Author Spotlight – Jackie Ladbury

My author in the spotlight this month is contemporary romance author, Jackie Ladbury. Jackie recently published her debut romance novel, Air Guitar and Caviar. Welcome to the blog, Jackie!

agc_front_rgb_150dpi-copy-2Air Guitar and Caviar – Jackie Ladbury

Busker Dylan spends his days pulling pints in the local pub and singing on the high street, waiting for fame to call. That suits him fine, until beautiful, but frosty, air stewardess, Scarlett, tosses some coins into his hat but ignores his killer smile and his offer of pizza.

He sets out to get the girl, but Scarlett isn’t in the right frame of mind to date anyone, let alone a penniless, if charming, busker boy.

Dylan’s desperate for his big break, but will it bring him the happiness he longs for? And with Scarlett’s past threatening to ruin her future, will Dylan be left to make sweet music all on his own?

Amazon

*****

Excerpt

Scarlett glanced over toward the bar, hoping to catch Dylan’s eye, but he turned away from her, his eyebrows drawing together, his lips set in a hard line. She had made a huge mistake. She’d humiliated Dylan, who thought she’d wanted to see him, and Todd thought she’d accepted his offer of dinner for the same reason. She needed to focus on Todd, though—after all, her diplomacy could be the difference between keeping her job, or not.

She managed to avoid answering his direct question, as Dylan took to the makeshift stage and started to strum his guitar. ‘Hi there, all.’ The room fell silent as he spoke, and he gave a little wave that made Scarlett’s stomach flip with nerves on his behalf. She prayed he was as good as he seemed to think he was.

‘If I’m too loud, or too annoying, just let me know, and I’ll tone it down, or even, if you’d rather, I can shut up completely—I’m cool with that, too.’ As he grinned at his audience, they all looked as if they were metaphorically egging him on, willing him to be fantastic.

After strumming a few chords, concentrating on his guitar, he raised his eyes and scanned the crowd, his gaze settling briefly on Scarlett who smiled encouragingly. He didn’t acknowledge her but gave a rueful grin to the pub-goers, as if to say here I go, then. He started singing, melodic and soulful, his songs gentle and sweet.

Scarlett found herself both astonished and mesmerised. His guitar playing was brilliant, and so was his voice. She also noticed that he looked rather gorgeous in a pale blue linen shirt, unbuttoned just enough to show a smattering of curly chest hair. Okay, so the jeans had seen better days, but ripped knees were fashionable and at least they looked clean. How had she not spotted how hot he was sooner? Okay, she had clocked his long legs before and his wide smile, but suddenly the whole Dylan thing was as if she was seeing him for the first time.

He was relaxed and funny when he spoke in between songs, and when he finished his last song, he was greeted with thunderous applause. Some of the women even standing up to clap, and he beamed as he left the stage.

Feeling pride she hadn’t earned, Scarlett wished Todd wasn’t sitting opposite her, his prim mouth in a moue of disapproval.

Her heart stumbled a little, as Dylan caught her eye, heading for the bar, but his smile died on his lips, his eyes sliding away from hers.

She felt cold at the thought that she had hurt him so thoughtlessly. ‘Todd, I must congratulate Dylan, I won’t be a minute.’

‘Must you?’ Todd snapped, his lips setting in a hard line, but Scarlett ignored him and walked over to Dylan.

She put her hand out to congratulate him, but he walked straight past her and behind the bar. ‘You were brilliant, Dylan. Fantastic.’ She sounded patronising, even to her own ears, but she smiled wider, hoping he’d forgive her for bringing Todd.

He looked brooding and angry, as he helped himself to another drink, pushing a small glass up to the dispenser, concentrating on the clear liquid splashing out. He raised the glass. ‘Cheers.’ He downed it in one and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand.

‘Dylan?’

‘Just don’t, okay?’ His voice was so low, he almost growled, his eyes flinty and hooded.

She didn’t know what he meant, but she knew quiet anger when she saw it. ‘Don’t what?’

‘Don’t bother doing this artificial congratulatory thing, as if you care.’

‘I do care.’

Dylan’s smile twisted into something resembling a sneer. ‘I think we’re about done here, don’t you?’

‘What … What do you mean?’ she stammered, as he glowered at her.

‘You didn’t need to ram it home, you know. I might not wear a city boy suit, or a posh uniform with stripes on my shoulders, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid.’ He thrust his chin out in Todd’s direction. ‘Oh, I don’t date, you know.’ He mimicked her voice, falsetto.

‘Oh, you mean …?’ She glanced over at Todd, who was stabbing out a message on his mobile with his forefinger. ‘No, he’s a work colleague.’

‘You let them all touch you in that way, do you?’

‘No, and that’s not fair.’

‘I should have realised you were a flirt as soon as you said you were a stewardess.’

Scarlett felt her jaw drop. ‘How dare you pigeon hole me like that? You know nothing about me.’

‘And, Scarlett, the corporate air stewardess…’ He pushed the glass up against the dispenser once more and scowled. ‘I think it would be best if we leave it that way.’

His words hung in the air, as she took in his meaning, and she let out a breath. ‘Fine by me!’ Her mouth tightened as she glared at him. She wanted to stomp off, but couldn’t seem to move, wondering how they’d managed to argue when they barely knew each other. ‘You were the one who started this,’ she threw at him, her own anger rising at the unfairness of his attitude. She didn’t know what her point was, but she knew the anger she directed at him was misplaced.

‘And I’m calling it in.’ Dylan ran his fingers through his hair.

Their eyes locked, both firing a mixture of anger and regret.

