Category Archives: Guest Post

THE SECRETS OF VILLA ROSSO by Linn B Halton #guestpost #giveaway

Villa Rosso

The Secrets of Villa Rosso


Linn B Halton


Villa Rosso

Genre: Cosy mystery/romance

Release Date:21 July 2017

Publisher: Harper Impulse

The Secrets of Villa Rosso:

Escape to Italy for a summer romance to remember

When Ellie Maddison is sent on a business trip to Southern Italy, she’s reminded why she loves her job – set amongst rolling vineyards and rich olive groves, the beautiful Villa Rosso is the perfect escape from her life back home. But what Ellie isn’t prepared for is the instant connection she feels to the estate’s director Max Johnson, or the secrets they share that are as intertwined as the rambling vines that cover Villa Rosso.

It’s not long before Ellie finds herself entangled in the history of the place, trying to understand the undeniable effect Max is having on her. As their relationship grows, what will Ellie discover about this idyllic villa and those who have walked through its doors?

What started as a simple work trip will change Ellie’s life forever.





It isn’t just the sunshine and the electric blue sky, but the musical calls of the countryside that reach out to me. A chorus of low-level sounds play like a soft melody in the background. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and I feel like I’m watching a re-run of a favourite film. I could stand here for a long time simply taking in the detail and with each sweep of my eyes noticing something new.

Spinning around I look back at the villa, taking in the rustic beauty of the stonework and the pale orange-red hue of the sun-bleached roof tiles. This is, quite simply, unreal. It’s a little piece of heaven and, so far removed from my daily life that it’s hard to believe this is on the same planet. The sheer scale of the landscape literally steals your breath away. I’m a mere speck, small and insignificant in the grand scheme nature is presenting to me. But rather bizarrely, it doesn’t feel alien in anyway at all. The vastness isn’t overwhelming, but strangely comforting.

I walk back to a cluster of wooden tables surrounding a small fountain and take a seat. As I dive into my bag to extract some sunglasses, I hear a polite cough and look up at the face staring down at me.

‘Mrs Maddison? I’m Max, Max Johnson. Welcome to Villa Rosso.’

I stand, automatically plastering a pleasant smile on my surprised face as recognition kicks in. I know this man, I mean, I’ve met him before. At least I think I have, but there’s nothing similar reflected back at me, only a warm smile. The sort of smile that radiates out from mysteriously deep, hazel eyes. We shake hands. He’s younger than I expected, probably in his early forties and tall. Six foot something that’s for sure, because I feel he’s towering over me.

‘I’m sorry to disturb you. I just wanted you to know that I’m here at your disposal whenever you are ready to begin. Would you like me to fetch you a coffee so you can sit for a while and enjoy the view?’

Although I knew he was British, his tan and elegant demeanour lend an air of cosmopolitan sophistication. I would not have been at all surprised if he had been Italian. He’s hovering politely and I still haven’t answered him…

Villa Rosso

The Secrets of Villa Rosso – how does a story begin?

Every time I begin a new novel I have, if I’m lucky, a paragraph hastily jotted down when I’m out walking, or in bed at night. Usually, though, it’s one single line – the idea that I know will spark an entire story.

So how do I grow that single thought into a plotline? Quite simply I let the words unfold. Usually I have one character who will have inspired that initial idea and as I expand that one-liner I begin to get a feel for who they are. Because I don’t know them, and neither does my reader, I need the character to show me who they are through their thoughts, words and emotions.

Of course, it’s never long before another person pops onto the scene and another, then another … and that’s how it begins to grow. Suddenly they are all clamouring to give me lines to take the story forward and it becomes necessary to rein them in, becoming selective. And yes, side characters do sometimes become such good friends that I want to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’ of their personal stories. But there comes a point, usually around fifty thousand words when I start to panic. I rarely know that far ahead how a story is going to end, although just occasionally I have written the end chapter before I’m very many words into the story. But I know there’s still a lot of story to be told and it’s necessary to focus, rather than amble towards the ending.

And that was the case with The Secrets of Villa Rosso. The challenge all along was never how it was going to end, it was how this story would unfold and what would be the twists and turns? That had only happened to me once before and I had to trust that the characters would steer me in the right direction.

Many writers do a lot of detailed planning, even to chapter level and they have the bare bones of the story from the start. Maybe the characters that jump into my head are just an unruly bunch who don’t like rules, or maybe it’s the bizarre way my brain works. However, I prefer to think of it as being a reader who happens to type and the characters are the real authors of the story.

I love it when I get to write from the male perspective, too, as it’s exciting being inside a male character’s head. Oh, the power to see both perspectives and it’s heady stuff. It makes my days full of surprises and a day at work is never, ever boring!

The downside for me is always when I type ‘The End’ – and, of course, editors always take that out. But for me it signifies saying goodbye to the friends who have been with me through a very personal journey and I miss them afterwards.

Writing full-time is my job, but to me writing is also my guilty pleasure. Bar of chocolate, or sit down and write another chapter? Sorry chocolate, as tempting as you are you come second!


Villa Rosso

Bristol-born Linn B Halton lives in the Forest of Dean, in the UK.

“I’m a hopeless romantic, self-confessed chocaholic, and lover of strong coffee. For me, life is about family, friends, writing … and house renovation! Oh, and the occasional glass of White Grenache…”

An Amazon UK Top 100 best-selling author with A Cottage in the Country in November 2015, Under the Stars and A Little Sugar, A Lot of Love also became best-sellers in 2016 & 2017. Linn’s novels have been short-listed in the UK’s Festival of Romance and the eFestival of Words Book Awards. Linn won the 2013 UK Festival of Romance: Innovation in Romantic Fiction award.

