Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe by Rebecca Raisin

Christmas at the Gingerbread cafe

‘Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe’ was originally published by Carina in ebook on 12th November 2013. At the time of this blog post it was free here.

Working in her cafe during the run up to Christmas, Lily is miserable and missing the husband who walked out on her. When a rival opens up across the street, she doesn’t believe life can get much worse. Fortunately for Lily, she has CeeCee who isn’t prepared to see Lily waste another Christmas dreaming of what might have been.

This is a quick festive read and not a genre I usually read. However, ‘Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe’ is well written, engaging and just right for a cosy winter afternoon.

The characters are surprisingly thoroughly developed for such a brief text and it its Rebecca Raisin’s skill in weaving their physical details into the narrative and providing them with natural and realistic dialogue that creates this depth. I felt I knew them immediately and especially warmed to CeeCee as a foil to the sadness Lily feels.

I also really enjoyed the descriptions of food. Rebecca Raisin manages to create the festive spirit through her images of food so that it is easy to picture a traditional Christmas scene.

The plot is relatively simple and the outcome to the story is inevitable. This appeals to lovers of feel-good, light fiction. It is perfect for readers who love this genre, being both what they want and expect. Reading ‘Christmas at the Gingerbread Cafe’ will not disappoint. It’s a super story and I enjoyed it so much I shall be reading more of Rebecca Raisin and am now converted to short, quick read and thoroughly entertaining fiction.

The Turning Point by Freya North

Turning point

I am incredibly grateful to LoveReading for providing a reader review copy of Freya North’s ‘The Turning Point’ published by Harper Collins in ebook and hardback on June 4th 2015.

When divorced writer Frankie has a chance encounter with Canadian musician Scott, she has little realisation just how her life will change. Moving to Norfolk for a fresh start away from London, Frankie suddenly finds herself conducting a long distance relationship. However, not everything will go according to plan.

I have read and loved all Freya North’s novels and honestly believe ‘The Turning Point’ is her best yet.

Recognisably Freya North’s style, there is something slightly different about ‘The Turning Point’, as if the writing is more organic and beautiful than ever. I found the variety of sentence structure, for example, had the power to manipulate my emotions without my permission so that I was on a roller coaster of an experience in reading this lovely novel. It is utterly engrossing and totally devastating. I enjoyed too the jolt when the perspective changes from third to first person after one of the turning points in the plot. I found it added to the intensity of emotion.

There are several turning points in the story, from characters’ realisations of what different relationships mean to them, to pivotal plot moments that change the whole course of the story and to readers understanding the central message of the novel – that we should embrace and cherish what we have. This is not to say that the writing is saccharine, but instead totally satisfying and poignant.

What I also thoroughly enjoyed was how believable the characters were. I don’t usually like the portrayal of children in fiction, finding that portrayal often wooden and unnatural, but both Sam and Annabel are perfectly drawn so that they are not incidental adjuncts to the central characters of Frankie and Scott, but have a life and realism of their own too. As I read I got slower and slower as I didn’t want to leave behind Frankie and Scott and finishing the novel would mean I had to.

Whilst ‘The Turning Point’ can be simply enjoyed as a gorgeous love story, it also has fundamental themes that weave through the text giving it depth and substance. Jenna’s epilepsy, parent/child relationships at all ages, what makes a home, how we stifle or encourage our creativity, the importance of place and nature in our lives all reverberate throughout to become a totally wonderful whole.

The attention to detail in scene setting means that ‘The Turning Point’ is a vivid picture in the reader’s mind. I could see the cottage in Norfolk of the mountains in Canada so clearly it was as if I was there.

To say I enjoyed reading ‘The Turning Point’ would be an understatement. I adored it.

The Pool Boy’s Beatitude by David Swykert

Pool Boy

One of the things I like best about blogging is that I get to ‘meet’ authors from all over the world whom I haven’t encountered before. I’m delighted to introduce a new-to-me writer, David Swykert.

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David is a former 911 operator, so he is well placed to write about crime. He is also a wolf expert, having raised a couple of them himself, and has used wolves in several of his novels.

DJSWYKERTbooksburpsAWDJSWYKERTbooksburpsMEHHere David tells us a little bit about how he writes and his novel ‘The Pool Boy’s Beatitude’:

I write a book like you’d watch a movie. I develop a character and then invent a conflict for him to resolve. I’m pretty straight forward as a person and a writer. I am a former 911 operator, and in 911 you don’t have the luxury of a lot of pondering, you need to get to the essence of a problem quickly. It was good training for writing a book. I also use a tip a literature teacher long ago gave me: “Never use a ten dollar word when a ten cent one will do.” I’ve tried to do that, keep my writing direct, succinct, and understandable. Too many writers try to impress readers with their massive vocabulary, but few readers, including me, want to read a book with a dictionary sitting next to them. If I have to look up definitions to understand the sentence, it closes my interest in the story and the book.

I don’t use detailed outlines to write a story. I have the character, conflict, and the ending in my head before I begin. I put the character into the conflict, and since I know how it will be resolved, the chapters always move forward to that ending. Like my character, Jack, in The Pool Boy’s Beatitude, I have always been attracted to the great mysteries of life. While Quantum Mechanics continues to search for a Theory of Everything, so have I. And I can write with authority about addiction, rehabilitation and jail. If you add the desire for a real and loving relationship into the equation you come up with the story of The Pool Boy’s Beatitude. Though it is fiction, it’s perhaps the most cathartic piece of writing I have ever produced. Not only does Jack discover anomalies to the large physical world we exist in, but also poignant truths about his own personal little universe.

