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Behind the Scenes

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be featuring posts from author friends sharing the inspiration behind their books. I’m going to start off the series by talking about The Puzzle of Pine Bay.

Writers’ minds are like sponges, we soak things up subconsciously and then years later out it comes. If you’ve already read The Puzzle of Pine Bay, or at least the blurb, you’ll know that some of the plot revolves around a holiday camp. Way back in the very hot summer of 1976 we had a family holiday in the Isle of Wight, at a holiday camp, and the memories of that holiday, and that camp, have stayed with me ever since.

Searching through my mum’s old photograph albums I came up with a few pics from that holiday, not all of which are fit for public viewing. Here’s my parents posing very happily with a large bottle of navy rum (why?) and another of our wonderful upmarket chalet. Sadly I can’t publish the one pic we have of the camp’s entertainment compere because my sister would never forgive me (but if you saw it, you would know where I found my inspiration for a certain character in the book!)

However, the “puzzle” Eliza sets out to solve takes her back to the mid-1990s as opposed to the 1970s, and I have to assume the entertainment, and the accommodation was a little more sophisticated by then. Today, I think the old Hi-de-Hi image of holiday parks has long gone (or at least I hope it has!)

The sub-plot of Eliza’s house renovation is also based on my own experiences. Eliza has taken on a challenge, and anyone who has moved house as many times as I had will have run into the same old problems of finding tradespeople to carry out necessary repairs. I also know that people do tend to leave items behind when they move out – whether out of sheer laziness, or simple forgetfulness! I’m guilty as charged! But as for Kyle, the boy next door, he’s definitely a total figment of my imagination (or wishful thinking…) I have to admit, though, I am addicted to garden makeover programmes.

When it comes to the missing magician – I wanted to create an enigmatic character who weaved his magic on and off the stage. A talented illusionist or a charlatan? I hope readers will find him in intriguing!

As for the setting – with a coastline like this, who wouldn’t be inspired by the wonderful Isle of Wight? I’m a sucker for the seaside and the island’s economy is embedded in tourism. There’s plenty of material there for several books!

The Puzzle of Pine Bay launched yesterday and is available at the bargain price of 99p for a couple more weeks. https://amazon.co.uk/dp/B09ZV7GL7R Early reviews have been good, and I’m just going to blow my own trumpet here for a bit with some quotes from Goodreads:

gripping and full of fab characters”

“wonderfully paced and a joy to Read”

“a wonderful book to laze in the sunshine and imagine the beauty of the Isle of Wight.”

Paperbacks of Pine Bay should be out in time in fill up those Christmas stockings!

Pre-Launch Nerves

Who’d be an author? First you have to come up with an original idea, then you have to write it down, several times over, then you have to sell your story to potential readers while waiting with baited breath for reviews. It’s a never ending wheel of stress and trauma.

Too late, the deed is done! The Puzzle of Pine Bay is out there on Amazon, available to pre-order and it really is a horrible feeling. I should be celebrating the achievement, and I am, kind of, but I’m also having a bout of pre-launch nerves as the doubts continue to rumble. What if no-one enjoys my new novel, what if I get bad reviews, what if readers think it’s a load of old twaddle? (Having said that, I’ve read plenty of books in my time that I know some people might refer to as old twaddle and I’ve still loved them. I’ve also read books that definitely were old twaddle, but I wouldn’t dream of telling the author…) Sending a book out into the big wide world is just like bringing up children. You do your best as a parent, cross your fingers and hope you’ve managed to mould your offspring into well-grounded loveable little humans who other people will find as endearing as you do.

The Puzzle of Pine Bay with its fabulous cover designed by Berni Stevens

Self publishing brings an addition layer of angst. As much as I love the control I have in keeping my story the way I want it, choosing my own cover, and setting my own publication dates, there’s no one else to blame if it all goes wrong. It’s not so much the financial investment at stake, as the emotional. To me the financial commitment involved in self-publishing is the same as Mr T purchasing top of the range go-faster running shoes to improve his athletic performance. He doesn’t expect to recoup a financial return for his outlay, his reward is the pleasure of an enhanced sprint along the pavement. I want my books to look professional, and although I can’t compete with established authors, and those with publishers and marketing departments behind them, I still want to do the best I can with the resources I have available. (And obviously yes, one day it would be wonderful to earn enough income from writing to cover all my expenses!!)

If you follow this blog regularly you will already know that The Puzzle of Pine Bay kicks off where A Crisis at Clifftops left off. Eliza Kane has quit playing competitive golf and decided to make a permanent home on the Isle of Wight. At the start of the book she moves into her new house in the picturesque resort of Seaview, only to make an alarming discovery in the cellar. The plot thickens from there.

When I wrote a Crisis at Clifftops, I already had Lilian’s story drafted before the additional idea of Eliza popped into my head. This time it was the other way round.  I knew how Eliza solved the “puzzle” she uncovers at Pine Bay, but I needed to give her a personal motive to investigate it. Hence Lilian has a pivotal role to play again.

