Author Spotlight – Julia Wild

This week’s author in the spotlight is romantic suspense novelist, Julia Wild, whose latest release is Moon Shadow.

moonshadow (1)

Moon Shadow – Julia Wild

‘You’ll destroy me if I let you…’

Ellie Morrison is the star of a British, daily soap.
So what’s she doing on a ranch in Montana posing as a housekeeper and investigating the murky past of its good-looking owner, Declan Kelloway?
And why does she find herself attracted to her new boss? After all, she has a perfectly satisfactory man in her life. And Declan is just part of her job, isn’t he?

Amazon

*****

And now for my interview with Julia:

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

Hi Julie, thanks for inviting me to be on your blog, it’s lovely to join you here. To answer what inspired me to choose the setting for Moon Shadow, I wanted somewhere remote, somewhere isolated, and to be centred on a ranch. The result is Kelloway’s Ranch in Montana, America. I needed to put the heroine, Ellie Morrison into a situation right outside her comfort zone, where she would take some huge risks for big financial rewards, so that when we join Ellie, her promise of a lucrative TV series in America has fallen through, but she still has massive debts… She is already working for a Go Anywhere, Do Anything agency. The story and the love affair build from there, there is also a mystery woven through the story, asking the question: What, if anything, did Declan Kelloway have to do with his wife’s death? It is that answer Ellie is sent to his ranch to find, under cover in the role of Declan’s temporary housekeeper.

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

All my ideas stem from the wonderful question: What if? Just as an example, Illusions, my 5th novel, sprang completely from the question: What would happen if you met the man of your dreams – on your hen night? I based the hen night on one I had attended, threaded through an art mystery, the location moving between London and the Lake District.

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

The first draft would take between 6-8 months, but to be honest, I lose track of how many drafts, a lot would cover it! Maybe I need to learn to plan my stories more, but I do love the organic process of just leaping into a story and seeing what happens. I think the downside is the many drafts involved.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part of writing is stopping to eat, or having to stop because my neck, fingers, everything aches! Like most fellow writers, I love being in the worlds I create.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

What I enjoy most is that moment when you know that your current idea is really working! Also, when you give a friend a rough outline, and their eyes light up and they say they can’t wait to read it.

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

The only recurring theme is the romance element, and I love unexpected twists and turns; I intend each one to be different, and hope in the not too distant future to re-visit the historicals I wrote a long time ago to see whether they are worth spending time putting onto computer (I typed all three very, very long manuscripts!)

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

I have started work on my next novel. The next brand new book I am working on is based in London; the heroine is Melissa, a dancer in West End shows. Unexpectedly she meets up again with a past love, Oliver, who now runs his own nightclub in the West End. Incidentally, I would love to dance but have little rhythm; but I have worked in the West end as a nightclub waitress!

Thank you again, Julie for inviting me to be a guest on your blog, and I wish you all the best!

 

CJ 10About Julia

A member of the Romantic Novelists Association since 1993, Julia came through the New Writers’ Scheme to win the New Writers’ Award (now known as the Joan Hessayon award) with Dark Canvas.

She is married and lives in Bedfordshire and has three fantastic children – all grown up now – but all still very much part of her life.

Julia worked in the local mobile house-bound library for nine wonderful years, and then was re-deployed to a local library until 2014. When the huge cutbacks came, she took redundancy and is taking some time to be self-employed; doing what she loves best – escaping into the writing world. Before she begins working on new stories that are bubbling away, she is bringing out her back list as Print on Demand & EBooks.

Find Julia and her books here:

Amazon Author Page

Twitter

Facebook

Website

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Spotlight – Jenny Harper

My first author spotlight of the year is on contemporary women’s fiction author, Jenny Harper. Jenny’s latest book is Between Friends.

Between Friends webBetween Friends – Jenny Harper

They thought he belonged safely in the past. His return threatens everything.

Marta, Carrie and Jane have been friends since they were at school. Now one is bringing up her family, another is desperately trying for children of her own, and the third is focused on her career – and each takes the support of the others as a given.

But when generous Marta offers out-of-luck actor Tom temporary shelter, her act of kindness sets in motion a tsunami of destruction. Marta’s marriage comes under threat. Timid Jane is haunted by the secret she has been hiding since she last saw Tom. And ambitious Carrie finds herself at the mercy of a man who can ruin her career.

Only by pulling together can the friends rid themselves of this menace. But is Tom too clever at sowing mistrust?

Excerpt from Between Friends (the beginning):

Sometimes Marta wondered how different her days might be if they were a family rather than a couple. If, instead of putting on a business suit at the sound of the alarm, she were to wake to the snuffling cries of a baby and pad across the carpet in the bedroom she shared with Jake to a cot in the corner. She imagined the feeling of picking it up, this squalling infant, of holding it to her breast and hushing it with love and milk.

She picked up her coffee from the counter of the small café, filled with a disappointment so profound that for a moment she thought it might set her weeping. This morning, again, her hopes had been dashed.

Still – she placed the cup on the table in the window and dropped her briefcase on the floor – it was a day of rare promise. She could see it in the slant of the morning light hitting the chiselled stone of the Georgian tenements across the road, and feel it in the warmth of the sun already beating through the window. It was going to be hot, a day for walking the beaches from Silverknowes to Cramond Island or strolling up the Pentland Hills with a flask of tea and a pack of sandwiches. A day not to be wasted.

By nature cheerful, she allowed her spirits to lift.

