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Itchy Feet & Itchy Fingers

Last week we moved house.

Anyone who knows me well will know that I am a bit of a serial house mover.  Stay in one place too long and I get itchy feet.  This was actually our 11th house move in ten years and yes that does mean that in some years we’ve moved more than once (in 2012 we moved three times).  In theory I should be getting good at it. I pack boxes like a professional – but I don’t think we’ve made one house move yet where something hasn’t been mislaid along the way. In this house move – it was most definitely my writing mojo that got lost. The stress of securing a buyer, then the stress of not losing our buyer, and finally the stress of not finding a property we wanted to buy, seemed to cancel out every ounce of creativity. A new novel just wasn’t happening.

We made the decision to go into short term rented, which isn’t without its own inherent problems, and the date of our actual move, dictated by our buyers, couldn’t have been worse – just a week  after the launch date for Your Secret’s Safe With Me.   Just before the launch date I hit on this brilliant new idea for a potential third book. In fact it was so brilliant, I abandoned the stilted 10K words I’d eeked out over the last few months, and wrote a totally new 10K words in a matter of days.

Do you ever have that feeling where an idea is just beyond your grasp? It’s as if you have a glimpse of something but it’s not fully formed, something on the periphery of your vision, and then all of sudden it’s a solid mass, within reach. That was what this rush of creativity felt like. It was also a relief. The muse was back, I wasn’t going to be permanently muted – but then the curse of the house move struck again because boxes needed to be packed; practicalities took over and the tap so recently switched on was turned off again. The flow of words halted.

We’ve been in our new temporary home for a week, but when I sat down at my desk this morning it was an ‘and breathe’ moment. We haven’t done a great deal of unpacking – no point when we’re not planning on staying put. Half the furniture sits in the garage and some has been sacrificed to fend for itself in the garden (although this has created a very useful outdoor writing space). But the one saving grace is that the next move is not yet on the cards, and I can’t wait to pick up where I left off on the WIP. New characters have already appeared in my head, a new plot twist.  My fingers are itching to get tapping away on that broken keyboard (yes something inevitably also gets broken in every house move – this time a foot broke off the keyboard and a leg fell of an IKEA wardrobe. The IKEA wardrobe is now propped up on a brick, the keyboard on a wad of paper.) When we finally get to the dream house it’ll all get repaired – or replaced. The good thing is work on my next novel doesn’t need a dream home before it gets restored. I can start now.

The garden writing retreat!

Comfort Reads – Guest Jennifer Wilson

Today I am joined by historical fiction writer Jennifer Wilson, and there is a definite theme amongst her choices for her top five go-to reads!

Hi Rosie, and thanks for the chance to visit your blog today; it’s been lovely thinking about my five comfort reads, bringing back some great memories too!

The Animals of Mulberry Common, by Hilary Cannock

I know this isn’t the first book I ever read (Puddle Lane or fairy tales probably count somewhere for that), but this book has come with me everywhere I’ve ever lived for some reason. I just cannot let it go. It’s a tiny, pocket-sized book, about, unsurprisingly, the animals which live on the fictional Mulberry Common, and has plenty of action and adventure, as well as a hint of danger in some of the stories. But then, books for children often do have underlying danger, just look at what could happen to Peter Rabbit if Mr McGregor ever did catch him, not to mention the death and destruction throughout the Harry Potter series. I haven’t re-read this for a while, but just knowing it still sits happily on my shelf keeps me smiling.

Bloody Scotland, by Terry Deary

As a child, I adored history, and found the Terry Deary books a brilliant way in to learning about periods of history which simply weren’t covered at school. Being obsessed with Scottish History meant that this was an immediate favourite, and I was thrilled to bits when the author came to my school, and I was able to get my copy signed. It’s since been reissued as just a Horrible Histories Special on Scotland, but frankly, I think this title is more fun!

Despite having read this dozens of times, there are still cartoons and lines which make me laugh out loud, and I did refer to it when I was researching Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, so there’s definitely some solid facts in there, as well as the humour.

The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory

I love this book. The writing is brilliant, and I think the fact that Philippa Gregory is able to make you believe (spoiler alert) that Anne Boleyn might just be about to be saved, and sent to a distant convent, and not executed after all. I was given a copy to read by a colleague, despite not being interested in the Tudors at all, because she was convinced I would enjoy it. She was right. I devoured it in a matter of days, and that was it; I was hooked on the Tudors. As a result, I began reading as much fiction and non-fiction as I could (see below), and became absolutely obsessed with the era. Once I’d read a lot about the Tudors, I decided I didn’t want to move ‘forward’ in time, to the Stuarts, and decided to go ‘backwards’ instead, and that’s when I discovered the Plantagenets, and in particular, Richard III.

Whenever I’m sick, or stressed, this is the book I go back to. It doesn’t matter that I know the plot inside out; for some reason, on every re-read, I seem to find something I hadn’t noticed, and still enjoy it as much as the first time. It’s the perfect ‘ill read’, as I can open it at any point, read as much or as little as I like, and put it aside without even worrying about a bookmark for next time.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, by Antonia Fraser

This is one of the books I bought as a result of having read The Other Boleyn Girl, and again, however many times I read it, I find different nuances, or facts, that I go and research further in other places. It was also where I found ‘my’ Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard, for Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, due to the stories, quotes and reported words. It’s another ‘ill read’ for me, like The Other Boleyn Girl, and I always enjoy going back to it.

The Story of Scotland, by Nigel Tranter

This is one of those perfect history books, which makes facts read as addictively as fiction, just like The Six Wives of Henry VIII. Scottish history always makes fascinating reading, but it can at times be a little complex, especially when you go back so far that the history itself isn’t 100% certain. The book writes every period as though it was a chapter of a novel, and makes it nice and accessible. I’ve never used this as a resource specifically, but I do enjoy my Scottish history, and have often used it as a ‘jumping off’ point, to then go and read more about a particular person, or part of history.

About Jennifer

Jennifer C. Wilson is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history and historical fiction whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots on childhood holidays (she has since moved on to Richard III). Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east of England for work reignited her pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since.

She lives in North Tyneside, and is very proud of her approximately 2-inch view of the North Sea.

Website:         https://jennifercwilsonwriter.wordpress.com/

Amazon:        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennifer-Wilson/e/B018UBP1ZO/

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/jennifercwilsonwriter/

Twitter:                      https://twitter.com/inkjunkie1984

Instagram:     https://www.instagram.com/jennifercwilsonwriter/

Celebrating The Second Book

Yesterday saw the launch of my second novel, Your Secret’s Safe With Me. Without a doubt, my character novelist Pearl would have been cracking open the pink champagne to celebrate. Did I? Not exactly. Traditionally Monday night is pub quiz night and if/when you read Your Secret’s Safe With Me you will realise that participation in a pub quiz plays a pivotal role in the story!

