Saturday, 18 August 2018

A Journey Through Time

My recent holiday on the Isle of Wight turned out to be other than I was expecting. Instead of the rather relaxed break we had intended combined with the occasional cultural excursion, it turned out to be crammed full of history.

Our first visit was to the Isle of Wight Zoo. Pretty innocuous, you’d think but, as well as being privileged to see some of the wonderful animals who are cared for by The Wildheart Trust Charity…

 Little and Large

…we were taken back to the Second World War. I learned from a friend only the day before that the zoo is housed on the site of an old fort, remnants of which remain. The fort played a critical role in Operation PLUTO and within it is a small exhibition which contains one of the original pumps and some fascinating details of the PipeLineUnderTheOcean.

In addition to the natural history we were anticipating, we had an unexpected history lesson and another reminder of how much we owe to those who went before us. A fabulous day. 

A new day, a new outing, this time to Carisbrooke Castle and the thirteenth century when Isabella de Fortibus reigned supreme on the Isle of Wight, ruling it independently from the Crown. 

Over the years it has been a romantic castle, an Elizabethan artillery fortress, a king’s prison (Charles I – held for fourteen months before his execution) and a royal summer residence. I visited the small but fascinatingly comprehensive museum housed within the castle walls.

Castle Museum
Queuing to get in to the Castle
Castle Bats

Falconry Display

Through the Centuries
View from the Castle

Our final major visit was to Osborne House, described by Queen Victoria in 1845 as ‘Our dear Osborne, which is like a little Paradise for us’. It had been a long-held ambition of mine to see this royal residence, so renowned for being the queen’s favourite home, and boy was it worth the wait. There is far too much history for me to be able to share with you here so I have attached some images to give you a taste of its splendour.

Osborne House
Just your average ceiling
The Billiard Room

Fine Dining

With my housewifely hat on I wondered at the task of cleaning the amazing coloured glass and ormolu chandelier depicting convolvulus, Prince Albert’s favourite flower, and arum lilies.

I had an amazing sense of history when I entered Queen Victoria’s bedroom. It was in this room on 22nd January 1901 that she died, on a small couch bed, surrounded by her children. More than a hundred years later and it felt as though I could reach out and touch the past.

Queen Victoria's Bed

See you next time

Wednesday, 11 July 2018



That would be ante as in before not anti as in against. Or even ante as in bet, though I’m willing to bet there will be many blog posts post-Conference. Sorry – ante, anti and ante. Posts and post. Isn’t English a wonderful language?

I sat down to work this morning but found instead that, with the excitement mounting, there was no way I could concentrate. There were several things on my mind so I thought I’d jot a few of them down here.

Messy but I'm hoping it's all there
Have I packed enough/the right clothes? Not actually packed but on the bed waiting.

Will the travel plans work out now that arrangements have been made to avoid the London Tube strike? With pre-booked tickets from Kings Cross it would be a disaster to miss the designated train.

How much I’m looking forward to meeting old friends and making new ones.

The wonderful Jan Jones
Will I be able to attend all the sessions that have been arranged for us without collapsing in an exhausted heap? The answer of course is no. I’ll definitely collapse in an exhausted heap, but with so much skill and knowledge made available to us I shall try very hard keep up.

Thanks as ever to Jan Jones for her behind the scenes work. This morning Jan has posted that there is an excellent range of gins. So good of her to do the research for us.

There are others of course who also worked so diligently to make the Conference seem like a well-oiled machine. Sheila Crighton who was instrumental in arranging the attendance of the Industry Professionals. Session organisers. I don't have names but I thank them sincerely.

Sterling work again this year from Elaine Everest acting as liaison between conference delegates and Industry Professionals. I never fail to get worked up over the one2ones but hey, a little dose of adrenalin is a good thing, isn’t it? I have always found the feedback we get absolutely invaluable. How lucky are we to have the opportunity to discuss our work with the professionals in such an informal and relaxed manner. Did I say relaxed?

