Blog Archives

Welcome to Helen Barrell – author

On my blog today I’m very pleased to welcome Helen Barrell. They say that the truth is stranger than fiction and Helen’s book Poison Panic, described as ‘A clever mix of family history and true crime’ – Angela Buckley, is a great read if you’re looking for something ‘different‘. But  I’ll let Helen do the talking . . .

Tell us something about yourself, Helen

Librarian by day, and author by night; I’m surrounded by books all the time. I’ve always written, but it’s my non-fiction Victorian true crime which has been published, while my fiction lingers on in a drawer. I live in Birmingham, with my partner and two cats, and drink far too much tea. I dress up in historical costume when the mood takes me. And I didn’t intend that to rhyme. Sorry.

Who or what has inspired you the most/ to become a writer?

My grandad, who used to sit me and my brother on his knee, and make up stories as they came to him. My favourite ones were about his time in France and Belgium during WW2 – he used to turn his adventures into ghost stories. Haunted, abandoned chateaux were his speciality, as well as his retelling of the haunting of Borley Rectory. Some people have commented that I write how I speak, and perhaps it’s that storytelling courtesy of my grandad which is behind that. There were always books in our house when I was growing up, and I loved going to our local library. At some point, I made the connection between the stories that people tell with their voices, and the stories people tell by writing them down.

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Being a modern author, Helen has used the power of the internet to bring her stories alive for her readers. Click on this link to watch her fabulous book trailer for Poison Panic.

If you’d like to hear Helen reading from Poison Panic, click here.

When you’re not dreaming about poison (!) describe your typical writing day I fit my writing around my job, so I tend to write in the evening, heading up to my desk as soon as I get home from work. I manage to fit in two hours of writing that way. I spend chunks of my weekends writing as well. I’m a bit of a hermit, really! I will sometimes write during my lunch hour or if I get an idea that wakes me up early, I’ll give up trying to get back to sleep and spend some time writing early in the morning. I commute to and from the day job on foot, and I find walking a wonderful way to get lost in my thoughts. So “writing” happens then, too. When deadlines loom, I take holiday from work to write. Recently I took a day’s annual leave in order to work on my book’s index – yes, an index. Such are the woes of the non-fiction author.

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I love Ripper Street so this is all beginning to sound right up my strasse. Helen, you seem very media-savvy, having produced your own  videos etc, so, here’s my next question:

Social Networking – a help or a hindrance? I’m never entirely sure how well social media helps to sell books, but I will say that it’s an excellent way to get in touch with other writers. Getting to know other writers is an excellent way to share your pain! Twitter is even worth using purely as a writing tool: that focus required to fit what you need into the character limit is good discipline for saying much with little.

Tell us a little about your new book- Fatal Evidence –  A surgeon and chemist at Guy’s Hospital in London, Professor Alfred Swaine Taylor used new techniques to search the human body for evidence that once had been unseen. A toxicologist, he could also identify blood on clothing and weapons, and used hair and fibre analysis to catch killers. He gave Charles Dickens a tour of his laboratory, and Wilkie Collins owned copies of his books. For Dorothy L. Sayers, Taylor’s books on forensic science were ‘the back doors to death’.

Fatal Evidence is available for pre-order here

Tailcoat and waistcoat by Walker Slater of Edinburgh

. . . and finally, Helen – and tips for fledgeling authors? There’s no point sitting about not-writing, telling everyone “I’d really like to be a writer,” or “I can picture myself musing at a typewriter by a picture window.” Just get on with it! Whatever it takes – fire up your laptop, open “notes” on your phone, grab a pen and paper, the back of an envelope, or a clattering old typewriter if you really must, and write. Even if it’s a few lines of conversation, a description, a plot outline. Something.Get some words down. They might not be amazing words, but get them down. And then you’re not not-writing, you’re writing, and you’ve set your foot on the path to being an author.

I hear you, sister ! Thank you for coming onto my blog, it’s been fascinating and, who knows, I might be knocking on your door for advice if I give up writing romance and go over to the ‘dark side’. (Helen kindly took these photos of Tall, Dark and Kilted when she visited Edinburgh recently.)

