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The Lost Queen by Carol McGrath #Review

  We travel back to the 12th Century for this gorgeous historical novel, The Lost Queen by Carol McGrath . It was published by Headline Accent on 18th July. 1191 and the Third Crusade is underway . .  It is 1191 and King Richard the Lionheart is on crusade to pitch battle against Saladin and liberate the city of Jerusalem and her lands. His mother, the formidable Eleanor of Aquitaine and his promised bride, Princess Berengaria of Navarre, make a perilous journey over the Alps in midwinter. They are to rendezvous with Richard in the Sicilian port of Messina. There are hazards along the way - vicious assassins, marauding pirates, violent storms and a shipwreck. Berengaria is as feisty as her foes and, surviving it all, she and Richard marry in Cyprus. England needs an heir. But first, Richard and his Queen must return home . . . The Lost Queen is a thrilling medieval story of high adventure, survival, friendship and the enduring love of a Queen for her King.   My Thoughts

Meet the Author: Michael C Bland


I an happy to be welcoming author, Michael C Bland to Books, Life and Everything today. Michael's latest science fiction novel, The Price of Rebellion, is a sequel which can be read as a standalone. It was published by World Castle Publishing on 1st May 2023.


Welcome, Michael! 

 


Would you like to start by telling us a little about yourself and how you started as a writer?

I grew up loving stories, reading every book I could find, and even creating three comic books of my own when I was 10 years old. But other than a failed attempt when I was in middle school to write a story (I stopped after the second sentence), I never contemplated becoming a writer. After I graduated college, I entered the business world with an entry level position the collections department for a finance company, which included repossessing customer’s cars. That made me question my future, because this wasn’t the kind of career I wanted. That’s when I decided to do what I love, which is telling stories.

I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences, including touring a Russian battleship, traveling the Pacific Coast Highway, and sneaking into restricted areas of West Point, but writing has become my passion.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

There wasn’t one specific moment. At first, I thought I would just try to write a novel. I bought a computer (which wasn’t cheap back then) and a couple of books on writing, then dove in head first—making a ton of mistakes along the way. The sense of excitement and accomplishment that washed over me when I completed that first draft was one of the most gratifying and rewarding feelings I’d ever had. Thar’s when I was hooked (though that first novel was complete rubbish).

 If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?

I do have a full-time job. I’m an executive for a company that provides small business loans across the country. I’m proud of the assistance my team and I have provided to thousands of small businesses over my career, though my hope is to be able to concentrate full-time on writing one day soon.

What are you interests apart from writing?

I love hiking, travel, all things Star Wars, walking, swimming, and enjoying a Manhattan while watching the sunset.

 What is your favorite childhood book?

The Dark Is Rising by Susan Cooper was my favorite as a kid. It was the first book in a series. While I never read the other books, I still cherish the first novel. 

Where were you when you heard your first book was going to be published? How did you celebrate?

I had just gotten home from work and checked my personal email. A friend of mine, a fellow writer, had recommended me to his publisher. The publisher had asked for my book just four days earlier, so I hadn’t expected to hear anything from the publisher for a while (it can be months to hear from a publisher). Yet the publisher emailed me that day, saying they loved my novel and wanted to publish it.

I celebrated by first telling my wife, then my family, then my friend (who couldn’t believe it, as the publisher had taken six months to offer him a contract for his book). My wife and I went out that night to a nice steak place to celebrate the big news.

 Tell us three surprising things about yourself.

I learned Russian in college. My grandfather knew five languages, so I wanted to learn a second language. This was soon after the fall of the Soviet Union, so I took three years of Russian in college and lived in Russia for a summer, mostly in St. Petersburg. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

I can recite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star in Latin. My mother wanted me to take two years of Latin in high school, believing it would help me later in life. I don’t remember a single thing from those two years other than the conjugation of “Love” (I love, you love, etc) and how to recite Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. So far, neither have helped me in life.

Like an idiot, I took up smoking when I was in high school. When I finally kicked the habit years later, I was so determined not to gain weight that over the course of the year after I quit, I lost over forty-five pounds, I kept that weight off for years. It’s been seventeen years since I picked up a cigarette, and I could never imagine smoking again.

 

   Tell us about your latest book without giving the plot away.


