Monday, 19 March 2018

#Monday Magnificence - Cover Reveal!

There's Monday Magnificence in my brand new cover designs for my Celtic Fervour Series! 

For weeks past, I've been in correspondence with a graphic artist named Karen Barrett who took on the job of designing a matching series of covers for my Celtic Fervour Series. Karen's a highly respected and successful graphic artist, but designing covers was going to be a new venture for her.

I am so delighted to be her first customer for book cover design and can totally recommend her to anyone who might be needing covers designed for them!

Creating book cover designs for historical novels isn't always simple. For some eras there may be loads of images to choose from e.g. the Victorian era,  but eras of antiquity do not have plentiful, readily available and affordable images to use. I'm absolutely delighted with what Karen has put together for the series and can't wait any longer to share them with the world!

I'll be revealing the first three covers one at a time, so today's reveal is unsurprisingly that of Book 1.

My previous covers were designed with a very Celtic perspective in mind and I've always loved the iconic Celtic knot images that were chosen.
I'll still always have a sense of pride in my Crooked Cat Books covers but what they did not do was indicate any Roman involvement. At my Craft Fair events I've often had to say to potential customers: "Yes, my stories are about Ancient Celts but as the series progresses the involvement of the Ancient Romans increases. No, I know the cover doesn't show that but you'll know if you read the stories."  

Now, I'm hoping that people will see the cover and immediately say: "Ah, it's all about Celts being invaded by the Ancient Romans."

When I knew I'd soon be self- publishing my series I decided that new covers needed to show the Roman elements in a highly dramatic way without losing the Celtic elements. In my non artistic mind, I wanted The Beltane Choice's new cover to have merged images indicating that my story is one where the Iron Age Celts of northern Britain are being invaded and dominated by the Ancient Roman legions.

I really do think that Karen Barrett's design shows exactly that!

But...what do you think? 

My thanks go to Karen for a fantastic set of covers. Look out for the next cover reveals coming very soon!


Saturday, 17 March 2018

#Saturday Shorts – with #Sue Barnard

It's #Saturday Shorts time! 

Today, we get a brief glimpse of Sue Barnard, a fellow Crooked Cat author. We've now been virtual friends for about five years, but I'm delighted to say I've also met Sue in person. Always willing to share her knowledge, Sue is also a brilliant writer, editor and general helper in all things writerly!

Good morning, Sue, and welcome again to my blog. Slip onto that comfy chair and let's get some updates on you and your writing...

Describe yourself in a couple of sentences

I’m a British novelist, poet and editor, and the mother of two grown-up sons. I live in Cheshire with my extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

When is your best time to write?
Afternoons.  Mornings are usually spent catching up on other tasks, and by evening my brain has gone on strike.  But I always keep a pen and paper handy, just in case I get a light-bulb moment when I’m away from my computer.

 Nancy says: That sounds so organised! (* wink, wink- and what every author ought to do! But do I remember?)

Which social media platforms do you find most comfortable to use?
Facebook and (to a lesser extent) Instagram.  I’m gradually getting better with Twitter, but I still find it a struggle.  Some writers swear by it, but I usually end up swearing at it.
Sue Barnard

Nancy: I've not yet joined Instagram but don't count out any social media options. Twitter and I don't get anything at all! 

Please tell us what your latest book is about and its genre.
Heathcliff (due out later in 2018) is a Wuthering Heights spin-off novella which speculates what might have happened to literature’s favourite anti-hero during the three years when he disappears from the original story.  I’ve no idea what genre it falls into (if any!). 

Nancy: That definitely sounds like one I'll love reading. 

Did anything in particular influence you to write it?
It all began with a chance remark from a former school friend:

“Sue, I love the way you’ve based your book on what we did at school.  What are you going to do next?”

We were chatting just after the release of my third novel, The Unkindest Cut of All, which features a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.  This was the play we’d studied for English Literature O-Level (as it then was, back in the dark ages before GCSEs).  The novel set for the same exam was Wuthering Heights.

“Well,” I chuckled, “there’s always Heathcliff…”

At the time, it was just a passing joke between two friends who recalled crying on each other’s shoulders as we’d struggled to make sense of the vagaries of the plot, tried (and mostly failed) to decipher Joseph’s incomprehensible dialect, and attempted to understand the book’s complicated inter-personal relationships.  The latter was not made any easier by the characters’ confusing similarity of names.  Emily Brontë had clearly never read the rule-book about this.  Three of the characters have names beginning with the same initial, one of them has a first name which is the same as the surname of another, and two others have the same name entirely!

But somehow, the idea just wouldn’t go away.  I recalled how our teacher explained how “… by having the story narrated by Nelly Dean, Emily Brontë avoids having to tell us exactly what happened to Heathcliff during those missing three years…”

So – what might have happened to him?  Could I try to get into his mind, and write a story which attempts to answer that question?

 Nancy: That's a fabulous reason. 

Did it require any specialised research?
Yes, very much so.  The whole thing proved to be quite a challenge, as the dates in Wuthering Heights are very precise.  Heathcliff disappears from 1780 to 1783.  My first idea was that he could have spent his missing years as a pirate (which would certainly be in keeping with his character!), but I quickly discovered when I started my research that the golden age of piracy was several decades too early.  Then I wondered if perhaps he could have made his fortune in the American or Australian goldrush, but the goldrush years were not until the mid-1800s.  Eventually I did find something which fitted with the correct dates, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what that was!

