#AuthorInterview Shawne Steiger, author of “Games We Played”

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Shawne Steiger wrote her first story when she was seven. Over the years, she has been a pizza maker, dressage teacher, house cleaner, and therapist. The one constant in her life has been her writing, which is why, after years working as a trauma therapist, she applied to Vermont College of Fine Arts and completed an MFA in Fiction writing. After learning that she’s happiest when writing, Shawne published short stories and essays in several literary journals. Supporting her writing habit with her social work degree, Shawne frequently incorporates her understanding of how trauma affects people into her fiction. When not writing or working, she enjoys going to the theater, reading and travel. Luckily her love of travel stops her from fully realizing her aspirations to enter the realm of mad cat woman, since she’s yet to find the perfect suitcase that will fit both her cats and still be light enough to carry.

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Thanks for spending time with us on the blog today, Shawne.

Games We Played covers timely issues unfortunately found in our real-world society. What was the motivation behind the book?

 I started writing this book when I entered the Vermont College MFA program. I actually did grow up in Carlsbad and I was one of only three Jewish kids in my class.  When I was around five or six, I played war with a neighborhood boy and we always played Nazis and Jews.  He did claim his Grandfather had fought for Hitler and there was an attic with a gun collection. That was always the germ of the story and the memoir piece I built the fiction around. I originally planned to tell just the childhood story from that child’s point of view, but when I started my MFA, my first advisor urged me to write from an adult’s point of view and focus on short stories.  By the time I graduated, I had done all this research on white supremacy and I had all sorts of material that had transformed the novel I had envisioned. I took a break for a while, because I got a new job that consumed a lot of time and I didn’t know what to do with all those pieces.  By the time I had a draft organized, 2016 happened and I realized my novel had suddenly become much more relevant than I had anticipated.  I rewrote some of it after the election. 

I’m particularly interested in intergenerational trauma.  How does all the trauma my Jewish grandparents and great grandparents experienced in Europe affect me?  How will the trauma we’ve all lived through this past few years affect the children, the next generation of children etc?  Children absorb so much from the adults around them, a lot of it unconscious.  One thing I know from my background as a trauma therapist is that sometimes people respond to trauma by becoming very rigid in their thinking and in how they see the world. We start to see everything in black and white and develop an us and them mentality in order to feel safe. It feels safer to “other” those who don’t look or think or behave like we do.   I think when people read my novel, they might get angry at Rachel and feel impatient with her at times. They might sympathize with and even like Stephen.  I want people to experience that discomfort, because I want to challenge us all to start seeing each other as full complex human beings. 

Do you have a favorite character in the story?

I’m particularly fond of Stephen.  He’s so broken, but he wants things and he wants to be good. He’s just really confused about how he defines good.  He has a lot to overcome, but he’s very driven to try to make things better. Rachel needs external events to get her moving, but Stephen creates those external events for himself. 

What is your work schedule like when writing a book?

I wake up at 5am, make coffee and write till 7, when it’s time to get ready for work. I try to write at least a little on the weekend, but I am most productive when I have long chunks of time.  Once a year, I get together with some friends at Cape Cod and we all just write all day every day for a week.  I generally get hundreds of pages out of that week. I will say COVID has affected my writing. I’ve mostly been teleworking, which theoretically gives me more time to write, but somehow I’m writing less.  I tell myself I have extra time and turn the alarm off and then wake up too late.  Luckily, the Cape Cod week is going to happen this summer, after a very long year of COVID lockdown. I’m counting on that week to get me back in the groove. 

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

I’m published under Red Adept Publishing.  They’re an indie publisher and have been truly great to work with. I really could not have asked for a better experience. Everyone has been so helpful and supportive.

Do you write full time, or do you also work outside the home? 

I wish I wrote full time.  I’m a clinical social worker with a mental health background, primarily focused on treating PTSD. Currently my job is more administrative than clinical. My retirement plan is to do a little part time therapy and write. 

What do you do when you’re not writing? 

So many of these questions seem to require pre-COVID and COVID answers.  Pre-COVID, I read, watched movies, traveled, went to theater, went out to eat, went to the gym, took walks with friends.  COVID time has been a little quieter. I still read and I’m a bit of a TV addict (Handmaid’s Tale FINALLY returned).  I take walks with people and have one or two people over for outside gatherings (now that we’re all getting vaccinated).  I’m quite addicted to Pilates and my big investment this past year was a good quality Pilates reformer. 

Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you?

Teddy and Seymour. Yes, they are named from J D Salinger short stories. Phoebe is 16 and not so photogenic, and Holden passed away.

 

As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up? 

First I wanted to be a veterinarian. Then I found out science was involved.  I was into theater in high school, so I briefly wanted to act, but I couldn’t match pitch and I couldn’t dance very well.  At the time those deficits seemed like giant barriers.  I was also deeply into horses and I had a brief career training Dressage horses and teaching Dressage lessons before I went to grad school for my MSW.

Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?

Totally addicted to Twitter.  I love the challenge of trying to say things in as few words as possible.  I could live without Facebook.  I’m pretty introverted and Facebook sometimes feels like all the social pressure that I struggle with in real life. 

What’s your next project?

I’m working on a psychological thriller. I’m really excited about it. 

Do you have any advice for new authors?

Reading is the best way to learn to write. Also, learn to separate your sense of self-worth from your writing. The best way to develop your craft and improve your writing is to get honest critiques from skilled writers. I’ve noticed some new writers react to critiques as if they are being judged or criticized. I’ve seen writers get defensive, because the critique made them feel bad about themselves.  Critiques are about helping you develop craft skills and make your story or novel even better. You can ignore critiques that don’t resonate for you, but if you find yourself ignoring all the feedback you get, you might be preventing yourself from growing as a writer. 

Please share an excerpt (extract) with us from one of your favorite scenes.

I think I’m not alone in saving hundreds of pages of “darlings” that I ultimately cut from the novel.  I thought, rather than a specific excerpt from the novel, I’d share an excerpt from a piece I wrote that ultimately made it into the novel in bits and pieces and not in its original form. The entire piece is 11 pages, but here’s a bit of it. This is an excerpt from a letter I imagined Rachel writing, but not sending her grandmother: 

I do think of you Grandma.  I do.  But I don’t visit.  I think of the way you invaded our house, your black suitcases heavy with kitchen supplies enshrouded in bubble wrap and newspaper.  Mother taut shouldered, chapping her hands in the sink while you purged our cupboards, dumping plates, bowls, silverware in black garbage bags, and I carefully organized the new forks and spoons in their separate kosher drawers with masking tape labels for meat and dairy.  Father hiding in his study surrounded by magic books and boxes full of hidden compartments.  I think of you at the kitchen table with my mother, inhaling curls of steam from decaffeinated Lipton tea and explaining exactly why we must honor the kosher rules.  “Do you understand, Rose?  We are in a covenant with God.  The Jews were chosen by God to be pioneers of religion and morality; that is our purpose.  You must understand this, and you must raise your children as religious Jews.”  Mother nodding, sipping, nodding.  Emptying our cupboards that day, you removed the big rose colored serving platter and my mother flung her arms out, spraying water all over the floor and surrounding countertops.  She snatched that plate out of your hands.

“I’ll keep this,” she said.  “It was a wedding gift from my mother.”

You squeezed your lips and crossed your arms.  “Well, I won’t have it in a kosher kitchen. It’s probably had meat and cheese on it at the same time.”  Your tone implied my mother must have murdered somebody and served the body parts on that platter.  My mother hugged it to her chest and crept out of the room like a dog just caught in the garbage.  You patted my head and said, “No Rachel, that fork goes in the meat drawer.  See, it was on the right side of the tablecloth.”  You pointed to the shiny array of silverware on the floor, carefully organized on right and left sides of our picnic tablecloth, glinting like treasure against the faded yellow flowers.  

I want to blame you and I want to hate you. I remember the day you came – us waiting at the gate, me clutching Guarder in one hand and my mother’s clammy fingers in the other, staring at my father’s back, hair curling darkly around the collar of his white polo shirt.  Streams of passengers rushed past us in twos and threes, hugging waiting friends and family members, crying, chattering about lousy food and nearly missed changeovers in Atlanta, the new clothes they found in Florida. We were a tableau, a still life in the middle of it all. You walked out alone in your gray skirt, white button down blouse and gray jacket. Your pantyhose bunched around your ankles. People stepped aside to let you through.  When I picture you coming off that airplane I think of the cactuses I once saw on a drive through Arizona – all determined sharp edges, able to survive on the occasional rain, sucking every droplet of water from the air around them.  You looked down and said, “Hello Rachel.”  None of the singsong voice usually reserved for children or the elderly.  I felt like when I played house with Stephen -him announcing, “I’m home, honey,” and me wobbling precariously over to him in my mother’s heels, touching my lips to his cheek, tingling with the fear and excitement of being a wife at six years old. 

