Friday, 30 January 2009

Review: The Jealousies by Benjamin Stainton

Ben Stainton's new collection The Jealousies published by BeWrite Books is a collection of restrained and evocative poems that cover everything from childhood reminiscence to nostalgia for a past that never was. There are echoes of Eliot, Pound, and other famous poets here, and their heritage is well continued.
We fought in a vacuum,
like Hamlet & Ophelia,
juveniles made godlike.

You were a totem stick,
several blurred heads
skewered like lamb-meat

& the salacious night
closed over your mouths.
We smoked liver, & sang.

Them were the abusive days,
grinding our love to dust.
I am a longing, for your rust

to mend me, mend me, mend me.
Parts are touched by a tinge of threatening evil, the blackness and moral void behind everydayness -
Uncertainty is the only guarantee.
I shoot hopeful arrows into space.
Am I the frozen January fields
that Gainsborough painted, in love?
Or the crushed ice in a sugared glass?
Our feral search will last forever.
We scrape the leathery sea for clues
& urge the booming clocks to stop, or run
& never read the news. All calamities.

Mr Slaughter, buried in the yard
of the red house. Mrs Slaughter pruning.
Perhaps I am the flourishing lilacs?
(Sea of Stones)
The best parts are the passages that display fresh and vigorous use of words to illumine moments of life. These poems are of life and drawn from life, and as the book progresses the voice becomes more enriched and deeper, more fluent. It is a book one can read to watch this development in the three sections that precede Journal, the fourth and best part and culmination of the book.

The Jealousies is a very good specimen of a sort of poetry worth preserving, one with an explicit sense of being situated within a tradition. It is poetry that depicts life as she is lived, rather than exploring questions of metaphysics or political engagement; in fact, it is part of the historical tradition of great poetry. Stainton's development will be of interest. This book holds promise of a new voice in the canon of UK writers.
David McLean, author of Cadaver's Dance

Benjamin Stainton seems to have achieved the distinction of being both modern and traditional simultaneously in The Jealousies. There are moments of poetic purity, several examples of refined, wonderful verse. Each piece is infused with drama and subtle twists of language -
The tall windows remain tight-lipped
in my plum-coloured room.
(Sea of Stones)
At times romantic, visceral, elegiac, violent; there is an instinctive poet at work in these pages.
Brian Howard

It ebbs & flows with a very elegant word choice, imbued with color. It delivers a punch, a "frayed sanctity."
J. Michael Wahlgren

In Benjamin Stainton's The Jealousies, birth, womanising, hangovers, love, states of mind and much more are all re-created in flickering images. Stainton is a master of metaphors and uses them effectively to unpeel honesty without banality. The poems manage to be simultaneously real and abstract; both strange and accessible. This is a first collection full of originality, embedded in emotional energy.
Carillon Magazine

Ben Stainton's incisive poems take us back to what we think are familiar places … There seem to be no barriers. Life, death, location, the inner workings of the body, blood and skin are all seamlessly accessed, sometimes all at once … These tasty, gourmet poems satisfy our less familiar appetites.
Greg Cox

All our preconceptions are upturned and buffeted... there seem to be no barriers.
The Cannon's Mouth

A poet unafraid of truth, able to portray lust without apology
Marysia Wojtaszek, The Open University

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Review: The Adventures of Alianore Audley

... set during the Wars of the Roses, with Alianore acting as a spy for Edward IV and Richard III. I am not sure how to classify the book, for it is not a historical novel in the true sense. It is a spoof, I suppose, but a very clever one and done from a Yorkist perspective, so naturally I enjoyed it! I realize it may not be to everyone’s taste, so I am going to quote a few passages to let you judge for yourselves. Here the tart-tongued Alianore is speaking of her husband (whom she loves).

“Roger wore his collar of golden Yorkist suns to show that he was one of the king’s knights, ludicrous piked shoes to show that he was fashionable, and a massive codpiece to show that he had a vivid imagination.” And here she describes Elizabeth Woodville (whom she does not love) as “Elizabeth too-sexy-for-her-hennin Woodville.” And this is her “take” on the third marriage of Margaret Beaufort (the mother of Henry Tudor) to Thomas Stanley. “She and Stanley having fallen deeply in love with each other’s money.”

