Places in our Memories: With Chris Lloyd #Memories #MondayBlogs #Crimewriter #CrimeCymru

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I’m really pleased to welcome Chris Lloyd, who I seem to have known for quite a while, yet I can’t remember where we met, but who has since become a good friend.

Over to you, Chris…

Thanks, Judith.

So here I am, remembering Girona …

You can’t help but feel love for a city that puts up a statue to books.

I knew very little about the language of Catalonia and nothing of its history when I went to live in Girona for six months in 1979, my year abroad on my degree course in Spanish and French. Sending me to study Spanish in the heartland of Catalan language and culture wasn’t perhaps the wisest move, but in the end I had no complaints. Quite the opposite, in fact. It was the first and one of the most important of the turning points in my life.

When I turned up one very hot morning at the end of August to start a teaching job in September, Franco had not yet been gone four years. Institutions were changing, slowly. Spain’s new Constitution had been approved, and a Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia voted in and enacted shortly after I turned up. Changes small and large, visible and not so visible, were taking place all around us. The most disreputable street names had been changed – either back to their original pre-dictatorship names or to new ones to mark the passing of the dictator and the return of democracy – but there were still others high up on the walls of buildings that were still in Castilian Spanish, waiting to be replaced.

The Catalan language had been banned under Franco, its use in public office prohibited, no songs recorded or books published (with the exception, eventually, of a small set of Catholic-funded tomes few people read). No Catalan holidays were observed or traditional celebrations allowed, and a pan-Spanish pseudo-culture was imposed on the country, not just in response to a burgeoning tourist industry but to dilute national and regional differences.

Catalan hadn’t been taught in schools since 1939, and there were at least two generations of Catalans who could speak their language, albeit with many ‘Castilianisms’ creeping in, but few of them could write it. So much of what had been taught about history and culture, hijacked by a petty and brittle dictatorship, had to be untaught and old subjects and thoughts rediscovered. Years later, researching for a guide book, I came across stories of archaeological sites that had been destroyed during the Franco years as the evidence they provided didn’t fit in with the new narrative that the dictatorship had demanded.

All around me, it felt like a people sloughing off a hide of oppression. More than that, it was a rebirth. A nation emerging dazzled into the sunlight after decades of darkness, suddenly being given a second chance, this time with a determination to get it right.

It was the most exciting and optimistic of times. And it just seemed to fit in with me and with my stage in my own history. I’d grown up in an insecure Wales that was torn between trying to revive its old identity and searching for a new one. I was the same. I was the youngest of three siblings, a bit of an age gap between me and my brother and sister, uncertain of where I fitted in. At twenty, when I went to Girona, I still had no real idea of who I was, collectively or individually, or of my place in the world.

Girona – and Catalonia – changed that. I was swept up in their renewal, in awe of their determination never to return to the days of every decision taken away from them and to move forward in asserting their own identity. It formed a sense of community in me and a sense of me in a community. The Catalans’ belief in the validity of their own language and culture made me take a fresh look at my own, at Wales. Beyond all of that, it made me take a fresh look at myself, at where I fitted in. And the lynchpin of that was the language. Lacking in self-confidence but blustery to hide shyness, I found that speaking in another language allowed me to overcome that. It was a façade I could hide my real uncertainties behind – my initial lack of fluency gave me an excuse for my lack of confidence and a way of overcoming it, while becoming fluent over time and the kind words said about my Catalan finally dispelled some of that insecurity.

Quite apart from the effect that that period in that place had on me, Girona itself is a beautiful city. To a twenty-something me, it was a whole new school and playground. An old quarter half-encircled by medieval city walls – in one of the most unfortunate urban decisions in history, the city council decided to knock down the other half of the walls in the 1930s to create an avenue – that was a den of minuscule alleys, smoke-filled jazz bars and elderly people sitting on upright chairs outside their front doors. A Jewish Quarter that had been so forcibly cut off from the rest of the city, it had created its own micro-climate. A cobbled hill that eventually led to Rome, part of the Via Augusta, and a towering Baroque cathedral atop Europe’s largest flight of Rococo steps that dominated the city as far as the Pyrenees.

And bookshops. A city with barely 100,000 people and there are about twenty bookshops, the vast majority of them independent. That’s why the city put up a statue to books. And it’s probably why, thirty-five years later, I set my first three novels in Girona, the first a story of clinging to the past while embracing the new. Full circle. From that first day in Girona, it gave me exactly that: the confidence to write and the curiosity to pursue it. Even my new series, set in Occupied France, owes its genesis to the lessons I began to learn in Girona.

I stayed in Catalonia. I went back to Girona for a few years after graduating before moving on to Bilbao, Madrid and Barcelona. In all, I stayed twenty-four years in Spain, twenty of them in Catalonia, and while Barcelona was where I lived the longest and the city I loved the most, Girona has always stayed with me as that first love you never forget and to which I owe so much.

Straight after graduating in Spanish and French, Chris Lloyd hopped on a bus from Cardiff to Catalonia and stayed there for over twenty years. He has also lived in Grenoble – researching the French Resistance movement – as well as in the Basque Country and Madrid, where he taught English and worked in educational publishing and as a travel writer. More recently, he worked as a Catalan and Spanish translator.

About Chris:

Chris now lives in Wales, where he writes the Occupation series, featuring Eddie Giral, a French police detective in Paris under Nazi rule. The first book in the series – The Unwanted Dead – won the HWA Gold Crown Award for best historical novel of the year and was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger Award for the best historical crime fiction. It was chosen as Waterstones Welsh Book of the Month. The second book in the series, Paris Requiem, will be published in February 2023.

He has also written a trilogy set in present-day Girona, in Catalonia, featuring Elisenda Domènech, a police officer in the devolved Catalan police force.

Links:

Website: https://chrislloydauthor.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/chrislloydbcn

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

Places in our Memories: With Marjorie Mallon #MondayBlogs #Memories #Gardens and Sculptural Treasures

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

Today I am so pleased to welcome MJ Mallon. I have known Marjorie through her great support of other writers, especially with her work as poet, a blogger, and a book reviewer. She is also founder of the Authors Bloggers Rainbow Support Club. I have long admired her work.

Welcome, Marjorie.

Thank you so much to Judith for inviting me to talk about my places in our memories.

There are so many precious memories in our lives gathered from childhood to adulthood and beyond. In this series,  I would like to talk about my love of botanical gardens – in particular Cambridge Botanical Garden in UK, and my respect for sculptural/artistic and wonders of engineering science.

In particular, nature has been a wonderful inspiration in my writing… I visited the Botanical Gardens in Cambridge often, working nearby – and being in the lucky position of having a free pass from my work!  My employer encouraged us to attend an in-house mindfulness course which further enhanced my sense of awareness, allowing me to utilise all my senses on my daily walks.

I am a visual writer gaining ideas from immersing my consciousness in the world around me. I remember our first task in Mindfulness training was simply to eat a raisin slowly, savouring it, and noticing any sensations as we did!

The mindful magic of the garden kept me enthralled, with the leaves of the trees gently rustling in the breeze, or shedding, or colour changing their welcome celebrating all the seasons: Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter, the changes in colour delighting me.

Let me introduce you to some of the  unexpected animals and birds who greeted me there… one day I spotted a ginger cat who became one of the inspirations in Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose as did the cute robin and the dragonfly.

Here are some poems and photos from the collection…

Red, Devil’s Needle,

Or luck bringer with kind eyes?

Ancient, sweet fellow,

Secret magic bestower,

Change tumbling on fragile wings.

© M J Mallon

Bench,

A bird,

Red-breasted,

So, tame you rest,

Beside me robin,

Two friends on a park bench,

One human, one of nature,

I appreciate your kind time,

Until you away… exploring far,

Hinting at possibilities you go. 

I wonder what you notice in your world.

And why you choose that ground to explore,

When you could have stayed here with me,

In mindful meditation.

Maybe you’ll visit me,

Christmas day, perhaps?

To bring good cheer,

Until then,

Peace to,

You.

Tree and nature poems are also the focus  in my latest poetry collection: The Hedge Witch and The Musical Poet and nature will also feature in my soon to be published Do What You Love.

I have to say I miss the gardens now I’ve moved away from Cambridge. I am currently spending time in Portugal in a long stay holiday residence and the rest of the time in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Whilst  I was in Edinburgh I was delighted to be asked to provide copies of two of my poetry collections: Mr. Sagittarius and  Prose and Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity to prestigious libraries in the UK: National Library of Scotland, The Bodleian Library Oxford University, National Library of Wales, Cambridge University Library, The Library of Trinity College Dublin, and The British Library in London. And… my Curse of Time fantasy series, (which is with a Japanese Publisher,) are now held at my old school FP library at George Watson’s College, Edinburgh. It’s nice to know a little piece of me is to be kept for posterity for people to read in the UK!

So, with regards to poetry, my botanical delight has served me well! Giving me a chance to explore a happy place in my writing.

Further memories… sculptural and artistic in nature… drew my attention and captured my heart in Cambridge, England… the Corpus Christi grasshopper clock in King’s Parade and Juniper Artland’s Anya Gallaccio’s crystal grotto provided the initial inspiration for dark fantasy The Curse of Time series, Bloodstone and Golden Healer which are published by Next Chapter Publishing. And… I was so lucky to meet and be invited to lunch with the world renowned inventor of the clock, Dr. John C. Taylor, OBE  in Cambridge, UK, which was definitely a highlight of my life in 2017! There was such synergy in the meeting as he loves clocks and crystals too! Talking to him has given me such a respect for the wonders of engineering innovation.

More about the three clocks on his blog – the grasshopper, the midsummer fly and the dragon! https://www.johnctaylor.com/the-chronophage/

Just to add – exciting news on Marjorie’s behalf. Her next new book is out to preorder.

Blurb

Do What You Love Fragility of Your Flame Poems, Photography & Flash Fiction is a personal poetry collection celebrating how the fates may have a part in all that we do.

With special poems and short reflective moments inspired by family, flowers and nature, love, scrumptious morsels, places I’ve visited, lived and intend to live in, the friendships and hopes I have for the future.

