About Norma Beishir

Author of sixteen novels (so far). Two new works are upcoming, as well as the reissue of my backlist as e-books. Writing under three names: Norma Beishir, Scarlett Martin and Toni Collins. Compulsive blogger with six active blogs at Blogger in addition to my page here.

Review: Pretty Witches All in a Row by Lisa Olsen

Pretty Witches All In a Row Cover

eBook $3.99, Paperback $12.99

For anyone who has doubts about the quality of self-published books, I have a suggestion for you that can be summed up in two words: Lisa Olsen.
Lisa is one of the finest new authors to come along in recent years. I’ll be doing reviews for her other books in the weeks to come, but let’s start with Pretty Witches All in a Row. In this spectacular novel, she blends the police procedural novel with elements of the supernatural that makes me think of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series.
Someone is killing the members of a coven. Enter Detective Nick Gibson, a practical, down-to-earth cop/single father of a teenage daughter, a man who’s having a hard time buying into the idea of witches and covens and prophetic dreams. Will he fall under the spell of the beautiful Annaliese, a self-professed witch who’s a member of the targeted coven? Has she really had premonitions of the murders in herdreams, or could there be another reason for her knowledge of the murders? Is Nick a fool to trust her?
Ms. Olsen is a skilled writer whose expert pacing keeps the story moving.She weaves the elements of fantasy into her real-world setting with confidence and populates her fictional world with well-developed, believable characters. This is a book you’ll have a hard time putting down. And even though the ending is quite satisfying, you’ll undoubtedly be begging for more!

Review: Chasing the Wind by Norma Beishir

In Chasing the Wind, Norma Beishir and Collin Beishir chase the reader with a hurricane of adventure. They introduce us to two main characters: Lynne (an archaeologist with a modern Christian view) and Connor (aka Andrew a geneticist who is low in faith), and they appear on the surface to be as different as night and day. We get to follow their exciting adventure across the world as we are introduced to some interesting minor characters. We watch as Lynne and Connor grow together as if they had known each other all of their lives. We drop into their destiny and travel with them.

Beishir is a master storyteller who controls suspense and employs all the great ingredients that cook up this political, religious suspense thriller. Beishir leads us through a maze of plots and subplots that lead us to surprising discoveries. Beishir has an amazing ability to elaborately describe psychological motivations of the characters while painting their passion and drawing out their ambitions. Heroes are true heroes (like Connor who transforms before our eyes) that have human flaws while villains are super-villains (like the assassin Caine and Dante with his cult-like global cartel); we are allowed a peek at their abusive childhoods that is a key to their motivations and what makes them tick. We get to taste their evil and insanity.

Beishir entranced me from the beginning and hypnotized me until the end. The quick pace and intense mood of the novel with colorful and humorous dialogue made the story hard to put down. We find ourselves cheering for Lynne and Connor as they face some formidable obstacles. We are left pondering so many engaging issues as well as realizing this novel could really reflect so much of reality, especially in today’s modern world of genetics and technology. Beishir raises ethical issues that we are still struggling with in the real world.

The reader is in for a riveting, enlightening, fascinating and amazing journey through the pages of Chasing the Wind.

Lena Winfrey Seder is the author of  The Metamorphosis of a Muslim~Autobiography of My Conversion  (IIPH 2011)

On the Way Up: An Interview with William Kendall

Welcome to “On the Way Up,” a new blog feature in which I’ll be showcasing the literary stars of the not-too-distant future. This week, I’m talking with William Kendall, who’s the author of a fascinating new thriller titled Heaven and Hell. William is also a graduate student in history in his native Canada….

William, how long have you been writing? 

Since I was eleven or twelve. I think those of us who are of a creative bent, whether it’s in art, music, or writing, that side of us starts to develop around that age.

Which authors inspired you? 

I’ve been reading since before I went to school, and it’s a habit I’ve never gotten out of. To start, I’d say historians like Stephen Ambrose and David McCullough stand out as personal favourites because they’re storytellers. I’ve read plenty of history books where the authors can’t engage the interest of the reader, but that’s not the case with these two. 

