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.

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In Defense of Prejudice

Author Julie Mayerson Brown (The Long Dance Home) has done a wonderful riff on my post “Are You Prejudiced Against Beauty?” It is well worth the read as we all struggle with the rights and wrongs of ‘judging a book by its cover’.

https://8greatstorytellers.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/in-defense-of-prejudice/

8 Great Storytellers: ★★ ★★ ★★ ★★ Curl up with a good writer!

And what’s this got to do with writing anyway?

One of my writing colleagues recently published an article about prejudice against beauty. What? Who doesn’t like beauty? We all enjoy seeing beautiful things, places, faces. But what we don’t usually consider is how that pretty face makes us feel. Envious? Intimidated? Intrigued? Superior? Before that gorgeous gal utters a single word, have we judged her based on appearance?

View original post 397 more words

A Tool to Combat Book Copyright Infringement on Google

Blast away Book Pirates on Google with BLASTY.

book-pirate

A Tool to Combat Book Copyright Infringement.

Distressing how many copies of The Zebra Affaire are stolen due to illegal downloads. I’ve enlisted BLASTY to comb through Google to find theBlank white book w/path sites guilty of copyright infringement, and then take the offending posts down.

The Blasty algorithm has tracked 48 illegal sites hawking my novel in just a few months.

Get your Beta Test Version for this Copyright Policeman

If interested in an amazing tool to combat piracy of creative content, I’d suggest other authors look into Blasty as their virtual copyright policeman (their site is currently in Beta test mode).

Here is their link: https://www.blasty.co/invitation/NrSZjcWH

Wish you happy hunting as you take down those varmints, all those illicit pirate sites!

The Virtues of Creative Collaboration

I saw first hand the benefits they enjoyed.

By “they” I mean famous recording artists, executives, technologists, novelists and philanthropists. And we all know magic happens when a sports’ team plays as a team.

My focus is the partnership process.

The Art of Collaboration

Greater  Than The Sum of the Parts 

These men and women shared a belief in Aristotle’s gestalt; that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

They chose to work together. They chose to collaborate.


CHALLENGE + COLLABORATION = SOLUTION | The Fine Maxim

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

—John Donne

Collaboration Now Goes Global…Virtually, Cheaply.

Songwriters and creative collaborators Paul McCartney and John Lennon

John Lennon & Paul McCartney. Their Creative Collaboration was a Yin and Yang thing.

Proof in the Power of Mutual Success

How do I know this? For decades I’ve worked with world-class musicians such as Sheryl Crow, Sting, Melissa Etheridge, Jon Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Boyz ll Men, Stevie Wonder, and many others on both music and philanthropy.

It’s been my privilege to unite these gifted recording stars with non-profit organisations championing worthy causes such as breast cancer awareness, HIV/AIDS, at-risk children, the blind and partially sighted,  freedom of speech,  and wildlife conservation. The potent way creative collaboration amplifies the enterprise of individuals from a variety of disciplines; the arts, charities, corporations, and technology in the focused mission of a great cause is something wonderful to behold.

I saw first hand the benefits they and society enjoyed by working together.

Used to be eyeball to eyeball, but with new Social Media toys it is virtual, and global, despite time zones, languages, gender, race, color, creed or age.

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney collaborated writing songs, they initially worked “nose to nose and eyeball to eyeball”.

It was a Yin and Yang thing.

Opposite forces being creatively complementary.

Paul, ever the optimist, teamed up with the sardonic John and created musical magic.

But, with 21st Century social media tools the physical intimacy of “nose to nose” collaboration is no longer required.

How liberating…!

Why are we prejudiced against Beauty? Here are 6 Clues.

whyareweprejagainstbeautyAre we prejudiced against beauty…Why?

Prejudice has preoccupied me greatly.

The dehumanizing grunt of South Africa’s apartheid regime continues to haunt me in my novel-writing.

Thankfully, that unkind chapter of government enforced segregation in Sub-Sahara Africa now been consigned to history.

But alas, it remains a cautionary tale.

All about us the fractured schism of tribalism, ideology, and prejudice abound.

Religious nihilism, demagoguery, nationalism and feigned hurts (amplified by political correctness and the internet) are the present day instruments of divisiveness.

All toxic and corrosive.

This made me wonder, Is anyone free of the pain of prejudice?

The Stranger Seated Across From Me

Her beauty was clear to everyone. But, and not holding up the haughty shield of genetically blessed superiority, she radiated instead both charm and warm humility.

