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I am thrilled to welcome you to my stop on the blog tour for Barbara Henderson’s latest novel Wilderness Wars, an eco thriller set on a Scottish island. And if this wasn’t brilliant enough, Barbara has also written a guest piece for today’s stop on the tour “The Supernatural in Wilderness Wars”.

Wilderness Wars Ebook Cover with Quote

** My thanks to the lovely folks at Cranachan Books and Barbara Henderson for my copy of this book and for inviting me to take par in the blog tour **

 

Description:

What if nature fights back?

Still in a daze, I take it all in: the wind, the leaden skies, the churning moody sea.
And, far in the distance, a misty outline.
Skelsay.
Wilderness haven. Building-site. Luxury-retreat-to-be.
And now, home.

When her father’s construction work takes Em’s family to the uninhabited island of Skelsay, she is excited, but also a little uneasy. Soon Em, and her friend Zac, realise that the setbacks, mishaps and accidents on the island point to something altogether more sinister: the wilderness all around them has declared war.

Danger lurks everywhere. But can Em and Zac persuade the adults to believe it before it’s too late?

My Thoughts & Review:

I have to admit to being a huge fan of Barbara Henderson’s writing, I have been since I read her first book Fir for Luck. There’s a richness in the words that she skillfully weaves together to paint a vivid picture of the story playing out before your eyes.
Like in each of her books, strong characters come to life from the pages and lead readers on a merry adventure through the book.

Em is a young lass who has moved with her family, and several other people to an uninhabited island named Skelsay with the plan of building a luxury hotel and holiday resort. Immediately I felt a connection with Em, something about this feisty young girl made my heart soar with pride. She’s not too happy about the family’s move, she wanted to stay in Glasgow, not move to a remote island, especially not to cramped living quarters or being cooped up with her annoying little brother so much. There’s something in Em’s personality that readers will be able to connect with, she struggles to comprehend the adult world and the decisions they make at times. Whilst she’s not an adult, she does have the makings of a mature head on her young shoulders, demonstrating that she can understand the importance of doing or saying the right thing at times.

As you might expect from the description of the book, the atmospheric setting plays a very important part in the tale. The vivid imagery conjures a bleak yet intriguing landscape and as the construction work gets underway, it’s not hard to envision the various changes to the surroundings. The way that nature takes on a sinister edge makes this such a gripping read, is the wilderness really turning on the construction workers and their families? Is this all in the imagination of Em and her new friend Zac?

The plotting is exciting and the intrigue interwoven throughout makes this the sort of book that you want to race through to find out how it’s all going to come together, find out what lies ahead. It’s a truly remarkable novel and one that I would heartily recommend to readers old and young.

You can buy a copy of Wilderness Wars via:

Cranachan Publishing
Amazon UK
Waterstones

 

Guest post by Barbara Henderson:

Unbelievable!

A supernatural eco-thriller? For children?

It’s not the genre that would spring to mind when scanning through the 9-12 Market, the readership most likely to read and enjoy my books. Does it need a supernatural element at all?

For large chunks of Wilderness Wars, nothing supernatural happens at all – The workforce moves to the island and spend time setting themselves up as a community: tidying and arranging and organising their lives. Beginning to form a routine. The mishaps and accidents, at the beginning at least, feel utterly commonplace, as if the islanders are simply beset by a little bit of bad luck.

But bad luck on its own does not make for a compelling story. It’s simply not enough. Barry Cunningham, the publisher who famously gave a wee manuscript called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone its first break, has said that the single most important feature he looks for in a story is ‘a formidable opponent’.

There are one or two characters who might fall into this category, but the core idea of the novel ‘What if nature fights back’ requires that the wilderness itself become the opponent, the threat, the one who has it in for my characters.

It is a formidable enemy: Weather, land, sea, plants and creatures unite in my book in a single purpose: to force the tiny workforce of construction workers and their families off this island once and for all. This requires a considerable jump in the imagination: I am asking the reader to suspend their disbelief, and to accept that the whole of the natural world can co-ordinate itself to fight back, to draw the line, and to say: this far and no further.

And yet, is a simple enough concept, and one that readers, so far, have engaged with pretty readily. Just like in The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, where the liquid turns a range of colours and the transformation into the monster simply happens. Readers aren’t giving scientific facts: they are given an outcome, and the outcome is the only thing which matters.

The only other flash of the supernatural in Wilderness Wars is Em’s vision. She has a vivid dream of the worst possible outcome, if the adults do not agree to leave the island. Step by step, the various of her vision appear in real life, and she now understands the inevitable destruction which awaits. It sets up the final climax of the novel, a life and death sort of jeopardy which, I hope, propels the reader forward.

Without the supernatural component, it would be a story of predictable morality: look after your environment, respect the wilderness. Yawn, yah-de-yah – a lecture book with no drama.

On the other hand, with the terrifying concept that you have incurred the wrath of the whole natural world around you, it becomes a tense survival story, a chase, a war. There are battle lines and strategies, and ultimately, a final showdown. It delivers all the lessons and provokes all the thinking the boring version would, but subtly hidden within A BARRAGE OF DRAMATIC LIFE AND DEATH ACTION.

I know which version I’d rather read!

 

About the Author: rpt

Barbara Henderson has lived in Scotland since 1991, somehow acquiring an MA in English Language and Literature, a husband, three children and a shaggy dog along the way. Having tried her hand at working as a puppeteer, relief librarian and receptionist, she now teaches Drama part-time at secondary school.
Writing predominantly for children, Barbara won the Nairn Festival Short Story Competition in 2012, the Creative Scotland Easter Monologue Competition in 2013 and was one of three writers shortlisted for the Kelpies Prize 2013. In 2015, wins include the US-based Pockets Magazine Fiction Contest and the Ballantrae Smuggler’s Story Competition. She blogs regularly at write4bairns.wordpress.com where full details of her writing achievements can also be found.
Barbara is currently based in Inverness.