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Games-We-Played-500x800-Cover-Reveal-and-PromotionalGames We Played

Publication Date: October 17th, 2020

Genre: Literary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction/ Thriller

When actress Rachel Goldberg shares her personal views on a local radio show, she becomes a target for online harassment. Things go too far when someone paints a swastika on her front door, not only terrifying her but also dredging up some painful childhood memories. Rachel escapes to her hometown of Carlsbad. To avoid upsetting her parents, she tells them she’s there to visit her Orthodox Jewish grandmother, even though that’s the last thing she wants to do. But trouble may have followed her.Stephen Drescher is home from Iraq, but his dishonorable discharge contaminates his transition back to civilian life. His old skinhead friends, the ones who urged him to enlist so he could learn to make better bombs, have disappeared, and he can’t even afford to adopt a dog. Thinking to reconnect with his childhood friend, he googles Rachel’s name and is stunned to see the comments on her Facebook page. He summons the courage to contact her, Rachel and Stephen, who have vastly different feelings about the games they played and what might come of their reunion, must come to terms with their pasts before they can work toward their futures.

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#AuthorSpotlight “The Bird that Sang in Color” by Grace Mattioli

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~ Interview with Grace Mattioli ~

Hello Grace, and welcome to Nesie’s Place!

Your bio says you’re from the Pacific Northwest. Tell us a few things about yourself.

I currently live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and two adorable cats. I’m originally from New Jersey and have lived all over the country, mostly in San Francisco, where I was for seventeen years.

The Bird That Sang in Color sounds like a thought-provoking saga involving siblings. What was your inspiration for the story?

Years ago, after my brother passed away, I found a book of sketches he’d made of his life, and it had a profound effect on me. I started to wonder what pictures I would have of myself by the end of my life, and I really wanted to share this insight and inspiration with the world. Incidentally, the cover art for this book is one of the sketches from my brother’s pictorial autobiography.

How did you come up with the very unique title?

I wanted a title that fit the central theme of living free, and I wanted to use a symbol in the title as I did for my other two books. A bird is the best symbol of freedom I know of.  I also wanted to bring the novel’s themes of music and art into the title, and I wanted to illustrate the idea of living in color as opposed to blending into the background of societal convention.

This is your third book involving the Greco family. If I have it right, Discovery of an Eagle is a sequel to Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees. Is The Bird That Sang in Color connected in some way?

Yes, Donna Greco, the protagonist of my newest novel, is the matriarch of the Greco family. All of my books can be read as stand-alones, although I’d recommend reading all three for a richer experience. The Bird that Sang in Color was written as a prequel to the other two, but it can either be read before or after the other two.

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

I’m self-published and have done everything independently, including formatting my manuscripts for paperbacks and narrating my books for audio recordings.

Do you still work full-time as a librarian?

I worked as a librarian for over twenty years full-time and am currently working part-time as a shopkeeper. I also design jewelry, which I sell in several local stores.

What is your work schedule like when writing a book?

I get a certain amount of words written as early as I can in the day. I have a minimum word count of 400 words per day.

What do you do when you’re not writing? 

I like to garden, listen to and play music (mandolin, ukulele), spend time in nature, and watch great shows.

I read you have ‘awesome cats!’ Do they ever try to “help” or inspire you?

Yes, in fact I even put my cat, Cosmo, in my acknowledgements. He sat on my lap as I wrote and revised this book.

As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up? 

I had lots of different ambitions, including a writer, an architect, a journalist, and even an art therapist.

Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?

I can live without it.

What’s your next project?

My next project will be a novella, and the subject will be the homeless problem in America.

Do you have any advice for new authors?

I have lots. I published a small guide called Tell the World Your Story. It’s available on all major online bookstores for only $0.99.

Anything else you’d like to add, Grace?

As with my other books, this book is intended to give people inspiration and insight for living happily. I believe that happiness isn’t just important on an individual level, but on a global one as well. That is, it’s all the miserable people who are making all the trouble in the world. I’m hoping that readers of The Bird that Sang in Color will be inspired to live free and authentically so that they can create colorful pictures of their own lives.

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Congratulations to author Grace Mattioli on the release of her novel The Bird that Sang in Color!

Read on for a chance to win a copy of the book!

BirdColour 1The Bird that Sang in Color

Publication Date: January 17, 2021 (Today 🎉)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Part family drama and part self-actualization story, this is about Donna Greco, who in her teens, subscribes to a conventional view of success in life and pushes her freewheeling, artistic brother, Vincent to do the same. However, he remains single, childless, and subsists in cramped apartments. She harbors guilt for her supposed failure to ensure his happiness until she discovers a book of sketches he made of his life, which allows her to see his internal joy and prompts her own journey of living authentically.

Thought-provoking, humorous, and filled with unforgettable characters, this book invites readers to ponder what pictures they will have of themselves by the end of their lives.

“Beautifully rendered, hugely moving, brilliant,” Lidia Yucknavitch.

“a refreshing family portrait about interpersonal evolution…presented with affection, humor, and insight…an inspiring slice of life blend of philosophy, psychology, and transformation that draws readers into a warm story and examines the wellsprings of creative force and future legacies…evocative, uplifting,” Midwest Book Review.

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Excerpt

the golden garden bird of peace were the words painted on the wall in Vincent’s room. I thought Dad would have painted over them because he couldn’t stand all that “hippie crap.” Beside the words hung a bunch of paintings he made. He painted trees, mountains, rivers, flowers, and people with real-life expressions that made them more than just pictures. They were alive, and they told stories.

Some of his paintings were abstract, my favorite being one that looked like a kaleidoscope with no beginning and no end and colors that bounced off the canvas like a beautiful neon sign sparkling against a black sky. I could stare at it all day. I went between staring at it and the album cover before me—Let It Be by the Beatles. Vincent sat by the record player, dressed in his usual Levi’s, T-shirt, and Converse high-tops, bent towards the revolving album, listening intently, his head of black curly hair moving back and forth, his right foot tapping the hardwood floor, keeping rhythm to the Fab Four.

Finally, he turned his head away from the stereo and said to me, “I can’t believe this is it.” His face was serious and gloomy, and I didn’t know what he was talking about, but I pretended that I did because I’d never let my cool down around Vincent. It was because of him that I knew so much about rock and roll, which made me pretty sure that I was the coolest eighth-grade girl in the whole town and possibly in the whole state of New Jersey.

“I know,” I said seriously.

“I mean, I just never thought the Beatles would break up.” He shook his head with disappointment.

“So, this is their last album, then?”

“Well, yeah,” he said, like I should have known better.

“Hey, check this out, Donna.” With the speed of a light switch flicking on, he turned into an entirely different person, no longer sad and gloomy but light and happy. He showed me a drawing he made of an old lady sitting on a chair with half of her body missing, and it looked as if the missing half was on the other side of an invisible door. She wore a mysterious smile as if she knew some extraordinary truth.

“Where’s the other half of her body?” I said.

“I don’t know,” he said, grinning. “You tell me.”

“Wow.” I sat there, trying to wrap my head around this while listening to the song playing. Just as I was about to figure something out about the picture, and just as I was really getting into the song, he took the needle off, turned the album over, and put the needle on the first song on the other side, a tendency he had that bothered the hell out of our brother, Carmen.

He scratched his head and looked up, his eyes penetrating the ceiling, deep in thought. He resembled Mom with his olive skin, Roman nose, and black curls, and was the only one of us who got her curly hair. The rest of us had straight hair. Mine was super long—to the bottom of my back—and I wore it parted in the middle and was certain that I was wearing it that way long before it was the style.

Vincent was also taller than the rest of us at over six feet. Dad said he took after his own dad in stature. I never knew Grandpa Tucci because he died before I was born, but I was told he was called Lanky because he was tall and skinny. I was pretty thin myself and had a bottomless pit. People would say that all my eating would catch up with me one day, but that never stopped me from eating ice cream every day after school. Breyers butter almond was my favorite.

Vincent listened to the music with pure attention, like there was nothing else in the world as George sang I, me, mine, I, me, mine, I, me, mine. He was probably trying to figure out what the song was about or how he could play it on his guitar. His acoustic guitar sat in the corner of his room. He had the smallest room in the house, but it seemed like the biggest because it was its own self-contained universe. I felt like I could be on the other side of the world without ever leaving his room.

His paintings and drawings covered the walls. A bunch of leather-bound cases of albums colored red and black and bone sat on the floor between a stereo and a wooden desk with piles of books and sketchbooks on top. Comic books, pens, and paintbrushes were scattered on the floor like seashells on the sand.

I shared a room with my younger sister, Nancy, and she insisted on having the room be as pink as possible. She was the youngest, so she always got her way. On top of making our room a sickening pink paradise, she had a doll collection with faces that really creeped me out, and she started pushing over my beloved books on our shelves to make room for her dolls. A doll named Lucinda with blond hair and a blue satin dress was shoved up against two of my favorites—Animal Farm and To Kill a Mockingbird.

