2020 Vision #writing #reading #healthyliving

Photo by Denise Karis on Unsplash

The Clear View of a Fresh New Year

Happy New Year! I think I’m still allowed to say that – the year is still young.

I enjoyed my break away from the writing desk over the festive season. Christmas was quiet and relaxed and was spent with family. Then, just a few days after Christmas, I got a slightly late – but definitely the best – gift when my granddaughter was born and I became a grandma for the third time. I also read several good books during my time off and made the most of the short hours of daylight by getting out for lots of good walks. And before long yet another year had ended and a new one had begun.

Diary Already Filling Up – Lots to Look Forward To

Real Life

In my personal life, as well as spending lots of time with my new granddaughter, I’ll also get to spend precious time with my other two grandchildren in the summer – when they and their parents come home to the UK for a visit all the way from Australia. As well as that there’s a springtime wedding to enjoy, and a birthday party to attend. There are also a couple of concerts to go to and a holiday planned. And it’s still only January! Along with all this enjoying myself – and in order that I can keep enjoying  life, I also intend to keep up the healthy lifestyle mentality – daily walks, yoga practice and healthy eating – definitely worth it and all enjoyable in their own way too – honestly 🙂

Imaginary Life

But for now, it’s back to work and I have to say it’s good to be back. And, just as in my personal life, I’ve got lots of good stuff to look forward to in my professional writing life too.

New Book Due Out Soon

First up, of course, it’s the new book. Fulfilment is the third and final part of my contemporary romance series set mainly on the Scottish island of Skye – as well as having some of the action on the Scottish mainland and in the Middle East – and, after a year spent writing and rewriting and then rewriting it some more, it’s currently with my editor. And while I await the editor’s feedback and, no doubt, suggestions for yet more rewriting, I’m in the process of agreeing on the book’s cover with the cover designer. As an author, it’s always exciting to see the final cover of one of my books for the first time, but unfortunately the cover also incorporates the blurb. Yes, that irresistible paragraph of prose on a book’s back cover that will lure readers into the story inside is what I’m currently working on. And condensing a 70,000 word story into a succinct and tempting 250 words is hard. But I’m getting there.

As well as getting the book ready for publication, I’m also planning its launch. This involves planning social media posts, asking book bloggers to read and review it, and inviting readers of my previous books to do the same.

Writer Talks

I’ve also been invited to do a couple of writer talks on my local area – something I always enjoy doing -so I’ll be preparing for these.

Starting Again

And then, once Fulfilment is out in the world, I’ll be getting down to writing my next book. I have several ideas to explore. It will definitely be another contemporary romance with fresh new characters and a different setting from my previous books. But that’s all I’m saying about it – for now.

More Reading

And, like most writers, I’m also a keen reader and I plan to keep reading my favourite authors as well as discovering some new ones. My to-be-read pile is already a teetering tower. And I’ll report back here from time to time on some of the ones I particularly enjoy.

So, over to you:

What are your plans for 2020? Do you have any writing or reading goals for the year ahead? As always, please do leave your comments below.

 

 

Best Reads of 2019: My top 25 – and the winner is … #reading #books

Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

My Top 25 Reads of 2019

Yes, it’s that time of year again. In common with many newspapers, magazines and book bloggers I’ve been looking back over the books I’ve read this year and trying to decide on my top 10, five-star reads. It quickly became my top 20 and in the end I forced myself to stop at 25! Otherwise we’d still be here this time next year. And most of the ones which didn’t make it were 4 or 4.5 star rated as opposed to 5.

I’ve read over 50 books this year and the best ones have kept me up reading way too late – always a good sign as to the enjoyment level – if not so good for being wide awake the following day.

My list is a personal one – there are few of the big literary names beloved by the newspaper reviewers. While many of these are media favourites are commendable and a couple do make it onto my list, they don’t really need further publicity from me. It’s also true that I’ve found most of these favourite books/authors via book bloggers and Facebook groups made up of readers who like similar books to me.

Several of the authors whose books are on this list took part in the Virtual Book Festival that I hosted here in July and August which without doubt was my personal blogging highlight of this year.

Not surprisingly for a writer of romances, the first 21 out of the 25 are in the romantic fiction genre, but the final four aren’t – 22 does have a compelling romantic element but this alternative history novel has so much more going on too, 23 and 24 are crime fiction and the last one is domestic noir.

So here it is – my top 25 books (in no particular order) of 2019:

Winter Beneath the Stars by Jo Thomas*

Brahminy Sunrise by Maggie Christensen *

The Summer of Chasing Dreams by Holly Martin

Summer at the Art Café by Sue McDonagh*

Happiness for Beginners by Carole Matthews

Crikey a Bodyguard by Kathryn Freeman*

Edie Browne’s Cottage by the Sea by Jane Linfoot

Poppy’s Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain

The Things I Know by Amanda Prowse

One Summer in Little Penhaven by Angela Britnell

The Little Pink Taxi by Marie Laval*

A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft

All Summer with You by Beth Good

The Man I Fell in Love With by Kate Field

A Cornish Affair by Jo Lambert

The Beekeepers Cottage by Emma Davies

The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson

Tropic Storm by Stella Quinn

Autumn at Blaxland Falls by Eliza Bennets*

The Bistro at Watersmeet Bridge by Julie Stock

Pieces of You and Me by Rachel Burton

Inceptio by Alison Morton*

Time for the Dead by Lin Anderson

Wildfire by Ann Cleeves

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

*indicates I’ve read other standalone or subsequent books in a series by this author in 2019 and can recommend them too.

Availability  

The books are all available on Amazon where you can find out more about them. Most are paperbacks as well as ebooks and can therefore also be purchased from bookshops and borrowed from libraries.

