bev out!

Be sure to check out Christina Katz’ list of terrific freelance writing books!