In his search for the God particle Jack Joseph has lost control of the most important particle of existence, himself. Jack’s intellect may have expanded at the speed of light, but his emotional development is mired in the darkness of addiction. Without change Jack is accelerating towards a personal collision that would render his interest in the cosmic one irrelevant.

Read an extract from The Pool Boy’s Beatitude 

I believe God thinks in numbers. Most of what I know best can be described with an equation, numbers predicting an outcome, relating the position, velocity, acceleration and various forces acting on a body of mass, and state this relationship as a function of time. And isn’t that what we are, what everything is: accelerated particles in space time.

And this velocity of motion is what creates gravity and holds everything together. But what creates the motion? I think about this shit all the time. Until I feel like I only know one thing: nothing.

I sat out on the grass and opened a bottle of Mad Dog 20-20. Drank it to the bottom, sucked it in like a black hole swallowing light. Alcohol goes through the brain in stages, first the cerebral cortex, the thinking brain. A friendlier, more daring person emerges, and becomes ever more creative, imaginative, as the drug continues deeper into the brain. Last to go is the limbic brain. That’s when you go numb.

I got ultimate this night, left the past, present, and flew into my future. It was brilliant, until in the morning, when I stared into the eyes of a cop. I realized I had evolved, I was homeless. Passed out on the lawn I had merged my present into my future and lost the past. I had become what I refused to change. There are no corners in a round expanding infinite universe. But I had turned one.

You can find out more about David and his books here. They are available in paperback and ebook:

The Pool Boy’s Beatitude is available here in the UK and here in the US.

Acolyte Author Chris Tetreault-Blay on NaNoWriMo

I belong to a fabulous online group for authors and bloggers called Book Connectors where I encountered another new-to-me author Chris Tetreault-Blay. As I am intending to take part in NanoWriMo this year I was fascinated to hear about Chris’s own experience.

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NanNoWriMo: Finding Beauty In The Belly of The Beast

I love this time of year.  I have never been one to hold summer as my favourite time of year.  Being a hayfever sufferer, it actually brings more problems than it does good.  But once the leaves start to change colour and fall, the evenings (as well as the early mornings) become darker and cold, I am in my element.  For most for my life, this has been because I am a total Christmas freak and can’t help but get excited at least a couple of months early. October and November are mostly all about the build up to the festive season, for me;  a time to plan the big day (and the traditional Christmas Eve party food spread that has been customary in our house for many years now), deciding on gift ideas well in advance, that sort of thing.

Although I was never a child who partook in trick-or-treat or many Halloween parties or games, being a huge horror fan and now author, I love the thought of doing nothing more on October 31st than settling down, lights low and enjoying a marathon of my favourite scary films.  Although since last year this night has taken on a whole new meaning for me, for it is the eve of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

Ok, so what is NaNoWriMo?

NaNoWriMo is a global event that encourages – challenges, if you will – any budding or published author to write a 50,000 word novel in one month.  Unlike most events that we all want to partake in, it is totally free (but welcomes donations from those who wish to contribute) and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home or happy place to take part.  The beauty of it is that YOU make the rules; the only target is to hit your minimum 50k word count by month-end.  How you do it, what you write about, where you write it is completely your call.

Talk about being given a ticket for freedom, to unleash your imagination to run amok for four weeks!

For me, it all started when I liked a Facebook page called ‘The Novelist’s Blueprint’.  At the time, I had the kernels of ideas for short stories that were only just starting to materialise onto my computer screen.  I hadn’t ever thought of writing an entire novel – that it was something I wanted or even was capable of doing.

Until the day I first saw someone mention something called NaNoWriMo…

So what made me want to take part?  If I’m honest, I’m not sure.  Without trying to make myself seem a little disturbed, it was as though I could hear a voice telling me to go for it, which was soon met in unison by my wife.  At the time, I was working on two short stories, neither of which seemed to be going anywhere fast; I had what I considered to be very strong beginnings but in truth had no idea where they were going or what I wanted them to be.

One of the stories was titled ‘The Pit of Harper Falls’, and would be a tale of abduction of supernatural terror, culminating in a demented scientist being revealed as the creator of some horrific abomination to which he fed his victims to.  Light stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree (!)  The other was an alien abduction story, written in a first-person narrative and set in a fictional town that I had named Wildermoor.  The story would follow the central character before, during and after his wife is abducted by aliens, and had a working title of ‘The Sowing Season’.

When I discovered and read more about NaNoWriMo, I started to wonder if one of my stories could be expanded to work as a novel, or whether I needed a new idea.  I struggled to find a way of padding out either of my stories so decided to sit with my laptop one day and see what ideas would develop.  What came out of this was a story about a psychologically troubled man who has been haunted by something – a ghost, or phantom – for most of his life, resulting in him turning to murder (supposedly under orders from the phantom) to rid himself of the apparition.

I titled this work ‘Dexler’, and it would be the moment that the threads of The Wildermoor Apocalypse would begin to bind together.  I wondered if I could introduce the phantom – ‘The Reaper’ – into the other stories somehow and, when I got the idea of The Reaper and the pit-dwelling monster being connected somehow, the story just started to fall into place in my mind.