Both these characters have become very dear to me. In fact, Eliza Kane is my new best friend. If you’ve read Clifftops, you’ll know Eliza is sassy, passionate and punchy, she can be impulsive, doesn’t always think things through and she drinks ever so slightly too much. We have a lot in common, but the one thing we don’t share is a love of sport. Golf is a male dominated game, and Eliza has had to be gritty and determined to reach the top.  

I realised early on in her creation that Eliza Kane is a tribute to Jordan Baker from The Great Gatsby, the only other fictional female professional golfer I’ve ever come across.

The Great Gatsby is one of my favourite books and the character of Jordan Baker has stayed with me since I first read the novel nearly forty years years ago. Jordan is the girlfriend of Nick Carraway, the narrator. Jordan is hard, cynical, and self-contained, and following her involvement in a cheating scandal, described as “inherently dishonest”.  I would never describe Eliza as dishonest, but like her 1920s counterpart, she is tough and independent, and she can be devious when she wants her own way. It’s Eliza’s sporting background which has given her the skills to solve crimes and makes the perfect amateur detective.

I have everything crossed that readers will enjoy Eliza’s next adventure. Much of the action revolves around some sinister shenanigans at an old holiday camp, Pine Bay. Inspiration for this part of the story comes from my own recollections of family holidays on the Isle of Wight, although the characters, and scenarios, are all total figments of my imagination!

Blurb

Injury has forced sporting heroine Eliza Kane into premature retirement. With a new house to renovate and a romance to rekindle, she moves back to the Isle of Wight, eager to start the next chapter in her life.
However, her plans soon unravel when she discovers of a stash of abandoned stage props in the cellar of her new home. Eliza is drawn into a search for a charismatic magician who hasn’t been seen on stage for the last twenty years.
Eliza’s enquiries amongst his former fellow entertainers at the old Pine Bay holiday park hit a wall of silence. When she finds herself threatened and in danger, she starts to question whether there is something more sinister about the missing magician’s vanishing act than a simple trick of t
he eye…

If you pre-order now, The Puzzle of Pine Bay will ping onto your Kindle on the morning of 5 July. Paperbacks will follow in the autumn.

Good News!

It’s been far too long since my last blog post but I’ve been waiting until I had something exciting to report, and now I do!

My second Isle of Wight cosy mystery, The Puzzle of Pine Bay will launch on 5 July 2022. This is later than originally planned but I’ve had distractions with weddings and other people’s house moves. In addition, although everything is now ready to go – bar the dreaded formatting and uploading onto Amazon, I’ve got holidays booked in May and June. I don’t want to launch a new book and then not be around to promote it.

There is another reason I’ve held this novel back. That old lack of confidence crept in again. Am I really cut out to be a writer? Although my first round of readers all sung the story’s praises, these people know and love me very dearly, I needed that extra validation of a neutral opinion. Once again I sent the manuscript off to a professional editor, and I’m pleased to report her feedback has helped me to improve the storyline in a way that I now feel confident will keep readers satisfied.

I don’t want to give too much away about the plot of The Puzzle of Pine Bay until the pre-order is ready – just to keep you in suspense a little bit longer! However, the story picks up where A Crisis at Clifftops left off. Eliza Kane is buying her first permanent home on the Isle of Wight. Moving in day turns out to be a little more dramatic than planned when she makes an unexpected discovery in the cellar of her new house. Old flame Charlie is still in the picture, and Nanna Lilian has another secret to impart, only this time she wants Eliza help in solving a mystery, as opposed to hindering her…

Here’s a little teaser for the cover, which I will be revealing in full in the coming weeks, along with pre-order details.

I always planned my Isle of Wight series to be never-ending – or at least three books, but up until a few weeks ago my plot for Book 3 was nothing but a flimsy piece of drivel.  However, inspiration has hit. The word count is now growing daily as the characters start to take over the plot – or rather plots (there are several!)

As for my own reading, March and April has been a mixed bag. I’ve tackled a couple of heavyweights, Kate Atkinson’s Behind the Scenes at the Museum, which I enjoyed, and Libby Page’s The Lido, which I found too slow going (my old creative writing tutor would be having kittens if I devoted an entire chapter of one of my books to a description of a fox rummaging through waste bins). After that I devoured The Custard Tart Cafe by the Sea by Isabella May, which was gorgeously entertaining, and I’ve just finished Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I was quite sceptical about Crawdads because it’s one of the those books that received an awful lot of hype. I had the impression from its Amazon reviews that it’s either a book people love or they hate. Personally I was hooked, despite the fact that a huge part of the plot is totally implausible – girl abandoned to live a shack in the swamp at the age of 6, no electricity, no running water, no education, no medical attention, no dentistry, turns into a stunningly desirable young woman who writes poetry and illustrates nature books. A novel clearly written with Hollywood in mind.

If only…

That’s the wonder of reading and writing fiction though. It doesn’t have to be real, or make sense. For me it just has to be entertaining and enjoyable.

