A Life of Music, Music, Music…

april-taylorApril Taylor has been writing stories since she was a child. She lives, with her husband and a blind rescue golden retriever, in the heartland of Lincolnshire, the second largest county in England.

In her working life, April was an information professional working in public and prison libraries. She ended her career as the R&D Information Manager for a global pharmaceutical company. April has also worked for the police and been the choir mistress for passengers on cruise liners travelling all around the Caribbean, as far south as Cape Town and up into the Arctic Circle.

April has published an anthology of short stories and two non-fiction guides, one for students on how to write their dissertation and the other on research for fiction writers. She is also the author of The Tudor Enigma series published by Harlequin and The Georgia Pattison Mysteries.

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I come from a musical family. My grandmother, with whom I share a birthday, was amazing. As a child, I could sing to her any song we learned at school. She would take it down in tonic sol-fah (think do-re-me from Sound of Music), then sit at the piano and play it in perfect four-part harmony. Her favourite key was D- flat major – which uses all the black keys, aaagh! She died in 1984, aged 93 and still being collected from her sheltered accommodation to go and play piano for her local Over 60s club. My mother played piano, my three brothers played brass instruments and my father played percussion. I play piano (badly) and flute (even more badly).

But most of all my life has been spent singing. I started in school choirs and went on to choral societies and small singing groups. My most treasured memories are of singing in the Three Choirs Festival, a yearly festival which swings between the English cities of Worcester, Gloucester and Hereford. For one glorious week in late summer, the members of the choir mix with world renowned soloists. I remember standing in the lunch queue next to Sir Charles Groves who looked just like Father Christmas but had a very acerbic tongue if anyone annoyed him. I’ve shared the platform with luminaries like the late Elizabeth Harwood, Alfreda Hodgson and eaten lunch with the members of the Medici Quartet. As part of the Worcester Festival Choral Society, I sang in front of Prince Charles and the late Queen Mother at the Royal Albert Hall several times.

When I moved to Yorkshire, I sang as a soloist with local choral societies and joined a small, mostly acapella, group with only 8 members. We thought nothing of singing Lotti’s Crucifixus, set in 8 parts. I entered a number of music festivals and was delighted to have my voice described as quintessential silver Handelian by the judge. I imagine myself at the age of 93, like Gran, in my wheelchair, and trying for the top A’s in Messiah.

dearly-ransomed-soulMy mum introduced me to crime fiction to which I became instantly addicted. The history bug hit me when I was 14 and has never left. When I knew I wanted to write, the obvious genre for me was crime, but I couldn’t choose between historical or contemporary, so chose to write both. Harlequin published my crime fantasy series The Tudor Enigma (Court of Conspiracy, Taste of Treason & Mantle of Malice) in 2014/15.

Then I turned to my contemporary detective who, unsurprisingly, is an early-music soprano. I called on my own experiences as a semi-professional singer to add meat to the plot. The Georgia Pattison mysteries begin with an introductory novella Whistles After Dark. The first full length novel Dearly Ransomed Soul was published in July 2016 and deals with murder and music at the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester.

Georgia is a true opera diva, capable of holding her own in the world of classical music but insecure and craving affection. She tends to go headlong into situations without thinking things through using her verve and waspish wit to get her out of trouble.

All the titles in the Georgia Pattison series are musical quotes. The introductory novella, Whistles After Dark comes from Kipling’s Smugglers Song. Dearly Ransomed Soul is a direct quote from The Dream of Gerontius by Elgar, the oratorio chosen for the opening concert in the book. The second book, which will be out in spring 2017 Laid In Earth is from Dido’s Lament by Purcell. The third, currently in progress, is Say Goodbye Now from The Marriage of Figaro.


whistles-after-darkWatch the YouTube video for Dearly Ransomed Soul here:

The introductory novella to the series, Whistles After Dark, is free on Smashwords and Barnes & Noble. (Amazon hasn’t caught up yet). You can find it here:

Whistles After Dark on Smashwords – https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/607994
Whistles After Dark on Nook – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/whistles-after-dark-a-georgia-pattison-introductory-novella-april-taylor/1123272300?ean=2940152577396

Book Review: The Trees Beneath Us by Darren R. Leo

the-trees-beneath-usThe Trees Beneath Us
Darren R. Leo
Introduction by Craig Childs
Stark House Press, July 2015
ISBN: 978-1-9335-8673-1
Trade Paperback

This is a most unusual book.  It is as much memoir as it is fiction, for one thing.

