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Cover Love . . . With Kirsten Hesketh

Posted on 3rd July, 2020

Today I'm delighted to welcome Kirsten back to my blog.If you are a long-time visitor, you'll know her well.

 

She is joining in the Cover Love series to tell us what it was like when she saw the cover of her debut novel for the first time.

Like all authors, I was curious - no, make that on tenterhooks - to see the cover for Another Us. I’ll also admit to a certain amount of trepidation.

 

I’ve run my own marketing company for over twenty years and, as such, I know exactly how crucial packaging is to the marketing mix. Get that wrong and, no matter how good the product, the whole thing can fall apart and never reach its full potential. In other words, everyone says don’t judge a book by its cover – but then everyone does exactly that! But that wasn’t what I was worried about. Having worked with Canelo for the past few months, I’d already learned that their marketing instincts are spot on. I knew that whatever cover I was presented with would have been carefully briefed to maximise impact and sales.

 

But supposing I didn’t like it?

 

Even if the cover helped to propel the book to a bestseller banner, Another Us is still my baby and I wanted it to look … right. Authentic. True to itself.

 

I needn’t have worried.

 

 

It took a brief moment to marry reality with anticipation - for some reason I had been convinced there would be a boat on there – but then my reaction was simply ‘of course’. There they were, my lovely characters. Emma and Daniel, whose marriage is under strain, are standing with their backs to one another and Jack, unwittingly one of the causes of that strain, is standing between them looking quizzical.

 

That’s the story.

 

How could the cover have been anything else?

 

And it’s red! I love red! I love it so much that I dyed my hair red to match the cover on launch day in order to raise money for Mind!

 

Are there things I would have done differently? If I had been brave enough, I might have suggested Jack was facing the front – oblivious to all the drama – or facing his mum as the main protagonist. But then others have interpreted Jack facing his Dad as looking for reassurance and clarity – and I can see that that makes sense.

 

Happy days!

 

xx

 

* * * *

 

 

PS. If you'd like to see Kirsten with her red hair . . . .

 

 

* * * *

 

 

Kirsten's links - and her publication day cake...

Kirsten's Twitter page     

 

Her Amazon author page    

 

Her website and blog  

 

Her Facebook author page

 

                                   

 

July 1st is National Northern Authors Day and I'm celebrating my northern roots and Mancunian stories with a prize giveaway over on Twitter, so those of you who use Twitter, get over there straight away and join in!

 

Here's the link to my page: https://twitter.com/SusannaBavin

 

The two books I am gving away are signed paperbacks of The Deserter's Daughter and The Surplus Girls, written as Polly Heron.

 

 

 

There are two separate giveaways. All you have to do is retweet the relevant tweet(s) and follow me if you haven't already. Please note, there is a separate tweet for each book.

 

You'll need to scroll down a short way.

 

The tweet for The Surplus Girls giveaway has this photo. . .

 

 

. . . and the tweet for The Deserter's Daughter giveaway has this picture:

 

 

The give away closes at midnight on July 1st, BST. Good luck!

 

 

Cover Love . . . With Jane Cable

Posted on 26th June, 2020

This week I am delighted to welcome my friend and fellow Sister Scribe Jane Cable to my blog to continue my Cover Love series by sharing one of her own book covers.

 

Jane writes contemporary women's fiction that mixes recognisible and compelling situations with romance and a twist of mystery. Her new book, Endless Skies, will be published on July 27th.

* * * *

 

When I first saw Sapere Books’ cover for Another You, I cried. I remember it now; I was sitting on the sofa on a Sunday evening and it popped into my inbox. And I cried.

 

I am not generally a weepy person but I just knew as soon as I saw it whoever briefed the designer knew the story inside out. The soldier walking away, head bent, summed up my character Paxton so perfectly – a proud man broken by war. The concrete blocks on the beach stretching out into sea not only brought to mind D-Day, but also the Dragons’ Teeth stretching through the dunes at Studland where the book is set.

 

Another You was a reissue and even although the original cover was quite good the woman on it was not Marie. Marie would never have worn a mini skirt and hat. On the Sapere book she has a simple cotton dress, something I was sure I would have found rummaging through her wardrobe. Perhaps her hair was blonde not black, but I was still doing my final edits at the time so it was a detail easily changed.

 

I started life as an indie author and had a great deal of input into my covers, but none had been as perfect as this. It boded well for my relationship with my new publisher. They understood the book as well as I did. And I suppose that was what made me cry.

 

* * * *

 

ANOTHER YOU

 

When the present is unbearable, can you be saved by the past?

