Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Guest Post and Giveaway by Mark Koopmans to Celebrate Revival -- The Donald Braswell Story

Hello, Mark!

Mark Koopmans is on a blog tour to celebrate the release of Revival -- The Donald Braswell Story.
Scroll down for his guest post, and further down for the giveaway!

REVIVAL - The Donald Braswell Story How a Tenor Lost his Voice, but Found his Calling by Donald Braswell with Mark Koopmans

From Juilliard to jumper cables; from wasting all the talent in the world to America's Got Talent, this is the story of the Texas opera singer who lost his voice -- but found his calling.
Also available on Amazon

Five years removed from his 1990 Juilliard graduation, Donald Braswell is set to be "the next Pavarotti." Braswell's successful career ends, however, not with a standing ovation at Carnegie Hall, but alone, lying in a dirty ditch.
Following the hit-and-run accident that steals his voice and future, the "Texas Tenor" struggles with depression and despair—until the night his daughter, Aria, is born. Understanding this new and immediate life change, Braswell fights to relearn how to speak, sing -- and share this gift of second chances with others.
Working as a plasterer, a car salesman, and many jobs in-between, it takes thirteen years -- and a musical miracle -- for Braswell to battle back and sing on a professional stage. His dreams and ambitions collide with a tired and angry crowd when he auditions for America's Got Talent. For his family, his faith and his entire future, can the Rocky Balboa of the operatic world find the courage and strength to win just one more fight?

Click here to read a free chapter of Revival!

Mark Koopmans is originally from Ireland. After working in Holland, Spain, France and England, he won his U.S. Green Card in 1994, and is an American by choice since 2003. Koopmans began his writing career with a feature for a regional magazine in California. Since then, he's worked as a staff writer for newspapers in Florida and Texas. Koopmans is also a proficient blogger and is working on his next book, a novel. Koopmans lives in Virginia and is a married, stay-at-home dad to three active boys under the age of nine. He writes at night.
Find his blog at
Revival, prior to publication, won the award for Outstanding Memoir at the 2013 Southern California Writers Conference.

Happy to have you visiting the blog today, Mark!

Aloha, Thanks Deniz for having me over to your blog! You wondered about writing the uncomfortable parts of a person's story. When it comes to writing a memoir for someone else, there's a lot of ground to cover, and sensitive subjects will naturally arise. To me, as the writer, the most important thing is having the patience, communication and respect to discuss all topics with the memoir's subject.

In Revival, Donald shares a lot of personal feelings and some real low points in his life, but at first, these didn't come naturally to him (would it to anyone!).

As Donald talked about this or that, I would (happy in the knowledge my trusty digi-recorder was getting everything for later slo-mo playback) scribble down key words and phrases that piqued my interest. The worst thing I could do -- which I learnt the hard way -- was cut Donald off in mid-flow for the sake of some minor clarification. (When I did this, and then tried to get him "back on track" it was generally too hard for Donald to get back "in the zone" of the earlier topic.

Later, I would transfer my keywords to a blank Word doc. Then, I'd do a run through at normal speed, noting the recorder times on my sheet (for ease of operation). When I felt I had a sensitive subject, I would turn these into opened-ended questions that were addressed at the beginning of the following interview. (Certain questions got carried over to several meetings.)

Time passed, and more often than not, what was once a potential sensitive subject was now easier to describe, especially when it was already at least mentioned in a prior conversation.

(After that, it was rinse and repeat...)

Thanks again, Deniz!
Thanks for taking us behind the scenes, Mark, and congratulations to you and Donald on the book's release!

Revival Giveaway!

Grand prize (2 winners): Donald Braswell to sing (Happy Birthday/Anniversary) via Skype or phone call. (A unique gift idea!)
1st place prize: Signed Donald Braswell CD/Revival book combo
2nd, 3rd and 4th place prizes: Signed copies of Revival (by Donald and Mark)
5th, 6th and 7th place prizes: Signed copies of Donald Braswell CDs
8th, 9th, and 10th place prizes: Signed Donald Braswell 8x10 picture

Good luck to all who've entered!

What inspirational stories have you read lately?

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Writing Inspiration for NaNoWriMo and ROW80

The first two weeks of National Novel Writing Month have gone by and I'm... halfway there but starting to lag behind.

