#Guest Author: Suzi ‘Queen of Scream’ Albracht and A LOVE HAUNTING

About Suzi Albracht in her own words:

My name is Suzi AlbrachtSuzi_Albracht2. I live just outside of Annapolis, Maryland which is in the Baltimore/Washington corridor. I mention the corridor because that is where all my books in The Devil’s Due collection take place. My book, A Love Haunting, takes place in the OBX, NC where we vacation every year. I prefer to write stories that take place in locations where I have spent time.

I typically write in the dark realm, that means Supernatural Horror Crime Fiction and most recently, Paranormal Romance/Ghosts. The horror
books are Death Most Wicked, The Devil’s Lieutenant, and Scorn Kills.

All three books are part of The Devil’s Due Collection.

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My most recent release is A Love Haunting which is book one of my An OBX Hauntings series. It is a paranormal romance, a ghost story that takes place in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This book is so much fun to write. I am taking local lore and threading it through my story.

And I get to write about love in a way that my other stories haven’t yet allowed me.

I am currently working on three more books – Her Deadly Intentions which is part of The Devil’s Due Collection, Lucifer’s Queen, also part of the collection, and a second book in An OBX Hauntings series. I also have a political thriller in the works.

My books are like my children so of course, they are all my favorites but if I am forced to pick one or two, I would say Death Most Wicked and my new novel, A Love Haunting.

I love Death because it introduces Mikael Ruskoff, my favorite character. It shows his love for his family, his hatred for the father who deserted him, and his devotion to his mother. At the same time, you get to know what a dedicated law enforcement officer he is while he risks his own life to stop a child murderer.

I am equally proud of my new book, A Love Haunting, because it allows me to show a softer side in my writing. I am free to show that silly love couples have in private, the yearning love of innocents. Plus I got to play with the whole ghost concept which pleased me to no end. I’ve always been fascinated with ghosts. It was also my first book with no profanity or violence. It was like a refreshing after-dinner drink.


A Peek into ‘A LOVE HAUNTING’

This short chapter in A Love Haunting begins Jordan’s existence as a Living Dead (LD). It appears a quarter of the way into the novel. It takes place after he feels he has lost his one true love and just before he meets Luke, a skateboarding angel, and the trio of ghosts from the 1800s who become his friend.

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Purchase your copy HERE

      Love… death… forever. That’s the story of my life apparently.
So Emily had left the Banks. In my mind, I knew she had to go, but now I am lonelier than I’ve ever been in my life. Right after the accident, my world was devastated because of my loss of Emily, our baby and… my life.
And then when Emily was in the hospital, I found a way to be near to her again, if only in a small way. Now she is gone and my life is really over. Now I have no one.
Sure I could have hung around Allie, bugging her but it would not have been fair to her. Besides, she was on her way to being a nurse practitioner, and I knew she’d be a damn good one. So while Allie was in school, I was going to leave her be, but I did plan on helping her when she embarked on her new career. Besides, I wanted to convince Allie to shoot bigger and become a doctor. Being a physician was her real calling, she just didn’t know it yet.
In the meantime, I made up my mind I was going to make the best of my new dead life, and that would require some hands-on research. Research had always been one of my strong suits. That and evaluation.
And there was something else I wanted to research but didn’t dare until I figured out all the rules and restrictions of my dead existence. I didn’t want to lose my wife, so I was going to try to… do something.
So since I had loads of free time on my hands, I would start by exploring to see what was what.
      What am I supposed to do about my feelings now that I’m dead? My life can’t end like this. It just can’t.
Wow, I hadn’t allowed myself to admit that I was actually dead until now. Dead and buried and the whole nine yards.
Well, it’s true. I died a few feet off a highway in North Carolina, not far from my favorite vacation paradise – the Outer Banks.

      I am a ghost, and this is my love story.


Character Interview with Luke, the Skateboarding Angel.

I was pleased that Luke agreed to do an interview with me. I had read the book, A Love Haunting, and was anxious to get some insight into Luke’s role. We arranged to meet at the Dune Burger in Nags Head at ten p.m. I had never been there before but felt as if I knew it from reading about it. When I arrived, Luke was nowhere to be seen. I began to worry a bit that he was standing me up.

I decided to take a seat at one of the outdoor tables and go over my list of questions for him. I had just opened my note book and put it on the table. My pen was missing so I rummaged through my purse, looking for another. Suddenly my note book slid about six inches away from my hand. I pulled it back, looking around. I didn’t think it was that windy. Oh well, I thought.

I turned to look for that pen again but now my purse was gone. I immediately jumped to my feet. I fumbled around, thinking I’d call the cops but then I remembered my phone was in my purse. And then right before my eyes, my purse materialized where it had been. I heard a faint giggle. Frowning, I grabbed it. And then it came to me.

“Luke?” I looked around. Before I could even blink, he materialized next to me.

“Dudette,” Luke said with a grin on his face.

“Hi, I am very pleased to meet you.” I held out my hand to shake, hoping Luke would oblige me. He did,but it was a high-five.

I silently appraised Luke’s appearance. Holding a skateboard under one arm, he was wearing surfer shorts, a long sleeve skater tee shirt, black Chuck Taylors, black fingerless gloves, and a silver chain with a medallion. I was dying to see what was on the medallion but felt it was too soon to get that personal.

Luke, however, is very perceptive. In an instant, I realized that he noticed my interest.

“Dudette, you dig my jangles?” Luke asked fingering the medallion. I nodded. “One of my peeps gifted me.” He stepped closer to me holding the medallion so I could see it.

