An Interview with Ross Greenwood, Author of Lazy Blood

Lazy Blood 2

Today I’m returning to an interview I conducted with Ross Greenwood as his novel Lazy Blood is rebranded by Bloodhound Books with a fabulous new cover. Lazy Blood is available for purchase in e-book here.

It’s always a pleasure when I encounter a local author and when I discovered that Ross Greenwood lives less than 15 miles away from me I had to invite him on to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me a little bit about his debut novel Lazy Blood. Luckily Ross agreed to be interviewed.

Lazy Blood

Lazy Blood

Drifting through Life? Beware.

Coasting through life, Will paid little attention to the decisions he made or the consequences of his actions. From his prison cell, after a casual descent into serious crime threatens to destroy everything, he finally understands. He had it all, he just didn’t know it.

Looking back over thirty years Lazy Blood is a laugh-out-loud story of the drama of love, the endurance of friendship, the frailty of life and how they can all be ruined by broken people, random events and idle choices.

An Interview with Ross Greenwood

Hi Ross. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your book  ‘Lazy Blood’.

Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?

I’m a 42 year old that has taken a year or so out to write a couple of books and share the child care. I did 4 years in the prison service recently and before that had a large variety of jobs for a short time before getting a travel bug in my late twenties and kept flitting about. So I came to fatherhood quite late and have two children under 6. I sometimes dream about sleep.

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I started this 5 years ago but it wasn’t until I got started again last March that I decided ‘Right I’m going to see this through.’ I had some great help from friends and colleagues who read the book as I went along and helped with the never-ending search for typos. It was them who encouraged me to publish it as they had never read a book quite like it.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

I’ve always wanted to be a travel writer, but I suspect my partner might have something to say about me skipping off on free holidays!

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

I have mostly written about themes I know; travelling, the prison, school life etc. so it should be very realistic. Prison is very different to how people think it is. My last job in the prison was in resettlement so I had hundreds of 1-2-1’s with prisoners (residents as we are now supposed to call them!!) and got a real feel for their fears and motivations. I also knew I was leaving 6 months before I did so I questioned many on their issues with addiction. All were happy to do it, and their drives and causes are fascinating but will be shocking to many. The lack in value some have of their own lives is astounding. There is also a strong sense of helplessness in that they want to change but don’t know where to look for help and don’t have the skillset to do it themselves. We often lock up the most vulnerable and just the mere process of being taken out of your life leaves you an enormous hill to climb upon release. I have quite a diverse range of friends too, so anything I was not confident about I ran past them.

There are only a few chapters in the prison setting, it is really a book about growing up and how people face the challenges they are presented with. There are some great reviews on amazon for people to read which can give them a bit more insight.

(Blog readers can see those reviews here)

I know you have first-hand experience of the prison service (not as a prisoner I hasten to add). How did this influence your setting for ‘Lazy Blood’?

I had the idea of the book for a long time but I was struggling for a dramatic start and finish. One of the main aspects of working in that environment is that you are exposed to complete extremes. Some people live lives that are so chaotic and crazy it is sometimes hard to believe. Ideas galore!

How far do you think the travel you’ve done has influenced your writing?

That’s probably how I started. When Hotmail first became popular I was travelling in South East Asia and started to do a group email to keep friends and family up to date. They all loved it, and some of them said I should write a book. I was a founder-blogger, I just didn’t realise it!

Again with travelling you are exposed to a lot of people, very quickly and in some strange environments. Meeting different, interesting people is one of the best aspects of travelling.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

When writing from personal experience I found it just rolled out of me. I could do 5000 words a day. Sitting down and getting on with it is the hardest now. Facebook is a deadly invention for the stay-at-home author.

(Facebook and twitter are pretty deadly for bloggers too actually Ross!)

I know you wrote ‘Lazy Blood’ in the early hours of the morning while nursing a baby.  What are your writing routines now and where do you do most of your writing?

I finished the book between March and September and found I was really productive before 7 a.m. Everyone is asleep and I really got into the zone. I haven’t found it as easy in the winter as it is cold and dark, so I have taken to sitting in the dining room between 8.30 a.m. and 1 p.m. My productivity has definitely dipped so maybe I will get back to those 4 a.m. starts, although I do get complaints then as I’m not very lively after about 8 p.m. and liable to nod off!

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

I will literally read anything. I used to read the breakfast cereal boxes when I was little. I love sitting down with a good book and some sweets or a plate of sandwiches. It’s nasty for my waistline. Recently I’ve read some Nick Alexander, Nick Spalding, Jimmy Boyle and I still have Anna Karenina on the go. It’s been about a year and I’m about 400 pages in. The first few chapters were excellent and  began to see what all the fuss was about but I’m finding it incredibly gruelling now.

(Oh you have to continue with Anna Karenina – I loved it!)

Why did you set the book ‘Lazy Blood’ in Peterborough?

A big theme of the book is that the friends you meet at school tend to stay with you throughout your life. Also the fact that even if you move away; uni, job, travelling etc you tend to get drawn back to your home town, often when things have gone wrong. So this is a story of four friends and how they keep coming back to Peterborough and each other. Peterborough is not perfect but it gets a lot of bad press, so I wanted to help put our City on the map and write a cracking story which also shows Peterborough as a good place to live.

If you could chose to be a character from ‘ Lazy Blood’, who would you be and why?

I would have to be Will as there are some semi-autobiographical parts in it. Obviously I haven’t been as mischievous as Will.

If ‘Lazy Blood’ became a film, who would you like to play the characters?

Tom Hardy would play the character Darren. That would be a good fit. Will is a bit trickier. Perhaps Andrew Garfield who played Spiderman – a man with strength but also a little vulnerable. Carl would definitely be one of the In-Betweeners. Aiden would be the brother from Everybody Loves Raymond as I can’t think of another actor like that. You would have to hope he could do a good English accent.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that ‘Lazy Blood’ should be their next read, what would you say?

Funny, shocking, sad. This book will blow you away. The eBook is just £1.99 too!

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions Ross.

Ross

Readers can find out more about Ross and Lazy Blood on Ross’s Facebook page and his web site where you’ll find more about the setting and places featured in Lazy Blood. You can also follow Ross on Twitter.