The overarching theme is to live a life well lived… And to do what you love.

float along with me

create clouds of sweetest joy

to do what you love

hold fate’s hand as we venture

near and far on life’s journey

Release Date: 25th November 2022, able to preorder via the following links.

Until we meet again… sweet robin, dragonfly, cat and scary grasshopper… and all the other creatures both real, created or imagined… Goodbye, adeus, tchau!

Next Chapter Publishing

Acclaimed YA Fantasy series, The Curse of Time:

Bloodstone and Golden Healer

For details of publications please visit:

https://www.nextchapter.pub/authors/mj-mallon

Kyrosmagica Publishing

Acclaimed Poetry and Flash Fiction

Poetry and Flash Fiction: The Hedge Witch and The Musical Poet

https://bookstoread/u/mv1oev

Poetry, Prose and Photography: Mr. Sagittarius Poetry and Prose http://mybook.to/MrSagittarius

Pandemic Poetry: Lockdown Innit Poems About Absurdity

http://mybook.to/Lockdown Innit

Pandemic Anthology: This IsLockdown

http://mybook.to/Thisislockdown

Kyrosmagica publications are available on Amazon kindle, Kindle unlimited and paperback.

Short Stories in Anthologies:

Bestselling horror compilations

Nightmareland compiled by Dan Alatorre

“Scrabble Boy” (Short Story)

Spellbound compiled by Dan Alatorre

“The Twisted Sisters” (Short Story)

Wings of Fire compiled by Dan Alatorre

“The Great Pottoo” (Short Story)

Ghostly Rites 2019 compiled by Claire Plaisted“Dexter’s Creepy Caverns” (Short Story)

Ghostly Rites 2020 compiled by Claire Plaisted

“No. 1 Coven Lane” (Short Story)

For all my publications and contributions to anthologies please refer to my Author Blog: https://mjmallon.com and my Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.co.uk/M-J-Mallon/e/B074CGNK4L/

All my links are available via: https://linktr.ee/mjmallonauthor

Author Bio

MJ’s favourite genres to write are fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. She celebrates books, the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at her blog home: https://mjmallon.com

She’d describe herself as a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!
M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad to Portugal. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in Edinburgh. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile to greet her.

She writes fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.

ABOUT M J Mallon

My favourite genres to write are Fantasy YA, Paranormal, Ghost and Horror Stories, various forms of poetry and flash fiction. I celebrate the spiritual realm, love of nature and all things magical, mystical, and mysterious at my blog home: https://mjmallon.com

I’d describe myself as a reading, blogging and photography enthusiast!

M J Mallon was born in Lion city Singapore, a passionate Scorpio with the Chinese Zodiac sign of a lucky rabbit. She spent her early childhood in Hong Kong. During her teen years, she returned to her father’s childhood home, Edinburgh where she spent many happy years, entertained, and enthralled by her parents’ vivid stories of living and working abroad. Perhaps it was during these formative years that her love of storytelling began bolstered by these vivid raconteurs. She counts herself lucky to have travelled to many far-flung destinations and this early wanderlust has fuelled her present desire to emigrate abroad. Until that wondrous moment, it’s rumoured that she lives in the UK, in the Venice of Cambridge with her six-foot hunk of a rock god husband. Her two enchanting daughters have flown the nest but often return with a cheery smile.

I write fantasy/magical realism because life should be sprinkled with a liberal dash of extraordinarily imaginative magic! Her motto is to always do what you love, stay true to your heart’s desires, and inspire others to do so too, even it if appears that the odds are stacked against you like black-hearted shadows.

Remembering Past Places in our Memories: Roundup of October 2021 #Memories #MondayBlogs #houses #families #childhoods

There are places that remain in our memories, the details may become slightly blurred, nostalgia may colour our thoughts, but they don’t fade. And how those places made us feel at the time is the one thing that remains.

This is a round-up of the Places in our Memories posted over the last few weeks. There have been some wonderful memories shared:

Georgia Rose lived in several different houses as a child but here she told us about the one she loved and thinks about most frequently; the one she and her family moved from when she was around four years old: https://tinyurl.com/y2u3anvt

Darlene Foster told us about the time her baby brother was born during the blizzards at her near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada: https://tinyurl.com/mr2us8tb

Jan Baynham was transported back to her happy childhood growing up in a tiny village, Newbridge-on -Wye, in mid-Wales, where her family lived with her lovely grandad: https://tinyurl.com/44phx2z3

Jane Risdon told us how, shortly after she was born, her father left for the Korean War and so she and her mother moved in with her paternal grandfather — a former British Indian Army Major: https://tinyurl.com/mtdcrdkp

Today we begin another round of Places in our Memories. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I do.

The Long and Winding Road. The journey of a Wannabe Writer #MondayBlogs #Writing #EverHopeful

Image

I wrote for years before letting anyone read my work. If I was self-deluded; if it was rubbish, I didn’t want to be told. I enjoyed my “little hobby” (as it was once described by a family member). But then I began to enter my short stories into competitions. Sometimes I was placed, once or twice I even won. Encouraged, I moved on to sending to magazines – I had some luck, was published – once! But I hadn’t dared to send out any of the four, full length book manuscripts I’d written (and actually never did, they were awful!) That changed after a long battle with breast cancer in my forties and, finally finishing a book that I thought might possibly…possibly, be good enough for someone else to see, other than me, I took a chance.

I grew resigned (well almost) to those A4 self-addressed envelopes plopping through the letterbox. (yes, it was that long ago!) The weekly wail of ‘I’ve been rejected again,’ was a ritual that my long-suffering husband also (almost) grew resigned to.

There were many snorts of exasperation at my gullibility and stubbornness from the writing group I was a member of at the time. They all had an opinion – I was doing it all wrong. Instead of sending my work to publishers I should have been approaching agents.

 ‘You’ll get nowhere without an agent,’ one of the members said. She was very smug. Of course she was already signed up with an agent whose list, she informed me, was full.

 ‘How could you even think of trying to do it on your own?’ was another horrified response when told what I’d done, ‘With the sharks that are out there, you’ll be eaten alive.’

‘Or sink without a trace.’ Helpful prediction from another so-called friend.

So, after trawling my way through the Writers & Artists Yearbook (an invaluable tome) I bundled up two more copies of my manuscript and sent them out to different agents

Six months later I was approached by one of the agents who, on the strength of my writing, agreed to take me on. The praise from her assistant was effusive, the promises gratifying. It was arranged that I meet with the two of them in London to discuss the contract they would send in the post, there would be no difficulty in placing my novel with one of the big publishers; they would make my name into a brand.

There was some editing to do, of course. Even though the manuscript was in its fifth draft, I knew there would be. After all, the agent, a big fish in a big pond, knew what she was doing. Okay, she was a little abrasive (on hindsight I would say rude) but she was a busy person, I was a first time author.

But I was on my way. Or so I thought.

A week before the meeting I received an email; the agent’s assistant had left the agency and they no longer thought they could act for me. They had misplaced my manuscript but would try to locate it. In the meantime would I send an SAE for its return when/if ‘it turned up’?

So – back to square one.

For a month I hibernated (my family and friends called it sulking, but I preferred to think of it as re-grouping). I had a brilliant manuscript that no one wanted (at this point, I think it’s important to say that, as an author, if you don’t have self-belief how can you persuade anyone else to believe your work is good?) But still, no agent, no publisher.

There were moments, well weeks (okay, if I’m honest – months), of despair, before I took a deep breath and resolved to try again. I printed out a new copy of the novel. In the meantime I trawled through my list of possible agents. Again.

 Then, out of the blue, a phone call from the editorial assistant who’d resigned from that first agent to tell me she’d set up her own agency, was still interested in my novel and could we meet in London in a week’s time? Could we? Try and stop me, I thought.

 We met. Carried away with her enthusiasm for my writing, her promises to make me into a ‘brand name’ and her assurance that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel’, I signed on the dotted line.

Six months later. So far, four rejections from publishers. Couched, mind you, in encouraging remarks:

Believable characters … strong and powerful writing … gripping story … Judith has an exciting flair for plot … evocative descriptions.”

And then the death knell on my hopes.

“Unfortunately … our lists are full … we’ve just accepted a similar book … we are only a small company … I’m sure you’ll find a platform for Judith’s work … etc. etc.”

The self-doubt, the frustration, flooded back.

Then the call from the agent; ‘I think it’s time to re-evaluate the comments we’ve had so far. Parts of the storyline need tweaking. I’ve negotiated a deal with a commercial editor. When she mentioned the sum I had to pay (yes, I had to pay, and yes, I was that naïve) I gasped.’ It’s a realistic charge by today’s standards,’ she said. ’Think about it. In the end we’ll have a book that will take you to the top of your field.’

 I thought about it. Rejected the idea. Listened to advice from my various acquaintances. Thought about it some more. And then I rang the agent. ‘Okay,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’ I felt I had no choice; after all she was the expert. Wasn’t she? What did I know?

 When the manuscript came back from the commercial editor, I didn’t recognise the story at all. ‘This isn’t what I wrote. It’s not my book,’ I told the agent. ‘It’s nothing like it.’ The plot, the characters had been completely changed.

‘You know nothing of the publishing world. If you want me to represent you, you have to listen to me,’ she insisted. ‘Do as I say.’

‘But …’

‘Take it or leave it.’

I consulted our daughter, luckily she’s a lawyer qualified in Intellectual Property.

‘You can cancel the contract within the year. After that, you have problems. There will be all manner of complications...

I moved quickly. The agent and I parted company.

I took a chance and contacted Honno, the publisher who’d previously accepted two of my short stories for their anthologies. Would they have a look at the manuscript? They would. They did. Yes, it needed more work but

 I’m proud to say I’ve now been with Honno, the longest standing independent women’s press in the UK, for fourteen years, and have had six books published by them. I love their motto “Great writing, great stories, great women“, and I love the friends I’ve made amongst the other women whose work they publish, and the support amongst us for our writing and our books. In normal times we often meet up . I’m hoping those “normal times” will return before too long.