The author, Brian Wainwright, has also written a “serious” historical, Under the Fetlock, set in the reign of Richard II, and I have it on my To Read List. You have to be knowledgeable about a time period to be able to spoof it successfully. As for Alianore’s adventures, if you like Monty Python, you’ll like Alianore.
Sharon Kay Penman

A wonderful romp set in 15th-century England. The machinations of the Wars of the Roses and life at the court of Richard III are seen through the eyes of royal spy Alianore Audley. Told with zest, a deep love and knowledge of the period, not to say a wicked sense of humour and plenty of tongue in cheek, Brian Wainwright deserves far greater recognition than he currently gets.
Elizabeth Chadwick's Top 10 Historical Novels, The Guardian

…Wainwright's Alianore Audley holds a place in my heart. What an endearing heroine, if ever there was one. Alianore, by pure mischance (or perhaps great good fortune), leaves her quiet, boring existence in the convent that her brothers have summarily dumped her in. (Where else can a girl in 15th century England go?) Clearly, Alianore is not meant for the contemplative life. The alternative is natural: she becomes a spy for her cousin, Edward IV. Natural? It does seem that way as events unfold. Despite the fact that Alianore is initially sent to the North to gather intelligence for Edward so that she is prevented from getting into mischief, she becomes an invaluable asset to the Yorkist cause.

Alianore's riotously funny insights into the obnoxious and abusive Warwicks, tongue-in-cheek barbs at Margaret Beaufort and Lord Stanley, disrespectful comments about everyone from "Cousin Edward" to the "Tudor Slimebag" (Henry VII), and loving remembrances of Richard and Anne liberally pepper this all-too-brief book. Wainwright has a feel for the period and presents it in a unique and enjoyable fashion.

How to give you who read this review a flavor of the times as seen through Alianore's wickedly funny but loving perspective is tantamount to impossible. You've just got to be there. Read it.
Ilysa Magnus, The Historical Novels Review

Roger wore his collar of golden Yorkist suns to show that he was one of the King's knights, ludicrous piked shoes to show that he was fashionable, and a massive codpiece to show that he had a vivid imagination.

Alianore Audley is a good, submissive, demure woman of the fifteenth century … and if you believe that, you'll believe anything. But she is a spy in Edward IV's intelligence service, and the author of a chronicle that casts - well, a new light, let's say, on the times of the Yorkist kings. History will never be the same after Alianore. Nor will most other novels.

Brian Wainwright's debut novel The Adventures of Alianore Audley is a brilliantly funny, subversive spoof.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Happy Australia Day

Books for Australia Day

From our Australian Authors:

Sleep Before Evening by Magdalena Ball

This is a remarkable novel, not one detail of which rings false. The setting is New York City and one of its suburbs and the time is the Reagan years. Ball has achieved the remarkable in recovering this particular tim
e past and the drive of the narrative makes this a compelling and an exciting book. Bob Williams

The Bad Seed by Maurilia Meehan

The appearance of a novel by Maurilia Meehan is always an event to celebrate. She writes with a sharp, bold, experimental pen, and takes her readers into realms at once astonishing and familiar. Carmel Bird

The Playm
akers by Graeme Johnstone

An absorbing tale of conspiracy, manipulation, romance, and death when two young men (Shakespeare and Marlowe) from vastly different backgrounds are flung together by their passion for the written word.

Death in Malta by Rosanne Dingli

It is a meticulous psychological fable that favours character development and snapshots of village life over racier plot elements. Stephen Bell

ing Daedalus by Bevan McGuiness

An unusual romance, with a little mystery thrown in. I'm wondering if McGuiness will use the character Cornelius Monk again ... he has more to offer. S E Crawford

Treason by Meredith Whitford

Treachery in Love and War in the Struggle for the English Crown

Witty & literate. If you are curious about Richard 111, War of the Roses/Tudors, this is an easy fictional approach - which may indeed reflect the truth. Deirdre OShea

Featuring Belinda Lawrence, our Australian heroine:

Capable of Murder by Brian Kavanagh

Mr Kavanagh managed to do what one of my favorite authors, M C Beaton, does so well, incorporate humor within the confines of a credible mystery. Mary Lynn

The Embroidered Corpse by Brian Kavanagh

Superior in quality, this novel will grip you from first to last page and leave you wanting more from this very talented writer! Viviane Crystal

