Monday, March 30, 2015

Treated as Murder - a mystery by Noreen Wainwright

Noreen Wainwright is Irish but now lives in England with her husband, Brian, who is a dairy farmer. She is passionate about her writing - something that will probably resonate with fellow-writers! It becomes an obsession, an addiction and in the end, part of who we are. She has had many non-fiction pieces published in national newspapers and magazines and has also had some short stories published. The publication of Treated as Murder was the icing on the cake though and this has now been followed by acceptance of the second of the Edith Horton mysteries. The series is set in Yorkshire, a lovely part of England. It is set, too, in the 1930s an intriguing period that marked an unsettled time - one World War was in the very recent past and another was looming. This also marked the height of the "Golden Age" of crime writing, where women crime writers, in particular, came into their own. Of course, writing of this time has inspired the novels. The books are published by Tirgearr Publishing.

Treated as Murder, is set in the Yorkshire village of Ellbeck in 1931.

Edith Horton, a former VAD, lives with her brother, Archie Horton, a local doctor. This living arrangement has continued since after the war, though neither sibling is completely happy. Archie, who lost his wife during the war, has a secret gambling habit.

Edith lost her fiancé in WW1. Her friend, Julia (whose fiancé returned from the war) lives in a nearby village with her family.
At the beginning of the story Edith is a patient in a psychiatric hospital, following a breakdown. This was caused in part by a failed relationship, in part because her life has become stagnant, since the war and the death of her fiance.
Anonymous letters have been received by several local people. One of these was sent to the police and accused Archie Horton of deliberately killing a former wealthy patient of his, Elizabeth Butler, (who left him a legacy). Elizabeth, the widow of a wealthy America, had two grown-up step-children, Roderick and Caroline.
A letter was also received by Dorothea Arbuthnot. The Arbuthnots, Arthur and Dorothea lost two sons in WW1. They have a daughter, Helena. In their past is a secret which is the catalyst for the whole story of the novel.
The two police officers involved throughout the novel are Chief Inspector Greene and Sergeant Bill Brown.
As we follow Edith’s time in the psychiatric hospital, we also follow the story of another woman, Esther Kirk, a housemaid, who several years before was also sent to a similar hospital, following a breakdown and a suicide attempt. This followed her pregnancy and the birth of her son. The father of the child was Arthur Arbuthnot who had been her employer at the time. Following Esther’s admission to hospital, to prevent the child being given up for adoption, Dorothea Arbuthnot agreed to bring the child up as her own. He was one of the sons who was killed in WW1. Esther Kirk recovered to a certain extent and was eventually discharged from the hospital. She was devastated at her son’s death and holds the Arbutnots responsible. She now works in Ellbeck as a housekeeper – she worked for Mrs Elizabeth Butler, the victim. She is the author of the anonymous letters. She has a grudge against Archie Horton, as his father, (also a GP) was responsible – in her eyes, for her incarceration in a mental hospital.
When the connection is made and the past comes to light, it appears that the mystery of Mrs Butler’s death is solved. However, in a twist at the end of the story, it emerges that Esther Kirk was not the murderer of Elizabeth Butler. Elizabeth was killed by her step-daughter, for a financial motive.
The story ends with Edith, the heroine also coming to terms with her breakdown and ready to move forwards, perhaps one day with Henry Wilkes (the local vicar) and perhaps forward to have further adventures with him.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Niko - a Norwegian forest cat working as a pet model in Brazil

I am thrilled to introduce Niko, a handsome, successful Norwegian forest cat who made it in the modeling business in Rio de Janeiro.  His striking tuxedo markings make him recognizable as Sylvester from Loony Tunes. He freelances with Pet Models Brazil and is currently the face of Le Chat Gourmet. Today we interview his beautiful and devoted mother Tany, who works at a bank in a managerial role and whose ancestors came to Brazil in 1940s. She talks about the demands of raising and loving a feline star as well as her dreams for Niko's future.

MJN: How old was Niko when he came to live with you?  Did you know right away that he had modeling potential?

Tany: He was 5 months old. Everybody liked him, and people wanted to take pictures with him.

MJN: What kind of audition process did he have to go through in order to register with the pet agency?

Tany: He was invited by the same agency that works with his "sister", a Maine Coon who appeared in several magazines. The money he makes goes towards his toys, food, grooming supplies.

MJN: What personality traits do pet models need to have in order to succeed in the industry?