 Of course, there has been much editing and discussion with every manuscript. But at least, in the end, the stories are told in my words. With my voice

A few Moments With Carol Lovekin #MondayBlogs #Interview @Honno

Handing over to Carol for a moment

Hello, dear reader, and welcome.
Like you, I am a guest; invited by Judith to appear on her blog and answer some questions. This is an event, frankly. Since lockdown has put paid to physical book launches and fairs, sitting down to write about my author self and my books is a treat. So thank you, Judith!
   Judith and I are both published by Honno, the Welsh women’s Press. It’s the longest standing women-only press in the UK and I think I can safely speak for both of us when I say it is an honour and a privilege to be a Honno Girl. That said, we’re not girls anymore! We are both women of a certain age who, although we were already writers, came to publishing later than some. Judith was first published by Honno in 2010; my debut came out in 2016.
   Although we write in very different genres, our stories share some similarities. We both write strong women characters and explore family dynamics, not least, the relationships between mothers and daughters, and sisters.
   I recall first meeting Judith at a Honno gathering before I was published. Ghostbird, my debut, had been accepted but I was very much the new girl. Judith immediately struck me as down-to-earth, friendly and very funny. I was soon to learn her dry wit and no-nonsense Northern persona sat comfortably alongside her kindness and supportive nature.
   Over the years we have become good friends. (I’m still a bit star-struck to be honest. Judith really is a wonderful novelist and her published output is prolific.) It’s an extra special pleasure then to chat with her on her blog.  

Now let’s learn a little about Carol and her books

Judith: What do you love most about the writing process?

Carol: The opportunity to create story, Judith. Showing up and losing myself in the process. The lightbulb moments which illuminate a previously dim corner, or the ones that change the narrative’s trajectory. Being led by my characters because I threw away my breadcrumbs and allowed them to show me the way. Days when I punch the air because an unexpected tangent is about to make the story so much better.   

Judith: Are your characters based on real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?

Carol: I’ve never knowingly based a character on a real person. I do confess to having ‘borrowed’ certain character traits. For instance, the narcissism of Allegra in Snow Sisters definitely has echoes of someone I used to know. The wonderful thing about it is of course, you don’t have to worry about being accused of writing negatively about a narcissist. They would never believe they could be that flawed therefore the character couldn’t possibly be based on them!

Snow Sisters

Judith: If you could write about anyone fictional/nonfictional who would you write about?

Carol: No one comes to mind. My writing feet are firmly set in the land of make-believe. I would be scared of mucking up a story about someone I admired!

Judith: What do you think makes a good story?

Carol: The perfect hook. An opening sentence that causes me to stop, go back and read it again. A sense of place and a central character who immediately piques my interest. To use a cliché: somebody who makes me care about them. They can be unreliable so long as they are largely sympathetic. And language – I am quickly put off by lazy language, which isn’t the same thing as bad editing. A good storyteller with a grasp of her craft will still shine through a tardy edit.  

 Judith: How many books have you written? Which is your favourite?

Carol: The only ones I’m prepared to own are the three I’ve seen published plus the one in transit. There are the cobwebbed stories of course, in the back of metaphorical drawers. And the one I seem to have been writing forever, whose destiny is to be discarded each time a new, more exciting idea crops up. (My mentor calls it ‘the one my other books bounce off’ and a writer friend described it as being like ‘an old lover you parted with on good terms – between great passions, this lover is comfortable. . ’  (Like old lovers, some stories are best left to fade?)
   Not sure I have a favourite but okay – for the sake of a good yarn, I’ll have a go. Ghostbird because it was my first published book and Cadi, the central character, retains a special place in my heart. She presented herself, fully formed from a dream and I knew everything about her. She made writing what was a vague outline a possibility. Snow Sisters because it validated me as more than a one-trick pony and I love the relationship between the sisters, Verity and Meredith. My heart still aches for Allegra – a narcissist yes, but made that way by circumstances and upbringing. Wild Spinning Girls, my most recent book is my favourite because I can see my process as a writer; the improvements that come with practice I guess. And it has the best ghost! If I ever come back, as a ghost, I want to be Olwen!

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Judith: Have you considered writing in another genre?

Carol: Good question, Judith. When I began writing Ghostbird, I thought, naïvely and a little smugly, that I was writing literary fiction. I had nothing else to call it to be honest. I knew nothing about how genre works in publishing – in book shops – and in any case, I disliked the idea of being pigeonholed. Time has taught me that the Lit Fic label is as meaningless as the Women’s Fiction one.
   (My favourite quote about genre comes from Matt Haig who said: “
There is only one genre in fiction. The genre is called book.”)

   Once I realised Ghostbird was a ghost story my first thought was, ‘Who knew?’ My second was that it suited me. There was a palpable shift in my thinking and my next two books were specifically planned as ghost stories – with hints of Welsh Gothic – and with an emphasis on family dynamics.  
   Having found my “niche” so to speak, I see no reason to deviate.

 Judith: Could you tell us a bit about your most recent book? And why it’s a must read?

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Carol: Wild Spinning Girls came out just before the first lockdown and unlike so many of my writer friends I was able to have a physical launch. I remain hugely appreciative of this.
   The book is, like my previous ones, a ghost story. It concerns Ida Llewellyn, a young woman who loses her job and her beloved parents in the space of a few weeks. Her life thrown off course she sets out for Wales and the remote house her father has left her. When Heather, the daughter of the last tenant turns up, Ida is confronted by a series of terrifying events, not least the ghost Heather claims is her dead mother. The two young women embark on a battle of wills and in the process uncover a dark secret that has lain hidden in the house for twenty years.
   Anyone who likes a ghost story rather than a horror one; family intrigue and mother daughter relationships will, I think, like Wild Spinning Girls. There is a ballet theme too and allusions to the fairy tale, The Red Shoes. It has been described as ‘stunning and utterly unforgettable’ and ‘a timeless tale alive with a wild, old magic.’

Judith: Do your characters seem to hijack the story or do you feel like you have the reins of the story?

Carol: Reins!? I was about to say, ‘I wish’ but as I mentioned previously, what I particularly love about the writing process are the tangents. Yes, I am a serious plotter – other than scribbled outline notes I’m reluctant to type Chapter One until I have a pretty good idea what the story is about, with a beginning, a middle and an end. Equally, I’m open to suggestions!
   Like real people, fictional characters evolve. And often indulge in spontaneous hijacking. It can be startling, but it really is part of the process. When characters behave in ways that differ from my original concept, it makes them more real to me. I can only hope it does the same for my reade
r.  


Judith: If you could spend a day with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that time?

Carol: What a brilliant question! It would have to be Olwen. I adore her as a ghost and love her as a living woman. Her story is a thread though, with only hints about her life before she died. I’d like to go for a long walk with her, take a picnic and sit “out on the wild moor near the stone where the black birds watch” where she grew up; ask her to tell me about her life, the one I have half imagined for her and only vaguely outlined.   

Judith: When did you write your first book and how old were you?

Carol: I wrote my first story when I was about ten or eleven. It was called The Veiled Lady and although I hadn’t written the end, I read it to my younger sister. I told her she would have to wait until the next day for the dénouement. The next day came but because she did something to annoy me, I refused to finish the story. We are both in our 70s now and she still hasn’t forgiven me.


Judith: Do you have any hidden or uncommon talents?

Carol: I used to be a ballet dancer and drew on that dormant past when I wrote Wild Spinning Girls.

 Judith: What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Carol: I have a pair of writing earrings. They’re odd – their partners lost. Because they were so pretty, I paired them up and wear them when I’m working.  

Judith: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
Carol: In the middle of what Marion Keyes calls, The Pandemonium? Think about not being in it? *Wry grin* Covid restrictions on meeting family and friends and attending book events apart, my life is pretty much as it was. I walk (I’ve always walked alone), read a good deal the way most writers do. In the morning I practice Qigong and have recently taken up yoga.
   I like to knit, watch long series on telly and tend to my house plants. Currently, I’m obsessed with growing avocado trees from the stones. It’s fascinating, watching the tap root emerge in water, the stone splitting and a tiny green shoot pushing its way up. Potted on these shoots soon begin turning into tiny trees and over weeks and months they can become really tall.     

Judith: What is the most amusing thing that has ever happened to you? Not particularly to do with your writing?

Carol:Does tripping over outside the chip shop and landing on my face count? Or on my knee, running (why would I even do that) to open the door to answer the postman? Or breaking my leg tripping over an inch of iffy pavement in the dark? Three times in two years and I’m not even kidding. I’m an accident waiting to happen, Judith, but you have to see the funny side. And small things amuse me every day. I am drawn to the absurd and see it everywhere. It’s what keeps me cheerful I think.      


Judith: Give us a random fact about yourself.

Carol: I’m continually and endlessly home-schooled. Seriously – I left school with two O-levels and once I caught up with myself and refused my father’s “education is wasted on girls” doctrine, I began educating myself. I’ve been doing it ever since.


All my books are available from my publisher, Honno: www.honno.co.uk

LINKS:
Website: carollovekinauthor.com
Twitter: twitter.com/carollovekin
Instagram: www.instagram.com/carollovekin
Honno: www.honno.co.uk/authors/l/carol-lovekin

Thank you for being with us today, Carol. And for giving us a glimpse unto your writing world.

I loved being here, Judith. Thank you

Judith Barrow Author MA BA (Hons) Dip Dramahttps://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77

https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

The Heart Stone Kindle Edition
The Memory Kindle Edition

Megan Matthews’s Secret #shortstory #MondayBlogs #CrimeCymru

Secret, Hidden, Message

Megan Matthews stops on the step at the front door of the bungalow before pushing the key into the lock.

‘I’m home,’ she calls, knowing full well no one will answer.  Not anymore. Never again.

The place is silent; there is no irritable retort from behind the door to the room on the right, no ginger tom snaking around her ankles, yowling to be fed and stinking the place out. No more demands on her time to bring this, take that away. No more guilt dumped on her for being ten minutes late; no accusations that she must have a man on the go if it took her more than the usual twenty minutes to walk from the shop to the house.

 As though she’s ever had the opportunity to form a relationship with anyone, when she’s surrounded by a shopful of silly young girls, who flutter their eyelashes at any man who sets foot through the door.  Not that she’d ever want to, she thinks, taking off her coat and hat, checking her hair in the mirror; men are far too much trouble. She’d found that out years ago, much to her cost.

