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Changes Ahead. Please Stay With Me.

In the past two years, I’ve grown and changed as a writer. Now its time for this blog to reflect that too. All the old posts will still be there, but in future, I will be concentrating on what I write, and what inspired me to write it. From time to time I will post about what I am reading. There will be a research section for those of you, who like me like their facts to be accurate. Along the way, I will be happy to answer your questions.

Change
Change can be scary- please stay with me. Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

So from now, the focus will be more on the writing process, ice dancing, Bergen in Norway. Vikings and Viking beliefs.Reindeer Nathan lemon unsplash

What Did I Read In July 2020?

There were three categories of books this month.

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July was a bumper month for reading.

First, because you can never learn too much about the craft, books about writing. Next, books that the library sent in its bookbag selection. Finally, my personal choices.

Books about writing

Successful Indie Authorship by Craig Martell.

Indie Aurhor

Demystifying the tangled web of self-publishing to put you on the road to success.
This is a motivational guide based on my two and a half million published words (mostly with Amazon) to help you see past the hurdles that are keeping you from climbing the mountain of success. Nothing is overwhelming once it’s been explained. If you are smart enough to write a book, you are smart enough to do everything else needed to make your indie author business a success.

 My review. I have this on Kindle, and I wish I had it in paperback as well. It’s a book I expect to refer to again and again. It may look like I’m stuck at 78% read, but that because there is a useful appendix recapping all the recommendations, and I want to keep referring to it.

Write to Market by  Chris Fox.

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Have you written a book that just isn’t selling? Would you like to write a book that readers eagerly devour?
Many authors write, then market. Successful authors write TO market. They start by figuring out how to give readers what they want, and that process begins before writing word one of your novel.
This book will teach you to analyse your favourite genre to discover what readers are buying, to mine reviews for reader expectations, and to nail the tropes your readers subconsciously crave.
Don’t leave the success of your novel up to chance. Deliver the kind of book that will have your fans hounding you for the next one.

My review. With a premise like that what writer wouldn’t want to read it? Encouraging and definitely worth considering the marketability of your book.

The Library Bag Selections

Ravenscliffe by Jane Sanderson

Ravenscliffe

For fans of Downton Abbey . . . The peaceful beauty of the English countryside belies the turmoil of forbidden love and the apprehension of a changing world for the families of Netherwood
Yorkshire, 1904. On Netherwood Common, Russian émigré Anna Rabinovich shows her dear friend Eve Williams a gracious Victorian villa—Ravenscliffe—the house Anna wants them to live in. There’s a garden and a yard and room enough for their children to play and grow.
Something about the house speaks to Anna, and you should listen to a house, she believes…Ravenscliffe holds the promise of happiness.
Across the square, Clarissa and her husband, the Earl of Netherwood, are preparing for King Edward’s visit. Clarissa is determined to have everything in top shape at Netherwood Hall—in spite of the indolent heir to the estate, Tobias, and his American bride—and much of it depends on the work going on downstairs as the loyal servants strive to preserve the noble family’s dignity and reputation.
As Anna restores Ravenscliffe to its full grandeur, she strikes up a relationship with hardworking Amos Sykes—who proposed to Eve just one year ago.
But when Eve’s long-lost brother Silas turns up in their close-knit mining community, cracks begin to appear in even the strongest friendships.
As change comes to the small town and society at large, the residents of Netherwood must find their footing or lose their place altogether.

My review. This is the second book following on from Netherwood which I read last month. Fortunately, I had bought it but hadn’t read it-  and of course,I wanted to read it before reading Ravenscliffe.  I am glad I did, as this second book made more sense after reading it.

Life is changing for the families, upstairs in Lord Netherwood’s household, his heir Tobias has no intention of taking his position or his responsibilities seriously. His sister, Henrietta, would be an exemplary heir, but she’s female. A couple of major events alter everyone’s plans. Eve Williams has gained status and the family has moved to a bigger house called Ravenscliffe. Anna, the Russian emigre was the mover in this, and she plays a more substantial part in this story. Some of the stories engaged me and other parts I found dull. Primarily concerning Amos and politics, although some of the mining information also felt a bit laboured to me. The standout for me was the emergence and transformation of Anna. I know there is a third book in the series, but I doubt I will read it.

Don’t  Go by Lisa Scottoline.

Dont GO.

When Dr Mike Scanlon is called to serve as an army doctor in Afghanistan, he’s acutely aware of the dangers he’ll face and the hardships it will cause his wife Chloe and newborn baby. And deep inside, he doesn’t think of himself as a warrior, but a healer.
However, in an ironic turn of events, as Mike operates on a wounded soldier in a war-torn country, Chloe dies at home

My Review I would never have chosen this book for myself but decided to give it a go. Let me say at the onset it’s not for the faint-hearted as surgical procedures are explained in detail. At first, I thought that might be overdone but as the book continued I realised the relevance of Mike’s experiences to his handling of events stateside. He’s now a sole parent and has dual responsibilities to his surgical team and patients and his daughter. It’s a combination of murder mystery and legal procedural and deals with how good people can be torn apart by events.

More Than Words by Jill Santopolo.

Morethen Wrds

From the New York Times, bestselling author of The Light We Lost comes a tender and moving new novel about a woman at a crossroads after the death of her father and caught between the love of two men.

Nina Gregory has always been a good daughter, a good girlfriend. Raised by her father, owner of New York City’s glamorous Gregory Hotels, after her mother’s death, Nina was taught that family, reputation, and legacy are what matter most. And her boyfriend Tim, thoughtful, kind, and honest, not to mention her best friend since childhood, feels the same. But after Nina’s father passes away, she learns he may not have practised what he preached.
As her world falls apart, Nina begins to question everything she thought she knew and to see the men in her life–her father, her boyfriend, and unexpectedly, her handsome and attentive boss, Rafael–in a new light. Soon Nina finds herself caught between the world she knows and loves and a passion that could upend everything.
More than Words is a heartbreaking and romantic novel about grief, loss, love, and self-discovery, and how we choose which life we are meant to live.

My Review Having never heard of the author I did not expect anything of the book, but it resonated with me and I raced through it.  In part, I suspect that as an only daughter I understood Nina’s wish to pleas her father. Nina is her father’s daughter, her choices modelled on what he would approve of. Her life is already mapped out for her, a suitable boyfriend, marriage and maintaining the Gregory hotel and its and her reputation. She is almost sleepwalking through life when Rafael her charismatic boss, makes her look again at all she has. Then her father’ s death disrupts her carefully planned life. Will she continue down the same path or is there another, better way forward?

Personal Choices. Hemlock and Hedge: The Witches of Wormwood Prequel

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Only a witch would poison a cake. And only another witch would blackmail the poisoner.

Hazel Salem is the family disappointment. She isn’t a witch.
She doesn’t believe in magic. And she definitely doesn’t want a black cat for a pet.
But when she discovers an unsolved mystery amongst her inheritance, she is forced to accept that ignoring her heritage is no longer an option.
Hazel is determined to reveal a secret that’s stayed hidden for years.

But the witches of Wormwood have other ideas…

My Review. I enjoyed this prequel, so much so that I bought the first five books in the series. Several things appealed to me. Firstly, the English setting, then the fact that Hazel had no idea she was a witch or had abilities and the brilliant addition of Hemlock, a black cat with catattitude.

The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll.

Primrose square Secrets

There are so many stories hidden behind closed doors . . .

It’s late at night and the rain is pouring down on the Dublin city streets. A mother is grieving for her dead child. She stands silently outside the home of the teenage boy she believes responsible. She watches . . .

In a kitchen on the same square, a girl waits anxiously for her mum to come home. She knows exactly where she is, but she knows she cannot reach her.

A few doors down and a widow sits alone in her room. She has just delivered a bombshell to her family during dinner and her life is about to change forever.

And an aspiring theatre director has just moved into a flat across the street. Her landlord is absent, but there are already things about him that don’t quite add up . . .

Welcome to Primrose Square.

My review

All you would expect from an Irish writer in the Maeve Binchy tradition. The book has heart. The women who are the inhabitants of Primrose Square are dealing with a variety of changes and secrets, Nancy who has escaped her past London life. Melissa a girl whose life has changed dramatically and whose mother is barely hanging on. Susan, her mother who is obsessed with loss. Jayne, who lives her life in the past talking to Tom her deceased husband.

New Witch on the Block by Louisa West.

Practical Magic meets Bridget Jones’ Diary in this fun, heart-warming short novel about starting over, putting family first, and finding love when you least expect it.

She thought she was running away from her past, not catching up with it.

