Friday Night Drinks with… Richard Fulco


It’s the end of the month, hasn’t that come around quickly? It’s starting to feel quite spring-like here, not sure how it is where you are, and we are all looking forward to the easing of lockdown, slowly, slowly! So, with an air of optimism for better times ahead, I am joined for Friday Night Drinks by author… Richard Fulco.

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

Well Julie, I’m a boring person, so you’re going to be sorry that you asked me to get a drink. I’m sipping a cold glass of water with a slice of lemon. However, since we’re having virtual drinks, and I won’t be waking up with a hangover, I’ll pour myself a tall glass of whiskey. How’s that? I plan to get virtually drunk.

Virtually drunk is the only way to go. 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’d take you to a concert where we can shout over pounding drums, wailing guitars and smoking amplifiers. We might not be able to hear each other that well, and we’d have to communicate by facial expressions and body language, but the music would be worth it. I miss live music. Don’t you? Before the pandemic, I had tickets for the Black Crowes and the Go Go’s.

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?

Since my latest novel is set during The Summer of Love, I’d ask music producer Tom Wilson and singer Janis Joplin, who are both characters in the book, to join us for drinks. I’d pick Mr. Wilson’s brain about producing Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel and the first Velvet Underground record. As for Janis, I’d love to hear her story about her performance with Big Brother and the Holding Company at the Monterey Pop Festival.

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

I’m revising another draft of my latest novel WE ARE ALL TOGETHER. Facebook has reminded me that I’ve been working on it for six years. I’ve also been writing poetry, which is something I haven’t committed to in more than six years.

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

Writing and publishing my first novel, THERE IS NO END TO THIS SLOPE.

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 like to continue writing novels and reach a wider pool of readers who might appreciate my storytelling. Is that ambitious enough?

What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

WE ARE ALL TOGETHER will be published by Wampus Multimedia soon.

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?

Do I have to use the term ‘bucket list”? Well, as I write this, we’re still amidst a raging pandemic, so my favourite place is either on my couch or on a hiking trail. When the pandemic breaks, I promised my kids that I’d take them to Niagara Falls. I’ve never been there. We’re going to go over the falls in a barrel.


Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I enjoy soft rock from the 1970s: Elton John, The Carpenters, Jim Croce, Bread, Orleans, Gordon Lightfoot. America. I love it all. Such great melodies.

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’?

Jeff Tweedy’s HOW TO WRITE ONE SONG. Even if you’re not interested in songwriting, Mr. Tweedy writes brilliantly about the creative process. He also includes writing exercises that might help jumpstart your writing.


One of the century’s most feted singer-songwriters, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, digs deep into his own creative process to share his unique perspective about song-writing and offers a warm, accessible guide to writing your first song.

There are few artistic acts more mysterious than writing a song. But what if a shift in perspective – and some practical guidance – could overcome that mystery? Anyone wanting to experience more creativity and mindfulness will be inspired to do just that after reading How to Write One Song.

Why one song? The difference between one song and many songs isn’t a charming semantic trick – it’s an important distinction that can simplify a notoriously confusing art form. The idea of becoming a capital-S Songwriter can seem daunting, but when approached as a focused, self-contained practice, the mystery and fear subsides and songwriting becomes an exciting pursuit.

How to Write One Song brings readers into this intimate process – lyrics, music and how they come together. It’s equally about the importance of making creativity part of your everyday life and of experiencing the hope, inspiration and joy available to anyone who is willing to get started.

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?

In the first place, don’t drink too much, but if you can’t control yourself then be sure to stay hydrated. Accompany every drink or shot with a glass of water. Be sure to take two aspirin before going to bed. But don’t call me in the morning.

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

Sleep. Sleep and sleep. I’m kidding. A perfect weekend will include: reading, writing, napping, long walks, a couple of morning runs, a bike ride, movies and scrumptious food.

Thank you so much for joining me this evening, it has been fun chatting.

Richard’s first book is There Is No End to This Slope and you can buy a copy here. His second book will be published soon.


John Lenza, an aspiring writer from Brooklyn, hasn’t completed a novel, a play, or any other publishable work. His obsession with his part in the death of his best friend Stephanie in high school undermines his confidence and self-esteem. His struggle to reconcile his lingering guilt with the possibilities of the present sets the tone for Richard Fulco’s emotionally charged debut novel, There Is No End to This Slope.

By day, John sells textbooks to New York City schools. Like a 21st century Willy Loman, he drifts through life, letting things happen to him rather than taking charge of his life. On a sales call he meets his future wife, Emma Rue, an impulsive semi-alcoholic. At a “writerly” coffee shop near his new digs in Park Slope he meets Teeny, an overweight gay man, who mines John’s life for his own creative material. A homeless man, Richard, becomes a voice of reason, while Pete the landlord worries about whether John is truly taking “special” care of those beautiful wood floors in the apartment.