Tany: Good behavior and patience.

MJN: Do you have any other pets in the house?  Does Niko get along with them?

Tany: Yes he has a "sister" that I mentioned earlier. He loves to interact with her, but she doesn’t like it so much

MJN: Did you ever decline a project because you had moral objections to it or worried about Niko's safety?

Tany: There were several instances I had to decline a project: distance, potential stress for the cat, long hours etc...

MJN: Did anyone ever ask you to cut Niko's fur for a job?

Tany: Never, and I would never let that happen.

MJN: What are some of Niko's favorite toys?  Does he have a strong hunting instinct? 

Tany: He likes his toy mouse, cat toys on a stick and the cat scratcher lounge.

MJN: What would be your dream project for Niko?  Can you think of a brand that you would like him to work for?

Tany: I would love to put him in a TV commercial, TV series, pet advertising (food, shampoo, etc..), school material (notebook, case, bag, etc...), clothes, even on a coffee mug or  postcard. About the brand I would love to work with is Royal Canin or Hills Science Plan, Looney Tunes (as Sylvester the cat). Back in the 80s a Norwegian forest cat was the Whiskas official model, so I would like to work with them too.

MJN: How much longer do you think Niko can work in the modeling business?

Tany: At least another 6-8 years.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Regan Walker - Agents of the Crown & Medieval Warriors

A few weeks ago I hosted a bestselling indie author Stacy Juba who took a very entrepreneurial approach to writing and publishing. I would like to continue the thread of successful independent authors who take charge of the literary, editorial and marketing components of their craft. Please welcome Regan Walker, a historical novelist from San Diego. Today she joins us to discuss her multi-dimensional historical novel The Shamrock and the Rose, exploring the nuances of Anglo-Irish romances.
MJN: After working with a small press, you decided to self-publish and seem to be very content with your decision.  Do you feel like you needed to start off with a third-party publisher to build your platform first, do you wish you had gone indie right from start?
RW: I had much to learn when I began, and I got a good editor who helped me. But eventually I realized that I am very comfortable being in charge of the artwork and publicity and nowadays, authors can find good editors, so the self-publishing route was a natural for me. There is more flexibility in how you market and sell your books. I really love it. I don't know if I regret not pursuing this path from the beginning. Certainly I wish I'd pursued it earlier.

MJN: Let's talk about physical face-to-face promotion locally.  I live very close to NYC, and there are many Big Five (or Six?) publishers and many bestselling authors.  It's hard for a small press author to get noticed.  I have some friends working a local libraries, so they can squeeze me in for author events, but generally, we have big names like Wally Lamb and Nora Roberts hosting events that fans have to pay to get into. In San Diego, where you live, is the climate hospitable to indie authors? 
RW: I have yet to do an author event in San Diego. So I doubt the atmosphere is any better here.

MJN: I'm writing these questions on March 17th, St. Patrick's Day.  Irish culture is very near and dear to my heart.  I am particularly intrigued by your novel The Shamrock and the Rose.  You explore the concepts of proper versus improper for that era.  You have a proper English girl conceal her identity in order accept a role in a theatrical production.  You also explore the inter-ethnic relations, English versus Irish. I guess, if the roles were reversed, and it was an English man pursuing an Irish girl, he would be viewed as a predator, given the Anglo-Irish history.
RW: Historically speaking, the issue was more Catholic vs. Protestant. In my new book coming out in May, To Tame the Wind, set in the late 18th century, the heroine is French and Catholic and the hero is English and Protestant. England still had laws in 1782 preventing the Irish from sitting in Parliament and taking their place in society. And to be married, they would have to be wed by an Anglican minister before a priest. These relationships fascinate me, I confess. In The Shamrock & The Rose, the heroine is English and the hero Irish but he is Protestant, which makes it easier. The famous Irish freedom fighter, Daniel O'Connell was the cousin of my fictional hero, Morgan O'Connell. And, as it turns out, Daniel did have a Protestant cousin. I don't know that an Englishman pursuing an Irish lass would be viewed as a predator unless he was taking advantage of a disparity in their circumstances (like the rich landowner and the poor Irish maiden, a classic romance set up).

