Wednesday, January 16, 2013

VBT: Review, Giveaway & Guestblog by Blair McDowell author of Sonata

Blair McDowell is guest blogging for me today!

Character Studies: Sayuri McAllister

Yesterday as he was drilling away at me let eye tooth, my dentist asked “When you’re writing, which comes first, characters or plot?” There was no way I could answer him with a rubber dam in my mouth, but the answer would have been, “Characters, always characters.”

I may have the germ of a story idea in my mind, but it doesn’t take form until I know my characters. Before I write the first line of any book, I write detailed character studies. I do this even for the less important characters. Only in that way will they behave in a consistent way as I get them into and out if trouble in my story.

Below is the study I wrote for my heroine in Sonata. As I wrote the story I made some minor changes, but for the most part, here she is. Please meet Sayuri McAllister.

Sayuri McAllister—heroine. Sayuri is twenty-nine when the story begins. She comes from a wealthy family. Her father, Sean, is a Canadian tech tycoon. Her mother, a Japanese woman he met through a business colleague when on a trip to Japan. It was a love match, not well accepted by either family.

Sayuri shows signs of musical talent early. She attends the local public school and, after school each day, the Vancouver Academy of Music for classes in music theory and history. She studies with the first chair cellist of the Vancouver Symphony. While still in high school, she plays with the National Arts Centre Orchestra. After graduating from high school, she majors in cello performance at McGill. Her life to this point has been made up of nothing but classes and lessons and long hours of practice. She has had little time for anything else.

As the story opens Sayuri is returning from Paris where she has spent two years studying with the famous cellist, Cecile Dubois and then another three years on the concert circuit through-out Europe. She has played both solo recitals and as a soloist with orchestras. She is now an accomplished performer, planning to audition for the first chair cellist’s position in the Vancouver Symphony and preparing for a solo recital at the Chan Centre. She is fluently bilingual, English- French and speaks Japanese as well.

Sayuri is a strong young woman, self-reliant and secure emotionally. She is very much her own woman. She’s had some sexual experience but not much, not a virgin but she does not give of herself casually. **note: I changed this and made her a virgin.

Physically, she’s tall and long legged. She has straight silky dark hair worn back and caught at the nape of her neck. Soft, doe-like, almond shaped brown eyes. Oval face. Creamy complexion. Wears no make-up except lip gloss. Graceful as a dancer. Likes to wear casual clothes, low heeled shoes, slacks and sweaters, vortex jackets— not really into jeans. Never wears hats or carries an umbrella. Doesn’t mind getting wet. Has a wardrobe of formal professional clothes for performances. Most prized possession—her Guarneri cello.

Sayuri is a one hundred percent modern Canadian woman, independent and self-sufficient. She’s focused on building her own life and career. She has kept in touch with her Japanese grandparents, and when she visits them, to please them she observes the customs of that country. She knew her Canadian grandparents only briefly. They objected strongly to their son’s marriage and she was in her teens before she ever met them. They died soon after, leaving her independent financially.

She has had a series of casual boyfriends over the years at McGill (Montreal) and in Paris, but none she was serious about. She hasn’t time in her life for serious relationships. She was in love with Michael Donovan when she was in high school—but cut him out of her life when he strayed once.

On meeting Michael as an adult, she is once again attracted to him and she is prepared to be a bit more tolerant of his past indiscretions, if she can just get him to make a move in the present. Trouble is, he’s now a detective with the Vancouver Police, and is investigating a major robbery at her father’s house—and he suspects that her father may have been involved.

Thank you Blair! :D    
 About the Author:

I started to write soon after I found my first pencil. But I began to write for publication about 30 years ago -- professional books. I wrote six of them, all still in print and still in use. Only lately have I turned to fiction. I'd have done it a lot sooner if I'd had any idea how much fun it was!

I’ve lived in many different places. The US -- Certain cities call to me. I love San Francisco and Seattle and the wonderful Oregon Coast. Australia -- among the most open welcoming people in the world, and a wide open young country with incredible land and sea scapes, with amazing animal and bird life right out of science fiction. Canada -- HOME. The place where I belong.

I travel a lot. I usually spend the month of October in Europe, Greece or Italy, and the winter in a little house I built many years ago on a small non-touristy Caribbean Island. I have worked and studied in many places -- Hungary, Australia the US and Canada, and have spoken in most of the States and Provinces as well as Taiwan and various cities in Europe. I enjoy being surrounded by cultures other than my own. I enjoy my own as well -- but variety is indeed the spice of my life.

I keep busy -- and I love my life. I love meeting the people who come here to the west coast of Canada and stay in my B&B. I love traveling after the tourist season is over. And I love writing. My interests?? Music, especially opera, reading everything in print, and Writing. And walking on the beach and swimming. At one point I had hoped to swim in every major sea and ocean. I've realized that may not be possible in one lifetime -- but trying has been fun!

