Sunday, 23 October 2016

Flash Fiction: Saving Time

This tiny story was inspired by an exercise set at Doncaster Writers' Group.  The story had to include a man, a young girl, a mother, a bench, an ice cream, a bank and a coat. The image is supplied by Pixabay and the protagonists' names may bear a certain resemblance to minor characters in a popular kids' story involving wizards. But hey, didn't TS Eliot say that all good writing is borrowing?  Or something like that?  

James stepped off the bus and frowned at the view.  Outside the bank, there was no cash machine or security screen.  The staff were all dressed in olde-worlde clothes.  He dropped onto the bus stop bench and looked around.
A girl walked past eating an ice-cream.  She was wrapped in a short, mint-green trenchcoat.  He'd seen one like it before, tattered and moth-eaten at the back of his mother's wardrobe when he and his sister had cleared her house out for her move into the home.
"Lily," he called, not really believing himself, but she turned her head towards him, squinted in concentration, then walked over to the bench and sat down beside him.
He didn't know what to say.
"Where am I?" he asked finally.
"Brighton."  Well, obviously.
"I mean.. when?"
"Tuesday morning."
"OK, I mean... this is going to sound crazy, but what year is this?"
"I'm dreaming, right?  I must be.  I tripped, getting off the bus, and hit my head."
"I can pinch you, if you like," Lily suggested.
James was saved from needing to reply by a sudden scream.  Everyone turned towards the bank.
A masked man brandished a gun at the cashier, then turned to spray bullets wildly.  James dived for cover, sweeping Lily to the floor along with him.
Then everything went black.
When he came to, his head pounded as he sat up and looked around.  There was the cash machine, the security screens were back in place and the cashiers wore modern uniforms.
"What happened?" James asked.
"You tripped getting off the bus." An elderly lady fussed around him. "Do you need a doctor?"
James remembered a newspaper clipping he'd seen when they cleared out his Mum's house.  She had indeed narrowly avoided injury in a bank robbery during her youth.  And she'd never again seen the man who saved her.  But if he told anybody about his experience, they'd only think he'd been hallucinating.  
"No, I'm fine," he said.  The afternoon's events would remain his secret.  Or perhaps he'd share them with his Mum next time he went to visit the home.    

If you enjoy realism with a quirky paranormal twist, why not download a sample of my girl-meets-genie romance, Djinn and Tonic?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Review: House of Secrets by Lynda Stacey

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the launch party of local author Lynda Stacey's debut novel, House of Secrets.  It was a lovely night (with an incredible book-cover cake - I definitely want one of those one day!) and a few days later I had time, while travelling, to start reading House of Secrets. Naturally, once I'd started, I raced through the book in no time, but it's taken me a bit longer to get around to working out how to explain its charm.  Here's my attempt...

House of SecretsHouse of Secrets by Lynda Stacey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love Choc Lit books, and House of Secrets is a great example of what Choc Lit do best: love stories with an added dimension.

At one level, House of Secrets is a classic love triangle: Maddie is fleeing Liam, whose love for her has tipped over into a frightening obsession, when she meets Christopher Lawless, nicknamed Bandit. Maddie is a clever, capable woman whose confidence has temporarily been damaged by an abusive relationship - a familiar character type from so many stories, not least Carole Matthews' delightful A Place to Call Home, which I read just before House of Secrets. Liam, the obsessive ex-boyfriend, could have come out of any number of domestic noir novels. Bandit is the ever-popular ex-Marine, rough and ready, and with plenty of his own demons to fight, but with a soft streak a mile wide when it comes to Maddie's adorable daughter Poppy.

If you think these characters sound a touch predictable, you'd be right, but it's the warmth with which they are drawn that makes them stand out, and I'm sure that's a big part of why this book won Choc Lit's Search for a Star competition. The other outstanding feature of House of Secrets is, of course, the house of the title: Wrea Head Hall, the beautiful country house hotel which brings Maddie and Bandit together in an exploration of past secrets which turn out to have a touching relevance to the present day.

