Book Excerpt: Victorine by Drēma Drudge

As I always try to show support for my fellow art in fiction authors, it’s a pleasure to welcome historical fiction author Drēma Drudge to my blog today with an excerpt of her novel Victorine, releasing on March 17th by Fleur de Lis Press

Excerpt:

Chapter One: Portrait of Victorine Meurent, Paris, 1862

I am called The Shrimp, Le Crevette because of my height and because I am as scrappy as those little question-mark-shaped delights that I used to study when my father took me to Les Halles. I would stand before the shrimp tank and watch the wee creatures paw at the water, repeatedly attempting to scale the tank, swimming, sinking, yet always rising again. I hoped eagerly for one to crest the tank, not realizing until later that the lid was there precisely to prevent their escape.  

So why am I reminded of that tank today?

  Today, while I am giving a guitar lesson in my father’s lithography shop, the gifted yet controversial painter, Édouard Manet, enters the shop. He gives me the nod.

 I cover the strings of my guitar with my hand to silence them.

Pѐre has mentioned Manet’s recent patronage of his shop, of course, but I have never been here when the artist has come by.

            “M. Manet, this is my daughter, Victorine. I believe you’ve. . . .”

            “We’ve met,” I say. 

            “And where is it we have met, Mademoiselle?” he asks, wincing as he looks in the vicinity of my nose.

Is this a snub? I run my hand over the swollen, crooked lump of flesh on my face.

  “I must be mistaken.” I turn away, smiling bitterly at my quick temper, at my trying to turn up a nose such as this. Of course he doesn’t recognize me.

            I motion for my student to put her guitar away: “That’s enough for today, dear.” Though she looks at the clock with a puzzled brow, she does as I say.

            My father graciously allows me to give lessons in his shop, claiming he loves to hear young musicians learning to play, though I suspect it’s more because my mother hates allowing anyone into our house besides her regular millinery clients.

Manet moves toward me, puts his face close to mine; I don’t pull away, but only because that is the way painters see.  I would have punched another man for standing so close. He snaps his fingers. “Le Crevette?” he exclaims, backs away.

             I raise my chin to regard the posters on my father’s wall. The Compagnie Francaise de Chocolats et des thes declares my father’s fine sense of color, his signature mingling of coral and scarlet. The other posters reveal his repeated twinning of these colors.

            Manet grasps my hand with frank friendliness that I almost believe. Want to believe. “It is you; I’ve seen you model at Coutoure’s. But what has happened to your nose?”

            I rise on my toes, though the height it gives me is minimal. I motion for Gabrielle to gather her music, and she shuffles the sheets.

            I move closer to him while withdrawing my hand from his, take out my emerald green enamel cigarette case (a gift from a wealthy student at Coutoure’s studio) and light a cigarette. I empty my lungs straight at the yellowing ceiling, though my torso is not a foot from his.

            My father frowns and waves the smoke away; how many times must I tell him that I am eighteen and I will smoke if I please? He smokes a pipe sometimes. What’s the difference?

            “I give guitar lessons now. Obviously, I’m no longer a model.”

            Manet’s eyes graze on me. I stand straighter. When I realize it, I relax.

To continue reading, purchase your copy of Victorine here:

https://amzn.to/2TQkC0W

Blurb:

In 1863 Civil War is raging in the United States. Victorine Meurent is posing nude, in Paris, for paintings that will be heralded as the beginning of modern art: Manet’s Olympia and Picnic on the Grass. However, Victorine’s persistent desire is not to be a model but to be a painter herself. In order to live authentically, she finds the strength to flout the expectations of her parents, bourgeois society, and the dominant male artists (whom she knows personally) while never losing her capacity for affection, kindness, and loyalty. Possessing both the incisive mind of a critic and the intuitive and unconventional impulses of an artist, Victorine and her survival instincts are tested in 1870, when the Prussian army lays siege to Paris and rat becomes a culinary delicacy. Drema Drudge’s powerful first novel Victorine not only gives this determined and gifted artist back to us but also recreates an era of important transition into the modern world.