Linn writes chick lit, women’s contemporary fiction and psychic romance for Harper Impulse, Choc Lit and Endeavour Press.




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Villa Rosso

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CHANCES ARE by Wendy Lou Jones #excerpt #guestpost #giveaway

Wendy Lou Jones

Chances Are


Wendy Lou Jones


Wendy Lou Jones

Contemporary romantic fiction
Release Date: 27th June 2016

Luke is the man with the money, the fast car and the hot woman. There’s no way he would even think about getting serious, but a face he can’t remember soon threatens his calm.
Rebecca isn’t interested in a relationship, and definitely not with him. How could she, after all he put her through? She’s spent the last 4 years hiding away from society, a one-woman crusade for children’s road safety. Who would have thought one fateful day, it might almost be her … again.
As two worlds collide, will opposites attract?
Not if she can help it.


Close up, she was like a porcelain doll, fragile and poised. Her skin was nearly as pale as her hair. Only her lips, with their deep pomegranate flush and those denim blue eyes brought life to an otherwise frosty palette and that dazzled him.
She seemed so together now, quite a different woman from the one he had witnessed before. He tried to think of a reason to speak to her, but nothing would come to mind. She paid for her milk and butter and glanced sideways at him, so cool and detached in his presence, and then she left the shop.
Luke placed his tin on the counter and chased after her. The lady behind the till called out to him as he sprinted away, but he ignored her. He needed to speak to the woman.
He caught up with her in a matter of seconds, catching her by the elbow as she tried to walk away. The woman turned and looked daggers at him and Luke was disarmed. He held up his hands. “I’m sorry.” He took a step back. “I just wanted to apologise for the other day.”
The woman said nothing, just looked at him and Luke felt his confidence slipping.
“I … I shouldn’t have left you there on the side of the road.”
“You shouldn’t have tried to knock me down in the first place,” she shot back, before he could blink.
Luke had not been prepared for an attack. “Er. No. But you did step out in front of me.”
“Well you should have been paying more attention, shouldn’t you?”
“I should…?”
She tried to turn away.
“Look.” This was definitely not going to plan. “I just wanted to say I was sorry.”
“What for, in particular?”
The woman rolled her eyes and tried to turn away from him, but he reached for her again.
“Wait. What did you mean by that? For the other day, of course. I’m sure I apologised at the time, but … you were just a bit … vacant. You probably don’t remember.”
“I’m sorry. What I’m trying to say is I should have made sure you were okay. I had hoped we could be civil about this.” Apparently not.
“Civil is a lawsuit, Luke. Go drive your fancy car with your fancy girlfriend and leave me alone,” and she stormed away from him up the road.
Luke’s jaw hung open. Such contempt from a woman he’d barely met. But the thing that had shaken him most of all, was that she seemed to know him.





Digging for gold

The story of Finding Sarah, the first book from Nutt Hill, came about years ago. I was walking through a field at the local ploughing match when I spotted a rather handsome man dressed subtly different from the rest. A few minutes later, I saw the local vicar and his wife walk into the field and my writer’s brain thought, mmm, what if…? This story ended with a new case of unrequited love arriving on the hill.

I wrote the second book, Sun on Sundays, about the new arrival, but with no luck from publishers, after that I changed tack and wrote The Songbird and the Soldier, which ended up being my first published by Harper Impulse.

Two books later, I was thinking about what to write while I waited for edits to be returned and could not shake these tales from my heart, so I got them out, dusted them off and reread them, at which point it was obvious why they hadn’t been publishable before. I had learned so much in that time! So I set about rewriting them in my time between edits going to and fro and finally brought them into line. I then wrote a first draft of 2 more to go with them. This is number 3 and number 4 is still under edit.

Chances Are -book 3 – is the story of Tom’s brother, Luke. Tom is the hero from book 2 and mentioned in book 1. It tells the tale of the transformation brought about by finding love.

The first three have now been published, and while I work on getting the fourth sorted out, I will say only this: you may well bury your early efforts in an unmarked grave at midnight, but never forget which clod they’re under!


Wendy Lou Jones

My name is Wendy Lou Jones. I was born and raised in West Sussex, England and moved to Birmingham to study Medicine at University, where I was lucky enough to meet my husband. We now live in a little village in Herefordshire with our two grubby boys. I discovered a love of writing not long after my youngest son started school. And if you were to ask me what it was that made me make the switch, I’d tell you quite simply, that it started with a dream.



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The first 2 Nutt Hill novels – as signed paperbacks (open internationally)

Wendy Lou JonesWendy Lou Jones

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THE UNRAVELLING by Thorne Moore #guestpost #giveaway


The Unravelling


Thorne Moore



Genre: Domestic noir

Release Date: 21 July 2016

Publisher: Honno Press

From the Top Ten Bestselling Author of A Time for Silence

The Unravelling

When they were ten everybody wanted to be Serena’s friend, to find themselves one of the inner circle. But doing so meant proving your worth, and doing that often had consequences it’s not nice to think about – not even thirty-five years later.

Karen Rothwell is randomly reminded of an incident in her childhood which just as suddenly becomes an obsession. It takes her on a journey into a land of secrets and lies; it means finding that gang of girls from Marsh Green Junior School and most importantly of all finding Serena Whinn.