My regular Monday night outings provided just a little of the inspiration for the plot twist that brings my heroine and hero together, so instead of celebrating with champagne on ice it seemed fitting to spend the evening with my team mates enjoying scampi and chips playing rock’n’roll bingo as usual (we know how to live it up!)

So, what is Your Secret’s Safe With Me all about?

Well, it isn’t about a pub quiz team! All families have taboos – don’t they? The ‘things’ no-one wants to talk about, the ‘closed subjects.’ Pearl and Becca Gates are no exception, they have plenty of skeletons lurking in their closet, but then, so it seems does everyone else they encounter when they arrive at their new home in the sleepy south coast village of Kerridge.

Pearl, a successful romantic novelist, throws daughter Becca’s organised life into chaos when she makes a series of surprise announcements.  Apart from a wedding to arrange, there’s also a career change, and a relocation from London to a rural waterside community on the south coast. As Pearl embraces a new life amongst the local sailing fraternity, Becca encounters an unwelcome face from her past and receives a grim warning that all is not as calm as it first appears in her picturesque new surroundings.

Your Secret’s Safe With Me is a story about the intricacies of family relationships and the consequences of keeping secrets. It evolved from a competition entry for the opening 300 words of a novel focussing on the relationship between mother and daughter. I liked the dynamic I’d created between Pearl and Becca, who works as her mother’s PA, and wanted to take their story further.

Many of us dream of a new life in the country but for Pearl and Becca the move signals not just a complete shift in their relationship, but it also spells danger.   There’s romance, of course, plot twists and intrigue, and it’s all told with a good dose of humour. Once again my native local south coast landscape provides the setting.

I hope you enjoy meeting Pearl and Becca, younger brother Freddy, and Nick, of course, that unwelcome  (or is he?!) face from Becca’s past. And when you do read their story, pay attention. I may be asking questions later!

Your Secret’s Safe With Me is available in paperback and on Kindle https://www.amazon.co.uk/Your-Secrets-Safe-Rosie-Travers-ebook/dp/B07L9K978J/

Comfort Reads – Guest Paula Williams

The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word ‘comfort’ as a state of physical well-being; in pluralthings that make life easy or pleasant. To me that term is synonymous with reading, and I think today’s special guest, cosy crime writer Paula Williams would heartily agree!

Thank you, Rosie, for inviting me to talk about my comfort reads.  It was incredibly difficult to pick just five to talk about because, to me, reading is the ultimate comfort activity.  Curled up, reading on a cold, rainy day when the wind is howling outside and I’m snug and warm – that’s my idea of bliss!

So, as I can’t include the entire contents of my bookcases/Kindle I’ve checked them out and found the following precious (to me)  books.

1. The Discontented Pony.   Noel Barr

This tops the list because this book was the reason I was such an early reader.  It belonged to my older sister and I loved it so much and used to beg people to read it to me.  But my mum didn’t have time (I have 5 siblings!) and my sister didn’t have the inclination.  So I learnt to read.  I don’t remember how, I only know I would spend hours bent over this book, trying to make sense of the words. The copy in the picture is not my sister’s. That disappeared years ago. (She doesn’t share my need to hoard books)  I found it in a charity shop many years ago and leapt on it with cries of joy. It has pride of place on my Treasured Books shelf ever since.

2. When We Were Very Young.  By A A Milne. 

Having just said that nobody in my family would read to me, my maternal grandmother used to read this to me when she was visiting or we went to stay with her.  I loved it and knew many of the poems off by heart. (Still do, in fact!)

It is the reason my eldest son is called Christopher.  There was never any doubt in my mind what my first son was going to be called, even before I became pregnant!  And, I’m happy to say, that he loves the book as much as I do – although I can’t help wondering if part of the appeal came from the fact that if I started reading the poems as a bedtime story, I would find it very hard to stop at just one. It was a brilliant way of extending bedtime.

Years later, I read the poems to my grandchildren, although they didn’t like them quite so much, with the possible exception of The King’s Breakfast, which I do with all the different voices.  How come I forget where I put the car keys yet remember in perfect detail every single line of that silly poem?

3. The Footsteps of Angels.  H.W. Longfellow

Hope it’s all right to include a single poem as my comfort read.  Now this really was a comfort read – at least it was when I was nine years old. 

 I’ve already mentioned my maternal grandmother and how she died when I was young.  I was devastated by her death as she was a gentle, bookish lady and we really enjoyed each other’s company.  She lived with us for the last year of her life and I missed her so much when she died.  Our household was a noisy, very boy dominated one, (I have four brothers and my sister was away at school for a lot of the time) and I treasured the precious quiet time my grandmother and I spent together.

After she died, I inherited many of her books, one of which was a book of poems by H.W. Longfellow which she’d been awarded back in 1907/08 for ‘Regularity, Progress and Conduct.”  It amuses me to see that Longfellow is described in the Preface as one of the ‘modern’ poets!

This book, like the other two, lives on the shelf allocated very precious books.  The pages are all brown and crumbling and the whole thing is falling apart but I still treasure it.

I learnt The Footsteps of Angels just after her death.  All ten verses of it!  I had the idea that I was learning it for her.  Reading it through now, I can see it’s very sentimental but at the time, it was a real comfort to grieving little nine year old me and brought me a little closer to my sorely missed ‘Nan’.

4. The Big Four.  Agatha Christie.

My mother introduced me to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Dorothy Sayers when I was about 12 and I have loved crime fiction ever since, both as a reader and a writer.

I hadn’t read any Agatha Christie for years although I really enjoyed most of the television productions, especially the ones with David Suchet as Poirot and Joan Hickson as Miss Marple.  But a couple of years ago, we were staying near Dartmouth in Devon and were waiting to take the steam train up the Dart Valley.  Of course, being as we were in the heart of ‘Agatha Christie’ country, there was a whole selection of her books on sale in the station shop.  I chose The Big Four as I didn’t remember the story – and I was totally drawn in.  I’d completely forgotten what a great story teller she was and couldn’t put it down.

That particular book brings back many memories, of my mother and, more recently, of a lovely holiday in a beautiful part of the world.

5. On Writing.  Stephen King.

I bought this book ages ago and resisted reading it for year, mostly because I’ve never read any of Stephen King’s fiction (nor seen any of the films), as I don’t enjoy horror stories.

But I’m so glad I put my prejudice aside. Because here is a man in love with writing and every time I get a bit down and think I’m not cut out to be a writer and that maybe I should give it up and take up crochet or something, I dip in to this and my world is restored.

