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.
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.
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.
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
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
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?
If you like what you’ve read, please vote for me, Rafael Fonseca-Ffinch by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
Today I’m welcoming author Rosemary Gemmell onto my blog, close on the heels of Gwent Kirkwood, another Scottish writer I featured. Are you detecting a theme, yet?
Thank you so much, Lizzie, for inviting me to your lovely blog. I enjoy reading about your travels around Scotland now and then!
The setting in any novel is often one of the most important aspects of the story, for the author and the reader. This has never been truer than it is for The Highland Lass, my Scottish dual-timeline novel, as it is mainly set around my own hometown in the west coast of Scotland, an area of natural beauty, rich with history.
The old Greenock cemetery’s ancient and elaborate gravestones, winding paths and overhanging trees provided much scope for my childish imagination. This was where my mother first introduced me to the gravestone of Highland Mary, who was a brief but important love interest of Robert Burns, our national poet. This early memory and a fascination for Mary Campbell was the inspiration for the short historical chapters in The Highland Lass.
Inverclyde enjoys an envious position right beside the River Clyde, and across from Gourock sits the small seaside town of Dunoon in Argyll. From my side of the river, we can see the entrance to the Holy Loch, bordered by the towering Argyll hills, where the American Navy was based from the 1960s until the early 80s. This provided another thread in the story, as Eilidh is seeking the identity of her father, who may have been an American officer. Dunoon is also where Highland Mary was born, where her statue forever looks across the Clyde.
I hope you don’t mind me sharing slipping in a couple of my photos of the Clyde and Dunoon, Rosemary, including this video of us sailing Doon the Watter to Dunoon aboard a CalMac ferry. We were on the lookout for submarines, but didn’t spot any.
After researching Burns, from a book published in 1838, to more modern accounts and Burns’ own poems, songs and letters, I formed a real feeling for Highland Mary and her effect on the poet. I had an article published about the couple in The Highlander Magazine in the USA some years before but I kept coming back to the idea for a novel. So I carried out further research in the Gothic-style Watt Library in Greenock, with its access to microfilm copies of the old Greenock Advertiser and the later Greenock Telegraph, where I found several interesting facts that I incorporated into the story and the epilogue of The Highland Lass. The Greenock Burns Club (the Mother Club) kindly allowed me to sift through their archives for any relevant material I may have missed.
The other main setting for this novel, in the present and past, is Ayrshire, known as Burns country. Highland Mary and Robert Burns met and plighted their troth there in the 18th century and the small villages have hardly changed at all. The inn where Burns and his cronies met, Poosie Nancie’s, is still in the same street in Mauchline. When I stepped inside the snug, low-beamed room, it took no imagination at all to picture the poet sitting at the table near the fire range with his ale. Ayrshire is also where the blossoming relationship between modern heroine, Eilidh Campbell, and handsome Scot, Lewis Grant, takes a major step forward.
Another inspiration for my Scottish novels is our famous Loch Lomond, one of the largest freshwater lochs (or lakes) in Britain, now part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. One of my favourite places is the fairy-tale village of Luss, where Lewis takes Eilidh one day. The tiny cottages with their abundance of flowers in summer months line both sides of the narrow main street which wanders right down to the edges of the loch.
Luss and Loch Lomond – stunningly beautiful.
In my most recent romantic suspense novel, Return to Kilcraig, I feature two different areas of Loch Lomond. One is at Conic Hill through which runs the Highland Boundary Fault that separates the highlands from the lowlands. This is also part of the famous West Highland Way. The other area in this novel is known as Loch Lomond Shores, with its aquarium, shops and water sports right by the loch side.
But it is around my own Inverclyde where all the story threads in The Highland Lass come together and where Eilidh finds the answers to her past. In Return to Kilcraig, the contemporary village setting of Ross and Christy’s story is a fictional blend of several country villages around this part of the west of Scotland.
Many of the large cruise ships now visit the port at Greenock but you can still watch out for the oldest sea-going passenger-carrying paddle steamer in the world, The Waverley, which sails down the Clyde during the summer months and maintains our links to the steamers of the past. Scotland is so rich in history, myth and legend that I look forward to setting another novel somewhere along its shores.
More about Rosemary Gemmell – A prize-winning writer, Rosemary Gemmell’s short stories, articles, and poems have been published in UK magazines, in the US, and online. She is now a historical and contemporary novelist. She has also published historical novels and contemporary novellas with a touch of mythological fantasy as Romy and two tweens books as Ros. Rosemary has a post-graduate MA in Literature and history and is a member of the Society of Authors, Romantic Novelists’ Association and the Scottish Association of Writers. She loves to dance!
The Highland Lass
Eilidh Campbell returns to her Scottish roots from America with one main aim: to discover the identity of the father she never knew. But her mother’s past in Inverclyde is a mystery with family secrets, a book of Robert Burns’ poems with a hidden letter and a photograph link to the Holy Loch at Dunoon when the American Navy were in residence. Staying with her childhood friend, Kirsty, while searching for answers, Eilidh begins to fall in love with handsome Scot Lewis Grant, but just how free is he? Together they trace the story of Highland Mary and Robert Burns, with its echoes to her mother’s story. In short alternate chapters, Highland Mary tells her own story from 1785-6. From Dunoon, to Ayrshire and culminating in Greenock, Eilidh finds the past is closer than she realises.
Return to Kilcraig
The legacy of her beloved grandmother’s cottage in the Scottish village of Kilcraig seems like the ideal solution after Christy Morrison’s recent trauma. Until the threats begin. Can she trust her heart and allow herself to fall in love again? When Ross McKinley reluctantly welcomes Christy back to the village, he has hardened his heart against love, until they begin to renew their childhood friendship. But someone is determined Christy should go back to London. Will they find the culprit in time?
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In January we took the train to Huddersfield and drove home with our new campervan – let the adventure begin !
Jasper was 19 years old in February and as cheeky as ever.
In March saw me getting down to business – visiting the Birmingham Chapter of the RNA, holding a meeting at the Belmont Hotel for New Romantics Press and our RNA chapter The Belmont Belles.
It was my birthday in March and here I am celebrating with Bongo Man, Joan and Maisie at The Case, Leicester. Later in March I attended the RONA awards in London, met two of my favourite authors (Carole Matthews and Jill Mansell).
We attended our niece’s wedding at Bickleigh Castle in Devon. Cue silly hat moment. Oh, we also saw Richard III interred – an historic moment for Leicester, and in its own way quite romantic, in a historical sense.
After the wedding we took the caravan into Cornwall and visited old haunts, including the ‘gin balcony’ in Polperro. Oh, and I finished the final draft of SCOTCH ON THE ROCKS. With Jasper’s help, naturally.
In May I sent Scotch on the Rocks to be formatted. After a few glitches I was able to order my proof copy to check for typos etc.
I’d forgotten how long this last bit up the publishing process takes, but eventually, in June I pressed the ‘go’ button and my first box of books arrived.
Scotch on the Rocks was launched in July and within two weeks it achieved BEST SELLER status in its genre – historical >Scottish. I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my lovely husband – Bongo Man. The only hero a girl needs.
We’re halfway through the year. If you’ve enjoyed reading my blog, catch part two next week when I canter through the remaining months of 2015. Happy New Year to everyone, Lizzie xx
Today is the last day when you can download Scotch on the Rocks for 99p/$1.47. From Monday 4th January it reverts to full price . . .