 Praise for Thorne Moore’s novels

‘A true page turner’–

‘The most chilling part of Thorne Moore’s skill is the way that she represents evil’ – Helen Tozer, sideline jelly








Things I learned when writing this book

I learned that I have the potential to be a really bad driver. I think I am a moderately good driver (I am too modest to put it higher than that), but my main character, Karen Rothwell, is bad. The sort of driver who’d make you slam on the brakes and take the next turn onto a different route. I found it extraordinarily easy to get inside her head and perceive such obstacles as roundabouts and motorway junctions as problems best approached with the eyes shut. So easy that I worry I might be tempted to do so, just for the hell of it.

I learned that I am old. You know old people say “I can remember everything that happened fifty years ago, but I can’t remember what I had for breakfast today.” That is me, with this book. My main character, Karen Rothwell, is my age, because I thought that would make it easier, getting the details of her childhood right. In 1965, she’s ten, going on 11, in the fourth year of junior school, just as I was. It isn’t a date I dared mess with, because a few years later, everything would have been different. This was before 1967, before Sgt Pepper, before beads and kaftans and women’s lib. The Beatles may have been a big thing, but they were still in nice smart suits.

1965 was really the tail end of the 1950s. Children hadn’t yet been liberated into jeans and T-shirts. Little girls wore cotton frocks and ankle socks in summer, long socks, kilts and cardies in winter. Little boys wore pullovers and short trousers. Everyone had scabby knees. We had little bottles of milk at school playtime and cabbage for dinner. People lived in council houses and travelled on buses. They shopped at local butchers and greengrocers and made phone calls in red phone boxes, remembering to push Button A. You could get a decent bar of chocolate for 3d, and swings were set in concrete that could break your nose, and made of proper solid wood that could knock your teeth out. None of this health and safety nonsense.

We walked to school every morning. I’m not sure even the teachers bothered to drive, although one did have a bubble car. My routes, and there were several, led through an estate that was in transition. Among the streets of council houses, prefabs were coming down to make way for tower blocks because nobody had yet realised that the British don’t do high-rise living. A motorway was being built alongside the school playing field. Underneath it all was the ghost of what had been there just a decade or two before: farmhouses and fields and woods and streams. A few massive trees lingered. There was a huge wild cherry which stood opposite my house, until continuous lopping away to make room for buses made it give up the ghost. Roads were named after farms that no longer existed. Brooks, reduced to drainage ditches, appeared and disappeared among the houses. And there was a lane, one of my routes home, unpaved, muddy and overhung with trees, just wide enough for the horse and cart that would once have used it.

Karen’s flashbacks, in the book, refer to that era and I could conjure up every detail of it, with no trouble at all. It’s all in my DNA. But much of the action is also set at the turn of this century, the Millennium or thereabouts, and that is only 16 years ago, so I should be able to remember it as well, if not better, than the 1960s, but I couldn’t. I had to research it. It’s not the events of the time that evade me. They are easy enough to recall. It’s the technology. We have the internet now. We had it then too, of course. Our houses rang with weird sci-fi dialling tones as we plugged our modems into our phone lines and waited to see if the thing would ever connect. On our new and improved Windows 98, we hastily searched for what we wanted on Yahoo, and God help us if our chosen site had pictures, because they would take forever to load, and we were worried about the phone bill. And we’d better be quick because someone else wanted to use the phone.

Not that we had that much to look at, when we were connected. There was a site called Amazon, which sold books, just books, and a new search engine had appeared, called Google, but Facebook and Twitter were not yet even gleams in the milkman’s eye. Not much point in relying on the internet until broadband was introduced. That was in 2000 but it was several years before it really caught on. Since when, it has become so essential, many of us can’t imagine life without it.

Like mobile phones. Of course people had mobile phones in 2000. Some of them, anyway, and they were no longer the huge bricks flaunted by the yuppies of the 80s. They were smaller bricks, and unless you were young and frivolous, you kept them switched off, for emergencies, for fear of running the batteries down. If you were of a certain age, (over 20) you would quiver hopelessly at the thought of texting.

Books, in 2000, came in two formats. Hardback and paperback.

Sat Navs? If you wanted to get from A to B you consulted your AA Atlas.

It can come as a shock to realise how much our personal worlds have changed in less than 20 years. It was only as I wrote The Unravelling, that I fully appreciated it. Must be getting old.

At least I do still remember what I had for breakfast this morning. Yoghurt. Or was that yesterday?

I learned that sometimes I need someone to say yes very loudly, straight at me, in order to drown out the voice in my head that keeps saying no, no, no, no. I began writing The Unravelling about 30 years ago. And stopped. I began it again about 20 years ago and stopped again. And 15 and 12 and 10 and 8. I think I have one of those early drafts still on an Amstrad word processor disc, no longer readable. An early draft of the first two or three chapters, that is, because each time I started, even though I knew who the characters would be and where they should be going, I just came to a full stop and moved on to something completely different. Then the editor of my last book asked me if I were working on anything else. I mentioned the idea of The Unravelling. She said good! Write it. So I did.




Thorne Moore was born in Luton but has lived in in the back of beyond in north Pembrokeshire for 32 years. She has degrees in History and Law, worked in a library and ran a family restaurant as well as a miniature furniture craft business, which is still in Production, but she now concentrates on writing psychological crime mysteries.


Twitter: @ThorneMoore

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NEW ENGLAND DREAMS by Pia Fenton #guestpost #excerpt #giveaway

New England

New England Dreams


Pia Fenton


New England

Genre:  YA contemporary romance (US high school setting, UK heroine)

Release Date:  25th July 2016

Book 4 of the Northbrooke High series (can be read as a standalone)

When opposites attract, can dreams come true?

Staying in New England for a few months is just what Sienna Randall needs after all the family problems she’s been dealing with at home in London. Romance is the last thing she’s expecting, so it’s a total surprise when she ends up kissing a guy she meets on the flight.