At one point John describes himself as intelligent, perhaps too intelligent to do anything. He and many of the other characters find it difficult to navigate the day-to-day while nurturing a sensitive and creative spirit. Should John be tortured by something that happened so long ago? Or is he using an old trauma to sidestep his creative responsibility and potential?

Through deeply wrought characters and scenes, Richard Fulco touches on a fundamental issue that drives great artists to self-destruct. But when John has wrung all he can out of his pained self, it may be the mundane certainties of life that ultimately save him.

Richard Fulco’s first novel, There Is No End to This Slope was published in 2014. His second novel, We Are All Together, will be published by Wampus Multimedia soon. Richard received an MFA in playwriting from Brooklyn College where he was the recipient of a MacArthur Scholarship. His plays have either been presented or developed at The New York International Fringe Festival, The Playwrights’ Center, The Flea, Here Arts Center, Chicago Dramatists and The Dramatists Guild. Richard’s one-act play Swedish Fish was published by Heuer Publishing and his stories, poetry, interviews and reviews have appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, Failbetter, Across the Margin, Fiction Writers Review and American Songwriter (among others). Richard is a member of the Pen American Center where he is also a mentor in the Prison Writing Mentorship Program.   

You can find out more about Richard and his work on his website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Blog Tour: 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal And Planner Volume II by Marielle S. Smith #GuestPost

52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner Vol. II

I am happy to be taking part in the blog blitz today for 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner by Marielle S. Smith. Thanks to Rachel Gilbey of Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part and to the author for providing me with the guest post.

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‘With this book by your side, anything feels possible.’ Jacqueline Brown

Tired of not having a sustainable writing practice? You, too, can get out of your own way and become the writer you’re meant to be!

52 Weeks of Writing:

  • makes you plan, track, reflect on, and improve your progress and goals for an entire year;
  • helps you unravel the truth about why you aren’t where you want to be; and
  • keeps you writing through weekly thought-provoking quotes and prompts.

With this second volume of the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, writing coach and writer Mariëlle S. Smith brings you the same successful strategies to craft the perfect writing practice as she did in the first journal. The only difference? Fifty-three different writing quotes and prompts and a brand-new look!

Interview with Marielle S. Smith

Who are you and where are you from?

I’m Mariëlle S. Smith, a writer, writing coach, and editor. I was born and raised in the Netherlands, but I moved to Cyprus almost two years ago. I needed a change of place and pace and Cyprus had inspired me in the past, so… I packed my bags and got on a plane.

Why do you write? What are you hoping to achieve?

The ultimate end goal for me is to leave a legacy that I’m proud of. For me, this means I try not to work on anything that doesn’t feel a hundred percent right to me. I don’t want to look back one day and have to admit to myself, ‘Yes, that book… I wrote that for the wrong reasons.’

Have you always been writing or is it a more recent thing?

No, I’ve been writing for as long as I remember. I don’t know when I started doing it; it was always there. The more recent thing is that I now admit to doing it, while it used to be more of a secret. I didn’t admit that I was serious about my writing until I was twenty-eight, and I only admitted it to one person at the time. Now, I introduce myself as a writer, so I’ve come a long way.

What do you write and why are you writing in these genres specifically?

I’m writing a lot of non-fiction at the moment, but I have co-written a lesbian romance series under a pen name, and I’m working on a young adult fantasy series.

Why do I write these things…? The romance series because we were both fed up with what that genre had to offer and wanted to add another kind of story to the pile. It was about writing more realistic love stories. It was a fun project and I would love to return to that world someday.

The YA fantasy series feels like it’s THE story that I need to tell. I’ve been working on it forever, slowly figuring out what it is I’m trying to say. I’m currently working on the sixth draft of the first book and I’m falling in love with it all over again.

As for the non-fiction, that’s about helping other people create. It’s all inspired by my coaching and editing work and the journaling I do about my own creative practice.

Is that what inspired the 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner, Vol. II?

Absolutely. 52 Weeks of Writing is directly based on the material I use in my coaching practice, the worksheets I have clients filled out. Of course, when working one on one with someone, I’ll personalise the worksheets to fit my client’s specific needs or struggles. 52 Weeks of Writing offers my coaching material in a more universal way so that any writer can work with it.

Will there be a Volume III?

Yes! It won’t be out until 1 December 2021, but the cover is already done. I’m currently testing new writing prompts and exercises for it on the members of my Facebook group, the Accountable Wordsmiths. I never intended to create a second volume, let alone a third, but once someone asked about it, the thought wouldn’t leave me alone. I tend to take that as a sign, so I can’t wait to put it all together later this year.