Every day I thought about the story more and explored all of the possibilities, whether I was driving to or from work, or trying to close my eyes to sleep at night.  Wildermoor could not seem to escape me or me from it.

With a shaky plan for my novel in mind, I decided to take the plunge, take on the challenge and sign up to take part in NaNoWriMo to write ‘Acolyte’.

Acolyte

As I mentioned, the main and only aim of NaNoWriMo is to encourage you to write 50,000 words in a month (this word count is considered to be the length required to be classed as a novel).  I believe that throughout the event, I passed through three mind-states:

THE BEGINNING…

Firstly on November 1st, armed with all of the scrawling and notes that I had already amassed for ‘Pit’, ‘Season’ and ‘Dexler’ I was ready to take on the world. “50,000 words?  In 30 days?  No problem.  Piece of cake!”  It was this optimism that carried me through the first week or so, especially as the ideas were new and free-flowing, the characters were writing themselves and I felt good about my progress.  Every night I would log onto the NaNaWriMo website and input my word count for the day and see my progress bar grow, giving me the push I needed to meet the following day head on.  During my sleeping hours, new ideas were forming.  In order to achieve the 50,000 word count and to help stay focussed, I broke this down to a daily world target of 1667 – harking back to my GCSE revision coaching that ‘bite size’ chunks are easier to digest.  Within the first two weeks, I had reached around 30,000 words and was on a high!

THE MIDDLE…

Then came the second stage – the feeling that you are stuck halfway across a muddy field ankle deep and unable to move.  I had reached a wall and well and truly run into it.  The middle section of the book was where the story needed to transition, the plots that I had laid needed to move forward and start to tell what would become the ending.  But I had no idea how to do this.  I kept writing and writing, always chasing my daily word count and lost sight of the fact that it still had to remain relevant to the overall story and make sense.  I could see my word count go up and felt good that I was steadily reaching the target, but now had no idea how the story was going to end.

It was at this point that I had to commit a sin to myself and take a couple of days break, to step back from my work and view it from a distance, to try and re-acquaint myself with the story that I was trying to tell.

“Are you mad?!  You only had two weeks left; you can’t afford to take time out!  Every day counts, remember?”

That’s all I could hear me telling myself each of these nights that I logged on and entered the same word count; evidence that I was in a slump and had lost my way.

It would have been very easy for me to give up at this point, to admit that I had taken on a task that was simply too big and that I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.  What I didn’t realise was happening at the time, though, was that these two days break was giving my mind a chance to rest, clear and catch up with myself.  Yes, it is a great thought that my book would just write itself and be seen one day in its raw and natural nature, but even my slap-dash seat-of-my-pants style needs a bit of moulding at times.  I had two threads of the story – the 1684 and the 2002 ones – hanging loose with no apparent direction.

But by the time I was ready to continue writing after those two days, the idea just came to me whilst I was driving to work one morning: what if one character could be linked to both time periods but not yet know it? That would be the next phase and that would be what would lead my book over the finish line in the end.

Say hello to phase three…and welcome back optimism!

THE END…?

With a new idea, sense of direction and vigour I attacked the next two weeks, driven not only by my increasing word count and lengthening progress bar, but by the knowledge that I was creating something that I – and hopefully those around me – would be proud of. Having turned a corner in my creative process, ‘Acolyte’ was coming together nicely, the characters were interacting perfectly with the world around them and I had a clear idea of the ending that I was working towards.

Or so I thought.

THE FINAL BOSS

As I was writing the final scene, my old nemesis ‘word count’ and his sidekick ‘deadline day’ came marching proudly towards me, chests puffed and ready to give me a hard time.  However, this time the roles were reversed – my story had come to life so much that I was going to struggle to finish it in time.  At around 45,000 words I approached the final scene, which proved more challenging and more powerful than I had expected. I could not find a way to write my way out of it. The dialogue kept flowing but I felt further and further away from reaching the ending.

The scene is set in a cell, with a heated exchange between Truman Darke and Mason Stamford.  I won’t say anymore as I do not wish to give anything away to those who have not read my book yet, but I am sure those who have, know the scene of which I speak.  I also hope that the struggle I had trying to reach the climax of this part is not obvious.

Great, I thought.  So close yet I felt so far from finishing my novel and achieving my goal.  I still had so much more to tell and was rapidly running out of time.

That is when it finally dawned on me (again!) – NaNoWriMo does not set out to pressure you to write a great novel in only 50,000 words.  It inspires you to write 50,000 words of a great novel.  On my final night writing during NaNoWriMo – which was November 27th, if I remember rightly – I took a breath, let the final lines of this final chapter appear on the screen and smashed through the 50k barrier and could finally call myself a winner.

I went to bed happy that night, with a feeling that a huge weight had been lifted from my chest.  At that point I had no idea that anyone would ever get to read my story, and merely planned to use my ‘2 free paperback copies’ prize that I had earned so that I could give a physical copy of it to my children one day.

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Whatever would happen with ‘Acolyte’, I didn’t care at that moment.  I had set out to create something from my own mind – a world in which I had lived for a whole month; morning and night – and could even soon be able to hold it in my hands.

Since NaNoWriMo, ‘Acolyte’ has taken on a whole new life.  I stepped away from it throughout December and didn’t even have any intention of adding to the story.  As far as I was concerned, I had left it at a strong point to set up the sequel, if I indeed wanted to write the rest of the trilogy. But my imagination had other ideas, and a better ending began to take shape.  Throughout January, I added a further 20,000 words to the book and in February responded to a submissions ad on Facebook.