In the year 2047, the main character (Dray Quintero) learns a disturbing truth: his national surveillance network, which he’d built to help keep everyone safe, is being used to track and control everyone. The technology that was implanted in everyone’s head was manipulated to hide a coup in Washington. No one knows who is really in control or what their goal is. Dray and a group of others who learned the truth rebel against The Agency, a federal enforcement agency built out of the old NSA. Yet The Agency fights back, threatening Dray, their rebellion, and his daughter, who was part of the rebel force. Hunted and on the run, Dray discovers a way to defeat The Agency, but then his estranged wife broadcasts a preposterous claim. He’s forced to choose between trying to free the country or chasing a desperate hope.

What he does changes everything.

(FYI, The Price of Rebellion is the second in a trilogy—but you don’t have to read The Price of Safety before reading The Price of Rebellion. I included the information you need from the first book in the second.)

   How do you plan to spend publication day?

It came out in May, but I celebrated by sending out various social media posts, had a few phone calls from friends excited to receive their copies, and then went to work on the third book.

    What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I have to plan everything out before I write. That first novel I wrote was rubbish partly because I didn’t plan it out ahead of time. For both The Price of Safety and The Price of Rebellion, I planned everything out before I started writing the rough draft. In fact, for this latest book, it took me about a year to plan out the entire novel. When I was ready to then start writing the draft, it only took about three months to write the draft, as I already knew the story so well. By planning out the story ahead of time, I’m able to fix issues and strengthen the plot as much as possible. Then when I write, I can focus on tone, word usage, dialogue, and all of the other aspects of the story.

    How many hours a day do you write?

Not enough. Since I work full-time, I usually write on weekends, sometimes from eight in the morning until six or so at night both Saturday and Sunday. The editing also normally occurs on weekends, though I will sometimes work in the evenings here and there.

 What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?  

Prior to writing both books, I did a ton of research about emerging technologies, surveillance systems, drones and robots and other technology. I wanted to make the world as realistic as possible. The story occurs 25 years from now. The growth of technology from 1998 to today is extraordinary, and the next 25 years will probably see an acceleration. I tried to reflect that in my world building. In fact, one piece of technology I envisioned has already been created. I have devices in The Price of Rebellion called DNA sniffers that pull in dead skin and bits of hair people leave as they move about, scan the DNA, and identify individuals that way. There’s a company in the United States that has already created a prototype, which is gratifying but also a little scary.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

The easiest to write are the action scenes. I love making them up, seeing how I can increase the tension at every turn, and writing them are so much fun. The most difficult aspect is the initial planning. A story can go in so many different directions. To me, it’s like standing in a fog. The way forward isn’t clear—I can’t even see which way is “forward” at first—and there are hidden obstacles, pitfalls, and challenges I haven’t encountered but will discover along the way. It can be exciting, but finding the best path, the best story, is very challenging.

   How difficult was writing your second book- did having one published change how you went about it?

It had its own challenges. To go back to the fog analogy, with The Price of Rebellion, I knew who my main characters were, and I had a starting point. In fact, I had the idea of the starting point early in the process. Yet having completed the first book, I approached the second one differently. I mapped out both the second and third books before writing the second one (though I’ve since made some changes for the third book). I incorporated a larger character arc for Dray, arcs for other characters, and worked in ways that connected the books in different ways. Those were all challenges that I didn’t have to work through with The Price of Safety. However, I’m pleased with how both books have turned out.

Were there any scenes which you had to edit out of your book which you still hanker after?

Yes, I have a few scenes action scenes that would have been fantastic, but I deleted them either because they didn’t advance the plot or actually contradicted rules in my book. It was hard to delete them, though, because they were such a blast not only to write but to put the characters through.

    How do you select the names of your characters? Are they based on anyone you know?

None of the names are based on anyone I know. I try to avoid doing that, because then I’ll imagine that real-life person instead of the character. Instead, I brainstorm potential names. For Dray Quintero, I generated eight or nine different possible first names for him, though I picked his last name pretty quickly. I review the possible names with my wife, describing each character and how they fit into the story. She then picks the names out of the options that I provide, although on a rare occasion she doesn’t like any of my suggestions and will offer her own names. We then decide together on the name.

How long on average does it take you to write your first draft?

The rough draft usually takes 3-4 months to actually write—but that is after about a year of planning. Then I take about a year to edit the draft involved.

Are there any secret references hidden in your books?

If I admitted that, they wouldn’t be secret, would they? There are a couple.

    Do you have any guilty pleasures which stop/ help you write?

