Your story needs two hearts

I love Roz’s original take on what I call the chiaroscuro effect – playing with the unbearable lightness of being (forever grateful to Kundera!) and keeping the darkness at bay is what fiction is all about. Roz’s idea gives a different more architectural perspective that suggests a 3D way of walking around within the story. 

Nail Your Novel

heartsStories need two hearts. I’m going to call them the warm heart and the dark heart.

The warm heart is the bond we feel with the central characters. It is the pleasure of spending time in their company. I hesitate to call it liking; it may not be so simple. Our attachment may be to just one person and their flaws and troubles, or it may be to a web of relationships. It is affection, but rough-edged. It is warm, but it might not be cuddly. It’s push and pull, trouble and strife, idiocies and idiosyncrasies. But it is where the reader feels at home.

And then there is the dark heart. The dark heart is jeopardy. The shadow at the end of the alleyway. The characters may have other problems in the story. They may fight miscellaneous foes. But the dark heart is an ultimate disturbance that will…

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Throwing away paper stars


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A year ago I decided to start doing more reviews of the books I read, partly to gain exposure, and partly out of curiosity. How could I understand reviewers if I’d never walked in their shoes?

My favourite genre is literary fiction. The longer the better. I’m attracted to big fat books that will take forever to read and will end up giving me neck-pain from carrying them around. The more serious and enigmatic the better. The only books that made me laugh in a sustained belly ache fashion were P.G. Wodehouse‘s Jeeves books and Gerald Durrell‘s animal family books. John Irving has made me laugh in a different way; with Irving laughter is painful because it highlights what being truly human involves. I find most books which aim to be entertaining boring. I like them complex, devious, mysterious. I’m apt to wallow in all that chiaroscuro atmosphere like a kid in a mud pond. I guess you could say I’m a niche market voracious reader.

Today a voracious reader is called a rabid reader; that tells us something about a new generation of online consumers. In the small towns of my growing up years there were no bookshops, only libraries: plain covered volumes were extracted from plain shelves in plain local libraries and handed to plain librarians week after week, year after year.  Mostly we’d take a chance on the story title. A new author was an adventure waiting to unfold; their books wouldn’t be in the library if they couldn’t write. What mattered was what was inside, not the packaging. There was one thing though that was the same. We took those free books as our due. So why are we so surprised by the Internet model?

How does one shift one’s perspective to get away from a lifetime’s subjective absorption  and review the work of others in a fair and discriminating fashion? The life of a writer is a work-in-progress. Asking someone to review one’s novel or short story or poetry collection is an act of faith; the writer trusts that the reviewer takes their work seriously or why do the review?

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If one assumes that the acknowledged masters of English Literature (such as Brontë, Faulkner, HemingwayShakespeare etc.) are what we (as serious writers and readers) aspire to, then the old literary favourites are logically the only 5’s there can be – the pinnacle of the star system.

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Where does that leave us with novels by Atwood, Coetzee, Irving, Mitchell, Oates, Ondaatje, Shriver and others who exhibit exemplary dedication, skill and that something ‘extra’ again and again? Where does that leave us with up-and-coming writers who with brilliance, ingenuity, word dexterity and bravado energetically pursue the prizes and take on the current generation of literary greats?

On a different, but no less confusing note, is it fair to compare a superbly composed novel (with all the gravitas of a major publishing house behind it) with an Indie novel which is rougher and rawer but is more accessible  (usually an e-book) and has sold more volumes  (although net sales worth may be far less than a traditionally published book).


The more reviews I undertook the more my head spun; it was an impossible task to do justice with stars; I was allowing myself to be seduced by a consumer-orientated star system which demanded simplistic judgements based on a highly personal read. Adding objective criteria didn’t help. I still couldn’t fathom how an Indie bestseller could be fairly evaluated on the same star chart and by the same criteria as Lionel Shriver‘s meticulously crafted We Need To Talk About Kevin or David Mitchell‘s monumental epic achievement Cloud Atlas.   I became increasingly convinced that review stars were false symbols which collapsed meaning.

Why isn’t the work of visual artists measured with stars? Because it would be a meaningless pointless exercise. Every painting exerts a unique force of push and pull on the observer. Or the work of a composer? Because it would be ridiculous, laughable to assign a concerto 3 stars as it is being performed on the stage. It is recognised for what it is; its own unique design and execution. Why should a piece of writing be any different?

It’s liberating to throw away a whole influential star system and try being a different kind of reviewer. It feels like the only thing to do if I want to be worthy of the writer’s act of faith.

***A different view on  reviews: “I’ve decided to stop calling these ‘reviews’. I’m not trying to be a professional reviewer…”.

