Book Review: A Shop Girl at Sea by Rachel Brimble

I am pleased to say that Rachel Brimble is here with the blog tour for her latest book in the Pennington’s series, A Shop Girl at Sea.

 

Bath, 1912.

Amelia Wakefield loves working at Pennington’s, Bath’s finest department store. An escape from her traumatic past, it saved her life. So when Miss Pennington sets her a task to set sail on the Titanic and study the department stores of New York, she couldn’t be more excited – or determined!

Frustrated with his life at home, Samuel Murphy longs for a few weeks of freedom and adventure. Meeting Amelia on board the Titanic, Samuel can’t help wonder what painful history has made the beauty so reserved. But he already has too many responsibilities for love.

Ruby Taylor has always kept her Pennington co-workers at a distance. Making sure her little brother is safe has always been her priority. But when that means accepting Victoria Lark’s offer of sanctuary, more than one of Ruby’s secrets is under threat of being revealed…

 

I was very excited about being invited onto the blog tour for this book. I found the premise of it intriguing.

Amelia is looking at an opportunity she never dreamed she would have. She has been asked by Elizabeth Pennington to head to America, with a view to gaining insight into American fashion. What’s more, Amelia is to get there by sailing on the new, luxurious Titanic. She can’t wait. The only downside is that the boring Mr Weir is to accompany her.

On board, it is better than she ever dreamed. She also meets Samuel. He is on his way to America as a member of the crew and he knows he has met someone special when he first sees Amelia but before they have a chance to really get to know each other, tragedy strikes and it has them questioning everything they have ever known.

 

This was my introduction to Rachel’s novels so I’ve not read the previous three books in the Pennington’s series. This did not cause a problem though. There are reoccurring characters but this can be read first if you wish to.

I loved the different personalities in this book, male and female. I feel there was a wide spectrum. The majority of the female characters in this novel are strong, independent and relatable and I loved them, all for different reasons. Amelia is strong and knows what she wants, Elizabeth is proof you can be nice and be successful and Ruby… oh Ruby, I just wanted to wrap her up and look after her. Rachel has created real, vulnerable, courageous characters that are developed well.

The plot moved at a good pace and without giving too much away, I am pleased that it didn’t dwell too much on the actual sinking. It didn’t stop me from being in tears though. What it did concentrate on was how the characters reacted to their situation and I could really feel all the emotions. The imagery was vivid; everything was described so well.

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Book Extract: A Wedding in the Olive Garden by Leah Fleming

I am happy to be welcoming Leah Fleming to the blog today and the blog tour for her latest novel, A Wedding in the Olive Garden.

 

Here’s a little about the book…

Can an island in the sun provide the second chance Sara needs?

A warm and uplifting novel about love, friendship and new beginnings on the beautiful Greek island of Santaniki.
Sara Loveday flees home and crisis to the beautiful island of Santaniki. Here, amid olive groves and whitewashed stone villas, where dark cypress trees step down to a cobalt blue sea, Sara vows to change her life. Spotting a gap in the local tourist market, she sets up a wedding plan business, specialising in ‘second time around’ couples.
For her first big wedding, she borrows the olive garden of a local artists’ retreat, but almost at once things begin to go wrong. To make matters worse, a stranger from Sara’s past arrives on the island, spreading vicious lies. Can her business survive? And what will happen with the gorgeous new man who she’s begun to love?
This is a gorgeous, warm-hearted and uplifting novel conjuring the local colour, traditions and close bonds of island life.

 

To celebrate the release of A Wedding in the Olive Garden, Leah and Head of Zeus have shared an extract today. Enjoy.

 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

The fan in the taverna kitchen did nothing to cool tempers as Mel Papadaki was giving her husband Spiro an earful. ‘Do you call this clean? Look at those stains. Mama will have a fit to see such a mess in here… Can I not leave you five minutes to water the pavement…’

‘Enough, woman!’ Spiro threw off his apron. ‘If you can do better, I’m off. The ferry is due and I have passengers and wine to collect. We need more—’

‘So you can drink it?’ Mel yelled back. She could give as good as she got. The fiery Italian half of her could shout with the best of them. She was in no mood to compromise, with his mother Irini sick, no doubt listening into their arguments with glee. Spiro could do no wrong in her eyes.