Thanks for sharing that with us Marielle.

You can buy a copy of 52 Weeks of Writing Author Journal and Planner Volume II here.

A printable PDF is available through: Get 50% off until 31 March 2021 by using the coupon code 52WOW during checkout.

About the Author

52 Weeks Author

Mariëlle S. Smith is a coach for writers and other creatives, an editor, and a writer. Early 2019, she moved to Cyprus, an island in the Mediterranean Sea, where she organises private writer’s retreats, is inspired 24/7, and feeds more stray cats than she can count.

Connect with Marielle:


Facebook: M. S. Wordsmith

Twitter: @MSWordsmithNL

Instagram: @mariellessmith

YouTube: M. S Wordsmith

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Friday Night Drinks with… Sandy Barker


Tonight I am delighted to be joined for Friday Night Drinks by the author of one of my favourite festive books of 2020, fellow RNA member… Sandy Barker.


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

This is a little concoction my brother-in-law dubbed ‘The Sanderella’ with tequila, Aperol, grapefruit juice, fresh lime, bitters, and a spritz of sparkling water – delicious!

That sounds lovely, could you mix me one too, please? 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?

We’re spoiled for choice in Melbourne, but first we’d go for drinks at Eau de Vie, a fantastic speakeasy in the heart of the city, styled like one from the 30s, right down to the décor and how the staff are dressed. They have these incredibly innovative cocktails and the largest collection of by-the-glass whiskey in the city. Then we’d head to Movida, a Spanish restaurant where everything on the menu is share plates, and the food is sublime – including a bottle of Spain’s finest red! Then we’d head to the National Gallery of Victoria for a live musical performance, some art after dark, and some brilliant Aussie wine!

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?

Caitriona Balfe – she is one of my fave actors and seems like she’d be brilliant fun – and Henry Cavill – for his formidable mind 😉

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

I am just putting the finishing touches on a stand-alone novel set in the world of reality television. It came about because last year, when we were in the midst of our very strict lockdown here in Melbourne, a colleague created a sweepstakes for the latest season of The Bachelor. For fun, I wrote sarky episode recaps for my colleagues. I mentioned them to an author friend and we started brainstorming a book idea. My main character is the woman who writes the recaps of The Stag for an online magazine and she may just get invited onto the show as a contestant… you will just have to wait and see!

That sounds fun! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

My proudest (and most surreal) moment was holding my first book, One Summer In Santorini, in my hands in June 2019. Second proudest was handing copies of my 4 book, The Christmas Swap, to my parents, who I dedicated it to.

My first book

The biggest challenge has been keeping up this cracking pace. Until recently, I worked full-time (now down to 4 days a week), and in 2019 and 2020 over 16 months, I had 4 books published. I have also written 2 more and have planned the next 2 after that. But this is what I love and, eventually, I plan to write full-time.

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 look forward to the day when I am a full-time author – hoping that will be sometime next year – and I would love to sell one or more of my books to a filmmaker. I see the stories filmically as I write, and I think any one of them would be great on screen.

What have planned that you are really excited about?

I am particularly excited about the stand-alone I am working on – I think readers will love it, she’s such a fun character to write. And I am also excited about the next books in The Holiday Romance series – 1 written and 1 planned. And I think there’s another Christmas book in the pipeline too.

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?

Fave place? Goodness, that is hard.

We lived in Bali for 2 months in 2018 and I loved it so much, I set the next book in the series there – I’d go back and live there in a heartbeat.

I also love Greece – that’s where my partner and I met and we went back to the Cyclades Islands for our ten year anniversary on another sailing trip.

New Zealand will always be a favourite destination – we’ve been 3 times and it is most likely that Aussies will be able to travel there sometime this year.

And I would LOVE to live in Tuscany – perhaps for a few months to mark my next milestone birthday.

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I auditioned for Australian Survivor in 2001 and was selected as an alternate. If any of the 8 women on the show had stepped down, I would have been on it. But alas …

Wow, that would have been a cool thing to have done, I used to love watching that show. 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 Goldfinch by Donna Tartt is one of the best books I’ve ever read, if not the best book. It haunted me for months after I finished it.


Aged thirteen, Theo Decker, son of a devoted mother and a reckless, largely absent father, survives an accident that otherwise tears his life apart.

Alone and rudderless in New York, he is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. He is tormented by an unbearable longing for his mother, and down the years clings to the thing that most reminds him of her: a small, strangely captivating painting that ultimately draws him into the criminal underworld.

As he grows up, Theo learns to glide between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love – and his talisman, the painting, places him at the centre of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

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 try to avoid a hangover by drinking water all through the night (which we’ve done – you’re welcome 😉) and taking a Vitamin B tablet before bed. If it’s been a particularly big night, I’ll have a banana or a glass of milk too.

