Going on a Blog Tour and The Brilliance of Book Bloggers

 

Next week, starting on 12th November, my new book Settlement is going on blog tour organised by the lovely Kelly at Love Books Group. This means there will be a different Settlement related post on seven different book blogs – one on each day – until the final day when there will be two.

The book blogging community are just fab! It’s made up of lots of wonderful book lovers who review books, interview authors and give writers guest spots on their blogs. And it’s all done out of love and in order to spread the word about books and reading. So much work is involved and all of it unpaid. What a tremendous resource and source of support for all of us authors.

And today, I’m delighted to be a guest on Anne Williams’ Being Anne book blog where I talk a bit about the background to Settlement and why I chose the settings that I did. You can read the post here.

I also have guest spots coming up on Linda Hill’s Linda’s Book Bag  blog at the end of the month and then I’m a guest on Kate Noble’s blog The Quiet Knitter in early December. More about these later…

I don’t know about you, but I get almost all my reading recommendations from book bloggers nowadays. I’ve discovered so many good authors and thoroughly enjoyable books that I’d never have heard of any other way.

So let’s hear it for the Book Bloggers. They rock!

How do you find your next reads? Let me know in the comments section below.

The Winter That Made Us by Kate Field @katehaswords #BookReview #amreading

This was such a good book. It was one of those books where you’re desperate to get to the end but at the same time you don’t want it to finish because you’re enjoying it so much.

I’d already read and enjoyed The Magic of Ramblings by the same author and it was good to be back in the same setting and to be able to have a bit of a catch up with some of the characters from that earlier book.

But I’d say this return to Ramblings was even better than my first visit. I loved the main characters Noah and Tess. The author drew them so beautifully and made them so likeable despite their flaws. Their back stories were fed in gradually, and their continuing stories – with the setbacks they had to face and the testing of their vulnerabilities they had to cope with – made for a truly beguiling novel.

This was one of my top three reads of 2018 so far. And I’d love it if the Kate Field were to write more of Tess and Noah’s story…

From the Back Cover:

When Tess finds herself unexpectedly alone and back in Ribblemill, the childhood village she thought she’d escaped, she’s sure she can survive a temporary stay. She’s spent a lifetime making the best of things, hasn’t she?

Determined to throw herself into village life, Tess starts a choir and gathers a team of volunteers to restore the walled garden at Ramblings, the local stately home. Everything could be perfect, if she weren’t sharing a cottage and a cat with a man whose manner is more prickly than the nettles she’s removing…

As winter approaches, Tess finds herself putting down her own roots as fast as she’s pulling them up in the garden. But the ghosts of the past hover close by, and Tess must face them if she’s to discover whether home is where her heart has been all along.

The Winter That Made Us is published by Accent Press and is available as an ebook and as paperback here.

New Book

Out Now

Yes, at last it’s here! My new novel Settlement is now available. It’s the book I never planned to write – the sequel to Displacement. I thought I’d told all of Rachel and Jack’s story but readers of Displacement told me no. They insisted there was more to tell. And they were right. So much so – I’m now planning the third and final – yes final – part of this unexpected trilogy.

And, although it’s a sequel, I’ve written it so it can be read as a standalone – but of course I’d love it if people read both.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed spending more time with Rachel and Jack and their families and friends. I hadn’t realised how much I missed them and I can’t wait to get cracking on the final instalment.

 

So what’s it about?

Falling in love is the easy bit. Happy ever after requires work, commitment and honesty.

She wants him to be her friend and lover. He wants her as his wife. Can a compromise be reached? Or are things truly over between them?

When former Edinburgh policeman Jack Baxter met crofter and author Rachel Campbell at her home on the Scottish island of Skye, they fell in love. It was a second chance at happiness for them both.

But after Jack proposes marriage, it becomes clear they want different things.

Then, as Rachel prepares to return to the Middle East to work on a peacemaking project that’s close to her heart, and as Jack’s past catches up with him, it seems their relationship is doomed.

Can Rachel compromise on her need to maintain her hard-won independence?

