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Saturday, 29 June 2013

HUG A BOOK with Kathryn Brown

Hug A Book is sponsored by

It’s HUG A BOOK and this weekend it’s with Kathryn Brown


You could win a Kindle copy of
Nightingale Woods

Meet Kathryn

Kathryn Brown - I'm an author and I run a sheep and arable farm in Northumberland. My daughter, Amy, is eleven years old and autistic. She attends a special needs school and is my whole life. I love being a part of online social networking and especially enjoy interaction on my Blog.

I have two published novels, Discovery at Rosehill and Nightingale Woods

Details of Nightingale Woods

Rachel Phillips, mid twenties, a little naive, rather gullible, has fallen for a married man. The thing is, he's also fallen for her. In too deep, Rachel and married man Steve, begin an affair and develop intense feelings for each other, knowing what they're doing is wrong. But after nine months of lies and deceit, Steve's wife Olivia finds out and gives him an ultimatum. It was inevitable that someone's heart would get broken, but Rachel truly believed it wouldn't be hers and certainly not twice within a matter of days.

Seventeen years later, Rachel has been married, widowed and moved on to a new life in a little Scottish village in Perthshire. But one day her life comes crashing down around her when she spots Steve and Olivia in a nearby town, looking happy and very much together. So sure she'd got over Steve, she soon realises she's never been able to move on since falling in love with him and when Steve sees her and follows her home, Rachel has to make it clear that she’s no longer the naive twenty-something he once knew.

But is she? Does the flame reignite when they meet again after seventeen years? And is Steve still in love with Rachel, or has he moved on?

Available for Kindle


Monday 11th March
            Steve Harris asked me out. I’ve had a massive crush on him since I started working at Winterson’s Plastics and I never thought this day would come. He wants to take me for a drink on Wednesday night. The problem is he’s married.
            Anyway, I’ve agreed to go. Maybe he’ll start telling me how much his wife doesn’t understand him. I guess one drink and a listening ear won’t hurt.

Wednesday 13th March
            I looked in my wardrobe before leaving for work and realised the top I was going to wear for tonight’s big night out has a button missing. That’s just typical of me; always last minute. Can’t believe I didn’t sew that button back on. I decided on a black blouse and jeans instead, probably a bit casual but we’re only having a drink. Plus, he sees me dressed up at work all day. The casual look will be a nice change.
            (Note to self: don’t forget to look for the button; could be under the bed.)

Thursday 14th March
            Well, last night was eventful. Steve turned up fifteen minutes late, apologising profusely, saying his wife came in late from work and had lots of stuff to tell him. We found a little table in the corner of the Crown Green pub, nicely tucked away from prying eyes but luckily it was quiet anyway so we were able to chat. He looked completely gorgeous in a white shirt underneath a black V neck jumper. For a man in his mid forties, he looks so much younger. I think he noticed that I kept looking at the hairs protruding from his collar so now he probably thinks I’m a pervert. He had lots to say, especially about his wife, Olivia, to whom he’s been married for eighteen years. I felt quite guilty knowing I was having a night out with a married man but told myself it was just a drink, nothing more. I expected him to start telling me how his marriage is on the rocks, but he didn’t. He complimented her for being hard working and said how much he admired her. Felt a bit inadequate at one point and wondered why he’d bothered asking me out in the first place. He wouldn’t let me pay for any drinks and came back on one of his trips to the bar with a packet of cheese and onion crisps, but I felt too nervous to eat them; I’m not the most refined crisp eater, and didn’t fancy onion breath just in case he wanted a goodnight kiss.
            I told him about all the jobs I’ve had previously and how I haven’t been out with many guys. Looking back, I imagine he thinks my life is pretty boring compared to his. I let him do most of the talking, guys like that don’t they, it makes them feel important. But with Steve, he didn’t come across as being arrogant; maybe he just wanted to see if he could still pull after all those years of marriage.
            When he walked me to my car and leaned in for a kiss, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. He has to be the best kisser ever. I didn’t want it to end. Drove home feeling elated at the fact the man I’ve had a crush on for twelve months has finally made a move on me, but as I turned into the cul-de-sac I suddenly realised that I’d just kissed a married man. Did that mean I was having an affair? Damn it, something I vowed never to do.

Kathryn’s Links


What is the name of Steve’s wife?

Answers in the comments and good luck!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Peggy Stanton Chats with Sarah & Robert from A Shadow in the Past

