COVER REVEAL: NEW RELEASE

Announcing New Release: A Perfect Stone by S.C. Karakaltsas

I am so excited to let you know that my novel, A Perfect Stone will be ready for release October 10, 2018. The cover is done, the proof has been examined from front to back and the format double-checked. There is nothing like holding your new book in your hands for the first time.

It might seem as though I’ve churned out another novel in a short time but believe me, this has been a project of more than two years in the making and at times a laborious undertaking. But it’s also been a labour of love and passion as I researched the heartbreaking tale of what happened to children who were forcibly removed from their homes during the Greek Civil War in 1948.

A dual timeline story taking the reader on a journey through the snow-covered mountains of Northern Greece, to Czechoslovakia, Macedonia and Australia, I hope you’ll like reading it as much as I loved writing it.

How do you find a place to belong when there’s nowhere else to go?

Living alone, eighty-year-old Jim Philips potters in his garden feeding his magpies. He doesn’t think much of his nosy neighbours or telemarketers. All he wants to do is live in peace.

Cleaning out a box belonging to his late wife, he finds something which triggers the memories of a childhood he’s hidden, not just from his overprotective middle-aged daughter, Helen, but from himself. When Jim has a stroke and begins speaking another language, Helen is shocked to find out her father is not who she thinks he is.

Jim’s suppressed memories surface in the most unimaginable way when he finally confronts what happened when, as a ten-year-old, he was forced at gunpoint to leave his family and trek barefoot through the mountains to escape the Greek Civil War in 1948.

A Perfect Stone is a sweeping tale of survival, loss and love.

Now available https://www.amazon.com.au/Perfect-Stone-S-C-Karakaltsas/dp/0994503261/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1538698782&sr=1-1

Short Story Competitions

I enter my short stories from time to time into competitions. It’s highly competitive and I’d imagine a very tough task to judge. So when I recently received a Highly Commended Award for my short story, Stanley Place Boys, from Monash Wordfest 2018, I was surprised and delighted.

I’ve included the link if you’d like to read it. While you’re there, feel free to check out the winners, particularly the children’s categories where you’ll find some amazing entries.

The world is rich with story.

https://www.monlib.vic.gov.au/Events/WordFest-2018/2018-Short-Story-Writing-Competition-Results/2018-Cat-C-Commended-3

Book Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

A lot has been said about this much lauded book. Its resurrection from the 1980’s with the well-known mini- series has found a greater appreciation and a fresh audience and is relevant in its message today as it was then.

I read it many years ago in my twenties and having read it again for the second time found a new appreciation. This dystopian novel puts us in an oppressed world where women whose rights and freedoms are stripped away are forced into specific roles – Handmaids are to breed; Martha’s are domestic workers etc. Offred is one of those Handmaids who gives us snippets of her life before the takeover by the Gilead regime and what led her to her present predictament.

The writing style, as with all Margaret Atwood novels is exquisite.
“We learned to whisper almost without sound. In the semi-darkness we could stretch out our arms, when the Aunts weren’t looking, and touch each other’s hands across the space. We learned to lip-read, our heads flat on the beds, turned sideways, watching each other’s mouths. In this way we exchanged names, from bed to bed.”

We know from the turn of page one that all is not right in a regime most of us could barely imagine. Yet some of the ideas about the treatment of women are not a forecast but I’d suggest a probable reality somewhere in the world. Who could forget the kidnapping of two hundred girls in Nigeria by the Boko Haram and what life those survivors endure? Oppression and religious zealotry is still rife in many parts of the world. Margaret Atwood does a great job of showing us how this feels through the voice of Offred. Yet, it’s telling is also reminiscent of our past and how far we have to go for women everywhere to have true choice.

The Handmaid’s Tale is profound and disturbing yet thought provoking. If you haven’t read it, it’s time you did.

********

Book Review: Lion by Saroo Brierley

I saw the movie first and was blown away by this amazing story. I then read the book and it was no less powerful.

This is the story of five-year-old Saroo, who accidentally becomes trapped on a train which travels half way across India. When the train eventually stops, he finds himself in Calcutta lost and alone. He dodges disaster and with luck on his side ends up in an orphanage where he is adopted by a caring Australian family. Growing up in Tasmania, he wonders where he has come from and his nagging memories stir him into action to find out. It takes years of dogged patience and with encouragement from friends he uses technology to methodically trace his footsteps back to his family.