And isn’t that the point of a comfort read?

Author Bio

Paula Williams is living her dream. She’s written all her life – her earliest efforts involved blackmailing her unfortunate younger brothers into appearing in her plays and pageants. But it’s only in recent years that she discovered to her surprise that people with better judgement than her brothers actually liked what she wrote and were prepared to pay her for it.

Now, she writes every day in a lovely, book-lined study in her home in Somerset, where she lives with her husband and a handsome but not always obedient rescue Dalmatian called Duke.

She began her writing career writing fiction for women’s magazines (and still does) but has recently branched out into longer fiction. She also writes a monthly column, Ideas Store, for the writers’ magazine, Writers’ Forum.

But, as with the best of dreams, she worries that one day she’s going to wake up and find she still has to bully her brothers into reading ‘the play what she wrote’.

Her debut crime novel, Murder Served Cold, is a murder mystery set in a small Somerset village which bears a striking resemblance to the one she lives in. (Although, as far as she knows, none of her neighbours are cold-blooded murderers!)  It was published by Crooked Cat Books in October 2018, and is the first in the Much Winchmoor Mysteries series, the second of which, Rough and Deadly, will be published soon!

Murder Served Cold can be bought at:  https://mybook.to/murderservedcold

Social Media Links

Blog. at paulawilliamswriter.wordpress.com

Her facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/paula.williams.author.

Twitter.  @paulawilliams44.

Website  paulawilliamswriter.co.uk

Many thanks to Paula for taking part.

Story Time Part 2

Further to my post a couple of weeks’ back, here, as promised is my shortlisted sci-fi story from Writing Magazine. I have to admit sci-fi would never be my chosen genre to read, or to write, but that’s the wonder of writing competition prompts, they can take you off into another world!

Voyage into the Unknown

There were reports of riots in the emigration lines. Brad said it wasn’t worth taking the risk. We’d left it too late anyway. A family who’d been waiting two weeks were turned back when they reached the departure gate because one of the children was sick. The next day the family reappeared minus one. Rumour had it the father had sacrificed the poorly child to ensure the others’ safe passage. That’s how desperate people were.

We’d been on emergency rations for the last six months. There was no hope of replenishing supplies. Even the black market had dried up. We’d been forewarned this would happen. Back in my parents’ day prophets had predicted a catastrophe on a global scale. The politicians had taken no notice. The wheels of industry would not be stopped. When one resource became depleted, another was harnessed. Technological advances sucked the goodness from the soil, the sea and from the atmosphere.

The oceans had dried up; the earth was parched and barren, vegetation and livestock dead. Only the very elderly could remember the days of fresh food. As a child I’d been repulsed by my grandfather’s salivating lips as he described the taste and texture of cooked meat. I couldn’t imagine consuming anything that hadn’t been cultivated in a petri-dish, but even laboratory manufactured foodstuffs needed water.  We’d been too greedy. Our planet could no longer sustain life.

There had been a cull to reduce the population. I’m surprised the family with the sick child made it through the rigorous screening process.  The majority of diseases had been eradicated. Medicine was one area in which scientists excelled. Cures existed for all but the rarest of cancers, and for those incurable conditions, euthanasia was encouraged.  As a race we were supposedly the fittest and strongest we’d ever been. We just hadn’t developed a way of adjusting our lungs to cope with the polluted air that smothered our planet. A few more years of research and we might have conquered it.

Brad had worked on some of the initial investigations into the sustainability of the satellite colonies. In theory, we should have been first in line for one of the emigration ships but it seemed such a drastic step. If we could survive a few months, I was convinced the rains would come. There had been droughts before – the longest on record was five years.  We were currently in our seventh.

Old fashioned words such as frugality, restraint and recycling were being bandied about by the told-you-so brigade; those smug academics who took great delight in witnessing the planet’s demise. They would stay to the bitter end, whatever. They stood chanting on street corners in ethereal white gowns, although we all wore white by then, to reflect the brutal heat of the sun.

Brad said there was talk of a new exploratory space expedition. ‘We know there are other solar systems out there,’ he said. ‘We know there is another planet just like ours.’

Sometimes I took the snippets of information Brad brought home from work with a pinch of salt. He liked to tease me with sound-bites picked up eavesdropping on his superior’s conversations. However, there was something about his manner that made me think this time he genuinely knew more than he was letting on.

I made discreet enquiries amongst our friends, or at least the small group of acquaintances we had left. You couldn’t blame those who had already chosen to evacuate.

‘What do you want to leave for?’ Our neighbour Meritt asked. ‘We were expecting you guys to host our end of the world party.’ Our apartment was double the size of Meritt’s, one of the advantages of working for the Space Agency.  Merrit had stockpiled alcohol and now lived on a diet of home-brewed Vapour Juice. Vapour Juice had been outlawed long ago. It had become too precious a commodity to be left in the public domain. Battery packs could run on Vapour Juice.

‘As far as I see it, you have two clear choices,’ my cousin, Rico, said. Rico was a chemist who had devised a best-selling over the counter euthanasia pill. ‘You stay until the bitter end and swallow one of my little smarties, or you take the risk and head off into the unknown. Either way you’re going to die. Do it now, or do it later.’

He offered me a couple of his pills at a knock-down price and I told Brad to find out more about the expedition. It turned out I was right. Brad knew an awful lot more than he’d first divulged.

‘I didn’t want you to get too excited,’ he said, ‘in case I failed the vetting procedure. I’ve applied to be the onboard technician. We’d get co-habitee status. This could be our chance to escape.’

Escape to where? The more Brad talked about light years of space travel, of algorithms of probability and worse case scenarios, the less I listened. It could well be this talk of a planet, so similar in make-up to ours, was nothing but a myth. Why would anyone sign up for a once in a lifetime jaunt to nowhere?

As the days went on, the idea became more of a reality. News began to filter back from the satellite stations. There were food shortages and fighting amongst the immigrants.  Security personnel were losing control.

Brad confirmed the rumours. ‘They’ll last six months at the most,’ he said, his face grim. Everyone was grim these days, apart from those like Merrit who were comatose. ‘The satellites will never sustain permanent settlement. We knew that all along.’

I thought of the father who had abandoned his sick child only to lead the others to death on a remote space station.  No wonder the immigrants were up in arms.

Brad said there had already been a reconnaissance mission to seek out the new planet. It had all been kept under-wraps because communication with the exploratory ships had been lost. However, the task-force crew had been fitted with embedded transmitters which sent signals processed from their thoughts. I didn’t know such technology existed, but Brad assured me it did, although it was still very much in its infancy. Experts were working around the clock to decipher the readings which were still being received.

