Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Ruby Reviews Frog Music by Emma Donoghue #ASMSG


“Woman’s Mania for Wearing Male Attire Ends in Death.”


A couple of years ago when I read Room by this author I was traumatised. It wasn’t a feel good book – claustrophobic but gripping. Misery lit fiction. So I was apprehensive when a colleague suggested Frog Music as my next read.

I needn’t have worried. The author’s own pre-release description of Frog Music was historical fiction based on the true story of a murdered 19th century cross-dressing frog catcher. Sufficiently far away from misery lit and weird enough to tickle my fancy, but Frog Music is much more than that teaser suggests.

1876 San Francisco is the setting – a society so different to the modern world that it completely transports the reader. The overwhelming impression is raw cosmopolitan, people flooding into a thriving city from the rest of the globe. The California gold rush is history but has left a legacy of wealth, instant gratification, disappointment and beggars. San Francisco swarms with new Americans, most notably French, Prussians and Chinese. Law and order’s grip on daily life is as tenuous as the stability of the wooden city buildings that shudder with each movement of the Earth’s crust and burn to the ground through accident or riot. Rampant smallpox adds a large dose of carpe diem to the behaviour of the residents. Donoghue paints all this perfectly.

Blanche Beunon is our narrator, a young French circus performer who has found a talent for entertainment of a more adult nature. She lives in comfort thanks to her earnings but shares a bohemian lifestyle with two male former acrobats that sinks frequently into depravity. Looking over Blanche’s shoulder, the reader is in a safer place than Room, but the plot has a train wreck trajectory from the first chapter.

This tragic story is delivered in third person, present tense but the timeline alternates either side of the blood-soaked first few pages in order to explain how things came to that fateful event and to lead to the eventual resolution of whodunnit. Once or twice I had to recap in order to be sure whereabouts the story had got to, but the delivery worked well overall.

There are very few wise people in Frog Music. With the exception of old Maria with her destroyed face, all the characters display different facets of naivety. Blanche is very worldly in her work environment and doesn’t lack confidence but she is naive in the belief that her acrobatic ménage of a lifestyle can continue once the complications of adult responsibilities ensue. The other characters are similarly in denial of their mortality and cavort with abandon in the face of disease, dishonesty and debauchery.

The catalyst to this crucible of San Francisco is Jenny Bonnet the cross-dressing frog catcher. A fascinating character, Jenny has a massive impact upon everyone in the book but (and no real spoiler here) she is killed off in the first four pages. She understands the rules of life and death better than anyone, but is no more able to avoid her own demise. Had she stayed alive throughout the book and then died towards the end it may have been unbearable. As it stands, the author breathes life into Jenny’s character and Frog Music is as much a eulogy to Jenny Bonnet as it is a journey of self-discovery for Blanche Beunon.

Witty, fast-paced and intricate, Frog Music leads the reader a merry dance. Sometimes I wanted to laugh, to cry and other times to take a long hot shower to cleanse the depraved filth of the Californian heat wave from my pores. Donoghue’s cast act in ways that delight, titillate and infuriate but their behaviour and attitudes are logical in the final scheme of things. The many skeletons in the cupboard eventually manifest themselves, the highest impact being caused by the smallest of them, P’tit. As different as this is to Room in so many ways, the hub of Donoghue’s FrogMusic is once again a small child.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Summer Reads Make Me Feel Fine #ASMSG #Giveaway

Blowing through the jasmine in my mind (as Seals & Crofts and the Isley Brothers put it).
Marble City Publishing has three new releases this summer and they’re offering a giveaway to celebrate. Register for their newsletter and you can choose any one of Marble's existing e-book titles for free!
Also, because Marble hate those ads that offer a great new deal to new subscribers but tough luck to existing customers, all existing newsletter followers can also get one of Marble’s titles for free. Just click through as if registering and then update your profile to choose your e-book.
And here, in brief, are those three new releases:

cover for The Sadness of Angels by Jim Williams

The Sadness of Angels is a new release from Booker-nominated Jim Williams. An epic science fiction fantasy, first part of an upcoming trilogy. Beautifully written, captivating and lyrical. Read more about The Sadness of Angels on Amazon.

