The Fascination Of Writing About The Past: A Guest Post by Carolyn Hughes, Author of Fortune’s Wheel

Fortune's Wheel

I’m always fascinated by history and am delighted that Carolyn Hughes, author of Fortune’s Wheel, shares that fascination with me and has agreed to write all about it in a great guest post for Linda’s Book Bag.

Published by Silverwood Books Fortune’s Wheel is the first in the Meonbridge Chronicles and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Fortune’s Wheel

Fortune's Wheel

Plague-widow Alice atte Wode is desperate to find her missing daughter, but her neighbours are rebelling against their masters and their mutiny is hindering the search.

June 1349. In a Hampshire village, the worst plague in England’s history has wiped out half its population, including Alice atte Wode’s husband and eldest son. The plague arrived only days after Alice’s daughter Agnes mysteriously disappeared, and it prevented the search for her.

Now the plague is over, the village is trying to return to normal life, but it’s hard, with so much to do and so few left to do it. Conflict is growing between the manor and its tenants, as the workers realise their very scarceness means they’re more valuable than before: they can demand higher wages, take on spare land, and have a better life. This is the chance they’ve all been waiting for.

Although she understands their demands, Alice is disheartened that the search for Agnes is once more put on hold. When one of the rebels is killed, and then the lord’s son is found murdered, it seems the two deaths may be connected, both to each other and to Agnes’s disappearance.

The Fascination Of Writing About The Past

A Guest Post by Carolyn Hughes

Why do I write historical fiction? And why are my novels set in the fourteenth century?

The answer to both questions lies in serendipity. When I had to choose what to write as the creative piece for my Masters in Creative Writing at Portsmouth University, I mostly just wanted a change from the contemporary women’s fiction I’d been writing for the previous few years (none yet published).

Searching for inspiration, I was looking through some of my old scribblings, when I rediscovered the fading handwritten draft of about 10,000 words of a novel I’d written in my twenties. Set in fourteenth century rural England, it was about the lives of peasant families. To be frank, the novel’s plot (indeed the writing itself) wasn’t terribly good (dreadful, actually!), yet I was really quite drawn to its period and setting. I had one of those light bulb moments and, a few days later, I was drafting an outline for the novel that is now Fortune’s Wheel.

It’s true that I’d long been intrigued by the mediaeval period, for its relative remoteness in time and in our understanding of it and, I think, for the very dichotomy between the habitual present-day perception of the Middle Ages as “nasty, brutish and short” and the wonders of the period’s art, architecture and literature. The briefest of investigations quickly proved to me that I wanted to know more about the period, and I suppose I soon realised that, by writing an historical novel, I’d have the opportunity both to find out more about the mediaeval past and to interpret it, which seemed like a thrilling thing to do.

But was the fourteenth century a good choice? It seemed to be relatively unloved among historical novelists. Other centuries – the sixteenth, twelfth and, more recently, the fifteenth – seemed to be more appealing to writers, with stories of, for example, Henry VIII and his many wives, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and the Wars of the Roses. And perhaps they were also more appealing to readers? I didn’t know. But I also decided not to care! I knew what I wanted to write about. And, in truth, I can’t imagine why the fourteenth century might be “unpopular”, for it really is a fascinating period.

Historian Barbara Tuchman (in A Distant Mirror) called the century “calamitous”. Catastrophic events affected every part of its life: overpopulation and severe poverty in the first decade; famines in the second; the start of the Hundred Years War in 1337, which continued on and off for the rest of the century and beyond; the Black Death in 1348-9 and the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. So, plenty of background there for interesting storylines…

Such events as these would have meant (as they do in every century) huge changes to people’s lives, at all levels of society. However, although I enjoy reading historical novels about kings and queens, and the movers and shakers of the world, I don’t particularly want to write about them. I’m much more interested in how events affected the lives of ordinary people, and I wanted to write –and still do – about ordinary lives within the context of these big social changes.

Of course, the lives of “ordinary people” are not much recorded  – well, that’s not entirely true, for you can learn quite a lot about them from entries in, for example, court records. But they are generally just names, without the input of, say, chroniclers and historians about their characters or motivations. Ordinary people of the past are essentially unknown and invisible, with no biographies to drawn from, so I’m obliged to invent entirely all the characters who populate my stories.

But that is not to say, of course, that I can also just “make up” everything about the way they lived.