The ad belonged to Bloodhound Books.  The rest of my own journey is still being written.

———

I was hoping to participate in NaNoWriMo 2015 but my newest novel ‘The Sowing Season’ would not wait that long.  I am currently 40,000 words down on this book, but have set myself the same 50,000 word target throughout November to help me reach my target of having it written by Christmas.

For anyone wanting to participate in the event themselves, I can only say ‘do it’!  Let it be the push you need to get your stories onto paper where they belong.  If I am to impart any wisdom at all, however, I would say make the word count your friend. It should give you something to focus on and work towards  But don’t let it become your sole focus; there’s no point having a 50,000-word novel if it makes no sense and doesn’t achieve anything that you want it to.

Don’t be afraid to pass the word count. If you have time to go and still more to write, smash through that barrier.  If you find you can’t achieve it, so what?  You’ve given it a go.  It may just be the start that you need for your novel to grow in your own time.

I’d like to thank Chris for inspiring me to get cracking this November. How about joining in too?

First-time author Chris originally hailed from Basingstoke but moved to sunny Devon after graduating from Staffordshire University in 2005. he lives in Newton Abbot with his wife and twin children, and currently works as a logistics supervisor.

Chris cites James Herbert, Dean Koontzz, H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe amongst his literary heroes.

Being a fan of horror film and fiction, sci-fi and heavy metal, he naturally worked towards his own novel whilst writing three different short stories – all of which will have morphed in some way to form what will become ‘The Wildermoor Apocalypse’ trilogy.

Catch up with Chris on TwitterFacebook and his Website

You can find out more about Chris’s books here and buy ‘Acolyte’ here. There are other blogs too that are featuring Chris:

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Her Montana Cowboy by Molly Ann Wishlade

Having read the whole of Molly Ann Wishlade’s ‘The Duggans of Montana’ series, I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for the latest book ‘Her Montana Cowboy’. Apart from bringing you news of the book and some information about Molly Ann, I am delighted that she has agreed to answer some of my questions and to give away an ebook of this lovely romantic and erotic story. I also have my review of ‘Her Montana Cowboy’ below.
 
 
The story:

Falling in love wasn’t part of Huyana’s plan, but when Matthew Duggan claims her as his own, she has to open her heart or risk losing everything. Life has been tough for Huyana. From the moment of her violent conception, the odds were stacked against her. Meeting Matthew Duggan and his family changes her life forever.

Family can be close. People can be kind. Love can be good. But a lifetime of rejection and abuse is difficult to overcome and Huyana struggles to trust the man she loves. There are secrets in her past and she fears revealing them.

Can Huyana find the happiness she craves and allow herself to be claimed by her Montana cowboy?

Where to buy:
About the author:

Molly Ann Wishlade has always been an avid reader and writer of stories. Her lifetime of reading has taken her from the magical worlds of ‘The Faraway Tree’ and ‘The Borrowers’, to the Greek myths and legends,
to ‘Sweet Valley High’ and Judy Blume’s ‘Forever’, to Asimov’s science fiction, Jane Eyre’s torment and Stephen King’s masterpieces. More recently she has wandered through the vivid historicals of Philippa Gregory; the bubbly, gritty delights of Adele Parks and the fast paced thrillers of James Patterson. She loves getting lost in a novel and often regrets finishing one as the characters are usually missed like old friends. She regularly indulges her insatiable hunger for romance and passion in the delicious worlds created by romantic novelists and is working on several of her own!

What precious spare time she has is spent with her family (one gorgeous husband and two bright and beautiful children), taking long walks around the beautiful Welsh countryside (although she’s still waiting for the rescue greyhound she wants to accompany her), cooking her own secret recipe curries, drinking Earl Grey (in copious amounts) and discovering delicious wines. Oh, and she also loves to ski and can’t wait to go again! And buying shoes!

She wants to take readers on the rollercoaster that is life through the creation of her own characters, relationships and worlds. She appreciates feedback, recipes and wine recommendations.

Here Molly Ann answers my questions about her books:

Congratulations on the publication of Her Montana Cowboy. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer questions on my blog today.

Thanks so much for having me over, Linda!

Firstly, please could you tell readers a little about yourself?

I’m a wife, mother, author and teacher. I live in Wales in the UK with my family – my husband, two children, two dogs and four bearded dragons. I write erotic romance and have written contemporary stories but I have a passion for writing historical romance, especially westerns.

I know that you have a very busy life, so how do you manage to fit in your writing and what are your writing routines?

I write whenever and wherever I can. I constantly make notes on my IPhone, in note books (there’s one in every room, including the bathroom!) and even on the back of receipts if that’s all there is available. It’s hard fitting writing in around my busy life but writing is my creative outlet and I’d be unhappy if I didn’t do it.

If you had a 60 second speed date with a reader, what would you tell them about your books?

My books are about life and love. I enjoy exploring the ‘what if’ by setting my stories in different times and places. I aim to write hot, sensual romance packed with emotion and with characters readers can identify with.

Why did you decide to set your books in Montana and this era and how do you make sure you get the details accurate?