Some reviews of  Helen’s work

Reviews for Poison Panic  “A clever mix of family history and true crime.” – Angela Buckley, chair of the Society of Genealogists.” “These scandalous true stories are as compelling as any crime fiction.” –All About History magazine. “Poison Panic is an intriguing read that brings a forgotten history to light and reveals past attitudes to women – and a national fear that gripped Victorian Britain.” – Family Tree magazine

Finally – what are you working on ATM?

With two non-fiction titles under my belt, I’m focussing on fiction for a while. I’ve started work on a 19th-century police procedural series, set in the riverside village I grew up in.  I’ve recently started to write collaboratively with Catherine Curzon  – we have historical romance and romantic thrillers up our collective sleeves.

 

Take a chance on me . . .

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It doesn’t seem possible that almost five years have passed since we launched New Romantics Press. At the time, we each said: “We’ll be happy just to see our novel in print.”

Since then, we’ve been bitten by the writing bug and gone on to write further novels, win accolades, reach the finals of a prestigious book award and achieve bestseller status (historical romance>Scottish) on Amazon. Not to forget, hosting a wonderful book launch at Waterstones in Kensington. Between us, we’ve written ten fabulous novels and gained a host of readers who are hungry for more! With four new novels in the pipeline, we thought it time to thank our wonderful readers/supporters and to celebrate our achievements by uploading a Kindle book, containing the first two chapters of each of our novels to share with you.

The Kindle is almost a novel in its own right – almost forty thousand words in all!

So . . . if you have never read any of our novels, now’s the time to

 TAKE A CHANCE ON US

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Within the pages of the Kindle you will find: romantic heroes and heroines aplenty; men in kilts, cowboys, Victorian Misses, Twenties Girls, Wild Irish actors who bear more than a passing resemblance to Pierce Brosnan, feisty heroines who live on remote islands in the Atlantic, academics, priests, enigmatic heroes – and women ‘who love not wisely, but too well.’  In short, ten ideal summer reads to take to the beach with you – a book for every mood. Click here to read an extract/buy/share 

Since publishing Take a Chance on us, Adrienne and Lizzie have written Fur Coat and No Knickers – a collection of poems and short stories and Girl in the Castle – fall in love with a Highlander

click here to download a copy of Take a chance on us

and, from all of us –  thank you very much – have a great summer!

Lizzie, Adrienne, June and Mags

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Summer Magic – Romance in the Court

Romance in the Court, hosted by David Headley, managing director of Goldsborough Books and literary agent is a fabulous event and one of the highlights of my summer. On Thursday, I travelled down to London with fellow New Romantic Press author, Adrienne Vaughan to join writers, agents, bloggers and publishing representatives at Cecil Court WC2. 1-PhotoFunia-1495785178

Adrienne had to buy ‘emergency shoes’ from Dune in St Pancras en route (as one does) and I waited patiently, knowing resistance was futile. A taxi ride through London always sets us up for these events and we really felt the buzz on this warm, summer evening.  First stop was Cote Brasserie across the road from Cecil Court to refuel. As we sat sipping our wine, Sir Roy Strong walked past looking very dapper, which was apt considering it is Chelsea Flower Show week. Last time Ade and I had a similar outing we bumped into Dustin Hoffman. Well, I bumped into him, Ade was too busy looking at shoes in Tod’s window on Kensington High Street.  Shoes, again? Honestly!

David’s hospitality is legendary and his young staff so friendly and accommodating (thank you Emily et al)  that in no time we had picked up our author badges, a glass of ice cold prosecco and started mingling. As you can see from this photo, the court was soon buzzing as we met up with fellow RNA members and others from the publishing industry. I was able to hand out promotional postcards announcing the publication of my latest book: GIRL IN THE CASTLE, which I am very thrilled about.

The interior of Goldsborough Books is fascinating, with many signed first editions behind glass-fronted bookcases.There are also many contemporary novels on sale, and I spotted many favourite authors on the shelves. There is a sign on the stairs suggesting that it leads to Hogwarts, but I was having too much fun to follow it.

Sadly, we had to leave to catch a taxi back to St Pancras for the ten o’clock to Leicester. We are very much looking forward to the RNA Summer Conference when we will meet up with our writer friends once more. Here’s my blog post about last year’a Romance in the Court if you would like to read it.