If I fail in this endeavour, lots of tea the next day – tea, tea and more tea and some headache tablets. When I’m feeling marginally better, I’ll jump on my spin bike and sweat it out.

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

Reading, watching movies, drinking wine, calling family and friends – or even a day trip out to some wineries or to the coast for lunch.

Sandy’s is the author of three books in the Holiday Romance series, One Summer in Santorini, That Night in Paris and A Sunset in Sydney.

THR Series Order-1

Sandy’s latest book is The Christmas Swap, a Christmas romance set across three continents. You can read my review of the book here (hint: I loved it), and buy a copy here.


Will all three women have their Christmas wishes come true?

Christmas is coming and best friends ChloeJules, and Lucy are needing change… so swapping homes for the holidays could be the perfect present for all of them!

Australian Chloe spends her Christmas in a sleepy village in Oxfordshire, England. She is totally star-struck when she discovers who lives across the road.

Lucy, who has jetted off to snowy Colorado for her dream-come-true white Christmas, is taken into the fold of Jules’s loud and brash family, discovering more about herself in a few short days than she has in years.

And Jules leaves the cold climes of Colorado to spend her Christmas on a beach with Chloe’s friends in Melbourne, finding that time away is just what she needed.

Sandy is a writer, traveller and hopeful romantic with a lengthy bucket list, and many of her travel adventures have found homes in her novels. She’s also an avid reader, a film buff, a wine lover and a coffee snob.

She lives in Melbourne Australia with her partner, Ben, who she met while travelling in Greece. Their real-life love story inspired Sandy’s debut novel One Summer in Santorini, the first in the Holiday Romance series with One More Chapter, an imprint of HarperCollins. This was followed by two more books in the series, with two to come! The Christmas Swap, Sandy’s fourth novel, was released in 2020 and celebrates her favourite time of year, and she is currently working on a stand-alone romcom set in the world of reality television.

You can find out more about Sandy and her books on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Mary B. Moore


Today I have another edition of Romancing The Romance Authors, where I chat all things romance and romance writing with an author in the genre and this week I am grilling Mary B. Moore.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

I mainly write romantic suspense and romantic comedy books, but there have been some exceptions to the rule. April 5 will be my fifth anniversary since I published my first books, and I’m trying to remember how many books I’ve published?! I think it’s 27 or 28 now. There are so many more planned, too.

Why romance?

I grew up with romance books around me, whether it was the Sweet Valley Twins/High series’ or Mum’s Harlequin novels. There’s something soothing about reading them, even when the drama and tensions are high in them, and closing it after the last page and the characters having a happily ever after together. Being able to create my own characters, giving them their own books and worlds, is the most amazing feeling for me.

What inspires your stories?

A variety of things. I’m the daughter of retired diplomats, but I grew up in places like Damascus, Angola (during the civil war), Indonesia, Jamaica and Panama, so a lot of that does come into it. My family and friends also tend to inspire my characters (I swear I have zero sanity around me). Sometimes it can even be a news story that I’ve read. I come from an “eclectic” family who tends to have more laughter than tears, so I decided to approach serious subjects in my plots by adding humour to them. Life’s serious as it is, sometimes having something that makes you laugh or smile makes it a bit easier.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

Oh, there are a lot of them. Sylvia Day is a big one. I still haven’t read book 5 in the Crossfire Series because I don’t want to accept it’s over. Kristen Ashley is another one. I have friends who are romance authors and their books are my go to books for when I need to unwind: CP Smith, Elena M. Reyes and C.M. Steele. I’m familiar with their styles and their plots are always what I need. Aurora Rose Reynolds, Kristen Ashley, K. Bromberg, Terri Anne Browning, Melody Anne… there’s so many.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

Definitely the first book in Sylvia Day’s Crossfire Series, Bared To You. It’s impossible to put down and you’ll jump straight into the next book. It’s just so perfectly done. I swear no man will ever be able to live up to the awesomeness of Gideon Cross.


Our journey began in fire . . .

Gideon Cross came into my life like lightning in the darkness – beautiful and brilliant, jagged and white hot. I was drawn to him as I’d never been to anything or anyone in my life. I craved his touch like a drug, even knowing it would weaken me. I was flawed and damaged, and he opened those cracks in me so easily . . .

Gideon knew. He had demons of his own. And we would become the mirrors that reflected each other’s most private wounds . . . and desires.

The bonds of his love transformed me, even as I prayed that the torment of our pasts didn’t tear us apart . . .