Social Media Links:

Website: http://www.barbarahenderson.co.uk/
Twitter: @scattyscribbler
Blog: write4bairns.wordpress.com

 

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As it’s Friday I am delighted to share another post with you to celebrate independent publishing.  Today’s post features a book that is so different from any other I’ve read recently.  The book in question is Orchard View by Deborah Miles, and Deborah has kindly taken some time out to answer some questions about the ups and downs of being an author.


Book Feature:

Description:

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Digging in the garden, builder and current owner, Bill Maynard, discovers some old bones. He worries that the discovery will upset his plans for renovating and selling the house.

Fortunately, his neighbour tells him the whole area was a burial site at the time of the Black Death and finding bones is commonplace.

“Well, as they’re so old and the museums have enough bones already, I suppose we can ignore them. It’s not like there’s been a murder and we’ve just found the body,” he justified his decision.

But had they?

His discovery sets off a chain of unfortunate events.

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Orchard View intrigued me from the moment I heard about it, the book suggested a puzzling mystery and a tale quite different.

Have you ever read a book where the setting has felt like a character in the story? It seems to take on a persona that comes to life through the narrative? Well in this book, the house at the centre of the tale, Orchard View takes on a leading role. Interestingly readers get to “hear” the thoughts of the house as various events take place over the years and this really adds something different to the book and made it stand out to me. The old saying “if these walls could talk” really comes into play when you see the house wishing it could speak up about the bones that are discovered early on in the story.

The story is told through a series of recollections of the inhabitants of the house and those connected with it. The really interesting part for me was that the house seemed to have strong opinions of the people and most definitely a favourite family. To keep the stories linked, Miles uses the voice of the house and the presence of the neighbour next door, so that no matter what year it is in the story and which residents are staying in the house there is always something to connect them.
It’s pretty true that you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and you might not always know your neighbours as well as you might think, and this book really reinforces that notion.

It’s quite hard to review this book without giving anything away, there are things I would love to point out about characters or the way that the plot weaves together but that might inadvertently give something away! I will say that the characters are well thought up and there may or may not be ones that get under your skin, have you wanting to shout and have you wondering about them. This is the sort of read that I found impossible to put down and once I’d finished reading it, it was still running through my head.

You can buy a copy of Orchard View via Amazon UK

 

 

Author Feature:

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Author bio & image courtesy of Amazon UK

Deborah Miles is married with three grown-up children and lives in Kent.

She has worked in banking, tourism, education and social services, and has hosted international students for over 30 years.

Her interests include: genealogy, self-improvement, home computing, web design, D.I.Y/gardening, pen friends and writing.

Deborah is independently published and created the imprint Against the Flow Press for her first novel, Orchard View.

Deborah always enjoys hearing from readers!

 

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I find writing can be very therapeutic. It’s great to get my frustrations down on paper and then turn them into fiction that others might enjoy reading. I love creating my characters, and sometimes I get so attached to them that I change the storyline for them.  I also love finding ways to kill them, and my Google search history is quite alarming!

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?  

I have a story in my head at the minute, but current events in my personal life are preventing me from sitting down and writing it, and what I have got down on paper so far, is not what I wanted to write. I’ve got a couple of issues with the plausibility of the story. I have discussed my storyline with a solicitor friend, and she came up with a completely different, legal way of achieving what I wanted to do in the story, but somehow that isn’t working for me. I feel like I’m banging my head at a brick wall, trying to get the story written the way I want to write it.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

Ask me this question on another day, and you’d probably get a different answer. Today it would be Donna Siggers’ novel Broken. I finished reading it a couple of weeks ago and some scenes and characters are still playing on my mind.  It’s the first book in a trilogy, and I can’t wait for Part 2. I considered answering A Good Night’s Sleep by Stefanie Simpson, but despite it being one of the best indie books I’ve read, it’s a tad racy for my pen.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I was recently given a Fitbit, and spend a lot of time walking on the spot whilst reading ebooks on my tablet. It looks silly as it sounds, and I don’t really like anyone in the room while I’m doing it, but I’ve lost 11lbs so far so that’s got to be good for me.  When not writing, I review books on my blog, againsttheflowpress.blogspot.co.uk. I am currently enjoying novels by other indie authors, but I read traditionally published books too.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I suppose I would have to answer ‘yes’ to this question. I like a calm, neat and tidy area to work in. Ideally I want to be on my own in the house. Even the cat can be a distraction! The room I work in is also important. Last year I moved my desktop into the den at the front of the house, but found I didn’t like that room. It felt wrong and stifled my creativity. So I moved it back, and immediately felt my creative juices flow again. I must have my housework jobs and other tasks done before I can sit down to write. I suppose that is my way of clearing my mind of any potential interrupting thoughts.

What’s on the horizon?  What can your fans look forward to next?

My next book has a working title of The Legacy. I am writing the back-story for the deceased at the minute.  Basically it’s about greedy relatives expecting an inheritance. There are a number of murders committed by someone who hopes to increase their share of the estate and a twist of the tale at the end. In Orchard View, I tell readers upfront who the killer is, but I haven’t decided yet whether or not to reveal the identity of the killer at the beginning this time.

Can you tell me a little about your latest book?  How would you describe it and why should we go read it? 

My debut novel is called Orchard View. Without giving too much away, it tells the story of a house and its various occupants from 1960 through to 1996. Orchard View is the name of the house and I see the house with strong female characteristics – maternal, nurturing and protective. She has her own voice in the story, and comments on some of the situations that occur. The story begins in 1996 when the current owner, a builder, finds some human bones in the garden.  We learn quite quickly the identity of the killer, and what happens to the builder, and others, as a consequence of his find. I don’t think it’s too dark, but it does underline that we do not know our neighbours as well as we might think!