I love historical cowboy stories; I always have. I used to watch Saturday afternoon westerns with my granny as a child and it influenced my desire to set my stories in a time and place when life was tough and when people had to work hard just to survive. They had to carve out their lives in a land that was still so untamed. I adore being out in the wild (although it’s mountain walks here in Wales) because I like the sense of freedom it brings. It reminds me how insignificant we are with all our troubles and worries in this life; it reinforces my understanding of how we’re all just a part of something much bigger. It helps me to put things into perspective. I chose Montana because it’s such a beautiful place, one I hope to visit in the future.

I also research – a lot! I have folders on my computer for each book with notes and websites to visit to ensure that the details are accurate. Totally Bound also has fabulously experienced editors who check each story carefully.

When I read your books I get a very clear visual image of setting and characters. Do you use photos or mood boards to help you when you write or is there something else that helps you create such visual pieces?

I make copious notes about setting and characters. I have folders on Pinterest and folders on my computer. I also use music to stimulate certain moods.

Her Montana Cowboy is the third in your Duggans of Montana series. What did you hope to achieve in this book that builds on or is different from ‘Harlot at the Homestead’ and ‘A Rancher for Rosie’?

Each book is about a different character in the series, so each one should tell a different story. I wanted to create a sense of a close, loving family while making the characters very different. In Harlot at the Homestead, Catherine and Kenan have had a very difficult time. They were kept apart by circumstances manufactured by other people and their reunion is a joyous yet painful one. In A Rancher for Rosie, the two main characters Rosie and Joshua have had relatively sheltered lives yet their conflict lies in the age difference and his family’s reactions to it. While in Her Montana Cowboy, Huyana has experienced humiliation and devastation, thinking she would never be loved. Matthew is her knight in shining armour, but she has to let him in, to open her heart, or risk losing everything.

When you began writing this series, did you have several books mapped out or have they evolved in another way?

The books were all mapped out and there are more to come. Of course, as I’m writing them, things change as characters develop, but the basic overview remains the same.

Without any plot spoilers if possible, what can we expect next in the Duggans of Montana series?

The next one will be Emmett’s story. We haven’t seen much of him in the first three books as he’s a quiet chap, but he will make himself known very soon!

Some readers shy away from reading the kind of erotic fiction you write. What would your message to them be?

Reading preferences are very personal. I enjoy reading different genres and can read a thriller one day, a sweeping Tudor historical the next and a BDSM erotic romance after that. Like all genres, erotic romance varies dramatically from book to book. In my erotic romances, I try to blend the erotic moments with the love stories and the character development. It’s part of the characters’ growth not tagged on just to hit the erotic market. So I would like to say ‘give it a go’ because you never know until you try…

Your books contain some very difficult themes which might surprise some readers, such as the choices women have to make, the problems of being mixed race or how senile dementia affects not just the individual. Why did you choose to weave them into your stories!

Because they matter to me.

Love is something that affects us all in some way, whether it’s love for a partner, love for family or love for friends. Yet I’m also interested in how women have always been at the core of society, making tough decisions while holding their families together. As humans, we have many differences but we also have many similarities too. Keeping those we love safe, close and in good health is all that matters at the end of the day. I’ve seen the effect that senile dementia can have on a person and on their family, and it’s very sad. Life isn’t easy for anyone and I want that to come through in my writing. We love, we lose, we hurt; yet there is so much joy to be had if we just grab it with both hands. None of us know how long we have, so it’s important to make the most of our time.

On a lighter note, which of the Montana men you’ve created so far, which would you most like as a life partner and why?

Ha ha! Can’t I have them all?

Each of my Montana men epitomizes the characteristics I admire in men. My ultimate hero is, of course, my wonderful husband, and many of my fictional men have elements of his strength, honesty, resilience, integrity and ability to love deeply.

Is there anything else you would like to tell readers about yourself or your writing?

I would like to thank every reader who buys one of my books. To those readers and bloggers who take the time to rate the stories and to review, I am very grateful. As an author, it can get lonely when you’re typing away at your computer, then when your story emerges and is sent out into the world, it’s a nail-biting time.

Not every reader will like every story. We are all very different. But if you do enjoy one of my books, I’d love it if you drop me a line to let me know.

Thank you for having me at your blog today! XXX

My absolute pleasure.

Follow Molly Ann  Wishlade here:

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Reviews

Harlot at the Homestead

A Rancher for Rosie

‘Her Montana Cowboy’ 

It’s always an anxious moment when you read a third book from an author, having enjoyed the others. There is a danger that you may be disappointed. I needn’t have worried. Molly Ann Wishlade has created such an identifiable Montana family in the Duggans that ‘Her Montana Cowboy’ is equally as good as ‘Harlot at the Homestead’ and ‘A Rancher for Rosie’.

Dual heritage Huyana is looking after William, after his wife has died, and he is suffering from dementia. She is in love with Matthew Duggan who seems to have feelings for her too, but Huyana has a past that will surely undermine any love he may have for her.

What I have enjoyed so much in Molly Ann Wishlade’s writing is her consistency of approach. Certainly this is a work of erotic fiction and those scenes are written with sensuality and passion, so that the reader gets into the emotional heart of the characters, but it is so much more too.

There is an incredible authenticity of setting and time, obviously resulting from meticulous research that completely transports readers to the very ranches and towns of the time. I can definitely picture the bar very vividly.

But for me, alongside the enjoyment of excellent writing and a really engaging plot, it is the themes of social and economic history that make ‘The Duggans of Montana’ such great books to read. The treatment of Huyana, in ‘Her Montana Cowboy’, as a mixed race woman is so genuine for the setting of the book and the vacillating lucidity of William’s illness is a condition many of us face in our real lives so that we can fully empathise with the characters. There’s a genuineness to the writing that adds layers of detail and draws in the reader.

