Monday, 15 January 2018

#2 Monday Meanders with #Katharine Johnson

Good Morning -it's #Monday Meanders!

It's a windy, cold, almost snowy day here in my part of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, but it's okay because my new #Monday Meanders slot is designed to transport me, and hopefully also you, to other gentler climes.

This week's new destination, I'm delighted to tell you, comes via my talented Crooked Cat author friend Katharine Johnson. She's sharing information with us about her forthcoming book The Secret  (published by Crooked Cat Books) though we'll have to bide our time till later in the year to get our hands on it. The new novel sounds like just the ticket to take me to a brand new location, especially so since Katharine has included some truly wonderful photographs for us to get a real feel for the place.

Settle in and enjoy both Katharine's photos of the locale and her wonderful description of it.

Welcome to my #Monday Meanders feature, Katharine...

Hello Nancy - thanks so much for letting me visit your blog to talk about the setting for my next novel which comes out this summer.


Courtesy - Katharine Johnson
The Secret is set in a fictional Tuscan village called Santa Zita. It’s the same village as the one in my previous book The Silence, which was published last year. Although it’s a standalone story it’s about another secret harboured by Villa Leonida, the house at the centre of The Silence. This time, however, it’s a wartime secret.

One of the things that drew me to Tuscany as a setting was that it has such a rich, multi-layered history. A house like Villa Leonida would have experienced several reversals in fortune and would have many stories to tell. 

The isolated position of some of the mountain villages makes them hard to access and it's easy to imagine a secret being contained within their walls for many years.


Courtesy - Katharine Johnson
The Secret's about two girls growing up in Mussolini’s Italy and a secret they share that has devastating consequences reaching right up to the present day.

Santa Zita is perched precariously on a mountain and from below the houses look in danger of tottering down the hill but it has a wonderful view of the valley below with its rooftops and bell towers and the surrounding mountains.

The streets are steep and narrow, criss-crossed by arches and washing lines. There's a central square which houses the church of Santa Zita, a bar and a restaurant run by two eccentric, warring brothers. 

The village is surrounded by chestnut forests, and a fire is lit for three months during winter in the the chestnut drying tower at Villa Leonida to dry the chestnuts which are used for making flour. 


Courtesy - Katharine Johnson
Also on the slopes are vineyards, olive groves and fruit orchards.

When Martina and Irena are growing up the village square is the social hub and the focus for celebration suppers after the grape and olive harvests when long tables are set out across the square and lanterns strung among the trees. Martina’s wedding to Gianni is also celebrated in the square.


Courtesy - Katharine Johnson

Martina and Irena sit on the wall of the fountain in the square each day to wait for Gianni who lives in Villa Leonida to join them so they can walk to school together. Gianni’s family is highly respected, the wealthiest in the village, and Villa Leonida the most prestigious dwelling. 

Martina who lives in a small, terraced house below Villa Leonida often imagines what it must be like to live there and take part in the glamorous events she hears about. So when Gianni asks her to marry him she’s thrilled. But neither life at Villa Leonida nor marriage to Gianni are as she imagined.

When war breaks out all their lives change dramatically. Loyalties are divided, food is scarce and friendships betrayed in a climate of fear and suspicion. 

Seventy years on, Martina and Irena’s children have a chance to put right a wrong but doing so carries a risk that one of them would do anything to avoid.
Courtesy - Katharine Johnson

Although the village and its events are entirely fictional, the story is inspired by the history of many villages in Tuscany where I’ve had a home for a number of years. 


Katharine Johnson is a journalist with a passion for books, old houses and all things Italian (except tiramisu). She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy. She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and madcap spaniel. She plays netball badly and is a National Trust room guide.


The Secret will be published this summer by Crooked Cat Books. 

The Silence, which is also set in Villa Leonida but is about a secret from the 1990s is available to buy now http://mybook.to/TheSilence


Website/blog 
Facebook
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Since Katharine shared another brilliant photo I'm going to add it here because that bridge is just begging to walked over so that we can admire the peaceful water! 
Courtesy Katharine Johnson
Thank you so much for sharing your new novel with us today, Katharine. I'll be watching out for the launch so that I can uncover its secrets! Best wishes for all of your writing projects in 2018. 

Slainthe! 

Saturday, 13 January 2018

#Saturday Shorts- Carrie Ann Schless!

Happy Saturday wishes to you!

It's also going to be a #HappyCrookedCaturday since my interviewee is another member of the Crooked Cat Books author cattery!

I'd like to welcome debut author, Carrie Ann Schless to the #Saturday Shorts my new 'short and snappy' interview chair today, the first of 2018.