Today, I have the pleasure of not just one guest in the “hot seat” but two. Sarah Shand and Robert Robertson, from Melanie Robertson-King’s debut novel, A Shadow in the Past, are with me here today. What you are about to learn is mind boggling, but true, so do make yourselves comfortable and enjoy my two unusual guests.
Peggy: “Welcome to both of you. Before we get started, let’s get the frilly part sorted with first. I have a bottle of single-malt Ardmore, if you would like something decent to drink. In the ice bucket there’s a bottle of bubbly. Though if you prefer something non-alcoholic, I’ve had a few bottles of Irn Bru brought in. Pains me as it does, but I’ve been lead to believe that this non-alcoholic drink is Scotland’s other national tipple. Anyway aside from this, I have some lovely nibbles, too. Haggis in puff pastry, oatcakes with Bonchester or Lanark Blue cheese (Sarah wrinkles her nose) and of course, shortbread.”
Sarah:  Opening a bottle of Irn Bru. “Thanks for having us here, Peggy.  And yes, Irn Bru has been referred to as Scotland’s other national drink.”
Peggy: Raising an eyebrow. “A decent malt is what I’ve heard, but I’ll take your word for it. Anyway it’s a delight to have you both. If you change your mind on that drink, help yourself to the bubbly.”
Sarah: Sipping her drink. “Maybe after our interview, because as much as I like champagne it goes straight to my head and makes me all woozy.”
Robert: Laughing, “She’s right Peggy. If you want to get any sense out of her, keep her on the Irn Bru. Otherwise, she’ll babble on and you won’t understand a single thing she says. I’m going to have a wee dram of Ardmore, though, if you don’t mind.”
Peggy: Leaning forward and patting Robert’s leg. “A man after my own heart, do help yourself.” Sitting back in her chair and crossing her legs at the ankle. “Now have I heard this correctly, you two had a rather unusual first meeting?”
Sarah and Robert: Looking at each other, smile. “You’re right there.”
Robert: “You tell it, Sarah. It sounds so much better when you do.”
Sarah: Shifting in her chair. “You or your readers aren’t going to believe this. I still don’t. Phew where to start? ” Reaching out and taking Robert’s hand. “Talking about it always makes me a bit nervous.”
Peggy:  “My dear, you’re in good company, nerves not required, so do tell us, I’m sitting her almost on the edge of my seat in anticipation.”
Sarah: Taking a deep breath. “Okay. I had been at the stone circle on my parents’ farm and the next thing I know, I’m waking up on a sofa at Weetshill mansion. You can see the mansion from the hill where the stone circle is but it’s a couple of miles away. But how I got from one place to the other, I don’t know.”
Peggy:  Shaking her head. “My dear girl, that’s not overly unusual in this day and age with all these alkipop style drinks. It’s clear to me there’s more to that drink you claim to enjoy than you’re letting on.”
Sarah: “No no, it was really spooky. You see, this is where things get seriously weird. When I was at the stone circle, the year was 2010. When I woke up on the sofa at Weetshill, I was back in 1886. Believe you me, you can’t dream that up.”
Peggy: Taking a sip of her bubbly, coughs. “Good grief, I’ve come all over with goose bumps. I shudder to ask, but what happened next?”
Robert:  Lowering his voice. “I heard a noise outside the front door so went to investigate. I found Sarah passed out on the ground. At first I thought she was a laddie because she wore trousers. I’ve never seen a woman in trousers before so you can imagine my surprise when I discovered she was a lassie, and a rather pretty one at that.”
Sarah: Blushing. “You say the sweetest things. I’ve never really thought of myself as that. Ordinary and some days it stretches to moderately attractive but never pretty.”
Peggy: “Pretty or otherwise, there is not doubt about it that is a most unusual meeting. So Robert, Weetshill mansion, sounds like you’re well-to-do which ever century you live in. What do you do for a living?”
Robert: “I’m the Laird of Weetshill.”
Peggy: “Like Hector MacDonald in the television program Monarch of the Glen.”
Robert:  Pulling a face. “I don’t know what you mean.”
Peggy: Laughing pats him on the knee. “I’m sorry. I forgot for a moment you’re from the Victorian era, I’ll admit you’re doing a good job convincing me. ”
Sarah: “Oh believe me Peggy, Robert is from that time. Bizarre as it is and that is why Robert has no idea about television or the program Monarch of the Glen, but I can say Robert is nothing like Hector MacDonald. If you want to compare him to one of the characters in the show, I would say he’s more like Archie.”
Peggy: Smiling. “I always liked Archie. Thought he was a handsome fellow. Just like you, Robert.”
Robert: Blushing. “Thank you, Peggy.”
Sarah: Turning to Robert. “He’s so-o modest. That’s one of the things I love about him.” Reaching over and squeezing his hand.
Peggy: Picking up the book and flips through it. “I like the cover, but more importantly I’d like to ask you some more questions about your relationship because as much as I’ve seen life, I’ve not yet come across a couple who met in another century”
Robert: Holding his hand up. “Please forgive me, but I have to stop you there, I’m afraid, Peggy. We don’t want to spoil it for Melanie’s readers. We can’t tell everything here because then they wouldn’t buy the book and that would never do.”
Peggy: Tracing her index finger over the cover. “Right, right, but you can’t blame me for wanting to know. And as I just mentioned, the cover is amazing. The artist has captured your essence beautifully, Sarah.”
Sarah: “Aidana WillowRaven is the cover artist. She did a brilliant job of portraying me. And you have to believe that because I’m not one to be “out there” and now look at me.”
Peggy: Placing the book down onto the coffee table. “Your creator is a mainstream author and this is her debut novel with, 4RV Publishing, you must feel very proud.”
Sarah: “Proud is barely the word, honoured would be more correct. Melanie is a talented lady and 4RV Publishing is a great company, with really supportive and talented people there. Melanie made the right choice by signing with them.”

