Reviews Published

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Five minutes with Jane Beckenham

"Hiring Cupid" by Jane Beckenham has just hit the stores, a fabulous new release with Linden Bay Romance. The premise itself is enough to set your whole body to "tingle" mode: you're rich and beautiful, and you find yourself hiring a gigolo...

Tell us a all about, Jane.
Hiring Cupid - I mean who would do this? Me? Nope, no way! But imagine you’ve bragged about some lover who doesn’t exist and to save face you hire a man. Of course no ordinary man. He’s absolutely got to be yummy. And of course Marco Valente is totally delicious. Hiring Cupid is set here in New Zealand, but the theme of the book, truth, honor, trusting your own heart, are universal for both men and women.

Well, if the gigolo were as yummy as the model on the cover of "Hiring Cupid", I would be tempted to hire him myself! Where can we get hold of a copy... of the book, not of the gigolo, that is?
Readers can check out the excerpt at or order it at

Jane, tell us a bit about your path to writing.
I get a bit embarrassed when people ask this, because most writers say, oh, they’ve always wanted to write, they were born to write etc, but I sort of fell into it. I read a lot as a teen particularly, as I spent many years in and out of hospital and became a voracious reader to pass the long hours. About 10 years ago, we got our first home PC and I love decorating, so was on one of those chat rooms, talking colors so on, and a lady I met (Terre Sexton of Sth Carolina) mentioned she was writing, and I got all enthusiastic and said I’d like to try that – why not she says – so what do I do, I write 30 pages that day and email it to her. She loved it! I was gobsmacked, but encouraged and that was the start of it all.

Going back in history now, so to speak, your books Woman of Valor, Leap of Faith and Be My Valentine are time travels- why time travel?
Well, TT is another world. Imagine going back in time, seeing history unfold. How exciting would that be? Okay, so they didn’t have modern plumbing, but a gal can side-step that for a few pages at least. Then again, what about some dashing highlander coming forward, seeing electric light, and imagine hot water on tap LOL! There is so much you can do with TT, also I loved history at school, and TT is one way of combining contemporary and history and of course romance.

So how do you choose an idea for a TT?
With Valor, it is co-written with Ellen Ben Sefer. Ellen and I met online – she’s an American transplanted to Australia, and I’m in NZ. We often said wouldn’t it be good to do a TT in Israel. Think of all the wonderful history there. Both of us had lived in Israel, and then one day chapter one arrived in my in box – and five weeks later, Woman of Valor was finished. We co-wrote Valor without having ever met, and in fact, Leap of Faith was the same, written before we’d ever met.

How does one co-write a book with someone they don’t really know?
There is a lot of trust there, faith in the other person. What we discovered along the way was that we each, at that time, had different strengths. Ellen was great with the intricacies of the history of Israel and ancient Judea, and I loved writing the setting and particularly the hero’s POV. It all fell into place. We would discuss each day how we wanted the story to go, then each would say what bit they wanted to write, and away we’d go. I would keep it all together and combine it into the master document. Writing with a co-partner is a great experience and one I can certainly recommend.

Be My Valentine was next, is that right?
Yes, I’d done 2 books with Ellen, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. That I could actually do it on my OWN. Valentine was an exciting write, it fell into place so easily, and I could see the story as if it was a video in my head. I could see the slave auction, see the trek inland, hear and smell the Port Royal, where Valentine is set. At the end of it, I sighed with relief. I wasn’t going to be a one hit wonder.

What does the future hold, Jane?
I’ve got another two contemporaries with Linden Bay under consideration at the moment and I've just had one of them accepted. It's called "He’s The One". Imagine being a wedding planner and a virgin to boot. Imagine having your clients ask you questions about sex and you haven’t a clue how to answer. What is a girl to do? Easy really. She’s finds a hunk to teach her all there is to know about sex, of course!

