Guest Post – Comfort Reads with Jane Lacey-Crane

In the final comfort reading spot of the year, my guest is a fellow graduate of the Romantic Novelists’ Association New Writers’ Scheme, Jane Lacey-Crane. Jane is just celebrating the publication of her second novel, The City of Second Chances.

There are so many books I could have chosen for this list but, in the end, I’ve settled on the five that are not only my go-to comfort reads but the five that found me at just the moment in my life that I needed them.

The Colour Of Magic by Terry Pratchett.

Picture the scene – It’s 1989, I’m 18 and I’ve turned down a place at university with the intention of travelling the world and finding myself. Instead I end up working full-time in a Ladies fashion boutique on an East London high street. A very depressing picture. Days full of great people but mind-numbing work. During my lunch hour one day, I wandered to the nearby branch of WHSmith and picked this book at random. I’d never read any fantasy novels before and I’d never heard of Terry Pratchett either. I read it in one day and I was hooked. The book was so magical, so full of creativity and imagination, that when I read it – and all the other subsequent Discworld books – I was transported to somewhere far away from my normal life. It saved me from the drudgery of my day to day life and I will always be grateful that I found it when I did.

My Ride With Gus by Charles Carillo

This book came to into my life when I was working in a bookshop in Central London – still trying to ‘find myself’. Can you see a pattern forming? I worked in the Fiction department and managed to get a hold of a proof copy of this book. Set in Brooklyn, it centres around the misadventures of yuppy architect Jimmy Gambar and his estranged brother, Gus. When Jimmy finds himself with a dead body in the trunk of his car, the only person he knows he can rely to help him is his brother. It’s a fantastic road trip of a book that deals with love and survival and finding your way back to family. I was in awe of the writing and the way the author was able to craft a story that was touching and heartfelt at the same time as being hugely funny. I knew that was the kind of writer I wanted to be, and this book showed me how it could be done.

Anything written by Nora Roberts!

This one might be a bit of a cheat because it isn’t one book – it’s many books written by the same author – and I love them because they also taught me so much about the art of storytelling. Nora Roberts – in my humble opinion – is nothing short of the most talented writer in the world. I found her initially when I started reading Mills and Boon books. Mills and Boon introduced me to the art of romantic fiction and I devoured as many as I could get my hands on when I was a young girl, dreaming of becoming a published author. I would buy stacks and stacks of them at boot sales and jumble sales and then lock myself away, lost in a world of female heroines and the men that adore them. Nora Roberts was the author I always looked out for and I still do. The arrival of a new title by her is guaranteed to make me smile. I always know I’m in safe hands with Nora!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A classic, and one that I know has appeared on this blog a few times. But it’s just the most amazing story – a bold heroine, a brooding hero and more sexual tension than you can shake a stick at! When I first read it, back in school, I identified with the young Jane hugely. I wasn’t an abandoned orphan or anything, but I related to her feelings of not belonging, of being just out of place. I’ve spent a lot of my life feeling like that and her sense of loneliness really resonated with me. As I got older, and re read the book again and again, I grew to love the grown-up Jane, relating to her struggle to be herself and to be respected and loved for who she was.

Dickens at Christmas

This is a book I return to time and time again, especially at this time of year. It’s a collection of all Charles Dickens festive writings, not just A Christmas Carol, but pieces he wrote for periodicals of the time, and a festive tale from The Pickwick Papers, which is a real treat. I snuggle down in my armchair by the Christmas Tree, cup of tea and mince pie in hand, and let the gloriously beautiful writing take me away to a place where the Christmases are always gloriously snowy, and the pudding is always flaming and adorned with a sprig of holly!

 

About Jane 

I’ve been writing for as long as I could string a sentence together and I always dreamed of becoming a published author, but it felt like an unachievable dream until I joined the RNA’s New Writer’s Scheme in January 2017. That was the thing that really made me think I could really do it. I’d written the beginning of the story that would grow into ‘Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee’s’ as an entry for a competition on Good Morning Britain. It never got anywhere but I really thought the story had legs and could go somewhere so I carried on with it. After rewriting it based on my manuscript report from the RNA, I started submitting to publishers who didn’t require you to have an agent. I was over the moon when Aria Fiction offered me a 3- book contract in October 2017!! The first book, Secrets and Tea at Rosie Lee’s, was set in East London, where I grew up, and featured characters that were inspired by some of the people I knew back then. My new book, The City of Second Chances, was released 11th December and very excited to be able to share it with people. It’s a completely new story, set in London and New York, and it follows the fortunes of Evie Grant, a woman in search of a new life and new adventures.

Book Blurb for The City of Second Chances

Has she already met The One? What if Mr Right had come along at the wrong time…?

Evie Grant is forty-five years old, a widow, and single mum of two children about to leave the nest. Suddenly alone in the family home, Evie realizes she hates her job, hardly goes out and hasn’t had a date since who knows when…

So it feels like fate when the opportunity arises for a girls trip to New York City. Staying with her sister on the Upper East Side, Evie is enchanted by a snow-covered city consumed by preparing for Christmas.

Bobble hat firmly on, Evie is walking through the city one day when she bumps into Daniel Roberts, Hollywood heartthrob and one-time boyfriend of hers.

It’s now or never for Evie – but can she open her heart to the possibility of a new beginning and true happiness once again…?

Funny, real and wonderfully romantic, this is the perfect feel-good read to keep you warm this winter!

Buy Link

https://www.amazon.co.uk/City-Second-Chances-heartwarming-perfect-ebook/dp/B07G3GKH3Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1544529429&sr=8-1&keywords=jane+lacey+crane

My Contact Info

I love to hear from readers so if they want to get in touch with me they can!