Across the road, sun hit glass as a door opened, reflecting low rays of light sharply into her eyes. A man emerged and stood, undecided, as the door swung to behind him. Was he a celebrity? It was August, and Edinburgh was teeming with personalities and stars, real and wannabe. Authors were here for the Book Festival, jazz musicians were opening their souls for the world’s inspection, dancers, actors, comedians and television personalities were vying with each other for attention and audiences.

She watched as the lights changed and the man crossed the road. He was tall and slim, stylishly dressed with well-cut jeans, brown loafers, a crisp white shirt and a grey sweater tied loosely round his neck. A battered brown fedora sat jauntily on his head and he carried a brown leather holdall over one shoulder. He was heading straight towards her.

Surely she knew him? …

Amazon UK

*****

And now for my interview with Jenny:

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

My first four novels with Accent Press were set in a fictional town in East Lothian called Hailesbank. They are grouped together as the Heartlands series. I loved dreaming up a world entirely of my own – though set in a recognisable context – but Edinburgh is where I live and work. It’s a stunning city and I know it well – so I could not think of anywhere better to set a novel. I’m not the first author to think of this, of course!

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

When I’ve cleared my mind ready for a new venture, I turn first to my cuttings file. I tend to cut out and keep stories I see in newspapers and magazines that catch my imagination. They may be about interesting people or about weird things that have happened. They might be quirky, or funny or sad. Sometimes I try placing two or three very different scenarios/people/settings together and see if any magic happens. Occasionally I spot something that immediately sparks an idea. That’s what happened with the novel I’m writing at the moment – but sorry, I don’t want to talk about it yet!

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

I’m really slow at getting started. I can think the idea through and get a one or two page synopsis down quite quickly, but as I get deeper into it and get to know my characters, I have to adjust my notes all the time. I also like layers and depth in my stories (even though I like them to be page-turners!). Adding this should look seamless, but planning how it will work can do my head in sometimes! Once I get over half way, I can write very, very quickly. I once wrote 34,000 words in five days! I was mentally and physically a wreck by the end of it, but I didn’t have to rewrite much of it. If I were working just on the writing, it would probably take three or four months. However, I enjoy so many other things (walking, swimming, golfing, travel, seeing friends, playing bridge) everything takes much longer. I can comfortably write a full-length novel a year. I tend to rewrite and rewrite the early parts, but the work becomes more and more fluid and needs less and less editing as I progress.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Getting the first half of the book written. I sometimes think I must be very stupid!

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I’m an editor by training (I worked for Collins and Cassells as a non fiction editor) and I really love this part of the process. I revel in cutting and polishing and buffing everything up so that it shines and sparkles.

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

I say that I write about ‘strong women under pressure’ and I guess that just about sums it up. My heroines have challenging jobs (which they tend to be good at), and we meet them when both work and home life (or their relationships) are showing signs of cracks. Other than that, they are all completely different! I have written about a wind farm engineer, a newspaper photographer, a politician and an artist. My last book, People We Love, was about an artist whose promising career has been put on hold after the tragic death of her brother. There’s a mystery at the heart of it, and a love triangle, and some pretty dotty characters. The next one, Mistakes We Make, is the first of the Heartlands series that carries on with some of the same characters. However, Accent decided to release Between Friends in February as a kind of anti Valentine novel. It features three friends who all live in Edinburgh and a superficially charming but deeply malevolent man from their past whose return to their lives threatens everything…

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

I mentioned Mistakes We Make, scheduled for release later this year. The novel I am currently writing is still very much under wraps, though I can tell you it is another standalone set in Edinburgh. I’m just beginning to emerge from the head-banging phase and I’m getting really excited about it!

Thank you so much for hosting me today.

 

About JeJenny CC 3 web croppednny:

Jenny Harper lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, though she was born in India and grew up in England. She has been a non-fiction editor, a journalist and a businesswoman and has written a children’s novel and several books about Scotland, as well as four full length novels and a novella in The Heartlands series (set in Hailesbank), and two short stories that have appeared in anthologies. Between Friends is her fifth full length novel.

 

Find Jenny at:

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Author Spotlight – Sharon Booth

My final author spotlight of 2015 falls on contemporary romance author, Sharon Booth. Sharon’s latest book is A Kiss from a Rose.

Rose final coverA Kiss from a Rose – Sharon Booth

Flynn Pennington-Rhys is the quiet man of Kearton Bay, so when he finds himself entangled in the chaotic life of Rose MacLean, his whole world turns upside down.

Rose is at a low ebb. With one daughter clearly harbouring a secret, another who has morphed overnight from Shirley Temple into Miley Cyrus, and a mother hell-bent on reliving her misspent youth with her childhood sweetheart, Alec, AKA Red Rum, it’s no wonder her self-esteem is at rock bottom. But when, on top of all this, her best friend goes on ovulation alert, and her slimming club leader has a meltdown, Rose needs someone she can rely on.

It seems, though, that Flynn has his own secret, and as events take an unexpected turn, it’s no longer certain that he can be counted on.

Will the quiet man come through for her? Will her daughters ever sort themselves out? And will her mother ever move on, or is Rose really doomed to years of sleeping in the bath tub?

Amazon UK

Amazon US

 

Excerpt

He smiled half-heartedly and tried again. ‘I do think you should sit down, Rose,’ he began.

She put her hands on his face, cupping it and staring at him intently. ‘You’re a gorgeous bloke, Paddington,’ she told him.

Heat spread over him. ‘Yes, well,’ he murmured, trying to prise her hands away from his face. ‘I wouldn’t say any more. You’ve had a nasty injury and a bit too much to drink.’

She wrapped her arms tightly around his waist. ‘Don’t make me sit down, Paddington,’ she protested, her voice slurry. ‘I haven’t been held for so long, and you smell ever so nice. What are you wearing?’