If you haven’t yet discovered Molly Ann Wishlade’s Montana world of the Duggans I urge you to do so. You won’t be disappointed.

Guest Post by Tara Guha, author of Untouchable Things

One of the lovely aspects of blogging is belonging to a supportive community and I’m fortunate to be part of Book Connectors on Facebook where I ‘met’ today’s featured guest author Tara Guha.

Untouchable Things

Tara’s novel is available in e-book and paperback and was published by Legend Press on 1st September 2015.

Tara and I discussed our experiences of reading and how it had been affected by studying or teaching English. We agreed that a love of the subject isn’t all plain sailing. Here’s what Tara thinks:

Stop – don’t read!

If you want to write, read. That’s what we’re told, isn’t it? To write well you should read everything you can get your hands on, and then read some more. I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen that advice.

Well, dear reader, it didn’t work for me. For three years of my life I read non-stop. I read for a minimum of eight hours a day and frequently much more. I read 14th century romances, 20th century American fiction, 19th century poetry and pretty much everything in between. I read small print, large page, old English prose at a rate of one page per minute: I know this because that was the rate I had to maintain in order to get my weekly reading done. Every 60 seconds, turn. Keep reading!

I was doing an English degree at Cambridge. In those days, and these too, English meant English literature. The greats. The iconic heavyweights of literature that have shaped our relationship to reading (and life) ever since. Each week I would read the main work in question and then several books of context and criticism before attempting to condense all the various viewpoints, my own included, into a hand-written essay.

Oh, the enviable life of the English student. Sitting out in the sunshine browsing a book while everyone else is in lectures. Reading up on the roof when the rest of the year is doing exams (and hates you). Reading alongside fellow English students, tucked up in college rooms, sipping tea and coffee and more tea.

What a breeze.

It had its moments, I’ll admit. I’ve loved reading since the moment I could do it, so having a mandate to discover more and more wonderful books should have been a dream come true.  Doing what is for most of us a hobby and calling it studying gives English students the reputation of dossers, and I can see why it looks that way. But the truth is that reading in such a pressurised way started to erode the joy of it, and the need to maintain a critical stance denied me the wonder of getting properly lost in a book. In fact, for a good year after my degree I barely picked up a book. I couldn’t help analysing everything I read; I felt as if I’d eaten from the tree of knowledge and lost my innocence. It left a strange hole in my life.

But the rot didn’t stop there. While I eventually started reading again – in a somewhat faltering way, but gaining momentum – the more lasting damage was to my writing. As a child I wrote reams – poetry, stories, songs and random musings. But after three years of immersing myself in all the great works of literature my overriding thought was, what on earth can I have to say that hasn’t been said already (and better)? As soon as I started writing something, the critic in me sneered at it and I usually ended up eating biscuits or watching TV instead. I have a lot of two sentence-length pieces of writing from that time.

Several years later it dawned on me that being creative and being a critic are two diametrically opposed impulses. Many creative children who write well are encouraged to study English, ie to learn to be a critic instead of nurturing their own creativity. Looking back, I’d say that although I loved the whole university experience, English was probably the worst possible subject I could have chosen because I’m fundamentally someone who likes to create rather than critique. It seems counter-intuitive and perhaps people who have more confidence in their own ability to write would not experience this as extremely as I did. But I suspect I’m not alone in having this reaction.

It wasn’t until a friend bought me The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron for my thirtieth birthday that I began to re-engage with my own creativity. Interestingly, one of the exercises she suggests is to stop reading altogether for a week. No newspapers, websites, books, cereal packets – nothing. A complete detox in order to access your own voice, your own thoughts and feelings. I followed the programme religiously and at the end of it I had succeeded in opening the door just a bit on the part of me that had effectively been shut away.

Several years down the track and that door is open most of the time. I’ve just had my first novel, Untouchable Things, published and I’ve brought music back into my life too. I’ve made peace with my internal critic and acknowledge that he (yup, he’s a he) is important but can’t be allowed to dominate, or I’ll never write another word. And in a nice loop back to that English degree, Untouchable Things is peppered with literary references and I realise that my characters’ reverence for those great works of literature mirrors my own. The years of intensive study taught me to truly appreciate them, but those magnum opuses are no longer a block to my own writing. They exist as entirely separate, timeless, self-contained works of mastery that enrich my life but bear little or no relation to my own tortuous works-in-progress.

Talking of which, there’s a document open alongside this one entitled “novel number two” that I really should get back to. And you, if I might say, have been reading for more than long enough. It’s been nice to chew the fat – but don’t you have some writing to do?

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I totally understand Tara’s viewpoint and can’t wait to lose myself in reading the outcome of her regained creativity, ‘Untouchable Things’.

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You can find out more about Tara here. She is also on Twitter and Facebook

Poems for the Common Man by Angelique Forbes

Poems 1

I was delighted to be sent this slim volume of poems after National Poetry Day. ‘Poems for the Common Man’ by Angelique Forbes was published by Austin Macauley on 30th September 2015 and is available in both paperpack and ebook.

I rarely read poetry these days after a lifetime of studying and teaching it, so it was a great pleasure to be reminded just how evocative and moving poems can be.