LADY LIMBO is the Next Best Thing…


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Writer of literary mystery novel Lady Limbo, Consuelo Roland plays a little blog tag. She was tagged by the wonderful short story writer Liesl Jobson, and here she shares a quick Q&A about her new novel Lady Limbo. 


What is your working title of your book?

From early on I had two working titles, partly because I knew it was volume I of the Limbo Trilogy;  the one title was With My Last Breath and the other was Lady Limbo. When my agent wanted my manuscript to submit it to Jacana Media for their consideration, I hesitated over which title to use. Eventually I went with Lady Limbo, and then once we had a signed contract I mentioned the alternative title as a possibility. But Jacana Media were adamant that it should remain Lady Limbo. I think they were right in retrospect because the cover design perfectly complements the title, and as my niece pointed out “Alliteration is always good in a title!”

Where did the idea come from for the book?

A ground hostess told my mother a very sexy naughty story one long night at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. Her name is forever lost in the torrential downpour of that stormy night. Lady Limbo is the story of a globe-trotting career woman whose life unravels when her husband disappears. Paola Dante’s search leads her to a mysterious international organisation that hires genetically superior men out for the purposes of face-to-face procreation.

Real Man International (aka RMI), the name of the secret organisation she visits, is an invented name, but the organization exists; it’s details reside in a ground hostess’s little black book as per her own words. It was fun to turn things around and evoke a world where men are  paid ridiculous stud fees to be at the beck and call of willful high-flying women who can afford to be extravagant. If one believes the ground hostess’s story then it’s clear that occasionally a perfectly ordinary independently-minded woman – such as  a ground hostess – might use RMI’s services, and get herself into a spot of trouble.


What genre does your book fall under?

Lady Limbo is perhaps best described as a literary mystery novel with some big dollops of mind-twisting suspense. There’s plenty of character development as well as sex, fear and violence. The mystery genre aims to keep the reader perched on the edge of his or her seat, without being as restrictive as a whodunit. It allows for the whydunit perspective which is far more interesting. In Lady Limbo the emotional stakes are high and the internal conflict is mirrored by villainous external forces.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem are the obvious choices for the lead roles of career woman and missing husband in the movie version of Lady Limbo. The girl at the bus-stop would be somebody newly discovered who has that ‘it’ factor which combines the innocence of freckles with wide open knowing eyes and a blonde ponytail… the daughter of somebody I know is perfect. The male half of the French villain couple should be slim, suave and able to wear a dinner jacket – maybe Ben Kingsley – and the female half should be Naomi Rapace of Girl With The Dragon Tattoo movie fame.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Forced to hunt down Lady Limbo, the elusive internet ghost of a youthful love affair that ended in betrayal, Paola Dante risks everything and learns to trust no one in a race to find her missing husband.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? 

Lady Limbo, my new novel,  is represented by an independent agency and is published by Jacana Media. It’s a more layered mystery thriller with an international setting, and the first of the Limbo Trilogy. It seemed to make sense to publish traditionally.

However, I self-published my debut novel The Good Cemetery Guide as an e-book after getting my world rights back in 2012. It provided an excellent opportunity to gain an understanding of what it means to self-publish.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

It took 18 months to do the first draft for Lady Limbo, but I did two other complete rewrites before settling on the current version. In total Lady Limbo took me about four (4) years to write. I’m hoping that volumes II and III of the Limbo Trilogy go much faster because the foundation has been laid and I know the ending for each of them.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Although the plot of Lady Limbo is vastly different and more akin to a thriller in many respects, The Blind Assassin, Atwood’s mystery story of extra-marital betrayal and sexual allure with its triangular love plot and multi-layered structure had long fascinated me, and it seemed always to be in the background.

But the major influence on Lady Limbo was Stieg Larsson’s sensational Millenium Trilogy which changed the face of the crime novel in the 21st Century. I read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on holiday in Europe with snow falling outside my window in-between tapping away at Lady Limbo on my laptop, and addicted to Larsson’s formula, polished off The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest in quick succession.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

A good thriller chills our blood, readying us for a mesmerizing journey through the glowing portals of hell. I’d tackled death in The Good Cemetery Guide so it seemed like the next obvious topic was sex. But I did not want it to be soft porn; rather I had to find a way of writing a story around the issues faced by modern professional women who have a plethora of relationship and sexual choices available to them, and how girl children are affected by our sexually charged online-media society.

Lady Limbo transports us into a parallel reality where humanity’s worst instincts are at play. The “dark web” (an invisible black hole of untraceable activity) is estimated to be an incredible 15 times larger than the web we know, with more than 900 billion pages. It is a world where the illegal is openly available, providing a hidden shop window for criminal gangs and sexual predators. On the dark web innocence is traded like any other commodity


What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The perfect life… Or a beautiful lie? The seductive Lady Limbo leads Paola Dante into dark territory she never knew existed, where she must question all she knows. How far would you go for love? All the way?