‘Is this chap bothering you?’

Scarlett raised her eyes, forced to break eye contact, as Todd placed himself between herself and Dylan.

‘No, he isn’t, and he won’t bother her again.’ Dylan’s gaze raked over her face, the stark anger already replaced by sadness that belied his words.

‘Let’s go, then. I’ve paid the bill.’ Todd put his hand on Scarlett’s arm and threw Dylan a dirty look, while Dylan glanced at Scarlett as if to say Really? He’s your sort of man?

Scarlett didn’t want to leave with Todd, and she didn’t want Dylan to think she did. She wanted Dylan to put his hand on her arm, staking a claim the way Todd did, but he didn’t move. She threw him a pitying look, determined to hold the moral high ground. If that was how he behaved, then he didn’t deserve her loyalty, anyway.

As Todd patted her hand, she groaned inwardly. What the hell was she doing?

She wanted to explain to Dylan how it was with Todd. The hold he had over her, manipulating her with his threats and sexual overtures. She was so confused, but really, she just wanted Dylan to like her again.

Except, that would mean she cared about Dylan and that wasn’t how she felt, at all. Was it?

*****

And now for my interview with Jackie:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

My working background was mostly airline based, either flying as a stewardess or latterly as a ground handling agent for a corporate aviation business at Stansted Airport. It seemed natural that I would write ‘what you know’ although it took me quite a long time to settle on airline based stories. Consequently, I have three full length novels written on different topics that may or may not see the light of day. With Air Guitar and Caviar, I had a ‘what if’ moment when I saw an immaculately dressed air-stewardess turn her nose up as she passed by a beggar. I wondered how he would feel if he saw her every day and was a little bit in love with her. I metaphorically gave him a guitar and made him charismatic and handsome and that was it – the quest for Dylan the busker to make beautiful air-stewardess, Scarlett fall in love with him, had begun.

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

I don’t really find that bit hard, it’s the sorting it all out into the right order to turn it into a book that does me in. I think because I write romance, (and I don’t think I’ll ever write any other kind of book, regardless of the era and setting) I start off with the sort of man I think I would fall in love with, and put him into an interesting setting, throw a few challenging situations at him and a girl who has her own troubles, and voilà.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

Oh, God, I’m such an ‘all over the place’ type of writer that I don’t really know how long it takes. I’m likely to start writing another story when I get fed up of the current one and, sometimes decide not to bother with one that I’ve written say 30,000 words of, only to resurrect it a year later.

Air Guitar and Caviar was totally re-written, as I knew the story wasn’t good enough, but I just loved my busker boy and the frosty Scarlett too much to let them go. I suppose I didn’t really have any sense of urgency then, as I hadn’t been published, but now I really intend to get my act together – honest!

How many drafts of each story do I do? Loads! My best discovery was finding Kindle’s Text to Speech as I send my novel to my Kindle and listen to it while reading the story. This has made a HUGE difference to my writing and if anyone ever hears me moaning about the giant that is Amazon – just remind me of this wonderful feature.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I’m not a touch typist so it takes me ages to literally type the story and I make loads of frustrating mistakes. Also, my concentration span is appalling, so I have to take myself off somewhere where there is no internet or silly distractions. Getting the structure of the plot is often hard too, as I write in an excited ‘stream of consciousness’ kind of way and then realise that the storyline is all muddled. So, another thing I intend to change is my planning process, i.e. I need to plan!

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I think it’s the editing once the basic story is written. I get an enormous sense of satisfaction when I see that I’ve made sentences and paragraphs so much better than the first or second time around.

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

Not really a recurring theme but the second and third novel are both airline based. My heroes are always gorgeous – and that’s a good place to start!

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

The second novel is still untitled, but mostly finished (it’s had so many titles that if I don’t look at it for a week or so, I don’t know what to type in the search box to find it). It was shortlisted in a Mills and Boon Flirty Fiction competition but having dabbled in Mills and Boon writing, I realised their style wasn’t for me, as the story line, in my opinion, is too limiting. So, I’ve struggled a bit to change the style of the writing and consequently it’s taken me a lot longer than it should have.

The third novel is drafted out and it’s about an FBI guy who is sent to track an air-stewardess who they believe is drug smuggling. He starts to like her against his better judgement and all sorts of shenanigans happen before the ending is ironed out. It’s set in Africa and Russia so should be quite entertaining.

About Jackie

me-2Jackie was desperate to become a journalist when she left school but was ousted within minutes on the day of the exam at her local rag because she’d forgotten to bring a pen. Short and sharp lesson learned. Her budding writing career was not on hold for long, though, as Jackie found herself scribbling love stories of pilots and ‘hosties’ while she flew in aeroplanes of various shapes and sizes as a flight attendant herself.

Fast forward a good few years and Jackie finally decided it was time to discard her stilettos, hang up her tabard and say goodbye to the skies to concentrate on what has become her new love – writing full-length romance novels.

After being shortlisted for Choc Lit’s Search for a Star competition with her novel Air Guitar and Caviar, and again shortlisted for a first chapter Flirty Fiction competition, she decided the time was right to become a professional writer. She is now putting the finishing touches to her series set in the fictional StarJet airline.

Find out more about Jackie here:

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Author Spotlight – Abbey MacMunn

My author in the spotlight this month is paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi romance author, Abbey MacMunn. Abbey is published by Tirgearr Publishing and her debut paranormal romance, Touched, was published in July 2016. Welcome to the blog, Abbey.

touchedbyabbeymacmunn-500

Touched – Abbey MacMunn

When inquisitive antique dealer Cami Wilson learns she’s the revered offspring of an immortal mother and a mortal father, it’s not just her hybrid status that has her all flustered. The title comes with her very own super-sexy guardian.

