Guest Post – Questions for P.L.Harris – a.ka. Polly Holmes.

Today it is my pleasure to welcome P.L. Harris and her alter-ego Polly Holmes to chat with us about her writing journey. We first met at a book launch and I asked her if at some point she would be a guest on my blog. She is a busy and versatile writer who writes contemporary romance, romantic suspense as well as cosy mysteries. She also holds down a fulltime job as a teacher so her time is pretty full.

Peta Flanigan - P.L Harris
Author.P.L.Harris

What is your latest book about?

My latest book is the first in my Burrum Ridge romantic suspense series, In His Protection. It follows Melody Maddison as she discovers an old photo of her mother with a newborn baby that is neither her, nor her siblings. While she’ll do anything to uncover the truth, someone is willing to go to whatever lengths to keep the truth the secret, even if it means silencing Melody for good.

What inspired it? This book, in fact, the series, is inspired by my niece Kara-Lee through a brainstorming session about two years ago while visiting the Hot Springs at Mornington Peninsula in Melbourne. She asked me, what if you found a photo of Grandma (my mother) with a baby you know nothing about, what would you do?It kind of went from there and it has turned into a series of six books, one for each of the siblings and I can’t wait to write them.

InHisProtection (1)

 

Who is the main character?

My heroine is Melody Maddison. Her mother past away when she was 26 and she has been travelling for 2 years trying to deal with the loss leaving her sister Riley to pick up the pieces. Now she’s 28 and returned home to help her sister sort their mother’s possessions.

My hero is Noah St. Reeve. Noah has been working in Perth and decided to start his own security and protection business, but unsure where to base it. Seeing Melody almost run down by a car cements in his mind his course. To protect her at all costs.

Why should we care about them?

Everyone has a secret, and for Melody finding out the secret behind the photo may lead her to a long lost sibling. If she can uncover the secret she’ll be able to share with them how wonderful her mother really was. We want to find out who the baby is, for Melody’s sake. We want to know if Noah will be able to save her in time and most of all if Melody has the willpower and strength to save her own life in the face of danger.

person having tea while working
Often a love of reading leads to writing.

Did you always want to write?

I loved reading and writing stories, but no I never thought I was good enough to write a story that could be published. I loved to make up stories in my younger days. My imagination would always be racing ahead of me. I loved being in a world of make-believe, maybe that’s why I went into the theatre and became a director and drama teacher. A few years ago, I took some time out for me and I started reading again and I realised I could forget the worries of the world for that moment while I was immersed in the story.

 

Which books did you love as a child?

woman and a girl on bed holding a book
A love of reading begins in childhood

Sweet Valley High and Sweet Dreams romances were my all-time favourite books to read when I was growing up and I still have most of them today. I loved Nancy Drew, I suppose that is why I love writing mystery novels. Also, Enid Blyton’s the Wishing Chair.

You write in several genes Contemporary romance and Amateur Sleuths or cosy mysteries – was that deliberate choice or do you just have so many ideas? Which came first?

It wasn’t a conscious decision, I kind of stumbled into it. I always wanted to write contemporary romance and I knew I wanted to have drama and suspense in them. So I started writing contemporary romance first. I also knew it was a way for me to deal with certain things going on in my personal life and I could express it through my characters. I suppose you could say it was a kind of therapy.

Then when I was looking for a cover for Callie’s Dilemma I stumbled across Mariah Sinclair’s website where I did indeed find the cover, but also stumbled across the cupcake capers cozy covers and that was it I was hooked. I ended up buying 13 covers but had no idea what a cozy was. Crazy I hear you say. Yep, totally.

Cupcakes
Can you see why Polly Holmes fell in love with this cover?

 

In His Protection went on hold and I had to research the genre. What it was, what you can and can’t do, it was a whole new world. Then I posted on Amazon the dates I was releasing them in 2018. Why I did that I have no idea because it put me under so much pressure to get them out on time and at the same time I was staging the musical Lion King Jr at school.

In the end, it was a huge learning curve, but it also helped me realise that I love writing cozies and also romantic suspense.

Research into each writing style is the key. Know what the readers want and deliver. I had an email from a lady who loved my book but wanted a recipe in the back like everyone else does.

I do have to try and turn off one genre when I am writing another and that’s where my planning comes it. I love to plan my novel out.

 

What is the best writing advice you ever received?

Never give up no matter how much you feel like it.

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Asking for advice can bring positive results.

What is the worst? I’m not sure I have had any bad advice. It’s about knowing which bit of advice to take that will work for you and which bits to leave behind.

