Friday Night Drinks with…Lynne Shelby

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As we continue with our social distancing IRL, what better way to spend a Friday evening that with virtual drinks with an author. Tonight, for Friday Night Drinks, I am joined by author and fellow RNA member….Lynne Shelby.

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Lynne, welcome to my virtual bar and thank you for joining me this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

 I’m drinking cold white wine.

If we weren’t here drinking in cyberspace tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’d be taking you to see a musical in London’s West End. My favourite night out is to see a musical or a play, and we could enjoy a drink in the theatre bar in the interval!     

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I love musicals! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’d invite Jane Austen for her witty conversation, and Shakespeare because I’d be interested to know what he thought of modern theatre.

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So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

At the moment, I’m looking forward to the publication of my latest novel, The Summer of Taking Chances. The book is set in a fictional seaside village on the Sussex coast, based on a village where I used to spend holidays as a child and which I still visit every year, and was very much inspired by the location. I hope readers enjoy reading the story as much as I enjoyed writing it.

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What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment since I started writing was holding a paperback copy of my debut novel, French Kissing, in my hand for the first time. There have been many exciting moments since then, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget. My biggest challenge has been to know when to stop editing a manuscript. Usually, I realize that when I’ve changed ‘a’ to ‘the’ and back again, it’s time to send a story out into the world. 

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What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I would love one of my novels to be made into a film. 

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m working on a contemporary romance set on a Greek island. I’ve been lucky enough to visit Greece several times, and it’s been wonderful to go there again in my imagination. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

Like you, I love travelling, and it’s really hard to choose a favourite out of the wonderful places I’ve visited. But one place everyone should visit is Paris – it’s such a romantic city. Top of my bucket list to visit next is Japan. 

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I not at all athletic, but I can ride a horse.

I love to ride too, we have two ponies at home at the moment. Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

I’d give you my favourite book of all time The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald. I first read it when I was seventeen, and I’ve re-read it many times since.

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Invited to an extravagantly lavish party in a Long Island mansion, Nick Carraway, a young bachelor who has just settled in the neighbouring cottage, is intrigued by the mysterious host, Jay Gatsby, a flamboyant but reserved self-made man with murky business interests and a shadowy past.

As the two men strike up an unlikely friendship, details of Gatsby’s impossible love for a married woman emerge, until events spiral into tragedy.

Regarded as Fitzgerald’s masterpiece and one of the greatest novels of American literature, The Great Gatsby is a vivid chronicle of the excesses and decadence of the ‘Jazz Age’, as well as a timeless cautionary critique of the American dream.

I love that book. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

Drinking a glass of water for every glass of wine usually works for me! If it doesn’t, my go-to cure is toast and marmite – comfort food!

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Ideally, I’ll be spending the rest of the weekend writing and reading – hopefully in my garden, if the weather is good – and having Sunday lunch with my family.

Sounds delightful. Lynne, thank you so much for joining me, it has been a delight to chat to you. Good luck with the new book.

Lynne’s latest novel, The Summer of Taking Chances, will be published on 4 June and you can buy a copy here.

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It’s been ten years since Emma Stevens last laid eyes on Jake Murray. When he left the small seaside village of South Quay to chase the limelight, Emma’s dreams left with him.

Now Emma is content living a quiet and uneventful life in South Quay. It’s far from the life she imagined, but at least her job at the local hotel has helped heal her broken heart.

But when Jake returns home for the summer to escape the spotlight, Emma’s feelings quickly come flooding back. There’s clearly a connection between them, but Jake has damaged her heart once already – will she ever be able to give him a second chance?

Lynne Shelby writes contemporary women’s fiction/romance. Her debut novel, ‘French Kissing’ won the Accent Press and Woman magazine Writing Competition. She has done a variety of jobs from stable girl to child actor’s chaperone to legal administrator, but now writes full time.

When not writing or reading, Lynne can usually be found at the theatre or exploring a foreign city – Paris, New York, Rome, Copenhagen, Seattle, Reykjavik – writer’s notebook, camera and sketchbook in hand. She lives in London with her husband, and has three adult children who live nearby.

You can find out more about Lynne and her writing on her website, FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Next week, I will be having drinks with blogger and blog tour organiser, Emma Welton, from damp pebbles, so do make sure you join us.