 

Marie Johnson is trapped by her job as a chef in a Dorset pub and by her increasingly poisonous marriage to its landlord. Worn down by his string of affairs she has no self-confidence, no self-respect and the only thing that keeps her going is watching her son turn into a talented artist.

 

But the sixtieth anniversary of a D-Day exercise which ended in disaster triggers chance meetings which prove unlikely catalysts for change. A charming American soldier walks into Marie’s life, but it becomes clear nothing is really as it seems.

 

Could the D-Day re-enactments be stirring up something from the past? Or is the answer to Marie’s problems much closer to home?

 

* * * *

 

Jane's links:

 

Her author page on Amazon    

 

Jane's Twitter page  

 

Her author page on Facebook  

 

 

This week, I'm delighted to welcome to my blog Juliette Lawson, whose debut historical novel, A Borrowed Past, has been described in reviews as having "captivating descriptions, strong narrative and relatable and believable dialogue" and "clever storytelling that never becomes predictable".

 

Before she turned to writing fiction, Juliette wrote non-fiction books under the name Julie Cordiner. Here, she tells us how she made the change.

All my life I’ve been a logical left-brained accountant, with my creativity more or less limited to knitting and sewing. My first attempt at writing came out of the blue in 2011, when for no apparent reason I volunteered to produce a parish history book to support my church’s Restoration Appeal. Luckily it was successful, and I loved the experience so much that I decided to try my hand at a novel. I started to learn writing craft through books, festivals and courses, and worked on a draft of a historical saga, but my work as an Assistant Director of Education was incredibly busy, so I abandoned it.

 

Fast forward to 2018; I’d become an independent education funding consultant and had published two non-fiction books for school leaders. But the ambition to write fiction was still niggling at me, so I decided it was now or never. I dug out my draft, finished the story, then sought a manuscript assessment from the lovely writer/editor Stephanie Butland. Her ideas for improvements were excellent, and I attended her writing retreat in February 2019, which was inspiring. Our last activity was to make a writing manifesto:

h

 

 

I embarked on the re-write but found it hard to create the emotions and character arcs I knew it needed. Nonfiction was easy by comparison! It became obvious that I needed to dig deeper and release the creativity which (I hoped) was lurking inside me.

 

How did I do it? Mainly by changing my mindset. I created a different persona for my fiction, not only in the sense of a pen name, but in my preparation for writing, by carving out time for activities that stimulated my creativity. I joined a regular creative flow practice (meditation and free writing) led by Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). She has a blog post which explains more: https://www.ornaross.com/morning-creative-flow-practice/. The Facebook sessions aren’t live now, but there are lots of replays.

 

My busy mind found meditation tricky at first, but gradually learned to go deep. Free writing helped me resolve plotting dilemmas and strengthen characterisation, by posing and answering lots of questions.

 

Indie author Joanna Penn https://thecreativepenn.com talks about ‘filling the creative well’. I started taking regular walks on the beach nearby, and I bought an annual pass to Durham Botanic Gardens so I could visit regularly to walk, take photographs, and write, enjoying nature throughout the seasons. Location sparks my ideas, so I loved my research trips to York, Scarborough and Whitby. Here’s my blog page with two recent articles about Scarborough: https://juliettelawson.com/category/blog/

 

My next step was to find a mentor to guide me through the re-write. She provided invaluable support and challenge and without her, I doubt I’d have finished the book.

 

I reinvented my writing process too, rising early for creative flow practice and getting my words down first. An app called Brainwave puts me in the writing zone instantly; it mimics the brain’s activity, overlaid with sounds from nature (I like thunderstorms). I made a personal commitment to write every day, ticking off the days until I had completed my pre-edit draft. Writing in a different place also helped: in parks, coffee shops (pre-Coronavirus), libraries, and in the garden. Here’s my garden set up for the deepening stage of my editing!

 

 

 

At last, in February 2020, I published ‘A Borrowed Past’, and I’ve been delighted with the reviews. I’m about to publish a fourth nonfiction book and will then return to my partial draft of book two in the Seaton Carew Sagas series; I can’t wait!

 

I’m sure my success in awakening my creativity has come from being intentional about developing it and making time to relax more. I am so glad I persisted.

 

Links:

Paperback: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/095745791X

Ebook: https://books2read.com/u/3yEEq6

Website: https://juliettelawson.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/juliettelawsonauthor

Twitter: https://twitter.com/juliette_author

Reader Club sign up: www.subscribepage.com/a7f7t3

 

 

 

Where I Wrote ...