“When you say peeps, are you referring to souls you have transitioned?” I grabbed my note book and pen, preparing to take notes. Luke took one look at them and began to pop-lock dance in front of me. I was taken back. Why would he do that?

I don’t know if Luke saw the look of surprise on my face or not but after a few minutes, Luke sat down at the table and put a serious look on his face. “Allie said you had some questions for me. You’re probably on a deadline… please, ask away, dudette.”

Every time he called me dudette, I wanted to fall down laughing. But I had a mission to complete.

“When you help the newly dead to transition… can you describe the feeling to me that you get when you are able to get them to Heaven?” I asked.

Luke gazed into my eyes with those big eyes of his. He leaned toward me, his face was glowing, his eyes shining. I felt I was about to hear some celestial secret.

Instead, he put his thumb and index fingertip on my nose and tweaked it. I know my mouth was hanging open with surprise.

The next thing I knew, he jumped up and took my hand, placing it on his shoulder. Then he put his arm around my waist and took my other hand in his. We began to waltz around the parking lot.

I have to say the guy has some smooth moves.

Luke turned his attention on me and said, “It makes me feel like this. Like all is right in the world.”

Then all of a sudden hip hop music blared out of a new Chevy Camaro that drove into the parking lot. I glanced at Luke but he was no longer there. I must have looked silly to the driver of the Camaro because he asked me if I was alright. I suppose I did look silly dancing with an imaginary partner. I looked behind his car and there was Luke skateboarding up the street.

I would have called out to him but I suddenly had the feeling that angels don’t like being interviewed.

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My most recent release is A Love Haunting which is book one of my An OBX Hauntings series.

You are welcome to give Suzi Albracht a shout out on Twitter @SuziAlbracht 🙂



 

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Conversation with writer Mark Fine by Fiona Mcvie of “Authors Interviews”

Hello and welcome to Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.

Thanks for inviting me, Fiona

 

Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name.

Mark Fine, though I wish I had a few more syllables in my name. I envy your four: Fi/ona Mc/vie.

 Fiona: Where are you from?

Born in the City of Gold—Johannesburg, in faraway South Africa. I now live in sight of Catalina Island, south of Los Angeles.

 Fiona: A little about yourself (ie,  your education, family life, etc.).

I’m a veteran of the record industry; worked with wonderful artists like Sheryl Crow, Boys II Men, Bon Jovi, and Bryan Adams. It was tremendous being around such creative artists, on a daily basis, and help them achieve their creative aspirations.

Unfortunately, my late wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. I quit my music gig to care for her, and raise our two boys. Frankly, I surprised myself at how well I took to becoming ‘Mr. Mom’.  In reflection, the most rewarding mission of my life. My sons have really prospered. The elder is a real rocket scientist at SpaceX. The younger is conquering it at business school. Both grateful and proud. Thankfully, romantically speaking, life has afforded me a second chancewith a wonderful soulmate.

 Fiona: Tell us your latest news.

I just released the audiobook for The Zebra Affaire on Audible.com.  For someone who spent a major part of his career in the recording studio, it’s odd it took me this long to co-produce this recording. Almost 10 hours—unabridged. Truthfully, I needed a voice actor with South African roots to do the narration. When I chanced upon the talentedDennis Kleinman, everything then changed; I had no excuse to not move forward with the audio project.

Dennis is familiar with the dialects and colloquialisms that make The Zebra Affaire so authentic. And for the listener—through my words and Dennis’s voice—Elsa and Stanwell’s struggle to preserve their forbidden love against extraordinary odds (the full force of the apartheid regime), is vividly brought to life in this audiobook. HEAR an excerpt of Dennis Kleinman’s compelling narration HERE. Briefly, let me set the scene. These are the events leading to Elsa and Stanwell’s fateful first meeting. She being white, and he being black, their relationship proved to be cruely complicated in segregated South Africa. Enjoy the Listen!

Every author should treat themselves to the tremendous experience of hearing their book read back to them by a gifted narrator. Dennis Kleinman certainly did that for me. The way he seamlessly transitions from character to character, by adding his personal vocabulary as an actor to my plot, is extraordinary. An outstanding performance!

This week, I also published a small folio of short stories. It’s titled Two Short Shorts: Short Stories of Strangers in Strange Lands.Two Short Shorts Cover Though the book cover is an ancient picture of me, as a little tyke, wearing embarrassingly short shorts, it is not at all biographical.  However, it is a commentary on being a ‘square peg in a round hole’ which I personally find relatable.

Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?

It’s a natural evolution of my ‘Mr Mom’ role. My sons were growing up andmoving off to college. I expected becoming an empty nester would be hazardous to my well-being, so a new sense of purpose was needed. Coming from the music world, I saw writing as a natural evolution. However, my intent was to write songs. Failed miserably! Instead, I wrote an 86,000 word novel. My, I do admire those songwriters. The ability to compress such massive ideas—filled with emotion and rhythm—into three minutes of lyrical rhyme is a gift that I wish I had. Still, I am going to keep trying…

 Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?

The moment someone else read my words; and that these same words resonated with them, challenged them, made them weep, made them angry, and compelled the reader care for the characters I had created.

Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?

My paternal grandmother ran a library. Hence, I always admired the printed page. The next step was deciding which story to tell. It took time and distance—from the country of my birth—to better understand the complicated social dynamics there. It is not simply a black and white story. But I could see patterns begin to repeat themselves here in the United States and elsewhere, so I felt The Zebra Affaire could serve as a cautionary tale.