‘Clothes.’

‘I mean your aftershave, silly. What is it? It’s gorgeous. You’re quite gorgeous. Has anyone ever told you that?’

‘Yes.’

‘Really? Who?’

‘You, a few seconds ago.’

‘Oh. Well, I was right, wasn’t I?’

She lifted her face to him again, and they looked at each other for a moment. Flynn wished he could click his fingers and disappear. He’d never felt so embarrassed, and that was saying something. Then he noticed her eyes had dropped to his lips, and she was moving her face ever closer to his. His heart did a funny little jig, and then she was kissing him.

Warmth flooded through his cold body. All his synapses seemed to be firing at once; hot lava was coursing through his icy veins. Suddenly, he was kissing her back, and she held him tightly, as his hand cupped the back of her head, and he drank her in, like Meggie with a McDonald’s chocolate milkshake.

‘Oh, for God’s sake, Mother, pack it in.’

Flynn’s eyes flew open in shock, as Rose was torn away from him, and Fuchsia shot him an apologetic look.

Rose glared at her daughter. ‘Do you mind? Me and Dr Paddington Bear here were having a meaningful conservation. How dare you interrupt?’

‘Yeah, yeah, sure you were. I’m sorry, Doc,’ said Fuchsia, beginning to lead her away. ‘She always gets this stupid when she’s pissed. Just ignore her.’

Rose looked as if she was about to protest, but then crumbled and allowed herself to be led away.

Flynn was trembling all over. What the hell just happened? He had to get out of there.

‘Had enough?’ Joe asked, helping a sleepy Amy into her coat near the door.

Beside them, Mrs Travers was pulling on her gloves, while somehow managing to keep an iron grip on her sister’s granddaughter, Kylie, who was looking much the worse for wear.

Flynn felt dazed. ‘More than enough. I’m going home.’

Joe grinned at him. ‘Good looking woman, Rose MacLean. You could do worse.’

Do worse! Flynn left the pub without a backward glance.

It was just a kiss—a stupid, meaningless kiss. She’d have forgotten all about it by now. And maybe, by tomorrow, he’d have forgotten about it, too.

*****

And now for my interview with Sharon:

Your first two books have been set in the fictional village of Kearton Bay on the North Yorkshire coast. Can you tell us more about what inspired you to choose this setting and whether future books will be set there?

When I started writing what became the Kearton Bay series, I intended to set it in Somerset. You see, the whole idea was born on a car journey, en route to our holiday in that county. I didn’t have a story planned, as such, just a few interesting, and very persistent, characters. As the story evolved, however, it became clear that these were Yorkshire folk. Not surprising, given I was born and bred in the county. So I started looking for a specific Yorkshire location that would inspire me. Initially, I set the first book in the Dales, but it never felt right. I needed somewhere else, somewhere that suited the characters and was the perfect backdrop for their stories. Then I remembered my visits, many years previously, to Robin Hood’s Bay, and it seemed the perfect place. I went back there to have a look around, and I just knew it was right. I used Robin Hood’s Bay as inspiration for my fictional Kearton Bay. As you say, the first two books were set there, and there will be two further books in the series. The name was in memory of one branch of my family tree—the Keartons—who, ironically, hail from the Yorkshire Dales!

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

I can’t say I find it hard to come up with the ideas. It’s getting them down on paper or on screen that’s the difficult bit! I don’t sit down and think, “Right, what can I write about now?” Ideas just pop into my head as I’m going about my ordinary life. I find that the more mundane the task that I’m carrying out, the more ideas I’m likely to have. Funnily enough, I get a lot of ideas when I’m at the day job! (Hope my boss never reads this.)

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

Well, the first draft of There Must Be an Angel, was written in thirty days exactly, because I wrote it for NaNoWriMo 2011 and I was determined to finish it. I was supposed to reach fifty thousand words during the month of November, but in fact, I managed a full hundred and twenty thousand words. Don’t ask me how, because I don’t think I could do that again to save my life. Having said that, it was complete rubbish. At the time, I thought I’d finished it. Haha! Little did I know it was just the start. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many more drafts I did of Angel. I lost count after the first twenty. Truthfully, very little of that first draft made it to the final version, and it took me almost two and a half years to get it to the point where I was happy to publish it. Writing A Kiss from a Rose was a very different experience. I’d learned such a lot in those two and a half years, and it took me just seven months to complete. I mostly revised as I went along, then did another draft when I’d finished, a further draft after the beta readers had commented, and then the final draft after the editor had cast her beady eyes over it. It was a far less stressful experience than writing Angel, which at one point I’d come close to shredding!

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

Definitely writing the first draft. Forcing myself to sit at my desk and staring at that empty screen and thinking, “Can I really do this?” To be honest, it’s horrible at times. I don’t know why I do it.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

When the words are flowing and the story’s really coming together, and I’m making myself laugh as I write, or I’m really feeling the character’s pain. It’s such a wonderful feeling to really immerse myself in the book. Oh, yes—that’s why I do it!

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

I was thinking about this, just the other day, funnily enough. With Angel, there was a strong theme of fathers and daughters. Then with Rose, it was mothers and daughters. With my next novel, it’s got elements of the father/daughter relationship, too. However, what I think runs through all of my stories is the theme of belonging—of finding a home, whether that’s a physical home of bricks and mortar, or a community, or that special someone who makes you feel as if you’re finally safe and you don’t have to look any further. I didn’t set out to make that a recurring theme, but it seems that’s what I write about.

