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 : ))

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 Sandy Barker

I’m delighted to welcome author Sandy Barker onto my blog this week for another Locations feature. Sandy has used her love of travel to set her books in exotic locations all over the globe, but she’s chosen to tell us about one particular place which is very close to her heart.

I have lived in many cities around the world – LA, London, Seattle, Perth (the Australian one) and now I live in Melbourne, but for natural beauty my favourite city of all those I’ve lived in has to be Sydney.

I moved to Sydney in late 2000, only months after I’d volunteered at the Sydney Olympics. I’d visited before the Olympics, but during those weeks of beautiful Sydney weather and being out and about in the city, which was abuzz with Olympic fever, I fell in love. I returned to Perth, resigned from my job, packed up my belongings and moved east.

I lived there for eight years, always close to the coast, as for me that is one of Sydney’s biggest drawcards. I was a runner back then – running most days along the rugged paths that skirt the coast and hug those sandy white coves. I’d breathe in the briny air, take in the glorious views, including those stunning sea pools, and fall a little more in love with Sydney.

I’ve now set two books in Sydney – obviously part of A Sunset in Sydney takes place there, and it is also the main setting of my 5th book, The Dating Game. Set in the world of reality television, on a competition dating show called The Stag, ‘Stag Manor’ where the Does are housed is a mansion right on the shores of Sydney Harbour. During filming the contestants get to see some of Sydney’s most sights, such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.

Even though I lived in Sydney for almost a decade, I never tired of seeing the sails of the Opera House or that iconic bridge – and from the Botanic Gardens and Circular Quay, you can see both together.

As well as the natural beauty of Sydney and surrounds, those structural icons literally take my beath away every time I see them.

Speaking of Sydney’s surrounds … one of the destinations that the cast members visit is the Hunter Valley, a wine region a couple of hours north-west of Sydney. It’s where the bush meets vineyards, and I’ve had several mini-breaks in the Hunter over the years – the wine is delicious.

Hunter Valley – credit Kevin Rheese

The Blue Mountains, just west of Sydney, are also a spectacular place to visit, even though they are not really mountains – more like hills – and they aren’t particularly blue either. But the hiking through the forest is fantastic fun and the Three Sisters, natural monoliths, are definitely a sight to see.

So, with the mix of incredible architecture and natural beauty, Sydney is certainly an inspirational city and the perfect setting for falling in love. I can’t wait to get back.

About Sandy Barker

Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.

Sandy lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins.

The series continues in That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney and there are two more to come in 2022. Her standalone novel The Christmas Swap celebrates her favourite time of the year, and next up is The Dating Game, a laugh-out-loud romcom set in the world of Reality TV.

https://www.facebook.com/sandybarkerauthor

https://sandybarker.com/

https://www.instagram.com/sandybarkerauthor/

Tags for social media

Twitter: @sandybarker @0nemorechapter_

Instagram: @sandybarkerauthor @onemorechapterHC

Facebook: @sandybarker – author @One More Chapter Books

The Dating Game Blurb

‘Hilarious and highly original’

Julie Houston, bestselling author of A Village Affair

Once upon a time, twelve women joined the hottest reality TV show looking for love. Except one had a secret identity . . .

Abby Jones is a serious writer. Or at least she will be, one day. Right now, she spends her time writing recaps of reality television under a secret identity.

When a recap for The Stag – the must-watch dating show – goes viral, her editor thinks she should be on set, writing the drama as it happens. The good news: the next season will be filmed in Sydney. Sun, sea and a glamorous trip abroad, this could be Abby’s big break.

The bad news: the producers don’t just want Abby to write the recaps, they want her to be on the show. Abby can’t think of anything worse than being undercover and followed around by cameras. But her career depends on it, and when she meets gorgeous producer Jack, Abby begins to wonder if this job might not be so bad after all . . .

Buy Links:

Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/37qqxQe

Amazon AU: https://amzn.to/3Al1hXW

Kobo: https://bit.ly/3ALnM9o

Google Play: https://bit.ly/3horQou

iBooks: https://apple.co/3xrDPra

Nook: https://bit.ly/3rX1VYE

Waterstones: https://bit.ly/3AIvuS0

Foyles: https://bit.ly/3ALnwqW

Many thanks to Sandy for taking part and sharing her wonderful pictures of Sydney. I was lucky enough to visit Sydney in 2018 and reading this post brought back some very happy memories. (Also very lovely to see the Three Sisters in full colour – they were surrounded in mist on our trip to the Blue Mountains!)

