guest post: Author CJ West

Written by Darlyn At Monday, February 28, 2011 2 bookish peeps...
Hello bookish people out there! How are you guys? I hope you are all in a pink health and reading loads of good books. And here today at my blog, I'm so delighted to welcome CJ West, author of The End of Marking Time with some bit of his experience to share with us. I enjoyed reading his book and I fully recommend it to you. You can read what I think of his book HERE. And you can see how to get a free e-copy of his book at the end of the post.

My Trip to Prison

When I was writing The End of Marking Time, I visited MCI- Cedar Junction in Walpole, Massachusetts. Being the upstanding guy that I am, this was my first time inside the big house. Since most of you probably haven't been either, I thought I'd share some random thoughts and try to string them together into some sort of narrative.

My invitation was part of a program for journalists that the Department of Correction in MA runs each year. Since this is an annual thing, I expected 10-15 other journalists to be coming along. NOT. It was me, the tour guide and a liaison from the state media office. This says a lot about the state of journalism today, meaning cutbacks and the focus on prison stories.

Getting out of prison is hard. Getting in ain't no picnic either. The only thing I was allowed to bring inside besides my clothes was a few tissues because I thought I was getting a cold. This makes sense because incoming contraband is a huge issue. But imagine, no camera, no pen, no notebook, no car keys, no identification except the little badge they give you.

The good news, dressed in my white dress shirt, I stood out everywhere I went.

To get inside, you need to go through something that surpasses airport security by far. Then through another two sets of doors. From there you step into a long corridor that bisects the facility. Every so often, the corridor is walled with huge floor to ceiling iron bars. These walls often have sections that can serve to hold inmates in case of a discipline issue or an emergency.

There are Corrections Officers (don't call them guards, they hate that) every 10 feet in this main hall. The first thing that struck me was the politeness of the inmates in the halls. They were walking around and at first I got nervous when one came up behind me. Soon I noticed that inmates defer at the choke points (doors in the huge iron walls that cut the hallway). They won't press through a door when someone else is coming the other way. They were exceedingly polite. I heard "excuse me" from inmates at least a dozen times in my 1.5 hour tour.

In the maximum security area, inmates walk through a metal detector. Staff and visitors like me avoid it, but as I watched, every inmate walked through the detector on his way down the hall.

The living arrangements seemed peaceful enough. The inmates were subdued, but of course it is very hard to tell what daily life is like from a short visit. One interesting thing. In a housing unit with 40 inmates sharing a common room, there is one, uno, 1, Corrections Officer in there at all times. No thank you to that job.

The department has some interesting technology and procedures for keeping everyone safe. I won't bore you with the technical, but I will say there is a focus on keeping the inmates in a housing unit appropriate to their behavioral history. This and work seem to be the big rewards for anyone in the system. In the medium security unit, the inmates can make their own coffee and toast. One thing they were clear about on the tour, there is no solitary confinement in Massachusetts. There are disciplinary units and observation units, but inmates are never cut off from human contact.

One interesting observation. I watched one inmate in a holding cell (by himself) playing air guitar and singing. As we walked along I wondered what impact being observed all the time has on someone. This guy hasn't been alone since he's been locked up. Me I like to close my door once in a while. Of course I still hear voices, but I only sing when it's just me and the kids.

The End of Marking Time introduces you to a world after the prison system has been abolished. Imagine a prison with no walls that is even more terrifying than being locked up. Meet Michael O’Connor, a felon who has been through an intense reeducation program. Listen to his story and decide what his fate should be.

The End Of Marking Time is free for e-book readers from www.22wb.com.

Please give it a try.

About the Author

C.J. West has written 5 thrillers. His latest, The End of Marking Time, pits a gifted housebreaker against a futuristic prison system then asks you to decide his fate. Sin and Vengeance, the first book in C.J.’s Randy Black series, is currently in development for film with Beantown Productions, LLC (screenplay by Marla Cukor).

C.J. hosts a Blog Talk Radio show which features interviews of contemporary thriller and suspense writers. CJ also hosts creative book tour events. Past events include an advanced driving course, firearms training for women, winery tours, and murder mystery events both online and in person.

