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Darcie Boleyn

Heartwarming Romance

#authorinterview #amreading – Carla Burgess – @msbear123

Today I’m delighted to welcome the fabulous Carla Burgess to my blog!

Stuck

Hi Carla thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

 Hello, Darcie, thank you so much for having me on your blog. My name is Carla Burgess and I write romantic comedies for HQDigital. I live in Chester with my husband and three children and I like animals, the countryside and the sea. I’m originally from Solihull, but moved to Chester for university and ended up staying when I met my husband. It’s a lovely place and I’ve used it as the setting for both of my books.

 Why did you want to become a writer?

I’ve always had an urge to write. I remember being quite small when I realized that people actually wrote the books I was reading and thinking that was an amazing thing to do. As a bit of daydreamer, it’s the ideal job really. I was always reading as a child and often I’d carry the story on in my head after the book had finished. Plus I’ve always loved working with words. I studied English Literature at uni and I worked as an magazine editor for twelve years.

Tell us a bit about your recent release.

Stuck With You is about a girl that gets stuck in a lift with the guy she used to have a crush on in college. She’s horrified at first in case he spoils her perfect memories of him by being horrible, but it soon becomes clear that he’s still the boy of her dreams and a much better bet than the horrible boyfriend she’s already got. Hopefully it will make readers feel happy.

What genre are your books?

My books are romantic comedies.

What draws you to this genre?

I love an uplifting read and a happy ending.

Where do the your ideas come from? / What was the inspiration to write your most recent book?

I’ve never been stuck in a lift myself, thank goodness, but I heard someone screaming from inside a lift in a shop once and I just thought, how awful it must be. Also, the crush part of the story is a bit embarrassing because as a teenage girl, I used to have really intense crushes on boys where I’d be rendered speechless by their presence and just a glimpse of them in the hallway would make my day. Very sad, I know. I still have a leaf stuck into a diary from a walk I took past some poor unsuspecting boys house. I don’t keep it as a memento of him though; it’s more a reminder of how scathing and sarcastic my friend was during the walk. I still belly laugh every time I think of that evening. I dedicated Stuck With You to her because I feel like I owe her. She really needed the loo and I made her walk for miles.

How much research do you do? / How do you research?

Daniel in Stuck With You is a tree surgeon so I did a bit of research on his job, which mostly consisted of looking at pictures of manly tree surgeons on pinterest. My next door neighbours were quite helpful too because they had some guys round to do their trees while I was writing it. The curtains did a lot of twitching that day! For Marry Me Tomorrow I researched homelessness, and there has been lots of media coverage about this growing problem so there is lots of information about. The statistics are shocking and there are so many heart-breaking stories out there.

Plotter or pantser? – Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’m more of a pantser really. I make an initial outline but once I have that I just want to get stuck in and write.

Describe what a typical writing day involves for you. / Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I get the kids to school, do some chores, walk the dog and then I sit and down and write as much as possible. Social media is a big distraction, but it’s also incredibly valuable so I try to balance it out. I try to write a thousand words a day, but if a deadline is looming then I just write and write and write. I stop when the kids come home and make tea, and then I go back to writing in the evening.

What’s the toughest part of the writing process for you?

I suppose I find the end the trickiest. It has to do justice to rest of the story, plus it’s hard saying goodbye to your characters.

What’s the most enjoyable part of writing?

I like surprising myself with how the story evolves. I like being completely immersed in the lives of my characters and the feeling that anything could happen. And I like making those ideas boards on twitter where you get to look at lots of handsome men and wonder who would play the hero in the movie (I can dream!!).

Out of all the wonderful books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?

It’s a bit random but I wish I’d written Richard Adams’ Watership Down because I adore it so much. A colony of rabbits leaving their home on the advice of a psychic bunny and his charismatic brother – it’s just amazing. I love how they have their own folklore, and Frith is their god, and the Black Rabbit of Inle comes to get them when they die. And they all have wonderful names like Hazel and Fiver and Bigwig and Blackavar. And General Woundwort is just terrifying.

If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character, who would you spend it with and what would you do?

I’d spend the day with Lucy Honeychurch from A Room with A View by E.M. Forster. We’d wander around Florence and I’d try to get her to talk about George Emmerson.

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading You Don’t Know Me by Mandy Lee.

 

FOR FUN

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

I’d like to be able to teleport. How great would that be? No more walking or driving anywhere. I’d just click my fingers and *POP* I’d be there.

What secret talents do you have?

I can wiggle my ears.

Are you a morning or night person?