Why These 25 – in short

The romances all have depth, emotion aplenty and are deeply satisfying reads. Inceptio is the first in a fabulous, highly original series and has romantic, thriller and historical elements.  The two crime novels live up to Ann Cleeves and Lin Anderson’s usual amazing high standards. And Michael J Malone’s is ‘shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive’ to quote from the book’s back cover.

Number One

 

And if I absolutely had to pick just one as my single top read – Oh, so hard, but it would have to be Inceptio by Alison Morton for sheer originality and for it being the first in a stunning series. I reviewed it here  earlier this year if you want to know more.

Over to you

What have been some of your favourite reads this year and if you had to pick one – what would it be?

See You in 2020

This will be my final post for this year. I’ll be back in January with more news of my new novel Fulfilment due out early in 2020.

In the meantime thank you to everyone who has visited, read and commented on this year’s posts. I appreciate all your support of me as a writer here on the blog and as readers of my books. You rock! Happy festive season, to all of you who celebrate it. And a Good New Year when it comes. See you on the other side.

 

 

Tenth Author, Blogger & Social Media Birthday #writing #amwriting #blogging #books

Photo by David Ballew on Unsplash

 

Ten Years A Writer

It’s official! I’ve now been a published writer for ten years. Yes, it was in early December of 2009 that my debut book, Change of Life was first published.

It was a surreal, exciting and utterly terrifying experience. I had no idea what to expect, no idea if my book would sell and no idea how to make potential readers aware of its existence.

I had no online experience other than using email, but I quickly discovered I’d have to up my game in that respect. If I wanted to get the word out there that my book existed, I was going to have to wise up and get acquainted with social media.

Ten Years A Blogger

So it’s also nearly ten years since I started this blog.

This was my first post:

A small miracle happened to me recently.  I held my book – the book that I’ve been working on for several years – in my hand for the first time. A long gestation, a sometimes painful labour and at last it was delivered.  It was an overwhelming feeling, looking at this thing I had created, to run my fingers over its cover, to flick through its pages, to read my words on those pages.  It was the realisation of my longest held and most fervent ambition.  My maternal grandmother, herself a writer, and heroine of my childhood set me on the writing path and it’s been a lifelong, life-saving occupation for me. But for so many years it had to take a back seat. It had to be fitted in around family and working life – and it often got squeezed out. That all changed at the end/beginning of the millennium, after I got the ultimate wake-up call – i.e. intimations of my mortality in the shape of a cancer diagnosis. It was brought home to me that tomorrow doesn’t always come and the procrastinating had to stop. I promised the fates that if I survived the cancer I’d get down to some serious writing.

I beat the ovarian cancer and so had to keep my side of the deal. Writing still had to fit around work and family – but it was no longer squeezed out – priorities were reordered and the hard work began.

And now it’s here – my wonderful, beautiful first novel is here. It’s fully formed and it has gone off into the world on its own. It will now have to jostle for readers, for its place on the bookshelf – and I can only watch and support at a distance. I love my book and I want others to love it too. I’m thrilled, exhilarated and absolutely bloody terrified. I’ve never felt so proud and I’ve never felt so vulnerable.

So there you have it. Of course there’s more to the journey, more to the story than that and I hope to share more bits of it with you as I blog. I’m at the beginning of a whole new adventure and it’ll be good to have you along for the ride.

 There was no accompanying picture of the book cover, no buying links, and no mention of the book title or its content.

But over time I did get better at the whole blog post thing. The blog has been through several changes and upgrades and is now part of my main website. It has over 600 followers in its own right, as well as many more via Twitter and Facebook – yes, I joined them too.

Ten Successful Years

It’s been an amazing decade. I took early retirement from my work as a primary school teacher and writing is now my full-time job. I’ve now published four books with a fifth one due out early next year.

As time’s gone on I love writing more and more. I love the storytelling and the characters I write about, and I can’t imagine ever retiring. You’ve been warned!

In the last decade I’ve learned so much more about the art and craft of writing. I’ve learned how to talk about and share my writing – both in the real world and the online one. And I’ve gathered such a lovely and loyal readership.

And I’d like to thank any you who are reading this and are also part of that lovely and loyal band. Thank you for your support, encouragement and most especially for those precious, priceless reviews you’ve taken the trouble to write and post – whether on an online bookselling site or on your book blog. Reviews really do help sales and I’m very grateful.

What’s Next?

So, as I say, no plans to stop writing. The new book, which is called Fulfilment and is the third and final part in the Jack & Rachel Skye series ( which consists so far of Displacement and Settlement) is due to be published in early 2020. Watch out for more information on this soon. And, after Fulfilment‘s safely out in the world, I have lots of ideas to explore for my next novels.

I’ll be sticking with contemporary romance. I’m not sure whether to write a standalone story or to begin a new series set in the south of Scotland. If I go for a series it would focus on a community and each book would tell the romantic story of a particular pair of characters from that community. I need to think some more about that. And, if you’re a reader of my books, I’d be interested to hear your preferences.

But whatever I decide, it’s an exciting prospect to be starting on something new as the next decade begins. Here’s to 2020 and beyond!

Thanks for being with me on my incredible journey.

PS: you can find out more about my books and where to buy them by clicking on the cover photos – either in the sidebar or at the foot of this post – depending on the type of device on which you’re reading this. Or simply go to the ‘My Books’ page here on the website. You see I have learned a thing or to about marketing 🙂

 

Out and about – author on the loose again! #authors #bookbloggers #books

But it’s still all about the books!

I know! It’s happening again. A couple of weeks ago I posted about my visit to the Isle of Skye to do an author talk and deliver a writing workshop. And I mentioned in that post how good it is to get away from the desk from time to time.