Rosemary Bell just wants to live a quiet, happy life and raise her daughter as far away from her toxic ex-husband as she can get. But when they move into a decrepit cottage in the woods of Mosswood, Georgia, Rosie realises her life will never be simple.

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A fun start to a new series.

My review.

A fun beginning to what promises to be an entertaining new series. I had this book on pre-order, so it was immediately available on release day on my Kindle. The town of Mosswood is a retreat for Rosie and her daughter Maggie, after packing up and leaving everything behind to start again. However, it’s not as straightforward as she might have hoped. Her rental is an almost derelict cottage and her nearest neighbour, Declan has some strange ideas about who she is and what they might accomplish together. After leaving her vicious and controlling ex Rose isn’t ready to get inv.oved with anyone, let alone this hunky Irishman.  I predict some fun and exciting times ahead and I am looking forward to reading book two, Jealousy A Bitch, which is due in September.

The Book of Spells and Such by Jacquie Underdown

The Book of spells and such

When destiny knocks, do you invite it in?

When a spell book lands on Ariana’s doorstep, her world is thrown into turmoil. That’s nothing new for her, except this time it involves bizarre and terrifying creatures who attempt to kill her. Then there’s a little fact that she now has the ability to perform magic.
Hadeon is another new addition in her life. He happened to drop in at the same time the spell book appeared. He’s dark, sexy, and mysterious as hell, and Ariana doesn’t know if she wants to kill him or love him.
But all this chaos is nothing compared to what destiny has in store for her. A future is promised of royalty and immense power, palaces and undying love. But hers is a destiny that is not easily won. She will have to fight to the death against those who want to take it all for themselves. And when the real battle begins, just who the true enemy is will surprise everyone.

My review. Expecting a magical story, I was slightly confused as the story began in the rather sleazy everyday world. In fact, I almost gave up, but I am glad that I persevered. Ariana had no one to turn to as she grew up. She has been treated badly almost her whole life, so she has trust issues. Hadeon could be her protector or her worst nightmare, but she has to trust someone when life takes a totally unexpected turn. To me, a part of the story read like a modern fairy-tale and had some unique magical touches. I am happy I continued to read this book.

 Subterranean by B Michael Radburn.

cover Subterreanean

 

‘The past is my shadow, forever behind me.’

Cassie Belrose was used to looking over her shoulder. Running away was what she did best – away from a possessive husband who wants her back, running from city to city, from job to job, to stay one step ahead of him.

Daniel Woodsman is at home in the dark; in the abandoned railway tunnels below the city where the homeless veteran has built his life since his injuries had taken away more than just his confidence.

Fleeing the Suits dispatched by her husband to bring her home, Cassie enters Daniel’s domain in the subway where their two worlds collide.

Together, can they stop running long enough to begin living again?

My Review.

A fast-paced and immensely readable story that kept me hooked. The story is prefaced and concluded by a charming allegorical fairy-tale. Cassie is a totally relatable character, as is Daniel. He is both an enigmatic and interesting character who we gradually come to understand. There is enough gritty realism to make the story authentic. It makes one think about the fate of those veterans traumatised by their service. I was provided with a free copy of the book by the publisher but was not obligated to write a review.

The Witches of Wormwood Mysteries: Books 1 – 5 A thrilling and funny British witch cozy mystery series, packed with magic, cats, and murder! Perfect for fans of Agatha Raisin and Amanda M. Lee.

Not many people move to Wormwood. The witches aren’t welcoming.
The fortune tellers are frauds. And the recent murder is only going to make things worse.
Hazel Salem just wanted a story for her magazine. Instead, she finds herself at the centre of an investigation that’s about to turn into a witch hunt.

If someone doesn’t solve this murder – and fast – it will be out of the cauldron and into the fire for Wormwood’s witches.

Although I bought this as a boxed set I will be reviewing the books individually.

Mandrake And Murder by  Silver Nord.Mandrake & Murder

 

My Review. Hazel has returned to Wormwood, after the death of her mother to run the failing apothecary shop. Profits are abysmal and so is her reputation. Wormwood is a community divided between those who are magical and ordinary folk who have no idea that anything is unusual. Hazel senses she is an object of scorn as a supposed witch who can’t do magic. Two women who say they are her aunts arrive and reassure her that late-blooming magic could be powerful. When Wormwood has a murder, the first in hundred years everyone in town magical or not is on edge. To make matter worse there are some clues that it could be concerned with magic. Hazel hits on the idea of producing a free local magazine. It’s the perfect opportunity for her to ask questions. D.C. I. Admiral is also investigating and despite an initial speak between them, he doesn’t require any help. Jealously,  fake fortune-tellers and hexes add to the fun.

Vervain and a Victim by Silver Nord.

Vervain and avvictim

A cauldron, a coin, and a corpse.
Three things that don’t belong in the woods.
The man standing over the body shouldn’t be there either, but when Hazel finds him with the victim, she suspects she’s already found the killer.

The only thing that keeps the prime suspect from being arrested is the absence of a murder weapon and a motive.

But in a town as weird as Wormwood, a motive for murder is only one dark secret away.

My Review. Wormwood hasn’t wholeheartedly welcomed Hazel. Although she is invited to join the coven, she suspects they are simply curious about her magical abilities. Her nemesis Natalia Gould is openly hostile. Another problem is she has now got a fake boyfriend, putting her at odds with his admirers. Her cat Hemlock seems to despise her and Jesse Heathen, the supposed detective has tried to charm her. All while murder has shaken the town and there is talk of vampires, the enemies of witches being seen in Wormwood. More fun and suspense, developing relationships and unanswered questions.

Meet Louisa West and her Series Starting with New Witch on The Block.

Hi, Louisa, Thank you for joining us – please tell us about your new book New Witch on the Block. I had it on pre-order so I got it on launch day and I really enjoyed reading it. It’s available online or as a paperback.

 

Louisa author photo
Louisa West.

Thanks so much for having me, Sonia! I’m so excited to share New Witch on the Block (or NWOTB for short!) with your readers. This is my debut novel and is all about a woman who takes a leap of faith in herself and saves her young daughter and herself from an abusive relationship. Starting over in a small town has its own challenges (nosy townsfolk, anyone?), but she sets her mind to making a new home there. When she meets a somewhat mysterious, hulking Irishman he helps her to discover things about herself and her past – not the least of which is that she’s actually an honest-to-goodness witch!

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Amazon AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B087KYLF3N Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B087KYLF3N Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087KYLF3N Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B087KYLF3N

She thought she was running away from her past, not catching up with it.

Rosemary Bell just wants to live a quiet, happy life and raise her daughter as far away from her toxic ex-husband as she can get. But when they move into a decrepit cottage in the woods of Mosswood, Georgia, Rosie realises her life will never be simple.

A gang of meddling neighborhood do-gooders want to run her out of town. The vicious laundromat machines keep eating her spare change. Not to mention her buff Irish stalker who insists that he’s a Witch-King and that it’s her royal destiny to be his Queen.

And to top it all off, strange things keep happening around Rosie when she least expects it…

She could deal with it all, but her ex won’t rest until he tracks her down. When her ability to protect her daughter is threatened, Rosie shows them all that nobody messes with the new witch on the block.

Practical Magic meets Bridget Jones’ Diary in this fun, heart-warming short novel about starting over, putting family first, and finding love when you least expect it.

NWOTB-MIM1-teaser3 (1)

And it’s going to be a series with the next one, Jealousy’s a Witch, due out in September .It is up for pre-order now.

You can bet that I have my copy already pre-ordered!

 First some quick-fire questions.

Late nights or early mornings? Early mornings!

What’s for breakfast? Avocado on toast.

Night out or Netflix? Netflix – currently watching The Stranger.

G&T orTea/Coffee?  Coffee all the way.

Perfect weekend? Spending time with my family, probably baking.

What did you want to be when you grew up? A lawyer, or forensic psychologist. Studied both law and psychology – ended up working in public relations before transitioning to writing full time.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating? Tonight we’re going out for dinner (not sure where – it’s date night!), but last night we had chicken fettucini – one of my specialities. I love cooking and baking, and do it whenever possible. I would always rather be eating chocolate!

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Combining the passion of baking and chocolate, a chocolate cupcake.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood. My daughter (who is ten). She’s just such a joy to be around and is always showing an inherent curiosity about the world around her. When I need smooches I go to my Great Dane. When I need cuddles, it’s my partner! Otherwise, I’m apt to pop on a period drama and soak myself in historical romanticism until I’m feeling back to my old self again.