My objective is to bring the past to life with a sense of naturalism and authenticity. I want to try and understand (what we know of) the truth about the period, and to portray it as realistically as possible. (This is obviously the objective of all writers of historical fiction…)

A question might be: how “authentic” does it have to be? For readers who enjoy learning about history through fiction, a sense of historical truth is important, while those who simply enjoy reading stories set in the past may not mind too much if a novel tends more towards the imaginative than the true. Book reviews of any number of historical novels show how widely readers’ needs and sensibilities can differ: for some, historical accuracy is vital, whereas, for others, a sense of authenticity is enough, provided the story is sufficiently engaging.

For those readers, including me, for whom authenticity is pretty important, using a few aspects of recorded history, even if the story isn’t about those events, sets the fiction against a background of fact. Describing physical details, such as houses, clothes, food, tools can paint a vivid picture. Depicting a reasonably convincing historical “thought-world” can give the picture depth.

And this last is, I feel, the most difficult. For, although people who lived 700 years ago were undoubtedly like us in many ways – they fell in love, adored their children, had aspirations and ambitions, enjoyed a joke and suffered the pain of loss, to name just a very few of the many similarities – they were surely also unlike us, also in many ways…

Clearly, their practical, day-to-day lives were very different from ours, and it’s important to try to portray those everyday practicalities so that readers can, in a sense, see themselves in their antecedents’ shoes, even if only a little bit. But trying to portray, with any degree of authenticity, the way our antecedents thought – how they understood the world and the way it works, the part religion played in their lives, their belief in magic and superstition, their attitudes towards sexuality and gender, their sensibilities and mindsets in general – can be tricky. And one of the things that is difficult about it is, I think, to try and draw a balance between the authentic past and the sceptical present.

For, although magic and superstition might have been part of the mediaeval person’s ordinary experience, they are the opposite for us. In writing an historical novel, I’m not just portraying the past, but must also be conscious of how certain aspects of the past might now be seen by a modern reader. For example, a potential danger of introducing “magical” elements that today would be dismissed as fantastical – however authentic they might be to the mediaeval experience – is that the novel might appear less naturalistic historical fiction than a kind of fantasy.

Nonetheless, one must certainly not eschew the “strange” altogether, for it is the very difference, or “otherness”, of the past that makes writing historical fiction so intriguing. And it is why I am so enjoying writing it, and expect to continue doing so for many books to come.

(And following that guest post Carolyn, I can’t wait to read Fortune’s Wheel!)

About Carolyn Hughes

Carolyn publicity

Carolyn Hughes was born in London, but has lived most of her life in Hampshire. After completing a degree in Classics and English, she started her working life as a computer programmer, in those days a very new profession. But it was when she discovered technical authoring that she knew she had found her vocation. She spent the next few decades writing and editing all sorts of material, some fascinating, some dull, for a wide variety of clients, including an international hotel group, medical instrument manufacturers and the government.

She has written creatively for most of her adult life, but it was not until her children grew up and flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction, took centre stage in her life. She has a Master’s in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton. Fortune’s Wheel is her first published novel.

You can find Carolyn on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and find out more on her website.

Why Shakespeare’s Still Got It: A Guest Post by H J Moat, Author of Other People’s Business

OtherPeoplesBusinessCover

I’m delighted to welcome H J Moat to Linda’s Book Bag today. Hollie’s book Other People’s Business is a modern re-telling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and what could be more intriguing to an ex-English teacher than to find out why she thinks Shakespeare is still relevant in today’s society. Hollie has kindly told me what she thinks in a lovely guest post.

Other People’s Business is available for purchase in e-book here.

Other People’s Business

OtherPeoplesBusinessCover

Some cupid kills with arrows, some with traps…

Bee and Ben haven’t always hated each other, but they certainly hate each other now. They hate each other so much that it threatens to derail the wedding of their best friends, Imogen and Will.

But then something unthinkable happens and turns everything on its head. Within the wedding party, some hearts swell and others are broken, but will anyone work out that relationships are rarely quite what they seem?

This modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing explores the idea of whether we’re ever really in control of our own romantic destiny and if true love really can conquer all.

Why Shakespeare’s Still Got It

A Guest Post by H J Moat

When I decided to adapt Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing into a modern novel, I knew it would have no trouble settling in to the 21st century. England’s greatest ever playwright is as relevant today as he ever has been – throw a rock in any high street if you want proof, odds are whoever you hit will be able to reel off the fate of Romeo and Juliet. But in case launching missiles at strangers isn’t your sort of thing – here’s 5 more reasons why Shakespeare is always worth a read…

1.Nobody has ever bettered romance or violence

And all the best stories are essentially about love or war, even today. No one can do either one quite like W.S – let’s say I mention an anti-hero who murders his enemies and bakes them in a pie because they raped his daughter (and then cut off her tongue and hands to stop her telling anyone about it). You might assume I’d gotten a bit confused during an episode of Game Of Thrones. You’d be wrong: welcome to Titus Andronicus. And when it comes to romance, consider that even Hamlet, few people’s idea of a dreamboat, writes to Ophelia ‘Doubt thou the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, doubt truth to be a liar, but never doubt I love.’ That was Shakespeare barely even trying to melt hearts….