Find C.J. at: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

interview: Author Paige Agnew

Written by Darlyn At Tuesday, February 22, 2011 5 bookish peeps...
Paige Agnew is the author of Starless Sky and she is only 15 when she wrote this book! I'm pretty amazed to know that she has the ability to write an awesome book which is very captivating (Read my review HERE). Today I'm so glad to have her at my blog for an interview!


What are the three words that describe Starless Sky?

PG: Encouraging, Inspiring, Serious while Entertaining


What makes Starless Sky unique?

PA: How many times have you read a book or seen a movie where a character dies and you can’t help but bawl your eyes out? (Never? Well then, may I recommend Nicolas Sparks? Great writer, but grab a box of kleenex). Because I have experienced my share of tears reading and watching movies, I wanted to write a story where I could tap into something as deep as death, but instead of leaving the reader in despair, I would portray hope. This makes Starless Sky unique.


Where did you get the idea for Starless Sky?
PA: Sitting bored watching TV is when I generally come up with an idea for writing. I wanted to take on the challenge of writing a book about death that wasn’t entirely sad. In addition, the story gave me an opportunity to draw from my own very real pain of having recently loss someone I loved so much.


What advice can you give to a teenager who is grieving?

PA:
Talk about your loss, write about it if you are not a talker, but get it out somehow. Share your feelings with someone who can help you and that is not always peers as their knowledge may be limited regardless of how mature or well meaning. Ask to speak with a counselor for additional support. Know that the stages of grief and loss are not really stages that happen in a specific order; know that you are not losing your mind. Healing takes time and it is a deliberate process. Healing does not truly happen just because you will it. Mostly, I am saying, do not go through it alone – let others help you – take some time to be alone if needed but balance it with self care and support.


How old were you when you first started writing?

PA: I honestly do not remember when I first started writing, but I do know when I became very serious about it and had a passion for it. I was in 5th grade and I absolutely loved writing stories. Sixth through eighth grade I attended the Young Author’s Conference in my city. I was delighted students had the opportunity toattend the conference. While I liked school, meeting authors and learning more about writing was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Each summer since 5th grade, I have spent every day writing and reading. My mother first bought tons of notebooks, then eventually my own laptop because she did not want to share with me (as she would never get equal time), and now I have flash/thumb drives to store all of my writing.


What inspires you to write?

PA: What inspires me to write is my love for books. Every time I read a good book, I think about my own, I think about how I can improve my writing skills, I think about how one day I want someone to read the final page of my book and just say ―wow‖ the same way I do with others. I love stepping into others’ worlds in the realm of literature. I just hope other people enjoy the adventure as much as I do.


How do you develop the characters?

PA: You can’t tell a story if you don’t know it. You have to play around with ideas inside your head and get to know your characters and their personalities. What would they say? What would they wear? Who would they hang out with and why? The more real the world is inside your head, the better it transmits to paper. When Kahlen first met Kennley at the creek, I had to ask myself who I wanted Kennley to be as a character. I wanted him to be a bad boy, but he seemed too nice for that. Okay. But why? Why would a bad boy seem good? Well maybe he used to be bad but now he’s not anymore. Well what changed? Hmm, I don’t know. And since I don’t know, I won’t let the audience know either. For now, let’s just make him…a mystery.


Is any of the book from your real life?

PA: It is funny when people who know me think the book is all about my real life just because they know about the loss I experienced. There are bits and pieces that come from real people, but the book is not a replica of my life. For example, the ―Random‖ game in the book comes from a game a friend and I made up while bored and waiting for track practice to come up. However, the character is not like my friend. Another example occurs when the parents and Kahlen go to the movie theater; in real life, we laugh about movies my dad wants to see. However, the parents in the story are not the same as my parents. Most genuine are the feelings of Kahlen; I felt those feelings and I experienced that pain when my friend died.


How do you remember to wrap up loose ends?

PA: Sometimes tying up loose ends is easier than others. When preparing for my writing, my notes are very detailed; as I go along; I add and add and add to my notebook, making sure I keep those loose ends in mind. Sometimes the loose ends are so prominent in my mind that it just flows naturally in my writing and it’s not difficult at all. Overall, what helps is reading over my work for myself so I can catch my mistakes and think ―oh, that’s right. I still have to add this in.


