Donna Galanti and The Spooky Element Trilogy Blog Tour


I first encountered Donna Galanti when I read the first two books of her Element Trilogy and, after reviewing them here, I gave them five stars on Goodreads. Since then we have become online friends – and I’ve been awaiting Book 3 with anticipation. Now, here is your chance to learn more about Donna in her interview, and thanks to her publisher, Imajin Books, A Human Element is on sale on Kindle for $0.99 AND book 2, A Hidden Element, is FREE! 

GalantiDonna

 

Interview with Author Donna Galanti

Q: What’s inside the mind of a suspense author?

A: Never ending dialogue. Scenes of evil doers and people in peril. Tormented villains getting revenge, and then their comeuppance. Steamy lovers in a survival showdown. Yep, it’s generally dark in there full of murder, mystery, and mayhem! Then add a dash of hope and humanity alongside a love for creating psychopathic melee and you’ve got a brew for one wild ride.

Q: How do you keep your narrative exciting throughout the creation of a novel?

A: I look at each chapter as a short story in itself. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end – and I love ending my chapters on cliffhangers that raise a question and (hopefully) beg the reader to keep turning the pages. I also try to set the mood and provide a suspense setting that creates feelings of heightened anxiety and give the reader the portent of doom. The setting of a scene can make a large impact on its mood using sensory details to build on those feelings–a sudden wind, a stormy sky, a rising stench, a jarring noise.

Here’s an example of how I aimed for this in A Hidden Element:

She drew on her robe and looked out the tiny window. A fierce wind whipped the trees. Gray sky hung heavy like a blanket waiting to smother her. The promise of Indian summer had been snatched fast by winter calling. The weather was tormented here as well, conflicted over who it obeyed—and unable to escape its master’s bonds.

How does this scene make you feel? Tense, scared, or anxious that something bad is coming?

Q: A Hidden Element has paranormal elements to it involving mind control, mind reading, and telekinesis. Tell us what inspired you to write a novel about this.

A: I am fascinated by the power of the brain and how little we use. We are not even close to tapping our potential of brainpower. Writing in the paranormal allows me to tap into the “what if”. What if we possessed the power to do the unbelievable? Like telepathy, telekinesis. And what if we could use those powers to heal – or to kill? Some people like to imagine that aliens would have such power, as eluded to in A Hidden Element, but what if it was inside us all along and we just had to tap into it?

Q: What makes a good paranormal suspense novel?

A: As a subgenre of suspense, a well-crafted paranormal novel (for me) can include elements that range beyond scientific explanation and blend other genres together such as fantasy, horror, and science fiction. The fantastic thing about writing paranormal is that there are so many avenues of paranormal to write about including psychic powers (my favorite!) or ghosts, time travel, or vampires.

Q: How do you know when you’ve “made it” as an author?

A: My first made-it-moment is a private one. The death of my mother propelled me to finally write the novel I always wanted to write. I did it through grief without looking back. Writing The End was a private made-it-moment for me. Connected to this was the defining public made-it-moment when praising reviews started rolling in for my debut novel, A Human Element – and they were by unbiased strangers!

I continue to be amazed that people I don’t know like my book and have been as touched by my characters as I am. My mom drove my made-it-moment of writing the novel I always knew I had inside me to the made-it-moment of knowing I had written something that touched others. I hope I can do it again.

P.S. I’m also giving away a $25 Amazon gift card below!

 

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About A Human Element:
One by one, Laura Armstrong’s friends and adoptive family members are being murdered, and despite her unique healing powers, she can do nothing to stop it. The savage killer haunts her dreams, tormenting her with the promise that she is next. Determined to find the killer, she follows her visions to the site of a crashed meteorite–her hometown. There, she meets Ben Fieldstone, who seeks answers about his parents’ death the night the meteorite struck. In a race to stop a madman, they unravel a frightening secret that binds them together. But the killer’s desire to destroy Laura face-to-face leads to a showdown that puts Laura and Ben’s emotional relationship and Laura’s pure spirit to the test. With the killer closing in, Laura discovers her destiny is linked to his and she has two choices–redeem him or kill him.

