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Laura E Goodin, vintage adventure and cracking characters

Laura E Goodin’s first novel After the Bloodwood Staff is one of the most enjoyable reads I have ever encountered in quite a long and industrious reading career.

I’m a devotee of vintage adventure fiction and, let’s face it, adventure underpins many stories that are classified into other genres.

After the Bloodwood Staff is a treat. It’s witty and engaging, with cracking characters, and it takes the genre by the scruff of the neck and upends it with some panache.

If you love the kind of mystery, danger and excitement that infuses Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, the Murdoch Mysteries, and Shakespeare & Hathaway, you will adore Laura’s books.*

In today’s Last Word of the Week, I have an early Christmas present for you: an extract from the novel. Meet two of my favourite all-time characters: the sedentary, impractical Hoyle and the irritable, no-nonsense Sybil.

And if you’re looking for a different kind of present for that special reader in your life, follow the links. It’s not too late!

After the Bloodwood Staff by Laura E Goodin

Chapter 1: In Which Hoyle Meets an Adventurer

The bookstore was a barn of a place. Hoyle thought it might have been an actual barn at one point, judging from the smell that underlay the scents of musty paper, old leather, and expensive coffee. He’d driven an hour from the DC suburbs to get here; a post on his favorite adventure-fiction forum had recommended it as a good source for overlooked authors. And he needed a change of scene. The pile of what looked like sawdust pellets that he’d found in a corner of the garage last week had filled him with a vague but relentless dread that somewhere in his house lurked a brood of termites. He’d been trying to get the nerve up to phone somebody for days. The dread had swooped again as soon as he had woken up. But it was Sunday. Can’t do anything about it today, he had thought almost jauntily. The bookstore would be the ideal distraction.

He could feel his mood lifting as he wandered along the first aisle, turning from dull worry to the bright eagerness of the hunt. He knew the look of the books he wanted; he almost didn’t have to read the spines anymore.

Oh, that one looked about right. He reached, and his hand was knocked aside by a painful swat.

“I saw it first,” snapped the woman who’d hit him. Her was hair slightly grey, like his. She was significantly shorter, but stocky enough to put a bit of sting in the swat.

“What the hell?” he cried. But she was already striding toward the cash register.

Hoyle felt a wave of loss and frustration. He rushed to the register. “Hey,” he called to the woman as she finished paying and carefully placed the book in her tote bag. “Hey, wait.” She gave him an annoyed look over her shoulder. “Please,” he said. He caught up to her. “Please. Just let me see what it was. I didn’t even get a chance …”

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She hesitated, then drew the book out. After the Bloodwood Staff, by C.G. Ingraham. The cover was a faded mustard color, the title printed in an enticing Art Nouveau font. Without thinking, he ran one finger gently across the cover, feeling the rough cloth, and the slightly smoother lines of the title. The woman did not pull the book away.

“Ingraham,” murmured Hoyle. “Never heard of this one.”

“Fabulous stuff,” she said. “He was a bit of a maverick. Not many of them wrote about Australia. It was all Africa this and South America that and the South Sea Islands the other. I’ve been looking for this one forever.” She cleared her throat. “I’m sorry I was so rude.”

“That’s okay,” he said. On an impulse, he added, “Coffee?”

They stared at each other for a moment.

“Thanks,” she said.

Hoyle and the woman placed their orders at the cafe counter and looked for a table.

“There,” Hoyle said. “You go grab it.”

After The Bloodwood Staff by Laura E Goodin
After The Bloodwood Staff by Laura E Goodin

Once he had the coffees, he twisted and shuffled through the chairs, holding the coffees at head height to keep his elbows safe from jostling. He had an uncomfortable feeling that raising his arms like this made him look paunchy. When he got to the table, he set the coffees down and sat.

“I’m Hoyle,” he said.

“What’s your first name?”

“That is my first name.”

“Your parents named you Hoyle?”

“Well, what’s your name?”

“Sybil.”

They sipped, not quite companionably. She kept glancing at him, then away, as if she were expecting something from him.

“So, um, you read a lot of adventure?” he ventured at last. Oh, God, what a stupid thing to say.

“Since I was little,” she said. “My grandfather got me started on one of Mundy’s novels.”

King, of the Khyber Rifles?”

She sat back, astonished. “How did you guess?”

Hoyle shrugged, feeling bashful. “It’s my favorite of his, that’s all. Thought maybe your grandfather might have felt the same.”

“What’s your favorite Conan Doyle?”

“I confess it’s the Brigadier Gerard stories.”

“Oh, don’t be embarrassed. Just because they’re obscure, doesn’t mean they’re not good.”

On the strength of this, he said, “Tell me about Ingraham.”

Sybil leant forward, suddenly eager. “It’s such a sad story. He spent years of his life as a sort of groupie of Conan Doylefollowed him around from one speaking engagement to another, never getting up the courage to introduce himself or even write Conan Doyle a letter. He did write Haggard once, in 1899at least, Haggard’s reply was found in Ingraham’s papers, although Haggard seems to have thrown out Ingraham’s letter. Typical.”