Posted on 11th June, 2020

It's time for another Where I Wrote . . . blog. This week, I'm ging to show you where I wrote a scene from A Respectable Woman. It's the scene where Nell visits the Fairbrothers' house for the first time.

 

Next to the pier in Llandudno, there is a small bay, whih happens to be my favourite place in the world. To get into it, you go down a flight of stone steps. The bay is all shingle and rocks. I sat on the rocks here to write this scene.

 


 

Here is a picture of the little bay as seen from the pier when the tide is in.

 


 

And here is the scene . . .

 

* * * *

 

The Fairbrothers’ front door stood beneath a protruding porch at the top of a flight of stone steps. To either side was a vast bay window, above each of which was another bay; and above those was a floor with ordinary flat windows. You could get the population of Wilton Lane in this house and still have room to wriggle.

    Nell knocked. The door was opened by a maid wearing a black dress not unlike an Ingleby’s dress, only she had a bibbed apron over it, and a white cap.

    ‘Good morning. Mrs Hibbert to see Mrs Fairbrother.’

    ‘I shouldn’t think so,’ was the blunt reply.

    Be professional. Nell kept her smile in place. ‘She’s expecting me. I have an appointment.’

    ‘I’ll see if madam is home. Wait here… please,’ she added at the last moment, and flounced away.

    Ridiculous: as if she didn’t know whether her mistress was in. Nell turned to admire the garden. Imagine having a garden that size. It must be a lot of work, but the Fairbrothers wouldn’t care about that. They would employ a gardener. The lawn was a square with four paths leading into the middle, creating four smaller squares. In the centre was a fountain, with spray spurting from a fish’s mouth. Sunshine caught the water, transforming it into a shower of diamonds.

    The door swished and she turned back to the maid.

    ‘You’re here to see madam’s lady’s maid, Miss Preston. Round the back.’

    The door shut, leaving her stranded. No point being vexed. No time either. Her appointment was for ten o’clock and if she didn’t find this Miss Preston in two minutes flat, she would be late. She ran down the steps and found her way to the back door. It was standing open on this fine June morning. She knocked and walked in.

    ‘...the front door, bold as you please, and asked for madam herself – oh, look who it isn’t. Visitor for you, Miss Preston.’

    ‘Thank you, Daphne.’

    A middle-aged woman with an oval face above a double-chin rose from the pine kitchen table. She wore black with white collar and cuffs – did everyone in the lower orders wear black with white? It was the uniform of the respectable working woman; Nell had run up a black-with-white dress for herself. Miss Preston wore a narrow black belt and Nell caught a flash of silver hanging from it that brought to mind housekeepers in novels, who carried the keys of the house about their person, before she realised the objects included a pair of scissors and a small box, like a cigarette case, only it must contain pins and needles.

    ‘Mrs Hibbert? How do you do? I am Miss Preston, lady’s maid to Mrs Fairbrother. I’m sorry about Daphne’s manners. She picked up some unfortunate ways in the munitions.’

She gave Daphne a look; Daphne gave her one right back.

    Miss Preston led the way upstairs by a back route into a room with a child’s bed – but what a bed! A four-poster, only not a four-poster; a two-poster, if there was such a thing, with an arch of delicate voile over the head of the bed; and a coverlet that cascaded in lacy frills to the floor. Nell would have given five years of her life for Cassie a bed like that. Mind you, the little minx would probably use the posts for climbing practice and build a nest in the fabric at the top. Even then, it would be worth it. Any mother would think so.

    ‘This used to be the nursery,’ said Miss Preston.

    ‘Used to be?’ Nell wrenched her gaze away from the fairytale bed.

    Miss Preston sounded amused. ‘Miss Roberta hasn’t slept here for a long time.’

What did she have now? A real four-poster? With a wooden chest at the foot, crammed with toys and puzzles and dolls with real hair and eyes that shut when you laid them down?

    ‘Here comes Miss Graham, who is Miss Roberta’s maid.’

    Nell exchanged nods with the newcomer. The young miss was grown-up enough for her own maid. Sixteen? Seventeen?

    ‘You’ll be teaching both of us,’ said Miss Preston.

    ‘I see,’ said Nell. Start the way you mean to go on: by making money. ‘If you’re both to have supervised practice, our sessions will have to be longer.’

    ‘That will be satisfactory,’ said Miss Preston.

    ‘Shouldn’t you ask Mrs Fairbrother?’

    Miss Preston’s eyes showed understanding. ‘Please don’t worry about your bill not being paid.’ She said it kindly, not as a put-down.

    ‘I’ll show you the basics of the machine and we can talk about what you want to make.’