She wiped the sweat off her brow as the hairnet scratched her forehead. The Santaniki heatwave was unbearable. Oh, to be cooling in Yorkshire drizzle than trying to cook and clean, up and down stairs at Irini’s command while Spiro swanned off to the harbour for a smoke. Yes, she knew he was back on the fags behind her back. It had been a tough winter with storms and little work for a builder. Times were tough for Greece. At least their own house was almost finished but cash was tight. He was at a loose end and touchy. Too many fry-ups thickening his waistline. Much as she loved the bones of him, he was letting himself go.

Mel stared at the pile of fresh tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and onions she had picked from their vegetable garden ready to make a cooling gazpacho. Irini came down to inspect the menus and threw out her suggestion with a wave of her hand. ‘That’s not Greek food. You cannot serve that.’

‘But English customers will love something cool and refreshing like this,’ Mel argued.

‘We are not serving that today,’ Irini muttered and that was that. A Sheffield girl married to a Cretan was never going to be easy but she would bloody well make a batch for her and the boys for lunch later. Loading the dishwasher, she heard her mobile ring. What did he want now? It was a garbled message about a booking but the signal was weak so she stepped outside in the square to catch the details.

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Novel Kicks Fiction Friday: Stranded

It’s Friday which means it’s time to start writing some fiction.

Fiction Friday is our weekly writing prompt.

The aim is to write for a minimum of five minutes and then keep going for as long as you can.

Once you’ve finished, don’t edit, just post in the comments box below.

Today’s prompt: Stranded.

You wake up to find that you’re on a deserted Island. You don’t remember how you got there. The last you remember, you were at home.

There doesn’t seem to be anyone around until you are approached by an animal. Yes, this animal seems to be able to walk like a human can.

What shocks you even more is when this animal smiles at you, welcomes you to the island and hands you a tent.

Continue the story…

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Planning Short Stories

Today, I want to go back to the beginning and look at planning. 

I am quickly becoming aware that I am not a writer who can just sit down and write. I need to know where I want my story to go or I end up with a lot of similar scenes as my story goes around in circles as I have no idea how to move it forward.

So, today’s exercise is the following…

Make a plan for a story, in note form that’s related to one of the following topics..

Inheriting an old house.

A blind date

Broken down car in a deserted area

A holiday that goes wrong

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A Moment With… Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead

I am very happy to be welcoming Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead to Novel Kicks today. They are celebrating the publication of The Man in Room 423, which they have co-written. 

 

About The Man in Room 423…

In a heady cocktail of passion and poison, who can you really trust?

When Lizzie Aspinall and her sister meet for cocktails in a high-rise bar, the last thing she’s expecting is to spend the night in the arms of the nameless man in room 423. As a one-night stand with a stranger turns into a steamy affair with a dedicated detective, Lizzie finds herself in the sights of a stalker.

Ben Finneran has spent ten years pursuing a ruthless serial killer who poisons victims at random before disappearing into the shadows. He wants to believe that the attraction he and Lizzie share is just physical, but when they find themselves falling for each other, is Ben unwittingly leading a murderer straight to her door?

Pursued by the past and threatened by the present, who can Lizzie and Ben really trust?

 

Catherine and Eleanor have joined me to talk about what it’s like to co-write a book, the highs, challenges and how the work is divided. Over to you, ladies. 

Catherine and I first crossed each others’ paths about three years ago when we were writing historical non-fiction for the same publisher, Pen and Sword. We got into a conversation one day about joint fiction writing, and after some hilarious conversations about Georgian gentlemen, we started to write a sandbox.

It started off with a plot but as we wrote it, it became huge and sprawling, written with the sort of freedom that isn’t possible with something that’s aimed for publication, and to be honest, written entirely to entertain ourselves. We’d written a huge amount in only a few weeks, by which point Catherine said maybe we should aim for publication.