Kyle Everett is Sienna’s complete opposite –  he’s clean-cut and preppy, she has piercings and pink dreads. But he can’t resist making out with her. He is, after all, Northbrooke High’s number one player. Except Sienna’s different from other girls. He’s definitely expecting to see her again – until they’re separated by irate airline officials before he can get her number.

Then fate throws them together once more, but when Sienna turns up in Kyle’s home room, neither admits to having met before. The chemistry between them is still there though – should they let it have free rein or should the attraction stay in their dreams?


Kyle smiled and changed the subject. ‘You got any more piercings then? You know, hidden ones?’ He wiggled his eyebrows at her and it looked so stupid she couldn’t help but smile back.

‘None of your business,’ she told him.

‘Oh, so you do? Now I’m curious.’

‘I do not. And even if I did, I wouldn’t show you.’

‘Oh, yeah? Hmm. So tell me, how does it feel to kiss with snake bites?’ He was suddenly staring at her mouth intently and Sienna felt a shiver run through her. God, but he was hot. Seriously hot. And he was so close. She was very tempted to just reach over and grab him.

And why not? No one would ever know.

She shook herself mentally, but some devil made her smile again. She looked up at him from under her lashes, the way she’d seen other girls do when they were flirting. She’d never managed it because she was too shy, but for some reason, she had no trouble doing it now. ‘You tell me,’ she said, the challenge clear in her voice.

His eyes opened wide and he drew in a sharp breath. Then he grinned. ‘Okay, you’re on.’

The next thing she knew, he had bent his head slightly to the side and captured her mouth with his in a long, slow kiss that almost melted her bones. He ran his tongue over the snake bites, nipping at one playfully, then kissed her again, properly, deeply. When he stopped he brought up a hand to cup her cheek. ‘I like it,’ he whispered. ‘A lot.’

So did Sienna, but she didn’t get a chance to reply, because he started kissing her again and this time he didn’t stop. Which was just as well, since she didn’t want him to. In fact, she didn’t come to her senses until some air steward pulled Kyle off her and she realised with flaming cheeks they’d ended up lying across all four middle seats, making out thirty thousand feet up in the sky.

‘What the hell do you think you’re doing?’ the crewman hissed, looking from one to the other.

Sienna wondered the same thing. She must have lost her mind.





Have you ever …

… done something really crazy?  And then wondered afterwards what on earth you were thinking and if you’d lost your mind?  That’s what the heroine of my new YA book, New England Dreams, does.  She’s on her way to the US for some time out from family problems, when she happens to be sitting next to this really hot guy her own age.  They have zero in common – he’s clean-cut, she’s grungy with piercings – but there is plenty of attraction between them so she ends up making out with him.  And then wondering what the heck she’s done when the airline staff aren’t too happy about it!

I think we all do crazy things sometimes – being impulsive is human nature after all.  We don’t all think before we act.  And although we try to repress it, the temptation to try something just once, or to just say ‘to hell with it, I’m going for it’ is often impossible to resist.  I’m no exception and here are some of the idiotic and/or impulsive things I’ve done so far in my life:-

  • Ridden on back of a motorcycle with a guy who was driving at over 200 km/hr (that’s about 125 mph in English terms) – although it was exhilarating, I did start to get a bit scared towards the end before he listened to me and started slowing down!
  • Dived off a pier into shallow water – yeah, this was probably THE stupidest thing I’ve ever done. I didn’t check how deep the water was, just assumed that because it was the end of a pier there would be lots, but actually I was lucky I didn’t break my neck!  Ended up with a scraped nose and forehead, which made me seriously think I have a guardian angel (and I didn’t believe in those before that)
  • Tried taking snuff – the Swedish variety, which is like a huge wad of tobacco you stick inside your upper lip.   Makes you feel really sick and dizzy.  So never doing that again!
  • Tried smoking a cigar – ditto! (How can people seriously enjoy that??)
  • Kissed a stranger on an airplane – yes, confession time, that plot line came from a real life experience, but sadly for me I never saw the guy again although he did write to me twice (as he lived in Alaska and I lived in Sweden at the time, there wasn’t much chance of long-term romance)
  • Locked someone else’s door so they couldn’t get into their own house – I was only five, and was in someone’s house with my mum, and for some reason decided to lock the front door which meant the husband couldn’t get in. He stood outside shouting at me (no one else heard him or the bell) and I was too scared to open the door LOL – got told off royally when my mum found out
  • Bribed a friend’s brother to take me to prom – desperate times call for desperate measures, right? Not my finest moment, but hey, I got to go to the prom and we had fun
  • Jumped off the 10 metre diving board – I consider this crazy even though I know lots of people do it, but for someone like me who is terrified of heights, it was tantamount to insane. I had to do it for a swimming diploma I was doing, without the jump everything else I’d done would be null and void, so I did but … never again, I’m telling you!  Never!
  • Broken my little toe (the same one) twice in one week – not so much crazy as careless perhaps? But although I am a klutz, I think this counts as too stupid for words, even for me
  • Touched a hot iron to see how much it hurt – uhm, yeah, what can I say – I was, like, four years old maybe? And a bit too curious for my own good …

Okay, so those are my confessions – how about yours?  What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?  I’d love to know!