Praise for A Human Element:
“A Human Element is an elegant and haunting first novel. Unrelenting, devious but full of heart.  Highly recommended.” – Jonathan Maberry, New York Times best-selling author

Praise for A Hidden Element:
“Fascinating…a haunting story about just how far parents will go to protect, or destroy, their children in the name of love.”—Rebecca Cantrell, New York Times best-selling author

Purchase A Human Element here: On sale for just $0.99 10/27 – 11/2! http://mybook.to/AHumanElement

Purchase A Hidden Element here: On sale for FREE 10/27 – 10/31!
http://myBook.to/AHiddenElement

Donna Galanti Bio:
Donna Galanti is the author of the paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on the writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at www.elementtrilogy.com and www.donnagalanti.com. She also loves building writer community. See how at www.yourawesomeauthorlife.com

Connect with Donna:
Twitter  https://twitter.com/DonnaGalanti
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/DonnaGalantiAuthor/
Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5767306.Donna_Galanti

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/ddcc91cd22/?

 

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Love Story, with Murders – a review

Having discovered the quirky and dark Welsh detective Fiona Griffiths in Talking to the Dead, I had to read Book 2 in this unique series. I didn’t regret it and Book 3 beckons. [For my review of Book 1 see: https://rolandclarke.com/2016/04/11/talking-to-the-dead-a-review/ ]

Love Story

Love Story, With Murders (Fiona Griffiths #2)

by Harry Bingham (Goodreads Author)

The second novel featuring recovering psychotic DC Fiona Griffiths opens with as intriguing a pair of murders as you could imagine. Firstly, part of a human leg is discovered in a woman’s freezer, bagged up like a joint of pork. Other similarly gruesome discoveries follow throughout a cosy Cardiff suburb, with body parts turning up in kitchens, garages and potting sheds. And while the police are still literally putting the pieces together, concluding that they all belong to a teenage girl killed some ten years earlier, parts of another body suddenly start appearing, but this time discarded carelessly around the countryside clearly very shortly after the victim – a man – was killed.

Mysteries don’t come much more macabre or puzzling than this. Who were the two victims, and what connection could they have shared that would result in this bizarre double-discovery?

But that’s only half the story. The most gruesome moments are much more about Fiona and her curious mental state. There is a complex and very clever double mystery here, and what makes the story unique is the parallel unraveling of Fiona’s own mystery, and it’s her voice, established precisely in the first book but given even freer rein here, that makes it so compelling.

Review 5 stars

In this second novel in an engrossing series, DC Fiona Griffiths is once again challenged to apply her strange talents to solving a case or maybe it’s two cases. This DC is not like others and this is one of the winning formulas that Harry Bingham gives to the character.

With her personality traits being at times psychotic, the first person POV works as we discover more and more about Fiona’s past and about the cases. She has more than murder to handle and she needs to act off-piste to get things done and progress the cases. The violence, in the victim’s remains or the action, is not excessive or overtly gruesome, but some fans of the cosy approach might baulk at it. Fiona doesn’t, of course.

At this stage in her policing career, Fiona still has things to learn, often things she recognises and ignores at her cost – but what better way to keep the plot moving and the reader guessing. Her relationship with her fierce boss, DI Watkins, is unexpected and interesting – the secondary characters are all well portrayed, especially the DI. There are sub-plots surrounding some of them and these all add to the story.

Fiona’s attitudes are unusual but her flippancy and willingness to think her mind are what makes her unique – and believable. I wouldn’t want her to be ‘normal’ and boring – in fact, people aren’t when we get to know them properly as some of the characters prove over time.

The settings from Cardiff to the rural areas of South Wales are all vividly evoked, and through Fiona’s senses, so, we also discover more about her in the words she uses. Having lived in Wales – North Wales – there were descriptions that stirred memories – for instance:

“The valley narrows as it climbs. Pasture and snippets of woodland on the valley floor. Green fields pasted as high up the mountainsides as technology and climate can take them. The flanks of the hillside are grizzled with the rust-brown of bracken, humped with gorse and hawthorn, slashed with the rocky-white of mountain streams.”

Anybody that has negotiated Welsh roads will recognise the ones that Fiona needs to take on her rural investigation. Throughout, the settings felt realistic as did the way that the plot unfolded. Nothing is ever neat in a Fiona Griffiths case – nor in reality.

You never know what Fiona is going to do next, so the reader needs to keep going – and believing in her and the author. Fiona keeps the tension going with her decisions and actions. I was on the edge of my seat as I read, hoping that Fiona would survive – even if I knew there were sequels. That takes good writing to bring about.

I loved the Welsh attitude, even if not all Welsh people are as forthright as Fiona in saying, “Twll dîn pob Sais.” Later in the novel, she repeats this as a thought and translates -” Every Englishman an arsehole”.