“What did Haggard say?”

Sybil closed her eyes. “‘My dear sir, your suggestion is entirely untenableindeed, bordering on the insaneand I trust you will seek out competent assistance. Please do not contact me or anyone associated with me again.'” She opened her eyes and took a sip of coffee. “That was all. What in the world could Ingraham have suggested? I’ve been reading his books for clues. He was prolific, toonearly thirty-five by the time he died. He starved himself to death. He’d become convinced that an evil parasite lived in his liver and the only way to kill it before it propagated was to starve itand, by necessity, himself.”

“Wow,” said Hoyle, feeling queasy.

“Oh, yes, you can look up the case study.”

“Was he English?”

“No, American, believe it or not.”

“I take it you’re doing a PhD on him or something?”

She blinked. “Oh, no. No.”

“But you know so much about him.”

“It’s a mystery, that’s all,” she said, suddenly irritable. “I want to know what his suggestion was.”

“Ah,” he said.

“That’s why I needed this book. It’s one of the last three I didn’t have. I’d checked out online sellers, everything. When I saw you reaching for it  …  sorry.”

“That’s okay.”

“Will it help make up for it if I let you in on a secret?”

“Really, it’s okay—”

She lowered her voice. “There is evidence that Ingraham travelled to Australia in the 1890s.” She sat back with an air of having given him something for which he should be very grateful.

“Wow,” he said again, somewhat more weakly.

She frowned. “Of course, wow. Youdon’t get the connection?”

“Nope.” He started drinking his coffee as quickly as he could.

“His letter to Haggard was written in 1899.”

“Okay.”

“Ugh! I’m glad I did nab Bloodwood, it would have been wasted on you. He’d found something in Australia and he wanted to mount a second expedition.”

Something in her voice made Hoyle say, “Whatever it was can’t possibly be there now. It’s been, what, over a hundred years?”

“Do you think I should go and find out? Or that I shouldn’t?”

“Well, it’s none of my business, is it?”

“Because if you’re thinking that I’m just a middle-aged woman who should stay home with her cats and her book club for a couple of decades until it’s time to go into a hospice and die, then you can just think again.”

“No! No, of course not, no, sorry.” The silence descended again. She finished her coffee and stood up.

Hoyle stood as well. “It’s been a pleasure talking with you.”

“Oh, no it hasn’t. Don’t patronize me. Oh, and thanks for the coffee.” He watched her go, then went back to the shelves. There was an unpleasant, dogged feel to his browsing now, but it was not entirely fruitless: he found a couple of Talbot Mundys he’d been looking for, and, over in the kids’ section, a copy of Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels. He bought it, even though he had three copies already; there were nephews and nieces, and Christmas was less than two months away. The oldest of them was almost too old now for the book, and, to be frank, too interested in black nail polish, but maybe there was still time to instill a love of adventure.

Not that Hoyle himself had ever been on an adventure. In fact, he’d devoted a fair bit of effort over the years to arranging a calm life. A job that suited him, if it didn’t inspire him. A few friends, whom he saw at comfortable intervals. His sisters’ kids, when he wanted someone to give something to. The thought of trudging through a jungle somewhere, picking leeches off his privates and drinking blood from a cut on the neck of his packhorse to stay alive

Sybil, thoughshe seemed raring to go. Maybe she would go to Australia, find Ingraham’s secretor something else entirely. A thousand possibilities, straight out of a thousand musty books with frayed and mottled covers.

He drove home past the endless rows of bland, northern Virginia strip malls and office buildings, fast-food places and office-supply stores. What kind of adventures could he have here? Finding the best price on red peppers at the supermarket? Crossing the street to avoid a group of sullen teenagers?

He pulled into his driveway, got out of his car, and went inside. Sunday afternoons were for reading. But today he couldn’t settle in. Tea, then doing the breakfast dishes, then checking email, then more tea, then filing a few bills, then a walk to the convenience store for some milk, then more tea. After each task, he tried again to engross himself in one of the books he’d just bought. Each time, he was overwhelmed by the need to walk, to straighten, to do. He kept finding reasons to think of Australia.

Laura’s Links:

Email: info@lauraegoodin.com

Website: http://www.lauraegoodin.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Laura.E.Goodin.Writer/

Twitter: @lauragoodin

Insta: @lauraegoodin

Trailer for ATBS: https://vimeo.com/192767816

 *I recommend Laura’s second novel, Mud and Glass, for anyone who has ever darkened the portals of an institute of higher education, or loves cookies. Or both. Especially both.

Trailer for Mud and Glass:  https://vimeo.com/215929002

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Dominic Brownlow: red wine, coffee, music, and horses

Dominic Brownlow lives near Peterborough with his children. He worked in the music industry as a manager before setting up his own independent label. Today I’m speaking with him about his  debut novel The Naseby Horses will be published in December 2019. I was fortunate enough to read and review an advance copy earlier this year, and was enthralled by this eloquent, atmospheric novel.