 

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter by Dinah Jefferies

Silk merchants daughter

Having so loved Dinah Jefferies’ novel The Tea Planter’s Wife which spent several weeks as a Sunday Times number one best seller, I am thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for The Silk Merchant’s Daughter which is published in hardback and e-book by Penguin Random House on 25th February 2016. The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is available on Amazon UK.

I am honoured to have received an early reader copy of The Silk Merchant’s Daughter and you can read my review beneath the extract from the book.

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter

War, secrets and an unbearable choice: your sister or your lover?

1952, French Indochina. Since her mother’s death, eighteen-year-old half-French, half-Vietnamese Nicole has been living in the shadow of her beautiful older sister, Sylvie. When Sylvie is handed control of the family silk business, Nicole is given an abandoned silk shop in the Vietnamese quarter of Hanoi. But the area is teeming with militant rebels who want to end French rule, by any means possible. For the first time, Nicole is awakened to the corruption of colonial rule – and her own family’s involvement shocks her to the core…

Tran, a notorious Vietnamese insurgent, seems to offer the perfect escape from her troubles, while Mark, a charming American trader, is the man she’s always dreamed of. But who can she trust in this world where no one is what they seem?

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is a captivating tale of dark secrets, sisterly rivalry and love against the odds, enchantingly set in colonial era Vietnam.

Silk merchants daughter

An extract from The Silk Merchant’s Daughter

Hanoi, Vietnam

Nicole sniffed air heady with the scent of wild gardenia, the shiny green leaves and fragrant white flowers of the shrub carpeting the partially shaded area of the garden. She glanced down from her bedroom window and spotted her father checking that everything was perfect outside. Still a handsome man, his well-cut dark hair, with just a scattering of silver, made him seem especially distinguished and, although it was irritating that he was using her eighteenth birthday party to show off the garden, she had to admit how pretty he’d made it. Incense burned at the French windows of their honey-coloured villa and the garden ponds reflected bright colours from strings of paper lanterns hanging from the branches of two enormous frangipani trees.

Nicole took one last look in the mirror and deliberated. Should she pin a single fuchsia at the side of her long black hair to match the Chinese-collared dress she’d had made for today? The bodice clung to her slim frame like a second skin and, as she moved, the skirt swirled and fell just short of the floor. She listened to Edith Piaf singing ‘Hymne à l’amour’ on the wireless, glanced out of the window again and, deciding against the flower, saw that her sister, Sylvie, was now walking at their father’s side, the two of them with their heads close together as they so often were. For a moment Nicole felt left out and swallowed a brief flash of envy. She ought to be used to it by now, but even before she’d combed her hair or brushed her teeth, her sister looked beautiful; wavy auburn hair, chiselled cheekbones and a perfectly tilted French nose saw to that. Tall, willowy Sylvie had inherited their French father’s looks, while Nicole resembled their long- dead Vietnamese mother and felt conscious of her amber complexion. She drew back her shoulders, shrugged the moment off and left the bedroom; she wasn’t going to let anything spoil her day.

As she strolled through the large, high-ceilinged room leading to the garden, two shining brass-bladed fans freshened the air. The room, like the rest of their home, was elegant and stuffed with exquisite antiques. From her spot in the open doorway she caught sight of a couple of old school friends, Helena and Francine, self-consciously fiddling with their hair in a corner of the garden. She went over to be kissed and hugged. As they chattered about boyfriends and the exams they’d passed, the garden was filling; by the time Nicole finally made her excuses, she saw the French guests had already arrived and were now smoking and drinking, while some of the wealthy Vietnamese had started to promenade in their silks. She noticed a tall, broad-shouldered man in a pale linen suit approach her sister and something about him made Nicole stare for a moment or two. Then she smoothed her hair, drew back her shoulders and went across.

Sylvie touched the man’s arm and smiled at him. ‘Let me introduce you to my sister, Nicole.’

He held out a hand. ‘I’m Mark Jenson. I’ve heard a lot about you.’

She took his hand and glanced up at his face, but the intense blue of his eyes startled her and she had to look away.

‘Mark’s from New York. We met while I was over there,’ Sylvie was saying. ‘He travels all over the world.’

‘It’s your birthday, right?’ he said, and smiled at Nicole.

Nicole swallowed and struggled to find her voice but luckily Sylvie interrupted. ‘There’s somebody I just need to have a word with.’ She waved at a dumpy woman on the other side of the garden, then turned to Mark and giggled as she touched his hand. ‘I won’t be long. Nicole will look after you.’

Mark smiled politely. For a moment the air seemed too thin and Nicole’s breath failed her. She shifted her weight from one leg to the other, then looked up at him properly and tried not to blink too much. His eyes were the colour of sapphires, made even brighter by the contrast with the deep tan of his skin.

‘So,’ she said eventually.

He didn’t speak but was still gazing at her.

Suddenly self-conscious, she touched her chin. Was there something on her face?

‘I didn’t expect you to be so pretty,’ he said.

‘Oh,’ she said and felt confused. ‘I’m sure I’m not.’ But what had he expected and why was he expecting anything at all?

‘Sylvie spoke of you when we were in the States.’

Her thoughts slowly untangled. Of course Sylvie had spoken about her. It was only natural to talk about your family, especially when away from home.

She smiled. ‘Then you know I’m the black sheep.’

He flicked away a lock of hair that kept falling over his right eye. ‘Fire and marquee do come to mind.’

At his gentle teasing, Nicole’s hand flew to her mouth. ‘Oh God, no! She didn’t tell you about that?’

He laughed.

‘I was only thirteen and it was an accident. But this isn’t fair, you’ve already heard stories about me yet I know nothing about you.’

An impulse passed through her. As if he too felt it, he reached out a hand, but she realized it was only to indicate the way. ‘Let’s pick up some champagne and then why don’t you show me round? I’ll tell you everything you want to know.’

As they moved on, a little of the inner tautness she’d felt since being introduced released its grip, though at just five foot two, she felt tiny beside him and wished she’d worn higher heels.

A waiter in a white suit approached with a tray. Mark accepted two glasses and handed them both to Nicole. ‘Do you mind me smoking?’

She shook her head. ‘You don’t sound as if you’re from New York.’

He took out a packet of Chesterfields, lit one and then held out his hand for a glass. Their fingers touched and Nicole felt a jolt run up the underside of her bare arm.