Facebook – Jane Lacey Crane – Author

Instagram – @janelaceycrane

Twitter – @JaneLaceyCrane

 

Thanks to Jane for taking part – good to see a Dickens on the list for Christmas. I can almost hear the fire crackling and smell the chestnuts roasting…

 

Guest Post Sharon Booth on Comfort Reading

Continuing the series, this week romantic novelist and “Yorkshire Rose” Sharon Booth chooses her five comfort reads.

The books I’ve chosen for my comfort reads are all books I’ve read many times, and will no doubt read again. I’ve deliberately left out my childhood favourites because, truthfully, I could easily fill this entire blog with them and there’s no way I could narrow it down to five. Childhood books are the ultimate comfort read for me, and I suspect I’m far from the only person who feels that way.

So, after a lot of debate and with huge apologies to the many, many books that I’ve had to leave off this list, here are the five comfort reads I’ve selected.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 ¾ by Sue Townsend.

Honestly, I could pick five Adrian Mole books and that would be fine by me. I return to this series over and over again because no one makes me laugh like Adrian. His teenage longing for the glamorous Pandora, his hilarious relationship with beetroot-loving Bert Baxter, the endless battles with spots, his angst-ridden poetry, his dysfunctional family – it’s all just priceless. Picking up this book is like being hugged. I just know that, however bad I’m feeling, this will cheer me up. And what makes it even more special is that Adrian isn’t just funny. There are moments of real poignancy and perception. Adrian holds up a mirror to the society he lives in, and it’s a commentary on the times that isn’t always comfortable to read but is never less than truthful. I just love it.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

This is my favourite novel and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it. Jane is just magnificent. She’s insignificant as a poor, orphaned woman in Victorian Britain, yet she has a fire burning within her. Jane knows her own worth. She has principles, and she holds fast to them. She understands that, while others may look down on her, she is worthy and deserving of respect. She rages against injustice in all its forms; even as a small child at the mercy of her awful aunt and cousins she knows that their treatment of her is wrong and protests loudly and at great cost to her welfare. The love story between her and Mr Rochester is beautiful, but there’s much more to the novel than that. Jane speaks for all those other women of her time, or of any time, without a voice. I adore her.

Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach.

I was given a copy of this book many years ago by a friend, and I wasn’t sure what to expect from it, but I loved it. It really made me think about things from another angle and, all these years later, I still find comfort in it.

I do love books like this. I’ve read The Tao of Pooh, Conversations with God, The Five People You Meet in Heaven, The Prophet and many more, and I find them fascinating. My copy of Illusions is a bit tattered now but I’ll never part with it.

 

The Queen and I by Sue Townsend.

Yes, I know it’s another Sue Townsend book, but I couldn’t resist it. I’ve read this several times and it never fails to make me laugh. The thought of our Royal Family slumming it on an inner-city housing estate, after republicans win the general election, is too funny. It always makes me giggle to picture Prince Charles with a ponytail and wearing a shell suit. Of course, it was written a long time ago and nowadays it’s quite poignant to read about Diana’s adventures on Hell Close.

What I admire about this book is that, even though it’s incredibly funny, the author never humiliates the family. In fact, the Queen, particularly, is shown in a very positive light: strong, stoic, courageous and compassionate. And poor Prince Phillip’s despair as he takes to his bed is quite moving. It’s thought-provoking to see society through the Queen’s disbelieving eyes.

Sue Townsend was such an amazingly talented writer. It’s desperately sad that there’ll never be another book from her.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

It may be a Christmas book, but I find A Christmas Carol especially comforting and a real pleasure to read. I could happily read it at any time of year, but I always try to save it for Christmas week. I just adore the story and, although it makes me sad and angry in parts, it invariably leaves me feeling positive and uplifted. When I look at the books I’ve chosen, I realise that they’re all about people who are challenged by the times and circumstances they live in, but somehow rise above those challenges by finding their own inner strength. Or, as Richard Bach would have it, the Messiah within. It’s a theme I find fascinating and positive, and so it’s no wonder I selected them as my comfort reads.

 

About Sharon

Sharon writes contemporary love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire. Her books are romantic but fun, and a happy ending for her main characters is guaranteed – though she makes them work for it!
As well as full-length novels she has written pocket novels for DC Thomson, and several of her “Fabrian Books’ Feel-Good Novels” have also been published in large-print format by Ulverscroft, as part of their Linford Romance Library.
Her short story, The Other Side of Christmas, was included in the Winter Tales anthology – a collection of seasonal stories by popular writers, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust. Her 2017 novel, Resisting Mr Rochester, was awarded a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award.
Sharon lives in East Yorkshire with her husband and their dog. She is half of the Yorkshire Rose Writers, one tenth of The Write Romantics and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors.
She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, adores Cary Grant movies, and admits to being prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes.
When she’s not writing, she spends as much time as possible getting her money’s worth from her membership of English Heritage.

Find out more about Sharon at www.sharonboothwriter.com

Follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sharonboothwriter

Sharon’s latest book, Belle, Book and Christmas Candle was published on 1st December and is available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Belle-Christmas-Candle-Witches-Castle-ebook/dp/B07KCGY7CF

Thanks to Sharon for taking part. I’m pleased to see a couple of my all-time favourites included in this list – Adrian Mole and Jane Eyre.

Guest Post Lizzie Lamb on Comfort Reading

I am delighted to welcome Lizzie Lamb onto my blog today. Lizzie a best-selling novelist, an active public speaker and a prolific supporter of her fellow writers. Over to Lizzie for a timeline of her favourite reads.

