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Guest post: Tears, the best editor by Brian Staveley

20 Apr

I’m delighted to welcome Brian Staveley to One More Page today to celebrate the release of his new fantasy novel, Skullsworn; a standalone novel, set in the world of Staveley’s critically acclaimed Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne trilogy.

Brian  has taught literature, philosophy, history, and religion before writing epic fantasy. He lives on a steep dirt road in the mountains of southern Vermont, where he divides his time between fathering, writing, husbanding, splitting wood, skiing, and adventuring, not necessarily in that order. Welcome Brian!

Staveley 3_4I try, as a general rule, not to catalogue those aspects of my personality that embarrass me, but if I were to attempt such a catalogue, one item that would definitely make the list is this: I’m a movie crier.

Fine, you say. Everyone cries during movies. Obviously, I haven’t made clear the extent of the issue. I’m not talking about movies like Million Dollar Baby or Saving Private Ryan (though I cry during those, too). I will cry during X-Men. I will cry during a trailer for X-Men. If a television commercial is sufficiently moving—like something for life insurance or Subaru—I might cry during that, too.

Now, fortunately, we’re not talking about gasping, bawling, unable-to-breathe sobbing. Most people don’t even know I’m crying because I can be quite sneaky about it. I get a little choked up. There might be a silent tear or two. In a darkened movie theater it almost always goes unnoticed, though one needs to be discreet at Super Bowl parties.

Interestingly, the crying doesn’t always correspond to the sad moments. In fact, the crying often corresponds to the goosebumps I get during training montages, or when some character does something cool, egged on by an excellent sound track. Think: Han Solo’s surprise return at the end of A New Hope. This, for me, is an even more effective tear-jerker than the sad moments, like when Wicket the ewok is burned alive on a pyre. Wait, what? That didn’t happen? Well, good. I like Wicket.

Anyway, as it turns out, this crying tendency of mine has actually come to serve a vital role in my writing life. I cry when reading just as much as I do when watching movies. The book doesn’t necessarily have to be good, but it needs to create a certain mood. When I started writing fantasy, I spent a fair amount of time analyzing my own reactions to books. Whenever I put a book down for the night, I’d take a few minutes and try to understand why I chose to stop reading at that point, rather than earlier or later. When I decided to forge on into another chapter, I’d ask myself what, specifically, was making me want to keep reading. And when a book made me tear up, I’d dig into that, too. I wanted to understand the technical skull coverunderpinnings to my emotional reactions.

My own books don’t make me cry—I’m too close to them, too mired in all the various drafts and unexplored possibilities. There are, however, two possibilities when I reread a scene that I’ve written: either I feel not all that much, or I feel a cold skin-prickle that I recognize as the precursor to what, if I were reading someone else’s book, might end up as tears. When I’m editing, I know the scenes that should elicit the skin-prickle. If they fail to do that, I rewrite them from the ground up. It’s not that I expect my readers to share all of my emotional reactions. Nor do I think every scene needs to be a tear-jerker. And yet it’s useful, in a job that can get so intellectual, to have a visceral barometer of a scene’s success, even if it’s just a personal one. And if I can get someone else to sob all over the book during their lunch hour, so much the better. I won’t need to feel quite so strange about my own silent weeping.

Skullsworn is published by Tor UK in hardback, ebook and audio formats on 20 April.

Find out more about Brian and his writing at: http://brianstaveley.com/index/

You can follow Brian on Twitter @Brian Staveley.

Stop by again later today for a chance to win a copy of Skullsworn.

Serial spotlight: The Reading Group April by Della Parker

11 Apr

reading aprilMeet the Reading Group: five women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading. No topic is off-limits: books, family, love and loss . . . and don’t forget the glass of red!

Serena, the ambitious young Headmistress of Poppins Private School, has just begun reading Jane Eyre alongside her friends in the Reading Group. She would never admit it out loud, but she’s half hoping that reality might once again echo fiction. Will she perhaps meet her own Mr Rochester?

That doesn’t stop her from being slightly alarmed when her secretary arranges an appointment with one Mr Winchester, the handsome father of a troubled pupil in the midst of a messy divorce. But when the line between work and pleasure begins to blur, and troubles in her own family come to a head, Serena is left wondering if being a romantic heroine is all it’s cracked up to be…

I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the reading group series (you can read my thoughts on the earlier episodes here) and I’ve been looking forward to Serena’s turn in the spotlight. This is a lovely series for a quick read and the focus on classic novels that the group is reading each month, is a fab premise for the stories.

Each month the reading group choose a classic book for their meeting and the book that the group is reading for April installment is Jane Eyre. I was intrigued to find out how Della would bring the themes and characters of Jane Eyre into a modern day story but I must say she’s done it with flair and the April episode of The Reading Group is my new favourite of the set.

Serena is a school headmistress and has plunged herself into her career as a result of the sad loss of her husband Nick at a very young age. In this episode we finally get to delve into Serena’s character and her background more with the detail of her life at school, her relationships with her family and her past with Nick coming through strongly. Serena is one of my favourite reading group characters and the events of this story only made me like her even more.

As Serena meets Mr Winchester – who might just be her very own Mr Rochester – the scene is set for a gripping storyline as she becomes involved in his family’s troubles. As if this wasn’t drama enough, there’s an excellent sub plot involving Serena’s niece that had me hooked too.