With just a couple of exceptions, Angelique Forbes writes from a first person perspective, making her words all the more intimate and affecting. There are poems of great love, passion, loss and memory. I loved ‘The Pages of Time’ which contains thoughts we’ve all had at some point – do past loves remember us and the line ‘Will his ears’ memory drum with the beat of my voice’ summed up that question perfectly for me.

Angelique Forbes creates a real sense of who she is as a person and her background comes through especially strongly in ‘Childhood Memories’, ‘Mum’ and the dialect written ‘Yuh Waan Cum A Englan?’

The intensity of feeling is conveyed through many references to the abyss, volcanic eruption and oblivion which show just how passionate the writer is. I also liked the variety of style with the use of enjambment as in ‘Mystery’, the staccato lone breaks and repetition for effect so that the depth of emotion, including love and hate, becomes clearer the more times a poem is read.

Angelique Forbes’ poems are moving and accessible. No matter what your attitude to poetry, I think few would argue with the sentiment at the end of KY-ANDREI:

GIVE ME A WORLD WITHOUT/ DEATH, PAIN, HEARTACHE/ AND I GIVE YOU A/ NON-EXISTENT WORLD

Harry Potter: The Character Vault by Jody Revenson

Harry Potter

My grateful thanks to Lydia Gittings at Titan Books for a copy of ‘Harry Potter: The Character Vault’ by Jody Revenson in exchange for an honest review. It was published on 25th September 2015.

‘Harry Potter:The Character Vault’ is the third in a series of books written by Jody Revenson and published by Titan including ‘Harry Potter: The Creature Vault’ and ‘Harry Potter: Magical Places from the Films’.

The book is divided into nine chapters and moves through the Hogwarts’ students and staff, and other elements like tournaments, celebrations and dark forces. It is a real coffee table delight, so that even the end papers are gorgeous. At the back there is a special pocket containing two posters of portraits: one of The Order of the Phoenix characters and the other the Death Eaters.

I was totally unaware of this series of books associated with the Harry Potter films until I received this sumptuous book. I can see it being absolutely essential for Harry Potter fans. It would also be a fascinating read for those studying media and film as it has extensive details about how the characters were created visually through fabric, colour, hair and makeup. It is interesting to see, for example, how Rupert Grint was dressed so terribly at the yule ball so that there would be greater sympathy for his character Ron Weasley in having to wear out moded clothes. I can’t imagine the Lucius Malfoy that was originally envisaged until his actor, Jason Isaacs, had input to the clothing to become the iconic villain we all know.

There are first person anecdotes from the actors alongside the ‘technical’ details which give a vitality and freshness to the text. I liked the brief quotations form the J K Rowling books too that support the text and illustrations. The illustrations are a triumph, with full colour plates (the one of Voldemort on p.167 is amazing), photographs, line drawings and film stills. I found the separate little Death Eater Masks booklet quite disturbing!

I particularly enjoyed the ‘behind the scenes’ details explaining how choices were made and why some details were different to the characters as they are presented in the JK Rowling books. I had no idea that Daniel Radcliff (Harry Potter himself) couldn’t wear coloured contact lenses to turn his blue eyes green or that Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix) perforated Matthew Lewis’ (Neville Longbottom) ear with her wand. Even though I’ve read all the Harry Potter books twice and seen all the films at least once, there were some characters I’d forgotten like Kingsley Shacklebolt so that reading ‘Harry Potter: The Character Vault’ really brought back those experiences fully.

‘Harry Potter: The Character Vault’ by Jody Revenson is a perfect book for Harry potter fans, although with one proviso. I think the text is too complex for many under 10s who are Harry Potter fans, but it would suit others completely.

How to Make a Friend by Fleur Smithwick

How to Make a Friend

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for Fleur Smithwick’s book ‘How to Make a Friend‘ which was published in paperback by Black Swan on 8th October 2015. It is also available as an ebook.

The Story

As a lonely child, Alice found comfort the same way so many others do – she invented a friend. Sam was always there when she needed him, until one day… he wasn’t.

Now, Alice has a happy, normal life; she has a handful of close friends and a career as a photographer.

But when a tragic accident shatters the world Alice has constructed, the sense of isolation that haunted her in childhood returns. And with it, so does Sam.

To Alice, he looks and feels like a real person, but how can that be?

And who will decide when it is time for him to leave again?

Praise for How to Make a Friend:

‘An intriguing and extremely sinister debut’ – Woman&Home

‘An absolute must-read’ – OK!

‘An original idea, cleverly executed’ – Sunday Mirror

‘A great winter read’ – Woman’s Own

‘A fascinating story about the power of the mind’ – IMAGE

‘A tense, intriguing and must-read debut’ – Irish Country Magazine

As part of her paperback book launch celebrations, Fleur has provided me with a list of her five favourite and most read childhood and teenage books. She says they are her ‘comfort books’:

‘The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe’ by CS Lewis

‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte

‘Pride and Prejudice’ by Jane Austen

‘These Old Shades’ by Georgette Heyer

‘Gone With the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell

I’ve read four of Fleur’s choices and I have to agree that they are amazing.

Fleur Smithwick CURRENT (C) Liz McAulay

FLEUR SMITHWICK was brought up in London and studied French Literature & Language at Southampton University. She worked in various jobs, before becoming a full-time writer. As well as novels, Fleur writes short stories and has won The Writers’ Village and Segora competitions. She lives in Richmond with her husband and two children.