Onwards & Upwards

My self-publishing journey continues to be one big learning curve. Having successfully launched A Crisis at Clifftops in ebook form and proving, mainly to myself, that I am an intelligent and capable person who can master new tricks, the education continues. I’m now embarking on the production of a paperback. I’d love to say its due to popular demand – yes I have had few enquiries, but mainly its because I’ve realised what wonderful Christmas presents a signed copy will make to friends and family, especially with all the shortages predicted over the festive season this year. What no turkey? Never mind, devour a good book instead.

Seriously, I just love the feel and smell of a paperback, so I just thought, why not. I’m doing it for me, and that was also very much the theme of my first Facebook Live event which took place last week. I know these things are second nature to the younger generation, but not for me, although to be fair, it wasn’t actually meant to be live. I had recorded a well-rehearsed word-perfect video presentation to upload to my post, but at the last minute, technology let me down.

Fortunately, the event, the Chick Lit & Prosecco Facebook Chat Group Late Summer Festival, was a wonderfully relaxed affair.  My contribution was supposed to be a short, humorous piece entitled The Joy of Writing, an account of how I got my writing mojo back after a serious slump, with the aim of helping others in the same position.  The main emphasis of my talk about going back to basics, reminding myself why I started writing in the first place, which wasn’t to get a book deal or to top the Sunday Times bestseller list, but to simply tell a story. (It’s a theme I talked about on this blog back in November 2020 The Joy of Writing)

Despite the technical glitch my talk went down well, possibly because of the comparisons I made between writing and sex (I know my audience!). Fortunately I was neatly coiffured, made-up and fully-dressed when I had to jump in last minute when my video failed to upload. The show must go on, after all!

I’m very attached to my comfort zone and doing things like this quite frankly, scares me. I know it’s all about character building and challenging yourself, but twice in one week….

The Facebook event was followed a few days later by taking part in a podcast. Yes me, a podcast. I know, the kids couldn’t believe it either. After the release of A Crisis of Clifftops I was contacted by Charlie Place, a local book blogger. I originally met Charlie three years ago when I was just about to launch my debut novel The Theatre of Dreams.  Charlie told me how much she’d enjoyed the book and how the story and its characters had stayed with her, after all this time – which is music to any author’s ears!

The podcast will be broadcast at the end of October via Charlie’s website: http://wormhole.carnelianvalley.com/. At least there were no visuals to worry about this time and Charlie promised the piece would be edited! I wouldn’t say I was a media natural, but I’ve realised, just like writing, when you’re passionate about something, the words tend to flow quite easily.

And talking of The Theatre of Dreams, I’ve always felt this story deserved another chance out there in the big wide world, so I’ve given the book a make-over. When I’m back from my hols in October this lovely little book is going to have a relaunch. After receiving my rights back from its original publishers, Crooked Cat, the book has sat on the back-burner, buried in the dark vaults of Amazon obscurity. When designer, Berni Stevens, came up with her wonderful cover for A Crisis at Clifftops, I asked her to work her magic on The Theatre of Dreams too and here’s a teaser of the new cover…

After the relaunch, and the paperback, I’ll be hunkering down to do some serious writing again. The Puzzle of Pine Bay, the second Eliza Kane mystery, needs some revision if I want to publish in Spring 2022, which I do, and there’s also a sequel to The Theatre of Dreams which has been brewing away for some time and is singing to me again. I’m marching on!

After The Theatre of Dreams’ original release I thought I had to conquer the publishing equivalent of Mount Everest to consider myself a “successful” author. I beat myself up for feeling I’d made it no further than base camp. But it’s all about mindset. As I said in my Chick Lit presentation, find your G spot, work out what makes you happy and take it from there. I don’t have a head for heights. I don’t like climbing mountains. This time round I’m sticking to the hills!

On Location with Margaret Amatt

With its dramatic and diverse landscape, Scotland has always been a popular location when it comes to art and literature. We’re in for another travel treat this week as author Margaret Amatt tells us about the Scottish island which captured her imagination and provided the inspiration for her writing.

My book series, Scottish Island Escapes, is set on the glorious Hebridean Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. This has been one of my favourite holiday destinations over the years and I’ve visited it in every season. Each visit has provided me with happy memories, gorgeous views and lots of inspiration!