The ladies of the reading group have by now established a close relationship and I loved how they rallied round to support Serena in this April story. For followers of the series, you’ll be pleased to know that there are brief (and exciting) updates on some of the other ladies in the group and the promise of much more to come in the next installment: The Reading Group – Summer Holiday which is thankfully out at the end of the month!

If you haven’t tried this series yet, don’t be afraid to jump in here as each story does stand alone very well. You might also like to note that there’s a free taster, The Reading Group December available to download too!

5/5

The Reading Group -April is out now in ebook formats from Quercus.

I’d like to thank the publisher for providing a review copy of this book.

 

Guest post: Historic houses and the inspiration for Evie’s Ghost by Helen Peters

6 Apr

I’m very excited to welcome Helen Peters to One More Page today to talk about her love of historic houses and how it inspired her beautiful new children’s novel, Evie’s Ghost. Helen grew up on an old-fashioned farm in Sussex, surrounded by family, animals and mud. She spent most of her childhood reading stories and putting on plays in a tumbledown shed that she and her friends turned into a theatre. After university, she became an English and Drama teacher. Helen lives with her husband and children in London, and she can hardly believe that she now gets to call herself a writer. Welcome Helen!

helen petersI have always loved visiting historic houses and imagining myself back to the days when they were properly lived in. And I’ve always envied the present-day staff who get to live in staff apartments in these beautiful places. The idea for Evie’s Ghost came to me when I visited Osterley Park, an incredibly grand eighteenth century palace now owned by the National Trust. I was fascinated to discover that the family who built it had only one child, a daughter, who had eloped, aged seventeen, with a man her parents considered unsuitable. I imagined a twenty-first century girl coming to live in this house because her mother had taken a job there. What if this girl somehow travelled back in time to meet the girl who lived there two hundred years earlier, and became caught up in her elopement plans?

I set the early drafts of Evie’s Ghost at Osterley Park, but Osterley Park is a sparkling, gilded, light-filled Georgian mansion, and I realised that I wanted the house in my book to have an older, ghostlier feel. So I based my fictional Charlbury House on another National Trust property: Chastleton, in Oxfordshire, an extraordinary house that has barely changed in four hundred years. I stayed with my family in the holiday apartment at this spooky Jacobean mansion one misty October half term, when the gardens, with their thick holly hedges and misshapen yew topiary, seemed particularly mysterious and ghost-laden.

Evie finds herself working as a housemaid at Charlbury, and visiting the servants’ quarters of historic houses helped me to imagine the lives of servants in the days before running water and central heating. Petworth and Uppark in Sussex have really well preserved servants’ quarters, with evocative artefacts and archive material that give the visitor a glimpse of servants’ working conditions and duties.

I find handwriting from the past particularly powerful, being so personal and specific. At my very favourite National Trust house, Ightham Mote in Kent, scratched into the glass of an upstairs window are the words, ‘Ann East, April 24 1791’. I’ve visited the house several times, and always wondered who Ann East was and why she scratched her name into that window. And then I read about Hellens Manor, an ancient house in Herefordshire, which has a particularly haunting message scratched into a bedroom windowpane. The message reads: ‘It is a part of virtue to abstain from what we love if it should prove our bane.’ The story goes that a young woman called Hetty Walwyn, who grew up at Hellens Manor in the seventeenth century, eloped with a stable boy. When she was widowed a few years later and returned to Hellens Manor, her family, furious at the disgrace she had brought upon them, imprisoned her for the rest of her life in the room where she scratched this message into the window glass with her diamond ring. According to legend, her ghost still haunts the chamber.

When I read this tragic tale, all the elements of my story finally came together. On her first night in her godmother’s house, Evie finds a message scratched into the glass of her bedroom window. It reads, ‘Sophia Fane, imprisoned here, 27th April 1814’. Evie’s discovery of this message is the beginning of her journey into the past and the story of the girl who scratched those words on her window two hundred years earlier.

Thank you Helen – I love visiting historic houses too – such fab inspiration!

Evie’s Ghost is released today (6th April) by Nosy Crow.

Find out more about Helen and her books at: http://nosycrow.com/contributors/helen-peters/

Repro_Evie'sGhost_cvr.inddEvie couldn’t be angrier with her mother. She’s only gone and got married again and has flown off on honeymoon, sending Evie to stay with a godmother she’s never even met in an old, creaky house in the middle of nowhere. It is all monumentally unfair.

But on the first night, Evie sees a strange, ghostly figure at the window. Spooked, she flees from the room, feeling oddly disembodied as she does so.

Out in the corridor, it’s 1814 and Evie finds herself dressed as a housemaid. She’s certain she’s gone back in time for a reason. A terrible injustice needs to be fixed. But there’s a housekeeper barking orders, a bad-tempered master to avoid, and the chamber pots won’t empty themselves. It’s going to take all Evie’s cunning to fix things in the past so that nothing will break apart in the future…

Guest post: Ten reasons why I love my choir by Annie Lyons

4 Apr

Please welcome Annie Lyons to One More Page today on the latest stop of her blog tour for The Choir on Hope Street. Annie worked as a book seller and in publishing  before taking the jump to author. Her debut, Not Quite Perfect, went on to become a number one bestseller. Her second book The Secrets Between Sisters was nominated in the best eBook category at the 2014 Festival of Romance and Life or Something Like It was a top ten bestseller.