It would be remiss of me not to mention the parties. RNA members certainly know how to party. We get a lot of practice. There’s also the Gala Dinner on Saturday evening. An excuse to dress up and have another party. Who needs an excuse?
Not a conference photo but, with the much loved and
missed Roger Sanderson, synonymous with the
Annual Conference, I just had to include this one

What more can I say? This has been by way of a stream of consciousness. Throughout the year I attend as many writing events as I can and as my purse will allow but the RNA Annual Conference is the one that takes precedence over all the rest. I know I will enjoy it. I always do. But above all I will come away with considerably more knowledge than when I arrived, I will have met new people, and I will carry a huge amount of enthusiasm and an eagerness to get back to work. Oh, and probably a few extra pounds in weight as well. See you there.


Friday, 1 June 2018

It's Publication Day for Elaine Roberts and The Foyles Bookshop Girls

I’m delighted to welcome friend, Elaine Roberts, to the blog to celebrate the publication today of her debut novel, The Foyles Bookshop Girls. Congratulations, Elaine, and thank you for answering my questions:

Every unpublished writer dreams of that offer of a contract. But for you it was like the proverbial bus. You wait an age for one and then three come along at the same time! Fantastic – but what did it feel like?
The day I received the email, I was in a bit of an emotional state and I was talking to my husband, Dave, about giving up writing. He went to answer a knock at the front door and by the time he got back, an email had arrived from Aria saying how they loved my book and wanted to publish it. To be honest it didn’t really register at first. I showed it to Dave and he was thrilled. I believe I said something along the lines of “I don’t know if I want it now”, to which he replied rather incredulously, “You’re having a laugh, aren’t you. You’ve worked so hard for this.” As I’m sure you can guess, it was a strange feeling. I think, within half an hour, I’d had two emails, a phone call and a contract to sign, so after years of waiting for this moment to arrive, it all seemed to happen very quickly. I’m obviously thrilled to have a three-book contract, but it still feels rather surreal and of course I am now on a steep learning curve on marketing and promotion.

Alice, Victoria and Molly are very different characters. What is it that binds them together?
They have a history together that goes back to their childhood, before they were aware of life’s protocols. Originally, circumstances brought Molly and Alice together, but more of that is revealed in The Foyles Girls at War. They also have their love of books, which is what brings them to Foyles Bookshop. The trials that the Great War forces on them binds them together, creating a bond that can’t be broken.

Many people find unknown depths in times of adversity. What does Alice learn about herself in these terrible times?
Alice was always the peacemaker, never wanting to rock the boat. She believed in the suffragette movement, but she never wanted to upset her father and be forced into a marriage she didn’t want. She felt she could pave the way for her younger sister, Lily, to have more freedom, by doing things slowly and quietly. During this first novel, she realises she’s stronger and more capable than she ever realised. She faces difficult situations, some of which she totally mishandles. She doesn’t understand why her actions are misunderstood, but she comes to realise that being the eldest didn’t necessarily mean she knew best. 

As a writer I know how one’s characters become real. Which is your favourite, and why?
You are right, they do become very real and part of your life. You ride the wave of emotions they are on. I love them all for very different reasons, but if I had to choose one, it would have to be Lily, Alice’s sister. She’s not afraid to take on the world and she’s all about justice and not afraid to speak out, even if it’s not the right time to do so. Haha, she sounds a bit like me - now that’s rather worrying!

What is it about saga writing that made it your chosen genre?
As you know, I started writing contemporary women’s fiction. I believe it was a conversation we had when we were going to a Romantic Novelists Association London Chapter meeting. We were sitting in a cafe when I spoke about maybe trying to write something in the Victorian era and you told me I should give it a go. I was full of insecurities of whether I could do all the research, as well as plan and write 100,000 words, but I gave it a go. Once I put my fear behind me and realised I had nothing to lose, I thoroughly enjoyed creating the fictional story to weave around the historical facts. After the Historical Novelist Society conference, I was then encouraged to write a World War One novel and that turned out to be The Foyles Bookshop Girls.

Setting your novel in what is perhaps the most famous bookshop in the world seems inspired to me but what, in today’s context, does Foyles mean to you?
Ask any writer and they will say they love a bookshop, whether a big named store like Foyles or a small second hand one. I wanted one of my characters to work or own a bookshop and originally that was my male lead character, but as always it evolved in the planning.

Foyles in Charing Cross Road held Discovery Days where authors could have a one to one with an agent. I remember rehearsing my thirty-second pitch over and over again and memorising the premise of my story, which was a modern one the first time I attended, and then the Victorian one, the second time. I remember everyone was so nervous, and yet there was a real camaraderie as we waited in line for our moment. Foyles is books, books are authors and the Discovery Days they held were all about encouraging talent to rise to the surface. I came away with their motivational words ringing in my ears. Those days gave me the belief that I could actually write a book and be published.