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 

Consider reading something by an indie author. There are some truly gifted writers out there who are not traditionally published. And, if you like what you read, then help them out by leaving a review, or at the very least a rating.

 

Social Media Links:

Blog: http://againsttheflowpress.blogspot.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/DeborahMiles7
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/againsttheflowpress/

 

A huge thank you to Deborah for taking part in Celebrating Indie Publishing and sharing her thoughts about writing. I have to admit, I have been known to march on the spot when I’m doing the ironing or cooking, although I’ve not tried it whilst reading … yet!

 

 

 

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Welcome along to another Friday here on The Quiet Knitter, and I am delighted to share an author feature with you! The author in the spotlight today is the lovely Kate Vane, so grab a cuppa and join us for a wee chat!


Author Feature:

kate vane author image

Kate Vane writes (mostly) crime fiction. Brand New Friend is her fourth novel.

She has written for BBC drama Doctors and has had short stories and articles published in various publications and anthologies, including Mslexia and Scotland on Sunday.

She lived in Leeds for a number of years where she worked as a probation officer. She now lives on the Devon coast.

 

 

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I feel like I’m always learning. With each new book I’m asking a question – a series of questions – which I can’t yet answer. Whether it’s research, or craft, or the mysterious world of the imagination, it’s curiosity that drives me.

I also enjoy developing business skills as an indie author. I actually like tinkering with spreadsheets and data and finding my way round new software!

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?  

I love the freedom and independence of being indie but it can also be a burden. It means you’re responsible for everything and don’t have colleagues to fall back on. Having said that there’s a great indie author community online and I get buoyed up by the fantastic book bloggers who I’ve got to know both as a reader and an author.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

That’s hard! Ruth Rendell’s Barbara Vine novels were a big influence on me when I started writing. In terms of recent novels, I’d be very happy if I could write something like London Rules by Mick Herron. I love the combination of strong characterisation, twisty plot, dark humour and sharp observation of contemporary events. And he writes beautiful prose as well.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I love gardening. We have a small pond and some bird feeders – and a few untidy areas – to encourage wildlife. I also like walking. We’re lucky to live right by the coastal path in South Devon.

Other than that, it’s mainly reading, audiobooks, podcasts and the occasional TV box set!

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I don’t go in for rituals but I think routine is good. It gets you in the right frame of mind. I like to be up early and to write first thing. I try not to go online until my morning break, and then I go back to writing.

After lunch I generally do other tasks – writing blog posts, reviewing, marketing etc. Depending on what else I’m doing, I may do a second stint of creative work late afternoon or early evening.

What’s on the horizon?  What can your fans look forward to next?

I used to be superstitious about discussing work in progress but I suppose after four novels I can be more confident that I’ll finish what I start! My main project is the first novel in a series, which features two minor characters from Brand New Friend.

Tilda Green is an activist news blogger, and Freddie Stone is an old-school crime reporter. I thought they would make a great combination with their contrasting interests, strengths – and of course flaws!

In the new novel a murder which provokes a vocal online response but leaves a community saying nothing leads them to join forces to work on the story.

I’ve also got a back-burner project – a humorous mystery novel set near my home, in Torquay. It’s fun to work on and gives me a break from the other book which is much grittier.

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 

I’m a big fan of the Pomodoro technique – where you do work in timed sprints. I’ve also started timing my social media use. If the clock is ticking while you’re on Twitter or whatever, you soon decide whether that article on what a commentator you’ve never heard of said about a random celebrity’s response to a politician’s Instagram feed is really a good use of your precious minutes or just an excuse to avoid working!

 

A huge thank you to Kate for joining me today, it was wonderful to get an insight into her writing process and find out more about her new book (which I will have to add to my groaning mountain of books to read). I love the idea of writing in timed sprints and have seen it used to good effect by academics (namely my sister in law), wonder if that might work with writing reviews!?

 

Social Media Links:

Website: https://katevane.com

Twitter: @k8vane

Facebook: /k8vane

 

 

Brand New Friend by Kate Vane

Wherever Paolo went, Claire had got there first. The gigs, the parties, the enigmatic artist he was sure he was in love with. He would never have joined the group if it hadn’t been for Claire. And maybe, if he hadn’t, no one would have died.

Journalist Paolo Bennett learns that Mark, an animal rights activist he knew as a student in the 80s, has been exposed as a former undercover cop. A news blog claims Mark was the fabled spy who never went back, who liked his new life better than his own.

Paolo wants the truth. He wants the story. Despite everything, he wants to believe his friend. But Mark isn’t making it easy for him, disappearing just as everyone wants answers.

Was their group linked to a death on campus, one the police were strangely reluctant to investigate? Why is Mark’s police handler lying dead in his garden?

And why does Paolo suspect, even now, that Claire knows more than he does?

Buy from Amazon: https://mybook.to/brandnewfriend

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Friday’s seem to roll around so quickly, and that’s never a bad thing when it means that it’s time to share a review of another great book from an independent author or publisher. This week is the turn of Death Rope by the wonderful Leigh Russell.
Death Rope was published by No Exit Press on 26th July 2018.

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** My thanks to Katherine at No Exit Press for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

THEY SAY SUICIDE. SHE SAYS MURDER.

Mark Abbott is dead. His sister refuses to believe it was suicide, but only Detective Sergeant Geraldine Steel will listen.

When other members of Mark’s family disappear, Geraldine’s suspicions are confirmed.

Taking a risk, Geraldine finds herself confronted by an adversary deadlier than any she has faced before… Her boss Ian is close, but will he arrive in time to save her, or is this the end for Geraldine Steel?