We all have books we simply can’t bear to part with because, like the old friends they are, they’ve stuck with us through thick and thin. The oldest book in my collection is Clarendon’s History of the Great Rebellion (1858) followed by The Wild Bird – Margaret Stuart Lane (1933) The Scarlet Pimpernel (1927), The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel, Rupert of Henzua (1930).

My other ‘keepers’ are books which saw me through from girlhood to womanhood: Greengage Summer, I Capture The Castle, Bonjour Tristesse and The Dud Avocado.

With the fickleness of youth I abandoned these when I discovered Jilly Cooper’s novels (1976). My love of rom com developing within their pages before coming full circle with Bridgit Jones in 1996. I can’t let go of my penguin classics or historical romances by the likes of Georgette Heyer, Daphne Du Maurier, Jean Plaidy, Margaret Irwin and Anya Seaton. My particular favourite is Lady of Hay by Barbara Erskine.

When I want to remind myself how to write humorously, I revisit Wodehouse, Terry Pratchet, Tom Sharpe and the anarchic Catch 22.

I also treasure my poetry books…John Donne, WB Yeats, The War Poets, TS Eliot, Dylan Thomas, Ted Hughes and Philip Larkin.

And in particular, The Mersey Sound – Adrien Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten which reminds me of when I was recovering after an appendectomy in Grantham General (1970). I was reading poems to the other patients in my ward and causing such hilarity that it was confiscated by the ward sister until I was discharged. Honestly…

I have two comfort reads Tristan and Isuelt by Rosemary Sutcliffe (so beautifully written) and Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford which is great fun. I want to spend the afternoon with the Mitford gels in the Hons Cupboard discussing topics considered unfit for young ladies. Want to come with me?

 

About Lizzie

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed by Boot Camp Bride. She went on to publish Scotch on the Rocks, which achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon and her next novel, Girl in the Castle, reached #3 in the Amazon charts. Lizzie is a founder member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press, and has co-hosted author events at Aspinall, St Pancras and Waterstones, Kensington, talking about the research which underpins her novels. Lizzie latest romance Take Me, I’m Yours is set in Wisconsin, a part of the USA which she adores. This novel also achieved BEST SELLER status >travel>USA. She has further Scottish-themed romances planned and has just returned from a tour of the Scottish Highlands researching men in kilts. What’s not to like? As for the years she spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste. She is building a reputation as a go-to speaker on indie publishing, and how to plan, write, and publish a debut novel. Lizzie lives in Leicestershire (UK) with her husband, David.

She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . .

Lizzie’s Links

https://www.amazon.com/author/lizzielamb

www.facebook.com/LizzieLambwriter 

lizzielambwriter@gmail.com

website: www.lizzielamb.co.uk

Newsletter – http://tinyurl.com/ELNL-2016

Linked in: uk.linkedin.com/pub/lizzie-lamb/18/194/202/

Goodreads http://tinyurl.com/cbla48d

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/lizzielamb/

https://twitter.com/lizzie_lamb

 

Many thanks to Lizzie for taking part.

Guest Post – Lesley Cookman on Comfort Reading

As the nights draw in it’s the perfect time to return to some more comfort reads – the literary equivalent of putting on a pair of warm slippers.  Comfort reading is all about the books that evoke special memories or the books we return to time and time again. Today I am joined by best selling novelist and the ‘Queen of Cosy Crime’, Lesley Cookman who picks her top five.

 

My comfort reads all date from my childhood, as I’ve noticed so many others do.

The first is The Swish Of The Curtain by Pamela Brown. It concerns a group of children who set up their own theatrical company – The Blue Doors. There are follow up books, but it’s the first that tops the list. As a child with a desperate desire to be an actress, this spoke to me in spades, and I can’t remember how many times I read it.

 

The second is I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith, given to me at the age of twelve by friends of my parents who belonged to a book club. I got all their cast offs… The first line out-Rebeccas Rebecca in my opinion: “I write this sitting in the kitchen sink…” A journal, written in three different exercise books by a seventeen year old girl. Thoroughly immersive, romantic and inspirational. How many girls started journals as a result of reading this book? I did. I even used Dodie Smith as the subject of a thesis at university.

 

The third is Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K Jerome. My father had a copy, which I inherited, and now have two more of my own.  My parents and I used to read passages out loud to one another and end up in paroxisms of laughter. I am delighted to say that my own adult children still do that – from choice! Amazing. Written in 1889, the language is surprisingly modern, and aficionados only have to say “The Cheese!” or “Uncle Podger!” to one another to be lost in helpless mirth.

 

The final two are both series, from which I can’t single out one book. Monica Edwards’ Romney Marsh series, better known as the Tamsin and Rissa books have a lot to do with my now writing a series about a group of friends. The first I was given was the Summer of the Great Secret, about the Kent Coast, smuggling and –Ponies! That was the other love of my life, although I wrote a lot as well, but that was just something you did, not a great ambition. When I managed to fracture my pelvis two years ago, I re-read the entire series – and, incidentally all the others mentioned here.

 

And last, the Ngaio Marsh Roderick Alleyn series. My parents had all her books currently published, and between us we bought each new one as it came out. It started off as a familiar theme – the aristocratic detective, a la Albert Campion and Peter Wimsey. But Alleyn soon developed his own distinct personalility, as did his wife, son and sidekicks. And he moved with the times. The rather grating treatment of “the lower classes” was dropped as attitudes changed. The other thing that particularly chimed with me was that Marsh received her “damery” as she called it, for her services to theatre in New Zealand, and several of her books have a theatrical setting, about which she  was incredibly knowledgeable. Marsh is the reason that I now write a mystery series, and I have just re-read her entire canon, beginning to end.