It was twenty years ago, in 2001, I first travelled to the island, just for a weekend as I was gate-crashing my sister’s island-hopping trip. The two of us were young and carefree and booked a B&B for the night in a place called Fionnphort. As children we’d spent many a summer on another Scottish island, the Isle of Bute. Now, Bute is a fairly small island. You can drive around the whole thing in less than an hour. Mull is not! Mull is the fourth largest island in Britain and the roads are almost all single-track. It takes a looong time to get around. Neither my sister or I realised this and hadn’t bothered to read a map! It took us over an hour to reach the B&B from the ferry, more than double the time we’d imagined.

The shock of discovering just how big a place it was however vanished in the utterly jaw-dropping scenery. Around every twist on the road (and there are plenty of them!), was another view: a splendid mountain, a sparkling loch, a pretty woodland or the sea. And what a sea. All around Mull and its neighbouring Isle of Iona, the ocean is a glorious turquoise colour, sometimes resembling the Mediterranean more than Britain!

That was my first trip and I only touched on a small part of the island. I made a note to return and explore more. Since then, I’ve been back to the island almost every year and often more than once. I’ve travelled there in all weathers, including a memorable new year spent in the Island’s main town of Tobermory. Mull is a photographers’ paradise. There’s barely a place on the island that isn’t a beauty spot. Some trips, I’ve stopped the car every few seconds to snap pictures from the road of passing scenery I can’t bear to miss!

For many years, I was a closet writer and wrote only for myself. All my early work falls into that category and I wouldn’t want it to be anything else. What it meant however was that when I came to publishing my books, I had already written several works. During 2019 was when the dream started coming together for real. I had a story in my head that had been with me ever since my first trip to Mull. I’d only been a gate-crasher on that trip, and when my sister carried on her tour of the islands, I took public transport back home. That trip alone included a somewhat eventful bus trip, but that’s another story. Since then however, I’d wondered how someone from a totally different place would react to living on an island. I’m Scottish born and bred, so single-track roads and crazy weather don’t faze me too much. But what if someone from London, say, had to go to Mull, and even worse had to use public transport? What if they, like me, hadn’t investigated the size of the place, or didn’t realise buses could only get you so far. The more I visited mull the more potential for stories built in my imagination.

The original book I set on the island used the storyline I mentioned above, but as I wrote it, it evolved in my mind and I realised there was so much more than just one story here. I shook things up and decided to make a series of five books. The series called Scottish Island Escapes was born. There’s a book for every season plus a Christmas one due out this October. The original book became book four, An Autumn Hideaway. The lead character comes to Mull seeking her estranged mother but instead she meets a grumpy and enigmatic local who isn’t impressed with her lack of basic planning skills. As the story evolves, they form an unlikely bond, making it all the more difficult for her to leave when her time on the island is up. Let’s hope she finds her happy ending on the gorgeous Isle of Mull with rainbows around every corner.

I’m planning to continue the series next year and with so much inspiration to draw from, I’ll be spoiled for choice. Because it’s a place so special to me, I’ve written in a lot of real villages, beaches and features, but invented the names of houses, hotels, farms etc. This has made a lot of my readers want to visit Mull themselves! Even my editor thinks I should be on commission from the local tourist board – an interesting idea! If you’re inspired to read the series or are curious to find out more please follow this link:

www.margaretamatt.com/linktree

About Margaret Amatt

Margaret Amatt is a Scottish author based in Highland Perthshire. She lives with her husband and young son in a beautiful glen surrounded by woods, hills and wildlife, and close to the River Tay.

Margaret has four published books and more in the pipeline. She has also won a short story writing competition at Pitlochry Festival Theatre and had her winning piece performed live in the auditorium.

For more information please visit.

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Blurb for An Autumn Hideaway

She went looking for someone, but it wasn’t him.

After a string of disappointments for chirpy city girl Autumn Elworthy, discovering her notoriously unstable mother has run off again is the last straw. When Autumn learns her mother’s last known whereabouts was a remote Scottish Island, she makes the rash decision to go searching for her.

Taciturn islander Richard Linden has his reasons for choosing the remote Isle of Mull as home. He’s on a deadline and doesn’t need any complications or company. But everything changes after a chance encounter with Autumn.

Autumn chips away at Richard’s reserve until his carefully constructed walls start to crumble. But Autumn’s just a passing visitor and Richard has no plans to leave. Will they realise, before it’s too late, that what they’ve been searching for isn’t necessarily what’s missing?