So good that I escaped again a couple of days ago and will do so again before the end of November – in both cases to do more authorly stuff.

Authors and Book Bloggers in Scotland Christmas Lunch

This took place in Edinburgh on Saturday and was the latest real-world meet up of this wonderful online Facebook group which (as the name suggests) is for authors and book bloggers who are based in Scotland, or who write/review books set in Scotland. In the group members can share information about books they’ve written or reviewed or publicise book related events taking place in Scotland.

I’ve attended a few of the group’s get-together lunches and it’s always lovely to meet folks you’ve only previously known online or to catch up with folks you’ve met before. And the talk of course is mainly about books but includes lots of real life chat too.

And Saturday’s Christmas lunch meeting was no exception. It was organised by the amazing Joanne of Portobello Book Blog and Kelly who runs Love Books Group and was held at Wildwood in the capital’s Lothian Road. The food was great – that’s my yummy main course in the picture above – and the company was superb. It was so good to connect with some enthusiastic readers of my books and also with those who’ve posted such great reviews on their blogs. And it was interesting, too, to hear what other writers are currently working on and to share writer-type concerns and tips.

It was especially nice to have a good catch-up with author Linda Gillard to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude for encouraging me to get started writing books in the first place. Linda has a new book out in February and you can find more details about that below. She was also a guest author at my virtual book festival here on the blog a few months ago and you can find her event here. I’ve read and loved all her books.

We also had a Secret Santa gift exchange. We all contributed a book to the lucky-dip and I struck very lucky. I only went and picked the latest novel by a favourite author of mine – a book I was going to be buying, but now don’t have to. Yes, I was delighted to get the fabulous Michael J Malone’s new novel – In the Absence of Miracles. So THANK YOU to whoever was my secret gift-giver – and you have excellent taste.

So all-in-all a fab awayday.

Village Christmas Gifts & Craft Fair

And this coming Saturday I have the above Christmas Fair here in the village where I live. I will be attending as a stallholder where I’ll be selling my books. I always enjoy events like this where, regardless of how many books I sell, it’s good to talk to all the folks who stop by the table. But, of course I’m hoping quite a few people will see my books as an ideal gift for someone om their list – or maybe even for themselves.

Back to Work

But after the fun times away from the office, it will be back down to some serious hard work – both in the run up to and after the festive season. After all, the new book’s not going to get itself ready for its 2020 publication …

And in case you want to know more about the book I won:

In the Absence of Miracles by Michael J Malone

From the back cover:

A young man discovers a family secret that turns his world upside down in this dark, emotive, shocking psychological thriller by number-one bestselling author Michael J. Malone

John Docherty’s mother has just been taken into a nursing home following a massive stroke and she’s unlikely to be able to live independently again.

With no other option than to sell the family home, John sets about packing up everything in the house. In sifting through the detritus of his family’s past he’s forced to revisit and revise his childhood.

For in a box, in the attic, he finds undeniable truth that he had a brother who disappeared when he himself was only a toddler. A brother no one ever mentioned. A brother he knew absolutely nothing about. A discovery that sets John on a journey from which he may never recover.

For sometimes in that space where memory should reside there is nothing but silence, smoke and ash. And in the absence of truth, in the absence of a miracle, we turn to prayer. And to violence.

Shocking, chilling and heartbreakingly emotive, In the Absence of Miracles is domestic noir at its most powerful, and a sensitively wrought portrait of a family whose shameful lies hide the very darkest of secrets.

You can get the book in bookshops or online. The Amazon UK link is here

 

And Linda Gillard’s Book is called Hidden

From the back cover:

A birth. A death. Hidden for a hundred years.

1918

“Lady, fiancé killed, will gladly marry officer totally blinded or otherwise incapacitated by the war.”

A sense of duty and a desire for a child lead celebrated artist Esme Howard to share her life and her home – 16th-century Myddleton Mote – with Captain Guy Carlyle, an officer whose face and body have been ravaged by war. But Esme knows nothing of the ugliness that lurks within Guy’s tortured mind, as he re-lives, night after night, the horrors of the trenches.

As a child grows within her, Esme fears Guy’s wrath will be turned on them both. A prisoner in her own home, she paints like one possessed, trusting that one day someone will hear her silent cries for help.

2018

When Miranda Norton inherits Myddleton Mote and its art collection from a father she never knew, she decides to move on after the end of an unhappy marriage. Inviting her extended family to join her, Miranda sets about restoring the house and turning it into a thriving business.

When the moat is drained for repairs, a skeleton emerges with a bullet hole in its skull. Someone from Miranda’s past returns to torment her and an appalling act of vandalism reveals dark secrets, hidden for a hundred years.

You can preorder the book here It will be published in February 2020

The Life She Deserves by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #BookReview #amreading #romance

This latest book from Maggie Christensen is the first in the new Australian set, Granite Springs series. It’s a contemporary second-chance/ seasoned/ mature romance and it’s excellent.

Regular readers of this blog will know that this author is a favourite of mine. Her books are realistic but romantic. The main characters tend to have a fair bit of life experience behind them but they’re still looking to the future, not dwelling in the past, and they’re certainly not immune from falling in love. And the stories and their settings easily hook me in.

So I suspected I was going to enjoy The Life She Deserves – and I certainly did. Maybe even the best yet from this author.

It tells the story of divorcee Jo and widower Col. Being older or, ‘in their prime’ if you prefer, they both have baggage – and it’s baggage that gets in the way of their fledgling romance. Jo has to fight for the life she most definitely deserves.

All the characters are three-dimensional and believable – flaws and all. Change is hard for all of them and there is plenty internal and external emotional conflict driving the story on. And there are surprises along the way too.

