Anita's Haven

books, thoughts, stories, poetry, interviews, writing

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Romance is coming♡

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Naked News for Indie Authors: How to Get on TV by Gisela Hausmann – my review no.46

Always on point – makes you want to try!

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Having already read another book by this author, How NOT to Invest…, I knew I would keep an eye on more pretty soon. I picked out this one out of sheer curiosity, not that I am hoping my books would ever get me on TV. How to pitch your book to a TV station and present it afterwards? Read this book – it will save you time and effort, and help you organise effectively.

This is why I like Ms. Hausmann’s books – simple, upfront and clear.

“Without a doubt the greatest achievements of human mankind could not have been described with an elevator pitch, or can anybody imagine creating an elevator pitch that is going to sell painting the Sistine Chapel, or building the Taj Mahal, or maybe even the Great Wall?”

“Forget the elevator pitch; anybody who doesn’t have time to listen to three sentences isn’t interested anyway.”

Gisela Hausmann does not make her advice into science. She delivers simple, clear, practical advice from personal experience and substantiates it with examples and evidence. The book is cleverly written, introducing links to other books by the same author, which serves both as book promotion and avoiding repetition on certain topics. Although I personally sometimes get sad that so much relies on e-mails (and “nobody’s feelings get hurt”) and think nostalgically about face-to-face meetings, I quite agree with the author on the effectiveness and omnipresence of e-mail pitching. Her advice on image is really interesting and memorable.

Hausmann is right – the people who see you live on TV will trust you and want to read or know more about your work and books.  This book never promises miracles, but encourages you to start small and act locally. And if you mess up, how not to give up. What is more, all the advice is so logical that you will wonder how come you never thought of it yourself. You may keep this book handy – like a proper handbook.

A modern book for modern times – short, concise, practical and effective. I might just try it out some day!

This book on amazon

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Bragging is so unbecoming, and yet…

First book, 3rd place! Woohoo! Thank you all!

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The Threshold, 3rd fav novella, on iBookstore

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THE RAILROAD by Neil Douglas Newton – my review no.45

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Makes you think. Seriously.

This book was recommended to me by a friend who knows I like to read serious books. And this is not a fun, beach, snack book. This is a serious meal you need to sink your teeth into and think. The author has decided to tackle plenty of important, real life situations, and it’s far easier to dig our heads into reality shows than deal with reality.

As you follow the developments in the life of Mike Dobbs, his transformations and turbulence, cleverly told in first person, you will question his decisions, go with him through his 9-11 experience (excellent scene in the subway and consequences mentioned subsequently), a bitter, cold, dying relationship, utter depression and then – the unexpected change. When Mike drinks, when he is insensitive to the Dennis or Barbara, when he thinks of how to get rid of Eileen and Megan, he is what he is, a traumatised average man hardened by the alienation of modern life, yet doomed to reluctant kindness, generosity and heroism when face to face with a person in real trouble. It’s the damaged souls guiding damaged souls, like the blind leading the blind, but still sticking together. There is good in us humans, despite the bad in us. Mike is the kind of hero I like – almost an antihero, an accidental hero who never sees himself as such because he himself is so rundown and empty that even the author makes no excuses for him. All the characters are realistic and intriguing, even the five-second appearances (the girl in the cybercafe, the innkeeper couple in a small town), and their psychology is really well-expressed, shown, not preached. I will not divulge my favourites to avoid spoilers.

The cover itself is not a compromising one – there is no couple to inspire romantic notions, although a huge portion of the story deals with relationships – romantic, family and friendships. There is no blood gushing, although the story is far from a gentle one. The title is not only an important literal image in the story, but also a metaphor, and the railroad puns and analogies woven into the plot have been placed there naturally, almost unnoticeably, yet emphasizing the message, using both the positive and negative connotations of it (travelling, discovering your paths, traditional settings, as opposed to being derailed, railroaded, cheated and defeated, whether by cunning or violence, etc.)

The initial chapters are not your average writing style and popular writers’ vernacular, which grabbed my attention with plenty of interesting lines and expressions, which obviously come naturally and follow the events without distracting the reader. This style blends into more action in the second part of the book, as the story itself twists and turn that way. I enjoyed the excellent, flowing dialogues, quite an original line of thinking, and blending dialogue and character’s thoughts seamlessly yet clearly defined. The language flows with impact, sometimes even like an old black-and-white detective movie or even a movie done in comic-book style.

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The Railroad is a book not easily-digested, because of the topic – heavy, gruesome subjects people want to avoid but need to talk about and read about. You will want to drop it at times, because it might hit too close to home, but as soon as you put it down, you will want to get back to it. You will want to see how it turns out. Alienation, terrorism, child abuse, disfunctional marriages, detached relationships, dying friendships, inadequacy in the simplest intimate situations, post-traumatic stress, loneliness, disregard for common decency, system failures, bribe and the cowardice of laws, alcoholism, conformity… There are no comic reliefs, the readers will not be pampered with easily-digestible scenes or easy, rose-coloured romance, and Mike’s battle is constant and relentless. At times there is even an unusual, erratic pace of telling events, showing the mess in Mike’s mind and soul, all strongly tied into the plot as the web thickens towards the end. After the entire ordeal, you will wonder whether Mike continued the search out of bravery, stubborness, pure love, madness or the simple need for closure. But hang in there – like life, it is all worth it. There is nothing average about Mike – the average person stays away or gives in. Mike doesn’t.