What can you tell us about your next book?

PA: My next book is titled Seven; it is a fiction, mystery, suspense-thriller. Seven tells the story of seven people whose lives come together because of a kidnapper. The story of each individual leads to the time they all come together. For example two characters are escaping an abusive childhood home and one character is an attorney without much direction. In the book there are clues (or things that appear to be clues) that mislead reader thus building the suspense. A common thread I have recognized in this book (as in Starless Sky) is self exploration among both the teens and the adults in the book. Each of the seven characters is forced (literally) to look at their own talents and lives in order to escape. Not all of them are willing. So, will they all be freed from the grips of the kidnapper? Want to know the answer? Great, read Seven.


About the Author

Paige wrote her first book, Starless Sky at age 15 and published it in January of 2010. Starless Sky was birthed during the time of grief and loss while Paige was in the 8th grade.Paige loves to know that she can speak words of life through writing that brings entertainment, escape, or healing to readers. She can write words that make readers cry, laugh, exclaim with excitement, or stay up all night wondering what happens in the end. Her sense of humor and from the heart personality shines through her writing. She was born in Michigan. Her compassion and sense of humor is in all of her writings. When Paige is not writing, she enjoys sports, dancing, singing, playing the piano, reading and attending her brother's college football games. In addition, spending time with family, friends, and her dog, Tigger are important to her.She is also actively involved in her church and community.

Find Paige Agnew: Website | Blog |Facebook| Goodreads | Email

Thanks so much Paige!

guest post: Author Shaun Jeffrey

Written by Darlyn At Saturday, February 12, 2011 4 bookish peeps...
Hello everybody! I'm so glad today to have Author Shaun Jeffrey to stop by at my blog to talk about his book, screened for a movie! It's a gold chance that I think not every author will let it pass just like that. His book, The Kult, has a very great plot and I'm very excited for him too! And don't forget to congratulate him in comments guys!

The dream: From book to silver screen

Like most people, I have dreams and ambitions. Some seem impossible. Others seem unlikely. While some may, just may, if the stars are in alignment and I’m in the right place at the right time, may come true. Now I guess for someone who grew up in a house in a cemetery, it’s no surprise that my fiction veers towards the darker side of the spectrum. I also guess it makes me the real Shaun of the Dead, but I was lucky enough that towards the end of 2009 one of my impossible seeming dreams started to come true, and my novel, The Kult was optioned for film by an independent production company called Gharial Productions. The Kult is a serial killer story in the vein of Saw and Se7en, so it’s a little gruesome, but there’s more to the story than just horror, because it contains a blend of mystery, crime drama and thriller.

The synopsis is:

“People are predictable. That's what makes them easy to kill.

Acting out of misguided loyalty to his friends, police officer Prosper Snow is goaded into helping them perform a copycat killing, but when the real killer comes after him, it’s not only his life on the line, but his family's too. Now if he goes to his colleagues for help, he risks being arrested for murder. If he doesn't, he risks being killed.”

I know that a number of books get optioned for film, so although I was very excited when the publisher presented me the offer they had received, I was also under no illusions that it might not progress any further and my dream would remain just a dream. But much to my amazement, things moved along at a steady pace. Interviews were conducted for actors, a director was hired and it looked as though filming was about to become a reality. And then sure enough, filming began in September, 2010 in San Diego. I live in the UK, but I was lucky enough to fly out to see some of the shoot in October, and it was an experience I shall never forget.

On the second night I was in America, I did a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Oceanside. Straight after the signing I was whisked away to the set to see some of a night shoot. This was where I first met the director Kip and the producer, Dan who between them have enrolled an awesome bunch of people both behind and in front of the camera. Even though I had pictured the characters I’d created, the reality was that the actors didn’t look much like I’d imagined them, but once I saw them at work, I could understand why they were chosen for their roles. They all put in 100% effort and they brought the characters I’d created to life (being surrounded by people that I had in a way created was to say the least, surreal. And to hear them speaking words that I’d written only made the situation more bizarre).

