Eva Jordan in conversation with… Ross Greenwood

Eva Jordan in conversation with Ross Greenwood - Lazy Blood - Post Header

I’m extremely pleased to introduce fellow local author to me, Ross Greenwood. Ross is the author of the debut novel Lazy Blood. Now published by Bloodhound Books with a brilliant new cover, I thought this would be a great opportunity to remind everyone why they should read his book.

Are your friends to die for?

Did you make friends at school?
Are they still your friends now?
Do you trust them?
Will is on his way to prison. His life is a mess, but who is to blame?

Here, Ross talks about what inspired him to write and he also gives us a brief idea of what to expect from his second upcoming novel The Boy Inside.

‘Lazy Blood.’

By Ross Greenwood

I never wanted to go to prison. It was certainly not one of my choices at school when asked. Doctor, postman maybe, radiographer (obviously later on), never prison. I had passed my A-levels but was so unfocussed I just decided to get a job. As the years went by I seem to find myself working in a variety of call centres. First, as a phone jockey and then as a manager. Good money, as I was good at it, but hardly inspiring stuff. I found myself never staying in one job for long. Even now, at 42, the last job at 4 years’ service is over twice as long as anything I had achieved before.

I found myself travelling to get my thrills. The usual holidays when I was young, 18-30 etc., European capitals, then later 3 months in Asia and a year in Australia. More obscure capitals followed, living in Spain and then a month in Indonesia and 3 months in South America, before unexpectedly (how did that happen) children arrived. It was at that point, as I was trying buy-to-let and being a landlord, that the need to write a book was becoming very difficult to put aside. I had met such a range of people and had participated in so many amusing, mad events that I hoped I had a book people would be interested in.

I began what eventually became Lazy Blood. Life gets in the way and soon the need to get a job outweighed the urge to finish the book. I was stuck anyway. I had managed to mould many different attributes of hundreds of different people into four likeable and flawed characters, but I was struggling for a start and a beginning; the bite that would make the book interesting and exciting.

I wanted a career change though. No more insurance companies and depressing Mondays, I wanted something exciting. I was going to get it. I actually wanted to join the Police but, as you can imagine, my CV wasn’t going to stand any kind of investigation. The prison service wasn’t so fussy. As government cuts bite it is even less so now, the staff are leaving in droves.

After the training, how I got through those first few weeks I will never know. Only a commitment to myself to finish what I started got me through that period. HMP Peterborough is a B-category local jail. The hardest type to work in. We were constantly understaffed, sometimes running 80 man wings on your own for hours at a time. It is a revolving door for some, the drug addicts and shoplifters, but it takes all the prisoners from Cambridge, Huntingdon and Peterborough Crown and Magistrates Courts.

So there were murderers, rapists and psychopaths merged in with dangerous drivers, embezzlers and drug dealers. All of them meshed together in a crazy world of violence, depression, suicide, anxiety, drug abuse, self-harm and disorganisation that they weren’t allowed to escape from.

Obviously after a little while I had more ideas and stories than I could ever imagine. I was desperate to get back to writing my book. All the time the book was percolating and composting in my head. I think that was one of my coping mechanisms. When they wanted volunteers to put riot gear on and break up a barricade, I would be there, sometimes just for the experience. When you work in that environment, you certainly know you are alive. Then another child came along and the book went back on the shelf.

By that time I had got to grips with the job. I found consistency, professionalism and politeness with a certain amount of apathy was generally the best way to get the job done. Aggression and arguing generally led to assaults and rage. The prisoners get to know you too. They know which officers will help them and they are also fully aware what a tough job it is.

Another year went by and I took child friendly hours and started to work in Resettlement. The idea behind it was that you assisted them when they arrived in prison. For example, ringing the bank for them, finishing tenancies and then when it was time to leave you set about making sure people had somewhere to go. Unfortunately that wasn’t always achievable.

This job still had its difficulties as some people were almost impossible to help. There are many charities out there and Peterborough Council do a brilliant job in housing people, but If you have been made to sign the sex offenders register or, worse, are an arsonist, then it is very hard to find somewhere for you to live as there is a duty of care to existing residents.

I got to chat to a lot of people and got much more material! I still wanted to finish my book and my boy gave me the opportunity. He was waking for his four a.m. feed and with a sense of determination that this was my time, I completed it in the early morning hours. Lazy Blood is available on amazon and has been well received. Just £1.99 until the 1st May.

Prison is a crazy place, not for the faint hearted. It is an unnatural environment but not what people expect. Prison for most is Bad Girls, Shawshank, Prison Break and Porridge. A British jail is none of these things. Most people there are not ‘bad’ people. Sure there are career criminals and obviously these figure strongly in the book too. That’s why we love crime books, but many have just done something stupid. Perhaps used their phone whilst driving and killed someone. Silly things with terrible consequences. Got involved with drugs and had to steal to service their habit. Maybe borrowed a few quid from work and things have got out of hand, or had a few beers and got in a fight. These things could happen to most of us. This is their story too. The list is endless and so are the ideas for characters.

I finally left the job after nearly four years to get my first book published and take a year out to do some more writing. I will look back fondly on my time there though. By far and away it was the worst job I ever had, but it was also the best job. I worked with some amazing people as well. The money wasn’t great, but the commitment had to be. I’m nearly six foot tall, mature (ish) and fourteen stone so I walked on those wings armed with physical presence and life experience. You had to bow your head to small school leavers on their first day in the job, whose nervous hands fumbled with confusing keys, as they entered the abyss.

What I wanted to focus on for my second book, ‘The Boy Inside,’ was one of the more depressing and sad parts of prison society. The young. Before you judge these boys in hoodies you should really have walked a mile in their shoes. I know that is a little cliché but many of them never stood a chance. Parents who were drug dealers for example, or no parents at all.