My Thoughts & Review:

I think it’s safe to say that I am a huge fan of the Geraldine Steel series by Leigh Russell, and having discovered this series part way through, I wasted no time in catching up with the previous books.
Death Rope is the eleventh book of the Geraldine Steel thriller series and it’s a cracker!
Mostly told from the perspective of the detective, readers soon become swept away with the investigation of the death of Mark Abbott, what initially looked like a suicide is soon unearthed as murder and makes for a complex, head scratcher of a case.

For me, the magic in Russell’s writing comes with the clever characterisation that she weaves into her books. It never fails to impress me that each character is so real, so different and so unique. The various personalities seem to jump off the pages as you read, and you find yourself thinking of them as “real” people.
Not all of the key players in the plot are identified straight away, and you could be forgiven for thinking that this would make it hard to follow. Leigh Russell is a master at creating several separate strands to her plot, revealing small details that are just enough to give readers a glimpse at another aspect of the plot and making them wonder how it all links up. I really don’t want to say anything about the plot

As always with Leigh Russell’s writing, there is nothing gratuitous and the power of suggestion is used well. The way that tension simmers away throughout the book is key, readers are aware at times that something is very wrong, and there is an undercurrent of unease bubbling away all the time regardless of the focus being on the investigation or Geraldine’s personal life.

Whilst this is the eleventh book in the series, I would say that you can read this as a standalone. There is enough detail to keep readers in the loop of past stories without bogging down fans of the series, but I would recommend reading the previous books to fully appreciate the character and the cases she’s worked on.

You can buy a copy of Death Rope via:

Amazon UK
No Exit Press (Publisher)

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** My thanks to Black and White Publishing & Netgalley for my copy of this book **

 

Description:

 

My Thoughts & Review:

Having recently read and enjoyed The Italian Chapel by the same author, I eagerly picked this book up to read.

Set in Scotland during WWII, the reader is immediately immersed in the lives of some truly special characters. The Ross family soon become figures you connect with, each of their separate personalities springing from the pages as you watch them going about life on Kirk Farm in the Highlands. The impending departure from their farm leaves each member of the family feeling bereft. The entire local community pulling together to help harvest the crops, soon realise that there is more work than they can cope with, and it is decided that the Italian POWs billeted nearby could help with the work to be done.

In amongst this story of people pulling together, there is a wonderfully intriguing tale of someone not being as truly honourable as they might seem. Someone is out to undermine the good work and war effort, a spy lurks within the community and it’s not long before events turn sinister, changing the lives of so many people.

The human element to this book is what makes it stand out for me, there were several times that I felt my emotions threatened to run away with me whilst reading this. In more than one instance I was very aware of the tears running down my face as my heart went out to the characters in this book. Paris has a great skill of creating characters that feel so real and authentic, even when there are personalities that are less than wholesome, you cannot help but feel some empathy towards their plights.

As with the author’s previous books, the attention to detail is superb. Vivid descriptions of settings and scenes bring the story alive and give the reader the feeling that they are there in the moment. You can feel the chill of the night, the cramped farmhouse and hear the rumble of the tractors.

Highly recommended!

You can buy a copy of Effie’s War via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones

 

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Hello and welcome along to another Celebrating Indie Publishing post!  I am delighted to be be able to shine a spotlight on some truly wonderful indie authors and publishers out there, and today is no exception.  I am joined by Margaret Skea, author of the Munro series and a fictionalised account of the early life of Katharina von Bora.


Author Feature:

Portrait

Margaret Skea grew up in Northern Ireland during the ‘Troubles’, so is no stranger to conflict. Her passion is for authentic, atmospheric historical fiction, and now living in Scotland she chose a Scottish story for her first novel series.

Turn of the Tide won her the Beryl Bainbridge Award for Best 1st Time Novelist 2014, and the sequel A House Divided was longlisted for the Historical Novel Society New Novel Award 2016. Both follow the fortunes of a fictional family trapped in the long-running and bloody historic feud between the Cunninghames and Montgomeries, known as the Ayrshire Vendetta. The third volume is due in May. In the meantime she has turned her attention to 16th century Germany to bring a little known, but hugely influential woman – Katharina von Bora – out of the shadows. She is also a prize-winning short story writer and her first collection Dust Blowing includes some of her prize-winning stories.

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

Can I cheat and mention two?

The first is interacting with readers. There is nothing more satisfying, having written a book, than to hear that it has impacted positively in someone else’s life.

And secondly, while I’m writing, the most exciting part of the process is the joy of seeing characters coming to life on the page: growing and developing, sometimes in quite unexpected ways.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

That’s easy – the need to market and promote both myself and the books. While I love talking about books and the craft of writing, I don’t enjoy the (essential) selling aspect.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

I guess this is another way of asking what is my all-time favourite book. Going by the one that I’ve re-read most times it would be Anne of Green Gables by L M Montgomery. There is one point in that book at which I always have a lump in my throat no matter how many times I read it. (And I’ve read the book and watched the film multiple times.) I’d love to be able to stir a reader’s emotions to that extent.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I’m a Christian first and a writer second, so my priority always has to be out-working my faith, whether that is through my writing or in other aspects of my life. Consequently I strive to keep a balance between writing and responsibilities within my church and in the home, as well as making time for family and friends.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I can concentrate much more in the mornings, so in an ideal week I will write four of five mornings per week and I always set myself a target of 1000 words per day. Sometimes I manage more, sometimes less, but if I can achieve a word increase (after light editing) of 5,000 per week then I’m on track.

I’m not very good at self-discipline, though, so for the last 3 books I have gone to somewhere other than my own house to write, where I can neither be distracted by anyone else, or (worse) distract myself!

