Tag Archives: guest post

Guest post: My Dream Writing Space by Bella Osborne

24 Mar

bella osbornePlease extend a very warm welcome to Bella Osborne today as she joins me to celebrate the release of Willow Cottage: A Spring Affair,  part three of her lovely Willow Cottage series.

Bella has been jotting down stories as far back as she can remember.  In 2016, her debut novel, It Started At Sunset Cottage, was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel of the Year and RNA Joan Hessayon New Writers Award.

Bella’s stories are about friendship, love and coping with what life throws at you. Bella believes that writing your own story really is the best fun ever, closely followed by talking, eating chocolate, drinking fizz and planning holidays. She joins us today to tell us all about her dream writing space. Welcome Bella!

Hi One More Page,

Thank you for being the next stop on the blog tour, it’s great to be on your blog today.

Part 3 of Willow Cottage is set in springtime and this got me thinking about the outdoors (bear with me) which led to me to imaging my dream writing space – a shepherd’s hut.

image003 (1)

Photo credit: http://heritageshepherdhuts.co.uk/

Sadly my garden isn’t big enough to accommodate one but if I had a spare field I would definitely save up my pennies and buy one of these beauties (I may even give up custard creams to achieve this*).

So what is a shepherd’s hut? Originally it was exactly what it says on the tin – a simple hut that a shepherd took shelter in during the lambing season. The original huts contained the essentials to survive for a few hours like a stove for heat and to cook on as well as water and a bed. Made from wood with a curved corrugated iron roof and mounted on wheels so they could be easily moved from field to field, they were functional rather than pretty.

image004However, thanks to modern farming methods you are now more likely to see one converted into something akin to a summerhouse and many are built from scratch with modern materials but mimicking the classic design. I love to while away time looking at some of the creations on the Internet when I’m meant to be writing (I think it’s one up from watching videos of kittens). This converted hut, that belongs to watercolour artist Jean Batterbee, is the sort of thing I would love to have…

I could imagine myself sat there writing away although the reality would more likely be that I would be wasting time on the internet looking at something else I can’t afford!

What would be your dream space?

*No, not really! I’d like one but not that much!

Thanks Bella – I think a Shepherd’s Hut would make an ideal reading nook too!

willow cottage springWillow Cottage: part three – A Spring Affair is out now in ebook formats.

Beth is running away. With her young son Leo to protect, Willow Cottage is the lifeline she so desperately needs. Overlooking the village green in a beautiful Cotswolds idyll, Beth sees a warm, caring and safe place for little Leo.

When she finally uncovers the cottage from underneath the boughs of a weeping willow tree, Beth realises this is far more of a project than she bargained for and the locals are more than a little eccentric! A chance encounter with gruff Jack, who appears to be the only male in the village under thirty, leaves the two of them at odds but it’s not long before Beth realises that Jack has hidden talents that could help her repair more than just Willow Cottage

Over the course of four seasons, Beth realises that broken hearts can be mended, and sometimes love can be right under your nose…

Willow Cottage is part of a serialized novel told in four parts, following the journey of Beth and her new life in the Cotswolds. The full book will be out next this August, but for now, enjoy Willow Cottage seasonally.

Find out more about Bella and her writing at: http://www.bellaosborne.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/

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!

Guest post: Meet the Chalet Girls by Lorraine Wilson

14 Feb

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than with a lovely guest post from one of my favourite romance authors, Lorraine Wilson. Lorraine is the author of the Chalet Girl series if novellas and I’m delighted to say, has just released the first full length novel in the series, Chalet Girls. Today Lorraine joins me to introduce her chalet girls to you all. Welcome Lorraine!

 

chalet girls snow
Those of you who have been following the blog may already know I started the Chalet Girl series because I love Switzerland and I thought the seasonnaire scene would be rich with story possibilities. With the novel Chalet Girls some of the inspiration came from characters already created in previous novellas although this doesn’t stop Chalet Girls being read as a standalone novel.