Buying link https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B095289PRN/

Many thanks to Margaret for taking part and sharing her gorgeous pictures. Margaret definitely should be working for the island tourist board – although I’d just like to point out that Mr T and me still have nightmares about driving around those roads in Mull after our road trip to Scotland last year!

On Location with Fiona Leitch

We’re taking another excursion on the theme of literary inspiration this week. Author Fiona Leitch takes us behind the scenes in Paris for a guided tour of her latest novel.

As a reader, I love books with a strong sense of location. If I can imagine the scene – smell the coffee, or the roses blooming, feel the breeze, hear the thrum of traffic or the waves lapping against a white sand beach – then I’m much more likely to invest in the characters and their journey; it feels like I’m there with them. As a writer, my books’ locations mean I can have fun! What better excuse for a holiday than ‘research’?

 My latest book, Falling in Louvre, is set (obviously) in Paris. It’s the setting for many romance novels, of course, but I’ve tried to include a few of the less obvious parts of the city, including places I’ve visited myself.

The Louvre museum plays a major role, as my protagonists Sylvie and Philippe both work there. Its most famous inhabitant is the Mona Lisa, who’s actually far smaller in real life than you’d probably imagine. Less well known is the Carousel du Louvre, the underground shopping mall directly underneath the museum, where Philippe goes to buy something for Sylvie. The mall also offers another entrance into the museum, which is a good way to skip the ever-present massive queue of visitors outside by the famous pyramid. 

One of the places that Sylvie and Philippe end up on their adventures is the Manoir de Paris, a haunted house tourist attraction set in a magnificent former ceramics workshop built in the 1880s. It originally stood cheek-by-jowl with the Saint-Lazare leper colony and prison, so the area has a colourful if rather macabre history – just right for a haunted house…

This in turn leads Sylvie and Philippe to a location that is even more spooky – the Paris catacombs. There is a 1.5km loop of underground tunnels, the last resting place of several thousand Parisians from the 18th century (and earlier), which is open to tourists and is an undeniably fascinating (if rather claustrophobic and eerie) place to visit. But then there’s the REAL catacombs, an estimated 320km network of ossuaries, abandoned quarries, sewers and tunnels that runs the entire length and breadth of the city, including the ‘lake’ (actually a water tank designed by the opera house’s architect in 1862, to contain groundwater rather than try to pump it away) under the Palais Garnier, which influenced the Phantom of the Opera story. It’s been illegal since 1955 to go down there, but it doesn’t stop everyone – there’s a whole gang of ‘cataphiles’, urban explorers who spend their time seeking out hidden tunnels, not to mention the underground dining clubs, illegal raves and others with purposes nefarious or otherwise… I really enjoyed visiting the ‘official’ catacombs, but I would give anything to go to a party down there. What an atmosphere!

A more romantic atmosphere can be found on the famous Pont des Artes bridge, which crosses the Seine near the Louvre, where scores of lovers have shown their devotion by writing their names on padlocks and securing them to the bridge as a symbol of their undying adoration; their names together, for ever more. Or at least until the city council come along and cut them off, which they do every few years. The last time this happened almost 40 tonnes of padlocks were removed!

Sylvie lives in some style in the 6th arrondisement, a very expensive part of the city, while Philippe lives with his mum in a tiny top floor apartment in Montmartre. One of his favourite places nearby (where they have a rendezvous in the rain) is the Sacre Coeur. The cathedral sits above the city on its hilltop, and the view from there is probably the best in Paris – better, even, than the one from the Eiffel Tower, as it actually has the tower in it! Who can blame Philippe for spending sunny afternoons there, reading his book on the grass, before wandering down into the streets below for a coffee?

I adore Paris. It’s a beautiful city, and it definitely puts you in the mood for love. I hope Falling in Louvre will make you fall in love with it too!

Buy link: mybook.to/Louvre (available exclusively on Amazon)

About Fiona Leitch

Fiona Leitch is a writer with a chequered past. She’s written for football and motoring magazines, DJ’ed at illegal raves and was a stalwart of the low budget TV commercial, even appearing as the Australasian face of a cleaning product called ‘Sod Off’. Her romantic cosy mystery series, The Nosey Parker Mysteries, is published by One More Chapter/HarperCollins, while her debut novel, ‘Dead in Venice’, was published by Audible as one of their Crime Grant finalists. After living in London, Hastings and Cornwall she’s finally settled in sunny New Zealand, where she enjoys scaring her cats by trying out dialogue on them. She spends her days dreaming of retiring to a crumbling Venetian palazzo, walking on the volcanic sand beaches of West Auckland, and writing funny, flawed but awesome female characters.