 A Shadow in the Past

Available on

You can find out more about Melanie by visiting our Author, Books, Trailer & Review Pages

Monday, 24 June 2013

Are Your Birds Singing?

All the Little Birdies go: “Tweet, tweet, tweet," cries Lizzie Lamb!

My social networking regime . . .

Recently, I attended a Self Publishing Conference at Leicester University where having a social networking presence was stressed. A number of attendees protested that they didn't want to join Facebook or Twitter, the reply was blunt and to the point: no online presence = fewer book sales. Does tweeting, Facebook etc actually sell books? Is it worth the effort? The smart money says it is, but who knows.

Here's my social networking regime and how it works for me.

First thing, I go through my iPhone, read and delete hotmail messages. After breakfast I migrate over to Facebook and post a personal status - with a photo if possible as I find that gets the most response. Then I go over to News Feed, check who's on, leave a few comments and "share" any posts/ blog links I find interesting. Over the course of the day/week I check into the various Facebook groups I belong to: Write On Girls, Writers on the Same Page, Chick Lit Goddesses, Famous Five - join in conversations and leave a comment if possible.

Later it’s over to TWITTER where I follow back new followers, retweet those who've retweeted me and go into my 'hashtag' groups and retweet there - FFP, ASMSG, BYNR and so on. Next, I put up three posts about my book which other tweeps can find and retweet easily. I usually leave a status about my writing or what I'm doing that day to give it a personal touch, using hashtags such as #romance #amwriting #amreading #debutnovel #fridayreads etc. It's important to have those posts at the 'top' of one's profile, otherwise tweeps lwill RT the first message they find and that might not be about me, or #Tall,DarkandKilted.

After lunch I return to Facebook where I put a brief message on my author page and reply to anyone who’s commented on my status. Every couple of days I do the same on the New Romantic 4's author page - again, with a photo if possible. And in the evenings I check on @newromantics4 twitter page on my iPhone or iPad and respond whilst watching TV.

The New Romantics 4 have recently had a blog created for by Nettie Thomson (meldrum@meldrummedia). It’s the responsibility of each member to keep their author page updated and, once a month, to post a blog about their writing. That makes it manageable. Nettie is also building a website for me which links into the NR4 blog; it includes a personal blog which will enable me to take part in events like THE GREAT BRITISH BLOG / NEXT BIG READ etc.

Last, but not least, I generally go over to Pinterest in the evenings and add photos to my various boards; other pinners follow and re-pin my photos. That means that they see my ‘writing boards’ which contain pictures and other themes relating to Tall, Dark and Kilted and my WIP.

And that's it. It might not work for you but it works for me. The secret I think is to have a clear routine and 'bit and bob' as the day goes round. I usually write in the very early morning, meet friends for lunch or coffee and then back to it in the afternoons. Having a smart phone (and a stock of photos on it) and an iPad makes all this so much easier as I can leave them set up for social networking while my WIP stays on the PC.

How do YOU handle your online presence?

You can find out more about Lizzie by visiting our Author, Books & Review Pages

Saturday, 22 June 2013

HUG A BOOK with Gilli Allan

Hug A Book is sponsored by

It’s HUG A BOOK and this weekend it’s with Gilli Allan


You could win a Kindle copy of
Life Class

Meet Gilli

Growing up in Orpington, Kent, my hobbies were drawing and writing ‘books’.  School and I didn’t get on and, as soon as I was able to, I left and went on to Art College.  I originally worked as an illustrator, in advertising.  I only began writing again, with the serious intention of being published, when I was married and at home with my young son.

I write contemporary romantic fiction with an edge, or ‘Reality Romance’.  My first two novels - Just Before Dawn and Desires & Dreams - were ‘mainstream’ published, but these days I publish independently. I have two novels  - TORN and LIFE CLASS - currently available as e-books and in paperback.  FLY OR FALL is coming soon.

I now live in a village, at the head of a beautiful valley in the Cotswold Hills, in Gloucestershire.  Still a keen artist I draw and paint, design Christmas cards and regularly attend a weekly art class. I’ve been a school governor, a contributor to local newspapers and was one of the initiators of the successful community shop in my village.

I wouldn’t be able to live the life I do without the support - emotional and financial - of my husband.  Our clever son, Tom, who was a toddler when I started in this game, has put his Phd on hold and is currently working as Project Curator, for the British Museum’s, 2014 ‘Vikings’ exhibition.

Details of Life Class

Four people meet once a week to draw the human figure. All have failed to achieve what they thought they wanted in life. They come to realise that it’s not just the naked model they need to study and understand. Their stories are very different, but they all have secrets they hide from the world and from themselves. By uncovering and coming to terms with the past, maybe they can move on to an unimagined future.
Dory works in the sex trade, the clean-up end. She deals with the damage caused. Her job has given her a jaundiced view of men and relationships. Always a clear eyed realist, she suddenly finds herself chasing a dream.

Stefan is a single-minded loner, his sole ambition is to make a living from his art. So how did he find himself facing a class of adults who want their old teacher back? Love is an emotion he long ago closed off, but is it time to let others into his life?

