Category Archives: Non-fiction

Author Interview: ‘Lance: A Spirit Unbroken’ by Walter Stoffel

About the Book:

Marley meets…Cujo?

A dog down the block is being forced to live outside, at the mercy of abusers, wild animals and brutal weather. The author does nothing—at first. Then, an accidental meeting with Lance, a Border Collie, sets the wheels in motion for a life-saving rescue and a disappointing discovery: Lance turns out to be a semi-feral dog.

During the first twenty-four hours of his liberation, he attacks both the author and his wife, and soon proves to be a threat to anyone he can get his teeth on. His rescuers ask themselves: Do we euthanize the dog we rescued? Making their soul-searching even more difficult is Lance’s alter ego; when not threatening, he’s getting into all kinds of highly entertaining mischief. Among the many “victims” of his hilarious quirkiness are a State Trooper, the local school bus driver, and a neighborhood drug dealer.

This rollicking and—at times—heart-wrenching, true-life account of the unorthodox rescue of an unorthodox dog has been called “riveting,” “spellbinding,” and ”jaw-dropping.” The compelling tale reveals as much about the rescuers as it does the rescued.

Lance: A Spirit Unbroken is a book for any reader looking to have her or his faith in the human race restored.

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Purchase Links:

Amazon – UK / US

Author Interview:

1: Tell us a little about yourself and what got you in to writing?

I’m a GED teacher and drug and alcohol counselor in local correctional facilities. Over the years I’ve started and stopped numerous creative writing projects. I completed Lance: A Spirit Unbroken because I was determined to break through a lifelong wall of procrastination, self-doubt, and, frankly, laziness.

2: Do you have a favourite time and place where you write?

Don’t tell my boss, but I often use time during my day job to write. I carry a pen and paper everywhere I go just to be prepared should I have a creative moment. If I’m a passenger in a car, I’m definitely writing.

3: Where do your ideas come from?

Well, Lance’s story was handed to me on a silver platter. I’m currently about 70,000 words into the story of a young boy growing up on Long Island in the 50s and 60s. This will be presented as fiction although it is rooted in fact. I’m also hoping to write a military man’s memoir concerning a dog rescue that took place in Iraq. I have lots of trepidation about the complexities of writing about someone else’s experience, but the story itself is so good I don’t want to miss this opportunity. If I find the time, I think I have another real-life story about a child abused by the system. So it seems that my “brand” is speaking for the downtrodden.

4: Do you have a plan in your head of where the story is going before you start writing or do you let it carry you along as you go?

With nonfiction, the story is presented to me. My challenge is to write it in a skillful and entertaining manner. The fictional account of a young boy growing up on Long Island that I mentioned is based on facts but there’s plenty of embellishing. I tend to write in a vignette style meaning that many of the chapters could stand alone as short stories. I picture the scene that I am writing about and when I sense the opportunity to create something to heighten the drama, I do it.

5: What genre are your books and what drew you to that genre?

My one published book is a memoir, I hope to soon write two more memoirs, but the Long Island story is a fictional novel.

6: What dream cast would you like to see playing the characters in your latest book?

If Lance: A Spirit Unbroken were to be made into a movie, whatever actors made up the cast would be a dream cast for me. Several readers have told me they feel Lance’s story is a natural for the big screen because of his antics. We’ll see.

7: Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors?

I have been primarily a nonfiction reader all my life. Everyone else in my critiquing group writes fiction and they are constantly commenting on the latest nonfiction book they’re reading. Over the past two years, I have dedicated myself to reading fiction on a regular basis primarily because I feel the stylish writing of fictional authors can help me write both more compelling fiction—and nonfiction.

8: What book/s are you reading at present?

I’m reading The Terranauts by T.C. Boyle and The Davinci Code by Dan Brown.

9: What is your favourite book and why?

I don’t have a single favorite book, just as I don’t have a single favorite piece of music by Mozart. Recently I read The Hit, a book by David Baldacci. The story didn’t grab me but I liked Baldacci’s style. At the same time, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, which I read decades ago and was written two centuries ago, still resonates because of the quality of the characters in the story. These days I read anything I can get my hands, or ears, on.

10: What advice would you give for someone thinking about becoming a writer?

That’s an easy question to answer. Stop thinking and start writing. My only regret is that I didn’t get off my duff sooner. Just put pen to paper or finger to keyboard. The next most important thing would be to put your ego on the shelf and join a critiquing group. Lance: A Spirit Unbroken would not be the book it is had I never joined a critiquing group.