2. He was an early feminist ally

Now I’m not suggesting Shakespeare and Roxane Gay would be BFFs, but certainly characters like Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing were way ahead of their time. Benedick is such a modern creation – a commitment-phobe yes, but one who respects women and treats them as his equals. He sees Beatrice as a worthy foil, and when Claudio accuses Hero of bedding someone else the night before their wedding, Benedick sides with Hero, who denies it. That he chooses does this when his boss, his best friend and even her father (not to mention society) immediately assume Claudio is right, make Benedick even more enticing as a love interest. Believe me, I know.

3.He foreshadowed things like revenge porn

Filming sex and uploading it to the internet may be relatively new but publicising a woman’s sex life and using it to humiliate her certainly isn’t. In Much Ado, Don John’s target of misery is Claudio, but it is only by publicly slut-shaming Hero (rather than say, doing anything at all to Claudio directly) he is able to create the chaos he craves. Even Shakespeare’s non-mortals aren’t above this tactic, as in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when in anger the fairy king Oberon drugs his estranged wife so that she gets off with a man-donkey hybrid. Okay, maybe not so relevant, that one…

4.His characters slot perfectly into our modern world

Shakespeare’s characters have been through more reinventions than Madonna. I recently saw a production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre with Sir Toby Belch as a drug-addled and ageing indie-rocker, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek as a preening hipster with no self-awareness and a man bun. So seamlessly did they slip into these 21st century stereotypes, I began to wonder whether Shoreditch (where Shakespeare’s first theatre was based) hadn’t actually changed in 400 years.

5.The film versions keep on coming

People keep on re-telling Shakespeare’s stories, and we keep on lapping them up – there is a new version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the works as we speak. In 2015 Michael Fassbender made an obscenely handsome Macbeth. Baz Luhrmann turned an entire generation of teenage girls onto the Bard by casting Leonardo DiCaprio as a Hawaiian shirt- clad Romeo, though many preferred Heath Ledger in the 1999 modernisation of The Taming Of The Shrew, 10 Things I Hate About You. But for me there is one adaptation that outshines them all, Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing, where he and Emma Thompson play out the ultimate screwball romance and Keanu Reeves is a divisive, yet weirdly compelling Don John. I love it. I love it so much that I wrote a book.

About H J Moat

HJMoatPortrait

Previously a fashion and entertainment journalist, H J Moat is editor of the fashion website Farfetch. From an early ambition to own a petrol station, H J Moat has turned her love of Shakespeare into her debut novel, Other People’s Business.

You can follow H J Moat on Twitter.

Travelling Vicariously, A Guest Post by Angie Smith, Author of The Spy Who Chipped The China Teacup

China teacup 1.1

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for The Spy Who Chipped The China Teacup and to welcome its author Angie Smith to Linda’s Book Bag today. I love a thriller and I love travel so I asked Angie to write about both those topics for me.

Published by Bloodhound, The Spy Who Chipped The China Teacup is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

The Spy Who Chipped the China Teacup

China teacup 1.1

Arms dealing. Murder. Corruption.

In Africa, Taylor Hudson reaches the stark realisation that she is in imminent danger. Time is nearly up when, out of nowhere, she is thrown a lifeline.  Left with little option, she places her trust in a complete stranger. But who is this stranger and why the interest in saving her?

The answers lie 6,000 miles away, deep inside the British Secret Intelligence Service, where a former, disgraced, senior officer is attempting to work his way back into the heart of the organisation. But what are his real intentions?

What ensues is a deadly game of bluff, double-bluff and triple-bluff. Can The China Teacup survive this time?

If travel broadens the mind,

does travelling vicariously have the same effect?

A Guest Post by Angie Smith

(Photographs provided by the author)

Apologies for the title which sounds more like a journal article! Worry not – this is a light-hearted look at how my adventures inspire the storylines of my thrillers, the latest being The Spy Who Chipped The China Teacup.

Eyes wide, I look down from the helicopter at the azure waters surrounding the Bazaruto Archipelago (Mozambique). Are those colours real? I decide in an instant that this is where I want to bring my readers. I pull out my camera and wonder – could there be anywhere as beautiful to set a shocking and sinister story? The juxtaposition of that thought fascinated me.