Dominic Brownlow

Dominic Brownlow

Hey, Dominic, welcome to Last Word of the Week. It’s great to meet you.

Dominic: And thank you for inviting me, Clare.

My pleasure! Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book really ought to know?

Firstly, before any unbridled confessions are revealed, is that I live now, once again, in the Fens, on the edge of them at least, where the story of The Naseby Horses is set. It is a truly beautiful part of England that on the whole is seen by others mostly as a forgotten, undeveloped stretch of land designed and constructed purely for the purpose of farming, as though it were nothing more than an enormous jetty pushing into the North Sea from places like Cambridge and Peterborough. This is only partly true. It is wide, open and empty, and in places bleak; a landscape containing both thriving towns and villages and tiny, self-sufficient communities content with their own ways of life. Simon’s village is one of these.

Secondly, as a young boy growing up there, I was a member of the Young Ornithologists Club and would occasionally go on bus trips to places like Crowland and Gedney and Whittlesey, accompanied only with a pair of binoculars and a pack-up.

The Naseby Horses

The Naseby Horses

I’ve visited the Fens a few times – they are a very long way from Australia both literally and atmospherically – and I was excited to read your novel set in the Fens. I love the birds too – the ways you describe flocks in flight especially. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why? 

This is a hard one as there aren’t really that many scenes, as such, but what I enjoyed writing the most, and which I hope I have got somewhere nearly right, are the moments when Simon is effected by the aura, when he is detained within the unsteady world of a potential seizure. I researched this a good deal and what I found the most interesting, and what in many ways steered the narrative to what it is now, is that those suffering with epilepsy see and feel and smell different things in the aura. With the greatest respect to those who have this at times debilitating disorder, there was to me, as a wannabe writer, unquestionably something intriguing and mysterious about this phenomenon, and from that came the idea, fictitiously, that maybe this was more than simply electrical surcharges in the brain. It doesn’t compare to the life changing circumstances that epilepsy, sadly, can at times inflict on a sufferer, but as a child and young boy I experienced quite dramatic focus shifts. These, although harmless, I discovered through my research are similar, in part, to what is experienced in the aura and so, as best I could, I tried to bring these experiences back when writing these passages. I even, at times, would purposefully make myself dizzy before typing. This is not a book about epilepsy but, as I said before, if I have in any way captured that moment of fear and uncertainty and the loss of control of one’s own world, then all those days and nights spinning my head around in the office to the point of nausea were possibly worth it.

Those moments are very effective, I think. If I told one of your characters (you get to choose which one) that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

Well, I suppose it would have to be Simon although I would hate for you to do this to him, for he would believe you. His world is already eidetic. He lives his memories and dreams in real time and to tell him he wasn’t real would be like telling him he was. No, sorry, I love him too much for you to do that. Maybe Mum and Dad, then. No one should have to go through that in real life. 

Excellent! I like the way you’re thinking. Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

I don’t think any writers inspired me directly. Whilst always being a reader I was never fanatical about it or particularly bookish. My life until five or six years ago was absorbed in music and bands. The Wasp Factory was the first ‘grown up’ book I read beyond school books and I went on to read pretty much everything Iain Banks wrote after that. He had the most extraordinary imagination and I imagine was a pretty good guy. I think I would like to have met him. Jon McGregor over the last few years has taken over that mantle. I would love to be able to write like that. If asked, I often say my favourite novel is Climbers by M John Harrison and the book I have bought the most, without question, as gifts for kids, is The Iron Man by Ted Hughes. If any book can get the world reading again it surely has to be this one.

Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

In hindsight, although ten years ago I would have most likely told myself to get lost, or words of that nature, I would have unquestionably concentrated on writing more and not filling every spare moment of my life trying to harbour success for others, although I have no regrets there. I enjoyed it greatly despite the lack of a regular wage. As all wannabe writers will know, finding time is a huge issue. I’d been writing essays and screenplays and short stories all my life, purely for the benefit of my computer or some old notebook. Words themselves, either writing them or reading them, were, to me, always more important than the stories they told, and it wasn’t until I moved back to the Fens that I at last found that time to put these ramblings into some semblance of a plot.

What’s next for you in the world of writing?

I am in the throes of a new novel as we speak although to be honest I need to find a routine again. I’m making excuses not to write as opposed to writing, which is awful, really, seeing as I’ve been waiting so long. I need to get back into red wine and coffee, my ever-trusty companions for The Naseby Horses.

