Celebrating: The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel shortlist!

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The Katie Fforde Debut Romantic Novel

Bestselling author Katie Fforde lives in the beautiful Cotswold countryside with her family and is a true country girl at heart. Each of her books explores a different profession or background and her research has helped her bring these to life. She’s been a porter in an auction house, tried her hand at pottery, refurbished furniture, delved behind the scenes of a dating website, and she’s even been on a Ray Mears survival course. She loves being a writer; to her there isn’t a more satisfying and pleasing thing to do. She particularly enjoys writing love stories. She believes falling in love is the best thing in the world, and she wants all her characters to experience it, and her readers to share their stories.

Every author has their own unique story to tell about how and why they came to be a novelist. Read on to find out the stories behind the talented authors shortlisted for the prestigious award, as they reveal them, and the inspiration behind their lovely novels.

Cow Girl – Kirsty Eyre

HarperCollins UK

Cow Girl was inspired by my mum, my friend and a herd of cows. Billie’s voice came first (my friend), then the setting (the smells and sounds of a dairy farm in Yorkshire), then the battle (my mum, like Billie’s dad, had a brain tumour). Misogyny. Romance. Homophobia. Charity pantomime cow races. The story is as much about female friendship as it is about romance, the herd a silent, reassuring feminist ally.

Eyre - cow girl coverEyre cow girl author

The Bookshop of Second Chances – Jackie Fraser

Simon & Schuster

I’m usually inspired by a place – sometimes a building – or the idea of a particular kind of character or relationship. I started writing The Bookshop of Second Chances while on holiday in Dumfries and Galloway in the Scottish Lowlands, inspired by the little towns strung out along the A75. This gave me my setting, and I knew I wanted to write about older people and the challenges and opportunities of starting again in your forties.

Fraser bookshop second chances coverFraser - bookshop second chances author

The Silent Treatment – Abbie Greaves

Century, Cornerstone

Like many authors, I’d always wanted to write a novel, but the problem was finding a story with the legs to walk 80,000+ words! When I read a newspaper article about a man who hadn’t spoken to his wife for twenty years, I became fascinated with the idea of a silence settling at the heart of a relationship and I knew there was enough there to sustain a whole book. THE SILENT TREATMENT was born.

Greaves silent treatment coverGreaves silent treatment author

This Is Not A Love Story – Mary Hargreaves

Trapeze

I have always found writing easy – that sounds pretentious, but I don’t mean it to; for me, putting the contents of my brain into written words is always easier than speaking them aloud. I spent my childhood and teenage years daydreaming and weaving new worlds in my imagination, and decided to finally bite the bullet and write This Is Not A Love Story when I was 23. It’s the best thing |’ve ever done!

Hargreaves not a love story coverHargreaves not a love story author

A New Life for Ariana Byrne – Liz Hurley

Hera Books

Why I write? Well, oddly enough because someone asked me to. Or rather they asked if I knew anyone that could write a lifestyle column for the local newspaper. I own a bookshop so presumably they thought I knew loads of authors. I did, but not anyone suitable. So, I volunteered. And I loved it. I have always written letters and diaries, this was just an extension. From there it was an inescapable slide into fiction! And I’m loving the ride.

Why I wrote Ari

The idea for a story came fully formed with a whole series of adventures for each sister. I wanted something that just pushed the boundaries of everyday life but still actually plausible. It had to be happy and uplifting and I felt that inheriting a great big old house, a title and loads of money would be just the start. And of course I had to set it in Norfolk, the happiest place in the world. But then I’m a Norfolk dumpling, so I would say that.

Hurley new life for AB coverHurley new life for AB author

The Authenticity Project – Clare Pooley

Bantam Press

My life, six years ago, appeared idyllic. In reality, I was grappling with a self-destructive addiction to alcohol.

I knew I had to quit drinking, and as therapy, started a blog into which I poured out the truth.

That act of authenticity transformed my life, and the lives of thousands of people who read it. Which made me wonder: what would happen if other people told their innermost truths to strangers?

And that was the inspiration for my novel: The Authenticity Project.”

Pooley authenticity project coverPooley authenticity project author

The winner will be announced on the 8th March 2021.

Please feel free to leave a comment or like the post.

Celebrating: The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel shortlist!

