Celtic Knot: A Clara Swift Tale is a thrilling murder mystery story that combines true facts with fiction in a compelling historical fantasy novel. The book follows the story of a young housekeeper, Clara Swift, who is sought by Prime Minister John A Macdonald to help find out who assassinated his master, Mr. McGee. Clara’s tenacity and abilities get her embroiled in a plot with national consequences.
Ann Shortell has creatively used a well known historical moment to tell a riveting mystery. Clara is an intriguing character right from the start. She’s smart and quick-witted and was someone that I empathized with along the nail biting journey she’s thrust on. Her perseverance and determination to seek the truth was something that kept me flipping pages. The story takes places in Ottawa Canada during the 1800’s and the time period is captured in striking detail.
Alluring characters in a memorable setting pulled me into the story, but the one thing that I think elevated this story above genre fiction was the theatrical mystery driving this dramatic novel. Ann Shortell is able to give readers just enough to keep them guessing, just enough to root for characters, and contine to feed you those bread crumbs until the finale. I am not familiar with the historical events discussed in the book, but still found the book to be entertaining. I will say that a reader may need a good respect for history and willingness to absorb the history and time period to be able to truly enjoy this novel as Ann Shortell really dives into the era. Like Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, it’s still entertaining, but you’ll be engrossed if you know about, or at least enjoy, the history discussed in the book.
Celtic Knot: A Clara Swift Tale is an enthralling historical fiction novel that places an unassuming but sharp girl at the heart of a spellbinding mystery.
Pages: 332 | ASIN: B07BN2TNQ3
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Articulate and full of spiritualism, Heart of a Warrior Angel by Lali A. Love is a journey not only in the world but within oneself. Our protagonist, Lilac, reflects on her life’s path as she reaches her twilight years. She recalls her journey through life as she crosses literal and metaphorical oceans to become the person she is in the moment. We learn her life story, her heartache, and her triumphs. We celebrate and grieve with her as this book lays bare the raw emotions that entangle themselves with the journey of life.
Heart of a Warrior Angel drips with dramatic tension, and excellent descriptions of the living situation Lilac regales us with is moving and heart rendering. It is a metaphysical thriller, with a touch of supernatural fantasy, following one woman’s journey through the hell on earth she was forced to live as she comes to terms with her ascension onto a spiritual plane deserving of her essence.
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Trillium follows three Canadian families as their stories intertwine over generations and through many obstacles. What served as your inspiration while writing this novel?
I began this novel in my mind almost a decade ago. I did a rough outline at the time and popped it into my writing box. I had wanted to write a work about the rural farming landscape that supports us in an engaging and believable way. At the same time, I wanted to investigate the moral dimensions of humanity on a broader canvas than my previous two novels.
It was while I was researching ‘screen culture’ for an article that I began to see the ‘key’ in how I could manifest this current work.
Many of the revolutionary technological innovations that we now take so much for granted, like electricity, indoor plumbing, the automobile, aviation and the pill, happened within the last century. These life-changing innovations have allowed us to leap forward in an unprecedented way. As a result, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to fathom what life was like, (and still is like for many), without these modern conveniences.
Using a class structure, over the passage of time, allowed me to examine the impact of these techno-innovations on the evolution of the three very distinct families. As example, the O’Sullivan clan, because of their wealth, had immediate access to the innovations of the day long before the poorer classes, be it a telephone or a tell-a-vision. This access established ‘privilege’ for generations to come.
The characters and families were well developed and distinct. What were some driving ideals behind the families development throughout the story?
As I mentioned above, one of my desires in crafting this work was to examine the adopted moral structures of humanity.
Firstly, each family in this story comes from a very different inherited religious background. Religious doctrines shape our morals and are often manifest in the minute decisions that we daily make, for good and/or evil.
When we decide on anything, underlying that decision is a choice about the betterment or ruin of ourselves and others. Whether it be the 10 commandments, or The Golden Rule, or social ostracism or foul play, organized religions provide humanity with a moral framework. How we internalize these inherited religious codes greatly impact how we socially engage with others, especially within families and within civil communities.
A bully, as example, is, fundamentally, someone who never internalized the difference between ‘right or wrong’ behaviour. If they did internalize the ‘rules’ at an early age, they know full well that they are choosing ‘wrong’ behaviour when they bully. The inevitable internal conflict can manifest in many ways through the eventual self-destructive use of drugs and alcohol or the exercising of perverted power in intimate relations. Very often bullies continue to act out destructive behaviours on themselves and others because they have no understanding or fear of consequences. Simply put, they have no self-governing set of ‘rules’.