Your hero? Jane Austen! Her wit, vivacity, and bravery in following her own path in life is a perfect model for any young woman in possession of several unwritten books in her head who is in want of a means of expressing herself.Regency Silhoutte - Pinterest

Oh, I love that! So well expressed.

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why? Oh, these types of questions are always so tough! Jane Austen (she is my hero, after all!) for lively conversation and so that I can ask her all of the questions I have about her work, Keanu Reeves because I feel like he would very much appreciate meeting Jane, and my boyfriend Lindsay because we both love Jane and Keanu!

And a bonus question. Do you have a favourite screen version of Pride and Prejudice

BBC Pride and Prejudice
Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth

Oh, that’s such a difficult question to answer! I can’t choose just one I will say that I love the 1995 BBC miniseries for its perfect casting, the vivacity of the characters and because Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle are amazing together.

p7 p MovieBut I will add that the 2005 movie with Matthew McFadyen and Keira Knightley is also amazing for the beautiful sets that really highlight the reduced circumstances of the Bennet family, and the piano music throughout is sublime! 


My favourite Austen screen adaptation of all time is the 1996 version of Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow!! Everything about it is perfect!

Questions about Writing.

What inspired your new series? I’ve always loved stories about witches. My maternal line traces back to Romani Gypsy heritage, so it’s something that’s been part of my life for as long as I can remember. When I became a single mother I longed to move somewhere new and start fresh – even though it wasn’t possible for me at the time. So I thought about what would happen for a mother who could. What if she was an outcast in her new town? What if she was an outcast because she was a witch? It all stemmed from there, and Rosie found life inside my brain.

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Women of power have always been feared.

Why do you think that stories about witches resonate so strongly with women? There’s a strong undercurrent of sisterhood that flows through witch mythology. I think it calls to a lot of us on different levels, along with the themes it explores – feminine power, fighting to overcome oppression, otherworldliness, the idea that there’s a connection out there that’s altogether more primal than traditional religion.

Jealousy s a Witch
PREORDER AVAILABLE: AMAZON US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B088ZPMG7L AMAZON AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B088ZPMG7L AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B088ZPMG7L

What time of the day do you usually write? I typically write from around 9am to about 11am – or through until lunch if I’m having a good day.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you? Plotting! Luckily I have an amazing editor (I call her The Plot Whisperer) and she’s incredibly talented at taking all of my many and varied ideas and helping me make sense of them.

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Louisa loves her Great Dane

 

What is your work schedule like when you are writing? I’m a creature of habit when it comes to writing. I get up early each morning, make breakfast, get my daughter off to school, and then sit down to write. I write around 2000 words a day or a little more if I can manage it, and once I feel my brain starting to liquefy inside my skull I move on to other duties. I do freelance graphic and web design work, so I usually do that in the afternoons, and then knock off around 3pm to spend time with my daughter, walk the dog, and cook dinner – all the fun things!

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I never sit down to write until I’ve had my second coffee of the day, and I always light a candle before I start, and blow it out when I’m done for the day.

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Coffee and chocolate!

Did you do any research about witches for your current book? No specific research. I’m really into reading about supernatural things (witches included) anyway. For this series so far I’m just drawing on my own knowledge bank and also inventing a lot of other stuff to go along with it. I want the magic in Mosswood to be unique to the series, so it’s peppered with a lot of different things from various types of lore.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special? My favourite character in the series so far is Priscilla (Prissy), Bishop. She’s the wife of the pastor at the Hand of God Southern Baptist Church in Mosswood. She’s blonde and tiny, and she knows everyone’s business in the worst possible way. I’m currently planning her comeuppance, and I can’t wait.  Oh, I enjoyed reading about her – I shall look forward to that!

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions? I think it would depend on what sort of story they wanted to write! I absolutely think it’s possible to write a particular scene involving emotions that you don’t feel at the time of writing.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received? The best writing advice I ever heard is to give myself permission to write the first draft before editing anything. The worst writing advice I ever got was from a very highly-regarded writing coach who told me to make the villain of my WIP at the time the son of my hero ala Star Wars. I didn’t. I think you were right, to follow your own instincts! 

Best money you have spent as a writer?

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Louisa loves her iPad

Buying my iPad. I use it only for writing, and have it set up with Scrivener (syncing directly to DropBox – no lost files here, thanks!). It’s got excellent battery life, the keyboard case I have for it is really comfortable, and it’s small enough that I can take it absolutely anywhere – to the park, to a cafe, camping – and still be able to smash out my daily word count.

Do you have a favourite author and why? My favourite contemporary author is a brand new author by the name of Kimberly Jaye. Her debut Regency romantic comedy novel, The Perfect Widow, is due out later this year and I am waiting on the edge of my seat for it! I’ve had the privilege of being in her writing circle for many years, and this book is going to be laugh-out-loud funny! My hot tip is that this is an author to watch – she’ll be taking the historical romance world by storm. Follow her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/kimberlyjayeauthor) so that you don’t miss out on anything!

opened book near ceramic mug
Writers are always readers too.

What are you reading now? What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I’m currently reading The Longing of Lone Wolves by WA-based author Lana Pecherczyk and a true-crime biography about serial killer Ted Bundy. Authors who have influenced my writing include David Eddings, Mary Janice Davidson, R.L. Stein, and Stephen King.

Favourite quote: My characters shall have, after a little trouble, all that they desire. – Jane Austen

Favourite non-Austen book/story you have read as an adult? Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman.

Favourite book/story you have read as a child? Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

Thanks for being with us, Louisa, and lots of luck with your new series.

 

 

 

What Did I Read in June 2020 As Lockdown Continued?

June and my local library still wasn’t open, so I was still reading from my TBR pile and the books I had on my Kindle. Luckily, there was still plenty to choose from. However, the month was mainly devoted to reading about the craft of writing. I also read books for research, which were Viking romances. This was because I was submitting part of a Viking romance for consideration.  I also read one book from my To Be Read pile.

 

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Reading can take you anywhere

Take Off Your Pants ! by Libbie Hawker.

When it comes to writing books, are you a “plotter” or a “pantser?” Is one method really better than the other?

In this instructional ebook, author Libbie Hawker explains the benefits and technique of planning a story before you begin to write.

Take off your Pants

I have been hearing about this book for it seems like forever. As a confirmed ‘pantser’ I have always resisted the idea of outlining. However, I had a project that required me to submit a synopsis-awkward! So, I worked my way through this book, I found it helped and I made crucial scene cards. However, I used it in conjunction with The Virgin’s Promise as mine was a female orientated journey. This focusses heavily on The Hero’s Journey. Combing the two perspectives helped and gave me the tools to work out a solid synopsis.

Gotta Read it by Libbie Hawker.

Blurbs, product descriptions, query letters… no matter what you call them, they’re a chore to write. And yet the success of any novel can depend on its pitch. What’s an author to do?

Gotta Read it

Gotta Read It! The book is helpful and gives useful guidelines, as to how you can write compelling synopsis for your book. A job that most writers detest. I’m certain I will keep referring to it

Successful Self- Publishing by Joanna Penn.

Do you want to successfully self-publish?

There are thousands of new books being published every day, but many self-published books quickly sink to the bottom of the pile.

Many authors are frustrated because there are so many options for self-publishing, and they don’t know which one to choose or what will be best for their book.

Succesful Self publishing

An easy to understand and comprehensive review of the steps it takes to self- publish. Joanna Penn ( was there ever a more perfect name for an author?)has walked the walk and is now a successful author and speaker. She didn’t start that way, and she lets us know the mistakes and slip-ups that dogged her early attempts to publish. Encouraging and helpful.

 

Vikings by Ashe Barker prequel to Viking Surrender Series.

Vikings Viking surrender

A horde of battle-hardened, ferocious Nordic warriors.

A Pictish village at the mercy of its enemies.
A harrowing bargain struck for nine fearful and reluctant brides
Delivered into Viking hands, claimed and conquered, each bride must accept that she belongs to her new master. But, as wedding nights bring surrender to duty, will fierce lovers also surrender their hearts?

An interesting prequel to the series. At twelve thousand words, it’s not a long read. One that encouraged me to try a couple more of the books.

 

Brandr by Ashe Barker part of the Viking Surrender Series

Forced to wed the fierce Viking warlord in order to save her people, Eithne has no choice but to surrender to her powerful and terrifying husband. She submits to his stern discipline, but his tenderness takes her breath away. A man of his word, Brandr means to keep his side of their bargain and will see her village safe and protected from their enemies. But what of Eithne

Brandr

The prologue hadn’t given me the idea that these stories might be confronting. I refer in particular to the so-called ‘discipline’ handed out by Brandr to Eithne. Now I know modern sensibilities are involved and life was harsher then, but these stories are categorised as romances. Eithne was strong, brave, adaptable and resourceful I would have thought an ideal wife. Brandr comes across as a bit of a brute. If you are into spanking and discipline this will appeal. Adult content

 

Garth by Assa Daniels – Viking Surrender Series.