 Fiona: How did you come up with the title?

“The Zebra Affaire” speaks of a forbidden romance across the color divide in a malicious, racist society. Elsa and Stanwell’s affair was not only socially unacceptable, but it was illegal—with seven yearsimprisonment as a consequence of being discovered by the authorities. However, stepping away from bigoted manmade laws, whether black or white—we are all truly equal—as are the black and white stripes of a zebra.

Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?

I’m a patient writer. Research is a key element. It may elongate the writing process, however, the knowledge I gain is well worth it. Better still: I’m the vehicle that transfers that same knowledge to my readers—but in a far more entertaining way. It is satisfying, when I meet with a book clubs, to find The Zebra Affaire has past the Google test. Nowadays, it’s so easy to be fact checked that I do my best to be a diligent researcher.

Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?

The canvas on which I paint the lives of my characters is totally realistic. I guess 1976 South Africa isn’t quite long ago enough to be categorized as Historical Fiction, but setting the apparent ‘youth’ of the period aside, the book has all the bones, and authenticity, of historical fiction. As I was raised during those torrid times, there are certainly echoes of my personal experiences throughout the novel.

Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?

No doubt. The grand finale in Zebra is a safari sequence. I used that as an excuse to go on safari; a field trip to the magnificent, Londolozi game reserve.  With camera and pen, I documented the setting and behavior of animals, humans, location and weather, in order to bring a heightened sense of immediacy to my writing. I’m a big believer of exploring our full senses in storytelling. I needed to hear the chuff of a lion, smell the char of a brushfire, feel the grit of the parched earth, taste the organic nature of a rustic meal, and see the splendor of an African night sky—unspoiled by big city light pollution—to better articulate these pure moments for my reader.

Fiona: Who designed the covers?

I did. Not that it was my intent. As a remedy for writer’s block; rather than walking away in frustration, I chose to change my creative focus. Rather than struggle to get twenty-six letters to march in cogent order, I pivoted to pictures, graphics, fonts, and layouts. I taught myself Photoshop, thanks to YouTube, and almost organically designed the cover as the book’s manuscript was shaped.

 Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Yes. The only up-front way to fairly evaluate the world around us, specifically people, is on the basis of merit. As guiding criteria, merit, is inherently colorblind, nor is it swayed by creed, race, gender, tribe, religion, etc. Also, merit is contextual. You do not apply the same metric to both subsistent farmer and billionaire. From personal experience, frankly, merit was the only sane way to navigate through the arcana and social distortion of the unfathomable, cruel apartheid laws.

Merit sweeps away the emotion of ideology, the prejudice of fear, and the foolishness of ignorance. In an imperfect world, merit is the purest way I have found to deal with folks on a person-to-person basis, without preconceived biases. That said; merit expects everyone to contribute to the greater good, to the best of their individual ability. To some that may seem harsh; to me it is both fair and dignified.

 Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?  Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?

Similar to the record biz, with its vibrant Indie Scene, I feel the publishing world has a comparable pool of extraordinary emerging talent. I’m a fan of Elizabeth Horton-Newton (The View from the Sixth Floor), Julie Mayerson Brown (The Long Dance Home), Geoff Nelder (Aria: Left Luggage), Eric Gates (Outsourced), Jack Kregas (Choice Cruise Lines), Jean Gill (Song at Dawn).

Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?

Perfection, and the pursuit of it, is so costly—both in emotions and treasure—that I have learned to let go. Nevertheless, I do regard my books as living documents. The process of producing the audiobook was most informative; I found I had to tweak some of the dialog sequences to make them more natural for the narrator to articulate.

 Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?

Stanwell should be played by Boris Kodjoe. Margot Robbie would be my definite to embody Elsa. However, I am interested in hearing suggestions from our readers. Hey, let us know in the comments section below.

Boris Kodjoe Stanwell look

Boris Kodjoe as Stanwell?

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Margot Robbie as Elsa?

Fiona: Any advice for other writers?

Write your ending first. It may seem counter-intuitive; however, consider it to be like a lawyer’s closing argument. Everything that happens before leads up to that dramatic wrap-up at the end of a court case.  Switching to another metaphor, by knowing your destination, you increase your odds of getting there in one piece.  Your early draft of the book’s conclusion is like a sign post  guiding the way. Of course, go back and review your closing, tweak, then repeat; especially as your writing muscles develop, the further you get into your WIP (work in progress).

Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?

I am deep into my next novel; it is an interesting collaboration. If songwriters can collaborate, why not authors? Again, the focus will be on Sub-Saharan Africa, though it will be a decade later than the 1976 setting of The Zebra Affaire. Our working title is “The Spy in the Hyena Den”.

 Fiona: What book are you reading now?

Alan Furst, “The Spies of Warsaw”

 Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?

Herman Wouk, “Winds of War” is the first significant book I read.

 Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?

Animals. I weep for the countless rhino and elephant slaughtered for their ivory and horn. Tragic waste; these magnificent creatures killed for mere trinkets and problems better solved with a certain blue pill.  Yet, watching baby elephants trying to learn to use their rubbery trunks for the first time is the funniest thing, ever.

 Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?

Winston Churchill. Supreme writer, orator, statesman, and blessed with an extraordinary gift of foresight.

 Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?

Philanthropy. Especially wildlife conservation and breast cancer research.

 Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?

‘So Little Time (So Much to Do)’: the title of a 1938 Louis Armstrong song.

 Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?