11: What are the best Social Media Sites for people to find out about you and your work?  

You can go to www.lanceaspiritunbroken.com to read Chapter 1 for free.

Lance also has a page on Facebook (Lance: A Spirit Unbroken) and a Twitter account (@lanceunbroken).

About the Author:

Walter Stoffel is a substance abuse counselor and GED teacher in correctional facilities. When not behind bars, he likes to read, travel, work out and watch really bad movies. Major accomplishment: He entered a 26.2 mile marathon race following hip replacement surgery and finished–dead last. The author currently lives with his wife Clara, their dog, Buddy (another rescue) and cat, Winky (yet another rescue)

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Book Review: ‘Tudor Wales’ by Nathen Amin

Title: Tudor Wales: Full-colour guide to the many places in Wales associated with this famous dynasty

Published: 15th March 2014

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Author: Nathen Amin

Facebook: www.facebook.com/HenryTudorSociety

Twitter: @nathenamin

 

Synopsis:

The Tudors are one of history’s most infamous families and the era over which they reigned still captures the public’s interest without rival. ‘Tudor England’ in itself has become a well-known phrase that covers many aspects of the era, particularly architecture, arts and the lifestyle. What is often overlooked however is that the Tudors, whilst coming to encompass all that is considered great about England, were a Welsh dynasty with their roots firmly entrenched in the hills across Offa’s Dyke. This guide will take you on a journey throughout the beautiful country of Wales and expose the reader to the hidden gems of the Tudor era, from Harlech Castle in the north to Pembroke Castle in the west, and from the holy Bishop’s Palace at Lamphey to the sacred Cathedral at St David’s. From Dale, Carew and Penmynydd to Raglan, Conwy and Denbigh, every part of W ales has Tudor links, both to the royal Tudors and their more obscure Welsh ancestors. This guide will put you on the path to a true Tudor experience in the Land of their Fathers.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2017 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A book about the Tudors.

Well this is a great guide of Tudor places to visit in Wales and I found quite a few that would be on my list to check out. You get snippets of history about the areas links to the Tudors and those who may have used or lived in the buildings, castles, manor houses etc, thrown in with beautiful photographs of the areas and places themselves. You have a handy key at the front so you could easily plan out a visit to some of the areas within. You also get a family tree and timeline of key events to give you an idea of what was happening at the time these places came to be.

The main places I think that would be on my list are: Carew Castle, Pembroke Castle, Tenby Tudor Merchant’s House, Raglan Castle, St Fagans National History Museum, Beaumaris Castle and Gwydir Castle (though to me this looks more like a large manor house). I think you can see a bit of a theme here with the places I picked, in that I really like castles. Whether they are still standing strong or have been slowly taken by the hands of time they have so much history within them that you can’t help but be in ore with the designs and how they would have been made.

Many of these castles designs were ahead of the time with adding the likes of hexagonal towers to fifteenth century designs – like with Raglan Castle. From high turrets and keeps, to moots and enforced doors and walls six feet thick, each castle had its own way of protecting itself from the siege of others. Many would change hands a few times over throughout the time of change from the Wars of the Roses to the Tudors reign. With many seeing improvements made by those who would then be the protector of it.

If a building could talk imagine the tales it could tell. If any of these buildings, castles or manor houses could talk I think you would be in for a historical treat with the battles that took place, literally and figuratively when with more of a verbal match. Great little guide through the lives of the Tudors, how they linked back to their Welsh roots and the fabulous places still around today for us to go and see.

4 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: ‘Henrietta Maria’ by Dominic Pearce

Title: Henrietta Maria

Published: 15th November 2015

Publisher: Amberley Publishing

Author: Dominic Pearce

 

Synopsis:

At the heart of the English Civil War stands the wife of Charles I, Henrietta Maria. She came to England in 1625 at the age of fifteen, undermined by her greedy French entourage, blocked by the forceful Duke of Buckingham and weighed down by instructions from the Pope to protect the Catholics of England. She was only a girl, and she had hardly a winning card in her hand; yet fifteen years later she was the terror of Parliament.