I hope you find the writing groove again soon! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

In many ways, I’d like to be Simon, despite the card he was dealt. I think I’d like to tell him that, actually, everything’s alright. There is something enticing about the messed-up teenager in fiction. I don’t know if that’s because we want to be them or steer them away from the dangers they are readily putting themselves in, but just for a few moments, and with a massive red eject button at my side, I’d like to be either Frank from The Wasp Factory or Vernon from Vernon God Little or Holden Caulfield or Hallam Foe. And Karrion from the Wilde Investigations series. He’s just cool and a bit of a goth. Yes, Karrion it is: Motion passed.

Karrion it shall be! Thank you so much for sharing with me today on Last Word of the Week.

Dominic’s links:

Dominic tweets @DominicBrownlow

Find Dominic’s profile at Louise Walters Books: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/dominic-brownlow

The Silence: cover reveal

Cover Reveal!

Today I’m jumping up and down with excitement as the cover of Susan Allott’s debut novel The Silence is revealed. The Silence will be released in April next year.

I’ve been lucky enough to have Susan answer a few questions, too, about her writing process and the story behind her novel, a suspenseful mystery about a missing woman, marriage, emigration, children, and especially secrets. The Silence has been compared to both Jane Harper’s The Dry and Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours.

I can’t wait to read it.

Welcome, Susan! At last, your cover is here, and it looks wonderful. Covers are so important. Can you tell us something about the process for you? Who gets to design and choose the cover – do you have input? And what about the title – was that your choice?

Susan: My covers were done by the in-house team at Harper Collins, one designer based in the US and one in the UK. The US cover came through first and I thought it was beautiful but I did ask for some changes. I had a very specific image in my mind of what the houses on Bay Street look like, and it bothered me that the houses on the cover weren’t exactly as I’d described them in the book. The designers went away and made the changes I’d asked for and when it came back the houses were accurate, but the cover was no longer beautiful! It was a good lesson. I realised the cover needs to evoke the book rather than depict it in a literal way, and it needs to be attractive to potential readers.

When the UK cover came through I loved it immediately. It’s so intriguing and inviting: exactly the kind of book I would pick up in a bookshop.

The title was my choice but it took me ages to come up with it! My book is about a woman whose disappearance goes unnoticed for thirty years, but it’s also about Australia’s ‘forced removal’ policy which continued for decades, and most white Australians were somehow unaware of it. We were trying to find a title which brought those two elements together, but nothing was quite right.

In the end I went back through working titles I’d used before I found a publisher. One of these was ‘The Great Silence’, a quote from W.E.H. Stanner’s famous lecture which describes a ‘cult of forgetfulness’ around the history of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. I played around with it a bit – ‘The Long Silence’? ‘The Huge Silence’? – but of course the more powerful title was the simplest one. I sent an email to my editor and agent: ‘How about The Silence?’ And they both replied ‘I love that.’

It was such a relief, that we’d found the right title, but also that we’d held out for one that really worked instead of compromising. It’s so right for the book, I can’t believe we didn’t think of it sooner.

Silence_CoverReveal_1200x1200

Do you have a favourite task in writing, such as scribbling ideas, fleshing out scenes, inventing characters, visiting locations, editing? If so, why?

I get the most pleasure out of editing. I do a lot of deleting, rewording, deleting again, over and over until it finally works. My happy place is sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, reworking what I wrote yesterday and making it shine. I have to force myself to push on and write new material. I think it’s because the first draft is often so flat and clichéd that it dents my confidence. I need to get over that. I do know that even the best writers’ first drafts are appalling.

I’m going to ask you to play favourites: who is your most beloved character in your own writing, and why?

I think I’d have to say Mandy, the character whose disappearance is central to The Silence. She’s a 1960s Australian housewife who doesn’t fit the mould. Her husband wants nothing more than a brood of children and she is secretly taking the Pill.

Over 50% of the novel is set in the 1960s, before Mandy disappeared, so we get to know her well. I wanted her absence to be felt in the chapters set thirty years later. Hopefully she comes across as complex and relatable, as flawed as we all are. She’s been in my head a long time.

Can you tell us something about yourself that you think readers should know?

The Silence began as a story about my experience of living and working in Sydney in the late nineties. More specifically, my experience of failing to love Australia, while everyone around me seemed so happy and at home. The book I tried to write was about a young British woman called Louisa who, like me, left Australia to return to the UK. Then she got home and wondered what was wrong with her. That experience of overwhelming homesickness was my starting point. But the story didn’t come to life until I started exploring the world Louisa had left behind: her husband Joe and their neighbours, Steve and Mandy. I wrote against my own experience, describing Australia through the eyes of people who loved it and called it home.

I fought the idea of setting the book entirely in Australia for a long time. Funnily enough, I met an Australian man in London a few years later, and went on to marry him! He encouraged me to keep writing. We visited Australia a few times over the years and gradually I accepted that my story was there. In part the novel is about the experience of migration, and how liberating it can be to make a new home on your own terms, even though that didn’t happen for me.

Are there any particular writers or books that inspired you on your own creative path?