Bloody Ham by Brian Kavanagh

Bloody Ham is a fun, unique read and we look forward to more of Belinda and Hazel in the future. Vanessa Lee, Armchair Interviews

And our acclaimed Australian Poet:

The Way Back by Nana Ollerenshaw

From the underbelly of the world, poems of a nurse, a trekker and a traveller.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Promoting Poetry: Is it a Mug’s Game? by Magdalena Ball

Let me start by saying, right up front, that publishing poetry is generally not a road to riches. Most of us write poetry for reasons other than its hot selling power. Of all genres, poetry is probably the hardest to sell. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case, but I’ll hazard an educated guess that it’s because there’s a kind of misconception that poetry isn’t an engaging read (not suitable for the beach or an airplane), isn’t an easy read (the “highbrow fallacy”), and that it isn’t going to improve you in any way (unlike self-help books, which will cure your diseases, make you slimmer, and attract lots of good stuff to you). Don’t say I didn’t warn you. So why bother? Why not just write a diet book? Here are two reasons why poetry matters.

1. “it survives
In the valley of its making where executives
Would never want to tamper, flows on south
From ranches of isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives,
A way of happening, a mouth.”

That is, as Auden said so beautifully in “In Memory of WB Yeats”, poetry connects us in ways that go deeper than any other words can. It endures, and continues to move us, in the writing and in the reading, regardless of literary trends, political activity, and its overall saleability.

2. Because “men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there.”

That is, as William Carlos Williams said so beautifully in “Asphodel, That Greeny Flower”, there’s an inherent power in poetry to move beyond the boundaries that divide us; to jump over the cliffs between us; and move beyond those lines of race, class, age, and above all, our innate fears, and reach a place of common humanity. Life is busy, and it’s so easy to forget to look into one another’s eyes; to talk in convenient syllables and soundbites rather than sincerely; to miss what matters under the big pile of what’s urgent. In other words, and let me say this very clearly, good poetry is important. It’s important to our inner life, and where it succeeds, it succeeds hugely, becoming lodged in our consciousnesses. Like the two poems above, which I’ve carried around in my head since I came across them as a young teen, good poetry sticks with the reader. It continues to be recited and cited and in its own beautifully viral way, changes who we are and how we see our lives and our world.

So poetry matters, and we need to keep reading and writing it, even if it isn’t an easy sell, because it will be with us long after the South Beach Diet has been forgotten. But how, as a poet, do you become “lodged?” How do you promote your poetry so others read it?

Firstly, remember that good poetry is as pleasurable to read as it is to write. If you write it, you have a responsibility to read the best work of others. You’ll be a better poet as a result and who knows, you might start a trend. If you don’t know where to start, try Dorothy Porter, Billy Collins, Charles Simic, Les Murray, or Luke Davies. Those are a few of my favourites, and writers whose work is consistently beautiful, passionate, modern, relevant and accessible. Or try the classics, Williams, Frost, Yeats, Auden, Plath, Brooks. Try purchasing an anthology. Black Inc do an annual anthology of Australian poetry (Best Australian Poems 2008 was edited by Peter Rose), Scribner does one for American poetry, (Best American Poetry 2008 was edited by Charles Wright) and there are similar books for Canada and England. Or try a literary journal – there are plenty to choose from. Great poetry will inspire great poetry, even if you write nothing but prose. The perfectly chosen word is always worth reading, and emulating.

Secondly, don’t limit yourself to the printed page. Poetry isn’t sacred. It began as our earliest oral tradition and continues to be most effective delivered orally. Sing, dance, recite, move about, use props. Think Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith. You don’t even have to have a good voice– just confidence (easily feigned), and some performance acumen. Look your audience in the eye, remember they’re on your side, and connect. But just because you’re adding props, music, and chutzpah doesn’t mean you can use cliché, ineffective imagery, or be ridiculous. I once saw a poet perform his work while eating a banana. It wasn’t pretty. There’s a fine line between great work and a fun performance. Find it and walk it. Don’t forget to bring books to sell with you either, because you’ll sell more work at a live performance than anywhere else. Then you can capitalize on the buzz with websites, blogs (like this one), reviews of other poet’s work, and samples.

Finally, network. Poets should support one another. Writing poetry doesn’t need to be secretive, lonely, or tortured. We should buy, review, and talk up each others’ work (where deserved); and if you find something good, by all means, shout about it. Collaborate, coordinate, cross-promote, and above all, celebrate. Because great poetry, and by that I mean words that sear and sting and open every pore, are cause for celebration. You can take that to the bank.