Blogging in a Time of Coronavirus & a severe case of Can’tBeArsed-itis

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Hi guys. Hope everyone is keeping well and staying safe, whatever the situation is where you are. What a strange time we are living through.

I know the blog has been really quiet lately and I can only apologise. It’s not just been the blog either. All my social media, participation in Facebook groups, WhatsApp chats, online friends and family meets – I haven’t really been doing any of it. Truth is, I’ve been suffering for the last month from a severe case of Can’tBeArsed-itis.

It hasn’t been quite as bad as the photo above suggests. I haven’t been laying motionless face down on the sofa (with my shoes on? Who does that? What are we, savages?). I’ve actually been really busy. I’ve just been doing it all within the confines of my home and garden.

When lockdown first started, I was like everyone else. Chatting with friends and family on Zoom, probably more than I did pre-quarantine. Taking part in loads of online challenges and chats. Blogging and Instagramming up a storm. Then I had a little accident and gave myself quite a severe burn on my hand which necessitated a trip to A&E late one Friday night. (The absolute last place I wanted to go at the height of a pandemic and it was as awful as I expected. If anything convinced me how completely unlike normal life is, it was that trip to A&E on a Friday night. It was an eerie, zombie-apocalypse-movie-like experience.) As a result, my left hand was completely bandaged for a week and I had to type one-handed, which brought blogging and writing to a grinding halt and, even as I gradually got the use of it back, my mojo seemed to have disappeared.

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Back in February, I took the decision to cut right back on blog tours for the spring and summer to try and get through my NetGalley backlog, so luckily I had few commitments that needed meeting and I could embrace my lack of enthusiasm for blogging for a while. (I wonder now if I had some weird premonition. I also wound up my travel business in Autumn 2018 because I had a bad feeling about where the industry was headed, and I’ve never been so glad about a decision in my life now. Spooky!) Instead, I have been focused solely on myself and my daughters and our life at home.

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I’ve been quite lucky on the homeschooling front as my daughters’ school are providing real time lessons for them as per their normal timetables via Google Classroom. However, this has still necessitated constant interaction, especially for my 12-year-old who is very gregarious, is missing her school friends desperately, and has co-opted me into the role of new best friend. For someone who is used to working from home and spending many hours by themselves every day, being on constant call is mentally draining. Honestly, I always had a lot of respect for teachers (my sister is one) but now my admiration knows no bounds. The strain is exacerbated by the fact of being a single parent, solely responsible for all of this as well as running the house and all the attendant tasks that go with it (oh, the endless dishwasher emptying and re-stacking…). After spending hours explaining the difference between direct and representative democracy, analysing Beatrice’s role as a woman in ‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ timing circuit training exercises and playing netball for PE lessons, searching for photos of the friezes on Trajan’s Arch, dissecting the contrast between socialist and capitalist viewpoints in ‘An Inspector Calls’ (which I had to read first), to be honest, I’ve had little brain space left for any intelligent commentary on the books I’ve been reading. It’s also almost impossible to concentrate on anything when you know there is a strong possibility of being interrupted any second. (My daughter required my help three times just during the course of typing this blog post.) To all you parents who are doing all of this whilst trying to hold down your normal full-time job in this abnormal environment as well, I salute you, I have no idea how you are doing it.

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Instead, the girls and I have been doing lots of fun stuff together. Playing badminton and giant Jenga in the garden. Walking our dog in the fields behind our house. Baking up a storm, making our own pizzas, having cooking lessons. Building Hogwarts Castle from Lego. Doing jigsaws. Sharing TV shows we love. I’ve been introduced to Riverdale and Brooklyn 99 and my daughters are now being spoonfed Buffy the Vampire Slayer from the beginning. It’s been great fun spending proper, quality time with my girls. They are growing up so fast, savouring this time with them is something I will remember as a positive once this is over.

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Basically, over the last month, I’ve pulled my head and tail into my shell like a turtle and shut off the outside world. I guess it’s been a form of self-preservation. The constant negative news, combined with missing family and friends, was dragging me down so I withdrew from it all. And I don’t think I’m the only one. I saw on Twitter some other bloggers discussing the fact that their page views and follower numbers were up, but interactions on the blog were down. I think maybe people are looking for content to consume while they are stuck at home, but the constant need to interact in the virtual world has become draining. I read a fascinating article about why this may be the other day. It suggested that it just reminds us of what we are missing in real life, a momento mori of the lives we had before which are not going to be the same again for a long while. This certainly resonated with me.