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Footnote: many friends at the event wanted to know more about our caravan trip to Cornwall (where I did a fair impersonation of a drowned rat), and to hear more of the antics of our parrot, Jasper, who travels with us. Here he is, and here am I with writer Rosemary Smith,  who I met up with in St Mawes, presenting her with a signed paperback of Girl in the Castle.

 If you would like to read a sample, share or buy Girl in the Castle please  click here 2017-05-23 07.32.35

So – here’s to Romance in the Court 2018 when I hope the weather gods smile on us. Thank you for reading this blog post – if you feel like sharing with others, the buttons can be found below.

#ChicklitMay Book Boyfriend Hop

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Hi, I’m RAPHAEL FONSECA-FFINCH – 38 – campaigning journalist and adrenalin junkie, born of dual Scottish-Brazilian heritage. Hence the name. Despite what is says in my passport I’m a citizen of no country and travel the world alone in search of the next scoop, the next headline-grabbing story. My life is solitary and often dangerous, but that’s my choice. I have a driven personality and that makes me hard to live with. I have no time for emotional entanglements and that, conversely, makes women eager to ‘be the one’ to tame my free spirit.

I’ve staked out a Boot Camp for Brides on the Norfolk marshes which I believe a Columbian cartel is using to smuggle drugs into the UK. I need to gain access to the camp, and for that, I need a ‘fake fiancée’. I’ve found one in the shape of rookie journalist Charlie Montague. However, I’m a lone wolf and concerned that taking on a partner will slow me down. Worse still – that shaking her off at the end of the assignment will prove harder than dodging the cartel’s bullets.

 Acquiring a phoney fiancee will enable me to enter and leave the boot camp without arousing suspicion.

On paper, Montague seems ideal – keen to learn, smart enough to accept any terms and anxious to work alongside me. So far, so good; so why do I have the uneasy feeling I’ve caught a tiger by the tail? That, given half a chance she’ll go off-piste and do her own thing? There’s something about her which attracts me. God forbid that she will be the one who succeeds where others have failed. Bringing me to my knees and forcing me to admit that, underneath the hard-bitten exterior I’ve cultivated, I’m as lonely and emotionally vulnerable as the next man.

At the end of the assignment, will I be able to walk away from the Boot Camp Bride?

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If you like what you’ve read, please vote for me, Rafael Fonseca-Ffinch by emailing traciebanister@gmail.com 

You can also hop to all the stops on the Book Boyfriend Blog, collect the candidate’s name at each stop, then submit all 30 names to the same address in order to be entered into the GRAND PRIZE GIVEAWAY. This giveaway includes a Kindle Paperwhite + 30 e-books, one from each of the authors participating in the hop. Entries for the hop will be accepted until Sunday, May 21st at midnight – EDT.

A winner will be chosen on Monday, May 22nd.

I’ll be gifting Boot Camp Bride so you can read how Charlie and Rafa’s love story unfolds.

 If you can’t wait that long, Boot Camp Bride is currently on Kindle Countdown at 99p/99c 

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And the winner of our Grand Prize is Kathy Davis. I have already contacted Kathy and her new Kindle Paperwhite is on the way to her. As soon as she receives the e-reader and sets it up, we can each gift her a copy of the e-book we promised. 