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Book Description:

A jewel heist…

When renowned concert artist, Sayuri McAllister, returns to the west coast of Canada after an absence of five years, she discovers her family home has been a broken into and jewelry worth two million dollars is missing. Michael Donovan, Sayuri’s old high school flame, now a detective with the Vancouver Police Department, is the officer in charge of the case.

What chance can he have…

Michael takes one look at Sayuri and falls in love with her all over again. But they parted in anger years ago and Sayuri is no longer the innocent girl he once knew. What chance can there be for a Vancouver cop with someone as famous as Sayuri McAllister? Especially when that cop is investigating her family and friends?

An unexpected marriage…

Then Sayuri’s widowed father, Sean, marries Alyssa James, a woman Sayuri has never even met. The three live uneasily together in the Point Grey mansion until the unexpected arrival of Alyssa’s brother, Hugh James, a devastatingly handsome, charming Irishman who immediately begins a campaign to bed and wed the delicious and wealthy Sayuri.

Things take a dangerous turn…

Accidents begin to happen. Or are they accidents? Nothing is as it seems. Michael distrusts Hugh James and fears that Sayuri’s life may be in danger.

Title: Sonata

Author: Blair McDowell                 

Genre: Romantic mystery

Publisher: Rebel Ink Press

ISBN: 9781937265670

Number of pages: 130

Word Count: 56,500

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / ARe

The following excerpt takes place the first time that Sayuri goes to Michael’s apartment.

As they went down in the elevator and across to the park, Michael spoke to the dog, “So far so good. We’ve got her in my apartment. I expect your full cooperation tonight. Whatever happens you are not to climb on the bed, should I get so lucky, or slobber all over Sayuri. If there’s any slobbering to be done, I’ll do it. Got it, buddy?”

Buttercup wagged her tail furiously, nearly knocking over a passing pedestrian.

“Sorry, mam.”

Michael thought about how Sayuri had looked when she answered the door. So cool and composed. Delectable. Good enough to eat. Down boy, he reminded himself. Don’t blow it now. You’ve got her this far.

Taking a deep breath he muttered, “Keep it cool.” Then he looked at his dog. “Okay, Buttercup, do your thing so we can get back up there.”

She heard the key in the lock and a moment later man and dog were back in the room. Buttercup trotted over to Sayuri and leaned against her, looking up at her adoringly with one blue and one brown eye.

“That was quick,” Sayuri commented as she scratched the dog behind her ears.

“She was anxious to get back to you. We don’t often have visitors. Actually, I’m surprised at her reaction to you. She usually hides under the bed when there’s anyone she doesn’t know in the apartment.”

“Under the bed? I can’t believe she can get all that bulk under a bed. Just what kind of dog is she? I’ve never seen anything like her. She’s huge. And those eyes are amazing.”

Sayuri moved to the armchair and sat down. Buttercup followed her and put her massive head in Sayuri’s lap.

“Clearly she’s fallen in love with you. The vet thought she was probably half Malamute and half Newfoundland, but I’m pretty sure there’s some wolf in the mixture. And the two different color eyes are unusual, but they do happen, particularly in those breeds.”

“Did you say wolf?”

“Watch.” Michael came over to the dog, knelt down beside her and put his arm around her. He lifted his head back and started to howl. The dog threw her head straight back and joined him. The sound was at one and the same time musical and eerie.

“Wow.” Sayuri stared at the dog. “I haven’t heard anything like that since I was twelve years old and went on a canoeing trip up Desolation Sound with my father. We could hear the wolves from our campsite every night. I loved the sound.”

“Don’t let her howl give you any ideas about Buttercup’s personality. Her wolf genes begin and end with her howl. She’s a complete wimp.”

“She’s a big dog for an apartment dweller.”

“Yes, well, I didn’t exactly choose her. She just sort of happened.” Michael paused. You see, I’m in the R.A.A. Unit.”


“Robbery, Assault, Arson. We got an anonymous call that there was a break and enter in progress at an apartment house on the east side. When my partner and I answered the call, we didn’t find a robbery in progress. What we found was found a room full of people cutting and bagging cocaine. We called immediately for backup, but before it could come, gun fire was exchanged and people got hurt. It wasn’t supposed to have happened that way.”

Michael paused and frowned. Sayuri wondered if he was going to say anything more.

Then he sighed. “When it was all sorted out, as we were to leaving the scene I heard whimpering. I pulled this small scrawny shivering mass of matted fur out from under the bed. I was supposed to take her to the SPCA, but I didn’t. I took her home with me. She couldn’t have been more than two months old and she was half starved and filthy. I fed her and bathed her and the next day I took her to the vet for a checkup. He said there was nothing wrong with her that food and love wouldn’t cure.”