Annie enjoys channeling her inner Adele as part of her own beloved community choir and joins me today to tell us why she loves her choir so much. Welcome Annie!

annie lyonsNearly two years ago my sister-in-law came to me with a proposal, which she said would be ‘fun’. Alarm bells began to ring at this point. During our child-free years our definitions of ‘fun’ led to some pretty evil hangovers and one particularly lengthy wait in A&E.

Still, we are older and wiser now or maybe just perpetually tired, so these days the proposals tend to be a bit more low-key.

‘My friend’s starting a community choir. She’s lovely. It will be fun. Do you fancy it?’

And actually I realised that I did. I’m not sure if it’s my age or possibly the age of my children, but I was suddenly aware that I no longer had any hobbies aside from ‘reading whilst my eyes slowly close at bedtime’ and ‘going to the cinema to see films provided they are rated 12A or below’.

I had officially become middle-aged and boring. It was time to get a hobby and have another go at this thing called fun.

So off to choir I went. From the first second I stepped into the room and we belted out ‘California Dreamin’’ I have loved it.

Here are the reasons why.

1. Singing is good for you

Due a combination of a wonky spine, two children and writing, I have a bad back but I never notice it while I’m singing. After a session of belting out everything from Stevie Wonder to Snow Patrol, my back often feels less tense too. It might be the posture, the breathing or my pretty awesome moves but there’s something about it that is positively healing.

2. Life has a soundtrack

In the film of my life, I make an entrance every morning to ‘Feeling Good’ by Nina Simone. Sadly, a combination of factors including my inability to make coherent conversation before the first coffee of the day and the withering response I would receive from my children, makes this impractical. However, I always have a song buzzing in my head. Sometimes it’s an ear-worm, often it’s something fantastic. Being part of a choir means I can now belt these out in the car, shower and supermarket with the legitimate excuse that I’m rehearsing. It’s brilliant.

3. You are never alone in a choir

I can carry a tune and I learn a harmony but I am not a soloist. Despite my best efforts in front of the mirror giving a heartfelt rendition of choir logo‘Someone Like You’, I am not Adele. I’m not even Adele’s backing singer but I would give it a go if the call came. I can sing fine on my own but I sing better with my choir buddies. There’s something about catching someone’s eye mid-song and sharing a smile because you’ve got this. You are nailing ‘Uptown Girl’. Billy Joel would be proud.

4. You are learning new stuff and it’s challenging

In week three we started to learn ‘Africa’ by Toto. If you don’t know this song, add it to your playlist immediately. There’s a reason why NME ranked it 32 on a list of 50 ‘most explosive choruses’ – it’s choral catnip. It also has a three-part harmony (four if you’re ambitious). I was in group three. We ran through each part and then tried them all together. It didn’t go well for me. I kept getting distracted by the tune, groups one and two and Jeff Porcaro’s impeccable drumming. It was frustrating and difficult.  Our MD directed us to an enthusiastic and charming Italian musician’s You Tube channel. He had helpfully recorded each harmony part. I pored over this video and decided that I loved this man. I made my husband (a talented musician himself) practice with me. I played it over and over in the car. And then it went in. Just like that. Like all those lyrics to 80s pop songs that are actually turning out to be quite handy now, the ‘Africa’ chorus harmony, part 3 is indelibly printed on my brain. And it feels good (cue Nina Simone moment).

5. Performing in public is a blast

When I was a kid, I used to get nervous to the point of nausea about doing anything in public. Now, I get excited. Again, it wouldn’t be great for anyone if it was me singing on my own but in the spirit of ‘we’re all in this together’, it’s pure fun. Even when it goes wrong. And of course, when it goes right and people clap (an unexpected and welcome pleasure) or indeed cheer, it’s nothing short of intoxicating.

6. We get to do some amazing stuff

tate modernLast year, we took part in an event to mark the opening of the new Tate Modern building in London. Our choir formed part of a 500-voice London community choir performing a specially composed piece called ‘The Bridge’ by installation artist Peter Liversidge. We rehearsed and performed in the Tate’s awe-inspiring turbine hall with the brilliant conductor, Esmeralda Conde-Ruiz. The piece was weird, wonderful and completely original. It felt incredible to be part of this and even my nine-year-old son (habitually underwhelmed by anything that isn’t linked to football or wrestling) declared it to be, ‘really cool, Mum.’ And it was.

7. There’s always cake

As everyone knows (ask Gareth Malone if you don’t believe me), the secret to a really good choir is excellent cake. We have a brilliant resident baker called Lucy (you can check out her rather super cake, book and film blog here – https://keeps-me-busy.com/ ). If Lucy ever left the choir, I think we would be in trouble. It’s simply not possible to channel your inner Dolly or indeed Kenny during ‘Islands in the Stream’ unless you have either eaten or are about to eat cake. The raspberry and Prosecco cupcakes were a particular high-point.