About Lesley

Lesley Cookman writes the Libby Sarjeant Mystery series, and Murder And The Pantomime Cat, a short, is coming out for Christmas 2018. She also writes the Alexandrian series, set in an Edwardian seaside town.

You can find out more about Lesley and her books at http://www.lesleycookman.co.uk

Guest Post – Comfort Reads by Morton S Gray

As the nights draw in it’s the perfect time for some more comfort reading. Today’s special guest is fellow romantic novelist, Morton S Gray. Morton is currently writing a series of stand-alone novels set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen. The Girl on the Beach and The Truth Lies Buried are joined by Christmas at Borteen Bay released on 13 November, all published by Choc Lit. Over to Morton.

 

Thank you for having me on your blog, Rosie. As I understand it, I have to choose five books which I turn to for comfort when I have that feeling of being overwhelmed by life.

 

Number One has to be Wintercombe by Pamela Belle. I have read this book countless times. My paperback of the novel is in pieces from overreading. This tale set in my favourite period of history, the English Civil War. The story captures my imagination and I can easily think myself into the role of Silence, the heroine of the book with her realistic maxim of “Make, do, mend.”

 

 

Number Two is Elizabeth Gilbert’s, Eat, Pray, Love. I’ve read this book at least five times and got something different from it each time. For those of you who have seen the admittedly delightful film of the same title starring Julia Roberts, the book is so much more. It is the tale of a woman, newly divorced, who sets out to rediscover herself in Italy, India and Indonesia. Having once been in this situation of feeling lost after a divorce, I can relate to the heroine and the text is also peppered with observations about life and spirituality.

 

Number Three I decided should be a classic and it was a close run thing whether to choose Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or the one I have chosen, which is North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. Even though this book was originally published in 1855, after being serialised in 1854, it still reads wonderfully and I just adore the hero, John Thornton and the heroine, Margaret Hale. The book shows the industrial North of England and its conflicts in the mid-19th century as seen by the heroine, Margaret Hale, the daughter of a minister who moves to the fictional industrial town of Milton from the South.

 

Number Four is Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts by Lucy Dillon. I love this book because it is a true comfort read, a happy ever after gentle tale with dogs, where the people involved in a local dogs’ home discover loyalty, companionship and unconditional love.

 

 

 

Number Five I’ve chosen because it is the only book I can ever remember giving me so many laughs and I mean absolutely belly laughs! I laughed so much when reading it that my husband and my mother read it too and both laughed just as much. So, if you need more laughter in your life try The Ex-Boyfriend’s Handbook by Matt Dunn.

 

 

 

Thank you for inviting me over to your blog. I do hope your readers discover something new to enjoy in my choices.

 

About Morton by Morton

Morton lives with her husband, two sons and Lily, the tiny white dog, in Worcestershire, U.K. She has been reading and writing fiction for as long as she can remember, penning her first attempt at a novel aged fourteen. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Her debut novel The Girl on the Beach was published after she won Choc Lit Publishing Search for a Star competition. The story follows a woman with a troubled past as she tries to unravel the mystery surrounding her son’s headteacher, Harry Dixon. This book is available as a paperback and e-book.

Morton’s second book for Choc Lit The Truth Lies Buried is another romantic suspense novel, the book tells the story of Jenny Simpson and Carver Rodgers as they uncover secrets from their past. This book is available as an e-book and will be issued as a paperback in 2019.

Christmas at Borteen Bay is published on 13 November 2018 and is Morton’s first Christmas novella. It is set in her fictional seaside town of Borteen and follows the story of Pippa Freeman who runs the Rose Court Guesthouse with her mother and local policeman Ethan Gibson as they unravel a family secret as Christmas approaches.

Morton previously worked in the electricity industry in committee services, staff development and training. She has a Business Studies degree and is a fully qualified clinical hypnotherapist and Reiki Master. She also has diplomas in Tuina acupressure massage and energy field therapy. She enjoys crafts, history and loves tracing family trees. Having a hunger for learning new things is a bonus for the research behind her books.

 

You can catch up with Morton on her website www.mortonsgray.com, on

Twitter – @MortonSGray, her

Facebook page – Morton S. Gray Author –  https://www.facebook.com/mortonsgray/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/morton_s_gray/

 

 

 

 

http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-girl-on-the-beach/

http://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/the-truth-lies-buried/

https://www.choc-lit.com/dd-product/christmas-at-borteen-bay/

Thank you Morton for a very varied selection of novels. I’m really enjoying finding out what books other authors take comfort in, although I’m realising my to be read pile is growing!

 

Meet Joan Livingstone

I think most writers are natural-born eavesdroppers, curious nosey-parkers with enquiring minds. Like squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter, we store snippets of overheard conversations or amusing anecdotes to transform and embellish into something far more intriguing.  So, imagine working as a small town journalist – the stories you could tell! This week I am joined by Joan Livingstone who talks about how her former job influences her writing.

How Journalism Shaped My Fiction

Isabel Long, the protagonist of my new mystery, Redneck’s Revenge, was a former long-time journalist before she became a private investigator. So was I although I didn’t become a P.I. I write about one.

Redneck’s Revenge is the second in my Isabel Long mystery series. The first was Chasing the Case, which was released last spring.

Both books are set in the small, rural hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, where I got my start in the newspaper biz. I was hired as a correspondent — paid by the inch — to cover the hilltown where I lived, Worthington, Massachusetts, population 1,200.

I had no previous experience, but that didn’t seem to matter to the editor who hired me. The experience grew into a 30-year career that ended after I was the managing editor of an award-winning newspaper in New Mexico, The Taos News.