‘I’m not. My father has a small dairy farm in Maine. I grew up there.’

‘What took you away?’

He stood still. ‘Thirst for adventure, I suppose. After my mother died my father did his best but it was never the same.’

The tone of his voice had changed and she recognized the suppressed sadness in it. ‘My mother died too,’ she offered.

He nodded. ‘Sylvie told me.’

There was a moment’s silence.

He sighed again and smiled as if remembering. ‘I did all the usual country things – fishing, hunting – but my passion was motorbikes. Dirt-track racing. The more dangerous the track the more I loved it.’

‘Didn’t you get hurt?’

He laughed. ‘Frequently! But nothing too serious. It was mostly the odd broken ankle and a few cracked ribs.’

She was close enough to him to smell a warm spiciness on his skin. Something about him made her feel happy, but she twisted away slightly and looked up at a sky shot with stars, listening to the sound of cicadas and night birds shuffling in the trees. Mark had taken a step away and she saw that his height gave him that loose-limbed way of walking Americans had in movies; a nonchalant walk conveying ease and confidence.

‘People say May is the last month of spring in Hanoi, but it’s so warm tonight it feels like summer already. Would you prefer to go indoors?’ she said.

‘On a night like this?’

She felt exhilarated and laughed. His short light-brown hair had a curl to it and was now tinged with gold. Someone had lit the torches and the light from the flames flickered on his face and hair.

‘Where are you staying?’

‘At the Métropole, on the Boulevard Henri Rivière.’

At that moment Sylvie reappeared and drew him away. After he’d gone Nicole felt his absence and, despite all the people milling around, the garden seemed empty. She remembered one of their cook Lisa’s favourite sayings: Có công mài sa˘´t có ngày nên kim – if you polish a piece of iron long enough you can make a needle. Though Lisa was French she spoke enough Vietnamese to get by in the markets, and took pride in quoting Vietnamese sayings. Perhaps it was time to apply a little polish to herself, Nicole thought as the live music started up. Time, too, for dancing the night away.

My Review of The Silk Merchant’s Daughter

From the map before the Prologue, I was immediately captivated by The Silk Merchant’s Daughter as I recently visited all the places outlined in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia.

The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is another utterly captivating read. What Dinah Jefferies does so well is to create a sense of place. She weaves the senses effortlessly into her writing so that the reader can see the scene so vividly, smelling the aromas and feeling the silks beneath their hands. I think The Silk Merchant’s Daughter would transfer to the screen brilliantly.

The plot of The Silk Merchant’s Daughter is riveting. It brought to life an era of history I knew very little about, but through Nicole’s perspective, so I could understand the devastating impact on an individual level. The things that happen to Nicole left me reeling and at times I didn’t know if I could bear what was happening. Indeed, it became tricky to decide which characters were trustworthy and I think this is a strength of the book as the twists and turns kept my attention continuously so that I found myself wondering about the characters when I wasn’t reading about them. We don’t ourselves know how we might respond in similar circumstances. We certainly find out man’s inhumanity to man between these pages.

The story is meticulously researched and presented in a manner that enchants and beguiles as themes are skilfully explored. Nicole’s struggle to decide her identity and the difficulties faced by those of mixed race parentage are sensitively portrayed. So too are aspects of family, mental illness, friendship, coming of age and sensuality as well as the broader issues of colonialism, ideology and patriotism. Dinah Jefferies creates a narrative as beautifully woven as the silks in the story as she conveys the emotions of love and hate, fear and happiness in a sumptuous read.

I loved The Silk Merchant’s Daughter and it has confirmed to me that Dinah Jefferies is a superb wordsmith and a wonderful writer.

Tea Planter

You can also read my review of The Tea Planter’s Wife here.

You can follow Dinah Jefferies on Twitter and visit her web site. You’ll also find Dinah on Facebook.

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Cate Woods

Just Havent Met You Yet

My grateful thanks to Alainna Hadjigeorgiou at Quercus Books for a review copy of Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Cate Woods. Just Haven’t Met You Yet was published on 11th February 2016 and is available from Quercus and in e-book and paperback from Amazon UK.

When Percy James receives a mysterious message from Eros Tech claiming to have matched her with her soul mate from the world’s population, curiosity gets the better of her and she agrees to meet the match. Little does she realise what far reaching consequences a simple meeting might have.

I loved Just Haven’t Met You Yet. It was such an engaging and fun read. It’s lighthearted but not lightweight and so well written the story races along.

I enjoyed the premise (which I won’t discuss too much here for fear of spoiling the read for others) and found the events totally plausible and frequently laugh out loud which is unusual for me. It was as if Percy was speaking directly to me with her first person narrative as if I were a close friend so that I was fully involved and cared about what happened to her. There’s a really conversational feel to the writing that is lively and interesting.

The characters are well developed making them thoroughly realistic. The naming of the lead female as Percy is a stroke of genius as readers will appreciate once they’ve read Just Haven’t Met You Yet.

Alongside the romantic comedy that Cate Woods writes so brilliantly, there are some serious issues that give depth and intensity to the story. Relationships obviously feature strongly, but there is also the consideration of how we meet the ‘right’ person for us, the difficulty in being seen as single, how parenthood affects us and what conventionality expects so that Just Haven’t Met You Yet is a truly satisfying read.

At the end, despite the fact that it was exactly as I expected, I found myself grinning from ear to ear. If you enjoy women’s fiction then Just Haven’t Met You Yet is perfect. I’d love to see it made into a film.

Cate Woods is a real talent in women’s fiction and I’m so pleased that she finally has a novel published under her own name. You can find out more about Cate on her web site and you can follow her on Twitter.

The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes by Michael Kurland

HighHeel

It’s my enormous pleasure to be hosting an extract from the latest Alexander Brass Mystery The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes by Michael Kurland to celebrate publication today 23rd February 2016.

Published by Titan in paperback and e-book The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes is available on Amazon UKAmazon US and directly from Titan Books.

About The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes

“A brilliant period piece that fans of the classic thirties mystery will simply devour.”
Midwest Book Review

Newspaper columnist Alexander Brass is back in another captivating mystery. While New York enjoys the smooth sound of jazz and falls in love with swing, chorus girls and con artists are disappearing off the streets.