New England
‘Promote Me!’ portrait

Pia Fenton (who also writes as Christina Courtenay) is a chocoholic and confirmed couch potato, allergic to exercise of any kind (except maybe swimming). Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden so she was a bit of a mixed up kid. When she was a teenager, she moved with her family to Japan. From there she had the opportunity to travel in the Far East and other parts of the world, which was great fun. She also got to go to an American high school in Tokyo, together with kids of 138 other nationalities, and had the best time of her life!
Pia loves: reading and writing (YA obviously, but also anything historical, time slip and paranormal), dogs, genealogy, listening to rock music and doing various craft projects very badly. (It’s the trying that counts, right?)
Pia’s first YA novel New England Rocks (published by Choc Lit, Aug 2013) was short listed for The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Award for Best Romantic Young Adult novel 2014. She’s also won some awards for her adult historical books.

Pia Fenton (who also writes as Christina Courtenay) is a chocoholic and confirmed couch potato, allergic to exercise of any kind (except maybe swimming).  Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden so she was a bit of a mixed up kid. When she was a teenager, she moved with her family to Japan.  From there she had the opportunity to travel in the Far East and other parts of the world, which was great fun.  She also got to go to an American high school in Tokyo, together with kids of 138 other nationalities, and had the best time of her life!

Pia loves:  reading and writing (YA obviously, but also anything historical, time slip and paranormal), dogs, genealogy, listening to rock music and doing various craft projects very badly.  (It’s the trying that counts, right?)

Pia’s first YA novel New England Rocks (published by Choc Lit, Aug 2013) was short listed for The Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Award for Best Romantic Young Adult novel 2014.  She’s also won some awards for her adult historical books.



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THE VAULT by Karen Long #guestpost #giveaway


The Vault


Karen Long



Genre: Mystery / thriller / crime

Eleanor Raven Series: 2

VAULT: A large room or chamber used for storage of valuables, especially an underground one…

In the unrelenting heat of the Toronto summer, a fire at a land-fill site uncovers the remains of a local prostitute. But the post-mortem reveals disturbing details –the body has been preserved and is not who or what it seems.

DI Eleanor Raven is back on duty six months after barely surviving being kidnapped and tortured by a depraved serial killer. Work is her sanctuary but she’s carrying deep scars – mental as well as physical. Where do you go when the place you feel safest is also the place where you are most at risk?

As Eleanor battles her own demons, it looks as though a killer in the city is making a gruesome human collection. And Eleanor’s fight to save the last victim of the Collector becomes a battle to save herself.

Praise for the first novel in the Eleanor Raven series:

Most fictional detectives these days have to have a ‘thing’ to set them apart from the others, and Raven’s is one of the most original for a long time. The plot moves in some unexpected directions, and builds to a genuinely exciting climax. The Safe Word is an impressive, confident debut. Convincing characters and some nice twists make for a compelling, satisfying thriller, and I look forward to seeing what’s next for Eleanor Raven. Killing Time





Being a writer is one of the most wonderful jobs on the planet. I spend a day with my imagination, don’t have to deal with real world problems and can take a coffee break whenever I please. However, there are good, bad and ugly sides to everything that glistens…


As I only have one daughter left at home now and my husband works abroad for most of the year my day starts when the front door slams shut, the dogs and garden birds have been fed and watered and the biohazard that is the kitchen is tidied. I have to be very determined to keep myself on track, as there are so many domestic distractions that break my concentration. I also have to write in total silence (no music or radio) and without anyone else being in the house. If I know someone is popping in for a coffee it can make it impossible to write for the whole day. There’s no sitting in coffee shops and putting out a couple of thousand words for me, sadly!


I see the story I’m writing as a film that can only be played in my head linearly. I can rewind a couple of chapters but invariably I read from start to finish once a week and this can be very time consuming.  I really envy writers like Stephen King who have such an organised, methodical and productive approach to writing. My husband, a writer himself, frequently sends me links to pages on ‘The Rigours of Writing’ but I guess there’s just the way that works for you.


A novel always takes longer that you thought to complete. That your choice of language, character and event is frequently not as entertaining, or clear to the reader as you thought it was. That when people pay money to read what you have written they are entitled to an opinion. The most valuable lesson was given to me by a wise bird who said, ‘show don’t tell’ and that is the mantra I run with every time I write. Don’t tell a reader how they should interpret an action or judge a character. That’s their job not yours, so butt out!


I have always held to Oscar Wilde’s belief that the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. So provoking a reaction that merits comment and opinion is, in itself, rather flattering. I have also found that, after shrugging off my initial outrage, most people make very valid comments about my writing. I do believe that you have to be honest with yourself. If a comment reminds you that you had considered that question before, then go back and deal with it. By the same token, just because someone has a thought on a plot point, or character, or line of dialogue it doesn’t mean that they are right. Be flexible but believe in what you wrote. Eventually the sales will tell you if you were right.




Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years. During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing. She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for The Safe Word.

She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family. She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.

Karen is happy to correspond with readers and can be contacted through her website, where she posts regular blogs.

The Safe Word is Karen’s first novel and was an Amazon bestseller, later joined by the second in the Eleanor Raven series, The Vault. Karen is working on the third novel in the series.







All author or review enquires please contact Karen Long’s Personal Assistant J.B. Johnston –

Did you know that Eleanor Raven is also online?


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LIVING IN THE SHADOWS by Judith Barrow + Guest Post

Judith Barrow





Judith Barrow

Genre: Historical Fiction

Release Date: 16 July 2015

Publisher: Honno Welsh Women’s Press

It’s 1969 and Mary Schormann is living quietly in Wales with her ex-POW husband, Peter, and her teenage twins, Richard and Victoria.

Her niece, Linda Booth, is a nurse – following in Mary’s footsteps – and works in the maternity ward of her local hospital in Lancashire.

At the end of a long night shift, a bullying new father visits the maternity ward and brings back Linda’s darkest nightmares, her terror of being locked in. Who is this man, and why does he scare her so?