Meanwhile, to put you in the mood to return to the Isle of Wight, here’s a few gorgeous pics of the some of the locations which inspired The Puzzle of Pine Bay.

Priory Bay
Freshwater
Freshwater

Hello & Goodbye February

I originally intended to call this post three books, two house moves and a wedding – a round up of my activities for the month. February 2022 was always going to be a busy with Daughter No 1 due to get married, and Daughter No 2 completing her first house purchase. My mother-in-law is also in the middle of moving, but for some reason known only to those who work in the conveyancing world, nearly six months after she had her offer accepted on a flat, she’s still waiting for a completion date. The anticipation/stress lingers on. But the wedding was wonderful, despite the wrath of Storm Eunice. The bride looked beautiful and Mr T’s speech went down very well.

With house moving tasks and mother of the bride duties taking up much of the month, I’ve not knuckled down with any new writing. I need to crack on with Eliza Kane Book 3. I’m playing around with a few ideas. It’s easy enough killing people off, but as Eliza and I are both amateurs, we have to avoid solving crimes that require in depth forensic knowledge. Writing cosy mysteries is harder than I thought! It doesn’t help that Ed the cat has developed attachment issues – it’s not easy typing when half your keyboard is permanently covered up by a cat’s bum.

On a more positive note, Book 2, The Puzzle of Pine Bay is about to go off for a professional edit and at least this time I know what to expect. I’ll shortly be adopting the brace position. Seriously, I’m hoping to publish in June or July, although I realise all those plans I had to hit the market with a book 1, book 2 and book 3 in close succession have long flown out the window. And talking of things flying out of the window…if at some point in the future you happen to read one of my novels featuring an incident where a bridesmaid’s dress gets swept out of a window on a strong gust of wind just hours before a wedding, and you say to yourself, how ridiculous, that would never happen in real life. Trust me. It did.

So, on to February’s reading material. The Foundling by Stacey Halls is my first book of the month. I’ve read both Stacey’s other novels, The Familiars and Mrs England, and enjoyed them immensely.  The Foundling was Stacey’s second book and personally I thought it lacked the punch of the first, and the fluency and consistency of the third. The historical research is as meticulous as always, and I loved the premise of a baby left at a Foundling Hospital being reclaimed by someone posing as her mother, but the plot seemed a little too weak to carry the story. Overall, an enjoyable and interesting enough read, I was just left feeling slightly disappointed.

My second February book was Inheritance by Jenny Éclair. I’m a big fan of grumpy old woman Jenny and I imagine she had great fun writing this saga about a well-to-do dysfunctional family with plenty of warts. The story jumped about all over the place and there was plenty of humour amongst the waffle. But what a lot of waffle there was. Perhaps someone should have reined Jenny in!

My third read of the month was an enjoyable sci-fi romp, Andorra Pett and the Oort Cloud Cafe which was kindly donated by its author Richard Dee via a Facebook Group we’re both in. It’s a cosy mystery in space – a first for me – but as I’m writing my own series of cosies I thought it would be a good idea to check out the opposition. I could certainly see similarities between feisty amateur sleuth Andorra Pett and my own Eliza Kane, but the Isle of Wight is a long way from a space station just outside Mars!

I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read this month and have now opted for a heavy weight, Kate Atkinson’s Behind The Scenes at the Museum, which although I’m only a few pages in I sense will keep me occupied for most of March.

February has come and gone and spring is on its way along with all manner of other nasties, unfortunately. In times of trouble books can provide great solace – so keep on reading (preferably one of mine because they’re very uplifting and they will make you smile : ))

The Book by my Bedside

I’m starting my first blog post of the year with a resolution and a new feature – a book review. I’m a member of quite a few Facebook groups where the one question that pops up every December is what’s your favourite book of the year. As I find it impossible to remember anything without writing it down, one of my resolutions for 2022 is to keep notes of my bedtime reading so that I can answer the question honestly when the time comes this year.

I could do all this on the Goodreads website. I joined Goodreads long before I was a writer but keeping my virtual bookshelves up to date has fallen by the wayside. Goodreads is a useful tool for keeping track of books read, but I’m not setting any targets. I don’t want a reading challenge. I’ll read what I want, when I want to. That’s why I won’t join a book club. Having to read for anything other than pleasure is too reminiscent of studying for exams. The minute reading becomes a task it ain’t fun, no matter how intellectually enlightened I’m supposed to feel at the end of it. Ernest Hemmingway’s The Old Man and the Sea (English O’Level) left permanent scars. Old man goes to sea in a boat, catches a fish, ties fish to his boat, other fish eat his fish, he returns to port empty handed.  Did reading that book enhance my life? Not one iota. Totally pointless.