cover for Twelve Curious Deaths in France

Twelve Curious Deaths in France is Marble City’s first release from Emmy-nominated screenwriter John Goldsmith. A novel length collection of outstanding stories. Do miracles really happen? Did Voltaire rise from the dead? Is our fate predestined? Are sex toys dangerous? The answers are to be found in this remarkable collection. Includes how-to advice on a number of topics: delivering practical jokes from beyond the grave; how best to murder an African despot; the secret of the world’s best rabbit stew. From fantastic to factual, contemporary to historical, a mix of comedy, drama, intrigue and suspense. Twelve Curious Deaths in France is available on Amazon.

cover for Edge of Passion anthology

Edge of Passion is Marble's 2014 anthology of crime, mystery, suspense and romance. Twenty-one stories from nineteen authors, including Emmy-nominated John Goldsmith and Booker-nominated Jim Williams.
This global collection from 400 to 7000 words covers everything from crime fiction to romantic suspense and historical mystery.
Authors: John Goldsmith, Jim Williams, Jeremy Hinchliff, John Holland, Gerry McCullough, Alexandar Altman, R.A. Barnes, Maura Barrett, Eileen Condon, Mary Healy, Susan Howe, Damon King, Mary Mitchell, Jeanne O’Dwyer, Michael Rumsey, Valerie Ryan, Dennis Thompson, Catherine Tynan and T. West.
Edge of Passion is available on Amazon.

This post is reblogged from Marble City Publishing

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Marble City - Passionate About Writing #ASMSG

They've been busy again over at Marble City Publishing and this year's anthology, Edge of Passion, has just been released in e-book and paperback. Yours truly has a story in there - Heirloom - and the anthology makes very good reading. Some really strong stories from this year's competition winners and stunning guest pieces from Booker-nominated Jim Williams, Emmy-nominated John Goldsmith and other Marble City guest authors.

cover for Edge of Passion anthology by Marble City Publishing

An anthology of twenty-one crime, mystery, suspense and romance stories from nineteen authors, including Emmy-nominated John Goldsmith and Booker-nominated Jim Williams.

This global collection of short stories from 400 to 7000 words covers everything from crime fiction to romantic suspense and historical mystery.

Authors: John Goldsmith, Jim Williams, Jeremy Hinchliff, John Holland, Gerry McCullough, Alexandar Altman, R.A. Barnes, Maura Barrett, Eileen Condon, Mary Healy, Susan Howe, Damon King, Mary Mitchell, Jeanne O’Dwyer, Michael Rumsey, Valerie Ryan, Dennis Thompson, Catherine Tynan and T. West.

Edge of Passion is available on Amazon

cover for Edge of Passion anthology paperback edition

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Rapunzel, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair!

St Canice's Cathedral, Kilkenny

The other weekend we climbed up the round tower of St Canice's Cathedral in Kilkenny, Ireland. My ten-year-old son and I. We had different objectives in mind. His was to view the city streets from above and check out the accuracy of maps he has been drawing since last summer. Mine was a periodical reminder that I don't like heights.

Here's the mandatory tourist stuff - constructed in the mid-9th century , 100 feet 30 metres high, built as a place of refuge during Viking raids, one of only two round towers in the country open to the public to climb.

Rapunzel springs to mind when I think of this tower and the nearby one at the Rock of Cashel (which Rapunzel may still live in, who knows, it isn't accessible to the public).

Rock of Cashel

When we returned home we read the photocopied leaflet from St Canice's. The foundations of that 100 foot tower are ... two feet deep. 60 centimeters. Originally built on top of fresh graves, the tower has stood for a millennium with foundations shallower than my house.

It set me thinking. The tower only leans two feet off true vertical. That might not be due to subsidence in the shallow foundation - it might be a limitation in 9th century building technology. Its walls are a couple of feet thick. Solid granite blocks set on top of each other. Little or no sign of renovation. This isn't a structure plastered together on the inside with modern concrete. The tower is built with a durable integrity.