About the Author:

Drēma Drudge suffers from Stendhal’s Syndrome, the condition in which one becomes overwhelmed in the presence of great art. She attended Spalding University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program where she learned to transform that intensity into fiction.

Drēma has been writing in one capacity or another since she was nine, starting with terrible poems and graduating to melodramatic stories in junior high that her classmates passed around literature class.

She and her husband, musician and writer Barry Drudge, live in Indiana where they record their biweekly podcast, Writing All the Things, when not traveling. Her first novel, Victorine, was literally written in six countries while she and her husband wandered the globe. The pair has two grown children.

In addition to writing fiction, Drēma has served as a writing coach, freelance writer, and educator. She’s represented by literary agent Lisa Gallagher of Defiore and Company.

For more about her writing, art, and travels, please visit her website, www.dremadrudge.com, and sign up for her newsletter. She’s always happy to connect with readers in her Facebook group, The Painted Word Salon, or on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Northern Reads featuring John R McKay

Today on my Northern Read series, I’m proud to have fellow historical fiction author John R McKay on the blog discussing how growing up in Wigan influenced his WWI novel, The Sun Will Always Shine.

Welcome, John. Tell us about how The Sun Will Always Shine and why you set it in the north?

The book is set before and during World War One and is about two brothers who live on a dairy farm with their parents and young sister (who has learning difficulties). Their father is abusive towards them, and, not to give too much of the plot away, they commit a gruesome crime to free themselves and their sister from his evil ways. To escape the fallout, one of the brothers joins the army and ends up in the trenches of the Western Front, whilst his older brother stays at home to face the consequences of what they’ve done.

I chose the north of England for two reasons. The first is that I am from Wigan in Lancashire/Greater Manchester and wanted to write a novel set near to my home town. The second is that I wanted to write something about the ‘Pals Battalions’ of the First World War, many of which hailed from the north of England. These were groups of friends who joined up together and paid the ultimate price together on the Somme and other battles. Rather than just write about what happened to those young men, I decided to incorporate a drama around those events to show the human element to an awful historic event.
Being from the north of England myself and having been stationed near to a lot of WW1 sites when in the RAF in Belgium, this is a period of history that has always fascinated me.

I have managed to incorporate a couple of scenes into the novel that are set in my home town of Wigan, including a convalescent home that actually existed at the time.

I am proud to be a northerner and my latest project will also be set in the north west of England.

Can’t wait to read it!

More about The Sun Will Always Shine:

Set before and during the First World War The Sun Will Always Shine tells the story of brothers Harry and Charlie Davenport, who live on a farm in northern England, and their attempts to protect their mother and sister from their abusive and violent father.
They believe that their father’s increasing brutality needs to be stopped and they will need to carry out strong action to do that in order to protect their family.
With war approaching they realise that these actions could have terrible consequences upon the very people they have sworn to protect.
As suspicions grow ever stronger, could they find an escape in the trenches of the Western Front before their secret is revealed and their world is ripped apart?
This is a tale of war, grief, horror, lost love and sacrifice and is John R McKay’s most powerful novel to date.

About John R McKay:

John R McKay was born and raised in Wigan, Greater Manchester where he lives with his wife, Dawn. He has two grown up daughters Jessica and Sophie.
John has recently become a USA Today Bestselling author following the success of the anthology ‘The Darkest Hour – Tales of WW2 Resistance.’ John’s contribution to the anthology ‘V for Victory’ has now been released as a standalone novella.
His other works include ‘The Absolution Of Otto Finkel’, a historical novel covering largely unknown events of World War 2 and how war affects people in different ways. His latest novel, ‘Codename: GREYMAN’ concludes the tale.
In ‘Mosquitoes’, which is a break from his normal genre, John has produced a contemporary study of how a man can ‘lose the plot’ when circumstances in his life change suddenly. A black comedy, Mosquitoes is a uniquely written story, told from the perspective of a man unable to cope with the both the pressures of modern society and those pressures he puts upon himself in a constant struggle to accept the situation fate has given him.
His novel, ‘The Worst Journey In The World’ is set aboard a Royal Navy frigate which carries out perilous journeys to the Soviet Union during World War 2.
He cites his modern literary favourites as Sebastian Faulkes, Robert Harris and Wilbur Smith.