Magdalena Ball runs The Compulsive Reader. Her short stories, editorials, poetry, reviews and articles have appeared in a wide number of printed anthologies and journals, and have won local and international awards for poetry (including this year's Roland Robinson literary award), and fiction. She is also the author of the critically acclaimed novel Sleep Before Evening, a nonfiction book The Art of Assessment: How to Review Anything and three other poetry chapbooks Quark Soup, and, in collaboration with Carolyn Howard-Johnson, Cherished Pulse and She Wore Emerald Then. She runs a monthly radio program podcast

Thursday, 22 January 2009

Developing an Internet Presence: Virtual Book Tours

Virtual Book Tours

First let me emphasize that the following is based purely on my experience. It is not intended as the perfect model, but simply a list of things that worked for me during my August 2007, virtual book tour. Keep in mind that there are several sites available that offer to help
authors coordinate and schedule virtual tours for a fee. However, with a few basic communication skills, a little time, and some careful planning, it is not only doable, it is an inexpensive and fun way to meet potential readers and promote your book. My tour kick-off was July 30, 2007, with a live interview on Internet Voices Radio. The following day, the hits on my website jumped by 44%. To listen to the interview visit,

The key word
is NETWORK and RELATIONSHIPS, but don't wait until your book is published to begin building a communication network. I joined my first author forum several years before Silenced Cry was released in April 2007, by BeWrite Books (UK). I've built my network of friends and contacts through membership in about 20 sites. These sites represent more than 16,000 members and potential readers. The number of readers increases when I add in the number of people who visit my website, my pages in NING groups, Facebook, Myspace, Gather, Squidoo, Authors' Den, Amazon, and other such sites. Also not included in that figure are the friends and family who are on my mailing list. What's more important is that you will also meet potential virtual book tour sponsors on these sites as well.

Join diverse groups that provide different focuses such as some general author forums where anything having to do with writing can and is discussed. Other groups may have a membership with focused interest on your preferred genre, while yet others focus on discussions about marketing, agents, and publishing.

Several people have asked me how I find time to stay current with the various posts and keep up with my writing. As mentioned in my previous article, getting involved within those networks doesn't mean you have to devote hours a day to each one, but do make yourself known to others. Get involved in the conversations that are of interest to you and ones that you can contribute to. Think of how many people you know and come in conta
ct with every day. Each member in these sites probably knows as many or possibly more people than you do. Get to know them. Pay attention to what is being discussed and follow the links they mentioned. You never know where they may lead you. If a certain link is not to your liking, go on to the next one.

Get Ready:

So, the day of your book launch has come and gone and now you feel it's time to beef up your promotions. Great! Roll up your sleeves and prepare to work for several weeks on nothing but your virtual book tour.

Step 1:
Don't be shy to ask for sponsorship. You'll find that most authors or site owners will be more than happy to showcase you. It's a win/win situation. The site owner wins because you're doing all the work; writing the articles and promoting their site. You win because you will be able to promote yourself and your book to a target audience that you might not have had access to prior to the tour.

Write a basic announcement and customized it to fit each site based on their criteria for self-promotion. Beware; there are author sites that frown on self-promotion. Make the announ
cement short, sweet, and to the point. Mention that you are making plans for a virtual book tour (give the dates) and indicate that you would like to know if anyone would be willing to sponsor you on their website or blog.

Step 2:
Within hours of my announcement, I began to receive e-mails from some of my contacts with an "I'd love to sp
onsor you-please send..."