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The ending might surprise you, and goes to prove that the most unlikely heroes, the ones who don’t go looking for it, are the ones who do chage the world, one act at a time. There is a slight feeling of bitterness and injustice, knowing Mike’s sacrifice. But then again, the loveliest roses need thorns.

This book on amazon

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Read with a kid ♡

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These are the three children’s e-books I developed working as a teacher. Each of these stories has been used in English lessons with kids from 4-9 years old, and each contains some follow-up activities. The stories offer a lot, despite the fact that the illustrations are at the level of flashcards.

The Good Pirate teaches kids that money doesn’t make a person good, Winky deals with environment and going after your dreams, and Mimi helps them realize it is rewarding to do things on their own.

You can check out the e-books at my Lulu author spotlight , Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Nook or my Amazon page.

I am so proud to say that that The Good Pirate and Winky’s Colours have been nominated by readers for the 2016 Summer Indie Book Awards by Metamorph Publishing.

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To celebrate George the Good Pirate getting his first nomination, here is one of the riddles from the follow-up activities in his book.

I have a little gadget

to see what’s far, with class.

I hold it in my hand

and call it my ________.

Can you guess the answer?

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Winky is my all-time favourite, my first children’s book-baby. To finish this post, let me share my afterword from the book.

Afterword
To parents, friends  and educators reading to children

Storytelling is an essential part of human existence. Regardless of all technological progress, the roots to successful human communication lie in face-to-face talks, the warmth of our voice, our presence. Please, never let anything or anyone convince you of the unimportance of your role in storytelling and reading.

As I have been convinced by children many times, even the best story can be ruined by a heartless and distant storyteller, just as successfully as any story is made more interesting as long as the storyteller involves the audience in the reading process. Having children intervene while you are telling a story does not mean they lack patience or the necessary attention span. Perhaps you are actually reading the story just the right way, and they are already in it, from the first page on.

Just in case you have the heart, but lack the ideas on how to involve your listeners in the story you are reading, allow this teacher to share a few guidelines. It is up to you whether you follow them or not. But trust me, it is also up to you how your children and students learn to interpret their own actions and feelings, as well as your own, and the world as a whole. Being a storyteller is a superpower! Be careful not to abuse it!

• Ask them what they would do or feel in a certain situation as you read it.

• Have them draw something from the story, regardless of the existent illustrations – their use of colour and choice of detail have a story to tell.

• Every now and then, stop and have them comment and guess what happens next and why.

• Let them retell the story to someone else – this will show you how they understood it.

• Even if you don’t have the time to read the whole story through, read it chapter by chapter.

• Enjoy it the first time your children pick up a book to read on their own, even if they still can’t actually read letters – your mission was a hit!

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Amazing!

After winning 3rd place as favourite indie novella in the Bottles&Books Reviews Annual Reader’s Choice Awards for 2015, The Threshold got nominated in 2 categories in the Summer Indie Awards by Metamorph Publishing
Proudly wearing my badge for my first book….

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To honour this challenge, I am sharing a sneak peek from The Threshold today…

Part 4 – THE HOUSE, THE OWNER & THE SHOW

‘Thank you for signing your contracts, girls and boys. Now if you’d just get your make-up and hair checked by Janet over there one last time, and Bob and the guys will fix your headcams, and then… we can get this show on the road!’

Sally’s voice and body were in their usual backstage-TV overdrive, as her left hand gestured the five candidates politely towards the crew, and her right hand collected all the five signed waivers, and tucked them safely under her arm, like a magician performing one of his skillful tricks. She backed up her actions with a professionally fake smile, known as ‘you’re-safe-we-know-what-we’re-doing’, and scurried to the van. Her eagle eyes scanned through the documents to check the signatures once more and then she put the wavers in the official Scott-stamped briefcase and locked them in the safe. Waivers – the impermeable protective shield Scott’s lawyers had concocted, sort of a reality show pre-nup contract which basically told the Fabulous Five this: ‘If anything happens to you, it’s your own fault!’ The ‘in case of death or disappearance’ clause was a particularly cynical, yet appropriate touch, with its ominous Dr Jekyll/Mr Hyde ring to it. Sally secretly wondered if Scott had bought the rights to use that R. L. Stevenson quote…

Sally Jenkins was a 32-year-old divorced mum and ambitious producer. She didn’t mind being divorced at all. She had entered her marriage too immature, a complete mess of a person, a work in progress. During the marriage, she felt like moist washing powder tossed carelessly into the washing machine shaft, and sucked into the fast and noisy tumble-dryer. By the end of the marriage, she felt like leftover traces of that powder mash, splattered undissolved all over clothes like a proper nuisance, not really having done what it was supposed to have done, but still sort of there. Her 6-year-old son was her only secret treasure, bounced around on the rollercoaster of her love, her own mum’s care, the kindergarten and the occasional glimpses of the boy’s father, her distant ex-husband, passing through town. She had been working as a producer for a couple of years, but this reality show was her first really big break. Providing ratings were good, Sally was promised a nice bonus and even a considerable steady raise, and it would be so nice not to have to blush in the principal’s office because her ex failed to pay another monthly fee for their son’s preschool.