It's a brief introduction to my author friends though if you want to learn more I'm confident there will be longer interviews elsewhere across the net, but here's a glimpse of what life is like for Carrie-Ann whose debut ebook version launched yesterday at a Facebook party.

I believe she also has a live paperback launch as well so if you live in her area, she'd be over the moon for you to pop in. Her newly launched Romance is called Another Woman's Man.

Let's get to know Carrie-Ann...

Welcome to my blog Carrie-Ann. Please introduce yourself briefly: 

Hi, I’m Carrie-Ann Schless and I live in S. E. England. I’m a single Mum and I work part time at a card shop.

When is your best time to write?

I tend to write any time but annoyingly evenings are when my idea’s flow more, or anytime when I’m unable to write like when I get in the bath!

(Nancy: I agree - Where's an old fashioned dictaphone when you need one? Actually I never used one of them but it might have done the trick. That really is an annoying time to get ideas!)

Which social media platforms do you find most comfortable to use?
Carrie-Ann Schless

I have been using Facebook for ten years now so it just feels normal to me. What did we do before Social Media? No honestly I’m asking as I seriously don’t remember.

Please tell us what your latest book is about and its genre.

Another Woman’s Man is a Woman’s fiction novel primarily about an affair but with a lot of other themes going through it.

Did anything in particular influence you to write it?

Amongst other things I found it crazy that so many of my friends received messages from other peoples boyfriends and started to wonder how I would feel if they decided to date these men.

(N: Now that's an interesting observation. Definitely a breeding ground, I think, for some further investigation /jealousy unless of a very innocent nature!) 

Did your novel require any specialised research?

Not particularly. You don’t need to go far to find somebody that has been through this.

Who's your main character?

Casey Turner. It sounds crazy but I’ve grown fond of her. I miss having her around!

What’s your main character’s greatest weakness?

Danny. She just can’t seem to say no to him.

What’s your main character’s greatest strength?

She cares very deeply for the people important to her.

Are you a lover of editing your work?

I actually quite enjoyed editing first time around, but I wouldn’t say I loved it.

And now for some fun stuff about you...What’s your favourite occupation? (apart from writing!)

I always wanted to be an actress

(N: There's still plenty of time for a career change!)

Do you have a favourite place to ‘hide’ out from life?

I love nothing more than a dance floor of a nightclub but only when the music is decent.

Favourite food and drink?

I love Chinese food, and I may be known to have the odd vodka and coke.

~

Thank you Carrie-Ann for giving us a tiny edge into your favourites. Another Woman's Man is now on my kindle, as of yesterday, but for others who haven't yet bought it-
Click the link here: 


Find Carrie-Ann Schless here:  www.carrieannschless.com





 Till another Saturday Short comes along... Have a great weekend. 

ps Use the 'Follow the Blog' email sign up box on the right sidebar to be sure to catch the next post on Nancy's Novels. 

Slainthe! 

Friday, 12 January 2018

#1 Someone to #lean on...meet Ruaridh

It's Friday 
…heralding the end of the working week and my new Friday theme begins today. 

I’ve done something similar in the past about those supporting characters in a novel who just keep shy of the main limelight but I believe they really deserve a bit of exposure. Therefore, in order to promote those impressive supportive secondary characters, which virtually all stories that I’ve read require, they will have my Friday blog slots from now until the end of March. I'll be joined by lots of supportive secondary characters penned by my guest author friends from next week onward till the end of March, so please keep popping in and enjoy those who don't quite get the star spots of the books they appear in.  


It was hard for me to choose which of my characters to begin the series with since I’m quite partial to a good few but the toss of the coin has gone to my lovely Ruaridh in my humorous contemporary mystery Take Me Now.

Ruaridh as the father of the main male character, Nairn Malcolm, was a joy to create. At the outset of writing the novel my intention was that it would be a fairly simple romantic comedy mystery and for any kind of romance there’s generally a need for a rival for the heroine’s attention. 

To suit the domestic situation my hero and heroine find themselves in, I didn’t want another younger character invading the castle. To make my situation work for Aela as the interviewee for a job at the restored island castle, I needed another man familiar with the house and familiar with Nairn Malcolm who was interviewing Aela for a job.  

Who better than Nairn’s very likeable, footloose and fancy free, father! The image below is probably just about right for how I see Ruaridh. I popped in my usual images for Aela and Nairn- I hope you like them,too! 