Can Jack survive the life-threatening situation in which he finds himself?

Will they get the chance to put things right between them?

If you like a complex, grown-up romance with lots of raw emotion, dramatic and exotic settings, all mixed in with some international politics and laced with elements of a crime thriller, then this is the book for you.

Availability:

Settlement is available online as a paperback and as an ebook or, if you prefer, your local bookshop should be able to get it for you.

Online links:

Amazon UK Kindle

Amazon UK Paperback

Amazon US Kindle

Amazon US Paperback

Isobel’s Promise by Maggie Christensen @MaggieChriste33 #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

This book is one of several books I read while on holiday in Australia. I actually read most of it on the long flight home to Scotland – which was slightly weird but very fitting considering where the book is set. And not only is one of the best books I read on holiday, it’s one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

 Back Cover Blurb

A promise for the future. A threat from the past. Can Bel find happiness?

Back in Sydney after her aunt’s death, sixty-five year-old Bel Davison is making plans to sell up her home and business and return to Scotland where she has promised to spend the rest of her life with the enigmatic Scotsman with whom she’s found love.

But the reappearance of her ex-husband combined with other unexpected drawbacks turns her life into chaos, leading her to have doubts about the wisdom of her promise.

In Scotland, Matt Reid has no such doubts, and although facing challenges of his own, he longs for Bel’s return.

But when an unexpected turn of events leads him to question Bel’s sincerity, Matt decides to take a drastic step – the result of which he could never have foreseen.

Can this midlife couple find happiness in the face of the challenges life has thrown at them?

A sequel to ‘The Good Sister’, ‘Isobel’s Promise’ continues the story of Bel and Matt which began in Scotland

If you enjoy reading about strong women who have learned to live and love in later life, you’ll love Maggie Christensen’s books.

 My Review

Isobel’s Promise is the sequel to The Good Sister which I also very much enjoyed. But even if you haven’t read the first book this new one works well as a standalone. Although I have to say I’d recommend reading the first one too.

The novel is set in Sydney Australia, and in Glasgow and the Loch Lomond area in Scotland – and these settings provide the perfect backdrop to the story.

The plot is nicely balanced – not only between the two countries in which it takes place, but also between the differing points of view of the two main characters – Isobel and Matt. The reader is on both their sides – and is kept wondering if and how they will ever be able to resolve the problems and difficulties that stand in the way of them being together.

But it’s the characters who really make this book a page-turner. Isobel and Matt are in their sixties but they are not in any way stereotypically old. They are warm, likeable and flawed. They have full lives, families and friends who need them, and are open to new experiences – including falling in love. And they look forward – not back.

So, if you’re a fan of a good romantic story and you agree that age is neither a protection from, nor a barrier to, falling in love – then get this book. You’ll love it.

I was lucky enough to be given a pre-publication copy to read and was asked to give an unbiased review.

Isobel’s Promise is available to pre-order online and will be published as a paperback and as an ebook on the 2nd of August 2018.

Here a few links:

Amazon UK

Amazon Australia

Amazon US

Amazon Canada

The Homecoming by Rosie Howard @RosieHowardBook #BookReview #MondayBlogs #amreading

The Homecoming

This was a most enjoyable read. The Homecoming is a first-class example of intelligent, contemporary and credible romantic fiction.

From the Back Cover:

Maddy fled the idyllic market town of Havenbury Magna three years ago, the scene of a traumatic incident she revisits most clearly in her dreams. Even so, when she is called back to help at the Havenbury Arms when her godfather Patrick suffers a heart attack, she is unprepared for the welter of emotions her return provokes. Psychologist and ex-army officer Ben is sure he can help Maddy to resolve her fears, until he finds himself falling for her, and struggling with a recently uncovered family secret of which Maddy is blissfully unaware. Then Maddy’s mother, Helen, arrives and Patrick himself must confront a few uncomfortable truths about his history and the pub’s future.