‘We’ll have to be induced into an advanced state of stasis,’ Brad explained. ‘It’s the only way to travel for so far and for so long. An electrical surcharge will be programmed to wake us when we reach our designated orbit.’

‘And you are convinced this planet really exists?’ I asked.

‘I’m convinced it’s worth taking the risk,’ he replied.

So we set off, a crew of ten adventurers; a mixed bag of technicians and scientists, including Brad’s colleague, Jarvis, a communications expert. We each shared the conviction that doing something was better than doing nothing, although being in stasis was hardly a pro-active state.

We woke as we broke through atmospheric layers charged with meteor debris and radioactive gases. I stared in amazement out of the narrow cockpit window. There beneath us was the mythical planet, as blue as ours had once been.

‘Recognise those white swirls?’ Brad said, his green eyes ablaze with excitement. ‘Remember them? Clouds.  Not full of toxic waste and chemicals, but water. There’s a whole eco-system down there. We can start from the beginning, and this time, we can do it right.’

‘What if life here already exists?’ I asked. ‘Do you think we’ll be made welcome?’

Brad smiled. ‘We’re a party of ten refugees, hardly an invasion force. In any case, this planet is new compared to ours. Whatever life-form exists, it won’t be very advanced.’

We landed in a desert, so similar in appearance to the dying landscape we’d left behind I momentarily wondered if the vivid blue ocean we’d witnessed from above was nothing but an optical illusion. But then the life-forms approached, sitting astride mechanical vehicles.

‘What do they look like?’ Jarvis asked, joining us in the cockpit. He craned his stubby neck to peer over my shoulder.

It was impossible to tell whether we shared any characteristics apart from the obvious four limbs and upright stature. ‘Tall,’ I replied, watching the aliens dismount. ‘Bubble heads.  I think they’re wearing some sort of protective breathing suits. Maybe the air isn’t as fresh as we think. Perhaps this planet isn’t habitable after all.’

Brad frowned. ‘I’m sure these co-ordinates correlate with the landing site of the exploratory vessels. Jarvis, are the transmitters up and running? Can you check the external probes?’

The communication network had been spewing out light years’ of technical information since we broke orbit.

‘Oh it’s habitable all right,’ Jarvis replied, studying his network screen and scratching his bald head. ‘At least for now, but there appears to have been some sort of terrible mistake.’

A message from the Space Agency had come through just hours after we slipped into stasis. The code-breakers had at last unscrambled the garbled thought processes from the task-force crew. The order had been very specific.

‘Mission to be aborted. Change course immediately and head to nearest satellite colony. Do not proceed to planet known as Earth. Dominant species hostile and aggressive. Repeat. Abort mission.’

We discovered too late what had happened to that earlier delegation. As the aliens marched us to their headquarters we saw the task-force vessels moored in a vast warehouse, and we found the crew, or at least parts of them, dissected on the aliens’ operating slabs. We tried to tell them, those tall, small-headed creatures (the breathing bubbles were apparently just to avoid contamination – as if we would contaminate anybody) about the climatic disaster that had obliterated our own planet, but they either didn’t understand, despite Jarvis’ attempts at translation, or they simply didn’t want to know.

I knew I should have stayed at home and drunk myself stupid on Vapour Juice. It would have been a far more pleasant way to end it all.

You can check out my flash fiction web page here

Comfort Reads – Guest Post with Nicola Slade

This week I am delighted to welcome fellow  Crooked Cat author Nicola Slade to my blog. Nicola was the first ‘Cat’ I met after I signed my publishing contract and I value her friendship and support. She lives near Winchester and also sets her novels in Hampshire

Thank you, Rosie, for inviting me to talk about my comfort reads.

I have so many old friends that I read over and over again that it would be difficult to limit them to only five, so I thought I’d mention a few of the much more recently-discovered books that have quickly become comfort reads.

I can’t abandon all my much-loved treasures though, so here’s my top favourite, the book I think of as my Desert Island book. The Pillars of the House by Charlotte M Yonge, first published in 1873 is considered by many to be the Victorian best-selling novelist’s masterpiece.

Pillars of the House – Charlotte M Yonge

I was brought up on the novels of Charlotte Yonge, notably The Young Stepmother, but it wasn’t till I was grown up and with a young family, that I discovered her gripping story of the thirteen young Underwoods left to manage for themselves in the 1850s when the eldest, Felix, is only sixteen. He and his sister Wilmet are the ‘pillars’ of the title and their story ranges across several sequels as they struggle to bring up their crowd of younger siblings, including the twins who are born almost at the moment their consumptive father, a curate, dies.

It sounds grim, but Charlotte Yonge created wonderful characters and I love them – and still cry over one particular family tragedy, no matter how many times I’ve read the book. https://amzn.to/2RHOugn

Landscape in Sunlight – Elizabeth Fair

Elizabeth Fair is a recent discovery. I first came across her in the blog, Furrowed Middlebrow, when Scott, the blogger, embarked on a publishing adventure and re-issued all six of Elizabeth Fair’s gentle novels set between the 1940s and 1960. Similar to Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels and gently funny, but without the snobbery and acid wit. I love them all and it’s difficult to choose a favourite, but Landscape in Sunlight gives the flavour of all  the books which usually contain: a small village, a gentry house, usually a doctor, a middle-aged bachelor, a vicar, a vicar’s wife (usually a managing woman), a church fête and, of course, a pair of lovers. https://amzn.to/2AVcjqK

City of Shadows – Ariana Franklin

I read several historical novels by Diana Norman and particularly enjoyed her two books about Henry II, always a bit of a hero of mine. I wasn’t so keen on her later books until I discovered she had reinvented herself as Ariana Franklin and was writing mediaeval novels about Adelia Aguilar, a 12th Century female forensic pathologist at a time when no such creature could possibly exist. A doctor had to be a man and bodies certainly could not be dissected to look for the cause of death, but Ariana Franklin manages to take this unlikely scenario and make it plausible and enjoyable.

However, City of Shadows, her standalone novel as Ariana Franklin, is my favourite and quite different. Set in Berlin just after the First World War, it’s a marvellously evocative story of that city in the dark and dangerous throes of the rampant inflation of the 20s and the rise of Hitler. It also happens to be the best Anastasia mystery I’ve ever read – so plausible that I wish it had really happened that way! https://amzn.to/2ATg2VE

The Little Women Letters – Gabrielle Donnelly

Brought up on Victorian novels, of course I love Little Women and its sequels by Louisa Alcott and was thrilled, years ago, to visit Orchard House in Concord, the model for the March family home. I was delighted to spot a mention of The Little Women Letters somewhere, probably on Facebook, a few years ago.