Many of the so called literary classics are far more likely to put teenagers off reading for life than instil a love of books. I do wonder who’s decreed some of these titles life enriching. Likewise, all those prestigious literary prize winners, and books listed in the Sunday papers as the “must reads before you die”.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude inexplicably falls into this category and is another book that left a permanent mark on my well-being – and not in a good way. Even worse, I read it under my own volition during my super school mom phase when it cropped up on my daughter’s US High school English syllabus and I wanted to be helpful with homework. If there’s one thing guaranteed to confuse your readers it’s to give multi-generations of the family all the same name. Just saying.

These “must read” lists are certainly not based on popular demand because talking of pointless stories, as in the ones above, we all know which author topped all the fiction charts in 2021 and is quite likely to do it again in 2022 with his latest offering.

Which brings me very swiftly onto my first book review of 2022. Yes, The Man Who Died Twice has been my bedtime reading for the first half of the month.  It’s very easy to be critical, especially as an author who was unsuccessful in finding a literary agent or publisher prepared to take on her own cosy crime featuring a feisty pensioner. Envy is a nasty thing. We all know celebrities these days only have to be able to write a shopping list and they get snapped up by a publisher, blah, blah, blah.

The trouble is I’m actually a great fan of Richard Osman on TV, I like his sense of humour. His first book, The Thursday Murder Club appeared in my Christmas stocking in 2020, and my main complaint, with my author hat on, apart from the extremely complicated plotline, was the constant head-hopping between characters – and there were an awful lot of characters to keep up with.  I’ve lost count of the number of novel writing courses/workshops/articles I’ve been on/read where wannabee authors are told not to switch points of views between characters – or at least not that many characters! Everyone in this story threw in their five pennyworth. That aside, I recognised the book for it what it was – a novel deliberately written to have mass appeal by a witty TV scriptwriter/producer, and who can blame him for trying. The Marketing Department at Penguin must have been rubbing their hands with glee when the manuscript landed on their desk.

Back to my review. Basically, for anyone who has been shut in a cupboard for the last few months, The Man Who Died Twice picks up where the first caper left off, four diverse pensioners in a swanky senior living village, setting out to solve a crime – in this case involving M15 and some stolen diamonds. It’s all very implausible, quintessentially British, and just like the first book, it has all the hallmarks of effortlessly transferring onto the silver screen with Dame Judi Dench and Penelope Wilton tucking into their sandwiches as they take the mini-bus into town to catch a Mafia boss.

Perhaps because I was used to the writing style and I knew the characters and accepted their flaws (although I still find Joyce extremely annoying) I preferred this story to the first. If you’re after intellectual self-improvement, forget it. This is not the book for you. But if you’re up for a lightweight romp through the Home counties, are happy with short snappy chapters, can overlook the ridiculous plotline, and keep track of all the characters and their histories…you’ll probably be well satisfied.

A 3 out of 5 from me.

All’s Well That Ends Well…

2021 has been a bit of a bumpy ride for all of us, and just when we thought things were getting better… the year seems to be ending as it started.

For me personally 2021 hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Along with the lows there have been highs, the biggest of which has to the publication of A Crisis at Clifftops. I proved I could do it – more to myself than anyone else, and I’m pretty proud of what I’ve achieved.  Not having had a highflying career, I don’t have a lengthy CV of professional accomplishments. Self-publishing and launching Clifftops probably comes third in my list of all-time personal triumphs, only surpassed by giving birth to my two daughters. Writing a book and sending it off into the big wide world is pretty similar to raising children. You do your best and just hope other people like them. It’s definitely a Proud Mamma moment when I see my babies altogether (and yes, the kids are pretty special too!)

Promoting my work still remains my biggest bugbear. I spent a large part of 2021 maintaining what I considered to be a chirpy social media presence with the aim of making myself more alluring to  potential readers. Of course it wasn’t enough to generate mega sales, but I exceeded my expectations and received enough good feedback to have the confidence to go ahead with a paperback version of Clifftops. I lack the mindset, skillset, stamina and patience to be a good marketeer and of course I should have been more prolific, telling my Twitter followers what I had for breakfast every day and posting artistic pictures of it on Instagram. But there’s only so many ways I can make yoghurt and berries look enticing, and none at all for a bowl of Weetabix and chopped bananas. Besides who actually cares?

What I do care about though is travel. Unlike breakfast cereal, travel is interesting, informative and enlightening. I love looking at other people’s holiday photographs and I am very happy to post up my own. With so many restrictions in place over the last twenty months opportunities to explore have been few and far between. Me & Mr T look back on our wonderful hike around the Isle of Wight as a highlight of the year, along with our road trip to Ireland. Both excursions provided scenic photo opportunities galore. 