I’m a night person. I love the peace of knowing everyone’s asleep in bed and I’m not required to be washing/ironing/cleaning/making food. I like writing at night too. Unfortunately, I have two teenagers who seem to think they’re night people too, so that peace is increasingly hard to find.

What fear would you like to overcome?

If I wasn’t afraid I would learn to ride a horse.

What is your favourite film and why?

I saw Beauty and the Beast the other day and I think it might be that now because it made me feel so happy and joyful. It was just lovely.

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How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon Author Page

Book Links –

Stuck With You

Marry Me Tomorrow

 

Goodreads

Pinterest

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One lift. Two strangers. Anything could happen!

Elena thinks today will be just like any other day… until the supermarket lift gets stuck! And she’s not alone. Also stuck is none other than Daniel Moore, her teenage crush, who seems to be just as gorgeous as she remembered… But Elena already has a boyfriend – though not a very good one!

So, when Elena makes some big changes in her life, she’s reluctant to give ladies’ man Daniel a real chance. Elena has had enough of players – she’s going to stick to being single, and resist Daniel’s brooding charms. But Daniel has other ideas.

 

He’s determined to show Elena how much of a perfect pair they could really make… if they stick together!

 

 

 

 

Writing Romance #amwriting #romance #mondayblogs

 
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I’m currently writing a story that features the good old friends to lovers trope. It’s one I’ve used before and one I’ll no doubt use again.

As I was writing this morning, I asked myself:

Why do I like this particular trope?

 Why is it a favourite amongst readers and writers of romance?

The main characters in my current story have been friends since school. They grew up together and liked and admired each other. But… they never got together. They almost did. They certainly knew that they cared about each other, but there were several reasons why it never actually happened for them. This is part of the layering of the story and I really enjoy this element of the creative process.

In the friends to lovers trope, there might always have been a spark between the characters; perhaps they even shared a kiss, but when they meet up years later, that spark becomes a roaring flame. It’s a form of Wow! You’re all grown up now and I like you even more than before!

But there must be conflict, otherwise the story would be over and done with far too quickly and where’s the fun in that?

The hero and heroine in a friends to lovers plot need to have a common past, however long or short it is, but there must still be things for them to discover about each other. If they’ve been apart and been through different experiences, this can enhance the journey for the reader. Perhaps they’ve been hurt by the loss of a loved one, shunned by a loved one, or even society, and this makes them doubt themselves.

Whatever happens, this lovely trope gives an author plenty to work with, as well as plenty of challenges.

As I plot then write, I constantly ask myself:

What does this mean for my hero / heroine?

How has it shaped their journey to this particular time and place?

At what point will they change / see things differently / re-evaluate what it is they want?

What will hold them back and create the ultimate emotional ‘black moment’?

The important thing about friends to lovers stories, is that the relationship needs to be built on more than just physical attraction. The characters might always have been aware that the other is attractive, but something got in the way – whether it was the importance they placed on their friendship, the fear of rejection (perhaps one of them didn’t feel the same, or they were both unaware of the other’s feelings) or there could have been a third party in the friendship, creating a kind of love triangle complication. But when the hero and heroine eventually get together, their shared past means that their whole relationship deepens.

So to summarise:

There should be tension and layered conflict.

There should be a lot to lose, otherwise the hero and heroine might get together too easily.

There should be depth to the relationship and to their shared past.

But ultimately, they have to be prepared to take the risk to lose it all… because if they get together and it goes wrong, then their friendship is on the line.

Then there’s the Happy Ever After.

Predictable? Maybe.

Desirable? Certainly.

Achieved through an emotionally satisfying journey? Of course.

And that’s why us romance readers keep coming back for more.

 

What are your favourite tropes and why?

HUGE HAPPY PUBLICATION DAY WISHES TO THE FABULOUS @HJRolfe #bookrelease

Today I am delighted to welcome the fabulous Helen Rolfe to my blog to celebrate the publication of The Summer of New Beginnings.

The Summer of New Beginnings KDP cover

Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

 I write contemporary women’s fiction with an emphasis on relationships and love. I enjoy weaving stories about family, friendship, secrets, and characters who face challenges and fight to overcome them. My stories tend to include some serious issues, but my books always have a happy ending.

I lived in Australia for 14 years and so some of my novels are set there, combining real and fictitious places. I’ve also set books in New York and the one I’m working on right now is set in Bath, UK, another beautiful city where we lived for 9 months.

 Why did you want to become a writer?

I always loved reading and writing but didn’t think about it as a career choice for a long while. In 2003 I left my I.T. job and began freelancing for women’s magazines, I studied journalism and then in 2010 I began thinking about writing a novel.

Tell us a bit about your recent release.