 

Chalet Girls features the stories of three characters – Sophie, Lucy and Beth. Sophie’s story started in Secret Crush of a Chalet Girl but I felt there was more to tell and a full length novel gave me the space to dig deeper into what really happens after ‘happy ever after’. Those of you familiar with her character know that Valentine’s treasure hunts feature in her story and this novel is no exception, I couldn’t resist creating another one :-)

 

Lucy has been a secondary character in some of the novellas and the inspiration for her story started when I read the real life story of Jenny Jones – a chalet girl who became an Olympic medal winner: http://bbc.in/2kAttD5 From there my research lead me into the world of extreme skiing. Watching videos of pro snowboarder Xavier de le Rue being dropped by helicopter onto the ridge of an alpine mountain gave me the inspiration for the character of Seb. You can watch one of Xavier’s jaw dropping mountain descents here: https://youtu.be/VpBkI4etfQI
With Beth’s story the inspiration was more personal.  I like to write escapist, fun stories but I also try to tackle some of the hard, painful things a lot of us carry around but rarely talk about. In a way hers is a story of perseverance and hope. Maybe this theme is of especial importance to me because a neurosurgeon told me eight years ago, after a severe brain injury, that I’d never be able to write a book. This was following an accident that left me with lasting disabilities. Finishing my first novella (Confessions of a Chalet Girl -http://amzn.to/2kC7FH5 ) using speech to text technology felt like a real triumph but as ‘Chalet Girls’ is my first full length novel its publication is yet another milestone in my own story.

 

On a lighter note, animal-loving readers might like to know that the dog called Pip featured both in the book and on the book cover is actually one of my own rescue dogs. He has his own story of perseverance and you can read about how he made his way from my lap into the book on the Harper Impulse blog – http://bit.ly/2kAnY7k

 

Chalet Girls is out now in paperback and ebook formats from HarperImpulse.

image1What happens when life in Verbier suddenly goes off-piste?

Lucy’s been bowled over by the sexy extreme skier who’s hurtled into her life. But can she accept Seb’s commitment to his adrenaline-filled career?

Trusting any man is out of the question after what’s happened to Beth. So why is she so drawn to twinkly-eyed Dan when he’s leaving at the end of the season?

Sophie’s madly in love with her gorgeous fiancé, Luc. Only instead of gleefully planning the winter wedding of her dreams, all she wants is to run and hide…

Three Chalet Girls are about to strap on their skis and find out!

Guest post: My inspiration for A Nightingale Christmas Carol by Donna Douglas

18 Nov

I’m very pleased to welcome Donna Douglas back to One More Page today as part of her A Nightingale Christmas Carol blog tour. Donna is one of my favourite historical saga authors and writes the hugely successful Nightingale series about nurses at the Nightingale Hospital in London and The Nurses of Steeple Street series about district nurses in Leeds. I’m a big fan of both series’ and I love the mix of historical detail and gripping story-lines that Donna always includes. Today Donna joins me to talk about her inspirations for A Nightingale Christmas Carol. Welcome Donna!

Donna DouglasThe idea for A Nightingale Christmas Carol came about entirely by accident, while I was researching a previous Nightingale novel. I was browsing on The People’s War, a BBC online archive of personal stories and firsthand accounts of life in the Second World War. If you haven’t seen it, I’d urge you to take a look if you have any interest in wartime history. There are so many fascinating and heartbreaking stories there, they could fill a hundred novels!

Anyway, I was researching nursing when I came upon a fascinating story from a young trainee nurse who was given the job of caring for German POWs in a British hospital. Apparently there were so many enemy casualties after D-Day that the local field hospitals couldn’t cope and they had to ship them to hospitals over here.

That set me thinking. What must it be like for a young British woman, perhaps someone with a loved one who had been killed or injured fighting in Europe or during the Blitz, to suddenly find herself in the position of looking after her sworn enemy?

And so the idea for A Nightingale Christmas Carol was born. The main character, Dora, has waved her soldier husband Nick off yet again, with the lurking fear that she may never see him again. She tries to bury her worries by throwing herself into her work as a nurse at the Nightingale Hospital. But then she is assigned to a new ward looking after German POWs.

And she’s not the only one, either. Fellow nurse Kitty has lost her beloved brother to a German U-Boat. And ward sister Helen has her own scars to bear from her time as a military nurse in Europe.