We also just managed to squeeze in an escape to the sun before restrictions changed and spent a 10 days in Tenerife at the beginning of December. It was our first trip to Tenerife and will probably be our last. I didn’t post up an awful lot about it on social media because I didn’t find the place particularly inspiring, nor did I we have wi-fi in our hotel, which was actually a blessing in disguise because it made me realise yes I can live without Facebook 24/7, and in fact, I’ve hardly been on social media since we got back. Tenerife was good for re-charging the batteries, and although I say I didn’t find it inspiring, I did come up with a potential novel plot – Murder on the Mobility Scooter. I’ve never seen so many of the things in one place – they were everywhere, including tandems. I may send Eliza Kane off there at some point in the future to investigate a rogue tourist who takes revenge after been pushed off the pavement one too many times…

And talking of Eliza, her next adventure, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, is now pencilled in for launching in early summer 2022. Life has got in the way again and I’ve got side-tracked by other stuff. I’m also a perfectionist and I’m not going to rush something out there that I don’t think is ready. And that’s why I know self-publishing is the right route for me. I’m appalling at time management and need flexible deadlines!  

The downside of being an indie author is that slipping off the social media radar is not good for business. Ebooks sales have slumped, but that’s only to be expected when I’m not constantly maintaining online visibility. But I have found other ways and means of spreading the word which are, quite frankly, far more enjoyable. An author talk postponed from 2020 finally took place in November and if I say so myself, I went down a storm, or maybe not a storm, this was the WI after all. I went down with a polite ripple. But I sold books, and acquired another booking. I’ve also got a potential library talk on the back of my first podcast. And in case you’ve not listened to the podcast, here’s the link. http://wormhole.carnelianvalley.com/podcast/episode-48-rosie-travers/ Friends and family have also been doing their fair of sales on behalf, and for that I’m very grateful!

As we tick off another year, I’d like to thank everyone who has supported my writing career throughout the last twelve months and to all those guests who joined me on the blog to talk about the locations which inspired their own writing. March to November was pretty full on working on and promoting Clifftops, and I’ll be continuing my social media break into the new year. I’m looking forward to polishing off Eliza Kane’s next adventure, and wish you all a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy and peaceful 2022.

Me & Mr T after one too many Christmas sherries!

In the Spotlight – Lizzie Chantree

Today, I’d like turn the spotlight on international best-selling author Lizzie Chantree. I’m always happy to share exciting book news, and Lizzie’s eighth novel, The Woman Who Felt Invisible, is published this week. I first me Lizzie back in 2018 when we had books with the same publisher. Lizzie is a prolific and inspirational writer, totally supportive to her fellow authors and always willing to hand out help and advice. She’s very active on social media and I’m totally in awe of her commitment and energy!

Lizzie started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. Unsurprisingly, Lizzie writes stories about about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. Her novels are full of friendship and laughter. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex.

Her new book, The Woman Who Felt Invisible, is an exciting, romantic story of love and new beginnings. Learning to love herself and be content on her own is the first step. But will Olivia be able to leave her past behind, follow her heart and find lasting happiness?

Blurb

Working as a stationery supervisor and a sitter to a pair of internet famous, delinquent dogs, wasn’t how former cyber-specialist, Olivia, imagined her life turning out.  Working in a tiny cubicle with a decrepit computer and being overlooked had suited her for a while, but now she’s fed up, lonely and determined to make the world ‘see’ her again. Old school friend, Darius, wants to fill Olivia’s days with romance, but their love of technology has taken them on very different paths. Gorgeous undercover policeman Gabe, is steadfast in finding out if Olivia was part of an online scam, but something doesn’t feel right and he suspects someone else was manipulating her life. 

Can love blossom from the most deceptive of starts? And can someone who feels lost, find a way to flourish against all odds?

Excerpt

This was it. This was Olivia Tenby’s life, now. This was how low she had come. At the age of forty-one, she was sweating her guts out in a house that felt like a furnace, babysitting two delinquent Labradoodle dogs called Bertie and Belle, while their owners swanned around getting even richer somewhere else. Wiping her palms across her face, feeling glad she’d discarded her top so that she couldn’t drip on it, she pressed a button. Music blared out of speakers set into the ceiling. This house had everything – lights that came on when you spoke to them, a vacuum cleaner that tripped you over while it scurried along the floor of its own accord, and a fridge that dispensed perfectly shaped ice cubes into crystal glasses.

Olivia looked around furtively for a moment, and then laughed and decided to go for it. Her job as dog sitter extraordinaire had begun two weeks ago. She’d been told to entertain the excitable animals in any way she could think of, as they were naughty and destroyed everything while the owners were out – which they always were. Olivia hadn’t even met them, which was baffling. They left her notes with instructions on how to stop the dogs eating the walls and making a mess of the thick pile carpets. She actually quite liked the job, it was as easy as walking in a straight line. Then she thought about how wobbly she always was after three vodka and cokes, and quickly pushed that picture aside. The dogs were bored and, although her job included giving the house a cursory swipe with a duster, it was always immaculate when she arrived. Something was a bit weird, though, as the place was incredibly hot. The dogs liked to slobber all over her, making her even hotter. So she’d taken to stripping off as soon as she sat down with the pooches, otherwise she’d probably pass out and be found weeks later, mummified in dog hair.

Book links: Lizzie Chantree.