Fiona, so kind of you to offer. I can be reached at www.markfinebooks.com and www.finebooks.coand my Twitter handle is @MarkFine_author

Blog: Mark Fine | RUMINATIONS https://markfineauthor.wordpress.com/


The Zebra Affaire [130 Amazon Reviews]

ebook: https://www.amazon.com/ZEBRA-AFFAIRE-Apartheid-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B011PXSEWG/

Audiobook: https://www.audible.com/pd/Romance/The-Zebra-Affaire-Audiobook/B076C1CVNS/

Download “THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE” Audiobook for FREE

When you sign up for Audible 30-day Free Trial

Click the link below for the Special FREE Offer:

http://www.audible.com/offers/30free?asin=B076C1CVNS

You Save $19.95 (100%)

Two Short Shorts (includes Bonus excerpt from “The Zebra Affaire”):

ebook: https://www.amazon.com/Two-Short-Shorts-Stories-Strangers-ebook/dp/B0771X8VNC/

Amazon Authors Page:https://www.amazon.com/Mark-Fine/e/B00KOIP05S/

YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/MarkfineAuthor


Thanks to Fiona Mcvie for this interview. You can view her original post here.

14 TIPS about Blogging Your Books to Increase Sales and Authenticate your Credentials* by guest TRACI SANDERS [Special Prize Giveaway]

*This tip was provided to us by TRACI SANDERS. Other advice on marketing and networking by Traci can be found in her Beyond The Book: Tips on Publishing, Marketing, and Networking to Build your Brand, now available in digital and paperback format. Click HERE for further purchasing details.

Traci Sanders is a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author of ten published titles, with contributions to three anthologies. An avid blogger and supporter of Indie authors, she writes parenting, children’s, romance, and nonfiction guides.

Her ultimate goal is to provide great stories and quality content for dedicated readers, whether through her own writing or editing works by other authors.


NEWS FLASH…PRIZE GIVEAWAY…

Author Traci Sanders has agreed to give away two prizes:

*ONE unsigned paperback copy of Before You Publish– Volume I 
*ONE unsigned paperback copy of Beyond The Book –Volume II 
To enter, all you have to do is email Traci a proof of purchase of a digital copy of either of these two books during the tour.
Traci will draw TWO winners total, at the end of the tour.
Please email your proof of purchase (can be a screenshot) to tsanderspublishing@yahoo.com.
GOOD LUCK!

We all know it takes a variety of marketing strategies to be a successful author these days. However, one way that truly connects with readers is blogging about your books.
Some authors blog as an aside from writing books because they have so many ideas and words floating around in their heads, they simply must release them. Others blog for fun, or to hone their writing skills. Whatever your reason for blogging, don’t forget to plug your books on occasion. 
Once your readers begin connecting with your content, whatever the niche, they may also be interested in delving into your longer writing pieces: your books.
Here are fourteen ways to blog about your books to increase sales:
  1. Offer character interviews.

  2. Offer images of your “envisioned” town or setting for one of your books. Tell the history of this place and why you chose it for your story, even if it’s made up, but especially if it’s a real town. You never know if some of your readers have a connection to this place.

  3. Offer deleted scenes from your book. Readers love these!

  4. Offer excerpts.

  5. Show off your writing chops by offering a poem or short story based on a scene from your book or one of its characters.

  6. Offer character bios and tell why you chose them. It helps to provide pictures of what you envision them to look like. 

  7. Share a little bit about how your story came to be, to allow readers into your thought/writing process. Was the story based on any “characters” in your real life? Did any events from the story happen to you personally? What made you write this story?

  8. Offer a special, never-before-released short story, or an excerpt from your current WIP, only to your blog followers. Every so often, at random, choose one of your loyal followers and gift them a copy of one of your books—as a thank you.

  9. Offer a Perma-Free book. These are generally the first book in a series made permanently free on Amazon.

  10. Hold contests with giveaways on your blog. Rafflecopter.com is the easiest way to run a giveaway online.

  11. Use polls to get feedback on your current WIP Work In Progress)– character names, names of towns in the story, etc. Readers enjoy being part of the creative process.

  12. Conduct a virtual book tour.

  13. Make sure your books are “clickable” for quick, easy purchase. Hyperlink the covers and offer each book its own page, or at the very least, a “my books” page. Be sure to offer ALL your buy links. The more places your book is available, the more opportunity you create for sales. You never know what device or platform readers use.

  14. Make sure to offer your social media contact links so readers can connect with you outside of your blog, and share your content.

     

Traci suggests mentioning your own books more than a couple times per month. However, promote  other authors first, offer helpful content for your readers, and push your own work last.  Humility will get you far in publishing, and life in general.

CROOKED INTERVIEW with Author MARK FINE by ANITA KOVACEVIC

 

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CROOKED INTERVIEW with MARK FINE

BY ANITA KOVACEVIC ON 26/03/2017

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CROOKED TALES

The CROOKED TALES is another bountiful reader feast prepared for you by Readers Circle of Avenue Park and 15 extraordinary authors from around the globe. It contains 15 short stories on deception and revenge from all genres and walks of life, and is now available in kindle and paperback. It gives me a mixture of pride and humbleness to state that my story Beneath is also featured.

This spring I have an amazing treat for you as these superbusy authors have agreed to be my blog guests and do an interview. Crooked Tales inspiring my crookedness, I have also given them a task – in the second half of the interview they have to interview themselves:).

To open this series of Crooked Interviews, here is MARK FINE, a man whose autobiography alone would make for a stunning movie. Thank you, Mr Fine!