The biggest influences for me while writing The Silence were Kate Grenville’s The Secret River, Christos Tsiolkas’ The Slap, and Rabbit Proof Fence by Doris Pilkington Garimara – the book and the film. Tim Winton too of course, I’ve read everything of his including his memoirs. Oh and Evie Wyld is incredible. The trouble is, these wonderful writers can be slightly intimidating and I spent a few years thinking my writing wouldn’t be good enough until I sounded like them. I think I took a long time to accept that my own voice was ok. I read a lot of non-fiction too while I was researching. The stolen generation storyline was inspired initially by a passage in a book called Australia: a biography of a nation by Phillip Knightley. There’s a section in that book about an Australian policeman who used to come home from work, sit at the back of the house and cry. I knew I wanted to tell his story.

What would you say is the most difficult barrier to overcome in writing a novel and having it published? Do you have advice about that, or a good story of how you got there?

I think the hardest thing is to keep going, especially when you’re aware of how hard it is to get published. For me, the challenge of writing alongside the demands of work and family life sometimes felt insurmountable. My advice would be not to fixate too much on publication as a goal, especially not in the early drafts. Write primarily for yourself and try to write the kind of book you love to read. If you love your book and enjoy writing it, that will come through on the page.

I’d also caution against giving up the day job too soon. Time is not always your friend. I never had enough time to write for the first few years, when my kids were little and I was working. I wrote whenever I could find a spare hour in the day. (Sometimes it was only twenty minutes.) It gave me an urgency when I did sit down to write that may not have been there otherwise. Writing was always the thing I did when I should have been doing something else. My me-time.

That said, I think it was a gift from the Universe when I was made redundant at the end of 2018. I had an agent by that stage and she was keen to submit my manuscript before the London Book Fair in March this year. The months I spent writing full time in the run-up to submission were completely immersive and I’m not sure I’d have managed it if I’d still been employed. I might have found the time somehow but I wouldn’t have had the headspace.

And the book did sell in the run-up to the Fair! I don’t like talking about luck, when really it’s sheer stamina that gets the book written in the end, but I do feel very lucky that I had that period of time to finish the book just when I needed it.

What was the most difficult scene to write in the novel – you don’t have to give away spoilers!

There’s a scene about a third of the way through where Isla, my protagonist, starts to question her long-held loyalty to her father, who is suspected of murder. I needed to show her range of emotion while also managing the plot and the logistics of the scene. The hard part always is trying to be subtle, but not so subtle that the reader loses the thread of where the character is coming from. I’m pleased with that scene now but it took forever and I drank an awful lot of coffee.

What are you most looking forward to in your writing?

I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the new book, which is set in London this time. I want to get the sense of momentum again, where the hours go by and I barely notice. Other than that, I’m not sure if this is strictly ‘writing’ but I want to hold the published copy of The Silence in my hand and flick through the pages. I can’t think of anything more exciting.

That will be a wonderful day indeed. Congratulations, Susan, and I’m looking forward to holing a copy too – and reading it!

The Silence by Susan Allott will be released on April 30th 2020.

Susan’s links:

Website: www.susanallott.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sallottauthor/

Twitter: @SusanAllott

Instagram: @susanallottauthor

Sandra Danby writes

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Well, that’s a couple of things we have in common! Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective who investigates family secrets in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. Her short stories and flash fiction have been published online and in anthologies. Her ‘Identity Detective’ series explores the themes of identity, family history, secrets and adoption reunion. Sandra is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the series, set in London during The Blitz.

Sandra Danby Author

Sandra Danby Author

LWOTW: Welcome to last Word of the Week, Sandra! Tell me, when did you write your first story?

SANDRA: I must have been six or seven when I made my own magazines, writing the stories but cutting pictures out of my mother’s ‘Woman’s Weekly’ and ‘Woman’s Own’ magazines. I’m still rubbish at drawing but clearly I was showing early signs of the magazine editor I would later become. I have no clear memories of all those stories but I do remember writing an ambitious series about a sea-going cat that travelled to all the exotic faraway places I wanted to go. My early writing was always about adventuring into the unknown, being brave and fighting battles, influenced by the Famous Five and Swallows and Amazons, combined with an avid curiosity about life beyond the East Yorkshire dairy farm where I grew up.

Curiosity is so essential for a writer. What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

I would describe myself as an imaginative planner.  The over-active imagination that saw me told off as a child at school for dreaming, well she’s still here but is now forged with the organised focussed journalist who likes to plan and research. I must have read thousands of words about how other writers do it, but every writer has to find their own way. As I wrote my first two novels, with a third abandoned in a box, plus countless short stories, I’ve experimented and learned to loosen my planning and to listen to my dreams. The phase of writing I love the most is when story points fly into my head at random, often in that first dozy thirty minutes on waking. 

A waking dream! That sounds very, very useful. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

A reader coming up to me at a fair and saying ‘I’ve read the first two, when’s the next out?’ There’s no better motivation for pushing on with the next book. 