After a stimulating ride for my head, I am ready for the next book, having recommended the first two without reservation – well, if you want a cosy mystery series look elsewhere. I want more of Fiona and her different approach to policing, to life – and I want to know what is at the heart of her behaviour, to discover more about her past.

Note that this was released in 2014, so, this comment from Fiona had me wondering if Harry Bingham was going to get tweeted by the US President;

“My newfound clarity allows me to look at the pole-dancing platform too. It’s got all the class of a Las Vegas casino personally styled by Donald Trump”

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

*

UPDATE: This review had to be edited for Amazon, as it was rejected in this version. I wonder why. Where did I stray from their guidelines? I removed three paragraphs in the hope that might evade the censors – 1. the comment about Englishmen; 2 &3. The paragraphs about Trump. Was it the profanity or the reference to the Twitter Man?

 

Ascension – a review

As my current WIP explores diversity and minority rights issues, my reading expands to understand the issues better. This novel was an inspiring insight and a great read.

Ascension

Ascension (Tangled Axon #1)

by Jacqueline Koyanagi (Goodreads Author)

Alana Quick is the best damned sky surgeon in Heliodor City, but repairing starship engines barely pays the bills. When the desperate crew of a cargo vessel stops by her shipyard looking for her spiritually advanced sister Nova, Alana stows away. Maybe her boldness will land her a long-term gig on the crew. But the Tangled Axon proves to be more than star-watching and plasma coils. The chief engineer thinks he’s a wolf. The pilot fades in and out of existence. The captain is all blond hair, boots, and ego . . . and Alana can’t keep her eyes off her. But there’s little time for romance: Nova’s in danger and someone will do anything–even destroying planets–to get their hands on her.

Review 5 stars

The blurb for Ascension hooked me as did most of the reviews. As an SF addict, I wasn’t disappointed, and the ‘diversity’ themes worked, although I am, I admit, an outsider in many ways.

Ascension had a great opening with subtle info and backstory from the family finances and the planetary economics – familiar inequalities – through to the disease that afflicts the protagonist. The thoughts, words and actions ensure that I was immediately attracted to Alana Quick as she stowed away on the Tangled Axon and gradually began unravelling things about the strange and diverse crew.

What drives the starship captain Tev? That was a question that kept being answered and yet only layer by layer. She was as intriguing to me as she was for Alana. All the crew were complex with carefully revealed backstories and motivations, and the characterisation was well-crafted.

Just like the jewellery which provided me with one of many puzzles, although I laughed as the reveal was not as I expected. The novel was filled with little details that both added to the world-building and set it apart.

The stakes were raimped-up at a crucial point and I found myself asking ‘Did that really happen?!’ Somebody was motivated to raise the danger-level, but why? Wearing my mystery-reader glasses, I had suspects, but the curveballs kept me guessing – and reading. The threat to the crew, the starship and Alana produced some great writing. The structure and the placement of the key moments felt spot-on.

Alana sensed so much and her words evoked so many feelings. I am a fan of deep POV and Ascension worked for me as it drew me into the protagonist’s mind – a mind torn by events, her attachments, her feelings, her fears and her declining health.

With so much to bear, her senses became even more emotive as the novel developed. I felt the chronic suffering in my own diseased body – yes, I have two chronic diseases – and Jacqueline Koyanagi did an excellent job capturing that. In fact, she caught the disease suffering so well that I was sure that the other ‘sensitivity’ issues were dealt with as carefully.

Alana unravels reality, not always making or taking the right moves, but as all the best protagonists do, by seeing through another’s eyes – except that moment is a revelation like no other. And we all need to learn why love burns, although for Alana it goes so much deeper. But I’m toying with you, avoiding spoilers. Suffice to say, that an unexpected twist leads to the clever climax and the hint that there will be more to enjoy.

A highly recommended read, especially if you want SF with a twist – a diverse breath of plasma.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

Messandrierre – a review

July 5th saw the launch of Angela Wren’s Merle, the second novel in the Jacques Forêt crime series, about which I will post about next.  So, I knew that I needed to re-visit Messandrierre where I first encountered Angela Wren’s intelligent investigator, Jacques Forêt. This release of Merle is a chance to expand on my initial review of Messandrierre.

Messandrierre

Messandrierre (Jacques Forêt #1)

by Angela Wren (Goodreads Author)

Sacrificing his job in investigation following an incident in Paris, Jacques Forêt has only a matter of weeks to solve a series of mysterious disappearances as a Gendarme in the rural French village of Messandrierre.