I do find deadlines concentrate the mind, so if I have one coming up I find I can write for many more hours in a day. But one essential for me is silence. (I can just about cope with the sound of the central heating, on the basis that without it I’d be miserable!)

What’s on the horizon? What can your fans look forward to next?

Book 3 in the Munro series (Turn of the Tide, A House Divided) is with the editor just now and I hope it will be available in May.* I don’t have a title for it yet, though, which is a wee headache. And within the next fortnight I shall be beginning the second (and final) novel based on the life of Katharina von Bora (the escaped nun who became Martin Luther’s wife.) I hope to have it out in time for Christmas 2018. After that? Who knows? What I do know is that for the foreseeable future I am likely to stick to historical fiction and probably in and around the 16th century.

*Book 3 in the Munro series has now been published with the title By Sword and Storm.

Can you tell me a little bit about your latest book? How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

The latest published book is Katharina: Deliverance, which came out in October 2017. It is a fictionalized account of the early life of Katharina von Bora, up to the point of her marriage to Martin Luther. (The second book will finish her story.) She is a fascinating and enigmatic character who came alive to me through travelling around Saxony following in her footsteps. As to why anyone should read it – this is what the reviewer on the Discovered Diamonds website said –

     ‘First, a confession. All I really knew of Martin Luther was an impression of a man  

   in monk’s garb (incorrect) nailing parchments to church doors in the dead of night

  (also incorrect) and schoolboy giggles when reading about a diet of Worms. Thus,

  when this book arrived in my inbox, my heart rather sunk a bit for it is not a period

  that I am particularly well-versed, or even interested, in.

  However, any misgivings I may have had were dispelled completely by the time I had

  reached the second page. The quality and style – written in the first person and the

  present tense – didn’t so much grab me as to physically haul me back through the

  centuries and wouldn’t let me go until I had read every single word.’

 

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 

To readers? – Don’t waste time finishing a book that isn’t to your taste. There are too many good books out there and you’ll never have time to read them all.  And to writers? – Treat your readers with respect and never, ever short-change them by giving them less than your best.

 

 

Buy links:
Turn of the Tide (Book 1 in the Munro series)
A House Divided (Book 2 in the Munro series)
By Sword and Storm (Book 3 in the Munro series)

Katharina: Deliverance

Dust Blowing and Other Stories

 

A huge thank you to Margaret for joining me today and sharing a little about herself. I have to admit, there are a few books that I read regularly that can pull the same emotions from me, regardless of how many times I’ve read them before. I sympathise about the distractions, I’m awful for being distracted by absolutely anything … even favoring doing a load of ironing instead of what I should be doing!

Social Media Links:

Website: https://margaretskea.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MargaretSkeaAuthor.Novels/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/margaretskea1

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It’s such an honour to welcome along another wonderfully talented author to sit in the hot seat to day to share a little about the person behind the books and find out what’s on the horizon, so without further ado, welcome Maggie Christensen!


Author Feature:

profile Krista Eppelstun.jpg

Author Image:  Krista Ellelstun

After a career in education, Maggie Christensen began writing contemporary women’s fiction portraying mature women facing life-changing situations. Her travels inspire her writing, be it her frequent visits to family in Oregon, USA, her native Scotland or her home on Queensland’s beautiful Sunshine Coast. Maggie writes of mature heroines coming to terms with changes in their lives and the heroes worthy of them.

From her native Scotland, Maggie was lured by the call ‘Come and teach in the sun’ to Australia, where she worked as a primary school teacher, university lecturer and in educational management. Now living with her husband of over thirty years on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, she loves walking on the deserted beach in the early mornings and having coffee by the river on weekends. Her days are spent surrounded by books, either reading or writing them – her idea of heaven!

She continues her love of books as a volunteer with her local library where selects and delivers books to the housebound.

A member of Queensland Writer’s Centre, RWA, ALLi, and a local critique group, Maggie enjoys meeting her readers at book signings and library talks. In 2014 she self-published Band of Gold and The Sand Dollar, Book One in the Oregon Coast Series and in 2015, The Dreamcatcher, Book Two in the Oregon Coast Series, and Broken Threads, the sequel to Band of Gold. Madeline House, Book Three in the Oregon Coast Series was published in July 2016, and Champagne for Breakfast, an offshoot from the Oregon Coast series set in Noosa, and The Good Sister, set in Scotland and featuring Bel from Broken Threads in 2017.

Maggie can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or on her website.

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

I love the thrill when I read a review or receive an email from a reader telling my how much they’ve enjoyed one of my books. It makes it all worthwhile to know that I’ve given pleasure to someone.

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Without a doubt, marketing. I’m much rather be writing and lost in a world with my characters.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

So many. But I’ll choose Marcia Willett’s Chadwick trilogy. These were the first books I read by this author and I immediately became a fan. I love her characters who become friends the reader really cares about, the sense of place and the way Willett brings back characters from earlier books to her readers.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

If I’m not tapping away at my laptop, you might find me curled up in my favourite chair with a book, walking along the river or the beach with my husband, or sipping coffee with him in one of our favourite cafes along the Noosa River. I also select and deliver books to a lady who is housebound as a volunteer for our local library. I live surrounded by books – my idea of heaven.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I like silence and prefer to write in the early morning, though, if I don’t get my work count done then, I’ll revisit my manuscript in the late afternoon. I like to have a glass of water by my side and my copy of The Emotional Thesaurus, plus my notebook for the novel.

What’s on the horizon? What can your fans look forward to next?

 I’m currently editing the sequel to The Good Sister, called Isobel’s Promise which should be published mid-year. When I wrote the end to The Good Sister, I knew I couldn’t leave Bel and Matt and had to continue their story. Isobel’s Promise is set in both Australia and Scotland

I’m also writing a follow on to Isobel’s Promise. A Model Wife will pick up Celia, a minor character in the Good Sister and follow her story almost two years later. It seems I’m developing a Sydney series as, in this book, readers will be reunited with characters from Band of Gold and Broken Threads too, some of whom appear briefly in Isobel’s Promise.