Oh, that’s a marvellous question to hear! What are you most busy with at the moment?

I’m straightening out the kinks and twists in the plot of my third novel, ‘Sweet Joy’. It’s the sort of job that has to be approached with a completely clear sharp brain or things can get out of hand and ideas mysteriously disappear. It’s incredibly satisfying when connections are made and your brain says ‘of course that goes there’ when you’ve had a blank spot for sometimes months.

There is sometimes the sense that your subconscious (or maybe your characters…) knew what had to happen all along… If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Don’t give up. It’s a long haul; you have to be in it for love. Writing is a job, not a hobby.

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

Green, but only green as in the nature that surrounds us. I never wear the colour green, I think because I hated my 1970s bottle green school uniform. My favourite green is the landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds, endless rolling green hills and a wide horizon.

the Yorkshire Wolds - photo @SandraDanby

the Yorkshire Wolds – photo @SandraDanby

How beautiful it is. Thank you so much for sharing with me today, Sandra.

SANDRA’S LINKS

Website http://www.sandradanby.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/sandradanby/

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/sandradanbyauthor/

Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/sandradan1/

Amazon UK https://amzn.to/2vEvGS8

Amazon USA https://amzn.to/2KPriEC

Phyllis M. Newman tells a ghostly tale

Phyllis M. Newman is my guest on today’s Last Word of the Week. Born in New Orleans, Phyllis spent her formative years in Florida, Iowa, Mississippi, and on a dairy farm in Ross Country, Ohio. After a long career in finance and human resources at The Ohio State University, she turned her attention to writing fiction. She published a noir mystery, “Kat’s Eye” in 2015, and “The Vanished Bride of Northfield House” in 2018. Today she lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and three perpetually unimpressed cats, ghostwatchers all.

Phyllis M Newman author

Phyllis M Newman author

LWOTW: Lovely to meet you, Phyllis. Tell me, when did you write your first story?

Phyllis: I was thirteen and attending junior high school. It was a murder mystery entitled M is for Murder. (At the time I was living in Dade County Florida, murder capital of the world.) I still have a copy of it somewhere (and since then I think someone stole my title.) Maybe I could brush it up and finish it? At the time, I didn’t have the maturity and discipline to complete it with a well thought out plot and exciting characters. I do remember that the main character was named after my best friend Rhudell.

Ahem, murder capital of the world…*shivers*…You totally should revisit that book! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

Only if you dream can you write. Only if you have an imagination can you create fiction. Planning, not so much. I prefer to start out with a strong character who has a set of problems and just write as if I am that person. I develop in my mind only a vague idea of where she will go and what she will do and about my major themes. Those details come to me as I flesh out the story.

Case in point, when I started The Vanished Bride of Northfield House, all I knew about Anne, my main character, was that she was orphaned, she secured training as a typewriter, she could see spirits, and it was set in England, 1922. You can see that any writer could develop volumes out of such a situation. It’s quite exciting to write in this way. It’s an adventure.

The Vanished Bride of Northfield House by Phyllis M Newman

VanishedBrideFrontCover

I love your method! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

When a traditional publisher accepted my manuscript for publication. And I got a cash advance. And a very professional editor worked closely with me for months to polish and improve the writing. After a year, I was holding a book in my hand with my name on it. Talk about dreams!

That’s a completely magical feeling. What are you most busy with at the moment?

I am polishing a finished manuscript, a novel in the same genre as The Vanished Bride of Northfield House. It is another gothic mystery with elements of the supernatural and a suspenseful romance. And, of course, trying to market and publicize my two other publications.

If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Just write. Stop dreaming and put your fingers to the keyboard (or pen to paper. Whatever floats your boat!) The more you write, the better you are at it. And read. Learn what makes a good story. And don’t forget the craft of writing. Good story telling is an art, but good writing is a craft that anyone can learn. But you can only learn by doing. That’s more than one thing, but all of the above is important.

Excellent advice there, thank you. And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

I wear yellow, the color of sunshine, at every opportunity

How lovely! Thank you so much, Phyllis, for being my guest on today’s last Word of the Week.

Important links for Phyllis:

Contact/follow/like her at www.readphyllismnewman.com,  @phyllismnewman2, or Facebook  https://facebook.com/ReadPhyllisMNewman/

Buy link for The Vanished Bride of Northfield House: http://www.amazon.com/dp/1939403456

British buy link:   https://goo.gl/uU5QBC

 

Trevor Lince in Room 119…

Trev Lince, today’s guest on Last Word of the Week, originates from Marske-by-the-Sea on the North East coast of England, but now lives in Darlington with his wife, Claire. A keen golfer and frustrated Middlesbrough FC fan, Trev gets to as many matches as work and leisure time allow. He writes in what little spare time he has. Room 119 – The Whitby Trader was Trev’s first book but he may have a few more stories bursting to get out of his head…

LWOTW: So pleased to meet you, Trev. I won’t mention Middlesborough, or golf come to that 🙂

Thanks for talking with me about your writing. Can you tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer. I gather you started quite late?