Indeed. All in the name of research and better business service, of course, LOL. Jane, where can people get hold of you if they'd like to ask more questions?
I’d love to hear from readers, they can email me on, and check out my website at, or see my books at or

Well, I know I have one more question: "Who is that gorgeous guy on the cover and can I have his phone number?" :-)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Killing Johnny Fry

It’s labelled a sexistentialist novel, and with good reason. “Killing Johnny Fry” by Walter Mosley is a book about a man who’s come to question the meaning of his existence following his girlfriend’s infidelity. He chooses to explore the meaning of life by throwing himself into the arms of as many women as possible and by trying out kinky things not many people would be prepared to watch on the screen, much less participate in.

The title of the novel hints at some sort of a murder mystery or psychological thriller, but there is really very little in that line of plot, other than the main character’s obvious (though not immediate) desire to kill his rival (it took him about a week to stumble on that solution to the problem, but I guess he was too busy playing sex games with the upstairs neighbour and watching dirty movies to think straight).

The reviews warn that “Killing Johnny Fry” is only for those who enjoy sex and enjoy reading about sex. I think of myself as belonging to both the categories, and yet I couldn’t wait to be finished with the book and move on to something less depressing.

I’ve honestly read better on the not-so-reputable Internet sites... for research purposes, of course. Which reminds me: my erotica novella is finally finished and sent off to the publisher.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Writing, painting and archaeology

Today we are chatting to N.D. Hansen-Hill, a prolific writer and artist. She's written 28 novels and completed 500 paintings (working with acrylic and oils as well as cement to create texture)... all that while raising a family of 4.

1. Norah, you've recently heard that *The Hollowing*, is going to be contracted by Cerridwen Press. Tell us about the book.

The Hollowing's about a man with an unusual paranormal problem. As a kid, he wasn't nearly as terrified of the dark as he was of the dark patch which would appear in his room at night and threaten to swallow him up. As his life goes mad, Shawn Walsh is desperate to figure out why.

He should actually be looking at when.

The blurb:
Shawn Walsh's problems don't arise from his own troubled past...but from someone else's. His perception is off, because he's working within a time frame which has no relevance to him, or his present.
Unfortunately, his problems have everything to do with his family and his rather questionable heritage.
He refuses to give up hope. There is still a chance he'll be able to resolve his issues without dying, given the right place...
...and enough time.

2. Is that your first book with Cerridwen Press?

Gilded Folly was my first book with CP. It was published a little over a year ago and will be released in paperback soon. Gilded Folly's a story of lost royals from another dimension who no longer remember why they're here. When one of them is triggered to assassinate the others, their world is turned inside out, as are the lives of their closest friends on Earth, who (like themselves) have no concept of how "unique" these people truly are.

3. What is Cerridwen Press like to work with as a publisher?

They're part of Ellora's Cave and a rising star in the industry. There's a bit of a problem with books like mine, though - CP includes both romance and non-romance titles, but everything, promotionally speaking, is geared toward romance. Even the author-reader loop frequently chats about romance-oriented questions, which makes it difficult for books like Gilded Folly and The Hollowing (non-romances), to develop a readership. Many SF readers won't go to a site where romance appears to be the dominant genre.

4. Tell us more about your art.

I don't do nearly as much of it as I should! My writing takes me away from it. When I'm writing madly (as I frequently do), my creativity quotient seems to drop in other areas. That said, I'm putting along on a painting at the moment - trying to get back into a regular painting programme.

5. Where can we buy it?

Oh, I wish! I have a cafe owner who's been waiting months for me to bring her some paintings for display. If I keep up with my determined effort to develop some kind of "painting schedule", I'll probably list most of mine on, just see the response. I've always sold most of them before I could get them up online, so I'll have to see what happens.
I'm not as good at it as I once was, either, because I had a painting hiatus of nearly a year, and I'm out of practice. Time to get my act together!

6. Readers are welcome to have a look at the cover of my "Sex Lies and Here Be Dragons" for an example of your work, but would you care to share another one with us?

I have one on my website ( I want to give this painting away in honour of my paperback releases (In Trysts, Gilded Folly, etc).

7. You are a writer and a painter and a mother. To add to your load, you are an archaeology student. Tell us why.

No writer can exist in a vacuum. Writing is drama, and that needs to be balanced with normalcy, and everyday life. Archaeology fascinates me and I can utilise much of my past training (irrigation work, plant propagation, plant virology, etc.) to better understand and develop theories about prehistoric survival strategies. I enjoy the professional contacts, too!