 Nancy: That's such a tease but I will! 

Who is your main character?
Heathcliff.  Yes, that is THE Heathcliff.

What’s your Heathcliff's greatest weakness?
An inability to forgive those who have hurt him.

What’s your Heathcliff’s greatest strength/s?
I think he has an amazing capacity for love.  It is tragic that this is never fulfilled.

You're an editor for other authors, but do you enjoy editing your own work?

What’s your favourite occupation? (apart from writing!)
I love reading.  As a book editor I’m never short of stuff to read!

Do you have a favourite place to ‘hide’ out from life?
I love the Isle of Anglesey, and go there as often as time permits.  In fact my fourth novel (Never on Saturday) is set partly on the island.

Favourite food and drink?
Where do I start?  It would be much easier and quicker to list what I don’t like!  But if I have to nominate just one of each, then the food would have to be fish, and the drink would be beer.  And it must be a pint.  Halves are for wimps.

Nancy: Spoken like a beer aficionado! I'm drinking an occasional beer since my son-in-law set up Fierce Beer Co with a fellow beer enthusiast. They're too busy creating it to be drinking themselves but I'm enjoying their brilliant combinations of Craft beers.  

Links for Sue's work 
I don’t have a link for Heathcliff yet.  Other books can be found on my Amazon page (see below).

Contact Sue here: 

Blog   Facebook   G+   Twitter   Instagram   Amazon  Goodreads  

Thank you for popping in today, Sue. I'm definitely looking forward to reading Heathcliff. Best wishes for all of your writing projects.


Friday, 16 March 2018

# Someone to #Lean on- #Dougie MacLean

Friday means it's time to give those supporting secondary characters a bit of the limelight!

Today, I'm joined by my lovely Crooked Cat author friend, Yvonne Marjot, who has chosen a really brilliant character from her wonderful novel Walking on Wild Air. Dougie MacLean is a character to easily pin your heart on, but I'll let Yvonne tell you more about him. 

(You can also find more about Yvonne's previous visits to this blog by using the 'Search' facility on the right sidebar to access my review and posts where Yvonne Marjot has been my guest.) 

Welcome again, Yvonne! It's lovely to be reacquainted with Dougie...

Glencoe by Angus Stewart (see below)
There is Magic in the Heart of the Wind…
Today I’d like to talk about Dougie MacLean, supporting man from Walking on Wild Air, my paranormal romance set on a mysterious and beautiful island in the Scottish Hebrides.
It’s hard for me to think about Dougie as a supporting character, he’s so real and vibrant in his own right. I have a strong picture in my mind of what he looks like – Gerard Butler crossed with Douglas Henshall, with a touch of the young Peter Capaldi. But more than anything, he is based on my own partner, who died before he had a chance to read the final, published book. Mark always supported my writing, and believed in me long before I had the courage to start sending my books out into the world. Walking on Wild Air is dedicated to him: like Dougie MacLean he inhabits his own island hilltop, wild as the wind and free from all pain.
At the beginning of Walking on Wild Air Sushila Mackenzie, part Scottish and part Sri Lankan, lands on the island – her childhood home – looking for the right place to scatter her father’s ashes. She’s lonely, hurting, and very defensive. That last thing she’s looking for is a man.
But when she gets lost on the hill, as the mist comes down, a local shepherd and his dog come to her rescue and she falls under Dougie’s spell. Scotland’s misty hills are full of legends and strange tales, and Dougie has walked straight out of one and into her life, turning everything she thought she knew upside-down.
He’s a charming rogue, a dependable friend, an attractive older man, with a surprisingly naïve and open outlook on life. Sometimes he seems like a creature out of legend, a man of the distant past – and at others as modern and enlightened as Sushila herself. He might be just what she needs to heal her wounded spirit. But the discovery of who – and what – he is could break her, heart and soul.
At the summit of a bare hill, on a quiet island in the bleak west of the world, a storm was brewing. Lightning flickered and dark clouds glowered over the hilltop, their rain-heavy bases lit from within by sullen flashes.
Courtesy of Yvonne Marjot
A bolt split the sky and the rain sheeted down, half hiding the ground with its jumbled boulders and sparse coating of grasses. For a moment the scene flickered, like a jerky film noir, and then a figure could be seen on the hilltop, curled up in the foetal position, unmoving.
Thunder cracked overhead and the man raised his head, hauling his body wearily after it. He climbed to his feet and pressed them against the ground, as if testing its ability to hold him. On one buttock there was a red mark, where a rock had pressed into his side, but as he stood in the rain the mark bruised and faded, leaving no trace.
He squared his shoulders against the deluge as the clouds roiled overhead. A great shaft of lightning hit the hilltop precisely at his position, limning his figure for an instant in a halo of blue and white. He looked down at his fists, unclenched them and regarded his hands as if seeing them for the first time. He put his head back, staring upward as the rain poured over his face, drew in a deep, shuddering breath, and howled a cry of pure anguish.