Two-Headed Mary, the philanthropic panhandler is missing. So is Billie Trask, who disappeared from the cashier’s office of hit show Lucky Lady with the weekend take. Could either of them have followed a third Broadway babe, chorus girl Lydia Laurent—whose dead body has been found in Central Park? It falls to New York World columnist Alexander Brass and his cheerfully wide-eyed sidekick Morgan DeWitt to dig up the truth.

too soon dead

The second stand alone novel in the Alexander Brass series, The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes follows hot on the heels of the spectacularly fun Too Soon Dead, with Kurland recreating the glamour of 1930s Broadway with celebrated wit and intrigue. Engagingly written and intricately plotted, readers old and new will become instantly immersed in this vintage mystery.

An extract from The Girls in the High-Heeled Shoes

The column appeared on Wednesday, September 11. By that afternoon we were fielding phone calls from actors, dancers, stage managers, and other people in “the business,” as the showbusiness folk call their occupation, as though it were the only business on the planet worth considering. And a few from those denizens of Broadway whose professions couldn’t be classified, at least not if they wanted to stay out of jail. None of them had any worthwhile information regarding Two-Headed Mary’s whereabouts, but they all wanted us to know that they thought well of her. By the next morning, we had several letters from chorus girls, and one from a chorus boy, detailing how Two-Headed Mary had helped them with money, advice, or a place to stay when they were in need. I gave the letters to Brass with a note clipped to them that read: “St. Mary of the Grift. Maybe we should pass the story on to Damon Runyon.” He walked by my cubical later and glowered at me and muttered “Runyon indeed,” under his breath.

The next day, which would make it Thursday, at noon I was in the outer office discussing with Gloria the sensitive question of the acquisition of office supplies when the slender, well-groomed scion of the aristocracy, K. Jeffrey Welton, appeared in the doorway. He sported a red and blue striped tie and a red carnation boutonniere in the lapel of his gray cashmere suit jacket. His shoes were glossy black patent leather. His was the sort of elegance that makes we mere mortal men identify with toads; and we envy him but we do not like him. Women, I believe, feel differently—although how a woman can like a man who is habitually prettier than she is, I do not understand.

There are those who claim that the United States of America has no aristocracy; they are misguided. The Weltons and the Vanderbilts and the Astors and the Rockefellers and one particular set of Adamses and some Dutch families whose ancestors were burghers in Nieuw Amsterdam, and some others whose families have been here so long that their names no longer reverberate in casual conversation, are the American aristocracy. Some of these families are social, and are high up in the society Four Hundred, some irrepressible souls make up a part of café society, some pay lawyers and other servants large retainers to see that their names do not come before the public at all.

The Weltons made their money manufacturing shoes in Massachusetts. Welton boots covered the feet of both Union and Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, and American, British, and, it has been alleged, German soldiers during the World War. There was a congressional investigation about the latter incident, but it came to naught.

“Ta, all,” K. Jeffrey said in his clipped, slightly nasal, aristocratic voice. He leaned on his walking stick and smiled into the room. “What’s the good word?” Welton’s father still made shoes, but K. Jeffrey had taken his pittance of the family fortune and shifted it from the shoe business to the show business. You can imagine how his family must have felt about that. But whatever they felt about his choice of profession, they couldn’t argue with his success. He had come straight from Yale to Broadway and started in the esoteric field of play production about the same time I came to New York and began working on the Great American Novel. I had never gotten past page sixty in any of my attempts. K. Jeffrey had already produced four plays: one flop, two that just eked out their nut before closing, and a reasonable success. The success, the musical Lucky Lady, was even now in its sixth month at the Monarch Theater.

“Mr. Welton,” Gloria said, smiling sweetly up at him as he approached her desk. “Mr. Brass supplies the words, we just work here. What can we do for you?”

“This bloody Mary business,” he said, leaning on the desk and smiling down at Gloria. “Has she turned up yet?”

“Two-Headed Mary?” I asked.

“That’s her,” he agreed. “Very clever calling her ‘Matinee Mary,’” he said judiciously, “but then your boss is a clever man.”

“If she has reappeared we have not been told,” Gloria said. “Would you like to speak to Mr. Brass?”

“Sure thing,” Welton agreed. “If the old man is in, I’d like to chew the fat with him.”

“I’ll see,” I said, rising from the chair I had deposited myself in upon Welton’s entry.

“Are you in?” I asked Brass, who was staring out his window at something in New Jersey. “K. Jeffrey Welton would speak with you.”

“What does he want?” He asked, swiveling around in his chair.

“He didn’t say,” I said. “Just that he wants to chew the fat with the old man. By which, of course, I knew immediately that he meant you. Sir.”

Brass grimaced thoughtfully. “I’ll come out,” he said. “It will be easier to get rid of him.”

Welton was leaning against Gloria’s desk when we emerged, watching her. His pose was artfully casual, but there was something about his look that suggested that Gloria was a piece of cheesecake and he had just realized he was hungry. Gloria, who was used to being a piece of cheesecake in men’s eyes, was smiling up at him with a smile of devastating innocence.

Brass took in the pose at a glance. “Welton,” he said. “There’s a biblical injunction against coveting thy neighbor’s employee.”

“He wants me to star in his next show,” Gloria said, batting her eyelids theatrically. “Little me! Imagine!”

“He wants me to star in his next show,” Gloria said, batting her eyelids theatrically. “Little me! Imagine!”

“Get it in writing,” Brass advised. “I’ll have Syd negotiate the deal for you.” Syd Lautman was Brass’s attorney, and a very good and thorough one he was.

Jeffrey grinned. “You people don’t let any grass grow under your palms,” he said. “A little friendly proposition between a man and a woman, and all of a sudden it’s a business deal.”

“Predatory, we are,” Brass said. “Ready to take advantage of the innocent Broadway producer. What can I do for you, Welton?”

“Mary,” Welton said. “I understand she hasn’t turned up yet.” “True,” Brass agreed.

“The girls in my show are worried about her. They suggested I put up a reward for finding her. The idea being if I can do it for someone who’s a thief, I can do it for someone who’s a good Samaritan. And from the stories the girls tell me, Mary is an angel in disguise.”

“A thief?” Brass paused. “Oh, that’s right. Lucky Lady is your show. You mean the Trask girl.”