View all my reviews

I wanted to finish off by sharing a photo of me and hubby at Wrea Head Hall itself - yes, it's a real place, just outside Scarborough, and we've been there once for afternoon tea - but I couldn't find one.  Guess we'll just have to go again, then!  In the meantime, you can check the hotel out here; and read more about Lynda on her website here:

Thursday, 23 June 2016

A Poem for Referendum Day

I haven't been around much lately.  The real world has rather taken over from writing for a while, but here's one thing I have written which seems apt for today:

It Isn’t You

Of course I don’t mean you.  You are a product of the Empire
With no memory of a home outside these Isles.
Your stories and your smiles are in my earliest memories
You’re British through and through
And if we had to vote for you
To leave or to remain,
Despite your birthplace and the colour of your skin,
I’m sure that anyone would vote you ‘in’. 

I don’t mean you, I mean those others who
Like the Loch Ness Monster, I have never seen,
But must exist because the Daily Mail and facebook tell us so.
No, they should go, the lazy slobs
Who waste our benefits; the greedy ones who take our jobs.

I don’t mean you, my friend, whose thirty years of Yorkshire overlaid
On native Michigan have not yet made
You local in some Donny eyes – or ears –
Your fair skin and your perfect English do not stoke our fears,
And though it’s cost the NHS to help you through,
You’ve given too – so much, despite your pain.
No, you remain.

And no, I don’t mean you,
The tired-eyed, kind-smiled doctor who
Listened to my chest late after work, the time I coughed up blood
And reassured, in English broken as the tiny tube 
That caused the flood of red which scared me so, 
That it was nothing serious.
You’re surely one of us.
I wouldn’t make you go.
It isn’t you I mean. 

“It isn’t you, it is those others” is an easy thing to say to you,
But each of my others is someone’s father, friend or healer too,
And if I cannot choose on birthplace, accent or the colour of their skin
Which are the lucky few who should get in,
Then what gives anyone the right to judge a person’s value or their pain?

Whose place is it to say which wounded souls remain? 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Writer Wednesday takeover - Angela Wren interviews me

It's all about fantasy today.  So wishes can come true and authors can be anything they want to be!  And I am Angela Wren and I am temporarily taking charge of Stephanie's blog so that I can interview her about her writing and her wonderful book 'Djinn and Tonic'.

AW  What is your current release?

SC Djinn and Tonic is a fun, fairy-tale inspired romance novella involving a photographer and a genie.  Sal is determined to win a photography award for an atmospheric photoshoot, but her wish for the perfect model is more effective than she expects –  she inadvertently conjures up Ashtad, who’s not only tall, dark and handsome, but also a genie.  Sal can have everything she’s ever dreamed of but, as in all the best fairy tales, she soon learns to be careful what she wishes for…

AW   What first got you into writing and why?

SC I can’t remember a time when I didn’t write.  My first love was poetry, but as a child I also used to make up long, rambling tales starring me and my friends, and loosely inspired by the adventures of the Famous Five.  I loved (and still love) writing because of how the imagination can take us to all kinds of places that we’d never go in reality, and open up the most amazing adventures.  It’s like having the opportunity to live dozens of different lives, instead of being limited to one.  

AW  You write Romance novels.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?

SC I like to write about settings and situations that feel a little familiar in some way, as it makes them easier to imagine.  For example, at university I was a keen ballroom dancer, and I was fascinated by the romantic and dramatic potential of the competitive dancing world, so I used it as the setting for my first full-length book, Perfect Partners.  My starting point may be real, but then I’ll add large doses of imagination – such as the Strictly Come Dancing meets Blind Date TV show which brings Redmond and Lisa back together in Perfect Partners – and I’ll also research specific details to add depth to the story. 