Yvonne Marjot

Yvonne Marjot lives on an island off the west coast of Scotland. She has been writing stories and poems for as long as she can remember, and once won a crate of port in a poetry competition. You can follow her work at
or by following 

To Buy Yvonne's novel CLICK 

Thank you for bringing Dougie today, Yvonne. It makes me want to go back and re read Walking On Wild Air, which I do doubt will sometime in the future! As always, my very best wishes with it and with current and future writing.


Monday, 12 March 2018

#10 #Monday Meanders with Joan Livingston

Good Morning Monday!

It's time for some more #meandering, this time to Massachusetts, USA. Today, I welcome a new Crooked Cat Books author friend, Joan Livingston, who has kindly popped in to tell us about places she loves to stroll around-physically and in her writing!

Although I have been to some small towns in the US, I've never been to the area that Joan's mentioning today.

Joan Livingstone
Please get comfy, Joan, and tell us about your kind of meandering...

Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts
I am a big fan of small towns, I mean really small towns of 2,000 people or fewer, the smaller the better. Yes, I’ve lived in cities, but I want to be in a place where I can easily know who lives there with me — for better or worse.

I tend to read books set in small towns. I write about them as well. Actually, most of my novels are set in a fictional hilltown called Conwell, including my mysteries series featuring Isabel Long. The first mystery, Chasing the Case, will launch May 18 to be followed by Redneck’s Revenge in the fall. Currently, I am working on the third, Checking the Traps.

There is no such town called Conwell in Western Massachusetts although I will admit the name has significance to the town of Worthington, where my family and I lived for over two decades. Russell H. Conwell, who was born there, founded Temple University in Philadelphia. He was a whole lot of things like a minister, orator (his most famous speech is called Acres of Diamonds), philanthropist, and more. The elementary school my kids attended was named for him.
Corners Grocery, Worthington MA  -Wikimedia Commons 

But Conwell is not Worthington although there are similarities. Both have one general store, one church, one school, one stoplight, and one bar. Forests cover most of the town, and it’s a bit of a hilly commute to a city. There’s a constant stream of newcomers seeking the good life in the country. And, as I’ve written, people can be nosy and helpful. Yes, there are feuds. And lots of dirt roads that get muddy in the spring.

As I like to say, I take what I know and have my way with it.

I feel I can get easily drop a mystery in Conwell and the other fictional hilltowns I’ve created for my series. I’ve got to give Isabel Long something to do after she got canned by the newspaper where she was the managing editor. So she decides to solve a 28-year-old mystery of a woman disappearing in her town. Did anything like that ever happen? Nah.

It’s been easy to create such a town as a setting for my novels. I became immersed in the hilltowns when I reported on them for many years for the local daily newspaper. I remained interested after that ended. The hilltowns, its people and landscape were still a part of me when we moved 2,400 miles away to Northern New Mexico. After 11 years, we’ve returned to another town in Massachusetts. Didn’t I say I like small towns?

Nancy says: I love mysteries so I really think I'll be enjoying yours soon! 

My mystery, Chasing the Case, published by Crooked Cat Books, is set for a May 18 launch.

Readers can pre-order the Kindle version here:
Amazon US
Amazon UK).

The paperback version should be out soon.

My website:

Thank you, Nancy, for this opportunity to be a guest on your blog.

You're very welcome, Joan. Come back soon. Best wishes with you launch and happy writing! 


Friday, 9 March 2018

# 9 Someone to #Lean on- is #Zaan trustworthy?

Friday means it's time to give those supporting secondary characters a bit of the limelight!

Today's character is one of my own from Topaz Eyes. My mystery thriller has a large cast of characters to choose from but if charged to find the most supportive character, who aids the development of the story, I'm choosing Zaan. That role is not always obvious at the beginning of a mystery, it sometimes takes a little time to persuade the reader about allegiances- especially in a novel of intrigue. 

At the outset of the novel, Keira Drummond isn't sure who she can trust in the quest to locate the Tiru Salana collection of emerald jewels. She pairs up with Teun Zeger, a Californian of Dutch descent, but as in life it takes a while for her trust of him to be absolute, (and vice versa) even when she is definitely drawn to Teun as a future lover. 

The cast of characters includes a large number of third generation cousins of Teun who are also charged with finding the missing family jewellery. Teun knows none of them and because of highly irregular happenings just before this extract Keira is alarmed that Teun can't even trust Zaan, the one cousin that she favours as being the most trustworthy of the bunch that she meets in Heidelberg at the beginning of the novel. 

Keira thinks Zaan is a good guy. In this extract you can read what Teun's thinking about Zaan...