    ‘We shan’t be making clothes,’ said Miss Graham in a snooty voice.

    ‘Mrs Fairbrother and Miss Roberta are dressed by Mademoiselle Antoinette,’ Miss Preston explained.

    ‘Mademoiselle Antoinette’s is one of the most exclusive salons, if not the most exclusive, in all Manchester,’ added Miss Graham.

    ‘I see,’ said Nell. ‘So you’ll be..?’

    Did Miss Preston smother a sigh? ‘In the attics, there are trunk upon trunks of old garments of the highest quality but hopelessly out-of-date. Mrs Fairbrother wants to adapt some of them into new garments.’

    ‘It was Miss Roberta’s idea,’ said Miss Graham. ‘She thinks that because styles today require less fabric, it shouldn’t be difficult to make use of the old stuff.’

    Really? This young girl was dressed by Mademoiselle Antoinette, and she still wanted more clothes? Miss Roberta was beginning to sound like a spoilt brat. Just wait until she got home and told Leonie.

    ‘We know how to mend and do alterations,’ said Miss Graham. ‘All we need from you is a lesson on how to use this machine.’ She eyed the Singer with dislike – and wariness. Another of Miss Roberta’s ideas?

    ‘I’m afraid it’s not as simple as that,’ said Nell. ‘You have to know how to use it for different fabrics. I used to work in a garment factory and believe me, you wouldn’t set a beginner to work on velvet. But don’t worry: there’s nothing to be scared of.’

    ‘I’m not scared.’

    But she was. Nell had seen the uncertainty in her eyes.

    One thing soon became clear. Teaching the two ladies’ maids side by side was a clumsy arrangement.

    ‘Instead of longer shared lessons,’ she said, ‘I suggest separate sessions.’

    Miss Preston agreed. ‘Could you do two two-hour lessons next time? We’d provide luncheon, naturally.’

    ‘I have my diary with me.’ Nell spoke calmly, though fireworks were going off inside her. What a start to her venture.

* * * *

 

 

 

 

Cover Love . . .With Sue McDonagh

Posted on 5th June, 2020

This week, I am delighted to welcome a new visitor to my blog - contemporary romance author Sue McDonagh. As well as being a writer, Sue is also an artist, so I specially wanted to feature her in my Cover Love series, as she is in the highly unusual position of being her own cover artist.

 

Here she is to tell you all about it.

 

* * * *

 

I’d read that authors who ask to design their own covers were very frowned upon, that it was a sure sign of amateurism. So I’d resigned myself to having nothing to do with the cover design of my first novel, Summer at the Art Café, published by Choc Lit.

 

But it turned out to be really very difficult to lose control of something that I was most connected with. I very cheekily sent in a loose sketch, which was instantly returned as not suitable. I can’t even believe now that I was completely undeterred, and sent in a more finished version of that early sketch. This one hit the mark, but wasn’t quite up to scratch for Berni Stevens, who does all the Choc Lit covers. At that time, I had no idea about the design guidelines for a successful cover, but I learned quickly!

 

By the time I’d sent her within the next 24 hours, a further three versions of my design, she replied ‘Stop!’ and what has followed has been a wonderful relationship which has resulted in three covers in total, all bearing my paintings, and Berni’s unmistakeable hand in the font positioning and a considerable amount of patient photoshop type tweaking on her part.

 

 

Other authors have asked if I’d advertise my skills for their book covers, but I know perfectly well that my covers only work because someone who knows what they’re doing is responsible for positioning them just so!

 

I’m attaching some of the original paintings that are now the covers for the Art Café series, and you’ll be able to see that liaison.

 

 

I love how my readers write to me, telling me they’ve visited that bay on trips to Gower. I always reply in the positive, despite the fact – I’m not sure whether I should tell you this – that that bay does not exist! Summer at the Art Café is a combination of the headland from my local beach, the beach and cliff is Langland Bay, where I’ve spent much time painting, the building was inspired by a National Trust photographed and substantially changed, and the foreground was from St Davids, West Wales, another favourite location of mine. Oh, and that purple motorbike? I really wanted to buy it at a local dealers but couldn’t really justify having two motorbikes… I keep promising myself that one day, I’m having that bike, as it’s inspired the series that has worn BestSeller banners regularly since publication.

 

Having created this cover, it had become my brand, and I had to ensure that the others in the series tallied with it. It’s quite a challenge to make them appear connected, but not all the same!

 

The table and chairs on the cover of Meet Me at the Art Café were ‘borrowed’ from a local seaside café, and out soon third novel Escape to the Art Café swops the view around, so that we’re sitting on a bench on the beach at the other end of the bay.