There are secrets dating back to the war that still haunt the family, and finding out what lies at their root might be the only way Linda can escape their murderous consequences.

Sequel to the acclaimed Changing Patterns and Pattern of Shadows:

Judith Barrow has not written an ordinary romance but a book that deals with important issues which are still relevant today… an excellent debut novel.
Historical Novels Review

Judith Barrow has written, with great intensity of emotions, an absorbing saga…

well-paced, gritty love story
Western Mail

An unforgettable debut novel – perfectly paced
Menna Elfyn

Barrow’s thoughtful and atmospheric novel shines a light on the shadowy corners of family life…
Lancashire Evening Post

a gripping read.
Tivyside Advertiser





My Writing Journey

The first story I can remember writing was of a teapot that fell off the table, broke its spout and died. I was eight years old. My mother said all my stories ended like that; comedic death, doom and disaster. I think my writing’s changed by now. At least I hope so!

I was born and brought up in a small village that was part of a group of villages called Saddleworth, on the edge of the Pennines. My father ruled the house. We were quite isolated and I spent much of my time reading and writing short stories and poems.

From an early age I wrote in secret. I had articles, the odd short story published in small presses and magazines. I wrote two books and grew resigned to those A4 self-addressed envelopes plopping through the letterbox with the rejection letters inside.

Then, on one of the visits to my mother in the North of England, I went to the Oldham Local History and Archive Centre to research for a third book I’d started.

And that’s when I found out about Glen Mill (the inspiration for the first of the trilogy, Pattern of Shadows. Reading about the history of it as a German POW camp in Oldham brought back a personal memory of my childhood

My mother was a winder (working on a machine that transferred the cotton off large cones onto small reels (bobbins), in order for the weavers to use to make the cloth). Well before the days of Health and Safety I would often go to wait for her to finish work on my way home from school. I remember the muffled boom of noise as I walked across the yard and the sudden clatter of so many different machines as I stepped through a small door cut into a great wooden door. I remember the rumble of the wheels as I watched men pushing great skips filled with cones alongside the winding frames, or manoeuvring trolleys carrying rolls of material. I remember the women singing and shouting above the noise, whistling for more bobbins: the colours of the cotton and cloth – so bright and intricate. But above all I remember the smell: of oil, grease – and in the storage area – the lovely smell of the new material stored in bales and the feel of the cloth against my legs when I sat on them, reading until the siren hooted, announcing the end of the shift.

When I thought about Glen Mill I wondered what kind of signal would have been used to separate parts of the day for all those men imprisoned there. I realised how different their days must have been from my memories of a mill. There would be no machinery as such, only vehicles coming and going; the sounds would be of men, only men, with a language and dialect so different from the mixture of voices I remembered. I imagined the subdued anger and resignation. The whole situation would be so different, no riot of colour, just an overall drabness. And I realised how different the smells would be – no tang of oil, grease, cotton fibres; all gone – replaced by the reek of ‘living’ smells.

The more I read about Glen Mill the more I thought about the total bleakness of it and the lives of the men there. And I knew I wanted to write about that. But I also wanted there to be hope somewhere. I wanted to imagine that something good could have come out of the situation the men were in.

And so Pattern of Shadows was written.

Things went a bit awry after that. I trawled through a list of possible agents and sent the manuscript off to a couple. At the same time I remembered an independent publisher, Honno, who’d previously published some short stories of mine and whose authors always looked to be on the same wavelength as me. So I sent a synopsis and a few chapters to them.

One agent was interested in my novel and invited me to meet her in London. She assured me that she had many contacts in the publishing world that would ‘snap her hand off for my novel. I wasn’t sure about her; I had the feeling we wouldn’t get on. But could I afford to miss the chance of having an agent? Would it give my work more credence?

I signed on the dotted line.

What a mistake!

The agent decided to negotiate a deal with a commercial editor. Having little experience about these matters, I thought it was the norm. Yes, I was that gullible. I paid up.

The manuscript came back. I read it in disbelief; if I followed all the ‘suggestions’ it would change from being a saga into romantic fiction. I like a bit of romance but it wasn’t what I’d written. The agent persuaded me to go with it.

I tried–with less and less interest. In the end I stopped. I didn’t recognise my story; I had no empathy with the characters. It wasn’t my book any more.

So I made a decision; I terminated the contract with the agent. Despite persuasive tactics from her I didn’t waiver. I’d lost faith in her.

In trepidation I emailed the editor at Honno. Luckily we parted on good terms; I’d thanked her for all her past help and encouragement. I explained what had happened and asked if she would reconsider my manuscript.

She would but no promises of acceptance.

After a week or two I had an offer of a contract. I accepted. And I’ve never looked back. Pattern of Shadows, published in 2010, was followed by the sequel, Changing Patterns and the last of the trilogy, Living in the Shadows, was published in July 2015.




Judith Barrow
Judith Barrow has lived in Pembrokeshire for thirty years. She is the author of three novels, and has published poetry and short fiction, winning several poetry competitions, as well as writing three children’s books and a play performed at the Dylan Thomas Centre. Judith grew up in the Pennines, has degrees in literature and creative writing and makes regular appearances at literary festivals.


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My thanks to Melanie Robertson-King for asking me to guest on her blog and, as importantly, for telling me how to do it. Because, although I’ve done many things sub-literary in my writing life – organised poetry festivals and book fairs, run a small press, Original Plus, and for nearly 20 years now the poetry magazine The Journal (once ‘of Contemporary Anglo-Scandinavian Poetry’); and although I’ve had many publishers of my work, 2 of which went disastrously bust while I was working as editor for them, Safkhet Publishing is the first that has suggested that I be a guest blogger. The novel by the way is Trees and Safkhet are based in Germany.