I love meeting old friends in the books I read – something Marci Willett does so well – so also enjoy writing them and hope my readers enjoy this too.

 

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 

It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

 

Can you tell me a little bit about your latest book? How would you describe it and why should we go read it?

Set in Scotland and moving from the nineteen-thirties to the present day, The Good Sister is a women’s fiction book featuring compelling real-life characters, fascinating plot twists and a strong mid-life heroine.

To quote one reviewer The Good Sister is a beautiful Scottish based wartime saga that fuses the past with the present, through two unforgettable women, who are both named Isobel.

In 1938, as the world hurtled towards war, twenty-year-old Isobel MacDonald fell madly in love. But fate and her own actions conspired to deny her the happiness she yearned for. Many years later, plagued with regrets and with a shrill voice from the past ringing in her ears, she documents the events that shaped her life.

In 2015, sixty-five-year-old Bel Davison returns from Australia to her native Scotland to visit her terminally ill aunt. Reading Isobel’s memoir, she is beset with memories of her own childhood and overcome with guilt. When she meets her aunt’s solicitor, events seem to spiral out of control and, almost against her will, she finds herself drawn to this enigmatic Scotsman.

What is it that links these two women across the generations? Can the past influence the future?

Buy links

Amazon UK http://amzn.to/2yK8iF6

Amazon US http://amzn.to/2h0DNB6

Amazon AU http://amzn.to/2hXWMMt

 

A huge thank you to Maggie for joining me today and sharing a little about herself, it’s always lovely to get to know more about the author behind the books.  I love the sound of The Good Sister, will definitely have to add this to my ever growing reading list.

 

 

Social Media Links:

Website: http://maggiechristensenauthor.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/maggiechristensenauthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MaggieChriste33
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8120020.Maggie_Christensen
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/maggiechriste33/

 

 

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Description:

Hellcorp sparkles like a blood-black diamond. Satan’s got his work cut out in this darkly comic crime tale. A cracking read! – Mark Leggatt

Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.

But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…

This is a perfectly-pitched darkly comic crime novel that is ideal for fans of Christopher Fowler and Ben Aaranovitch.

My Thoughts & Review:

After featuring the author of this book on Celebrating Indie Publishing last week, I was so curious about his book that I just had to read it! Who doesn’t like a bit of dark humour with their crime? I certainly do, and was thrilled to see that this book definitely hit the mark.

The Devil is a fantastic character and the most unlikely detective, but detect he must in order to prove himself to God and legitimise Hell before taking a much needed break. It would appear that The Devil isn’t the only smart thinking one around, God tasks him with a challenge that proves to be less than straightforward. But to make matters trickier, The Devil is cast into human form, an injured one at that, and ends up in hospital in Glasgow. Thankfully he encounters Dr Jill Gideon, the Terry McCann to his Arthur Daley, well it would seem that she is the one that keeps him from getting into some serious trouble at times.
What then follows is one of the funniest, madcap reads of this year. The scrapes they end up getting into make this such an entertaining read and you cannot help but laugh out loud in places whilst seeing logic in what The Devil says and agreeing with him.

Whitelaw’s style of writing makes this such an enjoyable read, it’s clever and funny with just the right amount of dry wit added in for good measure. Both Dr Gideon and The Devil are brilliantly created characters, they work well together and remind me a little of the main characters in the TV show Lucifer.  And even though he’s the bad guy, you can’t help but like him, there’s just something relatable there.

A quirky and enjoyable read, and one I would highly recommend.

You can buy a copy of HellCorp via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones

 

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I am bursting with excitement today as it’s time for another Celebrating Indie Publishing. Friday never seems to come round quick enough, the day I dedicate to screaming from the rooftop about the great indie publishers and authors, and today I am delighted to share a review of a book that’s firmly reserved it’s place on my top books of the year list!

The book in the spotlight today is … The Italian Chapel by Philip Paris.  It is published by Black and White Publishing in March 2018.


Book Feature:

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Description:

Orkney 1942. Forbidden lovers, divided by war, united by a secret act of creation.

Amid the turmoil of the Second World War, a group of Italian prisoners is sent to the remote Orkney island of Lamb Holm. In the freezing conditions, hunger and untold hardships of Camp 60, this ragtag band must work together to survive.

Domenico, a talented artist, is among them. He inspires his comrades to create a symbol of peace during these dark days of war, and out of driftwood and scrap they build the Italian chapel: a beacon of hope and beauty in a world ravaged by war.

The chapel soon becomes a place of love, too. When Giuseppe, another POW, falls for local woman Fiona, he decides to hide a token of his love there . . . the secret of which is unveiled for the first time in The Italian Chapel.

Based on an incredible true story, this heartbreaking and inspiring tale tells of forbidden passion, lifelong friendships and the triumph of the human spirit.

 

 

My Thoughts & Review:

This is such a beautifully written tale that calls out to the heart and soul of readers, there’s something so deeply moving in the way that Paris has taken the story of the chapel on Orkney and brought it to life with some exquisite writing.

I loved the way that the author took the time to lay a steady foundation for his characters, giving the reader an opportunity to get to know these POWs, see the volatility of the situation they were in and the struggles that faced them as they learned to adapt to their foreign surroundings.  The work undertaken by the POWs on Orkney was on an epic scale, creating foundations and building the causeways that would later link the islands of Orkney together.
The real special aspect of this is that some of these personalities are based on men who were there at the time, giving readers a wonderful personal link to the events taking place.  I appreciate that Paris took the time to include notes at the end of the book to let readers know what happened after the war to the men mentioned (where possible).