“That’s right. Billie Trask. Nice kid—I thought. Stole a weekend’s worth of box-office receipts, among other things, and disappeared. I have posted—I guess that’s the word, although I didn’t actually post anything anywhere—a thousand-dollar reward for finding her and my money.”

“Were the receipts that much?” I asked.

“A little less,” he said. “Which means, if they find her with all the money, I won’t quite break even.”

Brass frowned. “Didn’t you have insurance?”

“Sure. It covers the theater rental and utilities for two days.

Paying the cast and crew and the investors, I’m on my own.”

“Do you really think she did it?” I asked.

Jeffrey thought that over for a moment. “I certainly hope she didn’t,” he said. “As I say, I liked her. But the police think she did it. Apparently she had a secret boyfriend, and they think she ran off with him.”

“Do you want me to put that in my column?” Brass asked. “About the reward for Mary?”

“What do you think?” Welton asked.

“Why don’t you wait a few days? Perhaps she’ll return on her own.”

“All right,” Welton agreed. “If you think so. We’ll give her the weekend to show up. Listen, keep me informed, will you?”

“And you,” Brass said. “If you hear anything about either of our two mysteries, let me know.”

Welton nodded. “Turnabout, and all that,” he said. “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another. Well, must be going. Ave atque vale, old amicus.” And with that, and a wave of his hand, he was out the door.

“It shows,” Brass said, “the advantages of a Yale education. One can say goodbye almost entirely in Latin.”

———-

About Michael Kurland

Michael Kurland is the author of more than thirty novels, but is best known for his Edgar-nominated mystery series featuring Professor Moriarty, including The Infernal Device and The Great Game. He has also edited several Sherlock Holmes anthologies and written non-fiction titles such as How to Solve a Murder: the Forensic Handbook.

He lives in Petaluma California.

You can find out more about Michael and his books on his web site.

Reflections by Eleanor Smythe

Reflections Tour Banner

Once again it’s my pleasure to join the fabulous Brook Cottage Books. Today we’re celebrating Reflections by Eleanor Smythe. Reflections is a contemporary fiction, whodunnit that was released on 1st December 2015. It is available to buy on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

As well as telling you all about Reflections, I am delighted to bring you an interview with Eleanor Smythe as well as the opportunity to win a £25 (or equivalent) Amazon gift voucher at the bottom of this blog post.

REFLECTIONS

Sally must deal with the grief of losing her father, a man she knew very little about. After the funeral she takes time out to be alone and reflect on her life.

To find out the truth about him, she first has to make amends with her estranged mother and half-sisters, whom she hasn’t spoken to for almost twenty years.

In the meantime, Mr Leriche from Interpol opens a fascinating old case file, about a stolen painting potentially worth millions. Before long Sally finds herself in the middle of a criminal investigation. Having discovered she is the sole beneficiary to her father’s estate, she must decide whether to develop the business or walk away.

Reflections is an emotional journey.

An Interview with Eleanor Smythe

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Hi Eleanor. Thank you so much for agreeing to answer some questions on my blog about your book  ‘Reflections’. 

Thank you Linda for inviting me onto your blog and for your willingness to support my tour.

Firstly, please could you imagine we are on a one minute speed date and tell me a little about yourself?

It’s along time since I was on a date ha! ha!  Prior to writing I was an Occupational Therapist mostly working in the community. I raised a family of four sons (don’t think I’d say that if I were speed dating) and have an amazingly supportive husband. Ten years ago we decided to live abroad for a while. For several years we split our life between working in the UK and having fun in Portugal. Something more personal about me, I dislike toothpaste tubes being squeezed in the middle.

(I couldn’t agree more about that toothpaste tube!)

When did you first realise you were going to be a writer?

I think I must have felt the desire too write at an early age, not that I did anything about it.  At the age of eleven I told my mother that I intended to write a book one day, needless to say she didn’t take me seriously and the goal drifted into the back ground of my life. Once retired I decided it was time to have another adventure, to be honest retirement didn’t stimulate my mind enough. Thanks to the world of technology suddenly my dream to write a book seemed a possibility. I don’t think I ever truly believed it too be possible for me. Once I’d made the submission to Amazon and physically saw it for sale, that’s when I realised I was going to be writer. I’d actually achieved my goal.

It goes to show that dreams can come true.

If you hadn’t become an author, what would you have done instead as a creative outlet?

I think I would have taken up painting, not because I have talent in this area but I recognise that I have need for solitude and self expression from within. Although I write words I don’t always feel the need to talk. I can be perfectly happy in silence. I’m quite a deep thinker really.

How do you go about researching detail and ensuring your books are realistic?

A great deal comes form my runaway imagination. I begin with a character, as I write about that person I imagine I’m there with them or I am in fact them. What would they do or say in that situation? Then I ask a lot of questions of myself and others if need be. Is it possible, is it probable, is that location likely. Then I look at facts. With Reflections I had to find out where Interpol was located and the departments that dealt with art theft and the rate of success when dealing with art crime. Google map was used to follow the route that Mr Leriche would have taken from his home to his work, at the Interpol head quarters; and later the distance and time it took him to get from the shuttle to Herne Bay.  If I link areas I try to ensure that the motorways used would be accurate.

I get some facts and history from various other sites, like wikipedia or the good old fashioned library. The back ground to Sally’s mother was researched looking at cases documented and from films I’d seen on the subject matter of unmarried mothers in Ireland, around that time. I also had to check out the realistic sentencing for the crime committed because certain crimes have a standard sentence.

Which aspects of your writing do you find easiest and most difficult?

Well, I’m quite young as a writer, only having two books out. I’m sure I will find many pit falls in time to come. So far, for me the most difficult part of the whole process is the marketing and the technical aspects.I make no excuses for repeating myself when I say, if it wasn’t for my technical guru,  author Suzy Turner, I doubt I would have gotten this far. She has been and is a diamond in my life, (it’s not all book stuff we are also great friends). The other part of the process that is difficult for me is time. I’m often torn between other activities in my life and the time I need to sit and get on with it. I never realised how much time is needed, not just to write the book but also for the associated activities as mentioned.

(I think many authors find the marketing tricky, Eeanor.) 