Trev: I attained an ‘e’ in English and am borderline dyslexic and only read 11 books in my entire life before I had the crazy idea of writing Room 119.

So I guess I am not your stereotypical author. I had a dream, told a few people and after a year or so banging on about it my lovely wife said

‘Well why don’t you write it Trev, you never finish anything you start EVER.’

Next day was 2 Jan 2017, 4 months later I wrote The End.

Room 119 cover

Good for you! Nothing like a spousal challenge, eh? Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?

Room 119 and Funicular were both born from dreams, or at least the idea and out line was.

I generally sort of know what’s next as I type. I never really have moments looking for inspiration. I can write 5 or 6k words every sitting when I’m in the mood.

I have, on both books, had a couple of nights after a heavy writing session gone to bed and had 6 or 7 dreams the continue the plot.

It’s actually hard to explain as you’re not asleep but not quite awake and I have to get up for water every hour, frustrating and tiring when it happens, but I’m glad it does.

That’s wonderful. Such a creative process. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

Seeing Room 119 – The Whitby Trader arrive in paperback in a box from amazon. That might be eclipsed if it becomes a film!

Screenplay done and I’m in talks with a few directors.

Wow that’s impressive. Congratulations! What are you most looking forward to at the moment?

It’s all about the next book, which I have been neglecting due to a new job and working hard to get Funicular out as an audiobook. Now that’s done I’m back on it.

If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Don’t listen to anyone who says you can’t do it, if I can, you can.

Also when you get a bad review (I’ve only had one so far) then take it with a pinch of salt.

Equally don’t go overboard with your good ones, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

It is nice when you get a good one though!

And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?

Of my characters I would probably like to be Benjie the clown because I love him, it’s funny how you can make someone up and then they end up so real in your head.

When people say they hate clowns in books I end up sticking up for him like an old friend.

If not mine, then I said earlier I’ve only read 11 well 15 now, probably DEATH in Terry Pratchett books, quite a cool bloke, he’s just got a dodgy job.

That’s wonderful. Thank you so much for speaking with me. Your writing process is very inspirational. More power to you!

 

You can find out more about Trev on

Goodreads

Amazon

On Twitter @Room119TFLince

Room 119: The Whitby Trader

Funicular: what is truth when the past is a lie?

Funicular is also on audible

 

Amanda J Evans takes the Last Word of the Week

Amanda  J Evans is an award-winning writer of paranormal and fantasy novels as well as children’s stories. Growing up with heroes like Luke Skywalker and Indiana Jones, her stories centre on good versus evil. An early tragedy in her life has also made its way onto the page and Amanda brings the emotions of grief to life in her stories too. Amanda lives in Oldcastle, Co. Meath, Ireland with her husband and two children. Amanda is also the author of Surviving Suicide: A Memoir from Those Death Left Behind, published in 2012.

LWOTW: So lovely to meet you, Amanda. Can you tell me when you wrote your first story?

Amanda: I wrote my first real story when I was eight. It was called The Little Elf Fairy. It was about a young elf fairy child going off in search of his mother. I remember that it filled a copybook and I drew little pictures to go with it. My parents had it typed up and I even sent it to Penguin books. My first rejection too. :-0

Oh that is starting young in the realities of writing! What do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

I’m a big believer in dreams and the messages they can give us. In relation to writing dreams, I believe you have to have them. You have to have something to strive towards, something to excite you and keep you motivated. Whether it’s seeing your book in big name shops like Easons, or hitting the bestsellers list. You have to have a dream.

Imagination is essential for writing. I love imagining what my characters look like, how they’ll overcome the obstacles they are facing, etc. I also love imagining success and people reading and enjoying my books.

I’ll be very honest and say I don’t plan my books at all. I am what is referred to as a pantser. I pick up my pen and just write. The story unfolds as I’m writing it and I love it. I love the surprises, the twists, and the way that characters take over. I get to experience the story as a reader would even though I’m the author. I have tried planning in the past, but it never works. My characters always seem to do their own thing and I’ve learned that they know best.Nightmare Realities

That’s fabulous. What a wonderful way to write. What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

There have been a few, but I think the best one was probably the most terrifying. It was after I’d finished writing Finding Forever and had sent it to beta readers. I was a nervous wreck. I was imagining all sorts, mostly negative. I kept thinking readers were going to say my story was rubbish, and who did I think I was being a writer. When the first messages started to arrive, I was afraid to open them. They could literally shatter all my hopes and dreams. I remember having a drink or two the evening I decided to read them. To calm myself down and give me the courage. The very first message I read left me with a big smile on my face. The reader loved the story. The rest of the feedback followed the same way. They loved the story and wanted more. I had readers telling me it could be a series and everyone loved one particular character. It was the boost I needed to move forward and publish my book.