A proud warrior, he hides a debilitating weakness. The village outcast, she’s plagued by terrifying visions. Their marriage seems cursed from the start. But, as they come to terms with their union, will they find the love they both need?

Garth Vking surredner

More of the same, a reluctant bride and reluctant groom with the question can this marriage work?  Garth has a weakness he doesn’t want to talk about- he suffers headaches that leave him unable to function. Ytha was so much the better character, intelligent, trying to understand and please her new husband. I enjoyed some of the characterisations but once again spanking seems to be to the fore. If that’s your turn on, then it will appeal. Adult content.

Falling for her Viking Captive by Harper St George.

The Viking warrior

In her cellar…

Lady Annis must stop Viking Rurik Sigurdsson from discovering the truth about his family’s death. Her only solution is to imprison him. But as the ruggedly handsome Viking starts to charm his way out of his cell and into her heart, can she be sure he’s not still intent on vengeance—or perhaps an unexpected alliance is the solution?

 

Her Viking captive

Well written and entertaining. Nicely balanced characters who are a foil for each other. A well-rounded plot that delivered a few surprises. I enjoyed this and the repartee between this evenly-matched pair.

Beloved Viking by Ree Thornton

Beloved Viking

The shield-maiden must marry…

Heir to her father’s Jarldom, Rúna Isaksson will soon ascend to replace him as a leader, but first, she must marry a warrior from another clan to form a powerful alliance. When her father creates a contest to determine the strongest suitor, Rúna demands to compete as well—if she wins, she can choose her own husband.

 

A new take on the familiar subject matter and an entertaining read. These two characters are destined for each other but how they get there is the crux of the story. He hurt her once, now she wants to hurt him, but events are not all that they seem. Zips along at a good pace and holds the readers’ interest. Well written and engaging.

 

Netherwood by Jane Sanderson.

Eve Williams is about to discover just how the other half really live, in this epic and absorbing “big house” drama perfect for Downton Abbey fans

 

Netherwood

I bought this book a while ago and hadn’t got round to reading it. My initial impression was that it was like a Catherine Cookson novel all grit and gumption as I read of the realities of life in a Yorkshire mining village. The pit was the centre of life and the miners and their families were living with the dust and dirt. Netherwood, the ‘big house’ was situated so that the Earl and Countess saw none of poverty or squalor. Their home was amid greenery and expansive parkland. Eve is an admirable heroine, dealing with loss, but she wouldn’t have got so far without the prodding of Anna, the Russian emigre. The contrast between the grinding poverty of the village of Gradley and the thoughtless lavishness of the aristocracy is well shown. When Eve’s baking talent is discovered the book the reminded me of The Duchess of Duke Street. Even to the point where she cooks for King Edward VII. Netherwood is a good reminder of the progress we have made toward giving people some measure of security and hope.

 

New Witch on The Block- Giveaway Today Only! Help me With Questions for Louisa West, Author.

Get in Today for the Fab Giveaway and help me interview Louisa West, Author of New Witch on The Block.

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Here is a little about the book. I’ve read it and thoroughly enjoyed it and reviewed it on Good reads.

Practical Magic meets Bridget Jones’ Diary in this fun, heart-warming short novel about starting over, putting family first, and finding love when you least expect it.

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Here are the details of the giveaway- it’s one that I’d love to win it myself!  Best get in quickly it finishes today.

https://kingsumo.com/g/mipgcv/new-witch-on-the-block-mega-prize-pack

New Witch on The Block is the start of Louisa’s new series Midlife in Mosswood.

Book & Author Details: New Witch on the Block Louisa West
(Midlife in Mosswood, #1) Publication date: June 30th 2020
Genres: Adult, Paranormal

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Synopsis:

She thought she was running away from her past, not catching up with it.

Rosemary Bell just wants to live a quiet, happy life and raise her daughter as far away from her toxic ex-husband as she can get. But when they move into a decrepit cottage in the woods of Mosswood, Georgia, Rosie realizes her life will never be simple.

A gang of meddling neighborhood do-gooders want to run her out of town. The vicious laundromat machines keep eating her spare change. Not to mention her buff Irish stalker who insists that he’s a Witch- King and that it’s her royal destiny to be his Queen.

And to top it all and to top it off, strange things keep happening around Rosie when she least expects it…

She could deal with it all, but her ex won’t rest until he tracks her down. When her ability to protect her daughter is threatened, Rosie shows them all that nobody messes with the new witch on the block.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/54331799-new-witch-on-the-block

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Purchase:Amazon: https://amzn.to/3dN5N5T

AMAZON CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B087KYLF3N
AMAZON UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B087KYLF3N
AMAZON AU: https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B087KYLF3N

I’m going to interview Louisa here and for my Chatting with Authors Page over on Facebook. Is there anything  you’d like to ask her?

Did you grow-up watching Bewitched or Sabrina the Teenage Witch or Charmed?

What drew you to writing about witchcraft?

What makes witches such an enduring topic?

Did you make up some rules for magic or does anything go?
AUTHOR BIO:
Author by day, Netflix connoisseur by night.

Louisa likes Pina Coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain. Determined to empty her brain of stories, she writes across several genres including fantasy, speculative fiction, contemporary and historical fiction, and romance.

She lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, and drinks more coffee than is good for her. When she’s not writing or researching projects, Louisa enjoys spending time with her family, and Harriet The Great (Dane). Hobbies include playing video games, watching copious amounts of tv, and various craft-related initiatives.

She strongly believes that the truth is still out there.

Author links: http://www.louisawest.com/
https://www.instagram.com/louisa_west/
https://www.facebook.com/louisawestauthor/
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16738794.Louisa_West

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUTHOR BIO:

Author by day, Netflix connoisseur by night.

Louisa likes Pina Coladas and gettin’ caught in the rain. Determined to empty her brain of stories, she writes acrshe writes across several genres including fantasy, speculative fiction, contemporary and historical fiction, and romance.

She lives in Mandurah, Western Australia, and drinks more coffee than is good for her. When she’s not writing or researching projects, Louisa enjoys spending time with her family, and Harriet The Great (Dane). Hobbies include playing video games, watching copious amounts of tv, and various craft-related initiatives.

She strongly believes that the truth is still out there.
Author links:

http://www.louisawest.com/

https://www.instagram.com/louisa_west/

https://www.facebook.com/louisawestauthor/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16738794.Louisa_West

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Author B. Michael Radburn.

I am delighted to welcome B Michael Radburn to chatting with authors, his latest book Subterranean was released on July 1st.

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Here is an extract.

The past is my shadow, forever behind me.’ Cassie Belrose was used to looking over her shoulder. Running away was what she did best – away from a possessive husband who wants her back, running from city to city, from job to job, to stay one step ahead of him. Daniel Woodsman is at home in the dark; in the abandoned railway tunnels below the city where the homeless veteran has built his life since his injuries had taken away more than just his confidence. Fleeing the Suits dispatched by her husband to bring her home, Cassie enters Daniel’s domain in the subway where their two worlds collide. Together, can they stop running long enough to begin living again.’

It’s on my to-read list and I think it should be on yours too.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Aside from the usual childhood desires of becoming either a cowboy or an astronaut, I knew from adolescence that I wanted to be a writer. The path wasn’t a direct one, but I finally got there.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood.

Playing my guitar or riding my motorcycle will always lift me out of a slump (or writer’s block), but my family is a constant when it comes to the joy of life.

Also, for the motorcycle fans, tell us a little about your Harley?

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Iconic Harley Davidson

Ah, my bike … She’s a beautiful Road King Classic that has been with me for more than ten years now. A tribute to that Americana road culture of chrome and leather that I love so much. Harley ownership is as much a culture as it is an interest. I can’t imagine life without it.

What is for dinner tonight? Can you cook? What would you rather be eating?

A simple BBQ grill of steak, jacket potatoes, string beans in butter, and corn on the cob with a nice Cabernet Merlot. As it’s Saturday, I’ll be doing the cooking. Can’t say I’d prefer anything else right now.

What are your musical tastes?

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Old school country and blues. I’m a product of the 60s and 70s, so am also partial to rock and roll from that era. When I jam with my friends though, it’s usually a bit of all those genres, depending on where the mood (and alcohol) takes us.