The Summer of New Beginnings is up for preorder and will be released 4th April 2017!

They say trouble comes in threes…

Headstrong and organised, Mia is a single mum who wants to fix the world – but the one thing she can’t fix is her family. Responsible older brother Will has fled Primrose Bay, unable to forgive and forget after the ultimate betrayal. And Jasmine, no longer the wayward baby sister, is determined to prove to her brother and sister that she’s just as capable as they are.

Together in the bay after years apart and a separation spanning three continents, it doesn’t take long for the siblings to clash when Mia calls everyone together in a family crisis. And with jealousy and resentment simmering between them, as well as faces from the past and new loves, the family ties could end up being severed forever.

Sometimes we need to lose ourselves in order to find each other again…

Where do the your ideas come from? / What was the inspiration to write your most recent book?

My ideas come from everywhere, the people around me, events that happen here and abroad, or they’ll strike, most annoyingly, as I’m drifting off to sleep! Quite often the overall book idea is a combination of a couple of smaller ideas, which is always fun to work with.

How much research do you do? / How do you research?

I do a lot of research. When I studied a Masters in Writing – I never finished it because I started writing novels! – one of the units was Research for Writers and I enjoyed it a lot.

I usually map out my idea and then research until I think I’ve got enough information, then I can plot some more and finally tackle the first draft.

Plotter or pantser? – Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

Bit of both! I think it’s important to have a rough idea of where you’re going but then to stay flexible and see where the book and characters take you.

What’s the most enjoyable part of writing?

I love all of it! But I’m not keen on all the promotion I have to do.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

I usually find going out for a walk or taking a break helps.

You’re hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors/celebs would you invite? (alive or dead)

Lianne Moriarty – so I can ask her about plotting!

Judy Blume – her books were such a good influence growing up.

Jane Green – because I love her books

Maeve Binchy – because her writing was simply beautiful

Nora Roberts – because the woman is awesome!

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading Nicholas Sparks’ See Me

FOR FUN

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

The power to heal

Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

New York…I’m determined to get there this year or next!

Do you have any scars? What are they from?

A few on my jawline although thankfully they’ve faded. They were from a pretty serious car accident when I was 23.

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Amazon Author Page

Book Links

UK

US

HelenJRolfe

#blogtour – Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings – by Wendy Holden @HoZ_Books

 

Today I am delighted to welcome Wendy Holden to my blog as part of the blog tour for Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings

 

Laura Lake blog tour

 

Hi Wendy,  thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I was born in Yorkshire, went to Cambridge and then moved to London to break into journalism. It took a while but I managed it in the end! I was a journalist on Tatler, the Sunday Times, and The Mail on Sunday before becoming an author. I’ve written ten consecutive Sunday Times top-ten bestsellers including a Number One. I live in the countryside, in Derbyshire. I am married with two children.

Why did you want to become a writer?

When I was a child I had a book called ‘My Life’ by Enid Blyton. She lived in a huge house in a vast garden and had a dishy tennis-playing husband. She had achieved all this through writing and she described her authorial routine as sitting on a swing chair in the garden, closing her eyes and waiting for her characters to come to life and do things, like figures on a cinema screen. Then all she had to do was write it all down. Fool that I was, I believed every word.

Actually, the other reason was that I was working in glossy magazines and found it hilarious. I wanted to share my experiences with a wider world!

Tell us a bit about your recent release.

Laura Lake is my fabulous new heroine – glam, gutsy and with a great sense of humour. She’s a reporter, a kind of female Tintin. At first she is an unpaid intern at a glossy magazine – sleeping secretly in the fashion cupboard and living on canapés. But then she gets her first big break – to infiltrate three society weddings and write a juicy expose. Security will be tighter than a bodycon dress, but how hard can it be to get the skinny? She’ll disguise herself as a ballgowned billionheiress for the castle-partying aristocrats and a boho-chic pixie child for the posh festival nuptials. Oh, and a moustachioed lobster for the Shoreditch hipsters. But nothing can prepare her for disappearing brides, raunchy royals and a brush with the next James Bond. Or the fact that her jealous office enemy will do anything to bring her down. Will Laura get the scoop of the year? Or will she be out on her ear?

What genre are your books?

They get called chick lit, which is fine by me. They are comedies about contemporary life. I picked weddings for Laura Lake’s first outing because they’ve got so complicated and overstyled. I read an article in a brides mag telling you how to get a blue unicorn. You find a horse, dye it and get a cone for its head from Hobbycraft. Laura goes to three types of fashionable wedding, but they are practically infinite these days.

What draws you to this genre?