John is a qualified Advanced Open Water Scuba diver and also enjoys cinema, reading books of various genres and following the fortunes of his beloved Liverpool Football Club.

I loved V for Victory! Where can we find you on social media?

Twitter: @JohnMcKay68
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JohnRMcKayAuthor

Instagram: mckay1968

Website: www.johnrmckay.com

Thanks so much for sharing, John! I can’t wait to read your latest project.

Northern Reads featuring AnneMarie Brear

Today on the blog for this edition of Northern Reads we welcome Anne Marie Brear as she discusses her novel The Slum Angel which is set in York.

Welcome, AnneMarie. Please tell us about why you chose to set The Slum Angel it in York?

Although Australian born, my family are from Wakefield in West Yorkshire. I’ve lived in England and love the history. The Slum Angel is set in York, where several of my books are set. York is a great place and I only lived an hour’s drive from there so I could visit and walk the streets to help with my research. York has a fascinating history in all eras, and I thought to set a book there which highlighted the slum problems in the Victorian era.

That’s fascinating! My grandfather’s name was Wakefield. 🙂 He never got to see his namesake, though. What can readers expect from The Slum Angel?

Orphan Victoria Carlton is brought up by her uncle, a banker, to be a lady and make a good marriage. Yet, she is drawn to help the poor families in the slums, much to her family’s disgust. When her uncle dies suddenly, her cousins blame Victoria, and she is thrown out of the house with nothing.
Victoria flees to the poor side of York to start again in a world that is full of perils. To combat the heartache of being without her family, she befriends the destitute women and children in the slums, but such friendships come with the danger of disease, and increasing poverty, and the threat of a brutal man could cost her everything.
Can Victoria find the security she has lost? Will a certain doctor be the man she can give her heart to? Or will the ghosts of the past return to take away everything she has worked so hard for?

Sounds like a page-turner.

To Buy: http://www.annemarierbrear.com

About AnneMarie Brear:

Amazon UK bestseller and award winning Australian author, AnneMarie Brear has been a life-long reader and started writing in 1997 when her children were small. She has written 22 novels and several short stories. She has a love of history, of grand old English houses and a fascination of what might have happened beyond their walls. Her interests include reading, genealogy, watching movies, spending time with family and eating chocolate – not always in that order!

Where can readers find you on social media?

http://www.facebook.com/annemariebrear  

Twitter: @annemariebrear

Instagram: annemariebrear

Thanks so much for stopping by! Come back next week as we feature Wigan-born historical novelist John R. McKay.

Northern Reads featuring Jo Fenton

On this edition for Northern Reads in February, we cap the month off with Jo Fenton and her brand new release Revelation.

I’d like to thank you, Kellie, for allowing me to appear on your blog today.

Revelation is my latest novel, released by Darkstroke Publishing on Monday 24th February.

It is set in Manchester in 1989, and is about students, Becky and Dan, whose friend, Rick, was found dead in suspicious circumstances. It’s a story of unrequited love, grief, friendship, betrayal and revenge.

The setting is the Halls of Residence where I lived as a student, and other areas around Manchester University and Fallowfield.

 I remained in Manchester after graduating, as my parents moved to North Manchester at the end of my first term at University, and I’ve lived in the area ever since. I definitely consider myself an adopted Northerner!

Revelation is the start of a series of books, featuring Becky as a Manchester-based detective.

In Revelation, she investigates the death of her friend, Rick. In subsequent books, we meet her as a middle-aged adult – married with kids, and a recent trauma.

My detailed knowledge of the area and community where I live features strongly in the novels, and adds a distinct local flavour. However, readers will not need to know the area to enjoy the books.