Yes, this is another hit from this wonderful, talented and prolific author.

From the back of the book:

Growing up in the small Australian country town of Granite Springs, Jo and Col have been lifelong friends.

Following Jo’s divorce and the death of Col’s wife, the pair find comfort in their common grief. But as they tentatively explore their new relationship, they have little idea of the challenges that lie ahead.

What they haven’t bargained for is Jo’s interfering ex, along with their three children, all of whom have their own agendas.

Can Jo ride out the storm? Will she be granted the life she deserves?

If you enjoy heartwarming second chance romance in a rural setting, you’ll love this book.

 

The Life She Deserves is available in Paperback and ebook formats and you can get it here.

 

 

AND I can also reveal that the second book in the Granite Springs series The Life She Chooses is out on 9th December and you can pre-order it here.

Author Talk on the Isle of Skye – a bit of writing life away from the desk #writing #authortalk

Portree Harbour

Writing can be a lonely profession – all that sitting at the desk – alone with your own thoughts. So it’s good to get away from time to time – and it’s even better to be able to combine that with talking about your work and getting to meet readers and prospective readers.

So I was delighted recently to get an invitation to do just that.

I was invited to do an author talk to the Primary 5, 6 and 7 children on the 5th November at Broadford Primary School on the Scottish Isle of Skye. And not only that I was also invited to deliver a writing workshop to the Primary 7 children later on the same day. And of course I would be appearing as my children’s author alter-ego, Anne McAlpine – author of The Silver Locket (for 9 to 12 year-olds), rather than Anne Stormont writer of adult fiction.

I lived and worked as a teacher on the island for many years and the invitation came from a friend who is also a former colleague.

And it was lovely to have a reason to go back. I miss Skye so much that I hadn’t felt able to return during the (almost) three years since I left. But this offer to talk about my work as a writer and to share The Silver Locket with some of its intended readership, was the perfect opportunity to get over myself and return to the place where I left a big part of my heart.

The children listened so well during my talk about the background to The Silver Locket, how I got the idea for it and how I went about putting the story together. And the questions afterwards were brilliant and some of the suggestions for sequels were amazingly clever.

And the writing workshop with the Primary 7s (age 11) was great fun and highly productive. We began with several warm-up exercises, and then the children went on to make a start on writing their own 3 or 5 chapter novels – to be adapted/completed at a later date. Some opted for a timeslip story like The Silver Locket, others went for adventure/thriller or crime or mystery. Two of the girls even started to explore doing a manga style graphic novel. But the most rewarding thing was that not one of the pupils said they couldn’t do it or had no idea what to write. They all just went for it.

As for my adult author identity it was also wonderful to be back where I got the inspiration for my Skye set series of romantic fiction novels Displacement, Settlement and the soon to be published Fulfilment. I half-expected to meet Jack or Rachel, from the books, going round Portree Co-Op.

So, all in all, a successful and hugely enjoyable time away from the desk for me. And it came with the added bonus of an extra few days seeing old friends and soaking up the autumn sunshine as I reacquainted myself with all my favourite places on the most beautiful island in the world.

 

 

 

 

Autumn Daze #writing #authortalk #reading

Home to autumn

I recently returned home to Scotland from a month away visiting family in Australia. I left behind Queensland’s hot and sunny springtime and came back to misty, mellow autumn days at home. So what with the jetlag and the dramatic change in the weather and daylight hours, it’s taken a wee while for me to get back into my writing rhythm.

But I do love the autumn. I take a childish delight in walking through fallen leaves and I love the quality of the light and the crisp fresh air. So I’ve been alternating spells at the desk with lots of nice long walks.

Back to work at the writing desk

And, as my writing schedule from now until the end of the year is pretty full-on, I intend to continue to find time for these mind-clearing, restorative and refreshing outdoor spells.

My first task on returning to work was to begin the redraft of the manuscript for my latest novel. I’ve made good progress with that and, after a bit more rewriting of certain sections, it will be ready to go off to the editor. The new book is called Fulfilment. It’s the third and final part of my Skye series of novels and it will be out early next year.

Author Talk

And speaking of Skye, where I lived when I write the first two books in the above-mentioned series, I’m heading back there this week on author business. I’ll be there as my alter-ego, children’s author Anne McAlpine, to talk about The Silver Locket, my Bonnie Prince Charlie/ timeslip novel for 9 to 12 year-olds. I’m going to be doing an author talk at one of the island’s primary schools and will also be doing writing workshops with some of the pupils. I am looking forward to it very much.

Book Sale

Then when I get back, I’ve got the pre-Christmas gathering and lunch of the Facebook group – Authors and Book Bloggers in Scotland – to go to in Edinburgh. And at the end of November I have a table at the local Craft & Gift Fair where I’ll be selling my books.

Lots of Reading

When I do find time to relax – and I will – then, of course, I’ll be reading. I read a lot of good books when I was away in Australia including, naturally lots of contemporary romance as well as a couple of cracking crime novels. Among the best were –

in crime: Lin Anderson’s Time for the Dead and Ann Cleeves’ Wildfire

in romance: The Day We Meet Again by Miranda Dickinson, Tropic Storm by Stella Quinn, Autumn at Blaxland Falls by Eliza Bennets and The Life She Deserves by Maggie Christensen.

And I’m currently reading and very much enjoying Kathryn Freeman’s latest contemporary second-chance romance – Reach For a Star

Questions for you

So, I reckon that’s us up to date. But before I go I’d like to ask if you have a favourite season and if so what is it that especially appeals to you about it? Also what books have you enjoyed reading recently and what are you currently reading?

As always please do leave comments below.

