When Isabelle Darby moves to the delightfully cosy village of Lower Dimblebrook, she’s searching for peace and quiet as well as a chance to escape from heartbreak. After making friends with Fiona Lambourne, another newcomer to the village, Issie is left reeling when tragedy strikes and Fiona is murdered, the second wife Anthony Lambourne has lost in unfortunate circumstances.
And if that wasn’t bad enough, the local gossips insist that Fiona had been embroiled in an affair before her death, something which Issie knows not to be the case.
Determined to clear her friend’s reputation and solve the mystery of the rumours, Issie takes on both the gossips and the handsome but stern DI Wainwright, making both friends and enemies along the way!
Julie has shared an extract with us today so grab that tea/coffee, comfortable chair and enjoy.
***** beginning of extract*****
Living in a village on the edge of the Cotswolds, it was easy to imagine life in Lower Dimblebrook and the characters are all the sort of people I would like to meet myself – with the exclusion of the murderer of course! As a lifelong fan of Miss Marple and Poirot, I could imagine the keystones of the village being the vicar and those residents who were have lived in the same houses for generations and know every nook and cranny of their village. I decided to dispense with the vicar in Deadly Whispers but I definitely needed a vicar’s wife, one of those kind-hearted, totally dependable women who provide a rock of support for anyone who asks.
For a moment Issie thought she had found the house empty until she detected a snuffling noise approaching ever closer and the door flew open, two over-excited dachshunds tumbling out to sniff her feet and ankles with all the focus of bloodhounds. A pink-cheeked face appeared a few seconds behind them and Miriam Hollier wiped her hands on her flour-covered apron and tilted her head enquiringly in Issie’s direction.
‘Hello, Isabelle isn’t it? Do come in. Flounder … Scuttle come along now,’ and Issie found herself herded in the direction of a warm kitchen, rich with the scent of baking and with scones and cakes covering every surface.by
Where your worst fears are about to come true…
It was supposed to be the perfect holiday: a week-long trip for six teenage friends on a remote tropical island.
But when their guide dies of a stroke leaving them stranded, the trip of a lifetime turns into a nightmare.
Because someone on the island knows each of the group’s worst fears. And one by one, they’re becoming a reality.
Seven days in paradise. A deadly secret.
Who will make it off the island alive?
Jessie, Jefferson, Milo, Meg and Honor have been going on annual holidays together for as long as they can remember. This year, they have been treated to a survival weekend on a small private island in Thailand.
To begin with, their adventure is fun but when they find themselves suddenly alone with no way of getting back to the mainland, their time there soon turns into something more sinister.
I am such a big fan of C L Taylor and so I was excited to have a chance to read The Island. From the beginning, the tension and suspense builds and this compelling novel kept me reading well into the night. Time just seemed to disappear.
I liked the fact that it was told from both the point of view of Jessie and Danny. Everyone became less reliable as the story progressed. I continuously tried to figure out what was going on and who was responsible. I didn’t see the end coming.
Each of these characters are in some way relatable and C.L Taylor doesn’t shy away from dealing with some tough subjects including grief, loss, bullying and mental health. It wasn’t hard for me to empathise with these six teenagers.
It has also made me realise that I never want to go to a private Island or jungle. Ever! The setting is described so vividly, I did feel as though I was there with them. This book would transfer to being a movie very well. I could see each scene as it played out.by
But when he falls during a game, Jeremy finds himself laid-up with a potentially career-ending injury and his support network, suddenly gone. His best friend, AJ, is busy in a new relationship, his teammates are pursuing their own dreams of hockey stardom, and Jeremy is left frustrated, broken and alone.
Will their friendship survive AJ’s new relationship? Are Jeremy’s feelings for Chelsea truly a thing of the past? And can he persevere through his recovery to get back on the ice?
Jeremy has dreams of being in the NHL. However, a fall on the ice means that he now has to take a step back from the game he loves and allow himself to heal. His parents are gone, he’s estranged from his brother and the woman he loves doesn’t want to be with him. Jeremy finds that he has to heal in more ways than one.