Book 2, Paparazzi, is in progress, and will hopefully be ready for release next winter.

About the book:

Manchester, 1989

A student, Rick, is found dead in halls of residence.

His friends get caught up in the aftermath: Dan, who was in love with Rick; and Becky, who is in love with Dan.

Their fraught emotions lead them into dark places – particularly a connection to a mysterious Kabbalistic sect.

Will Becky discover who killed Rick in time to save her best friend?

About the author:

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire. She devoured books from an early age and, at eleven, discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer. She now has an eclectic and much loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her family and is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and two reading groups.

Revelation was released on Amazon on 24th February

It’s available to buy at mybook.to/beckywhite1

My other books are also available on Amazon:

The Brotherhood: https://t.co/YXdn8AM506

The Refuge: http://mybook.to/therefuge

You can find me on social media at:

Website www.jofenton137.com                 

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jl_fenton

Northern Reads featuring Sandra Danby

Today on my edition of Northern Reads, I’m pleased to welcome Sandra Danby as she discusses her novel Connectednesss and growing up in East Yorkshire.

Thanks for stopping by, Sandra. Tell us about Connectedness.

Connectedness is the second novel in the ‘Identity Detective’ series of adoption reunion mysteries and it is set partly in Spain and partly on the East Yorkshire coast. I lived for ten years in Southern Spain and grew up on a dairy farm on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds, half a mile from the coastline. This meant I woke early on a summer’s day to the sound of the waves breaking on the shore and the call of ‘Good Morning Campers!’ from the local Butlins camp. A few miles away is Rudston, the Wolds village where Winifred Holtby was born. So I grew up in awe of the author who wrote South Riding. They say you should always write what you know, Holtby did. The Yorkshire Wolds are present in her writing, but particularly in South Riding and Anderby Wold.

Cobles at North Landing, Flamborough

Ignoring Gravity, first in the ‘Identity Detective’ series, is set in Wimbledon because that’s where I was living when I wrote it. For Connectedness I returned home, to the place on the East Yorkshire coast where my heart belongs even though I live hundreds of miles away. The cliffs that feature in Connectedness are the cliffs where I grew up, my sister recognised many references when she read the book. There’s a Christmas scene where mother and daughter arrange biscuits in a tin, it is a moment of togetherness, of belonging, and it’s something I did with my own mother every year in that excitable week before Christmas.

Deep Cleft in Cliffs, Bempton, East Yorkshire
Cliffs at Bempton, Yorkshire

When I started writing fiction, I naively didn’t expect my own upbringing to have a big effect on my writing. I’d been a journalist in the South for over thirty years, surely I had left my childhood behind.

Sandra Danby, aged 10

But the imagination has a uncanny way of unlocking memories and emotions and I soon found that instead of imagining a make-believe place, I was remembering a real one. So for Connectedness I harnessed this energy in a positive way, by having my main character grow up where I did. I suspect Yorkshire will sneak into my future books too.

Book Blurb:

TO THE OUTSIDE WORLD, ARTIST JUSTINE TREE HAS IT ALL… BUT SHE ALSO HAS A SECRET THAT THREATENS TO DESTROY EVERYTHING

Justine’s art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

To buy Connectedness: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07BKM6VG3/ref=dp-kindle-redirect?_encoding=UTF8&btkr=1

Bio:

Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted. She is now writing Sweet Joy, third in the ‘Identity Detective’ series.

Links:

Author website: http://www.sandradanby.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/sandradanby?lang=en

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

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

Thanks so much for stopping by, Sandra! I cannot wait to read it!

Come back next week for another edition of Northern Reads.

Calling ARC readers!

My manuscript for Liberation Street is nearly finished, so I’m a gathering a team that will read my manuscript and write a review! I can provide PDF , mobi, or epub copies of my novella that will be part of The Road to Liberation collection releasing on May 5th! You must post a review on Goodreads or Amazon by publication date. You may post to Goodreads prior to that, and I really encourage it!