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Back in South Africa just days ago I stood by a waterhole, it was just breaking daylight and I had to be mindful of my surroundings, or rather the risk posed from the animals. My mind raced. Did she die here? Who was this woman, and what kind of stories could she tell? Who knows? I jump back in the Land Rover and ask my tracker if he could find a pride of lions. He’s a master tracker and within an hour we have located them, perched on rocks in a dry, sandy river bed. I make eye-contact with the lioness as she raises her head, clearly concerned for her young cubs. Beautiful. Through the binoculars I marvel at the detail of her shear soft fur, contrasting against the powerful ferocity of her white pointed teeth and sharp claws. A shiver makes its way down my spine. And then I hear it – the most terrifying thing I have ever heard in my life. Somewhere, nearby there had just been a kill. A leopard had brought down an impala. The noise of the birdlife squawking and immediately taking flight unnerved me, as did the sight of the herd of kudu standing stock-still on the surrounding hillside, too frightened to move, in case they too became prey. Something tells me all this is crucial to the plot. My camera clicks again.  This time my mind fills with images of trucks loaded with ammunition and arms as they tumble into my head. And where is the woman? She’s bound and gagged in the foetal position not far from here.

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Days later I step from the catamaran into the warm shallows and wade to the beach towards the tiny island of Santa Carolina (also known as Paradise Island). There it was – the derelict hotel. Back in the sixties this is where the wealthy and celebrities found hedonistic parties and romance. Locals talk of illegal gun trafficking. My permit allows access to the building, and within minutes I’m stood on the balcony where Bob Dylan composed the song ‘Mozambique’. The sound of the sea surrounds me. But above that noise these ruins tell tales and I’m listening hard.

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When I switch from author to reader I become absorbed with the locale. The many books I have enjoyed evoke such powerful emotions and images for me. Coming back to the question, if travel broadens the mind, does travelling vicariously have the same effect? I believe it does. Clever authors capture the true essence of locations and make it feel as though you are actually there. Personally, this in turn makes me desperate to visit to see and feel for myself. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith succeeded in this. Botswana is nearing the top of my wish list! This is what I am striving to do for my readers. Travel vicariously and then in reality.

(Oh, I love Botswana – hope you get there soon!)

About Angie Smith

Dews Rep

Angie Smith, having recently survived locally advanced breast cancer, discovered that her lifelong desire to write had been rekindled. Consequently, her love for international crime thrillers became the springboard to the creation of the highly acclaimed CXVI Trilogy.

Her passion for travelling to exotic places greatly inspires her work. A recent trip to Southern Africa inspired her fourth novel, The Spy Who Chipped The China Teacup.

Angie, born in 1961, was educated at Huddersfield University where she graduated with a First Class Honours Degree in Education and Training. She was nominated for an award on her knowledge transfer partnerships work, during which she co-produced and presented a journal article at the International Social Work Conference in Durban.

You can follow Angie on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook. There’s more with these other bloggers too:

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Being Fit to Write: A Guest Post by Liz Lawler, Author of Don’t Wake Up

Don't Wake Up

I love a good twisty psychological thriller so I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Don’t Wake Up by Liz Lawler. Today Liz explains all about being fit to write in a fascinating guest post.

Don’t Wake Up was published by Twenty7, an imprint of Bonnier Zaffre, on 18th May 2017 and is available for e-book purchase and paperback pre-order here.

Don’t Wake Up

Don't Wake Up

Alex Taylor wakes up tied to an operating table. The man who stands over her isn’t a doctor.

The choice he forces her to make is utterly unspeakable.

But when Alex re-awakens, she’s unharmed – and no one believes her horrifying story. Ostracised by her colleagues, her family and her partner, she begins to wonder if she really is losing her mind.

And then she meets the next victim.

So compulsive you can’t stop reading.

So chilling you won’t stop talking about it.

Don’t Wake Up is a dark, gripping psychological thriller with a horrifying premise and a stinging twist . . .

Being Fit To Write

A Guest Post by Liz Lawler

For those of you who write, you already know how much energy it takes. How it wrings every last drop of emotion from your bones. How you creak when you try to get up from a position you have been sat in for many hours. Wired from endless coffees and bloated from crisps and biscuits, the crumbs of which have fallen onto your keyboard, reminding you of the abuse you have wrought your body that day. Enough of the self-pity, I hear you cry.