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Anyway, I now have a massive backlog of reviews to do, so I’m making a concerted effort to get out of this funk and back into the real world. But for anyone who just doesn’t feel like blogging at the moment, don’t beat yourself up. The world is topsy turvy and we all need to do what we gotta do to stay sane and get through. We’re all adjusting to our new normal, and are doing the best we can. And, if all else fails, there’s always Buffy.

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Take care and stay safe.

Friday Night Drinks….with N. J. Simmonds

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I am delighted to welcome to the blog for Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow Fiction Cafe Writer and young adult author…..N. J. Simmonds.

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Hi Natalie and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

A glass of 2018 Merlot. It’s my Friday night treat. Normally I drink just water or orange squash!

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I’m half-Spanish and I spend my summers in my house in the south of Spain. So I would take you to my favourite beach bar where we’d eat paella and drink mojitos as the sun set…then dance all night!

Oh, if only. We are all dreaming of travelling to sunshine-y places at the moment! If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’m obsessed with Alicia Keys – she’s so talented and generous, and looks like a lot of fun. I’d invite her and probably my late grandad. He loved a drink and he’d probably ask her lots of amusingly inappropriate questions. I do miss him.

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So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

This has been such a crazy year for everyone that I keep forgetting how many exciting things I have going on. My second book Son of Secrets (the sequel to The Path Keeper) is out 28th May and I can’t wait. Then June and August my two-part Manga story Out Of The Darkness is out with Big Bang! Manga, and in September I’m launching an indie paranormal series…but that hasn’t been officially announced yet!

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What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

I started writing fiction professionally in 2016, and since then my proudest moment was finding a publisher for seeing The Path Keeper in book shops. I remember sitting in a London Waterstones for my first ever signing with a queue out of the door feeling like it was all a dream!

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What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

My biggest ambition is to write and direct a screen adaptation of one of my books or series. In September I plan to start an MA in film (if I’m accepted) where I’ll be studying scriptwriting. I can’t think of anything better than seeing my characters Zac and Ella in an HBO series or on Netflix! 

That would be great, I’d watch it! What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’ve just finished a duology historical fantasy set during the Great Fire of London. The book is with a bunch of agents right now, so fingers crossed it makes it to bookshelves. I also have two co-writing projects: one is an MG spooky adventure set in the Amazon, and the other is a (very adults) indie project that’s a mix of a paranormal Veronica Mars and a European True Blood. It’s corny and horny and the most fun I’ve ever had while writing! I have a very varied To Do list this year, for sure.

Wow, that is quite a lo of different writing strings to your bow. I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I’ve been to some breathtaking destinations in my time – from Russia and Bali, to Cambodia and Morocco. But my favourite place has to be Australia. I spent a year living, working and travelling around the country. And the best souvenir I brought back? My husband! He’s also from the UK and we met backpacking.

My bucket list place to visit is South and Central America. I am desperate to see Machu Picchu in Peru, take part in the Rio carnival in Brazil, enjoy a great glass of wine in Argentina and go even further up to Mexico and Cuba.

I also want to visit Salem and New Orleans in the US – for obvious historically spooky reasons.

Peru & Brazil are also on my list. I’ve been lucky enough to visit both Salem & New Orleans and can highly recommend! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

Well everyone knows that I write speculative fiction with plenty of esoteric themes and past-life happenings, but not many people know I’m a qualified Reiki healer and a certified colour therapist. I have also been regressed to three of my past lives, some of which inspired my ‘The Indigo Chronicles’ series (two of Ella’s past lives in SON OF SECRETS were based on my own readings).

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

The Time Traveler’s Wife by  Audrey Niffenegger is one of my favourite books and was a huge influence on my ‘The Indigo Chronicles’ series. The book is so , yet still unsettling and raw. 

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This is the extraordinary love story of Clare and Henry who met when Clare was six and Henry was thirty-six, and were married when Clare was twenty-two and Henry thirty.

Impossible but true, because Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into his past or future.