I would argue that, basically, bullies secretly desire the ‘structure’ of ‘good parenting’. Many bullies, aside from a deep craving for attention, want to be disciplined. But if their own parents never exhibited ‘good behaviour’, (as result of their own upbringing), the likelihood that a child will develop ‘good behaviour’ is very slim. When a child sees how their bullying parents achieve their desired ends, that child naturally internalize these ‘lessons’ and will act out in the same way in later life. And thus, the cycle of abuse continues. I have demonstrated how this vicious cycle re-occurs within generations throughout the novel.
Secondly, the impact of ‘media’ to shape our moral structures has increased exponentially over the past few decades. Within this historical fiction, I have slipped in some of those media innovations, beginning with the literate broadsheets of the eighteenth century. I moved into radio culture prior to WW2, and then introduce the advent of black and white film and television in the mid to late 1940s. Computers began to impact our work places and then enter our homes as recreational ‘video games’ in the mid 1990s.
Today, we are rapidly moving from a hard-won literate culture to a super stimulated visual culture. We are bombarded by a visual plethora of ‘info-entertainment’ from an assortment of screen sources that are designed to over-stimulate our dopamine receptors. All of us have succumbed to ‘click bait’. I wanted to reveal some of this increasing intrusive dependency towards the end of this novel. Though, overall, the latter media intrusion of the internet is intended as a sub-text to the on-going generational actions and reactions of the dominant characters at that time.
Finally, to be clear, I am not suggesting that organized religion, per se, is a panacea for the ills of humanity. We all know that religious indoctrination can obviously swing too far to the extreme. But I do believe that sound ‘elder’ teaching, supported by tight communities of engaging families, can sincerely help floundering individuals who flail. I demonstrated that kind of communal guidance and support when Tom Hartford’s descendent, Faith Hartford, wisely counsels Tony Di Angelo after his unhinged act of revenge. Her display of forgiveness was a profoundly social act of instruction – and acceptance. Faith was very kind to an emotionally wounded man.
This story takes place in the Golden Horseshoe region of Ontario Canada during the 1750’s. Why did you choose this time and place for your novel?
The story starts in the 1750s. Like a skipping stone on a body of water, time does skip forward quickly. At the middle of the book, the lineage of the three diverse families coalesce at a summer bonfire bash in 1965. The remainder of the novel plays out over the following decades, and the story ends in 2001. I ended the work then because I did not want to enter too far into the digital age.
I chose the Niagara region as emblematic of a ‘border-territory’ and the evolution of a farming culture that eventually specializes in wine-making. This region is beautiful, with the escarpment above and the great lake of Ontario below, and relatively unknown on the world stage. It’s a fascinating area, historically, and well worth a visit.
What is the next novel that you are working on and when will it be available?
I am developing an audio version of this title and hope to have that available by the summer of 2019. I also feel that this work has the innate potential to be an engrossing television series that will appeal to a broad range of viewers. I am going to attempt to do that too.
Screen culture now rules the marketplace of ideas. If I hope to impact others with this story, I really must try to reach a wider audience beyond the realm of the literate.
TRILLIUM could easily have a sequel, but, at this time, I have no intent to do that. As I mentioned, it has the potential to be a wonderful television or Netflix series …
Insightful, compelling, engrossing and enlightening, TRILLIUM intimately portrays the intertwining evolution of three very distinct families in the wine-making region known as Niagara in the Golden Horseshoe region, Ontario, Canada. …It all starts when 19-year-old Tom Hartford crosses over the mighty Niagara River in the 1750s … Readers will meet Maaka, an ingenious indigenous trapper; Franco, a dirt poor Sicilian labourer; Paddy O’Sullivan, a sweet-talking Irish con-artist and sweet Cate, the Hamilton port prostitute. And that’s just the beginning! All unfolds with a pair of motherless red-headed twin brothers, a diabolical hate-filled drunkard, two devoted raven-haired sisters, an obsessed land developer, hard-working Mexicans, a blind man, a handsome Italian-Canadian wine-maker, a blessed treasure trove of attentive mothers, one demented vineyard-wandering wife – and a startlingly beautiful, simpleton savant, Anna.A 250 year-old story about three families: the good, bad … and ugly.
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As the Niagara River flows into Lake Ontario, a young farm boy sits at the front of a boat as lookout, in the year 1758. A man from Sicily steps off a ship and finds himself in the bustling Hamilton Harbour as he looks for work, in the year 1835. Finally, a man from Dublin looking to make his fortune finds himself tossed out of a bar on Barton Street, in 1885. These are the seeds that Holton plants to begin the intricate intertwining of stories throughout the book. Trillium sees these three characters, with three vastly different backgrounds, struggle to make a home in Canada, and follows their legacies as their memory lives on through their descendents.