Her mobile rang some time later, as she sipped a nightcap in the hotel bar beside a very reflective Teun. Dinner had been necessary to sustain them, though neither of them had done justice to the meal. 
“Hello, Zaan.”
While she listened, Teun whipped out a pen and pulled a napkin toward him. He scribbled something before pushing the paper back toward her. Say nothing about the jewels, or about Adam’s death. Looking grim, he stared. Though surprised by his order, his glare had her nodding her head. It was just as well Zaan’s monologue still continued since she didn’t need to answer at all at that point. That gave her time to compose herself, and try to act as though absolutely nothing untoward had been happening to her. As Zaan burbled on, his call became distraction from her own sad mood.
Zaan hadn’t found Tanja’s hairpin as easily as he’d first imagined. He’d made the visit to his cousin in Brussels. The woman had clarified the brooch she’d been given did look like the one Tanja wore in the photograph of the three sisters, but she’d sold it. She’d confessed to being surprised by the gift from her aunt—Zaan’s mother—but it hadn’t been something she felt she’d ever wear; not her style. The good thing was she’d taken it to a reputable jeweller, so chances were high it could be traced. Zaan sounded positive and was pursuing it.
With regard to verification of the Tiru Salana collection, Zaan had news on that front, too. He’d made contact with the descendants of the Amsterdam jewellers, the Koopmans, who’d been named in the 1815 newspapers. Though their company name had changed a number of times, and the business had considerably downsized, they were still trading as jewellers in Amsterdam.
“They have records in one of their premises dating back to the early eighteen hundreds. Jensen has arranged for an archivist from the university to help us trawl through the paperwork in their stores, though it will take her some time. That’s my update. Anything new at your end?”    
“Not really.” Keira hedged an answer but had to tell him something innocuous. “Though, I’m so pleased to have met Teun’s dad. He’s a lovely man…”
After some general chit-chat about Duluth, she found the conversation difficult to maintain and, at Teun’s gesture, she handed her mobile over. He had been absorbing her one-sided conversation with Zaan, and had looked so serious. She still couldn’t figure out his mistrust of Zaan, but had come to respect his caution: the person dogging their tail had convinced her of the need for vigilance. Something underhand was going on and they didn’t know who had set it up. Till they did, it was right to be watchful. She admired how economical Teun was with the truth.
my ideal Teun-
“Yeah. We’re going to New York tomorrow.”
Teun’s declaration to Zaan came as a surprise since they’d been careful only to mention Duluth. Zaan had no idea they were currently in Rochester, did he?
“I’m hanging around the East Coast for a few days, but Keira’s going straight back to Edinburgh.”
So, that was it? Teun had used her to find the jewels and she was being packed off home? She seethed quietly while he finished the call. When he gave her the mobile, she couldn’t even look at him.
He grabbed her hand and led her out to the bank of lifts, his voice low though there were only a few patrons around and about the foyer. His scan of the area wasn’t secretive. She followed his every glance and satisfied herself that she recognised no-one as they stepped into the lift. Tacit silence ruled till they were in their room.
“I’m not fed up with you, Keira. I know it’s what you’re thinking, but that’s not what I’m doing. Listen while I explain, please?” He rifled his fingers through his hair as she turned toward him. “I’m… so bloody furious… about the things that are happening. You have to admit there are too many sinister events happening.”
“How do you mean?” She wasn’t prepared to forgive him yet. He needed to come clean, about everything.
“Maybe menacing things happen around you every day, Keira, but they don’t damn well happen to me. I can’t help being bloody suspicious.”
“You didn’t want Zaan to know about Adam, since you’re still not sure if he had anything to do with it?”
“I can’t get past the fact we visited Adam a few days ago. I thought someone had been in his house the other night, and, for Christ’s sake… now he’s dead. We visited my father a few days ago. He has a mysterious visitor who gets him so wound up he has a heart attack. Do those happenings not seem malicious to you? Someone has been trying to get information about the jewels—or even the jewels themselves—and my relatives have been harmed because of it. And I did nothing to prevent it!”

I've used images for Keira and Teun in various promotional material, and thought I had one for Zaan but can't locate him. I see a tall, blonde guy but what would your Zaan look like?
I hope you enjoyed the extract. You can get the novel by clicking HERE if you're interested in reading more...It's a real snip at 99p.

Have a good weekend!


Thursday, 8 March 2018

#Crime? Well actually, yes!

Thursday News! 

Elgin Library- in the daylight! 
Last night, I achieved something I've been aiming for all year and that was to attend a session of the Elgin Writers Group which I've been a postal member of for approximately a year. 

It's a round trip of about 100 miles for me to get there, but apart from a little hitch in not easily locating the Elgin Library venue in the dark, in the park, it was great to be there and meet up with the 15 other attendees. 

I really enjoyed listening to the others read their work and it was the first time for a very long time that I've been required to create a Haiku on the spur of the moment! The last time would have been me leading a class lesson on Haiku during a project on Japan with my 11-12 year old pupils probably more than a decade ago. 

Here's last night's attempt given around a >5 minute slot to compose it. 

There was no exact theme but since the Haiku form is essentially about 2 (opposing) profound statements encapsulated in the moment what I produced was highly influenced by my recent 'heavy' time spent re-editing my Celtic Fervour Series. The Haiku is bound by rules, the most common form being 3 lines with syllables of 5, 7, 5 ..or a similar variety. 