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

Book three is with my beta readers at the moment. It’s something new entirely—not part of the Kearton Bay series. It’s mostly set in the Yorkshire Dales, and it features an ageing rock star and his spoilt brat of a daughter, a naughty politician and his wife, a young woman who is caught up in something she can’t seem to get out of, and a rather gorgeous sheep farmer!

I see that you’ve recently had some stories published by People’s Friend magazine. Congratulations! Will you continue writing short stories along side your novels? Do you prefer one or the other?

I’ve been lucky enough to have a pocket novel published by People’s Friend, and I’ve just had a short story accepted by them. I was really delighted to write for them. People’s Friend is such a well-established and much respected publication, and I felt that it was a real boost to me when they said yes. I’d love to work with them again, as they’re so lovely to write for and it’s such an easy process. The whole editing thing is taken out of your hands, but you know you can trust them. They know what they’re doing, and they know their market. I’m working on a story now that I hope will be suitable for a pocket novel, and I will hopefully submit more short stories. It’s finding the time. I don’t really prefer one or the other. It’s nice to write all different lengths of stories. Keeps things fresh.

**Sharon also has a free Christmas short story up on Wattpad at the moment. It’s called The Other Side of Christmas and I can really recommend it!**

 

About Sharon

10450375_1548020332081619_595680736266470252_nSharon wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives. Her first published novel was There Must Be An Angel, which is the first in a series of four Kearton Bay stories, set in a fictional village on the North Yorkshire coast, inspired by the beautiful Robin Hood’s Bay. She lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog, and regularly yells for tea and biscuits while writing, to remind them that she exists. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and just a little obsessed with Sherlock, The Musketeers and Poldark. She freely admits that she would write more books if the BBC didn’t insist on employing such gorgeous men.

Find out more about Sharon here:

Website 

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Author Spotlight – Alys West

This week, my author in the spotlight is urban fantasy and steampunk writer, Alys West. Her debut novel, Beltane, will be out on December 14th.

Beltane finalBeltane – Alys West

Finn McCloud is a druid, connected by magic to the earth. He’s made a big mistake; one he expects to pay for with his life.

Maeve Blackwell has plans for a new start, free of the façade she so carefully maintains. At Beltane, the Celtic festival of fire on 1st May, all her preparations will come to fruition.

Struggling artist, Zoe Rose is in Glastonbury to work on the illustrations for a book about King Arthur. But when she arrives at Anam Cara, the healing retreat run by Maeve, it’s not the haven she hoped for.

Maeve isn’t the warm-hearted, hippy she expected and Zoe can’t help feeling there’s something very odd about the place. Is it coincidence that the other guests become ill after Maeve’s given them healing? And why did the Green Man carved on a tree in the garden, which she’d felt inexplicably drawn to, mysteriously vanish during a thunderstorm?

As if that wasn’t enough, the weird dreams she’d had all her life are getting worse. Every night she dreams of a handsome stranger. Then, the day after the thunderstorm, she meets Finn. Realising he’s the man she’s dreamt of (not that she’s going to tell him that!) she’s forced to accept that her dreams are premonitions.

With Beltane fast approaching Finn knows that Maeve must be stopped. He’s torn between wanting to protect Zoe from the supernatural world and his desire to be with her. And the more time they spend together the harder it is to keep secrets from her.

When Zoe’s dreams reveal that at Beltane both their lives will be in terrible danger, it’s clear that only by trusting each other can they have any hope of defeating Maeve.

Beltane will be out on Monday 14th December and can be pre-ordered from Amazon.

*****

And now for my interview with Alys:

I know you write in a number of different genres. Please could you tell us more about the genres and a little about the books you’ve written in them?

So far I write urban fantasy and steampunk. I didn’t really know what genre Beltane, my first novel, was when I started writing it. I just wrote the story that I wanted to tell and then tried to fit it within a genre when I started submitting. I think you can best describe it as a supernatural romantic thriller but as that’s not a recognised genre I’ve ended up calling it urban fantasy.

SteampunkMy second novel, The Dirigible King’s Daughter, is a steampunk romance. I’ve been fascinated by the idea of steampunk for a while. I live in York and a couple of years ago I went over to Whitby when the Goth Festival was on. I was intrigued by these people who clearly weren’t goths. They wore brown and had amazing contraptions which seemed to be formed almost entirely of brass cogs. Somewhat later I discovered that was steampunk and, the more I looked into it, the more interesting it became.

Steampunk is an alternative history and works on the theory that the world continued to be powered by steam and never became dependent on oil and electronic technology. Much steampunk is a version of a Victorian world but with more advanced steam technology like dirigibles (or airships). I’ve set my steampunk world in 1897 which meant I could have wonderful Victorian clothes and hats (I got way too fascinated by 1890’s fashion and wasted hours on Pinterest!) and massive amounts of fun with the dialogue.

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

I don’t seem to find it hard to come up with ideas for novels. Ideas for short stories are far more tricky. I definitely seem to need the bigger canvas of a novel. I’m currently doing an MA in Creative Writing at York St John University and one of the things that I’m hoping I’ll learn from that is how to write short stories.

Most of my ideas seem to come from places. Beltane is set in Glastonbury and the idea for the book came fully formed from the place. There’s nowhere else I can think of that has the same mix of history, myth and alternative culture as Glastonbury and, let’s be honest, if weird things are going to happen anywhere they’ll happen in Glastonbury!

The Dirigible King’s Daughter is set in Whitby and was probably directly inspired by the people I’d seen there for the Goth Festival. Because of them the idea of steampunk and Whitby got linked in my brain and, then it just kind of took off from there.