She introduced herself as Petra; in time I got to know her as Petra Nemcová, the former Czech supermodel.

Petra+Nemcova+2004+Sports+Illustrated+Swimsuit+Dc1AzVlxyhilPetra Nemcova / Sports Illustrated

However, it was my internalized response that appalled me.

In an instant I had instinctively veered down the rabbit-hole of hackneyed stereotypes: blonde, beautiful–no, not dumb (I’m far more evolved than that!) but an equally unkind assumption; that she probably lacked substance.

Fortunately I checked myself, realizing my baseless and generalized prejudice against beauty. 

And I’m so glad I did. Instead, I listened…

I enjoy learning about a person’s “legend”–it must be the natural curiosity of a writer to discover and understand an individual’s background in order to better appreciate their motivations.

Petra Němcová Shared Her Story

She was born in Czechoslovakia, relatively close to Poland’s border. Petra was ten when communism was swept away by the Velvet Revolution. By 15 she was parading the catwalk of Milan. After herSports Illustrated swimsuit cover she was soon blessed as a Victoria Secrets angel. That was when she met fashion photographer, Simon Atlee, and they fell in love.

Was she herself prejudiced against beauty was the question I should have asked, instead we spoke about Prague and Africa.

Petra’s story was romantic, worldly (she spoke several languages fluently), and glamorous.

A Bright Future Devastated by Thai Tsunami

It was the day after Christmas 2004, when a gigantic wall of water swamped their beautiful holiday resort in Thailand. Her last sighting ever of her love, Simon, was glimpsing him clinging to a bungalow roof.  Pounded by waves as she was swept out to sea, her pelvis pulverized, Petra clung to a tree for eight hours in absolute agony, before finally being rescued.

Along with more than 250,000 other people in Southeast Asia, Simon Atlee lost his life.

Scarred and broken, physically and figuratively, Petra began to rehabilitate herself.

[Note: Every Boxing Day (December 26th) is the anniversary of this tragic natural cataclysm.]

Purpose Provides a Happy Heart

It’s the screams of children, as she clung to that tree, that continued to haunt Petra. She needed to do something substantive, so as to honor Simon’s life and fulfill some useful purpose after the wreckage.

Four months later Petra returned to Thailand.

For those gone there was nothing else that could be done, but for the countless lives displaced by the ghastly tragedy there was much-needed by those who’d so terribly suffered–especially all the children. With support and succor from others, Petra launched the Happy Hearts Fund (HHF). A wonderful program to keep up and build support for communities after the First Responders and aid organizations had moved on to the next crisis.

“Unlike malaria or polio, we can’t work towards a cure for natural disasters or prevent them from ever happening — but we can restore hope by helping communities get back on their own feet through rebuilding in safe and sustainable ways and creating opportunities for a better future. And that’s exactly what the Happy Hearts Fund strives to do.” Petra Nemcova, Founder, Happy Hearts Fund

My rush-to-judgement had long faded. Clearly, this woman was anything but shallow. In fact, she was positively inspiring.

But I needed to understand the underlying cause for knee-jerk prejudice against beauty.

Why are we prejudiced against beauty? Here are 6 clues:

#1 Resentment. The presumption that everything is far too easy for those blessed with beauty. That access and opportunity present themselves with no more effort than a bat of an eyelid. This has been deemed an unfair advantage by the rest of us mere mortals saddled with an average appearance.

#2 Kardashian Effect. In our 21st century, the trivial is substantially rewarded. Vacant, vulgar, but beautiful celebrity has become the holy grail of success. We enjoy reflecting in the afterglow of these plastic “stars”–but we certainly don’t respect them.

#3 Hollywood Mythology. The beauty versus intellect narrative was perpetuated by the motion picture studios. Marilyn Monroe and her sister’s of the silver screen embraced Betty Booppersonas, and in the process perpetuated the myth of the “Dumb Blonde”.

#4 Photoshop Fakes. Between Photoshop and plastic surgery there’s a visceral sense that modern beauty is no longer genuine. Hence, if a woman’s appearance is judged to be contrived, faked, then the assumption is that her persona suffers a similar fate.

#5 Overcompensation. Not wishing to overwhelm based on her physical beauty alone, some woman may “sabotage” their intellectual brawn (or, dumb themselves down) in an instinctive effort to be better accepted by peers. This leaves a false impression.

