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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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Me and Bridget Jones

bridget-jonesThis weekend, we went as a family to see the latest Bridget Jones film in the series, Bridget Jones’s Baby. I say ‘latest’ in the hope that this isn’t the final film but I know in reality it probably will be. It’s been 12 years since the last one so we’ll all be in our dotage if another 12 years go by 😉 All the actors have remained the same over the years since the first film came out in 2001 and some of them are getting on a bit now, making it difficult to keep that same cast together for much longer.

The first film came out in the same year my youngest daughter was born. This weekend, as we went to see number three, she was watching it as a teenager! How time has flown 🙂 As we watched the film, and loved it too, there were some lovely reminders of other films we’ve shared as a family. Patrick Dempsey (swoon!) plays the other love interest in this film and there’s a moment when he helps Bridget put her shoe back on, saying ‘It fits!’ We all laughed at the joke and I knew everyone was thinking of Enchanted, a film we all loved and still enjoy watching to this day.

On the way home, we decided that Colin Firth has provided us with some of the best TV and film entertainment of our lives. Of course, I mentioned Pride and Prejudice. Where would I be without it? But no-one else in the family is that bothered about that one, strangely. Still, we have watched him together dozens of times in Love Actually and we all cry at his declaration of love for Aurelia, in Portuguese, no less. He has cornered the market in stiff, upper lip romantic leads we decided and our lives are all the richer for it.

By the end of the film, we were all in tears. It was a great film, with a perfect romantic plot, and it rounded things off nicely for Bridget, a character we have all grown up with and have wished the very best to for a good few years. It was also the end of an era, much like when we watched Toy Story 3 and High School Musical 3. Toy Story 3 was on the TV over the weekend and we happened to catch a bit of it as we were switching over to something else. My older daughter was desperate to carry on watching it (even though we have it on DVD and can watch it any time) but it was only a couple of minutes before tears were in our eyes and we moved swiftly on. It was too much to watch it when we know that she will be leaving home soon to go to university: the end of another era.

I’m glad that we have so many happy memories tied up in the hundreds of films we have seen over the years, even when some of them make us cry. It was especially sad this week to see that Charmian Carr, who played Liesl in The Sound of Music, passed away, aged 73. This film came out in the year my husband and I were born but I have loved it my whole life and introduced my children to it as soon as they were able to understand it. We know all the words to all the songs, still, and in happy times or sad, it is a great comfort to us all. I remember forcing my husband to watch it when we were first dating, many moons ago, and after kicking up such a fuss, he was soon engrossed in the story. Now, he will usually well up at the Edelweiss scene without the slightest hesitation (sorry, Simon!) It is a film that bears watching again and again. The music is wonderful and never fails to have me joining in.

It has been one of those weeks, as you can tell. September is a bit like that, even when you’re as old as I am. It still heralds the start of the new year as children go back to school, teenagers go off to university or to start college, or maybe even a new job. As a parent, of course, all you want is for them to be happy because that makes you happy too. I wish you luck with your new year, whatever it may bring and I leave you with one of my favourite songs from The Sound of Music.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hwK_WOXjfc0

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 – 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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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.
Steampunk

My 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:
Website
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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.
Find Elise at:

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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 CoverTaming 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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Author Spotlight – Sam Russell

Today, I’m welcoming fellow contemporary romance author, Sam Russell, into my Author Spotlight. Sam and I met via social media and we are both members of The Alliance of Independent Authors too. Sam’s debut novel ‘A Bed of Barley Straw’ came out earlier this year and she is hard at work on the sequel.
frontcover
A Bed of Barley Straw – Sam Russell
Hettie Redfern tends the stables on Lord Melton’s English estate and makes no secret of her feelings – she prefers dogs to men. Dogs don’t lie. They don’t manipulate, and when they love, they love unconditionally. Men, as the petite, copper-haired beauty has previously discovered, are rarely so loyal.

Alexander Melton, the son of Hettie’s employer, returns home from Afghanistan bringing with him the stray dog he adopted during his tour of service. He is immediately attracted to Hettie but finds her past distasteful – and Alexander is as suspicious of women as Hettie is of men.