We see Henrietta Maria in the portraits of van Dyck, and hear her voice in the letters which she wrote to her husband and many others. She is a historic queen who inherited from her father, the great French statesman Henri IV, undying convictions about royal and divine authority and about just governance. There was always brutal violence in the background of her life from the early moments (her father was assassinated when she was six months old); she lived through civil war both in England and in France (the Fronde); she was tortured by the fate of Charles I; but her spirit – and her family – prevailed. Two of her children sat on the throne of England (Charles II and James II) and three of her grandchildren followed them (William III, Mary II and Anne). Her life is a story of elegance, courage, wit, energy and family devotion on a grand scale.

 

Review:

Goes down as another off my 2017 Bookworm Bingo Challenge – A History book.

A new and enticing biography of a Queen who has stayed in the background through many discussions on Charles I, their son Charles II and the English Civil war. Dominic takes the reader on a journey through her younger life before she became a player in a much more dangerous royal game in England.

From the start Henrietta Marie’s life was going to be a controversial one with religion and political gain always playing a part in the path she was being led down. At the age of fifteen she was a pawn placed in a high position when she became the wife of Charles I, then Charles, Prince of Wales. The marriage had its set backs from the very beginning with religion being the key player. She was Catholic and he Protestant. Part of her dowry always stated that this was never going to change and this is what sent fear into many a political mind. Their marriage, after a few set backs to being with, well she was just a child and couldn’t speak a word of English, seemed to be a happy one after the birth of their children. She was a very loyal woman and fiercely protective of her children and her husband.

When her husband became king you would think that they would be safe from persecution but the fear many had over her control of the king was great. It wouldn’t take long for whispers of dislike to get louder and have more of a political backing, mainly when they tried to impeach her. Which would soon bring about the start of a civil war. It was at these most difficult times that many would think she would cower and hide but she just stepped forward to help her husband take back control of the country they were losing. She was condemned and attacked at every turn but still carried on to see things through. Having the means to help where she could with other countries. She was a daughter of France so they were always there to help her, just not always as much for her husband. An interesting view on the English Civil War and the part the she played in it, from close up and a distance.

The war would end and the lose was great with the death of her husband but she knew she still had work to do to help her son claim back what was rightfully his. The Scots may have taken him as their King but the rest of the land was something else entirely. No matter the set back she always seemed to have a plan up her sleeve, not always taken though as soon it became clear that her children, most of whom she had not seen in years, were coming into their own and not needing her or her opinions. It was probably why she felt so strongly for her youngest Henrietta Anne, as she was the last one to mould in her own image.

Throughout her life she had many a friend who stayed close no matter the danger, though not all could be saved from it. She outlived most of her children and saw the fall and rise of the English royal reign when her son Charles II took back control. Her cultural influence can be seen today through the architecture designed by her protégé Inigo Jones and the art that was a love of hers. She was a creative creature from the start and seemed to want to please others, though I’d say only when deserved. This was a very interesting insight into a hidden figure of history.

From not knowing anything about her before reading the book I will admit to going back to the family trees at the front of the book from time to time just to remind myself who people were and how they were connected. Can get a little confusing when they all have the same name but that was just something they liked to do at the time so you have to just go with it.

5 out of 5 stars

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Book Review: ‘Death Scares Me’ by Keelen D. Cloud

Title: Death Scares Me

Published: 9th February 2016

Author: Keelan Cloud

 

Synopsis:

Modern poetry and short stories.

 

Review:

An interesting collection of poems and short stories that start to interlock the further you get to the end. Some I liked more than others and some were a little stranger the deeper they went but overall an interesting read.

I liked the flow and pace of the ‘Real Good Country Girl’ poem. You could almost imagine it as a country song about a guy describing his perfect country girl with what she’d look like and how she’d act. I was almost humming a tune with it to see how it would go.

First Verse:

“I want a real good country girl

I want a real good country girl

She’ll be moral and chaste

With a pretty little face

Wearing ribbons and curls

In our beautiful world.”

Found a fun message from ‘Shopping at the Goodwill Store’ poem with how you can be thrifty with your money. Every loves a bargain and you can find some interesting buys, you just have to hunt for them. If you know where to look you will get a true find with money to spare.

The short story I liked was the one with the on going battle between a couple of farmyard tomcats fighting it out. The older one of them is protecting the honour of the female from the farm while the younger one is trying to become the new top cat. The battle commences but is set between a few parts. Each one is a winner and loser at certain points but it’s the younger one who always seems to bite off more than he can chew. Not just with their fight but with when other animals pop up too. They might hiss and spit at each other but need to mend fences or they will soon get a telling off from their owner. The battle is over and peace rains but how long before another starts? Oh to live the life of a cat. Eat, sleep, protect your territory, sleep, eat again, get some fuss from your owner and then sleep some more. Purrrfection!