But, as the number of missing persons rises, his difficult and hectoring boss puts obstacles in his way. Steely and determined, Jacques won’t give up and, when a new Investigating Magistrate is appointed, he becomes the go-to local policeman for all the work on the case.

Will he find the perpetrators before his lover, Beth, becomes a victim?

Messandrierre – #1 in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.

Also in the series:
Merle (#2)

Review 5 stars

I enjoyed every page of this mystery, so read the novel twice. The pace suited the setting that felt as real as the memorable characters. Messandrierre may not exist – or maybe it does. The Cevennes is my favourite region in France, and Angela Wren captures the nuances perfectly. The location came alive so much that I was convinced that I had been there.

The people felt real, from the principals of Jacques and Beth to all the secondary characters that made up the vibrant picture of a French community, and the wider area beyond. Each one had their idiosyncrasies, and some had secrets that added clever threads and red herrings to the mystery.

The plot developed steadily with the additional plotlines adding to the investigation. Jacques is not exactly alone in unravelling who is responsible for the disappearances that set the case simmering.

Messandrierre neatly built to a climax, that I guessed but not in the manner it happened. I was tricked into a bit of wrong thinking a few times – on the first reading. On the second, I saw how Wren had created her cunning red herrings – or should I say harengs rouges.

This novel is a mystery that I highly recommend for those that don’t need a fast-roller-coaster ride and want to savour the story. I also recommend Messandrierre for those that like indulging in exploring the France off the beaten track – but don’t expect a tame tourist guide.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Characters – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

 

Dragonoak: The Complete History of Kastelir – a review

As my writing begins to touch on diversity and minority rights issues, I knew that I should expand my reading. This novel is my first fantasy that I’ve read that is willing to move beyond the narrow taboos of modern society.

Dragonoak

Dragonoak: The Complete History of Kastelir (Dragonoak #1)

by Sam Farren

After being exiled to the farmland around her village, Rowan Northwood takes the only chance at freedom she might ever get: she runs away with a passing Knight and doesn’t look back. The woman cares nothing for Rowan’s company, but nor does she seem perturbed by the powers that burn within her.
Rowan soon learns that the scope of their journey is more than a desperate grasp at adventure. She breaks away from the weighty judgement of her village, but has no choice but to abandon her Kingdom altogether. Sir Ightham’s past leads them through Kastelir, a country draped in the shadow of its long-dead Queen—a woman who was all tusks and claws and great, spiralling horns.
Hiding her necromancy is no longer Rowan’s greatest challenge, and what leads them across Kingdoms and through mountains is a heavier burden than she ever could’ve imagined.

 

Review 3.5 stars

I was drawn to read this book as the blurb, and the reviews promised an engrossing fantasy novel where diversity was the norm. I found the opening intriguing with a fascinating backstory trickled out, not dumped on me. Rowan Northwood as a narrator is driven to leave her village by the attitude of the people that saw her as a healer until they discovered her hidden power.

Her journey is one of discovery, about the world that she only knows from her brother Michael’s stories and about other people. However, she is not the protagonist as that is Sir Ightham, a female knight that is well-portrayed as the norm. At first, Rowan is intrigued and inspired by Sir Ightham, but as she discovers more about the knight, a real attraction grows. Personally, I found it difficult to relate to such a distant protagonist, but I kept reading knowing that through Rowan, I should discover more.

Many of the characters are not the fantasy norm exactly. This aspect of the world-building delivered, as did the world beyond Michael’s books, and this element kept me wanting more. The third intriguing character was an asexual called Rán, whose race, the pane, were central to the story – I must avoid spoilers and say little more about that.

When Rán appears, Rowan calls her ‘she’ and for the rest of the book Rán is a ‘she’. But the pane are asexual or transgender, and the pronoun for them individually is ‘they’. However, once I had adapted my mindset to using this gender-neutral pronoun, confusion set in. Why was Rán ‘she’ but other single pane were almost all ‘they’? What about this sentence:

A handful of younger pane crept up on us. Their leader, a girl with the first signs of a right horn showing, inched her way to the steps. I raised a hand to wave and they shrieked, scattering like ants.

I kept reading engrossed in the story – but after researching ‘gender-neutral pronouns’. Other elements threw me, like the treatment of the horses that grated with everything I knew as a retired equestrian journalist.