The book connects with the history, not only of Canada, but of the world. It draws upon various historic events, including both world wars, as its context. This grounds it in the real world and gives it a universal sense of what we all strive for in much the same way as the three families – a home. As generations pass, they seem to take a firmer grasp on the land they live on and become part of the history themselves. As such their progress fits well with the underlying rural theme that the chapters take, such as roots, growing vines, and the grape harvest. The book seems to create a family tree, which intertwines with the other family trees in the book, as they grow.
The reader is plunged into a world shaped by conquest. The characters in the book encounter wars, displacement and enterprise, all of which are constantly shaping the landscapes. Each character tries to find their place in this world of uncertainty. Throughout the generations, they all have a hope to find their way in a changing world and to settle down somewhere – to carve out their own patch of land to call their home.
Holton brings this world to life with poetic prose. As the book spans literally centuries, the passage of time is very clear in its writing. The natural setting is gorgeously described through the changing of the seasons, right down to the colors of the leaves. The natural Canadian landscape appears utopian when set in the foreground against the chaos of the world wars or the bustle of a city harbour or the noise of a railway being built. This contrast is eloquently drawn in the prose, especially when WWII hits the novel, where, though the characters have deep personal ties to the war, daily events in the book still transpire on a humble peach farm in Ontario.
I give this book a four out five for its awe-inspiring approach to the natural world and everyone’s place in it as we carve our path in the landscape through agriculture, enterprise, and even war. I cannot recommend this book enough. The stories connect beautifully and get to the heart of what it means to have a place to call home.
Pages: 340 | ASIN: 0992127289
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18 Cranes follows a young boy as he prepares for an important civil servant exam while being tormented by nightmares. What was the inspiration for the setup to this intriguing story?
The story was inspired by my own journey of learning about China, first through teaching Chinese students in Canada, and then through my eye-opening experience teaching and traveling in China.
Bing is an interesting character that continued to gain depth as the story progressed. What were some driving ideals behind his character?
Bing is a composite character, reflecting some the attitudes and behaviors I’ve observed in my Chinese students, but also embodying elements of historical and fictional persons I’ve read about.
This story takes place during the summer of 1630 in China. Why did you choose this time and place for your story?
The story takes place in the final years of the Ming dynasty, culminating in a monumental and highly consequential event that takes place in the city of Kaifeng in 1642. By starting in 1630, I’m building the necessary background for readers to understand the significance of the event when it takes place.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
18 Cranes is the first in a series of nine novellas, collectively known as, Kaifeng Chronicles. The second book, Mandarin Ducks, has been available for the past few months. The third book, Grand Canal, is scheduled for release in late January 2019.
In the late summer of 1630, 23-year old Li Bing writes the provincial level imperial examinations, the first step towards entering the Chinese civil service. He is tormented by a dream of 18 cranes, and as he awaits his exam results he seeks out insights from those around him to help him understand his dream. In the end, he learns more than he imagined.
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Lesley J. Mooney’s Flight From Fear traces the frightening ordeal of a grandfather and his two grandchildren after they find themselves hosting a bizarre guest. When Gabe’s plane crashes in the Canadian woods, Frank Benders and his grandchildren, Jacob and Natalie, open the door of their secluded cabin to find him bleeding, desperate, and clinging to life. During his time in their home, Gabe shows the small family two very different sides to his personality. As their fears increase, so do Gabe’s unsettling episodes.
Before Frank and his teenage grandchildren are able to summon help from the rangers, things in their remote forest home go tragically wrong. Mooney has taken a unique approach with her protagonist. His diagnosis of schizophrenia and the subsequent personas he develops make for an interesting back and forth between the characters. The reader is faced with feeling sorry for Gabe as his multiple personalities come and go rapidly throughout the plot. As much as I wanted to hate him for kidnapping Natalie, a part of me felt pity toward him. Mooney is effective at bringing out these mixed emotions with her villainous characters. I was somewhat thrown by the introduction of Frank’s trained eagle. As I read, I saw the usefulness of the eagle to the story line. Another element I found a bit difficult to grasp centers around the newlywed couple who shows up at Frank’s cabin shortly after Gabe’s abduction of Natalie. Samuel and Margaret, almost without question, step directly into assisting Frank and Jacob in their hunt for the two in the dense Canadian forest. This aspect seemed a little difficult to swallow considering the volatile nature of Gabe’s mental state.