My Review:

This was such a good read. The two main protagonists, Maddy and Ben, despite being relatively young (she’s in her 20s and he’s in his 30s), have enough life experience for their approach to any sort of romantic relationship to be realistic. They are also portrayed in way that gets the reader on their side and to care about how things will turn out. I also liked the supporting cast of characters who were also well drawn by the author. And it was good to see the older characters – Maddy’s mother and her godfather Patrick – being presented in a realistic way.

The story is engaging with just the right blend of jeopardy, mystery and things at stake to keep the reader hooked.

If you’re looking for a heart-warming holiday read, this book definitely fits the bill.

My only minor gripe is the ending felt slightly too abrupt. I wanted a bit more of a sigh and a wallow. Maybe there needs to be a sequel…

The Homecoming is currently available as an ebook and is available to preorder as a paperback due out on 19th July 2018. The Homecoming by Rosie Howard @RosieHowardBook #BookReview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Smash All the Windows by Jane Davis @janedavisauthor #bookreview #MondayBlogs #amreading

Smash All the Windows

This novel is contemporary literary fiction at its best. It has humanity, emotion and a great story at its heart.

From the back cover:  
It has taken conviction to right the wrongs.

It will take courage to learn how to live again.

For the families of the victims of the St Botolph and Old Billingsgate disaster, the undoing of a miscarriage of justice should be a cause for rejoicing. For more than thirteen years, the search for truth has eaten up everything. Marriages, families, health, careers and finances.

Finally, the coroner has ruled that the crowd did not contribute to their own deaths. Finally, now that lies have been unravelled and hypocrisies exposed, they can all get back to their lives.

If only it were that simple.

Tapping into the issues of the day, Davis delivers a highly charged work of fiction, a compelling testament to the human condition and the healing power of art. Written with immediacy, style and an overwhelming sense of empathy, Smash all the Windows will be enjoyed by readers of How to Paint a Dead Man by Sarah Hall and How to be Both by Ali Smith.

My Review:

This is a wonderful book. It has resonances with real life disasters and what happens afterwards. It’s a tribute to the human capacity to survive and heal and to the power of love that endures after death.

The story deals with the aftermath of an accident on an escalator on the London Underground. It tells of the traumatic effects on some of the victims and their loved ones. The author gradually draws you into each character’s story and she does it with such sympathy, empathy and insight that it makes for a gripping and emotional read. I liked how the grieving process was so honestly portrayed as messy and unpredictable and, at times, all-consuming. The characters couldn’t move on while they waited years for the revised official ruling into what caused the accident. But then even after that happens, comes the realisation that grief doesn’t conveniently stop. And this is portrayed quite beautifully.

A thought-provoking, poignant and uplifting read.

Smash All the Windows is available as a paperback and as an ebook.

Speech: The Joy of Giving an Author Talk – At Short Notice #amwriting

microphone Kane Reinholdsten Unsplash
Photo by Kane Reinholdtsen on Unsplash

My neighbour came to the door last Sunday afternoon. Said she had a favour to ask. I thought she was going to ask me to look after her cat for a few days. But no, that wasn’t it. She is president of the local branch of the Scottish Women’s Institute (SWI) and the speaker lined up for Tuesday evening’s meeting had just cancelled. The speaker, a lecturer in catering and hospitality at the local college, had been going to give a cookery demonstration and my neighbour wondered if I could step in.

Thankfully for me and the prospective audience I wasn’t being invited to do anything cookery related. But if I could come and give an author talk that would be fantastic.

Without pausing to consider that I would have very little time to prepare, I agreed.

And I’m very glad that I did.

I found, as I often do, that I work better under pressure and by recycling and redrafting previous author talks that I’ve given, I’d soon tailored what I was going to say for my prospective audience. The short notice also meant I didn’t really have time to get nervous.

I was made very welcome by the SWI members and thoroughly enjoyed doing the talk which was warmly received. I spoke a bit about myself, about my journey to publication, and about the inspiration behind my various books. I was also able to do some publicity for my new novel – due out at the end of August. Then I finished by reading a couple of extracts from two of my books.

And the bonus was I completely sold out the box of books I’d taken with me – and took orders for more copies from those whom I couldn’t supply on the night.