If I lose even one day of writing, all momentum falls by the wayside. I had a really good first couple of days, and those have kept me afloat on drier days (I shouldn't obsess over stats, but I can't help but feel better if my daily average is higher than the bare minimum).

I've had fun tweeting some inspirational moments -- and had fun again just now putting them into Storify, which is wonderfully easy to use. Please scroll down if you'd like to start chronologically (and I see it's been divided into two pages as well -- skip to the photos if you'd prefer!).

Hope everyone's having a good week!

We just got back from a short vacation, so I hope to share more photos as soon as I get them organized, and have some book blog tour items coming up. Also, it's my birthday tomorrow *grin*

Happy birthday fellow Novemberites!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

The Descent of the Cows, and ROW80

For the final installment of the village photos (scroll down to visit Tolochenaz, Rolle, and Morges), I'm featuring St Cergue, up in the Jura mountains, and the descent of the cows!

The yearly desalpe is the descent of the cows from their summer pastures to their winter pastures. The cows are decorated for the event, and there are also lots and lots of very loud bells...

Off to see the cows!
Hmm, these loud bells are less than impressive...
Flags of Switzerland and the canton of Vaud
View from a hill
Haze over Lac Leman

The event is very evocative, as it's a tradition that goes back many hundreds of years. It's lovely to imagine the fathers and grandfathers and many times great-grandfathers of the farmers bringing down the cows every year, from one year to the next. And the grandmothers too! Both men and women farmers were present. I'd love to sit around a farmhouse kitchen, helping to create the decorative wreaths and crowns for the cows.

We came down the mountain afterwards to our own village:

Today is Remembrance Day; the side of the town hall features a mural commemorating the soldiers from the village who fought in WWI and WWII

 Path through the vineyards

Which traditions do you celebrate where you live?

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

IWSG Day! And Audrey Hepburn in Switzerland

Third installment of the villages in Vaud photos (scroll down for the first two installments).

Today's feature is the tiny hamlet of Tolochenaz, where Audrey Hepburn lived for 30 years!

Place Audrey Hepburn
With the lady
Looking up the road to...
...Audrey Hepburn's house
The front of the house
The road leading back to the square
The church where her funeral was held
View from the cemetery
Reading about Audrey Hepburn's life in the village

NaNoWriMo has started!

I'm drafting a new story, because that's the easiest to fit in with my current schedules. But I'm trying something new -- drafting directly onto the screen, instead of using pen and paper. It makes marginal notes and scribbles difficult, but will save me having to type it up later (I used to edit as I typed up a story but haven't had time for that lately, and typing without adding to the story or making changes becomes mere rote work).

Today is also Insecure Writer's Support Group Day!

Based on what I'm doing for NaNo, my tip for IWSG Day is to not be bound by rules if they don't fit your working style! Feel free to go outside the boundaries. Switch things up if patterns are becoming stale!

Are you writing for NaNo or outside of NaNo or mixing up a NaNo project with other projects?

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Visit to Lakeside Town of Rolle, ROW80, and Ambient Mixer

Part two of Lac Leman photos!

We visited Rolle at the end of September:

I only have one ROW80 goal this week: decide what to do during NaNoWriMo! Do I edit Larksong and Druid's Moon? Do I type up the WWI story from last year's NaNo? Do I start a new story? Or do I continue the story I started during Camp NaNo in August? Must choose...

I've been listening to something interesting while I work. I discovered the Ambient Mixer website through Kait Nolan, and am enjoying it more than I thought I would! You can listen to all sorts of background sounds, from a quiet library (scratching quill pens!) to a ship at sea (waves on the hull! ship's bell!) to zombies attacking (this would be a great background sound for a Hallowe'en party) and much more.

You can also create your own!

I've made a pub by the seashore, with a fireplace and a train in the distance. And a bit of medieval music...

Which sounds would you love to have in the background?

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Visit to Lakeside Town of Morges, ROW80, and the Latest IWSG Project

New anthology!

The Insecure Writer's Support Group hosts are holding a contest!