A Nightingale Christmas Carol is about how they all come to terms with putting their duty before their heart, which apparently many of these young women managed to do in real life.

It’s a side of the war that rarely gets written about, which is what attracted me to it. Germans are generally seen as ‘the enemy’, but they were also human beings – scared young men with loved ones at home who worried about them.

This is what the nurses came to realise, as they got to know their patients better. There were even stories of romance blossoming on the ward, although as you can imagine, this was incredibly frowned upon. A prisoner who fell for a local girl could find himself sent to another POW camp at the other end of the country. And a girl who fell for a German might find herself branded a traitor, or far worse.

But many of the wartime stories had happy endings, with couples finding that love really can conquer all. But will this happen in A Nightingale Christmas Carol? You’ll have to read it to find out!

A Nightingale Christmas Carol is out now in paperback and ebook formats from Arrow.

Find out more about Donna and her writing at:

Do stop back later today for my review!

A Nightingale Christmas Carol

The Nightingale Hospital, London, 1944

All that Dora Riley wants is her husband home safe for Christmas…

 With her husband Nick away fighting, Dora struggles to keep the home fires burning and is put in charge of a ward full of German prisoners of war. Can she find it in her heart to care for her enemies?

Fellow nurse Kitty thinks she might be falling for a German soldier, whilst Dora’s old friend Helen returns from Europe with a dark secret.

Can the women overcome their prejudices and the troubles of their past to do their duty for their country?

Guest post: How I found my inner geisha by Lesley Downer

1 Nov

Today I’m delighted to welcome Lesley Downer to One More Page on the latest stop of her blog tour for her fabulous new novel, The Shogun’s Queen. Lesley  has written many books about Japan and its culture, including Geisha: The Secret History of the Vanishing World and the gripping Shogun Quartet; The Last Concubine, The Courtesan and the Samurai and The Samurai’s Daughter. The Shogun’s Queen is the first book in the series. 

Lesley’s mother was Chinese and her father a professor of Chinese, so she grew up in a house full of books on Asia. But it was Japan, not China, that proved the more alluring and Lesley lived there for some fifteen years. She lives in London with her husband, the author Arthur I. Miller, and travels to Japan yearly. Welcome Lesley!

P1000534Hello, Amanda. First, thank you for inviting me to post on your blog today. I much appreciate it!

Long before I started writing fiction about Japan, long before I began to research The Shogun’s Queen, I decided to write a book on geisha. Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of a Geisha had been a huge hit. But it struck me as somehow false. It was a version of the Cinderella story, in which the heroine finds redemption by meeting Mr Right. But I felt sure this was a western myth, not a Japanese one.

And so I became curious about geisha. I wondered what their lives were really like.

I’d already spent ten years living in Japan by then. I went to Kyoto, the home of the geisha and a city of beautiful ancient temples. There I found a little room to stay in in the geisha area, in the lea of the Eastern Hills. It’s a beautiful area of narrow streets lined with dark wooden houses with lanterns outside. There’s a stream lined with willow trees and crossed with little stone bridges. Maiko (trainee geisha) clip clopped beneath my balcony but it was hard to know how to approach them.  

I had an introduction to an elderly geisha, one of the grand old ladies of the district. I went to visit her taking a gift of expensive cakes. She was tiny like a bird with a perfect unlined face and steely black eyes, wearing an exquisite grey silk kimono. She must have been seventy at least. She took my gift and dumped it to one side.

‘You’re a westerner,’ she said contemptuously. ‘You’ll never understand our customs! Isn’t that what you tell foreigners who come to your country?’

I wanted to say that no, it wasn’t, but I dared not contradict.

‘You have no idea how to behave,’ she added. ‘You can’t just walk in. You must spend time, get to know us, then ask if perhaps we might very kindly introduce you to a geisha or maiko. Come back in a week,’ she added grudgingly.

I’d been in Japan long enough to know I might ruin my chances if I barged up to one of those exotic-looking creatures without an introduction. It was a small community and if I made the smallest slip they would close ranks against me.