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

I’m sure it’ll be no surprise when I say Gideon Cross from the Crossfire Series. I’d probably take him to a beach in Indonesia and just enjoy being back there with him and showing him around. Maybe we could go to Port Royal in Jamaica? Either or, I’m not fussy. If I got to spend a weekend with Gideon, I’d let him choose where and just enjoy the heck out of it.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

I love being a member. I love the diversity that I’ve come across in the organisation, including the DISCO chapter for disabled authors. With a huge percentage of authors and the market being in the USA, it’s been great to meet other British authors and have the support, advice and information from the organisation that we get.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

Do it. It’s easy to get disheartened or to be scared, but your words are just as good as someone with fifty books under their name. Just do it! Obviously do it properly, but don’t be put off from letting your words out into the world.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My most recent novel is called Eat Crow, and it’s Book 6 in my Cheap Thrills series. I’ve got three series that are based in Texas (I come from a large American family even though we’re Brits) and I have a huge amount of love for the state. Granted my family are from New Jersey, but I have fond memories of Texas and places like Gonzales County.

Anyway, the Cheap Thrills Series is predominantly about the police department that I started outlining in 2016, and the latest book is about a deputy called Logan and his childhood best friend called Bexley (Bexley Heath—it has a nice London link in it). He said something when they were younger that split the friendship up, but when she comes back for her grandad’s funeral, he’s the one who helps her through the loss.

I love second chance, small town romances, and the connection the two characters have has been fabulous to write.

Eat Crow will be released on Kindle on 26 February and you can pre-order it here.

EC ecover


I made a mistake seven years ago and opened my mouth, letting words fly out of it that I didn’t mean. I said something about the one person I never wanted to hurt and lost my best friend. Now she’s back and needs help her with her loss, and I’m going to be the best rock in the history of rocks and make it right between us again.

I’d do anything to get Bexley Heath back in my life, even if it means helping out with her dog, who hates me and loves to destroy everything around him.

Time doesn’t kill love. Neither does a giant Irish Wolfhound eating my favorite chair.


I’d successfully avoided Logan Richards for seven years, but somehow losing my grandpa brought him back into my life. Perhaps Papa was right when he said in his last letter that it was time to get over it and just let it go. Life’s too short, and forgiveness is divine, right?

He’s my anchor when I need it and my tissues when I cry. But that doesn’t mean I can’t reward my dog for causing him grief and destroying some of his furniture, though, does it? To heck with it, good Doyle.

About the Author


I’m a British author who grew up all over the world. My parents were diplomats, so we were posted to all of the corners of the earth and it was a blast. Some wouldn’t seem so awesome if you heard about them, but my parents always made it a fun experience and it moulded my brother and I into who we are today.

I live in Wiltshire in the west country of the UK. At random times of the day, I’ll hear a moo from the fields around me, or get a whiff of that…uhhh…’country air’, and I love it! I might not have grown up in the UK, but I’m a British girl to the bone (regardless of the suspicious whiffs coming in from the fields).

I’m a single mother with a son who is nearing his teenage phase. Maybe he’s reached it early? Who knows. But he’s awesome and has a personality and sense of humour that I can only attribute to my family. We’re slightly bonkers, we have a wicked sense of humour and we find the positives in every situation. I’m so proud to be his mum and to watch him grow and mature.

Writing was something that I’d always done. I had a teacher in the third grade who always set us the task of writing a story and making it into a book every weekend. After I left school, I kept this up and wrote as often as I could or just plotted out books. This evolved into me taking the plunge and publishing my first book in 2016 and I’ve been typing ever since.

I’m proud to be an Indie Author, and I absolutely love writing out my crazy Providence characters and the more complex ones in my other series’. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic comedy or something with more suspense – so long as it has a HEA I’ll do it!

Connect with Mary:


Facebook: Mary B Moore

Twitter: @mary_bmoore

Instagram: @mooremaryb

Facebook Readers’ Group: 50 Shades of Neigh


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Friday Night Drinks with… Caroline James


It’s the start of half-term week here in the Book Problem household which means a break from homeschooling for myself and the offspring, so we are all in fiesta mood! It is also The Irishman’s birthday (I won’t reveal his age), so even more excuse for a celebratory beverage and I am delighted to be joined for a tipple tonight by author… Caroline James.


Welcome to the blog Caroline, you’ve found us in party mood here tonight so thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Good evening Julie, how great to be here. My tipple of choice is Boodles Mulberry gin with Fever Tree tonic, and a sprinkling of fresh raspberries and crushed ice.

Boodles gin and tonic

Sounds delicious, I will join you if I may. 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’d take you to pretty Kinsale, a fishing port, known as the Gourmet Capital of Ireland, to their annual food festival which takes place every October. We’d start in Acton’s hotel for a cocktail then join in with the craic and shenanigans at the many wonderful pubs in the town. During the evening we’d grab a bite to eat at Fishy Fishy – one of the gorgeous restaurants in the Kinsale Good Food Circle and end up listening to live music at The White House Hotel, in the heart of the town.