 She looks around. Nothing looks any different and yet it is. She pulls in a deep breath. A smile almost curls the corners of her mouth. Walking into the living room she sits down and pushes each of her shoes off with her toes, giving a sigh of relief, before leaning back for a few minutes, listening. Silence. Perfect silence.

 It had been a hard day. The staff junior is the worst she’s had to train in a long time. The other girls hadn’t helped, whispering and giggling behind her back, egging on the stupid girl to ask stupid questions about the way to arrange the shelves, use the till. They’d got on her nerves all week.

 Pushing herself up from the sofa. Megan wanders into the kitchen, relishing the rare opportunity not to be rushing around. She fills the kettle and takes the coffee jar out of its secret place in the cupboard. No need to hide it anymore; she can have coffee whenever she wants now, she thinks, absently staring out of the window at the dustbin in the back garden. No cat sitting there. But she hadn’t put the lid on properly in her hurry to tidy everything up that morning.

The water is almost boiling; she switches the kettle off and spoons coffee granules into a mug and stirs, the sound loud in the utter silence. Taking the bottle of milk from the fridge, she sniffs at it and screws up her nose. Black it is then.

 It’s only when she’s drunk the coffee that she realises it will look odd if she delays any longer. The neighbour across the street was peering through her curtains when she arrived home. And everyone knows how devoted she is, how her life is ruled by her demanding invalid mother.

Megan opens the bedroom door. ‘I’m home, Mother.’  

The pillow is still over the old woman’s face. When she takes it off, her mother’s eyes are open. Accusing.

Now, can’t have that, can we?’ Megan gently closes the lids. She tucks the pillow under her mother’s head and straightens the duvet.

‘There!’ Megan puts her hands on her hips, head tilted to one side. ‘Think you’ve been there long enough, Mother. Time to raise the alarm.

THE END

Links:

https://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77
https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

https://www.linkedin.com/in/judith-anne-barrow-02812b11/

CRIME CYMRU FESTIVAL: Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival.

I’m a member of Crime Cymru, an ever-growing group of crime writers in Wales. It’s an eclectic collection of authors who create stories from investigative thrillers, domestic noir, to historical crime and cosy mystery genre.

The Spring of 2022 will see the launch of Wales’s first crime festival, the Gŵyl CRIME CYMRU Festival, a weekend-long event  in Aberystwyth.

Because of COVID 19, between April 26 – May 2, 2021 there will be a smaller online festival: Virtual CRIME CYMRU Digidol.

It’s FREE and tickets are available on the website: www.GwylCrimeCymruFestival.co.uk

Check out Crime Cymru on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @GwylCrimeCymruFestival and @Crime.Cymru.

Meet Alex Askaroff: The Sewing Machine Man (and Expert at all Things to do with Sewing Machines) #MondayBlogs

Today I want to introduce Alex Askaroff. When I was researching for the background of The Heart Stone https://bit.ly/3kOpZYO, and needed to know the technical details for the manufacturing of sewing machines, I knew there was only one person to contact. The man who knows all is Alex. As the emails flew back and forth ( and I wondered how long it would be before he became fed up with my constant and often boring – I’m sure – questions), I realised that there seemed to be nothing he didn’t know. Eventually – and being a naturally nosy woman – I asked him how he knew so much. And would he write a post about it. So, I was thrilled when he said okay. And here it is!

Over to you, Alex...

I was born in the latter half of the 1950’s in the busy bomb-blitzed seaside town of Eastbourne, on the South Coast of England. Rubble still lay in places from the 11,000 or so buildings damaged by Nazi planes. At the port of Newhaven, along the road, the old fort still had the empty shells and cartridges scattered around its gun emplacements.

My father was a proud Russian, born in Moscow on the first official day of the Russian revolution, in 1917, not a good start. His life seemed to be dramatic from then on. He was smuggled out of the country as a child to his mother in Paris. Some 30 years later (and two lifetimes of experiences by his tales) he settled in the quaint seaside resort of Eastbourne. After WW2 he had heard the call for men and brought his young Austrian partner to Britain to make his fortune. A spell in the 1950’s London smog led him to the clean seaside air of Eastbourne. Here he brought up six strapping lads who were the plague of the neighbourhood.

I had grown up with a passion for Britain and it became clear why! While I had a half-Russian father and a half-Austrian mother, I also had deep British roots running right back to Anglo Saxon England. My mum’s family was a real surprise. As it turned out I was as local as could be with my roots leading back to Victorian Eastbourne, the very place my dad was drawn to in the 1950’s!

My great grandfather was Stanley Carr Boulter, barrister and founder of the Law Debenture, he married Helen D’Oyly Carte of the London Savoy Theatre and Savoy Hotel Empire. My great grandfather, four times along, was the British Dramatist James Robinson Planché, the most prolific playwright of the Victorian era and great friends with Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle. His dad was a personal friend of King George III. The best bit for me was discovering Matilda Planche, my great, great granny who later became the prolific author Mrs Henry Mackarness. Over 40 of her books are still in print!

So how did I get into manufacturing? Well the truth is I never got out of it! Mum was a skilled Viennese seamstress and broke! She had a wonderful design ability, inventing such things as the pushchair Raincape and other products like the Top‘n’Tail, a changing-mat that a baby could not roll off. These items were first used around Britain, then the world, and all originally made by mum and dad.

Family at work . Dynasty look alike. And you can see that I worked on the factory floor by my work coat

The family business became the largest manufacturer of baby goods in Europe, supplying every baby shop in the country. At the huge factory the stairwells were lined with patents of mum’s great ideas. Baby goods that were produced in their thousands every week were shipped to the four corners of the world.

For decades the names Simplantex and Premiere Baby were synonymous with the best you could buy for your baby We were supplying the rich and famous, film stars and royalty alike. Silver Cross products were lined with our goods. Harrods would place special orders for special people and even more special babies. It was a real thrill to see Princess Diana carrying our future King in one of our handmade Palm Leaf baskets, and with the rights to such toys as Beatrix Potter, no home was without our merchandise.

Dad talked me out of my dream of becoming a doctor and I undertook a four-year engineering course (which would be far more useful for his machinery problems at the factory). When I started in the family business I had the best of the best teach me everything from mass production and sewing circles to sewing machine repair.

I was the first of the six boys to officially join the family firm that I had grown up in, initially working downstairs with the cutters in the cutting room, where cloth was laid by huge automatic machines rolling up and down all day. Dad eventually retired and mum had a go at running the business but then Nik, my older brother arrived at the factory gates and everything changed. His influence quadrupled sales in a few years, he was like dad on Red Bull, flying around the world, (even on Concorde) bringing back big orders. Suddenly we had machinist stretched along the South Coast with vans collecting and delivering goods. In the factory, noise and commotion was everywhere with rows of sewing girls, cutters and packers. Lorries loaded and unloaded all day every day and we all worked like mad from dusk till dawn. It was around this time that I made an amazing observation. My life was disappearing!

Let me try to explain. Ten years or so had passed in a blur. I was suddenly in my early 30’s. I had eaten, slept and even dreamt about work. It was an all-consuming passion. A thousand deadlines on a thousand products, (we had over 2,600 items on our prices lists).  What was happening outside of my immediate circle was irrelevant. I was unable to measure time. Most weeks, or months, even years, were the same. Rush, rush, rush. When I had my revelation, it hit me like a ton of bricks. Work was silently and efficiently stealing my life!

I decided to leave the family firm, throw caution to the wind and start out on my own. I had spent a lifetime in the manufacturing business and I hoped that there were people out there looking for my expertise. One day I parked my new company BMW in the yard and walked the three miles home, never to return.

I started my own sewing machine business and never looked back. I even bought roses so that I could smell them when I got home. How funny!

I suddenly had the time to play with my kids before they went to school and help them with homework later. In 1991, I became a Master Craftsman as I practised my trade around Sussex. During my travels I came across people that had wonderful stories to tell. At last I was ready to listen. My first great story was from an old dear who personally knew Rudyard Kipling! I knew these tales had to be captured before they were lost forever. I needed to write a book!

I’ll tell you a funny thing. When I started to put pen to paper no one could have ever imagined what would happen next! Every person that I spoke to advised me that writing a book full of ‘old dears’ reminiscences was a dangerous game. Lots of time and money invested and little reward. Out of the thousands who try only a handful make it. How wrong they all were! Now that’s a lesson for every budding author, ignore yourself at your peril.

My first book sold out so fast that I had hundreds of pre-paid orders for the second edition before I could get them printed. And don’t forget this was in a time when people had to write a letter, enclose a cheque and post it with faith! If only I could have bottled the printers face when I asked for another print run!

And so my world turned. I used my expertise in manufacturing and passion for sewing machines to earn a living and in my spare moments I put pen to paper. Now with 25 books under my belt and seven No1 New releases on Amazon it seems almost normal. My Sewalot Site: https://sewalot.com/ for antique sewing machines is the No1 of its kind on the planet. It connects me with countless enthusiasts all over the world and even the odd TV appearance.

A Tiny taste of Alex’s books.

So what’s the secret? I’ll tell you just like my dad told me when I moaned about becoming a sewing machine engineer. It’s so simple, learn to love your job! Yep that’s it. You have to really work at it, but the second you crack it, you will never work another day in your life!

Links to Alex Askaroff:

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2UKWHQ6

YouTube: https://bit.ly/3pQkInk

http://www.sewalot.com: https://bit.ly/3kVT7xm

https://judithbarrowblog.com/
https://twitter.com/judithbarrow77
https://www.facebook.com/judith.barrow.3
https://www.honno.co.uk/authors/b/judith-barrow/
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Judith-Barrow/e/B0043RZJV6

The Covenant and the low heat of technology: Bookish words by Thorne Moore #MondayBlogs

Interesting post here from Thorne Moore, whose new novel, The Covenant, is coming out in August, and is set in West Wales in the late nineteenth/early twentieth century. Set a novel in that period in a city, in London or Manchester, and it wouldn’t be difficult to paint a period that everyone with any knowledge of history would recognise.