Then one day I noticed the hairdresser’s up a little side street alongside the stream. He was outside of that closed community. He was a lively cheerful man who‘d been the geishas’ hairdresser his whole life. He let me watch while he did the maikos’ hair – combing it, ironing it, stretching it, rolling it and moulding it into the helmet-like winged maiko shape, putting in wads of yak’s hair to give extra volume. He was also an enormous source of entertaining geisha gossip.

I also went to visit the wig maker. Maiko are teenagers who begin their five year training in dancing and music at fifteen and they wear their hair in the distinctive maiko hairstyle. But qualified adult geisha wear wigs. When they take them off they can slip unnoticed into the crowd. I even tried on a wig but decided it wasn’t for me.

And every week I took another box of cakes to the stern old geisha and each time she put me off yet again.Victoria's scans 11

I also went to tea ceremony classes. I studied tea ceremony for two years when I was first in Japan and love it. It has elements of mass and tai chi. It’s perfectly choreographed, you do every movement just so. It can be serious or it can be relaxed. And you end up eating a little cake and drinking a delicious cup of bright green tea.

One day the teacher, a rather good-looking young man, took me aside. I’d told him about my frustration.

‘There’s a cake shop where all the geisha buy their cakes,’ he told me. He drew me a map.

I went there. It was down a back street, a very unprepossessing little place, more a stall than a shop. I bought a box of cakes and went yet again to see the fearsome old geisha.

For the first time ever she gave me a smile. ‘The best cakes,’ she said, nodding approvingly. ‘You’ve finally started to learn!’

In fact she never did introduce me to anyone. But by then I’d been around for a couple of months. Her training had actually done me some good. I now knew how to behave around geisha. Little by little they became used to me and took me into their hearts. They invited me into their homes and I met the young maiko that lived there and that they were training. I attended the classes where the maiko learn singing and dancing, went to geisha parties and saw performances of geisha dance.

I was back in Kyoto recently to research my latest novel, The Shogun’s Queen. My geisha friends are still around and I looked them up. My ‘geisha training’ not only taught me how to behave around geisha but also how it feels to be a woman in Japanese society. I shall never forget the lesson I learnt. I’d found my inner geisha.

Thank you Lesley – what wonderful experiences!

The Shogun’s Queen is released on 3rd November in hardback and ebook formats from Bantam Press.

shogun coverOnly one woman can save her world from barbarian invasion but to do so will mean sacrificing everything she holds dear – love, loyalty and maybe life itself . . .

Japan, and the year is 1853. Growing up among the samurai of the Satsuma Clan, in Japan’s deep south, the fiery, beautiful and headstrong Okatsu has – like all the clan’s women – been encouraged to be bold, taught to wield the halberd, and to ride a horse.

But when she is just seventeen, four black ships appear. Bristling with cannon and manned by strangers who to the Japanese eyes are barbarians, their appearance threatens Japan’s very existence. And turns Okatsu’s world upside down.

Chosen by her feudal lord, she has been given a very special role to play. Given a new name – Princess Atsu – and a new destiny, she is the only one who can save the realm. Her journey takes her to Edo Castle, a place so secret that it cannot be marked on any map. There, sequestered in the Women’s Palace – home to three thousand women, and where only one man may enter: the shogun – she seems doomed to live out her days. But beneath the palace’s immaculate facade, there are whispers of murders and ghosts. It is here that Atsu must complete her mission and discover one last secret – the secret of the man whose fate is irrevocably linked to hers: the shogun himself . . .

Find out more about Lesley and her writing at: http://www.lesleydowner.com/

 

Guest post: The appeal of seaside locations by Lisa Jewell

16 Jul

Today I’m delighted to welcome Lisa Jewell to One More Page to talk about the coastal setting for her new novel, I Found You and why seaside locations appeal so much. I’ve been a huge fan of Lisa’s books for many years so it’s a real treat to have her visiting the blog today.