This is the second novel in the Jeremy Lewis series. Having not read the first book, I did wonder if I was going to struggle to keep up with what was going on but this was not the case. I immediately fell into the story.
I have to admit, what first drew me to this novel was the fact that he was a Ice Hockey player. I do like my Ice Hockey but once I started to read, I got drawn into Jeremy’s story. He is a tragic, complicated character who is so much more than the ‘tough guy’ exterior he projects to the world. He’s a much deeper character than that and the further I got into the book, the more I wanted to give him a hug. In-fact, I didn’t want to put this book down as I wanted to know he was OK.by
Hello, Laura, and thank you for inviting me to be on your blog.
Cornwall has always inspired me. As a teenager, I holidayed on the North Cornish coast in a thatched cottage with impressive, uninterrupted views over a wooded valley down to the cliffs and the sea beyond. It made a huge impression and it’s this cottage that features in my fourth novel with Aria.
I like to write books that have a message; hopefully, readers will think Beneath Cornish Skies delivers. It’s not simply a contemporary romance, but also a story about a young woman’s journey in finding herself, with a little help from friends, nature, ancient magic and spirits in the landscape.
What’s your typical writing day like?
I like to be at my desk by 9am, working through to lunch when I meet up with my husband (who also has a home office). In the afternoon I catch up on any writerly loose ends, social media posts, etc., or if I have a WIP I concentrate on that. Our kitten-cat regularly visits and, having been turfed off the keyboard on numerous occasions, she settles on the printer and watches out for any pieces of paper to attack!
How do you approach the process from first draft to final edit and how has this changed since writing your first novel?
I’d like to be a plotter, but as my characters develop I’m often put in the pantser camp! I think I may be a plantser – a little of both.
Hopefully, the first draft is an unhindered stream of imagination. I’ve worked as a proof-reader, copy-editor and writer, so, at the final edit I put on my objective ‘editorial’ hat and heavily prune, removing any superfluous words and anything that hinders the story’s momentum.
Since writing my first novel there have been no major changes to the process, apart from having a keener idea about deadlines and pacing myself. I don’t panic so much and approach each ‘challenge’ a word at a time.
Many people believe writing a novel is easy. You put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, and a publisher will soon snap you up and success will follow… but that couldn’t be further from the truth! To write, you have to master self-discipline, even when the words refuse to flow. It’s a hard way to make a living, but if you’re drawn to writing you cannot deny it. At the start of my writing journey, a more experienced author gave me this advice: ‘Have patience. Each novel is your apprenticeship.’
Do you feel character or plot is more important? Why?by
Nathan, emotionally scarred after three tours in Afghanistan, lives alone in Manhattan until New Year’s Eve, when he meets Lara. The next morning, he notices something strange is going on – a terrified kid is being pursued by his father, and a girl, Sally, pleads with Nathan to hide her from her parents. There is no internet, no television, no phone coverage.
Nathan, Lara and Sally flee along the East Coast, encountering madmen, terrorists, the armed forces, and other children frightened for their lives. The only thing Nathan knows for sure is that he must not fall asleep…
I will be the first to admit that I don’t read a lot of books in this genre so I wasn’t expecting to like it.
When The Children Come is also my first introduction to Barry Kirwan. My first thought when I finished this novel was WOW!
Right from page one, this had me drawn in, asking questions and wanting to turn the page to find out what was going on. Why can’t Nathan fall asleep? How has a man who doesn’t want children end up being responsible for over two hundred? I just had to find out.
The author is good at threading doubt and fear for both the situation and the people in it. Who can Nathan, Lara and Sally trust? Can we even rely on them?by
I don’t know about you but, even with everything going on, I felt so relieved when 2020 came to an end. It felt like we could turn a page on a horrible year and even though we are still locked down, I am feeling a little bit more hopeful. Maybe ‘normal’ will return in some shape or form this year. I am trying to stay focused and positive as we progress into January.
This brings me to the subject of today’s review.