Once you are in the police and prison system, especially as a juvenile, it is hard to get out. The people in it often do not have the skills, knowledge or finances to climb out of the hole they are in. They become careless, chaotic and have no expectation of any kind of future. They are a burden to society and there seems to be little appetite to deal with these issues. There are many who work tirelessly with young people and try to get them back on track, often without being paid, but it is hard work and often unsuccessful.

Ironically to paraphrase The Shawshank Redemption, a life without hope is a terrible thing. Many of these issues are brought up in ‘Lazy Blood’ and the ‘The Boy Inside,’ but they are also books about persistence, determination and luck. In some ways, they are also modern love stories. I hope to change your perception of those who end up in prison, but after reading these novels there is one thing I can be sure of. You will never want to go there yourself.

Lazy Blood is out at Amazon now, read the reviews and you decide!

Ross Greenwood on Social Media:
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Eva Jordan in conversation with… Alex Gordon

I’m really pleased to have the lovely Alex Gordon as guest author on my blog today. Former Sports Editor of the Scottish Sunday Mail, Alex is the author of no less than twelve works of non-fiction about football. However, several years ago Alex had an idea for a whodunnit story and, choosing to ignore the advice of some publishers who cautioned against writing fiction, Alex had his first novel, Who Shot Wild Bill, published in 2013. 

The first of a quirky mystery series to include a former sports-journalist turned-detective (wonder where he got that idea!), Charlie Brock, as the main protagonist, Who Shot Wild Bill was then followed by the second book in the series, What Spooked Crazy Horse and Alex is currently working on the third in the series.

Here, Alex talks us through his journey from fact to fiction, and what a fascinating journey it is!

**********

So, I’m propping up the bar at The Kelburne on Millport’s Stuart Street, sampling a small libation and chatting to my good friend and owner Eddie Hughes and a few of the regulars. As the former Sports Editor of the Scottish Sunday Mail – in the good old days when the newspaper was read by three million folk back in the early-to-mid-nineties – the topic, not entirely unexpectedly, is about football and how the clientele in this wonderful little howf would make Scotland a world power again.

As the author of several football books – twelve at the last count – there is a question that has cropped up a few times. Now if I had a quid for every time I had been asked why I had never got around to writing a novel, I would be penning this while sipping a refreshing ice-cold pina colada beside the shimmering pool of an ocean-going liner floating nonchalantly and serenely somewhere in the Med off the coast of the South of France.

Okay, maybe a little far-fetched. How about sitting shivering in a leaking rowing boat somewhere in the angry, choppy Firth of Clyde with a few over-zealous seagulls using me as target practice?

Right, fair enough, that might be stretching the imagination too far, as well. Would you settle for me standing in a puddle in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street during one of the country’s innumerable and, apparently, mandatory traditional summer thunderstorms?

To tell the truth, there had been a germ of an idea swirling around my cranium for a whodunnit for several years. I had been brought up on a staple diet of Agatha Christie (mixed in with a mountain of football autobiographies and biographies) and I just can’t get enough of extremely clever mystery writers.

On one of the days in the Kelburne, as we once again put the world to rights, someone just happened to mention there had never been a recorded murder on Millport. That was the kick-start I required, a challenge that had been presented at that precise moment.

The Country and Western Festival was a couple of months away and, almost immediately, a conception of a storyline crystalised in my imagination. What if someone staged a murder during the wild west weekend? There were wannabe Buffalo Bills, Wyatt Earps and Billy The Kids all over the place and many, of course, were equipped with fake firearms strapped to their hips. I had seen these guys strolling around the Millport promenade making the place look like Dodge City. In fact, I hadn’t realised there were so many cowboys in Scotland and I’m not talking about dodgy car salesmen, roofers, plumbers, electricians and candlestick-makers.

I had also been informed by one gleeful shop-owner of a particularly “crazy” weekend when something like twelve thousand visitors had been on the island, according to Cal-Mac records. The idea came to life and all I had to do was fit the pieces together in the jigsaw.

After writing the football books, I knew several publishers and more than one advised me to stick to fact and leave fiction to others. Granted, it is unusual for a writer to get involved in factual tomes and then turn his or her hand to fabrication. I didn’t really see it as an insurmountable problem and the only way to prove it was to sit down and produce a novel.

And so ‘Who Shot Wild Bill?’ was written in 2013 in the same year I had two football books published – ‘Denis Law: King and Country’ and ‘Celtic: The Awakening’.

The opening line in ‘Wild Bill’ appeared from nowhere: “Wild Bill Hickok was smiling. Which was odd considering there was a bullet hole between his eyes.” I was off and running, just another seventy-odd thousand words to get down in print.

Conjuring up the title was easy. There was no big deal to it when you’ve been employed in newspaper production for almost three decades and responsible for God only knows how many headlines in the sports section of that day’s publication. The supporting words on the front cover were a little more tricky. It’s too easy to clutter up a page and attract the eye away from the main visual impact ie the title. I decided to go for a deck of three at the bottom of the page. The first line read: “One Country and Western Festival”; the second: “One dead body” and the third: “Twelve thousand suspects!”

I roughed up an image of the front cover – and again I could literally draw on my newspaper experience to achieve this – and the designer followed it to the letter. I have to say I enjoyed writing the fiction for a whole variety of reasons. For a start, the characters were all inside my head.

Writing a football book entails quite a fair bit of research. Trust me, there are so many annoying anoraks out there who will spot even the tiniest error. “That wasn’t a corner-kick, it was a free-kick. It was the fifty-ninth minute not the fifty-eighth.” Get a proper job, you lot!