Jaded immortal Joseph Carlisle has only one thing on his mind; his sworn duty to protect the hybrid from those who wish her harm. Anything else would be complicated. That is until they meet.

Chemistry sizzles between them but there’s a problem—the hybrid’s curse. Cami’s touch, skin to skin, proves near fatal to her and all immortals, Joseph included.

But the fated lovers discover her curse is the least of their concerns when a friend’s deadly betrayal threatens to tear them apart forever.

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

*****

Excerpt:

He might have just saved her life, but pinned to the freezing concrete by some wannabe hero was not her idea of fun. Cami Wilson shoved the unyielding wall of his chest, fighting not only him but the rising panic. ‘Get the hell off me!’

The guy remained on top of her, using his large frame to protect her from the chunks of smouldering metal hurtling to the ground around her. Icy air met with fiery heat and smoke infused the atmosphere like the fifth of November, but there were no sparkling fireworks to admire, only the flaming inferno, which seconds earlier had been her car.

Maybe if she hadn’t been so intrigued by the antique brooch she held in her hand or distracted by the weird, periodic buzzing emitting from it, she might have seen him coming at her in full, rugby tackle mode.

He lifted a little, easing the crushing pressure on her ribs, but remained inches from her face. Glacier-blue eyes met hers, captivating and intense. ‘Are you hurt?’

His gravelly voice did something tingly to her insides. She went to speak, but no words came. Nothing came to mind. Not the explosion. Not the contents of her shopping trolley strewn all over Morrisons’ car park. Not the fact she could have been killed. Somehow, none of it registered.

She gawped back at him like a doe-eyed teenager, taking in the angular sweep of a jawline peppered with dark stubble, and well-defined lips that parted invitingly as he drew in his breath.

His gaze lingered on her mouth in a breath-taking moment right out of one of those soppy rom-coms she liked to watch.

Forget burning cars and curious brooches… hel-lo, future husband.

Somewhere to her left, an engine revved loudly, and he turned his head towards the sound. Overlong, tousled hair tickled her cheek, and she got a faint whiff of citrus shampoo.

Hmm, lovely…

A second later, his attention returned to her. His grave expression burned with an urgency that brought her down from the clouds. ‘Dammit! I asked if you were hurt.’

‘No, I…’

In a move so swift it wasn’t humanly possible, he leapt to his feet and hauled her up beside him. The brooch slipped from her gloved hand and landed on the ground.

The man cursed under his breath and stooped to retrieve it. With an exasperated look, he waved it in front of her as though she were a baby dropping her dummy for the hundredth time. ‘You need to take more care of this. Don’t you know how important it is?’

Sudden indignation flared. Cami snatched the jewel from his grasp and slipped it back into her coat pocket. Okay, the guy rocked the sexy, just-rolled-out-of-bed look, but his patronising attitude set her teeth on edge. What right did he have to tell her what to do? And what on Earth did he know about a weird, vibrating brooch she’d been given by her adoptive mother, the only clue she had to her past?

*****

And now for my interview with Abbey:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

Touched is a fantasy romance with sexy immortal guardians, a naïve hybrid and a kooky witch, but I wanted it set in the ‘real’ world. I knew I had to have underground tunnels and a dungeon as part of the story, so what better place to set it than south-east Devon, renowned for its many smugglers routes? Plus, I had been there on holiday so I knew the area, and that helped me visualise the scenes as I wrote them.

 

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories?

No, I don’t find it difficult to come up with story ideas; in fact, I have so many stories in my head, what’s hard is finding the time to write them!

 

How do you go about it?

A story idea will pop into my head at a random moment, like when I’m on the school run. I write them down as soon as I can, either by typing it into my phone or on a notepad.

 

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

The first draft takes me about 3 months.

 

How many more drafts will there be after that?

Hundreds!

 

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The editing. I’m forever tweaking here and there and find it hard to be completely happy with my work.

 

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I love the freedom of writing the first draft. I don’t worry about grammar mistakes, I just let my characters guide me and get the story written down.

 

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

I love anything sci-fi or fantasy, so my stories have always had some sort of supernatural element to them. More recently though, I have ventured into erotic romance – it’s been… err… interesting to try something new 😉

 

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I’m working on a sci-fi romance that’s been with me for five years. It’s the first book I wrote and it’s been through so many changes, but I’m finally happy with it and hope to start submitting it this year.

 

About Abbey

Abbey Mimg_01851-1acMunn writes paranormal, fantasy and sci-fi romance. She lives in Hampshire, UK with her husband and their four children. She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

When she’s not writing, she likes to watch films and TV shows – anything from rom-coms to superheroes to science fiction movies.

 

Find out more about Abbey here:

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Tirgearr Publishing

Author Spotlight – Ros Rendle

This month’s author in the spotlight is another of my very good writing friends, Ros Rendle, who’s here to tell us about her latest book, Flowers of Flanders. Welcome Ros!

flowersFlowers of Flanders – Ros Rendle

Rose rivals her beautiful, mercurial sister for Michael’s love but calculated lies and misunderstandings alter the young peoples’ course. War breaks out and Michael is as eager as the others to go.

Maybe Rose will settle for second best with Thom even though she cannot get Michael out of her soul.

Does a man need the grace of serenity to rediscover his own or is it frivolity and seduction he craves when he has been through the darkest places of war? Michael’s experiences in the trenches gradually alter his perceptions.