But back to the start, I reported first on Worthington and eventually I covered several towns, plus did regional stories. I loved breaking a news story and getting to know what people did. I went to town meetings and covered what interested the community from truck pulls to school events to country fairs. I covered fires and what little crime there was. I did profiles. A few of my stories went national. I even went to the White House.

One of the greatest benefits was listening to the way people talked and writing it down. I believe it has paid off with realistic dialogue in my fiction.

It also gave me insight into how people behave, and certainly I had a total immersion into the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts, which I use as a setting for much of my fiction.

By the way, since Isabel snagged a bunch of cold case files from her newspaper, it was an opportunity for me to write news stories again — although for made-up subjects.

Here’s the start of one with the headline: Caulfield man dies in house fire.

CAULFIELD — A Caulfield man died when his house burned to the ground in an overnight fire discovered by his daughter Wednesday morning.

Officials are investigating the blaze that killed Chester “Chet” A. Waters IV, 69, who ran a junkyard and a vehicle repair shop on his Maple Ridge Road property located on one of the town’s back roads.

Caulfield Fire Chief Roger Dickerson said no one called in the blaze because of the home’s remote location and the time the fire apparently broke out. He said Annette Waters found her father’s body when she arrived to work in his garage.

Back to Isabel, who also covered the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts until, like me, she moved up to being an editor. She lost her job managing a newspaper when it went corporate. (To set the record straight, that didn’t happen to me.) In Chasing the Case, Isabel decided to revisit her first big story as a rookie reporter — when a woman went missing 28 years earlier from the fictional town of Conwell.

She relies on the skills she used as a journalist for that case and the one she has in Redneck’s Revenge, especially since it takes her to an unfamiliar town and group of people.

So what skills would Isabel find transferable? Certainly, breaking down the elements of a story and figuring out who to contact. Good interview skills are a must. Developing a network of sources for tips is another. And she’s got to be good kind of nosy.

Here I’ll let Isabel explain. She and her ‘Watson’ — her 92-year-old mother who lives with her — have just finished meeting with Annette Waters who wants to hire Isabel to find out how her father, Chet Waters, died. The cops say he was passed-out drunk when his house burned to the ground. Annette says he was murdered.

“What’s your gut feeling?” I ask my mother when we’re done.

“Gut feeling? There’s definitely something there. But I’m not sure what it is at this point.”

“I agree. But even though this happened only three years ago, it’s gonna be harder to crack this case. I don’t know anybody here.”

“What did you do when you had to report on a story in a place where you didn’t know anybody?”

“I followed the leads I had. One person led me to another. Yeah, yeah, I hear you. I should do the same for this one. Well, I have Annette to start me off.”

And there are times when a journalist has to be a bit brave. For Isabel, that means talking with somebody who has something to hide — like maybe murdering another person. By the way, she’s really good at that.

Joan Livingston Bio

Joan Livingston is the author of novels for adult and young readers. Redneck’s Revenge, published by Crooked Cat Books, is the second in the mystery series featuring Isabel Long, a longtime journalist who becomes an amateur P.I. The first is Chasing the Case.

An award-winning journalist, she started as a reporter covering the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. She was an editor, columnist, and most recently the managing editor of The Taos News, which won numerous state and national awards during her tenure.

After eleven years in Northern New Mexico, she returned to rural Western Massachusetts, which is the setting of much of her adult fiction, including the Isabel Long series.

Joan Livingston on social media:

Website: www.joanlivingston.net.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/JoanLivingstonAuthor/

Twitter: @joanlivingston

Instagram: www.Instagram.com/JoanLivingston_Author

Goodreads: www.Goodreads.com/Joan_Livingston

 

Book links to Chasing the Case and Redneck’s Revenge:

 

http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

http://mybook.to/rednecksrevenge

 

ISABEL LONG’S SECOND CRIME MYSTERY

REDNECK’S REVENGE

Her next case. She’s in it for good.

Isabel Long is in a funk months after solving her first case. Her relationship with the Rooster Bar’s owner is over. Then cops say she must work for a licensed P.I. before working solo.

Encouraged by her Watson — her 92-year-old mother — Isabel snaps out of it by hooking up with a P.I. and finding a new case.

The official ruling is Chet Waters, an ornery so-and-so, was passed out when his house caught fire. His daughter, who inherited the junkyard, believes he was murdered. Topping the list of suspects are dangerous drug-dealing brothers, a rival junkyard owner, and an ex-husband.

Could the man’s death simply be a case of redneck’s revenge? Isabel is about to find out.

 

Guest Post Sophie Weston on Comfort Reading

Today I am joined by romantic novelist Sophie Weston to talk about the five books she considers her favourite ‘comfort reads.’  Sophie, in the guise of Jenny Haddon, was chairman of the Romantic Novelists’ Association from 2005-2007 and has sold over 12 million books in 27 languages across 100 countries. Over to Sophie.

Five Comfort Reads and Why

I survive because of comfort reads. Ever since I was a child books have dug me out of the dark places. They have soothed me in a turmoil of worry; reminded me of the good moments in times of sadness; sustained me over a long, wearying haul. When I travelled abroad for work a lot, I would choose a good fat book for company, so that I could walk around in a more rewarding world for at least an hour a day. At home, my bathroom has a collection of some of those special titles, which are never, under any circumstances, to be taken out of the house. Guests are welcome to read those books, but never to take them away, not even for an hour in the park.