While I was there, I even managed to sneak a cameo role (luckily they didn’t catch me in time before I walked past the camera so if you see a tattooed guy who looks like a rabbit in the headlights, that’s probably me). I did my cameo with a great lady called, Sandy, who since filming has sadly passed away. Now when Sandy went into character, she had to be seen to be believed, and when she started swearing at me, I had to keep telling myself, 'she doesn’t mean it, it's only a film'. But she was that convincing, I have my doubts …

Everyone on set was really friendly and I learned a lot about what goes on behind the scenes, which was fascinating. It’s hoped that the film will be released sometime later this year, so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that what I once thought impossible actually comes to fruition, and I get to see my work translated from book to silver screen. But the point of all this is that I’m a small time author with big dreams. Everyone has dreams, but sometimes, dreams can come true, so never stop believing. There’s still a long way to go before the film makes it to a screen, either big or small, but in the words of Mr Miyagi's father in Karate Kid, Part II: [upon seeing his son again after so many years] If I am dreaming, let me never awaken. If I am awake, let me never sleep.

For anyone interested in the film, please check out the website: www.thekultmovie.com


About the Author

Shaun Jeffrey was born in 1965 and live in Cheshire, England with his partner, Debra and their fantastic son, Callum. Growing up in a house in a cemetery, his playground was the graveyard - perfect grounding for writing horror, and his early reading experience came from there. He had over 40 short stories published, one collection entitled Voyeurs of Death, and three novels, Evilution, The Kult and Deadfall. The Kult has been optioned for film and shooting began in September, 2010.

Visit Author at: Website | Facebook | Twitter


Thanks so much for stop by at Darlyn & Books!

starless sky by paige agnew

Written by Darlyn At Thursday, February 10, 2011 5 bookish peeps...
Title: Starless Sky
Author: Paige Agnew
Pages: 456
Rating: 4/5
Source: Received for review

Summary (Goodreads):

Life is funny sometimes. Little kids drop ice cream cones, people in general often run in to screen doors, there's even the occasional moment when one might trip going up the stairs. Kahlen could expect those things, deal with them even. But what she didn't expect, not even in her wildest, horrific nightmares, that just as something so terrible could happen, something so wonderful could follow after it. When Kahlen Thomas has a difficult time dealing with the lost of her best and only friend, she has hopes that the new boy at school, Kennley Morgan, will be the perfect distraction from her pain. She slowly realizes that Kennley doesn't as much distract her from her problems as much as he adds to them because of his own interesting past.

My Thought:

This is my first young adult contemporary that I ever read, and I'm very glad I did it. The story of a young girl dealt with her lost of her best friend was really unbelievably sad and heartbroken. I think I know that I will feel the same way if I lose a best friend when you only have a few friends that you cherish and means the world to you. It will unacceptable and I could have spend a lot of time to forget about it. I was absolutely enticed with the characters, Kahlen, Kennly and Marissa. I felt so sorry for her, and I felt the tension that she felt to deal with people, family, and friends after the loss. And when she thought Kennley could distract her from the pain, Kennley is also has a past that he also need to deal, which bring a great mysterious and intrigued me to find out.

Other than that, one thing that I can give a big applause to the author is how she bring up the big issues such as drugs, staying clean, moral issues, and also what I've mention before is the loss of a dear one. The issues are heavy and I really think the author successfully translating it on the paper. And I can't believe she's a teenager herself! The plot line was great, the scenes are organized very well even there's a part which I thought shouldn't be dragged into great details. Most of the time, my eyes were watery and I couldn't hold back because it was too sad, and yes, it's a real tearjerker.

However, I have tiny little complain. I quite having a problem with the font of the words. It kind of a bit distracting and made me a little harder to read. Nonetheless of the complain, it is a beautiful story. All in all, despite of the complain (maybe I'm just too whiny girl), I love the story. The book should get all attentions of all young adults fan and you will agree what I've said. Two thumbs up for the author!


Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy from Author Paige Agnew for an exchange of fair review. Receiving a copy in no way will ever reflected my review and these are my honest review.
 

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