The story of how the chapel came into existence is a special one and I have to admit that I’ve always admired the chapel and it’s beauty but never actually looked into the history of it, never taken the time to appreciate the significance of it and I am forever grateful to this book for highlighting the story and the work of the team of men behind it.  Whilst part ficionalised, the story recounts the hard work and skill that was necessary to create this beautiful chapel.  The human element to the story is what really pulls the reader in, feeling a connection with characters and their lives really makes this stand out and feel so real.

Philip Paris has a wonderful way of bringing his writing to life, the descriptions of the chapel, artwork and people really conjure vivid images whilst reading this, and after reading this I did go and look up the chapel online to see more images to fully appreciate the intricate and awe inspiring details.  The inclusion of the detail of Palumbi’s iron work had me feeling a lump in my throat, his love of a local woman driving him to leave a lasting memento behind.

Such a special story, written with sympathy, sensitivity and attention to detail.  And one I would highly recommend.

You can buy a copy of The Italian Chapel via:

Amazon UK
Waterstones

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Today’s Celebrating Indie Publishing features an author from Scotland who has just recently published his second novel, Hellcorp with Urbane Publications.  I am delighted to welcome Johnathan Whitelaw to join me today to share a little about himself, the ups and downs of being an author, and making time to write.

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Description:

Sometimes even the Devil deserves a break!

Life is hard for The Devil and he desperately wants to take a holiday. Growing weary from playing the cosmic bad guy, he resolves to set up a company that will do his job for him so the sins of the world will tick over while he takes a vacation. God tells him he can have his vacation just as soon as he solves an ancient crime.

But nothing is ever easy and before long he is up to his pitchfork in solving murders, desperate to crack the case so he can finally take the holiday he so badly needs…

This is a perfectly-pitched darkly comic crime novel that is ideal for fans of Christopher Fowler and Ben Aaranovitch.

You can buy a copy of Hellcorp via:

Amazon UK


Author Feature:

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Author Image & bio courtesy of Urbane Publications

Jonathan Whitelaw is an author, journalist and broadcaster. After working on the frontline of Scottish politics, he moved into journalism. Subjects he has covered have varied from breaking news, the arts, culture and sport to fashion, music and even radioactive waste – with everything in between. He’s also a regular reviewer and talking head on shows for the BBC and STV. HellCorp is his second novel following his debut, Morbid Relations.

 

 

 

What’s your most favourite thing about being an author?

This is a really difficult one – and to start off with too! You’re cruel!

Being an author is a real privilege – and I truly mean that. Just being able to call myself that is a huge reward for all the hours, days, months and years spent crafting characters, settings and terrible things to do to them. So being part of a collective that dates all the way back centuries, eons even, truly is a joy and I’m immensely humbled and proud to call myself an author.

Another part of the job that I love is the creativity. Not everybody can say at the end of a working day that they’ve catalogued a conversation between God and The Devil about holiday plans. HellCorp, in this case, gave me that opportunity and allowed me to say it to people without sounding completely bonkers!

You never really know what a new day or writing session will bring. I love that and I know it’s something I don’t acknowledge enough. So thank you for making me appreciate just how creative, vibrant and sometimes whacky my job can be. I love it!

What’s your least favourite thing about being an author?

Another tough question! That’s a one, two punch. I think I might feel like I’ve gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson after this!

In all honesty, I don’t think I have a least favourite part of being an author. It’s what I’ve always wanted to do from pretty much as soon as I could think. So to be able to do it really is wonderful.

There’s no part of being an author I don’t enjoy. Whether that’s editing, promotion, speaking about my work or giving advice, I enjoy it so much. And I’ve been lucky enough in my career so far to be able to do all of those things. I mean, how can you not love being able to say you opened for Christopher Brookmyre and were the first speaker EVER at a book festival. Or that you’ve had people all over the world send you pictures of your work and say how much they enjoy it. Really, that’s very special.

But I know that’s a cop out of an answer. And as a journalist, I know how infuriating it is to get a cop out answer.

So if I had to pick a least favourite part I would say the indecision.

With HellCorp,its characters and overall mood – there are a lot of different genres and styles at work. From sci-fi to fantasy, crime to thriller and a little bit of romance in there too, I found there were a great many avenues I could go down, almost at every turn. Deciding what to do, when to do it and who to do it with and to can be an infuriating and liberating experience.

I can also thank the wonderful people at my publisher Urbane for making this a whole lot easier. Matthew Smith and the crew have been so supportive with HellCorp, always happy to answer questions and offer advice – it can make a big difference for a writer. To know there’s a team who believe in you and your work as much as Urbane do really is an honour. And I can’t thank them enough.

In the end, and I’m not sure how other authors do this, when it comes to indecision I go with my gut. But it can be a long, hard wait until the very end before you realise you’ve made the right decision.

If you could have written any book what would it be and why?

Now this is something I CAN answer.

When I was about ten or 11, my mum brought home a copy of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, aged 13.75 by the late, great and much missed Sue Townsend. My parents both worked for a national newspaper so they would often bring back press editions, previews, all kinds of stuff that was sent in. And it really was all sorts, from video games two months early to videos and of course books.

This would have been the mid-90s so I’m not sure if it was a re-release of the novel. But regardless, I was hooked from page one. I don’t know what it was, it still gives me shivers today – I’m 32!

While I’d always been a keen reader before, Townsend’s style, her knack for putting down on page almost exactly what I was feeling and going through as a young lad, and above all else her humour, meant I fell in love with the novel and reading in general. And I can safely say that I wouldn’t be the writer, or maybe even the person too, without it as a companion.