Social Media Links:

https://www.twitter.com/@fkleitch

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/@leitchfiona

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/fiona.leitch.1

Website: https://www.fionaleitch.com/

Amazon author page:  https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fiona-Leitch/e/B07HYZLQ57/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Many thanks to Fiona for taking part. Fiona’s books are great fun and I’m looking forward to reading about Sophie and Phillipes adventures in one of my favourite cities. I have very happy memories of Me and Mr T taking romantic walks along the banks of the Seine…

One Month On

After a few weeks with my feet up, I thought I ought to pen my own blog post this week. A Crisis at Clifftops has now been out in the big wide world for a whole month, and it seems a good time for an analysis/appraisal of how things have gone.

Success, no matter how small, should always be celebrated. I’m a complete technophobe but I managed to upload my book onto Amazon – woohoo! I’m shy and reserved, yet I’ve managed to convince people they’ll enjoy this book enough to want to download their own copy – go me! Seriously, I am totally chuffed at the response.

My book launch was low-key. I’m working on a very tight self-publishing budget, prioritising editing and cover design, to ensure I had a professional quality product. I knew I would have to publicise this book organically with no paid promotions, not even a blog tour. I knew sales would be limited, but if I’m honest they’ve exceeded my expectations.

A Crisis at Clifftops was never going to become an overnight Kindle bestseller, but we made it to the dizzy heights of being a HOT NEW RELEASE, and at one point it was sitting at NUMBER 3 in its golfing category, which gave me something to sing and dance about.  I apologise now to anyone who follows me on Facebook –  every time I post something I can hear a chorus of “there she goes again, banging on about her b****y book.” The thing about being self-published is that if I don’t bang on about my book, no-one else will.  I have to keep it visible.

We all know about Facebook algorithms which limit who sees what, and anything I post on Twitter always disappears into a void. I’m grateful for every re-tweet and share by friends who understand how hard it is for independent authors like me to reach a wider audience.

Goodness knows how many books have been published in the last month. A Crisis at Clifftops will soon disappear off the radar. It will settle somewhere low down in the Amazon charts.  I do get a little flutter of excitement every time I see it move up in its Amazon category. I know those BIG bestselling authors never have to check these things – Richard Osman would be in a constant flap, but for me, each flutter is special, even more so because I made it happen all by myself.

There was a time after the publication of my second book back in 2019 when I felt totally disenchanted and deflated with the whole publishing/writing thing. Seriously I could have happily never written another word again.  

However, this time round I knew exactly what I was capable of. I set myself different targets. In the last four weeks I’ve received some amazing reviews from readers and from within the writing community, together with messages and comments which have totally restored my confidence and made my heart sing! And yes, even more exciting, readers can cope with a heroine who plays sport for a living!

I know not everyone who buys the book is able, or will be willing, to leave a review. There’s a minimum spend requirement on Amazon, and to be honest I don’t review every Amazon purchase I make. It’s a crochet hook – it crochets. It’s already got 1000+ reviews it doesn’t need another one…

I dream of 1000+ reviews, but us writers are needy, fragile creatures.  I genuinely want to know if you’ve enjoyed what I’ve written. So if A Crisis at Clifftops has made you smile, provided a few hours of escape, let me know. (And don’t forget to tell your friends if you think they might like it too – there are loads of people out there who would benefit from having this book in their lives, if only they knew it existed…)

Meanwhile, The Puzzle of Pine Bay, Eliza Kane Investigates Book 2, is on its way. I originally intended to have everything ship-shape and ready to set sail later this year, but that’s not going to happen. Apart from the fact that the Christmas novel marketing deluge is already underway (yes I know, ridiculous right? I don’t even feel I’ve had my summer yet), my plot was far too complicated. I’d basically tied poor Eliza up in knots. It’s not exactly back to the drawing board, more an extensive unpicking (why do you think I bought that crochet hook?!) Seriously, Pine Bay will be out early in 2022.

Making the decision to self-publish was very much about taking control, not just of what I write, but about publishing under my own terms. I’m really pleased (and relieved) with how these first steps have gone. To everyone who has downloaded a copy of A Crisis at Clifftops, you’ve made me very happy. Thank you. And if you haven’t downloaded a copy yet, what’s your excuse?