I have suffered with anxiety for many years and so for me, finding ways to maintain good mental health is so important. Digital planning and scrapbooking has been something I have been doing for about 3 years. It’s one of the best things to keep myself calm and allows me to keep things clear in my head. I find this hobby very relaxing. It is also a good place to make lists and me, I love a good list.
With digital planning and scrapbooking, comes decoration. One of the best sites I have discovered since starting is Pixel Scrapper. I have really come to rely on this site.
It has something for everyone and there are many graphics covering many themes. For example, I wanted to decorate my week with cats. Once I had searched this theme on the site, the only problem I had was picking from the vast selection of stickers and graphics that are available on Pixel Scrapper. I think it turned out really nicely.by
A new year means a new book for January.
This month, it’s The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave.
I have to admit, I picked this book as much for the cover than I did for the story which sounds so intriguing. I can’t wait to start reading and I hope you will join me.
As always, anyone is welcome to read along and once you’re done feel free to put any comments or discussion points in the comments box below. I look forward to talking about this book with you. I have posted a question to get the discussion going.
About the book..by
When Josh proposes in a pod on the London Eye at New Years’ Eve, he thinks it’s perfect.
Until she says no.
And they have to spend the next 29 excruciating minutes alone together.
Realising he can’t trust his own judgment, Josh decides from now on he will make every decision through the flip of a coin.
Maybe the coin will change his life forever.
Maybe it will find him find the girl of his dreams . . .
Josh has big plans for the future when he gets on the London Eye with his girlfriend on New Year’s Eve. By the time the wheel does a turn and he disembarks, he has no girlfriend, no job and no place to live.
When he finds a discarded fifty pence piece, he makes the decision to spend the next year letting the coin decide his fate. What could go wrong?
I loved the idea of this book from the moment I read the premise so I was excited to get going.
Oh Josh! I seriously have never wanted to reach into a novel and give a character a hug more than I did with him at the beginning of this book. I was heartbroken for him. I immediately loved Josh. He’s just one of those likeable people and I found it good to see the story unfold from his point of view.
The supporting characters are wonderful. His Dad was a total liability. Haha.by
I had an idea for a character who, despite trying to do the best for everyone he encounters, feels his life to be one of disappointment and failure. Eventually, we discover that his decisions and actions have had a profound, beneficial effect on the lives of others. You could say it’s a modern-day interpretation of the film ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’.
I am also intrigued by quests and the twilight world of things that may or may not be. I am a great admirer of David Lynch and his ability to suggest that things are not as they seem was influential.
As for the story, it’s set in a secretive, hidden corner of Middle England, combining folklore, legends and ancient beliefs with the contemporary issue of what it means to be human in an increasingly technological world.
Thirty years ago, Oliver Merryweather is intrigued by a woman who waves to him from the window of a house in a village he discovers by accident.
In the present day, Oliver believes his life to be a series of failures and regrets. When the same woman appears to him in a dream, Oliver embarks on an obsessive quest to find her. With the village inexplicably absent from all maps, all he has to go on is the unusual mark on her wrist.
Journeying back into his past, Oliver finds himself inextricably drawn into a decades-old mystery involving missing children, pagan beliefs and the Green Man of folklore, while coming face to face with the disappointments and tragedies of his own life. As the story draws towards its unexpected and uplifting conclusion, the line between reality, dreams and memory begins to blur and Oliver gains an insight into the true purpose of his existence.
What were the challenges you faced whilst writing Another Life?
The bringing together of disparate ideas presented several difficulties. The biggest challenge was how to link my protagonist’s ordinary family life to the idea of the myths and legends associated with the Green Man.
The border between dreams and reality is a key theme in Another Life. This needed care, to avoid confusing the reader. There is the suggestion that something on the edge of the supernatural may be involved. It was essential to keep this as no more than a possibility in the mind of the reader. I’m not interested in writing pure fantasy – there has to be a grounding in reality, the possibility that the weirdest of events has a rational explanation. This was also important in creating a hidden community in Middle England, where the normal rules do not apply. I addressed this using a combination of geography and historical fact.