 

Your hero?

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We all imagine we can be a hero

This is tough. Heroes come and go in our lives, depending where we are and what we’re doing. There are so many people I have admired over the years. A constant is Neil Armstrong. Not so much for what he did, but for how he did it with such focus, heroism, and unassuming humility.

Right now, however, I’d have to say New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She is such a strong and shining light amidst the current World leadership. A true inspiration.

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, who would they be and why?

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A campfire cookout

It wouldn’t be a dinner party, but rather an open campfire to share a billy of tea. I would have Elon Musk and Bill Gates to discuss the possible future of humanity. My third guest would be Ricky Gervais to keep the conversation grounded. I think that would be neat.

Writing and other topics.

As a woman, I am intrigued by the fact that you wrote successfully for women’s magazines earlier in your career. What allowed you to tap into that market?

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It was a calculated decision at first. There was a decade’s gap where I hadn’t written a word while I focused on my young family. When the itch to write again grew too much to ignore, I looked for an accessible paying market which at the time was the significant stable of women’s’ magazines in Australia. When I read a few samples, I recognised a pattern that I felt I could follow but decided to add a unique twist in the tale and stamp my own literary voice. The method worked well, and soon opened overseas opportunities. I think living in a household of women (my wife and 2 girls) also helped me successfully tap into the female psyche.

You couldn’t get much further apart than writing from this perspective and your love for Harley Davidsons and motorcycles.

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A diverse community

 

Not really. The motorcycle community a diverse one these days, with many riders of all genders. The gap isn’t as wide as you may think. Conversations at rallies and motorcycle pubs and haunts can often turn to books and the arts. Don’t be fooled by the leather, tattoos and facial hair.

Equally, I am interested in your comment ‘no matter the story, it’s always better when told with strong female influences.’

 

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Women enjoy many genres including crime.

 

 

Can you elaborate further, especially as many male writers only have token female characters?

I think it’s a matter of balance. My stories are character-driven, so I write most of my books from multiple perspectives. Therefore, it’s imperative that I understand the place where their influences and drives come from; bring their backstories to the surface to better understand their reasoning and actions. I am a fan of so many female writers, top of my list being Harper Lee and Margaret Atwood. Men and woman often process things differently. I think it helps a book to see both the conflict and common ground this can sometimes produce in a story.  In Subterranean, however, I chose to write it entirely from my female protagonist’s point of view to dig deep on the domestic abuse angle. That way I could also keep Daniel’s story mysterious and at arm’s length until he was ready to share it with Cassie.

Do you get much feedback from women on your writing?

All the time. The greater percentage of my readership appears to be female, not an uncommon statistic in the crime genre as I understand it. One of the nicest comments I ever received was from a reader who told me; “You write like a woman.”

The book touches on both homelessness and veterans. What do you think is the main issue contributing to homelessness for veterans?

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Homelessness is such a complex issue. It’s difficult for many of us to understand how living rough on the streets feels safer than where they have come from, but that’s the crux of it. Add the trauma of PTSD to the mix and that rabbit hole some of our veterans find themselves down just gets deeper. Despite the efforts of government bodies to assist our vets, the culture learnt in the military is hard to shake when it comes to talking about these things. There is a line in Subterranean where Daniel tries to explain it to Cassie. He says, “We don’t talk to civilians because they can never understand what we went through; what we are going through; and we don’t need to talk to another veteran, because they do know.”

I applaud all-male champions for change concerning domestic abuse. What can men do to help other men and women?

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Domestic violence a problem for men and women.

Lead by example for a start. If you see a person in trouble, step up and bear witness. I find this passive action can often stem a potential abusive event in a public place without force. Sit with the victim, stand with them, walk with them, make them feel safe.

What time of the day do you usually write?

I find the mornings accommodate my creative writing more productively, and evenings better suited for the more mundane tasks of correspondence and research, although I’m disciplined enough these days to be able to write at any time of the day. It depends on the weight of any deadlines I may have.

The Crossing

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

Editing … I hate it. Not because I begrudge my editor’s work at making my books the best they can be, but because my headspace is usually in the next project by the time we are at the editing stage. I call it a necessary evil (first world problem, I know).

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

Not too strict. I have a conservative target of no less than 500 manuscript words a day (any more is a bonus). This means I can comfortably have a first draft in 10 months or so. I like it best when I have several projects on the go at any one time, dipping in and out of each as the mood takes me.

How long do you research for a book?

The Falls

It varies, depending on the complexities of the plot. I am a less is more kind of writer anyway. I’m very fortunate to have a couple of sources within the police force that help me with procedural and cultural aspects in my novels. Research never really stops throughout the process. There are always details surfacing that need to be checked and explored.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I like to place an early model canary yellow VW Beetle car in all my novels. Sometimes it provides a minor insignificant prop, and at other times a major one that’s key to the story. I couldn’t tell you why I do that. It’s just a fun little foible that gives me joy.

I love that!

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Yellow Volkswagen Beetle Coupe

Do you have a favourite character that you have written?

If so, who? And what makes them so special? Firstly, The Librarian (Thomas Leon) from my debut novel, The Crossing. He’s an eccentric retired old-school newspaperman living in a rundown mansion on the cusp of a devastated landscape of past logging in the Tasmanian Highlands. He was one of those characters that wrote themselves; I just had to sit back and take notes. More recently I could say the same about Daniel Woodsman in Subterranean. I found a real affinity with his character as it developed on the page, possible because of the link to my army days.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?

I think they could write a great technical manual. But fiction needs to find a pathway into the reader’s emotions. I find it better to set a seed rather than advise what the reader should be feeling. If I do it right, this allows them to discover the level of emotions based on their own benchmarks in life.

Best writing advice/ Worst writing advice you ever received?

Best: Stephen King suggested never to underestimate your reader when we were both speaking at the 84 World Fantasy Convention in Canada.

I am in awe, you met and spoke to Stephen King.

Worst: “Writing is easy”, by my best friend in high school.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?black and red typewriter

$90 dollars for a portable Remington typewriter back in 1978. It was the moment I decided that I could really do this.

Do you have a favourite author and why?

This is tough. There are so many. But the most influential of my favourites is Ray Bradbury. He was always able to write adult speculative fiction with the heart and curiosity of a child. I love that.

What are you reading now?

While the rest of the world appears to be devouring new literature during the C-19 crisis (which is wonderful), I’m revisiting the classics. Currently, I’m reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula. I recently purchased a beautiful leather-bound hardcover version. The way Stoker has told the tale from a collection of diaries, journals and official documents is so masterful.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing?

Many writers imitate their most influential authors to kick off their career. My early influences were Americans like Bradbury, Bloch and Lovecraft to name a few, but I’d like to think that I have since found my own voice and style.

Balckwater moon

Favourite quote (does not matter the source) Can be from music if you like!

My favourite quote is from British author Clive Baker. You’ll find it in his Books of Blood collection. “People are like books. Wherever we’re opened, we’re red.” Creepy, huh?

Favourite book/story you have read as an adult?

Again, too many to consider as an ultimate favourite, but the one book I can go back to time and time again is Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I seem to find something new that touches my heart every time I read it.

Favourite book when you were a kid.

Maurice Sendak’s, Where the Wild Things Are. It was the first book that really sparked my imagination as a child, a spark that has since turned into a raging fire of creativity for me today.

Thank you so much for a fun and fascinating interview. 

About the author.

B. Michael Radburn has been writing successfully for
decades with over a hundred short stories, articles and reviews published in
Australia, the UK and the United States.

He was an award-winning short storyteller before his move to novels and screenplays, a move that freed him to further explore his characters, as well as the natural and supernatural environs in his work.

Amidst road trips on his Harley Davidson, and jamming with the local musicians, B. Michael Radburn is a family man and enjoys farming his small Southern Highlands property where the hauntingly beautiful surrounds inspire his stories.

Connect with B. Michael Radburn on his Facebook, Instagram or webpage.

Subterranean: ISBN: Paperback ISBN 978-0-6487093-9-8, RRP $27.00
E-book ISBN 978-0-6487093-8-1, RRP $4.99
Pages: 238pp Category: Fiction, contemporary.
Available: From Booktopia and Amazon.

Website: Publisher: http://www.atlasproductions.com.au/
Also by B. Michael Radburn: The Crossing; Blackwater Moon; and The Falls and more

What Did I read in May 2020?

 

Like many people, I was battling with the restrictions and limitations of our Covid 19 world. This meant no visits to the library, which was closed. Like many readers, I have amassed a significant To Be Read Pile, otherwise known as TBR. What is in it?  It’s a mixture of books I had bought and never started, books I’ve been given, and books acquired at book swop.