“Check this out, Donna,” Vincent said, emerging from his music-listening trance. He took a skinny metal whistle out of a plastic case. “Got it at the music store in town.”

“Neat. Some kind of flute?” I said.

“A pennywhistle.” He had a big smile that stretched from one side of his face to the other. “Or sometimes called a tin whistle.”

“I wish I could play an instrument,” I said. “Just one.” I was the only one in our family that didn’t play an instrument. Mom wanted me to learn ballet instead because she said I had a dancer’s body. I liked it all right and stayed with it until my teacher put me on toe, and the wooden shoes imprisoned my feet and made them ache hours after class ended.

“Have it.”

“Really?!”

“Sure.” He started fishing in one of his desk drawers for something.

“Thanks Vincent.” No response. He just kept on with his searching. I looked at the tin instrument wondering how I’d learn to play it, when he poked his head up and gave me an instructional songbook for it. I went through it seeing musical notation for simple songs like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It was all new territory for me, but I knew I could learn it and thought I could go anywhere from there. I saw myself playing with Vincent as he strummed the guitar, playing on the street for money, playing in a small orchestra of other penny whistlers. Just then, Mom called out from the kitchen.

“Dinner’s ready!” I didn’t care that my fantasy was interrupted because I was starving. Vincent was always up for eating and was the biggest eater I knew. He seemed especially hungry because he was walking to the kitchen really fast. Even when he walked fast, he looked cool. He walked with a bounce in his step, his head bobbing back and forth like he was keeping beat to a song that only he could hear. I tried to walk like him once, but I ended up looking like some kind of uncoordinated monkey. I walked like Dad who moved fast and forward-leaning, like he was continually running late for something.

The kitchen smelled of garlic and fish. It was Friday, and Mom always cooked fish on Fridays. A big flat bowl with hand-painted flowers was filled with spaghetti, calamari and gravy, which was what we called tomato sauce in our house. My older sister, Gloria was setting the large wooden table that sat in the center of the kitchen. She wore her hair tucked neatly behind her ears and a black-and-tan argyle vest that fit snug on her shapely body. Her face had the usual serious, troubled look on it like something was wrong. Anthony—the oldest in the family—was away at college, and Nancy was at a sleepover, so the table was set for only six.

Mom was at the sink, getting a salad together. Above the sink was a long window that looked out onto our backyard, its ledge covered with little ladybug statues, which Mom loved because they meant good luck. She wore a red-and-white apron over a straight skirt and boots and took long, swift strides around the kitchen. Watching her get dinner together was like watching a performance. She’d put on her apron instead of a costume. The music played: the chopping of vegetables, the clanging of metal spoons against pots and the sweet sound of pouring. She’d dance around, gathering ingredients, sautéing, stirring, occasionally turning towards us—the audience—to say something or laugh with us so that we’d feel a part of the show. She presented her perfect meals like works of art, displaying them on the table, and we’d applaud by eating—grabbing, twirling, chewing—until we couldn’t fit anymore in.

Dad was opening up one of his bottles of homemade wine. I had a sip once, and it went down my throat like an angry snake. He leaned on the table like he needed it to support him with his eyes half-shut and his black-and-gray hair falling forward in his face. In his tiredness, he didn’t speak, but even when he was quiet, he was loud, and whenever he walked into a room, everybody knew it, even if he didn’t say a word.

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About the Author

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Grace Mattioli is the author of two novels–Olive Branches Don’t Grow On Trees and Discovery of an Eagle, and a book of short stories, The Brightness Index. Her forthcoming novel, The Bird that Sang in Color, will be released January 17, 2021.

Her fiction is filled with unforgettable characters, artful prose, humor, and insight about what it takes to be truly happy. She strongly believes that if people were happier, the world would be a better place.

She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and her cats. She worked as a librarian for over twenty years and has had various other job titles, including jewelry designer, food cart owner, shopkeeper, book seller, substitute teacher, art school model, natural grocery store clerk, short order cook, food server, street vendor, barista, and a giant Twinkie!

She has been writing creatively since she was a child and has participated in various writing workshops and classes. Her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland. Her favorite author is Flannery O’Connor. Her favorite line of literature comes from James Joyce’s novella, The Dead: “Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.”

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#AuthorSpotlight “Meet Penny Hampson, author of The Unquiet Spirit”

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Thanks for stopping by Nesie’s Place today! Author Penny Hampson is here to share a little bit about herself and her latest release, The Unquiet Spirit.

Welcome, Penny! What inspired The Unquiet Spirit?

I was also keen to introduce elements of real life that are sometimes overlooked or ignored — issues that I feel strongly about that don’t easily fit in a historical novel. One of the characters in The Unquiet Spirit suffers from a chronic illness, and I wanted to show how that can impact the whole family, something I have personal experience of as a carer.

Do you have a favorite character in the story?

No, I quite like all my characters, even the ones who are a bit naughty. I think that, as a writer, one has to feel something for the characters one creates, even the villains, in order to make them believable.

What is your work schedule like when writing a book?

My work schedule can be erratic whether I’m writing a book or not. I try to write most days but it is not always possible. As soon as I finish one book, or at least the first draft, I start the next one, it’s a continuous process. I find it’s good to leave a gap of time between completing a first draft and then going back to it to correct and rewrite. 

When did you write your first book?

coverI started writing my first book, A Gentleman’s Promise, about four years ago. I was working full-time then, so I was only able to write at weekends. I came to writing quite late in life, so I feel like I’m catching up. The downside is that I don’t have the same amount of time to devote to reading because I no longer have lengthy commutes.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I’ve written four books in total. The Unquiet Spirit is my third book and my first contemporary novel. My fourth book, an historical novel called A Bachelor’s Pledge will be released next month. I don’t have a favourite book, I enjoyed writing them all, though they each had their difficulties. The Unquiet Spirit was in some ways easier to write because it’s set in the present day, so there were no tricky historical issues to deal with.

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

I’m a hybrid author. My historical novels are all self-published, but The Unquiet Spirit is published by Darkstroke. It’s good having total control over one’s stories and how they look, but the costs of professional editing, proofing and covers are significant. These are costs which I considered to be essential before releasing my books. However, I’m happy to say that my experience with Darkstroke has been excellent.

Do you write full time, or do you also work outside the home?

I gave up full time work a few years ago to care for a chronically ill member of the family. While this restricts my writing time, I now have considerably more time to write than I did before.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

A lot of my time is taken up with the usual household tasks like cooking and cleaning, but in my downtime I enjoy going for walks, swimming, reading, and visiting family and friends. Of course, this year has been rather different for everybody, thanks to Covid, so trips away and socialising have been off-limits. I still manage to fit in a daily walk, and now lockdown here has relaxed I’ve been able to get a bit further afield — doing the same circuit round my town everyday for several months was beginning to send me crazy!

Coffee or tea?

I drink both, but only decaffeinated. The husband is a budding barista who is working on his latte art, so I enjoy a wonderful decaffeinated flat white every day.

Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you?

I can’t have pets I’m afraid, because of the ill-health of a member of my family. If I could, I’d probably have a dog – one like Sal, who appears in The Unquiet Spirit.

Where’s Oxfordshire located? What’s one interesting thing about it?

Oxfordshire is a county just north-west of London. It’s quite a rural county, which is lovely for me, because it means that the countryside is on my doorstep. Being city born and bred, it’s still a novelty for me to see green fields and open vistas every day. Oxford, the county town of Oxfordshire has two universities, one of them, established in the 12th century, is the oldest university in the English speaking world.

Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?

I have a Twitter account and I’m on Facebook, so I suppose you could say I’m addicted. I spend some time on both everyday.

What’s your next project?

My next book is already written. A Bachelor’s Pledge, an historical mystery/romance set in 1810 will be released on 7th October. It tells the story of government agent, Phil Cullen and Sophia Turner, the young lady he rescues from a notorious brothel. Both become embroiled in a plot to unmask a ruthless French spy and prevent a hidden cache of gold reaching French shores. Expect lots of adventure and action. Like The Unquiet Spirit, it too is mainly set in Falmouth and Bath, making my research trips to these places doubly useful! 

Beyond that, I have more contemporary paranormal mysteries to come. I’ve plans for Freddie, a minor character from The Unquiet Spirit, to have his own encounter with the supernatural, and I’m also working on a short story about witches set in Glasgow.

Please share an excerpt (extract) with us from one of your favorite scenes.

This scene occurs on Kate’s first morning in Falmouth. She’s in a coffee shop where she’s had an abrupt encounter with a guy who couldn’t get away fast enough and his dog Sal who contrarily had wanted to stay. After the guy and his dog had departed the waitress is eager to chat.

“Think you made a bit of an impression there.” Kate jumped at the waitress’s voice. The woman placed a fresh cup of coffee on the table.

“Sorry?” Kate guessed she meant the dog. The guy had wanted nothing to do with her. Hadn’t even given his name.