Fran (Dory's older sister) is a stay-at-home mother without enough to keep her occupied. She is on a collision course with her mid-life crisis. Her craving for the excitement and romance of her youth puts everything she really loves now at risk.

Dominic is a damaged child. He knows all about sex but nothing about love. He wants to make sense of the past, but maybe it's time to look to the future. If he can accept the love and help on offer, perhaps he has a chance to transform his life

Available for Kindle & paperback


1 - Christmas Eve


‘I work in the sex trade,’ was her usual answer. It amused her to watch the battle for self-control in the face of whoever had asked the question, and their dawning relief when she added the qualifier, ‘...the clean-up end.’
Her job had always had its lighter moments, but today, since she’d come back from her lunch break, her mood had plummeted. On the pin board above her microscopes, official instructions about hygiene, circulars and timetables jostled with the cartoons and jokes members of staff had attached. Her contribution – NEVER TRUST A SMILING HETEROSEXUAL – was boldly inscribed on a post-it note. Even though she’d become used to seeing it there, it usually it made her smile. Now it was neither funny nor relevant.
She had only seen the patient’s back view but had recognised the boy instantly. And it was impossible not to start putting two and two together, given who she’d spotted waiting in his car outside.

Earlier she’d walked back from the city centre, her mind buzzing, consumed by thoughts of the house, her mad offer for it ... and its owner. She’d had to juggle with bags, umbrella and key fob to get the boot of her car open and stow her purchases. Just as she slammed it shut, the sun had come out and a sudden flare off a puddle momentarily blinded her. She averted her eyes. In that instant she recognised the man she’d been thinking about, sat in the car parked next to hers.

What a come down. But it didn’t have to mean anything. Perhaps it was just a bizarre coincidence. Even if they had come together there was any number of explanations. Perhaps he’d come as a ‘buddy’, or in loco parentis to support the boy. She rubbed at her forehead. Why was she trying to convince herself that the obvious conclusion was the wrong conclusion? And what was it to her anyway? If you work in this field you can’t be judgmental, she reminded herself. Other people’s life-style choices are none of your business.

2 - The Previous September


‘...And you’d rather miss your first life class? For Christ’s sake sis, there’s more to life than the speed of your Broadband!’

‘I don’t want to miss it, Fran, but the engineer should have been here an hour ago, and….’ Mobile cupped against her ear, Dory looked around at the packing cases that still took up much of the floor space in her small sitting room. ‘There’s still masses to do. I’ve boxes yet to open, let alone unload.’
‘There’ll be time enough for all that boring stuff. After all, today is the first day of the rest of your life!’
‘Have you been reading your fridge magnets again?’
‘Why do you think we fall back on platitudes, Dory? Because they’re based on universal truths. So?’
Glancing at her watch Dory walked back into the kitchen. Her sister had a point. Even if it had been against her better judgement, why agree to be enrolled for the class if she wasn’t prepared to make an effort to attend it? She reached across the sink to close the window. Below her 1st floor rented maisonette, a dahlia enthusiast had filled his small garden with the blousy blooms, their colours magnified in the morning sun. They weren’t a favourite of hers but, momentarily transfixed by the implausible flare of luminous pinks, reds and oranges, by the crazy deckchair stripes, she felt her spirits lift.
‘OK. If the BT bloke doesn’t arrive in the next ten minutes, I’ll reschedule the appointment. I might be a bit late but…. See you when I see you.’ Dory pressed the red button and breathed. Despite the tower of packing cases, a great deal had been accomplished in a very short time. Storage solutions still had to be found, but it would all be sorted. How could she regret the London house she’d left behind? What price prestige, location, success if you’re unhappy in your relationship, if you’re not doing what you want to do?
So now she’d taken the first steps to real independence, what was she going to do with it? How was she going to live the rest of her life? Maybe today would prove the cliché. It might yet prove to be the beginning of something, a different direction, a different way of thinking? After all, science had always come second to art, when she was growing up. How had she found herself in a science-based career?
The future was a clean sheet, waiting to be written. But it was her wish list, not her sister’s. In her mind’s eye Dory could see the words ‘Start a business (something creative?)’ as the first entry on that imaginary blank page. Ignore what Fran thought her priorities should be. There was little likelihood that ‘men and relationships’ would figure on the list any time soon … if ever.