If you are interested in joining my team, then please contact me at kellierbutler@gmail.com and I will give you more details. I’m thrilled to bring this story to you that’s inspired by true events.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear from you soon!

Book Review: Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes by Peta Rainford

Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes, Illustrated and Written by Peta Rainford (Dogpigeon Books, February 2020)

Rating: 5 stars

Being the ‘author of a family saga series, I’m always searching for books that not only tell stories but also provide instruction. Having two artists in that series, especially my first one with teenage Lydia, I was immediately intrigued by Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes.

Some of the greatest lessons in life are found in books for young readers. With Milly, one of life’s great lessons is narrated in such a beautiful poetic form: good things require hard work, and to be good, you must also be willing to be bad first. Or as my grand would say, nothing good comes without patience and effort.

In a world of instant gratification, taking the easy way out, and so called “instant success” (which usually never is), we’re reminded that part of life is making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. They make us better people if we’re willing to learn from them, and they make us who we are.

While it’s important to strive for excellence, we can also remember that those bad spots make us unique, and sometimes more prized.

The book is beautifully illustrated with vivid colors and whimsical drawings that bring the story to life.

This is certainly a must give for any child on your list or for teachers of young children. It made me smile through and through.

Milly’s Marvelous Mistakes is available in paperback at Amazon and other fine retailers.

About the author:

Peta writes and illustrates her funny picture books on the Isle of Wight, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and hairy jack russell, Archie. Peta loves going into schools to share her books and inspire children in their writing and art. She has appeared at a number of festivals and other events, including: Barnes Children’s Literature Festival, Isle of Wight Literary Festival, Exmoor Dark Skies Festival and Ventnor Fringe. She is one of the organisers of the inaugural IW Story Festival, taking place in February 2020.

Northern Reads featuring Paula Martin

On a very special Valentine’s Day edition of Northern Reads,  we have romance writer Paula Martin joining us to discuss her novel Changing the Future.

Welcome, Paula. Tell us about Changing the Future, and what inspired you to set it in the Lake District?

Changing the Future is set on the edge of the English Lake District in North West England, mainly in a (fictitious) higher education college near the town of Kenton. Readers who know the area will recognize the town as it has a flourishing Arts Centre which I’ve featured a couple of times in the story. My heroine lives in a village near the college; in this case, I ‘moved’ one village that I know well to a different location!

I set the story in the Lake District because, being a ‘Northerner’, I’m very familiar with this area. I had a caravan there for many years which I visited as often as I could – and even climbed few of the fells (when I was younger!). It’s always easier to write about a place you know, and I hope I’ve been able to give readers a flavour of the Lakeland area as well as a glimpse of its beautiful mountains and lakes.

It also provides a contrast to the dramatic scene in the latter part of the story when the hero is caught up in a volcanic eruption in Iceland!

ChangingtheFuturebyPaulaMartin500 (2)

Lisa Marshall is stunned when celebrated volcanologist Paul Hamilton comes back into her life at the college where she now teaches. Despite their acrimonious break-up several years earlier, they soon realise the magnetic attraction between them is stronger than ever. However, the past is still part of the present, not least when Paul discovers Lisa has a young son. They can’t change the past, but will it take a volcanic eruption to help them change the future?

To purchase your copy, visit this page to find your favorite bookseller:

www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Martin_Paula

About Me:

Paula Martin (1)

I’ve lived in North West England all my life. Born and brought up in Preston in Lancashire, I now live near Manchester.

I had some early publishing success with four romance novels and several short stories, but then had a break from writing while I brought up a young family and also pursued my career as a history teacher for twenty-five years. I returned to writing fiction after retiring from teaching, and since then I’ve had 11 novels published in the last eight years. My original publisher closed just over two years ago, but my current publisher, Tirgearr Publishing, has re-published six of my backlist and also two new novels.