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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The Author in his African Element

Mark Fine [Mark of the Hyena], a self-confessed, tone-deaf music executive, was born in South Africa, However, now Los Angeles is his home. There with his two sons—and Charlie, an affectionate neighbor’s dog—Mark wrote his historical fiction novel, The Zebra Affaire—the story of a mixed race couple and their struggle to survive under the racist regime’s oppressive 1970’s apartheid policies. Mark also takes a broader look at the travails of greater Africa; a topic that concerns him greatly. A charming aspect of Mark’s writing is how he looks to nature—Africa’s animals and wildlife—for inspiration and a solution to human shortcomings. In the process of telling the truth via the freedom fiction provides, a reviewer said, “Mark Fine has been brave like William Faulkner in his journey of truth telling – he has simply done it with a much different kind of Southern accent.”  For further info on Mark, check out these links— Website: finebooks.co and MarkFineBooks.com Blog: Fine Ruminations ~ or you’re welcome to connect on Facebook and Twitter: @MarkFine_author

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story  (Paperback)

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE  (Kindle Edition)


 

INTERVIEW

– What is your Crooked tale about and what inspired it?

MARK OF THE HYENA: ‘Fish out of water’ stories intrique me. The set up of an elite academic from New York City stranded in the Kalahari desert with a tribe of San Bushmen as his only means of survival was too tempting to ignore. In the telling we learn of hubris wrapped in first world arrogance, and simple grace in respecting nature’s lore.

– What do you like writing and/or reading best? 

I now have so many stories within me to tell, I’ve shifted my focus to short stories. This permits me the time to write them, and affords busy readers the time to read them.

– What else do you do in life apart from writing?

I mentor aspiring talent in both the music world, especially songwriters, and print publishing. It is the joy of collaboration that finally motivates me.
– What are you currently working on?

An historical fiction/suspense novel based in sub-Sahara Africa. It is based on a true story, and has the tantalizing title, “THE CULTURED SPY”.


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Author Mark Fine

CROOKED INTERVIEW (In a ‘crooked twist’ Anita had the ‘victim’ of the interview, interview himself!)

A Conversation with Myself: The whys and wherefores that shaped author Mark Fine’s novel, “The Zebra Affaire”

Mark Fine: What was the genesis of Zebra Affaire? Was it a grueling process or did it write itself?

Myself: More complex, more a creative evolution. I originally wanted to write a biography about my father. But, despite his accomplishments, he remained a modest man. I began to sense that the notion of a biography would be awkward for him. So I scrapped the idea. However, a great deal of research I’d already completed about his life and times. Subliminally, my mind must have churned away at this problem, because one day—a true kismet moment—the idea of courageous love story between a white woman and black man in the land of apartheid manifested itself. Only then did The Zebra Affaire ‘write itself’.

Mark Fine: Did you find that, as the characters developed, they changed the trajectory of the story from the original vision of the book?

Myself: The arc of the story remained surprisingly consistent. Probably because I wrote the end of my novel first. Seems counterintuitive, but it made sense to have a final destination as a guidepost. Kind of like a closing argument in a legal trial, I instinctively focused on the book’s conclusion when I began. Of course, as characters assumed a life of their own, the ending was constantly revisited, and refined.

Speaking about characters, I enjoyed adding the animal world and their instinctive code-of-honor into the story. As allegories to the foibles of human behavior, the natural behavior of these creatures was rather instructive. I’m thrilled I found a place for Africa’s wildlife in the book. It makes the experience all the more authentic for the reader, and foreshadows the human narrative at the heart of the story in a fresh way.

Mark Fine:  Which of the characters, if any, did I shape from personal experiences?

Myself:  The patriarch, the DGF character, typifies the decent people that tried to make a difference within the discriminatory apartheid system. Despite onerous job restriction laws that prohibited people of color from any management position, the real DGF did in fact hire and mentor a black man as a senior executive for a public company—despite such a hiring being illegal.

Due to the real DGF’s mentorship and ‘civil disobedience’, Rupert Bopape became a legendary music producer and label chief. DGF’s philosophy was simple in a complicated color-shaped society: merit is the only sustainable litmus test, and surpasses all other things that divide, such as race, tribe, gender, and faith.

In the context of the times, DGF was quietly brave. Now for a confession, my late father David Gabriel Fine inspired the DGF character. Fittingly, by weaving his memoire within the tapestry of my historical fiction story I was finally able to pay tribute to a wonderful man, and terrific dad.

Mark Fine:  Your Zebra Affaire story deals with many areas of history and diverse ethnic groups. How much of the final work was a result of inspiration or research?

Myself: The schism between the various races and tribes was my motivation to write the novel, as it remains a cautionary tale. I felt the world tends to adopt a simplistic ‘bumper-sticker’ view of what in reality is a more complicated state of affairs. Things are invariably seen in stark black and white, when in fact it’s anything but immutable. For example, in South Africa the white clans hated each other (English speakers versus the Afrikaners from Dutch heritage), as do the various native tribes (Zulu, Sotho, Venda, Xhosa and others). It’s ironic that South Africa’s motto was “Unity is Strength” when it was such an intensely balkanized society.

But the challenge as a writer was to humanize this constantly shifting tide of societal unrest, and so the context—shocking for that time and place—of an illicit interracial romance. As such, the arcana of South Africa’s convoluted legal code needed thorough research.

However, my main goal is to entertain the reader. It’s the thrilling fusion of romance and suspense set against a canvas that’s vividly authentic and powerfully provocative that makes The Zebra Affairestory worth writing, and reading. This is about the courageous love story of Elsa and Stanwell, the two of them on a collision course with the mighty racist regime, which is the compelling narrative that draws the reader through the book’s pages. If the reader becomes better informed in the process, well, that’s an added bonus.