Then there is the time-consuming interviews where sometimes the subject tells you at the last moment that he has to cancel and “is it okay to do it next week?” You say: “Yes, no problem, whenever suits”, while grinding your teeth to powder and sticking needles furiously into an effigy.

So, it was great to come downstairs every morning around five o’clock in the confident knowledge all my subjects were lined up and good to go; my hero Charlie Brock, a sportswriter-turned-sleuth (I wonder upon whom I based that guy) and the many characters of the island. I didn’t have to chase them down, pick up an exorbitant drinks tab that would guarantee my accountant sucking out his fillings nor did I have to hang around for an hour or so while my interviewee had been sidetracked elsewhere.

I had fun selecting the characters and, as you might expect, several of them were parodies of genuine worthies of Cumbrae. Sherlock Holmes qualities are not required to work out ‘Hughie Edwards’, owner of Hugh’s Bar, is, in fact, the aforementioned Eddie Hughes, mine host at The Kelburne.

And so it went on, inventing characters and their mannerisms, down to how they looked, how they talked, how they dressed and even their favourite tipple. It was a chasm away from what I had been used to. If you’re writing about Denis Law, for instance, you would expect most football fans, certainly the ones of my generation, to have a mental image of him immediately. Not so in fiction, obviously.

I had to describe Charlie Brock, the reluctant sportswriter-turned-sleuth, and that was fairly easy, I just made him a better-looking version of the author! I hasten to add that is not an ego trip. I am acquainted with a few fiction writers and all of them will tell you (privately, of course) they are the main characters in their novels.

Actually, when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? When you’re in the middle of a chapter and you are describing some individual, you don’t have to work out if he’s the one with the glasses or she’s the one with the red hair. Charlie Brock is all over the book and if I haven’t a clue what he looks like then I better stop frequenting the Kelburne Bar!

But there was a lot of entertainment in putting real-life individuals into the book. Who was Tip-Toe Thompson? Bungalow Bob? Boring Brian? Mustang Mags? Jimmy B de Mille? And, my personal favourite, Vodka Joe? It became a bit of a guessing game on the island for awhile. 

The quirky mystery was originally published by Crime Lab and Ringwood this year took over the publishing rights. Thankfully, their managing director, the indefatigable Sandy Jamieson, bought into the character of Charlie Brock. He thought he was Scotland’s answer to America’s Kinky Friedman, an author whose work I was introduced to after publication of my first novel. I have to say I was vaguely disturbed to discover someone else on this planet shared the same fairly warped sense of humour as myself. Not sure how a bloke from Texas and an individual from Glasgow quite dovetail in their pursuit of mirth, but, amazingly, that’s exactly the case.

My second novel, which came out last month, is entitled ‘What Spooked Crazy Horse?’ and that, too, is set on Millport. The ‘Crazy Horse’ in question is a famous footballer who flees from one of the world’s most famous football clubs and turns up on the island where he is discovered, quite by chance, by the intrepid Brock. Why did Crazy Horse give up the riches, the fame and so on? Brock investigates and once again the plotline takes more than a few twists and turns.

The third in the series is being worked on at this very moment. It’s entitled ‘Who Stole Sitting Bull?’ and the first twenty or so chapters are set again on the Isle of Cumbrae. The ‘Sitting Bull’ character is a Scottish boxer who keeps getting knocked over, hence the nickname. Somewhere along the line – and this can only happen in fiction – he gets a shot at a world title and goes to Crete to acclimatise and prepare for the fight at Madison Square Garden in New York. He is mistakenly kidnapped on the Greek island and that’s when the fun and games begin.

I just hope the readers derive as much pleasure from my novels as I have in putting them together. What’s that they say in the tabloids? Never let the facts get in the way of a good story?

I’ll drink to that!

You can purchase Alex’s books on Amazon.
Who Shot Wild Bill here and here.
What Spooked Crazy Horse here and here.

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Amanda James

Summer in Tintagel

It is my great pleasure to introduce the lovely Amanda James, fellow Urbane published author, as guest author on my blog today. Amanda has written since she was a child, but never imagined that her words would be published. Then in 2010, after many twists and turns, the dream of becoming a writer came true.

Amanda has written many short stories and has four novels currently published. A Stitch in Time was published in April of 2013 by http://www.choclitpublishing.co.uk and has met with great success.

Also with Choc Lit are Somewhere Beyond the Sea and Dancing in the Rain (March 2014) and 
Cross Stitch (December 2014)

Her fifth novel, Summer in Tintagel, was released last month, July 2016, with Urbane Publications.

Blurb:

We all have secrets…… Ambitious journalist Rosa Fernley has been asked to fulfil her grandmother Jocelyn’s dying wish. Jocelyn has also passed on a secret – in the summer of 1968, fleeing from the terror of a bullying husband, she visited the mysterious Tintagel Castle. Jocelyn wasn’t seeking love, but she found it on the rugged clifftops in the shape of Jory, a local man as enigmatic and alluring as the region itself. But she was already married, and knew her husband would never let her find happiness and peace in Jory’s arms. Now as her days are nearing their end, she begs Rosa to go back to Tintagel, but is unwilling, or unable, to tell her why. Rosa is reluctant – she has a job in London, a deadline that won’t wait and flights of fancy are just not in her nature. Nevertheless, she realises it might be the last thing she will do for her beloved grandmother and agrees to go. Once in Tintagel, Rosa is challenged to confront secrets of her own, as shocking events threaten to change everything she has ever believed about herself and her family. She also meets a guide to the castle, Talan, a man who bears a striking resemblance to Jory. Will the past remain cloaked in tragedy, sadness and the pain of unrequited love? Or can Rosa find the courage and strength to embrace the secrets of the past, and give hope to the future?