And you’re right! I have experienced those days, too many to count and the only remedy is to get off my jacksie and exercise. Fortunately, l love swimming and swim most days, though not gracefully. I am a tsunami swimmer, not intentionally, but my strokes seem to cause large amounts of water to splash into the faces of other swimmers. You will often hear me call out a ‘sorry’, especially to the lovely two ladies that keep their hair up off their faces with intention of keeping it dry. I usually find when I take an aqua aerobics class the other ladies give me plenty of space, even the shorter ladies are considerate and don’t seem to mind standing on tip toe at the back. This is an exercise with high-speed movements and containment. After one such class, one of the attenders, wet hair plastered to her face and mucous dribbling from her nose, bless her, who had been standing behind me, asked if I had a problem with my balance?

When I approach the water, I am a toe dipper, taking sometimes minutes to get in, shrieking like a seagull as it covers my calves, my thighs, my bum, shouting, ‘that it’s too cold’ to my neighbouring swimmers, who shake their heads resignedly. They are used to my noise and know I will settle down soon. The only time I brave the water fast is when my swimsuit has seen better days, and is hanging from my bottom, baggy and becoming see-through. Swimming is a solitary exercise and once I get going I am happy to plough up and down. It is my thinking time where I get to examine my day and try and remember if I have forgotten anything important. Was it bin day, today? Was I meant to see So and So today, or was that tomorrow? Was my two o’clock appointment to have a root canal filling for this Tuesday or last Tuesday? I usually have a ten minute panic attack where I fill in the missing memories of my life before I can get on with the other thinking stuff – the story inside my head, where I hear my characters’ dialogues and get excited when one of them says something unexpected. Usually at this point I get out of the pool on auto pilot, rinse, barely dry and rush home with a towel wrapped round my head, eager to write down what I heard. Invariably noticing later that I have my buttons done up wrong or my jumper on inside out and on one occasion, like last night, guiltily seeing the towel I’d hung on the line, similar in colour to mine except for its stripes, knowing it’s not mine, because my own unused dry towel is still in my swim bag.

Being fit to write is all about what suits you. Being fit to write for me is not just a physical ability but a mental one as well. So my advice to myself now, is to close my laptop, tip it upside down to rid it of crumbs, throw the piled-up  half-filled coffee mugs into the sink, grab the foreign towel and swimsuit off the line and get myself down to the swimming pool for a splash.

(Happy swimming and writing Liz!)

About Liz Lawler

Liz Lawler

Born in Chatham and partly raised in Dublin, Liz Lawler comes from a large family where she shared underwear and a place at a table for meals with her thirteen siblings. Liz has been a nurse for over twenty years in a hospital emergency department, a flight attendant and a manager of a five-star hotel. She now lives in Bath with her husband and Don’t Wake Up is her debut novel.

You can follow Liz on Twitter and find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

Dont Wake Up Blog Tour Poster

Becoming A Writer: A Guest Post by Tony J Forder, Author of Bad to the Bone

bad to the bone

I’m delighted to welcome Tony J Forder, author of Bad to the Bone, to Linda’s Book Bag today as Bad to the Bone is set in my home town of Peterborough.

As an aspiring writer myself, I’m always interested in other author’s experiences and Tony tells me all about what has happened to him in a fascinating post.

Bad to the Bone was published by Bloodhound Books on 29th April 2017 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

Bad to the Bone

bad to the bone

A skeletal body is unearthed in a wooded area of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. DI James Bliss, together with DC Penny Chandler, investigate the case and discover that the young, female victim had been relocated from its original burial site.

A witness is convinced that a young female was struck by a vehicle back in the summer of 1990, and that police attended the scene. However, no record exists of either the accident or the reported victim. As the case develops, two retired police officers are murdered. The two are linked with others who were on duty at the time a road accident was reported.

As Bliss and Chandler delve deeper into the investigation, they start to question whether senior officers may have been involved in the murder of the young women who was buried in the woods.

As each link in the chain is put under duress, so is Bliss who clashes with superiors and the media.

When his team receives targeted warnings, Bliss will need to decide whether to drop the case or to pursue those responsible.

Will Bliss walk away in order to keep his career intact or will he fight no matter what the cost?

And is it possible the killer is much closer than they imagined?

Becoming a Writer

A Guest Post by Tony J Forder

My family and I moved to Peterborough as a temporary pit-stop almost thirty years ago, and here we are still. My crime thriller book, Bad to the Bone, is set in what I now regard as home, having spent the previous twenty-nine years living in London. Born and raised in the east-end, my dark, psychological crime thriller, Degrees of Darkness, due to be published by Bloodhound Books in September, is set there. For now, I am living the dream with Bad to the Bone, and I have to say I am astonished at how well it is doing and how well received it has been.