Goldsboro Books is the UK’s leading independent bookshop, specialising since 1999 in first editions, signed, collectable and exclusive books. Situated in Cecil Court in London’s West End, and – as of December 2020 – Brighton’s famous Lanes, it has gained a reputation for championing debut authors, as well as creating the UK’s largest book collectors’ club, and is influential in selling large quantities of hard-back fiction. 

The Goldsboro Books Historical Romantic Novel

Every author has their own unique story to tell about how and why they came to be a novelist. Read on to find out the stories behind the talented authors shortlisted for the prestigious award, as they reveal them, and the inspiration behind their lovely novels.

Goldsboro Books is the UK’s leading independent bookshop, specialising since 1999 in first editions, signed, collectable and exclusive books. Situated in Cecil Court in London’s West End, and – as of December 2020 – Brighton’s famous Lanes, it has gained a reputation for championing debut authors, as well as creating the UK’s largest book collectors’ club, and is influential in selling large quantities of hard-back fiction.

Heartbreak in the Valleys – Francesca Capaldi

Hera Books

The idea for Heartbreak in the Valleys came from a document I discovered on Ancestry.com. It was the WW1 record for my great grandfather, Hugh Morgan. It revealed that he’d enlisted into the Rhondda Pals but was discharged on medical grounds eight months later, with tachycardia, while still training. Wondering what he must have felt, with his pals off to war, and how it affected those around him, I came up with the basis of the novel.

The Coming of the Wolf – Elizabeth Chadwick

Sphere, Little, Brown

I wanted to write a story about how people of every culture coped after the Battle of Hastings in 1066 and The Coming of the Wolf is the result, with a Cambro-Norman hero and an English heroine. I wrote the novel long ago, but dug it out to edit and put a few chapters online. My readers immediately demanded the rest and it was their encouragement and push that ultimately led to the novel’s publication and subsequent shortlisting.

Spirited – Julie Cohen

Orion Fiction

Daniel’s Daughter – Victoria Cornwall

Choc Lit

Daniel’s Daughter tells the story of a character who appeared at the end of one of my previous novels in the Cornish Tales series, The Captain’s Daughter. I always wondered what would happen to Grace should she discover a secret that would destroy her trust in everyone she loves. The books in the Cornish Tales series are stand-alone stories and can be read in any order, however writing Daniel’s Daughter brought closure to me as a writer.

The French Wife – Diney Costeloe

Head of Zeus

Encouraged by my publisher father, I have written stories all my life. In 1980 I entered Woman’s Hour’s romantic novel competition, and though I didn’t win, I was shortlisted and so I submitted my novel to Robert Hale. It was the beginning of my published career. I wrote ten romances for them and others before moving on to historical fiction, 19th century, WWI, WWII but always with a romantic element. That’s where I am now.

People Like Us – Louise Fein

Head of Zeus

As a child, I always had my nose in a book. I think I wrote my first story aged around six. It wasn’t until my youngest daughter’s illness forced me to give up work that I began writing seriously. I took a master’s degree and began working on a novel. That novel, the first I ever wrote, became People Like Us. It is beyond my wildest dreams to be published and shortlisted for this award!

The Lost Lights of St Kilda – Elisabeth Gifford

Corvus

The Lost Lights of St Kilda was inspired by the last families to live in Scotland’s most remote island who had to abandon their beloved home in 1930.

I was able to visit St Kilda with its magnificent scenery, and the abandoned village. I combined this with a story of a WW2 Scottish soldier who stays on the island as a student, and falls in love with an island girl. He is captured during the Dunkirk evacuations. His escape to get home to Chrissie was inspired by our grandparents’ stories of helping escapees to escape Nazi-held France.

Rags-to-Riches Wife – Catherine Tinley

Mills & Boon Historical

In Regency Romance, there is an emphasis on the world of high society. My own ancestors though would not have been aristocrats. We were farmers, tradespeople, servants. This was my chance to delve into the life of a regency servant. Jane is a lady’s maid, and is invited to stay with wealthy relatives. How will she manage as she wears silk dresses instead of cleaning them, as she is mocked for her chapped hands and lack of schooling, as she finds herself falling in love with a gentleman – someone above her social class?