The woman who’d come out of the office would have looked more at home at an open air music festival than standing here, hands spread on the reception desk. Behind small round glasses, her eyes were smudged with greasy black make-up; her layers of baggy clothes looked as if they’d been assembled in the dark, the acidic taint of sweat hung in the air. She waited, mouth pinched, for him to identify himself.
‘I’ve been engaged to teach art classes.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Stefan Novak. Mornings. Monday, Tuesday and today.’ He was already tense about the new job – let alone the fact he was starting on a Friday, which felt weird in itself. Now he was getting the distinct message that his arrival was as unexpected as it was unwelcome, and was preventing this woman from getting on with far more important work. Maybe this was an over-reaction, saying more about him than it did about her. Even so, he could do without the assault on his confidence – wherever it came from. There was nothing to stop him turning on his heels and walking out. He didn’t have to do this. Except that he knew he did. He couldn’t live on air. He had to do something until … if ... the big breakthrough.
‘Ah!’ Sitting down abruptly, she swivelled towards the computer monitor and banged the mouse several times on the desk. She raised her hand to her head and raked through her short hair, leaving it sticking up in all directions. He noticed the colour – an unnatural orange – was growing out, giving the roots a faded, almost greenish-brown tint.
‘I didn’t recognise you as staff. And you’re too early to be a student.’ It seemed a half-hearted justification of her ungracious manner. She still stared at the screen. ‘So…’ Rapid clicks of the mouse. A muted swearword. ‘You are … Stefan Novak?’ she eventually read out, as if he’d not supplied his name already. She looked towards him, eyes narrowed, accusing. ‘You’ve taken over from Sandira Benfield?’
He shrugged. ‘So I’ve been told.’ There was a pause.
‘Everyone liked Sandy.’ Stefan wondered if he should apologise. ‘Do you know where your class is? First floor, right at the top of the stairs, second door along.’ She handed him some keys. ‘That one’s the class and that’s the storeroom. When he gets in I’ll tell Gordon, head of department, you’ve arrived.’
As he mounted the stairs he was aware of the tension, still gripping him. Was it a kind of stage fright? Anxiety about standing in front of a class? Only natural he supposed. After all, he wasn’t a teacher. Had never had the slightest instinct or ambition to teach. Yet here he was. He’d heard the horror stories, but this wasn’t an inner city comprehensive, it was an adult class. The students were here by choice. And one of them – if he turned up – he already knew. At least he needn’t worry about meeting resistance or having to win the class over.

Dom sniffed surreptitiously in the direction of his armpit. Didn’t seem too honk too badly and it would’ve made him late to go back to wash and change. It was more important to make sure of getting the bus. And if he had shown his face, what’s the betting he’d’ve had to listen to another bollocking about staying out overnight, or endure another sermon about going back to school.
Couldn’t they get it? He’d had it with school. If the Principal was to be believed, school’d had it with him. What was the point? At his age he didn’t have to go any more, and he wasn’t about to beg to be allowed to. Anyway, there was only one subject he was interested in, and doing this three whole mornings a week had to be better than one poxy art lesson, with a roomful of kids who didn’t care and a teacher who’d given up trying to make them. He’d show them all!
Across the pavement from the bus stop the shop window was plastered with tempting adverts. No point trying to buy smokes. Dom guessed he’d be challenged about his age and didn’t have any ID on him. Perhaps he could blag some off Stefan. He couldn’t be bothered to waste energy arguing about it now. But crisps and cola were another matter. He’d not eaten since…? As he struggled to recall, the pang of hunger and thirst that gripped his belly was irresistible.
The Asian woman filling a shelf on the back wall behind the counter turned at the piercing chime of the doorbell. She visibly stiffened. One hand clutched the filmy scarf thing around her neck, the other curved, kind of protectively, over the till drawer. What did she think? That he was going to rob her? Didn’t she realise he was in more danger of being mugged than she was?
The other night they’d taken his iPod and some cash, but he’d got away without being badly hurt. That was the main thing. And he’d already recouped the money. Withdrawing his right hand from the pocket of his low-slung jeans he double-checked the screwed up bank notes in his grubby palm. And it felt like there was some change at the bottom of his pocket, too. He didn’t need to pinch anything … well, not from people like her. If he did ever nick stuff – his left hand encircled the new iPhone in his other pocket – it’d be from the big shops in the city centre. Whatever Stefan said … it was, like, a victimless crime, wasn’t it? Although recently Stefan had stopped asking him how he acquired his stuff, or where he got the extra money.
The strap of his backpack now comfortably heavy over his shoulder, he returned to the stop, swigging from one of the six-pack of cola he’d bought. In the distance the bus appeared and the queue shuffled forward. Somehow, since knowing Stefan, he’d become more aware of his environment, more aware of light and shade, of form and substance, colour and texture. Taller than the bloke in front of him, Dom had a view of the top of his head, pink scalp gleaming through the silky strands of white hair. Then, as if suddenly sensing something, the man glanced back over his shoulder. The crazed skin of his face was almost grey, a spider-web of blue on the cheeks. The blurry yellowed eyes narrowed; his mouth compressed into a puckered slash. Taking a distancing step, the old geezer turned away and began to mutter. Slowly they boarded the bus. Dom stepped up behind him and heard snatches of his ramblings before the driver cut them short.
‘… Out there … our brave boys … Queen and country … likes of you …’
‘All right mate. Everyone knows it’s a scandal. Where to?’