This is a story about deceit and loyalties, complex relationships and loves developing from youth to adulthood during a cataclysmic time in history.

Readers who are entranced by sweeping historical sagas will devour Flowers of Flanders, Ros Rendle’s drama set before and during the First World War.

Amazon

*****

Excerpt

Early summer 1912 – A town near Manchester, England

Rose’s heart was singing with the joy of the sun and the birds and the glossy, bright leaves above her head. She and her two younger sisters strolled home along the lane when the peace was shattered by a lot of clattering and shouting.

“What on earth is that noise?” She stopped to listen.

Izzy, only twelve years old, grabbed Rose’s arm and whispered, “I don’t like it, Rose. What should we do? It may not be safe to venture further.”

“Oh don’t be such a wet, Iris,” Delphi said, using her given name as she often did. She tossed her head.

Rose, who always maintained the peace, answered her youngest sister, “Don’t worry Izzy, it’s probably the boys playing rowdy games.”

“I don’t think…” Delphi’s words were interrupted.

There was an ear-splitting bellow and then, “Bloody hell, Crispin.” It was a deep male sound.

Rose, certain she recognised the voice, felt her stomach churn and her heart beat faster. She had known Michael nearly all her life and loved him for almost as long.

The older girls looked at each other with widening eyes and ran. Izzy followed. Their steps were short and quick; long, narrow skirts hindered their progress. They didn’t have far to go round the corner of the lane when through the trees their fourteen-year old brother, Hector, came bounding.

Seeing his sisters he called out, “That stupid fellow Crispin has walloped Michael good and proper. We were play-acting but he’s done it now.”

“What do you mean?” wailed Izzy.

Delphi ran ahead. She held onto her hat with one hand.

“These wretched skirts,” Rose heard her say to no-one in particular as she hitched them up. “It’s alright for you Hector,” she called as he disappeared through the trees ahead of her. Rose knew that as the most active sister, it was frustrating for Delphi to endure her skirts. Many times she had said it was so much easier for men.

There were shouts at the hapless Crispin as she arrived.

Rose came with Izzy through the trees that bordered the lane. Her gaze, generally gentle and myopic, took in the situation and she looked on in horror. The sun through the branches slapped the group with searing tiger stripes. Michael stood with head bowed. The deep gash on his forehead was a slash of vermillion vividness which dripped unheeded; a violent splash on his shirt, so white. A long log of wood lay at his feet and three other lads stood and looked aghast but clueless.

Delphi’s voice rose as she berated them all for their stupidity but Crispin, as the main culprit, received her full wrath.

“You’re fighting with sticks! What on earth for?” Delphi demanded. “Hector you should know better,” she continued, looking at her brother who had got back to the scene of the crime ahead of her. With the full force of her words again upon Crispin she added, “That’s a dirty great log. It’s not even a stick, you dolt.”

Rose saw Crispin regard Delphi. She recognised the look he gave, admiring her beautiful face with its prominent high cheekbones. Rose felt a pang of envy. Everyone looked at Delphi that way including Michael. At that moment, though, Delphi was frowning yet it still didn’t detract from her exotic looks. Her lovely dark eyes, so often dancing with fire lights glared at the culprit.

*****

And now for Ros’s guest post:

My latest book is the first of a historical fiction trilogy that has a strong romantic element. The main front cover image is that of my grandmother and while it’s definitely not her story she was the inspiration for it. She always looked for the good in people and if someone did something awful she tried to see beyond the action to the reasons. In this way she could be forgiving. Sometimes people can take that for granted.

In my book Flowers of Flanders, Delphi is the sister of the main protagonist, Rose. She tells a malicious lie which affects Rose’s relationship with Michael as well as changes the destiny of other characters including Delphi herself. Rose must learn that to be forgiving all the time is not always the best strategy for anyone’s benefit. This is set against the backdrop of a world in turmoil just before and during WW1. Michael must learn which sister he needs to survive.

It is of paramount importance for me to research thoroughly. Just because it’s difficult to find a fact doesn’t mean I can ‘wing’ it. Someone reading the book will surely discover the truth. The main historical facts are easy enough to find. Everyone knows that the killing of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was one catalyst for the start of the Great War and many have heard that it was Gravilo Princip who pulled the trigger. Fewer would know that the gun used was originally issued by the Serbian army which cast a different light, for some, on the motive. But it’s not just these huge historical facts that are so important. What people ate for breakfast, wore in the afternoon, slept in or how they travelled is equally important. When certain words entered the vocabulary or what particular foods were in short supply also give a flavour of the times and can really disrupt the reader’s enjoyment if these things are wrong.

I once read a book by a highly respected and well-known author who talked about ‘the dreaming spires of Cambridge’. Aargh! Of course the Matthew Arnold poem refers to those spires of Oxford.

For the WW1 scenes in my book I visited the records offices at Kew and accessed the war diaries of the relevant regiment. The anecdotes about which I write are true incidents, bizarre as one of them in particular might appear from today’s view. The horrors of the mud and the blood could have been much more graphic from what I learned but I wanted to maintain the genre of the book while being true to people’s feelings.

It took significantly longer to write this book than my first which was contemporary women’s fiction. This time there was little first-hand experience upon which to draw. However I am enjoying the research aspect of writing historical fiction. My current WIP is a sequel and features Delphi’s daughter, Flora. It’s set in Vichy France, so between 1940 and 1944. There is much less written about this and some that I have discovered is clouded by politics (with a small p) of the time. However, the deeper I dig the more interesting it becomes and it’s easy to divert from my original enquiry. I have learned, though, not to ‘info dump’ and so much of the research will never find its way into a book.

