Friday, November 17, 2017

New Release Spotlight & Author Interview: Paul Toolan and "A View From Memory Hill," short stories

We live life forwards, but understand it backwards. Either way, it's a personal journey.

The characters in this collection are looking back into the half-shaded landscapes of memory. Most are "of a certain age", but young voices appear too, in stories uplifting and regretful, comic and sinister, poignant and optimistic.

Common ground is that moment of realization - eventful, fleeting or veiled - unearthed during a journey into the past. 
  • Will "Ruby, the Silver Surfer" learn to cut and paste and save?
  • Who is "Mrs. Melanie?"
  • Should "Billy the Quid" sell up?
  • Can Frank Smith cope with being an "Old Man in a Young Pub?"
  • Why is Lydia "Sleepless in Southampton?"
  • "What's in your bag, mister?" asks the small boy in "A Bag for Life."
See for yourself.  

Interview with Paul Toolan 

Where do your stories come from?

If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this! Here, there, and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In A View from Memory Hill, there's a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!
I was at the Brighton Festival (Brighton, England - I used to live there) with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colorful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don't know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith traveled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan's New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer's head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there's insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves, I have Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works. I browsed through it. Krapp's Last Tape seemed ideal. It featured an old man's memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited Rockaby, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn't, and I wanted to balance Frank's ageing memories - of Lucy and others - with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in "the long thin dark theatre" where Krapp's Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realization or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play's use of the past and Frank's disturbed memories provided this.

"We've all been something," was all he managed to say. "Known someone."

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the "woman in black", so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.

"In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

'We all have dreams,' she said, in the quietest voice he'd ever heard. 'I'd rather dream than drift, any day.' She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. 'What's wrong with having dreams?' she asked.

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I'd love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there's a character's voice, a felt situation, and a set of realizations. If it was as easy as I've made it sound...
I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I'm wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.
Purchase A View from Memory Hill

About the Author

Paul Toolan is a Northerner who now cheerfully admits being a southern softie living in rural Somerset in the United Kingdom. After a successful career in Colleges and Universities, he wrote book/lyrics for stage musicals, before "turning to crime."

A Killing Tree and A January Killing, the first two books in the Detective Inspector Zig Batten series, are set in the apple orchard landscape of the West of England. Look out for the third, An Easter Killing.

A View from Memory Hill, is Paul's first short story collection, exploring themes of aging, memory, and personal realization.

Like Inspector Batten, Paul enjoys walking, gardens, fishing, music and the occasional whisky. Unlike him, he enjoys sport and the taste of mushrooms, and loves travelling to sunnier climes - Greece in particular.

Connect with Paul Toolan

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Our First National Caregiver Appreciation Month eBook Sale & Giveaway, November 15-21, 15 Great Titles

November is National Caregiver Appreciation Month, a time to recognize the long hours, sacrifice, and love all caregivers bring to the task of caring for a loved one with dementia or any long-term illness. In honor of their efforts, AlzAuthors is hosting an eBook sale and giveaway! This is a terrific way for caregivers who are looking for knowledge, guidance, and support to find carefully vetted books to help guide and inspire them everyday.
Consider this from the Alzheimer’s Association:
  • In 2016, 15.9 million family and friends provided 18.2 billion hours of unpaid assistance to those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, a contribution to the nation valued at $230.1 billion.
  • Approximately two-thirds of caregivers are women, and 34 percent are age 65 or older.
  • 41 percent of caregivers have a household income of $50,000 or less.
  • Approximately one quarter of dementia caregivers are “sandwich generation” caregivers — meaning that they care not only for an aging parent, but also for children under age 18.
Starting today through November 21st, you can take advantage of this excellent opportunity to check out some of our books at reduced prices, ranging from free to $2.99. We offer a variety of genres, including fiction, memoir, non-fiction, and children’s literature. Many of our books are also available in paperback and audio, so be sure to check them out too.

Our books are written from a deep place of understanding, experience, knowledge, and love. May you find one – or two, or more! – to help guide you on your own dementia journey.

Click on the book covers to visit the book’s page.

Please check all prices before purchasing. AlzAuthors is not responsible for ensuring price reductions. Please contact the author with questions. All prices are in U.S. dollars.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Honoring our Vets on Veterans Day

photo by Scukrov via
Today is Veterans Day, a day when we pay tribute to those heroes who have served in our nation's military. My father, Ted Kasica, aka Bunky, served in the US Army, 82nd Airborne Division in the 1950's. He was a paratrooper stationed in Europe, specifically Austria and Germany, countries he loved. Through his service I came to respect our servicemen and women, to listen to their stories, to learn from their experiences.