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We can always escape into a book

Also, I have learned to love my Kindle. It was an under-appreciated Christmas present that has finally come into its own. Plusses are that it has a book light making for easy reading in bed and the ability to adjust the text size which I have appreciated since an eye operation.

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Light, portable and lots of storage- why didn’t I appreciate it before now?

Foxglove Summer by Ben Aaronovitch.

Foxglove Summer

One from book swop, with the tagline, “Two missing children. One lost copper.” This is book five in the Peter Grant series, and it would have helped enormously if I’d read the previous four. That said, it was still an enjoyable read, although I suspect some in-jokes and references went completely over my head. The police presence mixed with the supernatural gave it an unusual and amusing twist. Peter Grant is both a cop and a man with an aptitude for magic.

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones illustrated by Tim Stevens.

Christopher

 

Another children’s’ book from my TBR pile- this book is a precursor to the popular ‘Chrestomanci’ series. As I hadn’t read any of them, I started the book with no preconceptions. It is an engaging story of Christopher, a rather lonely boy, who finds out that he has a destiny. His parents are aloof, his mother beautiful, but always out, his father important and busy. When his uncle takes an interest in him, he’s flattered by the attention. The next bombshell is he’s to be sent away to school. Unexpectedly, he finds fun and friendship at school and as a love of cricket. Then, he is unceremoniously removed from school. Sent into the guardianship of a wizard to learn magic. He is to become the next ‘Chrestomanci.’ magical guardian of all wizards, but he proves inept at magic. However, unknown to anyone else he can go to a place he calls ‘the in-between’ a doorway onto other worlds. The revelation of this secret increases the danger, that he and everyone else is in. Reading a children’s book as an adult, you pick up more of the hints and nuances that would have bypassed you as a child. Even so, there were still a few surprises.

Pawprints of Love- A Gumnut Press Anthology.

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Look! its even colour themed with my laptop.

This anthology is stylishly put together, and the contents do not disappoint either. Ten Australian Authors write stories filled with canine capers, disarming and distracting their human companions. In Stonecrest Bay, at Dee’s dog grooming salon The Funny Bone, dogs always come first. All doggy life is there. The good dogs and the naughty ones. They steal not only their owner’s hearts but yours too. The town is abuzz with a local fundraiser for the Fireys*, and the upbeat vibe catches hearts unaware as they fall under its spell and give love a chance.

* Fireys  is  Australian slang for the fire fighting  men and women

Starting Over At Acorn Cottage by Kate Forster.

Acorn Cottage

As a fan of the TV show Escape to the Country, I was anticipating enjoying this book and I did. However, there is far more to the story than the charming cover might have you imagine. Clara has bought a country cottage over the internet. A betraying boyfriend and best friend and too much wine can do that to you. I snorted with laughter at the nicknames she came up with for the dubious duo.

Inevitably, the pictures don’t tell the whole story- the place is a dump and Clara has nowhere else to live. She need help and fast and it arrives in the shape of Henry, the thatcher who can fix anything. Henry has a daughter Pansy and they live in a gypsy caravan. So far, so predictable. The village of Merryknowe has its mix of strange inhabitants. There is Tassie who is a grandmotherly/ tea leaf reading/ knowing things type. Rachel at the teashop, a sad wisp of a girl, whose storyline is particularly sad. The plot deepens with the addition of these characters and in helping them and being helped by them Clara also helps herself. Despite its light cover, there are serious issued addressed here with family violence and domestic abuse. This might be upsetting for some readers.

The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester.

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Settle down for an unforgettable read.

I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this book in a book giveaway, otherwise, I would have bought it. Every book Natasha Lester has written has surpassed the previous book. The Paris Secret continues this trend, it is superlative and compelling storytelling.

Much of Natasha’s success is in combing topics which interest her and resonate with her readers, such as travel and fashion. The bonus is that she then combines them with historical research into lesser-known topics to craft a compelling story. The authors note at the end of the book details much of this research and show how comprehensive the research process was.

Natasha takes the research and brings it to life, peopling it with characters that we come to care about.

Like Skye Penrose, surely with a name like that she was born to fly? One of two illegitimate sisters to an unconventional mother Skye enjoyed an almost idyllic childhood in Cornwall. As someone who spent part of my childhood in Cornwall, I enjoyed reading about Skye’s halcyon days with Nicholas Crawford an American boy who is destined to return to the States.

Later, when Skye joins the war effort as an Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot the trials and humiliations these women endured just to do a vital job were almost unbelievable. They faced male patronage, misogyny, and hostility in breathtaking amounts. All this is based on documented fact. If we bear in mind that these women were middle class, educated women, who had the funds to be able to learn to fly-  we can only imagine how lower-class women were treated. To still undertake the jobs given to them, to fly in freezing conditions in an open cockpit plane. To smile, to boost male morale, to be treated so poorly and expected to perform to impossible standards. Every single one of those women was a heroine who deserves our respect and thanks.

Christian Dior, that iconic name in fashion had a sister Catherine. The famous Miss Dior perfume is named for her. Again, a little-known story, she was part of the resistance and was captured in 1944 and sent to the infamous Ravensbruek concentration camp. This makes grim but compelling reading.

When Skye meets Nicholas again, he’s engaged to a Frenchwoman  Margaux Jourdan. So, they can only remain as friends and in the camaraderie and tensions of wartime that has to do. But can it be enough? Nicholas still has feelings for Skye and she for him, but he’s an honourable man.

In present-day Australia, Kat Jourdan is a fashion conservator. Sent on a mission by her grandmother Margaux Jordan to visit Cornwall. Kat becomes fascinated by what she has discovered and what she has still to learn. And then there is a collection of sixty-five priceless Dior gowns. They are so well described; it is easy to visualise them and to covet them.

This book takes a reader on an emotional journey, one that makes you laugh and cry, exclaim at the courage and weep at the baseness of some of humanity. Unforgettable.

The Virgin’s Promise by Kim Hudson.

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Botticelli’ Virgin-

I didn’t know how much I needed this book until I read it. As a writer trying to tell a female story fitting it into the heroes journey concept has always felt unsatisfying to me, and now, I know why. The stories may intertwine, but they are immensely different. I found myself nodding as various points were raised. It was like finding the missing piece to a jigsaw, everything finally made sense. I had a submission to complete and using these concepts made it easier and I think more emotionally satisfying.

 

 

Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About The Vikings.

My book, Fire & Ice is both a contemporary romance and timeslip love story set in Viking times, so I have been researching the Vikings for a while. Currently, I am trying my hand at another Viking romance.

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Viking doll and books at the book launch

What we know about them is from the writing of their enemies, so it is hardly an unbiased picture. These churchmen who were often the victims of the raids wrote in their chronicles about them. They disliked and distrusted everything about these pagans.

 

stone castle wall surrounded with green grass
Churches were easy to raid

A bit like asking your ex-partner for a character reference.

The Viking had an oral culture, so they left little in the way of writing. Most of what we know is from the monks or Arab sources.

Viking did employ skalds who told stores and recited poems.

Here are some things you may not know about them

Firstly, they did not call themselves ‘ Vikings’, that happened centuries later. They called themselves .’ Norse’ or ‘North men.’ They came from Scandinavia. Norway, Denmark and Sweden. Viking means raider and many were peaceful farmers or craftsmen.

Viking potter

They didn’t wear horned helmets, sorry ‘Hagar the Horrible.’ The horned helmet was a costume designers’ idea for the staging of Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle of operas. If a Viking had a helmet, it was just a domed metal one, but many simply wore a leather cap and often leather armour too.

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Similar to the helmets the Normans wore

Vikings were dirty and smelly. No, they were very hygienic compare to most other people, they bathed at least once a week. Many washed each morning. Most possessed a comb and were scrupulous about grooming. This made them attractive to women and might have inspired some home-grown jealousy. Both men and women wore jewellery, rings, arm rings, necklaces, charms.

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Thor’s hammer amulet

Viking women were not equal as sexual double standards did apply. Pre-marital sex was allowed for both sexes, provided they were discreet, and it did not end in pregnancy. Men could keep more than one woman as concubines called frilles as well as bed slaves. The children of concubines could be recognised as legitimate. Illegitimate children ruined a woman’s chance of marriage and were a burden to her family.

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A few women were fighters, most were busy with a myriad of domestic tasks.

Divorces were mostly instigated by the women.  Reasons could be lack of attention – he was consistently absent-three years was considered desertion, or he was cruel, struck her, he was inclined towards men, or he didn’t satisfy her in bed.