The introduction includes this quote from Thoreau:  “If you are ready to leave father and mother, and brother and sister, and wife and child and friends, and never see them again; if you have paid your debts, and made your will, and settled all your affairs, and are a free man:  then you are ready for a walk.”  The author later says “Would Thoreau be admired if he never left Walden Pond?”
The protagonist, Finn, sees himself thusly:  “Stubbornness had long been described as one of my greatest attributes or flaws.”  As did the author, Finn decides to hike the Appalachian Trail.  Early in his trek, he says:  “I was reacquainting with the wilderness like running into an old girlfriend I had not seen in years…  Thousands of people hiked big chunks of the trail every year.  A few hundred would walk its entirety.  Some large number of people with packs crossed that highway and disappeared through the cut.  Each had a purpose.  Some had dreams.  All had reasons.”  Finn’s reason appears to be contemplation of his life till then, and the natural life around him brings him “occasional moments of clarity and insights.”  He is working through grief, love and loss, having lost his job, his health, and his son.

A lapsed Catholic, 44 years old, with very mixed feelings about the deity and life itself, Finn has been diagnosed as suffering from depression, bipolar, at times suicidal; he has an ex-wife, what he describes as three or four children, and is living with a woman who loves him and who he loves, Penelope, or Penny, who he refers to as his BSW (beautiful sunny woman).  His descriptions of the natural world are gorgeous, e.g., he sees small yellow butterflies hovering “like lemon colored clouds” as well as an “achingly beautiful butterfly that started bright sky blue and faded to deep inky darkness . .  . like twilight captured on a wing.”

On his journey, which goes on for almost 1,500 miles, over a period of months, during most of which he does not contact any of his family members, he reflects on his past.  A running motif seems to be “bad news doesn’t travel through trees.”

This is a book which will stay with the reader long after the last page has been read, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, July 2016.

Book Review: Holding Court by K.C. Held

Holding CourtHolding Court
K.C. Held
Entangled Teen, March 2016
ISBN 978-1-63375-227-6
Trade Paperback

I can honestly say I’ve never read anything quite like Holding Court.  I cannot tell you what it is ‘about’.  You wouldn’t believe me.  It simply shouldn’t work.  Like sea salt on chocolate.  Makes no sense.  Those things do not go together.  And yet….I thoroughly enjoyed the unprecedented coalescence of young love, psychics, pseudo-theatre, mystery and murder.

There’s a lot to consider as a sixteen year old girl looking for a summer job to buy a car.  For example, are there any openings where the guy you’ve adored from afar since sixth grade works?  As well as, what are the chances of stumbling upon a corpse that vanishes while on the job?

Being raised in a non-traditional family—specifically three generations of women, each with a unique psychic ability and completely unique feelings regarding said ability—requires a young person to develop a thicker skin and create coping mechanisms.  Jules’ grandmother who “has chosen to share her gift with the world in the most obnoxious way possible” and constantly quotes Eleanor Roosevelt is like the whipped cream on already decadent dessert.  While her mom keeps her own psychic ability under wraps, she is furiously and ferociously protective of her daughter, having zero qualms about calling Jules’ boss to “remind him that (she) will eviscerate him” should anything happen to her daughter on his watch.

While the atypical family creates a solid foundation, the teen-aged characters build the story with their refreshing honesty and biting sarcasm paired with quick wit and an admirable vocabulary.  For me, the absolute, very best, cooler-than-the-other-side-of-the-pillow, part is the reminder that we rarely know what other people think of us.  To be more accurate, we honestly do not know what someone else is thinking period—not for sure—no matter how well we know a person.  It is easy to project our doubts and insecurities, to assume that someone (or everyone) sees us in a particular way or will have a specific pre-determined reaction to an event.  Most often, though, the truth is surprising.  Like my beloved 8th grade Algebra teacher patiently explained: “Don’t assume.  You make an “ass” out of “u” and “me”.”