Here’s a long extract introducing Ruaridh:

www.123rf.com
Six thirty-five?
Aela peered at the clock again, memories of the evening before slamming in. She had intended to check on Nairn during the night, but it was well past the time for that.
Bacon was crackling and crisping under the grill. She was finishing the last of a stack of pancakes, having found some maple syrup in one of the well-stocked cupboards, when she became aware of someone entering the kitchen.
“Well, isn’t this a sight for sore eyes, lass.” Ruaridh’s voice boomed in the near silence. “It’s about time someone as beautiful as you made something smelling so good in this kitchen.”
“What? No blonde bunnies cooking for your son?” The tart comment slipped out.
Ruaridh’s chuckle was infectious. “Och, no, Aela. Nairn’s blonde bunnies wouldn’t have a clue about which end of a wooden spoon to use.”
She gurgled along with him as he came over to the cooker and inspected her gelling pancakes, the current batch blowing bubbles, just ready for turning.
 “Nairn’s lady-friends aren’t Scottish island mentality. They’re more inclined to baking themselves in the sun at his Corsican villa than whipping up a batch of pancakes.”
Mentally filing away the snippet of information, she avoided further banter about Nairn’s women friends. “Well, this is no culinary feast, but there’s plenty if you haven’t eaten yet.”
“You’re tactful, too,” Ruaridh praised before he asked for an update on Nairn.
www.123rf.com
Aela’s hearty laugh pealed out. “Nope. I’m not too good at tact, but I know when to keep my mouth shut which isn’t exactly the same thing. It’s just the two of us again. Your son sure likes the land of nod.”
Bacon slices and a stack of pancakes were placed in front of Ruaridh before she sat down with a full plate for herself. His chuckling continued as he complimented her on her cooking initiative.  
“I hope you don’t mind me doing this. You did say to make myself at home, and making breakfast seemed fair since you cooked for me last night.”
Ruaridh answered around a mouthful of syrupy pancake. “No problem at all, lass. Glad to have you on board.”