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

I don’t really write a first draft which I know is a bit odd. I’m constantly refining and polishing as I go along which means the process can be very slow compared with some of my writing friends. It took me three years to write Beltane, which included an awful lot of writing and rewriting along the way. However, I have speeded up considerably as I wrote The Dirigible King’s Daughter in about four months. I polished less that time and then did a second draft but I was pretty blessed with that book as it just seemed to tell itself.

What’s the hardest part of writing for you?

I think that depends on the book. I’ve really struggled with various bits of different books. I got in a terrible state about writing the end of Beltane and procrastinated for weeks about it scared that I’d ruin it with a naff ending. The Dirigible King’s Daughter had a tricky beginning when I got in a muddle with flashbacks and how to tell the back story. Lughnasa, which is the follow up to Beltane, had a really sticky middle. It got so sticky that I put it down and wrote The Dirigible King’s Daughter instead just to have something else to think about for a while. I need to get back to Lughnasa and find my way out of the sticky middle and I’m hoping to have time to do that during the Christmas holidays.

What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

I think I just love writing and telling stories. I know that when I’m doing it I’m happier and more alive than when I don’t so I guess I’ll just have to keep writing and hoping that someone wants to read the stories that I tell.

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

I’m pretty sure there isn’t a recurring theme but, as I didn’t know that Beltane had a theme until I went to Julie Cohen’s workshop at the 2013 RNA Conference about 3 months after I’d finished writing the book, I may be wrong about that! The theme of Beltane is trust and abuse of trust. I figured that out during Julie’s workshop. The Dirigible King’s Daughter is about loss and grief and how people handle that.

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

I am about three quarters of the way through a first draft of Lughnasa. As I’ve mentioned it’s the follow up to Beltane and includes some of the same characters. Winston, who is a supporting character in Beltane takes centre stage in Lughnasa. Finn and Zoe are back too but there’s some lovely new characters too. I’m particularly fond of Jenna, who’s had a very hard time after her Mum was murdered six years ago and finds herself torn between her attraction to Winston and her old love, Hal. It’s set in Orkney, which is somewhere that I fell hopelessly in love with when I first visited in 2010 and am very keen to return to next year.

I see that you’ve started publishing one of your books to Wattpad. Can you tell us what made you choose that platform in particular?

Alex ebook cover 1 (1)I’d heard lots of good things about Wattpad and I knew it was very popular for fantasy. I thought it might be a good idea to try out The Dirigible King’s Daughter on there and see how it worked. I’m putting up a chapter a week and, after a very slow start, it’s steadily starting to build up and get some regular readers. Once I’d started with it I rapidly realised that I didn’t have the time to invest in doing all the things that people say you need to do to build a readership on Wattpad and that the book would have to stand or fall on its own. So after changing my profile picture to a steampunk avatar (I am about 25 years older than most of the people on Wattpad!) I just left it to do its own thing. But I am having fun with it. You should have heard me cheer when I finally got over 100 views and when I got a comment on a chapter from someone I didn’t know, it honestly made my week! I’d say it’s a really great way of testing out a book and seeing what works and what maybe needs a bit more work. I’m intending to publish The Dirigible King’s Daughter on Amazon next year.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog. It’s been an absolute pleasure and I hope I’ve not waffled on too much with the answers to your really interesting questions.

*****

Alys West (2)About Alys

I’ve been obsessed with books and writing since I was a child. My first attempt to write a novel was when I was eight which taught me that it was actually really hard work and took a long, long time!  After working in a book shop in my twenties I got back into writing, turning out very average poetry and one song but mostly I just read an awful lot.  From reading fantasy authors like Guy Gavriel Kay together with mystery and romance I figured out the kind of books I wanted to write. And as a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer I knew that they would have magic in them.

Joining the Romantic Novelists Association New Writers’ Scheme helped me to develop my writing and I got through to the first round of the Wow Factor competition run by Cornerstones Literary Consultancy in 2013. Through the New Writers’ Scheme I met a fabulous group of aspiring novelists who formed The Write Romantics, which has become a popular site for writers and readers.  I’ve just started a MA in Creative Writing at York St John University which I’ll be doing part-time for the next two years.

I live in York and work at the University of York. When I’m not writing or blogging I can be found listening to folk music, getting involved in yarnbombing, doing yoga and drinking far too much tea.

Find Alys at:

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You can read The Dirigible King’s Daughter on Wattpad.

You can also check out her steampunk board on Pinterest at Alys West Writes.

Author Spotlight – Jannette Spann

This week, the author in the spotlight is inspirational romance author, Jannette Spann. Her latest book is Right Time for Love.

RightTimeForLove (1)Right Time for Love – Jannette Spann

Brandy Wyne’s future includes an old house with plumbing problems, a new job, and caring for her mother who has suffered a stroke.

Gavin Wilkin has increased his Grandpa’s plumbing business to twice its original worth, but the old man’s got a hot lady friend with greedy hands. How can he convince his grandpa of what she’s after without hurting him? Added to his problems is the responsibility of caring for his seven-year-old niece for the summer.

Brandy can’t afford the plumbing repairs she needs, and Gavin can’t find a sitter for his niece. Ever heard of the barter system?

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Excerpt

He eased into Brandy’s drive, looking forward to spending time alone with her. An hour in her company never failed to relieve his stressful day, but when she came off the porch and headed his way, the frown was less than welcoming.

“I’ve got a problem,” she said, the moment his door opened.

“Join the rest of us.”

“I’m serious.” Brandy remained hot on his heels, following him around the truck.

He shoved his cap back. It didn’t matter if he was fed up and bone weary, she wasn’t relenting. “Okay, Brandy. What did she do?”

“Lily said she wants me to be her mother.”