 

If you were starting now would you do anything differently?

I would definitely have learnt more about the self-promotion, social media side of the industry right from the start and started that much, much earlier. Follow the experts. If they have tried something and it didn’t work, think carefully if you are going to follow in their footsteps. I would have created another pen name for my different genres, which I have now done, but a year after the first cozy publication. Look out for Polly Holmes in the cozy mystery genre.

You sound incredibly busy how do you manage to fit it all in?

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Polly Holmes.

Sometimes, I don’t fit it all in. Although I work full-time, I want to write and I can’t let my busy schedule stop me. It’s something that I can do for me, something that makes me happy (When it’s all going to plan) I do have to try and prioritise especially around the busy times at school like exams and reporting time. Sometimes I am guilty of putting things in the too hard basket and then I feel guilty so out they come and I persist until I achieve it.

Often I ask myself is it worth it? The answer always turns out to be yes. In the long run, I know that I will succeed if I persist. Take the good with the bad and there is always more good than bad.

How long have you been published and how are you so prolific?

I have been published 2 years now and self-published 18 months. I think the key is persistence and learning as you go. You can’t get everything right the first time, but learning from mistakes allows you to improve the next time. Knowing what you want and setting the intention to achieve it.

 

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.

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What makes you smile?

That is a hard one and I’m not sure if they are fun facts. I love old musicals and sometimes I wish I was born back when Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Ann Miller and the greats were around. Even though I can’t sing it doesn’t stop me from having a go when a great tune comes on.

If I hear music with a good beat, I have to dance no matter where I am. It’s in my blood.

I’m addicted to most reality TV especially House Rules, MKR, Masterchef. I know, it’s very bad.

It has been great learning more about your writing journey- thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us.

Book links:

https://www.amazon.com.au/His-Protection-Burrum-Ridge-Book-ebook/dp/B07MTQRPN7

https://www.amazon.com/His-Protection-Burrum-Ridge-Book-ebook/dp/B07MTQRPN7

 

 

What Did I Read in October 2018?

First a disclaimer- I have been busy writing a novella and doing some research and that has taken up a lot of my time but of course, I still found time to read! My choices have been perhaps more relaxing than normal, as I was reading for escapism.

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

Dancing over the Hill by Cathy Hopkins

dancing Over the hIll

Cait’s thirty-year-old marriage is ho-hum, Matt her husband is as exciting as an old sock- They are ‘comfortable ‘together. If occasionally she wonders ’is that all there is?’ She accepts that yes, it is. Then she hears from a sexy old flame Tom and remembers the person she used to be, impulsive, a free spirit. Can she recapture that, and does she want to?  Witty and wise, with heaps of practical advice- better and cheaper than marriage guidance! I really enjoyed this new to me author

Death on The Menu by Lucy Burdette

Death on ther Menu

Actually, number eight in this foodie series about Key West, but I was able to read it as a stand-alone, I found the descriptions of both the food and Key West appealing. The mystery kept me guessing, the recipes sound delicious and it was a painless way to learn about the Hemingway legacy and The Truman Little White House as well as the links to Cuba.

Kicking the Bucket List by Cathy Hopkins

Kicking the Bucket list

Three sisters are reluctantly reunited by their mother’s death and her last wishes contained in her will. Daisy, Fleur and Rose have grown apart and it appears their mother’s last wish is to reunite them. They have to follow the terms of her will for a year and complete the tasks she assigns in her ‘bucket list’ before any of them can a collect their inheritance. Fleur is well off, Rose appears to be doing well but Daisy (Dee) really needs the money. If the three don’t all complete the list, then no-one gets anything. Throw in the charming and elusive Daniel who administer the bucket list and adds a little charisma to the task. At times funny but also sad and thought-provoking, it may get you to contemplate your own bucket list.

The Book Ninja by Ali Berg And Michelle Kalus

Book Ninja

If you love books, then can that love for books help you find love? Frankie Rose certainly hopes so. She leaves books on trains all over Melbourne with her name and contact number. The man of her dreams will be sophisticated, cultivated and well read.

Meanwhile, she goes on numerous dates with men who don’t fit the bill. Then she meets Sunny on a train, his quick thinking saves her from embarrassment and she could fall or him. But for his disastrous (in her eyes) taste in books.

Original, funny, quirky and quite delightful.

The Kitchen Table Tarot by Melissa Cynova

Kicthen Tarot

Interested in Tarot? Ever wanted to learn more? This is the book to provide the answers- I read through the information and did my first simple Tarot reading for myself. To make it easier, I noted down the cards as I turned them over and if they were the right way up or inverted After that I wrote down the meanings and found that I had a perfectly acceptable Tarot reading. If Tarot interests you, then this could be the book to get you started in doing readings.