8. Every community needs a choir

Yes, we kick up our heels at the Tate Modern and of course, when Kirstie Allsop invited us to her Handmade Fair, we said ‘will there be cake?’ and then agreed when we found out there would. But actually, our wonderful MD, Kari set up the choir for our local community. So we sing in our pub, at fundraising events, local fairs and basically anywhere we can if we’re asked. And when something awful happens as it did last year when a local boy and his aunt were killed when a car came off the road during a police pursuit, we come together to try to offer support by singing to raise money for the people who need it. It won’t take away the sadness but music has a way of offering comfort when you need it most.

9. Every choir needs a brilliant Musical Director

Our MD, Kari is a passionate, enthusiastic fizzing ball of energy. She inspires, cheers and boots us up the backside when we’re off key. She’s a great dancer and does her best to stop the mum-dancing and get us grooving. She teaches us new stuff, she encourages others to lead songs and she challenges us. Most of all, she makes it fun.

10. Choir people are good people

I have met some lovely people since joining the choir. We sing, we chat, we sing some more, we eat cake, chat some more, possibly have another slice of cake and do a bit more singing. It’s the perfect evening really. Add in the occasional Prosecco-fuelled gig and I’m a happy camper. I have found my people and singing with them is the best.

Thank you Annie – you’ve made me wish I could sing! Your choir sounds wonderful!

lcohs-final-coverThe Choir on Hope Street is released in paperback and ebook formats on 6th April from HarperCollins.

The best things in life happen when you least expect them.
Nat’s husband has just said the six words no one wants to hear I don’t love you any more’.Caroline’s estranged mother has to move into her house turning her perfectly ordered world upside down.Living on the same street these two women couldn’t be more different. Until the beloved local community centre is threatened with closure. And when the only way to save it is to form a community choir none of the Hope Street residents, least of all Nat and Caroline, expect the resultsThis spring, hope is coming!

Guest post: My out-of-the-box son, Giliam Johan by Elsa Winckler

30 Mar

Today I’m very excited to be the first host of Elsa Winckler’s blog tour for her new novel, The Whisperer. Elsa has been reading love stories for as long as she can remember and when she ‘met’ the classic authors like Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, Henry James and The Brontë sisters during her Honours studies, she was hooked for life.

Elsa married her college boyfriend and soul mate and after forty-one years, three interesting and wonderful children and three beautiful grandchildren, he still makes her weak in the knees. They are fortunate to live in the picturesque little seaside village of Betty’s Bay, South Africa, with the ocean a block away and a beautiful mountain right behind them. The Whisperer is Elsa’s debut novel for HarperImpulse – welcome Elsa!

11050805_958380304240339_6859404579255618787_o (1)I have dedicated this story to our second son, Giliam Johan. He was the one who taught me to think outside the box.

Our oldest son was a text book baby. At the time I had a baby book I consulted whenever I had a problem with him and whatever advice I got, worked. So I thought, hey, I can do this again, let’s have another baby. So two years later, Johan arrived. And nothing in any of the many, many baby books that I read, helped. What worked for number one, simply didn’t work for him.

Johan was a curious, busy, creative little boy. In grade one he was chosen to play Spick, a naughty kid who lives on the moon. And when he walked on to that primary school stage, something magical happened. That was what he was suppose to do for the rest of his life, I knew.

As a teenager, he caused me many a sleepless night. And that curiosity I mentioned? Well, he was curious about just about everything. He challenged our ideas of how things were supposed to be and we had many, many stand-up fights.

He has a heart for the marginalized, for anyone who differs from the rest. He doesn’t see colour, size or position, he treats everyone the same. We finally came to accept he does things differently, because in Thoreau’s words, he hears a different drummer. And it took me a long while ‘to let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away.’

And when I finally stopped trying to get him to fit into a box, I was able to learn from him. And one of the things knowing him taught me was that we cannot explain everything, some things just are. And talking about doing things differently, at the moment he teaches English in China. I would have liked for him to be closer, to get that big role he dreamt about when he was little, but he’s doing his own thing in his own way. Outside the box.

Not everyone will believe in Cilla’s intuition, in her ability to communicate with animals. Cameron struggled with it but when he opened himself up, when he finally listened to his instinct, he was able to let go of his fears.

So I hope you can let go of your ideas of how things are supposed to work, and enjoy Cilla and Camerons’ story!

The Whisperer is out now in ebook formats from HarperImpulse

Winckler_Whisperer_EbookLoving him could destroy her…
High school teacher Cilla Stevens has always been different, especially in how she connects with animals. When she calms a stray dog during an incident at school, she’s asked to help a nearby farm with a difficult horse.Cameron Rahl has had a very different relationship with animals since his mother died in a horse riding accident. But now he’s inherited his family’s farm, he’s determined to never let anyone affect him that way again.Until he meets Cilla. He tries to stay away from the gorgeous horse whisperer with the potential to tame him, but something keeps pulling him close. And as much as Cilla tells herself she can keep it casual, she knows they’re too connected to be ‘just a fling.’Will Cilla’s heart win out? Or will it take history repeating itself for Cameron to realise just how much he needs her?