Finding Forever

Finding Forever won the Best Thriller category in the Summer Indie Book Awards 2017. Save Her Soul, my next book, won Silver in Best Paranormal book in the Virtual Fantasy Con Awards in 2017.

One of the highlights for 2018 was being invited to take part in two anthologies with bestselling authors and being asked to write an editorial quote for Anna Undreaming.

Congratulations, what a fabulous list! What are you most busy with at the moment?

At the moment, I’m busy promoting my latest release, Hear Me Cry. It’s a short novella that retells the Irish myth of the banshee. It’s a fantasy romance and is receiving great feedback so far. Next month I have a new angel and magic themed book releasing in an anthology. It’s called The Cursed Angels.

Save her Soul

If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Don’t give up. If writing is something that you love to do, do it. Not for the money and fame, but because it brings you joy. It’s so easy to get caught up in all the talk about making loads of money if you self-publish and this should never be your focus. Write because you love it. Read a lot, and improve your skills as you go along. Don’t put yourself under too much pressure and always remember why you started writing in the first place. Don’t ever let it become a chore.

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

This would have to be either blue or pink, in all shades.

Thank you so much Amanda for speaking with me today. You have made my TBR pile even bigger. Thank you!

You can read more about Amanda at

http://www.amandajevans.com

Find Amanda on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/amandajevanswriter 

Twitterhttp://www.twitter.com/amandajevans 

Google+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/117144241706669072531/

LinkedIn: http://ie.linkedin.com/in/amandajevans/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ajevanswriter/ 
Books By Amanda J Evans

 

Save Her Soul – A Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Romance

Amazon: http://myBook.to/SaveHerSoul

Finding Forever – A Romantic Suspense Novella

Amazon: http://myBook.to/Finding-Forever

Surviving Suicide – A Memoir From Those Death Left Behind

Amazon: https://myBook.to/survivingsuicide

Nightmare Realities – Spooky Short Stories for Ages 9-16

Amazon: https://myBook.to/nightmare-realities

Last Word: Julie Ryan

Julie Ryan writes Romance with a Twist. Her three Greek Island mysteries reveal the darker side of those seductive getaways, and her latest contemporary romance Finding Rose links back to Tudor days and also the time of my own special interest — the Great War. Enjoyable and enthralling are some of the words readers use to describe Julie’s novels. Finding Rose is very high on my TBR list. You can see all of Julie’s books on her website.

Welcome, Julie, it’s so nice to meet you. Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.

Julie: Good question! I remember reading somewhere that Stephen King said something along the lines of … ‘if you receive a cheque for your writing and it pays the electricity bill and doesn’t bounce then you can consider yourself a writer’. Funnily enough, because I self-published my first book, I didn’t think of myself as a writer even when it did well. After it came out in paperback and I could physically hold a copy of my book, it all became a bit more real. Now, with five books behind me I still have to remind myself sometimes that I am a writer!

51330673_527384104418546_1409392208217374720_n

Do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?

I start with a very rough plot and a couple of characters but by the end the finished product usually bears little resemblance to the original idea. I admire people who can plot out their book in every chapter but it’s not how I work. I quite like the idea that my book evolves as I write and I really have no idea how it’s going to end.

They do tend to develop a life of their own, don’t they! What’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

There are a couple of key moments that will always stand out for me. The first one was holding the print copy of my first book in my hands and realising that it now existed in another realm not just in my imagination. The second highlight was winning the Tim Poole Cup in 2018 with a poem I wrote.

What are you most looking forward to at the moment?

I’m currently writing a script for our local amateur dramatic society. It’s a totally new departure for me and if they like it, I’m hoping it will be performed next year. That would be really awesome!

That’s very exciting! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Sometimes the idea of wanting to create perfection can put people off writing. I would say just write and worry about editing it later. After all, you can’t edit a blank page.

And finally: Julie, who would you be if you were a fictional character?

I think I am already turning into Shirley Valentine. I saw that film five times when it first came out, as well as seeing the stage play. Not only did it provide inspiration for my first novel but I love the message of finding yourself. She’s also a really funny character but for me, any excuse to spend time in Greece is welcome.

How fabulous! Thank you so much for spending time with me on last Word of the Week.

 

Julie’s links:

Website: http://julieryanwriter.com

Author Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/julieryanauthor

Author Central Account: http://www.amazon.com/Julie-Ryan/e/B00F0VYX34/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/julieryan18

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/jewilkinson1441

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/458168.Julie_Ryan

 

 

Julie’s Book links

Jenna’s Journey, the first in the Greek island trilogy is available here https://www.amazon.co.uk/Jennas-Journey-Island-Mystery-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B01GGOCKLK

Sophia’s Secret is the second book

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sophias-Secret-Greek-Island-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00LFJGCWA

Pandora’s Prophecy concludes the trilogy

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Pandoras-Prophecy-Greek-Island-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00V6CWVBW

Finding Rose Buy the book here