Reviewed by jv poore, April 2016.

Book Review: Best Friends for Never by Adrienne Maria Vrettos

best-friends-for-neverBest Friends for Never
Adrienne Maria Vrettos
Scholastic Press, May 2016
ISBN 978-0-545-56149-5

YA readers will recognize the cast of charismatic characters who roam the middle school halls and the neighborhoods of small town Trepan Grove. Hattie moves to the town from Brooklyn, New York during the summer and becomes friends with a group of girls with whom she’s trying desperately to fit in. If that means repressing her love of reading fantasy and wearing cute cat T-shirts, it’s totally worth it. Almost totally. She misses her best friend in Brooklyn and their nerdy common interests.

After witnessing a classmate endure a public, humiliating defriending in the school cafeteria one day, Hattie wonders if her tenuous, new friendships are safe. She devises a loyalty pact designed to assure that the friends will never mistreat each other. The four girls sign.

Then, Hattie unwittingly breaks the pact. Consequences are immediate, and the next months become a nightmare journey down a rabbit hole, as she seeks a way to correct her mistake and regain her friendships. And, as does Alice in Wonderland, Hattie runs into obstacles that seem unbeatable and finds help from improbable sources.

This reviewer is on the far downside of being a YA reader, but I was enchanted by this story. I’d like to visit the little New England town of Trepan Grove, meet Hattie’s group of “middle popular” girls, and see the attic repository of the town’s historical society books and documents. I’m not too much of an old dog to appreciate being reminded of the lesson Hattie learned, either.

The author’s delve into a bit of fantasy is a clever way to obviate her message without preaching. The inviting, realistic characters and relationships will have kids appreciating their own positions in their various micro societies. An intriguing plot and appealing ending will have them recommending the book to their own friends and classmates.

Reviewed by Joyce Ann Brown, July 2016.
Author of cozy mysteries: Catastrophic Connections, Furtive Investigation and Nine LiFelines, the first three Psycho Cat and the Landlady Mysteries.

Spotlight on The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman by Brady G. Stefani



Title: The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman
Author: Brady G. Stefani
Publisher: SparkPress
Release Date: June 7, 2016
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller, Young Adult



Fifteen year old Courtney wants to be normal like her
friends. But there’s something frighteningly different about
her—and it’s not just the mysterious tattoo her conspiracy-obsessed
grandfather marked her with before he disappeared. She’s being
visited in her bedroom at night by aliens claiming to have
shared an alliance with her grandfather. And imaginary or
not, they’re starting to to take over her mind. “Mental illness
is a slippery slope,” her mother warns her.

The last thing Courtney wants to do is end up crazy and
dead like her grandfather did. But what about the tattoo?
And the aliens trying to recruit her? With her new
alien-savvy friend Agatha and her apocalyptic visions,
Courtney begins connecting the dots between the past,
present and future—of her bloodline, and the ancient history
that surrounds it. Is she going insane, like her family claims
her grandfather did, or is she actually a “chosen one” with
ancestral connections to another world? Either way, Courtney
has a mission: untangle her past, discover the truth, and
stop the apocalypse before it’s too late for everyone.



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The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman was featured
in Redbook Mag! Check it out HERE!


An Excerpt from
The Alienation of Courtney Hoffman

Lightning ripped across the northern California sky, then splintered down through the rain and disappeared behind our neighbor’s house. Letting the door slam shut behind me, I ran away from the warmth of our porch light into the darkness of our backyard. My mom would’ve killed me if she’d caught me outside that late at night. Especially in a thunderstorm, and on the night before my fifteenth birthday, with the big party she had planned for tomorrow. But I had to get out of the house before I fell asleep and they came for me. And they were coming!

the-alienation-of-courtney-hoffmanA gust of wind blew my hair against my face. I swiped it out of my eyes just in time to see a plastic lawn chair tumbling through the air. I covered my head with both arms, but a leg of the chair smashed against my elbow. Ouch!