Find out more about Elsa and her writing at: http://elsawinckler.com/

Guest post: The Best Things I Discovered About Sardinia by Rosanna Ley

10 Mar

I’m delighted to be taking part in the blog tour for Rosanna Ley’s new novel, The Little Theatre By The Sea, today. Rosanna is the bestselling author of novels including Return to Mandalay and The Villa and Last Dance in Havana. I love Rosanna’s books and the wonderful places she takes me to in them. In this new release, we visit Sardinia and Rosanna joins me today to talk about her favourite things about Sardinia. Welcome Rosanna!

rosanna leyThe Best Things I Discovered about Sardinia

  • Top of the list has got to be the stunning beaches. Some of them are ‘secret’ beaches as in little rocky coves which can be pretty isolated or maybe only accessible by sea. The clarity of the water here is second to none. My favourite beach – destined to be secret no longer – was at Cala Domestica on the West coast accessed by driving through the mountains past now-deserted mining villages. Take a turning down to the sea, park on the grass, cross a boardwalk, pick your way along a rocky trail a bit like a goat track and go through a tunnelled archway – to discover a keyhole cove invisible from both land and sea. It’s amazing…
  • Myrtle. Yes – I’m talking about the plant. In Sardinia, myrtle is part of the ‘maquis’ which cloaks the hills and valleys along with juniper and tamarisk. It has deep green leaves and fragrant white flowers and is sacred to Venus, goddess of love and so tends to make an appearance at Sardinian weddings. (Ideal for a writer of romantic fiction). Even more vital, it is used to make a delicious Sardinian liqueur known as mirto. (You can spot myrtle on the cover of Little Theatre by the Sea).
  • Delicious Food. I love Italian food but Sardinia goes one step further – and it’s in the right direction. Some of my favourites were:  burrida (a spicy fish soup), spaghetti con bottarga (with mullet roe) and malloreddus (a gnocchi style pasta cooked with saffron in tomato sauce). I also loved fregola – an unusual pasta similar to cous-cous, often served with clams. And as for the lobster… Take me back there – now!
  • Bosa. I’ve chosen Bosa as my favourite town in Sardinia because it’s historic and pretty and because I used it as the main inspiration for my fictional town of Deriu. The things I loved most about Bosa were the mediaeval cobbled streets, the gorgeous pastel-painted houses and the colourful markets. But there was so much more – the Castello dei Malaspino, the river Temo, the marina, the restaurants… Bosa was founded by the Phoenicians and its artisan traditions of gold-filigree jewellery and lace-making live on.
  • The frescoes. Italian frescoes are often still so vibrant that it’s hard to believe how old they really are. My favourites were in the fourteenth century Nostra Signora di Regnos Altos chapel in the ruins of the castle at the top of the hill in Bosa. Restoration in the 1970s has brought to light these most stunning cycle of Catalan school frescoes – unexpected, vivid and truly beautiful to behold.
  • The amphitheatre at Nora. Sardinia is one of the most ancient lands in Europe and for a flavour of its history, my favourite site would be the Roman city of Nora in the south west, built on a spit of land jutting out to sea. It’s the location which makes it magical, but you can still see the Roman baths decorated with white, black and ochre tesserae mosaics, a theatre dating from the second century AD, paved Roman roads and even the original sewage system. Guaranteed to take your breath away.
  • Flamingos! Who would expect to see flamingos in Sardinia..? I love these elegant birds and fortunately, they have taken to nesting in the wild in the marshes of the Sinis peninsula near Oristano and down on the south coast near Cagliari. An unexpected and delightful treat.
  • Costa del Sud. This 25 kilometre coastal drive from Chia to Teulada in Southern Sardinia is off the beaten track and a complete joy. What a road… It winds beside steep cliffs and snakes past hidden beaches and then the view opens out in glorious technicolour to display an entire stretch of the magnificent coastline. Which is what Sardinia is all about really…

Thank you Rosanna – I’m adding Sardinia to my list of ‘must visit’ places!

The Little Theatre by the Sea is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats from Quercus.

little-theatre-front-coverFaye has just completed her degree in interior design when she finds herself jobless and boyfriend-less. While debating what to do next she receives a surprise phone call from her old college friend Charlotte who now lives in Sardinia and is married to Italian hotelier, Fabio.

When Charlotte suggests that Faye relocate for a month to house-sit, Faye wonders if a summer break in sunny Sardinia might be the perfect way to recharge her batteries and think about her future. But then Charlotte tells Faye that there’s something more behind the sudden invitation: her friends Marisa and Alessandro are looking for a designer to renovate a crumbling old theatre they own in the scenic village of Deriu. The idea certainly sounds appealing to Faye, but little does she know what she’s letting herself in for if she accepts this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity . . .

Find out more about Rosanna and her writing at: http://www.rosannaley.com

Guest post: The Shimmering Girl at the Palace by Laura Lam

9 Mar

Today I’m very excited to have Laura Lam joining me on the latest stop of her Masquerade blog tour. Laura was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart’s desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn’t. At times she misses the sunshine. 

Masquerade is the third and final novel in Laura Lam’s Micah Grey trilogy, following Pantomime and Shadowplay. Welcome Laura!

Once there was a girl with dragonfly wings, who soared above the world. She looked down and saw happiness, and sadness, and wide expanses with no one at all save the animals and trees and rocks and streams. She flew all the way around the world, writing down whatever she saw. When she came back, she did not show anyone her little journal. It was her version of the world, and she wanted to keep it for her alone.