Remember, everything about the tour is entirely your responsibility.
  1. Study the sites of those who have invited you to be a guest writer. Read what others have posted to those sites. What can you write about yourself, your book, your characters, etc. that will fit the site's format?
  2. Don't make the mistake of accepting the offer to post if the site doesn't fit your schedule. I turned one offer down because they wanted a book review. I was reading a book at the time, but I wasn't going to have time to finish it and write a review in time for my tour.
  3. Get a calendar and write down the names of your contacts and the blog's name and URL. Don't over commit. If you can't write more than four or five articles, don't promise to do seven or eight. It's better to add events to your tour than to commit and not follow through.
  4. I found it helpful to create an e-mail folder titled Virtual Book Tour. I moved all my e-mails (received and sent) into that folder so I could find important e-mails easily. I also printed the final e-mails confirming the date/time of the event and placed them in a manila folder in event date order.
  5. Create a folder in your favorites and save the links to each website and/or blog that is sponsoring you so you can find the links quickly.
  6. Try to do a variety of events. Ask if you can write an article for some of the blogs, ask others if they would like to interview you. If they've read your book, perhaps they will be willing to write a review. Check to see if a group has a chat room and would be willing to schedule an hour chat with you and their members. Check into other media opportunities such as radio and television. Be prepared to send a picture of your book cover or banner to some of the sites. Remember to include a few local blogs in your mailing if they are available, such as local library or book club blogs.
  7. Start writing. Type, type, type-breathe-type, type, type-breathe again! Vary the topics of your articles. Your sponsor will more than likely makes suggestions. They may want to know what inspired you to write. Others may want you to discuss specifics about your book. Take their lead, but if they leave the topic up to you, one idea source is to review some of your previous interview questions. Maybe there's one that is particularly thought provoking that you would like to expand on. Check your work. Don't expect your sponsor to proofread or edit your work and don't expect them to post an article that is riddled with typos.
  8. When you e-mail your article to the website owner, be sure to remind him or her of your purpose, the name of your article, the agreed date to post the article, and which blog to post it in if they have multiple blogs.
  9. If time permits, check what other authors are doing to attract readers to their tour. Some offer to draw names of those commenting on the tour posts for a free autographed copy of their book. Freebies always attract readers. Think about a variety of give away give away options and decide which will be best for you.
  10. Create an events page on your website and post the tour schedule and links. Join a site such as (mention my name if you join, please!). Book Tour is a super easy site to work with and it has a nice, clean look. It allows you to link to your website and book trailer (if you have one). There may be others, but this one has some other nice features such as allowing visitors to send reminders of the tour dates to their e-mails or websites.
  11. A few days to a week before the tour, prepare another standard announcement to post on the various websites you belong to. This time, list the details of your tour and/or the links to the sites that lists your schedule.
  12. Two-three days before each event, contact your sponsors and remind him or her to post your blog. This is also a good time to send out private e-mails to everyone listed in your address book to remind them of the tour. Be sure to ask them to post comments on your blogs and to forward your e-mail to a friend or two.
  13. Once your article or interview has been published, check your posts for comments and be sure to type a response to each.
  14. After each article has been published on the host site for the day, post it on your own website and/or blog. This way, your article will appear on the search engines via the host site as well as yours and your work will be available in one convenient place for visitors to read.
Step 3:
You will instinctively want to measure your success in sales, but sales aren't the only measuring stick of success. My tour attracted the attention of critical reviewers, additional interview opportunit
ies, a screenplay writer, and invitations to write for other sites which translates into credibility and more exposure. For a new author, the experience and contacts can proved to be invaluable.

Step 4:
ing will get you an invitation to post on a site again like a heart-felt thank you. Your sponsor will appreciate it as much as a reciprocal offer from you to return the favor.

All of the articles and interviews from Marta's August 2007 Virtual Book Tour are available on her personal blog

In February 2008, Marta and three other mystery authors launched an authors’ group blog, MURDER BY 4 . If you are considering a virtual book tour, stop by and request a feature.

Good luck and have fun setting up your virtual book tour.

Was t
he Virtual Book Tour Worth It? An article by Marta Stephens on her 2008 book tour for The Devil Can Wait
  1. Developing an Internet Presence: An Author's Website
  2. Developing an Internet Presence: The Public Author
  3. Developing an Internet Presence: Book Trailers
  4. Developing an Internet Presence: Spread the Word
  5. Developing an Internet Presence: Virtual Book Tours
  6. Developing an Internet Presence: The Hometown Advantage
Marta Stephens, a native of Argentina but a life-long resident of the American Midwest, began her career as a fiction writer in 2003. This evolved into a life-changing passion that has led to the birth of her Sam Harper Crime Mysteries and her debut novel, Silenced Cry. She runs the popular Murder by 4 blog along with her fellow crime authors at Murder by 4. She also has several short stories and flash fictions to her credit.

Marta's debut novel, Silenced Cry, was published by BeWrite Books in 2007.

Her second novel, The Devil Can Wait, was published by BeWrite Books November 3rd 2008.