Mark Fine: If you could return to post-apartheid South Africa and make sweeping changes, what would they be?

Myself: Out with the men! The women of Africa are saints. That image of a humble woman walking miles in the heat of day, barefoot, with a five gallon bucket of water balanced on her head—and with a baby wrapped in a blanket bound to her back, is for me the essence of selfless sacrifice. Unless there is another Nelson Mandela, these women should represent the true voice of Africa. Tireless and dedicated they may be, yet sadly they remain marginalized, underappreciated, due to gender discrimination and patriarchal tradition. I believe it is time for an authentic, nurturing, honest African woman to become the next president of South Africa! Maybe this will become the topic of my next book…

Blank white book w/path

The Zebra Affaire [Historical Fiction, Suspense/Romance]

To purchase a copy of your own:

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE: An Apartheid Love Story  (Paperback)

THE ZEBRA AFFAIRE  (Kindle Edition)


MARK FINE’S QUESTIONS for other Crooked Tales authors

Do you find a silver lining in a bad review? If so, please give an example.

What percentage of the research you do for a novel actually lands up on the printed page?

Do you have an author you admire? If so, why?

ANITA REQUESTS: Could other Crooked Tales authors please reply to this kind gentleman in the comments below? Other authors also welcome:)

Year End Best Books Ever! And ‘The Zebra Affaire’ Makes the List!

Making the Top 20 list at number eleven is the historical / literary fiction novel, The Zebra Affaire according to the myriad-minded author, Jean Gill. Also, an acclaimed photographer, Jean Gill commented in her article:

He’s black, she’s white, and in 1970s South Africa their love affair is a criminal offence. There are chunks of non-fiction you can read if you want (I loved them) as a love story challenges apartheid. Totally authentic in time and place with a real love of South Africa despite the horrors. Reminded me of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and feels relevant again today.


At the prompting of readers’ from the THE BOOK CLUB facebook group, Jean Gill prepared her recommendations. Her list contains a compelling and diverse collection of superb reads for the inquisitive reader, that I’m including Jean’s complete article for both your convenience and reading pleasure.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Best Books Ever! What are yours?

by Jean Gill [See the original here.]

I was asked to choose my 20 best books ever for The Book Club, a readers’ group on facebook. Impossible of course! This is the list I came up with. Feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments! And help yourself to some Christmas goodies while you’re thinking about brain food!

Pink Rheims biscuits

1. The Hunger Games – Suzanne Collins
Book 1 in a trilogy showing dystopian survival in a reality TV game where the forced participants can die. Not my type of book, I thought, but I could not put it down. I love the feisty teen heroine who’s a deadshot with bow and arrows and no book better captures the post-truth machinations of current politics. (I’ve been wanting to use the word ‘post-truth’ since I discovered it was Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of the Year 2016.)

2. The Gate to Women’s Country – Sheri Tepper
Fantasy novel that turns what-if into a gripping story. What if there were a way to organise society so women can have great sex with unsuitable men AND also ensure that children are protected and nurtured? I read every fantasy book Sheri Tepper writes, for the way she creates amazing worlds, tells a good story and makes me see our own world differently.

Starry starry blinis

3. H is for Hawk – Helen McDonald
Best Autobiography
Autobiography about two interwoven emotional journeys; grief and training a goshawk. A book to savour for the beautiful way its written, for its passion and honesty, for its expertise regarding birds of prey and their training. A bonus for me is the analysis of received wisdom from the past re training hawks, in particular via quotations from the troubled soul T.H.White (another of my favourite writers).

4. The Little Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Best Children’s Book
The French Winnie-the-Pooh; a children’s book with observations on life that strike a chord with adults. Full of quotable quotes! ‘People have forgotten this truth,’ the fox said. ‘But you mustn’t forget it. You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed. You’re responsible for your rose.’
Goodreads has 659 favourite quotes from this book so I think you’ll find one that hits the heart!

French Christmas log

5. Mums Know Best – The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook
Best Cookbook
A recipe book collated from family recipes throughout the U.K. during the Hairy Bikers’  television tour. A tribute to Mums and to home cooking, with recipes that all work and that show the whole multi-cultural range of the British people and our food. When my French neighbours sneer at Britain’s lack of cuisine, I tell them ‘You find world cuisine in Britain’ and nowhere is that more true than in this cookbook. It makes you want to write down all your own family favourites; I still use the splotched, handwritten recipe for Grandma’s Christmas Cake although my mother is dead now and I am the Grandma. The photos are good too and as I’m a food shooter (with a Nikon D750 as weapon of choice 🙂 ) I have hundreds of cookbooks and am very fussy about the photos.

6. The Visual Toolbox:60 lessons for stronger photos – David duChemin
The best photography book. From a master of travel / landscape/ wildlife photos who works with natural light. Offers inspiration and guidance, whatever level of photographer you are. In DuChemin’s company I gain confidence in who I am as a photographer; I learn what I want to improve and how to do it. His own photos are a joy.


7. Assassin’s Apprentice – Robin Hobb
Epic fantasy.
Book 1 of the Farseer Trilogy. Illegitimate and unwanted, young Fitz has to fulfil the only role at court which is offered to him – that of assassin. As the kingdom faces invasion, Fitz discovers his own magical powers and has to learn to control them, for his king and country’s sake. The grand, heroic adventure swept me away, I fell in love with the wolf, and I read every Robin Hobb book the moment it’s available. Training in magic has become clichéd but Robin Hobb pits the illegal Wit (bonding completely with an animal) against the court-controlled Skill (telepathic communication and control of humans) and, uniquely, Fitz has to master both kinds. The relationship between Fitz and his Wolf is as deep and convincing as those between the various humans.