Kinsale in Southern Ireland

Fabulous, I absolutely love Ireland but haven’t managed to visit Kinsale yet. 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?

Without question it would be the eponymous celebrity chef, the late but great, Keith Floyd or Floydy as he was known. For many years I was a media agent representing many celebrity chefs and Floyd was much loved in the business. Floydy loved to drink and have fun and adored Kinsale so much that he made his home there for many years. We’d also invite Lady Gaga and slide into her flamboyant slip stream, indulging in conversation with the multitude of admirers who’d beg to join our party.

That would be some combo! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I started writing nine years ago having decided that if I didn’t glue my rear to a chair and get typing, I would die wondering if I could ever have published a novel. Unable to find a publisher initially, I self-published my first book and was astonished when it went to number three in women’s fiction on Amazon. I have had several best-sellers on Amazon since then.

I’m currently writing my eighth book and my road to fulfilling my writing dream has been a roller coaster. Being both self-published and traditionally published I’ve learnt so much during these years and today I help run a business that mentors aspiring authors,  Writing gives me a purpose and sense of well-being to know that my books bringing pleasure to current and new readers.

Gluing my rear to the chair is an approach I definitely need to adopt! What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?

I think writing about older protagonists has been my proudest moment as so many middle-aged and above readers tell me how much my books inspire and make them feel-good about themselves. The Best Boomerville Hotel is a retreat where mature guests get up to all sorts of capers and this is followed by Boomerville at Ballymegille where the mischief continues at a new venue in Southern Ireland. The challenge is to write more Boomerville books and keep them as fresh, funny and feel-good as the first.

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!

To see a Netflix series of Boomerville at Ballymegille and have viewers fall in love with my characters and share some of the crazy experiences they get up to.

What have you planned that you are really excited about?

It’s very difficult to plan anything in this current pandemic and priorities change. What mattered so much a year ago now seems unimportant and the only thing that matters to me is being with my precious family once again and having them close, healthy and happy.

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 lucky in that I have travelled quite a bit in my life but there are always places that I dream of going to. India is on my bucket list, as is Nepal. I like to trek and have trekked in some exotic locations and Nepal is certainly on my hit list. Closer to home, as soon as we are able, my hubby and I will be pointing the car north and heading to Scotland to do the North Coast 500, which is a route of just over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery in the far north of Scotland. I love the highlands of Scotland and can’t wait to do this.

The Irishman is quite keen to do the North Coast 500 too, and I will happily go along as I adore Scotland. I have just made the request to do a small detour to visit Plockton and the Kyle of Lochalsh so I can visit the home of Hamish MacBeth!

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I love wild water swimming.

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 feel-good book of 2020 was Saving Missy by Beth Morrey. I listened to this on audio and thought it totally absorbing and engaging and didn’t want it to end.


Missy Carmichael’s life has become small.

Grieving for a family she has lost or lost touch with, she’s haunted by the echoes of her footsteps in her empty home; the sound of the radio in the dark; the tick-tick-tick of the watching clock.

Spiky and defensive, Missy knows that her loneliness is all her own fault. She deserves no more than this; not after what she’s done. But a chance encounter in the park with two very different women opens the door to something new.

Another life beckons for Missy, if only she can be brave enough to grasp the opportunity. But seventy-nine is too late for a second chance. Isn’t it?

I have a copy of this lurking on the TBR! 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?

Having grown up on the Cheshire/Staffordshire border, a staple in our diet were Staffordshire oatcakes and at the weekend, should my sisters and I have over indulged, a grilled oatcake with cheddar cheese was a fool-proof cure for any hangover. I still eat them whenever I can.

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

Walking. Getting the hiking boots on. Taking Fred, our westie, along too. Fresh air, open spaces, lovely views – what could be better?

Caroline, thank you so much for joining me tonight, it has been an absolute pleasure to chat to you.

Caroline’s latest book is Boomerville at Ballymegille and you can buy a copy here.

Boomerville at Ballymegille cover

Join Hattie and Jo as they head to Southern Ireland to open Boomerville Manor, a holiday retreat for guests of ‘a certain age’. There’s Irish craic and shenanigans aplenty for the colourful cast of characters as everyone gathers for the grand opening.

Meet Melissa, an ex-cabaret singer running from her abusive husband, and Bill, a bachelor bullied from beyond the grave by the ghostly voice of his mother. Along with local bobby Harry the Helmet, ageing aquatic team the Boomerville Babes, eccentric artist Lucinda Gray, and heartthrob Finbar Murphy, they gather in Ireland and the fun begins. But murder is in the air and there’s mischief afoot. Will the residents get more than they bargained for at Boomerville?