Could we have a little background information please? Have you always been a writer, or an aspiring one? Tell us about your journey?
I have always kept diaries and, as I got older, journals. When I was in my twenties, I wrote a modern love story and sent it to Mills and Boon. They sent me a very nice rejection, which said they would have taken it, but they were in the process of changing their image, and it wouldn’t fit in with them going forward. This gave me encouragement, but life got in the way and I didn’t write anything else for several years. I think it wasn’t my time then, but I took it up again about eight years ago. Thanks to my son, I joined The Write Place Creative Writing School and was encouraged to join organisations like The Romantic Novelists Association New Writers Scheme, which I would definitely recommend. I wrote and submitted short stories, which is a real lesson on word choice and writing to a word count. I was thrilled when I sold my first short story and couldn’t believe someone wanted to buy a story I had written. All the time I was doing that, I was still working on my novel. Joining a class and an organisation tells you you’re not alone and everything that is happening to you has happened to others. That is very encouraging to know.

With the publication today of The Foyles Bookshop Girls, promotion is already in place for this three book series. How far are you into the writing process for the next two?
My second book, The Foyles Girls at War is finished and waiting for a final edit, before being printed off for a final read through, in case there are any glaring errors.

The third one, Christmas at the Foyles Bookshop, is planned and the historical timeline is written. I’ve written one chapter at the moment so that is definitely a moving storyline.

I have also written an idea down for the book after that, but I’m not saying anymore than that at the moment.

It’s obvious from your previous answer what is next for Elaine Roberts on the writing front. When you’re not creating other worlds, what do you do for your own pleasure?
My life outside of writing is about my family; I’m at my happiest when I’m spending time with them. When Dave and I aren’t on babysitting duties, we will book a few days away, but my laptop always goes with me, as you never know when an idea will come and the urge to write will take over. I obviously love to read and still write short stories, although not as many as I used to. I enjoy playing Sudoko and doing crosswords, if they aren’t too difficult. I love spending time with my friends and going to the theatre, which is something I do more and more.

Thank you for inviting me onto your blog, Natalie.

It's been a pleasure.

The Blurb:

London, 1914: one ordinary day, three girls arrive for work at London's renowned Foyles bookshop. But when war with Germany is declared their lives will never be the same again... 
Alice has always been the 'sensible' one in her family – especially in comparison with her suffrage-supporting sister! But decidedly against her father's wishes, she accepts a job at Foyles Bookshop; and for bookworm Alice it's a dream come true. 
But with the country at war, Alice's happy world is shattered in an instant. Determined to do what she can, Alice works in the bookshop by day, and risks her own life driving an ambulance around bomb-ravaged London by night. But however busy she keeps herself, she can't help but think of the constant danger those she loves are facing on the frontline... 
Alice, Victoria and Molly couldn't be more different and yet they share a friendship that stems back to their childhood – a friendship that provides everyday solace from the tribulations and heartbreak of war. 
Amazon Link:                The Foyles Bookshop Girls
Kobo Link:                     The Foyles Bookshop Girls
Facebook Author Page:   Elaine Roberts Facebook Author Page
Twitter:                         @RobertsElaine11

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

A Question of Balance

It’s been a while since you’ve seen me here and with good reason. Someone else, lots of someone elses, have been doing my blogging for me and I didn’t want my personal efforts to be lost in the crowd.

Three weeks ago today The Ghost of Glendale was published as an eBook, the paperback having preceded it by three weeks. It was my first foray into the realms of self-publishing and in a way I cheated in as much as I had others far more experienced to do the work for me. I reaped the benefits of the professionalism of Rebecca Emin (Gingersnap Books) and Cathy Helms (Avalon Graphics) who formatted the book and produced the, in my opinion, spectacular cover.