It was drawn to me originally; I wrote my first novel whilst writing a column for Tara Palmer-Tomkinson in the Sunday Times. It made her hugely famous and, as I’d done all the work, I was a bit resentful. But then I realized I had a novel plot and my first book, Simply Divine, was all about a downtrodden newspaper hack who writes a column for a socialite. It was an instant hit and that was it, I was on my way.

And it was exactly the right subject. I have an eye for the ridiculous and there are few things more ridiculous than the celebrity lifestyle. I’ve written fourteen novels since and they are all full of film stars and socialites and the incredibly funny and silly things they do. Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings is the funniest yet. She’s a glossy mag journalist, which is the perfect novel setting. I absolutely love glossies as they’re full of hilarious lifestyle detail whilst taking themselves extremely seriously.

Where do the your ideas come from? / What was the inspiration to write your most recent book?

I was writing a novel called Honeymoon Suite, which was more of a romance. In it, the heroine, who’s been jilted at the altar, ends up working in the weddings department of a stately home. I went to some wedding fairs for research and it was then I realized how much weddings have moved on, with their ice-cream bikes and flashdancing bridesmaids. There is also a class element to it; I had noticed that posh weddings had changed from the old chinless- wonder-and-Chelsea-church template. Rich people now have boho weddings or arty weddings or weddings like the one Prince Harry just went to in Jamaica, with people singing Bob Marley instead of hymns and saying ‘yeah man’ instead of ‘I do’, I thought in Laura Lake And The Hipster Weddings that my heroine could gatecrash examples of all these.

How much research do you do? / How do you research?

Because my beat, as it were, is glamour and gloss, I read every glossy magazine I can lay my hands on. I get lots and lots of material from them, because the best and funniest details are the ones you can never make up. Or I will go to specific things like the wedding fairs, as above. But sometimes I will be somewhere and a storyline will just suggest itself. That’s especially handy!

Plotter or pantser? – Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I have a plot, because comedy depends on contrast; you need to know what’s coming next. Also, Laura Lake is a woman of action, as well as being very curious and a bit accident-prone. There are lots of exciting scenes as she foils her adversaries and gets into trouble.

Describe what a typical writing day involves for you. / Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I am really happy if I can write 4000 words but my more usual total is half of that. I’m more concerned that I have moved the plot and the action on, as you can get stuck on particular bits for ages.

What’s the toughest part of the writing process for you?

Just sitting down and doing it! There’s no way round the fact that bum has to hit seat and finger must make contact with keyboard. I find all manner of displacement activities before I finally get going.

What’s the most enjoyable part of writing?

When you’ve done a really good day’s work, or even better, finished a book and it’s gone off and is someone else’s responsibility for a while!

How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

I am more disciplined now and I have more confidence; I think writing comedy is good because it makes people happy. Some people think a great book is one that makes them cry but to me, it’s more of an achievement to make them laugh. I am proud to be an entertainer, someone who cheers people up and makes them smile.

Do you ever get writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

I have written 15 books and so far it has not been a problem. I think about having a proper job and that usually does the trick.

Out of all the wonderful books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?

The Great Gatsby is my favourite novel. It is such a beautiful, sad, brilliant book. But it might be smarter to say I wish I’d written Harry Potter!

If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character,who would you spend it with and what would you do?

Sir Lancelot in Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott. He’s the sexiest dude in all literature. I’d swing up on his jewelled saddle and we’d go off on his warhorse!

What can we expect next from you?

The next Laura Lake novel – Laura Lake And The Celebrity Meltdown! Laura moves her investigations to a fashionable village full of famous people. But the countryside is not as quiet as she first thought! I also have a short story coming out on ebook in the summer; Laura Lake And The Luxury Press Trip. In which Laura goes off on a magazine jolly to a palm-fringed paradise island, with unexpected consequences!

Have you ever had a book rejected by a publisher / agent? How did you deal with it? How would you advise other authors to deal with rejection?

My agent has rejected ideas I’ve had for books I wanted to write. He was always right; they were terrible! It has never stopped me having other ideas and trying again though. You have to be pretty thick-skinned as a writer and try not to take things personally. But it’s hard!

You’re hosting a literary dinner party, which five authors/celebs would you invite? (alive or dead)

I would invite Byron, Shelley, Keats, Shakespeare and T S Eliot. Then I would sit at the end of the table and just listen.

What are you reading at the moment?

P G Wodehouse’s Mike and Psmith. Psmith is one of my favourite literary characters. He is incredibly affected, but also incredibly funny, loyal and kind. He’s a bit like Laura Lake’s appallingly self-obsessed but hilarious actor friend Caspar

 

FOR FUN:

If you had a superpower, what would it be?