It has been lovely too, since the talk, to receive cards and other correspondence from audience members saying how much they enjoyed the evening.

All-in-all, it was a very successful – if impromptu – author talk. Actually, quite invigorating. And a great chance to do some pre-publicity for Settlement whilst encouraging people to read Displacement, the first book in the series.

So thank you to the SWI – which you can read more about here if you’re interested – and here’s to seizing the day.

Do you enjoy speaking about your work – writing or other? Have you ever had to give a talk at short notice? Did it go well?

The Genre Conundrum Part 3: Age and other issues in Romantic Fiction #amwriting

Read Me
Photo by Us Wah on Unsplash

When I was looking for a literary agent and publisher for my first novel, Change of Life, nearly ten years ago, one of the rejection reasons I was given was the age of my main characters. I was told nobody wanted to read a romance where the prospective couple were in their late forties and especially where they had to deal with awkward teenage children and cope with one of them falling seriously ill. It seemed realism was out and hearts and flowers happy-ever-after romanticism was in.

Things have moved on a bit since then. There are romantic novels, where difficult issues are included in the story. However, romance does still seem to be dominated by the ‘Cafe in the Seaside Village’ type stories with their matchstick female figures on their pastel-coloured covers. But even although the covers are clichéd, and the stories follow a formula, they can be very enjoyable in a hearts-and- flowers, young love, happy-ever-after sort of way.

But it seems to me that romantic fiction with older lead characters is still in the minority – even although the biggest part of the population in the UK is over fifty. I don’t believe it’s because people don’t want to read such novels and I think maybe the big publishers are missing a trick here.

I should also say before going any further that what follows is merely my impression and  my opinion. It isn’t based on any scientific research.

And my final disclosure is one of vested interest – I am 61 and three-quarters years-old.

Oh and PS – I should also say that I’m in no way anti romantic fiction with   characters. I’ve recently read and thoroughly enjoyed three excellent  romances with protagonists in their twenties and thirties. These were June Kearns two historical romances: The Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy and The 20s Girl, the Ghost and All That Jazz. And my most recent read is Kate Field’s The Magic of Ramblings which truly is magic – and poignant and beautiful.

But I also enjoy reading about older characters falling in love. I like romances where the protagonists are in their forties, fifties, sixties and beyond. And I like a bit of realism. I like to see the prospective couple facing up to the issues, complications and challenges that come with age. I like it when there are several generations of a family involved in the story.  And I like to see there’s hope and fun and love to be had by us all – regardless of age.

Authors in other genres – crime for example – have created hugely successful older lead characters. There’s Detective Rebus in Ian Rankin’s Novels and there’s the wonderful Vera in the series by Ann Cleeves – to name just two.

And there are some fabulous romance writers who are  nailing it in this regard. Books by Maggie Christensen, Christine Webber, Gilli Allan and Hilary Boyd spring to mind. Do check them out if you like more mature, romance-plus fiction. You’ll be in for a highly enjoyable read with any of their books.

Which brings me to the age of the readers of books – I don’t as an author aim for a particular age group. I have young and old readers. Indeed my children’s novel The Silver Locket seems to have been read by as many, if not more, adults as children.

I don’t get the impression that Crime or Sci-Fi or Fantasy are particularly appealing to one narrow age group – Harry Potter is not just read by children, and I’m guessing the Outlander books appeal across the adult age range to those who like the genre.

Why should romance be any different? Although I do get that someone in their twenties might not want to read about people the age of their parents/grandparents falling in love and you know… But it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen and it doesn’t mean that older readers shouldn’t be able to read romances centred around people their age.

So I suppose what I’m saying is let’s have romantic fiction that’s a bit more relaxed about age, a bit more inclusive.

As a writer I enjoy writing about characters nearer my own age, facing up to life-changing challenges and dealing with all sorts of issues – as well as finding themselves falling in love. Other writers prefer writing about younger characters regardless of their own age.

As a reader I enjoy all sorts of romances and other genres too – and the characters ages are incidental – what matters to me is that it’s a good story, well told, and with a satisfying resolution.