Catherine had had a couple of titles out with Pride, who publish LGBT+ fiction, and we realised that the sandbox had some wonderful moments that could be developed into fully-fledged novels. The first novel to emerge was The Captain and the Cavalry Trooper, a romance about First World War soldiers, which was published in April 2018. Since then, Pride have published five more Captivating Captains novels, and five short stories. Our first title for their Totally Bound imprint was The Ghost Garden. It was published early in 2019, and we were very excited when it was shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Novel Awards 2020. This year, we have two romantic suspense novels out from Totally Bound – The Colour of Mermaids and The Man in Room 423.

As to the how of our writing… we talk about ideas for stories in Messenger, then before we get writing, we’ll often have a Skype first. Then we write in Google Docs, which gives us a great deal of freedom because you can access the same document on a computer or a mobile device. I end up writing on my phone in all sorts of places – on the bus, in the tearoom at work, in the waiting room at the doctor’s, in the chair at the hairdresser’s waiting for my dye to finish!

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Book Review: The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick

I was pleased to be invited onto the blog tour for The Forgotten Sister by Nicola Cornick. 

In 1560, Amy Robsart is married to Robert Dudley, an ambitious member of Queen Elizabeth’s royal court and a favourite of the Queen.

There has been little love in Amy’s marriage to Robert. Amy plans her escape but the consequences of this will echo through the centuries.

In the present day, Lizzie Kingdom is forced to withdraw from the public eye after a scandal. She encounters Johnny Robsart and their fate will entwine in many ways. Is Lizzie brave enough to search for the truth?

 

Oh this book. It’s historical fiction at its best.

Told from both Amy’s point of view in the 1500’s and Lizzie’s point of view in the present day, it’s all weaved together so well. Both women are strong and are prisoners in their own way as men try to govern their fate. The parallels between the two women and their timelines are put together perfectly.

The supporting characters represent a good mixture of personalities, each with their unique voice. Each character is flawed and real in their own way and I grew to like them, except for Robert Dudley, who is as vain and power-hungry as I imagined him to be. He’s so unlikable and has no redeeming features at all.

Avery particularly caught my attention and I’d love to know more about her and what she has experienced.

I loved the story set in the present day, but as Elizabethan history is one of my favourite eras, Amy’s story immediately piqued my interest and continued to do so throughout the majority of the book.

That’s not say that I found Lizzie’s story boring. Quite the opposite in fact. Throughout the book, I was intrigued as to how her story would end. This book is full of surprises and was so immersive as I tried to figure out how it all slotted together.

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Book Extract: The Lost Girls by Jennifer Wells

I was so pleased to be invited onto the blog tour for The Lost Girls by Jennifer Wells.

 

Everyone remembers the day the girls went missing.

May Day 1912, a day that haunts Missensham. The day two girls disappeared. The day the girls were murdered.

Iris Caldwell and Nell Ryland were never meant to be friends. From two very different backgrounds, one the heir to the Caldwell estate, the other a humble vicar’s daughter. Both have their secrets, both have their pasts, but they each find solace with one another and soon their futures become irrevocably intertwined.

Now, many years later, old footage has emerged which shows that Iris Caldwell may not have died on that spring morning. The village must work out what happened the day the girls went missing…

 

 

Jennifer and Aria have shared an extract with us today. Enjoy. 

 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Roy had left Oak Cottage before midday. Nell and I had watched his portly frame waddle down our short garden path, on to the road that edged the village green, and across the grass to the police station on the other side. I’d then sat for a while thinking of the previous evening’s events and the sleeping memories they had disturbed – the face of Iris and the flicker of the projector, the whispers of ‘murder’ and the accusing finger pointing to the screen – and then of my discussion with Roy which had reduced them all to a newspaper article and scribbles in a little yellowed pocket book.

It was well into the afternoon before I scooped up the newspaper that Roy had left on the arm of the chair and stuffed it into my handbag. I knew that Nell would not want it in the house, but she was already starting to fade, her features blurring until she was no more than a shadow, and by the time I put on my coat and slung the bag over my shoulder she had disappeared completely. When I said goodbye, it was to the chair alone and I shut the front door behind me without looking back.

I stepped out on to the road and turned towards St Cuthbert’s, heading for the crossroads with the old war memorial. I followed the road round the edge of the Sunningdale housing estate and away from town past the orchard and lido. I muttered to myself as I walked, cursing my aching joints. The black and white memories that had plagued me that morning had now faded in the sunshine but somehow the feeling remained.