He stopped, glancing back over his shoulder. “What brought that on?”

“I’m not sure. We were playing dress up, and I’d done her makeup and hair. Then out of the blue, she threw her arms around my neck and said she wanted me for a Mama!”

“What did you say?”

“That she has a mother.”

Gavin picked up the shovel and pickaxe, and headed toward the house. Ordinarily he’d use the backhoe and be done in a day, but he needed this job to last as long as possible, or at least until Paul and Clarice got back. Spending time with Brandy was icing on the cake—sometimes.

She grabbed his arm. “What am I supposed to do?”

*****

And now for my interview with Jannette:

1. As I write romances from around the world, I’m interested to know what inspired you to choose your setting for your latest novel?

My last novel was set in Mobile, Alabama. Some of my favourite vacations have been spent on the white sugar-sand beaches of the Alabama gulf coast. Beautiful downtown Mobile is a history-lover’s dream. I could spend a day looking at the giant live oaks, azalea and camellia bushes. Nearby Bellingrath Gardens is gorgeous any time of the year and so romantic I had to include it in a scene. Dauphin Island fit the ending perfectly.

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

My ideas seem to find me. I write stories about people with ordinary problems any of us can have – maybe. The fun starts with creating a story around the problem. Add interesting characters, a beautiful location, and my stories take on a life of their own. The humour in my books just happens.

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

It’s hard for me to answer this question. I don’t believe I’ve ever written a complete first draft, from start to finish, without editing along the way. Just call me queen of ‘copy & paste’. The number of drafts I do depends on the book and the comments from my critique partners. Needless to say, by the time the story is ready for a publisher to see, I’ve gone through several drafts.

4. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

Finding the time. My family comes first.

5. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?

Some people like the research process, or creating pages of outlines. That’s a necessary process that I have to go through, but what I really love is getting lost in the story. If the plot is good, and the characters I’ve created are believable, then when I get lost in the story I’m thinking my readers will too. That’s when I know I’ve got a good book.

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

I write Inspirational Romance. My stories are always as different as the individual characters I place in each of them. The problems my hero and heroine face are always unique and so are the ways they’re solved, but the underlying theme for my books is the same as it is in real life – God is in control.

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

My current work in process takes place in northwest Alabama. A retirement home and a farm make up the setting. The heroine is an LPN working on her RN degree. The hero is a restaurant owner who’s taken over the running of the family farm. The only thing they seem to have in common is their love for old people.

About Jannette

Born and raised in northwest Alabama, Jannette Spann is a retired hospital ward clerk. Married to the man of her dreams for the past forty-eight years, she is a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. Her love of writing began when she was in the fourth grade, and she loves to write about family, love and loyalty.

Jannette is a member of Heart of Dixie, the North Alabama Chapter of Romance Writers of America. She won her first writing contest in 1999, but it wasn’t until after retirement in 2012 that she began to pursue writing in earnest. Eight months later her first book, Hidden Hills, was published by Astraea Press. She loves the beach, but when at home, her idea of summer fun consists of a cool breeze, a cold glass of tea, and sharing the front porch swing with her husband, Mike. In winter, she gladly trades the swing for a rocker in front of the fireplace and the tea for a cup of hot coffee.

Find Jannette at:

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Author Spotlight – Elise Abram

This week, the author in the spotlight is Canadian science fiction author, Elise Abram. Her latest book, The Revenant, is a young adult zombie horror fantasy and that’s what she’s going to be talking to us about today. You have been warned!

front coverThe Revenant – Elise Abram

He wears neither cape nor cowl, but Zulu is a superhero, nevertheless.

Raised from the dead as a revenant more than a hundred years ago, Zulu possesses Spiderman’s stealth, Superman’s speed, and Batman’s keen intellect. His only companion is Morgan the Seer, an old man cursed with longevity and the ability to see the future in his dreams. Zulu has spent the last century training with Morgan in order to save the people in his nightmares from certain and violent death. Branded a vigilante by the Media, Zulu must live his life in the shadows, travelling by night or in the city’s underground unless his quest demands otherwise.

Kat is an empath, someone who sees emotions as colourful auras. Relentlessly bullied by her peers, and believing her life amounts to nothing but a huge cosmic mistake, she finds purpose in her abilities when she is recruited to help Zulu and Morgan complete their missions.

Malchus is  Morgan’s long dead twin brother. A powerful necromancer, Malchus manages to find a way to return to the living, and he has a score to settle with Morgan. Believing Morgan responsible for his death and out to seek revenge, Malchus begins to raise an army of undead minions and use them to hunt Morgan down. As Malchus closes in on Morgan and his charges, the trio soon realises the people most in need of saving are themselves.

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Excerpt

Barb grunted a low grunt.

Malchus heard something that sounded like cracking bone. He stood and walked slowly around to face Barb. She was working to frantically shove the remnants of whatever she had in her hands into her mouth. Blood covered the lower half of her face and her hands and dripped down her forearms, off her elbows, and had begun to pool on the floor. The sleeves of her sweater, rolled up her arms and above her elbows, were saturated.

Having pushed the last of whatever it was she had been eating into her mouth, Barb set to licking the blood off her fingers and then from her forearms. She rolled down her sleeves until they covered her hands, and then placed the material into her mouth and sucked the blood from them as well.

“Barb!” Malchus said, sickened in spite of himself.

Barb looked up at him, eyes wide with fear, the cuff of one of her sleeves still between her lips.

“What are you eating?” he said, sounding calmer than the thump of Hal’s heart would indicate.