The attraction between the two ignites a firestorm of emotions, but their growing passion struggles against suspicion and mistrust. Can Hettie and Alexander put aside the past in order to look to the future? Or will these two fight it out until the very last breath?
Amazon.co.uk
Amazon.com

Excerpt from the middle of Chapter One
Alexander? No, she hadn’t met him, the middle brother of the three Melton sons. She had met the youngest son, Edward, several times. Everyone had met Ted. Sociable, good fun, and popular, he had often been the local gossipmongers’ topic for his antics in the past. The village took a special kind of pride in Ted for his numerous misdemeanours, and he was enthusiastically welcomed at the Fox and Hounds Pub when he visited home. James Melton (good, kind, responsible James) was the eldest, heir to the estate, and Hettie’s boss for the last five years since taking over the hall from his father. Hettie couldn’t wish for a better boss (Lord Melton had been eccentric and unpredictable, to say the least), and she had become close to his wife, Grace. She was even fond of their children: Artie, Fred, and little Georgia, although as a rule Hettie didn’t “do” kids. But the elusive Alexander had rarely been at Draymere in the six years Hettie had worked there. Grace had mentioned he was coming back, something about his career in the army ending.

Awkward, she thought, to be meeting him for the first time when he returned her errant terrier. “Thanks, Doris,” she muttered to herself as there was a thud on the cottage door.

The words tumbled out as she greeted the man in the doorway. “Hi, thank you so much! I am so sorry you had to drag down here; it’s evil out there tonight—”

Christ, he’s bloody gorgeous.

The thought stopped her mid-sentence. She stared up at the best-looking bloke she had ever seen in her life. Tall and swarthy, with dark tousled hair and piercing blue eyes, he had a strong, chiselled face and the body of a god. Hettie’s stunned stargazing was interrupted as Doris, on the end of a length of bale twine knotted to her collar, hit her legs like a crazy champagne cork and scrabbled in a frenzy of excitement. There go the clean jeans, Hettie sighed to herself, squatting down to take Doris’s head in her hands. “You naughty pup,” she said and laughed. “What am I going to do with you?”

“Keep her on a lead?” Alexander drawled sarcastically. He held the twine out, and the smile on his lips didn’t make it to his eyes. “Yours, I believe?”

Hettie stood up abruptly. How rude. She felt annoyance prickling at his tone. Rein it in, Hettie, she scolded herself. He’s your boss’s brother; be polite.

“Thank you, I will bear that in mind,” she told him snootily. “I would have been happy to collect her myself, you know. But I’m sorry if I’ve wasted your time. Now if you will excuse me, I’m going out. Nice to meet you, by the way.”

Alexander stared for a second. When he spoke, his voice was low and even. “It’s not a matter of who brought her back. This is a working farm, not a park. She shouldn’t have been running around loose in the first place. She’s only a pup.”

He bent to ruffle Doris on the head. Doris squirmed and simpered in pathetic adoration as Alexander barked an abrupt, “Good night,” and headed back up the track, leaving Hettie open-mouthed with a writhing Doris on the end of the string. “Traitor,” she muttered at Doris through her teeth, untying the lead and closing the door with her foot before Doris could make a run for it in pursuit of her new best friend.

Hettie was still simmering as she climbed into the Land Rover. What an arrogant prick—telling me it’s a working farm when I’m the one who bloody well works here, and he hasn’t been seen around the place in years. Strutting about like lord bloody muck when he’s only been back five minutes. Throughout the drive to her mum’s house, she allowed her righteous anger to smother any guilty thoughts that he might be a little bit right.

Doris was only a puppy. It was a working farm and not her land, even if James and Grace were generous enough to allow her unlimited freedom around it. Just goes to prove, she concluded the tirade in her head as she pulled up outside her mum’s, good looks count for nothing.

 *****

And now for my interview with Sam:

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

The Cotswolds are so quintessentially English! When I began writing A Bed of Barley Straw my youngest daughter was studying in Gloucestershire. My visits with her reignited my love for the gentle countryside and honeyed buildings. They form the perfect setting to reignite the love in my characters! (I should also confess that Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire may very well have played a part in the decision!)