#6 Rejection. This is probably nearest to the truth. Who among us hasn’t had the yearning for a beautiful companion? Especially during one’s formative years; such as, that unattainable soul-throbbing crush seen across the schoolyard. Invariably it remains unrequited. Either due to lack of courage (never asking her out!), or worse, cold rejection. Rejection results in resentment, which in turn morphs into a growing pejorative opinion of the once revered “object of one’s desire.”

I’m sure you have other suggestions…

Happily, however, I’m completely cured.

she-warned-him-not-to-be-deceived-by-appearances-for-beauty-is-found-within-1

Petra Nemcova & Mark Fine selfie

 

Ms. Petra Nemcová has taught me never to make hasty assumptions aboutanyone. As such she graciously volunteered to take this “Beauty & the Beast” selfie with me:

And, as an author I have now garnered deeper insights into the complex facets of an individual’s life, and the true nature of a substantive life (whether pretty or otherwise). All lives deserve to be explored properly. A “rush to judgement” based solely on a pretty facade makes us sosuperficial; the very attribute we glibly label those lovelier than us. In truth, in the process of living a full life–warts and all, we have all developed into compelling characters.

 


 

Question:

If you have any stories of a similar nature to share; a hasty dismissal of someone beautiful (or handsome), only later to be pleasantly surprised. Please let us know in the comment section below.


 

ABOUT MARK

Author Mark Fine was a record label chief for PolyGram. Variety magazine named him “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision”—good thing too as Fine is tone-deaf. His failed efforts to compose a song resulted in the critically acclaimed novel, “The Zebra Affaire”. As research for his life story Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in doing so he championed causes such as freedom of speech, wildlife conservation, breast cancer awareness, intolerance, and Indie Authors. He’d be delighted to hear from you at FineBooks.co or via Twitter @MarkFine_author.

My meeting with David Bowie: unconventional, curious & gracious

 david-bowie-soundvision

 

 

A most unconventional meeting for some music guys.

To his credit Robert Goodale took my call. More important was his willingness to listen.

This wasn’t the typical hustle: we need your client make a charity appearance, or guest in a video, or licence a track for a K-Tel compilation. No, this was markedly different.

As David Bowie’s business partner, Robert Goodale was not surprisingly an “out-of-the-box” thinker.

For the viability of our project, and future innovation, it was crucial Bob grasped what I was trying to say.

After a couple of calls and a face-to-face meeting in New York, he certainly did.

It’s like trying to fly a plane while attempting to build it

The 80’s were reaching their nadir and we had a deadline to meet. The technology was brilliantly conceived but awfully difficult to implement.

In fact it was the first time I’d heard the expression, “It’s like trying to fly a plane while attempting to build it.”

As Vice President of Entertainment for American Interactive Media (a joint technology venture by PolyGram Records and consumer electronics giant, Philips N.V.) I was strapped into a metaphorical business class seat on this bucking, unstable aircraft.

We were all up to our elbows in the mechanics of this new technological frontier, the interactive optical disc—specifically CD-i. The Compact Disc Interactive format uniquely interleaved audio, video and computer code on what appeared to be a conventional audio CD.

More profound. The CD-i player was a Trojan horse, designed to place a computer in the living room disguised as a sexy consumer electronics appliance attached to a TV.

philips-cdi-205Philips Compact Disc Interactive Player

 

 

Not remarkable now, but back in 1986 it was mind-bending.

Truthfully, CD-i desperately needed a public face that represented all of humanity, a face that was creative, innovative and courageous. Not some soulless geek squad avatar conversant only in the techno-babble of bits and bites.

We needed our Leonardo (as in “Da Vinci”), we needed our very own myriad-minded man…

Maestro David Bowie was the ideal candidate.

A very surreptitious, yet quietly auspicious meeting.

Robert agreed to set up a meeting with Bowie.

I flew in from Los Angeles.

A colleague, Daniel “the marketing guru” Savage discretely set up a private room in PolyGram’s Manhattan HQ.

As Bowie was affiliated with another record label, it would not do having him seen “visiting” our building. So we sneaked him into the building with all the intrigue of “Game of Thrones.”

Fortunately, Daniel documented his thoughts about that meeting:

I only had one interaction with Bowie, when he came in for a meeting with me, Mark Fine and a couple of other people at PolyGram in 1990 or so. We were talking about developing a CD-Interactive title based on Ziggy Stardust. I was really struck by a number of things, especially comparing them to all the other artists I had dealt with before.