Here are all  the participating blogs 

Tracie Banister http://traciebanister.blogspot.com/

Becky Monson https://www.beckymonson.com/blog 

Hilary Grossman http://www.feelingbeachie.com

Glynis Astie http://www.glynisastie.com/blog

Jayne Denker http://jaynedenker.com

Jennie Marts http://www.jenniemarts.com/blog.html 

Barbara Valentin https://barbaravalentin.com/blog/

Beth Labonte http://www.secretary4life.com

Victoria Cooke https://victoriacooke10.wordpress.com/

Holly Kerr http://hollykerr.ca/my-blog/

Meredith Schorr http://www.meredithschorr.com

Stacey Wiedower http://www.staceywiedower.com/blog/

Laurie Baxter http://lauriebaxter.com/blog/

Jennifer Farwell http://jenniferfarwell.com/#blog

Natalina Reis https://catarinadeobidos.wordpress.com/about/

Celia Kennedy http://www.womanreinventsself.blogspot.com

Beth Carter http://banterwithbeth.blogspot.com/

Ellyn Oaksmith http://ellynoaksmith.com/

BJ Knapp http://bjknapp.com/blog

Lizzie Lamb https://lizzielamb.co.uk/lizzies-scribbles/

Sylvia Ashby http://sylvia-ashby.com/?cat=64

Karen M. Cox http://karenmcox.merytonpress.com/blog/

Lindsay Detwiler http://www.lindsaydetwiler.com/

Kirsty McManus http://www.kirstymcmanus.com.au/category/blog-news/

Melissa Baldwin http://www.authormelissabaldwin.com/news.html

Geralyn Corcillo http://thingsthatmakemegommmrrh.blogspot.com

Cassandra O’Leary http://www.cassandraolearyauthor.com/blog/

Cat Lavoie http://www.catlavoie.com/blog

Kate O’Keeffe http://kateokeeffe.com/blog

Monique McDonell http://www.moniquemcdonellauthor.com/blog

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Girl in the Castle

IMG_3558[3]Finally – the work in progress is finished, and is available for kindle download, to purchase as a paperback and to read FREE on kindle unlimited. Thank you to all readers, writers and friends who’ve been on this journey with me. Tada, drum roll – I proudly present – Girl in the Castle 

Here’s the book trailer

If you’ve followed over from my newsletter – here’s the opening chapter. 

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‘Castle Tearmannaire’

There it was, again—a lament; the kind played from the parapet of a castle high above a loch, the piper hidden by swirling autumn mist and fading light. Unable to ignore it any longer, Henriette Bruar ended the podcast—Five Historic Hauntings for Hallowe’en—and, ears straining, glanced half-fearfully over her shoulder in case some madman had got on at the last station, hell bent on making it plain that here was no place for Sassenachs.

            No place for lone, female travellers either, come to that.

            However, the train was empty, as it had been for the past half an hour. For who, in their right mind, would take the last train out of Fort William on a wet autumn afternoon and travel up the line to MacKenzie’s Halt?

            Only her, of course. Henriette Bruar, lately studying history at Saint Guthlac University, Hexham, in the north of England, until—well, until she’d screwed things up so badly that she’d been forced to come high-tailing it up to this remote corner of Scotland until the heat died down.

            ‘Stop imagining things!’ she admonished herself, her voice unnaturally loud in the empty carriage. That had the desired effect of banishing the piper and restoring her grip on reality. Her iPhone, she reasoned, must have picked up a transmission from a nearby radio station—Highland FM, or similar. That, coupled with the spooky podcast, was enough to make her imagine things.

            Yes, that was it.

            However, just in case, she cast another look around the carriage. As she did so, the feeling of presentiment which had dogged her since setting foot on Scottish soil returned, accompanied this time by pins and needles and the shivery, shaky feeling which usually heralds a virus. Physical sensations which no amount of foot-stamping, arm swinging or cups of lukewarm coffee could banish.

            ‘You need to get your blood pumping, Bruar,’ she said in the no-nonsense tone of a games mistress. ‘You haven’t got time for flights of fancy. You’re here for one reason, and one reason only—to undertake a commission on behalf of the university. Keep reminding yourself of that, and how lucky you are to have been given a chance to restore your reputation. Right now, an overactive imagination is an extravagance you simply can’t afford.’

            Spectral pipers, indeed!

            After further foot stamping and curling and uncurling her toes, she sat down, unfolded her itinerary and read it through for the hundredth time. The train would stop at MacKenzie’s Halt, where she was to get off. The train terminated further up the line but few, if any passengers, went beyond MacKenzie’s Halt. Upon leaving the train, she should cross over the footbridge and make her way to the edge of the loch where she would be taken across to Castle Tèarmannair.

            taken across . . .

            Forgetting her earlier resolution to stop daydreaming, fancy took flight once more. She saw herself as a Jacobite heroine, plaid wrapped tightly around her to ward off the wind, a white cockade pinned to her hair, being taken across the loch by clansmen loyal to the exiled Stuarts. In her imagination, she saw a castle in the middle of the loch where her lover was waiting, piper by his side, to welcome her home.