The Skylark’s Secret – Fiona Valpy

Lake Union Publishing

I was travelling in the far north of Scotland and I came across the Russian Arctic Convoys Museum. I was astonished – it was a WW2 story that I’d known nothing about. Loch Ewe was chosen as the

muster point for ships braving the Arctic seas, running the gauntlet of Nazi U-boats and air strikes to keep the Russians supplied with food and armaments. The idea of this peaceful, remote crofting community suddenly becoming such a strategic focal point in the war inspired The Skylark’s Secret

The winner will be announced on the 8th March 2021.

Please feel free to leave a comment or like the post.

Meet Ian Logan and Jonathan Glancey, authors of Logomotive – Railroad Graphics and the American Dream.

Meet Ian Logan and Jonathan Glancey, authors of Logomotive – Railroad Graphics and the American Dream; a delightful visual tribute to the heyday of US railroad graphic.

Welcome, Ian and Jonathan,

Your careers to date are as colourful as the posters in your beautifully crafted book. What was the spark that ignited your passion for this project?

Jonathan:

Ian’s photographs of US trains – their logos, liveries, if sometimes dishevelled appearances – before so many American railroads were either closed or swallowed up by less characterful corporate giants from the 1970s.

Ian:

I have had a love for visual decoration for as long as I can remember. When I was very young I would stand outside the tobacconist’s shop in my village admiring the wonderful designs on the cigarette packs and cards. I still have a large collection of the cards.

Then when I first went to the US and saw “Americana” and my first US train with “Rock Island” on the side I was in heaven!

Did your love of the marketing designs, created to sell the dream image, capture your interest first or did that come out of a passion for trains and the history of the railroads?

Jonathan:

A fascination with trains, their looks, sounds and their habitat – stations, goods yards, viaducts, distant hills and engine sheds – before uncovering the history of railways themselves and how their services have been created for and sold to the public over the generations.

Ian: 

I have always loved machinery, especially steam locomotives. I was an apprentice in a company that made parts for the railways. I also have a love of old aircraft. For me it is the power, colour, speed, and visual excitement that is the passion.

3.      Was it your mutual love of design, or for the actual locomotives and the networks, that brought you together on this project?

Jonathan:

Design, yes. I hadn’t known that Ian was quite so keen on trains and railways as I am. I was a regular customer of the delightfully eclectic design shop he ran near Smithfield Market in the City of London. 

Ian:

Design is the inspiration, without doubt. I had read and knew about Jonathan from his articles and he used to come into my design store. He was the most obvious person to collaborate with.

4.       Do you still travel extensively on the networks and do have a favourite older locomotive that still operates in the US?

Jonathan:

I would love to travel again post-Pandemic! My favourite operational US steam locomotive is No 611, a very powerful, very fast and ultra-reliable glossy black, Indian red and gold-lined streamlined J-class 4-8-4 built in 1950 to pull Norfolk and Western Railway long-distance passenger trains like the Powhattan Arrow from Norfolk, Virginia to Cincinatti, Ohio. No 611 is as muscular as a heavyweight boxer yet as lithe as a marathon runner. 

Ian:

I have travelled on the network and would love to travel again. It’s a sensational way to view the country.

I loved the designs of the GM.  E and F unit diesel locomotives and their paintwork and liveries of the different railroads. I also have a love of the design functionality of modern US freight locos.

DSCF0297 Santa Fe logo IL

5.       Do you have a bucket list of ‘must see, visit, or find’ regarding the trains, lines or graphics?

Jonathan:

I’d really like to ride with the engineer and fireman on the footplate of the Union Pacific’s “Big Boy” No 4014, as, freshly restored to service eighteen months ago, this compelling black and anthracite liveried mobile thunderstorm tackles the mountainous route between Utah and Wyoming, its mournful whistle resounding through twisting passes, its train ideally at least a mile long. 

Ian:

I would love to ride in the cab of Union Pacific’s 600 ton 4-8-8-4 “Big Boy”.

I flew to LA before lockdown to see Big Boy while it was touring the western states for the Centenary of ‘The golden spike’. You could not but be in awe of the sheer size and power. 

6.       Do you have a favourite design – or designer’s work, that stands out for you?

Jonathan:

Henry Dreyfuss’s design of the New York Central’s peerless 20th Century Limited overnight express that ran from New York to Chicago from 1938, a masterpiece of cocktail-era Streamlined Modernism, and Paul Kiefer’s design of the cinematic silver and grey Class J3a locomotives that speared this supremely glamorous train between the two great American cities.

