Category: books

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.

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!

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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!

Northern Reads featuring Patricia M. Osborne

It’s time for another edition of Northern Reads! Today on my blog we’re in Bolton as another family saga author, Patricia M. Osborne joins us today.

Hi Kellie, thank you for inviting me over to talk about how living in Bolton as a child has influenced my novel House of Grace.

House of Grace is a riches to rags story and the first book in a family saga trilogy. Book One is split into two parts and runs from 1950 to Christmas Eve in 1969. A bulk of Part I is set in Bolton, Greater Manchester. I chose this setting because, although I was born in Liverpool, when I was seven years old we moved to Bolton, then known as Bolton, Lancashire, rather than Greater Manchester. In Bolton, I lived in a two-up and two-down terrace with my Mum, Dad, two sisters and baby brother. We had no bathroom but bathed in a tin bath by the fire. Poor Mum had to drag it out to the backyard to empty once we’d finished. This memory was great material for a scene in House of Grace.

When I was eleven, we moved to Surrey as my dad had acquired a new job which was to be a fresh start for us all. Our new house had not only an indoor bathroom and toilet but a huge back garden.

My time in Bolton made a great impression on me and it crops up in my writing a lot. House of Grace was no exception.

When my protagonist, Grace Granville, visits Bolton for the first time to stay with her best friend Katy, she visits places that I myself had enjoyed. For instance, Bolton Museum with lion statues outside the town hall. My late sister and I spent numerous hours in the library, museum and aquarium. At the ages of six and seven we would walk from Daubhill into Bolton town centre and spend our day bobbing from the library, museum, to downstairs in the aquarium. We were fascinated by it all so much. The museum was eerie with mummies and old porcelain dolls. Those dolls had a hypnotic effect on me and stayed with me for years. On fine days we loved to play outside the museum around the town hall lions, stroking their manes. My protagonist, Grace is fascinated by the museum and lion statues too.

Bolton Town Hall and the lion sentinels

In 1990, I returned to Bolton with my eldest two children so they could see where I’d lived, went to school and of course visit the museum. I was disappointed to find that so much had been demolished. My home had gone, and the small church school, Emmanuel, had gone too.  Castle Hill in Tonge Moor was still standing but looked tiny, unlike my memory that it was a large school. My children loved the museum just like I had as a child, however I was disappointed because this huge space that I’d remembered seemed to have shrunk.

Emmanuel School and Bamber Street where I lived  

Samuel Crompton’s house was another old haunt of ours. A gang of us, including my two sisters, used to hike up to Hall i’ th’ Wood. The older kids would frighten we younger ones when stepping into Samuel Crompton’s house. They said if we rocked the cradle then the floor would open, we’d be swallowed up and the ghost would get us. At seven that was quite scary.

Samuel Crompton’s House

The Palais was the place where the young people liked to go dancing. Unfortunately, I wasn’t old enough as I was only eleven when we left Bolton but my elder sister used to go on a regular basis. This had an impression on me too as I made sure Katy took Grace to the Astoria Palais de Danse, and this is where she meets the love of her life, coal miner Jack Gilmore.

Palais Helen V James_o

Sketch by Helen A James, 2017

Because I never got to go to the palais, a Facebook memory group came to my aid and told me what the interior was like in 1950, and even how much it would have cost for a cup of coffee. Members of the Bolton Palais Facebook Group who read House of Grace said I had described the Palais just like they remembered it. What I didn’t know just after publishing my novel was the fight the people of Bolton had on their hands to save their beloved dance hall. Alas they lost their battle and this wonderful iconic building was demolished. However, The Palais de Danse lives on in House of Grace.

            ‘…large round building on the corner of Higher Bridge Street.

            I looked up at the sign. ‘Astoria Palais De-Danse.’

            ‘Yes,’ Katy answered, ‘only we Boltonians call it the Palais. Come on, let’s go in.’

Astoria Palais de Danse

Book two, ‘The Coal Miner’s Son’, will make its appearance in March 2020. Part I of this book runs alongside House of Grace but told in the point of view of Grace’s nine-year-old son, George. It opens in 1962 and ends in 1971, so the second part works as a sequel. Following this is ‘The Granville Legacy’, the final book in the trilogy. It begins in 1981 and as it is a work in progress, I’m not sure where it will finish yet. I then have the potential to produce more novels or novellas in the series with different characters’ stories. I am sure that Bolton will pop up in those too.