The jigsaw remained complicated and unclear – well to Rowan as the narrator but not the protagonist – but eventually, after some unnecessary scenes of excessive world-building, the plotlines took shape through new arrivals, encounters and interruptions. The mysterious quest remained unclear.

More began to grate. Some reviews had mentioned there were “a few typos”, but those would have mortified me if my writing had so many. I had to keep re-reading sentences and amending them. Anyway, back to worrying about the horses – but the focus is now on the Queen. A new intrigue so I’m not giving up. I want to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

Rowan is an observant narrator, even if it’s hard being an observer that senses so much. First-person POV is hard, but the reader gets to feel with the main character – although she’s not telepathic. So why the sentences that stray into the omniscient? Confusing and yet avoidable. But enough of that ‘writing style’ nonsense, there’s a mystery to resolve and here comes the next twist.

Finally, in the latter part of the novel, Rowan discovers more and events move faster. I began to find too many loose threads, and it was too late in the story to resolve many of them in time. At least, the central romance reached the next level – but romance is always ongoing.

Much better, according to the author it seems, to add other threads and keep the reader wanting more and let us forgive the cliff-hanger ending – Tolkien did that in Lord of the Rings, so it’s justified. Correction – not in the same way. Reading that trilogy in the 1970s, a glimmer of hope kept me questing, but this time I’m letting Rowan struggle on without me.

Dragonoak would be a good diversity fantasy if not for all the early draft failings like the pacing crisis, first-person omniscient POV, excessive typos and unnecessary scenes. At least, the author can edit the Kindle version one day. For now, I’m off to try a ‘diversity’ SF novel. Perhaps if there is a second edition, then I might join the journey and enjoy some of the inspiring prose.

But not looking at them wasn’t enough to banish them from my mind. Whatever they suffered seeped into the air, following me through busy streets, as though the shadow I’d felt last night had returned to claim me.

Story – four stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Structure – three stars

Readability – three stars

Editing – three stars

Style – three stars

 

The Navigators – a review

Time for another review and this time, a novel about time travel.

Navigators

The Navigators

by Dan Alatorre (Goodreads Author), Allison Maruska (Goodreads Author)(Editor)

A freak landslide at a remote mine site uncovers a strange machine to Barry’s group of palaeontology students. Wary of corrupt school officials, his team takes the machine home to study it in secret, reaching only one realistic – and unbelievable – conclusion: It was designed to bridge the time-space continuum. It’s a time machine.

Testing delivers disastrous results, sending one team member to the hospital and nearly killing another. When word leaks about the discovery, the ultimate power struggle ensues: the university wants it for funding, the power company wants its energy regenerating abilities kept under wraps, and a rival group wants to steal it for themselves. No one cares if Barry’s team comes out alive.

Fleeing for their lives, the students must fight the school, the police, and each other if they want to learn the truth about what they’ve discovered – a truth with more severe consequences than any of them can predict.

Review 5*

An intriguing opening chapter propelled me into the lives of Barry’s group of palaeontology students in Dan Alatorre’s The Navigators. The characterisation built my interest and quickly established the personalities and group conflicts – conflicts that cleverly fed the plot.

These conflicts emerged in such human ways, that I sensed that everyone should watch out – as the blurb implies. Everyone was creating situations that could have those ‘severe consequences’.  As the plotlines unravelled, I was telling the characters to watch out – to no avail. Would I have listened? Not when I was their age.

Their reactions were believable. Plus some good observations on the paradoxes of time and the tough choices it poses. In The Navigators’, time travel tests everyone and loyalties are stretched by the discovery of the machine. I kept asking questions – some of which the friends forgot to ask’

Who do you trust? What are other people’s motivations? What is the way out of this situation?

Maybe not the answers that Dan Alatorre came up with, but they worked and I had to keep reading. I expected some comeuppance but I was ready to be surprised as the intentions came unravelled. That’s life. As with the best books, there were some good morals in the story, such as – lying is never the best answer; shortcuts rarely work (even with a time machine); beauty is more than looks. The latter prompted me to highlight the following dialogue:

“… ‘A beautiful woman’s breasts will eventually sag and her hair will turn gray. What will you be married to then? If you choose wisely, you will be married to a beautiful personality and a curious mind that loves your children and who would do anything for you.’ That is true beauty.”

And where better to put the punchline – at the very end. Now that makes me grin and recommend this novel.

Story – five stars

Setting/World-building – five stars

Structure – five stars

Readability – five stars

Editing – five stars

Style – five stars