Set in contemporary London it’s the story of three sisters, Emma, Lulu and Sophie, whose American mother, Fee (short for Josephine) is the great-granddaughter of ‘Grandma Jo’ Bhaer, who turns out to have had a third child, a daughter, from whom the girls are descended.

It’s a fascinating concept that has Jo fabled in the family as having been a writer, though as it turns out her stories were the penny-dreadfuls of the type written by Louisa Alcott. Little Women, it seems, was never written and Jo faded into obscurity.

This is a good contemporary family story, easily readable by someone who has never read Alcott’s book, as it doesn’t hammer home too obviously the three sisters’ story arcs which do follow their famous originals to some extent. It’s when one of the girls is rummaging in the attic and finds a cache of faded letters written by Grandma Jo, that the story comes alive. It adds depth if you’ve read and loved Little Women, but even without that, it’s a very warm, satisfying book.

https://amzn.to/2Cwo3zY

Sally’s Family – Gwendoline Courtney

Published in 1946 this is another family story set in the immediate post-war atmosphere of 1945. Sally Hamilton has not seen her motherless younger siblings since she joined the A.T.S at the beginning of the war, and they – two boys and three girls – were all evacuated after the family home was bombed. Their father died in Burma but had saved the life of one of his comrades, Major Selwood, who feels obliged to help Sally collect up her family and make a home for them.

Written originally for teenagers, it nevertheless gives a very clear picture of the difficulties at that time: rationing, shortage of most household furnishings, shortage of housing, shortage, in fact, of everything – and the way Sally manages to turn five strangers into a family is warm and fascinating.

A relatively new find for me, but one that’s already a favourite.

https://amzn.to/2Mpgik0 (Not available as an eBook)

Bio

Nicola Slade was brought up in Poole, in Dorset, and since then has lived in various places including Cairo, in Egypt. Nicola’s books are all set in Hampshire and her first published novel, Scuba Dancing, a romantic comedy, will be reissued in February 2019 by Endeavour Media. She then turned to crime with theCharlotte Richmond Mysteries, an historical series featuring Charlotte Richmond, a young Victorian widow, and The Harriet Quigley Mysteries, a contemporary mystery series which features recently-retired headmistress, Harriet Quigley and her clergyman cousin, Canon Sam Hathaway.  In 2017 The House at Ladywell, a contemporary romantic novel with historical echoes, was published by Crooked Cat books. It is currently a semi-finalist in the Chatelaine awards based in the USA.

The Convalescent Corpse, a cosy historical mystery set in 1918, was published, also by Crooked Cat Books, in November 2018 and is the first in a planned new series. Nicola wrote magazine short stories while her three children were growing up and at one time was an antiques dealer. She now lives with her husband near Winchester.

Links

Website: www.nicolaslade.com

Blog: www.nicolaslade.wordpress.com

Twitter: @nicolasladeuk

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nicolasladeuk

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/nicola8703

Amazon.co.uk: https://amzn.to/2SrDDUt

Amazon.com: https://amzn.to/2QRCEeh

Thanks Nicola for taking part. I’ve just finished reading The Convalescent Corpse and highly recommend it!

Comfort Reading – Guest Paula Martin

De-cluttering guru Marie Kondo has caused quite a stir amongst the reading and writing community by stating we only need keep 30 books on our shelves. I’m a harder taskmaster than Marie, because I only let my guests choose 5 “keepers”! Today I’m handing over the challenge to romantic novelist, Paula Martin.

Thanks for inviting me to share my ‘comfort reads’ with you and your readers, Rosie. I must have read thousands of books in my life, so it wasn’t easy to pick only 5 books. In the end, I’ve chosen 5 which are ‘special’ to me for different reasons.

The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown

I first read this when I was ten or eleven, and then read it over and over again! It’s a story of seven children, each with different talents, who form their own theatrical group and write, produce, and act in their own plays. I’ve heard that this book (first published in the 1940s) inspired many future actresses, including Maggie Smith, Victoria Wood, and Eileen Atkins. In my case, it led to a lifelong love of the theatre, and also inspired me, when I was about twelve, to write my first full-length novel of over 60,000 words, which I called ‘We Wanted a Theatre.’ I still have it somewhere, written in long-hand in pencil on whatever paper I could find!

 

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I ‘met’ Jane when I was twelve and my mother took me to our local repertory theatre to see a play based on the book. The next day I rushed to the library to borrow the book, and then asked for my own copy for my next birthday. I always loved Jane whose inner strength enabled her to cope with so many traumatic events in her life. She spoke her mind, and considered herself to be Mr. Rochester’s equal, even at a time when women were considered ‘inferior’ to men. In later times, I’m sure she would have been a suffragette or an ardent supporter of women’s rights! An interesting footnote to my love for this book is that a few years ago, I discovered Charlotte Bronte started writing the story when she was staying with a friend in Hathersage in Derbyshire, and based her heroine on a medieval brass on the tomb of Joan Eyre (hence the surname, of course) – and Joan Eyre was actually one of my ancestors.

 

Katherine by Anya Seton

In my teens I was hooked on Tudor novels, especially those by Jean Plaidy, but this book changed all that. Based on the factual story of Katherine Swynford, and set in the 14th century in the reigns of Edward III and Richard II, it brought the later medieval period to life for me. Historical people who had just been names became real people, especially John of Gaunt – and I must admit I fell in love with him! I was full of admiration for Katherine, too, who became governess to John’s two daughters (echoes of Jane Eyre here?). After his wife’s death, he and Katherine began their love affair, which continued until his second ‘political’ marriage to a Spanish princess. After Constanza’s death, John returned to Katherine and married her. This was at a time when royal Dukes simply did not marry their mistresses, so it is an indication of John’s lasting love for her. This book led to my fascination with later medieval history which I later studied at university, and in turn, led to my next book:

 

The Sunne in Spendour by Sharon Kay Penman

Many novels have been written about Richard III, but in my opinion this is by far the best. Sharon’s research is second to none and, like Anya Seton with the 14th century, she brings the events and historical characters of the 15th century to life. The story begins in 1459 with Richard as a young boy, covers the period of the Wars of the Roses, includes family and political intrigues, and ends in 1485 with Richard’s defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth Field. Like many others, Sharon rejects the Shakespearean portrait of Richard as an evil monster, and shows him as a man with loyalty, courage and strong principles. It’s a novel I return to again and again, but as it is such a thick tome (over 1200 pages), I now have it on my Kindle!

 

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde

Not a novel this time, but a play, which I first saw on stage when I was eleven, and then bought the full script (a hardback book at that time) with my Christmas money. I love Wilde’s clever wit and brilliant one-liners, and also his satirical comments on the so-called ‘rules’ of Victorian society and morality. Every time I read the script, I seem to discover something new.