"A short story competition with the top ten stories getting published in an anthology. (Authors will also receive royalties on sales.)
Eligibility: Any member of the Insecure Writer's Support Group is encouraged to enter – blogging or Facebook member. The story must be previously unpublished. Entry is free.
Word count: 5000-6000
Theme: Alternate History/Parallel Universe. That’s right, we’ve decided to go the speculative route. This theme has plenty of scope and we’re open to pretty much anything along these lines, except erotica or graphic violence.
Story deadline: November 1st 2015
How to enter: Send your polished, formatted, previously unpublished story to TheIWSG at gmail dot com before the deadline passes. Make sure to include your contact details.
Judging: The IWSG admins will create a shortlist of the best stories. The shortlist will then be sent to our official judges."

I've entered a new short story... As for other ROW80 goals, I've set aside some of my stuff, though I'm still knitting, to edit a project of my mother's.

And I've got more photos! This post marks a series of four posts in which I'll share photos of our trips to villages along the western shore of Lake Geneva.

We visited Morges in August:

Love this Passage du Loup (Alley of the Wolf)

Are you looking back fondly on summertime already?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • Be Careful, It's My Heart by Kait Nolan
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (annual reread)
  • The House at Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne (reread)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Moranology by Caitlin Moran
  • Sauron Defeated - Book 9 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • Lonely Planet guide to Switzerland
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • A Woman in Arabia: The Writings of the Queen of the Desert by Gertrude Bell
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Journal of Inklings Studies
  • 11 Doctors 11 Stories by various authors (including Neil Gaiman)
  • Creed or Chaos? by Dorothy Sayers
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • Mr. Garden by Eleanor Farjeon
  • Untitled by Claire G (poem)
  • Possum Magic by... (read by Claire)
  • The Listeners by Walter de la Mare (poem)
  • Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
  • Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne (reread)
  • Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
  • Dark Sonnet by Neil Gaiman
  • "Birds of Passage" by Peter McArthur (poem)
  • Marilynne Robinson and Barack Obama in the New York Review of Books (conversation)
  • "Fear"by Marilynne Robinson (essay)
  • A Simple Act of Kindness by Carol Drinkwater (short story)
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter van Houten (short piece) (already added this?)
  • Sparkling Cyanide (Remembered Death) by Agatha Christie (reread)
  • Les dernieres jours de nos peres by Joel Dicker
  • Spun by Catherine McKenzie
  • Jamadu: Pippa et le crocodile (a Coop storybook)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • Hide and Seek Pig: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Postman Bear: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Fox's Socks: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Christmas at Cranberry Cottage by Talli Roland (short story)
  • Tolkien's Gedling by __ and Andrew Morton
  • A Winter Wedding by Brenda Novak
  • Le livre des Baltimore by Joel Dicker
  • Paddington Bear All Day by Michael Bond
  • Beowulf and Sellic Spell by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Mrs Whippy by Cecelia Ahern
  • The Story of Kullervo by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • Going Back by T. L. Watson
  • The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper (abridged, darn it)
  • Emily's House
  • The Hockey Song
  • The End of All Things by John Scalzi
  • A Christmas Story by Richard Burton
  • Histoire de Founex by Josiane Ferrari-Clément (skimmed)
  • Rabbit's Nap: A Lift-the-flap Book by Julia Donaldson
  • Each Peach Pear Plum by Allan Ahlberg and Janet Ahlberg
  • La Verite sur l'affair Harry Quebert by Joel Dicker (loving this!)
  • How To Be A Man (and other illusions) by Duff McKagan
  • The War of the Ring - Book 8 in the History of Middle Earth series by Christopher Tolkien and J R R Tolkien (reread)
  • Pop-up Peekaboo: Farm (DK publishing) (board book) (duh)
  • Paddington Bear Goes to Market by Michael Bond (board book)
  • Emily's Balloon by Komako Sakai
  • Bible stories and puzzles (in French) (board book)
  • The Last Chance Ball (a Word Wenches christmas anthology featuring Jo Bourne, Jo Beverley, etc.)
  • Farmer Giles of Ham by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread but new edition)
  • CassaFire by Alex Cavanaugh