My characters would be flag-waving for the Empire and possibly their sons would be out there, carrying our trade and accompanying our adventurers around the world, whether the indigenous people wanted us or not. They might be soldiers embroiled in Afghanistan (plus ça change) or crushing rebellions in China and fighting wars in South Africa and the trenches of Europe. They could be participating in administrations that were starving millions in India, or they could be at home working in the clamour of industry, in cotton mills or ironworks, in banks and shops.

Motorised vehicles were appearing and my characters would travelling around on bicycles or in omnibuses. They would be totally at home with the railways that could carry them to every corner of the land. If they were very daring and very rich, they might even be taking to the air. They would have gas lighting in their houses or, if grand enough, might be installing electricity (although my mother, living in Cardiff in the 1920s and early 30s, still had gas lights in the living rooms and candles upstairs). Their world would have been quite recognisable to the reader, industrialised, confident, profiteering and surging forward.

But a novel set in rural West Wales is going to lack most of those markers that would help a reader place it in time. It’s an area that, until recently, has existed in an alternative time zone out of kilter with the rest of the world. It wasn’t surging anywhere. Even when I moved to the area in the early 1980s, I felt I was slipping into somewhere still marooned in the 1950s, if not earlier. Researching for my first novel, A Time For Silence, set in the 1930s and 40s, I read newspaper articles on the introduction of electricity in the 1950s – and that was just in the towns. Official reports had noted the poor housing, hygiene and malnutrition prevalent in rural Wales at the start of the twentieth century and it was still being blamed for the high level of TB in 1939. A diet of potatoes and tea was not uncommon.

In the 1980s we were told about an old lady, in living memory, who used to live a few doors away in what must have been a traditional long house, with cows occupying one half of the building. Each morning the cows would come in, through her front door and hall,  politely tilting their heads so their horns wouldn’t disturb the pictures on the walls, as they made their way into the milking parlour. 

The gentry of the area would not have been troubled by primitive housing or malnutrition and they probably had homes in London as well as their country estates. They would have been au fait with everything fashionable, modern and advanced, but ordinary people, who had never moved far beyond their own parishes, were still living in a world only a very small shuffle removed from the world of their ancestors one or two hundred years before.

West Wales was not totally isolated in world terms. Ships were sailing to America from ports like Cardigan, Newquay and Aberystwyth in the 19th century, but inland the area lagged behind. Railways had been threading through the country, expanding horizons spectacularly since 1825, but branches only extended into North Pembrokeshire towards the end of the century – to Cardigan in 1886, and Fishguard in 1906.

the Cardi Bach

Motor cars began to appear in the 1890s – the first one was driven on British roads in 1895. By 1900, when Prince Bertie acquired one, there were still only a few hundred in Britain. Very few would have made their way to West Wales, especially to isolated villages where roads were still mud tracks.

In the big world, agriculture was becoming ever more mechanised, with mowers, reapers and binders, seed drills, steam engines and, finally in the 20th century, tractors. But these were not for the small-scale farmers with a few acres.


In The Covenant, a relatively wealthy farmer acquires a tractor in the course of the Great War, but the Owens, with their 24 acres, 1 rood and 8 perches, continue to rely on sickles and scythes. Partly poverty and partly an obstinate but pious determination to labour as Adam had done.

By 1919, the wealthy farmer has the luxury of a Ford Model T, but the Owens are still using a horse and trap or taking a daring ride on the charabanc from the nearest market town.

Newspapers were in circulation and, like every other community in Britain, from the largest city to the smallest hamlet, my characters feel the impact of the Great War, the shared patriotism and the private grief. But it is their little patch of land that really matters to them, not the fate of the Empire. It’s their minister’s decision to become a missionary that really opens up their horizons and that’s a matter of the next world, not this one.

The Covenant

published by Honno Press August 20th 2020

available for pre-order now

www.thornemoore.co.uk

Chatting About How to Review (Well my Way of Reviewing!) and Celebrating 6 Years Of Rosie’s #Bookreview Team. #RBRT. #MondayBlogs #Readers

“It’s your review; to write as you want”. I carried  this advice from Rosie Amber (#RBRT) around in my head as I struggled to find a way to put into words what I thought about the first book I’d read and was about to review for her team. I’d never reviewed a book before – or anything, come to think of it

Rosie Amber’s Review Team #RBRT

As a creative writing tutor, I was used to reading essays, stories, poems – but this was different. Five tries later and I decided to break up the parts of the book into sections, as I do for my work: characters, dialogue, settings, points of view, plot etc. A moment of eureka; I didn’t need to tell the story of the book, I could say what I thought were the strong points and what didn’t work for me, because I know any review is subjective, and what I might like or not be so keen on, someone else will always have different thoughts. Writing it that way I could then recommend it to readers who like a book that had a good plot, is character led, told in a certain tense, and so on – or for readers who like particular genres.

One thing I do like with being on the #RBRT team is that if I really can’t get to grips with a book, I’m not expected to finish it; I’ll let Rosie know and that’s the end of the matter. And I don’t give below three stars; I don’t think it’s fair to any writer who has worked hard to produce a book but has probably not used either an editor or a proof-reader. It happens and I always think it’s a shame if the plot/idea is good.

“It’s your review; to write as you want”; something I would say to anyone thinking of joining #RBRT, with the one proviso (which goes unsaid but should be kept in mind) use constructive criticism and be kind. And enjoy the reading. Rosie is approached by many authors of all kinds of genres, eager for the team to review. Their books are put on a list and we can choose the ones we think we might like. I’ve had the chance to read some wonderfully written books of all genres … for free. Although I don’t always manage to review as often as I’d like for Rosie’s Book Review Team, due to other commitments,  I’ve loved being a member since I day  I joined and I’ve made some brilliant and supportive on-line friends in the team.

And Rosie is always there for advice and to steer the ship. What more can one ask?

http://amzn.to/2klIJzN

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today With Adrienne Morris #Mondayblogs

 Until the beginning of July I’ll be chatting, as I have been  over the last few months, with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

Adrienne

Hi,Adrienne, thanks for joining us here today.

Many thanks for inviting me, Judith.

Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?

My father was an Irish/German police officer who could entertain crowds for hours with his policing tales. He saw the humor, pathos and hope in every dysfunctional situation he encountered. My mother was the quiet storyteller. She told us about ourselves by retelling (as if things happened only yesterday) all the human events involving our gene pool going back centuries. My mother also loved to read to us. Pride and Prejudice was her favorite.

How long have you been writing?

My 1st grade teacher illustrated a story I wrote about a kitten who loved to take showers before taking tea. I envied writers throughout life but avoided doing it seriously until after a blood clot almost took my life.

What kind of writing do you do?

I’ve wrestled with what to call my writing. Family saga? Historical fiction? Big house story?  I’m obsessed with family dynamics, history and flawed people. Once a reader said he was uncomfortable with how often my characters made the wrong decisions. Welcome to my world!

 Peeling back the layers of my characters’ inner worlds is the most exciting part of writing. Beneath the respectable facades we all present there are mixed emotions and secrets we keep hidden. I find people almost always more lovable for their flaws. If you’re looking for perfect heroes and villains you won’t find them in my books. People are far more interesting than that.

What are some of the references you used while researching your first books?

The House on Tenafly Road 2

My first novel, The House on Tenafly Road, was inspired by a partial copy of a 19th century missionary woman’s diary. Her husband was in the US military after the Civil War presumably fighting Indians or protecting the newly freed slaves of the South. My plan was to write a short story about the woman’s misguided attempts to “civilize” the Indians, but one day while doing laundry it came to me that her husband, John Weldon, had a secret morphine addiction due to treatment given to him during the war.

This led me to the Army War College where sober and kind old gentleman soldiers served up treat after treat of army memorabilia and precious relics. If I wasn’t writing I was reading (a great many 19th century army wives’ journals and books—back then they traveled in the field with their men). I joined a Civil War re-enacting group and donned corset and hoops to get a taste of the era (playing a nurse and writer (I was jokingly asked to play a prostitute once or twice but demurred). Many researchers at small institutions lent their help for little tidbits to include in the novel which grew and grew.

While my family went to amusement parks, I scribbled away taking notes in libraries anxiously glancing at the clock and not wanting the days to end.

What do you think most characterizes your writing?

My love of humanity shines through most, but it is a gritty love. My characters go through the wringer. Each has a burden to carry and scars to prove all they’ve been through. I couldn’t have written my books before going through plenty of trials of my own. My parents instilled in me a sense of compassion but were both crazy enough to give me plenty of dysfunctional material to work with.

What did you enjoy most about writing these books?

My favorite part of writing is when the characters take over and become real. Although I know where I want them to be in the end, I’m often not sure how they’ll get there. When reading a section later I’m sometimes surprised and delighted by a witty or awful thing said by a character. It no longer feels like I wrote any of it at all.

What inspires you?

Anything 19th century inspires me. A Civil War historian gave me an old nib pen and blue/black ink with a copy of the alphabet as it was written in the 1860’s. I wrote my first two novels using that pen and ink. As soon as I picked up the pen (even if it was in the loud classroom where I worked) I was immediately brought back into my story.

I also love old houses, Aaron Copland music and walks in the woods. I’m a people watcher and love hearing (and stealing) stories from friends and family. They don’t mind.

What did you find most useful in learning to write?

My four years of Catholic school education were a huge gift. The nuns and brothers were sticklers about good grammar. They didn’t expect us to magically understand gerunds. I loved grammar.

Writing every day was and is the best teacher.

Are you a full time writer?

I’ve cut out almost every activity in my life that isn’t a necessity so I can write. I do have a family, grow a lot of our food and take care of our dairy goats so my life is very full. Visitors love coming to the peaceful farm but leave feeling exhausted for me. I sometimes think of cutting back this or that thing but I love everything. That’s a good place to be in life.

What are some day jobs you have held? Have any impacted your writing?

I worked on a number of organic farms where people elevated the organic life to almost religious status. Only certain viewpoints were acceptable if you wanted to be embraced by the other workers. This inspired my character Buck Crenshaw’s trip to a 19th century utopian society where he gets taken in by a charismatic leader who convinces him that God has special plans for him. 