Lisa had always planned to write her first book when she was fifty. In fact, she wrote it when she was twenty-seven and had just been made redundant from her job as a secretary. Inspired by Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity, a book about young people just like her who lived in London, she wrote the first three chapters of what was to become her first novel, Ralph’s Party. It went on to become the bestselling debut novel of 1998. Thirteen bestselling novels later, she lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Lisa writes every day in a local cafe where she can drink coffee, people-watch, and, without access to the internet, actually get some work done. Welcome Lisa!

Lisa+Jewell (3)Considering I’m known primarily as a ‘London’ writer, I’ve used a fair few seaside settings. I chose Broadstairs in Kent as Bee Bearhorn’s secret hideout in One Hit Wonder without ever having visited the place. By the time I wrote the Truth About Melody Browne, two of my old London friends were living in Broadstairs and I was pretty familiar with the town so it seemed natural to choose it as the setting for Melody’s forgotten childhood. Ralph goes to visit Smith in LA in After the Party and again, I chose a seaside setting for those scenes. In Before I Met You, Betty moved to Arlette’s clifftop house on Guernsey, overlooking the English Channel, and Adrian’s first wife, Susie, from The Third Wife lives in a cottage in Hove. So clearly I have a penchant for writing about coastal locations, and when I started thinking about I Found You and realised that my main character is found sitting on a beach I did actually think to myself; really? Can I really write another seaside-set book?

And that was when I remembered a town I’d visited briefly on a coastal road trip many years ago; Robin Hood’s Bay in East Yorkshire, a higgledy-piggledy town of tiny ancient cottages, spilling down into the mouth of a sparkling bay. It occurred to me that I’d never set a book in the north of England and that really, it was about time! I couldn’t organise a research trip to Robin Hood’s Bay so I decided to create my own fictional bay. I christened it Riding House Bay and I could see it clearly in my mind’s eye.

Alice’s cottage came first. She’d moved north from Brixton six years earlier, escaping a toxic relationship. She arrived in a hurry and put her Riding House Baymoney down fast and I envisaged the cottage, small and impractical, ceilings too low, cramped rooms, but with this extraordinary view across the sea, the multi-coloured fairly lights slung across the promenade, the ornate Victorian streetlights outside. I had a very strong physical feeling writing about this location; I could smell the salt and the brine, feel my feet slipping against the slimy causeway, hear the pump organ music coming up the coast from the steam fair. As in my last novel, The Girls, where the communal garden was a central character in the story, so too was my little fictional seaside town. We see the town in two time frames; during the height of summer in the flashbacks and then during a cold and windy April in the present day. I loved writing about the contrasts between a small town like that when it is awake and when it is asleep.

I’m writing my fifteenth novel now. So far it is all set in London. But I’ve already managed to send two of my characters on a day trip to Deal in Kent, and now another pair of characters are set to move to rural Ireland. I feel pretty certain that when I start to write those scenes I might just find myself in another fictional seaside town. The lure of the ocean is just too strong, even for a city girl like me.

Thank you for a lovely post Lisa. I grew up not far from Robin Hood’s Bay and now live in London so really miss the seaside. I’m a big fan of visiting coastal locations in the books I read!

I Found You is out now in hardback, ebook and audio formats.

i found you‘How long have you been sitting out here?’

‘I got here yesterday.’

‘Where did you come from?’

‘I have no idea.’

East Yorkshire: Single mum Alice Lake finds a man on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, no idea what he is doing there. Against her better judgement she invites him in to her home.

Surrey: Twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Guest Post: 7 ways to overcome writer’s block – Part 2 by Polly James

5 Jul

Today I’m delighted to welcome Polly James to One More Page with the second part of her guest post on ways to overcome writer’s block. You can find the first part of this post on lovely Ananda’s blog: This Chick Reads. Polly James was born in Wales, but now lives in East Anglia, which she finds unnervingly flat, and chock-full of writers. She works as an editor, but has had a variety of different jobs, ranging from teaching dance, and designing clothes, to being an advisor for the CAB and a caseworker for two different Members of Parliament. She has found something to laugh about in all of them. Polly is married, with two children, and a large extended family, none of whom find her half as funny as she thinks she is. Would Like to Meet is Polly’s second novel and is out now from Avon. Welcome Polly!

polly jamesThe trouble with having no ideas is that you need ideas to beget ideas, if that’s not the most confusing sentence ever written. I’ve spent many hours staring hopelessly at a screen myself, but now I doubt that writer’s block really exists. (I know that’s another supremely confusing statement, especially when I’m supposed to be suggesting ways to deal with it, but bear with me.)