  • First and Second Things by C. S. Lewis
  • Smith of Wootton Major by J. R. R. Tolkien (reread but new edition)
  • So Anyway... by John Cleese
  • The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl
  • Slowly, silently now the moon by Walter de la Mare (poem)
  • I can't work like this by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • CassaStar by Alex Cavanaugh
  • Death of A Century: A Novel of the Lost Generation by Daniel Robinson
  • The Fly by William Blake (poem, reread)
  • Tyger, Tyger by William Blake (poem, reread)
  • The Christie Notebooks by John Curran
  • The Perfect Son by Barbara Claypole White
  • What to Expect in Baby's First Year
  • Baby's First Year for Dummies
  • secret beta 2!
  • The Secret Sister by Brenda Novak
  • Chu's Day at the Beach by Neil Gaiman (reread, many times)
  • Sacred Inwardness by Marilynne Robinson (essay)
  • New Statesman issue guest edited by Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman (I don't usually include magazines in this list but I read this one cover to cover)
  • The North Star is Nearer by Evelyn Eaton
  • Nightmares and Dreamscapes by Stephen King (loved My Pretty Pony)
  • Every Month Was May by Evelyn Eaton
  • Occasional Soulmates by Kevin Brennan
  • secret beta!
  • Smoke by Catherine McKenzie
  • In Two Aeroplanes Over the Sea by Amanda Palmer (poem)
  • Jim at the Corner by Eleanor Farjeon
  • Finding Fraser by kc dyer
  • Mother Tongue -- The Story of the English Language by Bill Bryson
  • The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan
  • The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
  • Absent in the Spring by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie
  • The Lord Fish by Walter de la Mare
  • The Going To Bed Book by S Boynton
  • The Nursery Rhyme Book by Andrew Lang
  • In Dubious Battle by John Steinbeck
  • Subterranean Scalzi Super featuring To Sue the World (an original, very short Redshirts story available nowhere else) Muse of Fire Mallet of Loving Correction Lock In, Lost Chapters (available nowhere else) How I Proposed To My Wife: An Alien Sex Story An Election Judge Sn Goes Golfing Questions for a Soldier The Sagan Diary The Tale of the Wicked The God Engines You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Take Your Laptop to a Coffee Shop by John Scalzi
  • Emily Goes to Market by William Mayne
  • Many Moons by James Thurber, illustrated by Louis Slobodkin
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle (reread)
  • Colours Are Nice (Little Golden Book)
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman
  • The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo by Judy Blume
  • The Wars by Timothy Findley (reread)
  • The Captive Diary of Catherine Logan by Mary Pope Osborne (Dear America)
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (reread)
  • Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson (reread)
  • The Poky Puppy (Little Golden Book) (abridged)
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf (reread)
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri
  • secret beta read 2
  • Pre-Fix: A Ciel Halligan Short Story by Linda Grimes
  • Hidden by Catherine Mackenzie
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton
  • But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton
  • Oh, Whistle, And I'll Come To You, My Lad by M. R. James (short story) (1904)
  • Chu's Day by Neil Gaiman (reread)
  • My Uncle Oswald by Roald Dahl
  • Usborne board books
  • Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell
  • Lila by Marilynne Robinson (so lovely)
  • Flowers for Mrs Harris by Paul Gallico
  • secret beta read!
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend
  • HELP! Food Allergies Coming To Dinner by Kait Nolan
  • This Heart of Mine by Brenda Novak
  • The Owl Service by Alan Garner
  • Two Caravans by Monica Lewycka
  • Aunt Sass by P. L. Travers
  • An Imperial Affliction by Peter Van Houten (actually a few pages of the story, written by John Green for the film of his novel The Fault In Our Stars)
  • January Brings the Snow by Sara Coleridge (poem)
  • Kissing song by Neil Gaiman (poem)
  • The Mother by Nettie Palmer (poem)
  • William Tell Told Again by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Her Ladyship's Companion by Joanna Bourne
  • The Long Way Home by Louise Penny
  • How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny
  • Mes P'tits Contes, legends of Swiss cantons
  • see the 2014 list and statistics at
  • see the 2013 list and statistics at
  • see the 2012 list and statistics here
  • see the 2011 statistics on
  • see the 2011 list at
  • see the 2010 list at
  • see the 2009 list at
  • also in 2009 at
  • see the 2008 list at
  • also in 2008 at
  • also in 2008 at