“So you had a dog.”

“I had a dog. I had no idea at the time she was going to grow into a giant hairy mammoth.” This was spoken with obvious affection as he ruffled the dog’s head.

“But her name?”

“Just look at her.”

Sayuri studied the dog. She had fur as thick as a bear’s, only longer. Her underbelly was white and everywhere else she was brown and black and white in large splotches. “I don’t get it.”

“Look under her chin.”

Sayuri laughed. “Of course.” There was a large spot of bright yellow there.

The dog, tired of being the object of so much attention, moved to the fireplace, circled three times and plopped down in front of it.

If you like what you've read, enter the giveaway in the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win an ecopy of this book. There will be 5 winners!

 My Thoughts:

Wow! First let me say that I love Buttercup! This book went way beyond my expectations. For the most part, I really liked this book. There were just a few tiny things that kept me from loving it.  

This book was an exciting thrill ride from the beginning to the end. The plot had jewels, a thief, music, danger, mystery, suspense, romance, action and a loveable fur ball named Buttercup.

The book starts out with Sayuri's home being broken into and jewels being taken. She comes home to find a police detective talking with her father. The detective is none other than Michael Donovan a guy that blew her off in high school. He regrets his actions in high school and apologizes. Slowly they begin to see each other again. Things take an interesting turn when Alyssa's brother comes to visit.

The characters were very realistic and likeable for the most part. Mike was so sweet. I loved Nora and Joseph. I liked Sean and the way he talked with Sayuri was touching. Sayuri was sweet for the most part but little things got on my nerves, like when she kept hanging out with Hugh having fun and thinking it was okay because it wasn't her idea. It irritated me that Alyssa would let Hugh hang around Sayuri. I disliked Alyssa at first but she grew on me.

If you like your romance with some action and suspense woven through the story, then you want to read this!

This was the first book that I've read from Blair McDowell and it will certainly not be the last.

I received a copy of this book from Bewitching Book Tours in exchange for my honest opinion. I thought it was great.

Do you play an instrument?

How do you feel about classical music?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I'd love to know what you're thinking. Please leave a comment!


  1. I really like the sound of this story and i admit just from the summary i don't like Alyssa. ( i mean she married her father but let her brother try to seduce her daugther in law.... not normal for me) Is Sayuri mother deceased?

    I also really appreciate the idea of creating the character's background before the story because i think it help to stay coherent. even better all the characther get their so no glitch or less likely ones

    as for the question: i don't play any instrument , i don't mind classical music but i don't like that either ( some really yes but in general i'm not going to put a classical cd to listen ( or some classic but less know instrument( "harpe", "pipa") or foreign one)

    g+ done

    1. Yes Miki,

      Sayuri's mother has been dead for about 18 years. I started out really disliking Alyssa but she grew on me as the book went on.

    2. ^^ i guess i love more romantic suspense that i though and there is the dog how can i resist such a cute dog!

      perhaps she will grow on me too but so far buttercup is far ahead in my favorite^^

    3. lol! Buttercup is great. After hearing the back story, I don't think it's possible to not love Buttercup!

  2. +JMJ+

    I play the guitar, but I've been out of practice for a while. (I must work on that!)

    After reading the excerpt, I think my favourite character is Buttercup! ;-) Michael seems quite nice, though, so I hope that Sayuri doesn't give him too hard a time because of the past.

    I also have to add that I know exactly what you mean by people who think their participation in something is okay as long as it wasn't their idea in the first place! It doesn't give me much confidence in Sayuri to know she's like that, but I guess she's entitled to a character flaw, aye?

    1. Sayuri's mother grew up thinking her father's word was law. Sayuri learned this behavior from her and that's why she does what her father asks her.

      I understood that to a point but I still felt that if Mike was really important to her she wouldn't have just accepted what was asked of her. I felt she should have at least questioned the importance of her participation.

      I enjoyed the story non the less. :D

  3. Michael sounds like he could be delicious. Lots of family intrigue. Thanks for introducing me to this book.
    debby236 at gmail dot com.

  4. Michael sounds like he could be delicious. Lots of family intrigue. Thanks for introducing me to this book.

  5. I used to play the recorder. I also sing. And I do like classical music, it's very soothing and relaxing to me.

  6. I really enjoy classical music. I love music and I love to dance but oddly enough I never learned to play an instrument. I am not really interested in learning either. However 3 of my 6 children can play an instrument which I think is cool :)

  7. I can't play any instruments although my son is learning the Cello. I love classical music- especially at work or when I need to relax.