 

Virtual Book Festival: Final event, Farewell and Thank You #VirtBookFest #books #writing #reading @edbookfest @NayrouzQarmout @commapress

Thank you!  And one last mini-event …

Before closing the festival, I thought I’d like to add a mini-event of my own here by way of highlighting the positive motivation (as opposed to the frustrated ranting) behind doing the festival in the first place. And that was the importance of books and book festivals in giving voice to those who might not otherwise be heard.

I wrote in an earlier festival event post here about how the Edinburgh International Book Festival (EIBF) had restored a bit of my faith in traditional mainstream book festivals when it announced its 2019 programme.  Yes, it had its fair share of celebs, TV stars and way too many politicians but it also had actual authors of actual books. BUT as well as all that it gave a platform to some authors and issues that would normally struggle to get an airing.

Refugee and Migrant Voices

And one such author was Palestinian writer, Nayrouz Qarmout, who I wrote about seeing at last year’s EIBF here and who was invited back this year. So, having enjoyed listening to her last year, I went back to see her again.

Now, if you know me or my books at all, you’ll know that the situation in Israel-Palestine is one that’s close to my heart. It’s a part of the world I’ve visited several times, it’s where one of my dearest friends lives and I deliberately chose to highlight the situation there as part of Rachel’s story in my three part Skye-Israel series of three novels (two published and part three due out at the end of 2019. You might well be wondering what can possibly connect these two locations – but you’ll have to read the books to find that out J

But one of my aims in choosing that setting was to let my readers know in a non-preachy, non-confrontational, story-telling way the problems that are faced by the Palestinian people as they try to get on with their lives as refugees in their own land. And main character, Rachel, sympathises with their plight, not least because she is the daughter of a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who arrived in Scotland as part of the Kindertransport.

This year’s EIBF event was called Home for Migrants and Refugees. It was hosted by Scottish crime writer Val McDermid and it featured Scottish novelist Ali Smith and Scottish folk musician Karine Polwart as well as Nayrouz Qarmout.

Karine Polwart opened proceedings by singing her song Maybe There’s a Road which she said had been inspired after a raid on a house near to where she lived which was being used by sex-traffickers. The lyrics of the song depict a victim of the trafficking longing for a way out of their situation.

Ali Smith spoke about a project she is patron of called Refugee Tales which amongst other things partners writers and refugees in order to record in writing the refugees stories. These stories have now been published in three volumes also called Refugee Tales. On hearing a sample of these stories, I know I wasn’t the only one with tears in my eyes. And having got the first of the books, I can recommend them as truly humbling reads.

You can find the Refugee Tales website here

And you can buy the book here

Nayrouz Qarmout, as she did last year, spoke movingly about her life in Gaza, the Palestinian territory in Israel which she described as the world’s largest prison. But she also spoke about her writing, about the telling of her story, of her Palestinian identity and about what home means to her. And she told us about her beautiful book, The Sea Cloak, which I can also highly recommend.

You can buy the book here. And you can read about the book’s awesome publisher Comma Press here.

The event finished with Karine Polwart singing Suitcase – a song inspired by an elderly gentleman she knew who had been a  Kindertransport refugee and who even into old age kept a suitcase packed in case he ever had to flee again.

This was a wonderful, moving and thought-provoking event and a fine example of a book festival that truly values the power of the written word.

And so that’s it …

The last event has taken place and we come to the end of the two month – 25 event-  virtual book festival here on Put It In Writing.

Creating the festival wasn’t something I’d planned on doing. It arose out of a bit of a rant I had here after despairing about the line-ups at various real world book festivals where books and authors were in short supply compared to politicians, celebs and soap stars – not all of whom had even written a book. Following my rant the wee voice in my head dared me to try to do better. So with no budget and a garden that’s too small for a marquee, I had the idea to run a virtual festival – no costs, no queues for the book tent, and no carbon footprint for visitors and contributors from far away.

In my (not so humble) opinion, it’s been a success and I’ve loved organising and hosting all the events.

The authors, book bloggers and other book professionals who agreed to appear at the festival have all been a joy to work with and I appreciate all the hard work and effort they put in perfecting their wonderful contributions and getting them to me on time.

And to all of you have visited, commented, and shared the events on social media – THANK YOU SO MUCH – the level of engagement from you all has been amazing and has made all the hard work worthwhile.

And I hope you agree that I met my aim of making it all about BOOKS.

The blog is now going on a bit of a break for a couple of months. I hope to see you back here in November.

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 25 – Just Imagine – an article by author Claire Baldry #VirtBookFest #books #writing

Hello everyone! This is the 25th and penultimate event in the Put It In Writing Virtual Book Festival. And it’s my pleasure to welcome second-chance romance author Claire Baldry to the festival today. Claire is going to share her thoughts on the use of imagination in her writing.

So over to Claire:

Just Imagine….

I have always believed that imagination is the finest of all human qualities. It allows us to empathise with people in situations we have never experienced. If we let it, imagination has the power to improve our world and build new inventions. It has the potential to stop us hurting others, because we can envisage their potential pain. As writers, imagination allows us to combine pieces of our experiences together and create a whole new world.

So when people ask me ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ the only reply I can offer is:

“You never know what’s in your head, until you start pulling it out.”

Again and again, I hear authors explain that, however hard they plan their novels, the characters seem to take over and lead the storyline in all sorts of unexpected directions. And that is the same for me. Imagination is a powerful and mysterious tool.

The deeper I get into writing a book, the more likely it is that I will find myself talking to my imagined characters. So when I’m asked “Are your characters based on real people?” I always reply “Not one person, but bits of loads of people I’ve known, and some I’ve seen on TV or read about, and some who just seem to emerge.”

