Reviews Published

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Interview with Mary Cunningham

Today we are talking to a fellow Echelon Press author Mary Cunningham. Mary writes for children and young adults. Like me, she is fascinated by witches and potions and spells....

1. Tell us about your latest series: the premise, the theme, the mood.

Cynthia's Attic is a fantasy/fiction series consisting of two books (so far - I'm feverishly writing book three!). Best friends, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, or ‘Gus’ as she prefers to be called, are as “different as bubble gum and broccoli.” The adventurous twelve-year-old girls stumble upon a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that has been in her family for three generations. The two discover its magic qualities when they are swept into the trunk and whisked back to 1914, literally into the lives of their twelve-year-old grandmothers.

They travel through time solving mysteries, getting into tons of trouble, and experiencing the childhood lives of distant relatives. My goal was to write books showing humor, friendship, loyalty, and the importance of family relationships. Considering the feedback I've gotten from grandchildren to grandparents, I believe I've accomplished that goal.

2. For what age group do you write and do you know children of that age?

4th grade through 6th grade is my target audience. My granddaughter was twelve when "The Missing Locket," book one, was published. She was extremely excited because I dedicated it to her. I also correspond with several 4th grade classes who have read the books. Their e-mails are priceless. One of my favorites is from a boy named Brandon who wrote, "I love Gus's attitude!" How much more can a writer hope for than to have their p.o.v. character be recognized for her "attitude?"

3. Do you think it's easier to be published as a children's author or an adult's one?

I really don't have a form of reference since I haven't tried seriously to get adult fiction books published. I've been told, however, that it's easier to get submissions to children's book publishers, and that it's not always necessary to have an agent. That doesn't seem to be the case with adult fiction. I was fortunate to stumble upon a publishing company (Echelon Press) that was accepting young reader fantasy/fiction.

4. Who was your favorite children's author when you were growing up?

I was a sports biography fanatic and quickly read everything my small, hometown library had to offer - from Hank Aaron to Babe Didrikson Zaharias. I also liked Nancy Drew, H. G. Wells, and in later years, devoured Lord of the Rings from beginning to end. I think Tolkien is the master of fantasy/fiction.

5. Which one of the following would you like to write about: a dragon, a unicorn, a witch, a space craft?

Weird combination but, a good witch or a space craft. I love spells and potions but I'm also a space buff. The Star Wars series is one of my all time favorites. This is embarrassing, but one of the first poems I can remember writing, as a very small child, began, "When I was a little girl like you, I went up in Sputnik number two." Guess that shows my age, and also why I don't write poetry!

6. Anything else you'd like to add?

The idea for "Cynthia's Attic" began as a recurring dream I'd had for over 20 years about a mysterious attic. One day, I decided to tell the dream to my best friend and realized that it was about playing in the attic of my childhood friend, Cynthia. "What a great title for a book!" she remarked. I never had the "attic" dream after that but the writing started and hasn't stopped. It began as a childhood memoir for family and friends, but that didn't satisfy me. I wanted to include parents, grandparents, g-grandparents and gg-grandparents, and the only way to do that was to travel back in time. I love writing adventures that I believe they would've enjoyed.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Twelve Sharp

I believe that books are like food: too much sweet Romance and you can’t wait for a meat-and-potatoes novel you can get your teeth in. Too much prose, and you reach for poetry. And after a heavy diet of Important Books Other People Decided You Must Read, you crave something light and fluffy.

Like Janet Evanovich, for example. I honestly don’t know when I read her latest Plum novel, “Twelve Sharp” - all I remember of the last two weeks is a blur of short stories and non-fiction book chapters I had to complete for various deadlines, and that's on top of my usual duties as a professional in two companies, a mother and a home maker.

And yet read “Twelve Sharp” I did. I can’t claim to remember the plot very well or what the title had to do with the book, but I do remember liking the overall experience. There was a lot of female bonding, not too much slapstick, no annoying characters. Best of all, there was plenty of sweet dark sexual tension with Ranger.

For those of you who don’t know the series: Stephanie Plum is kind of going out with Morelli, her childhood sweetheart, who used to be deliciously bad and is now boringly reformed and committed and good for her. Now, I’m all for guys who are good and soft on the inside, but outside I want them to be bad. Ergo, enter Ranger, who is definitely bad for Stephanie. He will never marry her, but he will rescue her from embarrassing or dangerous situations, and he will give her the s3x of her life... if only she lets him.

Come to think of it, s3x is a lot like food too: you need your meat and potato, but from time to time, you really feel like dessert.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


This is your chance to meet one of the authors featured on this blog: Jane Beckenham was kind enough to answer these (increasingly personal) questions about Valentine's Day and her book "Be My Valentine" (which I reviewed in my previous blog). Sit back, grab a cup of coffee (we did) and enjoy.

