Friday, August 17, 2012



My guest, contemporary fiction author,Susan Buchanan. She hails from Scotland and is discussing using current events in novels.

I like to keep my stories current, so there will be elements mentioned, in order that it’s clear the events are contemporary. Generally speaking my novels can be read and are applicable to any contemporary time period, and they address the same issues, dilemmas and problems that people have been living through the ages.

Let’s look at Sign of the Times first.   When I finished writing it in 2008, Facebook had been around a few years and Twitter had just been born, but I hadn’t even heard of it back then. But I wrote the first draft of Tom’s chapters in 2003 and none of those social networking sites existed, so Tom used MSN Messenger for his correspondence  with Shirley. I thought about updating it, but I would have had to change so many other elements and it would have left a complex novel open to continuity errors, so left it as it was.

The twelfth character, Scorpio, Czeslawa is Polish. I introduced her, as I wanted to depict the changing demography of the UK and particularly Scotland. When I was growing up, there were very few European immigrants.  The majority were Italians who came across in the 50s and then had kids here, too. Now Poles top the European immigrants in Scotland, with entire supermarket aisles dedicated to Polish foodstuffs. Even the signage at Glasgow Airport is in both Polish and English now. I wanted to cover the difficulties of integration, language problems, racism, culture shock, retaining to a certain extent their own culture, whilst contributing to the community.

With Gemini, Lucy, the cardiologist, I created a character who was pretty ruthless and who had It all – looks, intelligence and a fabulous career, not to mention a devoted boyfriend.  It was my intention to convey a woman who was not only making it in a man’s world, but who was actually adopting, in many ways, male traits, whilst being distinctly feminine and sexy. Her actions are simply accepted as what some men do, but it would shock many people that women are also capable of it.  There are more Lucys out there than we know!

In Oscar’s chapters, his desire to set up his own estate agency is dampened by the problems he faces due to the current state of the housing market.  Unfortunately In real life, this poor situation hasn’t changed in the past five years…

When we meet Antonia, I hoped to convey the pressures of managing a current-day call centre, as well as the day-to-day running of it.  I also wanted to highlight the trend of closing call centres and moving the work overseas.

Now moving on to The Dating Game, (released later this fall).  Early on I refer to the financial collapse and the recession inadvertently. Bankers all of a sudden became persona non grata after being the golden boys for so long. The difficulty in finding a job in the current climate, no matter the experience of the candidate is also covered, as the protagonist, Gill, has her own Recruitment Agency.  The novel shows how Recruitment Consultants don’t have it easy either, in the current climate - too many candidates, too few vacancies. They have become the new persona non grata.

Part of The Dating Game is set in Barcelona and the ongoing debate over whether Gaudi’s masterpiece La Sagrada Familia church should be finished or not by contemporary architects is discussed. (It’s due to be completed in 2026). Of even more interest to everyone is the issue of pickpocketing in the Spanish city and how international gangs come from as far afield as Colombia to target the city.

The whole premise of the novel  - Gill joining a professional dating agency  - is very topical.  There is an increasing trend for people of all ages and walks of life, to look for a partner by means other than face to face, whether via internet or by way of an introduction agency.
So, I suppose, yes, I like to keep things topical. I am writing contemporary fiction, so it makes sense that I include topical themes and refer to current affairs that are relevant, like the recession. I haven’t mentioned the Olympics, but that’s because The Dating Game is based largely in Scotland, or I would have had to mention them!

  • Do you feel it's important to include current affairs and events in contemporary novels or do you prefer to leave it ambiguous as it may date the work?



Twelve people. Twelve star signs.

Sagittarius - Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.

Capricorn – Holly’s fiancé, Tom misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?

Gemini - Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating she discovers, can have devastating consequences.

Libra - Holly’s uncle Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.

One event binds them all…EXCERPT CHAPTER

Susan Buchanan lives in Central Scotland with her partner, Tony. Sign of the Times is her first novel, published Mar 2012. Her second novel is expected to be released late 2012.

You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


My apologies, this was scheduled to post early this morning and for whatever reason, it didn't.