‘The engineer was due at eight, but when I spoke to Dory he’d still not arrived,’ Fran told her husband. She lifted her jacket from the hook. ‘So she might be late for her first class. OK, I’m off.’
‘That’s a shame.’ Instead of retreating into the sitting room or the kitchen, Fran watched bemused as Peter crossed the wood-block flooring of the large hall and picked up her art bag. He opened the door and stepped out onto the porch, sliding his socked foot into one of his Crocs.
‘Where are you…? What are you doing?’
He stood on one foot attempting to hook Jimbo away from the other shoe with his upturned toes.
‘Out the way bird-brained animal…!’ He stretched out his hand towards Fran. ‘I’m helping you. Car keys?’
Helping me? ‘I’m capable of carrying…’
‘But now I’m home I can help. This bag’s heavy. Is everything in here strictly necessary?’ Both Chihuahuas now leapt and skittered around his feet as he walked to the back of her car.
‘I never know what I’m going to want. I may as well take everything.’
‘And it’s disgustingly filthy. You don’t want dust and charcoal and goodness knows what, all over your clothes.’
‘But Peter…?’ I’ll be lifting it out of the boot and carrying it into the school, she argued silently. Unless you’re planning to come with me as my porter.
‘Why don’t you get yourself a new bag? Then you can rationalise the contents and chuck this one out. Bet you’re lugging stuff to and fro you’ll never need.’
She acknowledged his last remark with a tight smile as she took the car keys he proffered and slid onto the driver’s seat. Was this what it was going to be like from now on? His view of early retirement had been rosy and optimistic. Hers had been more cautious, a caution that was beginning to look justified. ‘Now he was home’ he’d said, with that indulgent smile, as if there was nothing but good to be gained from his continual presence. This ‘helping her out to the car’ was exactly what she was afraid of. A kind of well-meant suffocation.
She was still a young woman – not yet forty – fit and attractive and still up for a good time, which in her book did not mean a trip to the pub for lunch with your husband every other Wednesday. She wasn’t ready to embark on the kind of Saga existence that he presumably envisaged. She enjoyed her freedom; she liked to do exactly what she wanted, when she wanted, without explanation or interference. It was early days but having him hanging around her house 24/7, with nothing to do but wonder what she was doing, was already getting on her nerves big-time.
You are being so petty, she reproved herself. And you’re not being fair. But guilty conscience didn’t stop her feeling this way. But hey, she could forget home and husband for a few hours. She was on her way to the first life class of the autumn term. The class changed little from year to year, but this time her little sis’ would be there … and maybe one or two other new members. A buzz of anticipation began.
           ‘Give my regards to….’ Peter called after her as the car began to move away, crunching over the gravel.

Gilli’s Links

twitter: @gilliallan

Who said she worked in the sex trade?

Answers in the comments and good luck!

Friday, 21 June 2013

The Moment of Truth!

Kathryn Brown talks about the moment of truth….

I sent my latest book to my editor the other day; it was the moment of truth, the moment you realise that all your hard work is going to be criticised and perhaps even ripped to shreds. Apart from when you publish your book and make it available to the outside world, sending it off to the editor for the first time is definitely the most nerve-wracking. You read through your work time and time again until you feel happy with it, thinking what you’ve written is passable and maybe even a best-seller. But then reality kicks in and you learn very quickly that your masterpiece isn’t all you intended it to be. Editors pick up on just about everything, or at least they should. Most point out such obvious mistakes that you feel like banging your head against the desk in frustration at yourself. They will always find the odd typos and grammatical errors and those words that have been missed out of a sentence, but then they start making suggestions about changes to your characters, the plot, scenes and dialogue. It’s pretty heartbreaking when they send your work back to you and it’s full of comments down the side. It can make you feel ridiculous, inadequate, amateur. It can also, if you let it, make you ask yourself why you bother.

I went through all this with my last two books, especially the first one. Having never experienced an edit before and having never listened to other people making suggestions about how to change my book, I went through a phase in the first week or two of feeling completely deflated. It got to a point where I wondered if I should pack it all in; was this writing lark really for me? Did I have it in me to make an author? My thoughts back then were, ‘No, I don’t have it in me and I should go back to farming.’ But then I published the book and people started buying it, telling me they were enjoying it and couldn’t put it down. The rewards were immense. Three years of my life had been spent on that book and people were appreciating what I’d written. I couldn’t believe it. Even though the editor made some outrageous suggestions, I wasn’t obligated to make the changes; my name was on the cover, no one else’s.

And so with this latest book my name will also be on the cover, but my editor will be mentioned inside. Suggestions and advice should always be welcomed when writing a book, just like reviews and feedback. None of us are the perfect writer and none of us should ever take for granted that our work will be a complete success. We’d be deluding ourselves if we thought that. Having a good edit and proof read of your manuscript can, and most often does, make all the difference. I’m waiting on tenterhooks to get my book back from the editor and let’s just say, I’m a bag of nerves. But I know I’ll take note of most of the suggestions made and will make necessary changes before it’s published. Some advice she gives I may not take on board, but that’s my prerogative as an indie author.

Find out more about Kathryn by visiting our Author, Books, Trailer & Review Pages

Thursday, 20 June 2013

I Got a Contract! Caroline James

The Three 'M's' - Mayhem, Madness and Magic! Caroline James talks about the hectic last twelve months and that wonderful magical moment when she signed her publishing contract.