I dropped onto the wet grass, pulled my knees into my chest, and rocked nervously back and forth. Water soaked up through my nightgown and my underwear, making me shiver.

None of these things mattered, though. Because something far worse was happening inside my head. A memory of me as a little girl, on the night my grandpa Dahlen disappeared from his cottage, was trying to claw its way into my consciousness.

And I didn’t want to think about that night. Ever.

Still, I couldn’t stop it, which didn’t make sense. I was awake, and outside, where I was supposed to be safe, yet the aliens from my dreams were somehow messing with my thoughts, rearranging things, trying to make me think about that night! But how?

And why? It happened eight years ago, and my grandpa was dead now.

Although, before he disappeared, he’d— No! Stop, Courtney! I yelled at myself.

I bit my fingernail and took a deep breath, hoping to calm down.

No luck. I was remembering the musty old-books smell from my grandpa’s bookcase. Butterflies rushed into my stomach and I sprang to my feet.

“All right. Is that what you want me to do?” I shouted into the rainy darkness. “Remember my grandpa? What happened that night? If I do that, then will you leave me alone?”

I wiped the rain from my eyes, and suddenly it was like I was right there, in the cottage. His notebook sat on the plaid couch, opened to a map he’d drawn of the ancient wormholes linking the alien world to our own.


About the Author

brady-g-stefaniBrady G. Stefani has a bachelor’s degree in creative writing, and a graduate degree in law. During law school, he spent time as an involuntary commitment caseworker for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, where he interacted with patients suffering from severe thought disorders, including numerous patients presenting with subjectively real memories of being visited and abducted by alien beings (commonly referred to as alien abduction phenomenon). It was through his study of these patients, along with his own struggles with anxiety and cognition, that Stefani became aware of just how deceiving, mysterious, and powerfully resilient, the human mind can be.

In an effort to provide awareness of mental suffering, and spread hope to all those touched by it, Stefani is focused on writing YA novels that explore the experience of being different and the other-worldly places our boundary-less imaginations can take us. Alienation is his first novel. But with two works currently in progress, the journey has just begun.

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Book Review: Jane and the Waterloo Map by Stephanie Barron

jane-and-the-waterloo-mapJane and the Waterloo Map
Being a Jane Austen Mystery #13
Stephanie Barron
Soho Crime, February 2016
ISBN 978-1-61695-425-3

The story begins with Miss Jane Austen, a spinster of almost forty years, paying a command visit to Carlton House where the Prince Regent is in residence. Oh, not to actually see the prince, but to meet with the prince’s representative on how to address the supreme honor of having been invited (commanded) to dedicate her next book, the soon-to-be-published “Emma,” to the prince.

Stuck out of the public eye in a library where nobody ever goes, Jane discovers a dying man, whose last words are “Waterloo map.” As she mops the man’s face, residue from his vomit is caught in her handkerchief, which forms a vital clue that his death was not natural or even a suicide, but murder.

Jane, not being one to let things take their course, soon has plenty of suspects, one leading to another. The attending doctor? The dead man’s former friend? Any one of several potential French spies? Because the map, as she soon discovers with the aid of artist Rafael West, contains a cipher. What does it mean. Does it refer to Napoleon’s lost treasure? So there are two puzzles for her and Rafe, along with Jane’s brother Henry and her niece, Fanny, to figure out. Unfortunately, it turns into a dangerous adventure for her and for Rafe, who is almost murdered too.

Stephanie Barron plots this novel so artfully and so cleverly that I didn’t see the true culprit coming. Engaging characters fill the pages. The reader will identify with Jane as an aging woman, writers are bound to sympathize with her problems as an author. I enjoyed learning about a Belper stove. I’ll definitely want to continue reading this series.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, July 2016.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder and Four Furlongs.

Waiting On Wednesday (48)

Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event that
spotlights upcoming releases that I’m really
looking forward to. Waiting On Wednesday
is the creation of Jill at Breaking the Spine.

This week’s “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

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