I recently bought a book by Anne Gallagher, aka Robynn Rand. Now, I won't tell you I've read all her books, but what I have read I've liked. She's an excellent storyteller. I read the premise behind her first women's fiction novel and thought, hmm, sounds interesting. It was beyond interesting—it was a wonderful character driven story of love and family. If you haven't had a chance to pick up, you should.


Remembering You [Kindle Edition]

Robynne Rand/Anne Gallagher

Publisher: Shore Road Publishing; 
2nd edition (July 13, 2012)
Print Length: 243 pages

When Genna goes home to Rhode Island to spend a long-awaited vacation, she finds that her family is falling apart and she has only twenty-one days to put them back together. 

Her new promotion as Executive Chef at the posh Littlefield Country Club in Delaware is a dream job. It’s more than the pay and benefits; she has the chance to achieve what she’s always wanted – her own kitchen – and Genna can’t wait to get started when she returns after the Fourth of July holiday.

However, her vacation is far from relaxing. Two men are vying for her attention – an ex-fiancé who wants to fix the mistakes of the past, and an old school chum who finds her irresistible, and inspires mutual feelings in Genna. Her aunt’s forgetfulness is also causing concern. However, the family is in denial; her cousins are unable to cope with their mother’s changing behavior and her beloved uncle, dealing with all the stress, has a heart attack. 

Genna steps in to keep his diner open and the family together while he recuperates, and she questions what’s more important – breaking the glass ceiling or remaining with her family. The clock runs out and Genna finds she is needed at her new job, needed by her family, and by lovers old and new. Now Genna must search her soul to find out what she needs


Remembering You ripples across your emotions like strumming a fine guitar and leaves a warm echo in your heart.

This is a love story. Una storia bella di amore.

The love isn’t only romantic—although there is that element—but love between family members. Family is a complicated circle filled with complex relationships and emotions. There are squabbles and fights, laughter and joys, sorrow and tragedies. Any one of these pieces can be in play at any given time or be in place simultaneously. This is especially so in close knit extended families—siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. Home is not so much a place with four walls, or a town with familiar places and streets; it’s family. It’s our safety net and our bedrock from which we explore the world.

The main character, Genna, left home nursing a broken heart after a traumatic break with her fiancé and stayed away, aside from short visits, for ten years. She has worked hard during that time to hone her skills as a chef and restaurateur. It’s paid off. She’s been offered a dream job managing a large country club with several restaurants venues and a team of chefs. She takes three weeks to go home for an extended vacation before starting her new job.

Can you ever really go home? Yes, but it’s never what you left. It grows and changes, ebbs and flows. Home is familiar yet different. And so Genna discovers. She also learns you can’t really run from home and problems because they’re still waiting for you when you return.

I love Genna’s family. It’s a big New England Italian family (I married into one complete with a Diner). And Robynne Rand makes you a part of it. Uncle Sally is wonderful and I had to laugh at his choice of music in the diner, pithy comments, and intense love for his family.  All the characters are well drawn and feel very real. They make you laugh out loud—a lot. Your heart hurts as you see Auntie Fortuna’s problems, what cousin Angie is facing, the hard choices facing Genna. You’re right there with the family in their opinion of Tony (the lying cheating weasel), the ex, and humming right along with oh so sexy Petie (È l'uomo perfetto per voi!).

This is a story you wish wouldn’t end. If you don’t have a family like Genna’s you’ll wish you did or they were friends and you could pop into the diner for a cup of coffee and fresh slice of life, Gennovase styled, for dessert.

I’m looking forward to the next Robynne Rand story!


Robynne Rand grew up on the shores of Rhode Island. Now residing in the Foothills of the Piedmont in North Carolina with her daughter, Rand writes about her old home state while staring at 25 acres of a soybean field. Sometimes if she squints just right as the fog rolls in from the mountains, it almost looks like the ocean.
Rand has had three literary short stories published in small press anthologies. She also writes Regency romance under the pen name -- AnneGallagher Website.
REMEMBERING YOU is her first foray into contemporary Women’s Fiction.