To find Paula on the web and social media, visit here:

Website: paulamartinromances.webs.com/

Tirgearr Publishing Author Page (which has buy links to Amazon, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo and Nook: www.tirgearrpublishing.com/authors/Martin_Paula

Amazon Author Page: www.amazon.co.uk/Paula-Martin/e/B005BRF9AI

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

Twitter: @PaulaRomances

Sounds like my kind of read, and the Lake District is always so lovely! Thank you for joining Northern Reads for a special Valentine’s Day edition! Come back next week for a new author from the north.

Northern Reads featuring Keith Dixon

On this first Northern Reads edition of February, we welcome crime novelist  Keith Dixon to share his novel The Cobalt Sky set in Cheshire.

Tell us about The Cobalt Sky and how being born in Yorkshire and later living in Cheshire has influenced your writing. 

The Cobalt Sky is set in Wilmslow in Cheshire, a very posh town in a very posh county, south of Liverpool and Manchester. The plot concerns the theft of a valuable watercolour painting from the home of the painter, who then hires PI Sam Dyke to find it. To carry out his investigation, Sam has to delve into the family of the painter and the relationships between them – which is not a straightforward job. Sam begins to realise that the past—as so often in crime novels—is having a huge influence on the present.

I was born in Yorkshire but moved south to Coventry when I was 3 months old. As a young man I went to college and then stayed in Cheshire, eventually working in and around the North West – Stoke-on-Trent, Chester, Stafford, and later Manchester and Wilmslow. I lived in the area for over thirty years before moving to France, where I now live. The impetus behind my Sam Dyke series was to explore what it would be like to be a private investigator in the leafy suburbs of Cheshire. My PI is from working-class stock in Yorkshire but finds himself dealing with the rich and wealthy people of Cheshire as his clients and victims. I also wanted to use the style and tropes of the classic private eye novels, being heavily influenced by Hammett, Chandler, Robert Crais and Ross Macdonald. Sam Dyke is even named in honour of Hammett’s Sam Spade (and my mother’s maiden name!).

Living and working with northerners—and being one by birth myself—has led me to value their honesty and warmth. The bad guys that Sam comes up against are often interlopers from the South who try to manipulate people for their own purposes, not understanding that they’re going to be found out and punished in the end. Sam Dyke is also a stranger to the posh environment of Cheshire, but as the series progresses, he understands it more and wouldn’t live anywhere else.

TCS 9 squeezed name and quote (2)

More about  The Cobalt Sky:

Edward Ransome is one of England’s most famous artists – rich, a friend to celebrities and known for his devotion to his craft for almost fifty years.

Then someone steals his favourite painting – the painting that set Ransome on course to fame and fortune but was never sold and rarely seen.

Sam Dyke is hired to find the painting, and the thief, but quickly discovers that the loss of the painting is only one of the many losses suffered by Ransome, and his family.

What’s more, whoever stole the painting is keen to keep it a secret, and committing murder to do so is not out of the question.

Soon Dyke finds he has more than a simple burglary on his hands – it’s a case that spans generations and includes more than one ordinary crime.

The Cobalt Sky is a subtle but exciting exploration of the ways in which families can hurt each other over time … without even trying.

From the two-time winner of the Chanticleer Reviews CLUE Award in the private eye/noir category, for The Bleak and The Innocent Dead.

The Cobalt Sky is available in paperback from Amazon and bookstores world-wide. It’s currently available in Kindle format from an Amazon store near you. Click here: http://authl.it/B07W1GBRBQ

About Keith:

Keith large white border

Keith Dixon was born in Yorkshire and grew up in the Midlands. He’s been writing since he was thirteen years old in a number of different genres: thriller, espionage, science fiction, literary. Two-time winner of the Chanticleer Reviews CLUE First in Category award for Private Eye/Noir novel, he’s the author of nine full-length books and one short-story in the Sam Dyke Investigations series and two other non-crime works, as well as two collections of blog posts on the craft of writing. His new series of Paul Storey Thrillers began in 2016 and there are now three books in the series.

