A New Year, a new chapter

A new year has begun and we leave 2016 behind. As a group we read many books and our must-read list is growing expotentially with every discussion about our current reading. There just is not enough time to read them all. A list of the upcoming themes is now available starting with Movies vs Books, so the popcorn is out along with a collection of DVDs. Perfect for curling up under the duvet and keeping warm during these winter months. Are books always better than the movie or do some movies excel at their portrayal of the characters?

Last year, we met Madeline Dyer, Tom Seaman and MJ Smith in our Meet the Author posts. Hopefully, we will have more authors to meet this year and new books to discover.

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This month, we are trying something new and holding an extra book club event to discuss Jodi Picoult’s new book Small Great Things on 25th Jan. It has been heralded as the To Kill the Mockingbird of the 21st Century – will we agree?

If you would like to join in our book club parties and book natter, feel free to join our warm, friendly book club for Spoonies.

Happy reading and from all of us we hope you have a wonderful New Year with lots of spoons and books!

 

Upcoming Book Club Parties

25th January 2017 Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

27th January 2017  Movies vs Books

24th February 2017 Unique Cultural ways of life

31st March 2017 It’s springtime!

 

 

 

 

Meet the Author – M J Smith

This month we were pleased to catch up with MJ Smith, the author of one of our favourite reads this year, Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: The Journey Begins. This is a 5 star rated book and it deserves every star with its brutally honest, yet heartwarming account of being diagnosed with a rare illness and the consequences it brings. If you have been touched by chronic illness, you will identify with much he says. The relaxed and humourous style makes the book that could have been difficult to read, a joy to read in one sitting with a cup of tea.

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M J Smith

About MJ Smith

In 2013, M J Smith was diagnosed with a rare life threatening genetic disorder that changed his life forever.  In his effort to gain knowledge of Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (vEDS), it quickly became apparent that there was little in the way of help or awareness.

Being a fond reader, he decided it was time to follow his dreams and pursue his passion for writing. Over the months that followed the diagnosis, M J Smith penned “Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: The Journey Begins”.  His first novel. But this wasn’t just any novel, this was his story as told through the eyes of David Malarky. It is now used as a tool to spread awareness and in some ways help others in similar situations to show that no matter how few we may be, we are never alone.

Whilst juggling a full-time job and studying for a Bsc (honours) in Health Sciences, M J Smith continues to work on his ultimate dream of releasing a fictional story direct from his own imagination.

What is your favourite book?

I find it hard to answer this as I love many books and not really one title sticks out. Anything that fires up my imagination and takes me deep into another realm. The book I’m currently reading is “Midnight” by Dean Koontz. If I’m honest, I see most books as a work of art, as I know the challenge it can be to actually write one to a point of completion.

Who is your favourite author?

Well, my favourite authors are Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I love the way Mr King creates his characters, and the way Mr Koontz makes you visualise his world. These chaps really know how to write. Of course for a little bit of magic I don’t think you can beat a bit of Roald Dahl.

Is your writing influenced by the books you have read?

In a sense yes. When writing “Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: The Journey Begins”, it was a deep, emotional experience. Reliving past events that weren’t so pleasant wasn’t the easiest of tasks. In order to keep it light, I wanted to add in a little humour, which seems to have come across well. I have found in many books, especially from the likes of Stephen King there is always an undertone of humour to be found.

Where is your favourite place to read or write?

To read has to be bed. To write, then that’s mostly at some stupid hour of the morning when the rest of the world is asleep, sat at my computer desk. The brain always seems to get the words flowing when the moon is shining high.

When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?

Originally I wasn’t going to publish “”. It started as a tool to help myself come to terms with the diagnosis. However, the more I tapped away at the keyboard, the more of a book it became. After a few people read samples of it, they urged me to get it published. After lots of ummming and arrrggghhhing I took the plunge and released it through Amazon. So far the response has been great, with some fantastic heartfelt messages and some brilliant 5 star reviews.

Has being chronically ill influenced your writing and changed its direction?

Oh yes. I had been wanting to write a novel for years. I tried a few times but never finished. I would have never of guessed that my own story would become my first story!

I think without the diagnosis, I wouldn’t have sat down long enough to get anything written and it would have remained a dream rather reality.