Writing a brilliant book in one week and taking the rest of the year off

What literary character is most like you?

I passionately identified with the Ugly Duckling as a child. It was may favourite story. I loved the theme of transformation and that change from dowdy to glamorous has been my enduring theme as a writer. I’m not saying I’ve changed into a swan though!

What secret talents do you have?

I can draw cartoons and caricatures. I used to give caricatures of themselves to my friends for their wedding presents. It makes me cringe to think of it now! On the other hand, I met my husband when I was drawing caricatures of people at a university ball. He was in a jazz band and was playing right behind me.

 

How can readers discover more about you and your work?

Website

Facebook

Twitter

Head of Zeus

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#authorinterview – Jo Platt – @JoPlattTweets @canelo_co

 

Today I am delighted to have the fabulous Jo Platt at my blog!

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Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

I was born in Liverpool, moving to Devizes, a small Wiltshire market town, when I was eight. I lived there until I went to study English Literature at King’s College, London, in the late ‘80s. After university, I stayed put, working in the City for ten years, before relocating, with my husband and young daughter, to Seattle. Two years later, we returned to the UK, with an additional daughter in tow, living in St Albans for eighteen months, before finally settling in Bristol in 2004.

Why did you want to become a writer?

I’ve described myself as an accidental author in the past because although I’ve always loved writing, I had never considered it as a career. My novel Reading Upside Down was written purely for fun, and it was thanks only to the prodding of family and friends that I took it further, first self-publishing it in 2013 and then sending it to an agency. That led to the rights being picked up by publishers internationally and a deal for a second book.

Tell us a bit about your recent release

My second novel, It Was You, is all about changing relationships within a small, Bristol-based, book group. In particular, the novel focuses on thirty-something Alice Waites. She’s been single for almost two years and when her friends gently question her reluctance to meet a new man, even for a coffee, she decides it’s time to start dating again. It’s most definitely a romcom but, be warned, it has its darker moments too. Alice’s journey is far from plain sailing.

What genre are your books?

I’ve described my novels as chickwit in the past and I think I’d like to stick with that description. My purpose, when writing has always been, first and foremost, to entertain – initially myself and now a wider audience. But although my books are, I hope, feel-good and funny, they also work hard not to insult or under-estimate the intelligence of the reader, in terms of writing, characterisation and plot. Both novels were written with the members of my book group in mind and they’re a bright bunch. So I wanted to present them with characters and situations which would not only make them laugh, but which also made them think and gave them something to discuss.

What draws you to this genre?

I like to laugh and feel uplifted and I love the idea that my books might make other people feel the same way.

Where do the your ideas come from? / What was the inspiration to write your most recent book?

My ideas come from friends, family and overheard snippets of conversations in coffee shops, post offices, trains and, most recently, in my GP’s waiting room. Each book is the result of a myriad of minor inspirations, but my book group was obviously a significant one when writing It Was You. I love the idea of a diverse group of people, coming together with perhaps little in common other than an affection for each other and the book they have read that month.

Plotter or pantser? – Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I’m a bit of both. I know where each chapter will start and finish, but I don’t always know exactly how I’m going to get from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’.

Describe what a typical writing day involves for you. / Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

My typical writing day involves an awful lot of tea and a whole heap of procrastination. After the school run and any admin, I usually aim to be at my laptop by 10am. I then do a lot of staring out of the window. I tried for a short while to write a certain number of words per day but that often resulted in stilted, stressed prose, which I then deleted first thing the following morning. So my approach is now very much quality not quantity.

 

What’s the toughest part of the writing process for you?

I love every moment of writing a novel but I find the prospect of sharing it with others absolutely terrifying.

What’s the most enjoyable part of writing?

Making myself laugh, without a doubt.

Do you ever get writer’s block?

I do but try very hard not to get frustrated about it. I overcame my most recent bout by thinking about the plot problem as I switched off the light to go to sleep. I probably lost about thirty minutes’ sleep each night for a week, but it was a more relaxed approach than staring desperately at the clock and a flashing cursor on my laptop screen.

Out of all the wonderful books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?

That is such a difficult question and tempted though I am to choose something by Dickens (A Christmas Carol) or Austen (Sense and Sensibility), I’m going to plump for To Kill a Mocking Bird, which has been my favourite book since I first read it at the age of sixteen. It’s such a powerful story, told with simplicity and complete authenticity.

If you could spend the day with your favourite literary character, who would you spend it with and what would you do?

Fitzwilliam Darcy. And I’d like to keep the details of our hypothetical day private, if that’s ok.

What can we expect next from you?