“On Tom…and Sal, of course. Lovely dog, but very shy; doesn’t like strangers. Bit like Tom, really. Sal usually sits good as gold outside the door while he gets his coffee. It’s his parents’ dog, but he brings it for a walk first thing. Nice bloke.” The woman started to clear the table of Kate’s now empty plate and used mug.

“Really?” Kate was unconvinced. He was brusque and overbearing in her opinion.

The woman nodded and put the dishes back down. She was in no hurry to work. “Yeah. Known Tom for years. We were at primary school together. He went on to the grammar and then university. He was working in London, then out of the blue he came back.” The waitress gave a sigh. “S’spect he’d made enough money. Keeps himself to himself. No girlfriend as far as I know – and that’s not for want of trying by some of the local girls.” She giggled and leaned forward conspiratorially. “Most he does is one date and that’s it.” She smirked. “Yeah, there’s a few disappointed ladies in Falmouth, I can tell you.”

“Hmm?” was Kate’s response to this flood of unwanted information. Why would anyone think a guy so rude was a catch? Though she had to admit, he was easy on the eye when he wasn’t scowling.

The waitress leaned her hip against the table. It seemed she had time on her hands and wasn’t ready to finish the conversation. “You on holiday then?”

“No, I’m here for a while. It might be permanent, not sure yet.”

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Oh, I love chatty waitresses, Penny! They know everything about everyone! LOL! Looking forward to reading more about Kate, Tom, and Kate’s house! Many thanks for spending time on the blog with me!

Thank you, Felicia for choosing me and my book, The Unquiet Spirit, to feature on your blog. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions.

Keep scrolling to read more about, and get your copy of The Unquiet Spirit. It can also be read through Kindle Unlimited!


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Synopsis

A new beginning. A house with a past. A man with secrets.

It was a dream come true…that turned into a nightmare.

Kate Wilson thinks moving back to Cornwall might be the answer to her prayers. But it isn’t long before she begins to have doubts. Is the house she inherited from her godmother haunted? Or is she going out of her mind? With a stalker, threats, and attempted break-ins, Kate’s troubles multiply.

Then there’s her enigmatic neighbour, the brooding Tom Carbis; a man with secrets he doesn’t wish to share. Can she trust him when he says he wants to help?

In her quest to unravel the mysteries surrounding her, will Kate uncover more than she bargains for?

Set in beautiful Cornwall, The Unquiet Spirit is a gripping suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Fans of Barbara Erskine will enjoy this tale.

Purchase Links

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Author Bio

Penny Hampson

Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.

Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and  three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a  historical mystery/romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.

But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.

Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

For more on Penny’s writing, visit her blog: https://pennyhampson.co.uk/blog/

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Meet T.L. Mahrt, author of “Withstanding the Enemy”

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Thank you for stopping by Nesie’s Place today, TL!

Do you go by TL, or do you have a nickname?

Thanks for having me. I do go by Traci. T L is an abbreviation of my name Traci Lynn.

I’ve only read the blurb of your latest release, Withstanding the Enemy, TL. Can you tell us a bit about it?  What inspired the story?

Of course, Withstanding the Enemy is a suspenseful steamy romance. Emma Andrews is the main character. Emma must learn her strength to endure the life she was given. She has a tendency to mix reality with her imagination, which, gets her in trouble time and again. Rick is Emma’s captor; he is dark and he loves hard. Rick has twisted himself into the depths of some underground business. Rick hires Chance as Emma body guard to ensure Emma safety. Chance is working undercover trying to build a case against Rick, but Chance wasn’t expecting to meet Emma and the overwhelming need to save her.

Do you have a favorite character in the story?

I really don’t. I love them all in their own way.

When did you write your first book?

This is my debut novel.

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

I am self-published, however, I call it, Indie. I hire professionals. For example, editor, cover artist etc. I know where I have to draw the line and somethings are best left to professionals.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

I am a stay at home mom to two inspiring children. My son (4) was diagnosed with DYRK1A and Cerebral Palsy before his first birthday. My daughter (10) is a warrior of a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) from a fall in 2016. Between raises my children, I work at trying to raise awareness to brain injury’s and how they can affect a family.

 As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up?

Honestly, be a mother. I did go and get my cosmetology, barbering and massage therapy licenses. After having my own business for eight years, I decided to stay home to raise my children, which was my first dream and I love it.

Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?

Totally addicted but only because I use it as my platforms. Otherwise, I could live without it…

What’s your next project?

Currently, I am working on Book Two of With Emma Series, Within the Shadow.

Please share an excerpt with us from one of your favorite scenes in Withstanding the Enemy.

“An attacker will take you out when you least expect it; when you are most vulnerable.”

I open my mouth to respond, just as he advances on me and sweeps me to the floor. I quickly adjust my position; when he pins me, I have one of my legs free.

“That’s better… Now get yourself free.”

I turn and rock myself underneath him in an attempt to wiggle myself free. His hand lands on my hip, firmly holding me into place. The heat of his hand sends a tingle across my skin, stopping me. Shit… I think as the sensation drives to my center. He pins me deeper into the mat. Warmth radiating from him awakens all my senses. The smell of pure woodsy male assaults my nose, causing me to feel dizzy with need.

His weight shifts and he hovers over me. “Emma?”

I blink myself back to reality and nod my head.

“Are you okay? Did I hurt you?”

“Um… No…”

“You went limp, I thought you blacked out.”

“Oh… I…” I stutter, watching his eyes question me.

He looks down my body and I begin to heat like a wildfire everywhere his eyes touch.

He stops and I watch his eyes flicker to life.

“You…” he says in a deep, low tone.

My chest squeezes and I lose all words as I dive into the depths of emotions that flash through his eyes. First, shock to disbelief, and then the green of his eyes flame with hot desire. He knows it was me … that I was the woman in the mask.

I feel his hand cup the curve of my thigh and he runs his thumb across my birthmark. His eyes lock onto mine. I watch as the blue depths of his eyes vibrate with longing. I’m completely powerless in stopping him as he lowers his lips to mine.

Do I even want him to stop?

He softly brushes his lips against mine, so light at first it feels dreamlike. Then his lips come crashing down, causing a thousand sensations to explode inside me. His lips part and he licks the outline of my bottom lip. A surge of desire slams hard to my core. I… I have to have him… My soul vibrates with need.

A loud crashing sound startles me, and I break the kiss.”

Many thanks to Traci for visiting with us today! Keep scrolling to check out Withstanding the Enemy and pick up your copy today!

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Synopsis

 Emma Andrews was orphaned at a young age with no family to turn to. Tired of the broken foster-care system, and believing it was her only option, she runs to a multi-millionaire with a reputation of hiring young women. It is only then that she learns what real monsters look like…

Emma uses her overactive imagination to help her get through the toughest of days. By daydreaming a life full of love and freewill, she manages her colorless prison, but even in her wildest dreams, she would have never imagined it could become a reality. That is, until she meets Chance, a man willing to lay his life down to save hers.

But what Emma doesn’t expect is to fight her own personal demons—her heart.

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About the AuthorTL Marht

T.L. Mahrt is a former business owner, where she utilized her education in cosmetology, barbering and massage therapy for several years. She was raised on and is currently living on a farm in Nebraska, where you can find her running barefoot in the country side with her loving husband and inspiring children and massive dogs.

After having her son, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, she made the life altering decision to stay home to care for her two children and pursue her love for writing. She has a love for romance and poetry where, her overactive imagination, along with her adventures and up beat lifestyle drives her inspiration for her writing.

T.L. Mahrt has a thirst for knowledge and is currently working on her Bachelor of Applied Science in Communication Studies degree.

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Q&A w/Laura Briggs, author of “A Train from Penzance to Paris”

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Thanks for joining us today, Laura! Your latest release, A Train from Penzance to Paris is the fifth book in the A Little Hotel in Cornwall series. Is it the last book in the series? Who’s your favorite character?

Hi Felicia, and thanks so much for letting me chat about my newest book Laura Briggstoday! I’m happy to share that there will definitely be further Cornish adventures for my character Maisie—in fact, there will be three more installments in the series before all the secrets are finally revealed! As for my favorite character, that’s way too difficult to answer, lol! I just have quite a lot of fun writing about plucky Maisie, charming and semi-mysterious Sidney, and the very quirky staff at the hotel Penmarrow.

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

I’m a hybrid author, having worked with two publishing companies in the past in addition to publishing independently. I’ve had some lovely experiences doing both and am grateful for the different opportunities.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

It was a short book that only took a few weeks to write. It was a fun story about a bookstore owner who teams up with a popular author to keep her store from closing. It was the first of six titles I would write for the lovely Christian fiction publisher known as Pelican Book Group.

Pantser or Plotter?

I’m a plotter, definitely. I almost always have an outline of some kind, whether it’s a detailed chapter by chapter type or just a few lines to help get the plot mapped out. It helps me to keep the book on track and cover more ground quickly if I have notes on the project.