To find out more:

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MJ Smith’s book Vascular Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome: The Journey Begins is available at Amazon

Read and follow his  blog

Or catch up with him on Facebook or Twitter

 

Meet the Author – Tom Seaman

tom-seaman-headshotAbout Tom Seaman

Tom Seaman earned his Bachelors Degree in Elementary Education and Psychology in 1994. After college he pursued private business ventures in the health education field. In 2001, he returned to school to pursue a Masters Degree in Counseling, during which time he developed a painful neurological movement disorder called dystonia. After living many years with debilitating chronic pain and emotional trauma, Tom eventually learned various techniques for better managing his symptoms. In 2012, he became certified as a life/health coach and currently owns a coaching/consulting practice where he helps people work through various life challenges. In 2015, Tom authored and published his book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey, which has received rave reviews. It has also been recognized by the Michael J. Fox Foundation as one of their suggested resources. In his spare time, Tom writes his own blog and guest blogs, as well as articles for online publications such as The Mighty and Patient Worthy, to educate and raise awareness about dystonia and other chronic health conditions. He is also a support group leader for the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation, serving as co-administrator for their online dystonia support forum. To learn more about Tom and get a copy of his book, as well as links to his articles and videos, please visit www.diagnosisdystonia.com. For information about his life/health coaching services, please visit www.balanceyourlifecoaching.com. Follow him on Twitter @dystoniabook1.

How did you become an author? How I became an author is an unexpected story of many twists and turns. Unlike most people I know who say they want to write a book, it never even dawned on me until a major health issue significantly altered the course of my life. Writing became a form of personal therapy and healing, which then turned into educational and inspirational material for others.

Up until the age of 30, I was enthusiastically enjoying my life when all of a sudden I began to have health problems. A little pain and stiffness in my neck gave way to unrelenting muscle contractions and pain unlike anything I had ever experienced, and it just kept getting worse. After many blank stares at my distorted body from doctors who had no idea what was wrong, I eventually learned that I had a neurological movement disorder called dystonia. In my case it affects my neck, which is called cervical dystonia.

It began in 2001 when I returned to school to obtain my Masters Degree in Counseling after seven years in private business. Due to the severity of my growing dystonia symptoms, I was unable to complete my degree. For the most part, I was completely disabled. I also gained 150 pounds over the course of several years due to my sedentary lifestyle from severe chronic pain. Needless to say, dystonia turned my world upside down, altering the course of my life in ways I never imagined possible.

After numerous unsuccessful treatments and years of physical and mental suffering, I took the bull by the horns and dedicated myself to learning and applying a variety of symptom management techniques that greatly improved my quality of life. In addition to better managing my dystonia symptoms, I lost the 150 pounds I gained. Life as an obese person after previously being a fit, competitive athlete is a book of its own yet to be written.

In 2012 I became certified as a life/health coach, but I was struggling to get my business going. I was still trying to find my bearings from the way dystonia so dramatically altered my life. I felt lost and was starting to wonder about the meaning and purpose of my life. I needed something to get me out of the fog. As crazy as it sounds, one day something inside me said, “write.” The voice was loud and clear. It was almost like a command. I immediately put pen to paper.

As I began writing, I felt more liberated and clear headed. After addressing the most pressing issues, I felt compelled to keep writing and I knew exactly what it had to be about: dystonia. Not only to better understand how to live more effectively with a chronic health condition, but to share with others the things I learned along the way to help them live as high a quality of life as possible.

diagnosis-dystonia-3d-coverTwo years later I published my book, Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey. This combination autobiography, self help, education book provides treatment options, coping strategies, skills for daily living, and tools for dealing with the physical and mental challenges of life with a chronic health condition. Serving as a roadmap, this resource covers nearly every physical, emotional, and psychological aspect of living with a chronic condition. The information it contains actually transcends dystonia, making it applicable to any life challenge, health or otherwise.

Although I always enjoyed writing, I never thought I would write a book. It just began to flow as soon as my fingers touched the keys. I actually believe that the book found me, and at the perfect time, as have subsequent writings. Writing gives me a sense of meaning and purpose, especially when someone tells me that something I wrote changed their life. Now that’s pretty cool!!

What is dystonia and where can I learn more? Dystonia is a neurological movement disorder characterized by uncontrollable, involuntary muscle spasms  and contractions, causing repetitive movements, twitching, twisting, and/or abnormal postures. Muscle contractions can be sustained or intermittent and sometimes include a tremor. Dystonia can affect any part of the body, causing varying degrees of disability and pain from mild to severe. For more information, please visit the Dystonia Medical Research Foundation’s website: www.dystonia-foundation.org

What is your favourite book? The Road Less Travelled by M. Scott Peck

Who is your favourite author? Wayne Dyer

Is your writing influenced by the books you have read? In a way I suppose so. I mostly read self help, non-fiction, inspirational, and factual stories, as well as education/reference material, and my book, articles, and blogs are similar in content. However, with my background in social sciences, my main interest is capturing the human element that lies within all facets of life.