My recently completed third novel is about an author who has been temporarily derailed both professionally and emotionally. All names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Jo’s Blog

Twitter

Canelo

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#bookreview – Summer at Oyster Bay – by Jenny Hale @jhaleauthor

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I loved this story! It was funny, emotional and heart-warming.

The main character, Emily Tate, is sweet and loyal, and I warmed to her immediately. She’s had some ups and downs recently but she always has good intentions. When Emily returns to Oyster Bay, she realises what she’s been missing, and I joined her on a rollercoaster of emotions as she is reunited with her precious Gram and extended family, as well as the ghosts of her past.

Then there’s Charles… the handsome new owner of the Water’s Edge Inn, and he brings a whole load of delightful complications into Emily’s life. He’s a serious businessman but also gorgeous and kind, and I enjoyed the journey as Emily brings out the best in him, and they realise that they have more than an appreciation of Oyster Bay in common.

Summer at Oyster Bay is a feel-good romance that captivates the senses and Jenny Hale is an author with a gift for seamlessly immersing the reader in the story and making them fall in love with her characters.

This is a 5* read, for sure!

AMAZON UK

AMAZON.COM 

Jenny Hale

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What is it about Christmas? by T.A. Williams #christmas #MondayBlogs #christmascountdown #amreading @TAWilliamsBooks

T A Williams reflects on what it means to write a Christmas book.

   When my editor told me she wanted a Christmas book, I wasn’t sure what to write. You see, I’m a grumpy (well, some of the time) old man and I grew out of the whole tinsel and fairy lights thing a long time ago. I worked out at a very early age that the presents my brother and I found under the tree on Christmas morning had more to do with mum and dad than a big fat man squeezing down the chimney. Now, I’m not exactly saying I’m a bah humbug sort of guy, but let’s just say that Christmas for me isn’t maybe as magical and fabulous as it is to so many billions around the globe.

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So, when faced with clear instructions that they wanted a Christmas book from me, I had to sit down and take stock. Just what does Christmas mean to a 67 year old cynic? The answer, at least as far as I am concerned, is definitely not tinsel, fairy lights and presents; the answer is people. Christmas is a time when families and friends get together. Our daughter lives in London and we only meet up a few times a year. It isn’t that far from Devon to London, but you know how it is. Stuff happens. She works very hard. We all get busy and one thing leads to another and the months fly by. But Christmas is different. Christmas brings us all that bit closer together so, whatever your religious views, whatever you may think about little children paying to sit on the laps of big fat bearded men, or fairies hanging on Christmas trees, nobody can deny that Christmas justifies its existence by bringing people closer together.

ta-williamsSo, when planning What Happens at Christmas, I started out with that in mind. I wanted to write a book that brought people closer together. And I’m not just talking about the characters in the book. I really wanted to write something that would make the reader turn the last page and immediately go off and hug as many members of their family as they could find, while they’ve still got them. You see, nothing lasts forever and you’ve got to remember that. We are on this planet for a frighteningly short time and we need to ensure we enjoy our loved ones before it’s too late.

The story of What Happens at Christmas is Holly’s voyage of discovery when she visits the little stone cottage on Dartmoor where her father lived and died. She hasn’t seen him or heard from him for twenty years, ever since he dumped her and her mother and moved out. Now he’s dead. She knows very little about him except that she hates him. As she gets to know more about him, she begins to realise that she has maybe misjudged him. I think there’s a lesson there for all of us. Don’t jump to conclusions and don’t always assume that people are bad, rather than good.

Assisting Holly in her enquiries is Stirling. Stirling comes as a big surprise to Holly. It’s not every day that you inherit sixty pounds of bone and muscle with an insatiable appetite and a habit of climbing onto her bed, onto the sofa and onto her lap. He and she soon become close friends, partly because he, like so many Labradors, is adorable, but most of all because he’s the last living link she has to her father. So, if you decide to follow my advice and embrace all the members of your family, don’t forget the big hairy one in the basket. Families come in all shapes and sizes.

So, What Happens at Christmas isn’t some sort of kiddies’ cartoon Christmas story. It’s a book about people brought together by their friendship for, and their love of, a man who is no longer there. He was no saint, but his influence that Christmas is responsible for bringing people closer together and changing lives. Specially Holly’s.