I’m based in the UK on the Cumbrian coast. Maryport describes itself as ‘By the sea near the Lakes.’ Not wholly sure how I ended up here, suffice to say that I like walking over mountains and I’ve moved about a bit. And my daughter Shelley Carmen was living in Edinburgh at the time we last moved. My usual author biog says, ‘… I was born Blackpool 1946, am now living in Maryport, Cumbria. A freelance writer, I have been a psychiatric nurse, residential social worker, milkman, plumber, laboratory analyst, groundsman, sailor, computer operator, scaffolder, gardener, painter & decorator…. working at anything, in fact, which has paid the rent, enabled me to raise my three daughters and which hasn’t got too much in the way of my writing.’ All of my daughters, and grandchildren, now live in the south, which annoyingly means I see a lot of the M6.

Here’s a picture of me on a mountain.


The currently popular singer Sam Smith by the way is a clone. One of many talented individuals, male and female, bearing my monicker. We altered singer Sam’s DNA and gave him a musical gene. Hope that clears up any confusion.

But about TreesThe initial publicity says ‘As H was for Hawk will T now be for Trees? D for Distraction? P for Platonic? S for Sam? Or Smith?’ Which I hope will give putative readers a decent clue to the book’s contents. ‘H for Hawk’ concerned itself with a reconciling of the bereaved through falconry. Trees has a different death, an adopted daughter, and the mother finding solace through helping her birth father in his attempt to reforest as much as he can of England. Consequently each chapter has throughout descriptions of trees and diagrammatic representations of trees. (A labour of love Trees has taken me years to complete.)


Although death might be the central feature of Trees what it mostly concerns itself with is the nature of family, and of those relationships beyond. Of friendships, and resentments, people we work with, of in-laws and outlaws. Of desires contained, physical capabilities and incapacities, sexual orientation, and trees.

Safkhet has set 31st October as the release date for Trees. You can read more about Trees here –

Or here –

Other of my books are featured here –

The Journal and Original Plus here –


The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan ~ GUEST POST


The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan

by Whitney Dineen


Thirty-four year old, Mimi Finnegan is the third of four daughters and in her eyes, by far, the most unremarkable. She has no singular accomplishment that can stand up to any of her sisters. And if that isn’t enough, she is the only single sibling in her family.

Mimi’s sisters decide that it’s time she gets serious about husband hunting, so they begin a campaign to find Mr. Right for her. Considering her most recent dating encounters include a night club owner who stuffs bratwurst in his pants and a WASPy trust fund baby, living happily under his mother’s thumb, Mimi is more than ready to meet THE ONE. Enter celebrated British novelist Elliot Fielding.

Sexual tension and anger heat up between the duo and it isn’t until Mimi discovers that Elliot is almost engaged to another that she realizes she is head-over-heels in love with him.

The journey will make you laugh, cry and want to pull your hair out from frustration! Mimi eventually learns that she is quite remarkable in her own right and never needed to worry that she lived in her sister’s shadows.

The Reinvention of Mimi Finnegan is the perfect laugh-out-loud, feel good book for any woman who has ever felt that she wasn’t good enough.





The Importance of Connecting With Readers on Social Media

            Once upon a time (or back in the olden days as my little girls would say) authors had about the same amount of face recognition as the person who showed up to read your water meter. Let’s face it; you were more likely to recognize the meter reader because you had more opportunity to see him/her. Writers were just faceless people who sat in their homes in dirty pajamas, dodging their forty-seven cats and drinking gin, all the while weaving stories for your entertainment.

            Happily, this is no longer so. Yes, some authors may still be drunk in dirty jammies, but that’s to be expected. Social media has allowed us the ability to interact with a myriad of folks we would have otherwise have never met. The good news is I no longer have to stalk Fannie Flagg and Marian Keyes through more nefarious means, now I can do it right on Facebook. Okay fine, I never really stalked them but I wanted too. I always craved more after reading one of their books and felt this burning desire to ask a million questions about their process. Now I can gush ‘til my heart’s content and so far neither has unfriended me.

            The internet allows authors to pull their fans into their world and communicate with them in a more personal way. I love it! As a reader, I have been able to share my adoration with authors I adore and as a writer I‘ve been able to bask in the glow of praise and affection (please feel free to follow me on Facebook so you can feed my pathetic author ego) from my fans. Note I look WAY better on Facebook than I do in real life. That’s another thing to love about social media! You are more than welcome to follow me on Twitter but be warned, I’m more twit than tweeter. Proceed at your own risk.

            I love when people write to me and tell me how much they relate to my heroines. That’s what it’s about folks, making connections. Connecting with your reader base is a great way to know what people want to read and why.

            I have watched how many successful authors deal with their public and can tell you Jane Green and Sophie Kinsella are successful for a reason. In addition to being darn good writers, they engage with their readers. They are the smart ones who realize they’re where they are because of their fans.

            I’m lucky enough to be an author in an era when I can cyber chat with folks who’ve taken the time to read my books. I get to hear why they like certain characters and what about the stories speaks to them. For this reason, I consider social media a golden resource. Knowing what my audience enjoys reading helps me deliver that very thing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some cats to brush and laundry to do.