Lady Limbo is a thoroughly twenty-first century story with an international setting and full of enigmatic twists and turns. Just when you think the story is going one way then it suddenly gets even more interesting and ups the ante. The shocks and surprises keep on coming at the character like she’s in a shooting arcade, dodging a hidden shooter in a world of seduction and darkness. Paola has to think on her feet all the time, or the truth will find her before she finds the truth.

As this is a blog roll, I’m handing over to Ronald IrwinKerry Hammerton and   Jacqui L’Ange who’ll be posting their blogs next week.

Tagging other bloggers who have already done the Next Best Thing: Liesl Jobson, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Susan Rich, Susan Elbe and Cynthia Reeser


Connect with Consuelo: Website / Twitter / Lady Limbo Facebook / The Good Cemetery Guide Facebook

LADY LIMBO on the 7 new Killer Thrillers Launch!


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It’s Finally HERE!Killer Thrillers Launch

(Click image to visit site)
Select titles discounted for a limited time – WIN Autographed Paperbacks
Monday, Mar. 5 – Wednesday Mar. 7


“[TRACES OF KARA] Psychological suspense at its best, weaving a tight-knit plot, unrelenting action, and tense moments that don’t let up, ending in a fiery, unpredictable revelation.”  Midwest Book Reviews

“…she really stepped up her craft skills if that were even possible. [Roland] is really, really just a terrific talented writer.” Joni Rodgers, NY Times bestselling author 

“Russell Blake writes with a brisk intensity and pulse-pounding power. Jump in and hang on for a nonstop thrill ride.”  Scott Nicholson, Liquid Fear 

“Giacomo Giammatteo may be the Mario Puzo of our time.” eNovel Reviews

“Claude Bouchard guides you step by step through a seamy, dangerous world, while never allowing you to lose hope.” John Locke, NYT Best-selling author

“Submerged reads like an approaching storm, full of darkness, dread and electricity. Prepare for your skin to crawl.” Andrew Gross, New York Times Bestselling Author

“Rivaling both Stephen King and Thomas Harris, without doubt, the edgy and provocative Luke Romyn is destined to emerge as the 21st Century’s new Master-of-Horror.” Dee Marie, Award-winning author 


LADY LIMBO: chilling ‘out there’…


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‘Out there’ means Lady Limbo is dancing up and down the land in her dancing shoes. Friends and family are sending me photographs of bestseller bookshop shelves and saying nice supportive things.


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One of the photos thrills me. Sharing a shelf with J.K. Rowling feels amazingly good; until the niggling thought arrives that maybe the bookseller was just looking for a good contrast of cover colors so that readers could spot the J.K. Rowling book quicker!

This is what happens to us small fish after a while; one loses that brazen swagger and becomes a self-pitying mess. But wait, it’s crazy, I mean there are a lot of blue novel covers around this year, it’s pretty much a blue cover year; they could have chosen one of those other novels, but they didn’t, they chose Lady Limbo. So I revert to feeling pleased as punch which is a far better feeling!

Occasionally I open up one of the photos I’ve been sent of Lady Limbo on a bookshelf and test myself – Is there an awkward  umbilical connection? Do I feel the need to protect? The answer comes easily; it’s “no”. I recognise the feeling of separation.

Lady Limbo in Cape Town_Marcellax

This teenager doesn’t need me to hold its hand any longer; it’s grown up enough to go out to rave book shops on its own; and in the hectic book world of bestsellers nobody says “Hey, I know your mom, she’s a really cool person, no wonder you’re so well put together!” No, in that world you arrive dressed to kill, and you float there chilled in blue champagne, and a frisson of excitement passes through the book crowd, the true sign of a good killer thriller!

LADY LIMBO: Countdown to release…


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Lady Limbo is about to explode into the galaxy where people are born and eat and sleep and have sex and die and read…

This is not the same galaxy as where I write, so I shall find it strange to see her so apart from me on a bookshop shelf, quite indelible and quite unchangeable.

Watch the sky for her arrival… She’ll surprise you, she’ll arouse you, she’ll be worth the wait.

LADY LIMBO: Volume I of The Limbo Trilogy

Today is the day I know LADY LIMBO has made it out of my head into the big world. They say if you manage to write a second novel and get it published then there’s a chance you’ll be a writer after all. After all the vagaries of a first novel they mean… After all the wondering if you’ve actually got what it takes to stay the course.