“Rat.” The sweater cuff fell from her mouth when she spoke. She licked her lips, and as if realizing there was still blood to be had on her face, wiped her cheeks with the back of her hand, looked at it, then pressed it against her mouth and sucked.

Afraid she might eat her own hand next, Malchus said, “Why?”

“Hungry.” Her answer was garbled as she said it with her lips still against the back of her hand.

*****

And now over to Elise for a bit more background about her latest novel.

Beware The Coming Zombie Apocalypse!

But that’s not…real, right? I mean, zombies are a construct of our popular culture. Surely zombies exist only on celluloid, in books and as digital files on someone’s eReader?

Maybe for now.

The term “zombie”, according to the Google Dictionary, is of West African origin and has been around since the nineteenth century, but didn’t become popularised to mean the undead having risen for no other purpose but to feed on the brains of the living until George Romero’s Night of the Living Dead in 1968. Online sources agree this is probably when the genre of zombie horror originated. It has featured in our popular culture ever since, especially since the introduction of AMC’s The Walking Dead.

So zombies have become a mainstay of gory fictional horror. That doesn’t make them real.

Not in humans. Not yet.

Articles online abound, describing all sorts of parasitic infections that zombify insects and animals once they’re infected. One such article, published within the last year by Sarah Griffiths, science and tech reporter for The Mail Online, reports how the Toxoplasma parasite infects the brains of mice rendering them unafraid of cats. The cat eats the mouse and the parasite multiplies in the cat’s intestinal tract, infecting the cat as well. Because the mice brains are re-wired by the parasite, scientists claim they are effectively turned into zombies.

Medical journalist Jerome Burne reports on a number of parasites infecting the brains of insects. When the Camponotus ant, native to the Brazilian rainforests, is infected with the Ophiocordyceps fungus, it adopts an unsteady walk, wanders from its usual pathways, clamps its jaw on a leaf, and dies around six hours later. Burne explains the reason parasites take up residence in the brain is because they are sheltered there from the immune system. Joanne Webster, professor of parasite epidemiology at Imperial College London adds that in the brain, the parasite is given “direct access to the machinery to alter the host’s behaviour.”

Though scientists assure these brain-hitch-hiking parasites will not survive in humans, it doesn’t stop disaster preparedness sites and organizations from using zombie apocalypse scenarios in their studies. For example, Delaware County emergency-management officials staged a zombie emergency drill for Halloween 2011, as did Quebec’s pubic security department in 2013. The CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response website is uses zombie preparedness as a platform to measure if people are prepared for an emergency. Still reeling from the SARS epidemic in the early 2000s, a recent discussion in the Canadian House of Commons urged Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird to think about an International Zombie Strategy because “zombies don’t recognize borders.”

So while a zombie apocalypse is not imminent, experts believe it is possible.

The only remaining question is: will you be ready?

 

author photoAbout Elise

Elise is a high school teacher of English and Computer Studies, former archaeologist, an avid reader of literary and science fiction and student of the human condition. Everything she does, watches, reads and hears is fodder for her writing. She is passionate about Second Cup lattes, cooking, writing and language, differentiated instruction and ABC’s Once Upon A Time. In her spare time she experiments with paleo cookery, knits badly, and writes. She also bakes. Most of the time it doesn’t burn. Her family doesn’t seem to mind.

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Author Spotlight – Margaret Johnson

Welcome to my latest Author Spotlight. This time, my guest is Women’s Fiction writer, Margaret K. Johnson. Margaret is also a member of The Romantic Novelists’ Association and her latest book Taming Tom Jones will be out in October.

TTJ Cover

Taming Tom Jones – Margaret K. Johnson

Jen’s partner Michael has never been in a relationship for more than four years, so with their fourth anniversary coming up, she’s getting understandably nervous. Especially as she’s just discovered she’s pregnant, and she knows Michael doesn’t want any more children other than Kyle, his teenage son. 

Jen means to tell Michael about the baby right away, but then he comes home on a brand new motorbike, having traded in his sensible car, and the moment is lost. Is Michael having an early mid-life crisis? 

Jen decides to do some detective work about Michael’s exes in an effort to save their relationship, and embarks on a journey that will take her as far afield as North Norfolk and Cuba. But she has no idea of the can of worms she’s about to open. 

Why do all Michael’s relationships break up? And what’s the big secret he’s hiding?

Taming Tom Jones is available to pre-order now:

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Excerpt

I’m in the ladies toilets at my local superstore. Inside the one functioning cubicle, sitting fully clothed on the toilet seat, surrounded by overflowing carrier bags, a peed-on plastic tester stick clenched in my hand. Waiting for my fate to unfold.

Two minutes. The time it takes for Michael to go to sleep after we’ve made love if I don’t do anything to stop him. The pee on the plastic stick is asking a question, and the chemicals inside it are working out their answer. And in two minutes I’ll know whether their answer agrees with my instinct.

“I’m crazy about you, Jen,” Michael said three months after we first got together. “I want us to be together. But I’ve got to be totally honest with you, if you want kids, you’d better find someone else, because I’ve already done all that. Don’t get me wrong, I love being a father to Kyle, but it’s enough for me.”

Michael. We met at a fancy dress party nearly four years ago – my mate Rick’s thirtieth birthday party. The theme was Pop Icons of the Twentieth Century, and the room was stuffed full of Elton Johns, Donny Osmonds and Mick Jaggers. I was Madonna, complete with pointy bra, and Marcia, my best mate, was Diana Ross.

“You look fantastic with all that long hair,” I told her as we propped up the bar, preening ourselves and pointing out funny sights to each other.

“Thanks. I could get used to this glamour.” She ran a hand over the sea-green sparkles of her dress. Perhaps we should start a band.”