While attending the University of Illinois in Chicago, Whitney Dineen was discovered by a local modeling agent and began an unexpected career as a plus-size Ford model. She modeled in New York City before moving to Los Angeles with her husband. When she wasn’t modeling, she was in the kitchen, baking delights to share with friends. Soon, her friends began asking her to send baskets of her wonderful candies and cookies to business associates, agents and production studios. Word spread like wildfire, and the rest, as they say, is history. Whitney’s sensational creations are still in great demand by her loyal celebrity clientele ( During “The Hollywood Years,” Whitney was bitten by the writing bug and started creating characters that are inspired by strong women with a great sense of humor. In addition to her love of chick-lit, Whitney has also written a series of adventure books for middle readers The first of which, Wilhelmina and the Willamette Wig Factory is available now.  Whitney and her husband, Jimmy, have relocated to the beautiful Pacific Northwest to raise their children, chickens and organic vegetables.

Her first rom com, She Sins at Midnight recently won 2015 Reader’s Favorite silver medal in chick-lit and Mimi was #1 or #2 in humor satire on Amazon for over 2 weeks.






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SUMMER MOVED ON by Joanna Lambert plus Guest Post






After a long-buried secret tears her family apart, Jess Hayden moves to the South Devon village of Lynbrook to live with her uncle.   Rufus owns the village pub, The Black Bull, and having visited before, Jess knows the villagers well…especially one of them.

Talún Hansen has a reputation, making him the kind of man no decent girl should get involved with. Jess, however, has been under his spell from the moment they first met. Although they always seem to bring out the worst in each other, there is no denying the attraction that simmers between them – an attraction Jess knows she needs to keep under control after repeated warnings from her uncle.

As she settles into village life she begins to learn more about this wild, dark-haired gypsy with the compelling eyes, and realises their lives hold many similarities. Despite her uncle’s warnings, she begins to spend time with him. For Jess, the coming summer holds passion; for Talún the hope that he has at last found someone who truly cares for him.

But as autumn approaches, a dark shadow from Jess’s past returns, bringing far-reaching and unwanted changes for both of them.





Once you’ve worked out how you’re going to kick start your latest WIP the next important thing is to look at your cast in more detail: to put flesh on bones, give them personalities and a background. I usually create a bio for each character central to my story, giving them a real identity –physical features, education, and a personal history – so I’m able to write as if I actually know them.

As significant as all these details are, however, it’s what the individual will come to represent in the book that is as important. One of the central characters in many romance novels is the antagonist – the villain. This is the person who, for whatever reason, causes trouble and puts obstacles in the way of our two would-be lovers. If he/she weren’t around then life would be plain sailing and the story would be over before it had a chance to begin.

I’m a prolific reader as well as a writer with romance definitely one of my favourite categories. It’s a fairly broad genre which can cover many different aspects of relationships. It can be light-hearted or serious and the settings for the stories can be historical, futuristic or contemporary. For me, however, romance is only one side of the coin. I also enjoy exploring relationships and how peoples’ actions can impact on others and change things, either for good or bad. My books are therefore a blend of romance and drama and because of this I find the villain a very powerful character. They drive the conflict, keeping the reader constantly turning the page to find out what happens next.

In my trilogy – When Tomorrow Comes, Love Lies and Promises and The Ghost of You and Metrouble came in the form of central character Ella’s mother Melissa (Mel). She was glamorous, vain and totally self-absorbed. She made Ella’s life an absolute misery, constantly interfering in her love life in her search for the ‘right kind’ of husband for her daughter. None of this was for Ella’s benefit, of course, it was all about promoting Mel’s social ambitions.

Book four – Between Today and Yesterday – caught up with the same characters in the late 1980s. This time, Marcie Maguire, a famous American diva and someone from Ella’s husband Matt’s past returned. She was looking for revenge after losing him to Ella many years before. By the fifth and last book of the series – The Other Side of Morning – Matt and Ella had settled down to a peaceful life together and it was the turn of the next generation. This story focussed on their niece Charlotte. In love with handsome Italian restaurateur Marco D’Alessandro, she fell foul of his stepmother Thérèse who had plans to marry her stepson off to a young Chianti heiress in order to expand the family’s business empire.

In my latest book – Summer Moved On we meet Lily, the newest female to take on the role of the woman everyone loves to hate. She is twenty years old; much younger than her three contemporaries in my other books, but just as destructive. Her character was influenced by a novel I read back in 1998 called ‘Concerning Lily’ by Sally Brampton. In it, we are introduced to Lily Clifton, a young woman who manages to cause irreparable damage to the lives of three couples who befriend her. The Lily in Summer Moved On has a lot of similarities to her namesake. She lacks a conscience and is totally focussed on taking what she wants and causing trouble, especially for the main character, Jess.

Of course, we haven’t seen the last of Lily because I’ve a sequel to write. Watercolours in the Rain will see her back again as we take up the story six years after the first book ends. What sort of problems will she be causing? Well, that’s still very much under wraps at the moment. All I can say is her behaviour will be as controversial as it has been in Summer Moved On! Watch this space…

About Joanna Lambert



Jo Lambert was born and brought up in rural Wiltshire in a small village on the edge of Salisbury Plain. She has spent most of her working life in Senior PA or Admin Management roles both in the private and public sectors. Her love of reading soon spilled over into writing and her first novel When Tomorrow Comes was published in 2009. Four other books – Love, Lies and Promises, The Ghost of You and Me, Between Today and Yesterday and The Other Side of Morning followed. They formed a series following the lives and loves of four Somerset families.

Jo lives on the eastern side of the Georgian city of Bath with her husband, one small grey feline called Mollie and a forty eight year old white MG Midget called Bridget. She loves travel, red wine, rock music and cooking for friends.

Summer Moved On, her sixth novel, is the first part of a two book love story set in South Devon.



twitter: @jolambertwriter








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