            Then she shook her head and dismissed the image.

Time she remembered that she was no Highland heroine, she was Castle Tèarmannair’s newly appointed archivist—hired to catalogue the contents of the laird’s library, prior to auction. Most likely it would turn out to be the usual collection of old estate papers, books on the best technique for blasting game birds out of the skies, or catching the salmon with a fly of the laird’s own design. There would be no first editions, illuminated manuscripts, or lost family trees proclaiming the laird the Last King of Scotland for her to discover 

            ‘Castle Tèarmannair.’ She experimented with the unfamiliar Gaelic. ‘Meaning Guardian, or Protector,’ she read from her guide book. ‘A gift from the Lord of the Isles to MacKenzie of MacKenzie for fighting alongside him at the Battle of Largs in 1263.’ Releasing a pent up breath, she put the itinerary in her bag and, getting to her feet, walked the length of the carriage, holding on to the back of the empty seats for balance, and peered through the windows into the late afternoon gloom.

            A thick autumn mist had followed the train out of An Gearasdan—Fort William, obscuring the stunning view promised by the guide books and, in a cinematic moment, the train appeared to ‘float’ above the rails. Nothing was visible on either side—not even the lights from the small settlements flanking the loch. Henri wondered, a little self-pityingly, if the mist was a metaphor for the current state of her life, which was mired in gloom and despondency.

            She pulled herself up sharp. ‘Positive thinking, Bruar. Remember?’

            She was halfway back to her seat when a lilting Highland voice announced: ‘We are approaching MacKenzie’s Halt. Please remember to take your belongings with you when you alight from the train.’ With no more time for introspection, she swung her tote bag over her shoulder, and collected coat, rucksack and suitcase out of the luggage rack as the train came, briefly, to a halt by the short platform. 

I hope this extract has made you want to buy a copy of Girl in the Castle and read on –

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 If you’d like to read the latest reviews for Girl in the Castle, here’s the link

A birthday, a book bash and a Time Lord

This week, June Kearns and I travelled to London for Trisha Ashley‘s book launch at Daunt’s, Marylebone High Street. Our plan was to spend the day  window shopping, have lunch and then head for Daunt’s – all part of my birthday celebration. An unexpected guest turned up at Daunt’s and really provided the icing on the (birthday) cake . . . as you will see, if you read on.

I love London and luckily, there is a direct line from Leicester to St Pancras. The whole London vibe really inspires me as a writer. The first time I bought a Diptych candle I was in Notting Hill researching my debut novel, Tall Dark and Kilted. June very kindly bought me a tuberose candle in the Marylebone High Street shop as a birthday present. I will be burning it in my study as I get on with book #5.

Marylebone High Street has lots of niche shops and cafes and June and I plan a return visit later this spring with friends. In one of the pubs, I visited the ladies’ loo and the cubicles were decorated with reclining nudes – there was a purple velvet chaise longue to languish on, should the mood take you. Recline and Sprawl ?

We eventually remembered that we weren’t there to enjoy ourselves (hah!), we were there to attend Trisha’s book launch and meet fellow writers and readers. So we got down to it.

We hoped we might meet fellow Romantic Novelists’ Association members at the launch and we weren’t disappointed. I was especially thrilled to ‘bump into’ Kate Hardy who is on the short list for a Rona Rose award on Monday with: Billionaire, Boss … Bridegroom?  In 2012, Kate dedicated her book : The Ex Who Hired Her to my naughty parrot Jasper, and me (he appears on page 6).

Here is a slideshow of other RNA friends who rocked up at Trisha’s book launch –

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I’ve been a Doctor Who fan ever since I watched the first episode back in nineteen sixty – something.  So, the unexpected appearance of Peter Davison at Trisha’s book launch really was the icing on the cake and  topped off my Birthday Bash in London. He was charming and agreed to pose with some of his fangirls. Not every day a girl meets a Time Lord, is it?

The Five(ish) Doctors, reboot – video BBC.co.uk 

To sum up – it was so good to kick back, chill, and every other adjective I can think of because (drum roll) my new novel has been returned from fabulous proofreader, Julia Gibbs and is now in the capable hands of Sarah Houldcroft being formatted. And breathe.