In the face of this force they can neither prevent nor control, Henry and Clare’s struggle to lead normal lives is both intensely moving and entirely unforgettable.

This is also one of my favourites, such a great book. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

If I’m out drinking with friends until very late, I stick to one type of drink and swap to water at midnight. And never ever do shots! If I’m hungover the next day, then a fruit smoothie and a big English fry up with a walk in the fresh air afterwards sorts me right out.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I would start with lie-in, reading and chilling, then a big fancy brunch. Then I’d spend the rest of the day with friends and family somewhere hot and sunny by the sea or having a BBQ in the garden. Then the evening watching a great movie with my husband, with the kids in bed, and a glass of wine and some peanut M&Ms to hand.

Sounds perfect. Natalie, thank you so much for coming on the blog this evening, it’s been a blast.

Son of Secrets, Natalie’s new book and the second novel in the Indigo Chronicles series is out on 28 May and you can buy a copy here.

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In a fight against destiny – who will win?

Ella has been waiting for Zac for three years. She’s convinced he’ll return for her, but fate has other plans. When Josh is thrown back into her life, Ella has a choice: step back on to her rightful path, or wait for the one who dared her to rebel.

But Ella’s not the only one missing Zac. Luci has been searching for her blue-eyed boy over two millennia and will stop at nothing to get him back. Even if that means hunting down the only girl he ever loved.

From Tuscany 5BC to 17th century witch hunts, Ella, Zac, Luci and Sebastian’s lives have been forever intertwined. The time has finally come to complete the circle.

I will be reviewing Son of Secrets in a couple of weeks time, so watch out for that coming soon.

N. J Simmonds began her career in glossy magazines and marketing, before becoming a freelance writer and consultant. She now fills her days writing books about strong women, magic and adventure. She is the co-founder of the online magazine The Glass House Girls and has since contributed to many publications.

Originally from North London, with Spanish parentage, N. J. Simmonds currently lives in the Netherlands with her husband and two daughters.

You can find out more about Natalie and her work on her website and via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Next week I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by author, Lynne Shelby.

Blog Tour: Dead Wrong by Noelle Holten #BookReview

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Three missing women running out of time…

They were abducted years ago. Notorious serial killer Bill Raven admitted to killing them and was sentenced to life.

The case was closed – at least DC Maggie Jamieson thought it was…

But now one of them has been found, dismembered and dumped in a bin bag in town.

Forensics reveal that she died just two days ago, when Raven was behind bars, so Maggie has a second killer to find.

Because even if the other missing women are still alive, one thing’s for certain: they don’t have long left to live…

I really loved Noelle’s debut novel, Dead Inside, last year so I am delighted to be taking part in the blog tour today for the second book in the Maggie Jamieson series, Dead Wrong. My thanks to Sarah Hardy of Books On The Bright Side Publicity for inviting me on to the tour and to the publisher for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

Which part of the intriguing blurb for this book would not make you want to pick this book up? A series of murders that has been solved by a confession from the killer, but then body parts of the alleged victims start turning up years later, revealing they’ve only just been killed, AFTER the killer is behind bars? Sign me up!

Maggie is now back with her original squad, after her secondment to the Domestic Violence unit in book one, and she is immediately thrust under the spotlight because she was responsible for putting the original killer away in what now looks like a miscarriage of justice. What an amazing preface for ramping up the tension for the protagonist and making the investigation personal for Maggie from the off. It also raises all kinds of queries as to whether she is being suitably dispassionate about the new investigation or is making bad decisions based on saving her own reputation. It is a clever idea and really well executed.

The accused serial killer, Bill Raven, is a great nemesis for Maggie in this novel. Aside from being an alleged murderer, he is just s deeply unpleasant man, smug and antagonistic, and we, the reader, loathe him from the beginning, regardless of whether he actually committed the crimes or not, which puts us firmly in Maggie’s corner even when she is making unwise decisions. The pace of the book is frenetic, we race through it to find out what is going on in this baffling case and can’t wait to get to the conclusion but when we go OMG! What is happening? You can’t leave it like that! I need Book 3 now, I tell you!