What’s your favorite genre to read?

I would probably have to say Mystery, although I do enjoy many different types of books from classics to contemporary. Some of my favorites in the Mystery genre are those by Agatha Christie and Mary Roberts Rinehart.

What’s your next project or release?

My next release will be this summer, with book six in A Little Hotel in Cornwall, which promises more adventure, romance, and surprises as Maisie returns to the village of Port Hewer and her friends at the seaside hotel Penmarrow.

Many thanks to Laura for spending a few minutes with us today. Scroll down to learn more about her latest release, A Train from Penzance to Paris, and grab a copy for 99c!

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SYNOPSIS

When Maisie accepts a celebrated author’s invitation to mentor her, she finds herself leaving Cornwall behind on train tracks bound for the glitter city of Paris. Instead of making beds and serving coffee at the Penmarrow hotel in Cornwall, she’s making notes on her manuscript while sitting in a French cafe, meeting famous writers at private dinner parties, and trying to ferret the secrets behind the author’s unfinished future novel.

It’s glamorous, it’s breathtaking … but it’s also an ocean channel away from the place that she loves, and, more importantly, the person to whom she just recently confessed her deepest feelings. Separated from Sidney by distance and circumstances, Maisie fears that their connection will be lost despite her words to him – and maybe because of those words, and the ones she didn’t allow him to say in return.

Meanwhile, there are plenty of things in her new life trying to distract her – the professional editor hired to critique her novel, the eager young literary agent who sees pie-in-the-sky potential for Maisie’s talent, but Maisie finds solace in the eclectic group of amateur writers into whose midst she finds herself by accident. Their critique and advice is fast becoming as important as the editors – maybe even more important than the published author Maisie believed held the keys to refining her skill.

But it’s missing Sidney that fills Maisie’s thoughts the most, along with her life back in Port Hewer, and she can’t stop wondering whether his feelings are the same as her own. His unspoken answer has become one of the most important pieces of her life, even as she struggles to match the pace of her new life and keep her dreams in sight. And when she unwittingly becomes privy to a seeming literary conspiracy, she must decide what to do in light of its truth – and decide what’s most important in her quest to become a professional writer.

Join Maisie in a whirlwind tour across two of the world’s greatest cities, filled with questions, dreams, and a chance for fame that she believed far beyond her grasp, as she discovers herself as a writer, and how to embrace an unexpected future on her own terms.

Amazon UK     Amazon US

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Laura BriggsAbout Laura Briggs

Laura Briggs is the author of several feel-good romance reads, including the Top 100 Amazon UK seller A Wedding in Cornwall. She has a fondness for vintage style dresses (especially ones with polka dots), and reads everything from Jane Austen to modern day mysteries. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, caring for her pets, gardening, and seeing the occasional movie or play.

Social Media

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Meet Jules Hayes, author of “The Walls We Build”

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Thank you for stopping by Nesie’s Place today, Jules!

Let’s talk about your new book, The Walls We Build, which has Winston Churchill’s estate, Chartwell, as the backdrop. It centers around three friends and has a dual timeline. Wow! What’s your inspiration for the story?

Lovely starting question, and thank you so much for having me here.
I’ve always been intrigued with the life of Winston Churchill and so when I came across a photo of him addressing his troops in 1943 Tripoli, North Africa, I had that ‘what if’ moment. What if a soldier amongst the crowd was Churchill’s old employee from Chartwell? Perhaps his bricklayer, as I was intrigued with Churchill’s passion for bricklaying in his spare time! Perhaps they had a unique relationship – I liked the idea of juxtaposing the ordinary and the extraordinary man. How will their paths cross again? And in what capacity will Florence, my other main protagonist, and Frank’s friend but true love, fit in to the story? I knew then that at the heart of the novel would be an unconventional love story, as well as a mystery, and all set against the rich backdrop of war and its aftermath. But I also knew too that I needed a present day protagonist, Richard, Frank’s grandson, to untangle the intrigue of the past.

Research books
A pile of books I used for researching The Walls We Build

 Please share an excerpt with us.

This section is told from Florence’s viewpoint in October 1940, the setting is Blitz London. At her lodgings she’s getting ready to attend a fundraiser at the Savoy hotel, invited by Mary Churchill, the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill’s, youngest daughter.

Florence was late getting home from Kings Cross where she’d bought her ticket to go up to Yorkshire to visit Anna; tomorrow’s train, 3 o’clock. First though, was the Savoy bash. Tonight. It was time to wear her dress, and try to be someone she wasn’t. Her mum had told her not to worry, born in the wrong household you were, my girl. You’ll fit into the Savoy as easily and snug as ol’ Cinder’s foot slipped into that slipper. She missed her mum.

Florence surveyed her tiny bedroom but the mirror on the wall was huge and she could see herself in full, nearly. Her feet were missing in her reflection. She didn’t mind this though, because she hadn’t been able to afford new shoes. But as she looked down at her suede turquoise slip-ons that she’d buffed up with an implement Elizabeth had lent her, she was pleased at the match with the emerald green dress.

She’d straightened her hair with irons and put on the reddest lipstick she’d ever worn. She fiddled with her hat. She loved it but was unused to such frivolity in her headwear. It sat precariously on the front of her head, just as the shop assistant had shown her. The ruffles of red fabric seemed to her to be asymmetrical. She pushed and pulled them but finally, after hearing the church clock outside strike six, gave in. She scrutinised her reflection. Not bad. Not bad at all. Momentarily she thought about Frank, guessing the shine in the eyes staring back at her was due to the afternoon in his hotel.

She picked up the red gloves, checked her hat one more time, and left her room.

Florence was ready.

‘You could have come with me, you know, Elizabeth.’ Florence went to sit at the kitchen table, but not before shoving a paper handkerchief under one of the legs of the uneven surface.

‘Not my thing, Florence. I want ol’ Churchill to win the war for us. He is the right man for the job. I mean, he likes a good war doesn’t he? But I hate all that upper-class stuff.’

Elizabeth was at heart a staunch labour supporter, not a commie though, she was always keen to emphasise. Left in her politics, although it didn’t stop her from sleeping with a wealthy man who lived in Knightsbridge. Elizabeth’s socialism was a bit like Churchill’s domestic communism. When it suited. Wednesdays were Elizabeth’s nights with her lover. Florence’s room was the one below where Elizabeth slept. Every Wednesday Florence had to sleep with cotton wool stuffed in her ears, and every Thursday morning there was always a late breakfast. The gentleman politely doffed his cap to her on leaving, a huge smile in place. He reminded her a bit of Mr Churchill, the way he was able to appear quite ordinary and at home with the lower class, in a way peculiar to the confident and rich.

‘It’ll probably be deathly boring,’ Florence said.

Elizabeth grinned. ‘Probably. Lots of lovely food, though, I’m guessing.’

‘I hope so.’

Elizabeth laughed. ‘Never known a girl with an appetite like you.’

Asylum
An image from inside an asylum, which I used to create the asylum in The Walls We Build, where my character Anna is a patient.

Do you have a favorite character in the story?

I have three point-of-view characters in The Walls We Build, and I do like all three, but I love Florence the most. She’s ahead of her time, liberated and mischievous, but ultimately she is driven by love, honour and duty. She is the character who has a fair amount of page time in both the past and present sections, and it’s Florence who links the two timeframes.

What’s your favorite genre to read?

I love reading modern historical fiction, anything from the beginning of the 20th century onwards. I do have a degree in modern history. But I like a modern day thread too, which is why I suppose I tend to often write in this structure. I like a good thriller/mystery and love it when a story set in the past incorporates these elements too.

What are you reading now?

I’m reading a biography on Gladstone, a Kate Morton novel and CJ Tudor’s new book!

Where are you from?

I was born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire but went to uni in London at 18, where I completed a history degree. I’ve lived in the south east for a long time now, although I’m still a ‘northerner’ at heart. “You can take the girl out of the town but not the town out of the girl” sort of thing!

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

With the publication of The Walls We Build I’m joining the ranks of the Hybrid Author Club, using my pseudonym, Jules Hayes. My debut psychological thriller, Falling Suns by JA Corrigan was published in 2016 (Headline Accent.)

Do you write full time, or do you also work outside the home?

For the past 3 years I write pretty much full-time.

Where do you get the most writing done?

I’m lucky as I have a study and its there where I do most of my writing, although in the summer I take my laptop and sit on the patio; sometimes in the summer I also write in our summerhouse at the bottom of the garden. It’s perfect as it has no internet! I have a treadmill in there too, so that comes in handy!

Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you?

We have a very cute cockapoo, champagne-coloured – Harley. He follows me everywhere, although that does change when my daughter comes home from university, when he follows her everywhere and I lose my shadow for a few weeks!

Our dawg, Harley, with his winter coat on!

Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?