Ian:

There are a bunch of designers, illustrators and artists that I have admired over the years. Milton Glaser is way up there for originality and sheer inspiration. Pentagram design group for their original philosophy.

Raymond Loewy for his design styling of the Pennsylvania railroads S1 steam loco. And his design for the beautiful Greyhound Scenicruiser bus and logo.

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7.       How much has your own work and designs been influenced by this golden age?

Jonathan:

I’ve written about US locos and trains in my books Giants of Steam (2012) and The Journey Matters (2019). I show them in talks and lectures about architecture and design, too.

Ian:

Within the design group I had during the 60s to the late 90s it has always been there in the background.

8.       Since John Bull trains have come a long way, do you find they have lost or gained appeal to you?

Jonathan:

Most contemporary trains, however efficient, are anodyne and all but generic in terms of design. They could belong anywhere. There is no sense of place about them. Steam locomotives, whether shunting wagons in small yards or racing with restaurant car expresses are never less than alive. They have an elemental quality, a rhythmical one, too, that has never been replaced, much less bettered by later machinery. They belong to the townscapes and landscapes they inhabit.

Ian:

There was a time when the competition created all different trains and that excited thousands of young boys taking their numbers on stations all over the country but now they all look the same!

9.       Are there any designs that you have not managed to track down that you would like to collect? Do you collect originals?

Jonathan:

I’m not a collector. Over to Ian!

Ian:

I have a collection of English railway posters from the 1920s and 30s and love this period of art and illustration. There is one poster I would love to own. It’s part of a WW2 series illustrated by the great Frank Newbold titled ‘Your Britain fight for it now’. It shows a shepherd walking over a hill with his sheep and dog with the farm and sea in the distance. I also love the Batsford book jackets by Brian Cook depicting English country scenes.

10.   This book is a first, like the first railroad it is a pioneering work. Will there be a ‘Logomotive 2’?

Jonathan:

I think this depends on how many people buy a ticket to ride with Logomotive 1!

Ian:

Jonathan’s answer!

Logomotive: Railroad Graphics and the American Dream by Ian Logan and Jonathan Glancey, published by Sheldrake Press. 

Thanks for sharing your enthusiasm and insights for this beautiful project. I wish you both every continued success for Logomotive and all your future projects.

Thank you for being my guests!

Catching up with Peter Jones

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Can you tell us about your exciting new self help weight loss book?

Sure. It’s called How To EAT LOADS And LOSE WEIGHT. Or just EAT LOADS, LOSE WEIGHT. And that’s pretty much the entire concept, right there in those four words. How to eat loads of proper, tasty, satisfying meals, and yet somehow still lose weight – all without feeling hungry, without calorie counting, and without exercise.

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What makes your book different from the established slimming regimes?

I suppose the key difference is that this book is based on actual science.

The mainstream low-fat diet advice that we’re used to hearing on a daily basis is actually rooted in a misunderstanding of how the body works; ie. the idea that your body needs a certain number of calories (per day) to sustain itself and stores any excess. But in more recent years we’ve discovered that this is actually a huge over simplification. What you eat – so it turns out – is actually more important than how much.

Of course, being a huge nerd, this is what got me excited about the subject in the first place. I wanted to get to the bottom of how the body actually works. If it isn’t fat making us fat, what is? If calorie counting doesn’t work, what will? If cholesterol doesn’t cause heart disease what does?

Turns out the answers weren’t all that difficult to find. Just complicated. So a large part of my job when writing this book – the bit I enjoyed the most – was to describe those biological processes in a way that the average man (or woman) on the street would a) understand and b) find interesting and entertaining.

That’s the kind of non-fiction I love to write.

How has your opinion on diets and dieting changed since writing the book?

It’s made me more cynical! We’re a nation of people struggling to maintain our collective health, yet the mainstream media would have us believe that it’s all our fault: We’re lazy. We’re greedy. We’re not doing enough exercise. We’re eating too many fatty foods. We’re ignoring the experts. We’re not buying diet books. We’re not going to slimming classes. But it’s all nonsense! The data shows the exact opposite – yet somehow we’re still getting fatter, and sicker.