Whilst I started writing as a kid, and had some minor success with short stories – two being published by Pan Books in their Dark Voices series, and one in FEAR magazine – my novels were a fine example of being a ‘nearly man’: I nearly got myself an agent, nearly got myself a publisher, nearly got my book published. The first two books I wrote were part of a serious learning curve, and were both hugely derivative. Back then I was into dark fantasy and horror, and my style was an amalgam of all the authors I read in those days. I was a Frankenstein’s monster of a writer, but the one thing in my favour was that I recognised my own limitations.

Next up was my first attempt at Degrees of Darkness. A change of style and genre almost bagged me the agent, publisher, book deal. When that all fell apart, I moved on to a follow-up which deserved never to see the light of day. I then had an idea for a book set in Peterborough, and created a couple of characters by the name of DI Bliss and DC Chandler. The novel was decent, but it lacked a certain something. It still exists, and I may not be done with it yet. I was at the time, though, because by then the storyline for Bad to the Bone had seeped into my brain and I just had to write that.

Work commitments and ill-health meant that my writing was curtailed for some time. Until last year, when I was made redundant from my job after seventeen years. My wife wanted me to write, but bills still needed to be paid, so I set up my own IT consultancy business working in education, and planned to spend half my time with that and the other half doing what I liked most: writing. In preparation for the latter, I set up my social media presence and also self-published two of my completed novels.

In January this year I responded to a request for submissions by Bloodhound. The end result was a two book deal, followed by another contract for one more. Two of the three will be published this year, whilst the third is contracted to be a second book in the series started by Bad to the Bone.

Currently, I have that second book in the series at completed first draft stage. Prior to that I had previously written another book, a fast-paced action thriller, featuring a completely new set of characters. That is also at the same stage, and I have just started the first edit on it. It was intended to be a stand-alone, but in writing it I realised a couple of the characters had legs, and a storyline for a second book in what I hope will be a long-term project has been sketched out and will be started sometime this year. It’s funny how writing one book can set off a chain reaction, because in writing the follow up to Bad to the Bone I had enough steam to put together ideas for a third. That will also be started this year.

It never occurred to me how busy a part-time writer can be. Just keeping up with social media commitments can take up hours every day, especially when you have a new book. Pre-release promotion is essential, as you attempt to build up a level of anticipation. The cover reveal is great for that, and I got so lucky with mine as the cover for Bad to the Bone was wonderful. Then the blog tour is announced, and that gets some good coverage. Bloodhound also put out a video every month, which features the books due for release, so once again you’re building towards something positive. I wasn’t prepared for the reaction to my book, which has been far in excess of anything I had anticipated. Some great reviews, climbing up the Amazon charts, leads to an awful lot of ‘thank you’ posts on both Facebook and Twitter. And you want to do that – it’s not a chore at all. The bloggers and reviewers take time out of their lives to read your book and write their thoughts, and you can only ever be grateful to them for doing so. At my level, it’s lifeblood.

Then there are interviews to do, and if you’re lucky you’ll get asked to do a guest blog or two. I lucked out a while back and managed to secure not only a review of Mason Cross’s new book but also a Q&A session with him for my own blog. That was a real coup for me, as he’s one of my favourite new authors. He’s great guy, and I wish him continued success.

Another element that took me by surprise was the volume of literary events there are across the country. A staggering number. My health is still not as I would like, so I am limited and have to be selective. I have several trips booked, though: the Harrogate Crime Writing festival was a must-do, and I am there for all four days. My publishers recently announced an ‘evening with the authors’ event in London on 1 July, and I am there with some of my fellow hounds doing a reading and taking part in a Q&A session. No pressure there!

I can’t imagine what it must be like for one of the major authors. I mean, how on earth does someone like Michael Connelly find time to publish two books and produce Bosch for TV in 2017, as well as everything he must have to do for publicity purposes? He is certainly an author I admire.

This year has clearly started well for me. There is not a single part of it that I had anticipated, which goes to show how much life can change in just a short space of time. So far I have enjoyed every second. I know there are bleaker periods to come. Not every review is going to be a four or a five, but you put yourself out there and you have to take the rough with the smooth. There may be periods where my game goes off the boil, and I am prepared to push myself through that as well.

I love writing. I need to write. It’s as simple as that.

(And we all wish you every success with all you do Tony.)

About Tony J Forder

Tony Forder

Tony Forder has been writing stories since childhood, but it was only when he won a short story competition judged by an editor from Pan Books, that he realised he might actually be half decent at this writing business.

The story, Gino’s Bar and Grille, went on to be published in Dark Voices 2, part of the celebrated Pan Book of Horror series. Three further short story sales followed: Book End, published in Dark Voices 4, Character Role, in FEAR magazine, and finally A Grim Story, which featured in A Rattler’s Tale.