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She kept her dowry or bride price

However, Viking women had their own money and could own land.

Vikings gave us names for some of the days of the week, Wednesday ( Woden’s/Odin’s Day )Thursday ( Thor’s Day) Friday ( Frigg ‘s or Freya’s Day.)

A Viking carried his bride over the threshold of their new home and into their new life.  She wore a circlet of flowers on her head. Each presented the other with a sword, his from grave goods, the sword of his ancestors. He was entrusting his lineage to her and she to him. The term honeymoon has evolved from the Viking custom of giving the bride and groom a month’s worth of sweet ale. That is the ale which is sweetened with honey.viking-ship-in-the-water

 

 

Chatting with authors-Meet Crime Writer Sandi Wallace.

Sandi has a dual career as a fitness instructor and as a writer. So, she embodies the ‘a healthy mind in a healthy body’ concept.

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That’s a terrific way to put it, Sonia. I also like to think of it as balancing my active, outgoing side with my sedentary, solitary one; both are creative and fun. Anyway, thanks so much for inviting me in for a chat!

What do you like to do when you are not writing?

I read every day and it’s almost always crime fiction. I also love to garden, exercise, canoe, relax, visit the country, and be around great people. An evening at home, enjoying a glass of red wine with my hubby, wood fire glowing and popping, the pup at our feet, the cat on my lap, and a crime show on TV is my idea of bliss.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

Since about the age of six, my dream was to be a crime writer.

What brings you joy? Lifts your spirits, chases away a down mood.

A walk with the pup, inhaling the pure air up here on our hill, looking across to the nearby hills cloaked in a pretty blue haze never fails to relieve my computer-sore eyes or to put my worries into perspective, and it reminds me just how fortunate I am. Time in our garden, working or just relaxing, or a simple evening with my hubby also lifts my spirits.200508 IMG_1973

 

What is for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating?

Chicken and salad. Hmm…a medium-hot Indian curry with peas–rice and garlic naan, or a beautiful Italian pasta dish. Mmm.

Can you tell us a little about your books?

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I’d love to! I have three rural crime thrillers—Tell Me Why, Dead Again and Into the Fog— along with a collection of short crime stories with central police characters, On the Job, all being re-released in fresh editions thanks to my new publisher. Even more exciting, two new titles will soon join the others. The second collection of my short crime stories, Murder in the Midst, is out 11 August and it features eight different women with one thing in common: serious crime. And my fourth rural thriller, Black Cloud, publishes on 22 July. I can’t wait!

My novels all star Melbourne journalist Georgie Harvey and Daylesford cop John Franklin. Combining Aussie Noir, parallel stories led by a journalist and a cop, and gritty rural fiction set in a variety of country locations, my novels can be enjoyed as standalone as the crime aspects are wrapped up within each one, though many people prefer to read them as part of the gripping series, following the lives of Georgie, Franklin and other cast members.

If you’d like to know more about my thrillers, please check out https://www.sandiwallace.com/new-aussie-noir/ or visit my Amazon or Goodreads pages.

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What time of the day do you usually write?
I aim for ‘business hours’ for my work and switch focus to quality time with my family at night. In pre-Covid times, that meant my writing sessions fitted around my fitness industry commitments in that work time, but right now I have bonus availability for writing. And of course, I do work outside those hours when the mood or need strikes.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
I enjoy all parts of writing—from the first idea right through to professional editing and proofreading the final draft. Marketing is the trickiest part of being a writer for me. What I like most are personal appearances with the opportunity to talk to and connect with readers and aspiring writers.

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How long do you research for a book?

Research can be a big hole that writers fall into, so interesting, that they spend far longer on it than they need to. I try to be disciplined and focused on the process. For my fourth rural crime thriller, Black Cloud, it was important for me to better understand several technical aspects of the situation I was setting up before jumping into the actual writing, as these points held direct consequences for the timeline, action and events. From there, the story evolved quite organically, but there were some further knowledge gaps that I either flagged and addressed after the draft was down, or I initiated the relevant research and added it in as I went.

What drew you to writing crime?

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Another atmospheric cover

I was destined to write crime after deciding it was for me at that tender age of six. Admittedly, I was first drawn to the genre by enjoyment value—books that gave vicarious thrills and danger, broadened knowledge, explored other cultures and places, exercised the brain, and offered an escape from the real world. But I now love crime stories that offer social commentary about topical issues, situations that are believable, are relatable and happening to imperfect people. Reading—and writing—crime fiction makes sense of things and often brings a type of justice or resolution not always possible in real life.

Have you written in other genres?
Crime fiction is my writing passion, but I have written some short stories that aren’t a crime, along with a fair volume of articles and other non-fiction material to develop my writer’s bio and skills.

Did you ever consider using a pseudonym?
Not for my adult crime fiction. My lifelong dream was to write it, so I wanted to put my name to it. One thing I might try one day is writing crime or mystery books for children or young adults. In that case, a pseudonym would be useful to differentiate my books for my audiences.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?

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Yes, my two main characters, journalist Georgie Harvey and country cop John Franklin. It’s great to wear their skin, get inside their head, be in their world. Georgie is determined, strong, and sometimes reckless. Franklin is intelligent, loyal, and a maverick. Both have vulnerabilities, strengths and weaknesses, and both have character traits I’d like to own, and others I am happy not to. I am also fond of, and in some cases love to hate, other characters in each of my stories.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?
We’re asking a lot of our readers. To invest in our stories. To care about our characters and the outcome of the situation we’ve built. To suspend disbelief at times. To care enough to finish the story. We want the story to resonate with readers after they finish and for them to recommend our books to others. It follows, then, that we need to feel it with them. While it can leave us vulnerable, a writer’s empathy and bond with their characters, story and readers are invaluable, is genuine and it shines through. (It is advisable to grow a thicker skin for other aspects of being a writer, though.)

Best writing advice you ever received?
Practice, practice, practice. Keep striving. Keep believing.

Do you have a favourite author and a favourite book, and why?
Oh, no! Naming one favourite author or one favourite book is like choosing a favourite child! I am an avid reader of Australian and international crime fiction. My preference is contemporary novels, and though I read many sub-genres of crime, I’m often drawn to rural crime thrillers, psychological thrillers, and police procedurals I also enjoy a good cosy when the mood strikes. I regularly feature my standout crime reads in my ‘Good Reads’ blog posts at https://www.sandiwallace.com/blog/.

What are you reading now?

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Writers are also readers.

Cause and Effect: Vice Plagues the City (Kind Hearts and Martinets Book 1) by Pete Adams, a stablemate in my new publishing house. Pete has a distinctive, witty, British style and his star is Detective Inspector Jack Austin, a ‘self-labelled enigma’ who runs the Community Police Unit from his deck chair, working a variety of cases while struggling with his mental health issues. Only a little way in, I’m enjoying its uniqueness very much already and know it’s going to take a more malevolent turn very soon.

Favourite quote (doesn’t matter the source)

‘You know it’s never too late to shoot for the stars. Regardless’ If today was your last day by Nickelback.

 

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Thanks so much for the chat, Sonia. I’ve had fun. I hope your followers have enjoyed it, too.

Its been fun -thanks, Sandi.

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Website https://www.sandiwallace.com/

Goodreads https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8431978.Sandi_Wallace

Amazon author page https://www.amazon.com/Sandi-Wallace/e/B00TTIYLVS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sandi.wallace.crimewriter

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/sandiwallacecrime/

Pinterest https://www.pinterest.com.au/sandiwallace_crimewriter/

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/sandi-wallace

Book buy links

Tell Me Why http://mybook.to/tellmewhy

Dead Again http://mybook.to/deadagain

Into the Fog http://mybook.to/intothefog

Black Cloud http://mybook.to/blackcloud

 

 

The Books That I Don’t Review.

 

I have always read widely and extensively. Books are chosen at random, maybe through a  friend’s recommendation, or reading a blurb. At times, I am tempted by a bookshop or library display. I  have a passion for fiction and also dip into non-fiction if the topic appeals to me.

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Things I love- books and cats and the time to read

Often, I will then write a review, I like to keep track of what I have read and use Good reads as well as posting reviews on my blog. I am not paid for the reviews and hardly ever receive a ‘free’ copy of a book. If I do so, then I reveal that.

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Pleasure in reading a good book.

There are some books that I won’t review though. As a writer, I know the amount of time and effort that goes into writing book. Volunteering as a book group coordinator for eleven -years taught me that there isn’t a book that appeals to everyone.