I don’t think I’m addicted but that’s what all addicts say! I wish I could sign-out to be honest, but I do find out so much in there and have made a lot of friends on social media. I’m a big Facebook user (that’s my generation my daughter tells me!), not so into Twitter, although I loved it 8 years ago when I first started out writing, but it’s a much more hostile and commercial selling place these days. I’m just getting into Instagram, it’s a forum I like, even if my photography skills aren’t up to much.

What’s your next project?

I’m working on my next Jules Hayes novel – another dual timeline historical, although simultaneously, I’ve also begun work on another JA Corrigan novel, which is a speculative thriller – although still in its early stages.

Do you have any advice for new authors?

Success in the literary world is all about stamina, passion and having an extraordinarily thick skin. It’s also about being able to sift through good and bad advice. Interact with other writers, find your tribe, it’s the only way to survive in such a brutal, transitory, mercurial and ultimately, supremely competitive environment.

**Many thanks to Jules Hayes for spending a few minutes with us today! Scroll down to get your copy of The Walls We Build–which is also in the Kindle Unlimited program–and don’t forget to enter her international giveaway. You could be the lucky winner of a signed copy of The Walls We Build!**

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Three friends … 

Growing up together around Winston Churchill’s estate in Westerham, Kent, Frank, Florence and Hilda are inseparable. But as WW2 casts its menacing shadow, friendships between the three grow complex, and Frank – now employed as Churchill’s bricklayer – makes choices that will haunt him beyond the grave, impacting his grandson’s life too.

Two Secrets …

Shortly after Frank’s death in 2002 Florence writes to Richard, Frank’s grandson, hinting at the darkness hidden within his family. On investigation, disturbing secrets come to light, including a pivotal encounter between Frank and Churchill during the war and the existence of a mysterious relative in a psychiatric hospital.

One Hidden Life … 

How much more does Florence dare reveal about Frank – and herself – and is Richard ready to hear?

Set against the stunning backdrop of Chartwell, Churchill’s country home, comes a tragic story of misguided honour, thwarted love and redemption, reverberating through three generations and nine decades.

For readers of Kate Morton, Rachel Hore, Katherine Webb, Lucinda Riley and Juliet West.

“Passion, intrigue and family secrets drive this complex wartime relationship drama. A page turner. I loved it.”  #1 bestselling author, Nicola May

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Author BioJules Hayes

 Jules Hayes lives in Berkshire with her husband, daughter and a dog. She has a degree in modern history and holds a particular interest in events and characters from the early 20th century. As a former physiotherapist and trainer – old habits die hard – when not writing Jules likes to run. She also loves to watch films, read good novels and is a voracious consumer of non-fiction too, particularly biographies.

Jules is currently working on her second historical novel, another dual timeline story.

Jules also writes contemporary thriller and speculative fiction as JA Corrigan.

Jules Hayes can be found at:

Website:

Twitter @JulesHayes6

Facebook Author Page: JulesHayesAuthor

Instagram: JulesHayes6

Writing as JA Corrigan, Jules can be found at: Website

Twitter: @juliannwriter

Facebook Author Page: JA Corrigan
Instagram: corriganjulieann

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Giveaway

Win a Signed copy of The Walls We Build

(Open INTERNATIONALLY)

 E N T E R

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the link above  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days, then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Q & A with Jo Johnson, author of “Surviving Me”

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I’m chatting with Jo Johnson today about her debut novel, Surviving Me, a unique work of fiction focusing on mental health from a man’s perspective.

Thank you for stopping by Nesie’s Place today, Jo!Jo Johnson

Thank you for having me.

Your latest release, Surviving Me, covers some timely issues including mental illness. What inspired the story?

I’m a clinical psychologist so I spend a lot of time thinking about people’s business.  I spend even more time in cafes. Over the road from my office there is a traditional tea room called the Vintage Rose. On one occasion, I noticed a middle-aged man, by himself, staring out of the window. I wondered about him and his story. In my head, his name was Tom. This observation inspired the first line of my novel.

‘At this point in time, I can accurately be described as unemployed, impotent, and a liar. It still puzzles me that, just a few weeks after my first wedding anniversary, I am sitting alone in a café for misfits, miles from my home’.

This is the table where I first saw “Tom.”

Did writing Surviving Me change or enlighten you in any way?

The key theme in my book is mind health, a subject I know very well.

The enlightenment was to do with the writing and publishing process. I hadn’t planned to write a novel, it just happened. I started writing as Tom and couldn’t stop until his story was finished. This was all a surprise to me.

I realised how much a gifted editor can do. I thought my book was finished but the editorial process was so enlightening. One of my characters had been pregnant for fourteen months! Lots of beta readers hadn’t noticed. As a result, my advice to authors would be, you can’t edit your own work!!

 Do you have a favorite character in the story?

My favorite is probably the main character, Tom. He is a lot like me, he’s an over thinker who has a loud inner voice shouting at him. I wrote from his perspective and with each chapter, my affection for him grew. I even cried proper tears when his life took a terrible turn. My husband was very unsympathetic. Tom is kind and loyal and always does his best. I notice a few readers on Goodreads have confessed to a crush on him!!

 What’s your favorite genre to read?

Commercial or women’s fiction.

What are you reading now?

Little White Lies, a novel written by another clinical psychologist.

 Where are you from?

West Sussex.

 Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

I think I’m a hybrid. I published with unbound digital who I think are the only publisher who let you sell books before they produce them.

Do you write full time, or do you also work outside the home?

I work as a clinical psychologist and as a resilience trainer.

 Where do you get the most writing done?

 At the vintage rose tea rooms. Surviving Me starts in the tea room. My office is over the road but I go there for breaks and that’s when I write.

Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you?

Four kids!

 Yep! You have your hands full!

Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?

I can live without it which is probably why no one knows about my novel despite its good reviews.

What’s your next project?

I’ve just finished a sequel to Surviving Me called Surviving Us. I’m also writing a chapter for a text book.

Do you have any advice for new authors?

Write what flows from you, don’t try and write like someone else or what’s fashionable. Get your work professionally edited.

Jo, is there anything else you like our blog visitors to take with them today?

Let’s learn to talk about suicide.

In my debut novel, Surviving Me, the main character, Tom Cleary becomes suicidal. There has been a lot of recent talk in the media about what makes people take their own lives.

However, people are often reticent to talk about suicide with friends or family. Suicide is still a social taboo.

Often people fear they’ll say the wrong thing or make things worse. I can assure you that if you are concerned, most likely you won’t say the wrong thing.

We need to get better at talking about emotional pain and how it impacts all of us. If everyone felt comfortable to do this, it would save lives. In the UK, suicide remains the top killer of men between 30 and 50. We need to do something.

Most people who kill themselves have told at least one person they don’t feel life is worth living or that they want to die. Listen carefully to people and ask about how you can help.

1 in 5 people have thought about suicide at one point in their life. It’s actually common to have fleeting thoughts of suicide. Even if someone is actively suicidal, it’s often only temporary. Supporting someone to get help at the time they feel suicidal can save a life.

There is no such thing as them and us, there is just US. You don’t have to be mentally ill to feel suicidal. Many people who don’t seem depressed take their own lives. In my novel, Tom appeared to be ok, but on the inside, he was becoming increasingly distressed and isolated. Look out for subtle changes in people. Signs of distress can include drinking more alcohol, withdrawing from usual routines or avoiding social contact.

Most people who feel suicidal don’t want to die. They don’t want the life they have and the emotional pain feels unbearable, talking can really help. Once someone starts talking they’ve got a better chance of discovering options that aren’t suicide.

Many people who feel suicidal don’t mention it for fear of upsetting or worrying others. But, by asking someone directly about suicide, you give them permission to tell you how they feel. People who have felt suicidal often say it’s a relief to talk about what they are experiencing.

If someone tells you they are feeling low or suicidal, it’s you they want to talk to, they trust you and you have sufficient skills to be with them and ask the right starting questions.

Ask this question if someone is feeling low or talks of not wanting to live.

“Have you thought of killing yourself?” If they say yes, ask them to talk about those thoughts and if they have a plan.

Research makes it clear that these direct conversations can reduce someone’s risk of suicide. After you’ve had a conversation about suicide, support the person to get professional help. Go them to their GP or if out of hours or they already have a suicide plan, go with them to A and E.

Follow this link to read the reviews on Surviving Me or to purchase the book on Amazon:

Jo Johnson is a clinical psychologist specializing in neurological disorders and mind health. She is the author of nine nonfiction publications but best known for a mind health workbook called ‘shrinking the smirch’. This is an innovative resource on how to better manage your mind using principles from the ACT model of psychological therapy.

10% of the royalties from my novel will go to The Beachy Head chaplains.

Many thanks to Jo Johnson for such an enlightening and informative chat today!

Keep scrolling to learn more about Surviving Me and enter Jo’s international giveaway!

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Synopsis

Deceit has a certain allure when your life doesn’t match up to the ideal of what it means to be a modern man.