As a part-time writer with a full-time job, plus some ill-health, life got in the way and, although Tony continued writing, it took a back seat to making a living.

This year, however, Tony has been inspired by new ideas, and has been working hard on two new books, at least one of which will be completed in 2017. In the meantime, he hopes you enjoy Bad to the Bone.

You can follow Tony on Twitter, visit his website and find him on Facebook.

The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite

the darkest lies

I’m just thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations of The Darkest Lies by Barbara Copperthwaite as I have met her several times and she is utterly lovely. You can meet Barbara too in my interview with her here.

I’m also so pleased finally to have had the time to read one of Barbara’s books. She wrote all about her book anniversary for Flowers for the Dead here and I still haven’t got round to reading it!

Published by Bookouture on 12th May 2017, Barbara’s latest novel The Darkest Lies is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here.

The Darkest Lies

the darkest lies

A mother desperate for the truth. A daughter hiding a terrible secret.

Melanie Oak appeared to have the perfect life. Married to her childhood sweetheart, Jacob, the couple live with their beautiful, loving, teenage daughter, Beth, in a pretty village.

Nothing can shake her happiness – until the day that Beth goes missing and is discovered beaten almost to the point of death, her broken body lying in a freezing creek on the marshes near their home.

Consumed with grief, Melanie is determined to find her daughter’s attacker. Someone in the village must have seen something. Why won’t they talk?

As Melanie tries to piece together what happened to Beth, she discovers that her innocent teenager has been harbouring some dark secrets of her own. The truth may lie closer to home and put Melanie’s life in terrible danger…

A completely gripping psychological thriller with a twist you won’t see coming. Fans of The Girl on the Train, The Sister and Before I Let You In will be captivated.

My Review of The Darkest Lies

When Melanie doesn’t see her daughter Beth right to her friend Chloe’s door, she can have no idea of the events that will unfold.

Oh. Come. On. I expect a thriller to have twists and turns, a fast pace and loads of red herrings and Barbara Copperthwaite includes all those ingredients in The Darkest Lies. However, what I certainly don’t expect is to find myself sobbing with shared grief with the characters as I was with Melanie and Jacob. Mostly when I read crime thrillers I’m entertained (and I was – hugely in reading The Darkest Lies) but I’m slightly removed from the action and that seemed to be the pattern here until wham! Barbara Copperthwaite dealt me a body blow of profound emotion. Brilliant writing!

There’s a cracking plot with fast paced short chapters as Melanie desperately tries to discover who has so injured Beth that she lies on life support in hospital. The end of the narrative is heart thumping and exciting, and without spoiling the read, introduces aspects that make the reader think and contemplate their own possible responses to hypothetically similar situations.

The themes are what makes The Darkest Lies so compelling. Barbara Copperthwaite forces the reader to contemplate how far they would go to protect their own loved ones and she tugs at the very foundations of loyalty and lawlessness so that the edges of what is right and what is wrong become blurred.

I liked the gradual uncovering of the truth from Beth’s perspective alongside the first person story from Melanie, and the way in which she directs her voice towards Beth is touching and realistic. I did feel that a few of Melanie’s actions were unlikely and she should have dealt with the police and her suspicions differently, but at the same time, hers is such a desperate and emotional portrayal of grief that who can say how she might have behaved.

However, aside from a really good thriller, what I truly loved about The Darkest Lies was the creation of a claustrophobic Lincolnshire village, as I live in one myself, and the exquisite beauty of some of the prose which reads like the finest poetry in the natural descriptions. This was such evocative writing.

I thought The Darkest Lies was a thoroughly entertaining and thought provoking thriller and really recommend it.

About Barbara Copperthwaite

me

The people behind the crime, from the perpetrator to the victim and beyond, are what intrigue Barbara Copperthwaite.

She was raised by the sea and in the countryside, where she became a lover of both nature and the written word – the latter leading to a successful career as a journalist. For over twenty years people have kindly and bravely shared with her their real experiences of being victims of crime. Now, through fiction, Barbara continues to explore the emotional repercussions.

You can find out more about Barbara by visiting her website and following her on Twitter. You’ll also find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

The Darkest Lies - Blog Tour

The Importance of Reading: A Guest Post by Patricia Furstenberg, Author of Joyful Trouble

Joyful Trouble - cover

I truly believe reading is a joy all children need in their lives and am delighted that Patricia Furstenberg, author of the children’s book Joyful Trouble, agrees and has written all about that topic for Linda’s Book Bag today.

Joyful Trouble was published on 16th April 2017 and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback here (though there’s a special free offer today 17th May 2017).

Joyful Trouble

Joyful Trouble - cover

A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling.