I had to do some interesting research for ‘Music to Her Ears’, my contribution to the Modern Magic anthology – my story was a quirky take on Goldilocks, with Goldie gatecrashing the mansion of three famous musician brothers, so I had to read up about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, including comparing journey times between London and New York by commercial and private jet. 

AW  Have you ever had to write a scene that was especially difficult and how did you do it?

SC I can’t think of a specific one, perhaps because every scene has its own challenges.  In general, I think I struggle more with overall structure than with individual scenes.  I was going to say, the hardest thing is often knowing where to start a story, but then I remembered that I also often find it hard to wrap the plot up neatly.  Oh, and saggy middles are always a struggle.  So no, I wouldn’t say there was one particular scene. 

AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’?

SC No.  I mostly write on a mini laptop so my writing is very portable.  I sometimes write at home, either at the dining table or on the sofa, but in the summer I also enjoy taking my writing outdoors, and I quite enjoy writing in coffee shops, although I can be distracted by people-watching.  Just now I’m writing on a train, but my dream writing spot would be curled up on a sofa in a conservatory overlooking the sea.   

AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with anyone, living or dead or a character from a book.  Who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?

SC That’s a tricky one!  There are a lot of people I’d like to meet, but at the moment, with all the publicity surrounding the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and the discovery of another first folio, I’d go for the Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon.  I’d like to settle once and for all the question of whether he wrote all the plays attributed to him, or whether Bacon or someone else was involved… although I don’t suppose Shakespeare would want to give up the credit for his famous plays, and you can never quite trust a fiction writer to give you true answers, so maybe we’d still never know. 

Thanks, Angela, for visiting today and for some fascinating questions.  Thanks also for having me to visit on your blog, James and Me.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Writer Wednesday Interview and GIVEAWAY with Elizabeth Meyette

Celebrate the Audiobook Edition of The Cavanaugh House with this Giveaway

GIVEAWAY ALERT: Enter to win a $25 Amazon Gift Card below!

Welcome, Elizabeth!  When and how did you first become interested in writing?

I was smitten with writing from the time I could hold a pencil and scrawl nonsense scribbles on paper. Mrs. McGrath, my third grade teacher, told me I was a very good writer and that affirmation launched my love of words. My first poem was published when I was a high school sophomore, and I wrote for our high school newspaper. I majored in English and minored in Journalism in college, and I wrote for my college paper. On a dare, I wrote a romance novel. Eventually, it became my first published book.

'The Cavanaugh House' isn't a traditional romance - what makes it different?

One convention of a traditional romance is scenes that alternate between the heroine’s and hero’s point of view. The Cavanaugh House is told in limited omniscient point of view through my heroine Jesse. So the only way we know what Joe, the hero, is thinking is through his words or Jesse’s observations of his facial expression or body language. Other than POV, it’s a pretty conventional romance—they meet and fall in love, there are complications, they are separated, they reunite, a happily ever after ending.

It's just been released as an audiobook - what is it like hearing your story read?  Does it sound as you imagined?

As I began to listen to Amy McFadden narrate my story, I got teary-eyed. It was overwhelming. Those were my words! Someone was reading my words! My husband Rich walked in and gave me a hug—he totally gets it. Amy warned me that my characters would not sound like they had in my head all the time I was writing the book, and I was grateful that she said that. But even though some of them didn’t sound like I’d imagined, Amy nailed it, especially with Jesse. I was thrilled.

Who are your favorite romantic authors?

My older sister introduced me to Victoria Holt and her gothic novels when I was in high school. I devoured them all. Of course, now I read Nora Roberts and Diana Gabaldon. I’ve been reading romances by authors I’ve come to be friends with, but I’m afraid if I only name a couple I will miss someone J. I especially love historical romance and romantic suspense. Oh, and Shakespeare—there’s lots of romance in his works LOL.

Which other genres do you like to read?