Tom’s lost his job and now he’s been labelled ‘spermless’. He doesn’t exactly feel like a modern man, although his double life helps. Yet when his secret identity threatens to unravel, he starts to lose the plot and comes perilously close to the edge.

All the while Adam has his own duplicity, albeit for very different reasons, reasons which will blow the family’s future out of the water.

If they can’t be honest with themselves, and everyone else, then things are going to get a whole lot more complicated.

This book tackles hard issues such as male depression, dysfunctional families and degenerative diseases in an honest, life-affirming and often humorous way. It focuses particularly on the challenges of being male in today’s world and explores how our silence on these big issues can help push men to the brink.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK     |     Amazon US    |     Add to Goodreads

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Author Bio

I’m very excited that my debut novel Surviving Me is due to be published on the 14 November. The novel is about male minds and what pushes a regular man to the edge. The novel combines all the themes I can write about with authenticity.

I qualified as a clinical psychologist in 1992 and initially worked with people with learning disabilities before moving into the field of neurology in 1996. I worked in the NHS until 2008 when i left to write and explore new projects.

I now work as an independent clinical psychologist in West Sussex.

Jo speaks and writes for several national neurology charities including Headway and the MS Trust. Client and family related publications include, “Talking to your kids about MS”, “My mum makes the best cakes” and “Shrinking the Smirch”.

In the last few years Jo has been offering psychological intervention using the acceptance and commitment therapeutic model (ACT) which is the most up to date version of CBT. She is now using THE ACT model in a range of organisations such as the police to help employees protect their minds in order to avoid symptoms of stress and work related burnout.

Social Media Links

Facebook

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G I V E A W A Y

Win two signed copies of Surviving Me & five Surviving Me fridge magnets

Open INTERNATIONALLY

1st Prize – 2 winners each winning a signed copy of Surviving Me

5 Runners Up – each winning a Surviving Me Fridge Magnet

E N T E R

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days, then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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Q & A with Louise Worthington, author of “Distorted Days”

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Indie Author Louise Worthington is on the blog today to chat about her new release, Distorted Days.

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Thank you for stopping by Nesie’s Place today, Louise!

Thank you for inviting me.

Your bio says you’re from Cheshire, and now live in Shropshire. Please give us non-Brits some idea of what that’s near.Louise Worthington

Shropshire is a beautiful, rural county in the West Midlands famous for its hills. It’s about an hour’s drive from Birmingham airport.

You were an English teacher! Best subject on the planet! What ages did you teach and was it hard to leave the classroom behind?

I taught English to pupils aged 11-18, so I’d prepare them for GCSEs and A-levels before going on to university. I still tutor and examine as I enjoy contact with children.

I’ve only read the blurb of your latest release, Distorted Days, Louise, and I believe it’s main theme is friendship, did I get that right?

Yes, friendship and kindness as an antidote to the ups and downs that can make someone lonely or depressed. Small acts of kindness are transformative.

What inspired the story?

Reading and friendship! Doris locks herself away for a while and uses literature for escapism. I love Shrewsbury library (https://originalshrewsbury.co.uk/visit/shrewsbury-library), which Darwin attended when it was formerly a school, and that’s a key setting in the story where Doris makes friends and helps others. I have always enjoyed reading and it’s been important to me since I was a teenager, so I am thrilled to have made my small contribution to the book shelves.

Do you have a favorite character in the story?

I really like Doris because she’s quirky, flawed and good-hearted.

How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?

I have 2 thrillers in the pipeline and I’m writing a novella-in-flash. They are all very different so it’s hard to say which is my favorite.

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

Self-published. Distorted Days is literary fiction and 53000 word so I didn’t think a publisher would go for it. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of self-publishing and have learnt a lot along the way – and I am still learning.

Do you write full time, or do you also work outside the home?

I write pretty much full time around tutoring and school-runs and family-life.

 What do you do when you’re not writing?

Read! I love walking the dogs and run occasionally. I have family quite close by so I enjoy seeing them. I compete in triathlon occasionally when I’m feeling super energetic.

Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you? (Include a photo if you like.)

Yes- I have a dog, Maddy and daily I walk a friend’s dog. We have 5 ex-battery hens.

 

As a child, What did you want to do when you grew up?

I’m a huge animal-lover so I wanted to be a vet! But I was rubbish at science so I gave up that pipe-dream to study Literature at university, and then a postgraduate qualification.

What’s your next project?

It’s a thriller called Rachel’s Garden of Rooms. The rest is a secret for now!

Do you have any advice for new authors?

Stick with it, be patient and have a support network.

Please share an excerpt (extract) with us from one of your favorite scenes in Distorted Days.

Extract

Doris gets a job as a librarian in Darwin library. Here she befriends Colleen, her manager, and finds joy and escapism through literature and the people who visit and work at the library. It explores the power of friendship, words and the kinship public places like libraries can bring to many lonely people. (750 words)

Behind the poetry section, a disheveled-looking man lies prostrate with the deepest and darkest circles under his eyes. At first he looks crestfallen to see someone else in the room but then he notices the name badges. Colleen kneels to take a closer look. He is much younger than her, perhaps only thirty, but his voice and eyes belong to a much older man.

‘I’m looking for a book,’ he murmurs.

His voice has a musical quality with a seesaw of notes: it goes up in the middle, then down at the end.

Doris takes in the coal smudged under his smeary blue eyes and knows she must help in whatever way she can. ‘Do you know the author?’ she asks, in an attempt to be assertive in front of her line manager whom she respects enormously and would like to impress.

‘Author?’

His expression suggests he has no idea or is nonplussed. He remains flat on the floor, his feet pointing to opposite sides of the room, a perfect V-shape. As Colleen is calm and collected, Doris assumes this is a regular occurrence.

‘Or perhaps the genre, topic? Fiction or non-fiction?’

‘Sleep,’ he says, full of sibilance, like the S sound is the sweetest sound on any lips.

Doris spots a pale-blue cotton handkerchief protruding from his pocket and a small cut on his hand that looks like it needs Savlon and a plaster. A familiar maternal feeling sweeps over her. Talking seems to exhaust him further so she steps back to give him more air. His hand reaches for the bookshelf to get himself upright but he is clumsy, misses, reaches too late. He topples, turning into a heap of duffle-coat and loafers, emitting a puff sound as he lands in the same place.

’I can search on the computer downstairs, if you like,’ Doris offers helpfully, flapping slightly, turning to Colleen for guidance on what on earth to do next.

‘To sleep. I just want to sleep.’ He still speaks with a musical tone despite the edge of frustration; his sing-song self sounds at odds with the desperation of his sleep-deprived self – only an insomniac is left in the duffle-coat and loafers.

Colleen asks Doris to open his duffle-coat because he looks hot while she retrieves a book from the shelf. Beneath his stubble and his smudgy eyes, he is a truly handsome man. Her calm, purposeful manner soothes Doris. Perhaps this is an ordinary incident here?

The yellow-bound book is called The Wishing Tale, a slim volume with a gold-leaf title. Colleen kneels beside the heap as if to pray but immediately starts reading from the book. The crucifix around her neck swings forward. She gestures at Doris to keep stroking the man’s brow while she continues to read.

Words begin to fly from the volume in Colleen’s hand, as if they circle his head in worship to make a halo around his crown. The word ‘slumber’ places itself ever so gently on each of his eyelids, and the word ‘lullaby’ whistles into each ear.

Colleen keeps reading. A tremendous surge of letters, words and sounds make a run for his coat and under his collar. His body makes little wave movements and his head turns to one side. Then a hissing sound envelops the three of them, a low fluting hiss, the gentle but certain beats of a Z. The word ‘sleep’ dissects itself as if in pre-rapid eye-movement segments to walk up and down his body. A deep satisfying snore emanates from his nose. It is a giant’s snore. Doris puts her hand to her mouth, in part to stifle a smile. He is fast asleep. Colleen quietly closes the book.

Into each ear, the events of the day, the week, surge into his brain. The sound of a camera clicking fills the space as he processes the memories one by one. A spindle peeks out from his ear and discards an unwanted memory like a small pile of the rejected and the painful.

Colleen puts her finger to her lips and ushers Doris to the exit. They don’t speak until they are back on the first floor. The sight of the check-in desk and the library stamp brings Doris back to normality with a bump. Colleen takes Doris’s hands in hers and looks into her eyes before speaking with such earnestness that Doris feels touched and honoured to be working there with this wonderful woman.

‘Sometimes our visitors just need a bedtime story.

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Many thanks to Louise for visiting with us today! Keep scrolling to learn more about Distorted Days and grab your copy today!

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Distorted Days

If she could speak to them, she would say they have exploded her heart, released firecrackers through her senses. She wishes she could call the police, the ambulance, the fire brigade, to arrest and anaesthetise and waterboard the bastards.