The part that I love is creating the characters and the world that they live in. Unfolding a story and weaving lives together, I get excited when I can use humorous one-liners… that I think are funny. I can lose myself totally when it comes to dialogue between two or more characters, sometimes I have to stop myself and do a double check, to make sure I’m not waffling on. When I get into dialogue with my male characters I really go for it, they can be insulting and aggressive with each other at times and yet I hope I also bring some tenderness in a manly kind of way.       

What are your writing routines and where do you do most of your writing?

I wish you could hear me laughing about the routine question. I guess I could answer with one word WEAK. I don’t have a set routine as such. I’m not a get up and get to it person with my writing. Firstly because the whole point of retiring was not to be a slave to work any longer and secondly because I have a husband that fortunately likes to spend time with me. I also love coffee days out with my girly friends. However I do make an effort to write everyday even if it’s only a few lines and I do an awful lot of prep even when I’m not sitting at the computer. My mind is constantly turning things over. If something pops into my head out comes my phone and I make a note. I love to sit on my sofa with my feet up or at the dining table, I have lovely views from there. I’m fortunate to have a lovely room of my own to work from, if my husband is watching TV or being a bit loud. I prefer to work in silence so that I can hear my cogs turning. My very best day to write is when my husband goes fishing, I do encourage him to go at least twice a week then I have a full day at the computer… If I’m not distracted.

(Sounds perfect to me.)

When you’re not writing, what do you like to read?

I hadn’t thought about it much until this question kept popping up. I realised that I had spent many years, with the little spare time I had, mostly reading about work related subjects or subjects relating to whatever alternative therapy course I was on at the time. I also read a lot around various religious subjects and personal development programs… I’ve always been interested in techniques that people use to over come life difficulties. Now I’m much more relaxed about my reading. I tend to read for pleasure more than with a goal in mind. I really enjoy a variety of books. I’ve read some fantasy, Sci-fi, I’m currently reading a thriller, I enjoy something with a bit of mystery and romance. I guess I like to read a good book that captures me and it can be of any genre, although I must say I’m not a great fun of chic-lit.

Do you have other interests that give you ideas for writing?

Although I like my solitude I would say I’m a people person, I observe people… a part of my previous work was to observe and assess. The world around me and experience is where I find my inspiration. I love going out with friends be it for a meal, dancing or just sitting in a coffee bar. It’s amazing what we learn from other peoples experiences and habits… there are so many ways to eat a donut. If you get my point.

‘Reflections’ has a very striking cover. How did that image come about and what were you hoping to convey (without spoiling the plot please!)?

Suzy Turner helped greatly with the technical aspect of the cover (needless to say). We sat all day trying to find an image that would reflect (pardon the pun) the story. We looked for images of grieving women, funerals, art, paintings in fact anything that would relate to the storyline. At one point we even had the scales of justice. Suzy’s husband came home for lunch and said something about picture frames and mirrors, suddenly it all made sense. We found an appropriate image of a brunette women, who looked to be  in a reflective mode and popped her into our previously found frame. It can be seen as a mirror, indicating reflection or as a piece of art/painting, which is linked to the storyline and art theft. It took two women all day and a man’s logic during his lunch break.

If you could chose to be a character from ‘ Reflections’, who would you be and why?

I was for over a year all of these characters. When I think of them I want to say I would like to be Sally, because of her determination. However that’s  probably because I had previously written a book about her life, which I never published, so I know lots more about her than my readers will. I love Morag for her patience over the years and how she never gave up on her daughters. Aunt Kitty was also a strong  women. It’s a difficult one but I guess I’ll stay with Sally.  I love the courage she had to get out of a bad marriage and the way she stood by her son, who was rejected by his father for being gay. Sally’s an emotional wreck at times but a person who always gets up and fights on.

If ‘Reflections’ became a film, who would you like to play Sally?  

Somehow I knew someone would ask me this question. I’ve given this a lot of thought and come up with Emma Thompson… I know the hair’s all wrong but a good wig would solve that. She plays comedy really well, and having seen her in Love Actually I know she would be fantastic at the emotional scenes; there’s quite a few of them. She’s around the right age group and a strong character actor… Just imagine wouldn’t that be fantastic to see my book as a film. I’ll invite you to the premiere if that ever happens.

If you had 15 words to persuade a reader that ‘Reflections’ should be their next read, what would you say?

If you enjoy an emotional journey, romance, mystery, criminality and happy endings, it’s for you. 

(Ooh. 15 words exactly!)

Thank you so much for your time in answering my questions.

Thank you Linda for allowing me this time. I’m passionate about Reflections and it’s been great sharing that with you.

About Eleanor Smythe

ELEANOR SMYTHE

Eleanor Smythe was born in the east end of London but struggles to call it home as she moved away in her teens, and continued to live in various parts of the UK. After raising four sons, she went on to obtain a degree in Occupational Therapy. Although she took the opportunity to work in various medical settings, her greatest passion was working with clients within the community, where she claims real life takes place.

Now retired and living primarily in Portugal Eleanor has more time to pursue her love of writing. Always intrigued by the way in which individuals cope with life’s challenges and how they overcome the twists and turns of life, her stories embrace inner emotional turmoil that her characters might feel. They are brought to life by showing humour, tragedy, conflict, betrayal and emotions that many of us face daily.

Her debut book, The Other Side of Town continues to receive positive reviews while her second book, Reflections, was recently released.

Eleanor and her husband’s love of travel has led to the recent acquisition of ‘Dolly the Camper Van’. Dolly will enable them to pursue their individual hobbies of fishing and writing in new and exciting environments. Eleanor will be blogging about their adventures as well as inviting others to share their own.

You can find Eleanor on FacebookTwitterGoodreads and on her website.

Click here for the chance to enter to win a £25 (or equivalent) Amazon voucher.

The Grayson Trilogy by Georgia Rose

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It’s my great pleasure today to welcome Georgia Rose to Linda’s Book Bag. Georgia Rose is the author of The Grayson Trilogy of books, A Single Step, Before The Dawn and Thicker Than Water.

Georgia Rose

Georgia’s background in countryside living, riding, instructing and working with horses has provided the knowledge needed for some of her storylines; the others are a product of her overactive imagination!

Following a long stint working in the law Georgia set up her own business providing administration services for other companies which she does to this day managing to entwine that work along with her writing.