One of the main strengths of Noelle’s books, which is clearly present here, is the way she shows the involvement in an investigation of many different people from different specialisations within criminal justice to bring a case to a conclusion. Too many crime novels have murders being solved start to finish by one or two individuals, with everybody else a faceless sidetone. This is obviously not the way things work and, the fact Noelle has worked in this world and understands the importance of everyone in the process, not just the lead officers, shines through and gives the story a real ring of authenticity, even though it is clearly a piece of entertaining fiction.

A great, pacy and gripping crime thriller that will keep you hooked from beginning to end. Can’t wait for the next one.

Dead Wrong is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do follow the rest of the fantastic blogs taking part in the tour as detailed below:

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About the Author

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Noelle Holten is an award-winning blogger at www.crimebookjunkie.co.uk. She is the PR & Social Media Manager for Bookouture, a leading digital publisher in the UK, and was a regular reviewer on the Two Crime Writers and a Microphone podcast. Noelle worked as a Senior Probation Officer for eighteen years, covering a variety of cases including those involving serious domestic abuse. She has three Hons BA’s – Philosophy, Sociology (Crime & Deviance) and Community Justice – and a Masters in Criminology. Noelle’s hobbies include reading, attending as many book festivals as she can afford and sharing the booklove via her blog.
Dead Inside is her debut novel with One More Chapter/Harper Collins UK and the start of a new series featuring DC Maggie Jamieson.

Connect with Noelle:

Website: https://crimebookjunkie.co.uk

Facebook: Noelle Holten Author

Twitter: @nholten40

Instagram: @crimebookjunkie

Friday Night Drinks with … Sue Moorcroft

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I am delighted to be welcoming to Friday Night Drinks tonight, fellow RNA member and one of my favourite authors of fun, escapist, romantic fiction… Sue Moorcroft.

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Sue, I am so thrilled to have you on the blog for drinks this evening, thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

Rosé. I like white wine as well but I have rosé left from Christmas.

You are very restrained! If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

My local lounge. It was Northamptonshire’s first electric light theatre and now it’s one of those lounges that’s a mixture of industrial, bare brick and opulent light shades. I like their steak and their chocolate brownies are even better. Welcome to The Kino!

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If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

Damon Hill, F1 driver, and Nevil Shute, author. I’m a huge F1 fan and loved watching Damon’s career take shape. Nevil Shute, though his work’s ‘of its time’, taught me what a sweeping love story should be. I’m listening to a few of them in audio now and enjoying them all over again.

I love Nevil Shute. A Town Like Alice is one of my Desert Island Books and I’ll be re-reading and reviewing it for that blog feature later this year. So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

A Christmas Wish will come out later this year. I’ve sent the first draft in and any moment now I’ll be working on the edits. The schedule tends to go: structural edits (big stuff), line edit (small stuff), copy edit (minutiae) then proof reading (mistakes). Sometimes I’m lucky enough to have the first two rounds of edits in one, which is a great time saver. I write two books a year so the writing and editing tend to overlap and I have no idea when I actually started it. It involved a wonderful research trip to Sweden, though, at the invitation of friend and fellow author Christina Courtenay and her mum.

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What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest moment occurred recently when A Summer to Remember won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020. (see above photo). The awards took place in a glitzy London hotel and I’m incredibly lucky that it was just before Covid-19 social distancing began so it wasn’t cancelled. My biggest challenge was when a past agent telephoned to say my latest book wasn’t good enough and she couldn’t represent it. It was the only time writing has made me cry. Luckily, I have the personality type that made me write a better book rather than stop writing.

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What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!

I’d like to be a topseller with a huge film deal. I’m a bestseller now and used to think that was my ambition. Then I saw the word ‘topseller’ attached to authors who are household names and millionaires and I sharpened my ambitions.

It’s always good to push yourself with new ambitions. What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I want to get on with planning my summer 2020 book! It’s an idea about identity that has been knocking on my head for a while. 

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

My favourite place is Malta. I was brought up there for several years, my new book, Summer on a Sunny Island is set there, and I love it. On the top of my bucket list is Australia, which has always fascinated me, with a generous stopover in Singapore, where my parents met and married.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I’ve answered this question a few times so I’m not sure I have any secrets left. One less-known detail I’m proud of is that when my kids were in primary school I led a campaign for a security fence after one of my kids was biffed in the face by a senior kid who wandered into their playground without hindrance. Twenty-plus years later, the fence is still there, giving children security.