Jack Higgins is another personal favourite. He writes in the spy thriller genre, and his primary character for the better part of a couple of decades now has been a former IRA enforcer turned British operative named Sean Dillon. Dillon’s a fascinating character, never apologizing for his background. The dynamic Higgins wrote between Dillon and the character Hannah Bernstein, in the form of bantering and occasional bickering, is a partial influence for my two main characters. And like Higgins, I’d like to find ways to fit Irish terrorists into every book I can. 

My favourite novel is The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. It tells the story of the battle of Gettysburg through the eyes of some of the men who were there. It’s a book I always come back to, like an old friend you visit again just to see how they’re doing. His son Jeff has taken up his father’s mantle with a series of books exploring history through the eyes of the people who lived it. Jeff and Michael have been big influences on the way that I write, in terms of style and focusing tightly on character.

Heaven & Hell has a very intriguing, controversial premise. Tell us more! 

In a brief blurb, Heaven & Hell is centered on a group of terrorists who try to start a war in the Middle East by manipulating all sides involved, and a group of intelligence operatives who are trying to stop them. By writing much of the book set in Israel and dealing with the terrorist issue, I’m practically inviting controversy. Particularly when it comes to the central event of the book.

I know that you’ve done some extensive research. Tell everyone about some of the more interesting experiences you’ve had in developing the background for Heaven & Hell. 

A lot of it starts, of course, in the library. I’ve been writing about Israel, so the sort of things I was looking for included religious customs, archaeology, history, architecture… it’s involved a lot of note taking, searching about, finding information that might prove useful in the book. That’s an ongoing process, of course. There’s always something in the writing process that requires looking up something fresh that you might have overlooked. 

I haven’t been to Israel, so it’s required reaching out, being creative in talking to people. I got a lot of assistance (and a great suggestion to add a sequence at the Masada) from a fellow at the Israeli embassy. It’s something I’d really suggest if you’re writing about a foreign nation; talk to someone from an embassy or consulate. Just be careful how you open up conversations. After all, I was talking about terrorism in Israel as a novel plot, and wondering the whole time how much of the conversation was going to be added into a field report. 

I’ve also done the same, generally online, getting information from public relations staff, from places like Oxford University to the Israel Museum. I’ve gotten technical information from police officers on firearms, and just recently, some critical information from a fire fighter that helped me get past a bit of a dilemma I was in. 

Aside from that? One of the great benefits to the internet is the ability to gather lots of photographs of distant places, so that when you’re writing, for example, about the Dead Sea Scrolls or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, you can see these places with your own eyes.

You’ve told me how the Stryker character was created. Share that with my readers, please. 

Certainly! He’s a character who’s third generation, in a way. In high school, I was in a creative writing class, and one of the assignments was a long form story, like eighty to a hundred pages. That’s where he started out, as a private investigator named Robert Stryker. I haven’t looked at the story in years, and the only thing I might tell you off hand about it was that the climax of the book was set at a fire tower in the Muskoka region of Ontario, a place I know very well. 

The second version of the character was one I wrote just for myself for a long time, a primary character named Christian Stryker and the people in and out of his life. Something of a continuing work, where the character went through a number of occupations, from police to espionage to federal agent. He started out in archaeology, but abandoned that profession early on. This is really the training ground for my current writing, where I honed my craft. 

And so Tom Stryker is the third generation of the character. Like his predecessors, he prefers his last name only, and like Christian, he’s a former archaeologist. So he’s been a long time in development. Meredith Devon is a bit of a different story. She’s a mixture of previous characters I’ve written, but a lot of her is fresh and new. I’d known when I was contemplating writing seriously that I wanted to write two lead characters, a man and a woman, both strong and opinionated, rather then go with the lone wolf example created by Ian Fleming. 

How much of Stryker is you? Come on, ‘fess up! 

We’re both rock climbers. That’s how Stryker gets introduced in the book, climbing Mont Blanc. Rock climbing is one of my favourite activities, so of course I had to make him a climber. We both share the same irreverence in our personalities. And making him an archaeologist was deliberate. Like every other kid who ever saw an Indiana Jones film, I thought of going into that line of work. To this day, archaeology and ancient history fascinate me. Unlike Stryker however, I’m not multilingual, nor am I a partial Lakota, and I’ve never been tortured. Except by the sound of Justin Biebers’ voice.

Another thing you’ve discussed with me is your parents’ response to your story. Care to share with everyone?