I don’t really have favourites, but five special ones, in the order in which I first met them, are:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

A Victorian children’s book about children with a side order of Gothic mansion and even a ghost. I loved it when I first read it because the ten-year-old heroine, Mary, is plain and very bad tempered, especially when she’s frightened, but resourceful and good at learning. Great on Yorkshire landscape and grumpy natives. Wonderful gardening lore, too. One for when my problem solving is running dry.

 

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

Another plain, resourceful girl. (Could there be a theme here?) This one’s a debut novelist. She is shy, blunt, awkward and a keen observer of the Regency beau monde and she’s produced a roman à clef which her clever publishers expect to take the ton by storm. But there’s a fly in the ointment. Her villain is modelled on a Duke – and now her family want her to marry him. He’s not so keen. Gloriously funny, emotionally truthful, great characters, every single one of who has at least one redeeming feature.  Great for restoring tolerance; and also reminding the writer that once your story is out there people may well run with it in directions you never intended – and IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT.

The Morning Gift by Eva Ibbotson

Imminent war and refugees in London, 1938. Chilly British academics, a loving Austrian family, and a self-obsessed (possible) genius, plus a long-wounded and difficult aunt, and an open-hearted shoe-salesman. There’s even a refugee psychiatrist (“the soup-slayer of Belsize Park) and a tea shop that will live in your memory. This is a story about love and kindness in pretty much all their aspects. But at the heart of it is a classic love-story between an utterly straight-forward, emotionally honest young scientist and a corkscrew up-tight professor. A book to warm your hands at, when you feel the world is too cruel to endure.

Carpe Jugulum by Terry Pratchett

I’m a huge fan of pretty much every book in Pratchett’s Discworld. This isn’t even my favourite but it’s the one about vampires. Now I hate vampires – all that phony glamour brainwashing people and turning them mindless! Here the bloody-minded fight back hard, led by the redoubtable Granny Weatherwax. And yes, there’s a plain heroine, Agnes who’s the youngest of Granny’s trio of witches and makes the tea. When a dashing vampire – he lounges on the air as if it’s a sofa ­– falls for overweight, unconfident Agnes, she loathes him and, to his astonishment, resists in her own unique way. A book to make you laugh and think; also a hugely, satisfying defeat of the hip, cool, modern and too damned pleased with themselves. My surrogate revenge book.

Tomorrow’s Ghost by Anthony Price

Price wrote mystery cum spy novels, set in the Cold War. His first protagonist was academic maverick David Audley, a military historian and, like our espionage industry Price continued to mine the academic establishment, along with the military, for his recruits. He twice won a Crime Writer dagger. But this book is different. The protagonist is neither a soldier nor an academic, not even a man! She is the widow of a marriage on the point of fracture, a square pen in a round hole, professional, intelligent, problem-solving but not quite comfortable with her colleagues. As a result the story about the hunt for an IRA/KGB assassin – exciting and full of twists that are a master class in plotting – takes second place to her own feelings and challenges. And the ending brings both elements together in the most astonishing yet perfect and satisfying way! Victorious in the deepest possible way. And heart breaking. My book to restore perspective.

About Sophie by Sophie

Sophie couldn’t wait to go to school to learn “to write properly” – she already had so many stories in her head. But stories come when the will and she wasn’t published until a bout of illness had her penning a short romance aimed at Mills & Boon. She recovered and went back to the day job but what Emma Darwin calls that itch of writing kept urging her back to the keyboard, resulting in 50-ish romances, including To Marry a Prince (but that one’s by Sophie Page) and, coming soon, a romantic comedy, Vertical Sex. That title came to her in a dream, by the way, and it’s total marmite among her friends, though booksellers say they like it. She says the book insisted.

myBook.to/PrincesBride

Thank you so much for joining me Sophie. I love the title of the new book, but then I also like Marmite! Another great list of books.

Guest Post – Comfort Reads by Val Penny

It’s time for some more comfort reading – and today’s special guest is  Scottish  writer Val Penny. Val has recently launched the second book in her Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series, Hunter’s Revenge.  Over to you Val.

 

I am delighted to be visiting the blog run by my friend and fellow author, Rosie Travers today. She has set me a very difficult task, to choose only five books that I would consider my comfort reads. Only five! I have always enjoyed hearing stories and reading books. I find it a great way to escape from reality. However, as I am lucky enough to have a good memory, I rarely read a book more than once, but there are a few old favourites which break that rule and to which I return time and again.

The first of these is a classic: ‘The Prophet’ by the Lebanese author and poet Kahlil Gibran. The wisdom and melody of this little book never fails to bring me peace when I am in low spirits and comfort in times of distress. If I could save only one book in my house, this would be it.

 

 

Next, and very close to the top of the list is a very different piece of writing: ‘The Lost Continent’ by the American author Bill Bryson. Bryson lived and taught in the UK for many years, but hails from Des Moines Iowa. After his father’s death, he decided to take a road trip through the USA. This would allow him to visit the places he remembered visiting with his parents. All was not as he remembered it. He remembered the America into which I was born in the 1950s and 60s. Things have moved on and he describes things that were and those that now are with a wit and lightness of touch that no matter how often I read this book, it makes me laugh out loud.

 

Third on my list must come a book of poetry that I discovered quite by accident. I gave it to my mother-in-law for her sixtieth birthday, simply because of the title ‘Now We Are Sixty’. It is a compilation of poems by the English poet Christopher Matthews and illustrated by David Eccles. The poems are after those by A.A.Milne in his children’s book of poetry, ‘Now We Are Six’ but with a twist to reflect the thoughts and issues faced by older readers. I have been enjoying these poems since my early thirties, but even now, as I get ever closer to being part of the target audience, the book and its illustrations make me smile.