It’s an engrossing story despite the fact I’d seen the movie which by the way, does a remarkable job with the adaptation. The vulnerability you feel for this five-year-old keeps you on edge and it is incredibly brave of the author to reveal it all on the written page. It’s well written enough although with a matter of fact approach. Although we’re not privy to every one of Saroo’s emotions, we nevertheless feel his every agonising step of what was a difficult journey.

Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

33151805

I read the first page late at night and although barely more than a paragraph, I put it down in fright. Not because it was bad but because it was so horrifying, I was scared to read more. A few days later, I picked it up again, moved past that first haunting page and read the next fifty pages in one sitting. I’m glad I did as there was a crowd of characters to keep track of and I knew then, this was not a book where you read a couple of pages a night. I reserved two to three hour reading sessions to remember who was dead, who was alive and what they all had to do with each other.

Nel Abbot is found dead in the Drowning Pool with a suspicion of suicide. It so happens that Katie, the teenage friend, of her daughter Lena was found dead, months earlier in the same spot which had been a place of many a woman’s death through the century’s, hence the name of the spot. Nel’s sister, Jules (who, we are repeatedly told doesn’t like being called by her correct name Julia) hasn’t spoken to her sister since she was a young teenager and is called back to her old home to look after Lena. The mystery of the deaths unravels from the point of view of ten characters and it becomes very clear that there is a vault of secrets and lies in the town.

There were moments of suspense which fell away as the clues came together. Some of the characters had little depth and I found it difficult to believe their behaviour in particular, Sean Townsend, the Detective Inspector and his wife Helen and even Katie. The inclusion of the mystic, Nicki, seemed to be a red herring which we could have done without. Jules seemed remote reflecting on her broken relationship with her sister and we learn very little else about this thirty something woman. Her reactions were self-centred enough to lose some credibility. I wonder if this book would have been better had there been less characters and a concentration of effort on Nel, Jules and Lena?

Was it on par with Girl on a Train? It wasn’t as good but perhaps my expectation was heightened because of the first book. However, it was a compelling enough read and a page turner, perhaps because I wanted it to end. It held my interest but it wasn’t brilliant.

Book Review: The Fortunate Pilgrim by Mario Puzo

It feels good to go back in time and read a classic. I read The Godfather by Mario Puzo many years ago and indeed it is a classic. The Fortunate Pilgrim, written before The Godfather and published in 1965 is no less so. But unlike The Godfather, The Last Don and many of Puzo’s legendary novels centred around men, this book is about an uneducated, peasant woman, Lucia Santa, plonked into New York’s Hell’s Kitchen from Italy.

It is said that Lucia Santa is Puzo’s mother and what a woman she must have been. Her life as you can expect, is not easy with six children, one dead husband and another husband with mental illness. Lucia Santa, has the strength of several men, ruling her family with an iron fist through the Depression and War. Like so many women past and present around the world, she can’t afford to succumb to self-pity and has no choice than to work hard to protect and nurture her brood in order to survive.

Puzo captures summer in New York in the Tenements with the community of Italian women whose lives were governed by poverty yet pioneers in their own right. … ‘they moved in a sadder wilderness, where the language was strange, where their children became members of a different race.’

The language is almost poetic as we are introduced to Lucia’s seventeen-year-old son Lorenzo, riding his black horse through the streets of New York in 1928. One by one, Puzo allows us into the lives of the older children, giving tantalising glimpses of other families on the street and takes us on a journey of struggle, despair, and joy until the second World War.

The characters are well drawn and we learn of the petty small mindedness of the community in which Lucia Santa lives. ‘What cronies they were. How they ran to each other’s apartments, up and down the stairs, into the adjoining tenements… taste this special dish. After the initial pity and condolences, the true face of the world showed itself to Lucia Santa.’

The writing is inspirational and is truly a wonderful chronical of a matriarch and the immigrant’s life.

Interview: Peter Lingard, Author of Boswell’s Fairies

Instead of a book review, this week, I thought I’d chat with internationally published author, Peter Lingard who has just released his debut novel, Boswell’s Fairies – see my earlier review

I hope you enjoy it.

Peter Lingard, tell us a bit about yourself.

My life has been in phases. I went to a good school but quit at 15. I worked in a bank and found it stultifying. I served in the Royal Marines and, after leaving them, worked for a shoe importer because marine shipping was the closest thing to Royal Marines on the filing system used by the employment agency. The man that owned the company considered taking me on a good deed. It was an easy jump to freight forwarding and later my employer sent me to the US to open a new office for them at JFK airport. It took me a number of years but I eventually owned my own freight forwarding company in NY.