Set in the beautiful Irish countryside, Boomerville at Ballymegille is a heart-warming story of friendship, fears and new beginnings.

Best-selling author of women’s fiction, Caroline James has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that often features in her novels. She is based in the UK but has a great fondness for travel and escapes whenever she can. A public speaker, which includes talks and lectures on cruise ships world-wide, Caroline is also a consultant and food writer. She is a member of the Romantic Novelist’s Association, ARRA, the Society of Women’s Writer’s & Journalists and the Society of Authors and writes articles and short stories, contributing to many publications. Caroline also runs writing workshops. In her spare time Caroline can be found walking up a mountain with Fred her Westie, or sipping raspberry gin with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates.

Caroline is the author of Hattie Goes to Hollywood, Boomerville at Ballymegille, The Best Boomerville HotelCoffee Tea the Gypsy & MeCoffee Tea the Chef & MeCoffee Tea the Caribbean & Me, and Jungle Rock.

You can find out more about Caroline and her writing on her website, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

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Desert Island Books with… Lizzie Lamb


Today’s literary castaway, stranded on a deserted beach with only five books and one luxury item to keep her company, is author, Lizzie Lamb. Let’s see what she has chosen from all the books even written as the ones she would like to be stuck with indefinitely, shall we?

Book One – Friday’s Child by Georgette Heyer


Hero Wantage is desperate to change her fate.

When the dashing Lord Sherry proposes out of the blue, Hero is overjoyed – she’ll escape a life as a governess and, once they wed, he can finally claim his inheritance.

But as Hero attempts to social climb in glamorous London society, Sherry is concerned that her naivety will ruin them both and takes drastic action.

The chaos that follows will push friendships – and hearts – to breaking point.

Before Pride and Prejudice hit our screens, Georgette Heyer was my go-to author for Regency romances. I bought my copy of Friday’s Child for 3/6 (17p) back in 1965 and it was passed round the sixth form as we laughed at the antics of the characters and relived their adventures. The characters and historical background of ‘the ton’ and the slang which Heyer has down to a tee are what make the novel for me. Especially Ferdy who believes he is being stalked by a Greek because he’s told that one day he will ‘meet his ‘Nemesis’. Also, who could resist unsophisticated Hero Wantage who agrees to enter a marriage of convenience with Regency Buck Lord Sheringham whom she’s secretly loved all her life. And, as is the way with these things, she reforms him and don’t they say reformed rakes make the best husbands? I used to re-read this book when I was feeling down or recovering from the flu etc. so it’s practically falling apart. I could buy a new copy, but where’s the fun in that? I’ve never tired of it so I guess it belongs on my desert island with me. Through its pages I can dance a cotillion, ride in a curricle accompanied by my Tiger and become the toast of the Bath.

Quite simply – Bridgerton, without the sex.

Book Two – Emily by Jilly Cooper 


If Emily hadn’t gone to Annie Richmond’s party, she would never have met the impossible irresistible Rory Balniel – never have married him and been carried off to the wild Scottish island of Irasa to live in his ancestral home along with his eccentric mother, Coco, and the dog, Walter Scott.

She’d never have met the wild and mysterious Marina, a wraith from Rory’s past, nor her brother, the disagreeable Finn Maclean; never have spent a night in a haunted highland castle, or been caught stealing roses in a see-through nightie…

Yes, it all started at Annie Richmond’s party.

As a writer of romantic comedy, how could I leave Jilly Cooper behind on the sinking ship? Just as I’d finished reading all the Georgette Heyers and ploughed my way through historical novels thick enough to be used as doorstops, I discovered Jilly. Emily was her first romance and, back in the day before Amazon was a blot on the horizon, word of it spread via my book-devouring besties. As a newlywed, impoverished probationary teacher trying to renovate a wreck of a house after of a long day at the chalk face I needed light relief. Jilly provided just that. She described a world of fashionable parties in Chelsea, wild Scottish islands, highland estates, hasty marriages to impossible, irresistible heroes, glamorous ex-girlfriends determined to break up Emily and her new husband Rory Balniel. There’s plenty of hilarious escapades and Jilly’s delicious puns to keep me  turning the pages. There’s even a serpent in Eden in the form of Finn Maclean who threatens to wreck Emily’s happiness. The icing on the cake? I met Jilly three years ago at an RNA party and she was everything I hoped she’d be. She kissed me, called me Darling Lizzie and thanked ME for buying her books and remaining a loyal fan over the years. She’s the ideal companion for a desert island but if I can’t take her, I’ll take Emily along instead.