We lived in the region of the Somme for ten years. It was easy to soak up the atmosphere of this region, especially when visiting some of the main sites early in the morning. At some ceremonies a lone piper would emerge from the mist that cloaked the land. At other times the silence was intense and then a lark would rise, singing as it soared and it was easier to imagine those men awaiting their fate in a silence almost as profound despite the odd cough or clink of weapons.

I have my husband to thank for showing me some of his collection of books about WW1 and for driving us out to the actual spot upon which we know, since he is mentioned in the war diaries, my grandfather stood on 1st July 1916 at 7.29am.

About Ros

rosHaving worked as a Headteacher, Ros has been used to writing policy documents, essays and stories to which young children enjoyed listening. Now she has taken up the much greater challenge of writing fiction for adults. She writes both historical sagas and contemporary romance; perfect for lying by a warm summer pool or curling up with on a cosy sofa. Her books are thoroughly and accurately researched. This is her third book.

Ros is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Historical Novelists’ Society.

She has lived in France for ten years but has recently moved back to the UK with her husband and dogs. Ros has two daughters and four grand-daughters, with whom she shares many heartwarming activities.

Find out more about Ros here:

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Author Spotlight – Kate Field

After a long break for the summer holidays, it is with the greatest pleasure that I return with my guest Author in the Spotlight this month. My very good writing friend, Kate Field’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings was published last Thursday and today she’s here to tell us all about it. Welcome, Kate!

The Magic ofimage1 Ramblings – Kate Field

Running away can be the answer if you run to the right place…

When Cassie accepts a job as companion to an old lady in a remote Lancashire village, she hopes for a quiet life where she can forget herself, her past and most especially men. The last thing she wants is to be drawn into saving a community that seems determined to take her to its heart – and to resuscitate hers…

Frances has lived a reclusive life at Ramblings, a Victorian Gothic mansion, for over thirty years and now Barney is hiding away there, forging a new life after his medical career ended in scandal. He doesn’t trust the mysterious woman who comes to live with his rich aunt, especially when she starts to steal Frances’ affection – and maybe his own too…

Amazon

*****

Excerpt

As soon as she saw the advert, in one of the magazines she was paid to dust, not read, Cassie knew it had been written for her.

‘WANTED: Female live-in companion for independent lady in isolated Lancashire village. Own room provided. Must not chatter. References required.’

Isolation and silence – underlined silence. It was perfect. Carrying the magazine to the study, careful not to crease any pages, Cassie found a scrap of paper and copied out the advert.

Her pen hovered over the final two words. References? How was she going to manage that? Then her gaze landed on the computer, and the letter-headed notepaper lying beside it. No one would notice one missing sheet. The password for the computer was taped on the inside of the desk drawer: she hadn’t cleaned here three times a week for the last three months without finding that out. It would take barely five minutes to conjure something suitable. And surely her boss at the cleaning company, who had employed her without references and without questioning why she had no ID in the name she’d given him, wouldn’t scruple to give her a reference in any name she wanted?

Her conscience protested, but conscience was one of the many luxuries that Cassie could no longer afford. Her fingers trembling, she switched on the laptop and typed out a letter, recommending herself as an employee in terms she hoped were too good to refuse. She had to get this job. It was time to move on.

*****

And now for my interview with Kate.

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

This could be a short answer! It wasn’t a deliberate choice. The Magic of Ramblings is set in Lancashire, and that’s where I live.

I love Lancashire, especially the beauty and the wildness of the moors, the extremes of weather, and the way the landscape and the climate shape the character of the people who live here. I’ve grown up listening to the rhythm and pattern of Lancashire dialect. I’m still at an early point in my writing career, and with so much else to learn, it felt natural to use a setting I was familiar with.

I’m sure I’ll be brave enough to explore beyond Lancashire one day, but for now I think the stories I’m writing belong here.

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

I can’t sit down in front of a clean sheet of paper and conjure up an idea from nowhere. I’ve attended workshops where that was expected, and my mind goes blank – even more so when I see that everyone else is scribbling away with enthusiasm! I have a notebook of ideas, often no more than a sentence, and usually the idea has been sparked by something I’ve read, overheard, or seen on television.

The book I completed last year came from a piece of gossip we were discussing at work. I immediately thought, ‘how would his wife feel?’ And then I had to abandon the story I’d been mulling over, and write that one instead.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

I’m a slow writer, and easily distracted, usually by reading other people’s books! The first draft ofThe Magic of Ramblings took around eight months to write, which is fairly typical for me, as I have to fit writing around work and family. It was written to submit to the RNA New Writers’ Scheme, and it helped that I had that deadline to work towards.

I write the first draft in longhand, and type it up when it’s finished, which is laborious but I carry out the first set of edits as I type, tweaking words and abandoning sentences that are too horrific to survive. I try to have a break, then carry out the major edit. I’m ruthless at this point: I don’t have a problem with ‘killing my darlings’ and cutting out sentences or scenes that don’t work. I cut about 20,000 words from Ramblings, including a whole chapter that I loved, but that on reflection added nothing to the story.

After the major edit, I go through it again, fine-tuning and polishing each paragraph. Those are the main steps, but after that, every time I open the document I can’t resist tinkering, even if it’s only changing one word.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

This answer could fill pages of your blog! There are times when I think a chimp with a pencil crayon could do a better job. I find it hard to silence my inner critic, and can spend far too long even at the first draft stage mulling over one sentence, wondering what I can do to make it sound better. On the bright side, I suppose that’s why I can cut huge chunks without hesitation!