My mother’s actually the one who started me off on this book, with her response to a question I once asked that forms the premise of the Very Bad Thing. She’s an avid reader, with a great imagination, and she’s liked what she’s heard of what I’ve been up to. My father, however, will never read the book. He dislikes violence in any form, and any time I’ve mentioned what I’ve written or ideas that I have in mind, his reply is to wonder what he and my mother did to end up raising a son who writes things like that.

You’ve made it clear that The Very Bad Thing is going to remain a secret until the book is published. Not even a hint?

The Very Bad Thing goes back to watching a newscast years ago, featuring rioting Palestinians, and asking my mother what would happen if terrorists ever did this and that. This and that being the Very Bad Thing. No, I’m not telling. I’ll just say it involves a very big explosion and a cataclysmic amount of casualties. And out of that, the threat of war.

A fellow author once asked me why someone as funny as I am (or as she thought me to be) would write such serious fiction. Since you’re the funniest person I know, I’m going to ask you that same question. Why?

You know, I think it comes down to what interests me as a reader. I like the notion of the worst case scenario. I like spy thrillers, so that’s what I’m going to write. I also think that my sense of humor, my irreverence and general outlook on life gets more then its share of outlets already. I write parodies, humor material, and that’s out there. Anyone reading my blogs or comments I make can see that.

At the same time, the humor still finds its way into the book even as I write. The bantering and the chemistry and energy between Stryker and Devon is such an example. There’s a line that I have in mind, for late in the book, and I still don’t know which one of them is going to say it. The two of them are in the middle of a firefight, shots going off all around them, explosions and so on… and one of them’s going to smirk and say, “You know, we go to the loveliest places.”

How serious is that for the situation?

William Kendall. Heaven & Hell. Remember it. This is an author we’re going to be seeing on future bestseller lists. And while you’re waiting for the book, check out his great blog: Speak of the Devil

Review: STORM CHASER by Mark R. Hunter

I loved the movie TWISTER–so when I discovered that first-time novelist Mark R. Hunter was about to publish a romantic comedy about a storm chaser, I was, of course, looking forward to it.

STORM CHASER did not disappoint. Firefighter and humor columnist Hunter tells the story of State Trooper Chance Hamiln and disaster photographer Allie Craine, who meet when she’s in pursuit of a storm and he thinks she’s an underage thrill-seeker. The attraction between them is instantaneous–but like most men, he’s a pig-headed fool who won’t go with what his heart tells him. When a fictional character is so infuriating he makes me feel like kicking his sorry butt to the curb, I know the author’s done his job correctly.

Which storm will do the most damage–the one outside, or the one brewing between Chance and Allie? Read STORM CHASER and find out!

All of the characters are well-developed. The secondary characters are delightful (though a few of them really deserve a good swift kick in the butt). The small-town atmosphere is very realistic (reminds me of the snall town in which I grew up) and the dialogue is close to flawless. Author Hunter has done his homework on storms and storm chasers.

I could see a sequel to this novel. I hope the author will consider it!

Review: NOTHING WITHOUT YOU by Beth Muscat

I’ll confess: I’m not a fan of young adult novels, nor am I a fan of paranormal/fantasy–so consider me a hard sell in both genres. I am, however, a huge fan of well-developed characters, good pacing, great storytelling and an enduring love story–and author Beth Muscat delivers on all counts. Though each book can stand alone, her REMEMBER THE EYES trilogy (REMEMBER THE EYES, NOTHING WITHOUT YOU and INFINITE) should be read in chronological order to fully appreciate the enduring love story of Riley and Michael, who first meet in college…or did they? Remember the eyes…why? Have they met before? When? Where? How? Read the trilogy and find out!

Riley is a typical young woman in that she’s insecure in ways most young women are: her physical appearance. But she’s also gifted in ways few other young women could even imagine. She has psychic abilities of a very high level. She doesn’t see dead people–she can do far more than hear voices.

And I’m thrilled to see that there are no vampires in these novels–though as bloodsuckers go, Brenda can hold her own with the most vicious of them.

Not having read many books in these genres, I have little in the way of basis for comparison, though it could be in some ways compared to a movie I’ve always loved, SOMEWHERE IN TIME, which starred Jane Seymour and the late Christopher Reeve.

If you love paranormal romance, this is a series you shouldn’t miss. You’ll love Riley and Michael.