Phew! Where did the last 12 months go?  Just over a year ago I self-published my debut novel and was trying to make sense of the mayhem and madness that I'd plunged myself into.  Mayhem because it was all a learning curb and I had so much to learn and madness because that's how I felt when I burnt the midnight oil and watched what was happening to the book I created (Coffee,Tea, The Gypsy & Me), as I propelled it into cyber space.  No one told me that in order to get your book noticed you had to have a degree in marketing! It's hard promoting your own work but a necessary process (even through the agonies of an unfavourable review) and it was a baptism by fire but a journey I'll never regret. The magic soon kicked in as I watched the book do well and I have to say I absolutely love the freedom of being an indie author; the buck stops here so to speak and every decision is your own.

But it wasn't an easy journey and I'm sure every writer will agree. A while ago, I found a file full of rejection slips and letters and wanted to burn them, but the evil side of me made a rude gesture and I put the file back in a safe place.

In amongst the mayhem and madness of promotion you have to find time to keep writing, tough when most of us have day jobs too. For writing is what we're all about and the only way to get better, is to keep writing. As Stephen King says in his brilliant book, On Writing, "If you take it seriously, we can do business. If you can't, or won't, it's time for you to close the book and do something else - wash the car maybe."

So I took it seriously and kept writing and some more magic happened.

I got a publisher.

Thornberry Pulishing came into my life and suddenly the mayhem and madness started to make even more sense.  I could focus on what really matters - turning up at the page at every opportunity to do what I love best. This delightful publishing house will be bringing my next book to life, in both paperback and e-formats, and I feel unbelievably thrilled to have their support.

Whatever your route to being published, the key is to keep going. Famous Five Plus is a wonderfully supportive group whose authors have wide open arms and warm hearts and inside each and every one is a fair share of mayhem, madness and magic!

Thanks Pauline xx

So,You Think You’re A Celebrity…Chef? by Caroline James will be published by Thornberry Publishing on 4th October, 2013.

You can find out more about Caroline by visiting our Author, Books, Trailer & Review Pages.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Peggy Stanton Chats to Sarah Newby

I have a very special guest sitting in my chat room, I promise you she will make your eyebrows rise, what a woman!

Peggy: Today, I am not so much delighted with my guest, but fascinated with her. Her life is a book in it self, believe you me! So do make yourself comfortable and meet Sarah Newby, a charming young woman.

Sarah: (laughing) Well, thank you Peggy. That's a terrific compliment! I'm not all that young, you know - in fact I've just become a grandmother!

Peggy: Good heavens girl from where I’m sitting it seems very unlikely. You can't be that old, surely?

Sarah: I'm not old - it's just that I started young, you see. At fifteen, in fact!

Peggy: Oh mama mia! You had your first child when you were fifteen?

Sarah: Yes. Big mistake. Huge.  No, wait - heavens, I'm not saying my son Simon was a big mistake, of course not, I love him, but ... well, getting pregnant at that age. In the back of a Ford Cortina, of all places!

Peggy: Good grief and I thought I’d lived, clearly not that well, but getting pregnant in the back of a Ford Cortina at fifteen, well I never!

Sarah: Yes, well just as well you didn’t! You see it was my first time, too. I was just a silly schoolgirl, I didn't know what I was doing. It nearly ruined my life.

Peggy: Ruined your live, more likely ruined your reputation! Surly you could have found ways. French letters, or shudder the thought of an abortion?

Sarah: I was never good at languages…. Sorry, not funny eh? As for the abortion, no, never. I kept it secret from my mother until it was too late. Anyway I was proud of it, silly girl that I was. And Kevin - the father - he was proud too, the randy little gamecock! Seventeen years old, and sexy as hell. I can still remember him standing there in my parents' living room holding my hand, telling them proud as punch that I was carrying his baby and we were going to get married. What fools we were! But we did it.

Peggy: Fool is hardly the word I would have used if I’d been your mother, poor woman must have been on the edge of a nervous breakdown. And worse you got married at such a tender age. What next I shudder to think!

Sarah: Yes we did. Get married that is. The Council found us a house on one of the worst housing estates in Leeds. We moved in, furnished it with fifty quid from an auction, and tried to live like man and wife. It lasted a year.

Peggy: I’m surprised it lasted that long and goodness knows, I’m trying not to imagine what the twelve months must have been like, but I’m sure you’ll enlighten me. Go on then, I can see you’re champing at the bit to tell me, so what happened?

Sarah: It’s not so much wanting to tell you, but it helps me to see it in the true light it was back then. You see Kevin beat me up, broke my arm and moved out. We got a divorce. The Social Services tried to take my baby away but I wouldn't let them. And then, thank God, I met Bob, my second husband,  I was eighteen by then.

Peggy: Goodness gracious me, the bugger, sorry about my language, but men like that need to be dealt with and not kindly. A wicked man and a terrible start to adult life! I hope you don't mind me spouting off like that, dear, but ..

Sarah: No, I don't mind. Of course you're right, he was wicked and life then was a disaster. All my own fault - I should never have got into that Ford Cortina. But it did have its fun side too - I mean, Kevin was a bastard, but he was a fantastic lover. I still close my eyes sometimes and remember ...

Peggy: Mmm, maybe it would have been prudent to have had stronger elastic in ones underwear, but there it is we can’t turn the clock back. I suppose we all have a few memories like that; at least I hope so. Anyway, Sarah, we've got so carried away with your life as a teenager, let us move on to more positive times, how on earth did you get from this sink estate and a life of pain to being a barrister?