And in conclusion – I’m no further forward with nailing this genre thing – but it’s been fun thinking and writing about it. I know my books aren’t chick-lit or ‘pure’ romance. But I don’t think ‘love-at-the-last-chance-cafe-for-the-chronologically-challenged-with-baggage’ classification is going to work.

Help!

As always please do leave your thoughts and comments below.

The Genre Conundrum Part 2: Romantic Expectations #amwriting

 

romantic heart Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

As I said in my last post I find the genre thing for novel classification rather tricky. As a writer, I don’t want to mislead prospective readers by getting the labelling wrong. But I also want to make sure my books appeal to and reach my target readership when they’re browsing the shelves in their local bookshop or scrolling through an online book selling site.

Of course, the book’s front cover and the summary of the story on the back are very important too. And, along with my editor and cover designer, I work hard to get those things right. But it will be the place the book is shelved – online or in the real world – that will get the browsing book buyer or library borrower to my book in the first place.

Literary Romance?

So what’s my genre and what are the keywords that best describe my previous and my about-to-be- published books?

And does the fact none of my books fit neatly into one category and that they have ‘serious’ themes woven through them mean they are literary novels?

Let’s get the literary thing out of the way first. I’m not sure I even know what literary means – this despite having studied English literature at university (back in the Stone Age). It seems to me to apply to fiction that doesn’t fit into any of the genres, e.g. crime, science fiction, thriller. But it also seems to imply clever content by a clever writer for an intelligent and educated readership. And I have a problem with that. There’s good and bad literary fiction just as there is with genre. And the term gives very little away as to the nature of the story.

So, I tend to favour John Updike’s view that all fictional works are literary because ‘they are written in words’. Therefore I’m not going to apply the literary tag. I take that as a given.

Contemporary Romance Plus?

At the heart of my books there is a romantic relationship set in the present day. The romance drives the story. So my genre is romance. But it would be more accurate to describe it as romance-plus.

Plus what?

My first novel Change of Life has romance + problems within a marriage, + bereavement due to suicide + facing up to a cancer diagnosis.

My second novel Displacement has romance + consequences of war + Middle Eastern politics + bereavement + infidelity + difficult family relationships.

And Settlement – my soon-to-be-published sequel to Displacement – has romance + crime thriller elements + more Middle Eastern politics where the personal and the political are seen as intertwined + the conflict between romance and realism in relationships.

So, to clarify – I hope: genres are wide concepts. Crime novels can be thrillers or police procedural, and they can be gritty or cosy, and they can feature relationships – romantic or otherwise. Science-fiction novels can deal with/predict scientific developments and their implications, they can include politics at an interplanetary level, and they can include mystery, war and even romance.

And the romantic genre is the same. It can be historical or contemporary, and it can include other issues relevant to the protagonists’ situation. Yes, it can be a straightforward tale of two people meeting, falling in love, overcoming some obstacles and then finding their happy-ever-after. But for me, I like to write and to read books with a bit more going on.

What can my readers expect?

I like reading romantic fiction that is entertaining, intriguing, and that maybe educates or makes me think along the way. I like being taken to new and interesting places, and I like the story to be both satisfying and unpredictable. And yes, I do like a happy, but also realistic, resolution.

So I write the sort of romantic fiction that I like to read, and I hope my novels are as described in the paragraph above. But I should also add that the term ‘plus’ could also apply to the ages of my novels’ main characters as they’re in their forties and fifties rather than their twenties and thirties.

And it’s the topic of genre and age group – of the author, the reader, and the main characters – that I’ll be looking at in the third and final part of this series of posts.

In the meantime, do let me know how you like your genres. Do you like pure genre fiction that sticks to the rules and formula, or do you like a bit of a mash-up? Please do leave comments below.

The Genre Conundrum in Fiction: Categories and Keywords

kazuend-71543 bookshelf
Photo by kazuend on Unsplash

Part 1 of 3

As the publication date for my next novel draws ever closer, my thoughts are now turning to how to ensure it catches the eye of prospective readers both online and in book shops.