Here, Amanda explains where she finds her inspiration to write.

**********

Thank you for inviting me onto your bog today, Eva. I’d like to talk to you about where I find my inspiration, a bit about Cornwall, and the idea behind my latest book.

I find inspiration for my writing in different ways. Sometimes I might overhear a snatch of a conversation in a shop or a cafe for example, and that sparks off my imagination. I have been known to jot down a few ideas right there and then! Sometimes ideas come from just people watching. I think it’s the ‘what if?’ questions. What if that man at that table has a dark secret? What if the waiter knows what it is and is blackmailing him? Is the man’s wife in the dark? What will she do when she finds out?

Other times I have absolutely no idea where inspiration comes from. My recently finished novel woke me up at three in the morning a few weeks into January this year. It gave me a title, the bare bones of a plot and a sketchy ending. I jotted it all down in a notebook that I keep in my bedside drawer and The Calico Cat was completed at the end of April.

Where I live is a huge inspiration of course. I have always felt a great affinity with the ocean. I feel alive, a sense of peace and at one with nature when I am on the beach or walking along the cliff tops. I especially love the north coast of Cornwall and am lucky enough to have realised a life-long dream and now actually live there! The people are really friendly too.

The inspiration for Summer in Tintagel grew out of my love for that area, but how the actual mystery behind the story of Rosa Fernley arrived in my head belongs to a visit to the ancient Tintagel Castle one cold but sunny winter’s day. I walked along the cliff tops by the church opposite and as I stood on the edge looking onto the rocks I thought how easy it would be to step off and end it all … if a person was so inclined. I’m not, in case you were wondering! Then the ideas kind of came to me from there. I visited Tintagel Castle again later and the sketchy parts became easier to see, bold and exciting. I thought that whole area was the perfect setting for a novel – full of history and mystery.

I loved writing this story and couldn’t wait to see where the characters would lead me. Jocelyn, Rosa’s grandmother has a big secret from her past which she passes on to her granddaughter. This secret and its consequences set a huge challenge for Rosa, and it was a challenge for me trying to keep the reader guessing about the mystery surrounding it all, yet enticing them enough to keep those pages turning! It was very tricky trying to resolve all Rosa’s problems too, but I loved every minute of it.

Mandy James

Amanda James on Social Media:
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Summer in Tintagel is available on Amazon here and here.

 

Eva Jordan in conversation with… Margaret Kirk

Tales From Elsewhere - Margaret Kirk

My second guest author post today is by the very intriguing Margaret Morton Kirk, a writer living and working in her home town of Inverness. She has written a number of short stories, one of which, ‘Still Life’, was runner-up in the ‘Bloody Scotland’ short story competition in 2015.  It was later adapted for radio and broadcast on Radio 4 as part of its ‘Scottish Shorts’ series.

‘The Seal Singers’, a semi-mythic tale set in Orkney, won third prize in the 2016 Mslexia short story competition.  And ‘Coming Home’, a chilling insight into one family’s fragmented past, was published in the Tales from Elsewhere anthology.

Her debut novel, ‘Shadow Man’ is set in Inverness and is the first in a planned series featuring ex-Met DI Lukas Mahler. It is due to be published by Orion in July 2017.

Here, Margaret gives us some very helpful advice about writing the dreaded synopsis for a book…something I definitely struggled with!

Synopsis is a four-letter word…

Well, not literally…even my maths isn’t that bad. But whatever kind of writer you are, it’s a safe bet that writing a synopsis is your least favourite part of getting ready to submit your work. When I first thought about entering the Good Housekeeping novel competition, I wasn’t too worried about sending off the first couple of chapters—I’d worked hard on them and thought they were probably pretty much there. The synopsis, though…I spent a ridiculous amount of time drafting and re-drafting, and even once I’d sent it off, I couldn’t help thinking it could have been so much better.  But should crafting a synopsis really be such hard work?

On the face of it, synopsis-writing doesn’t seem that daunting. Most agents tend to prefer brevity (with good reason, given the number of submissions they receive each week) so in theory, all you need to do is write a concise but compelling summary of your book, in 500-700 words.  How hard can it be?  After all, you’ve already written 90,000 or so…

And that’s part of the problem, of course.  You’ve probably toiled over your novel for several months, maybe years.  You’ve re-drafted, re-examined every word choice, and it’s now as good as you can make it. You’re feeling endlessly chuffed for even finishing the wretched thing, for heaven’s sake…and now you need to compress the essence of those 90,000 words into a page or less (and no cheating with the margins or tiny fonts, in case you’re tempted). 

It’s as though your imagination’s being forced to hold a closing-down sale.  Everything must go, all the plot intricacies, the character nuances you’ve worked so hard on, and what you’re left with looks like…well, not very much. Certainly, nothing that would tempt you to ask to see more, so how can it possibly work any magic on an agent?

Well, there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly, I’ve attended writing events across the UK, and the consensus amongst the agents I’ve spoken to is that they won’t usually turn to the synopsis first. They’ll have a look at your writing and your cover letter, to decide a) if you can string two words together and b) if you sound like someone they could possibly work with. If they’ve done this and are getting good vibes so far, then they’ll turn to your synopsis.  They’ll do this to make sure that the clever premise and vivid writing of your first chapter don’t lead to a surprise intervention from little green men in chapter 28.  

Secondly—and I wish I’d known this earlier—you don’t need to tell them everything in the synopsis. The main plot thread, of course, and the events leading to the denouement, and the ending, absolutely…but you don’t need to detail every twist and turn along the way. If you do, unless your novel is linear and simple in structure, you risk getting bogged down in unnecessary and confusing detail. You need to give the essence of your story, not chapter and verse.