3 out of 5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the author for my honest review.

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Book Review: ‘Light A National Poetry Day Book’ edited by Gaby Morgan

Light

Title: Light A National Poetry Day Book

Published: 1st October 2015

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Edited by: Gaby Morgan

Poets: Deborah Jane Roshan Alma, Brian Moses, Chrissie Gittins, Liz Brownlee, Rachel Rooney, Michaela Morgan, Jan Dean, Paul Cookson, Roger Stevens, Joseph Coelho, Indigo Williams and Sally Crabtree

Synopsis:

A free poetry book to celebrate National Poetry Day 2015 with poems on the them of light from Deborah Alma, Brian Moses, Chrissie Gittins, Liz Brownlee, Michaela Morgan, Jan Dean, Paul Cookson, Roger Stevens, Joseph Coelho, Indigo Williams and Sally Crabtree.

National Poetry Day is a mass celebration, a special day on which all are invited to discover and share the enjoyment of poems. It’s a chance to let language off the leash and to relish the sounds that words can make when they are spoken with delight.

We hope that the poems in this book – all inspired by this year’s National Poetry Day theme of light – will kindle an enthusiasm for poetry that continues to grow long after the day itself, Thursday 8 October 2015, has passed.

Review:

A great little collection of poems brought together all using the theme of light.

Each poet has a section of the book dedicated to them where it says little about who they are, shows the poem they created using the theme of light, what their inspiration is to writing poems, some writing tips on how they create them along with a favourite poem of theirs by someone else. A great reference book for people who want to get a feel for whether they would like poetry – either to read or maybe have a go at writing for themselves.

My favourite poems were Playing with Stars by Brian Moses and Beware of the Grey by Paul Cookson.

 

Playing with Stars by Brian Moses

 

Young children know what it’s like

to play with stars.

 

First of all it’s a wink and a smile

from some distant constellation,

then it’s hide and seek as they disappear

in a cover of cloud.

Sometimes children see how far

they can travel to a star

before familiar voices call them

home to bed.

 

Like all good games, of course,

you need to use a little imagination

when playing with stars.

More experienced players

can jump over stars or shake down a star.

Some can trap them in butterfly nets,

but you should always let them loose again.

Stars grow pale and die it you cage them.

 

Sometimes the stars tell stories

of their journeys across the sky

and sometimes they stay silent.

At these times children may travel themselves,

wandering a line that unravels

through their dreams.

At these times too the stars play their own games,

falling from the sky when there’s no one there to catch them.

 

Sometimes you find these stars on the ground,

dazed and confused. Be warned though:

even fallen stars may be hot to touch.

 

Young children know what it’s like

to rescue stars, to hold them gently

in gloved hands and then,

with one almighty fling,

sling them back to the sky.

 

Adults forget what it’s like

to play with stars,

and when children offer to teach them

they’re far too busy.

 

I liked this one as it shows the innocence of children and the use of their own imaginations. It shows how when you get older you tend to lose that child like essence and it takes a child imagination to try and bring it back to you. How many of us as children thought you could catch a star? I know I did – I mean there was even a song about it ‘catch a falling star and put it in your pocket save it for a rainy day’.

Beware The Grey by Paul Cookson

 

Beware of The Grey

Beware of The Grey

Fading your dreams

And ambitions away

 

Beware of The Grey

Beware of The Grey

Melting the night time

Into the day

 

He’ll take all the colours

And drain them away

Beware of the evil

Beware of The Grey

 

Whatever you do

Whatever you say

Keep you eyes open

Beware of The Grey

 

Don’t put off tomorrow

What can be today

Follow your vision

Beware of The Grey

 

He’ll shade all your dreams

And whisper and say

Don’t worry – give up

Beware of The Grey

 

Where there’s a will

There’s always a way

Little by little

Beware of The Grey

 

He’ll suck out your dreams

And say It’s okay …

Accept second best

Beware of The Grey

 

Beware of The Grey

Beware of The Grey

Fading your dreams

And ambitions a

w

a

y …

 

I liked this one as it’s trying to get you to be aware of things that could bring you down. It wants you to dream big and never give up on them. Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it, just always try your best before your dreams start to fade away.

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4 out of 5 stars

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