 

After much hunting on Google for the exact reference, I used my own very old garden bench, and a blanket that I crocheted some years ago, particularly as crochet, one of my passions, appears in the novel.

 

I have my fourth book sort of planned out – will this tie in with the Art Café? And what cover will I design for it? You, like me, will have to wait and see! x

 

* * * *

 

Sue's Links:  

 

Summer at the Art Cafe  

 

Meet Me at the Art Cafe  

 

Escape to the Art Cafe  

 

Sue's Twitter page    

 

 

 

 

A Chat With Tania Crosse

Posted on 30th May, 2020

This week, I am delighted to welcome to my blog my fellow saga author Tania Crosse, whose book, The Street of Broken Dreams, earlier this year won the RNA's award for the best Romantic Saga.

 

Tania, welcome!

 

First of all, many congratulations on winning the RNA’s very first Romantic Saga of the Year Award. Before I ask about the book itself, The Street of Broken Dreams, I’d like to know how you and your saga-writing friends feel about the saga genre finally being recognised in this way.

 

Thank you, Susanna. I feel deeply privileged to have won this major award from the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and think of myself as an ambassador for this wonderful genre. It sometimes isn’t appreciated that it covers such a huge range of topics, eras and styles of writing that there is something to suit every taste, from the more traditional, cosy sagas to authors who, like myself, write gritty, hard-hitting stories. So it really is gratifying that the genre should have been recognised by such a prestigious organisation as the RNA.

 

The appetite for family sagas seems bigger than ever. What is the appeal of the saga to the reader.

 

Family sagas do indeed seem to be more popular than ever, particularly those set in the Twentieth Century. For some, it’s a case of nostalgia, but I believe the advent of the e-book has drawn those of a younger generation to the genre, too. The world has changed so much that they are curious about how their parents and grandparents lived. I also think that Twentieth Century sagas feel more accessible to younger people than, say, Victorian – even though that has always been my own favourite era and is still extremely popular. Combine all that with gripping story lines, engaging characters and, very importantly, a well-written narrative, and the reader is hooked.

 

Gripping, gutsy, unputdownable.’ ‘The historical detail is superb and this story is full of heart.’ The Street of Broken Dreams has received some wonderful reviews. Could you tell us something about the inspiration behind the book?

 

I myself lived in Banbury Street, Battersea, the street of the title, as a small child, and I always like to write about places I know. Ballet has been a life-long passion, and I’d wanted to write a story with a dancer as the heroine for a long time. Like Cissie, I once danced solo on the stage of Wimbledon Theatre, although only in an amateur way. So it was wonderful to give Cissie all the talent I never had. What happens to her in the 1944 prologue, however – and I must warn you, it’s pretty shocking – was inspired by a frightening encounter my mother experienced during the blackout. Thank goodness she was unharmed, but she never forgot what happened.

 

I studied dance under Miss Doris Knight for over a decade, and remained good friends with her throughout her life. She was a huge fan of my books, and told me all about her life as a dancer in repertory during the war. That became the Romaine Theatre Company in the story. Sadly she didn’t live to see the novel that she partly inspired.

 

In the book, Cissie’s friend, Mildred, has her own story. That was partly inspired by the fact that my father served in submarines in the Far East. My mother was one of those who was unable to celebrate VE Day while the war still raged against Japan, not knowing if Dad would return.

 

Many of your reviews comment on your attention to historical detail. Do you enjoy the research? How do you go about it?

 

I absolutely love doing the research! It’s fantastic when you discover a detail you’ve been searching for, or a surprise one that can set off a new scene or even thread to a story. In fact, for me, the history comes first, and the characters and plot grow out of it. I do my research in all sorts of ways, from original documents, books written by experts, or articles on the internet, but always cross-referencing. First hand accounts are a wonderful source. Sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to interview people who have lived through the era, although that is obviously more difficult as time passes and sadly, I’ve recently lost someone who had become a good friend I’d originally made in this way some years ago. But the BBC’s WW2 – The People’s War project remains accessible online. And now that I’m writing about an era only just before my own time – and things didn’t change for many years after the war – I’m drawing on my own memories as well.

 

The Street of Broken Dreams is your second Banbury Street story, following on from The Candle Factory Girl. What are the challenges of writing a sequel that also has to be a stand-alone book?