 

 

 

 

Bio

Paula Martin lives near Manchester in North West England and has two daughters and two grandsons.

She had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while she brought up a young family and also pursued her career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. She has recently returned to writing fiction, after retiring from teaching, and is thrilled to have found publishing success again with her contemporary romances.

Apart from writing, she enjoys visiting new places. She has travelled extensively in Britain and Ireland, mainland Europe, the Middle East, America and Canada. Her other interests include musical theatre and tracing her family history.

Her most recent book is Irish Shadows, the fifth book in the ‘Mist Na Mara’ series, published by Tirgearr Publishing. All five books are stand-alone stories, set in beautiful Connemara in the west of Ireland, and combining romance with suspense and intrigue. They are available from various distributors (Amazon, Kobo, Nook, Smashwords) via http://www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Martin_Paula/

Other Links:

Website: http://paulamartinromances.webs.com

Blog: http://paulamartinpotpourri.blogspot.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paulamartinromances

Thanks to Paula for taking part – and for telling us about her intriguing personal connection to Jane Eyre. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to inspire a story, even if it is just in name only!

Story Time Part 1

At the end of 2017, before I had my publishing contract and when I had a bit of time on my hands, I submitted a couple of stories to competitions in Writing Magazine.  Writing competitions are a good exercise in disciplined writing, a tight word count does wonders for eliminating waffle. They can also provide inspiration during periods of writers’ block and the opportunity to diversify into different genres.  I’d entered Writing Magazine competitions before without success, but persistence pays off because to my great surprise this time, in both cases, I was shortlisted. Shortlisted stories don’t get published, or featured on the magazine’s website, they just fade into obscurity. So I thought why not give them the light of day.

This first entry had to include the words ‘without that it all falls apart‘ mid-story, and the second, which I’ll post up in a few weeks’ time is a science fiction piece (yes really!)

Today of All Days

The boy was back again.

Simon’s heart fell as he stepped through the front door and heard the soft murmur of voices from the kitchen. Not today. Not today, of all days.

Julia looked up. He’d got used to seeing the shadow of sadness in her eyes but her mouth smiled, as welcoming as always. She rose from the table, kissed his cheek, slipped across the room to refill the kettle.

‘I’ll make us all another tea,’ she said. ‘Isn’t it good of Zak to come today, today of all days.’

The boy turned. Simon was glad to see the flush of embarrassment on his face. The boy had wormed his way into Julia’s heart but Simon was not fooled by that mask of civility.

‘Hello, Mr Crouch.’

They’d never been on first name terms and they never would be. Some acts were unforgiveable, despite Julia’s insistence to the contrary. The counselling had given Julia a sense of stoic resignation Simon totally failed to comprehend. Thinking about what might have been doesn’t help, Julia had told him. Negativity solved nothing. We can’t spend the rest of our lives thinking about what ifs.

Simon could.

What if they hadn’t given in to Hayley’s demands to transfer to the local sixth form college? What if he’d had his own way and Hayley had stayed at private school to take her A levels?  Because then Hayley would have never met the boy. She’d never have started dating.

What if they’d said no when she’d asked about the trip to the festival? At least she asked, Julia had pointed out. Some kids would just go. How could they have said no?

What if she’d never got into the boy’s car?

She’d still be here. That’s what if.

‘Biscuit?’ Julia said, breaking open a packet of shortbread. They were Simon’s favourites, a deliberate ploy to force him to be sociable.

The boy’s once handsome face was pitted with scars. Simon was glad the boy would bear permanent evidence of his crime. Simon and Julia’s scars went unseen. Souls destroyed by grief. No visible signs. You just carried on, you had to.

Come to counselling with me, Julia had said. But he couldn’t because he didn’t want to sit in a circle with other bereaved parents and confess to a psychologist that he didn’t know how to come to terms with the death of his only child; how to re-assess, re-build, move-on. He didn’t want to talk about the hurt, and the hate, that consumed him. He found solace in work. Accounts, investments and taxation schemes still made sense when nothing else did. His clients needed him. He couldn’t just close up shop.

Everybody coped differently, Julia soothed, as if she understood, as if she didn’t mind his absence from the sessions. He immersed himself in his job while Julia poured out her heart and made friends with the enemy.

It was the ultimate betrayal. He couldn’t think of it in any other terms. The boy had killed their daughter and Julia had invited him into their house.

‘I could hardly leave him on the doorstep, could I?’ she said, the first time Simon came home to find the boy in their kitchen. ‘That’s not what Hayley would have wanted. I couldn’t turn him away.’

‘Yes you could,’ Simon argued. ‘He had no business to come here, upsetting you.’

‘He was far more upset than me,’ Julia insisted. ‘He was distraught. I didn’t know what else to do. He’s lost someone too, remember.’

The boy’s loss would never be as great as theirs. He’d barely known Hayley. What was a year, eighteen months, compared to a lifetime?

‘Don’t you see how important it is for him to maintain contact with people who knew her?’ Julia was on a crusade, almost as if she’d found solace in the boy’s visit. ‘We’re that link, however tenuous. We represent some part of Hayley, something tangible. Without that, it all falls apart.’

Let it all fall apart, Simon thought, let the boy suffer and shatter into fragments as they had done. Why should Julia become the boy’s conscience saver?

‘Hayley had lots of friends,’ Simon pointed out. ‘Why can’t he go and have cosy chats with them instead?’

Julia had an answer for everything. ‘You of all people should understand how difficult it is to find someone you can open up to, someone you can trust.’

He didn’t like the inference that he and the boy shared anything in common. Simon had chosen not to open up. He didn’t want to delve into the chasm, because once he started, he knew he wouldn’t be able to stop. One of them had to stay strong.

‘He thinks he’s to blame,’ Julia said. ‘He holds himself responsible.’

‘But he is responsible,’ Simon replied. Back to all those what ifs again.

‘No,’ Julia said. ‘The van driver was entirely at fault. Zak did everything he could to avoid the crash. Didn’t you listen to a word at the inquest?’

Julia was too generous, too kind. Too forgiving.

‘I don’t want him here again,’ he’d said.

Yet here he was. Again.

Simon noticed the flowers in the sink, the type of cheap bouquet picked up at a service station or corner shop. Now he felt guilty. Guilty he hadn’t thought to buy flowers on the way home from work. Guilty that he’d dismissed his doubts that really he should have taken the day off.

She’d said she didn’t want to do anything that made the date significant. She’d insisted it would make matters worse, not better.  Sometimes Julia spoke in unfathomable riddles. How was he supposed to know what was the right thing to do?