How does the power of imagination translate into writing? I’ve tried to unpack this a bit and take a look at some of the characters and the setting in my latest novel ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’. The bride, Charlotte, is very self-centred, inconsiderate towards her mother and partly formed by the indulgence of her father. But she is also a hard worker, a good mother, and still only twenty-four. Is she based on my own daughter? Certainly not, but there are occasional echoes of my own daughter in the most self-centred phase of her teenage years. And when Charlotte loses control of herself in an emotional and hurtful outburst, she can’t stop. That bit of Charlotte is me, admittedly not often, but it does happen.

The mother of the bride’s new man is also a mixture. His perceptions as a teacher are definitely mine, but his humour comes from my husband whose wit is always sharpest in the company of women.

The looked after child, Carly, is partly based on pupils and families I encountered as a teacher, but I also drew on a variety of second-hand experiences told to me or watched on TV to enable me to enter the head of the abuser with whom Carly has a relationship.

I hope I have been successful in creating these characters. Blogger, Linda Hill was kind enough to observe……

Claire Baldry has created a cast of people who felt real, flawed and authentic.” (Linda’s Book Bag)

And yet I have chosen to take these fictional characters and place at least some of them in my own hometown of Bexhill in East Sussex. The setting is real. It was a pleasure to weave my imagined characters into such familiar places. I hoped that asking my readers to use their imagination was a good way to promote my coastal hometown, which relies on visitors as part of its economy.

Blogger Anne Williams described the benefit of the setting.

And I must mention another element of the story I loved, its vivid sense of place. Bexhill, Hastings and their surroundings are unknown territory for me, but I felt like I’d had a rather lovely holiday – the descriptions are just wonderful, the restaurants and the markets, the geography and the attractions, the detail drawn with care but never intruding, just enhancing the backdrop for the story.” (Being Anne)

I would like to write a sequel to ‘My Daughter’s Wedding’, to develop the lives and personalities of some of the characters into a whole new story. As yet, I have no inspiration, but if I keep delving into my head, hopefully my imagination will eventually pull something out.

With grateful thanks to Anne Stormont for allowing me to share my thoughts as part of her Virtual Book Festival.

Anne: And thank you to you too, Claire for this fascinating insight into how you use a mix of imagination and reality – to excellent effect – in your writing.

And now we have an extract from Claire’s above-mentioned book :

 

My Daughter’s Wedding

From the Back Cover:

When ‘bride to be’ and single parent, Charlotte, discovers that her 61-year-old widowed mother is in a new relationship, she struggles to come to terms with it. “Why do you need to have a man, at your age?” Charlotte asks, “Can’t you just be a grandma?”

The growing tension between mother and daughter combined with preparations for the wedding impact on both family and friends. In this compelling and unashamedly romantic tale of finding love in later life, the experience of a young care-leaver who is tasked with making the wedding bouquet, is skilfully intertwined with the family’s – sometimes turbulent– preparations for a modern wedding.

 

CHAPTER ONE

Monday Lunch

Angie was fastening her jacket when the phone rang. “Mum, it’s me. I need a favour.”

“Ask quickly then. I’ve got my jacket on. I was on my way out.”

“Why on earth are you wearing a jacket? It’s boiling out there.” Angie was irritated by her daughter’s increasing habit of treating her like a child.

“It’s breezy on Bexhill seafront. What do you want, Charlotte? I’m in a hurry.”

“Can you pick Joe up from school on Wednesday? His dad’s let me down again.”

“No, I’m sorry Charlotte, I can’t. It’s Uncle Jack’s funeral on Wednesday.”

Angie could hear daughter’s annoyance. “I still don’t see why you have to go. You didn’t like him.”

“I’m the only one left now on Grandpa’s side. I’m going to represent the family.”

“Uncle Jack won’t know you’re there.”

“I’m just doing what I believe is right. Sorry about Joe, but you’ll have to find someone else. Charlotte, I have to go.” Angie put down the phone. She grabbed her bag and stepped out of her flat and onto the wide landing. She deliberately walked past the lift and descended the four flights of stairs.

“I am not yet old,” she told herself, “I have a right to my own life.” The July sun was strong. Angie began to feel hot as she hurried along the promenade. She was pleased Charlotte wasn’t watching as she removed her jacket. By the time she reached the little Thai restaurant, her friend Alison was already seated at a table. Alison waved an empty glass at Angie.

“Wine? You look flustered.”

“I am flustered, and yes please. Well done for remembering to bring the bottle.” The restaurant wasn’t licensed, so the two friends took it in turns to bring wine to their weekly lunch.

“Let me guess, it’s Charlotte.”

Angie let out an exaggerated sigh. “She talks down to me as if I’m senile. And she forgets I have a right to a life of my own. I’m her mother, not her servant.”

 

Want to read more? You can buy a copy of the book here

 

About Claire:

Former headteacher and English Advisor, Claire Baldry, lives on the East Sussex coast with her husband Chris. She has published five booklets of amusing poetry, an autobiographical novella and two novels. Claire has a very regular schedule of engagements as a speaker and light-hearted performance poet. She regularly fundraises for charity, and Claire and her husband were awarded the SE Diabetes UK fundraising Inspire Award in 2017. Claire is passionate about promoting books and poetry with protagonists and issues which appeal to readers in mid-life and beyond. She is the creator of the ‘Books for Older Readers’ website and has won two awards for her poetry from the Silver Surfers website.

You can connect online with Claire at the links below:

Website

Facebook

 

 

 

 

Virtual Book Festival: Event 24 – interview with author Kate Field @katehaswords #VirtBoookFest #books #romanticfiction

Hello everyone and welcome to event number 24 in the Virtual book festival programme. Today we have an interview with author of contemporary romantic fiction, Kate Field.

And hello and welcome to you too, Kate. Let’s begin with why and how you became a writer?