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My Favourite Bits of Christmas by Sue Watson #guestpost #Christmas #MondayBlogs @suewatsonwriter

 

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The thing I love most about Christmas – is guilt-free food. As a woman who sumo-wrestles her weight throughout the year, I welcome the festive season with gusto because throughout December it’s ok to eat anything. Isn’t it? At this time of year all calories are erased by those two magic words ‘it’s Christmas,’ which I reckon means I can eat anything and everything that’s vaguely festive or not. From Christmas cake to chocolates to crisps – it all goes under the Christmas ‘umbrella,’ and if it doesn’t then I am the queen of adaptation. If my crisps are turkey flavoured then, ‘it’s Christmas,’ if I sprinkle cinnamon on a doughnut that’s ‘Christmas,’ too. In fact I reckon I could eat anything if I sang Jingle Bells at the same time – and I could eat as much as I liked and the calories wouldn’t count.

fullsizerenderAs most of my books contain the word cake in the title, you may not be surprised to know that I have a sweet tooth – so mince pies, pudding and Christmas cake are my festive favourites. However there is one thing that eclipses even a mountain of Quality Street or Roses chocolates – and that’s ‘festive cream.’ I love the way fresh cream suddenly becomes alcoholic, chocolatey, or fruity in all good supermarkets near me from about October. I try to hold back (sometimes I leave it as late as 2nd October) but once I’m there by the chiller cabinet it only takes one lustful glance, and I’m hooked. The frambois drenched, rum soaked, champagne-fuelled creams reach out to me. I’m a slave to the heavenly combination of cream, alcohol, chocolate and winter fruits – just little tubs of pure Christmasness smiling seductively from their shelves.

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I tell myself (from behind a snowy avalanche of kirsch/Cointreau/white chocolate and spiced orange double cream) that they’re not all bad. I reckon those containing fruit are at least one of my five a day. As for the cream? Well there must be some calcium in there right?

 

Besides, I’m merely testing ALL these luscious bad boys to make sure I choose the correct accompaniment to my family’s Christmas pudding. Oh yes, this is a selfless act of pure kindness and each year I’m pushed on to find that perfect Christmas cream for everyone.

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So if you see a woman in your supermarket filing her basket with an obscene amount of fancy festive cream (and possibly dribbling), look away, it might be me seeking the true meaning of Christmas. And if you want to join me in my endeavours might I recommend using a warm mince pie as the vehicle for your research?

And I’d like to stress again, please don’t worry about the calories because ‘It’s Christmas!’

 

 

Find Sue here.

Find The Christmas Cake Cafe here.

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#authorinterview -Terri Nixon – #amreading #series #saga @terrinixon

 

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Hi Terri and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Tell us a little about yourself and your background.

Hi, and thanks so much for asking me onto your blog today! Briefly, I was born and brought up in the wonderful English West Country, and I’m a hybrid author of Historical Sagas and Mythic Fiction, with a background in horror and fantasy. I’m currently under contract to Little, Brown for my new series, and am about to published my seventh novel. I have two sons, one of whom still lives at home, and I live on toast. No, seriously.

 Tell us a bit about your recent release.

Penhaligon’s Attic is the first in a brand new Cornish saga, set in the fictitious mining town of Caernoweth, with its neighbouring fishing hamlet. It tells the story of Freya Penhaligon and her family, and the arrival of a woman who has the potential to either save Freya’s troubled father, or to destroy everything. This is the back-cover blurb:

1910: Anna Garvey arrives in Caernoweth, Cornwall with her daughter and a secret. Having come from Ireland to take up an inheritance of the local pub, she and her eighteen year-old daughter Mairead are initially viewed with suspicion by the close-knit community.

Anna soon becomes acquainted with Freya Penhaligon, a vulnerable girl struggling to keep her family business afloat in the wake of her grandmother’s death, and starts to gain the trust of the locals. As their friendship deepens, and Freya is brought out of her shell by the clever and lively Mairead, even Freya’s protective father Matthew begins to thaw.

But when a part of Anna’s past she’d long tried to escape turns up in the town, she is forced to confront the life she left behind – for her sake and her daughter’s too . . .

What genre are your books?

My self-published books are Mythic Fiction – contemporary characters caught up in the dark side of traditional Cornish folklore, but my traditionally-published ones are Historical, set mostly in the early twentieth century.

What draws you to this genre?

Considering I have it on record that I have said the one genre I would never write is Historical, I really don’t know! I think it was that the first book, which was intended as a one-off (Maid of Oaklands Manor, loosely based on my grandmother’s time in service) sparked such an interest in the way everything was changing just prior to, and during, the First World War. As I was researching that one, and I could feel the other characters knocking for attention, I knew I wanted to explore it further, from the points of view of people in different situations and professions.

Where do the your ideas come from? / What was the inspiration to write your most recent book?