So after months of uncertainty and endless glitches this cardboard box arrives and I open it and there they are – my 10 author’s copies of LADY LIMBOFinally, the most amazing cover any author could ask for – it takes my breath away like the first time I saw it.  LADY LIMBO in all her sexy glory. The one who has possessed me for six years, run fleet and bare-footed around all my objections and simply refused to take herself away and leave me in peace.

A box full of Lady Limbo
Wow, did I write that?

My mother asks “I wonder if she knows she’s on your cover?”  Awesome. She’s right, the cover model herself is another Lady Limbo, somewhere out there in a dimension that isn’t quite here or there, but lending her body to symbolise an idea somebody else had. There she is, a shining creature caught between heaven and hell, an incantation that invented herself, floating in limbo…

Lady Limbo
LADY LIMBO is out in the world now… What will they make of her?

JOYCE CAROL OATES: This Love Has Come Upon Me Slowly…


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This love has come upon me slowly, quite unsought for and quite unexpected. I see now that it has stealthily wormed into way into my heart, this love of the intricate way you work upon words. The craftsmanship is so honest, so dedicated, so pure, that it was perhaps inevitable that I should succumb, but I did not see it coming, and this is unusual, for one who cannot contemplate life without reading words to find a pattern.

See more:

Ad astra per aspera


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My mother believes in reading your stars. That’s one excuse I have for checking my horoscope every day. The other is the scuffed-yellow paperback of Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs that sits on the bookshelf next to my dictionaries, harking back to a lovelorn student. My preoccupations are just different these days. Today’s Your Stars by Jonathan Cainer predicts: ‘The grand trine has picked you up by the scruff of your neck and is whipping you away from trouble. Never mind how or why. Just be glad.’

Boy, am I relieved things are looking up. I’m glad, believe me, really, I am. Once I’ve stopped wondering who the hell the grand trine is. I never claimed to be very au fait with matters astrological. When I look it up the following is presented: The strength in the pattern of the Grand Trine is when the individual uses the Grand Trine to their maximum advantage and sets their goals accordingly, thereby reaching their goals with incredible success.

Could it possibly be referring to the hearse cover saga for The Good Cemetery Guide e-book? Read about that here sometime soon. Or is that I’ve finally accepted there’s no overnight spell to turn me into a Catherine Ryan Howard clone with sparkling wit and buoyant personality? That’s what she’s been saying all along and I finally get it. Lots of blogs use pictures from stock photo sites. And clearly ‘Consuelo, Chocolated’ won’t do. Everybody will think it’s a chocolate foodie site of some sort. And yes, I could have said ‘Writer, ballerina, straight-haired’ in my tagline. Once upon a time, feeling fat and frizzy-haired, I indulged in the harmless day-dream of being the next Dame Margot Fonteyn, but that was so I’d get to dance with the sublime Rudolph Nureyev.

So what if I’m not the most original blogger ever to hit the airwaves? I’m not the only writer who is using someone else’s visual images to market my stories. But that’s okay I’ve finally decided. So long as I acknowledge the artist. All respect to JH Lynch. And so long as the words are mine.

JH Lynch in Kalk Bay


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 I’m no expert on art and I’m no expert on JH Lynch. I discovered the mystery artist quite by mistake in Kalk Bay. You really shouldn’t walk into Big Blue if you set out that morning planning not to buy anything except a cup of coffee or an ice-cream. I ended up buying a set of 6 coasters for R120.00 that reminded me of the Roman Noir covers I’d been perusing while doing research for a new thriller. My latest character is a bit of a femme fatale herself and there was something reminiscent about these women; as if they were all part of dream encounters I’d been sorry to leave behind.

Without really thinking about it I commented how amazing (I meant mesmerizing) the women’s faces on the coasters were. The shop assistant at the cash till said the artist was somebody Lynch. Did you say David Lynch? I asked, mishearing. No, she said, giving me a quick look, realising I didn’t actually have any idea. That’s how I discovered JH Lynch, right there in Kalk Bay, the atmospheric seaside town where Anthony Loxton hijacked my imagination one dark night long after midnight, resulting in The Good Cemetery Guide. There’s something about the place; I always seem to find something I don’t even know I’m looking for. No, for the record, I don’t live there. I just pass through occasionally. That’s the nature of our relationship and it suits us both. Neither of us gets bored with the other that way.

So now I have three of JH Lynch’s fabulous femme fatales gracing my header after months of sitting on my desk lending me inspiration.  When the right energy was lacking I’d shuffle them between my hands like tarot cards, marvelling at the full-lipped seductive power of those expressive faces – women with a certain bring-it-on laissez-faire attitude to love.


QI: JH Lynch’s pictures appeared in Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange. Did they epitomise kitsch? Or did Kubrick employ their temptress power on a subliminal level to draw us into his game? Rumours persist that JH Lynch was a woman.