2. When choosing your setting, how important do you think it is to have been to the place yourself?
I have visited the Cotswolds, and part of my book is set in Norfolk which I know quite well, but I don’t think it is essential. Draymere Hall is an imaginary place, and when the writing requires facts I have to research anyway. I think I would have to do so even if a novel was set in my home town.

We are blessed with the internet and Google maps to carry us anywhere in the world. Having said that, I do think that visiting a place is inspirational and adds depth to my description of settings. I do need a vibrant picture in my head. Part of the book I am working on now is set in an area of North Wales which I have never been to. I am hoping to get there to ‘sniff the air’ before I complete the novel. (Plus any excuse for a trip to that beautiful part of our Isles is good enough for me!)

3. Do you find it hard to come up with ideas for stories? How do you go about it?
I didn’t find it hard when writing A Bed of Barley Straw but that was my debut novel which I wrote because the story was asking me to. When I had completed the manuscript I admit that I was worried that no further ideas would be forthcoming! In fact, I had notions for two other works buzzing in my head. The difficulty for me was putting those concepts on hold to complete the sequel to Barley Straw. I had laid the foundations for new plot lines in the first book, and so far it’s going well, but hey I’m a novice at this! Time will tell.

4. How long does it take you to write your first draft? How many more drafts will there be after that?
I wrote the first draft manuscript in under four months, but I had recently left work so had time (and obsession) on my side. Of course draft one was followed by numerous re-writes, it was two further months before I felt ready to send the manuscript for editing. I didn’t actually count the number of drafts because, for me, it was more of an on-going process. To be honest there is a risk of it becoming perpetual! Even when I read a passage now (particularly out loud) I will find parts that I would like to tweak. But you have to put that full stop somewhere!

5. What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
The times when you go off your own work. It is so dispiriting. Writing is such a roller-coaster, at times I love it and yet a few days later I can be despairing. With no apparent reason for this swing in motivation. I must say it is easier this time, knowing that I will be frustrated and disenchanted at times, and that these feelings do not mean as much as I think they do at the time. Thankfully the love rolls around again.

6. What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
Oh golly – I love this question! When you are in the flow it is like reading the best novel ever with the added joy of choosing the outcomes yourself! And feedback from readers never fails to thrill me.

7. Is there a recurring theme in your novels or is each one completely different?
A Bed of Barley Straw and the sequel are contemporary romance, but if there is a recurring theme I would have to say it is the development of my characters and their reactions to life events. I like to dig deep into characters’ minds. Future books may or may not be romance, but I think this stripping bare of a characters’ psyche will always feature.

8. Have you started work on your next novel yet? If so, where will that one be set?
I am mid-way through the first draft of my sequel which, like the first book, will be set around Draymere Hall in the Cotswolds. (There will be forays to London and North Wales!) Of the two books which are harrying me, one begins in London and spreads around the world. As for the other…I may revisit to Wales but I’m open to suggestions!

Thanks so much to Sam for being my guest today and for answering my questions so well.

IMG_1321 - Rev 2 (800x533)About Sam
Sam Russell was born in London but moved with her family to rural Essex at a young age. It was in the village that Sam grew up that she developed a life-long love of the countryside and horses which shaped her future, and now nurtures her writing.

Sam left school at 16 to train as a riding instructor and worked with horses for several years before marrying a farmer. Raising three children and running a livery yard on the family farm kept her busy for the next twenty years. Having always written for pleasure, it wasn’t until the youngest of her three children left home that Russell sat down to pen her Debut romantic novel – “A Bed of Barley Straw”.

Described as ”passionate, rural romance” and “delightfully frustrating” the story unfolds on an English country estate. The scenic pastoral surroundings; the village, the horses, the dogs, and the characters who live there form a backdrop to the fraught, tension-filled relationship which begins to develop between Hettie and Alexander.

When not writing, Sam can be found out and about on the farm, doing the farm accounts or buried in a book! She shares her farmhouse home with her husband two dogs and a cat, and thoroughly enjoys tempting her grown-up children back with hearty family meals.

Find Sam at:
www.RussellRomance.com

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