About House of Grace:

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All sixteen-year-old Grace Granville has ever wanted is to become a successful dress designer. She dreams of owning her own fashion house and spends her spare time sketching outfits. Her father, Lord Granville, sees this as a frivolous activity and arranges suitors for a marriage of his choosing.

Grace is about to leave Greenemere, a boarding school, in Brighton. Blissfully unaware of her father’s plans, she embarks on a new adventure. The quest includes a trip to Bolton’s Palais where she meets coal miner, Jack Gilmore. Grace’s life is never the same again.

Is Grace strong enough to defy Lord Granville’s wishes and find true love? Will she become a successful fashion designer? Where will she turn for help?

House of Grace is the first book in the historical fiction family saga trilogy.

If you like Mr Selfridge and House of Eliott then you’ll love this riches to rags 1950s/60s saga. Delve into House of Grace and follow Grace Granville as she struggles with family conflict, poverty and tragedy.

To buy:

http://mybook.to/HouseofGrace

For signed paperback copies direct: https://patriciamosbornewriter.com/contact/

About Patricia:

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Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. She was born in Liverpool and now lives in West Sussex. In February 2019, Patricia graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (Merit) via the University of Brighton. She is a novelist, poet, and short story writer. When she isn’t working on her own writing, she enjoys sharing her knowledge, acting as a mentor to fellow writers and tutoring poetry online for the Writers’ Bureau.

Her poetry pamphlet, ‘Taxus Baccata’ was a winner with Hedgehog Poetry Press and will appear during 2020. Patricia has had many poems and short stories published in various literary magazines and anthologies Her debut novel, House of Grace, A Family Saga, set in the 1950s/60s, was released in March 2017.

In 2017 Patricia was Poet in Residence at a local Victorian Park in Crawley and her poetry was exhibited throughout the park. In 2019 her poetry was on display at Crawley Museum.

Patricia has a successful blog at Patriciamosbornewriter.com where she features other writers and poets.

Her hobbies include walking around her local park and lake, swimming, reading, photography, and playing the piano when time permits. All these activities offer inspiration to create new writing.

Find Patricia on Social Media:

Facebook: @triciaosbornewriter

Twitter: @PMOsborneWriter

Instagram: Patriciamosbornewriter

Website: Patriciamosbornewriter.com

Email: patricia.m.osbornewriter@gmail.com

Thanks so much for stopping by, Patricia, and  telling us about all of your memories of growing up in Bolton.  Best of luck with your new release!

Come back next week as we have a new lineup of authors in February for Northern Reads.

Northern Reads featuring Rob Campbell

It’s Friday, and that means another edition of Northern Reads! Today on the blog we welcome Rob Campbell from Manchester with his YA mystery novel Monkey Arkwright.

Welcome, Rob! Please tell us about Monkey Arkwright.

Monkey Arkwright is the first part in my “Wardens of the Black Heart” YA mystery trilogy. The second part – Black Hearts Rising – is also available, and the final part – The Well of Tears – will be published in February 2020.

Monkey Arkwright tells the story of budding teenage writer, Lorna Bryson, who is mourning the recent loss of her father. She has a chance meeting with Monkey Arkwright, the boy who loves to climb, and through Monkey’s adventurous exploits amongst the churches, woodlands and abandoned places in and around their home town, the two teenagers soon become embroiled in a mystery that has serious implications for the town and some of its inhabitants. Across the three books, a tale of dark secrets, hidden messages, sinister organisations and treacherous betrayal unfolds. Whilst it’s billed as a YA novel, the story has sufficient depth such that older readers can immerse themselves in the labyrinthine mystery at the heart of the story. When I see the success of books like the His Dark Materials series and Netflix’s Stranger Things, I know there’s an audience for this kind of intrigue, and I hope that my books will appeal to fans of this type of unusual story.