As a teacher I helped my students to become more confident writers as I tried to become one myself. Their enthusiasm and courage inspired me. I also discovered the abandoned house that was the inspiration for The House on Tenafly Road across the street from the school I taught at.

 The Dew That Goes Early Away 2

How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

Now that I have a Kindle I enjoy eBooks, but I still prefer to read on paper. As a writer I LOVE eBooks! It’s so fun to be able to play with covers and make changes to your work. It’s great to have control over pricing and marketing. Indie publishing is a great way to go if you love adventure and learning new skills.

Who doesn’t dream of a big book deal? But once I realized how little control you have in conventional publishing and how few books ever make an author a lot of money I was convinced that alternative publishing was for me.

What do you think is the future of reading and writing?

Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time. Some people predict books and reading will fall away as people consume visual media, but there will always be readers. If we’re honest, a lot of people weren’t reading even before the digital revolution. There is a trend toward embracing retro things. Books may be part of that trend.

I remember getting an encouraging rejection letter once. The agent loved my book. She told me she put her heart into convincing her co-workers that it should be published but said that they could not get behind a big book that didn’t fit perfectly into a genre. They were afraid of my new author status as well.

Discoverability as an indie author is a challenge, but I was struck recently when prowling the local bookstore by how many books on the shelves probably wouldn’t be purchased or read. As writers we have to figure out how to remain sane despite not being JK Rowling.

I do this by reminding myself that I’m living the dream no matter the number of sales. I also greatly appreciate each review and each friend I make as I live the writer’s life.

What projects are you working on at present?

I’ve just finished editing the next book in The Tenafly Road Series. My cover designer and I met for a photo shoot. Our model was a little hung-over, I suspect, but it was a fun time dressing her in a ball gown I used when doing living history years ago.

Weary of Running 2

Before starting the edit on the final book in the series I’m finishing up designing my author website (my husband gave me the challenge). This has been a scary thing for me. Plugins, security, etc.  Not my strong suit but I’m really proud of the new site: adriennemorris.com.

What made you want to become a writer?

It was a calling. For all of my life it was there. I tried to escape it—such is the nature of fear of failure—but it kept coming back, this urge to write. Now I wonder what took so long!

What does your typical day look like?

Milk the goats, feed the sheep and chickens. Drive kid to school. Write. Pick the kid up from school. Milk the goats, feed the sheep and chickens. Make supper. Send kid to bed. Social media stuff or read. Bed.

This changes with the seasons. Some months are spent writing in the field as the animals graze. August is about tomatoes and cucumbers. Visitors usually swamp the farm then too so little writing gets done. Autumn is a good time for research and planting crops that come up in spring—like new books!

What is your writing style?

I’m not sure but my influences are Wallace Stegner, George Eliot and Laura Ingalls Wilder. The toughest criticism is the stuff you know is true. J  When I published my first novel I did it as a dare. When it was reviewed and picked as an Editors’ Choice book for the Historical Novel Society I was thrilled, but I still knew that there were some grammatical and typo errors (I’d paid someone to edit the book but he confessed that he got too into the story to correct much and assured me that a publisher would take care of that—he assured me I’d get an agent easily–lol).

When a review came in saying that the book was “captivating, heartbreaking and inspiring but horribly edited,” I knew I had some more work to do. I revised the manuscript and felt much better about the whole thing.

What has been the best compliment?

I love when people tell me my characters feel like family to them.

What book that you have read has most influenced your life?

When writing about flawed humanity there’s no better book to read than the Bible. I thought the book was mainly about judgement until I read it. Now I see that it is about imperfect people being used in a great redemption story. I love happy endings. My characters are reflections of different parts of myself; the good, the bad, the ugly. I love writing redemption stories. We are all so messy, but I like believing that through love we can help to redeem each other.

Links to find Adrienne:

My Series of #FamilySaga Authors. Today with Jane McCulloch #MondayBlogs

 Over the last few months and into July I’ll be chatting with authors who, like me, write Family Sagas, (#familysaga) a genre that can cover many countries, years  and cultures.I am thrilled that so many excellent writers have agreed to meet here with me. I’m sure you’ll find them as fascinating as I do. All I can say is watch this space. Your TBR list of books will be toppling over!!

jane mcculloch headshot

Welcome Jane, thank you for being here today.

 Thank you for the chance to chat here, Judith

Tell us, about your writing; does writing energise or exhaust you?                                                                                    

Both!

What are common traps for aspiring writers?  

To think it is easy!

Does a big ego help or hurt writers? 

No, but confidence helps.

Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?                         Perhaps a bit of both.

Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?                No.  Emotions and imagination are the tools you can’t do without.

Full Circle: Volume 3 (Three Lives Trilogy)

What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?        

I know several, but one writer in particular has helped me and become my mentor. (Stephen Carver)

Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?                                                         

Both – in the family saga there was a link between each of the three books.  My next book stands on its own.

If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?

Re-write and don’t be afraid of making major changes or cuts.

Triangles in Squares (Three Lives Trilogy Book 2)

What is the first book that made you cry?                                                                                  Jane Eyre – the death of Helen Burns.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I came to writing fiction very late after a career of writing and directing in the theatre – so it was difficult to change to fiction.  Once the first book was published I knew I was on the right lines.

What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?                                                             Paid advice (TLC) 

What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

When reading “The Forsyte Saga” and quickly moved into that world.

Parallel Lines: Book One of the Three Lives Trilogy

What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?  

A great deal – but I have been lucky enough to meet some fascinating people.  However –  general observation of people around you is vital to building characters.

How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have? 

At this moment, only one.

What does literary success look like to you?        

Interest and appreciation from readers.

What’s the best way to market your books?   

I wish I knew.  I’m hopeless.

What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?         

If the book has a specific background I do a great deal research.  If it from my imagination I don’t need to – except to check facts.

Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?                                                       Anything creative has a spiritual element.

What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?           I’m never quite sure I have got into the male head!

How many hours a day do you write?                                                                                           This varies – depending on how the writing is going.

How do you select the names of your  characters?                                                                  This is something I take great trouble with and enjoy.  I try and make the name fit the character.

Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?                                                 

So far I have been lucky and had mainly good reviews.  I try to be fair and if a bad review is valid I want to learn from it.

Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will   find?                        

Maybe only recognition of traits in a character that a few people will see.

What was your hardest scene to write?    

I think those that were nearest to me emotionally, i.e. someone dying in the last book of the Trilogy.

What is your favourite childhood book?                                                                                      

A little unknown book called “Groundsel and Necklaces” written and illustrated by Cicely Mary Barker.  It still moves me to tears.

What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?                                                         Making an actual start.  Once the first paragraph is written, I’m off.

Does your family support your career as a writer?  

Yes they do, in that they take an interest.

How long on average does it take you to write a  book?                                                          It really depends on the sort of book but on average about 6 months.

Jane has been quite conservative with her answers so I thought I would add  a little more about her here:

Since leaving the Central School of Speech and Drama – a long time ago – I have worked as a writer, playwright, librettist – and theatre and opera director.
After a long association with London’s famous Old Vic Theatre I formed a company of my own, The English Chamber Theatre. Dame Judi Dench is the President.
Since its formation I have written, devised and directed over thirty works – many of them biographical in content.-and because of the nature of chamber work they had small casts and I have been lucky enough to have worked with some of our greatest actors including Sir Derek Jacobi, Fenella Fielding, James Bolam, Timothy West and many others.
In 2005 I moved from theatre to opera directing and for the company Opera UK I wrote several English versions of the librettos including ‘The Merry Widow’, ‘Carmen’ and ‘La Traviata’.
I also wrote the libretto for an Easter Oratorio ‘The People’s Passion’ which was televised for BBC1 with Jessye Norman and Sir Thomas Allen heading the cast.
I wrote an original opera for children ‘Hello Mr Darwin’ and a Christmas carol, ‘This Christmastide’ which was sung first by Jessye Norman and has since become very popular both in the States and the UK.
My writing work also includes, work for the radio, television and recording studio.
Now I seem to be concentrating on novels. My first, ‘Parallel Lines’ was published in January 2015. It is the first in a family saga trilogy. The second book, ‘Triangles in Squares will be published later this year. The last in the trilogy, ‘Full Circle’ will be published in 2016.

And a teasing taster of Jane’s new book to come; publishing date to follow soon

Image may contain: 2 people, text and close-up

Find Jane here: http://amzn.to/2pLqN8O

Facebook: http://bit.ly/2pjSZOn

Twitter: http://bit.ly/2oYdopG

c392a-tenby2bheaderTenby Book Fair is approaching 24th September (this next Saturday!) and there are six events you can attend.
All three publishers will be giving talks and taking questions —

Honno, which has been publishing Welsh women, classics and contemporary, for thirty years (Happy birthday Honno!)

Firefly, founded in 2013, and already winning prizes, is the only publisher in Wales devoted to children and young adults

Cambria Publishing Co-operative provides all manner of help – editing, graphic design, printing etc – for indie authors.

There will also be talks by three authors.
Colin R Parsons writes very popular fantasy and science fiction for young people and has given many talks and presentations at schools.

Kathy Miles is a prize-winning poet who will be reading some of her work.

Matt Johnson, ex-soldier and police officer, will be talking about how he came to write his thriller, Wicked Game.

Places are limited, so if you would like to reserve a place at any of these talks, email judithbarrow77@gmail.com

Today With John Nicholl

Introducing the authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl .  I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of weeks. 

So far I’ve cross-examined interviewed Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh , Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg , Christoph Fischer: http://bit.ly/1svniAr , Sally Spedding: http://bit.ly/1VNRQci, Wendy Steele: http://bit.ly/1PMoF8i ,Kathy MIles:  http://bit.ly/1twN3Bg , Carol Lovekin:http://bit.ly/1Y2z6HT, Colin R Parsons: http://bit.ly/1tvBc5G , Lisa Shambrook: http://bit.ly/28NMI5v:  ,Alex Martin:  http://bit.ly/28VLsQG ,  Judith Arnopp:  http://bit.ly/290cJMl , Sharon Tregenza: http://bit.ly/29frGPq    Juliet Greenwood:http://bit.ly/29jylrM , Nigel Williams: http://bit.ly/29racfO ,Alys Einion:  http://bit.ly/29l5izl  and Julie McGowan: http://bit.ly/29CHNa9  And thanks to Thorne Moore for interviewing me: http://bit.ly/1VTvqGq  Over the next week or two I’ll be introducing the rest of the authors. I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance and who will be giving short talks and may be able to give advice to would-be authors: http://honno.co.uk/ , http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/   and  http://www.cambriapublishing.org.uk/ ,

There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.