 

The Candle Factory Girl and The Street of Broken Dreams form a mini-series in that they are set in the same street. But they take place a decade apart, and we have a new cast of characters – with the important exception of down-to-earth, golden-hearted matriarch of the street, Eva. She and her husband have six children, the eldest two of whom are among the main characters in The Candle Factory Girl. But they have moved on, and it’s the turn of Eva’s two middle children, now adults, to have their story in The Street of Broken Dreams, together with their new neighbours.

 

So, in this case, there was no problem at all. My two previous stories, though, Nobody’s Girl and A Place to Call Home, were more clearly prequel and sequel. The first book is an entire story in itself with its own happy ending, but I do hint at the approach of war. The second book does indeed take the same characters through WW2, with the addition of the evacuees who come to stay. The main thing is to make sure that anyone who hasn’t read the first book has enough information about what happened previously to understand the situation, but without boring someone who has read it. The situation with my previous Devonshire series was slightly different. Each book was based on a different aspect of local history, moving forward in time, and had its own happy ending. I created links so that I could bring back characters from earlier novels in a minor way, but without revealing their own story.

 

Have you ever written about a character who was meant to have a small part in the story, but who unexpectedly blossomed and wanted a larger part in the plot?

 

Very much so. All my characters talk to me, and sometimes they take over. Eva is a prime example. When we lived in Banbury Street, we shared a house with a lovely elderly lady, and Eva was inspired by her and a mix of her visitors and a good dose of my own imagination. Eva has lived in the street all her life. In The Candle Factory Girl, she is best friend and confidante to a neighbour – whose daughter is the heroine. Eva was meant to be a minor character, but I found that she had kept her friend’s devastating secret for eighteen years, only revealing it at her friend’s dying request. Eva keeps a chaotic house and is arguably the worst cook in the world, but it is to her that everyone turns in a crisis. She grew as the book progressed, and I loved her so much that I wanted to explore her further. She is one of the main reasons I set another story on the street, with Eva very much as a major character.

 

If The Street of Broken Dreams was chosen by a book group, what do you think would make a good discussion question?

 

I think the obvious one would be who would you consider the main character, Cissie, Mildred or Eva? But you could also ask if anyone has spotted the link between this book and one of my 1950s Dartmoor sagas, Lily’s Journey.

 

What’s next for you? More Banbury Street?

 

For various reasons, I’ve taken a break from writing anything new, but I have been doing some research for a possible new WW2 novel. However, Eva has two younger children. Perhaps they have a story to tell, too, so it might be back to Banbury Street at some time in the future. It would, after all, be lovely to pop in to see Eva again, and see how she is faring!

Many thanks for joining me here today, Tania.

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Susanna. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed answering your questions!

 

* * * *

 

Tania's links:

 

Her author page on Amazon 

 

Her Facebook page 

 

Tania's Twitter page

 

 

 

Where I Wrote . . .

Posted on 26th May, 2020

A week or two ago, I showed you where I was when I wrote the scene in The Sewing Room Girl in which Juliet visits Adeline Tewson's textiles factory for the first time. Today, I'm going to show you where I wrote a scene in The Deserter's Daughter.

 

It's the scene in which Ralph bursts into the Jenkinses' kitchen and confronts his father, Joseph Armstrong, and they argue about the antiques shop. Joseph knows exactly how he wants the family business to be run, but Ralph has his own ideas - and his own agenda.

 

I wrote the scene in the prettiest place you can imagine - sitting at one of the outdoor tables belonging to Haulfre Tea Rooms, which is the delightful cafe in Haulfre Gardens on the side of the Great Orme in Llandudno.

 

 

 

It was a sunny morning and there were lots of people enjoying drinks, cakes and snacks. Meanwhile, I was writing a highly charged scene with a violent ending.

 

* * * *

 

Here is an extract for you:

 

Ralph ghosted his way down the back entries until he stood outside the Jenkins’ house. The wooden gate might be in need of a lick of paint, but someone had kept the hinges oiled and it opened quietly onto tidy yard - mangle in the corner, tin bath hanging on the wall next to the rain-water butt, a pot of herbs on top of the coal-hole. Ducking beneath the washing-line, he cracked open the back door onto the scullery. Brooms and pail, clothes horse, roller towel, the copper, two sinks - not bad. This might be a simple two-up two-down, but if it had separate sinks for dishes and clothes, it was a better place that he had thought. His opinion of the widow went up a notch.

    The door to the kitchen was ajar. Good.

    Dad's voice. ‘I’ll tell thee straight, Mrs Jenkins. You need protecting from your husband’s actions.’

    ‘Mr Armstrong, please – ’

    ‘Nay, madam, let me finish. I can offer that protection. I’m prepared to buy a house. Buy, mind, not rent.'