Pre-order date coming soon

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My Review of 2016 #2 July – December

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Castle Stalker, Argyll © Lizzie Lamb

July saw us taking a month long research trip to Scotland. We started at Edinburgh, visited Rosslyn Chapel and Britannia . We called in at Whitburn to visit my family and discovered that Uncle Archie is a great fan of caravaning, too – I guess the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Here he is with Auntie Nellie; they are my dad’s last remaining siblings. When I was talking to them, I lapsed into an East Lothian patois I hadn’t spoken in many a year. Good to know I haven’t lost it, ye ken?

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In August we visited Bletchley Park and found a connection there to WHITBURN, Winkie the carrier pigeon  who saved the lives of a WWII Bomber crew. They even had Winkie’s ‘parachute on display.Here’s Dave sitting at Alan Turing’s desk . . . 

While we were at Edinburgh we visited Doune Castle where many scenes from OUTLANDER (Castle Leoch), and MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL were filmed.

I drew inspiration for the Samhain feast in GIRL IN THE CASTLE here.

We then camped at Culloden  and travelled as far north as Balnakeil, Cape Wrath, (research for romance #5). We popped into Balmoral but Herself wasn’t in, so I met up with fellow writer Rae Cowie at Banchory for a coffee and presented her with a copy of Scotch on the Rocks. (thanks for reviewing, Rae)

You can’t visit Inverness without going Nessie hunting, so we called in at Urquhart Castle, but Nessie was taking a coffee break. You can see why, inspired by the mist, romantic landscape and mysterious wakes on the loch, how the legend of the monster first arose.

We moved on to Ullapool and, although it rained (a lot!), at least we weren’t bothered by midges. It has long been an ambition of mine to visit the Craft Village at Balnakeil , and we did just that – calling in at the fabulous Cocoa Mountain Cafe for the BEST hot chocolate EVER. If you visit nearby Durness, you’ll see the John Lennon memorial garden; John, Yoko and the kids used to holiday there in the late sixties.

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The road from Ullapool to Durness was stunning as we passed through North-West Highlands Geo-Park on a twisting one track road with passing places. Castles, white sand beaches, mountains, mist and small lochs (lochans)  covered in water lilies. Can’t wait to return.bab13063-f055-4138-8324-23ee43bee1e72

During that month New Romantics Press  published a tapas selection of our novels for reading on Kindle. At the end of each extract a link takes the reader direct to Amazon to download the novel and ‘read on’. Take a Chance on Us. 

Once I returned home, it was straight to East Midlands Airport to pick up Isabella Tartaruga. Isabella and I met through Facebook and have become firm friends ever since. I named a character in Scotch on the Rocks after her. We took Isa to our local pub for a cider and I organised a tea party in her honour – with a little help from my friends.

Talking of friends . . . In August we travelled to Brighton and had a super lunch with writer  June Tate, and exchanged books. Later in the autumn, we met up with lovely Carole Matthews; I received her latest book later on in the year and am looking forward to reading and reviewing both. I learn so much talking to such brilliant writers – I hope some of the fairy dust rubbed off. 

To ring the changes, New Romantics Press attended the Historical Novel Society‘s annual conference. I like to include lots of history in my contemporary novels – if that makes sense. One sad footnote: the conference was the last time I spoke to agent Carole Blake, who died unexpectedly in October. A great loss to readers and writers alike.

October saw me giving a four hour talk How to Self Publish your novel, at Stamford Arts. Thanks to Rachel Henry of WriteStars for inviting me. Dave was my wing man and worked the pc while I blathered on.14642163_10154045011707843_1225004116375522132_n

 

The highlight of November has to be the author event which Adrienne Vaughan and I presented at Aspinall, St Pancras, London. We sold books, talked to customers about writing – and met Tom Parker Bowles (name dropper!) in Fortnum’s, across the way! We’re hoping to be invited back again this spring to give author readings and to talk about the art of writing – watch this space.

It was a great November for Adrienne as she launched Fur Coat and No Knickers, a collection of short stories and poems.