Where is your favourite place to read or write? I love to read and write on my back porch in the late afternoon and early evening when the sun is going down and the shadows on the ground are getting longer.

When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?  Ever since I was a little boy I was an avid reader and also wrote a lot of poetry. Although I disliked Language Arts classes in school, it was always my best subject. My book started as a journal for my own personal healing from a life changing health condition. It then expanded into a labor of love in an effort to help others.

If you have a genre you write, how did you begin writing in this style? Most of my writing stems from the chronic health condition I live with, but I also dabble in poetry and free writing that is unrelated.

Has being chronically ill influenced your writing and changed its direction? Most definitely! Each day I feel I gain new perspectives about life with challenges, whether they be my own or others. This provides me with greater understanding and empathy, which impacts the content and flow of my writing. I am always searching for greater connection with people beyond just their illness, as this is just one aspect of their interesting lives.

To learn more about me and my book, as well as my work as a life/health coach, please visit my websites: www.diagnosisdystonia.com and www.balanceyourlifecoaching.com

Book Reviews: Diagnosis Dystonia: Navigating the Journey

“This should be THE resource book for dystonia for many years to come!”

“Must read for dystonia sufferers, doctors, friends, and family.”

“This amazing book exceeds anything out there.”

“An outstanding resource on dystonia.”

“Thank you for your passionate, positive, practical book!”

“Tom has written the definitive book on dystonia.”

“If you have dystonia this is the book for you!”

“Without this book I may have lost my mind!”

“A brilliantly written, honest, and open book.”

“Tom’s book is the best! If you haven’t read it, get it! Read it! Share it!”

 

 

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Meet the Author – Madeline Dyer

Madeline Dyer

Madeline Dyer

About Madeline Dyer

Madeline Dyer lives in the southwest of England, and holds a BA honours degree in English from the University of Exeter. She has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes. Her debut novel, Untamed (Prizm Books, May 2015), examines a world in which anyone who has negative emotions is hunted down, and a culture where addiction is encouraged. Her second novel, Fragmented, is set to hit shelves in September 2016.

 

 

What is your favourite book?

This is such a tough question as my favourite book changes a lot, depending on what I’ve just read. At the moment, it’s probably THE ACCIDENT by C. L. Taylor—a great psychological thriller—but I also recently read Pintip Dunn’s THE DARKEST LIE (a YA thriller) and loved that. And, always near the top of my list, is THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR by Jean M. Auel.

Who is your favourite author?

Again, this is a tough one! I think I’ll have to go with either Charlotte Bronte or Richelle Mead.

Is your writing influence by the books you have read?

I’m a firm believer that all writers are influenced by the books they’ve read, whether they realise it or not, and this is definitely the case with me. In fact, Jennifer Blanchard wrote a great post all about this (http://jenniferblanchard.net/how-your-reading-material-can-influence-your-writing/) and she is definitely right: books get under our skin, and writers are influenced by what they read—just as they’re influenced by what they see around them, what they watch on TV. We, as writers, don’t exist in vacuums, and we’re constantly influenced by everything going on around us and everything we experience.

I started writing YA speculative fiction after reading books in that genre, and absolutely falling in love with the possibility that genre offers; anything can happen and I love the freedom it has.

But there are a few of books in particular that definitely made me want to be a writer, even if I would be writing in a completely different genre: Jean M. Auel’s THE CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR, WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte, L.A. Weatherly’s ANGEL, and Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires Series. It was reading these books that really inspired me, and I just knew I had to be a writer too.

Where is your favourite place to read or write?

I’m most productive with my writing when I’m curled up on the sofa or stretched out on my bed—I can easily manage 6,000 words on a good day, and have had quite a few 10,000+ word days recently. So, I’d say those two are my favourite places as I’m always happier after I’ve written a lot.

But for reading? Well, I love reading on the beach—even if I am heat intolerant due to dysautonomia!

When did you begin writing and how did being published come about?

I’ve been writing forever! I first began writing short stories seriously though when I was sixteen—and I had my first short story acceptance a couple of months later. I moved onto writing full-length manuscripts when I was seventeen, which was also the time when I became ill (developing several types of dysautonomia). It was my illnesses that really made me concentrate on my writing as it being a writer gave me a strong identity—I was a writer, not just a chronically ill girl. And I really hoped to make it as a full-time writer, especially after I became ill as my illnesses meant my career options were consequently rather limited.