Before all was calm
Chaos descended in lines
Traditions now gone

The resulting poems around the room were extremely varied but very enjoyable. well as getting on with my re edits to Book 3 of my Celtic Fervour Series After Whorl: Donning Double Cloaks (I've completed those for Bks 1 & 2) I was off on a virtual visit to the blog of Val Penny a fairly new Crooked Cat author. Val featured recently with her crime novel Hunter's Close so since crime is her current writing genre I decided to show how crime is never far away from my novels - though they are definitely not crime novels that would be put on the crime shelves of the high street bookstore. 
This is the link to Val penny's Blog HERE I'm sure she'd love you to pop in and say hello.

Here's a REBLOG of my post since it's quite an important aspect that I often need to deal with when in front of the general public.
Is it a crime novel?

I start with a very broad question because you write crime novels, Val, but it’s one which I’ve been asked more than once while selling my novels at Book Fairs, Craft Fairs and events like Highland Games up in North East Scotland. Potential customers have asked me - What are your novels about?  I give them an initial overview that I write Historical Fiction; Contemporary Mystery/ Thrillers and Time Travel Historical. I then say that although my novels would not fully fit the ‘Crime’ genre on Amazon they do have crime in them to varying degrees. Though, perhaps they’re not the crime novels they are looking for.

My first century A.D. historical Celtic Fervour Series isn’t a series of whodunits set in northern Roman Britain (roughly from Yorkshire northwards) but they do have battle scenes where the intent is effectively genocide on the part of the Roman generals who invaded the north. Back then, it was bow to the dictates of Rome or they annihilated any Iron Age tribes who resisted them. That could be said to be very big crime indeed but it’s not what would normally be in a reader’s mind who is interested in ‘police detective led procedural’ crime. Killing one warrior or killing many, in battle, isn’t treated the same as murder would be in a detective novel, yet it is premeditated crime of sorts. Are the police involved? No, but they weren’t invented in Roman Britain! In my historical novels there are also situations of retaliation on the part of the invaded ‘Celts’ when they raid Roman convoys and steal the goods; and when the ‘Celts’ organise ambushes of Roman patrols and kill the auxiliary escorts, but is that crime? There are reports of rape and the death of innocent children in the novels but does that make my story fit the crime genre?

If someone picks up a copy of my mystery novels and reads the blurb they can see that although my mystery thriller Topaz Eyes wouldn’t be classified as a crime novel it does have strong criminal elements. There’s acquisition of goods (jewellery) by devious means; there’s intent to kill; there’s stalking with intent to murder; there’s theft: there’s murder; and there’s accidental death during an aggravated criminal situation – yet my story Topaz Eyes is not considered to be a crime novel because it is primarily a mystery thriller. Are the police involved? Yes, in more than one city but is it a crime novel? Errr…not quite.  Topaz Eyes has also been called a treasure hunt mystery; a romantic mystery suspense that ‘weaves a plot of intrigue across Europe’; ‘A velvety trip packed full of history, mystery and suspense’ and many other wonderful 5* comments. But it’s not a crime novel.

What about my other mysteries published by Crooked Cat Books? Well, funnily enough they also have crime in them but again not the type that gets them classified as crime novels.

Monogamy Twist is a fairly simple mystery that centres on a plot that’s a combination of a quirky Dickensian-style bequest of a dilapidated Yorkshire mansion house and a somewhat shady ancestral tree. There’s fraud; there’s intended deception and possibly even a touch of benign coercion- all of which might court prosecution today- but essentially it’s a slightly humorous ancestral romantic mystery. Are the police involved? No, but the main female character has to be an amateur sleuth to solve the mystery.

Take Me Now is what I call my ‘Corporate Sabotage’ mystery so yes, there’s definitely crime involved but it’s a light-hearted, fun romantic comedy mystery. There’s intent to cause bodily harm; there’s malicious and wilful damage to property and people; there’s attempted murder- though, again it isn’t called a crime novel. Are the police involved? Yes, they are. Is there an amateur detective involved? Yes, but she’s also one of the main characters in the romance. 

My point in all of this seems to be it’s actually quite hard to write a novel without any kind of crime in it! The next time I sell my books at a Fair of any kind perhaps I should get a large pop up banner to proclaim – I’m not actually a crime author but… J with a lot of *wink, Winks* and smiley faces.

I'll back again tomorrow with something a bit different... 


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Cold? It's time for A Cold Retreat!

Tuesday greetings to you! 

Brrr... it has been cold! 

The snow in my part of the world is now melting but the last week's confinement has meant a lot more writing for me (mostly re-edits for new editions of my Celtic Fervour Series) and it's also been a great time to catch  up with some fiction reading. 

I often step out of my comfort zone regarding the genres I read, but I have to confess I don't often read psychological thrillers bordering on the horror genre that are also mysteries. But not reading a sub-genre very often doesn't mean I can't appreciate a well written novel. 

Today, it's time for a short review of a novel that I think would fit well into the psychological thriller, crime, mystery, or perhaps even the horror category. 

The author Jim Ody hasn't visited this blog before but it's lovely to welcome someone new! I haven't been involved in a Blog Tour for quite a while but check out the bottom of this post where you can see the other blogs A Cold Retreat is being featured on. 

Here's the Blurb first:  

As a child, Penny dreams of being a princess. She knows life isn’t exactly like fairytales, but she hopes it can be similar.
The future isn’t so kind to Penny. The princes in her reality turn out to be evil. Battered and bruised she hits rock bottom.