Universal book buy link: The little ice cream shop: viewbook.at/IceCreamShopByTheSea

Universal book buy link: Networking for writers: viewbook.at/NetworkingForWriters

Universal book buy link: If you love me, I’m yours: viewbook.at/IfYouLoveMe-ImYours

Universal book buy link: Ninja School Mum: viewbook.at/NinjaSchoolMumRomance

Universal book buy link: Babe Driven: viewbook.at/BabeDriven

Universal book buy link: Love’s Child: viewBook.at/Amazon-LovesChild

Universal book buy link: Finding Gina: viewbook.at/FindingGina

Shh… It’s Our Secret: https://www.bhcpress.com/Books_Chantree_Shh_Its_Our_Secret.html
The woman who felt invisible: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09J98F32J

Social media links:

Website: www.lizziechantree.com

Author page: https://www.viewAuthor.at/LizzieChantree

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Lizzie_Chantree

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

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7391757.Lizzie_Chantree

Wishing Lizzie every success with her new book!

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.co.uk/LizzieChantree/pins/

FB Groups: https://www.facebook.com/groups/647115202160536/

BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/lizzie-chantree

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/lizziechantreeauthor

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCnCop-RlAcGqggZG3JfE-Mw

On Location with Rachel Brimble

It’s season finale time – and we’re staying in the West Country for our last On Location post of the year. I’m delighted to welcome author Rachel Brimble as my guest to talk about the beautiful city of Bath, the setting for her series of Regency novels.

I was born and bred in the maritime city of Bristol but, in 2001, my husband and I moved to a small market town just a short 30-minute drive from Bath, along with our eldest daughter who was two at the time and our youngest daughter who was happily cooking away in my belly!

Back then, writing was little more than a pipedream that I’d harboured for as long as I can remember but, once we were living so close to Bath it quickly became my one of favourite places to visit and all sorts of story ideas began to float around in my mind.

Not that I did anything about them until a few years to later – I didn’t start writing properly until my youngest started school full-time in 2005. As a voracious reader of historical fiction and romance, as well as an avid watcher of each and every period drama that might grace our TV screens, to be so close to where so many famous scenes have been filmed is a constant thrill.

Bath has been used for BBC adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, not to mention films such as The Duchess starring Kiera Knightley and Vanity Fair starring Reese Witherspoon. Most recently, of course, it was used in season 1 of the fabulously successful Bridgerton.

One of my favourite places to visit is No 1 Royal Crescent which is open to the public for most of the year. Each room, it fantastic staircase, kitchens and small yard have all been retained as they might have looked during mid-late eighteenth century. I especially enjoy visiting when I am in the process of plotting a new series which I plan to set in Bath. This house has been used several times in my different books albeit in different guises!

Other famous Bath landmarks I have used in my books include Pulteney Bridge, Parade Gardens, Victoria Park, Sally Lunn’s Eating House, the Assembly Rooms, the Pump room and many of the pubs dotted around the city, some of which date back to early fourteenth century. The city is an absolute godsend to me and my work!

Every September (if circumstances allow), Bath hosts the Jane Austen festival will draws Janeites (devotees of Jane Austen) from all over the world. The events I have attended over the years have always been fantastic and vary from tours around the city, to balls, to regency markets and palm-reading. It’s two weeks of Jane Austen and Regency fun which culminates in the grand Regency Parade where hundred of people snake through the city side by side. Actors and the public dress up in Regency costume, including military uniforms, day dresses, ball gowns and clerical dress. It’s a wonderful sight to see and a date for next year’s diary for any Jane Austen fans!

So far, all of my historicals have been set in Bath and Pennington’s department store, which is the focus of the Shop Girl series, was inspired by Jolly’s on Bath’s famous Milsom Street… although Pennington’s is probably five times the size!

As for other real-life places which feature in my latest series, The Ladies of Carson Street, there are too many mentioned in their real or fictional guises to list them all, but Carson Street itself was ignited in my imagination by North Parade, a beautiful row of Georgian townhouses opposite Parade Gardens.

Bath is wonderful and I feel blessed to live so very close and be able to visit whenever I want…

Books 1 & 2 in the Ladies of Carson Street trilogy are available now with book 3 due for release in February 2022. Here are the buy links for A Widow’s Vow and Trouble For The Leading Lady.

mybook.to/widowsvow

mybook.to/leadinglady

You can find out more about Rachel and her writing at https://www.rachelbrimble.com

Many thanks to Rachel for taking part. I’ve visited Bath many times and it has to be one of my favourite cities in the UK. It’s a great way to end the series and I hope everyone has enjoyed reading about the locations I’ve featured over the summer. Hopefully you feel inspired to visit some of these amazing places, even if it’s just through the pages of a book!

The Irish Rover

This week I’d thought I’d write my own travelogue about our two week tour of the Irish countryside. Like a lot of people we’ve had to look closer to home for our holiday ideas over the last couple of years.  In 2020 we ticked off North Wales and Scotland, this year we decided head to the island of Ireland, as it now seems to be referred to in the tourist board adverts.