Today I am so pleased to be talking with John Nicholl

john nicholls

Welcome, John, so pleased to be chatting with you here today.

 Thanks, Judith, it’s good to be here.

May I start by asking you why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? 

I guess that given my career in law enforcement and child protection, psychological thrillers chose me. I’d like to write something light, funny and life affirming, but I don’t think it’s ever going to happen.

And how long have you been writing?

I wrote a multi agency child protection guide and articles for newspapers and a national social work magazine during my career, but ‘White is the coldest colour’ was my first novel. I began writing fiction about five years ago.

What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them? 

I wrote ‘White is the coldest colour’ with the primary intention of producing an entertaining and original psychological suspense thriller. However, I also hoped it would play a small part in raising awareness of the risks posed by sexual predators. Reader feedback suggests I went some way towards achieving those ends. ‘When evil calls your name,’  the sequel, addresses domestic physical and psychological violence towards women, within the context of the story. Again, I hope it raises awareness of the problem to some extent.

white

 John hasn’t said a lot about his books so I’m adding the next few lines myself. This is the blurb on Amazon for White is the coldest colour:  “The Mailer family are oblivious to the terrible danger that enters their lives when seven-year-old Anthony is referred to the child guidance service by the family GP following the breakdown of his parents’ marriage.
Fifty-eight year old Dr David Galbraith, a sadistic predatory paedophile employed as a consultant child psychiatrist, has already murdered one child in the soundproofed cellar below the South Wales Georgian town-house he shares with his wife and two young daughters.
Anthony becomes Galbraith’s latest obsession and he will stop at nothing to make his grotesque fantasies reality.

The book includes content that some readers may find disturbing from the start. It is dedicated to survivors everywhere.”

Can you share some stories about people you met while researching this book? 

I spent twenty years as a social worker, which was all the research I needed. My books are entirely fictional, but they draw heavily on my professional experiences. I worked with some amazing people, some of whom have contributed to the characters I’ve created.

What do you think most characterises your writing?

I like to get inside the characters’s heads, and to portray their thoughts and feelings in addition to their actions.

What was the hardest part of writing this book? 

In many ways, writing ‘White is the coldest colour’ was cathartic, but it brought back some memories which were perhaps best left in the past.

Are there underrepresented groups or ideas featured if your book? 

Everyone has the right to live free of the fear of oppression and violence. I think those are the key principles underpinning my novels. Both of my first two books address important social issues, and talk about subjects many in society would prefer to ignore.

And, here again, I add the blurb on John’s second book: When Evil Calls Your Name: 

“When twenty-nine-year-old Cynthia Galbraith struggles to come to terms with her traumatic past and the realities of prison life, a prison counsellor persuades her to write a personal journal exploring the events that led to a life sentence for murder.
Although unconvinced at first, Cynthia finally decides she has all the time in the world and very little, if anything, to lose. She begins writing and holds back nothing: sharing the thoughts she hadn’t dare vocalise, the things that keep her awake at night and haunt her waking hours.”

What inspires you?

Family, spirituality, justice, beauty, travel, art, great writing, yoga and so much more.

Are you a full-time or part-time writer?  How does that affect your writing?

I’ve been unbelievably lucky, in that the success of my first novel has enabled me to write full time. Now all I have to do is to keep writing books people want to read. I suspect that’s going to prove to be a lot easier said than done.

What are some day jobs that you have held?  If any of them impacted your writing, share an example.

I tarred roads, emptied bins, and worked as a kitchen porter before moving on to police and social work. Once I qualified as a social worker, I worked for two social services departments, the child guidance service, and the NSPCC.  I’ve also lectured on child protection at several colleges and universities. I like to think my woking life has helped introduce an air of realism to my writing.

How do you feel about eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

The more reading options open to people the better. Ebooks are relatively cheap and accessible, and that has to be a good thing. The publishing world is changing fast, enabling writers to self publish, if they so wish, and to let potential readers decide if their work is worth buying. I’ve chosen to remain independent despite contact offers from three publishers, and I would encourage anyone considering writing a book to give it a go. It’s never been easier to get your writing out there in front of the public.

What do you think is the future of reading/writing?

I believe that reading will always be a major pastime, although the introduction as alternatives like audio books gives people a viable alternative.Both my books were recently produced as audio books, and I have to admit that I was both surprised and impressed by the additional dimensions the narrators brought to the text.

Find John here:

http://bit.ly/29s3BAq

http://amzn.to/29CN2qh

https://twitter.com/nicholl06

http://bit.ly/29BhTAt

Buying Links: Amazon.co.uk:

White is the coldest colour: http://amzn.to/29tXtsO

When evil calls your name: http://amzn.to/29Bfy8G

Amazon.com:

White is the coldest colour: http://amzn.to/29x73Nf

When evil calls your name: http://amzn.to/29sIcfR

 

Today With Nigel Williams

Introducing the authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl .  I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of weeks. 

So far I’ve interrogated interviewed Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore: http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh , Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg , Christoph Fischer: http://bit.ly/1svniAr , Sally Spedding: http://bit.ly/1VNRQci, Wendy Steele: http://bit.ly/1PMoF8i ,Kathy MIles:  http://bit.ly/1twN3Bg , Carol Lovekin:http://bit.ly/1Y2z6HT, Colin R Parsons: http://bit.ly/1tvBc5G and Lisa Shambrook: http://bit.ly/28NMI5v:  and Alex Martin:  http://bit.ly/28VLsQG ,  Judith Arnopp:  http://bit.ly/290cJMl , Sharon Tregenza: http://bit.ly/29frGPq   and Juliet Greenwood: http://bit.ly/29jylrM And thanks to Thorne Moore for interviewing me: http://bit.ly/1VTvqGq  Over the next week or two I’ll be introducing the rest of the authors. I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance and who will be giving short talks and may be able to give advice to would-be authors: http://honno.co.uk/ , http://www.fireflypress.co.uk/   and  http://www.cambriapublishing.org.uk/ ,

There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.

Today I’m talking to Nigel Williams; an interesting and generous chap as you will see.

nigel

Welcome to our author interviews, Nigel. It’s great to see you here… finally!

 It’s good to be here… finally. (He’s grinning!!)

So… my favourite question, what were you like at school?

I loved school, for the most part. I looked forward to the summer and the athletics season. I was a keen long jump and high jump competitor and made up the numbers in the 4×100 relay for the school. Academically, I was lazy. I did what had to be done to scrape through but never really applied myself. I realised, even back then in the 70’s, that school measured and valued only a very limited range of skills.

Were you good at English?

I managed to pass my O’level in English but certainly didn’t shine. That was because I sat next to Ed Thomas (author, poet and producer of television programmes such as Hinterland). Ed played wing for the school rugby team and was a good player, fast and elusive. I played inside him at centre. In the same team were Steve Alexander (drummer for Brother Beyond and session musician for Jeff beck and Duran Duran) and there was also Wyndham Price – another writer and director and producer with Spinning Head films in Cardiff.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I would love to write to pay my bills and retire from teaching. I’ve had two big careers and have worked for over thirty years. I’d like to retire somewhere nice and warm, with a sea view and write full-time.

Which writers inspire you?

I’ve never really been interested in literary novelists. I suppose my ‘action’ background as a police firearms officer has coloured my taste.

So, what have you written?

My first novel – EDEN RELICS, was the result of a mid-life crisis. I was rapidly approaching fifty and writing a novel was at the top of my bucket list. I had always written throughout my life but never finished anything. I was determined to complete this action-adventure book before my fiftieth birthday. I did get 100,000 words written within that deadline but it took several more months to re-write and edit.

Set in the Swansea Valley, EDEN RELICS featured a retired police officer drawn into the search for ancient relics discovered a century earlier by the opera diva Adelina Patti. I managed to sell over 3,500 downloads and paperback copies of that book in the first month or so and even had interest from a major publisher. Nothing came of that interest but it was flattering.

My father-in-law passed away from Mesothelioma (asbestos lung cancer) and I decided to donate all the subsequent royalties for the book to this charity.

Next up came WELSH GOLD. This started off as a screenplay entitled “GILT.” I had written it entirely just prior to the mine disaster in the Gleision Colliery in the Swansea Valley in 2011. Spookily, it was set in the same mine system and also featured a similar disaster that left the owner bankrupt and without a family home. The protagonist ends up moving to a dilapidated cottage in Dolaucothi and discovers the house sits above an ancient Roman gold mine. Torn between his promise to his wife that he’ll never return underground and the temptation of the gold, Gwyn becomes involved in events that threaten the safety of the whole family.

The screenplay is currently with a production company but whether it will ever see the small screen is another matter. Royalties from this book are donated to the British Heart Foundation.  

FAKE BAKED was my first attempt at writing a crime comedy about a small-time Cardiff con man dreaming of pulling the ultimate scam. The story was based on the cons of a real hustler called Victor Lustig. Lustig sold the Eifel Tower to Parisian scrap dealers, not once but twice. He somehow managed to convince them the tower was due for demolition at the turn of the last century and got away with it. My protagonist uses the same con by trying to sell the old Severn Bridge.

I was drawn back to the crime genre through Facebook. A former colleague – Alan Lloyd MBE -contacted me and said he was writing his ‘disguised’ memoirs of his time in the South Wales Police. I offered to provide advice and guidance but before Alan could complete the book he died suddenly. With permission of his family, I completed the book and NO STEP BACK was published last Christmas. This book triggered events that became frantic over the next few months.