So if I got the opportunity to write any book, it would be that one. Really capturing lightning in a bottle the way Townsend did time and time again is something very special. But I know no matter how hard I tried, I’d never match her opus.

How do you spend your time when you’re not wrapped up plotting your next book?

I love sport, the theatre, cinema and all aspects of pop culture really. I guess it’s a byproduct of my generation.

Writing is a huge part of my life and I like to get something down every day. But when I’m not doing that I always like to stay up to date on the latest news, reviews, TV shows and happenings. It also comes about from being a journalist – being a right nosy bugger.

And of course I love to read. As I mentioned before, this is a pastime that’s been with me all of my life. My P1 teacher told my mother that I should be encouraged to read more. It could be anything, even The Beano she said. And it worked. I even still get a Beano annual every Christmas!

I love to read almost any and every genre of fiction and more recently I’ve branched into political and ancient history. It helps that research is a big part of my writing so it always feels a little like a busman’s holiday.

I adore football and I’ve been a long-suffering Everton supporter for all of my life. My dad and step-mother are from Liverpool so I’ve got a strong link to that fantastic city.

And this year I’ve also been planning for a wedding! HellCorp is dedicated to my partner Anne-Marie and I’m delighted to say that we’re looking forward to our big day in the autumn. That’s been a fantastic experience of course and, along with HellCorp coming out, it’s made 2018 really a wonderful and special year for me.

But writing is still a huge part of my life. The enjoyment I get from it really does mean that it’s never very far away from what’s going on in my life. Inspiration comes from quite literally anywhere and everywhere. So I’m always on the lookout.

Do you have a set routine for writing?  Rituals you have to observe? I.e. specific pen, silence, day or night etc.

I used to. I used to have a very intense, rigid routine that I stuck to religiously.

For my debut novel Morbid Relations (2015) I completed the first draft in just six weeks. What would end up the final edition was done in about two months. I’m a fast worker but I admit there was a bit of a cheat for this.

Myself and Anne-Marie had moved from Glasgow to Edinburgh but I was still commuting for work. That meant an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening on the train – uninterrupted, focussed. I’m used to noisy, busy newsrooms so rush hour trains were no problem at all.

My circumstances changed not long after Morbid Relations came out and I didn’t have that two-hour window every day. And in hindsight, I don’t think I would go back to such a concentrated, intense style of writing. I think it worked really well for Morbid Relations but I know now, in terms of my writing style, my approach and what I know works, it wouldn’t do.

I don’t really have any set routines when it comes to writing. As I mentioned before I like to write SOMETHING every day. It can be 50 words, it can be 5,000, it doesn’t really matter. Making progress, making time for whatever I’m working on is important. I get to write all day as a journalist so the transition to my fiction work is normally very smooth and easy.

And I pride myself on being able to write anywhere and everywhere. It’s a byproduct of being a  journalist, where you’re ALWAYS up against the clock and often not in the most comfortable or amicable scenarios.

For HellCorp I was able to work on this at a more relaxed pace. That didn’t stop me from going on huge five, ten, sometimes twenty thousand word marathon sessions. What I found with HellCorp, and in particular the character of The Devil, was the enthusiasm that I threw myself into it with. Unlike any other project I’ve worked on before, I really couldn’t wait to get back into that world and it’s characters.

It’s a novel about relationships, about growing, about acceptance. And being able to explore those themes through a great story, some fantastic characters and setting meant that it never, ever felt like a chore to work. And I’m glad to say that’s carried over into the next adventure. But no spoilers!

Sat down at the laptop, a cup of tea and a rich tea biscuit (the single greatest biscuit of all time I should add) suits me just fine.

What’s on the horizon? What can your fans look forward to next?

I’m always working. I’ve got a notebook filled with ideas of novels, novellas, comic books, scripts, you name it that I want to write. It just depends on what’s on the go.

As I briefly alluded to, I have a couple of ideas for more adventures with The Devil and the HellCorp cast. I don’t want to give too much away because it’s not fair on those who haven’t read the book yet (even though I love being a big spoil-sport! Wicked I know)

What I will say is that if there was ever a case of proving you can do something well you’ll get asked to do so again then The Devil is that. What that is, who it involves and whether he’s up to the challenge, well you’ll just have to wait and see!

 

Finally, if you could impart one pearl of wisdom to your readers, what would it be? 

And a nice tricky one to finish with. Lovely!

Whenever I’m asked to offer some advice or wisdom, I always go back to the best I was given.

When I was in university (I studied psychology before going on to creative writing and journalism) I got a tidbit from a lecturer that barely a day goes by where I don’t think about it.

“You can’t edit a blank page.”

On the face of it, it’s pretty handy for authors and writers. Get something down on the page – even if it’s absolute tosh, you’ve at least got something to start with. Sit down, write it and take it from there. By the time you’re finished that initial scribble might be absolutely unrecognisable. Or it’s the start of something really special. Regardless, it’s a start and it gets you started.

And I suppose it’s a mantra I’ve used in the rest of my life too. If you just get started with SOMETHING, then you’ve gotten over the hardest part. Everything from then on in is a learning curve and that, ultimately, will get you where you want to be.

The best advice, I’ve found, is usually the simplest. And that usually makes it the easiest to forget. So sometimes all you need is to hear it from somebody else.

It works for me. And hopefully other people too.

 

A huge thank you to Johnathan for joining me today and being so open and entertaining.  There is some extremely good advice in here for aspiring authors, and some wonderfully chuckle worthy answers to some tricky questions, and I doff my hat to you planning a wedding whilst writing and publicizing a novel!  Good luck to you and Anne-Marie for the Autumn, and yes, rich teas are awesome biscuits!!

 

Social Media Links:

Twitter: @JDWhitelaw13
Facebook: JonathanWhitelawAuthor

 

 

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