Finally, there was the challenge of the resolution: how to explain the mysteries and strange events encountered by the protagonist. Two-thirds of the way through the book the reader encounters a major change that makes sense of what comes before.
In summary, Another Life combines elements of family life, myths and legends, a quest and cutting-edge science. These elements are introduced in a natural, uncomplicated way, avoiding technical explanations, so as not to alienate the reader.
What’s your typical writing day like? Do you need things like coffee? Do you prefer to write in silence?
I’m an early morning person, whether it be writing and related activities, walking, running, photography. Writing comes first; it’s a passion that can never fully be satisfied.
A typical pattern is revision of the previous day’s work, followed by new words, including necessary research and then more research, finishing with a review of the current day’s progress.
I have to work in silence, other than birdsong. Music is too distracting. Any breaks have to be at a time of my choosing, usually ten minutes out of every hour. The exception is when I’m engaged in a long passage that’s going well. You have to take advantage of those occasions.
What’s your favourite word and why?
Apricot. I like the falling rhythm of the three syllables with a pause between the first and second. It’s like a musical phrase, sensuous, as is the shape and texture of the fruit.
How do you approach a writing project from idea to final draft and how long does it typically take you to get from the beginning of the process to the end?
A new book begins with a lot of thinking. A primordial soup of apparently unrelated ideas seeking to connect with the ideal partner. I write a few experimental passages, in isolation, to test whether they work, or at least have promise. Even at this early stage, I’m keen to ensure I can write engaging prose and believe in the idea. Much research follows until I’m happy that there is a story, a voyage embracing change. It is good to have an early idea for one or more endings. Much more important to let the characters lead you on a journey.
A new book takes me between nine and twelve months, including long periods of revision, particularly in the latter stages.
Which fictional world would you like to escape to for a while and why?by
Tomboy Scarlett thought Devon would be her best friend forever. He was the only person in Springhollow who supported her ambitious artist dreams. But then one winter, Devon and his parents disappear without warning to start a new life in NYC and a devastated Scarlett is left alone to face her high-school bullies and overbearing mother.
Fast-forward ten years: Scarlett is playing it safe in her childhood village with a dull PA job and a wardrobe that passes her mother’s old-fashioned standards. Meanwhile, Devon is a Hollywood heartthrob, starring in the latest superhero blockbuster. And he’s finally coming home for Christmas…
Scarlett can’t help blaming her former best friend for the way her life has turned out, but Devon’s cheeky charm and gorgeous smile prove difficult to resist. Devon always did make her feel on top of the world, but Scarlett knows her heart isn’t racing just because she has her friend back – is it mistletoe madness, or is she seeing Devon in a completely new light?
Scarlett hasn’t taken a risk in years… but this Christmas of second chances could finally be her time to shine.
Lucy and Aria have shared an extract today so you know what to do.. grab that drink and that chair and enjoy.
***** beginning of extract*****
Springhollow being such a small village, Hope and I had applied to work at the magazine right out of college at the ripe old age of eighteen. Hope had always dreamt of being a journalist and overseeing the magazine one day, whereas I loved spending time with Hope and thought maybe a job at our village’s only magazine would appease my creative aspirations and my mother. I could focus on sophisticated pieces of writing, report the news and leave my silly dreams to professionals more suited to it than me. However, my previous boss didn’t quite take to my writing style, for some reason. I tended to add my own twist and inspiration when it came to facts and what was going on in our small village; that may have included the odd alien or magic power.
Giving me the top stories or putting me out in the field was not on his agenda. I was better suited for making coffee and seeing to it that the photocopier never ran out of toner, is what I was told. I take a deep breath and open up my emails. It’s better these days, I’ve gotten used to organising meetings, scheduling appointments and helping Hope assign writers to their suited articles.
Since landing our jobs here at The Village Gazette, Hope has worked her way up from editing other people’s articles to manager and she is a businesswoman to be reckoned with. I on the other hand have remained the coffee runner, only now I’m getting to do it for Hope and not Alfred, an older man who always wore a grey suit to match his grey hair, and didn’t much care for my creative flair. So really, I could take that as a win, maybe even say it was somewhat of a promotion, right?by
When downtrodden checkout assistant Bonnie Green receives a letter from a mysterious uncle, she can hardly believe her eyes.