After about half a mile, the road forked, and I turned on to a smaller dirt road that was ridged with tyre tracks and followed the edge of a narrow stream. I continued for a few minutes until the stream became shallower and the tyre tracks were little more than soft furrows in the mud as they veered towards the water’s edge. Here was another fork in the road, the smaller track almost hidden under the gushing waters of the stream, the muddied cobbles of the ford just dark shapes in the water.

On the other side of the water, the smaller road led up to two grand stone pillars which marked the entrance to Haughten Hall, the smart red bricks and long windows of the house rising above it.
A motorcar was coming down the long driveway and I stepped back so that it would not splash me with the waters. As it drew closer, I saw that it was the old police Wolseley that I had so often seen from my window parked under the blue lamp of the police station. The motorcar slowed when it neared the ford, its engine rumbling as it splashed through the water. I glimpsed a couple of uniformed officers in the back seats, and Roy’s face through the dapple of light on the windscreen. If he saw me, he did not stop.

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Book Review: How To Marry Your Husband by Jacqueline Rohen

Rachel vowed that she would love David for better or worse…

But when she spots him kissing another woman, she knows their marriage is over.

And she’s determined to get her revenge through divorce.

The trouble is, her romantic destination wedding wasn’t exactly legal – so if she wants to divorce her husband, she’ll have to marry him first…

But as Rachel recreates the magic of their early days in a bid to lure David back down the aisle again, will it bring you back long-lost feelings for him too?

Rachel and David have been married for a few years but on the eve of their anniversary, Rachel sees David kissing another woman.

As she tries to come to terms with the fact that her husband is having an affair, Rachel discovers more about her relationship with David. Can they find their way back to each other or is their marriage over?

Told from both Rachel and David’s point of view, I loved this duel perspective and the fact that we get to know them both in this way. It added something great to the story telling. It was constructed well and goes between the two POV’s smoothly. It flowed nicely.

My sympathies were firmly with one character at the beginning of the book but I soon realised that it was not black and white and Rachel and David’s relationship was a lot more complicated than it first appeared.

Jacqueline Rohan managed to create well-rounded characters and even though both display bad behaviour, I wanted them to pull through their issues and come out stronger and together on the other side. I became very invested in their relationship. The supporting characters were also all great.

I don’t want to say much else about the plot of the novel, but I feel that it’s a good study into a marriage; how it’s so easy to jump to conclusions and assumptions.

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Book Review: Summer on a Sunny Island by Sue Moorcroft

This summer, sparks are flying on the island of Malta…

When Rosa Hammond splits up from her partner Marcus, her Mum Dory suggests a summer in Malta. Not one to sit back and watch her daughter be unhappy, Dory introduces Rosa to Zach, in the hope that romance will bloom under the summer sun. But Rosa’s determined not to be swayed by a handsome man – she’s in Malta to work, after all.

Zach, meanwhile, is a magnet for trouble and is dealing with a fair few problems of his own. Neither Rosa or Zach are ready for love – but does fate have other ideas? And after a summer in paradise, will Rosa ever want to leave?

What better way to prepare for the coming summer than the latest Sue Moorcroft novel, ‘Summer on a Sunny Island’.

As the title states, such is the content.

Set on the glorious and stoic island of Malta, located in the Mediterranean Sea, this is the perfect foil to put you in the mood for a holiday, even though we can’t right now. This book will certainly help you pretend you’re there.

I’ve been to Malta, a good while ago admittedly, but I was transported back to happy memories of when I’d only recently been married.

Sue has the gift of being able to describe a location and to make you feel as if you are in the centre of the action. This is integral cog in her stories. I can still feel the Maltese sun on the back of my neck the day after finishing this novel.

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Book Extract: Little White Secrets by Carol Mason

A big welcome to Carol Mason. She is joining me as her latest novel, Little White Secrets has been published today.

Here’s a little about the book…

A daughter pushing the limits. A marriage ready to crack. A secret that can break them.