8. Chéri – Colette
Very French love story.
First published in 1920, when France was where the British went to be naughty, Colette’s story of a 19 year old boy and his 43 year old female lover is a sensual classic. Worldly-wise courtesans and pretty young things (male and female) play out their relationships against a backdrop of gowns and soirées. I discovered Colette when I was 18 and the whiff of decadence fascinated me as much as her beautiful, poetic style. She taught me about pearls. She also taught me that a woman could break all the rules, as a writer and as a woman. Colette was the first woman to be accepted into the all-male Académie française, and a poster showing her with her cat in St-Tropez is beside my desk. She was my first inspiration as a writer. Chéri is no longer shocking but this slight volume lingers in the imagination like French perfume.

9. The Map of Love – Ahdaf Soueif
The best epic love story. Set in colonial Egypt and present-day, the story of a young English widow who meets the love of her life is revealed through the discoveries of her descendant, who also goes to Egypt. The relationship between Anna and Sharif is a heart-melter for any romantic and the exotic background takes you on a voyage of discovery.

10. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Best BIG 19th C novel. Historical romantic suspense set in the 17th C with the best swordsmen in the whole of France. The historical equivalent of shoot-outs and car chases; sword-fights and breakneck horse rides to save the Queen of France. So many characters to fall in love with but my favourite is Milady. The Best Villain ever!

11. The Zebra Affaire – Mark Fine
Historical / Literary Fiction. He’s black, she’s white, and in 1970s South Africa their love affair is a criminal offence. There are chunks of non-fiction you can read if you want (I loved them) as a love story challenges apartheid. Totally authentic in time and place with a real love of South Africa despite the horrors. Reminded me of ‘Doctor Zhivago’ and feels relevant again today.

12. Shogun – James Clavell
Best block-busting page-turner. The adventures of a 17th century English sea-captain surviving in the violent politics of Japan – and I mean violent. Gut-wrenching (this is the culture of hara-kiri after all!) high adrenalin and romantic. Bushido code, world trade, culture clash and steamy tea ceremonies. The beautiful translator Mariko is wonderful and so much depends on the choices she makes, we agonise on her behalf. An emotional roller-coaster, whether you like historical fiction or not.

13.  The Game of Kings – Dorothy Dunnett
Best historical fiction with fictional heroes in real 16thC events, starting in Scotland. Book 1 in the six-book Lymond series. Francis Crawford of Lymond is, in my eyes, the most desirable fictional hero ever and his complicated adventures are not short of romance. Intelligent, wide-referencing and thrilling, Dorothy Dunnett’s books are the ones I’m most flattered at my historical novels being likened to.

14. Steppenwolf – Hermann Hesse
Modern classic. Appeals to the middle-aged lonely werewolf in all of us, the one who looks in the mirror with distaste and is willing to follow a free spirit into The Magical Theatre and dive into life’s might-have-beens to discover what still could be. Wild psychic adventure!

15. Soul Music –  Sir Terry Pratchett
Best comic fantasy. The Grim Reaper’s grand-daughter has to learn the family business; Death. Stands alone but set in the many-novelled Discworld where Pratchett fans like me have their favourite characters and set of stories. Death is mine, with his grim sense of humour and his kindness; the character of Death in ‘The Book Thief’ derives directly from Pratchett.

16. Sailing to Sarantium – Guy Gavriel Kay
Best historical fantasy. Based on medieval Byzantium but ‘given a quarter turn to the fantastic’ is how G G Kay describes his technique. He captures the grand sweep and scale of history in all his books, with characters who know they are part of something bigger, characters who make me feel in awe of their nobility, their love affairs, their creative work. He makes me feel proud to be human (not easy!) And there’s a heart-pounding chariot race.

17. Lord of the Rings – J. R. R. Tolkien
The first fantasy novel, ever, and it’s epic. If you’ve read other fantasy novels you’ll recognise the elements: the band of elves, dwarves, men and hobbits, heroes who have to save the land from the forces of evil, with the help of Gandalf the wizard. What keeps it fresh for me is that Tolkien did it all first and there was nothing like this before TLOTR I can feel Sauron’s eye seeking me out and I identify completely with the struggles of small people burdened with the responsibility of the cursed ring.

18. The Distant Sound of Violence – Jason Greensides
Modern urban fiction about British teenagers from different cultures. They have big hearts but the world’s against them. You just want to adopt them all but the adults in their life have no idea what they’re going through – or don’t care 😦 An ending that stays in your mind, powerful and gives hope.

19. I Heard The Owl Call my Name – Margaret Craven
Modern fable. A young vicar, who does not know he is dying, is sent to a native American village where the two religions/ mythologies take the reader on a spiritual journey in two cultures. You don’t have to be religious (I’m a sort of humanist) to respond to the wisdom in this novel, a metaphor for how to live well and accept death, when the owl calls your name. ‘Don’t feel sorry for yourself because you are going to so remote a parish. Feel sorry for the Indians. You know nothing and they must teach you.’