— ‘The Dragonfly Girl’, Hestia’s Fables 

Laura LamEvery chapter in the Micah Grey series has a short found document at the start, ranging from a variety of sources: history books, diaries, songs, poetry, and more. It’s basically a sneaky way to add in more worldbuilding and detail about Ellada & the Archipelago.

I seem to write a lot about girls in Hestia’s fables in this book, which I didn’t quite clock until I started writing about these excerpts. Hestia’s fable are sort of like Aesop’s fables—short apocryphal tales that people in Ellada would have grown up reading. Dragonflies and damselflies are also a reoccurring motif throughout the trilogy. People in Ellada often whisper that dragonflies can weigh the lightness or darkness of the soul, which I might have picked up from research somewhere. This excerpt came across a little wistful, which I like. What did the dragonfly girl see on her travels?

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.

Masquerade is released today in paperback by Pan.

The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light? 9781509807789

Micah’s Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy’s blessing – and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they’ve re-emerged to spread terror once more.  Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.

Please do visit the other stops on the Masquerade tour!

Find out more about Laura and her writing at: http://www.lauralam.co.uk/

Extract and giveaway! The Wedding Girls by Kate Thompson

3 Mar

Today I’m delighted to be first stop on the blog tour for Kate Thompson’s new novel, The Wedding Girls which is published on 9th March by Pan Macmillan. Kate is a journalist with twenty years’ experience as a writer for the broadsheets and women’s weekly magazines. She is now freelance and, as well as writing for newspapers, she’s a seasoned ghostwriter. The Wedding Girls is her third novel, following the Sunday Times bestseller Secrets of the Singer Girls and The Secrets of the Sewing Bee. You can find out more about Kate and her books at: http://www.katethompsonmedia.co.uk/

Read on for an extract from the book and the chance to win one of five copies!

The wedding girlsIf a wedding marks the first day of the rest of your life, then the story starts with the dress.

It’s 1936 and the streets of London’s East End are grimy and brutal, but in one corner of Bethnal Green it is forever Hollywood . . .

Herbie Taylor’s photography studio is nestled in the heart of bustling Green Street. Tomboy Stella and troubled Winnie work in Herbie’s studio; their best friend and hopeless romantic Kitty works next door as an apprentice dressmaker. All life passes through the studio, wishing to capture that perfect moment in time.

Kitty works tirelessly to create magical bridal gowns, but with each stitch she wonders if she’ll ever get a chance to wear a white dress. Stella and Winnie sprinkle a dusting of Hollywood glamour over happy newly-weds, but secretly dream of escaping the East End . . .

Community is strong on Green Street, but can it stand the ultimate test? As clouds of war brew on the horizon, danger looms over the East End. Will the Wedding Girls find their happy ever afters, before it’s too late?

Extract

Prologue

18 january 1933

St Margaret’s Church, Westminster, London

A fine frost covered the churchyard in a glittering blanket of silver as the first flecks of snow began to drift from an ivory sky.

To some, January might have been a queer month in which to tie the knot, but to Kitty Moloney it was perfect.

Married when the year is new, he’ll be loving, kind and true, or so went the old rhyme. The bride, Miss Nancy Beaton, would enter the church, but she would emerge, quite transformed, as Lady Smiley, wife of Sir Hugh Smiley, a Grenadier Guards officer and baronet. There was something irresistibly romantic about starting the New Year with a new name, especially one as grand as that, Kitty thought.

Stamping her frozen feet on the flagstones to keep out the cold, she tried her hardest to nudge her way to the front of the crowd for a better view, but it was impossible. Everyone loved a wedding, and no one could resist the sight of a bride, especially a well-known society one such as Nancy.

Kitty was hemmed in on all sides by stout matrons in damp wool coats, all clamouring for the best spot from which to view the bride enter the church.

A whiskered constable was holding back the crowds, a disapproving figure in black, his cloak spread wide like a bat, with the Palace of Westminster arching up into the skies over his helmet.

‘Mind yourself, girlie,’ tutted the woman in front; a dressmaker, judging by the sketchbook and pencil in her hand. ‘Us hoi polloi gotta keep a respectable distance.’

Kitty felt foolish. Her gaze slid down and a flush of pink washed over her pale cheeks. What was she even doing here? She was just a girl from the wrong side of town, a shabby fourteen-year-old in cardboard-patched boots and her big sister’s hand-me-downs. And then she remembered. She was somebody. In five days’ time, she was to start an apprenticeship under the tutelage of wedding dressmaker Gladys Tingle at her Bethnal Green workshop.

Gladys’s voice when she had hired Kitty while she was still at school, not two and twenty days previous, rang through her mind as clear as a bell in the chilly churchyard.

‘If a wedding marks the first day of the rest of your life, then the story starts with the dress. Immerse yourself in wedding gowns, my girl, leave no stitch unturned, ’cause it’s the society sorts from up West that the girls from the East End wanna look like. It’s pictures of their wedding gowns in the Daily Sketch they’ll be bringing in for us to copy!’

After a brusque examination of Kitty’s hands and nails, Gladys had dismissed her with orders to start at 9 a.m. prompt the first Monday morning after the new school term began.

A sudden burst of handclapping and the distant thud of horses’ hooves brought Kitty back from her wonderings.

‘I say! There she is,’ called out an excited voice. ‘God bless you, Nancy!’