Following all that, Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources took me on a whirlwind blog tour, hence the reason I haven’t posted myself. Rachel managed to assemble a group of people for whom I have a newfound awe and admiration to read, review and promote my book. Yes, folks, I’m talking about


that amazing fraternity who give up their time for no reward other than their love of reading. I have received some wonderful reviews for which I’m truly grateful but the thing that struck me most has been the consistency of the comments. I’d never written a mixed genre book before but it seems that romance and paranormal can go together. For those with a love of the Regency, I am happy to have portrayed the era effectively. To combine it with a ghost story was something else. Fortunately it seems I got the balance right. I had so much fun writing this book and when more than one compared it favourably with Georgette Heyer and Jane Austen, well, I could ask for no greater praise. I hope you enjoy reading it. Here’s an excerpt.

“It was fortunate indeed that you weren’t present for I should certainly have given myself away, but I so wished you’d been there to enjoy the joke.”
            Phoebe and Duncan were sitting again on the fallen tree where they had first met, the horses standing contentedly by in the small clearing. He had thought she’d looked a little overwrought when they’d met earlier in the stable yard but after a good canter she was relaxed as ever in his company and smiling now as she related what had happened at the table the previous evening.
          "Does she always rub you up the wrong way?”
        "Almost invariably, but when I stayed with her in London I was able to hold my tongue. I was her guest and it would have been unforgivably rude of me not to.” Duncan could appreciate her logic. “Here at Glendale I will not have her cutting up my father’s peace. It seems to me that if I can inject some humour into the situation, be she never so aware, I am able to restrain myself.”
           "Is her understanding so inferior then?”
          "By no means. She is intelligent enough. Just that she has no sense of the ridiculous. I cannot believe how unalike she is to my mother who could make anyone laugh by merely a word or even only a gesture.”
            “I wish I could have met her."

I hope you can join me again next time            

Friday, 23 March 2018

Writing from the Heart

Those of you who know me or follow this blog will be aware that I’ve been writing for some time now, with four books, and many published short stories to my name. I began with short stories and the pleasure I get from constructing a whole new world in just one or two thousand words has never diminished.

However, in the fascinating world of fiction it is sometimes supposed (if you’re not an author) that writing is an easy occupation. That somehow an idea germinates – that bit is true – and then the words just flow onto the page. It does happen, occasionally, but most of the time it’s hard work, writing that first draft followed by multiple edits, loving it, hating it then hopefully loving it again. Then maybe another edit.

Just occasionally something magical happens and this was the case for me with my latest book. It was my addiction to the books of Georgette Heyer and love of the Regency that were the inspiration for The Ghost of Glendale. Like many others, I was practically weaned on the books of the queen of romantic Regency novels. While I don’t presume to emulate my idol, it has long been my ambition to attempt this genre, having previously concentrated on women’s contemporary romantic fiction. The Ghost of Glendale was that perfect experience. Straight from the heart and the words tumbling to get out. It isn’t the longest book I’ve ever written but it is, to date, my favourite.


At twenty-four years old, Phoebe Marcham is resigned to spinsterhood, unwilling to settle for anything less than the deep love her parents had shared. That is, until adventurer Duncan Armstrong rides into her home wood, larger than life and with laughter in his eyes and more charm in his little finger than anyone she’s ever met before. Far from ridiculing her family ghost, Duncan resolves to help solve the mystery which has left Simon Marcham a spirit in torment for two hundred years.

This book was such a joy to write. There’s a ghost, a little bit of history, a couple of horses – I love horses – and the obligatory difficult relative. But above all there’s the relationship between the two main protagonists. They may have ‘lived’ nearly two hundred years ago but they are as real to me as anyone I know today – and they are fun! I hope you like them too.

Publication date is 25th April but for anyone who is interested The Ghost of Glendale is now available to pre-order.

A special word of thanks to Debbie Viggiano whose advice has been invaluable and my particular thanks to Rebecca Emin and Cathy Helms who were instrumental in getting this book out there for me. .

See you next time.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Chatting with Rosemary Goodacre

Today I am delighted to welcome Rosemary Goodacre on this, the first day of the blog tour for her debut novel, A Fortnight is not Enough which is published by American publisher Books to Go Now. Rosemary has written a feel good story which I read at one sitting. Her young heroine is everything a heroine should be, I liked the writer’s style and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.

Thank you for agreeing to answer my questions, Rosemary.
Before I begin I'd like to say thank you for hosting me on your blog.

You’ve picked a wonderfully romantic setting for your novel. It feels as if it’s somewhere you know well. Is this the case and why did you choose this particular location?
We visited Provence in 2016 and it’s a beautiful region, with plenty of sunshine. I’ve had a fantasy about deliberately not returning from a wonderful holiday destination, and when I wanted to make it into a story this location seemed to work well.