But it’s difficult for governments to radically change health guidelines that have been in place since the 1980s without raising eyebrows and risking an angry outburst. It’s difficult for doctors to dish out advice that isn’t in line with strict NHS policy. It’s difficult for slimming clubs and food manufacturers to switch to a weight loss model that would work so well people wouldn’t need to come back. And it’s neigh-on-impossible for drug companies to support any kind of advice that might eliminate the need for their most profitable products.

But the tide is turning. Slowly. There are more and more books like the one I’ve just written. And I’m proud to be apart of this health revolution.

What feedback have you had from your readers?

The feedback has been lovely. I decided to start a Facebook group for readers of the book (or those interested in learning more) and rarely a day goes by when someone doesn’t post about how much weight they’ve lost, how that gnawing hunger has dissipated, and how much better they’re feeling. People keep sharing recipes, and tips, and giving each other encouragement, and sometimes I have to pinch myself and say “you started this Jonesy – you!”

Where can interested readers contact you?

Several places!

Amazon: http://getbook.at/ELLW

The website: http://www.eatloadsloseweight.com

The Facebook group:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/443208936345878/

Promotion Time!

Stolen Treasure is now only 99p!

Some secrets are intended to stay buried...

In 1809 Elizabeth Matthews shares many a childhood adventure with her soul-mate, Thomas Lamb, son of the estate’s handyman.
Elizabeth is entrusted with the safe keeping of a tin box by her Mama but instead, leaves the task to Thomas’s father Joseph. However, life in the windswept north-east coastal village of Alunby is left behind when she is promptly sent away to be schooled in the city of York.
Risking her reputation, and a possible marriage match, Elizabeth dreams of the day when the secret inside the tin box will be revealed to her, and goes on a journey of rediscovery to find Thomas and seek out the stolen treasure.
Some secrets were intended to stay buried, however, what Elizabeth discovers is of greater value than she could ever have imagined.

‘Great read, especially for the price!’

Catching up with Margaret James!

Margaret James 1

Welcome back, Margaret! I was amazed when I realised that you were my first guest in 2013!

I was amazed, too! My goodness, doesn’t time fly? Perhaps this is because writing a novel is such a long process and sometimes another year goes by without us really noticing? It’s very good to be back. I see that since we were last in contact you’ve had several of your books published by Endeavour Press.  Many congratulations!

Thank you! I love the cover of your new novel ‘Girl in Red Velvet’, which is book 6 in the Charton Minster Series. What inspired you to create this series?

GIRVD_v3.4

The inspiration for the Charton Minster stories was driving past a country house in Dorset at least a decade ago. I wondered who lived there and later that evening my imagination started to run riot, conjuring up a whole family and their descendents. The first novel in the series is The Silver Locket, which is Rose Courtenay’s story. The subsequent five novels are about Rose’s children and grandchildren and even her great grandchildren.

Who is the ‘Girl’ in Red Velvet?

The girl in Girl in Red Velvet is Rose Courtenay’s granddaughter Lily Denham, who goes to university in the 1960s and meets two men who become her friends, the three of them have some great fun together, but then Lily finds she is falling in love with both of them. She makes a choice which looks as if it will turn out to be a very bad choice indeed. Or will it? What do all three of these people want and how will they get it? I hope I’ve given them plenty of challenges but that I’ve also given all their stories satisfying endings.

Do you remember the 60s with fondness?

I do because I was young and at university myself and having a lovely time living away from home. It’s quite difficult for younger people alive today to realise what a huge place the world was then. I went from living in a small rural community where I never met anyone who wasn’t British and white to living in a big city where I met and made friends with people from all over the world.

What is next for Creative Writing Matters?

We’re expanding our range of writing-related services all the time. We run two major international competitions (The Exeter Novel Prize and the Exeter Story Prize which incorporates the Trisha Ashley Award for a humorous story) and we offer mentoring and various shorter courses and smaller competitions, too. We’ve found that offering feedback on competition entries has proved very popular so next year we will be doing more in that respect by offering feedback on some of our short story competitions as well as on entries for the Exeter Novel Prize.

What is next for Margaret?

It’s reading the entries for this year’s Exeter Story Prize, which closed on 30 April. We’re constantly astonished and impressed by the range and quality of entries, so although this is a pleasurable task it’s always quite demanding, too.