MJN: In the 21st century, the line between courtship and seduction is blurred, especially after the women's rights revolution. The blurb for The Shamrock and the Rose says that "Though he would have seduced the actress, Morgan must court the lady." So basically it's implied that Morgan, the dashing hero, is not above bedding a woman and discarding her, though he must exercise restraint with Rose Collingwood, the lady. Talking about the double standard! I guess, Morgan O'Connell is a man of his time and follows the same ethos as 99.99% of the male population.
RW: Well, actresses were notorious for being loose women. That is what Morgan expected with the actress Lily Underwood; however, when he learns she is a lady and under the protection of the dowager Countess of Claremont, it's a whole other story. Suddenly he must join her line of suitors if he wants her attention.

MJN: You have several series.  In addition to your Regency line, you have a Medieval line.  Do you feel that writing about an era that is farther removed historically presents more challenges or more opportunities?  I imagine, it would be less likely for some purist to come up to you and say, "Hey, that's NOT the type of armor they wore back then."
RW: I do extensive research for my stories...hundreds of hours. So I was very confident when I set out to write The Red Wolf's Prize I had the era--and the history--right. And yes, the type of armor, the type of horse and the weapons the knights carried who followed William the Conqueror to England were all things I researched extensively. And as a book reviewer (Historical Romance Review is my blog and I am a top reviewer on both Amazon and Goodreads) I am a stickler for historical accuracy. I love the research!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Tainted Dawn - a novel by B.N. Peacock

August 1789. The Rights of Man.
Liberty. Equality. Idealism. Patriotism.
A new age dawns.
And yet, old hostilities persist: England and Spain are on the brink of war. France, allied by treaty with Spain, readies her warships. Three youths – the son of an English carpenter, the son of a naval captain, and the son of a French court tailor – meet in London, a chance encounter that entwines their lives ever after. The English boys find themselves on the same frigate bound for the Caribbean. The Frenchman sails to Trinidad, where he meets an even more zealous Spanish revolutionary. As diplomats in Europe race to avoid conflict, war threatens to explode in the Caribbean, with the three youths pitted against each other.

Today I am pleased to welcome B.N. Peacock, a fellow Fireship Press author who is here to talk about her novel A Tainted Dawn, the first the Great War series.

Once upon a time all good things seemed possible. By 1789, after almost 2,000 years, democracy, government of the people, by the people, and for the people, was once again a reality. The successful American Revolution had made it so. Elsewhere, as in France, men of like minds yearned to create their own utopias. Kings would govern, if govern they still did, but by right not might. All men were created equal. All men were meant to be free. All men were meant to be brothers. Anything seemed possible. To paraphrase the poet Wordsworth, it was bliss to be alive then, ah, but to be young was very heaven.

The problem with utopias, though, is that civilizations, like nations, like individuals, carry a lot of existing baggage. A Tainted Dawn, the first book in my Great War series (as the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars were originally called) shows how that bright dawn of liberty and equality, not to mention fraternity, was compromised from the start. It follows the lives of three young men: Edward Deveare, an upper class Englishman, Jemmy Sweetman, a working class Englishman who later becomes an American, and Louis Saulnier, a middle class Frenchman.

Like the ideals of revolution, the story begins in the countries which birthed them, England and France. A for brotherhood, these two nations had been enemies for centuries, as are Edward and Louis. Temporarily at peace with England, France is tempted to come to the aid of her ally, Spain, when Spain contests English trading in the Pacific Northwest, her colonial territories. Because England, France, and Spain also have colonies in the Caribbean, hostilities carry over there as well. War hangs in the balance. As for the rest of Europe, several wars over who owned or should own certain lands play out per usual. Additionally, in France and England, people are at odds about the proposed reforms to the French government. Zero down for brotherhood.

Next we have liberty. From America and France, its heady perfume was spreading to the Spanish South American colonies. Revolution there will be some years in the making, but already the seed was being sown. Louis jumps at the chance to champion its cause there, notably with the Venezuelan character, Juan de Mendoza. Edward, of course, opposes Louis, despite his family’s Whig background. The Whigs were the English political party which championed American rights, such representation in Parliament. Many Whigs, like Charles James Fox, a family friend, supported the American colonies even during hostilities with England. Jemmy, having liberated himself from the British navy, has a difficult time understanding how these concepts apply to him. As to the liberties of slaves in all three nations, not to mention the newly formed United States, or the liberties of those who disagree with the prevailing political parties, or the liberties of nations soon to become European colonies, ah, well, we won’t go there.