“Yeah, right.” I hadn’t forgotten our last spectacularly bad attempt at karaoke on holiday in Spain, even if she had.

Marcia never has liked to be reminded of her failings, even at school. “Your bazoomers aren’t level,” she told me stonily, jabbing an accusing finger in the direction of my breasts. “You need to go up a bit on the right.”

I yanked dutifully at my right cone, wondering if Madonna had experienced the same trouble.

“Anyway,” Marcia said, “who are you going to get off with tonight?”

“I’m not going to get off with anybody. It’s only been three months since I split up with Luther.”

“That’s what I’m saying,” she said. “Three months of freedom and so far you’ve done zilch to celebrate.”

“I don’t feel like celebrating.” I was hurt by now, but Marcia never has been a girl to let my hurt feelings stand in her way when she’s telling me something for my own good.

“Well, you should. Luther was a prize tosser. You are far, far better off without him, Jen.”

“I loved him.”

“You thought you loved him. That’s about as different as Ibiza and the Isle of Man.”

Marcia stood on diamanté sandal tip-toes, peering into the crowd, the dark river of fake hair flowing all the way down her bare back. “Him,” she said, pointing. “That’s who you’ll get off with if you get off with anybody.”

“Who?”

Marcia pointed again. “Him,” she said. “Tom Jones.”

*****

And now over to Margaret for a bit about the inspiration for her latest book, Taming Tom Jones.

The Leopard-Spotted Hero

In the run up to the publication of my novel Taming Tom Jones by Crooked Cat Publishing on 2nd October, I’d like to share a bit about the writing process behind it, and some of the very personal experiences that were my inspiration. I dug deep for this novel, but it was worth it!

I’m sure you’ve all come across women – or men – who seem to want to constantly change their partner. It’s as if they fell in love with them for one specific reason, but then feel compelled to do their best to change that very quality. In such circumstances, love is likely to be doomed to failure, a fact I try to keep in mind with my current relationship. After previously being in relationships with men who were charismatic and exciting, but exhaustingly unpredictable, I was ready for someone more dependable. So I can’t complain – okay, I shouldn’t complain – when he’s reluctant to be in the slightest bit impulsive, or takes ages to make a decision that affects our future.

In my view, based on hard-won experience, anyone entering a relationship thinking they can change someone, is going to end up disappointed. After all, would I want someone to set out to try to change me? No! Except maybe, on a very superficial level. For example, I no longer put plates and cutlery to soak in the washing up bowl, as it seems to annoy my partner so much – don’t ask me why. Washing up foibles or not, I love my man, and the fact that he accepts me pretty much as I am means a great deal to me. What’s more, I don’t always have to live in his shadow the way I did with those other illusive, party animals.

When Taming Tom Jones opens, Jen has just discovered she’s pregnant with her partner Michael’s child. She’s thrilled about it, because she’s always wanted children, but she’s anxious too, because right from the start of their relationship, Michael was honest with her about not wanting any more children. He’s a good father to his teenage son Kyle, but that’s enough for him.

Michael’s lack of desire for more children isn’t the only reason Jen’s nervous. Michael’s never stayed in a relationship for more than four years – he’s something of a serial monogamist, and their four year anniversary is looming on the not-so-distant horizon. Will Jen’s news tip the balance?

Crazy about Michael as she is, Jen takes the brave decision to keep her pregnancy secret for now and to investigate his exes. If she can find out why those past relationships went wrong, then maybe she can stop the same thing happening to them.

A while back, I shared the first seven chapters of my first draft of Taming Tom Jones with the Women’s Fiction Crit Group on the now sadly defunct site Authonomy. Their feedback was very positive, but several people didn’t like Michael and his serial monogamist ways. Having been on the receiving end of men like him in my own life, I could appreciate their point of view. Back in those days, I was supremely good at deluding myself that it would be different with me; that these men would end up loving me so much they would magically transform themselves, and a trip down the aisle with me would become their longed-for goal. Unsurprisingly, I was proved wrong several times, and yet I could never really hate these heart-breakers. They were popular, out-going and fun to be with, just as Michael is in Taming Tom Jones.

But that feedback from my Authonomy colleagues got me thinking. For Jen to enjoy a ‘happy-ever-after’ with Michael, he would need to change a lot, otherwise the reader would just think Jen had settled for someone not good enough for her. I was stuck for quite a while, as I grappled with this. Should Jen end up with someone new? Possibly, but that would mean the child she’s carrying wouldn’t ever live with its father, and while that might often be the case in real life, I didn’t want that to happen to Jen and her baby in my book. So I decided to try to make Michael’s transformation believable, and searched for a way to do it. Finally, I had what I thought was a good idea. What if the reader got to know substantially more than Jen does about exactly why Michael is the way he is? While Jen’s busy carrying out her investigations, we know she’s getting a very distorted view of the truth and wonder how they’ll ever sort things out. Yes, that seemed like an intriguing way to go.

So, why does Michael never stay in a relationship for very long? Is there some secret he’s hiding? Ah! You’ll have to read the book to find out!

You can pre-order it here, and you’re more than welcome to join the online launch party on 2nd October. There will be fun, games, music and a question and answer session about writing. Click JOIN to take part. See you there!

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_DSC2255_ppAbout Margaret

Margaret K. Johnson began writing after finishing at Art College to support her career as an artist. Writing quickly replaced painting as her major passion, and these days her canvasses lay neglected in her studio. She is the author of women’s fiction, stage plays and many original fiction readers in various genres for people learning to speak English. Margaret also teaches fiction writing and has an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK with her partner and their bouncy son and dog.

 

 

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