As my list gets closer to its end, the choices, inevitably get harder, and my fourth choice is not an obvious one. The reason I feel obliged to include it is because it was the first adult book that my daughters recommended to me. It is ‘No Time for Goodbye’ the best-selling novel by Canadian author Linwood Barclay. I enjoy this book very much and return to it for inspiration now, because it is the first thriller I ever read where I was aware of humour in the writing. It is also a very clever story. Although my fondest memory of this novel is no doubt caused by the literary ‘coming of age’ of my daughters, since reading ‘No Time for Goodbye’ for the first time, I have met Linwood on a couple of occasions. He, like his novels, is intelligent, interesting and amusing. I have enjoyed all his books that I have read, but this one is my favourite.

Last on my list, is another book by an American author, Mitch Albom. I have read several books by Mitch Albom and his best known is probably the non-fiction work, ‘Tuesdays with Morrie’, which is fascinating. However, my favourite work by this author is a fictional piece, ‘The Five People you meet in Heaven’. It re-affirms my belief that all of us have a part to play in this crazy world, it just may not be obvious what that part is to be. I always read this book within a day and I always end up in floods of tears, but feeling peaceful. I find it an inspirational work because it promotes so much thought.

 

So I reach the end of my choices. Thank you for inviting me to your blog today, Rosie and for giving me a chance to share a variety of much loved books with your readers.

About Val by Val

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University. She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels. Her crime novels, ‘Hunter’s Chase’ and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.

Author contact details

www.authorvalpenny.com

www.facebook.com/valerie.penny.739

www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303

https://twitter.com/valeriepenny

myBook.to/HuntersChase

myBook.to/HuntersRevenge

 

Thanks Val – some very interesting choices. I was expecting a menagerie of murder, mystery and mayhem!

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Post – Comfort Reads by Kate Braithwaite

Opening up my comfort reads spot to guest authors has revealed a whole new world of reading material. Today I’m handing over the reins to historical writer Kate Braithwaite.

Gosh Rosie! Figuring out my favourite comfort reads has been great fun, but also a challenge. So many possibilities sprang to mind that in the end I had to give myself five categories of book that I would love to curl up with for a cosy afternoon’s escapism, and then pick one novel to represent that type of book. Here’s what I came up with:

A comic novel – The Girl in Blue by P.G. Wodehouse.

For total escapism, there is no one better than P.G. Wodehouse. Successful comic novels are thin on the ground but Wodehouse’s novels and his portrayal of a gentle world of mishaps, stolen pigs, strange aunts and broken engagements never fails to amuse me. I’m more a fan of his Blanding Castle books (of which Pigs Have Wings is a fine example) but Jeeves and Wooster are classic characters and there are many other stand-alone novels I’d encourage everyone to read. These are often love stories and many are set in the States and in the theatre. One of the things I love best about Wodehouse though, is that my Dad was also a great fan of his. When I randomly picked up The Girl in Blue in a bookshop when I was 16, my Dad was thrilled! Sharing a love of particular books with someone close to you is a real pleasure.

An historical novel – Sylvester or The Wicked Uncle by Georgette Heyer

Funnily enough my Dad bought me the first Georgette Heyer book I ever read (I’d forgotten that until this very moment!) It was Cousin Kate and although it’s not my favourite, I’d happily pick up any of them and re-read them. Heyer’s novels combine Regency romance, adventure and humour, often with a hero or heroine with a sparkling pair of clear grey eyes. My favourite, perhaps unsurprisingly, is Sylvester, about a young woman, Phoebe, who writes and publishes an anonymous novel. She takes as her villain Sylvester, Duke of Salford, a man she has met briefly but knows little about – only to find out after the novel takes London by storm – that her family think he is the perfect man for her. As her fiction proves to be closer to real life than Phoebe could have dreamed of, and her feelings for Sylvester undergo a sea-change, it seems her writing career may ruin everything.

A crime novel – The Poet by Michael Connelly

For time out from real life, there is nothing like a real page-turning crime novel. I love a book that I can’t put down: the kind you try and hold in front of your face in one hand, when you have a spoon in the other because you’re supposed to be busy cooking the tea. My favourites include Ian Rankin, Minette Walters, Peter May, Elizabeth George, Jeffrey Deaver and John Connelly. I’ve read so many P.D. James and Agatha Christie novels that I have way too many options here, but I’m choosing The Poet as I can remember my husband handing me a copy of it. He had just finished it and pretty much insisted that I start reading it immediately so that we could talk about it. The Poet is a very nasty serial killer who leaves quotes from Edgar Allan Poe at each crime scene. I read it in great big gulps. It’s classic crime for me.

A classic – Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

This has been a tough decision! Jane Eyre nearly grabbed the nomination, but given that the choice here is all about comfort reads, Anne just pips Jane. Although not as ‘great’ a book, Anne of Green Gables is in more fun. I read both as a teenager and have read Jane Eyre several times since. I didn’t re-read Anne though, until I was in my thirties. We were living in Canada and took a family holiday with our 3 kids to Prince Edward Island where the Anne series of novels is set. Returning to the book as an adult I was so struck by what an excellent and enjoyable novel Anne of Green Gables really is. I love the relationships between Anne, Marilla and Matthew and it’s a very funny and genuinely touching story. My kids still laugh at me for dragging them around the Green Gables house on that holiday but I don’t care. I loved every minute of it.