As a child growing up in the 1970s, the idea of taking a break in Northern Ireland was off the radar, but thankfully, times are very different now. After a short overnight stay in Belfast and the afternoon exploring the city’s amazing Titanic Museum – we headed out into the countryside following the stunning Causeway Coast route north.

It may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but I’m a huge fan of Game of Thrones. Blood, gore, death, destruction, it’s not my normally my cup of tea at all, but after we’d been on a trip to Dubrovnik a few years ago and encountered hoards of tourists on GoT walking tours and shops selling plastic figurines of Sean Bean and Charles Dance,  we bought the DVD of the first series to see what all the fuss was about and became completely hooked (I blame Kit Harrington and that bewildered expression he perfected as Jon Snow).  

I forced Mr T to take a pitstop at a couple of locations which were used in the filming, firstly Ballintoy Harbour and then Dark Hedges, before we headed to the infamous Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, which much to my relief, was closed. No need to face the dilemma of whether I’d be brave enough to cross.

Ballintoy Bay (the Iron islands in GoT)
Carrick-a-rede

The following day we set out on a six mile coastal walk to take in the Giant’s Causeway and that’s when it all started to go a bit wrong. Somewhere along the route (which really is breathtakingly stunning with numerous photo opportunities), I damaged my foot, or my shin or my calf and quite possibly all three, and I developed a bit of a limp.

Giants Causeway

I know, rest, ice, compression, elevation, but I was on holiday. I had the whole of Ireland to see, a trip Mr T had painstakingly planned, that took us to Donegal, Westport, Galway, Dingle, Killarney and the Wild Atlantic Way…so I dosed up with pain relief and carried on.

At the lovely town of Westport we took a boat trip around Clew Bay, home to 365 islands and a large colony of grey seals. When you’ve visited the Titanic museum only days before, and you’re on a rather antiquated boat which the minute you step on board you think have they got a licence for this, listening to a commentary cataloguing local shipwrecks, the last thing you want to do is hit a rock, but we did. There was a horrible crunch, and the sound of breaking glass…

‘Nothing to worry about,’ the cheery commentator remarked as if it happened all the time. Looking at the state of the boat it probably did.

Much to my horror the following day Mr T suggested another boat trip, this time around Dingle Bay. Dingle Bay has been home to the Fungie the friendly dolphin for several years, and the town has milked poor Fungie for all he’s worth. Sadly he appears to be no longer with us but as this boat looked a lot more seaworthy than the last and Dingle Bay is a very pretty spot, we headed out to sea. To be honest, by this point in the trip anything that didn’t involve walking seemed like a good idea.

From Dingle we headed down to Killarney and the ring of Kerry. According to our Best Roadtrips in Europe Guidebook, if you don’t do anything else Ireland you do this.  It was truly spectacular but by then I’d already fallen in love.

Ring of Kerry

We’d planned our holiday to avoid spending a Saturday night in the cities of Dublin or Belfast, but Killarney should have been on the banned list too. We spent a lovely Friday evening enjoying “the craic” in a local bar, tapping our feet to some traditional music but the following day everyone else turned up. I’m not by nature vindictive but if I actually lived next door to any of the people who were running up and down our hotel corridor all night, I’d have been very tempted to get my lawnmower out first thing on Sunday morning – and possibly my hedge trimmer and jet washer too.

The Cliffs of Moher

After Killarney the scenery mellowed. From the craggy cliffs, barren moorland and mountains of the north, we were in the land of cows and Kerry gold. I have to say I’ve never seen grass as green as I did in Ireland, or as many rainbows.   

At Blarney Castle only Mr T was brave enough to kiss the stone but by then I knew if I got lay down to lean backwards over a parapet, I’d probably never get back up again.

It felt a privilege to visit Ireland without the hoards of usual tourists and it’s easy to see why they come. History is all around you, it’s impossible to avoid the stories of famine and mass emigration and the struggle for independence. There’s a lot of people all over the world who can claim some sort of Irish ancestry (me included!)

My lasting memories of Ireland will be the brave – or foolhardy – surfers riding the untamed Atlantic waves, ruined castles and ancient hillforts, and the remote rural cottages and homesteads with donkeys on the porch and a handful of sheep in the yard. The food was delicious, we were welcomed wherever we went and landscape has to be some of the most impressive and dramatic I’ve ever seen. I knew I’d like the south, because over the years I’ve read lots about it and seen the pictures, but Northern Ireland was revelation, a real hidden gem.

On Location with Isabella May

From Sydney to Scotland, I hope everyone is enjoying our series of armchair travel adventures. I’m delighted to welcome author Isabella May as my guest this week, and although Isabella lives in Spain, we’re actually staying quite close to home to explore her favourite location!

When you have spent toddlerhood through to your late twenties living in (arguably) England’s most mystical town – and you’re an author – it’s impossible not to feature said location in your books.

Glastonbury.