An attractive cover and an engaging back-cover summary will of course be essential – and by working with my editor and cover designer I’m confident I’ll get both of these things right.

But nailing the precise genre and the single words and phrases that perfectly describe the book’s content are equally – some might say even more – important. And it’s here that I’m not so confident. And here’s why.

In the real world, bookshops and libraries shelve books according to genre. This makes it easier for readers to both seek out and browse the books that interest them. Similarly in an online book store, prospective book buyers will click on genre type or associated keywords in order to find what they might be looking for. It makes complete sense to organise things this way.

And if writers and publishers get it right, you won’t find cookbooks in amongst books on mountaineering and you won’t find detective novels in amongst science fiction. Simple.

Only sometimes it’s not that straightforward. What if the book you’ve written is cookery for mountaineers whilst they’re out on the mountain? Or, what if the seasoned, somewhat cynical detective with the disastrous personal life is part android/ part Martian and investigates crime throughout the solar-system? And no, I haven’t written a book like either of these examples.

But I do find myself in a similar quandary when it comes to classifying my new book, just as I was with the previous two.

All three books have a strong romantic element to them. But they don’t fit neatly into the romance genre. For one thing, the protagonists aren’t young, and besides coping with relationship issues, they are also facing up to other serious challenges.

In my first book, Change of Life, the main characters are a couple who have been married for more than twenty years and who are in their late forties. Their marriage is already under strain as the story begins with the female protagonist, Rosie, suspecting infidelity on the part of her husband, Tom. She is then faced with the even bigger shock of being diagnosed with breast cancer. The couple’s children and wider family too, all have significant parts to play in supporting Rosie and Tom as they confront the challenges ahead.

My second book, Displacement, also centres around two main characters, this time just setting out on a new relationship with each other. There is Jack, a retired policeman, and Rachel, a children’s book author and illustrator. They meet at the beginning of the novel on the Scottish island of Skye. They are both divorced and in their fifties. Rachel has recently lost her son, a soldier, who was killed while serving in Afghanistan. And Jack is recovering from the heart attack which brought about his early retirement. There is a strong political element to the story too, because as part of Rachel’s attempts to come to terms with the loss of her son, and to move on from it, she travels to the Middle East to visit her brother in Israel-Palestine. She wants to explore her Jewish heritage, but she also finds herself facing up to some very difficult questions about conflict, nationhood and humanity’s difficulties in finding ways to peacefully co-exist.

And the new book, Settlement, is a sequel to Displacement. Jack and Rachel’s romantic relationship has deepened, but is under threat. Rachel is returning to Israel to begin work on a book about how ordinary people can be instrumental in working for peace, and Jack is returning to work as a police consultant in the Historic Crimes unit in Edinburgh. This time as well as the social/cultural/ political strands, there is Jack’s experience of being the victim of violence and of suffering from PTSD.

All three books have the romantic love and relationship between two people at their heart, but this ripples out and links into wider families, communities and issues. All three books are romance+ –  i.e. plus other issues. None are conventional romance/love stories. They are not centred around 20 or 30-somethings. The conclusions aren’t happy-ever-after – but are, rather, there-is-hope-for-the-future- as-long-as-they-work-at-it-and-accept-the-rough-with-the-smooth-and-give-each-other-space.

So wish me luck as I try to narrow down my latest novel’s genre and keywords from – Contemporary Romantic Literary (not sure about the literary) Fiction also featuring politics, crime and mental health in several very different settings – to something altogether more snappy. And don’t get me started on whether it should also be labelled Women’s Fiction. Short answer – I don’t know, probably…

As for where it should be shelved…

 

In Part 2 of this three part series of posts on classifying books, I will be looking at the romantic genre and asking what readers want and expect when reading romances.

In Part 3 I will be looking at the issue of age – the age of the main characters and of the target readership – in romantic fiction and in several other genres as well.

 

Please do add your comments below. For example: What genre(s) do you prefer? And what are your expectations when reading books in that/those genre(s)? Or for you, is it story first, genre second?