For Emily Rossi, life may not be perfect, but it’s pretty close. She has a great career, a house in the country, a solid marriage to Eric and two wonderful children—tennis superstar Daniel and quiet, sensitive Zara. But when her fourteen-year-old daughter brings home a toxic new best friend, Emily’s seemingly perfect family starts to spiral out of control.

Suddenly Zara is staying out late, taking drugs and keeping bad company. And just when Emily needs Eric to be an involved father, he seems too wrapped up with his job in London to care. What’s more, he’s started drinking again.

When a dark secret from the past emerges, Emily’s life is turned upside down. Struggling to protect the people she loves, can she save her damaged family? Doing so may mean keeping a secret of her own…

 

To celebrate publication day for Little White Secrets, Carol and Lake Union Publishing have shared an extract with us. Comfortable? Got that drink? Biscuit? Excellent. Enjoy.

(Language warning.)

 

 

***** beginning of extract*****

 

Emily Rossi’s life was just fine, until her daughter Zara brings home a new best friend. Emily senses that Bethany Brown is trouble from the very minute she finds Bethany all cosy with Zara in her kitchen – just a couple of weeks after Bethany came door-to-door collecting with her mother, for a domestic violence charity. But, in the spirit of not wanting to judge her just because she comes from the other side of the tracks, Emily invites them both for dinner. And while it feels like the evening from hell, little does she know it’s nothing compared to what’s to come…

 

‘As I was saying to Charlotte, until you’ve been a single mother, you really have no idea. Bethany was a nightmare from the day she drew her first breath. But you’ve got no choice, have you? No part-time options for you.’

I stop and look at her now as she stares out at the garden, thinking how blithely she just referred to my friend by name as though we were a cosy little trio of pals. ‘So no help at all from Bethany’s father, then?’

She makes a disdainful sound effect. ‘You know what men are like. They tend to think that supporting their kids is your right but their option.’

‘But surely he has to pay child support?’

‘You’re never going to get blood out of a stone. Or out of a man when he wants to be a bastard.’ She stares at our wedding picture on the sideboard for a moment or two, then looks me straight in the eyes. ‘You know, I’m a good person. I don’t want to cause him harm. He’s got his problems and I did once love him . . . A part of me has only ever wanted him to wake up and realise his responsibilities.’ She looks off, solemnly, into the distance. ‘I always say to Bethany, “Treat people how they treat you. And if people want to walk away from you, you have to let them walk.” But then on the other hand, if they owe you something, they should pay up, shouldn’t they? Then you need to hunt them down the rabbit hole.’

‘How true,’ I say, suddenly thinking, God, you wouldn’t want to get on her wrong side, would you? Despite her words, she doesn’t seem malicious, though; more like actively dejected.

‘I don’t know why it never works out for me . . . All I ever wanted was a kind, reliable man. Like you have. But they always treat me like I’m just a nothing with no feelings, like I’m not a real person . . .’

‘You must have some nice friends in the store,’ I say. Anything to be a bit more upbeat.

‘It’s mostly men in accounting. Married men. And – oh! – keep me away from the randy wedded letch . . . I mean, if single ones are the misery they always are, why would I want one that has a wife in tow? And the sales associates are really just a pack of hens. You think they’re your friend one minute, and then one day you see the judgement in their eyes. And you think, Hmm . . . I wonder what terrible crime I’ve supposedly committed now?’

I let out a tight sigh.

‘Oh, they think they’re better than you, because they own their own homes and have solid marriages, and model children. They think it’s because they made good choices and you made shitty ones, but it’s not as simple as that, is it? Sometimes people just land on their feet, whatever they do.’ She is back to looking around our house again, appraising our stuff like it’s up for auction.

I pull the casserole out of the oven and contemplate putting my head in there instead. ‘Where did you live before here?’ I ask her.

‘Preston for years. Then when Bethany was ten I decided to move back nearer to my parents, Harrogate way. I just thought, What am I doing? I’d got nobody to pick her after school or do anything to give me a break, given her dad just decided he could take what he wanted from me then slope off.’ She absently fingers the fringe on a green velvet cushion. ‘Bethany had to change schools a few times. People were never very appreciative of what she had to offer. They only looked for the bad, as people will do.’

‘Where do your parents live, then?’