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

My big passion too! Jules Wake’s From Rome with Love. Or anything written by Jules or Julie Caplin, Jules’s alter ego.

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Romance is the last thing on Lisa’s mind when she finds herself staying in a beautiful apartment with her childhood-friend-turned-arch-enemy Will Ryan…no matter how hot he is!

Lisa’s got more important things to focus on, like hunting down her estranged father. Except when her search falls at the first hurdle, Will doesn’t just help her get back on track, he also shares the romantic sights – and exquisite tastes – of Italy and Lisa starts to wonder if it’s not just Rome seducing her.

Only, as Lisa and Will dig into the past, neither of them is prepared for the long-buried secrets they reveal. Secrets that will turn both their world’s upside down …

I love Jules’s books too (actually, I just love Jules, her writing and in person!). So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

The only failsafe I know is ‘don’t drink alcohol’. I don’t drink that much now. My body has taken against it! It has made me appreciate alcohol-free beer.

After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

At the coast in perfect, hot weather, with my family.

Sue, thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been an absolute pleasure. I hope we can meet up in person soon at the next RNA event when all of this madness is over! Good luck with your new books this year, I look forward to reading them, as ever.

Sue’s latest book, Summer on a Sunny Island,  is out now and you can buy a copy here.

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When Rosa Hammond splits up from her partner Marcus, her Mum Dory suggests a summer in Malta. Not one to sit back and watch her daughter be unhappy, Dory introduces Rosa to Zach, in the hope that romance will bloom under the summer sun. But Rosa’s determined not to be swayed by a handsome man – she’s in Malta to work, after all.

Zach, meanwhile, is a magnet for trouble and is dealing with a fair few problems of his own. Neither Rosa or Zach are ready for love – but does fate have other ideas? And after a summer in paradise, will Rosa ever want to leave?

Sue Moorcroft is a Sunday Times and international bestselling author and has reached the coveted #1 spot on Amazon Kindle. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Sue’s uplifting novels of love and life are currently released by publishing giant HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by an array of publishers in other countries.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.

You can find out more about Sue and her fabulous books via her websiteFacebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Next week I will be having Friday Night Drinks with author, N. J. Simmonds, so do pop back then and join us.

Saturday Night Drinks with… Christina Hoag

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This should have been taking place last Friday but, due to unforeseen circumstances, had to be postponed so I am socialising two nights on the trot and I am delighted to welcome to this special edition of Saturday Night Drinks, author…..Christina Hoag.

Christina Hoag Author Headshot

Hi Christina. So sorry for having to delay our evening, thank you for joining me on a Saturday. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thanks, Julie. I’ll have a glass of sauvignon blanc from New Zealand, my favourite wine. I may be a little biased as I was born there but I do love the wine.

If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?

I live in Santa Monica, which is right on the coast of California near Los Angeles, so I’d take you to the Hotel Shangri La, which has a rooftop bar with a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean. We’d go for happy hour to see the sunset.

Sunset Santa Monica

That looks beautiful, I will imagine being there now. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?

I’m a bit of a Shakespeare nut so I’d love to invite the Bard and ask him about his inspiration and writing process. I’d also bring along Margaret Mead, the anthropologist who studied human behavior: how much is innate and how much is socially induced. I think she’d be fascinating.

So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. What have you got going on? How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I had a bunch of exciting things lined up, including appearances at book and literary festivals, but thanks to Covid-19, but they’ve all been cancelled. I was also awarded a writers’ residency on Jersey for a week but that had to be cancelled as well. I’m hoping to do the residency later in the autumn, and one of the book festivals is supposed to take place in October so crossing fingers they’re not lost altogether. In the meantime, I’m trying to stay on track with my writing and building readership.

It is very difficult in present circumstances when everything seems to be on pause, let’s hope life can resume as near to normal as possible soon. What has been your proudest moment since you started writing/blogging and what has been your biggest challenge?

I had two literary agents on my novel Skin of Tattoos (different versions) so seeing my manuscript submitted to top New York publishers and getting praise from their editors led to some over-the-moon moments. (Despite the praise, they all passed on my book, which I finally got published through a small press.)