Her own life’s mediocre reality had long before ushered her easily into the insensitive world of reality shows, where she learned so much about the infinite universe of human stupidity, yet also became aware of the unbelievable knack some people had for survival. So if these five people were going to do whatever it was they were going to do, and were willing to sign a waver for it, then it was no skin off her back. They had their dreams, and she had dreams of her own. Securing her son’s education, buying a house of her own, getting her mum that new TV oven she kept talking about, and maybe even travelling some… so many dreams, so little money.

Sally was not particularly vane, but her job made her aware of how much attention people paid to a person’s outside image, so, before leaving the van, she quickly checked her figure in the mirror attached to the door. It encompassed her full figure, from head to toe, not that there was much to reflect. She was unusually petite, pale and extremely thin, borderline anorexic, and as flat-chested as no girl ever wanted to be, but she knew how to wrap herself into richly draped blouses, and she was wearing a white one just like that for this occasion. Giving birth had provided her with the only attribute she had going for her physically – her wide hips. No wonder she loved her tube-like, knee-long, tight red velvet skirt which showed off those hips. Her black hair was always in a pixie cut, really short and practical to maintain, with any cheap black dye brand, which she could apply herself whenever her grays started betraying her already bountiful life experience. She pinched her strong cheekbones for a natural blush. Making sure everything was in place, she stepped outside.

She locked the van, her set of a dozen or so metalic bracelets clanging away as she did so, and stashed the key on a silver chain, which she put around her neck and carefully hid under her blouse. Then she walked into the excited crowd, pasting the smile on her face and arching her back. Her cheap stilettos were killing her, but she knew how well they looked on footage, so pain was pushed aside along with her dreams, at least for the time being. The individual camera guys were already obeying the directors orders and running around, shooting preparations with dedication, as if they were making a documentary about obtaining world peace.

‘Well, you five, daydreaming away and no nose-picking. Let’s all get this party started,’ she cheerfully called the anxious candidates back as she approached the frontyard of the creepy house.

She was charming, but all work and no play, avoiding chit-chat with participants to spare herself the pain of attachment. She casually waved at the press and the fans, and the candidates imitated her actions. The crowd was loud and filled with all kinds of people, most of whom just had nothing better to do on a sunny day than observe other people fight over money.

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To read the rest, go to any major purchase site and look for The Threshold.

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Yes, pleasure and pain…

The Pleasure & The Pain – http://wp.me/p33CNM-gd

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TREE GOBLINS by David Melling – my review no.44

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Witty and relatable;)

When you are a fantasy fan and a children’s books fan, such as myself, and a parent and teacher as well, one of your ideas of fun is reading witty, intelligent books which can make you laugh, feel good, relate to everyday life (metaphorically, of course) and leave you wanting for more. And if possible, a good book should inspire us to share it with someone.

This book does all that, topping the reading cake with wonderful illustrations which go hand in hand with the story. It is impossible to envision one wihout the other. Some goblins do remind me of some people I know, which makes me recommend it heartily to adults, not just kids.

The introductory pages offer a funny description of characters, which will have you chuckling from page one. I couldn’t help but hear (in my head) the voice of Hugh Laurie (his British English version) reading it aloud. When was the last time a book had you laughing out loud or at least chuckling?

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The story itself reads almost like a play, and invites creative storytelling. I will not write any spoilers, save for a few comments – three eggs certainly can cause havoc and excitement you wouldn’t believe. Creatures such as all manner of goblins, a ground-bat, and a snootle-pig are only glimpses into what awaits you in the Wandering Wood. (Brief note to parents – if you sometimes feel like Butterfingers or Mildew, know that you are not alone.)

Tree Goblins are a welcome addition to our family collection of books by author and illustrator David Melling. My only tiny regret, knowing the beautiful renditions of Hugless Douglas, The Tale of Jack Frost and other books, is that these Tree Goblins’ illustrations are black-and-white. The language flows in a recognizable humorous style and even the chapter titles lend themselves to puns.

It can be quite difficult nowadays to come by a fantasy book for children which doesn’t involve brutality and death, so coming across a book which has funny goblins and talking trees, who also teach us a lot about patience, family and friendship, is a miracle to cherish. Enjoy it with your kids, let them enjoy it for themselves, and then sneak off with it and read it again, just for yourself, drawing comparisons with the real world. To quote the author…
‘If a bit of luck comes your way, it really is a good idea to make sure you keep hold of it.’

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This book on amazon

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New challenges, new stories, new friends… and old ones, too…

Simply couldn’t resist sharing this challenge…

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I am already reading. Will you?

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