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December went by in a whirl, the highlight was meeting Book Blogger, Rosie Amber and her team of reviewers and writers at the Belmont Hotel with the Leicester Chapter.img_3271-collage1Thanks to Rosie, Scotch on the Rocks was read by her review team and short listed for the contemporary fiction award (silver). It was also one of Book Blogger Cathy Ryan‘s TOP READS OF 2016.

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And finally . . . deep breath. I finished my latest novel – GIRL IN THE CASTLE and it is currently with beta readers. I have booked my proofreader and formatter and, with good luck and a following wind, it should be ready for pre-order by the end of March.

Cover reveal and blurb, coming soon.

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Bloggy McBlogface #3 – Culloden

This summer I spent a month touring Scotland, getting the vibe for my fourth novel which I am currently 87% of the way through.  It was a fabulous holiday and I was able to touch base with friends, en route. The weather behaved itself while we were in Inverness and so, feeling ‘gallus’, we erected the awning and put out our sunloungers.

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sunloungers getting an airing at  Banchory, Royal Deeside.

On this stretch of our road trip we planned to visit Culloden, Loch Ness and Castle Urquhart. I’m a great fan of Outlander and DK Broster’s Jacobite Trilogy. And, IMO the Broster novels give a more balanced view of the conflict and there’s less of the #highlandersgood/ #Englishbad subtext found in the Outlander novels. After all, many clans fought on the side of the English at Culloden and had no wish to see the Stuarts back on the throne. For them, the battle provided an opportunity to settle old scores. The downside of the Highland Trilogy is, no Jamie Fraser!

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If you’ve never visited Culloden, here’s a video to give you a sense of the place. The battle site has a haunting and mournful quality and it’s sad to reflect that, after Culloden, the clan system disintegrated and wearing tartan was punishable by seven years hard labour in the colonies. George IV) visited Edinburgh in 1822,  and everything “Scottish” became acceptable once more, a tradition continued by Victoria and Albert who bought Balmoral as their highland retreat.

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Balmoral Castle 2016 (c) Lizzie Lamb

2016-10-11Sadly, by then many of the tartans had been forgotten and those which we see today are a recent reinvention.

(Above- a fragment of Thomas Fraser of Struy’s plaid said to have been worn at Culloden in 1746) image –

http://www.scottishtartans.co.uk

Next, we visited the Prisoner’s Stone where seventeen highlanders were taken out and shot, after the battle. Legend has it that one survived and lived to tell the tale. If you do not feel the weight of history pressing down on you when you visit the site, you have no soul. It’s hard not to stand there and weep for those on both sides who lost their lives.

I found it very poignant that clans from the same highland region  fought side by side at Culloden – the Stewarts of Appin and the Camerons of Lochiel, for example. In my mind, this was an  echo of  WWI when adjoining villages joined the Pals’ Regiments and marched off to war together. (click over each image for further details)

Of course, Outlander – the books and the TV series have helped  to reignite visitors’ passion for this beautiful part of Scotland. While we were there, many Americans were visiting the site, anxious to find the cairn erected to Clan Fraser and to lay flowers there. I still don’t understand why the Outlander series hasn’t been shown on UK television and why so few of my (UK) friends have heard about it. Here’s a link to my OUTLANDER pinterest board . . .

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Prince Charles Edward Stuart – Battle of Prestonpans memorial

It’s interesting to reflect how differently things could have turned out had Bonnie Prince Charlie pressed on to London instead of turning round and heading back up north after reaching Derby – just miles from where I live in Leicester.

On a more personal note, one highlight of our trip was finding ourselves camped right next door to Facebook friend Sharyn Farnaby. Here she is with a copy of Tall, Dark 2016-07-02-09-25-09-2 which I gave to her to thank her for reading and reviewing my novels.

I  have been inspired by the Battle of Glenshiel (1719) to write my next #contemporary Scottish romance which I hope to publish in March 2017. It contains history, a lost treasure, a gorgeous hero (Keir) and a heroine fighting to regain her reputation after an unfortunate incident at university, (Henriette).