What I’m trying to say is that I’ve proved to myself time and time again that, if you have to write, then you can always find something to write about, even if that something seems completely bonkers at first glance.

The secret is to learn how to generate ideas while preventing yourself becoming overwhelmed by writer’s block, which may sound illogical when I’ve just questioned if it even exists – but that doesn’t matter, if you believe it does.  While you remain convinced it’s affecting you, it’ll stop you writing even if it is just a figment of your imagination, so here are my tips for dealing with it, and for sparking ideas when you can’t think of any.

4, Eavesdrop like mad, and write down anything interesting you overhear.

One of my Creative Writing tutors at university was the novelist Elspeth Barker, who’s the owner of quite possibly the sexiest voice in the UK, along with a wicked sense of humour.

She always carries a notebook everywhere she goes, in which she notes down snippets of conversations she overhears. (She even used to pause in the middle of teaching a class sometimes, to give her time to write down something amusing a student had just said.)

One of Elspeth’s favourite writing exercises was to give each student three of these overheard sentences from her seemingly-vast collection. She selected the sentences quite at random and they were all totally unrelated to each other, too. (She gave no indication of their context, either.)

Each student then had to write a story which included all the three sentences that they’d been given, which led to a really diverse range of narratives, along with some brilliant comic scenes. To give you an example, I was given this absolute gem as one of my three lines: “It’s hard to find the centre of gravity on a basset hound”.

I still use a similar technique to Elspeth’s whenever I run out of ideas, though I’ve had to adjust it a bit to allow for the fact that I’m partially deaf, which makes overhearing conversations a bit of a challenge to say the least. (I do have hearing aids, but they amplify background noise as much as speech, so listening to conversations you aren’t meant to hear is tricky in noisy public places.)

My solution to the annoying deafness thing is to use out-of-context lines that I’ve read on social media instead, but you could easily try a combination of both. This exercise can be a lot of fun, and it also forces you to be experimental in terms what you write about. Just pick three lines at random and off you go.

5. Play Lucky Dip.

The best writing exercises are like solving a puzzle, so I find them really useful for switching my focus away from panicking about writer’s block and onto what I should be doing – writing something. Here’s another exercise that Elspeth Barker sometimes sets in class, which really gets you thinking and can produce results just as diverse as her ‘three lines’ one.

First you have to create your Lucky Dip, which requires 60-90 blank strips of paper and three separate containers. Divide the paper strips into three piles and then write a series of different jobs or occupations onto each strip in pile one. Chuck those into the first container and label it “Occupations”.

Once you’ve done that, write a series of different locations onto each strip of paper in the second pile. Dump those into the second container and label that “Locations”. (The most memorable location I was given while doing the this exercise with Elspeth was “at the edge of a cliff”.)

Finally, write a different but brief description of a character on each of the remaining strips of paper, such as “man, one leg, early fifties”. Then put those strips into the last container and label that “Characters”. (I’ve always been good at stating the bleeding obvious.)

Then comes the fun part. Pick one strip out of each container, without looking at them first. Once you’ve finished, you have your main character, his or her occupation, and a location. Your task now is to write a short story or scene featuring all three, but if that’s not challenging enough, you can always complicate things further by setting further conditions, such as adding another set of strips that specify a particular colour that you must work into the story in some way.

6. Feed the right side of your brain.

Not the ‘right’ side as in the one that hopefully makes correct decisions, but the actualright side of your brain, the one responsible for creative thinking.

I have a theory that your creative brain is a bit like a savings account, though actually that’s a useless analogy as my savings account has been standing empty for so long that the bank itself no longer exists. I’ll start again.

Your creative brain needs creative stuff put into it before there’s anything available to withdraw, so it’s more like a bank account without an overdraft facility, when you’ve got the worst credit rating in the universe.