The setting for
A Fortnight is not Enough
Your heroine is an artist and it’s evident you know a lot about your subject. Are you a painter in your non-writing life?
I’m afraid I’ve only dabbled, though it’s a lovely career or hobby. I’ve got some artistic friends and relatives. One room at home is full of paintings by my school friend and her family.

I watched Imogen mature into a young woman with a growing faith in her own talents and abilities. Was this planned and do you think it a fundamental part of the story?
Yes, she has to use her skills and qualities to fulfil her aims. She also has to break free from someone who is a controlling influence. It could be described as a Young Adult novel.

A Fortnight is not Enough is your first published novel. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
I have recently completed a full length novel entitled The Day of the Dolly Bird, which is a romance set in London in the Swinging Sixties. It has received an encouraging report from a professional novelist. I am currently working on a romance set in World War I.

Can you elaborate on your writing career to date and your route to publication?
I have always loved writing and lately I’ve become more serious about seeking publication.  I attend The Write Place Creative Writing School, run by author and journalist Elaine Everest, where there is constant stimulation and encouragement. I belong to the New Writers Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and enjoy meeting other writers there and attending workshops. Their Annual Conference provides the opportunity for valuable one-to-one meetings with agents and publishers, helpful for gaining a better understanding of the industry.

I have had short stories published and placed in competitions, and I have been published in the Guardian. My novel Pleasure Train Polka, set in Austria in 1914, was short listed in the 2014 Write Time competition run by Corazon Books.

We’d like to know a little more about you. What can you tell us? (Hobbies? Interests? Pet hate?)
In an attempt to keep fit I do Zumba, on the principle that an hour a week shouldn’t kill me, but seriously, we exercise to music (Latin American etc.) so it’s great fun. I’m very interested in travel (mainly to continental Europe) and languages. I love classical music, including opera.

Thank you for joining me today, Rosemary. I wish you every success with your new book


Monday, 22 January 2018

The Benefits of a One Day Writing Retreat

I consider myself to be a dedicated writer and while my day isn’t always as well-planned and organised as it could be it is almost invariably filled with writerly things. Most of the time I can be found pounding away at my keyboard or reading my notes. Recently I completed the first draft of Long Ago and Far Away, the novel I began in November for the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing fifty thousand words in a month. Time now to work on editing before sending it out into the big wide world. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to become distracted – by Facebook conversations, by Twitter and, well we all know about displacement activities. However…

For a little over six years now I have attended The Write Place Creative Writing School in Kent, with weekly lessons that have kept me on my toes and from which I have learned a huge amount. But aside from the benefits of excellent tuition there is the added bonus of the one day writing retreats that are held regularly (usually once a month). 

There was one such retreat last Saturday. I went with less enthusiasm than usual due to a fuggy head. It's that time of the year isn't it! Fortunately I had planned what I was going to work on. Fugginess receded and by the end of the morning I had written the outline for my next book and begun work on the synopsis for Long Ago and Far Away. Then we broke for lunch, an assortment of delights brought by the participants to share between us all, and we always bring too much!

This is a particularly social time when we can relax for a while after hours of intense concentration, though writing usually comes into the conversation somewhere.

Back at our ‘stations’ work continued and tapping of fingers on keys was the only sound to be heard.  I used this time to finish the synopsis I'd been working on during the morning and to put on my editing hat. There was also an opportunity for each of us to take advantage of a one2one discussion with our tutor, Elaine Everest, and this is invaluable as it gives us a chance to talk purely about ourselves and our own aspirations, and of course to receive specifically tailored advice. 

By the time I got home I was exhausted but I had done at least twice as much work as I would have done at home. No breaks and no distractions. It was wine o'clock and I was ready. The next day I set to with a will and yes, I did a huge amount of work, but I may have taken the odd break here and there to watch TV or make a phone call. It happens.

The point I’m trying to make is that a day dedicated to writing is not unusual – it’s what I do – but a day dedicated to writing in a different environment where there are absolutely no outside distractions is priceless. My work is pretty much planned for the next month but I know that the next retreat will be as beneficial as this one has been. If it isn’t, it would be for the first time ever.

Did you know I now have a Facebook Author Page? Here is the link. Please come over and follow me for future news.