Her busy life is set in a tranquil part of rural Cambridgeshire where she lives with her much neglected family of a husband, two grown up children and two dogs.

Today I’m delighted to host a guest post from Georgia Rose  – all about the virtue of patience for a writer!

Patience is a Virtue

Hen tomorrow egg today

Patience is a virtue. I was told this as a child, over and over again I seem to remember, which leads me to believe that it wasn’t a virtue I possessed.

I recall as a teenager there being an urge in me, as strong as any narcotic coursing through my veins, to get on. With what I wasn’t quite sure but I couldn’t wait to leave school and do whatever it was I was going to do with my life. I counted the days, hours and, with blessed relief, finally the minutes until I was at last free to leave and I can remember that feeling of exhilaration as clearly as if it were yesterday when I walked out of those gates with not so much as a backward glance.

I had such hopes, such ambitions for doing something big but I have as little idea now as I did back then about what this big thing was going to be because although filled with boundless energy I was missing that one vital ingredient, direction. I have always envied people who know what they want, who have a career plan. You see I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, or what my end goal was so it was tricky to plan steps along a pathway that was shrouded in mist. I’m sure I’m not alone in experiencing this but I find that while I can be absolutely driven with what I’m currently doing the bigger picture, the thing that I’m meant to aim for, has always remained a mystery, an elusive something out there beyond the hazy veil that guards the future.

Why is ‘patience’ a virtue? Why can’t ‘hurry the **** up’ be a virtue?

When I was a young woman I found I flitted from one thing to another, different activities were taken on with wild enthusiasm and then abandoned with such disinterest after a few months that I was seriously worried when the time came to a) get married, and b) have children. I was concerned that my lack of ability to stick at anything for very long was going to be seriously challenged by these two momentous and life changing happenings. Particularly the children bit, I mean it’s not as if you can put them back when you’ve had enough is it? I’d been through the guinea pig phase; I knew how interest could wane.

As it turns out I’m still happily married and my children have grown up into remarkable people that surprise and delight me every day so I have managed to stick at something. I suspect that this is what big means for me, nothing momentous that will go down in the history books, nothing that bears a plaque with my name on it but just normal stuff which is all good. I guess I settled down somewhere along the way as well and by necessity (children…say no more) learnt to have patience too.

At least that was what I thought until four years ago when I decided I might try my hand at writing something and found out that this business is all about having patience. In the first place it takes a long time to write a book – even if you are the sort of writer who gets down a decent word count of a few thousand a day, which I am not. I have found that once I have the idea I just want it written, right there, right then and it takes a lot to hold that in I can tell you.

I wish there was some way of just plucking the thoughts from my head and transforming them into words on the page without the annoyance of the typing process interrupting because everything that sounded so eloquent when it was in my head is never the same once it’s been mashed and mangled by the keystrokes into some muddle on the page. Imagine the joy of coming to look at your manuscript and finding all your perfect thoughts there ready and waiting for you.

I have always daydreamed (see last sentence for details!) and I had little bits of story bouncing around in my head for what seems like forever but in 2012 something clicked and the pieces came together to make one big whole. Thrilled, but at the same time terrified that I would forget the detail my head was filled with before I got to write it I was taken over by the same, if not higher, level of passion that I’d had when I was much younger. I was so desperate to get this first story down that it honestly felt like I was on something. I couldn’t sleep, I ate on the run and in the three months it took me to write the first draft I lost a glorious amount of weight (bonus!).

Patience and Procrastination

And then came the hard part, the not putting stuff off part. The part where I was going to have to knuckle down and call upon all of my reserves of patience to get on with to the seemingly endless editing, rewriting, editing cycle that followed. As well as all the other stuff – the book covers, the formatting, the proofing – and that’s before you ever even hit the publish button and then have to face the dreaded prospect of…I’ll whisper it…marketing.

It is very easy at this point to procrastinate, to do anything but what you are meant to be doing if you are ever going to succeed and finish the book. You often hear of authors who have put their novel aside for years before finally getting back to it. I’m sure that often there are very good reasons but I’m equally sure that sometimes it’s simply because they are delaying action. You have to keep going even if it feels like you are wading through treacle as you plod through the editing process – some forward movement is better than none as any takes you that little bit closer to completion.

It took me another year to finish the first one. The frustration at having to do other things, like the day job, you know the one that actually pays the bills, can be irritating. But patience is all about the ability to accept delay, trouble or suffering without becoming angry or upset and I’m working on my attitude to try and give myself the time I need to do everything better next time around.

Patience attitide

This time as I start again, a start I suspect will sadly be unaccompanied by the adrenaline boosting weight loss achieved that first time around I’m hoping I’ve got a more balanced work life system in place to manage everything more successfully, which brings me on to this.

Edison patience quote

Because things have changed. Where once I was counting down the minutes, unbelievably wishing away time – what do the young know! Now I want to hang on to every day, ‘fill the unforgiving minute’ to quote Kipling so this is where my frustration currently lies. There is so much to do but the damned clock seems to spin ever faster, the days flying past as I patiently sit, tapping away, the word count slowly rising.

You can find out more about Georgia Rose on her web site and on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter. You’ll find all about Georgia on Amazon UK and Amazon US.

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There are lots of ways to buy The Grayson Trilogy Books

A SINGLE STEPAmazonSmashwords ,KoboNook

BEFORE THE DAWN:  AmazonSmashwordsKoboNook

THICKER THAN WATER: AmazonSmashwordsKoboNook

 

 

The Red Door by Rosa Fedele

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It gives me great pleasure to bring you a book with a difference today. The Red Door by Rosa Fedele was published on 1st October 2015 by MoshPit Publishing and as well as being a crime thriller, it is beautifully illustrated too. The Red Door is available on Amazon UK and Amazon US. I have a fascinating guest post from Rosa Fedele linking writing and art that I think will appeal to readers and artists alike.

About The Red Door

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What would you do if you began to suspect one of your tenants could be the perpetrator of a vicious double murder committed over thirty years ago?

It is 1983 and the new owner of the beautiful old Sydney mansion ‘Rosalind’ begins to believe she is being watched by the mysterious resident in Number Three, a reclusive man who happens to share his name with two teenage sisters, victims of a sinister and brutal murder. Her peace of mind slowly erodes as a fascination for the crime becomes obsession – consuming her life, shaking relationships with her new found friends and leaving a trail of devastation.