You might think reading would be enough to fill up this creative bank account, but although I love to read and am never without a book by the side of my bed, reading other people’s work isn’t always enough to inspire me to write myself. In fact, it can sometimes make me feel more inadequate and thus more blocked, so that’s when I turn to other forms of creative activity instead.

Painting and drawing are obviously great, and even those adult colouring books can help, but you don’t have to be an artist to engage in creative activity to top up your ideas bank. Look at paintings and other artworks online, but spread your net far wider, too. Watch great movies, listen to music, and don’t forget about the more ‘mundane’ or underrated creative activities, as well.

I’m the world’s worst cook but I still find that cooking engages my creative brain, and my latest enthusiasm is gardening, which calms me down and shuts up that infuriating inner voice that goes on and on about J. D. Salinger and how I’ll never be able to write again.

While my brain is engaged in these other forms of creation, something seems to happen to flick a switch and when I return to my desk to try to write, all of a sudden the ideas start coming thick and fast. I really recommend trying this yourself.

7. Use images to spark ideas.

While we’re on the subject of art, I know lots of writers who use paintings and other forms of art to spark ideas, and who swear by this technique to aid their own creative processes.

Buy a set of those art postcards (or choose a painting a day from one of the world’s great art galleries by visiting their websites), then write a story based on it. It worked for Tracy Chevalier, after all. Apparently, the idea for Girl With A Pearl Earring was sparked by a print she had on a wall in her house.

Thank you Polly!

Find out more about Polly and her writing at: http://www.pollyjamesauthor.com/

would like to meetCould the worst thing that’s ever happened to Hannah Pinkman also turn out to be one of the best?

She and her husband Dan have reached the end of the line. Bored with the same gripes, the same old arguments – in fact, bored with everything–they split up after a trivial row turns into something much more serious.

Now Hannah has to make a new life for herself, but that’s not easy. She’s been so busy being a wife and mum that she’s let all her other interests slip away, along with her friends. And when Hannah is persuaded to join a dating site, her ‘best match’ is the very last person she expects it to be . . .

A clever, funny and poignant novel about life after a long relationship, the importance of friendship, and rediscovering your identity.

Guest post: My top 10 witches and vampires in literature by Marie Anne Cope

6 May

Today I’m delighted to welcome Marie Anne Cope to One More Page to share with us her favourite witches and vampires in literature. Marie lives in Wrexham and is also a yoga teacher. She will be appearing at Wrexham Carnival of Words tomorrow, 7th May. Bonds is Marie Anne Cope’s debut novel, the first of four novels centered around the powerful relationship between Becca Martin and Anthony Cardover. She has also written a short story collection, Tales from a Scarygirl. Welcome Marie Anne!

Marie Anne Cope AuthorWitches and vampires, the subject of my debut novel Bonds, are a constant source of fear, fascination and wonder.

They are elusive, endearing, engaging and enigmatic. But, at the same time, they are also dangerous, destructive, deadly and devious. They seduce you, they draw you in, they overpower you, they take over your mind, they take away your willpower, and you let them.

So, with this in mind, here are a few of my favourite witches and vampires in literature, starting with the spell-casters themselves.

Circe the Greek goddess of magic from the Odyssey by Homer

Some say Circe is the ultimate witch and certainly a sorceress to be reckoned with. She is self-sufficient, sexually alluring and expert in the areas of potions and herbs.

She also wields a wooden staff, which she famously uses to transform whomever she wishes into an animal, usually a pig. This emasculating tendency is rumoured to be payback for a broken heart.

The Weird Sisters from Macbeth by William Shakespeare

‘Double, double, toil and trouble; Fire burn and cauldron bubble’

The eerie repetition of this line, in the opening scene of the Scottish Play, sends a shiver down your spine and is, arguably, the first thing that pops into your head when you think about witches.

Fear them, because if they can convince battle-hardened and ambitious Macbeth to do what they want, think what they could do to you!

The Witches of Oz from The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank L Baum

Although there are four witches in Baum’s classic story, it is Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, whom everyone remembers.