As authors we believe in our writing. Building blocks are required to reach the sky, to stretch up above the street and gain a view of the city. We worry about our foundations - the validity of our concepts, our ideas. We use our materials - the skills which are our mortar, the plot which is our granite. Social media is our scaffolding (presumably those Dark Ages Viking-avoiders used scaffolding). Those who have confidence raise themselves up and charge for entry. Here endeth the metaphor.

This was first posted by yours truly on Authors Electric 26th April 2014

Saturday, 10 May 2014

And the Winner of a new Kindle Fire HD is ...

Marble City Publishing Ltd had a great response to their Kindle Fire HD free draw with entrants from countries around the globe. The winner, chosen using a random number generator, is Steve Demaree of Kentucky, USA. Congratulations to Steve who is the author of nineteen books (see Steve’s work here on Amazon).

Thanks to everyone who entered the draw. All subscribers will be automatically entered into Marble City's future prize draws. Good luck to everyone.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

What's the story? Edge of Passion Romance Anthology Competition #ASMSG

Do you have a romance story crying out for recognition? Does it have a twist of suspense, mystery or crime? Following on from the great success of the 2013 Knife Edge crime anthology, Marble City Publishing is planning a 2014 romance anthology under the title Edge of Passion. Inclusion in the anthology is one of the prizes in an international competition being run by Multi-story. Full entry details here including great cash prizes, copies of the anthology and, of course, publication.

Marble City embraces the 21st century book industry and connects readers around the globe with carefully crafted crime fiction, thrillers, mystery/suspense and true crime, in all formats, at affordable prices.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Message To #AllUsers

Tarquin Murphy's diary #AllUsers is free this weekend 1-2 February on Amazon. Go grab it for some light-hearted entertainment. Here's what the reviewers say:

"Are you able to laugh at the human condition? Then jump in - you are qualified to read #Allusers."

"There has been much debate about the orientation of the toilet rolls in the asylum. Myself, I identified with the cutlery thief. Rebellion has many faces. Recommended."

"There's something strangely fascinating about the man and his quirks and foibles. This is a laugh aloud story so be careful where you read it, preferably in private, maybe on the loo. Wherever you choose, it's fun and you'll enjoy."

"An existential problem."

"...this book, inadvertently, does the world a service."

"...give #AllUsers a read. Even if you're pushed for time, it's short enough that you can read it in a night or two, and it will have you giggling through work weeks to come."

#AllUsers is an under-the-counter production from Marble City Publishing, who are running a free draw for a Kindle Fire HD Tablet. Enter here!

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Hey Dexter, Eat Your Heart Out!

A couple of weeks ago I had the great fortune to be pointed in the direction of a free online Introduction to Forensics course at Strathclyde University (many thanks to Chris Longmuir). Without hesitation I enrolled and proceeded to develop a thin veneer of forensics knowledge, having noticed my deficit when recently starting to write a murder mystery.

If someone in your street today tried to commit the perfect murder they would surely fail. In the old days only Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Columbo and Miss Marple had the honed detective intellect to deduce motive, method, perpetrator, weapon and time of event from the few scant clues. Nowadays, thanks to the proliferation of modern entertainment media, we are all experts. True crime documentaries, CSI, Criminal Minds, Dexter, Sherlock and other TV programmes contribute to the societal knowledge of methods of murder, criminal profiling and forensics.

We congratulate ourselves on having already identified the killer before the on-screen characters manage to do so. A dodgy-looking individual lurks in their van near the schoolyard, looking at the kids. Kidnapper. A man smoothes his greasy hair, smiling as he ascends the stairs from the cellar, boning knife in hand. Serial killer. A woman smiles encouragement at her distraught injured child but drops the expression when she looks at the camera. Psychopath. The question for the consumer of these delights is often not who did what, where and when and how, but rather the why. We know who did it because we’ve been presented with enough evidence to convict an elephant. What we want to know is why they did what they did. Read more on Authors Electric ...