8. I am full of awe for your time management skills. Any tips for our readers on how to cram 48 hours of work into 24?

I'm not really that efficient! The big thing is, I'm a single mum now, so I try to get everything finished by the time my youngest gets home at 3.30. Occasionally, I'll have a class that runs over, or some work that absolutely needs to be finished for a publisher, but generally, I'm there for her, even if it's just to watch TV, shop, or read Harry Potter aloud. I get up just after 4 a.m. every morning, and do what I can before the sun comes up! I also plan ahead. If something is due at a certain date, I try to break it up into manageable chunks.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Calling all the movies: the bad, the worse and the comparatively worthy

It all started with “Mr and Mrs Smith”, I think, that almost uncanny ability of mine to pick bad movies. “Mr and Mrs Smith” was the one movie I truly wanted to see when it was on circuit. I didn’t want to see Star Wars 3 (or 6, depending how you’re counting) that was also making the rounds at the time, but I did want to see Brad Pitt and Angelina. Basically, I fell for the advertising that promised a clever and witty thriller. Housewife-turn-spy is a fantasy that appeals to many women, and has been successfully implemented in “True Lies” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight”

For reasons varying from “not enough money to pay the babysitter twice as much as the tickets would cost” to “deadlines at work” and “deadline for a short story competition”, we only got to see the movie on DVD. And what a good thing that turned out to be: not only was it cheaper to stay at home, but also it enabled us to switch on the movie’s subtitles in order to understand the (mediocre) dialogue shouted amidst all the gory (mediocre) action. But even the dialogue didn’t help the (mediocre) plot.

That was in 2005. In 2006, I really wanted to see “Basic Instinct 2” and “Pink Panther” and “The Da Vinci Code”. “The Da Vinci Code” was so bad we stopped watching it twice, only to carry on in the vague hope of a clever twist at the end (there was a twist, but it wasn’t a clever one). If there was an Oscar for the absolutely worst movie of the year, I’d nominate this one.

“Pink Panther” was not as good as the Pink Panthers of the 20th century, too slapstick and with no finesse, but boy, was it better than “The Da Vinci Code”.... And we’re yet to see “Basic Instinct 2”, though I remember mentioning on this blog a year ago that it wasn’t a patch on the original.

Then there was an Australian movie (I forget the title - and good riddance) about a mathematician who predicted the stock market using fuzzy logic. That’s kind of like jacking up a car using cotton wool, but what I mainly had against that movie was that a kid died in it. A definite no-no ever since I’m a parent.

So, what have I seen that was actually not a waste of time (the precious time that I need to make writing deadlines of 1 June 2007 and 1 July 2007 and 31 August 2007)? Well, “Children of Men” - a SF movie - was very good, both the acting and the plot. Not exceptionally blow-you-off-your-feet clever or unexpected or thought-provoking, but good.

“Serendipity” - another SF movie - was also ok. Not having seen the series, I can only comment on the movie as a stand-alone. Good acting and a satisfying twist.

The irony is, I don’t even like SF.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Things your mother never told you about sex

In a recent author interview, I was asked about the things that my mother never told me about sex. Well, we were talking about writing sex, so the question was appropriate.

That got me thinking. The things that my mother never told me about sex could fill an erotica novel. My dad, bless him, told me a beautiful stork story: if the stork drops the baby outside face up, the baby will look at the sky and have blue eyes, but if the baby lies face down in the grass, its eyes will be green. "Brown?" I wanted to know. "Down the chimney." The first time he mentioned sex in a conversation with me was when I was married for several years.

My mother never told me much about sex, either. When I was five or six, I gathered up the courage to tell her that my friends have already told me the facts of life.
"And do you want to ask me any questions?" she replied to my news. "I can explain whatever's not clear. I bet I know more about it than your friends."
Apparently I thought for a moment, only to ask: "Can you do it in the bath?"
"Sure can," she said. "It's probably uncomfortable, though."

If you want to know what else I said about writing sexy, please have a look here: .