Sound easy?  Didn’t think so. But fear not, there is help out there: I’ve found the wise and sensible Emma Darwin’s blog a source of invaluable help on all matters technical.  And Write a Great Synopsis by Nicola Morgan is a handy little eBook you won’t want to be without. 

Follow their guidelines, and writing your synopsis needn’t be the carpet-chewing trauma that mine became…best of luck!

Margaret Kirk

Margaret Kirk on Social Media:
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Eva Jordan in conversation with… Patricia Dixon

Pat Dixon BooksMy first guest author post today is by the lovely Patricia Dixon. Inspired by her second home, Patricia has published four novels that are all set in France. Born in Manchester, Patricia studied Fashion at Preston Polytechnic in the 80’s before starting her working life in London amidst the mad world of couture and designer tantrums.When the sparkle eventually wore off she returned to Manchester to a more sedate existence where she spent much of her time travelling the UK producing clothing for high street stores.
Twenty five years later, after swapping fashion for bricks and mortar and working alongside her husband in their building company, she found herself with an empty nest and her secret ambition to write novels could at last become a reality. Here, Patricia explains what inspires her to write and why she loves writing.

I Writing !

I Writing ! I also love everything it has brought to my life and I’m not talking about my earnings from book sales, it is so much more than that.

When I tell someone I’m an author, I can usually predict the next three things they are going to say, just after the look of surprise has worn off.

The first will be – Really! So what made you decide to do that?

The second – Where do you get your inspiration?

And the third – I’ve always wanted to write a book!

The answer to the first question is always easy – I decided to write because I knew I had to try and if I didn’t have a go, I would always regret it. I wanted to do something for me, that I was interested in and felt that I could do well. These were the simple building blocks on which to start my journey which up till now has been a huge learning curve, immense fun and a voyage of discovery which I never want to end.

And the inspiration? – That’s easy. Apart from my second home, France, which is a never ending source of ideas, tastes, sights and smells (I’m talking about the countryside and French cuisine here) what inspires me the most, is people.

I’m intrigued by the intricacies of their lives, not glamorous glitzy stuff or fame and celebrity, everyday things like marriage, divorce, birth, death, infidelity, jealousy, secrets….the list goes on. To me, the mundane aspects of our everyday existence which pass by largely unnoticed, those daily occurrences, familial interactions that make us tick, cry, laugh, rage, they all have substance, are tangible and real, utterly fascinating.

Our emotions too are complex, especially the more negative ones, and at whatever age, we can be thoughtless, indiscriminate, selfish and obsessed, blinkered and controlling. The good, bad and the ugly all make up the human psyche, have an impact on the lives of others with actions or words and combined, they have the ability to hurt or heal, make us sad or joyous, be labelled cruel or kind.

I’m a watcher of humans, wherever I may be. I’m the guest at the party who sometimes likes to sit in a quieter place and take in the scene before her, or maybe I’m the one being told a secret by the lady who has had far too much to drink and now, I’ll never look her in the eye again. Occasionally, you’ll find me in the middle of a debate, doing a bit of subtle stirring or listening to the views of others and naturally, putting my own ten pence worth in. I’m frequently reminded afterwards by my husband that it’s never wise to talk about football, politics, and religion in a social setting….but we’d never learn anything if everyone stuck to that rather limiting and boring rule!

What inspires me is a big old food mixer containing all of the above and even when it looks like all is lost, the fight is gone and the end really is nigh, all our foibles and strengths come into play, the human spirit rises up and triumphs, vanquishes foes, lays demons to rest and lives to fight another day. I admire people who try hard, have courage in their faith of whatever kind, help others, listen, have a desire to learn, show humility, kindness and understanding of those different to themselves. And in an odd way, I’ve found that these characteristics, the things which inspire me to write and form my stories, have a knock on effect, acting as a catalyst.

The incubation process takes place during the telling of the tale and by the end, I hope to have passed on some uplifting glimmer of happiness to the reader, a positive energy. I receive the most wonderful letters from all over the world, lovely people telling me how much they enjoyed my writing and that I have helped them, made them laugh, sometimes there’s even a bit of crying, too. Most say they can’t wait for another book which in turn, encourages me to continue, so in one way or another, the Angel of Inspiration is doing a fine job (yes, I am a believer in God and his celestial comrades).

As I said at the start, it’s not all about book sales, it’s the feeling I get when a name, familiar or new, pops up on my inbox, a letter from a happy reader. I have made so many new friends, some of whom I correspond and chat with regularly on Facebook or by email. It varies from weekly to maybe once a year, sending best wishes at Christmas, or just passing on snippets of news and catching up.

Some of them touch my heart, like the lady (I won’t mention names) who wrote to me from France during the winter months as she nursed her husband. Sadly, he was nearing the end of his life but she told me that the words in my Christmas story kept her going, and even now, she drops me a line and lets me know how she is getting on in her life without him. After reading À Bientôt, someone recently widowed got in touch to tell me that Anna’s tale gave her hope and encouragement, feeling now that all was not lost and she had the strength to carry on. I have so many other examples, some of them humourous, like the lady at the end of her tether with a step-daughter from hell, just like one of my characters, Lady Louise of Limousin, and I’d somehow persuaded her out of actual bodily harm. Many readers now want to visit France or make return journeys after catching the Francophile bug again, and on reflection, I reckon the French Tourist Board owes me a large chunk of commission! I might drop them a line next.

I’ve had to disappoint people too, by admitting that Rosie’s gîtes don’t actually exist and one lovely chap told me he was actually beginning to believe the people in the trilogy were all real. Knowing that readers can connect and associate with my characters really is such an honour.