Applause and cheers rang out and the crowd stirred into life. The dressmaker gasped and dropped her pencil. A small space opened up in the crowd as she bent to retrieve it. Seizing her chance, Kitty wriggled through the sea of stockinged legs and found herself at the very front.

She opened her eyes wide, then wider still and just like that, her grumbling tummy and frozen feet were forgotten. For gliding down the flagstones on the arm of her father was the bride, and what a marvellous bride was she!

Nancy emerged dreamlike from the snow, a tiny ethereal vision in a long sweep of buttery silk, its diaphanous overskirt shimmering with silver embroidery and hundreds of tiny pearls. In her pale fingers she clutched a spray of chalk-white flowers.

Kitty gazed in wonderment, for Nancy looked like no other woman she had ever seen: a perfect china shepherdess, her brown eyes large and liquid, her lips full and rosy. Atop her gleaming curls, tiny white flowers and a dusting of snow. In her wake, two pageboys in white satin breeches and tails, holding the train as if it were made of glass. In the swirling snow, looking like they had stepped straight from the pages of a children’s fairy tale, they drew a collective sigh from the crowd of admiring matrons.

And then came the bridesmaids: tall, slender and serene in white tulle and taffeta. Kitty counted seven – no, wait, eight of them – and oh, how dreamy, how utterly dreamy. As they slid past like a bevy of swans, she realized they were all connected by a long continuous garland, smothered in snowdrops, which looped from one maid to the next like a maypole. Everywhere Kitty looked there was light, snow-white blossom: encircling slender waists and trailing over shoulders.

Kitty felt her heart turn over. It was a performance, a thrilling, spectacular show with a Snow Queen its star. She sighed deeply. If the walk to the church door could be this glamorous, Kitty could only guess how heavenly the interior of the church must look. How dashing the groom, how regal the guests, to what impossible height the ceiling must soar.

The bride was drawing closer now, so close Kitty could almost reach out and touch the hem of her ermine-trimmed gown. Instead, she gazed up at her with shining eyes and realized she was holding her breath.

Please look at me, Kitty from Bethnal Green. Notice me.

But the Snow Queen bride passed on by, poised and unreadable, leaving in her wake a scented trail of allure.

Kitty sagged and scuffed the toe of her boot on the ground. Who was she fooling? Girls like Nancy were born to glide on marble floors bedecked with roses. Girls like her were consigned to watch them from the damp darkness of the crowd, anonymous and unseen.

But as the bride reached the church porch, something magical happened. She turned. Flickered those large dark eyes over the crowd and settled on Kitty. A whisper of a smile, the flash of a diamond as she raised her hand. And then she was gone, stepping into the church, off to meet her glittering future, leaving Kitty as pale and faint as the January sky. Nothing could ever come close to the lavish, romantic dream Kitty had witnessed.

As the crowd dispersed and she reluctantly began the long walk back to the narrow streets of the East End, Kitty made a vow in her secret heart. She wouldn’t just be the wedding seamstress. One day, she would be the bride.

Giveaway!

Kate’s lovely publisher has given me five paperback copies of The Wedding Girls to give away to lucky readers.

To enter  just leave comment in the box below or re-Tweet one of my tweets about this giveaway or like one of my posts about this giveaway on my Instagram page.

I’ll pick five winners using Random.org after the closing date.

This giveaway is open to UK residents only and will close at midnight on Wednesday 8th March. Good Luck!

 

Guest post: How the Idea of Me, You and Tiramisu came about by Charlotte Butterfield

24 Feb

Today I’m very pleased to welcome Charlotte Butterfield to One More Page on the first stop of her Me, You and Tiramisu blog tour. Charlotte joins us to tell us how the idea for her debut novel came about. Welcome Charlotte!

charlotte ButterfieldI’ve been a journalist for the last fifteen years, and a couple of years ago I was asked by a women’s lifestyle magazine to write a feature about couples where one of them was more attractive than the other one. Yep. True story.

The magazine actually wanted me to go out and find couples that would voluntarily be featured declaring that one of them was so much more beautiful than the other one. How would that even happen? Would I have to stop people on the street and say, “I’m writing an article and you two would be perfect for this!” Can you imagine? I turned the commission down in the end, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea of how society views couples. Everything seems to hinge on appearance and woe betide a couple that don’t seem completely balanced in age, weight and looks that want to make a go of it.

I wondered whether things like shared interests, humour, hobbies and love are somehow being pushed further and further down the list of priorities and looks are now everything. The popularity of Tinder suggests that this might be the case, which baffles me, how can you decide whether or not to give someone the time of day based on one photo?

This idea started to grow, and then I began imagining what it would be like being in one of these couples where it’s not just people you know that are making judgements about you and your love interest, but complete strangers too. What if one of you was famous and suddenly everyone thought they had the right to comment on your relationship and what he/she sees in you? We’ve all seen phrases ‘punching above their weight’ or ‘they’ve done well for themselves’ in celeb gossip magazines and it always made me cringe. It was then that I realised that I may have found the perfect plot for my first novel and my gorgeous (in every sense of the word) characters Jayne and Will came to life.

You can find out more about Charlotte and her writing and follow her at:

Website: https://charlottebutterfield.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charliejayneb

It all started with a table for two…tiramisu

Life for self-confessed bookworm Jayne Brady couldn’t be better – she has a twin sister she adores, a cosy little flat above a deli and now she’s found love with her childhood crush, gorgeous chef Will.