I yearned to travel again and returned to the UK where I worked as an accountant and a farmhand for a while. However, too many people were saddled with attitudes that soured me. (I wrote to a newspaper in Wales suggesting that if they put as much energy in their work as they do in hating the English, they be a very successful country. The responses were less than pleasant.) As Australians speak English, I thought this country might be a good place to visit, and I arrived in 2000.

You’ve just published your first novel. What is your book, Boswell’s Fairies about?

A lot of servicemen are adept at telling fantastic stories. Marines I knew swore they’d swum the widest oceans, climbed the highest mountains (not without justification – think of the Falklands war), and dated the most beautiful and willing women. I have blended these colourful lies with the story of a squad of recruits undergoing the 10 months of basic trading. The main characters are a bored banker, not too hard to image, and a pro wrestler who was fed up of having to lose every fight until someone decided he’d paid his dues.

What inspired you to write this story?
What’s the point of having a good story if you can’t tell it to people? Writing it was enjoyable. That is until one has to edit and edit and re-edit.

How long have you been a writer and what influenced you to first put pen to paper?
I was always a good joke teller and I excelled when it came to shaggy-dog stories. I could take a shaggy-dog story and make it shaggier but then sometimes forget about the punch line. While there was never a decision to start writing, I used to write things down and improve my jottings, as I did with jokes. Once I was happy with the result, I’d forget about them. In 2002, or then about, my wife suggested I join a writing group to see what others might think of my musings. The Americans have an expression that fits … run it up the flag pole and see if anyone salutes it. Well, quite a few did salute my stuff. A radio station in Queensland liked my tales but not my writing skills and the host, Charles Eeles, took the time to give me some pointers. Then I progressed from one writing group to another until I found the current bunch of writers at Phoenix Park. We are a good mix and are well advised by the facilitator, Nicole Hayes.

You’ve written more than 300 short stories, many of which have been published. How difficult was it to write a full length novel?
It wasn’t much different in some respects. Each chapter in my novel was a short story and the continuity of the plot and main characters strung the stories together. Once I’d finished the book, I did away with chapters and only had breaks for changes of location. I’m working on another book which is another a collection of stories without much connection … well, the main character is a barman in a London pub and there will be an ongoing romance, but it’s still just a bunch of stories. Shaggy dog stories.

What books have influenced you the most and what are you currently reading.
I was impressed by My Son, My Son. I can’t remember the author’s name (if anyone says that about me, they die!). Another one was, I Bought a Mountain (again no author). I found Great Expectations enjoyable, even if though I had to read it as a school project. I like books by Scott Turow and Sebastian Faulkes. Dan Jenkins is an author who influenced my style. John le Carre’s The Pidgeon Tunnel (and everything else he’s written) please me greatly. Kamila Shamsie, A God In Every Stone impressed me. What am I reading now? Scott Turow’s Personal Injuries, but I’m not into yet (at 200+ pages).

I was raised to respect books. Never bend them back (it ruins the spine), never turn down the corner of the page to mark where you’re up to, and never leave a book unfinished. I still respect the first two, but I’ve decided the third is bull, so this book better buck up soon.

If you could give advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
Use advice carefully. Make sure you keep your style – unless of course it’s your style that’s holding you back. Be judicial … remember the adage; people do, teachers teach.

What’s next in writing for you?
As I mentioned before, I’m writing about the life of a London barman. The working title is The Book of Dave. It’s humorous and perhaps barbed at times but readers will laugh and, if I find the right lines, they’ll be sometimes saddened. Then I have two more books featuring the main characters in Boswell’s Fairies. One covers their time in the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Borneo, and the other is about their return to England to find guys have grown hair to their shoulders and girls have hiked up their dresses. I don’t have titles for those yet; perhaps Asian Tour and Swing Time? We shall see.

 

Boswell’s Fairies     Now available on Amazon or on http://peterlingard.com/

About the Author

Peter Lingard’s  short stories have been published over 300 times in The Literary Hachette, Blue Crow, Structo, Crack the Spine, Short and Twisted, 100 Stories for Queensland, and other such magazines. Many pieces have aired on 4RPH, Brisbane, and Radio NAG, Queensland.  Fifty-two of his stories are published by Alfie Dog in the UK. He also appeared on Southern FM’s program ‘Write Now’  and on 3CR ‘Spoken Word’ to read, recite and discuss his work and was a regular guest  on 3WBC to read his tales. Peter’s  work has garnered praise, prizes, and accolades from critics around the world including Australia, America, and the UK.