Gifted a hundred-year lease on a famous cafe situated in the middle of a mythical theme park, Bonnie sets off with her best friend Debbie on an adventure to a hidden valley in the Lake District where they will find new friendship, love, and happiness, all set against the magic of Christmas … and more marshmallows than they can possibly eat….
CP Ward has shared an extract today. Hot drink? Check. Comfortable chair? Check. Festive Lights? Check. Enjoy.
***** beginning of extract *****
Bonnie & Debbie
Bonnie hasn’t had the easiest of lives, as Debbie has a tendency to point out. However, things are about to change …
The DVD had loaded up its start screen, a little dog icon hovering over START MOVIE. Debbie swigged from her can of Guinness and sighed.
‘Honestly, sometimes I’m envious of you,’ she said, swinging her head to look at Bonnie, who hadn’t yet opened her can. ‘I mean, you’re what? Fifty-five, single, a homeowner, your kids leave you alone—’
Bonnie lifted a hand. ‘Just to make a couple of clarifications there … I’m fifty-two. Yes, I’m single, but I’m also divorced, which is like having a medal around your neck with “worthless” written on it. My husband ran off with a hat saleswoman he met when he was buying me a hat for Christmas because he didn’t like my hair and wanted something to cover it on the rare occasions we ever went out. I’m a homeowner only because he took all our savings in the divorce in exchange for letting me keep the house … and the mortgage I can barely pay on my pathetic Morrico salary. And both my kids took his side. Said I should have dressed better. I’m lucky if I get a card for my birthday now.’by
Hi Laura, thank you for inviting me to Novel Kicks and giving me this opportunity to talk about my book.
Love & Pollination is about an extremely naïve young woman called Perdita whose Catholic education and convent upbringing did not prepare her for having an intimate relationship. Being so innocent, she makes mistakes – and she ends up pregnant. Then she loses her job – and her home. But she’s optimistic and makes the best of things despite the intrusion of Saul Hadley into her life. She thinks that she can get the better of him – and readers will have to see if she succeeds!
The story was inspired by the fact that faith schools in the UK are not required to have Sex and Relationship Education (the government has now changed it to Relationship and Sex Education as they probably realised the revised word order was more appropriate for young people). So students in religious schools can end up being pretty ignorant about the birds and the bees – and how to spot a no-good womaniser.
I thought it would be fun to have a character who was brought up by nuns in an orphanage attached to a convent – and who had a Catholic convent education – to explain her innocence. And the plot set-up relies on her naïveté as do many of the jokes. That aside, she is still a unique character as you will see if you read the book – she has an interesting approach to problem-solving.
How long did it take you to write Love and Pollination and what’s your process like from idea to final draft?
I began the idea of the book about thirty years ago – I tried for Mills & Boon and had no luck. I worked on other things and, on and off, came back to this novel. But it wasn’t until about eight years ago that I decided to completely re-write it and change the tone of my writing. Then something seemed to click – and I started to make people laugh at the writers’ group I’d recently joined. I decided the plot worked far better as a comedy.
I bought some books on writing comedy, and I watch a lot of comedy on TV. But I didn’t labour on the book continuously over the eight years – I had other comedy romance ideas and began work on those. It took a great deal of slog to get Love & Pollination to the stage where it was finally published and I’m incredibly grateful to DuBois Publishing for giving me the opportunity to present my book to the world. I am hoping that I will be quicker getting my next book out. I just have to find a publisher…
You were a member of the Romantic Novelists’ New Writers’ Scheme. How did that help you write your novel? Is this something you’d recommend to new writers?
I belong to a writers’ group – we read out a piece of our work for ten minutes and get feedback for another ten minutes or so. This is very valuable but people giving feedback in a writers’ group can only see snippets of the novel at a time. The great thing about the New Writers’ Scheme is that the entire novel gets read by one person and they give a comprehensive critique. This gives feedback on plot and character development and can identify problems that a writers’ group can’t.