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I love reaching the stage – usually about a third to half way through for me – where it all falls into place, and the characters truly come alive; when they saunter into your head at all times of day or night, holding a conversation, or explaining how they expect their story to develop.

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

Although Ramblings is my first published book, I’ve written several others. I didn’t deliberately set out to have a recurring theme, but families and secrets do crop up quite often!

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I’ve started and finished the next novel, but only to first draft stage – the gossip inspired one I mentioned earlier! At the moment I’m about half way through another book set around Ramblings. It’s been on hold for a while as this summer has been fairly hectic, so I’m looking forward to some quiet time to pick it up again.

AbouKateFieldauthorphotot Kate

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter and hyperactive kitten.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.The Magic of Ramblings is her first published novel.

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Author Spotlight – Mary Grand

This month’s author in the spotlight is women’s/literary fiction writer, Mary Grand. Her debut novel is out now and is called Free to Be Tegan.

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Free to Be Tegan – Mary Grand

Tegan, aged twenty-seven, is cast out of the cult, rejected by her family and from the only life she has known. She is vulnerable and naïve but she also has courage and the will to survive. She travels to Wales, to previously unknown relations in the wild Cambrian Mountains.

This is the uplifting story of her journey from life in a cult to find herself and flourish in a world she has been taught to fear and abhor.

Guilt and shadows from her past haunt her in flashbacks, panic attacks and a fear of the dark. However she also finds a world full of colour, love and happiness she has never known before. The wild beauty of the hills, the people she meets and the secrets slowly revealed by the cottage all provide an intriguing backdrop to Tegan’s drama.

The novel is set in spring, a story of hope, new growth, of the discovery of self and the joy of living.

Amazon

*****

Excerpt

She walked down the stairs and glanced at the clock that hung over the front door. 07:50. Next to this was a huge white board. Every day Daniel wrote the date and a verse for them to meditate on, and the date. Today it read March 1st 2006 and underneath that the verse for the day:

“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Beast and all those in his domain.” She guessed Daniel had chosen that for her. She could hear familiar quiet droning prayers of vigil being said in the meeting room. ‘Come Quickly Oh High One’. The whole Community including the children would repeat it over and over again for an hour. Every day had started like that for her for twenty-two years, but not today. For the first time in her life she was an outsider.

Tegan opened the front door out into the cold drizzly rain and descended the flight of concrete steps. She was hit by a wall of noise: the early morning rush hour. Alone she walked across the concrete forecourt and opened the iron gates. She saw a taxi driver swearing at another driver, a parent shouting to their children to hurry up. The rain added to the sense of urgency as the world rushed about its business. She glanced down at the bins on the pavement and, blinking hard, realised she had been put out with the rubbish.

*****

And now for my interview with Mary:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

Free to Be Tegan is set in the stunning Cambrian Mountains in Ceredigion, Wales. It is a vast wilderness found between the much better known areas of Brecon and Snowdonia. It is an incredible place rich in wild life, of red kites and endless hills and where Tegan finds herself after her expulsion from the cult where she was raised. She is initially overwhelmed by the untamed beauty of the place but it is central to her healing and recovery.

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

I tend to write about subjects close to my heart. The story of “Free to Be Tegan” is partly inspired by my own experience of being brought up in a strict religious sect. I used this in combination with a lot of research into cults and cult leaders to create the character of Tegan and the fictitious cult, ‘The Last Week Community’.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

The first draft of Free to Be Tegan took me about three years to write. I wrote a number of re-drafts after that. I redraft a lot! The novel I am working on at present has taken about a year to get to first draft and I am now redrafting… again!

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I think planning has been the thing I have had to work on the hardest. There are people who say they are planners and others who say that the story forms as they are writing. I have found I use both methods. My stories tend to be plot driven so there is a lot of planning but I also find that characters suddenly seem to take on a life of their own and all my planning then has to be re-shaped as I am writing. I say this is hard but it is also what makes writing fun and creative.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I enjoy creating interesting characters and developing their stories. I also love to have inspiring settings. As a writer you spend a lot of time in the place you are writing about and so it is wonderful to spend my days somewhere like the beautiful Cambrian Mountains or the incredible Gower Peninsula

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

To date there is a very definite thread both in the short stories in Catching the Light , and in the novel Free to Be Tegan. The central characters tend to be women at a turning point in their lives; it is a time of self discovery and of making important life-changing choices.

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I have completed the first draft of my next novel. It is set on the Gower peninsula and is about two women who have to own their past to move forward in their lives. The setting is actually Rhossili Bay, which is the most wonderful place, full of stories and history, so a perfect setting for my theme.

 

Mary GrandAbout Mary

I was born in Cardiff and have retained a deep love for my Welsh roots. I worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught deaf children in Croydon and Hastings.

I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with my husband, where I walk my cocker spaniel Pepper and write. I have two grown up children.

‘Free to Be Tegan’ is my debut novel. It is to be the first of a series of novels set in Wales. The second will be set on the spectacular Gower Peninsula. I have also published a short book of short stories ‘Catching the Light’, which contains the first three chapters of “Free to Be Tegan.” This is free to download on Kindle, Smashwords and Nook here.

Find out more about Mary here:

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Author Spotlight – Zeba Clarke

My author in the spotlight this month is fantasy and romance author, Zeba Clarke. Her latest fantasy release is Dream Guy,  the first book in the Battalions of Oblivion series.