Find Keith on Social Media and around the web:

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

Twitter: https://twitter.com/keithyd6

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/theidlewriter/

Blog: http://cwconfidential.blogspot.com/

Website: https://keithdixonnovels.com/

Thanks for sharing, Keith! I personally love Sam Spade, too!

Come back next week for a Valentine’s Day edition of Northern Reads as we head to the Lake District with Paula Martin.

Behind the Book: The Cover and Title Inspiration for Out of Night

Not long ago, an author friend posted about her current working title for the second book in her series, and how she was undecided about the final title. Many authors will have a working title that we let the reader know about, only to change that title when it comes time to cover creation. Others just find it later.

I had titled my fourth book “Ball of Confusion” for most of its journey as a work in progress. I had even gone through the rewrites and structural edits and had toyed with changing the title, but nothing seemed to convey the central theme of the book.

It was research that led me to it, though. Back in December I was reading Elizabeth Kim’s memoir Ten Thousand Sorrows as she is a Korean War orphan and nearly my character Suzy’s age. I wanted to hear about her experiences and challenges of growing up in America. If you haven’t read her book, I highly recommend you get it, and also invest in some hankies. I read it nearly in one sitting.

A central theme of Kim’s book was fear of abandonment, and as the daughter of divorced parents from an early age, I could relate to her so much. So when she quoted Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “Song of the Nations” as a poem that gave her peace, a lightbulb went off immediately.

As a writer and a creator, you have to trust your gut. It’s one of your most prized tools, and you must cherish. The moment I read that first phrase, I knew I had a title. Once I read the entire poem, I was bobbing my head up and down, because everything I wanted to express in this book was encapsulated into one poem.

Here is the poem in it’s entirety:

Out of
Night and alarm
Out of
Darkness and dread,
Out of old hate,
Grudge and distrust,
Sin and remorse,
Passion and blindness;
Shall come
Dawn and the birds,
Shall come
Slacking of greed,
Snapping of fear–
Love shall fold warm like a cloak
Round the shuddering earth
Till the sound of its woe cease.

After
Terrible dreams,
After
crying in sleep,
Grief beyond thought,
Twisting of hands,
Tears from shut lids
Wetting the pillow;
Shall come
Sun on the wall,
Shall come sounds from the street,
Children at play–
Bubbles too big blown, and dreams
Filled too heavy with horror
Will burst and in mist fall.

Sing then,
You who were dumb,
Shout then
Into the dark;
Are we not one?
Are not our hearts
Hot from one fire,
And in one mold cast?
Out of
Night and alarm,
Out of
Terrible dreams,
Reach me your hand,
This is the meaning of all that we
Suffered in sleep, — the white peace
Of the waking.

I discussed my thoughts with my editor and she, along with one of my beta readers, loved the new title. My old art instructor used to say, “Now you’re cooking with gas.”

From there I was able to form a clear picture of the cover. Two women clothed in contrasting black and white, representing the imagery of coming out of depression and despair into healing and affirmation. Doubt and self-loathing into confidence.

The rest was orchestration, playing on images found in 1960s fashion ads and dress pattern illustrations. My designer, the fabulous Victoria Cooper of Victoria Cooper Art, and I went back and forth on dresses and hairstyles until I had that “That’s it!” moment straight out of a Charlie Brown Christmas.

I’m so pleased to reveal that inspiration with you, and to introduce Kate and Lydie’s story. I often return to themes in my series, and this one touches back on elements of books one and two in the saga. The first is that although darkness may seem impenetrable, light is always out there. The other is that no matter what your past may be, no matter what place you have come from, your future is in your hands. You have the choice and the chance to change that and become the person you want to become. It isn’t an easy path by any means. In my own life, it has sometimes been a series of one step forward and two steps back. But as long as you keep moving, even if you must crawl, you are still on that path.

Out of Night is available for preorder on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo.

Amazon: mybook.to/outofnight

Barnes and Noble, Apple and Kobo Books: https://books2read.com/u/bP9J7z

Writing community, how do you find inspration for your titles? Leave a comment and share!