I recommend the NWS unreservedly. I think it’s fantastic. The membership fee is small compared to what it would cost to have someone from, for example, a critique company read the book – it makes getting personalised help much more affordable.
What’s your typical writing day like?
I don’t have a typical day – my writing is erratic. Sometimes I go through a fertile period and make a great deal of progress and then I can go for weeks with not being able to work on my manuscript at all for one reason or another.
What elements do you feel make a good story?by
Drawing is fun.
Put them together for ★ SCAVENGER ART ★
This unique art-based activity book includes 52 scavenger hunts designed to
✓ encourage curious minds
✓ spark creativity
✓ practise mindfulness
✓ develop drawing skills
Perfect for ages 6 to 12.
Scavenger Art consists of a variety of drawing challenges around a selection of themes. For example, it asks the child to stand in the middle of a room, slowing turning. As they go, they are encouraged to make a list of everything they see, for example, a lamp, a chair, a bookcase.
Each section in the book comes with a page where there are nine drawn boxes. This is where they can draw their interpretation of what they have seen in the room.
This book combines two of my favourite things; a scavenger hunt and drawing (I must admit, I am much better at the former.)
Scavenger Art encourages children to not only be more creative and curious but to become more aware and mindful of their world around them and to maybe notice things that they may not have noticed before.by
After a cruel twist of fate sends her hurtling into a black hole of despair, Carrie is absolutely dreading the festive season – especially with sister, Krystle, being even more demanding of her time and energy than usual.
But then friend Maddy offers Carrie a lifeline: the chance to get away from it all in a holiday cottage in the gorgeous little village of Silverbells. Deciding that a few weeks of tranquillity – reading, baking and going for long walks in the countryside – might just restore her mood, Carrie is quick to take up the offer. But on arriving, it very soon becomes clear that this break is going to be anything but peaceful!
An unwelcome houseguest proves unsettling enough – especially one who whistles loudly first thing in the morning and is far too cheerful for his own good – but finding herself drawn into the spooky mystery of her missing neighbour means there really isn’t much time for personal reflection. And then love comes knocking, and Carrie is forced to decide exactly where her heart lies.
Will this festive season be the disaster Carrie predicted? Or will Santa be good to her and deliver her heart’s desire? One thing’s for sure – this will be a Christmas Carrie will never, ever forget…
Carrie needs to get away from her life for a few days and more importantly, she needs time away from her sister and the man who broke her heart.
When a friend offers her a cottage in Silverbells for a few days, Carrie jumps at the chance. It isn’t long before she’s fallen in love with the village. What she wasn’t counting on was the creepy house next door and a housemate named Ronan.
I am delighted to be taking part in the one day blog blitz for A Kiss in the Snow, Little Duck Pond Café. This is the thirteenth book in the Little Duck Pond Café series and was my introduction but I didn’t feel like I was playing catch up. It can be read as a standalone if you’re looking for a festive pick me up.by
Riley’s parents, Jean and Paul, are currently getting divorced, and they have managed to keep the situation hidden from Riley, until now.
They were unaware of the effects this was having on Riley’s emotional and mental well-being, and as tensions rose at school and at home, he was visited by a voice in his bedroom. Before too long, he began a journey that was not only dangerous, but eye opening.
Chroma explores the rapidly changing family dynamic throughout divorce, and how a child’s imagination can take them to unknown places. It is emotional, insightful and a moving story which not only teaches us how to be an adult, but how to be a child.
This book focuses on a family where the parents are separating. In the middle of that is their young son, Riley. Whilst his parents do their best to keep the worst of the divorce away from him, Riley escapes into the world of movies, regardless of whether they are suitable.
One night he starts to hear a voice in his bedroom and when he discovers things he doesn’t want to face, he runs away and ends up alone in the woods.
It is clear that Riley is a very lonely, vulnerable character. He’s a child who only has one best friend and so I felt that his escape into the movies he watches gives him the friendships he doesn’t have in reality. He doesn’t have much beyond his family life which is falling apart around him.by