I have to admit that I like some romance in any genre I read. Mystery is my favorite, so I love Janet Evanovich and Patricia Cornwell. I’ve read every mystery Agatha Christie wrote, and love Sherlock Holmes and other British mysteries. I also like paranormal, fantasy and some sci-fi. I used to teach high school English, so of course I love the American classics. To Kill a Mockingbird is my all time favorite, but I love The Great Gatsby, Dandelion Wine, even The Grapes of Wrath!

Janet Evanovich always makes me smile, and I love a good mystery too.  To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book as well - I so admire Harper Lee's writing.  Speaking of writing, what’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

HOKBIS. Hands on Keyboard; Butt in Seat. There is no other way for this to happen, my friend.

The Cavanaugh House excerpt:

This house held secrets.  Secrets that wafted through rotting window sashes on the winter wind.  Secrets that spiders wove into webs anchored between the ceiling and walls. Secrets that scuttled on the feet of cockroaches across stained kitchen linoleum and scurried into its cracks. Secrets that peered from holes in the baseboard from glinting mouse eyes. This house held the secrets close to its bosom where they had slept for decades. No one had disturbed these secrets in all the years the house sat decaying from neglect. There was no reason to, and there was no desire.

The Cavanaugh House blurb:

When Jesse Graham unlocks the door to the deserted house she inherited from her Aunt Helen, she doesn’t realize she’s unlocking secrets that had lain dormant for years. Reeling from a broken engagement to acclaimed musician Robert Cronmiller, Jesse wants to leave the city where her name is linked to his in all the society pages. Her best friend Maggie, aka Sister Angelina, convinces her to take a job at a private girls’ school in the pastoral Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Anticipating a quiet, revitalizing life in her aunt’s deserted house, Jesse is instead thrown into a maze of danger. Questions about her aunt’s death lead Jesse to investigate events surrounding it and the people involved, but she uncovers a web of deceit that reaches far beyond the occurrences of over two decades earlier. Still dejected from her broken engagement, Jesse finds it difficult to trust anyone, even her self-absorbed mother. Joe Riley is irresistible, but secrets obstruct involvement with him until Jesse can solve the secrets of the Cavanaugh House. Someone doesn’t want those secrets unearthed and will stop at nothing, even murder, to keep them hidden.

Where can readers find you and your books? 

Thank you for inviting me to your lovely blog today, Stephanie. Readers can find me and my books at the following:

In the UK:

In the US:

My audiobook version of The Cavanaugh House is available on:

I love visits, and you can find me at

Enter the Giveaway for a $25 Amazon Gift Card! Click here: GIVEAWAY

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Writer Wednesday interview: Mary Morgan

Today on my blog I welcome Mary Morgan, author of the Dragon Knights series.  Hello, Mary! When and how did you first become interested in writing?

I’ve always enjoyed writing. I started at a young age with poems and plays. With an overactive imagination, I loved creating stories within my mind and writing them down. However, it took decades for me to have the courage to bring them out into the world for others to read.

What gave you the idea for the Dragon Knights stories?

On my first trip to Scotland sixteen years ago. I was sitting all alone on a boulder in the Highlands, surrounded by the magic and mists of the land. The Dragon Knights were born that evening.

You write about Scotland, which seems to be a favourite setting for romance writers (my friend Lizzie Lamb sets most of her stories there and they have been very popular).  What drew you to it, and how do you evoke the setting in your books?

My love affair with Scotland began decades ago. I blame it on my own bloodline—a yearning to return to the land of my ancestors. I have visited Scotland twice, so I put into my stories what I’ve seen, felt, and experienced. I took a travel journal and wrote daily, which helps in my research, too. Of course, my husband took many wonderful pictures that captured the majestic scenery of Scotland.

What's the most interesting thing you found out while researching the stories?

There were several, but the one that still stands out was finding a trading post in Ireland called Dunnyneill Islands. I needed a place for my hero and heroine from Dragon Knight’s Axe to meet. The hero bartered and sold goods along the Irish coast, so it was a serendipitous moment finding these islands. There is an ongoing archaeological dig on these islands, too. It was a trading post as far back as the 7th century. 
Who is your favourite romance author?  Or who are your favourites if you can't narrow it down to one?