As a nurse, I was often involved in their medical care, and in helping to coordinate aftercare for illness and injuries. This led me to include war veterans in two of my stories: Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer's love story, where Jack served as a medic in World War II; and Swim Season, where Aerin's mother is an Army Reserve nurse, a Wounded Warrior, ruggling with the impacts of war in Afghanistan - a persistent blast injury, PTSD, chronic pain, opioid addiction, and depression. My attempt in this book, small as it may be, was to explore her experience, which is the experience of so many of our vets, by telling her story.  Of all my characters, she is one of my favorites.

Devon's story:

Devon was on duty in the ER at St. Vincent’s Hospital in New York City the day terrorists struck down the Twin Towers. This hospital, just outside Ground Zero, was the first stop for victims and recovery workers in need of medical care.  Deeply affected by the events of that day, Devon volunteered to work double shifts during the rescue and recovery effort. When the US went to war with Afghanistan, she enlisted in the Army Reserve, against her husband's wishes,  to provide care to the troops. 

Friday, November 10, 2017

New Release Spotlight:The 25 Days of Christmas Devotional

Many of us get caught up in the commercialization of Christmas. One way to prevent that is to focus on the reason for the season. Taking a few minutes each day with this different kind of devotional book will help your family think of others. Each day focuses on one word and includes a story from Daniel and Holly's family, a Scripture reading with the devotional, the YouTube link to a Christmas Carol, and an activity that the entire family can be involved in.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Women's Fiction Giveaway! Grand Prize Gift Baskets of all 20 eBooks!

Prepare for winter!

As fall settles in, it's time to prep for the coming colder days and nights with lots of great ebooks. Here's a selection of 20 titles in Women's Fiction, including my novel Blue Hydrangeas, an Alzheimer's love story. Take a moment to discover new authors. Maybe you'll get hooked on a new series. Enter to win 1 of 2 gift baskets holding ALL 20 books, or 1 of 20 featured ebooks! 

Win up to 20+ Women's Fiction eBooks!

(2) Grand Prize "Gift Baskets" of ALL eBooks!
(20+) Winners of Individual eBooks 
(randomly selected titles)

Disclaimer: Each participating author is responsible for providing winners with prizes.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

From the AlzAuthors Blog: Ann Campanella's "The Beach Poems"

Expressing the Inexpressible through Poetry

By Ann Campanella

When I was in my early thirties, my mother began showing signs of Alzheimer’s. She was 41 when I was born, so I suppose it shouldn’t have been a shock to see her aging in this way. But it was.

I always knew she was an “older mom.” She had been a fount of wisdom for me during my adolescence and early years of marriage.

Mom always said her children kept her young. There was a span of ten years among us, and I had vivid memories of my mother hiking, playing tennis, swimming and sailing at the upstate New York lake we visited each summer.

My grandmother and great aunts lived into their nineties. I had imagined my mother would always be there for me, at least until she was well into her eighties. But it wasn’t to be.

My mother’s mind began to unspool at the same time I was trying to become a mother and struggling through a series of miscarriages. At first her memory became slippery and she began repeating stories. Her emotions seemed out of proportion to what was happening in her life. Her words no longer matched her behavior.

Monday, November 6, 2017

New Release Spotlight & Giveaway: "Mice & Marriage" by Sophie Dawson

What do mice and marriage have in common? I don't know, but now I'm curious to read Sophie Dawson's new book, Mice and Marriage!

About the Book

Noelle Copeland has no intention of ever letting another man break her heart. She’s content to take care of her two boys and help her brother around the church. That is until a mouse sends her onto a table screaming like she’s being murdered, and a handsome, heroic man comes to her rescue. Now, she finds her heart longing for Turner Metcalf, but he’s keeping things from her. She wonders if she can trust him not only with her heart but her sons’ hearts as well.

Turner Metcalf is a man on a mission. He’s in town for the Thanksgiving and Christmas season for one reason only: to protect his sister and her new husband. He has a secret life he isn’t willing to give up. That is until he comes to the rescue of Noelle Copeland. Now, his heart is drawn to the one thing he never thought he could have: a future. He finds himself falling for the divorced mother of two and her sons.

Can he survive his secret mission long enough to let her know? Or will his frequent travel and hidden agenda end things before they really get started? Will he live through his mission and be able to consider a future with this ready-made family? What about Noelle’s ex-husband and his new girlfriend? Will they mess things up for Noelle and Turner? Can love find a way to overcome the doubts of a woman afraid of Mice and Marriage?

Love and marriage come to us inspired by many things. Who would have thought that mold, spots, and mice would bring love and marriage? Well, they have. The Love's Infestation Series continues with Mice and Marriage.

You can find the book on Amazon!