    Buy? Where was the money to come from?

    'Somewhere with indoor plumbing and a garden, electrics too maybe, and right away from here. By the sea, if that suits you. Southport’s reet grand, or Lytham St Anne's. Young Carrie can come too, and welcome.’

    Southport, Lytham. As far away as you damn well please.

    Mrs Jenkins whispered, ‘What would your lads say? Aren’t they expecting to have the shop one day?’

    ‘Not Adam. I paid for him to get a fancy education and he's a doctor. As for Ralph – well, yes, in different circumstances he would get the business; but he can get a job in one of them posh antiques places in town. He’s even mentioned us having an auction room - as if we have time for that! But if auctioning is what he's set his heart on, working in a posh place on Deansgate would be a good move. He might even see if there's an opening at that auction place in Chester - Foster and Whatsit's. Don't fret: I'll see him all right for money.’

    Ralph’s heart caught between his ribs. So this was it. The old bastard wanted to wrench the business away from him. He planned to sell the whole bloody concern to the highest bidder so he could piss off and grow roses in Southport. All Ralph's years of work counted for nothing. All the years he, Dad and Adam had assumed - more than assumed - had known, dammit, known that the business would one day be his were to be dashed aside. Bung him a few hundred and send him to Deansgate - did Dad really think that was enough?

    Did he really think Ralph would permit it?

    And it wouldn't be just Ralph's inheritance he was selling. It would be the highly lucrative future that he and the others had bided their time and waited for. His associates wouldn't tolerate being let down. Just see what had happened to Jonty Fellowes when he pulled out.

    He wouldn’t let it happen, by Christ he wouldn’t, and he would deal with it now, here, in this house, in this kitchen. Contain the damage. Before she could accept the escape route on offer. Before Dad could march off to Brookburn with the glad tidings. Before anyone else could know what had been suggested. Kill it now. Kill it before it could grow.

How could Dad do this to him? How could he show him such lack of concern, such disrespect?

    Heat pumped round his body, preparing him. His brain surged with small explosions of argument, persuasion, anger. He barged through the door, seeing everything at once; the war had taught him that. Two faces turned to him, eyes wide, mouths slack. They were sitting facing one another across the kitchen table.

    'What the hell d'you think you're playing at? Sell everything and fob me off with a job on Deansgate? Not on your life. That's bloody outrageous.'

    'Watch your language in front of a lady.'

    'My language is the least of your problems. You want to retire - fine. Off you go, and about time too. But you don't need to sell the business and you don't need to buy a house.'

    'I'll do as I please.' Dad came to his feet, the chair screeching on the tiled floor.

    'You damn well won't.' Ralph strode forward. He squared his shoulders and expanded his chest. 'I've worked in that shop my whole life. I was running errands and doing small deliveries when I was eight years old. Every minute I wasn't at school, I was in the shop, watching, learning, listening to you and Weston discussing pieces, pricing them. Adam never did that, even before he got his high-and-mighty calling. But I did, because I knew what I wanted - and you're not taking it away.'

    'Nay, your ideas for the shop are pie in the sky. Adding an auction room - have you lost your senses? If you keep the shop, you'll end up losing everything because of your fancy ideas. You want a better class of customer - go to Deansgate. You want auctions - go to Chester. But don't kid yourself I'm going to let you run my business into the ground. I'm doing you a favour.'

    'A favour?' He took another step forward, crowding the old fool. He planted his feet apart, jutting his chin, but kept his voice low. 'Destroying my inheritance - a favour? You think I can't manage the business? You're the one that can't cope. You're stuck in the past. Who needs a delivery van when there's a perfectly good horse and cart? Who needs elegant displays when you can cram the windows full to bursting? Who needs modern ideas when you can carry on as if Victoria is still on the throne? Your time is over. You're holding me back; you're holding back the business. I don't care what you do as long as you do it somewhere else and leave me to build up the shop as it deserves - as I deserve. I worked hard for this. I've fought in a war, for God's sake; and I did it in the expectation of getting the business when I came home. This is my time, old man. Your time is over, finished.'

    A potent mixture of resolve and triumph poured through his veins. He took a step closer, forcing his father to step away, step backwards, old man giving way to young, old ways and old values submitting beofre the inevitable might of the new, the enterprising, the ambitious.

 

* * * *

 

The Deserter's Daughter at Amazon

 

Cover Love . . . with Linda Huber

Posted on 23rd May, 2020

Today I'm delighted to welcome you to the start of a new series called Cover Love. Cover Love is exactly what it sounds like - it's all to do with what makes a book cover special. In this series, authors will pick a cover of their own to talk about from their own perspective. It's going to be fascinating.