But when Will becomes a Youtube sensation, thanks to his delicious cookery demos (both the food and his smile!), their life of contentment come crashing down around them. Can Jayne have her Tiramisu and eat it?

Me, You and Tiramisu is out now as an ebook and will be released in paperback on 9th March from HarperImpulse.

Please do check out the other stops on Charlotte’s blog tour over the next week!

Exclusive extract! The Devil in the Snow by Sarah Armstrong

16 Feb

Today is my stop on the blog tour for Sarah Armstrong’s new supernatural thriller, The Devil in the Snow. Sarah lives in Essex with her husband and four children.  Her short stories have been published in Mslexia, Litro and other magazines and anthologies.  Sarah teaches creative writing for the Open University. Her debut novel, The Insect Rosary, was published by Sandstone Press in 2015.

DevilInTheSnow_FRONT‘It was only girls who had to worry about the devil…’

All Shona wants is a simple life with her young son, and to get free of Maynard, the ex who’s still living in the house. When her teenage daughter goes missing, she’s certain Maynard is the culprit. Her mother, Greta, is no help as she’s too obsessed with the devil. Her Uncle Jimmy is fresh out of prison and has never been entirely straight with her. Then there’s the shaman living in her shed. Shona soon discovers that the secrets she buried are as dangerous as the family curse haunting her mother.

Extract

She collected Jude from the school office, thirty-five minutes late on the second day of his first full week. He looked quite happy, swinging himself around in the head teacher’s chair. The head wasn’t quite so contented and made it clear that she was only postponing a pep talk about time management or consistency for five-year-olds because she wanted to go home today. Jude was smiling and pleased to see her and Shona was happy to leave.

Shona carried Jude home on her back for a treat to celebrate not getting told off. She clasped her hands under his bum as a seat but he still held on a little too tightly. By the time they got back her windpipe felt bruised.

She opened the back door and remembered. Dominic was still asleep.

Jude sat by him, as Shona had done, watching him.

‘Who is he?’

‘I’m not sure. He’s called Dominic.’

‘Are we going to keep him?’

‘He’s just going to stay for a little while.’

Jude raised his eyebrows. ‘In our room?’

‘No.’

Jude frowned. ‘Cerys’ room?’

‘No, He’s just here for a couple of hours. We haven’t got any room, have we?’

Cerys had one bedroom while Shona and Jude shared the other and the walk-in office attached to it. The locked, little-used front room downstairs belonged to her husband, Maynard. The attic had a pull down ladder and a lot of dusty rubbish.

‘He’ll go soon,’ she said. She thought again that she should phone someone, but he’d said Meghan. She needed to hear the rest of that and, when he left, that would be her chance lost. She played it back in her mind, trying to convince herself that he had said something else, but it was always Meghan.

She heard the front door close as Cerys let herself in. Dominic stretched and sat up. Shona froze. What convinced Jude wasn’t going to work on her.

‘Mr Cartwright wants to see you last at Parents’ Evening,’ she shouted from the hall. ‘I wasn’t going to bother, but he asked. I wrote it on the sheet.’ Shona could hear the school bag drop to the floor. Cerys stopped in the doorway and stared.

She’d taken off her school tie, untucked the blouse and shaken her long brown hair free. Her skirt was rolled up at the waist, revealing thin legs with thick fist-like knees. Her nose, which seemed to have been growing out of sync with the rest of her face, was settling now, straight and pretty. Cerys still hated it.

‘Hi,’ she said. She wasn’t talking to Shona or Jude.

Shona looked at her. She hadn’t seen Cerys smile like that for years, open and happy. Dominic smiled back and Shona watched Cerys blush deep on her cheeks.

She hadn’t thought this through. She hadn’t thought what a boy like this would do to a fourteen-year-old. He was beautiful in a girlish boy band way, with large eyes and longish hair. How had she not noticed?

‘Dominic, I think I should call your parents now.’

‘There’s no need.’

‘They’ll be wondering where you are.’ Shona could sense Cerys fidgeting behind her.

‘I’m eighteen. I told them I’d be away for a while.’

‘Of course he should stay, Mum,’ said Cerys. ‘We’ve got room.’

‘Do we?’ Any minute now Dominic would start talking about instructions and Meghan, and then Cerys – what would Cerys do? Shona looked at her again. Cerys wouldn’t say a word. She was ready to jump whenever he told her.

Dominic stood and stretched again. ‘I slept on it. I’m going to stay in the shed.’

Shona thought about it, although it wasn’t a question. ‘And your parents?’

‘I’ll let them know.’

Cerys, still blushing, turned and went upstairs. Shona knew she’d be calling her friends, spreading the word. Shona knew this couldn’t really happen; she couldn’t let this boy sleep in the shed. But, to be honest, she didn’t need another fight with Cerys. She would be the one who would cause trouble over it and if it was fine with her… And Jude?

She didn’t think it would be more than a day or two, just long enough for him to tell her about Meghan. And, please God, he’d be gone before Maynard turned up.

——————————————————–

The Devil in the Snow is released today in paperback and ebook formats by Sandstone Press.

Find out more about Sarah and her books at: http://sandstonepress.com/authors/sarah-armstrong