Here's what I thought as I read it....

A Cold Retreat

You know those times when you're reading a mystery, or a thriller, and think you know the ending and then something else pops up to surprise you? Well, this novel was definitely one those for me. I don’t often read this kind of thriller horror but A Cold Retreat is very well written, gripping and took some attention to detail. 

Multiple points of view can be sometimes repetitive, and I felt this happened at times, but mostly I found it to be a very good way of describing what’s happening as seen from the other perspective of a situation. I think it works well int his novel because there are multiple viewpoints to be considered and multiple characters to understand- or at least try to understand! 

The multiple characters each have their strengths and weaknesses, some are likeable and some cause a good dose of revulsion. I didn't feel drawn to any one in particular but neither did I feel the opposite, each character demanded my time fairly equally. 

Feeling a victim. Out of control situations. Retribution. Payback. Reading a situation wrongly. Memory perhaps not always sharp or accurate over time- There are plenty of themes and other aspects to 'chew' over by the end of this nightmarish novel... which if I describe them any more it would be a ‘spoiler’ and I always try to avoid them!

Did I enjoy the novel? I'm not sure, but I was very engaged while reading it. 

I'm sure readers of thrillers and horrors would love to add this 5* read to their collection! 

You can BUY A Cold Retreat  HERE  from Amazon 

Jim Ody
Here's a bit about the author

Jim was first published in an English School Textbook in 1987. He won a competition to draw a dog-walking machine. Having won an art competition the year before, he felt that at the age of eleven he had peaked and consequently retired from art.

For 10 years Jim wrote for a number of websites reviewing and interviewing bands in his own unique way, as well as contributing dark poems and comedic features.

Jim likes to write psychological/thrillers that have endings that you won’t see coming. He also favours stories packed with wit.

Zombie Cupcake Press have published his two books 'Lost Connections' and 'The Place That Never Existed', and will release his third 'A Cold Retreat' in January 2018. He also has a short stories in a number of anthologies with Zombie Cupcake Press and Bloodhound Books. Next year will see the release of a haunting novella, another psychological thriller and the start of a comedy/crime series (Caper & Dice).

He has a very strange sense of humour and is often considered a little odd. When not writing he will be found playing the drums, watching football and eating chocolate. He lives with his long-suffering wife and three beautiful children in Swindon, Wiltshire.

Here's where you can also find A Cold Retreat during the blog Tour. 

Thanks to Jim Ody for featuring, and to Simon Leonard for organising the visit today. Best wishes with A Cold Retreat!


Sunday, 4 March 2018

#SnippetSunday from #The Beltane Choice!

Snippet Sunday and an update!

Nobody said self publishing would be easy and I've spent the last couple of days knowing exactly that. For all sorts of reasons, a main one being my contract had expired with Crooked Cat Books for my Celtic Fervour Series, I'm doing full re-edits to each of the three previously published books.

The new versions will be edited by a skilled professional and then I'll be formatting them for self publishing. My fantastic brand new covers for them are wonderful and I can't wait to show them off!!!

The problem with that is they need to be edited first so that I can determine the correct amount of pages in the book. As I may have pointed out before, my graphic artist cover designer can't finalise her work till the spine size is known and that's dependent on page sizes. Though...I'm hoping she'll allow me to show off my fabulous covers very soon - at least the first one.

My new version of The Beltane Choice,  Book 1 of my Celtic Fervour Series, is now off to my editor. Look out for details of re-publishing soon. Now I'm off to re-edit Book 2 of the series.

Meanwhile here's a #SnippetSunday extract from ....The Beltane Choice

Head down, she trawled behind as the warrior-band followed Lorcan, making their way along another reinforced pathway and across a log causeway bordered by wattled walls. Brennus followed in her wake, taking his guarding seriously. Once into the open at the lake’s edge she could see the roundhouse they approached more clearly, no longer obscured by the tall reed and fronded light-green willow cover.
The crannog dwelling sat tall and proud, this one a little larger than a typical roundhouse. Built out over the water, its circular wooden platform sat on stilted foundations, the walkway access edged with a waist-high woven wall of willow, with an infill of thinner twigs. The wattle and clay daubed wall of the dwelling was low, no higher than Nara’s head, the thatched roof beams protruding over the top of it, creating a shady overhang. On the outer circular platform edge two children played a game on a wooden board with marked coloured stones. Close by, a young woman stood weaving at a tall upright loom under the overhang near the children. A little further round, Nara could just glimpse a skin-covered coracle and a dugout boat floating at a protruding landing stage, accessible from the platform edging.
“Mother,” Grond called ahead, “Lorcan is here to visit Father. Where is he?”
On their approach the children scurried away, an older woman appearing immediately. Then, more slowly, an older man whose smile was a beam of sunshine came out.
“Lorcan. Welcome!” The older man clapped Lorcan on the shoulders, greeting him warmly while he gave an invocation of hospitality to all. “It is long since we talked.”
“My thanks, Gyptus. It is good to be here again.”

Lorcan’s confident smile as he and Gyptus walked round to the landing-stage made Nara feel neglected. She wished the smile was for her, now her own situation was back to threatening. A lone Selgovae, she was surrounded by even more Brigantes; from the hostile look on their faces none happy with her presence. 