For one, he was EARLY. During the meeting, he showed a keen interest and intellect having to do with the subject matter. He was with a woman (it might well have been Iman) who we presumed to be a girlfriend and he spoke to her with genuine kindness and gallantry, explaining it all to her so she felt included in the conversation, not just arm candy to be patronized.

Presenting to Mr. Sound+Vision

It was my responsibility to do the pitch.

Peering into those inquisitive, curious eyes (heterochromia—one eye blue, the other brown) I was intimidated enough. Attempting to communicate the merits of CD-i to this legend added further complexity to the challenge.

Those days the notion of manipulating and controlling a “multimedia” consumer-friendly disc was difficult to comprehend. The lexicon was unfamiliar to most; interactivity, man-machine interface, disc image and such only elicited blank stares. 

Where words failed me, I resorted to illustrations.

Those days I carried with me a battered schoolroom composition book for note taking. As his excitement grew at the potential of CD-i, Bowie began to add doodles and diagrams of his own in my workbook—then, in apparent appreciation, he autographed it for me.

A treasured possession! 

Of course the musical architect of SOUND+VISION had immediately grasped the implications of multimedia: he found it creatively liberating. He understood that the linear paradigm of music playback was destined to be shattered.

As such David Bowie had granted me his full attention.

A privilege I shall never forget.

Regretfully, no project was forthcoming from that meeting. More a product of the lengthy technical gestation period of CD-i, and the confused agendas of the stakeholders, than lack of enthusiasm from David Bowie.

However, subsequent to our meeting Robert Goodale became the interactive entertainment pioneer for all David Bowie copyrights.

In 1994, Bowie released “Jump” as an interactive CD-ROM that enabled his fans to create their own custom video from his music track.

Does this mean my meeting with David Bowie was well worth his while?

I hope so.

 


 

 

 ABOUT MARK

Author Mark Fine was a record label chief for PolyGram. Variety magazine named him “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision”—good thing too as Fine is tone-deaf. His failed efforts to compose a song resulted in the critically acclaimed novel, “The Zebra Affaire”.  As research for his life story Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in doing so he championed causes such as freedom of speech, wildlife conservation, breast cancer awareness, intolerance, and Indie Authors. He’d be delighted to hear from you at FineBooks.co or via Twitter @MarkFine_author.

Fine Review: “Red Queen Check” by Elizabeth Horton-Newton [Short Story]

strategyVirtues of the short story told by an artful author

I’ve become extremely fond of the short story as a medium. Life is too busy, yet I enjoy a good read, so an enticing short story is a most satisfying treat. Being a fan of author, Elizabeth Horton-Newton—her two novels “The View from the Sixth Floor” and “Riddle” having provided hours of pleasure—I confidently chose her ‘Red Queen Check’ from the short story anthology, Crooked Tales. Glad I did.

The sheer glee in the author’s writing radiated from every paragraph. This doesn’t mean this is a cheerful, trivial read; in fact it is at times gritty. However, there is little doubt she wished for the reader to enjoy the delicious comeuppance she had in-store for the miserable sociopath (or, maybe psychopath) at the stories core. But, it is the recipe of the revenge fashioned that is most satisfying.

From the opening line, Horton-Newton teases the reader with sensual heat as she introduces the femme fatale. By the third paragraph we are repulsed by him, a contemptuous and possessive blowhard with deadly desires.  And so, in the best tradition of a fine short story the stage is set for a diabolical plot driven by an avenging heart.

Yet, despite the obvious pleasure in her writing there is little doubt that the author had earnest intent. Elizabeth Horton-Newton’s message is clear:  there is little use in society for those that abuse—no matter their power or position.

I applaud the writer’s craft exhibited by Horton-Newton; her ability to score such rich characters within such a satisfying story arc—and all this, with only 4,000 words used! No wonder I now find short stories so appealing…and hope for more from the artful Elizabeth Horton-Newton.

For more about CROOKED TALES short stories click here.

About Elizabeth Horton-Newton

elisabeth-horton-newtonElizabeth Horton-Newton was born and raised in New York City. She began writing when she was a child, writing stories for friends and family. In the 4th Grade at P.S. 151 in Manhattan, she wrote an essay about her dream job—she wanted to be an author. Elizabeth continued to write short stories over the following years as she raised a family. After attending Long Island University in Brooklyn, NY and East Tennessee State University, she worked in the social work field for thirteen years.