Lastly, we have equality. For Edward, as for other Whigs, equality rested on class and property. Edward is a gentleman. His equals, therefore, are other gentlemen, not, God forbid, common seamen, even those who help him and saved his life. The framers of the U. S. constitution agreed with such sentiments, for they also were influenced by the Whig political thought. Frenchman Louis enthusiastically proclaims liberty’s virtues among Trinidadian slaves. That there will be a vicious backlash against the slaves who support him eludes Louis. Back in England, Jemmy watches as his family is destroyed by injustice, for which Edward’s family is partially responsible. As Jemmy flees England, he finally grasps the meaning of the things he’s heard, first from Louis, then from American sailors. Despite what others think, he’s just as good as anyone else, even Edward and his family. An empty gesture, given the circumstances, but perhaps equality is best perceived from the bottom up, and not the top down.

No one person, no one country, has a monopoly on ideals, much less utopia. That is the premise of my book. To find out more about Edward, Louis, Jemmy, and their world, read A Tainted Dawn.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Undis Herder - young German cat photographer on German Longhair breed

In the summer of 2013 I learned about a new breed of longhair European cats - German Longhair.  Since then I've met and befriended many breeders as well as advocates for this balanced, harmonious breed.  One of such advocates is young Undis Herder.  Barely out of high school, she already has an impressive portfolio. Last year she spent some time with a breeder in Hanover, at Cattery Vom Leineufer. In addition to helping deliver the babies, she captured the first moments of their lives. Could she be the new Helmi Flick in the world of cat photography?

MJN: You are very accomplished for being so young.  Your photos are very professional looking. Did you take classes in photography, or was it self-taught?  Do you think that certain amount of formal instruction is necessary?

UH: I never took a class in photography. One day, I read in a cat book about adjustments for action pictures and I started to take photos in the manual modus with my little digital camera. A few months later I bought myself a reflex camera and learned through playing with the menu. Even today I discover new functions sometimes. I think this is the more effective way to learn photography, because in a class you learn many things at once and there's no time to internalize each step. Even though I think that a few instruction in the beginning can be helpful to get a general idea of the material.

MJN: You manage to catch cats in motion, licking their fangs, rolling their eyes.  What kind of high-speed equipment do you use to capture those moments?

UH: I don't use any special equipment. My DSLR is a regular one from the lower middle-class. My lenses aren't expensive too, but they do their job. I have a small prime lens I use mostly to take cat pictures, because it's very light-transmissive. Therefore, the only thing I do is creating extra light when I take photos indoor to guarantee a high quality, then I use a softbox, no flash. 

MJN: Last summer you spent some time with Nicole, the owner of Shoreline Cattery in Hanover. What were some of the most precious, most moving moments that you witnessed?

UH: As I spend my time there, I helped her bearing and raising the kittens. The birth of those little creatures was very special and emotional time. It was great to be a team with the cat and it felt good to be able helping the cat and make the energy-sapping process a little easier. The kittens were pretty sweet and I took many photos of them in the three weeks I was there. They grew up so fast and that's what I live photography for, it helps to keep memories alive.

MJN: There is clearly competition among cat breeders, whose line is purer, whose cats meet the standards.  As a photographer, do you think of the cats' adherence to the standard when you photograph them, or do you just see them as beautiful creatures?

UH: I found to photography through my tomcat and because of him I also know many cat breeders. I'm in love with the German Longhair and I keep busy with them since three years now. I'd like to breed these wonderful cats myself one day, so I judge the cats with the standard. But when I take photos, the type of a cat is incidental. I concentrate on their eyes and position and if they are relaxed and have fun.

I think all those physical aspects are just for fun and have nothing to do with the essence of individuals. Also the fight between the breeders is mostly just to bag their ego, no line is purer than the other and the standard is rather unclear, so that everyone can interpret it in a different way.

MJN: Do you believe that German Longhair has potential for gaining world fame, or is this breed going to be confined to Germany as a national treasure?

UH: I think that we have to create a solid population and a strong community between the breeders first, to establish a breeding programme that works at its best. The German Longhair has a hard comeback because of tensions between the breeders and rumors around them. Now it's time to forget the past and concentrate on the cats. The German Longhair is a breed without extremes but with a beautiful character, so I think they have the potential to be famous in the whole universe. But first, as I mentioned, the breed has to become more established. And on the other hand I'm skeptical with high profile, because the cats start to become overbred, as we can see in Maine Coons and Persians. Additional, there are many untrustworthy breeders without club, making money with the kittens and don't care for them well who gain profit of a fancy breed.