 

Launching the series is psychological suspense author Linda Huber. Linda is Scottish but has lived for a long time in Switzerland. The first of her books that I read was The Cold, Cold Sea, which I found complex, disturbing and utterly gripping. I've been a fan ever since. I once wrote a blog in which I dubbed Linda 'The Queen of Creepy' and that sums up her books - ordinary people in ordinary situations that gradually turn out to be not so ordinary after all.

 

Time for me to be quiet now, so that Linda can share her own particular Cover Love.

 

* * * *

 

I love the cover-choosing part of being a writer – after poring over words for so long to get the story right, working with images and finding the perfect cover is a welcome contrast. My books are a mixture of traditionally and self-published, so for some I’ve had more say in the cover image than for others, but it’s always fun.

 

What I try to find for my books is something eye-catching, whether it’s the image itself, or the colour, or the contrasts. Also important is that you can read the title easily on a thumbnail image –fonts play a big part here – and that the image is suitable for the genre.

 

The really crucial thing, though, is that the cover fits the story. Most of mine are self-explanatory: The Attic Room has a spooky door on the cover; The Cold Cold Sea has quite a lot of, you’ve guessed it, cold sea, and Stolen Sister has a pair of baby shoes with smoke swirling around them and the tagline: What happens when a baby goes missing? Chosen Child with its vivid turquoise butterfly is less obvious, but when you read the book, it’s clear.

 

In my new release The Runaway, main character Nicola spends a lot of time searching for her teenage daughter Kelly, who has disappeared. I wanted something on the cover that would illustrate Nicola’s search, and show too the desolation in her soul as the days passed and Kelly was still unfindable. Imagine what it must be like, tramping city streets, searching for your child day and night, knowing that nowhere is safe... Who wouldn’t ache for a mother (or anyone else) in that situation?

 

At the same time, this was a difficult book to find a cover for - I was very aware that the image shouldn’t be misleading. The title is The Runaway, but a picture of a running teen wouldn’t be right for the story. There’s more than one way to run away, and in the book, there’s more than one person running, too.

 

Sometimes, you’re just lucky with cover images. I work with The Cover Collection, who offer both premade and custom-made covers, so I opened their website one day to make contact about the new book. There staring up at me in the premade section was the perfect cover image. I didn’t change a single pixel, though the designers in The Cover Collection will tweak things like brightness, background colour etc even for premade covers. I emailed straightaway, and after adding the title and other etceteras, The Runaway had its cover. The paperback will be out in summer, and I can’t wait to see it on my bookshelf!

 

* * * *

 

The Runaway blurb:

 

Keep your secrets close to home...

 

Bad things happen in threes – or so it seems to Nicola. The death of her mother-in-law coincides with husband Ed losing his job and daughter Kelly getting into trouble with the police. Time to abandon their London lifestyle and start again by the sea in far-away Cornwall.

 

It should be the answer to everything – a new home, a new job for Ed and a smaller, more personal school for fifteen-year-old Kelly. But the teenager hates her new life, and it doesn’t take long before events spiral out of control and the second set of bad things starts for Nicola.

 

Some secrets can’t be buried.

 
Or… can they?

 

* * * *

 

Linda Huber's links:

 

Linda's Amazon author page  

 

Her author page on Facebook    

 

Chat with Linda on Twitter 

 

Linda's website, including her blog

 

 

 

Another Lockdown Walk

Posted on 19th May, 2020

The weather here in North Wales, which was glorious all through April and into early May, has now turned cooler and a bit overcast. After such a gorgeous April, I have to keep reminding myself that April was unusual and the weather we're having now is normal for the time of year!

 

Just before the weather changed, I went on a walk to share on this blog, so here are the pictures in all their sunny glory.

 

This first picture was taken from the side of the Great Orme, looking down onto North Shore and the promenade and hotels. The prom and beach should be full of holiday-makers at this time of year.

 

 

Standing in the same spot and turning to look across Llandudno towards Pen Morfa/West Shore and Snowdonia, this is the view. The water you can see in the Conwy Estuary, which is a tidal estuary.

 

 

The final picture was taken facing the other direction and here is the pier, looking empty. Again, at this time of year, there should be lots of holiday-makers walking up and down, enjoying the views and the sea air.

 

 

When I was a girl, you had to pay to walk on the pier during the day. Then, in the early evening, at about 6pm or 7pm, they opened the gates and everybody was allowed on for free. We only ever went on in the evenings, because my parents woudn't pay!