My biggest challenge was knowing what to write after I finished my two novels. I really floundered because now I knew how unbelievably hard it is to get readers, sell a book, etc. and that really daunted me. I just didn’t know what to write.

What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, it’s just us talking after all!

I’d love to have a book adapted either for film or TV and be involved in writing/producing that. I’d really to love to win an Oscar, have a bestseller or a big literary award. (You said ambitious!) 

What are you currently working on that you are really excited about?

I’m working on a standalone mystery novel which involves a true crime podcast and a young woman coming to terms with her past. I’m still on the first draft but it’s coming along really well. I feel the best about this than anything I’ve tried since my books were published in 2016.

I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?

I love to travel, too. I’ve been to more than 70 countries. Some that are high on my list are Mongolia, Tibet, India and Greece. I love going to places that are exotic or remote or both! I also like making what I call “literary pilgrimages,” visiting places where famous writers lived or worked. That’s always fun.

That is impressive, I am jealous! Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself that people might not know about you.

I’ve lived in 10 countries! I grew up in seven countries due to my dad’s job as a mining engineer (New Zealand, Fiji, Sweden, UK, Nigeria, Australia and USA) and lived in three others as an adult (Spain, Guatemala, Venezuela).

Christina Hoag being carried. LeavingLagosFeb1966 with Clara

Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?

I can only choose one? Hmmm. That’s tough. Well, as far as contemporary reads, I absolutely loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I read it for my book club. It was so well written, and I just loved the quirky, weird Eleanor. I really felt for her. Brilliant book.

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Eleanor Oliphant has learned how to survive – but not how to live

Eleanor Oliphant leads a simple life. She wears the same clothes to work every day, eats the same meal deal for lunch every day and buys the same two bottles of vodka to drink every weekend.

Eleanor Oliphant is happy. Nothing is missing from her carefully timetabled life. Except, sometimes, everything.

One simple act of kindness is about to shatter the walls Eleanor has built around herself. Now she must learn how to navigate the world that everyone else seems to take for granted – while searching for the courage to face the dark corners she’s avoided all her life.

Change can be good. Change can be bad. But surely any change is better than…. fine?

I loved this book too. So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?

I drink a ton of water before going to bed and take aspirin to try to ward off waking up with a headache. The water is really key!

I absolutely agree! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

I’d spend the next day lounging by a pool somewhere sunny and doing nothing but reading and drinking tropical fruit drinks with little umbrellas in them!

Christine, thank you so much for taking the trouble to chat with me, this has been fascinating and well worth waiting for!

Christina’s literary novel, Skin of Tattoos and her YA novel, Girl on the Brink are both out now and you can buy them by following the links.

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The summer before senior year, 17-year-old Chloe starts an internship as a reporter at a local newspaper. While on assignment, she meets Kieran, a quirky aspiring actor. Chloe becomes smitten with Kieran’s charisma and his ability to soothe her soul, torn over her parents’ impending divorce.

But as their bond deepens, Kieran becomes smothering and flies into terrifying rages. He confides in Chloe that he suffered a traumatic childhood, and Chloe is moved to help him. If only he could be healed, she thinks, their relationship would be perfect. But her efforts backfire and Kieran becomes violent. Chloe breaks up with him, but Kieran pursues her relentlessly to make up.

Chloe must make the heartrending choice between saving herself or saving Kieran, until Kieran’s mission of remorse turns into a quest for revenge.

Christina Hoag is a novelist and journalist based in Los Angeles, California.
She is the author of literary noir-thriller Skin of Tattoos (Martin Brown, 2016) and YA romantic thriller Girl on the Brink (Fire and Ice YA, 2016). She also writes non-fiction. She co-authored “Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence,” (Turner Publishing, 2014) a groundbreaking book on gang intervention.

Christina was born in New Zealand of Kiwi and British parentage, and at the age of six, won a prize for “writing interesting stories.” That’s what she’s been doing ever since. She has had numerous short stories, poems and creative nonfiction published in literary magazines and journals. Her short story “My Mother’s Knives” was included in a horror story anthology, “And Now the Nightmare Begins” (Bear Manor Media, 2009.) Her short story “Life Stories” is forthcoming in the anthology “100 Voices” (Centum Press, 2016).