A dog. A friendship. A purpose.

Proven to warm your heart, Joyful Trouble is a fast-paced, engaging and funny story.

Patricia Furstenberg paints a charming portrait of the bond between a small girl and boy and their much-loved Grandad. This book takes readers on an unbelievable journey, tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.

When a Great Dane arrives in a Navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this four-legged gentle giant?

A charming celebration of innocence.

Why Is Reading So Important For Our Children?

A Guest Post by Patricia Furstenberg

As a parent I would certainly want my children to grow up to be successful human beings. To have a good family life filled with love and understanding, friends to laugh and count on and a job they are happy to face every day.

How can I help them prepare for life?

Overlooked, yet efficient, being a good reader is proven to equip children with much needed life skills.

Apart from proven educational, neurological and psychological benefits, reading is proven to stimulate children’s developing minds and improve their empathic skills, helping them socialise at school and thrive in life.

If IQ (Intelligence Quotient) measures how clever our brain is, scientists like to measure our empathy through its EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient). An individual with a high EQ will better understand his own emotions and be able to relate to the emotional state of those around him, thus improving his social skills and, eventually, the general social welfare of his generation.

In less fortunate circumstances empathy can also act like a shield, protecting our children in peer-pressure situations. Empathic children are less violent and will grow to become adults with a lower risk of emotional or behavioural problems later in life.

But reading contributes to our children’s intellectual life as well. To better understand this we first need to see how reading takes place.

As we read a book, an article or even a recipe, there are four different activities taking place at the same time in our brain.

  1. Phonics – we sound the letters by associating a speech sound to them.
  2. Sight – some English words need to be recognized as a whole unit, then sounded (“the”). English has 44 speech sounds, 20 vowel sounds and 24 consonant sounds, but only 26 letters. Therefore thinking skills must also be used when reading English.
  3. Contextual analysis – prediction of what will happen next, vital when reading fiction. Although if a recipe contains sugar and flour then I can safely predict that its final product will be enjoyed by all the members of my household.
  4. Structural analysis – understanding what a word means by simply looking at its root or figuring out its meaning from the context, thus building vocabulary.

This is why being a good reader makes learning during school years and tertiary education a lot easier. For reading goes deeper than sounding words; reading is understanding what’s being said behind the literary meaning of the story, connecting this information to what we already know, relating to it and drawing knowledge from it. Reading is also the capacity of focusing on a text for a certain amount of time. And these skills, like the pieces of a puzzle, are what later help our children experience a successful schooling career.

But wait; there is more to reading than learning the names of all the Kings and Queens of England. I had A’s in History during high school, but now all I remember about the Tudor era is what I recently read in Philippa Gregory’s books. I wonder why.

Children and adults alike (seems like J) tend to better remember information if it’s been presented to them in an interesting package. Children will absorb more facts if they’re presented in a story with a green dragon and a nosy prince.

Because our children live in a fantasy world (a coping mechanism for the young body and mind), stories are the ideal milieu for them to safely explore new emotions and relationships. Such as the relationship between Ana, Tommy and Grandpa in my latest children’s book, Joyful Trouble, (published April 2017), but also the relationship between Grandpa and the Great Dane. The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is strong and unique and it shouldn’t be taken for granted. Our Millennial Kids tend to spend more time plugged into a video game than on Grandpa’s knees, no wonder the medical psychologists nicknamed them the “glow kids”.

Joyful Trouble brings back the magic and safety of this relationship and the fun, wonders and implications of looking after a dog.

Stories take us places and they certainly do transport children to wherever the action is happening, from the safety of their own homes. Reading gives children a sense of being creative. Within their minds, children are the creators of the worlds and characters they read about.

As far apart as they may seem, reality and fantasy are interconnected.

A child would often fantasize about a story and use that fantasy to further build on it. The same goes for problem solving; it is their creative side which helps children to find a solution to a problem.

Being able to have a small contribution to all this while taking an abstract, grown-up concept and packaging it in an attractive, child-friendly way while adding sensitivity and lots of love, yes, this is why I write stories for children.

(I couldn’t agree with you more Patricia!)

About Patricia Furstenberg

Author head

Patricia Furstenberg came to writing though reading. After completing her Medical Degree in Romania she moved to South Africa where she now lives with her husband, children and their dogs. Patricia became taking writing seriously  after becoming one of the WYO Christie winners. She enjoys writing for children  because she can take abstract, grown-up concepts and package them it in attractive, child-friendly ways while adding sensitivity and lots of love.

All of Patricia’s children’s books are available here.

You can follow Patricia on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website. She’s also on Goodreads.