To the Moon and Back by Jill Mansell

moon & Back

An easy to read romance.  Ellie is trying to get her life back on track after the tragic death of her husband. But he is still very much in her heart and occasionally in her living room talking to her. She knows he’s not real, but she doesn’t want to let him go. Is she missing out on life by clinging to the past and what happens when she feels an attraction to someone else?

The Perfect Location by Kate Forster

The Perfcet location

Even seemingly perfect lives hold traumas and secrets– an easy to read tale of three famous women who appear to have it all. Had a bit of fun ‘star spotting’ and wondering if I was right! Fast paced and reminiscent of Jackie Collins

1001 Ways to Be Creative by Barbara Ann Kipfer

 1001

At times our creativity can be elusive, but with 1001 ideas you are bound to find at least one or two which help you rekindle that spark of creativity. Ideal to dip in and out of, some ideas will make you giggle, some may well inspire you, and there are some great quotes about creativity too.

The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart by Molly RinglandTeh Lost flowers of Alice Hart

Very much a publishing sensation the cover imagery, as well as the almost fairy-tale beginning, seemed to promise a whimsical and intriguing tale. At times there was an almost dark fairy-tale quality to the book- I’d describe it as veering towards the more literary end of the spectrum. There was so much sadness that ultimately, I had to will myself to keep reading and finish the book. I know many have loved it and the prose is engaging. As others have commented the last third didn’t sit so well with the first two-thirds of the book, it felt like a different story

This is Why You Should Attend Author Talks.

We all have limited time at our disposal so should you take time out to attend an author talk?

My answer is – it depends on what you want from the talkWoman reading jojo Silass unspalsh

Firstly, have you read any of the author’s books or do you intend to?

It’s true that you can probably learn something from every author, but if you don’t write fantasy you may not need to learn how that writer built their fantasy world

It makes more sense to attend a talk by an author of books in a genre that you enjoy. You will get more out of it and understand the nuances that he/she is talking about.

Do you want to know more about their books or their writing process?

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Have you heard from others that their talks are entertaining and meaningful?

One fairly well-known crime writer gave a talk that was so self-congratulatory and self-absorbed that he barely had time to listen to questions, much less answer them.

In contrast, I recently attended a talk by author Rachael Johns international best-selling author and writer of both contemporary fiction and rural romances.

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As a former English teacher Rachael is as you would expect is a big fan of both reading and writing.

Her first point was that ‘you have to be a reader to be a writer’

She quoted statistics from the University of Sussex, which showed that regular reading slowed the onset of dementia and also reduced stress by 66%. We readers know what we are doing!

Additionally, storytelling is important to society, offering escapism, relaxation, thrills, enjoyment and encouraging a capacity for empathy.

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Photo by Diana on Pexels.com

It is fascinating to learn how a story came about, what hunches or subconscious suggestions added to the tale.

In her talk she debunked many myths about their being ‘only one way to write’ and ‘you must plan your story in detail’

As someone who never fills out a character profile sheet (which is often recommended ), it was thrilling to hear Rachael say that she never uses them. Her stories grow organically, as she learns details about her characters.

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

The talk covered more topic such as what makes a book memorable? Why do we care about characters?  We want them to grow and change to face up to challenges. She said that ‘people are products of their pasts’. Past hurts, emotional or physical leave their marks. In real life we want happiness but in fiction, we seek drama and conflict As Rachael said, ‘we need to torture our characters.’

It is inspiring how normal those rarefied creatures called authors are, how pleased they are to hear that you liked their book and want them to sign it for you. And of course, you can thank an author by leaving a review of their book on Good reads or AmazonSANYO DIGITAL CAMERA

As a reader it feels good to meet your favourite authors, to thank them and say how much you enjoyed their book, but as a writer, it is encouraging to hear how scenes were deleted, how characters refused to behave, how the author struggled to completion.

An author talk can be a simple social event, with a chat and a cup of tea or a glass of wine afterwards, or it can be a lesson in what successful authors do that you could do too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Books That I Read in August

August has been a busy and challenging month, with writing contests to enter, and technology challenges to overcome, computer glitches and getting connected to the National Broadband Network but I still made time to read. My selections were perhaps a tad more lighthearted than usual.