In 2014, I was absolutely ecstatic to have four publishers offer on my fourth novel-length manuscript. And I was nineteen-years-old at the time. At the end of June 2014, I signed with Prizm Books, the YA imprint of Torquere Press, and they released my debut novel, UNTAMED, a dark dystopian, in May 2015. And then in January 2016 I signed a second contract with them for a sequel to UNTAMED; as such, FRAGMENTED is set to release on the 7th of September 2016.

If you have a genre you write, how did you begin writing in this style?

I mainly write speculative fiction (predominantly dystopian novels, science fiction and fantasy) and contemporary thrillers, for a young adult (YA) readership. At the moment, these are just the two genres (though the first category is more of an umbrella term!) that I feel compelled to write. I’m a firm believer that a writer must love what he or she writes—if we don’t, how can we expect a reader to fall in love with our world, with our characters? In such a way, I guess this could explain why my writings cover quite a large spectrum of genres, as switching between different genres helps keep me interested and so I don’t get bored with my work. My first two (published) novels are dystopians, but many of my short stories are science fiction and fantasy pieces, while the current manuscript I’m working on is a psychological thriller. I actually have only just moved into the thriller-territory quite recently, drafting my first thriller manuscript just over a year ago, but I just fell in love with the tension and suspense in this genre—and, as such, have been reading so many contemporary thrillers recently to really get to know this way of writing.

Has being chronically ill influenced your writing and changed its direction?

Being chronically ill has definitely made me more motivated and determined to succeed at being an author—and a successful one at that! My illnesses have taken away so much from me, but writing is one thing that I still can do, so I will keep writing. But I don’t think my illnesses have had an impact on what I write. Sometimes, when people hear that I’m a writer, and that I’m chronically ill, they expect that my characters will be too—and it surprises them when they’re not. But a big part of my writing is about escapism for me. My characters do all the things that I can’t, and my writing allows me to live through them.

 

untamed-2                             About UNTAMED (Untamed Series, #1)

As one of the last Untamed humans left in the world, Seven’s life has always been controlled by tight rules. Stay away from the Enhanced. Don’t question your leader. And, most importantly, never switch sides–because once you’re Enhanced there’s no going back. Even if you have become the perfect human being.

 But after a disastrous raid on an Enhanced city, Seven soon finds herself in her enemy’s power. Realizing it’s only a matter of time before she too develops a taste for the chemical augmenters responsible for the erosion of humanity, Seven knows she must act quickly if she’s to escape and save her family from the same fate.

 Yet, as one of the most powerful Seers that the Untamed and Enhanced have ever known, Seven quickly discovers that she alone holds the key to the survival of only one race. But things aren’t clear-cut anymore, and with Seven now questioning the very beliefs she was raised on, she knows she has an important choice to make. One that has two very different outcomes.

 Seven must choose wisely whose side she joins, for the War of Humanity is underway, and Death never takes kindly to traitors.

Buy UNTAMED: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Untamed-Madeline-Dyer-ebook/dp/B00XXOBB62/

Find out more: http://madelinedyer.co.uk/fiction/untamed/

fragmented1400                About FRAGMENTED (Untamed Series, #2)

After the terrible battle against the Enhanced Ones, Seven and Corin find themselves on the run. With the Enhanced closing in, Seven knows they need to find other people on their side. So, when the opportunity arises to join the Zharat, one of the last surviving Untamed tribes, it seems like the perfect solution.

 But the Zharat lifestyle is a far cry from what Seven’s used to. With their customs dictating that she must marry into their tribe, and her relationship with Corin breaking down, Seven knows she has to do something before it’s too late. But that’s easier said than done in a tribe where going against the rules automatically results in death.

 And, with the Enhanced still out there, nowhere is truly safe for the Untamed–least of all for the most powerful Seer in the world… and Seven soon discovers how far people will go in order to ensure that she’s on their side in the War of Humanity.

 Battling against the emerging web of lies, manipulation, and danger, Seven must remember who she was meant to be. Her life has never been more at stake. Nor has humanity itself.

Pre-order FRAGMENTED: http://madelinedyer.co.uk/pre-order-fragmented-today/

Find out more: http://madelinedyer.co.uk/fiction/fragmented/

Website: http://www.madelinedyer.co.uk/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/madelinedyerauthor/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/madelinedyerUK/

Instagram: http://ww.instagram.com/madelinedyerUK/

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