I have to listen to music—but it can’t have any singing. If the songs have vocals, I get distracted by those words instead of the words I’m trying to write. So I use instrumentals or jazz or sometimes even classical music. Currently, I listen to Spotify’s Calm Before The Storm. It’s a great playlist to write to.

    Does writing energize or exhaust you?

It depends on which stage I’m on. If I’ve been wrestling with a certain part of the story, and I don’t seem to be getting anywhere, it exhausts me. Same with editing, or when I find large mistakes I have to fix. But if I can see the story coming together, or particularly if I’m writing a big action scene, I get energized.

    Do you or have you ever considered writing under a pseudonym?

My last name is Bland. Of course I’ve considered it. For now, I’m using my real name, though if I decide to try a completely different genre in the future, then I’ll probably utilize a pseudonym.

    Do you have any other writers as friends and how do they influence your writing?

Yes I do. My good friend Robert Kerbeck is a successful author of novels and short stories. He and I have edited each other’s work including both of my novels and both of his. He has elevated my writing by providing insightful, blunt edits of my work. Another friend is the one who recommended The Price of Safety to my publisher, for which I’m grateful.

    If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Take classes and find a fellow writer to edit your work. I took classes at the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Workshop. Those classes elevated my writing—and then when I started working with Robert, my writing grew to a professional level. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was frustrating, difficult, stressful, and aggravating, but I became a much better writer as a result.

    Do you believe in writer’s block? What do you do to break its spell?

I’ve had times where the ideas don’t come, or where the words are clunky if they come at all. I break the spell by going for a walk. Sometimes I don’t actively think about the story, and other times I’m barely aware of where I’m walking because it’s all I’m thinking about. And the walk doesn’t always help. When that happens, I sit back down in front of my computer and just keep at it. The ideas and the words do come, even if they take their sweet time doing so.

Can you give any hints about any upcoming books you have planned? (alternatively, is there anything else you'd like to tell the readers)

The third book in the trilogy is my current project. I’ve just completed the rough draft, so I know how the story ends—and who survives. I have a lot of work to do in order to make it the best possible version it can be, but I’m pleased with how it’s turned out so far.

Do you have any unfinished or unpublished books hidden away?

Yes I do, including a story I pitched to Columbia Pictures. It’s a humorous take on superheroes. They asked for a copy of the completed novel, and I’m just waiting for them to call me, aaaaany day now (I’m looking at you, Columbia). I have a number of ideas for future novels, so as soon as the third book in the trilogy has been accepted by my publisher, I’m going to decide which story to pursue next.

Thanks so much for telling us all about your writing life.

Book Spotlight: The Price of Rebellion


 

It's 2047. Secrets have been revealed. And Washington wants revenge.

Dray Quintero learned an ugly truth: the leaders in D.C. are fake. They've stolen the identities of those elected to Congress and are determined to stay in power, using his own technology against him and the rest of the population.

After revealing the dangers of their mandated implants to his fellow citizens, and calling on everyone to rise up, Dray joins the already-underway rebellion. But his joining is as much to free the U.S. as it is to avenge his daughter's death. Before he can strike, The Agency attacks with devastating consequences. Dray and the other survivors are forced to run as Agents hunt them.

Then Dray makes a discovery that could change the nation.

As he and the rebels prepare a bold offensive, his wife, Mina, broadcasts a preposterous claim. He's forced to choose between the rebellion and a desperate hope. Between family and country.

What he does will change everything.

The Price of Rebellion is the action-packed second installment of The Price Of series from multiple-award-winning author Michael C Bland.

Book link: Amazon UK


About the Author

 



Michael is a founding member and the secretary of BookPod, an invitation-only, online group of professional writers. He writes the monthly BookPod newsletter where he celebrates the success of their members, which include award-winning writers, film makers, journalists, and bestselling authors.

Michael is the newest member of a class of fresh perspective writers getting their first major exposure to a national audience. One of his short stories, “Elizabeth”, won Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest 2015 Popular Fiction Awards contest. Three of the short stories he edited have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Another story he edited was adapted into an award-winning film.

Michael currently lives in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area with his wife Janelle and their dogs Nobu and Pico.

His novel, The Price of Safety, is the first in The Price of trilogy. The sequel, The Price of Rebellion, was released in May 2023.


You can follow Michael here:   Website  |  Facebook  |  X (Twitter)  |  Instagram

 

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