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Dream Guy – Zeba Clarke

Every teen has dreams, but only Joe Knightley can make his dreams reality. Even the nightmares…

Joe has been falling asleep everywhere, and he has enough on his plate with wrangling his wayward best mate, suppressing the urge to murder his little sister and facing off with Charlie Meek, the knife-wielding bully who makes school a misery for so many.

Joe does not need the discovery that he can make his dreams come true. At first, turning a classroom into an aquarium and conjuring up a Lamborghini are amusing ways to use this new power. But Joe soon realizes he’s roused an enemy far deadlier than Charlie Meek.

Drawn into a duel with a being who has had centuries of experience, Joe must fight for everything he cares for. But deciding exactly what he holds dear is perhaps the biggest battle of all.

Finch Books

Amazon

*****

And now for my interview with Zeba:

Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose the setting for your current book?

Dream Guy starts off in a new town in south-east England, somewhere between Brighton and London…it was based on my years teaching in Sussex, and what really inspired me was the combination of a very ordinary every day student in a really down to earth environment discovering that he has the power to change the world around him quite radically. A whole mix of things led to my writing it – I needed a break from romance after writing four Regency-set books very fast over the space of two years, and my eldest son was also rolling his eyes because he wanted me to write something he was interested in reading…not some cheesy girly stuff with loads of kissing. So fantasy it was, probably strongly influenced by Doctor Who, which has been a family favourite since the rebrand by Russell T. Davies first began.

Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?

Stories come to me really easily – it’s finding the time to sit down and write that really stretches me, as I have a pretty demanding full time job as well. Currently on the go in my brain are a series of stories about a female artist in the early 17th century, an idea for a radio/tv series about the experience of women in internment camps on the Isle of Man during World War 2, another Regency story and the second and third books about Joe, the hero of Dream Guy…it’s story soup in there. I pick up ideas everywhere, from paintings, books, music. I keep folders on the computer and iPad and a notebook and just jot stuff down and try to keep it all ready for when I can actually focus on a particular book.

How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?

First drafts take me between two and three months. I have big cards with all sorts of random thought-maps, quotations, names, plus I collage using Pinterest and Scapple, so I collect images of characters, places, animals, art, anything that might just spark off an idea. My Pinterest page has boards for two of my series – the Oblivion series starting with Dream Guy, and Savage Mirror which is the series I’ve been writing about a young female artist who dresses up as a boy and then becomes a spy.

After I’ve collected all the images together and have a rough (very rough) idea of where the plot is going, I’ll start writing. I usually know what my final scene is going to be, but how I’m going to get there is often a surprise.

Redrafting depends. Once I’ve finished draft 1, I show it to my husband who is a mean and ruthless editor, and then I go back and rewrite. I’m still not convinced about the first part of the Savage Mirror series, and I’ve been through about four drafts of that, but Dream Guy only took three drafts before I felt confident it was ready to go to publishers. The whole process from the moment of starting the first draft to final submission is usually six to seven months. But that’s probably because the ideas have been stewing gently in my mind for some time before that.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Sometimes the discipline. I know that to get my best writing done, I have to focus on writing every evening for two hours. I’m most productive between 9 and 11. That’s become my writing time, and there are evenings when it just doesn’t happen, when I noodle on the internet instead of getting the words under my belt, often because I am not fully committed to how the story is working out. Then there is revising and redrafting. Getting rid of chunks I’ve written which I really liked but which I know are superfluous to the story I’m telling. But it has to be done.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

Losing myself in the world of my character, hanging out with the characters. That seems to get more and more intriguing and absorbing with every book I write. Although I’ve only had six books published, I’ve actually written ten, and with every book, I find that although there are moments when I get stuck, mostly, the chance to spend time with the characters in their world is the best part of the process. When I’m in the middle of draft 1 and revisions, I can be found staring into space or walking almost without knowing where I’m going because I’m running a scene or a series of actions in my head and trying to work out how it will get onto the page.

Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?

Probably the most interesting theme for me is how we grow into ourselves. I’m a teacher, so I watch teenagers day in, day out, developing, growing, becoming themselves. Some of my favourite books are those stories about growing up, working out an identity and a place in the world, from Daddy Long Legs to Great Expectations and Mill on the Floss. I’m also fascinated by how people can seem to be one thing but actually be another, and I suppose in Dream Guy and its subsequent books, I’m really playing with the idea of exploring strengths and weaknesses through dreams, shape-shifting and messing with reality. I also really love a good romance. I love reading happy ever afters, but I’ve noticed that in my own writing, I tend to make things a little more bittersweet and messy.

Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, can you tell us anything about it?

I am currently redrafting Heirs of Hypnos, the next part of Joe’s adventures. I wrote a first draft, but the publishers think it may be a little too dark so I’m revisiting and trying to take a look at how it might be reworked. I know where I want the trilogy to end, but I have to review and revisit how I get there! It’s really fun messing with characters. We’ll see!

Zeba ClarkeAbout Zeba

Zeba Clarke is a teacher and writer who has lived in China, Belgium and the UK. She currently lives on the Isle of Man and enjoys watching Game of Thrones with her teenage sons, walking by the sea and spotting seals.

Find out more about Zeba here:

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Author Spotlight – David J Robertson

This month’s author in the spotlight is children’s author, David Robertson, whose latest release is Dognapped!, an adventure book aimed at middle grade children (7-10) involving four canine friends. Welcome to the blog, David.

Dognapped

Dognapped! – David J Robertson

The quartet investigate strange sounds coming from the chimney of a canal boat which turns out to be feisty puppy, Ashley stuck inside the narrow tube. They manage to release him but accidentally cast themselves adrift.