Sarah: Peggy the one thing I’m good at and that is survival and hard work. I’m tough and I work very hard when I want to. You see Bob, my second husband, yes I married him, was a teacher; I met him at evening classes. Of course I'd left school when I got pregnant - they threw me out - but Bob encouraged me to take up studying again. And I got hooked! The more I learned, the more I wanted to know. I did GCSEs, A Levels, a degree at the Open University, and eventually on to Bar School.

Peggy: Now that does make my heart sing when someone like you down in the gutter, sorry but you were, clambers out and does something so amazingly positive. Good on you gal, but how on earth did you manage?

Sarah: With difficulty, of course; especially at the beginning. Bob was at work and I had baby Emily too by then, so I had two toddlers at home, and all the housework and shopping to do as well. But I was determined - I felt I had missed out on this world of study when I left school, and I wasn't going to let it go a second time. Often I got up at five in the morning to study, before the children were awake. I was young then, I had bags of energy! When I had an essay to write during the day, I used to get inside the playpen and write there, to keep my books and papers safe, while the children got on with wrecking the rest of the house outside the playpen! It became a family joke; the first time Emily saw a monkey in a cage at the zoo, she said 'Look, Mum! It's studying!'

Peggy: (Laughing) I’m just going to take a deep breath here because I’m exhausted listening to you. Two children a home to run and more books to study from than a library, it doesn't sound like the normal life of a young mother!

Sarah: Well, you're right, of course, and a life like that has a serious side. I mean, no one has more than 24 hours in a day, and all that time I spent studying was time I wasn't really focusing on the children. So later, when things started to go wrong in their teenage years, they held that against me. Everything that happened, it was all my fault, they said, because I'd been a bad mother.

Peggy: How could they, you worked to for a better life for you all, hearing that must have been very painful.

Sarah: Of course it was. Horrible. Particularly when Bob started to say things like that too. And then Emily ran away from home and Simon - well, you've heard about Simon, haven't you?

Peggy: Um ... Well, let me say….

Sarah: Yes, I can see you’re embarrassed, as you know it was splashed all over the front page of the News of the World before it closed. It was terrible - York Barrister's Son Accused of Murder! And when I turned up at court to defend him, there were TV cameras and journalists everywhere. I'd never imagined it could be like that.

Peggy: Dear God, it sounds like your worst nightmare, makes your teenage years seem like a walk in the park, but at least he had his clever mother to help him. I assume you were allowed to defend your own son.

Sarah: Walk in the park Peggy, more like a ride to hell this time, but as for defending my son, I had to ask the judge's permission. It's not usual, but there's no actual law against it. But having done it myself, I wouldn't advise it, not to anyone. (Sarah shakes her head) There were some really awful moments ...

Peggy: Come come dear, don’t upset yourself.

Sarah: I want to tell you Peggy, but I'm not sure I can, even now, it's so painful. (long silence) Oh well, I suppose it's all history now. But there was that moment, a terrible moment, when I found some evidence that showed ... it seemed to show he was almost certainly guilty. And ... no one else knew about this evidence, you see, the police hadn't found it. And I was his mother, but I was also a barrister, an officer of the court. So I didn't know what to do - I mean, what would you do, in a situation like that?

Peggy: I can’t begin to imagine.

Sarah: You know Peggy, I nearly broke down. I mean, if Simon was actually guilty, not just of one murder but three! - then of course it was my duty to tell the police. But I was his mother! On the other hand if I didn't tell the police, if I hid the evidence, then I would be perverting the course of justice. So they ever found out, that would be the end of my career. My career which I had worked so very hard for all my life, and which mattered to me more than anything in my whole life, except ...

Peggy: Let’s have a cup of tea and steady yourself, we have all day.

Sarah: That’s kind, but I wanted to add was the most important thing in my whole life is my children.

Peggy: I can see you where caught between a rock and a hard place, but no doubt you had to make a decision, a very big one?

Sarah: (Sarah shakes her head, smiling sadly) I did. I've never told anyone about that. Except this author, who wrote about it in his book, A Game of Proof. Although whether everything in there is true, you'll have to make up your own mind. It's fiction, after all, I think he imagined some of it. All I can say is that what I did was real!

Peggy: Of course it was dear, of course and I can see you are overwhelmed with our chat, though I have so much more I want to ask you. I would love to know how you and your family went forward and about you becoming a grandmother, but if that is alright with you, we can do it again another day.

Sarah: (smiling) I’d like that very much. Being a grandmother is one of the happy stories of my life and I’d love to come back and talk more. Thank you Peggy for being so kind and understanding, I promise to be back, you just name the day!

Peggy: It will be my pleasure to have you telling me more about you, I have to admit, I’m fascinated, what a life. Ever thought of writing a soap? You’d have the nation glued to their screens! Anyway, my dear thank you very much for sharing some of your secrets with us and I’m already thumbing through my diary for the next chat!

You can read about Sarah's adventures in these books:

A Game of Proof   Amazon UK           Amazon US
A Fatal Verdict      Amazon UK          Amazon US

Bold Counsel       Amazon UK          Amazon US