I love romance, but I’m more a historical kind of gal. Some of my favorites: “Hawaii” by James Michener. “The Lion of Ireland” by Morgan Llywelyn, and “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?

Never, ever give up! My mantra before I was published was, “I will find the right publisher. Readers will love my books.” Both have come true, because I believed in my dream. Therefore, I tell aspiring writers the same. My rejection letters were a path leading to the “right fit” with an editor and publisher.

Where can readers find you and your books?  

Here's a picture of my writing space.  I love making new friends. Here is where you can find me online:

Buy Links for Dragon Knight’s Shield

Angus MacKay, leader of the Dragon Knights, failed his brothers and his clan upon the death of his sister. Now he must fight the darkness of despair tempting his soul. Back on Scottish soil, he comes face to face with Deirdre who can wield a sword as mightily as his warriors, and takes her captive. Yet, with each passing day, the fire dragon inside him roars to claim the one woman fate has destined for him. 

Famed mystery writer, Deirdre Flanagan, is unprepared for the next chapter in her life. On a vacation to Scotland, she steps through the mists and enters into a skirmish alongside a Highlander. However, the fight has only begun, and now she must battle Angus as well as evil in order to claim the love of this Dragon Knight.

Will their love be powerful enough to shield them from danger, or burn them to ashes?

His look was predatory, lustful, inviting, and she took a step backward. Words failed her as she took another step back.
He arched a brow and his smile became seductive. “Do I frighten ye?”
“No!” she lied. Like hell you do! You’re as gorgeous as sin standing there, and I want to rip your clothes from your body.
Pushing off from the wall, he stepped into the room and silently closed the door behind him, his eyes never leaving hers. His hair hung in soft waves past his shoulders, and her fingers itched to twine within them. Her body ached in places so deep—longing for even the slightest touch. 
“Are ye unwell, my lady?”
The burr of his voice so low—so sexy, she could only stare at him until his words resonated in her mind. “No,” she replied softly, feeling the flames of desire heat not only her face, but also her entire body.
This time when he took another step closer, Deirdre didn’t back away. Now he stood so close she could feel the warmth of his breath across her face—a mix of wine and pure male.
She watched mesmerized as he reached for a lock of her hair, twining it around his finger. “So verra soft.”
Deirdre couldn’t breathe, as he let the curl unravel and cupped her face in his hands. “Ye confuse me. Ye torment me in my dreams,” he whispered against her cheek, sending a wave of pleasure down her spine.

Friday, 26 February 2016

Djinn and Tonic: Release Week

A huge thank you to all the people who've helped Djinn and Tonic get off the ground over the last week!

My lovely fellow authors at Wild Rose Press helped create quite a twitter storm over the first few days, and I've done some very enjoyable interviews - if you've missed any of them, here are the links:  Nancy C Weeks finds out about the inspiration for Djinn and Tonic, and challenges me to write an 8 word love story.  Joyce M Holmes asks about my writing habits and my tastes in reading.  Mary Morgan finds out about my writing inspirations, and asks some entertaining personal questions.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Writer Wednesday Interview: Iris Blobel

Welcome, Iris!  A few weeks ago I posted your cover for Echoes of the Past.  Thanks for coming back to tell us more about the book.  What gave you the idea for Echoes of the Past?

The funny part is, I started the first paragraph as a post for “Tuesday Tales” where authors write to a different prompt each week. Coming back from a holiday in South Australia, I picked it up again, wondering what it’d be like to return to such a beautiful place after so many years. Family and friendship has always been an important theme in my books, so the story developed around these three issues.

Is Echoes of the Past a single title, or part of a series?
Echoes of the Past is the first book in the Fermosa Bay series.

The story is set in Australia.  How important is the setting to the story?
Very important. I write while visualising the scene and I have to like what I see. It’s like placing yourself into the story looking around and be the little spy in the corner. If you don’t like what you see, how can the reader like what they read?