Penhaligon’s Attic came originally from the idea that I wanted to write a traditional Edwardian ghost story. My best friend and I were road-tripping from Ohio to Canada, and thrashing out ideas as we went, but later I was informed that ghost stories didn’t really sell that well. So I re-wrote it as a community-driven drama, and that community has grown until it feels completely real, and I keep forgetting it’s not!

How much research do you do? / How do you research?

I research constantly, throughout the entire process. I could never read a chunk of something, then put it down and go ‘Right, I’m ready now!’ I have a bookmark list as long as your arm with pages I can flick to in a moment and double-check something. One of the most useful is an Historical Calendar page, where I can check days of the week for any given year, and when full moons/holidays etc occurred at that time. The only trouble with those links, is that I get dragged in too easily, and can spend (I won’t say ‘waste, but…!) an hour reading about conditions in a Cornish tin mine and how the explosives are set, when all I really need to know is; what day of the week did the 18th March fall on, in 1910?!

Plotter or pantser? – Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

Obsessive plotter! Becoming more so, as time goes on. I think, when you’re writing a series, you have to be, if you want to be able to drop clues into one book, for incidents or reveals that won’t happen until the next. Having said that, I’m also a pantser in the sense that, once I know more or less what I need to include, I will just fling myself at the keyboard and see if I can find the most entertaining way of achieving it! Often I find myself changing entire plot lines because of something that fell onto the page while I wasn’t paying attention.

Describe what a typical writing day involves for you. / Do you aim for a set amount of words/pages per day?

I have to take the opportunity to write whenever I can, so when I get the chance, I plant my bum in my seat, and just do as much as I can. On a decent day, when I’ve been able to write for most of it, I’ll nail 5,000-ish words. Much of it fuelled by cheap instant coffee and midget gems, I have to admit. And toast.

What’s the toughest part of the writing process for you?

Finding the time! I only really have weekends to do it, so I have to make the conscious decision to ignore everything else, and just sit down and do it. Luckily for me I have an admirable knack for ignoring ironing piles and dust-bunnies for long stretches of time!

What’s the most enjoyable part of writing?

So much! I think, when something just clicks into place, and you realise you’d actually prepared the ground for it without realising it, it’s almost like being a little bit drunk! Grinning like a loon, and fist-pumping, then a quick look at the window to make sure no-one saw you!

Out of all the wonderful books out there, which book do you wish you had written and why?

Pretty much anything by George Eliot. The language is just so beautiful, and so rich, and her characters so multi-layered. You just get sucked right in. That, or Stephen King’s The Stand. Just because it’s epic!

 

What can we expect next from you?

I’ve completed the second Penhaligon book, (Penhaligon’s Pride) but it doesn’t have a home yet. I’m naturally hoping Little, Brown will pick it up, but I can’t count on that so I’m already thinking ahead to the possibility of self-publishing the remainder of the series. (I’ve learned, to my cost, never to split a series between two different publishers again!) I enjoy the self-pubbing process, so it wouldn’t faze me if I had to go that way.

Have you ever had a book rejected by a publisher / agent? How did you deal with it? How would you advise other authors to deal with rejection?

Oh, many times! They gradually become more and more helpful and constructive as time went on, so it got easier but it’s a shame that, when we’re starting out and at our most vulnerable, those are usually the shortest, tersest rejections we get. That said, it does help you grow a thicker skin! The only advice I can give really, is to remember that the rejections are not of you as a person, nor, most of the time, even of the standard of your work. It’s a reflection of the needs of that particular agent/publisher, at that particular time. Don’t give up, collect rejections as achievement badges, and remember that fewer people reach that stage than don’t. You’re already a winner!

What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins. First time of reading it, although I’ve read him before. This is an absolute delight so far, wish I’d read it sooner.

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FOR FUN:

  • What secret talents do you have?

I can balance a spoon on my nose, I can do most accents after a bit of a practice, and I’ve just discovered I can cry at will. I had no idea I could do that! *runs off to audition for Corrie*

  • Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?

I’d love to go to the Rocky Mountains in the autumn. I’m sure it’d be beautiful, with quiet places to walk, or to sit and read or write.

  • Do you have any scars? What are they from?

Hmm! I have an appendectomy scar, a breast-cancer scar, some dinky little keyhole surgery scars from having my gall bladder out, and a little half-moon scar on the knuckle of my thumb, after an altercation with a sharp blade in a leather workshop!

  • Are you a morning or night person? Explain.

Definitely a morning person. I’m used to getting up early for work, so even on weekends I get restless by 8am, and convince myself the day will disappear if I don’t get up and ‘at it!’ Plus, you know, toast.

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How can readers discover more about you and your work?

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Thanks so much for visiting, Terri! Good luck with your latest release! 

 

 

 

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