Monkey Arkwright is set in a fictional town in England, but I’ve been careful not to specify an exact geographical location. So, whilst it’s not necessarily set in the North, it’s written with an imagination that was well and truly cultivated there. There are several scenes in the book that are influenced by the places that I knew whilst growing up. The scenes where Lorna and Monkey spend the last days of summer in the woods are based on my memories of Alkrington Woods, in Middleton, north Manchester. When you are a child, these places seem so vast and make for a world of adventure, but can also be both intriguing and frightening, depending on the time of day or the weather. There’s also a scene where my protagonists get to climb an abandoned school building. This scene is based on my old high school, St Dominic Savio, which shut its doors for good several years after I left. The school building consisted of a wonderful assortment of oddball-shaped wings, with no two adjacent parts seeming to be the same height. I can still remember that some of the braver kids (not me!) would shin up a series of drainpipes, moving from one building to the next until they stood on top of the gymnasium roof, which towered above the playground. There’s definitely some of Monkey’s character in these kids that I remember from my youth. I could see this huge gymnasium wall from my house, which was just a one-minute walk away. It’s sad that the building was demolished to make way for a housing estate – another part of my history gone forever – a sense of loss echoed in the story through Lorna’s memories of her school.

It’s probably also worth mentioning that the scenes at the reservoir are based on real-life settings in the hills above Oldham.

Of course, I wouldn’t be a true Mancunian if I didn’t mention the weather! Manchester is famous for its incessant rain, and the elements are another major influence on my writing. I’m probably in the minority here, but I wouldn’t swap Manchester’s weather for any other climate. We get scorching sun in the summer, a bit of snow in the winter (although not as much these days) and the colours of the trees are glorious to behold come the autumn. If you get bored of the weather around here, then just hang on for a few days because it’ll change before you know it. All these rich colours, biting winds, drizzly rain and foggy mornings act as a wonderful fuel for the imagination, and although I’ve said that my books are not necessarily set here, there’s plenty of the local weather in my writing.

So, between the weather, the memories of places I knew growing up, and the fact that I still call Manchester home, I’d say that my books are Northern at heart. Hopefully, readers will feel all of this rich atmosphere seeping off the pages when they read my books, and maybe it will remind them of their own home town, wherever that may be.

About Monkey Arkwright

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Budding writer Lorna Bryson is struggling to come to terms with the recent death of her father when she meets Monkey Arkwright, the boy who loves to climb. The two strike up an immediate rapport, and Monkey challenges her to write about him, claiming that he can show her things that are worth writing about.

True to his word, Lorna is catapulted into Monkey’s world of climbing and other adventures in the churches, woodlands and abandoned places in and around their home town of Culverton Beck.

When the two teenagers find an ancient coin in the woods, claims from potential owners soon flood in, including the mysterious Charles Gooch, who is adamant that the coin is his. But this is only the opening act in a much larger mystery that has its roots in some dark deeds that took place more than a century earlier.

Combining their talents, Lorna and Monkey set about fitting the pieces together in a tale of budding friendship, train-obsessed simpletons, the shadow of Napoleon and falling pianos.

To Purchase Rob Campbell’s books:

About  Rob Campbell

Rob Campbell - AuthorPhoto - CPH (1)

Rob Campbell was born in the blue half of Manchester.

He studied Electrical & Electronic Engineering at Manchester Polytechnic, gaining an honours degree, but the fact that he got a U in his Chemistry O-Level helps to keep him grounded.

Having had a belly full of capacitors and banana plugs, on graduation he transferred his skills to software engineering. He still writes code by day, but now he writes novels by night. Listing his pastimes in no particular order, he loves music, reading and holidays, but he is partial to the words and music of Bruce Springsteen.

His favourite authors are David Morrell, Joe Abercrombie, Scott Lynch & Carlos Ruiz Zafón.

He lives in Manchester with his wife and two daughters.

Social media links for Rob Campbell

Website: https://monkeyarkwright.wordpress.com/

Twitter: @monkeyarkwright

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

Thanks so much for joining us, Rob! Lorna sounds like a girl I want to read about!

Come back next week for another edition of Northern Reads featuring Patricia Osborne.

Pre-order now The Road to Liberation: Trials and Triumphs of WWII collection!

Last year I was approached to join forces with other authors to create a collection celebrating the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. The theme? Liberation!

I’m pleased to announce that this bestselling collection is now available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Apple Books, and Kobo! Ten authors. Ten stories. Ten reasons never to forget.

With the number of the people alive during the war disappearing, it’s important now more than ever to remember the sacrifices they made.

Ten riveting stories dedicated to celebrating the end of WWII.

From USA Today, international bestselling and award-winning authors comes a collection filled with courage, betrayal, hardships and, ultimately, victory over some of the most oppressive rulers the world has ever encountered.

By 1944, the Axis powers are fiercely holding on to their quickly shrinking territories.

The stakes are high—on both sides:

Liberators and oppressors face off in the final battles between good and evil. Only personal bravery and self-sacrifice will tip the scales when the world needs it most.