So, what happens when your husband runs off with your best friend? When you discover the dead body of an old man halfway through your delivery round? When your house is burgled, and you get beaten up? Doris, Andy and Colleen are about to find out. They’re also about to discover that you can find friendship and support in the oddest of places…

Heart-rending, humorous and above all authentic, Distorted Days is an exquisitely written account of the ways in which life can knock you off our feet – and how you can pick yourself up again. If you’ve experienced the fickleness of fortune, this is a book that you’ll never forget.

Purchase Links

KINDLE UNLIMITED

Amazon UK   |   Amazon US     |     Lulu    

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Author Bio

Louise is the author of Distorted Days and Rachel’s Garden of Rooms. The Entrepreneur will be available later in 2020. The Thief, a short story published by Park Publications, is available to download Louise Worthington’s website.

​Before writing full time, Louise worked mainly as an English teacher after getting a degree in Literature and later, studying business and psychology at Masters level.

​Louise grew up in Cheshire and now resides in Shropshire.

“Louise’s characters, without exception, are skilfully wrought which make the reader genuinely care for them.”

        Twitter     |     Website    

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#Spotlight Nancy Joie Wilkie, author of “Seven Sides of Self”

Nancy worked for over 30 years in both the biotechnology industry and as a part of the Nancy Joie Wilkiefederal government’s biodefense effort. She served as a project manager, providing oversight for the development of many new products. Now retired, she composes original music, plays a variety of instruments, and records many of her compositions. “Seven Sides of Self” is her first fiction publication. She is currently working on more short stories, a novella, and a science fiction novel. Nancy resides in Brookeville, Maryland. More about Nancy and her work can be found at www.mindsights.net.

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The stories in Seven Sides of Self are so thoughtful and engaging, and at times very personal. What was your creative process?

Actually, the stories really are quite personal.  If you know me well, the collection can be thought of a scavenger hunt. There are little pieces of me in each of the seven stories — hence the title. As for my creative process, there is no one magic formula. As an example, An Intricate Balance came to me while out on a long walk. I got home and started writing — several hours later, I had the first draft of the story. You just never know when the Muses will show up!

As a former scientist, musician, artist, and now published author, your resume is really impressive. What drew you first to science and then to music and art, and do you see connections between these?

My maternal grandfather was an organic chemist. As a youngster, I would watch him work in his laboratory and always thought, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up,” and so I did!  I’m lucky to have known what I wanted to do; not everyone knows their calling. As for the music and the art, I had two musically gifted grandparents and a bunch of mostly older cousins who were musicians, artists, and writers. They were my inspiration. As for a connection, all of these fields are about creating something — taking what one sees or hears in one’s mind or feels in one’s heart and then bringing the thoughts and feelings out into the real world — hence my moniker: mindsights.

You’ve mentioned what you call “spiritual dynamics,” referring to the connection between souls and physical bodies. Why are you interested in souls, and can a reader find that interest in the book?

Being a distant relative of William Thomson — better known as Lord Kelvin, a major contributor to the Third Law of Thermodynamics — and having been a scientist myself, I have always been interested in the Three Laws of Thermodynamics. After I lost my father to cancer 13 years ago, I started to rethink how I viewed the soul and the afterlife — trying to make some sense of my father’s passing — and then started thinking about our “before life.” It was then that I thought developing the Three Laws of Spiritual Dynamics would be an interesting analog and might be used in some of my stories. An Intricate Balance is really my first venture into that arena. I do plan to more fully explore these ideas in future stories.

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About Seven Sides of Self

As a musician, artist, writer, and former scientist, Nancy Joie Wilkie’s first collection of short stories is designed to stimulate the intellect and engage the imagination. Seven Sides of Self (She Writes Press) explores seven aspects of an individual — the storyteller, the skeptic, the survivor, the saint (or the sinner), the scholar, the seeker, and the savior.

Through the lives of the central characters, Nancy examines themes of battling strong emotions, the lengths we might go to for self-preservation and self-sacrifice, the inability to accept things as different, and taking responsibility for what we create.  Each story seeks to contribute something to our ability to better understand ourselves, the world around us, and the conflicts we all face. Original and thought-provoking, these stories will delight any fan of science-fiction and fantasy.

 

Links

Amazon

Website

Goodreads

#Spotlight “A Friend In Deed” by G D Harper

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I’m happy to welcome author G.D. Harper to Nesie’s Place today. Tell us where you’re from, G.D.

Originally from Scotland, but now I live in East Sussex, 50 miles southeast of London.

Married with children, pets, or annoying roommates?

Married with two grown-up sons.

Are you self-published, traditional, or hybrid?

Self-published, although I use Matador to print and distribute my paperbacks.

How long have you been a writer?

Since 2014.

How long did it take you to write your first book?

Two years

Pantser or Plotter?

Very, very much a plotter. I plan out chapter by chapter and define major characters and their character arcs before I write a single word. Things can change as the story progresses, however, and I have to frequently rewrite my plan as the story unfolds as I write it. I am in awe of pantsers.

You’re touring three of your books this fall. Tell us a bit about Love’s Long Road, Silent Money, and A Friend In Deed.

They’re all psychological thrillers, but in three sub-genres. Love’s Long Road is a coming-of age -story set in the 1970s about a young woman who leads a reckless double life; Silent Money is a crime novel also set in the 70s and is about an assistant bank manager who becomes a ruthless crime lord; A Friend in Deed is a political thriller set a few years in the future where an over-the-hill journalist discovers that the Russians are controlling the new populist political party that governs Britain.

What makes the books unique is that each story is told from the point of view of a different one of the three main continuing characters in the three books. They’re all stand-alone stories, but for instance with Love’s Long Road and Silent Money, the same scenes and even the same dialogue is in both books, but they have a completely different meaning when seen from the point of view of the different characters.

What’s your favorite genre to read?

Psychological thrillers in fiction and history/biographies in non-fiction. I like books that are easy to read, and really struggle with some literary fiction that makes too many demands on the reader.

What are you reading now?

The books of Helen Matthews and Katharine Johnson, fellow psychological thriller writers who I’ll be sharing literary festival platforms with in 2020. I admire their writing styles as well as their proactive approach to marketing their books.

Where do you get the most writing done?  

In the room above the garage, with great views over the Sussex Weald.

Do you have pets who “help” or inspire you?

Not really, but I like listening to ambient music, especially Brian Eno and Tangerine Dream, to help me relax as I write.

Totally addicted to social media or could you live without it?

I do a bit, but I don’t like bothering people with endless updates of what I’m up to.

What’s your next project or release?

I’m midway through a 25-store book signing tour with WHSmith and I’ll be visiting a store in London and the South East practically every weekend from now up to Christmas. On the writing side, I’m planning to do a Ken Follett and make my next book a historical fiction epic, set in 12th Century Kent. I’ve just started the research and planning and it looks like it will be a formidable challenge. But exciting as well!

Do you have any advice for new authors?

Decide on your goal and go for it. For many people, simply producing a book that’s as well-written and as good quality as it can be is enough, for others they want to reach out and have as many people read it as possible. If you take the latter route, be prepared to invest at least as much time in marketing as you do with writing

Many thanks to G.D. for stopping by. Scroll down to check out her latest release—A Friend In Deed—and UK blog visitors can enter her giveaway for a chance to win paperback copies of all three of the psychological thrillers she mentioned today.

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Britain: a few years from now. A new populist political party has won the recent general election.

Duncan Jones, freelance political journalist and blogger, loses his weekly column at a national newspaper and turns to investigative reporting. The chance remark of a friend leads him to suspect that the Russians are directing the new British government’s policies and decisions. As he visits Moscow and Ukraine to discover more, scandal follows intrigue, dark forces attempt to silence him by whatever means possible and he turns to an unlikely ally for help.

A Friend in Deed is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in an all-too-believable near future. It is also the story of how one man confronts the traumas in his past and works out how to resolve them.

Purchase Links

KINDLE UNLIMITED

Amazon UK  

Amazon US

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Author Bio  

I was placed third in the 2015 Lightship Prize for first-time authors, won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, been shortlisted at the UK Festival of Writing for Best First Chapter, longlisted in the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition.

In 2017, I was one of twelve authors selected for Authors in the Spotlight at the Bloody Scotland book festival in Stirling, showcasing who they considered to be the best emerging talent in crime fiction, and was the only self-published author to be chosen. I have spoken at numerous other book events, including Blackwells’ Writers at the Fringe at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; a stand-alone slot at the Byres Road Book Festival in Glasgow, and the Aye Write! Book Festival, also in Glasgow.

I worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me the ideas for the plot and setting that I used in A Friend in Deed.

Social Media Links

Website

Facebook

Twitter

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G I V E A W A Y

Win all 3 paperbacks of GD Harper’s Psychological Fiction Trilogy (Open UK Only)

       Prize features all three books, Love’s Long Road, Silent Money and A Friend in Deed

giveaway prize

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*Terms and Conditions – UK entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will be passed to the giveaway organizer and used only for fulfillment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for dispatch or delivery of the prize.

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