On Location with Melanie Robertson-King

The miles are stacking up as we travel cross-country on our virtual travels, seeking out those inspirational book locations. This week Canadian author Melanie Robertson-King explains her unique and very personal reason for choosing Scotland as the setting for her debut novel.

I’ve noticed you’ve had some people choose Scotland as their location. Of course, that was my go-to as well, but I’m willing to wager my reason and connection to Scotland hasn’t been featured on your blog.

My father was born in the heart of Aberdeenshire between the towns of Insch (a Royal Borough no less) and Huntly in the parish of Kennethmont. He came to Canada as a British Home Child through the auspices of The Orphan Homes of Scotland after being raised there since his admission in 1917. I first visited both locations in 1993 and stayed at a farmhouse B&B in the Kennethmont area.

It was during this first visit that the seeds were sown, and ideas began to percolate. I changed the names of some of the towns/villages and the stately home to “protect the guilty.” LOL. Seriously, I knew the area well but giving people their privacy was the prudent thing to do. Insch became Duninsch – fitting since Dunnideer, and its hillfort overlooks the town. Kennethmont became Kendonald. Culsalmond became Williamsmuir, although it didn’t come into its own until the second book in the series. The farm’s name where my family lived in my novel and worked (actual name shall remain nameless) became Gordonsfield. And Wardhouse became Weetshill. The reason behind that is my father was born at Weets in Kennethmont parish, and some gazetteers referred to it as Weets, Wardhouse by Insch.

I deemed that other locations were far enough from the heart of the story that they could retain their identities (Huntly, Aberdeen City and Ladysbridge Asylum).

I’m not sure if it was the spooky ruins of Wardhouse mansion that started things, or maybe even the ghostly-looking trees on the road to the Picardy Stone. It was one of the two. There is a stone circle atop the hill at the farmhouse B&B, but I didn’t visit it on that first trip. But I did at least once before I started writing my debut novel and many times since.

I took this photo of Wardhouse mansion from the main road between Insch and Kennethmont in 2013. By this time, work on restoration had begun. At least removing the trees that were growing up inside this roofless hulk. I didn’t find out until years later that we could drive up there and wander around. You’ve got to love the Right to Roam. It wasn’t until September 2015, I got up close and personal with Wardhouse mansion, and I’m thrilled I did.

Isn’t it gorgeous? This photo graces the cover of the second book in the series. Not, only that but my grandfather was a tenant farmer for the Laird of Wardhouse. Pretty cool, eh?

The ghostly trees. Imagine seeing these on a moonlit night, the wind rasping through the leafy canopy. Send a shiver down your spine?

And let’s not forget the stone circle and the views from it. You can see Wardhouse mansion, the Ardmore distillery and of course, the farmhouse, barns and other outbuildings from it.

As a side note, I see faces in these stones. Once you see them, you can’t unsee them. 🙂

 With all this going for it, plus my familial link to the area, is it any wonder I chose Scotland as the setting for my debut novel?

About Melanie Robertson-King

Melanie Robertson-King has always been a fan of the written word. Growing up as an only child, her face was almost always buried in a book from the time she could read. Her father was one of the thousands of Home Children sent to Canada through the auspices of The Orphan Homes of Scotland, and she has been fortunate to be able to visit her father’s homeland many times and even met the Princess Royal (Princess Anne) at the orphanage where he was raised.

Follow Melanie at these links:

Website:  https://melanierobertson-king.com

Celtic Connexions Blog:  https://melanierobertson-king.com/wp02/

Facebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/MelanieRobertsonKingAuthor/

Twitter:  @RobertsoKing

A Shadow in the Past – Blurb

When a contemporary teen is transported back in time to the Victorian era, she becomes A Shadow in the Past…

Nineteen-year-old Sarah Shand finds herself in Victorian Era Aberdeenshire, Scotland and has no idea how she got there. Her last memory is of being at the stone circle on the family farm in the year 2010.

Despite having difficulty coming to terms with her situation, Sarah quickly learns she must keep her true identity a secret. Still, she feels stifled by the Victorians’ confining social practices, including arranged marriages between wealthy and influential families, and confronts them head only to suffer the consequences.

When Sarah realizes she has fallen in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, she faces an agonizing decision. Does she try to find her way back to 2010 or remain in the past with the man she loves?

https://books2read.com/shadowinpast

Many thanks to Melanie for taking part.