Saturday, 3 March 2018

#8 #Saturday Shorts – with #Kathy Sharp

It's Saturday again so it's Saturday Shorts Interview time! 

Today I have my Crooked Cat author friend Kathy Sharp who is about to take my comfy seat and get out of the snow that's presently settled over almost the whole of the UK.

Welcome back to the blog, Kathy! It's been a while since you've visited, so let's hear about what life is like for you...

Please tell us a little bit about your daily life. 
I live by the sea in Weymouth, Dorset – part of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site. I have lived here for nearly fifteen years now, and I love it. This wonderful place inspired me to take up writing again after a gap of many years.

When is your best time to write?
In the mornings, usually. It’s when I feel most creative.

Which social media platforms do you find most comfortable to use?
I’m a private person so I tend to be a little wary of social media. I probably feel most at ease with Facebook. I have come to know some lovely people both here in Dorset and round the world through writers’ and readers’ groups I have joined.

Nancy: of all of the social media sites that i've joined I'm also most comfortable on Facebook. 

Please tell us what your latest book is about and its genre.
Whales and Strange Stars is an adventure set in the marshlands of 18th century Kent. Historical fiction? Yes and no. The characters and events are fictitious, but I did try to give the book an authentic period setting.

Nancy: That's a tricky aspect I find in my writing, too. It's the dividing line between an authentic setting and the point at which even a slightly known historical figure becomes fantasy since we can never portray them exactly as they were. 

Did anything in particular influence you to write it?
Yes, and it’s a long story. But in short – I spent much of my early life out in the marshes and on the river in that part of Kent. It’s more than fifty years ago, but the book is laced with my own memories of riverbank life, wildlife, and messing about in boats.

Nancy: I've visited Kent but never been on the marshes. The whole of the south coast is a wonderful place to visit, and I have to confess I mostly spent holiday time driving to the many historical visitor attractions and sites of interest - of which there are loads! The book sounds like a fascinating way to be introduced to the area via the past leading, which could lead on to the present.  

Did your latest book require any specialised research?
I read 18th century authors such as Daniel Defoe and Fanny Burney to get an idea of the ‘voice’ of the times. I studied the political and social history of the century, too, of course – but on the whole I felt I learned more about ordinary people of the day from Defoe.

Nancy: I've not read Defoe since I was in my teens, but trawling through social history of an era- newspapers etc -  is amazing for finding out useful tidbits, and for me is always a very pleasurable digression. 

Who is your main character?
Rosamund Euden, a young girl who has never left her home, a silted-up and forgotten river-port. It’s Rosamund’s longing for adventure and to see the outside world that forms the heart of the book.

What’s your main character’s greatest weakness?
Eavesdropping. No good ever comes of listening in to other people’s conversations, as Rosamund discovers.

What’s your main character’s greatest strength?
Loyalty. But misplaced loyalty can be a dangerous thing. She discovers that, too.

Are you a lover of editing your work?
My plots are complex, and I enjoy working on them to see that they make good sense. I’m not a fan, though, of pulling my prose apart word by word. It interrupts the flow of storytelling too much.

What’s your favourite occupation? (apart from writing!)
Studying and photographing plants, both wild and tame. It’s a lifelong obsession! I’ve recently begun researching the history of garden plants and 18th and 19th century plant hunters. It’s a fascinating subject and it’s giving me lots of ideas for future books.

Nancy: Yes, I don't see them often ( re FB's weird sharing policy) but have really enjoyed your photography, and sometimes photos re. your choir info as well. Please continue to share them on Facebook!

Find Kathy at the following places: 

Kathy Sharp
Kathy Sharp was born and brought up by the sea in Kent. Life took her inland, and she worked for many years as a desktop publisher for Surrey County Council, and as a tutor in adult education.
And then, one day, she visited a friend who had just moved to the Isle of Portland, Dorset, and fell in love with the place. She has now lived by the sea in the Weymouth and Portland area for more than ten years, and still loves it. The wonderful Jurassic Coast, and Portland in particular, were the inspiration for her Larus Trilogy of novels.
Kathy also sings with, and writes lyrics for, the Island Voices Choir on Portland, and is a keen member of local writing groups, as well as enjoying studying the local flora.

Thank you for sharing your days with us, Kathy and my very best wishes for all of your writing, past, present and future! 


Friday, 2 March 2018

# 8 Someone to #Lean on- #Leah

Friday means it's time to give those supporting secondary characters a bit of the limelight!

Today, I'm joined by my Crooked Cat author friend  Miriam Drori who has chosen to feature a secondary character - -Leah  - whose impact is strong in her contemporary novel Neither Here Nor There

Welcome to my Friday series, Miriam, it's great to have you back again! It's been a few years since I read Neither Here Nor There so it's excellent to be reminded of Leah's  role in the novel.  There are a number of themes covered in your story and one of those is essentially breaking free of traditions. Thank you for sending along the photograph because I think that'll also help my readers to imagine the scenes. I'll let you explain a bit about Leah's role so that we can get to know her better!