The house phone rang. It had probably been ringing all day; Julia’s mother; his mother, friends, the bereavement group, that closed-circle who gave Julia her strength and from whom Simon felt so alienated. Whoever was ringing now would be offering sympathy and platitudes, talking of time being a great healer, the old clichés about the first anniversaries always being the worse, and how everything would get better from now on.

‘I’ll get it,’ Julia said.

The boy shuffled on his seat.

‘You’re not to come here again,’ Simon said as soon as Julia was out of the room. ‘It upsets my wife.’

‘I only came to bring the flowers,’ the boy muttered. ‘I couldn’t not do anything, not today.’

‘My wife is very gullible. This has gone on long enough. You coming here just makes everything ten times worse.’

‘I’m sorry.’ The boy kept his eyes downcast. ‘I never meant any harm. She should have said if she didn’t want to see me.’

‘Well, I’m saying it now.’

He thought the boy would get up, make a swift exit while Julia was still on the phone, but instead of making a move to leave the boy slumped further into his chair. He hung his head, ran his fingers through his shaggy hair, revealing more scar tissue. Simon recoiled at the intensity of the criss-cross of lines, seeing them close-up for the first time. He reminded himself the boy had walked away from the wreckage of his car, walked away, while Hayley had to be cut free. His attempt to stem the flow of blood from Hayley’s wounds had been admirable but amateurish, the coroner had said. If the ambulance had arrived five minutes earlier, if the van driver hadn’t stopped for a second drink, hadn’t been on medication…

What ifs.

‘I think about her all the time,’ the boy said. ‘Hayley was the best thing that ever happened me. I’d never met anyone like her. She was full of fun, so beautiful, generous, and I find it so hard to remember that, because all I see now when I think about Hayley are the headlights of the van coming towards us. I slam my foot on the brake but it’s all too late.  I hear her screams.  It’s a nightmare that won’t go away, that recurs day after day, and sometimes I wake up, and I think that’s all it is, just a nightmare, I’ll see Hayley at college today, and then I look in the mirror, and I can’t escape. I’ll never escape. It’s all my fault. I killed her.’

The boy sobbed as if his heart was breaking, sobs that came from somewhere deep within the pit of his thin, lanky frame, sobs that reverberated around the kitchen. The boy sobbed as Simon had wanted to sob when Hayley’s life-support was switched off.

‘Julia, your wife, Mrs Crouch, she understands,’ the boy mumbled on through his tears. ‘She listens to me. That’s why I come. Nobody else wants to know. They tell me it’s a year now, and I should be moving on, go back to college. Julia says I should go back to college too, it’s what Hayley would have wanted, but she doesn’t say it like they say it. She understands.’

Envy was an irrational reaction, yet it stabbed at Simon like a knife, gauging into his shame.  He wanted to tell the boy to get a grip, to pull himself together, because that was the advice he gave himself, but that advice hadn’t worked. This boy provided Julia with the comfort and the empathy he could not. They had consoled each other and he had remained deliberately aloof.

He wasn’t aware of Julia coming to stand in the doorway, phone in her hand. He was just aware of the boy at the table who had been injured in the car crash that had taken his daughter’s life, a boy who shared his nightmares, his fears, his grief, his loss.

He tried to think of something he could say that would make it better, something Julia might say when the boy came here, seeking refuge. Really, there was nothing.

He reached out and put his hand on the boy’s shaking shoulder.

‘We don’t blame you. It wasn’t your fault.’

Perhaps it was the right thing, the only thing to say, today of all days.

 

The End

© Rosie Travers

 

You can check out some of my flash fiction here

Guest Post – Helena Fairfax on Comfort Reading

How many of us are making new year resolutions to take more care of our personal well-being? I’ve always believed in the magic of books and the comfort they bring, and I’m delighted to hand over my first guest spot of 2019 to romantic novelist Helena Fairfax, who shares her thoughts on the subject.

I’ve loved reading ever since I was a toddler and first opened a picture book. It doesn’t matter which author I’m reading, I nearly always find comfort immersing myself in the world of stories. I was really interested to find out recently that the Reading Agency once did some research and discovered that regular reading is beneficial to people’s mental health. [Link: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/reading-improves-relationships-and-reduces-depression-symptoms-says-new-study-10446850.html ] I’m not alone in finding reading a great reliever of stress and it really does help my mood when I’m low.

Because I love reading so much, trying to choose just five books that bring me comfort has been a virtually impossible task. But here we go – in no particular order, here are five authors I regularly turn to for a joyful read!

 

The Grand Sophy, by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer is absolutely my go-to comfort-read author. My favourite novel of hers changes often, but they are all delightful. I chose The Grand Sophy today because Sophy is the perfect strong, charming, bright, witty heroine. Sophy is the only daughter of international diplomat Sir Horace. She has been used to travelling round the world with her father, but when he goes to South America, he decides it would be much better if Sophy went to stay with his sister’s family. Horace’s sister is expecting a quiet, biddable girl. I love the scene in which Sophy arrives at the house – all five foot nine of her, carrying a pet monkey. Sophy soon takes charge of the family in an affectionate and charming but resolute way. Heyer’s style is funny and her books are beautifully researched. And there is nothing more comforting than knowing that a whole cast of characters is heading for their own happy endings.

 

Nicholas Nickleby, by Charles Dickens

I completely love the melodrama of Charles Dickens’ novels, and this one has melodrama in every page. There are so many scenes and characters that stay in my mind long after I put the book down. Poor Smike, the orphan from Dotheboys Hall; the depraved Sir Mulberry Hawk, who has his wicked heart set on capturing the heroine; the villainous Sir Ralph Nickleby; Whackford Squeers, the bullying master of Dotheboys Hall. Even the characters’ names have a melodramatic ring to them. Dickens is a master storyteller and even though you suspect that he is shamelessly manipulating your response, there is one particular scene in the book that never fails to bring tears to my eyes. I even get upset thinking about it – which doesn’t sound very comforting, but Smike, the character involved, is one of my favourite characters of all time. The only reservation I have is that the female characters are quite wishy-washy, but I still love the story and the brilliant, page-turning ride towards a happy ending.

 

Madam, Will You Talk?, by Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart is another of my go-to authors for comfort reading. This book seems a little dated now. There is a lot of smoking, and the characters speak in a fairly plummy way. This doesn’t detract at all from the romance of the Greek setting and the developing love story, along with the thrilling suspense. One of the things I love about Mary Stewart is her portrayal of ordinary women who are caught up in a dangerous situation by chance, and who act in a heroic way. Madam Will You Talk? is set just after WWII, and the heroine, Charity, is grieving the man she loved. I love her dashing car chase scene as she escapes the hero, the bad guys are suitably villainous, and there are lots of twists and surprises. It’s the perfect comfort read, especially for this time of year, with its glorious Mediterranean setting.