In the meantime, here is my current selection of novels. Something to help you cope with the long, dreary winter days, perhaps? See you soon when I’ll be writing about visiting Balmoral and Royal Deeside and meeting up with another friend. 21-author-page

What Every Reader Wants

What do readers really want – a reader’s point of view

Sarah Houldcroft with Boot Camp BrideI am delighted to welcome Sarah Houldcroft to my Blog today. Sarah, a Goodreads Librarian and Virtual Assistant for authors, tells us what she thinks our readers want from us.

‘You are so lucky – I would love to write a book’

How many times you, as authors, have heard that phrase, I wonder.  Perhaps you smile and think to yourself: ‘God, if she only knew the hours and hours of stress, torment and sheer hard work I have had to go through…’  But we, as readers, don’t know.  We simply cannot comprehend, it is not important to us.  All we see is the end result and the author becomes a special gifted individual who can reach down into her soul and haul out people and feelings, emotions, happenings, and create a whole new world for us.

photo 2For the booklover, the reading experience begins way before the first word in the book.  These days with so many more opportunities to read, the first question may be ‘How am I going to read my next novel?’  Paperback, Kindle, tablet, phone, PC?  For me, there is nothing better than holding a printed book in my hand, the feel of it, the smell of it, even.  And that wonderful action of turning the page to discover what happens next.  However, there are an awful lot of booklovers who now just read books on their Kindle or other e-reader.  Makes sense, you don’t have to lug an extra suitcase with you on holiday just to transport the books you want to read over the coming two or three weeks.  Easy, a click of a button online and you can start reading, no need to wait for the post to deliver your next read.  Personally, I am torn between the two methods.  I do have a Kindle which is particularly useful when I am reviewing books for authors abroad as they can just send me a digital file and away I go.  But, as I said before, my true love is the printed book, of which I have hundreds and hundreds.  I am not alone either, although millions of ebooks are downloaded every year, the printed book is still managing to hold its own.  But as readers, we like to be given the choice of how we read our next novel.  So the more formats in which you make your book available, the better.

Regardless of the format of our next read, if we don’t know what to read next, or a friend has not recommended an author or book then odds are we will end up on Amazon.  And that is when the next phase of the pre-reading experience begins.  What to choose?  Ok, we may have a particular genre in mind which could narrow it down, but with so many books to choose from these days we will be scrolling down the list at some speed until a book cover catches our eye.  Yes, the old saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ doesn’t quite hold true these days.  If we don’t like your book cover we will pass over you and keep scrolling and that applies to print books too.

Scott Pack, a former Waterstones buyer sums it up quite nicely here http://completelynovel.com/self-publishing/writers-toolbox-cover-design  and offers some useful tips for authors to consider.

Katie Fforde's Book Signing at Mk Harborough 024 copyOf course, the one really wonderful thing about having a printed book is that we booklovers may be lucky enough to have the book signed by the author. This is so exciting for a reader, particularly if we have actually met the author in person which is an incredible experience in itself.  This is something that ebook producers have considered and it is now possible to have an ebook ‘signed’ by the author too using https://www.authorgraph.com/

These days the reading experience doesn’t necessarily have to stop once the book has been read. Traditional publishing tended to keep the author at arm’s length from the reader, unless they were lucky enough to attend a book signing.  These days with social media, websites like Goodreads.com and the explosion in self-publishing, authors can be far more accessible and that is what readers like.

photo 1What Readers Want to Know

  • what inspired you to write your novel?
  • how, why and where do you write?
  • have experienced first-hand any of the aspects in your books?
  • did you base your character on a real person
  • if so, was it you?

I think booklovers have always thought these questions, but have not had the opportunity to ask until recently.  And now we can, we want more.  Yes, we will respect your privacy, but we want you to reveal more than just the contents of your latest novel.  The author who embraces this new way of doing things, particularly the self-published author, will always win out over those who prefer to keep their distance.  They will turn their readers into raving fans who in turn will review their books and talk about their books and encourage others to read their books.

READERS – do you agree?

**Sarah Houldcroft is proud to be an Author’s Envoy and particularly likes to promote self-published authors.  She offers services to authors to help boost their online presence through www.vaforauthors.com and her new website www.authors-uncovered.com which will be a place where authors and readers can connect, read, write and share.  She lives in Leicestershire with her teenage son, two bunnies, an aging gerbil and hundreds and hundreds of books!

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