Writing has given me so much, the most precious being new friendships (I met one of my closest, dearest friends through this process) a large injection of self esteem, something interesting to talk about, a sense of pride in myself and knowing that my family feel the same way about me. It has also brought me a sprinkling of confidence, something which, as you get older, can gradually diminish without you noticing it has packed it’s bag and is heading out the door.

For example, nowadays, I actually quite like saying the words ‘I’m a writer’ but not at the beginning, I was far too shy. I can remember the first time I confessed, under duress I may add, which was in the tinned food aisle at Sainsbury’s, just by the spaghetti hoops. A lovely lady was conducting a survey and looked quite flustered after possibly being re-buffed by one in three of the shoppers. Being a soft touch, I hadn’t the heart to walk by or make up some weak excuse so ended up answering each and every one of her multiple choice questions. When she’d finished, I was asked my age and occupation which is when I caught the beady eyed stare from my son, who was already bored out of his brains and ready to kill, so I took the hint and told the truth. Unfortunately for him, she then proceeded to ask the three questions listed above, to which I gave her honest and detailed answer’s and by the end of our chat, she’d jotted down the titles of my books and promised to buy them as soon as she got home!

After that I was on a roll and now take great delight in filling in registration forms and questionnaires, a task which has resulted in making a few unexpected sales and conducting book related conversations in some rather odd places.

Whilst having a procedure carried out at the local hospital, the chatty nurse spotted my job title on the notes and as they wired me up to the machine, I ran through my titles and even gave a quick synopsis of each. Suffice to say, while my heart went through its paces and the machine whizzed and whirred, the technicians on the other side of the glass were having a quick Google and checking me out on Amazon! The dentist was slightly trickier and I don’t know how they expect you to talk while they have those metal thingy’s inside your mouth. Still, both the nurses and dental staff seemed rather chuffed to have had their very first author on the reclining chair of torture, or strapped beneath something resembling a prop from the Star Ship Enterprise.

There are many advantages to being an author, the best is being able to disappear into a world of your own making, escaping to wherever you so wish and returning only when you have to cook the dinner (which is frequently burnt or overlooked completely if I’m engrossed). You can write your own endings, become another person, alter someone’s fate, and dish out punishments and revenge with a few clicks of the keyboard. I’m not power mad, honest!

I can’t say I’m in the league of authors where my name is instantly recognised or I am afforded special treatment, but my son actually got his car insurance quote much cheaper when he altered my profession online, so I assume authors are considered extremely safe drivers, or perhaps it’s just that they never stray far from their desks and laptop, thus leaving the roads of Britain less hazardous.

Being an author also gives me an opportunity to help others, by writing reviews for other writers (you will find that we are actually a very supportive crowd which in itself is comforting and uplifting) donating some of my profits to charity and offering my books as prizes.

The notion of passing on what I have learned from this whole process (good and bad) leads me to the final comment mentioned at the start. When someone says ‘I’d love to write a book’ my response is, just do it! I have quite a few acquaintances who, during our cyber chats, have expressed their desire to write and I hope I have encouraged all of them to have a go. If you think you can make people happy with your words, have a story in your head and you are burning to tell it, or there’s something you need to get off your chest, then write it down.

Don’t ever assume that your life is ordinary, we are all unique, have probably loved and lost, experienced sadness and pain, joy and heartache, witnessed life with our own eyes and battled on through whatever this world throws at us. If this is you, I hope that the Angel of Inspiration has gone a bit mad and sprinkled hope all over these words.

Maybe some of what inspires me, has trickled down the page and ended up here, at the end of my ramblings and will be the spark that sets you off on your own journey. Alternatively, if you are just happy to read the writing of others, then I do hope that should you chance upon mine, you enjoy my books and they leave you above all content and smiling.

Right, I’m off to finish book five, I’m on the home straight now. I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes which I think you may like. I try to keep them in mind each day.

Wishing you all the very best,

Trish x

*What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make* (Jane Goodall)

*Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try*

Patricia Dixon

Where to find Patricia Dixon:
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Eva Jordan in conversation with… Kendra Olson

The Forest King's Daughter

It is my great pleasure to introduce the lovely Kendra Olson, author of The Forest King’s Daughter, as my guest author today. Taking place in 19th century rural Sweden, The Forest King’s Daughter, an epic coming of age story, is Kendra’s debut novel.

The year is 1886 and Swedish teenager, Ingrid Andersdotter, is about to face a series of life-changing events. When Ingrid forgets to close the barn door one freezing cold night, there will be dire consequences for her family. To make matters worse, her attraction to the new school teacher leads to ostracism and shame. Ingrid’s strong opinions and the pressure of the powerful village church to conform to ideas she doesn’t believe in put her at odds with her traditional community.
Her only option is to leave her home and family. But is she brave enough to make an ocean crossing to a strange new land on her own, leaving everything she knows far behind? And will she find the freedom she dreams of if she takes such a risk?
Told through the lens of a Swedish fairy tale, this epic coming-of-age story, is both a page-turning personal account of one feisty young woman’s determination to seek a better life, and the tale of many single women who emigrated from Sweden to America in the 19th century.

Inspired by the pioneering spirit of her great grandmother, Kendra tells us about her writing journey and how the idea for The Forest King’s Daughter developed.

********

My writing journey, by Kendra Olson

I remember loving stories as a kid—Goodnight Horsey, The Velveteen Rabbit and Sideways Stories from Wayside School, were some of my favourites. Later I fell in love with Anne of Green Gables, The Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web and A Little Princess, amongst many others. I’ll never forget the scene in The Velveteen Rabbit where the little boy, after contracting scarlet fever, is forced to burn all his toys, including his best friend, the Rabbit. I found this scene deeply disturbing and never really got over it.