Neither Here Nor There, set in Jerusalem, is a romance told from two points of view: the heroine (Esty) and the hero (Mark). Esty has just left the closed, haredi community in which she was brought up. Mark is a new immigrant from the UK. Neither point of view is from inside the haredi community. Esty, despite knowing that community from the inside, always had doubts about its way of life. Mark has never experienced it.

That’s why I’m delighted Nancy has given me the opportunity to explore the motives and thinking of Leah, who has only a minor role in the novel. Leah is nineteen, the same age as Esty, and they were at school together. Leah married at sixteen, has three children – all under three, of course – and hopes God will reward her with several more. She feels particularly blessed because her eldest is a boy. Her husband spends his days studying and she admires him for that. She herself was never a very good student and certainly never thought of questioning anything they were taught.

Among the teachings Leah has never doubted are the evils of television, the Internet, the wearing by women of men’s clothes (i.e. trousers) and the baring of arms and legs. She’s happy she learned these things and feels sorry for all the others, who haven’t had that opportunity. Apart from cleaning, cooking and looking after the babies, Leah helps her mother in the grocery store. Usually, she has no reason to go out of Mea She’arim, the small and crowded neighbourhood in which she lives, so close and yet so far from the rest of Jerusalem.

What makes Leah step out of her neighbourhood one morning is the fact that she has to register the birth of her newly born daughter at the Interior Ministry office. And that’s where she encounters Esty, her former friend, who has just requested a passport in the same office. Leah can’t understand why Esty left the community. She knows Esty was clever and thinks she would have been a light to the women of their community if she hadn’t thrown it all away to join the infidels.

Courtesy of Miriam Drori- Mea She'arim, Jerusalem
Miriam's sent along a short excerpt that explains Leah perfectly:

Putting the receipt for her passport application in her bag, Esty made for the stairs to go back down to the entrance. She reached the exit from the office just as a mother was wheeling a pram from the other department on that floor – the one for registering births and deaths. Esty recognised her and, without thinking, called out, “Leah!”

Leah looked up and stood for a moment staring at Esty, her mouth wide open. Esty was also transfixed, but she took in the pram that held two children, one of them probably a new-born, whose birth had to be registered here. By Leah’s side was another child, dressed as a boy but with long straight hair. Of course. Boys under three couldn’t have their hair cut. It was odd how practices that had always seemed so normal were beginning to feel strange.

The boy started to call. “Mummy. Come.” Suddenly, Leah turned away from Esty and continued to wheel the pram to the lift. She hadn’t said a word.

Esty went down a few stairs and then sat on one of them. She had no wish to bump into Leah again on the ground floor. If anything brought out the difficulties of leaving the community, it was this meeting with an old friend. Even though Esty had always known this sort of behaviour by friends and acquaintances was likely, when it really did happen it came as a terrible shock.

Esty and Leah had grown up together. They’d played together, sung songs together and talked of their dreams for the future, the men they hoped they’d marry. True, they’d seen less of each other since Leah had got married, especially when her babies began to arrive. But when they’d met, Leah had always seemed pleased to talk to her childhood friend again, and delighted when Esty cooed over one of the babies.

Now, Leah wouldn’t even say hello to Esty. Probably all her old friends would react in the same way. The incident brought home to Esty what it meant to cut yourself off from everything you’d ever known and begin again with nothing.

A man coming down the stairs stepped round Esty and then looked back at her. “Are you all right?”

“Yes, thank you.” Esty heaved herself up and continued down, confident that Leah and her entourage would have left by then.

Nancy says: That really is a very poignant part of the novel, Miriam, but I recall Esty as being a strong girl who gets on with the choices she has made, difficult though they are for her. 

Thank you for inviting me back to your blog, Nancy! For another excerpt from Neither Here Nor There, there’s a reading of the first chapter here:

Miriam Drori

Miriam Drori was born and brought up in London and now lives with her husband and one of three grown up children in Jerusalem.
With a degree in Maths and following careers in computer programming and technical writing, Miriam has been writing novels and short stories for fourteen years. After some success with short stories, Miriam turned her hand to longer fictional works, publishing "Neither Here Nor There" and "The Women Friends: Selina" co-written with Emma Rose Millar.
Miriam’s latest publication is non-fiction and explores the common but little-known disorder called social anxiety, which has been her companion for most of her life. It looks at social anxiety from different points of view, with the help of many quotes from ‘sufferers’ who agreed for their words to be used anonymously. The book has been highly recommended by ‘sufferers’ as well as professionals in this field.
When not writing, Miriam enjoys reading, hiking, dancing and travelling.

Use the following to find Miriam: 
Neither Here Nor There:
The Women Friends: Selina:
Social Anxiety Revealed:
Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Pinterest, Wattpad and on her website/blog and social anxiety blog.

(You can also find more about Miriam's previous visits to this blog by using the 'Search' facility on the right sidebar.) 

Thank you for coming back and reminding me about the role that Leah plays, Miriam, because I recall her impact being important when it comes to Esty reconciling herself with the choices she's made regarding leaving the community. Before reading Neither Here Nor There I knew very little about the Haredi Community and Jerusalem in general - I can thoroughly recommend it as great read but also if you're interested in learning a bit about that background!