Read about the heroic act of a long-term prisoner, an RAF squadron leader on the run in France, a Filipino family fleeing their home, a small child finding unexpected friends amidst the cruelty of the concentration camps, a shipwrecked woman captured by the enemy, and a young Jewish girl in a desperate plan to escape the Gestapo.

2020 marks 75 years since the world celebrated the end of WWII. These ten books will transport you across countries and continents during the final days, revealing the high price of freedom—and why it is still so necessary to “never forget”.

Included books are:

Stolen Childhood by Marion Kummerow

The Aftermath by Ellie Midwood

A Long Way Back by Fenella J. Miller

Prisoner from Penang by Clare Flynn

Too Many Wolves in the Local Woods by Marina Osipova

Adele’s Story by Rachel R. Heil

Liberation Berlin by JJ Toner

Magda’s Mark by Chrystyna Lucyk-Berger

Liberation Street by Kellie Butler

When’s Mummy coming? By Rachel Wesson

Buy now and indulge in more than 1000 pages filled with suspense, danger, heartbreak, and redemption.

This collection is at a bargain price of 99c/99p for a limited time, so reserve your copy now before the price increases!

Stay tuned on this blog in the coming months for posts from myself and other authors in the collection!

Northern Reads featuring Tracey Scott-Townsend

It’s Friday, which means another edition of Northern Reads! Today we have Tracey Scott-Townsend from East Yorkshire joining us with her poignant novel, Sea Babies. Welcome, Tracey!

What’s your latest book and do you have other work set in the north?

Hi Kellie, my most Northern-set novel to date is Sea Babies, 2019. The story is set between
Edinburgh in the 1980s and The Outer Hebrides in the (more-or-less) present. I have also written other books set in the north of the UK, these include The Last Time We Saw Marion, 2014, Of His Bones, 2017 and The Eliza Doll, 2016, all set between Hull and the East Yorkshire Coast.

Tell us a bit about Sea Babies and why you chose your setting? Has living in the north growing up there influenced your writing?

Talking about Sea Babies, I chose Scotland as the setting, as I’ve had a lifelong affinity for the landscape and people of Scotland. My paternal grandfather, Alexander Wilson, was born in Glasgow, and comes from a line of forefathers also named Alexander Wilson. My dad was always saying things like “Och aye the noo,” and singing I belong tae Glasgow. We visited Scotland when I was a teenager, sought out our family tartan of the Gunn Clan, and I fell in love with the country then, but it was only years after my dad died that I realised how much of Scotland was in the way my dad talked (and sang!).

I also have Scottish roots on my maternal grandfather’s side, but I know less about those. I decided that my character, Lauren Wilson, in Sea Babies, would be born and grow up in Glasgow and I describe a little of her family life as part of a large family living in a tenement house, before she moves to Edinburgh for university.
There she meets Neil MacDonald, a Canadian whose family emigrated from the Scottish Islands during the Clearances in the 1840s, and the turbulent years of their five-year relationship have a massive impact on the rest of Lauren’s life.
I grew up in Lincoln, which is neither here nor there as far as the North and South go, but to anyone lower down the country we were considered “Northerners” and to anyone higher up we were “Southerners.” Thus I found my true identity when I moved to Hull at the age of twenty, and then nobody could deny I was a Northerner. East Yorkshire feels like my spiritual home, and was probably on the path of my ancestors from both sides of my heritage.

Can you give us a taste of Sea Babies?

Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job
as a children’s social worker. When somebody sits opposite her at the cafeteria table, she refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea towards her, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories…
Some people believe in the existence of a parallel universe. Does Lauren have a
retrospective choice about the outcome of a recent terrible accident, or is it the bearer of that much older scar who has the power to decide what happens to her now?
Sea Babies is a potent, emotional psychological drama that explores the harder aspects
of relationships, as well as the idea of choice, responsibility and the refugee in all of us.

Glass of wine and hankies needed then! Where can readers find Sea Babies?

Disclosure: Please note that the links in this post are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase books using my Amazon affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps make this blog possible. Know that I only recommend books that I personally stand behind, or feel could enrich others’ lives.