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Photo by Element5 Digital on Pexels.com

The Fast and The Furriest by Sofie Ryan: A Second Chance Cat Mystery

The cover of this book with its handsome black cat and its title attracted me. Two cat -loves- of- my- life were black cats, Midnight and Mystic. Previously I’ve enjoyed a couple of cat mystery series Midnight Louie by Carol Nelson Douglas and The Cat Who series Lilian Jackson Braun.This might easily be another series to add to my favourites list.

The Fast & the Furriest

The fast and the Furriest is the fifth book in the series, but it was easy to get involved. Sarah Grayson owner of Second Chance refurbishes objects and furniture for her store, with the help of Mac, who can turn his hand to most things. There is also a handsome black rescue cat called Elvis. Life is good in North Harbor, Maine until a woman from Mac’s past visits and ends up dead. Suspicions abound, but Sarah can’t believe Mac did it and Elvis agrees. They just have to prove it.

Antiques Flee Market by Barbara Allan. A Trash & Treasure Mystery

Antiques Flee MArket

Spell check wants to change the title but it is Flee market, not Flea market, a play on words! Almost a reprise of The Fast and The Furriest although this time the featured animal is Sushi a Shih Tzu dog. The story is mainly told by Brandy Borne with occasional interjections by her mother Vivian. It’s a madcap mix of fun and danger. Chapters include Flea market tips. Again, part of a series, but I was still able to follow a lot, if not know all the backstory

Paris Lights by C J Duggan

I was fortunate enough to win a  copy of this book but was under no obligation to review it. Its been on my bookshelves for a month or two.PAris LIghts Book

Claire Shorten should be enjoying a romantic time in Paris, strolling by the Seine, exploring the districts and eating fabulous French food, with her boyfriend who she is sure is about to propose. Her dreams crash when he dumps her, leaving her alone in Paris, the city of romance.

Claire manages to get a job at a small hotel and that’s when things get interesting as she meets the inscrutable yet sexy Louis Delarue. He’s a celebrity chef with attitude to spare. A fun read with a sexy, stylish vibe and a certain ‘Je ne sais pas’ that extra ingredients which lifts it from a standard romance. This is the first books I have read by CJ Duggan and I really enjoyed it as I sped through it.

The Other Wife by Michael Robotham

The Other Wife

An intriguing premise what if everything you thought you knew about someone was wrong? This is the problem facing clinical psychologist Joe O’Loughlin and it’s not an academic problem, it concerns his injured father. It kept me guessing as layer after layer of subterfuge and deceit was revealed. Like Joe we want to know ‘the truth’ but whose truth is the real story? My sympathises fluctuated between characters and I found it a believable and satisfying read, an absolute page-turner.

London Bound By C.J Duggan.

London Bound

London!  Australian Kate Brown has dreamed about it and now she’s there London is tantalisingly close. If only she can escape the ‘it’s for your own good’ clutches of her grandmother who seems to want to occupy every minute of Kate’s day. Fortunately, handsome neighbour Jack Baker finds Kate intriguing and wants to know her better in spite of the unfortunateness of almost running her down.

While I found this an enjoyable read, for me it didn’t have quite the pizzazz of Paris Lights. It ended so abruptly that I turned the page expecting more and was nonplussed to discover it had ended,

Brain Rules for Aging Well by John Medina

Brain Rules

A molecular biologist explains the habits of those people called ‘super agers’ people who stay fit and healthy into old age. The book explores the current scientific thinking and how that can be translated into ordinary lives. Explodes some myths along the way, such as nostalgia is bad for you. It’s good to reminisce. Fascinatingly scientist has managed to double the lifespan of mice but so far there are no human applications. An absorbing read although I did read it slowly. Lots of simple and effective advice.

Lenny’s Book of Everything by Karen Foxlee

Lenny's Book of Everything

I was fortunate enough to be sent an advance reading copy of this book. It’s a book which is hard to categorize and a story that stays with you after you have closed the pages. In a sense, it reminded me of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Narrator Lenny worries about Davey, her younger but much bigger brother and their single mother Cynthia Spink. They are dealing with hardships and illness, and with longings for a better life, a better outcome. Lenny wonders about her absent father and knows that her mother is ’thin with worrying.’ When their mother wins a set of Burrell’s Build it at Home Encyclopaedia, arriving in weekly instalments it opens knowledge and imagination for both.  Her determination that her children will have the best that she can provide is expressed in her letters to Burrell. Lenny and Davey became real to me I smiled at Davey’s imaginary eagle improbably named Timothy. I ached for Lenny with her longing to find her missing father. It might be a stretch for most ten-year-olds but any literate imaginative ten+ should love this book.