Jane, how does Be My Valentine Link to Valentines Day?
The theme I had in my mind for this book was love lasting for eternity, even through the ages of time. What better day to bring this about than Valentine’s Day, a day for lovers of any time. So the time travel faction takes place on February 14th and it not only brings love alive, but it returns a love too… but then, you’ll have to read it to find out. Be My Valentine is published by Treble Heart Books
And you can find it at

What made you decide to write about Time Travel?
Well I’ve always been an avid history fan, and got hooked on time travel romances when I started reading Sandra Hill’s Viking series and her Cajun series, plus books by Lyn Kurland. I met Ellen Ben-Sefer on line in the Ozromance writer’s loop and she wanted someone to critique her Scottish time travel. Now you gotta remember this was when I didn’t really know what critiquing even meant. Ellen and I hit it off. She’s an American transplanted in Sydney Australia and I live in NZ. We’ve both traveled extensively and lived in Israel and said… wouldn’t it be great… well the next day, chapter one arrived in my inbox from Ellen and Woman of Valor was born – five weeks later we had a complete manuscript – and we’d never even met.

A couple of books later… I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. That I could actually write a book – all by myself. I love pirate stories but felt NZ didn’t really suit as a setting. I started writing … Dave Barnett was sacked… Well heck, who was Dave, where was he, and what was going to happen? I didn’t have a clue. I just wrote. The story unfolded like a video in my head. And there we have BE MY VALENTINE.

How did you write it? Did you plot?
Plot? Me? Well sort of. Actually it has sort of grown on me as the years have passed. I always have an idea of a character, an event, a phrase, then start from that. But I must admit I absolutely adore doing character interviews. For Be My Valentine I had to find out who Dave was? Where did he live? And most important – why was he sacked? So I started asking him questions – in my head – and no I’m not quite in a straight jacket yet – but you know what – the guy answered, and kept on talking. All about his family, his ex who took him for all he was worth, about his grandfather, about his work – and so Dave Barnet got a life, a backstory and a future.

What about research?
Research for anyone who loves history, probably isn’t a chore. Be My Valentine I decided wouldn’t suit a NZ setting, so I started searching the net for info on pirates and came up with an interesting fact about Port Royal, Jamaica where in the 1690s there had been a massive earthquake/tsunami wiping out most of the township. This town had a nickname of Sin City, full of pirates, prostitutes and rum.
Bingo. There was my setting, and my story …. But then you’ll have to read the book to find out – won’t you.

I’ve always found reading for facts and figures etc from children’s books in the library the most helpful. It puts the information at my fingertips in an easy and quick to read way. One scene I had to write was the description of a sunset in Jamaica. Now I’ve never been there, but my mother had and so had a friend, so I picked their brains. Friends and family are great places for research!

Now for the personal bit, Jane. Do you and your husband celebrate Valentine’s Day?
Eeek…. Do I really have to answer that? Well,….no. Not really. Sad isn’t it. And me a romance writer. But I must admit he is rather a romantic at heart, but of course, he man that he is, he’ll never admit it. We’ve been married 24 years this year, and our first Valentine’s Day. For days beforehand I kept reminding him, then on the BIG DAY, I woke up and there was a lovely red rose on my pillow (a silk one which I still have), and me – oh yeah – I had forgotten completely!
Another romantic moment. We adopted our girls from Russia in 1996. I spent about 5 weeks over there, doing the paperwork trail etc, then the morning after we get home and daddy gets to meet his daughters for the first time, I wake up (is there a wake up thing going on here?) to find a lovely sapphire ring on my pillow – four sapphires he says, one for each of us - awwwww. Ain’t that romantic?

Jane, thank you for that. And a reminder to our readers that you can view the trailer for Be My Valentine on

Friday, February 02, 2007

Be My Valentine

It’s early February, so naturally my thoughts tend to gravitate towards Valentine’s Day. How did this social conditioning happen? For the first 12 years of my life I didn’t even know about this tradition: we were sheltered from all the Evil Capitalist Inventions when we lived under Communism....

So anyway, it’s early February and I’m choosing my reading matter accordingly. At the moment, I’m trying to get my hands on a copy of “Be My Valentine” by Jane Beckenham. No, it’s not a pure romance (think “The time traveller’s wife” by Audrey Niffenegger) : it has time travel, it has pirates, it has the allure of the Carribean. And it has Romance with a capital R.

Set in Jamaica—land of pirates, prostitutes and rum - on Valentine’s Day. The protagonists, Dave and Tyler, are thrust back in time, shipwrecked and sold into slavery. And yet, Be My Valentine is a story of hope. It’s a story of a love that lasts an eternity. Only on Valentine’s Day. And forever more.

(Available from