 

Persuasion, by Jane Austen

I was given a complete set of Jane Austen for my fifteenth birthday and completely fell in love with her books from the first. My favourites change from year to year. At one time it was Pride and Prejudice. I vividly remember first reading P&P in the playground at school, completely engrossed and oblivious to everything. When Darcy first proposes to Lizzie, I didn’t see it coming at all. My jaw dropped open. O.M.G! He’s in love with her!! I was so completely wrapped up in their story, I missed the bell, was late for class and got a detention. I’ve just re-read Persuasion, and it’s my favourite at the moment. I love the way Captain Wentworth and Anne start off with so much history between them and a seemingly unbridgeable gulf, and the brilliant way Jane Austen brings them gradually together. The scene where they finally understand one another is really moving.

 

Red Rackham’s Treasure, by Hergé

A boy and a dog are in a submarine shaped like a shark. What child wouldn’t want to read a book with a cover like this? I’ve been reading and re-reading all the Tintin books since I was at primary school, and my love for them has grown more and more. At first I read them for the gripping story. Hergé was a genius, and every page in the books ends with a cliff-hanger. Now I also look far more closely at his brilliant illustrations. His books have excellent characters who grow and develop as the series progresses, the settings are unusual and exotic, and the dialogue and pictures are absolutely hilarious. I still think of some of the jokes and laugh out loud. I only recently discovered that Hergé wrote these strips for a Belgian newspaper that was commandeered by the Nazis in WWII. How horrific and frightening it must have been for him to be obliged to work for them. His Tintin adventures must have brought comfort to many at the time, and they are still very firmly in my top five of comfort reads.

 

Author bio

Helena Fairfax is a freelance editor and author. She is addicted to reading and will read the cornflakes packet if there is nothing else to hand. Helena was born in Uganda and came to England as a child. She’s grown used to the cold now, and these days she lives in an old Victorian mill town in the north of England, right next door to the windswept Yorkshire moors and the home of the Brontë sisters. She walks this romantic landscape every day with her rescue dog, finding it the perfect place to dream up her heroes and her happy endings.

 

Social links

Find out more about Helena on her website www.helenafairfax.com, on Twitter @helenafairfax, or by subscribing to her newsletter to news and occasional free stuff http://eepurl.com/dtIDEH

 

Helena’s latest release is a non-fiction historical work called Struggle and Suffrage in Halifax: Women’s Lives and the Fight for Equality. Women’s voices are all too often missing from the history books. This book looks at some of the key events in the fascinating history of the mill town of Halifax, West Yorkshire, from the point of view of the women who shaped the town. It’s available on pre-order now from bookshops and retailers and from Amazon https://www.amazon.co.uk/Struggle-Suffrage-Halifax-Womens-Equality/dp/1526717778/

 

Thank you so much for having me, Rosie. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting some comfort reads. I want to read them all over again!

Thank you Helena for taking part. The Independent survey makes very interesting (and comforting) reading for us bookworms!

 

 

A Postcard from 2018

Everybody is doing a big fat quiz of the year, but here’s my personal postcard from 2018 – edited highlights of what has been a rollercoaster ride.

January – The excitement of starting a year knowing I had just signed my first publishing contract is offset by panicking about packing for a six week trip to Australia and New Zealand. How many pairs of pants…

February – Visit Australia and New Zealand. Too many wow moments to mention and definitely too many pants in my suitcase, but fulfilling a childhood ambition of cuddling a koala pretty much tops the highlights list. I know it’s not ‘PC’ but the opportunity was there…

March – Coming home from Australia and discovering we had missed the Beast from the East and all the fuss about the snow. First steps into the magical world of publishing as I begin working with a professional editor on The Theatre of Dreams.

April – Discovering two short stories I’d submitted to Writing Magazine competitions had been shortlisted in the same month.  Another successful competition entry at Hampshire Writers Society for the first 300 words of a commercial women’s fiction novel, is actually mushrooming into a commercial women’s fiction novel. Could this be Book Number Two? Yes it could. Change name of book from competition title of Marrying Mother to Your Secret’s Safe With Me after all sorts of plots twists infiltrate the original idea.

May –The rush is on to finish Your Secret’s Safe With Me so it’s out of the way before the launch of The Theatre of Dreams.

June – Choosing my book cover, writing blurb and dedications and then coming home from a week’s holiday in Spain and finding a paperback copy of The Theatre of Dreams waiting for me on the doorstep.

July – How do I launch a book? Surely if I just throw a few tweets out there, chat about it on Facebook, add a few Instagrams, tell a few friends…that’ll work, won’t it? The first Amazon reviews are in and they’re very good – but they are all written by people who know me.  Fulfil another personal ambition and visit Hampton Court Flower Show on the hottest day of the year.  We all wilt and have to be revived by large doses of Pimms. I do, however, gather ideas for a winter knitting project if the writing career plummets.

AugustThe Theatre of Dreams is officially launched into the world and the euphoria soon ends with a look at my sales figures.  How do you make one book stand out against so many millions of others? Maybe I should have done a bit more tweeting and making friends on social media. Maybe I should have just paid out big bucks for a professional book promotion service.  Maybe I need a much bigger family. It’s a steep learning curve but on the plus side more reviews are in and they are not written by people who know me…

September –  We set sail on a two-week cruise to the Baltics.  After traipsing through a mere smidgeon of the 22km of corridors at the Winter Palace in St Petersburg it’s easy to see why the Russians had a revolution.  It’s jaw-dropping opulence in the extreme. Publisher accepts Book Two.

October – Do what we we’ve been meaning to do since we returned from the Netherlands twelve months previously – put house on the market and plan an escape to the country. Yes we are that couple of empty-nesters looking to downsize to a house with sweeping views in rural isolation but close to all local amenities and obviously we still need something big enough for all our stuff, and our children’s stuff that didn’t leave the nest with them…

November – Onwards and upwards to conquer the Everest sized mountain of book marketing and self-promotion.  Meanwhile, start edits on Your Secret’s Safe With Me.

December – First author talk, nobody fell asleep which I take to be a good sign.  Continue to try and make self more alluring and interesting on social media. House sold – first challenge of 2019 will be to find a new one that ticks all our 101 boxes. Edits complete on Your Secret’s Safe With Me and launch date set for 18 February 2019.  Who’d have thought, this time last year…

Book Links:

The Theatre of Dreams

Your Secret’s Safe With Me

 

Many thanks to everyone who has supported my writing journey and also to my fellow authors who have guested on this blog during the year, either talking about their favourite comfort reads or their own magical books.

Wishing you all a very happy and prosperous 2019.