As a little girl, my dolls were very real to me and I was convinced that, once I went to sleep at night, they spent many hours talking to each other and having parties without me. So the idea that, were I to become ill, I would have to burn them—essentially killing them—traumatised me no end. As you can tell, I was a very imaginative child. I spent many hours—days even—involved in long, complex play sessions.

Then, when I was seven, I was given a diary by my grandmother—one of those old-fashioned ones with a hard cover and a tiny lock and key to keep your brother from reading your secrets (though he did anyway—the lock was easily breakable). I remember it was decorated in garish neon colours, as was considered stylish back in the 1980s. I wrote in it every day, trying to write smaller and less so as not to use the pages up too quickly. My grandmother had told me to write what happens to me, but I tended to write anything and everything in it instead and only rarely gave a true account of my day, instead preferring to record my thoughts, feelings, hopes, worries, dreams and, yes, the boys I fancied at school. After a little while I even ventured to write stories, and the outlines of stories, mostly involving little girls and fairies and often times little girls who’d turned into fairies, and mermaids, and fairy mermaids. Writing became a kind of release for me, a safe space from which to reflect, imagine and just be.

Fast forward a few years to my time in secondary school and my all-time favourite class: English. Our teacher encouraged us to write stories in response to our readings. As we’d recently finished Romeo and Juliet, and Halloween was coming up—a huge deal in the States, where I grew up—I wrote a ghost story with a romantic twist. My teacher made me read it aloud in front of the entire class—something I was terrified of doing—and they loved it! Kids who otherwise ignored me or made fun of me clapped heartily, and told me they’d actually been frightened by it. It was my moment of triumph in an otherwise fairly unhappy school life.

Later yet I enrolled in a writing programme, encouraged by my grandfather who’d worked as a children’s writer and editor for most of his life. I learned how to write fiction and non-fiction for the American magazine market. I then followed this up by taking a course in writing for children, which my grandfather also took. I realised the joy which could be gained from having a writing partner and submitted several stories and articles to publications, none of which were published, although I did receive some nice feedback from editors.

Then, when I was in university, working and helping out at home, I didn’t have time to write anything other than term papers. I sort of forgot all about writing stories. And this was how life remained for some years. After getting married and moving to London I had even less time–emigration is exhausting!

After a few years, life settled down and I enrolled for a simple, ten-week, online introductory creative writing class with writingclasses.co.uk. The course could be completed anytime, anywhere and, most importantly, every assignment was read by your tutor and given personalised feedback—a feature I loved. The assignments were fun too. One of my favourites was to write a story with each new line beginning with a consecutive letter of the alphabet. It was difficult but very worthwhile as it trained me to channel my creativity and make every word count. Another of my favourites was to write a modern day fairy tale. Somewhere in the midst of the many courses I took, I came up with the character of Ingrid, the protagonist of my now-published novel The Forest King’s Daughter.

The novel itself took me several years to write, with many false starts and a lot of research needing to be done—the story takes place in 19th century rural Sweden, a place I’d never lived in but was keen to write about. Eventually, I did visit Sweden and met my family there (the story was inspired by my imagining what life might have been like for women from my great grandmother’s generation who emigrated to America). And, when my novel was finished, I had it professionally edited and began the arduous search for agents. While I didn’t find one, I did find a publisher. On the 5th March 2015, The Forest King’s Daughter was published by Pilrig Press. It was the biggest triumph of all for me, especially coming as it did halfway through my Creative Writing MLitt at the University of Glasgow.

Since completing my degree and having my novel published I’ve been working on a second novel, also historical but taking place in a very different time period. I’ve also discovered a love for writing book reviews, which I write both for Lothian Life as well as for my blog, which I began as a way of promoting my first novel. I’ve found new literary avenues to explore, and new publications to submit to, as well as rediscovering some of my old favourites.

Recently, I even reread The Velveteen Rabbit and, while I still found it sad, it was no longer the tragedy it once was. In fact, I could now see the ending for what it really was: a sign of hope. In my despair at the perceived cruelty in the story, I’d failed to remember that, before the rabbit can be burned, the nursery magic Fairy takes him by the hand and rewards him for his love to the boy by turning him into a real rabbit. While I’d written for many years before having anything published, the act of writing continues to offer me hope and a space in which to explore, reflect and understand my life and the world around me. The publication of my first novel, The Forest King’s Daughter, served to validate this hope and, indeed, turn me into a real writer.

The Forest King’s Daughter is available from Amazon. 

Kendra Olson

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Eva Jordan in conversation with… Karen King – Romantic Novelist

Also on my blog today, I’m very pleased to introduce the romantic novelist Karen King. A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Karen King writes sassy, contemporary romance just right for reading on the beach. I DO – or Do I?‘ her first chick lit for Accent Press, was published in May. She has been contracted for two more. And she is delighted that Accent Press have republished her earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever. The Millionaire Plan was nominated for the RONE Award in 2014.

The Millionaire Plan

Love or money, what would you marry for?

Amber Wynters is on a mission to find a millionaire to marry – and fast. Her parents are nearly bankrupt and being forced to sell their family home, a beautiful Tudor house that has been in the family for generations, thanks to Amber’s ex-fiancé persuading them to invest in his dodgy shares. Armed with a self-help book and a ten-point plan, she sets off to hook herself a rich husband. On a millionaire’s yacht, she meets the drop-dead gorgeous Jed Curtess. The attraction between them is sizzling. It’s a shame that he is only a hired hand. Can Amber ignore her heart and follow her plan?

Never Say Forever

Do you follow your dream or follow your heart?