‘In heaven.’ She looks at me bluntly.

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Novel Kicks Book Club: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

Hello May. It’s nice to see you.

You know what a new month means. Yes, a new book and discussion.

This month, I have chosen The Testaments by Margaret Atwood.

It was only going to be a matter of time before I chose this book. I remember reading The Handmaids Tale when I was sixteen and being totally blown away by it. I also thought they did such a great job with the TV adaptation.

I am very interested to see where Atwood has taken the story. Needless to say, there is a lot of expectation for its sequel.

As usual, I have included a question below to start the discussion. I really look forward to reading this together. Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments. Have you already read it? What’s the verdict?

 

About The Testaments:

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

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My Writing Ramblings: Finding my Motivation

May is finally on the horizon.

April has seemed such a long month.

There is certainly a strange atmosphere right now as we all try and navigate our way through this situation. To me, it feels like that week between Christmas and New Year where you’re waiting for something to happen but not quite sure what to do with yourself.

I am naturally the type of person who likes being at home, preferably with warm pyjamas, a duvet, a cup of tea, a snoozing cat and a book although I am slightly obsessed with Animal Crossing right now. Despite being this type of person, even I am beginning to struggle with the lockdown. It’s necessary to stay at home but we’re only human. It’s natural to find it hard, even when you know it’s the right thing to do.

At the beginning of April, I was struggling with motivation to do anything (my enthusiasm to do housework is never there.)

It’s amazing how tiring doing nothing makes you, right?

I have been reading a lot which I love. I am also finally writing and I am so proud of this fact.

If you’re struggling to be motivated, I wanted to share something that has really helped me in the last few weeks.

Since discovering a website called Unchained Writer, I have managed to write every day since 9th April. My aim is 1,000 words each day and for the most part, I have managed this with a couple of exceptions. Regardless, it all helps to get me closer to writing and finishing a novel I have been trying to find the confidence to write for years.

Unchained Writer has been a real game changer for me. It’s made such a difference.

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Novel Kicks Writing Room: Childhood Differences

Today, I want to again focus on how the same scene can be seen differently by two people despite being in the same room, witnessing the same thing. 

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. When writing from the point of view of my main character, I also wonder what the other people in the particular scene are thinking.

In my own childhood, if asked, I would probably remember an event differently than my siblings would. I used to dance and enter competitions. How was it for my brother who was dragged along?

Think of an incident from your childhood where you were the centre of attention. How did you feel? What happened? Write for ten minutes, basing your story about this incident.

Now, write for another ten minutes but this time, write from the point of view of a sibling, cousin or friend who was also there. What differences are there in the thoughts, feelings and view of events?

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NK Chats To… Tracy Baines

Hi Tracy. It’s a pleasure to welcome you to Novel Kicks. Tell me a little about The Variety Girls and what interested you most about this idea?

When I was a teenager I lived and breathed variety theatre – in fact, any kind of live entertainment. Before and during the war was a golden age of variety and there was so much to draw on – all the wonderful theatre, and the end of the pier shows. When I was sixteen I got a job working backstage at the local theatre on Cleethorpes pier and from that time I was hooked. It was an absolute joy to revisit variety when it meant so much to morale during WW2.

 

 

What were the challenges when writing The Variety Girls?

A deadline, although that was really a God send as it turned out. It kept me at my desk, so I had to learn to overcome the distractions and self-doubt that normally plague me. Sometimes what you fear most is the driving force to success.

 

 

What’s your writing day like? Do you have any writing rituals?

I write for about three or four hours a day, but I’ll be thinking about the book all the time and I’ll have thought a lot about it before I start writing at all. There’s always research to do, but it has to be balanced with spending time with family and friends. It would be no joy to spend all day writing, not to me.

I don’t have any rituals other than playing music in the background and sometimes lighting a scented candle. Anything that helps me relax and settle to work.

 

 

What was your route to publication like?

I started with articles and then short stories. I wanted to write a novel but our life was very unsettled and so I never had the mental headspace to invest in a longer work. I went to classes and conferences and kept myself connected with other writers – and the short stories were excellent for learning to write tightly. A couple of years ago I decided that it was now or never and got stuck into a novel. It was the right time for me.