I wish you every success with all your amazing ventures. Reader’s can follow Margaret on: Facebook Twitter    or you can visit  Margaret’s blog

King Ludd & trouble at the mills!

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The term ‘Luddite’ is widely used even today, but its origins are shrouded in both truth and myth.

Two names that are supposed to have been associated with it are Ned Ludd and King Llud. Whatever the truth, the term has stayed in common language. Today it is used to describe someone  who is averse to technical change, but its origins stemmed from men who thought they were fighting to save their livelihoods and their families from being destitute.

Since medieval times the wool trade had been of great importance to the working people of our nation. Traditionally women and their children spun the yarn and the menfolk were skilled loom weavers. Each piece of cloth was then taken to market to be sold in the Piece Halls. In the early nineteenth century new inventions took over this traditional family method of making and selling cloth.

With new cotton and wool mills growing in size and numbers, the workers that left their villages to work in them need not be so skilled. They could be taught a task and become part of the overall process.

The volume of cloth produced could therefore be increased. Uniformity and scale of production would be guaranteed by the use of these wider weaving machines. But the downside was that the employment was no longer a cottage industry, but required a central approach, breaking up communities and leaving men without the means to feed their families. With the price of food, particularly bread increasing, the men felt somehow their concerns needed to be heard.

The actions of a man allegedly called Edward Ludlam also knonw as ‘Ned Ludd’ in 1779 was given the label ‘Luddite’. He was accused of breaking two frames in anger. So when in Nottingham in 1811 groups of weavers gathered and planned attacks on targeted mills to destroy the machines that had taken away their livelihood, the term ‘Luddite’ was used again and stuck.

These attacks spread to Yorkshire and other counties and continued for a number of years. Groups banded in numbers of up to three figures, but surprisingly few were actually caught or hanged.  Some were transported, perhaps unjustly, as those who were accused of being part of a gathering or an attack would have little defence heard to save them. King Llud was used on letters of demand to add weight to their threats and demands.

In 1812 The Frame Breaking Act made the breaking of stocking-frames a capital felony, hence allowing the death penalty to be given to those caught. Rewards were offered, but the local people were the very families of the men who were trying to stop a revolution of machine replacing manual labour, soit was unlikely that many would provide information. It is also likely they would be in danger if they were discovered by the gang members. It was a battle they could never win,

The government and the mill owners did not listen to their pleas. Workers, including young children, were paid low, had no say over their conditions and were often exploited.This was exactly the situation Phoebe and Thomas escaped from in Phoebe’s Challenge. As mills developed not all owners were as harsh (they were by comparison to today’s working practices) but some introduced education, shorter hours for children and healthier diet and living conditions. This is where the idea for Laura’s Legacy came from.

Just click on the link to see how Phoebe rises to the challenge or how Laura’s Legacy survives!

Laura's Legacy

 

Catching up with Valerie-Anne Baglietto!

Headshot_ValerieAnneBaglietto

Hi Val, welcome back!

Your first interview was back in 2013. So what exciting things have happened since then?

When you asked me, just before Christmas, if I’d like to do this update, I seem to remember silently screaming, No, go away, can’t cope with this, or something along those lines. Basically I was in festive meltdown – organising kids, grandparents, husband etc. – and didn’t want to have to think about work. After I calmed myself down and messaged you back, you kindly reassured me I could leave it until after January.

So here I am, revisiting my old self from a few years back, remembering what goals she set and what she was planning writing-wise. I’m satisfied that she appears to have achieved her aims, and of course, she’s set some new ones since then, too.

 (I’ll slide firmly into first person POV now, so I don’t sound any more pretentious than I have to.)

Firstly, ONCE UPON A WINTER, which had just come out before I was last here on Val’s blog, went on to top the Amazon UK Fairy Tale Chart in 2013 and at the last count had over sixty 5-star reviews. Understandably, I was thrilled about that, considering it was my first attempt at modern magical realism. The feedback from readers, both old and new, was encouraging.

Last time round, I also mentioned a short story I was contributing to the ‘Sunlounger’ anthology organised in 2013 by Belinda Jones. There was another one the following year, and I took part in that, too. My second tale, PANDORA  AND THE MUSIC BOX, has also been a featured read on Wattpad. I hadn’t attempted a short story in years, but I valued the discipline of keeping to a strict, low word count.