 

The earliest memory I have of writing is from primary school, when I wrote a story about an octopus and his underwater friends. The teacher pinned it on the wall, even though it stretched for pages and pages. I was a shy girl, neither sporty nor musical, and for the first time it felt like there was something I might be good at.

 

I wrote terrible poetry in my teens and eventually started my first novel in my early twenties. I wrote on and off for almost twenty years as a hobby, and then had a ‘now or never’ moment when I turned forty. I plucked up the courage to start sending my writing out and entering competitions. I was a runner up in a competition organised by Woman magazine and Accent Press, and Accent published my first three books.

 

I didn’t ever dare call myself a writer during those early years. It wasn’t until I was shortlisted for the New Talent Award at the Festival of Romance and met other writers for the first time that I realised I was one of them. I had found my tribe!

Anne: Well done for going for it. Your courage in taking the leap certainly paid off.

 

What genre do you write in and why does that hold a particular appeal for you?

I write romantic fiction. It’s been my favourite genre ever since I read Pride and Prejudice as my GCSE set text and was swept up in the story in a way I’d never been before. It’s the genre where I can relate to the characters and situations and see parts of my own life reflected on the pages, and that adds extra appeal to the books. I also have more emotional connection to romantic fiction novels than any other, because I love a happy ending and I find it comforting to be able to pick up a book knowing that’s exactly what I’ll get.

I never actively thought about what sort of books to write. It was always going to be romance.

Anne: Yes, I like ‘the deal’ between romantic fiction authors and readers – as a reader you know you won’t be left hanging and that you’ll get a story you can relate to along the way.

 

 How many books have you written? Tell us a bit about them.

Four books have been published so far, with the fifth due out in February 2020.

The Magic of Ramblings was the first to be published. It’s about a desperate woman who runs away from her life and takes a job as a companion to an old lady who lives at Ramblings, a country house in Lancashire. It’s a story of friendship, of community spirit, and of starting again when all seems lost.

I went back to Ramblings in another book, The Winter That Made Us, as I couldn’t resist revisiting some favourite characters! It’s a standalone story about an unlikely couple who connect through music and the restoration of the Ramblings walled garden.

The Truth About You, Me and Us is also set in Lancashire. It’s about a community of craft people and tells the story of Helen, who made a controversial decision a few years ago and who faces a challenge when her past catches up with her.

My most recent book is The Man I Fell in Love With, and there’s more about that one below.

Anne: And all of them are such good stories.

 

 Tell us about a typical writing day?

I don’t have a typical writing day. I have a day job, so writing has to fit around that and family life. This means that I pick up my writing whenever I have chance, and write for as long as I can, without having a set plan for how many words I need to write. Some days even one paragraph is a good outcome!

Anne: Yes, I can see why you need to be flexible as regards your writing word count expectations. But every paragraph counts.

 

 Do you plot your novels in some detail before you actually start writing?

I don’t plot in detail. My sensible side tells me that I should and that it would save a lot of time, especially on those days when I reach the end of a scene and have no idea what is going to happen next. But when I try to plot ahead, it doesn’t seem to work for me. I need to write into the story and to get to know the characters and what they might do as I go along.

Having said that, I do fill out character questionnaires before I start, and spend some time thinking about the opening scene and a few other scenes or wisps of conversation that could happen along the way.

Anne: So a bit of planning but an open mind too.

 

 What comes first for you characters or plot?

You can probably guess from my answer to the last question that characters come first! I think that’s partly because I write romantic stories, and it’s essential that readers can relate to the characters and want to follow their journey over several hundred pages, even when they know that the book will finish with a happy ending. I also enjoy reading character-driven stories so it’s inevitable that I’m drawn to writing them too.

Anne: That makes perfect sense for the sort of stories you write. The characters are indeed memorable and it’s a pleasure to go with them through their story.

 

 Where do you get your ideas?

The simple answer to this is that they come at any time and from anywhere! The Magic of Ramblings was inspired by my love of Georgette Heyer books, and in particular those stories where an unassuming companion wins the heart of a dashing hero! The Winter That Made Us was inspired by an advert I saw on television featuring floating Chinese lanterns. I thought of a scene where I could use floating lanterns and the whole book was built around it. It’s still one of my favourite parts of the book. Other stories have been inspired by magazine articles, items in the news or – in the case of The Man I Fell in Love With – a piece of gossip at work!

Anne: That’s the magic of writing ( and Ramblings), isn’t it? Ideas come from all sorts of places and situations.

 

Have you got a favourite character out of the all the ones you’ve created? Tell us about them if you have – or is it too hard to pick just one?

It’s very hard to pick one, as I have favourites for different reasons. The book that’s coming out in February, A Dozen Second Chances, features a character called Phyllis, who is the heroine’s grandmother, and I loved writing her scenes. She’s funny and wise and thinks she can get away with saying and doing anything she likes because of her grand old age!

It’s tough to choose between my male leads, as I love them all, but I have a soft spot for Noah Thornton from The Winter That Made Us. He starts off as a prickly bear of a man, who rarely smiles or speaks after facing a tragic event in his past, and I loved watching him thaw as the story develops.

Anne: Ah, Noah. I’m still in love with him …

 

 Can you share some of the feedback/reviews you’ve had from your readers and/or any awards your books have received?

 The Magic of Ramblings won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers, which was a complete surprise and a huge honour!

Anne: Congratulations!