 

 

What’s your favourite word and why?

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A Moment With… Nia Rose and Octavia J. Riley

Octavia J. Riley

Nia Rose and Octavia J. Riley are co-authors of Spellbound and Hellhounds and Secrets of the Sanctuary, the first two novels in the Coven Chronicles. 

 

About Spellbound and Hellhounds, book one in the Coven Chronicles. 

Enter the world of Raen, turn left at the land of dragons, and you’ll find yourself in the country of Aeristria. A place overflowing with magic and creatures that were once only heard of in fairy-tales. In the heart of Aeristria is the capital city, Tolvade. Here you will find shops and taverns, laughter and fun, runesmiths looking for their next job and sneaky pickpocketing imps. Steer clear of the galloping gang of centaurs and you will see the headquarters of the prestigious Coven.

Within the Coven’s lower ranks, you’ll find Vanessa, a third-year Hunter itching to become a Spellweaver. Her and her trusted demon partner, Botobolbilian, must investigate an explosion at the academy and bring the culprit responsible in. Easy job, right?

Wrong.

Nia Rose

Vanessa and her partner find that this investigation runs deep in black magic and sprinkled with feral demon summonings. With countless lives on the line, Vanessa struggles with self-doubt and following her heart (and laws) as she tries to right the wrongs of these heinous criminals and bring them to justice before they do any more harm.

But, with an oncoming yearly blizzard just days away, is it too late? Even with all the magic, spells, and power on Raen, this job might be the last that this duo ever faces…

 

About Secrets of the Sanctuary, book two in the Coven Chronicles.

Thea Bauer has earned her way to being a highly skilled member of the Coven. Ranked as a Spellweaver, she’s assigned the more dangerous missions. Corralling a herd of wild unicorns? No problem. Taking down a witch riding the high of black magic? Piece of cake. Finding out why magic-based creatures are suddenly flooding the local sanctuary, protected by a powerful sorceress with a hatred for the Coven? Thea might need more than her tethered demonic partner to see this mission through.

She calls upon Summoner Rafe MacBain, a trusted colleague she’s known for years whose dreamy eyes might keep her up at night—but she’s not admitting that to anyone. He’s got his own demonic companion, and altogether they’re a force to be reckoned with. But, even with their combined strength, it might not be enough against feral demons escaping some of the farthest reaches of Hell.

As if that weren’t bad enough, Thea must conquer her own demons residing within herself that conjure up a painful past. Will she be able to overcome herself, or will the memories she’s tried to stray from keep her from fighting enemies in the physical realm? Thea is starting to wonder if the sorceress may be one of those enemies too. What secret is she hiding at the bottom of the sanctuary, and how will it affect everything Thea has come to know?

 

Octavia has joined me today to talk about duel writing and the challenges both she and Nia face. Thank you for joining me. Over to you.

 

Nia and I get asked quite frequently how we go about writing a dual-trilogy of the same world in the same timeline. We always look at each other and agree: challenging. Not in the “Oh, this is so hard“ or “You can’t do that, it doesn’t work with MY story” sort of way (not to say we haven’t said that once or twice…). It’s challenging in a way that forces us to think, adapt, grow, and roll with what we’re given. It challenges us as authors and puts our imaginations to the test, which is invaluable when delving into fantasy.

 

There’s definitely flaws and loopholes when writing  in a world shared by another author, but the beauty of that is that there’s two set of eyes to catch these loopholes. I remember we were so engrossed in our stories that we kind of got carried away, and Nia came up to me and was like, “Uh…hold on, was I at the Grim Bean the same time you were talking to the imp?” We realized that our characters did, in deed, come into close contact with each other, and this gave birth to our first cameo appearance in Spellbound & Hellhounds. We were able to sneak one more cameo appearance in when both of our characters were in Tasgall’s at the same time (something that we both realized later when we read over the story, because we clearly didn’t learn about paying attention to the timeline the first time). We’re those authors who don’t know exactly where the story’s going when we write it. We just write it however it comes to us. Neil Gaiman once said “Write down everything that happens in the story, and then in your second draft make it look like you knew what you were doing all along.”

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