About Tracey:

Tracey-Scott-Townsend is the author of six novels — the most recent two Sea Babies (May2019) and The Vagabond Mother (January 2020) — all published by Wild Pressed Books and Inspired Quill Publishing. Reviews often describe her novels as poetic or painterly. She is also a poet and a visual artist.
Tracey has a Fine Art MA (University of Lincoln) and a BA Hons Visual Studies (Humberside Polytechnic). She has exhibited paintings throughout the UK (as Tracey Scott). She is co-director of an up-and-coming small independent publisher, Wild Pressed Books, which has a growing roster of authors and poets.
Tracey is the mother of four grown-up children, and spends as much time as possible travelling the UK and Europe in a camper van with her husband and two dogs, writing and editing while on the road.

To find out more about Tracey:

Website: https://traceyscotttownsend.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/authortrace
Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/authortrace/
Facebook Author page: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTrace/

Thanks for stopping by, Tracey!

Come back next week for another edition of Northern Reads as we travel over to Lancashire with the lovely Judith Barrow!

Northern Reads featuring Tracey Sinclair

Today, I’m beginning a new series on my blog called Northern Reads that will feature writers from the north of England,  fiction set in and around the northern counties, or perhaps a bit of both. 🙂  As many of you know, my Laurelhurst series is partially set in Lancashire and Manchester. So while you are waiting for the fourth book to come out, I wanted to bring you a selection of work from different genres that bring the Northern Powerhouse to life.

Disclosure: Please note that any links below are affiliate links and at no additional cost to you, I’ll earn a commission. When you purchase books using my Amazon affiliate link, they compensate me, which helps make this blog possible. Know that I only recommend books that I personally stand behind, or feel could enrich others’ lives.

Kicking it off is the lovely Tracey Sinclair with her romantic comedy The Bridesmaid Blues, set in Newcastle.

Tell us a bit about The Bridesmaid Blues and why you chose Newcastle as setting? Did growing up there influence you as a writer?

I was born and raised in Newcastle – though I wasn’t living there when I wrote the book – and when I had an idea for a romcom I wanted to set it in my home city, since most romcoms seem to be set either somewhere glam like London or New York, or cosy like a little village. I absolutely love those kinds of books, but I wanted a setting I could relate to, and I thought it would be fun for Northern readers to see a city they knew and a heroine that was very Northern in her outlook. Plus, it was fun to put lots of little Newcastle references throughout!

I’ve moved around a lot and written books based in different cities where I have lived  – I’ve also written a contemporary fiction book (Doll) that is set in Sheffield and a series of books and stories set in London and Scotland (The Dark Dates paranormal series, the short stories No Love Is This) – but I think a strong Northern streak runs through all of them. They tend to be big on no-nonsense women who speak their mind (a bit, um, like me) and plenty of humour, even if it is sometimes a bit dark.

Give us a taste of The Bridesmaid Blues. What’s it about?

Luce knows she should be thrilled when Jenna asks her to be bridesmaid – after all, they’ve known each other since childhood and Jenna is the best friend any girl could have. But it’s hard to get excited about weddings when you’re terminally single and the best man is the boy who broke your heart: Jamie, the groom’s dashing and irresistible brother. How can she face the man who dumped her when she’s still so hopelessly in love? Then again, maybe this is the perfect opportunity – after all, where better to get back together than at a wedding?

So Luce has six months to figure out how to win back her ex, but she has plenty else on her plate – from an old friend returned to Newcastle with an announcement of her own, to a youthful colleague who may or may not have a crush on her and a mother who is acting very strangely indeed… and that’s all before a mysterious, handsome American walks into her life.

Sometimes being a bridesmaid isn’t all confetti and champagne…

‘A smarter, funnier Bridget Jones’ Diary for the 2010s – great pithy writing and instantly likeable characters’ Cass Green, Sunday Times/USA Today bestselling author of In a Cottage in a Wood

Ooo, now I want it. Where can readers get it?

Fabulous, Tracey! I can’t wait to read it!

About Tracey:

author-image-3 (1)

Tracey Sinclair is a freelance writer and editor who writes for various online and print magazines including The Stage and Exeunt. She is the author of 8 books, including Doll, The Bridesmaid Blues and the Dark Dates series. She recently relocated to her home city of Newcastle after many years living in Glasgow, London and Brighton and writes about that experience at https://prodigalgeordie.blog/

Want to connect with Tracey? Visit her on social media, her blog, or her website:

Twitter: @thriftygal  Instagram: traceysinclair23  

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

Website: https://darkdates.org/

Blog: https://prodigalgeordie.blog/

Thanks, Tracey!  Come back next Friday for a new author on Northern Reads.