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?

Books I'm Reading and Finished Books

  • The Making of Outlander by Tara Bennett
  • Testament of Experience by Vera Brittain
  • Zoom sur Plainpalais by Corinne Jaquet
  • beta read! (JB)
  • ***Reading At Intervals***
  • Sophie's Choice by William Styron
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  • The Young Lions by Irwin Shaw
  • Burning Sky by Lori Benton
  • 12 Anne and Avonlea books by L. M. Montgomery (skimming/reread (this was free on Kindle!))
  • Parade's End by Ford Madox Ford
  • Istanbul Noir (Akashic Books anthology)
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien manuscripts edited by J. D. Rateliff
  • The Jerusalem Bible
  • ***Finished Books***
  • The Children of Men by P. D. James
  • A Daughter's A Daughter by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)
  • A Girl From Yamhill by Beverly Cleary
  • Sunlight by Margaret Rucker (poem; floating in a cocktail glass)
  • Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
  • Preface to The Hobbit, by Christopher Tolkien
  • Ilk Defa... by Beste Barki (essays)
  • Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers (essay)
  • The Moon and I by Betsy Byars
  • The Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson
  • Rogue Warrior by Regan Walker
  • Beauty and the Beast by Villeneuve
  • Black (what was this? I don't remember!)
  • Dance of the Jakaranda by Peter Kimani
  • Thomas the Tank Engine by Rev. Awry (26 book collection)
  • beta read (Born to Run by RB)
  • The Little Turtle by Vachel Lindsay (poem; reread)
  • The Kraken by Alfred Lord Tennyson (poem)
  • Android's Dream by John Scalzi
  • The Mysterious Tadpole by Stephen Kellogg (reread)
  • Yashim Cooks Istanbul by Jason Goodwin
  • Miniatures by John Scalzi
  • Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
  • Kitty-in-Boots by Beatrix Potter (illustrated by Quentin Blake)
  • All or Nothing by Rose Lerner (short story)
  • Merry Christmas, Emily (board book)
  • Extra Yarn by __ and Jan Klassen
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  • The Outlandish Companion II by Diana Gabaldon
  • The Outlandish Companion I, Revised by Diana Gabaldon
  • MacHinery and the Cauliflowers by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Dileas by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • The Gold Watch by Alistair MacLean (short story)
  • betty, butter, sun by Monica Byrne (short story)
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them screenplay by J.K. Rowling
  • The Very Cranky Bear (Scholastic)
  • various haiku by R. Wodaski
  • ongoing rereads of most board books listed last year!
  • see the 2016 list and statistics at
  • see the 2015 list and statistics at
  • 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