A series – The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett

For complete reading comfort, I think there is nothing as wonderful as a series of big fat books. There are six of these in the Lymond Chronicles, each one a dramatic adventure in their own right, but all telling the story of my literary crush, Francis Lymond, and his incredible life in the sixteenth century. Lymond is Scottish (like me), handsome (naturally), incredibly clever (obviously), but also very complex and secretive. The novels have everything – family secrets, adventure, politics, kindness and cruelty, love and tragedy. Dunnett’s writing is vivid, her world building is brilliant and her characters are fascinating. I might just have to go and get started on the whole series again, starting with The Game of Kings right now. If you haven’t read them – do!

About Kate

Kate Braithwaite was born and grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland. Her first novel, Charlatan, was longlisted for the Mslexia New Novel Award and the Historical Novel Society Award. Kate lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.

Kate’s first novel, Charlatan, revealed the underworld of fortune-tellers and poisoners that scandalised the court of Louis XIV and threatened to bring down his most famous mistress, Athénaïs, Madame de Montespan.

In The Road to Newgate (Crooked Cat, 2018)  attention turns to a very different drama, playing out at exact the same period, just across the channel in London.

 THE ROAD TO NEWGATE

What price justice? London 1678. Titus Oates, an unknown preacher, creates panic with wild stories of a Catholic uprising against Charles II. The murder of a prominent Protestant magistrate appears to confirm that the Popish Plot is real. Only Nathaniel Thompson, writer and Licenser of the Presses, instinctively doubts Oates’s revelations. Even his young wife, Anne, is not so sure. And neither know that their friend William Smith has personal history with Titus Oates.

When Nathaniel takes a public stand, questioning the plot and Oates’s integrity, the consequences threaten them all.

REVIEWS

“Moved me greatly and brought tears to my eyes. Gripping, moving and brilliantly captures this tense and sometimes brutal episode in late seventeenth-century English history.” Andrea Zuvich, author & historian.

“A real pleasure to read,” Denis Bock, author of The Ash Garden & The Communist’s Daughter.

“Meticulously researched, vividly imagined, and deftly plotted. Rich, resonating and relevant.” Catherine Hokin, author of Blood & Roses, the story of Margaret of Anjou.

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Buy the book: mybook.to/theroadtonewgate

 

Thanks to Kate for taking part.

Comfort Reads – Guest Author Sue Barnard

Today I am joined by fellow Crooked Cat Author Sue Barnard to talk about her favourite ‘comfort reads’ – and it’s an eclectic selection!  If like me you are a bit of a Wuthering Heights fan ( confession time – I prefer the Kate Bush song to the novel), you might be interested in Sue’s latest book Heathcliff, a Wuthering Heights spin-off,  published on 30 July 2018 – Emily Brontë’s 200th birthday (and Kate’s 60th). Take it away Sue!

 

That Devil Called Love, by Lynda Chater

I first read this book when I was in my mid-forties and was starting to feel depressed about getting old – and I can truthfully say that it changed my entire outlook on life. It’s a modern re-working of the Faust legend, told with great perception and humour, in which the heroine finds out the hard way that youth, beauty, wealth and fame don’t necessarily hold the key to lasting happiness. It’s a valuable lesson to everyone, and such an ingenious concept that I’ve often wished I’d thought of the idea myself.

 

The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince), by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

This is an unusual choice, as one does not normally fall in love with one’s A-Level set books. But I studied this for A-Level French and have adored it ever since.  Although ostensibly a children’s book, it can be read on any number of levels, and contains a very powerful message: “On ne voit bien qu’avec le cœur. L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.” (It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.) I love this book so much that I have multiple copies in different languages. That’s how crazy I am…

 

The Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey

This fictional detective story considers a real-life cold case: Who might have killed the Princes in the Tower? A thorough and well-constructed investigation which comes to a surprising but very plausible conclusion, and it certainly changed my original perception of King Richard III.

 

 

The Richard Stilgoe Letters, by Richard Stilgoe

Whenever I need a fix of surreal humour, I reach for this book: a collection of short pieces written about characters who are all anagrams of the author’s own name, and all the names are astonishingly appropriate for the people concerned.  For example, there is a charismatic weatherman called OSRIC THIRDGALE, a fantasy writer called ERIC D GHOSTLAIR (whose epic trilogy GHIRIDOR CASTLE is a cult classic), and the sometime president of France, Germany and Ireland: GISCARD O’HITLER. The writing is pure genius, and the book definitely deserves a wider audience.

 

The Blue Door Theatre Series, by Pamela Brown

I was first introduced to these lovely stories when I was in my final year at primary school. They tell of a group of young people who form their own theatre company, and they first kindled my longstanding love of the theatre. There are five books in the series: The Swish of the Curtain (1941), Maddy Alone (1945), Golden Pavements (1947), Blue Door Venture (1949) and Maddy Again (1956), all set in a fictional town in southern England. They seem a little dated now, but that is part of their charm.  It’s sometimes good to escape from twenty-first-century traumas and revisit an era when things were a little more innocent and a lot less complicated.

 

About Sue by Sue

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet whose family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her. Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

Sue joined the editorial team of Crooked Cat Publishing in 2013. Her first novel, The Ghostly Father (a new take on the traditional story of Romeo & Juliet) was officially released on St Valentine’s Day 2014.  Since then she has produced four more novels: Nice Girls Don’t (2014), The Unkindest Cut of All (2015), Never on Saturday (2017) and Heathcliff (a Wuthering Heights spin-off story about Heathcliff’s missing years, published on 30 July 2018, to coincide with the bicentenary of the birth of Emily Brontë).

Sue now lives in Cheshire with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.  You can find her on Facebook, Twitter (@AuthorSusanB), Amazon, or follow her blog here.

Author and Editor at Crooked Cat Books and Ocelot Press
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Thanks to Sue for taking part – anyone else have fond memories of school text books?