As for the novella I spoke about last time, I actually ended up writing two that year. A GIRL I KNEW (formerly known as The Trouble With Knights in Shining Armour) and my Christmas themed THE LITTLE BOOK OF LOST HEARTS. The latter set the scene for the next full length work, FOUR SIDES TO EVERY STORY, which I have to admit is the favourite of my contemporary fairy tales so far. It was shortlisted in the 2015 Love Stories Awards and was a 5-star read of 2015 on Chat About Books.

Last year was a bit of a departure, though, as I started working on something different from anything I’d attempted before. I even invented a pen-name – a whole other person to hide behind, which was liberating. But as the year drew to a close, I realised I wasn’t happy. I missed my fairy tales. For reasons rooted in insecurity, I’d begun to think they weren’t ‘proper’ books, not worthy somehow, and could never stand alongside the amazing, emotive fiction being published today.

Then it all changed. FOUR SIDES TO EVERY STORY was listed as a top read for 2016 on Portobello Book Blog, along with a dozen other titles, many of which I’m in awe of. Out of the 140 or so novels Joanne (@portybelle) had read that year, mine had been memorable enough to hover in her top 10(ish). I felt touched, and very grateful. Something clicked in my fragile writer’s brain. A realisation. Just because I choose to weave reality – or our concept of it – with traces of magic, doesn’t mean my work isn’t of value, or unable to hold its own in a crowded market. If this were true, then why is it  some of the most famous and enduring stories in our culture happen to be fairy tales, myths and parables? All through history, fiction has worked to make sense of the world around us, and often metaphors are the best way to do it.

So, when the kids went back to school at the start of this year, I dug out a notebook bursting with the plot for a sequel to FOUR SIDES TO EVERY STORY, and sat down as Valerie-Anne to begin this new project. And that’s what I’m working on right now. Oddly, it’s as liberating as having a pseudonym. I feel as if I’ve come home, having forgotten what a wonderful place it can be. I’m  energised by my writing again, rather than drained, and excited to find out what 2017 holds for me.

Thank you, Val, for inviting me to return to your blog, to share an update. I’ve enjoyed looking back as well as forward, and come to the conclusion that it’s quite a healthy thing to do at this time of year. Maybe everyone should give it a go!

 Exciting times for you, Val. I wish you every continued success in the future!

The Gothic beauty of York Minster

The beautiful medieval York Minster, with its great Gothic towers stands out as you approach the ancient city that has held an important place in British history for centuries.

This Christian place of worship is actually ‘The Cathedral and Metropolitan church of St Peter in York’ but it is loved and known both locally and afar as ‘The Minister’. It is no wonder that it has stood the test of time as it was started in 1220 but was not completed until 1472.

The term ‘Minster’ has come down through time from its original ‘monasterium’ through the Saxon spelling ‘mynster’ to its present day form. It was a place where missionaries sent by Pope Gregory sent priests to convert the pagan Saxons in the late C6.

Under the building its history is lovingly preserved as it houses the ancient centre of the ancient Roman fortress, The Basilica. The very first Christian church on the site has been traced back to the C7 with the Pope recognizing the first Archbishop of York in AD 732. It is, and has been a very important centre of Christianity representing the church in the north of the country.

It has survived an arson attack in 1829 and more recently in 1984 a lightning strike destroyed the roof in the south transept. Fortunately the nearby River Ouse provided a plentiful supply of water for the powerful jets to send it high enough to save the beautiful building’s stained glass windows some of which dates back 800 years.

This is more than a historical building is more than just an amazing piece of architecture. It is a time capsule to a very interesting past in a city of many layers. Today it is still a place of worship with a busy Diocese.

When Abigail walks through its doors she does so to throw her pursuers off her trail. In Regency times this building would appear as a monument of stunning proportions to a young woman who had not travelled far, even from a modest North Yorkshire manor house. York had many timber Tudor style buildings then which would have made it stand out even more.

If you pass through York, stay awhile and explore its interiors from the amazing C15 Great East Window, 15th century, which is claimed to be the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world to the amazing ceiling of the nave, the courtyard or the towers.

It is certainly worth staying a while and exploring its depth. If you go in February you can even meet The Vikings!

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Check out my article about the world of a working mill in the early nineteenth century and you’ll see why Phoebe and Tom had to run.