Natalie remains, throughout the book, a character of immense strength. Her immediate willingness to help the man who otherwise seems hell bent on harming her is nothing short of amazing. She is pulled into a situation that most adults would find mentally devastating, but she is able to persevere. In fact, she not only perseveres, but it would seem she is able to forgive and forget. Mooney’s Natalie is an admirable heroine indeed. As much as I admire the evolution of Natalie throughout the plot, I feel the story lacks in a few areas.
For instance, Gabe’s hospital stay in the final chapters covers several pages without zeroing in on his condition, his criminal past, and his apprehension. Mooney, however, has fashioned a story different from any other in the thriller/suspense genre–her entire cast of characters is filled with an empathy unmatched by other authors. This alone makes Flight From Fear worth the read.
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YEGman is a thrilling crime novel taking place in the underworld of Edmonton, Canada. Why did you want to set your story in this location?
I had several reasons why I wanted to have the story take place in Edmonton. I prefer to write Canada-based stories and I’ve spent a lot more time in western Canada than I have out east, so can craft stories in these locations easier. A second reason is the name YEGman itself. YEG is the airport code and a common hashtag for the city. It is easier to say than – for example – YYCman for Calgary.
I also have grown up in Edmonton and have seen the city change over the decades. It is a pretty (no offence Edmonton!) bland city when it comes to major issues. So it is a good thing. That raises the question, how can you make a tame city feral and gritty? This was an interesting challenge to me.
This story takes a uniquely gritty look at the Edmonton crime scene. What were some ideas you wanted to capture when developing this underworld?
For YEGman’s version of Edmonton, I wanted to paint a crime-infested city that has some similarities seen in superhero comics. Daredevil/Hell’s Kitchen and Batman/Gotham are examples. A city that is in dire need of help. It becomes a motivator for someone to become a vigilante when they feel the city isn’t making any progress.
The details of the drugs and music scene I wanted to make real by showing there are good people that get caught up in these dark worlds of gangs and violence. Either they feel trapped or do not know any better to get out and just try to keep their friends safe.
Where did the idea for YEGman come from and what were some book titles you considered?
YEGman actually was birthed from the album that accompanies the launch – Sounds of Society. Both YEGman and the album tell a story of someone who can’t handle the constraints of society and go off the deep end. They also share similar content in the lyrics. Originally I was working on this album in 2012.
The plot and character of YEGman came to me in the summer of 2015 when I was at a book signing in a comic store. It was a quiet period and was daydreaming about super heroes because of the increase in popularity due to the Marvel movies, DC movies, comic expos and I was in a comic store at the time. Personally I am not a huge comic book far so I asked myself – what type of superhero story would someone who doesn’t like superheroes read?
From there I drafted out the concept of the superhero YEGman. Quite quickly I decided against super powers and made him very earth-bound. This helped map out the ending as well. If he was just an average person, and didn’t have any tech toys, money or ninja training, he’s going to have a pretty difficult time being a crime fighter. After writing out the outline for the ending I reverse engineered the story – a process I do not normally do with writing.
In November of 2015 I wrote the first draft during NaNoWriMo but shelved the concept because my horror novel, Seed Me, wasn’t fully edited yet. That took a higher priority and I didn’t revisit YEGman until 2017 after doing some heavy research into police procedures and psychology. These two points of study helped craft the inner thoughts of Michael.
So overall, comic books were the inspiration and I looked at comics such as the Punisher, Sin City, The Watchmen, and Hellboy to name some.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I really need to wrap up the dark fantasy series Mental Damnation. Book three is coming out in the fall of 2018 and the fourth is in the works. I also am working on a slasher novella but it is in the early plot outline stage.
In the darkest streets of Edmonton, crime is around every corner. The police have exhausted their resources. Citizens are in a constant state of fear. The city is in dire need of justice. Someone needs to give the felons what they deserve – skip the courts and deliver their verdict with a fist full of fury!
At least that is what Michael Bradford tells himself. He struggles with violent tendencies while personally investigating the Crystal Moths, Edmonton’s most notorious gang. His vigilante methods get caught on film and are uploaded to the web with the hashtag YEGman. These videos catch the attention of a rebellious journalism student whose aspires to cover the developing story on the city’s underground hero.
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Masks follows Anna as she struggles to find herself and her love as she navigates the social, religious, and sexual taboos of the Arab world. Why was this an important book for you to write?