I’m grateful to anyone who takes a time to leave a review. Here are a few:

‘This was the first time that I’ve been so engrossed in a book, that I’ve forgotten where I was. It is totally consuming and the writing is enchanting and natural. Exceptional depth to the characters and a beautiful story. Loved loved loved it. Not my usual type of book but it was my favourite read of the year by a mile.’ Amazon review, The Magic of Ramblings

‘I thought this story was utterly delightful and a perfect example of truly romantic women’s fiction.’ Linda’s Book Bag, The Truth About You, Me and Us

‘The whole book is beautifully written, with real warmth, a strong sense of place and of the people who live there. I found it quite captivating, heart-warming and so uplifting – one of those rare and lovely reads that you put down at the end with a smile, and just want to say out loud “I really enjoyed that”.’ Being Anne, The Winter That Made Us

‘Kate Field has made me believe in love again, not the teenage meet-cute kind of love, but the real, enduring, self-sacrificing love. The love that really, as adults, we all hope is truly real.’  The Glass House Girls Online Magazine, The Man I Fell in Love With

Anne: Wow!

 

There is an extract from your novel The Man I Fell in Love With below.  Tell us a bit more about this particular book and why you chose it for the extract.

This is my most recently published book, and for a long time this was my secret writing project. I loved the characters so much, especially Mary Black, that I was too scared to submit it as I knew that rejection would hurt! Mary has proved a more controversial figure than I expected. She supports her husband when he reveals that he is gay, and her reaction has divided opinion, with some readers seeing her as weak and others acknowledging her strength. I think she’s wonderful!

This is the blurb from Amazon:

Sometimes we find happiness where we least expect it…

After twenty years of contented marriage, no one is more surprised than Mary Black when her husband announces he’s leaving her… for another man.

For the sake of the children, Mary has no choice but to pick herself up and start again. She hosts family meals that include Leo and his new partner. She copes with the kids wanting to spend less time with her and more time with their ‘fun’ dads. But one thing she can’t quite ignore is Leo’s gorgeous brother, who has just come back to town…

After living a life of sliding doors and missed opportunities, can Mary finally put herself first and take a chance that could change everything?

A wonderfully uplifting novel full of wisdom, spirit and charm. This is a love story with a difference, perfect for fans of Jill Mansell and Heidi Swain

In this extract, Mary has invited Leo and his new partner to the family home for Christmas, and Leo’s brother Ethan challenges her over her behaviour:

After dinner, Ava pulled out the box of Trivial Pursuit for the traditional game of everyone trying to beat Leo. I ducked out this year, letting Clark take my place, and went to tidy the kitchen, finding simple pleasure in restoring order in the one area I could. Noise and laughter floated down the hall.

‘What are you doing?’

Ethan followed me into the kitchen and pushed the door shut.

‘Tidying up.’

‘I don’t mean in here.’I knew exactly what he meant, knew what he was going to say, and it was one of the reasons why I had spent the whole of Christmas Eve out shopping, so that there was no danger of this conversation taking place. I grabbed a pile of cutlery, and fed it into the dishwasher with as much rattling as I could manage.

Ethan touched my arm.

‘Mary.’ I ignored him. He grabbed the cutlery from me, threw it in the basket and slammed the dishwasher door closed. ‘What’s the matter with you?’

‘With me?’ That riled me. How was any of this my fault? ‘Nothing.’

‘That’s my point. Leo’s about to leave you, and you look about as bothered as if you’d run out of milk.’

‘Of course I’m bothered! I don’t want him to go. Would you prefer it if I stayed in bed and cried into my pillow? Or if I shouted abuse at him and cut up all his suits? Do you think that would help Jonas and Ava?’

‘It might help you. It might show Leo that you do actually care, and that he has something to stay for.’

‘Me being me isn’t enough to make him stay, is that what you’re saying? That I’ve driven him away? Thanks for that vote of confidence.’

‘That’s not what I meant . . .’

‘And what makes you qualified to give me advice on relationships, with your two failed marriages and string of ex-girlfriends?’

Perhaps I had gone a bit far with that one – his second wife had been unfaithful, according to Audrey – but what right did he have to stand in my kitchen, berating my indifference? I knew some people would find my reaction odd, but I thought Ethan knew me better.

‘I know exactly what you’re doing. You block out things that are difficult, pretend they’re not happening. It’s what you’ve always done.’

‘That’s not true!’

‘What is it then? Some grand sacrifice for Leo? You love him, but you’re letting him go? Listen to me, Mary. It’s not heroic or noble to do that. It’s the wrong choice. If you want something enough you should carry on fighting for it, even if you get knocked down a thousand times, and no matter the collateral damage. Don’t condemn yourself to a life of loneliness and regret.’

He gazed at me then, and it was as if he’d ripped open that confident jacket, and shown me someone entirely different underneath. I didn’t know what to say, and was spared having to say anything when Leo walked in. He looked from Ethan to me, and back to Ethan.

‘What are you saying to her?’ I had never heard Leo’s tone so sharp.

‘The truth.’ Leo’s head jerked back as if Ethan had struck him on the chin. ‘I told Mary that she needs to fight to keep you.’

‘Do you have a problem with Leo being gay?’ I asked. There had always been tension between these two, but this level of animosity was new.

‘Not in the slightest. I only have a problem with him deciding he’s gay now, years after marrying you.’

‘I haven’t made the decision. I met Clark, and I can’t ignore what I feel for him.’ Leo stared at Ethan. ‘You can’t help who you fall in love with. You should understand that.’

And Ethan, whom I had never before seen lost for words, simply shook his head at Leo and walked out.

If you want to read more you can buy the book at the link below:

eBook and paperback available here:

 

Kate: Thanks for inviting me to take part in your Virtual Book Festival, Anne!

Anne : Thank you so much for taking part.

 

About Kate:

Kate writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire,

where she lives with her husband, daughter and mischievous cat.

She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the RNA’s Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.

 

You can connect with Kate online at the links below:

Twitter @katehaswords

Facebook

Amazon page