In contrast to her green skinned, broomstick riding silver screen persona, Baum’s Elphaba (pictured) has a single all-seeing eye, carries an umbrella and makes it her mission to avoid water.

Despite her weakness, she still manages to inspire fear and wreak havoc before her watery demise.

The White Witch, Jadis from The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

With Jadis, C.S. Lewis takes witches back to their position of villainy.

With her disarming beauty, charm and sorcerous power, she epitomises the terrifying evil witch. Match this with her tendency to turn those who displease her to stone and Jadis stands out in the literary world of witches.

Beware – do not be fooled by a person’s beauty, as it may only be skin deep.

Hermione Grainger from the Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling

Last, but by no means least, we come to Hermione Granger, ‘the brightest witch of her time’. With Hermione, Rowling redeemed the witch and erased the negative historical implications and gender bias.

Nothing phases Hermione, except the possibility of getting expelled for breaking the rules. She is courageous, gifted, kind, witty and always prepared.

Now, it is the turn of the enigma that is the vampire.

Lord Ruthven from The Vampyre by John Polidori

The first and, arguably, most influential of modern vampires is Lord Ruthven, the archetype of the ruthless, charismatic and sophisticated vampire. Polidori is said to have based Ruthven on his pale, languid and over-sexed patient, Lord Byron.

Polidori’s creation remains timeless and has spawned countless more, all sired in Ruthven’s image, as is the vampire way.

Varney the Vampire by James Malcolm Rymer

Originally a penny dreadful, totalling over 1,000 pages, Varney the Vampire was the first vampire novel published in the UK.

It is based on the adventures of aristocrat, Sir Frederick Varney, a hapless vampire who is usually exposed as such before he has chance to make his kill.

The tales are cheap, lurid and melodramatic, but the Victorians loved them.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Carmilla is said to be the most interesting of all vampires, possessing the ability to shape shift and feed on her victims in her black cat persona.

Although known for the savageness of her attacks, her technique changes when she finds Laura, to one of seduction, as the first ever female vampire falls hopelessly in love.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

With Dracula, Stoker took a ruthless and bloodthirsty historic persona – Vlad the Impaler (pictured) – and incorporated him into a character and a novel whose themes of demonic possession combined, with undertones of sex, blood and death, struck a chord with the Victorians and defined the most influential vampire in popular fiction.

For me though, Dracula is, without compare, THE best love story ever written.

Lestat from The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice

Lestat is a complex character. Whilst endearing and charming, he is selfish and quickly bored. If you spark his interest, you will be spoiled. If you don’t…..

In Interview with a Vampire, he is shown in all his selfish and monstrous glory, yet in The Vampire Lestat, we see a fun loving, altruistic and, in the end, heroic side to him.

Lestat epitomises the alluring yet dangerous dual nature of the vampire.

Thank you Marie Anne – what a fab list!

bondsBonds is out now in paperback and ebook formats.

Half the village of Breccan lies dead – slaughtered. All that stands between Antony Cardover and his freedom is his wife, Isabella, or so he believes. In his wrath at his wife’s adultery, Antony trades his soul for the chance of vengeance. His price? An eternity as a monster – a man bearing a vampire curse. To stop him, the curse must be broken. To break the curse, Isabella and all her descendants must be destroyed. The catch? Only Antony can break the curse.

With Breccan in mourning and Antony on the rampage, only one person can help. Anna Martindale, a witch shunned by the villagers, entombs Antony within a stone sarcophagus, bound by spells and buried in hallowed ground for the rest of time. Breccan breathes again. Time heals. That was four hundred years ago. Seventeenth century spells, however, are no match for twenty first century living. As Ramply Homes moves in, the secret of St Martin’s churchyard prepares to move out.

As the church is desecrated, the spells that hold Antony break. Soon, Becca Martin, a descendant of Isabella, is plagued by dreams of a time and a man she cannot possibly have known. As her nightmares become real, Becca has no choice but to contact the one person who will be able to help; someone she has not spoken to in a decade – her mother. Here, Becca discovers the truth about her ancestry and is forced to face up to whom and what she is. Only a wooden box and her gift hold the key to her survival. Four hundred years ago Antony failed. He will not fail again.