She currently lives in East Tennessee with her husband, author Neil Newton, and a collection of rescued dogs and cats. Her first book View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale was published in October 2014; a love story that revolves around the assassination of President John Kennedy on November 22, 1963—and the ensuing conspiracy theories. This was followed in June 2015 with the release of Riddle, a romantic thriller about a Native American convicted of killing his high school girlfriend. Elizabeth’s third novel, a somewhat erotic romance of one woman’s journey through love, loss, and resolution, will be released in the fall of 2016.

This mother of 4, grandmother of 5, and great grandmother of a newly arrived boy, loves serial killers and all things horror. She has been this way since early childhood, much to her mother’s dismay. Fascinated by the inner workings of the criminal mind, an interest strongly influenced by her father, she allowed her imagination to run wild in her tale for this anthology. You are invited to pay Elizabeth a visit at Between the Beats and her author website here or connect via Facebook and Twitter: @redqueenliz

“Mark of the Hyena” by Mark Fine [CROOKED TALES short story]

Review by Elizabeth Horton-Newton the author of ‘View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale’ and ‘Riddle’

“Mark of the Hyena” by Mark Fine

When civilizations collide N!xau’s click ticks tsk tsk tricks a surprising vultured culture.

Author Mark Fine provides a unique short story with his offering of “Mark of the Hyena”. Presenting the tale with two perspectives; N!xau an African San Bushman native and Werner, a smug European professor who sets out to prove his allegation that the San Bushmen were a “trivial people” because they had no written record of their history or culture.

 

‘CROOKED TALES’ gathers the talent of 15 of the hottest authors around to thrill you with their visions of mayhem, in places exotic, bucolic, other-worldly, or simply sinister.
CROOKED TALES: Deception & Revenge in 15 Short Stories (Short Story Tales Book 2)

From Fine’s artful descriptions of the native language of clicks and clacks to Werner’s attitude of superiority, the author creates vibrant characters. In spite of the turmoil the tribe is experiencing N!xau and the Bushmen rescue Werner and transport him to their village in order to save him from certain death. The professor is ill prepared to survive in the unfamiliar wilderness he had foolishly attempted to explore. On the other hand N!xau, his wife K/ora, and his son !Xi are likewise unprepared for the true savagery of the egocentric European.

This is a compelling story that highlights the conflict between two diverse cultures, with the best of one meeting the worst of the other. Incredibly insightful it provides a harsh look at the attitudes of the pseudo intellectual professor when offered the kindness of the natives. Fine’s ability to see through the eyes of different cultures shines through in this well written story. The unexpected climax is rewarding and beautifully handled. Mark Fine remains one of my favourite authors.

CROOKED TALES IS AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

Ulla Hakanson I just loved Elizabeth Noreen Newton’s review of Mark Fine’s fascinating story “Mark of the Hyena,” one of my favourites in the short story collection “Crooked Tales. Another favourite of mine is Anita Kovacevic’s “Beneath,” a truly unique story of the battle of wills! This whole book is filled with well-written suspenseful gems. Love it!

Thanks to Between the Beats for this article, for more great literary themed stories and reviews click here.

Author: Mark Fine

Author Mark Fine was a record label chief for PolyGram. Variety magazine named him “Music Executive with 20/20 Vision”—good thing too as Fine is tone-deaf. His failed efforts to compose a song resulted in the critically acclaimed novel, “The Zebra Affaire.” As research for his writings (and opinions) Fine immigrated to America from South Africa, in an effort to better appreciate being a stranger in a strange land. Due to his African roots, he is a strong advocate for wildlife conservation and is an ardent #RhinoProtector. Readers may follow him at http://www.markfinebooks.com and http://www.facebook.com/ZebraAffaire.

Readers Review Room & Traci Sanders – interview with the founder

Traci Sanders is an amazing lady I had the pleasure of meeting a while back in an online writers’ group. Apart from being an early educator and caregiver, she is an award-winning multigenre a…

Author Mark Fine said, “Traci is an impeccable example, as are you, Anita, of the wisdom, enterprise, creativity and innovation of the Indie Author. Both of you are making great strides in legitimizing the Indie Author scene. You refelect the fine writerly talent that’s been constantly ignored by ‘snobbish’ media and publishers row in New York, London and elsewhere. Keep up the good work! #IndieCred4Authors.”

Source: Readers Review Room & Traci Sanders – interview with the founder

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!