As readers, we bring our own experiences and expectations, to the books that we read. What one may describe as slow-paced, another may consider introspective and thoughtful. We may have ‘hot button’ topics, which are always going to be negative to us. Some may have moral or ethical scruples about certain kinds of books. Hot romance will not appeal to sweet or Christian romance readers, graphic content may not appeal to a more sensitive reader.

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My To-Be-Read Book Stack

For me it is simple, if I am not enjoying a book I stop reading and don’t review it. It’s not a bad book, put simply I am not the right reader. That is not to say there are no bad books, over wordy, pretentious, slight on a story, dull,  or prosaic,  of course,  there are. It’s up to us to decide for ourselves what they are.

 

 

Meet Josh Langley, Author, Illustrator, Copywriter, Broadcaster, After-life Investigator and All-Round Good Guy.

I met Josh and his partner Andy, at the Rockingham Writers’ Convention last year. I was slightly star-struck, after reading Find Your Creative Mojo. They are charming and loads of fun to chat with.  Josh has walked the walk, which gives his books such power to help children and adults while dealing with their anxieties.Josh Langley author head shot small (1)

What do you like to do when you are not writing? Sitting on my verandah with my husband watching the sunset over the valley enjoying a glass of wine (or several).

What did you want to be when you grew up? When I was 6, I wanted to be a train driver because seemingly all you had to do was toot the horn and wave at people as you went by. Otherwise, I’ve never had any idea what I wanted to be when I grew up. As long as it wasn’t a normal boring job! I think I’ve succeeded in that; radio announcer, radio copywriter, author/illustrator, photographer, abstract artist, part-time afterlife investigator… who knows what’s next?

Josh recently launched his own YouTube channel.

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What’s for dinner tonight? What would you rather be eating? Andy is cooking southern style chicken schnitzels and garlic roast veggies and it suits me just fine.

Can you cook? Are you practical? Yes, I can cook and quite enjoy it. I’m lucky, that both Andy and I enjoy cooking so we have lots of yummy meals. My favourite is Tortellini. (There’s a recipe for Lemon and Parsley Tortellini on page 54 of Being You is Enough if you’re interested.)

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Breakfast or dinner? Dinner definitely. Unless breakfast is something exotic like Parathas and onion bhajis…. (Or leftover Tortellini )

Your hero? I don’t have heroes, but there are a few people who I admire, such as Michael Leunig. I got to meet him at last years Margaret River Readers and Writers Festival (we were next to each other in the program guide, Langley / Leunig) and I was a blubbering mess. I couldn’t say anything interesting or clever, just ‘Um, I’m a big fan… Can I have a selfie?’. Sonia comments that’s so much like I was when I met you!

If you could choose three people to invite for a dinner party, (Living or dead) who would they be and why?

Iggy Pop. He could tell some awesome rock and roll stories. The late Anthony Bourdain. He could also tell some greats stories about people, food and travelling. My husband Andy. I couldn’t let him miss out on all the fun!

What time of the day do you usually write?BSP Its OK to feel the way you feel cover ABIA 2018 sm

I prefer mornings, the earlier the better but not like 3.30 (I did that once when I set the bedside clock wrong after a blackout) more like 5.30 onward.  However, if I’m drawing illustrations, that can be anytime.

What is the most difficult part about writing for you?

I have a really short attention span when it comes to writing and rarely gets into the flow. I’m constantly checking Facebook, getting up to snack on something or walking around outside. Oh, look! Is that packet of pretzels? Yum!

What is your work schedule like when you are writing?

All over the shop like a mad dog’s breakfast. There is no structure. When I was working 4 days a week, I used to get up at early and write for an hour before work, but now that I work from home all the time, there’s no structure at all. I’m trying to write a memoir on childhood trauma at the moment and I haven’t found my rhythm as yet, but I’m hoping it’ll come. Maybe pretzels will help.

What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

I can write anywhere. The kitchen table, office, beach, café etc. It doesn’t matter. I know that’s not quirky, but very handy!

Do you hear from your readers much? What do they say?

I get a lot of feedback from parents telling me how the kid’s books have made a big difference in their child’s lives. Especially kids who may be a little different or who don’t feel ‘normal’ for whatever reason. They say that the books have started great conversations and led to all sorts of life-changing insights for both the kids and the parents. That makes all that I do worthwhile.

How has being a copywriter influenced your writing style?

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Josh worked in radio

Radio copywriting is all about distilling big concepts down into simple easy to relate to messages, which means using as few words as possible. It’s the same for kid’s books. I take big concepts such as emotional and mental well-being and all that’s associated with them and break them down into powerful short sentences and then marry them with simple cartoon-like illustrations. It’s the art of saying more with less.

I guess that in copywriting you work to appeal to emotions, does that carry over into your writing?

Yep, advertising is all about connecting on an emotional level and that is the same for writing non-fiction and kids books. Even though I’m not a traditional storyteller, the way I shape a story is to go direct to the heart of the reader and make a deep connection that way. Cut straight to the chase but have fun while doing it.

I think you have said that you write your children’s books for the kid you once were. I know that many, many kids and adults relate to them.

Yes, I write the books as though I was giving life advice to my 8-year-old self. I think there are only a handful of kids authors who are in the same boat as me (Todd Parr for example) as most are either teachers, educators, librarians, in the child development field or have kids themselves and I don’t fit into any of that. So writing the books for myself made sense and it was healing as well, as I had experienced childhood trauma and through the books, I was able to reassure the younger me that he is OK the way he was and that he is loved. I think parents can relate to the same message because it’s something they wanted to hear when they were young too.

Do you have a favourite character that you have written? If so, who? And what makes them so special?

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Graeme the giraffe.

I love Graeme the Giraffe, the cover boy for Magnificent Mistakes. He represents the confident, playful happy go lucky kid in all of us. He’s not too concerned about what other people think of him and he’s willing to give new things a go. He wants to wring the most out of life.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions?

Everyone can feel their emotions in some way, even if it’s getting angry at a bus being late! However it’s being able to tap into that emotion and transfer it to the page so that everyone can relate to it, that’s the trick.

Best writing advice? Worst writing advice you ever received?

Best: “Adverbs are not your friend” – Stephen King. Worst: “This is crap” – Me.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer? My laptop. I love it. I really do. I think I spend more time with it than my husband!

Many people won’t have heard about your exploration into the afterlife. Personally, I’d like to thank you for doing things I have always been too scared to do. You have two books about this, don’t you?

Yes, ‘Dying to Know: If there life after death’ and ‘Turning Inside Out; What is everything we’ve been taught about life is wrong?’ both on my website.

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I’ve always been interested in ghosts, the paranormal and afterlife topics and I was desperate to see if could have a personal experience of some kind myself. When I was planning the outline of Dying to Know I knew I had to include a ghost investigation, however, I couldn’t think of anywhere that I could have easy access too. Then one of my work colleagues mentioned in passing that he thought the radio station he was working at was haunted in some way. I remembered I had worked there many years before and thought the same thing. Bam! I had my haunted building! It’s not often you get to play ghost investigator, but it was heaps of fun, yet very scary at the same. It’s the kind of adrenaline rush I love. While some people like parachuting out of a perfectly good plan, I like to see if I can come face to face with a ghost!turning inside out

 

How many unpublished/ half-finished books do you have?

1 novel, 2 kids books, a photographic book, and other stuff.

QUESTIONS FOR FUN (or maybe not!)

What are you reading now? Irritating posts on Facebook!

Do you have a favourite author? I don’t have a favourite author per se, but enjoy Mark Manson, Anne Lamott and Rebecca Solnit.

What books or authors have most influenced your writing? I really got a lot out of Stephen King’s On Writing.

Is there an author you most admire in your genre? Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are). His personal story always brings a tear to my eye. He kept his homosexuality and his 50-year relationship to his partner a secret from his Jewish parents because he didn’t want to disappoint them. If I could give him a copy of Being You is Enough and give him a hug, I would.

Favourite quote: “Find your own lane” – Diane Evans (my editor)

Favourite book when you were a kid? Rhyme Giggles, Nonsense Giggles, written by William Cole and Illustrated by Tomi Ungerer

Do you think being in a supportive partnership has helped your confidence and creativity?

Hell yes. I’m lucky that Andy is so supportive and encourages me to keep going with my projects. It also helps that he’s a writer and creative type as well, so we’re both encouraging and supporting each other. Mind you have been known to fight over the little writing desk on our library!

Thank you for having me, it’s been fun! Thank you for being here, Josh.

Find all about Josh and his books at www.joshlangley.com.au

https://www.facebook.com/joshlangleywriter/

https://www.instagram.com/joshlangleyauthor/