I wanted Alan’s main character to continue his adventures in the police service of the nineteen sixties and took an unresolved plot point from NO STEP BACK and wrote A HARD PLACE. This led on to A COLD PLACE and was to be followed by A DEAD PLACE but that was put on the back burner due to a new series of books I became involved with.

Another former colleague – Arthur Cole (a former detective sergeant) also contacted me through Facebook and asked if I could collaborate on a story he had in mind about police corruption. He wanted to write one book and donate the royalties to Marie Curie. I agreed and UNETHICAL CONDUCT was published in January this year.

 

Although it was only a novella, the story line had a main character that simply didn’t want it to end there, and so EDGE OF INTEGRITY quickly followed.

We were able to keep some common threads running through the books and DEATH AND DEPRAVITY allowed us to tie up a few of the loose threads from the earlier books. ANGEL of DEATH came next in the series and NEST OF VIPERS will be due out in the next month or so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All royalties for these books will be donated to Marie Curie Cancer Trust.

How much research do you do?

I spend a lot of time on research, though much of it never makes the finished page. Research is essential for any novel and forms a crucial link between the author and the characters living within the story.

Do you write every day, 5 days a week or as and when?

I write every day, at some point. I write quickly and can complete 10,000 ‘rough’ words a day with ease. My collaborator on the Terry McGuire stories, Arthur Cole, can do the same. It provides us with a huge amount of material in a short time for editing.

Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer just see where an idea takes you?

I always have a rough idea but only really plan things after the first draft is written. I like to get the body of the book down and then add or subtract chapters as necessary. It’s probably not the best way to write efficiently but it seems to work okay for me.

Do you ever get writer’s Block?

I don’t tend to get writer’s block because I always have someone I can bounce ideas off. That’s the great benefit of collaboration.

Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?

Let someone read your words. Even if they aren’t interested in your story they will be able to pick out things that work or don’t work. Rectifying these problems keeps you writing and will open the door to new directions.

What are your thoughts on writing a book series.

I never thought I’d get involved in writing a series but I’ve found the experience enlightening. It’s great to let a character develop far beyond the initial pages of the first book, to deal with new issues and to discover how he or she will handle them.

Do you read much and if so who are your favourite authors.

I love to read the action and adventure books, books that keep me turning the page. A little horror now and again is okay too. The first book I ever read was THE TIME MACHINE by HG Wells. I love the way Bernard Cornwell uses incredible research to weave fiction within historical events.

Tell us about the cover/s and how it/they came about.

As an art teacher, I can create the covers myself but through a stroke of great good fortune, Arthur Cole’s daughter, Karen, is a graphic designer and produced the covers for the Terry McGuire series. A professional touch is invaluable. Makes a big difference to the finished product.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

I only ever submitted one book to a traditional publisher and that was EDEN RELICS. It did get some really good feedback from one of the big houses (Harper Collins) and I was offered the chance to try again with them. To be honest, I really can’t be bothered. The idea of sitting down and condensing a novel into a one-page synopsis fills me with dread. I have never wanted to be taken that seriously. I just love to tell the odd tale. If people enjoy them then that’s all that really matters.

What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

Some negative reviews are invaluable, they keep you striving to improve, but it’s true that one or two people out there are perhaps over zealous with their criticism. As a teacher I’m always aware of the need to provide positive criticism, to highlight issues that need improving but to do it with care. We’re all different and the odd troll will delight in destroying those with delicate natures. Ignore them. Take the good with the bad, learn from it and move on. Not everyone will love your story.

What’s your views on social media for marketing?

Facebook and Twitter etc are great for letting friends and family know about your next release but it’ll never compete with the financial power of traditional publishing. I’m disheartened by the growing trend of ‘self-help experts’ that offer marketing and advice for authors at a price. Many are exploiting new writers and some have little or no experience to justify their self-proclaimed expertise. Be careful with these. You could end up losing a lot of money.

Thanks for the great chat, Nigel. I ‘m sure we all wish you luck with the sales of your books to raise money for these brilliant charities. So, tell us, how can readers discover more about you and you work?

It was good to be here… finally (he’s still smiling, folks!) And here are all the links to find Nigel and his books.

Website: http://www.nigel-williams.biz

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/nigel.williams.14661

Twitter: http://bit.ly/29oF1oQ

Lnkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nigel-williams-baa10b59?trk=nav_responsive_tab_profile_pic

Book Links: (* American, UK, etc.)

I’ve just included a few of the books – the first in the series etc to keep it a little shorter. (Sure we’ll find the rest!)

EDEN RELICS

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Relics-Woods-action-adventure-novel-ebook/dp/B008NWT6L6

http://www.amazon.com/Eden-Relics-N-Williams/dp/1291867384

http://forums.onlinebookclub.org/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=11614

WELSH GOLD

https://www.amazon.co.uk/WELSH-GOLD-Royalties-British-Foundation-ebook/dp/B00B1UOCGG/

FAKE BAKED

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fake-Baked-You-cant-innocent-ebook/dp/B00CB1OOPI

UNETHICAL CONDUCT

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01B6KXV0I

http://www.amazon.com/Unethical-Conduct-Arthur-Cole/dp/1523724129

NO STEP BACK

https://www.amazon.co.uk/No-Step-Back-Policemans-Different-ebook/dp/B018XOXZ7E

A HARD PLACE

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Hard-Place-Book-Frank-Thrillers-ebook/dp/B019IRFF2I

 

 

Today With Graham Watkins

Introducing the authors who will be at the Tenby Book Fair, http://bit.ly/27XORTh, the first event of the Tenby Arts Festival http://bit.ly/24eOVtl .  I’m looking forward to having many more such chats over the next couple of months. 

So far I’ve interrogated interviewed Rebecca Bryn: http://bit.ly/1XYWbtF, Thorne Moore:  http://bit.ly/1P6zDQh , Matt Johnson: http://bit.ly/1RUqJFg , Christoph Fischer: http://bit.ly/1svniAr  and Sally Spedding: http://bit.ly/1VNRQci. and Wendy Steele:  http://bit.ly/1PMoF8i   And thanks to Thorne Moore for interviewing me today: http://bit.ly/1VTvqGq  Over the next few weeks I’ll be introducing the rest of the authors and I’ll also be showcasing the publishers who will be in attendance. There may also be a short chat with John and Fiona of http://showboat.tv/ who, as usual, will be filming the event.

Today I’m with Graham Watkins, a delightful chap to talk to. I had to chuckle at his answer to “What one thing did you wish you’d known before you started writing?” Look out for it!

Graham Watkins's profile photo

How and when did you first become published?

My first book was a business help book called ‘Exit Strategy’ based on my experiences of selling a family business to a PLC.

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I still get letters and emails from business owners saying how useful they found it. 

Did you have any surprises or hiccups along the way during the  book writing and/or publishing process?

My mistake and a very good lesson for me was to deal with the wrong publisher, one who made no effort to promote my book. Although, since then, I have published another six books through traditional publishers I now prefer to go the indie route and publish my own work. Unless it’s a blockbuster, the returns for the author are better as an indie and I keep control of my work.

What was the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part of writing for me is returning to a manuscript to edit and refine it into a more polished product. I know it’s a mistake but I always want to rush to the finish line and see the book in print. They say, ‘Never go into business with an inventor because an inventor will never admit his device is ready to show the world.’ I’m the opposite. I like the inventing bit, that is to say creating the story, but after that I lose interest.

What one thing did you wish you’d known before you started writing?

That’s an easy question to answer. How to write properly. I didn’t. My grammar and spelling were awful. Not only that but my style was stilted and to make matter worse I was conceited enough to think I was good. I wasn’t and it’s been a long road to improve. Truth is. . . I’m still learning and have a considerable way to go. The lesson, I suppose, is that it doesn’t matter as long as you are willing to learn as you go and stick at it.

Do you outline and plan your stories before you write them or did these stories develop on their own.

Yes I do. In fact, in my view it’s essential. Take for example my historical novel ‘The Iron Masters.’

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Set over a turbulent fifty year period during the Napoleonic Wars, the plot has to be historically correct. You can’t do that in your head. I started with a two page synopsis followed by main character profiles. From there I fleshed out the story using an excel spreadsheet split into yearly columns. Beneath each year I added the characters ages to keep track of how old they were and below the ages each column detailed key points in the story together with the dates of real events together with links to external resources. It was a reference work that grew like Topsy as the story was written and I could not have kept control or remembered where I was without it.

What’s your favourite book? Why?

There are two that stand out. by one of my favourite, David Howard. His treatment of the battles of Trafalgar and Waterloo are superb. Having said that, my tastes are eclectic. I belong to a book club that meets once a month and find myself introduced to a wide range of authors. I am continuously surprised and entertained by unexpected gems.

What’s your favourite book you’ve written? Why?

I suppose my favourite is ‘A White Man’s War’ because of the story; the plight of the native Africans during the siege of Mafeking.

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The idea came to me during a tour of Boer and Zulu War battlefields. My muse for the plot was a picture of a terrified black youth, stood in front of white army officers who had just sentenced him to death for stealing a goat. Hardly surprising when his family was starving to death because of the seige. At the same time the boy scouts movement was being invented. The hero, for the British of course, was Colonel Baden-Powell, commanding officer of Mafeking but my novel is written from the African perspective. It isn’t always nice but I’m rather proud of it.

What are you working on now?

I’m currently writing ‘The Sicilian Defence’. It’s a story of two centuries. Part in the 19th Century during which a Sicilian noble family loses and regains its fortune through deceit and murder and the second part in the present day when an American heiress marries into the same family unaware she is in mortal danger. The idea came to me during a holiday to Sicily when we visited a royal palazzo in Palermo.

One Final question. Do you have any advice for other writers?

Write about what you enjoy would be my personal advice to any aspiring writer. If you do, writing is never a chore.

Links to find Graham:

https://www.facebook.com/graham.watkins.311?ref=br_rs

https://twitter.com/GrahamWriter

Buying Links:

The Iron Masters; Amazon.co.uk: http://getbook.at/iron_masters

A White Man’s WarAmazon.co.uk: http://viewbook.at/AWMW

Exit Strategy: Amazon.co.uk: http://viewbook.at/ExitStrategy