How has your love of travel and your move from Germany to Australia influenced your writing?
I moved to Australia well and truly before I started writing, so in a way I’d say no. But I’d have a guess if I lived in Germany, my stories would have a different touch to them, more local, more European, more … not sure … not-Australian ;-)

I love the soft, almost wistful, tone of your covers.  Does that reflect the tone of the story?
Wistful is a good word to describe it. I’d say it does reflect Connor’s story to the dot. When I handed in the details about the story and what I had in mind to the cover artist I was curious what she’d come up with. I expected many variations, but she absolutely nailed it with this one. Yes, as much as it is a romance story, it is also about Connor re-connecting with a life he could’ve had … many “what-if” questions in the story.

Fermosa Bay #1
New Adult Contemporary Romance

::: SYNOPSIS ::::

Emily Bradshaw waited over twenty years to see Connor again…

When her childhood friend, Connor Walsh, returns home to see his ailing father, Emily is elated to be reunited with the handsome man who moved to London so many years ago. But excitement fades to disappointment when he doesn’t remember her—or their first kiss. With her crush on Connor still in full swing, she’s determined to enjoy the short time he’s in Fermosa Bay, even though she knows her heart will break when he returns to his life in London.

When Connor receives news that his biological father is terminally ill, he returns to Fermosa Bay, Australia. 

With memories of his childhood tucked fondly in the back of his mind, returning to the small, coastal town leaves him to wonder how life would have been if his mother had never taken him away. Would he have been married and had children? Perhaps with Emily Bradshaw…

Secrets from long ago begin to unfold…

As Connor and his father grow closer, Connor learns his parents have a broken love story of their own. Will the echoes of the past lure him into staying, maybe for good? Or will he relive his parents’ tragic story and flee to London? 

Walking away from a real chance at true love…


Iris Blobel was born and raised in Germany and only immigrated to Australia in the late 1990s. Having had the travel bug most of her life, Iris spent quite some time living in Scotland, London as well as Canada where she met her husband. Her love for putting her stories onto paper has only emerged recently, but now her laptop is a constant companion.

Iris resides west of Melbourne with her husband and her two beautiful daughters.

Next to her job at a private school, she also presents a German Program at the local Community Radio.


Sunday, 21 February 2016

Look, I made a book trailer!

It's been a fun release weekend.  I've made a book trailer for Djinn and Tonic...

Djinn and Tonic

... and visited the blog of the lovely Angela Scavone to talk about my dream date

I've got a few more interviews and visits lined up over the forthcoming week, so watch this space!

Friday, 19 February 2016

OUT NOW: Djinn and Tonic

 Publication day nerves never quite disappear.  I imagine it's a bit like sending your child off to school for the first day.  How will they fare out in the world?  Will the teachers be kind?  Will the kids want to play with them?
Writers want our book babies to be loved, and so we worry.  Will anyone read the book?  Will anyone like it?  Is there some terrible mistake that both I and my editor have somehow overlooked?  (And I don't mean the slight liberties I may have taken with the geography of Whitby for artistic effect, or the major liberties I take with the laws of space-time for the sake of the pararnormal aspect of the story.  I mean something huge and unanticipated of which I was utterly unaware).
I'm not sure how I'd have the nerve to send the book out into the world at all, if it weren't for the support of so many lovely people who've read and improved various versions of the story.  So a big thank you to the ladies from the Leicester and Yorkshire Terriers chapters of the Romantic Novelists' Association for their input, and of course to my wonderful editor and cover designer at The Wild Rose Press.  And now, before this turns into an Oscar acceptance speech and the tears start, I'll sign off and leave you to enjoy the story...

Here is is on amazon
and on barnes and noble

And, if you didn't catch it yesterday, here I am chatting with Nancy C Weeks on her blog about the inspirations for Djinn and Tonic (and, for good measure, writing a love story in 8 words).