She is a former staff writer for The Miami Herald and the Associated Press, and other newspapers. Her career as a journalist took her to Latin America, where she reported from 14 countries in the region on issues such as the rise of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, Colombian guerrillas, Guatemalan human rights, Salvadoran gangs, Nicaraguan landmine victims, and Mexican protests for Time, Business Week, The Financial Times, the Houston Chronicle,The New York Times, and other publications. She is fluent in Spanish.

A graduate of Boston University, she is the recipient of two writing awards from the New Jersey Press Association.

If you sign up for Christina’s (very infrequent) newsletter on her website, she’ll send you a code and link for a free audiobook on Audible of her Young Adult novel Girl on the Brink.

You can find out more about Christina and her work via her website, FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

Next Friday, I will be joined for Friday Night Drinks by fabulous author and fellow RNA member…Sue Moorcroft, so please make sure you join us then.

Blog Tour: Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl; Translated by Don Bartlett #BookReview

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Oslo detective Frølich searches for the mysterious sister of a young female asylum seeker, but when people start to die, everything points to an old case and a series of events that someone will do anything to hide…

Suspended from duty, Detective Frølich is working as a private investigator, when his girlfriend’s colleague asks for his help with a female asylum seeker, who the authorities are about to deport. She claims to have a sister in Norway, and fears that returning to her home country will mean instant death.

Frølich quickly discovers the whereabouts of the young woman’s sister, but things become increasingly complex when she denies having a sibling, and Frølich is threatened off the case by the police. As the body count rises, it becomes clear that the answers lie in an old investigation, and the mysterious sister, who is now on the run…

Today I am posting my review for Sister by Kjell Ola Dahl, the latest in the Oslo Detectives series. My huge apologies to the author, publisher and tour organiser for the lateness of this review. I was unable to post on my scheduled date due to an accident, but I hope you enjoy it now. My thanks to Anne Cater at Random Things Tours for inviting me to review the book and to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my digital copy of the book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.

This was my first introduction to the world of Detective Frolich, despite being the the fact that it is book eight in the series. However, it works perfectly as a standalone, although I would like to know more about Frolich’s back story, as he is a fascinating character. In this book, we meet Frolich as he is working as a private detective, having been suspended from the police, and is trying to find his footing in this new world and work out how to make a living. Despite this, he gets involved in a case that is set to be hugely unprofitable for him at the behest of his new girlfriend, and a woman who begs him to help a refugee she is working with. The fact he accepts gives us great insight into Frolich’s character and what drives him. It is a sense of justice and wanting to help people that is his biggest motivator, rather than money.

The book takes Frolich across the Norwegian landscape, from Oslo to more remote places, and I found the descriptions of the locations enticing, if a little bleak. It felt like there was a darkness seeping into every corner of this novel, not just the crime but the setting and the characters too. In fact, the word that really encapsulated the feel of the book for me was melancholy. There was a sadness seeping from the pages; from Frolich and his situation; from the plight of the subjects of the investigation; and from the very landscape itself. The references to unfortunate things that have happened in Norway may have contributed to this throughout, the book felt sad and a little hopeless.

This is largely due to the driving narrative behind the story, which is the problem of refugees in Norway and the desperate situations in which they find themselves. Fleeing from places of war and persecution, they risk a lot to reach countries they believe they may be safe, only to find that they may be in as much danger where they have arrived than the place they are left. Subject to prejudice and at risk of exploitation, they find they have not reached the nirvana they were hoping for. The book is a damning indictment of how Western societies are failing these vulnerable people, as well as an illuminating social commentary on the risks that they face at either end of their journey. A very modern and relevant story, as well as being a gripping thriller.

I was hooked o this book from start to finish, although I did find it a heart-rending and thought-provoking read. I just wanted to mention the skill in the translation of this novel from Norwegian. It was seamless and barely noticeable, which is the great skill in translating fiction, I was not distracted by the translation at all. Another great, new writer to me from the astonishing Orenda stable, I can’t wait to catch up on the instalments I have missed and see what is next. Intelligent writing.

Sister is out now and you can buy a copy here.

Please do make sure you check out the rest of the tour, as detailed below:

Sister BT Poster

About the Author

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One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.

Connect with Kjell:

Twitter: @ko_dahl

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