It’s a word that’s become rather iconic for mud, wellies, and Kate Moss et al posing for Hello! Magazine whilst glamping it up watching the biggest indie musicians in the world. But there’s so much more to my hometown than June’s annual music festival. In fact, the Glastonbury that most outsiders *think* they know, is actually Pilton; a village almost 7 miles away from the real town!

It’s fair to say that the ley lines and the quirkiness of the true Glastonbury have shaped every aspect of my creativity. Yet, for all its fame, Glastonbury rarely features in mainstream fiction. I may not be published with one of the Top Five, and I may not write formulaic commercial romcoms, but I am passionate about shining a spotlight on my former home, whenever a storyline permits. Glastonbury’s push and pull, its magnetism for lost souls and reinvention, and its hedonistic vibe make it impossible not to.

But there are layers to Glastonbury.

Beneath all of the cloaks, wands, crystals and mandalas, generations of farming folk and townspeople are rooted here to the town’s clay-rich earth. All of which makes for the ultimate story: a community steeped in the tradition of the land mingling with those in search of deeper meaning, fused with the generations of partygoers and the plain old eccentric. Glastonbury is a hotspot for plotting and character development. How can a storyline not take shape here?

My first novel, ‘Oh! What a Pavlova’, looks at Glastonbury from an unconventional point of view; that of a successful professional young woman called Kate, who feels trapped there in the confines of comfort zone life – and an abusive relationship – when she is not traveling the world with her career. All she wants to do is escape the place and the limitations it has unwittingly put on her. It’s been fascinating to contrast that writing experience with my second novel, ‘The Cocktail Bar’, where we see rockstar, River Jackson, pine for his hometown so much that he returns there from his South American music tour (much to the disdain of the cider drinking locals and the hash-loving hippies) to open a cocktail bar!

In other novels in my backlist, I’ve simply made mention of Glastonbury here and there, until I wrote ‘The Cake Fairies’; a timeslip romcom that sees professional bakers, Polly and Annabelle, visiting the town’s local Tor fair, where they meet a fortune teller who transports them from 1969 to 2019… an act which feels totally ‘Normal for Glastonbury’, to quote the name of the town’s infamous blog, penned by the wonderful Vicki Steward.

Side note: Vicki has written a fantastically witty book about the town and I simply have to include a link to it here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Normal-Glastonbury-Life-Englands-Magical/dp/B091F8PKVJ/

Moving on to the second of my 2020 novels, ‘The Chocolate Box’, we see an unlikely workplace reunion of former private school pupils from the town’s fancy school; a fate sealed with a Jumanji-style box of chocolates…

And in 2021, Glastonbury has provided me with just as much inspiration as ever! ‘Bubblegum and Blazers’ was published in June, and is a romcom set on a reality TV show (which I may have based in my former secondary school, wink, wink). That book was a delight to write and really helped me escape during the toughest months of the pandemic. Then in September this year, B&B was joined by ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar’ where we witness the return of River Jackson from ‘The Cocktail Bar’… and this time he’s back to run a retro VW camper van selling decadent hot chocolate and gingerbread biscuits in Glastonbury and the surrounding villages – as you do.

Whilst my current manuscript focuses on Weston-super-Mare and the Algarve (and copious amounts of gourmet custard tarts), and book 10 will be set in sunny Spain, where I currently live, there’s no doubt the carrot dangle of Glastonbury will prove impossible to resist for long…

In the meantime, I’d love to see it represented more accurately in bestselling fiction. As I have hinted above, it’s not just the beauty of the Tor, the Abbey, the Chalice Well, the Holy Thorn, and Gog and Magog that deserve our attention, but the real people of Glastonbury. These everyday characters do more than flit in and out for a weekend of mud, music, and magic mushrooms, they are the town’s beating heart, and they are brimming with stories to share with bookworms far and wide.

You can buy Isabella’s latest release, ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bar’ here:

mybook.to/twinkletwinklelittleb

About Isabella

Isabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalusia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the mountains and the sea. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic, as well as a Pranic Healer.

After a degree in Modern Languages and European Studies at UWE, Bristol (and a year working abroad in Bordeaux and Stuttgart), Isabella bagged an extremely jammy and fascinating job in children’s publishing… selling foreign rights for novelty, board, pop-up and non-fiction books all over the world; in every language from Icelandic to Korean, Bahasa Indonesian to Papiamento!

All of which has fuelled her curiosity and love of international food and travel – both feature extensively in her cross-genre novels, fused with a dollop of romcom, and a sprinkle of magical realism.

You can follow her Foodie Romance Journey series at the following hang-outs:

www.isabellamayauthor.com

Twitter – https://www.twitter.com/@IsabellaMayBks

Instagram – @isabella_may_author

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/

Many thanks to Isabella for taking part – aren’t her book covers just mouth-wateringly gorgeous? Me and Mr T spent our brief honeymoon staying in Wookey, just a few miles outside Glastonbury, and we’ve visited the town many times since. It holds a very special place in our hearts too.