“On board what?” Nairn’s question had their heads whipping around. It was obvious neither Aela Cameron nor Ruaridh had heard the whisper of the wheelchair, but his enquiry interrupted their conversation.
“On board the company flagship, of course. Morning, Nairn. I see the long sleep improved your temper.”
His father continued to eat, his mumbles coming around mouthfuls of bacon, his sarcastic wisecrack accompanied by a wink first for Aela, and then one for him. A reaction typical of Ruaridh. What the hell did he mean? Company flagship? He must have given the woman a job, but he remembered not a blasted thing about it, and now his father and Aela Cameron were tucking into food at his kitchen table. He snagged Aela’s gaze. Her molasses-rich eyes were twinkling, but not at him. Ruaridh was the source of her good spirits.
www.123rf.com
How Nairn looked
before his bike spill! 
“Good morning, Miss Cameron.” Turning to Ruaridh he ensured his voice was saccharine sweet. “Morning, father.”
“Oh, my word, lass. Do you hear that?” Ruaridh laid his hand theatrically over his heart. “Somebody in this room must have got out of the wrong side of the bed.”
Aela Cameron laughed again. The woman was far too flippant. Something about disrespect niggled at Nairn. He was sure he’d felt it the day before, as well as finding her too inclined to laugh at the state he was in. None of the banter shared with Ruaridh made him feel any better. Even the cosy sight of them sitting at his table aggravated him. It had been his father’s hearty laugh and a gentler tinkle of female amusement that had wakened him. Though he couldn’t hear what they’d been saying, it was obvious Ruaridh and Aela were getting along very well.
With a scrubbed face and still drying hair hanging straight down her back - a black shimmer trailing almost to her waist - the woman was striking. No doubt she’d ensnared Ruaridh’s attention from the sound of the charm oozing out of his father. The thought of his old man flirting with Aela Cameron held no appeal. At fifty-seven, Ruaridh was very popular with the local ladies even though he’d never shown signs of wanting to remarry after the divorce to Nairn’s mother more than a decade ago. Yet Nairn knew Ruaridh was more than capable of acquiring a new woman, or wife, if he were to choose.
“Would you like breakfast, Mr. Malcolm? I’ve made plenty.”
She’d made herself at home in his kitchen? Bloody hell! Had he given her a job as his cook as well? She’d soon learn he cooked for himself when he was home, though, maybe not right now since his injuries were a damned nuisance. He swallowed his pride, with difficulty.
“I would. Thank you, Miss Cameron.”
Aela jumped up and removed a chair to make room for his wheelchair, her movements efficient.
“So you’re making use of the chariot then? Just think, Nairn, with a bit of practice you’ll be doing wheelies on the quay side, and you’ll have forgotten your stookies.” Ruaridh’s chuckled comments were interspersed by pauses, as he mowed his way through his plateful.
Nairn made no initial comment, Aela cutting pancakes and bacon into small pieces before placing the plate in front of him. Did she think he was incapable of feeding himself? Annoyance stirred again as he focused on his father’s remarks and grins but much as he tried, he couldn’t quite suppress the twitch at his mouth because his father often managed to make awkward situations light hearted. “Thanks for fetching it. Wheeling around, strangely enough, is much easier on the ribs.”
“All joking aside, how do you feel this morning, Nairn?” Ruaridh flicked open the syrup bottle, added some to the residue of his pancakes then waved it, asking a silent question.
After receiving a liberal sprinkling of tawny maple syrup over his breakfast, Nairn picked up his fork with his less than expert left hand. “The headache and disorientation have finally gone, thank God.” He deliberately sought out Aela’s eyes. Eyes he thought were maybe hiding something? “Miss Cameron will be delighted to know, like a good boy, I’ll take the painkillers on a regular basis till the ribs heal and not be stupidly macho about it.”
He watched Aela suppress a grin, didn’t break a smile himself, but he remembered more of her barbed words of the previous afternoon – because what he’d just stated was a sanitised version. There was no hint of remorse or embarrassment in her expression as she attacked her stack of pancakes with enthusiasm. He’d expected his comment to ruffle her, but there wasn’t a hint of discomfort showing.
A bit of pancake was shuffled around before he managed to spear it properly. He just caught Aela Cameron’s full blown beam in his peripheral vision as he lifted the fork to his mouth. She was laughing at him again, looking as though she knew something he didn’t, but he’d turn the tables on that soon enough. Only good manners prevented him from throwing her right out on her ass. Out of his kitchen. Out of his castle. He gulped over a mouthful. Out of his jobs. Out of reach of…Ruaridh…who was behaving as though Aela Cameron belonged at his table, as if she’d been a fixture for ages.
Ruaridh must have asked the woman to stay overnight.
The sweetness of the syrupy pancake was suddenly sickening. What had happened before she’d gone to bed in the apartment? The pile of pancake and bacon pieces slowly found their way to his mouth as he deliberated how to achieve her expulsion, because the woman was a thorn in his already aching flesh. He laid down his fork to fumble for the napkin Aela had set beside his plate and used it to mop the sweat from his brow. The room was so damned hot now he wished he’d not squirmed his way into his towelling robe. Maybe he was running a temperature? When he looked at his table companions it seemed he was the only one to feel the excessive heat.
The meal progressed, Ruaridh and Aela dominating the conversation. Ruaridh chattered about sights to see down in the town of Mariskay; Aela responded she’d been delighted with her short foray down to the harbour. Nairn found Aela’s voice husky - not a figment of his imagination, and just what he remembered from his erotic early-morning dream. Replies he gave were minimal as he concentrated on attacking his food, making sure it reached his mouth and not the floor.
“No, lass, I’ll tidy up.” Ruaridh intervened as Aela started to clear the table when all three of them had finished. “Nairn will want to formalize your job, now.”
“Formalize her job?” His comment spat out along with a bit of pancake. He tried to interpret the statement as Ruaridh continued to stack the dishes.
“Aela needs to get started on the backlog of your calls as soon as possible, Nairn. You know how your inquiries build up.”
“Your timely reminder is duly noted, Father. Since you’re so up to date with my business, maybe you should be the one to formalize Miss Cameron’s job?” He knew Ruaridh’s sigh was for effect…and as a blatant prod since his father’s expression and body-language indicated he was being obtuse.
“Nairn. Appropriate documents weren’t ready yesterday. You only dealt in the verbal. Do I have to remind you that you were not compos mentis? Aela needs to sign her contract.”
 “Her contract?” Nairn stared, a tense silence lingering. Ruaridh muttered as he stacked the dishwasher. He glared at Ruaridh’s obdurate back because his father was up to something, though he didn’t know what.
Aela, he was gratified to see, gaped at both of them.
He blasted his father to hell and damnation along with a few curses well-aimed at himself as he acknowledged what must be done to salvage the mess he appeared to have made. Wheeling himself out of the kitchen, he snapped, “Miss Cameron. Come to the office, please.”
Aela didn’t immediately follow him. He could hear her tight voice speaking with Ruaridh as he bowled along the corridor.

I'm looking forward to meeting some more secondary supporting characters next week. Tune in to the historical one Jennifer Wilson has for us! 

(ps I've read the book she's highlighting and what she's sending on is perfect!) 

Slainthe!