From Artist to Writer

A Guest Post by Rosa Fedele

The first reaction I encountered at the announcement of my first novel was: “Why? Why ever did you decide to write a book?” The question is usually accompanied, even now, by the scratching of heads, and incredulous or uncomprehending looks.

Well, really, is it such a leap from creating pictures with a pencil or brush, to conveying images with words?

“But, is this something you’ve always wanted to do?” they persist.

Funnily enough, when first I started to write, I had no idea what I was doing. In fact, I was so embarrassed that I started the project in secret, waiting until the house was empty and I was sure to be completely alone.

But, quite simply, yes. I have always known I would write and illustrate my own books; it was a natural progression. I grew up on a rich diet of illustrated stories – the works of C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, Beverley Nichols, Hauff’s Fairy Tales, E.C. Pedley’s Dot and The Kangaroo and this – newly rediscovered during our recent move – Norman Lindsay’s “The Flyaway Highway”. Lindsay, a master of portraiture not well-known outside our country, had a wonderfully silly side, unapologetically writing his own jolly and deliciously nonsensical stories, generously laced with illustrations and innuendo.

See how disrespectful I was as a child, wantonly defacing this lovely old book by colouring in Norman’s drawings!

NL Illustration

Now, the thing is: I love old houses. A lot.

Sometimes my heart aches profoundly at the sheer beauty of a building and I will stop and stare dumbly at the shimmering tarnished Gothic copper roof of a turret, the sun flashing off stained glass windows or the swirling ochres and russets of a Sydney sandstone wall, wishing desperately for the owner to appear at the door, smile and welcome me in for tea and biscuits.

One day, I was strolling through Glebe (one of the oldest suburbs in Sydney), admiring the old mansions, and I happened upon one house in particular. But it was more than a house; the magnificent old building riveted and mesmerised me and in the following weeks I was drawn back to the site over and over. The mansion is fronted by a brightly painted door, a glossy façade, and I imagined what the door might mask and what it could have concealed over the last 150 years: nasty, shameful secrets, possibly a poor family’s misfortune and tragedy, rotten crimes and heaven knows what other unholy messes … and a story began to form.

I researched the origins of the house. I drafted thumbnail sketches of my main protagonist and her beautiful new home and, slowly, she came to life. Very soon, I was hosting a whole colony of characters in my head.

Rosalind Prelim Sketch

Set in 1983, The Red Door is about the new owner of an old Sydney mansion ‘Rosalind’, who begins to believe she is being watched by one of her tenants, the mysterious resident in Number Three, a reclusive man who happens to share his name with two teenage sisters, victims of a sinister and brutal murder which took place in the 50’s. Her peace of mind slowly erodes as a fascination with the unsolved crime becomes obsession – consuming her life, shaking relationships with her newfound friends and leaving a trail of devastation.

As the story unfolded, I’d paint a picture to illustrate exactly what the chair in Beadles’ window looked like or how the iconic old Balmain Garage used to look before developers tore it down.

Beadles Chair and Brushes

A reviewer recently said of The Red Door “… I found the observational style reminiscent of Henry James’ novels – fine detail and expertly written dialogue …” After I collected myself up off the floor and back into my chair, I thought: Wow! I’m glad I was able to successfully convey the language and landscape of inner city Sydney with words because, quite frankly, it’s far easier to turn to a No. 10 Filbert and a tube of paint when I’m struggling with commas, clichés and characterisation!

Does it help to observe with an artist’s eye? I think so. We are taught not just to look, but to see. Just as Amsterdam has its own pearly and intimate light, perfectly captured by Vermeer and de Hooch, and the English countryside its own gentle grey-blue drifting clouds, so masterfully interpreted by Constable, Sydney has a particular atmosphere of its own. The sky’s blue is so startling it can burn retinas, the edge of every leaf is knife-sharp, the heat can singe nostril hair and our birds don’t twitter or chirp – they screech.

I suppose having a portraitist’s eye also helps: I watch how people integrate with their environment and each other, the inter-personal dynamics, mannerisms, the tilt of a head, a finger rubbed nervously across a philtrum. Another peculiar thing: characters will take on a life of their own – just when you’ve got the plot sorted, the little buggers wander off and do anything they bloody please! Halfway through the story, my main girl’s behaviour was infuriating me. So, I tore up all the old sketches and painted her as I preferred her – a no-nonsense woman with tenacity and resilience – and slowly she started to come around and see it my way …

MP Crop

It was a joy to write and illustrate The Red Door. Readers who also love the pictures can easily hop online and order their very own limited edition print or giclée.

Yes, there’s a sequel. Yes, it’s again based around an old house in Sydney. No, I won’t tell you much more, but here’s how I’m developing one of the characters on canvas:

Developing Lady Beatriz

I certainly hope one day someone will love my books well enough to handle them until dog-eared and tattered, or gleefully take to the illustrations with a packet of coloured Derwents.

And, lovely readers, if you ever see me lurking in front of your beautiful old mansion, please do invite me in for tea.

Rosa x

We certainly will Rosa!

About Rosa Fedele

Rosa composite

‘For me, every painting and every book is a new adventure, started with a thrill of excitement and anticipation.’

Australian painter Rosa Fedele, known for her portrait and figurative work, was born in Sydney and studied at the prestigious Julian Ashton Art School. A member of Portrait Artists Australia, Australia’s largest industry association for professional portraitists, and a regular contributor to Australian Fine Art and Decorative Painting magazine, her work has been exhibited in NSW Parliament House and Parliament House Canberra, as well as numerous galleries and exhibitions in Australia and worldwide.

Rosa fell avidly in love with books at a very young age. Her favourites were those by C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and later on Raymond E. Feist, David Eddings, Anne McCaffrey and Frank Herbert; in fact, anything with beautiful and spellbinding words and imagery that would allow her to escape into other worlds.

Her debut novel The Red Door is a fulfilment of her lifelong dream, to interweave a story with pictures … and draw the reader into her own bewitching, and slightly dark-edged, world.

You can follow Rosa on Twitter and if you’d like to order your very own limited edition print or giclée, see Rosa’s web site for more details.