It had always been my dream to write novels, and I wanted to start my first book by being the voice of so many in the Lebanese and Arab society who pay the price of the social, religious and sexual taboos and never dare to speak up for themselves. If you had the chance to let the rest of the world read and find out about certain issues that people suffered from wouldn’t you write about them?
Masks is based on true life events. What were some things you felt had to remain true in the story and what were some things you took liberties with?
Though Masks is inspired by true life events yet it contains fiction, the part of the story that had to remain true is my own feelings and thoughts, this is a very hard question… well, I took liberty in writing about some facts but created characters that were the combination of more than one person in real life.
I understand that the story is based on your own life. Was there anything that was difficult for you to write about?
The story is partly based on my own life but I had to add fiction to the characters including Anna the protagonist in order to be able to write about so many things that I have heard, saw or lived, but then again it was not easy at the beginning. I had been thinking about starting this novel 8 years ago and I always hesitated because concentrating on my inner thoughts and to able to express fears and open closed doors was never easy. My husband, my family, and my friends supported me a lot. It is so strange that I really felt relieved when I put down my thoughts. As a journalist and a TV host, I always did my best to reach out to my readers and fans with messages that touched their hearts, I hope the characters in my book will be able to touch the heart of each and every reader and inspire them in many ways, I Hope…
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I already started writing my second book hoping it will be available within two years, it is somehow the continuation of Masks, though the first book has an end, the second book will talk about different adventures and taboos. Some characters from my first book will be in the second story but the readers will meet new characters with different problems and dissentious personalities.
I thank Thomas Anderson for this short yet interesting interview, the questions were few but very well chosen to satisfy the curiosity of any reader about the novel. I wish you a very prosperous career, I appreciate your time & work & hope to bring a change to my readers with the story of Masks.
Masks is a dark fictional tale, based on true-life events. It narrates the adventures of a young Armenian girl born in Lebanon in the seventies. She dreams of fame and power in Lebanon and the Arab world and shows resilience and motivation beyond her years. The novel delves into the world of the protagonist, Anna, who is surrounded by social, religious, and sexual taboos. She fiercely breaks the chains to enter the world she has strived to reach, in a seemingly conservative society barely emerging from a civil war. She builds her success on her remaining values, challenging her fate and sparing no way means to attain her goals.
As a disappointment to her parents, she walks the challenging paths alone, making her way toward fame and fortune despite lacking the support system to do so. Doors begin to open for her, and she enters the world of Arab celebrities. She is now a public figure in the Middle East, living an immoral married life in a materialistic world surrounded by influential business people and royal family members. She tries, in vain, to fill the void in her soul with sexual adventures and controversy by taking a wide variety of lovers. Her adventures invariably end in misery, doing nothing to awaken her from her numbness. Still, her vivid, out-of-control personality helps her move forward while simultaneously getting her in trouble. In the early stages of her life, she has suffered the unthinkable, being bullied and raped, with the civil war a constant backdrop throughout most of her childhood. The novel delves deep into Anna’s mind as she has flashbacks of the trauma she has suffered, offering the reader a hint of an explanation for her behavior.
In a society in which men dominate women, she is one of the few who realize that fashion, social status, plastic surgeries, and bright smiles are not the answer to happiness. She lives in a world where a girl is only worth as much as her virginity, where women do not dare to ask for a divorce, where the fear of retribution keeps them locked in a cage that is very rarely gilded.
As fame, money, and power slowly eat at her soul, the arrogant Anna falls in love with a total stranger—a young, single bachelor from Canada—after a night of secret passion. That is where the story begins to unravel as she returns home with a scandal in her back pocket, her eyes and ears and heart tuned to this man instead of her husband. Anna realizes that neither her marriage nor her achievements have ever made her happy, so she decides to throw it all away. The lies and deceit that fill the so-called glamorous life she has been leading are floating up to the surface, including her husband’s infidelity and the critical steps she has taken to reach the top.
Marriage, family, career—all destroyed to be united with the stranger. She starts a new battle, this time struggling to change her destiny for someone she barely knows, who lives oceans apart and offers her nothing except his heart.
She risks everything, turning her whole life upside down. Anna realizes that her happiness, inner peace, and love are found worlds away from her own, with someone she would never have expected to be her soul mate. Still, Anna’s sacrifices are not behind her, and the struggle has not yet ended, although she has found what she has needed all her life: redemption and unconditional love.
The stranger enigmatically hints at emotions in Anna that have been hidden for a long time behind the masks of her dark and shallow lifestyle.
The characters in the story are the voices of so many who do not dare to speak up in a world where social and religious standards openly chastise the very actions that behind closed doors have become the ultimate paradigmatic way of life.
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