That’s the decision Kendall McKenzie has to make when she meets hunky businessman Jake Newman. He’s as attracted to her as she is to him – but Kendall has vowed never to get married, and it seems that Jake has too. When they are together, sparks fly. It’s obvious to everyone except themselves that they’re meant to be together. Can Kendall trust Jake enough to give him her heart? And if she does, will she have to give up her dream?

Karen has had several short stories for women’s magazine and 120 children’s books published.

When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

Here, Karen tells us a bit more about herself in my quick Q&A followed by a sneaky peak of The Millionaire Plan with a brief extract from Chapter One.

  • What is the best thing about being a writer?

Getting a letter or email from someone who’s enjoyed reading my book. That makes my week!

  • What is the hardest thing about being a writer?

Finding time to write down all the ideas that are whizzing around in my head.

  • Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

It took me seventeen attempts and goodness knows how many years to pass my driving test. Seriously!

  • What is your top tip for new writers?

Stop faffing about and get that first draft down. Then you can go back and reread, revise and rewrite. If you don’t write something you have nothing to hone.

  • Thank you for being such a great guest.

Thank you for hosting me!

*****

Chapter One

Rule number 1: Make sure you’re seen at the right places

Great. Here she was, dressed to kill and without a clue what to do, Amber thought, tugging self-consciously at the hem of her dress. Everyone else was walking around in groups, or at least in pairs, chatting and laughing together and making her wish that she’d taken up Callie’s offer to go sailing with her and Simon instead of wandering around Coombe Bay Marina alone. Honestly, dressed in this skin-tight, short white designer dress, high heels, and the pile of make-up Callie had insisted she wore, she might as well have the words ‘gold-digger’ written on her forehead.

Well, that’s what she was, wasn’t it?

Not for the first time she wondered how she’d let Callie talk her into coming here to try and hook a millionaire. It was mad. Insane. Immoral.

And her only option if she didn’t want her parents to lose their home as well as their business.

Spotting a café overlooking the marina, she bought herself a latté and was making her way over to one of the tables when a white yacht caught her eye. It wasn’t huge or brash, like some of the yachts in the marina, but it was definitely classy. The sort that a millionaire would have for his own use, to sail around in rather than show off and entertain his friends. As she peered over at it, trying to read the name painted on the side, she collided into something hard. Her coffee cup went flying off the saucer, emptying its contents over a pair of cut-off denim shorts that were hugging lean, definitely male, hips.

‘Whoa!’ Strong, suntanned arms held her steady. ‘You want to try looking where you’re going,’ an incredibly sexy voice drawled in an unmistakeably American accent.

‘Sorry.’ She looked up into a pair of twinkling tawny eyes that laughed at her from a ruggedly handsome face, topped by thick, light brown hair with sun-kissed highlights. Phwoarr! was her immediate reaction, but she quickly pulled herself together. She’d just spilt coffee over this guy, for goodness sake, the least she could do was apologise instead of drooling over him like a lunatic.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she apologised again. ‘I was looking at that yacht over there. It’s fantastic, isn’t it? I’ve never seen one like that before.’ Not the thing to say, Amber, she scolded herself. You’re supposed to be acting smart and sophisticated as if you come to these sort of events all the time, not twittering away like an idiot and letting the first person you bump into know that you’ve never seen anything bigger than a dinghy before. Then she remembered that she had quite literally ‘bumped’ into this man and drowned him in coffee in the process.

‘Gosh, I’m so sorry,’ she said, fully aware that this was the third time she’d apologised but unable to stop herself gabbling. She looked down at his wet denim cut-offs, trying not to let her gaze linger on the sun-tanned legs below them, then shifted her eyes hurriedly back to his face. ‘Er, I’ll go and get a cloth so you can clean up.’

‘No need. I’m working on that yacht you were admiring so I haven’t got far to go and get changed,’ he replied. ‘Perhaps you’d like to join me and clean yourself up too? You don’t want to leave that to stain. It’ll ruin your dress.’

What? She glanced down in confusion and saw that coffee was splattered all over the bottom of her – or rather, Callie’s – dress and running down her legs. How could she have not noticed? Because I was too busy gawping at him, that’s why.

She hesitated. He had said he was working on the yacht, which meant he didn’t own it – more’s the pity. So his boss could well be on board. And whilst the ‘How to Hook a Millionaire’ book Callie had brought and insisted she read from cover to cover had declared she should ‘seize any opportunity to mix with the seriously rich’ – and let’s face it, anyone who owned that yacht was seriously rich – meeting them with a coffee-stained dress and legs was not a good idea. ‘Always be perfectly made up and elegantly dressed’ was another rule.

‘Is your boss on board?’ she asked.

‘No, only me.’ He was looking at her intently. ‘Perhaps I should introduce myself, I’m sure your mother drilled it into you to never go off with strangers.’ He held out his hand. ‘Jed Curtess.’

She took his hand. It was strong and warm and his touch sent tingles running up her arm. ‘Amber Wynters,’ she told him.

‘Now we’ve been introduced, Amber Wynters, would you like to come on board and get cleaned up?’ he asked, a playful smile hovering on his lips.

She most definitely would but should she? She didn’t even know this man, although she had to admit that she definitely found him appealing. Should she risk going onto the yacht with him? He might not be as harmless as he seemed. She saw the teasing twinkle in his gorgeous tawny eyes and her heart flipped. Cancel harmless. This guy was a danger to her blood pressure if nothing else.

‘I promise I won’t try to seduce you,’ he said solemnly. ‘Unless you beg me to, of course.’ His eyes danced with humour and she thought there was probably a queue of women who would love him to do just that.

****

Both available on Amazon:
The Millionaire Plan Never Say Forever

Karen King

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