Monday, August 13, 2012


 I’m still fighting a stomach bug so I am reprising an article written for me, a couple years ago, by a friend of mine, Ken Coffman.  I have a lot of respect for Ken and what he’s accomplished. Ken is both author and a publisher. I love his attitude when it comes to going for what he wants. I really liked the straight foreword tone of this article. I thought you might enjoy reading it, too.

80% of success is showing up.
- Woody Allen

What is the right percentage? 80% of success is showing up? I’ve heard 90%, 95%, and even 100%. Let’s not quibble, my friends. Some high percentage of success comes from showing up. But, what the hell does that mean?

I feel like I understand the concept and it doesn’t mean success is easy. Showing up sounds easy, so what’s going on? Let’s suppose you’re sitting in a room with one hundred other people. If you have a question, the physical effort of raising your hand is nothing. You lift that heavy hand hundreds of times a day. But the courage to take the chance, to draw attention to yourself, to risk asking the stupidest question ever asked…that takes courage. Grit. Guts. In this case you gotta show up by raising that heavy hand.

Patrick Moraz today From his website
Let me illustrate with an example from my life. Every few years when I can afford it and the mood strikes me, I will act as concert promoter. A while back, I booked a show with Patrick Moraz. Patrick is a world-renowned keyboardist and pianist who played with [British Rock Bands]Yes (1974-1976) and The Moody Blues (1978-1991). Truly, he is as close to a modern incarnation of Mozart that we will see in our lifetime. That sounds over-the-top and ludicrous, doesn’t it? But, check it out. You’ll see.

For an opening act, I decided to book a friend, Eric Dahl. Eric is a talented songwriter/storyteller, but I remember the day he told me he didn’t know how to play the guitar. I’d seen him perform and loved his songs…how could it be that he ‘knows not’ how to play? As it turns out, a guitar-playing friend tunes his acoustic guitar to an open chord and all Eric has to do is move his thumb and index finger up and down the neck to play simple patterns. As an aside, this is the way Glen Wilson (from my novel series, the continuing adventures of Glen Wilson, which starts with Steel Waters) also plays the guitar. This is in no way coincidental, but never mind that.

The concert was fun and the audience ate it up. Then, at the end, for an encore, a group of people wanted to hear Eric playing with Patrick. My heart sank. This would be a disaster… We can’t combine one of the premier pianists of the world with a fellow who does not know how to play the guitar. Sensing a meltdown, I sank into my seat and tried to disappear.

Here’s what happened. Eric got on stage, grinned at the crowd and started playing and singing a simple, funky bluesy pattern. Genius that he is, Patrick joined in and played wild, creative and amazing accompaniment. It was great. Perfect. Beautiful. And taught me a valuable lesson. I have the recording. It’s cool.

The life lesson?

Be bold. Take the lead. Show up.

What does this mean to my fellow writers? We’ll have setbacks. The blank page will sit on our screen and mock us. We’ll get a bad review. Another rejection letter. We’ll lose a contest. It can be overwhelming, paralyzing and depressing.

That’s life.

What should we do? Work! Perfect your skill at creating characters, designing a story arc and executing your ideas with good grammar, vocabulary and syntax. No matter where you started and no matter where you are today, you can get better and inch closer to your goal. Step-by-step. Day-by-day.

And that’s what I’m doing. Thanks Eric.

Ken Coffman is the author of Fairhaven, Steel Waters, Hartz String Theory and other mad novels available from and other online bookstores. He wrote a popular technical book called Real World FPGA Design with Verilog published by Pearson-Prentice Hall.

He is a Field Applications Engineer and Member of the Technical Staff at Fairchild Semiconductor.He is the coauthor of six patents, a member of the standards association of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Ken is the publisher of Stairway Press, publishing and marketing literary books in various genres (including science, science fiction, short stories, political essays, literary thrillers and adventures). 

Ken is a guitar player. He and his wife live in the Seattle area.  He plays golf exactly the way his boss wants him to: very poorly.