Find her on Twitter: @FleurSmithwick

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Harwood • SHarwood@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk • 020 8231 6738 • @SarahHarwood_

There are some other lovely blogs taking place too so you might want to have a look.

BlogTour (3)

Love and War Guest Post by Chris Cherry

I encountered Chris Cherry via Facebook and when I realised he writes about a period of history that fascinates me and he donates money to the Royal British Legion from his books I was delighted when he agreed to be a guest on my blog. Today he’s talking about the human impact of the First World War.

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Chris’s books are available on Amazon in both ebook and paperback, but if readers would like signed copies they can be found on Chris’s website. Mentioning lindasbookblog will get you 20% off too!

Love and War – Historical Novels

by Chris Cherry

Chris

Where to start? I think I need to start from the beginning – that is France in 1898. So a question – why France and why then?

My first understanding of the First World War was when All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque was put on to my school reading list. I had no understanding of the War, its origins, motives and legacy. I knew nothing of the trench, of the humour and of course, the suffering. I read the War poets – some had a political message, others simply told of a brutal reality though alliterative rhyme. Remember the haunting words of Wilfred Owen in Dulce et Decorum Est – “To hear, at every jolt…” How could one not be moved to know more, when John McRae pours out his love for his lost friend and comrade by the side of the Yser canal In Flanders Fields. So it was that one little boy was hooked, transfixed and transported to a time long ago, but not quite forgotten.

You see, it is a period that can still be touched to this day. A golden thread of family surviving through history. Each day a reader may send me a picture of their lost relative, perhaps killed or missing. Looking back at me from the sepia dignity of a tattered portrait print are their unmistakably shared family features – of course they are us. They had lives, loved and were loved as McRae goes on to say in his immortal poem. I want to tell their stories. I cannot be them, they had a personality all of their own. So I tell a greater truth through fiction.

It can be tempting to focus on the army in France or Flanders. Indeed, to many, the war itself was just that – mud and gore on the Western Front. But it was a truly World War, fought on land, sea and air across a great deal of Europe, Africa and Asia. Most certainly it touched lives across the globe, missing no-one in its path of desolation.

Bazentin Ridge Piper

It is perhaps, all too easy to forget. I am not so focused on who was or is to blame, who to judge harshly and whose piety to extol. For me, it is simply a balancing act trying to treat history with remembrance and respect but yet to still to be able to tell a story, a fiction in context. I write dialogue for real people, imagining their true character and hope that whatever their motive and true nature, I neither dishonour, nor celebrate. I write characters that are evil, beyond redemption and who may have living family somewhere in this world. It is a challenge, as I have written in the voice of a soldier in the trenches, a young girl stolen from France and imprisoned in Germany and a Nazi, lost inside the madness of the time. Their language may not have been complex or cultured and for me it would be a mistake to write with a modern tongue or ear, with a modern sensitivity. For this, I may sometimes be criticised – and so be it. They lived then and not now, in our time. That time is theirs to keep.

For me, the true story is of the people. They are just like us, felt like us andsuffered as we would. I could talk about understanding the history, using my novels as an educational tool, perhaps even entertaining along the way. But, for me, it comes down to one thing. A family. A family needs love, care and an investment of time and emotion to nurture. Imagine that for a moment. Not all families survive. Some are lost to relationship breakdown, loss or other cause. Now imagine that a War emerges and strikes at the heart of your life. Now you may find yourself on the first page of my novel – where I find my own mind as I write.

I have seen so little written about the effects of War in other countries – imagine the battlefield in your own town. I once wrote a short story at school entitled “The Battle of The Ouse”, in which the trenches were not in France and Belgium, the East or Turkey, but in England and Scotland. Imagine opening your front door to a cemetery with ten thousand Unknown Soldiers and you can begin to feel it a little I am sure.

So, I set the Mad Game stories in France – which I hope offers a unique perspective on the War and its impact.

The mad game

The Great War is surrounded by myths and misunderstanding; emotions on the subject still run high. Some may focus on the facts and figures and some on the stories. All of these standpoints hold a validity in the commemoration of the conflicts past. I try not to use my novels as a lectern or blackboard, but as a mirror on our own lives. How did Kurt lose his humanity so absolutely? How did a timid little girl survive the camps to grow up into a strong and fine woman? It is because they held on to something deep and precious – or lost it along the way.

Odile's War3rd light

The period holds a deep interest for me, the thread is the poppy and its symbolism to us all. For me it isn’t just this time of year – October and November, but all year. I visit the battlefields often, researching and learning, speaking to those that live there and documenting my feelings along the way. It is a pilgrimage, if that is not too emotive or presumptuous, my small way of showing respect and comradeship to those left behind.

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So it was that The Mad Game series was written to benefit the Royal British Legion. I have spent many a day with veterans of both World Wars and tried to capture their stories and tell them on again to a new generation. The money that I raise is used to support those that are left and those of more modern times in need of comfort and financial or emotional support.

Complete series

I am now working on a new series of novels – the Silent Brothers trilogy, still forming part of the Love and War theme. Meet on Waggon Road is nearing completion and will be the first book of the three. A Girl in the Shop Window will follow (named after a line I heard from a Normandy veteran in 2014) and the final book will be called Rest My Silent Brothers and this could be out before the end of 2016.

I’d like to thank Chris for taking the time to write such a though provoking guest post about a time in history we shouldn’t forget.