On the boat’s radio they hear, ‘…news is coming in of a dognapping. Ashley has been taken along with a narrow boat. In a statement his people said, “whoever has taken our poor puppy is very naughty indeed!”’ 

The situation rapidly deteriorates until they eventually find themselves lost at sea. Will they make it back to shore? Can any of them swim? How silly does Rascal look in welly boots?

Buy Dognapped! here

***** 

Excerpt

One-Eyed Rose peered once more into the chimney. ‘Wow! It’s gone – whatever it was!’ she exclaimed, standing back. Now her one good eye had a black sooty ring around it.

I leant my paws against the window and put my nose to the glass. Inside were two black lumps. One was vaguely Bertie shaped.The other was a lot smaller.

The largest lump shook violently. Soot billowed through the air. It was Bertie! He blinked at me through the glass and pointed toward the back of the boat as he shouted, ‘The door was open all the time.’

I scurried along the bank and sprang onto the tiny deck. Clouds of black dust hung around the open door. Carefully, I made my way down three narrow steps and peered into the gloomy cabin. Bertie stroked his long black whiskers which were slowly becoming grey again. In front of him the small black lump trembled.Two vivid white circles appeared.
The lump had eyes!
I took a step back.This was getting scarier. Even Bertie, who knows a lot of things about a lot of things looked worried.
Looking round I spotted a carving knife lying on a table. I picked it up in my jaws – just in case! ‘Ahh…!’ went the tiny black lump.
It trembled harder than before.
…AAh!’
And even harder.
‘Is everything all right?’ One-Eyed Rose yelled down the chimney.
‘…Tishoooo!’ sneezed the tiny black lump, showering more soot into the air.

‘Wow! What was that?’ boomed from the chimney.‘Hold on I’m coming down.’
The tiny lump puffed out its cheeks. ‘Tshoo,’ it sniffed. It was now mostly white with brown patches and a brown tipped stubby tail.

Scamper!
Clatter!
Bang!
Thump!
One-Eyed Rose fell down the steps, ‘Wow! A puppy dog!’
The pup looked at Bertie with his bone-patterned scarf. He stared at me armed with a knife. Finally he gaped at One-Eyed Rose with the black ring around her one good eye like an eye-patch.‘Arggh! Pirates!’

‘Wow! Where?’ shouted One-Eyed Rose, looking around anxiously.
I dropped the knife.‘He means us, Rose,’ I told her, ‘we’ve frightened him.’
The pup bounced up and down on all four paws.‘I’m not frightened! Come on! I’ll fight you all. Yippity yap!’ he barked in a squeaky voice.
Bertie sighed.With a sharp clip of his paw he tapped the puppy across the tail making him somersault backwards.
‘Ow! I surrender!’
‘What sort of dog is that?’ One-Eyed Rose sniffed at the defeated baby.
‘I won’t tell you anything! We Jack Russells are very brave!’
I looked at the brown marks on his fur,‘I bet his name is Patch.’
The little dog grinned at me defiantly, ‘You’ll get nothing out of me, you nasty pirate. From now on Ashley says nothing! Yappity yip!’
‘So, Ashley, what was a Jack Russell puppy doing up the chimney?’ Bertie asked.
Ashley pouted,‘I was exploring.’
‘It’s a good job I poked you out with that brush. If someone had lit the fire you might have singed your tail,’ One-Eyed Rose said helpfully.

*****

Hi, I’m David J Robertson a … year old, (sorry the number lock seems to be broken!), bloke from the Black Country. There’s a children’s book – DOGNAPPED! completed and published (about my dog, Misty and her adventures) The second ‘IN THE DOGHOUSE!’ is written with a third already in the pipeline.

You may be wondering, ‘Why on earth is a children’s writer appearing on the blog pages of a romance author?’ Well, good people of this genre, it is my belief that you – being discerning readers – would like nothing better than to pass on your love of literature to your sons and daughters, to your grandchildren, to your nephews and nieces, indeed to any child who shows the slightest interest in taking their nose out of a mobile phone for even a second.

Also, I have a book to promote and although slightly biased I do happen to believe that it is quite good. In fact the illustrations by Ian R Ward are wonderful and I am very grateful for his input. Most people on picking it up do comment, ‘Oh this looks lovely!’ Sadly they’re all looking at the pictures and no one has read the story. I urge you to do so – you might like it!

So what are my writing credentials? I began writing seriously following a heart attack. Being cracked open like a lobster for a quadruple bypass seriously focuses the mind. Heed my advice – this is not the way to get into writing!

I’ve done quite a bit flash fiction and short stories. One day I’ll try to put them all together. You can see samples of these along with a blog on my website which is updated around once a week depending upon my inspiration, chagrin or whatever has plain got my goat during the past seven days.

And of course there’s the novel. Haven’t we all got one somewhere? It unfortunately needs attacking drastically with the red editing pen! A humorous (allegedly) science fiction/ fantasy adventure. I only started it in 2006 so it must be nearly finished by now.

Thursday mornings are taken up with Castle Writers in Dudley, in fact I’m now the Chairman, come along if you’re local – a bit of creative writing never hurt anyone.

Below are a few links to my website and blog, Facebook page and my Twitter account. Please feel free to pop over and say, ‘Hi,’ it would be nice to see you. Just a word of warning however – my dog, Misty does administer the website, take whatever she tells you with a pinch of salt! There’s also a link above to my publisher, Troubadour, it would be great if you fancied a copy of, ‘DOGNAPPED!’ You can read it yourself first before you donate it to your little darlings – I won’t tell, honest!

David RobertsonFind out more about David and his books here:

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