20. The Bees – Laline Paul
Best novel about bee-ing. Suspense and dystopian paranoia drive the story because ‘they’ are out to get the young bee Flora 717. She tries to keep out of trouble while knowing that something is terribly wrong in the hive. Underlying the survival adventure is an accurate knowledge of bees. I’m a registered beekeeper, having followed practical training for three years in Provence, and the micro-view of the world created by Laline Paul is correct in all its facts and possibilities. If bees could speak human, this is the story they would tell and as well as being a page-turner, it’s an important story for the planet.


About Jean Gill

Jean is a Welsh writer and photographer living in the south of France (specifically in Montelimar) with a big white dog, a scruffy black one, a Nikon D750 and a man.  Click here to see Jean’s impressive body of literary works.

Author Spotlight: Mark Fine Gets 5 Minutes for Fighting!

Jeremy – Welcome to the Penalty Box, Mark Fine! How are you doing today?

Mark: Fine thanks, or ‘well’ if the intent is not to confuse my state of health with my name.

Speaking about names, Jeremy, we share one—Jeremy. But it’s my middle name. As family legend goes, my mum and her best friend were both pregnant. They both loved the names Jeremy and Mark. So they struck a deal; the first to give birth would get naming rights!  So I became Mark Jeremy Fine, and out there somewhere is a Jeremy Mark…

Jeremy – The name Jeremy is a solid one. As a card carrying member of the Jeremy Club, please allow me to welcome you to the group.

First thing’s first, why don’t you tell everyone a bit about yourself. How did you end up getting suckered into this harsh reality that is “being an author?”

Mark: My true vocation is record industry exec and producer. Been around the music creative process my entire work-life, working with super successful artists. I’ve gone from physically pressing vinyl at the factory, to producing a hit single in a Manhattan studio. However, I never wrote a song…

Source: Author Spotlight: Mark Fine Get 5 Minutes for Fighting!

FiNE REVIEW: “Unsevered” by Traci Sanders. An emotional, yet hopeful Love Story.

This book’s loving message is meaningful: that in the most unexpected way second chances are always possible.

An unconventional tile: “Unsevered”

51lfwjT9lNL._SX321_BO1,204,203,200_Let me first address the book title, “Unsevered”. An unconventional word that’s both awkward to say and discordant to hear. Why not, for example “Unbroken” or “Unbowed”? Curious, I had to read the book, and in doing so, I’m impressed how with a single word author Traci Sanders was able to capture the complexity of the human condition.

The antonym to “severed” suggests amputation.

Forgive me for being personal here, but I lost my wife to breast cancer, and the emotional tear of feelings was akin to “amputation”–not only the permanent loss of a loved one, but also the knowledge that the future life we had hoped to live together was forever destroyed.

This is what Jewel experienced when she lost her dear husband Harley to the unkindness of war. But Sanders use of “UNsevered” is a clear indication that there is always hope, and that loss need not mean “severed”.

A glimpse into the full life of a woman.

To this reader (taken from my distinctly male perspective) it was a forthright glimpse into a wife, lover, widow, friend, daughter, mother and bride.

In doing so I sensed the quiet of an anti-war song, the pang of a love letter, the grief of a widow, the camaraderie of a friend, the undying gratitude of a daughter, the selfless love of a new mother, and the wisdom and courage to fall in love, again.

Is there an enriching life after grief?

Though it is a universal experience it’s amazing how ill-equipped we are when it comes to grieving; and then moving forward beyond those bleak days. There is no formula. However, many of us are crippled by the notion that we are destined to have only one single “great love” in our lives. This prevents us from moving forward with optimism, and hope. And that, for me, is the significance of this love story; it is author Traci Sanders’ valiant message of hope.

It tells us to keep our hearts open for the unexpected (Yes, that’s another possible title for this book “Unexpected”) because in the cycle of life we do get do-overs.

“Unsevered” is well worth the read. Get it HERE from Amazon 🙂

FINE REVIEW: “Bride Without a Groom” by Amy Lynch ~ Great Fun & Highly Amusing

Bride Without a GroomBride Without a Groom by Amy Lynch
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Man, I loved this book! I chortled and giggled my way through all 300 odd pages. How could I not after floating in the head of one self-absorbed, dilettante named Rebecca on a mission to land herself a husband. As for the target of her ambitions, Barry the lawyer, well, he was simply outgunned. The poor man had to beat a hasty retreat to Bangkok, (or was it Hong Kong, or Taiwan?) in order to muster his defense against Rebecca’s ‘you have to marry me’ onslaught. In Barry’s absence there’s hope that Rebecca would see the light, which she attempts through a veil of self-indulgence, fried-foods and gin & tonics. But Rebecca isn’t alone in her quest as she has the unwavering support of her BFF, the wealthy Emer.

Every dastardly challenge is rewarded with a mani-pedi, spa retreat, body wax, spray-on tan, and another gin & tonic; in other words Rebecca’s world is deliciously superficial. And that’s the brilliance of author Lynch’s writing, because as a reader you still wish for Rebecca to get her man despite her obvious failings.

As for writing style, it’s so successful rendered in the first person, from Rebecca’s perspective, that I could not help but become fully engaged in her trials and tribulations. The dialog was sassy, snappy and spot on in a British/Irish kind of way (which I found thoroughly refreshing). I especially enjoyed it when Amy Lynch lifted the lid on the inner workings of Rebecca’s mind; I so enjoyed the ruminations and rationales made by this hopeful bride in her effort pursue her life’s single purpose–to get herself a husband. Poor Barry never had a chance! There is no doubt I’d be delighted to read Amy Lynch’s next book because of her ability to both charm and amuse me. A fun, fun read.

View all my reviews