Book Three – Notting Hell by Rachel Johnson


Our neighbours divide into the haves … and the have yachts.

Meet Mimi and Clare, two married women making the most of their Notting Hill postcode. New best friends, and close neighbours, that doesn’t stop them being rivals, in fact it compels it. Both are aspiring Notting Hill Mummies (Clare needs the baby, Mimi needs the six figure income) and, keeping up with all the area’s fads, fashions and fabulousness is a full-time job.

But the arrival of sexy billionaire Si in their exclusive communal garden strains loyalty to friends, family, spouse and feng-shui guru alike … and only one of them can win.

But who will that be? Clare or Mimi? Are they friends, or just…neighbours?

I adored the movie Notting Hill (1999) so when Rachel Johnson wrote Notting Hell I bought it straight away. It bridged the gap between one Jilly Cooper bonk buster and the next and, inadvertently, provided me with the inspiration for the opening scenes of my rom com – Tall, Dark and Kilted. The novel gave me an insight into the lives of those who shared upmarket communal gardens surrounded by three story houses in sugar almond colours. For that alone I’m taking it along with me to my desert island. In 2006, the year I took early retirement from teaching to concentrate on my writing, I bought a ticket which permitted me to enter the private Notting Hill gardens (including the one where the movie was filmed) and provided me with invaluable research material. There’s also a twist in the tail which I’ll pretend I don’t see coming. As for the novel, I’ve forgotten most of the shenanigans so it’ll be fun to reacquaint myself with Yummy Mummies, high achievers who shopped in Westbourne Road, midnight rendezvous in the bosky gardens, and the secrets the residents are hiding behind their shuttered windows. I’d love another chance to look round those gardens . . . maybe I will once I’ve been rescued from my desert island.

Book Four – Hons and Rebels by Jessica Mitford 


The Mitford family is one of the century’s most enigmatic, made notorious by Nancy’s novels, Diana’s marriage to Sir Oswald Mosley, Unity’s infatuation with Hitler, Debo’s marriage to a duke and Jessica’s passionate commitment to communism.

Hons and Rebels is an enchanting and deeply absorbing memoir of an isolated and eccentric upbringing which conceals beneath its witty, light-hearted surface much wisdom and depth of feeling.

I was first attracted to this novel because I’d read about the Mitford sisters: Nancy, Deborah, Diana, Unity, Pamela and Jessica and their brother Tom in a Sunday Times colour supplement and was intrigued to learn more about the eccentric family. Jessica’s sisters (Diana and Unity) and her parents supported Hitler, Diana and her husband Oswald Mosley were gaoled for their support of the fascist cause while Jessica married her cousin Esmond, fought in the Spanish Civil War, joined the communist party and went to live in America. But Hons and Rebels it isn’t a heavy political treatise, it tells the story of a vanished way of life and reads less like an autobiography and more like a family saga. When I read it on my desert island I’ll be whisked away from the South Seas (that’s where I choose to be shipwrecked) to the misty Cotswolds, an ancient manor house, quaint towns and villages and experience once again the feeling of standing on the threshold of time (1939) aware of what lay ahead, even if the Mitfords didn’t.

Book Five – The Flight of the Heron (Trilogy) by D.K. Broster


It is 1745, and the Jacobite rebellion is on the rise.

Ewen Cameron, a principled young Scottish Highlander, is destined and honoured to serve Bonnie Prince Charlie, the young Pretender, and to help the ‘rightful King’ ascend to the British throne.

Major Keith Windham is a career soldier with the English Army – seemingly the antithesis of Ewen. He is jaded, worldly and loyal to the Crown but, ultimately, an outsider.

Their fates are linked inextricably when a highland prophecy tells Ewen that the flight of a heron will predict five meetings with an Englishman who will cause him much harm but also render a great service.     

Ewen is sceptical, but the prophecy proves true when he meets Englishman Keith Windham – and a gripping tale of adventure, danger and true and lasting friendship is set into motion.

Both are men who are willing to die for their honour and their beliefs. Each is on an opposing side. But who will emerge the victor?

My last choice is a bit of a cheat because it’s part of a trilogy: The Flight of the Heron, The Gleam in the North and The Dark Mile. It is the haunting, romantic story of the men and women who, in 1745, joined Bonnie Prince Charlie after he raised his standard at Glenfinnan. A few years ago I visited Glenfinnan and looked towards the valley now spanned by the famous Harry Potter Bridge (aka the Glenfinnan viaduct) where  in 1745 Cameron of Locheil led five hundred clansmen through the valley, pipes playing and banners waving to pledge themselves to the Jacobite cause. In many way the book was a forerunner for Highlander, Braveheart and Outlander, but in my opinion it surpasses them all in depth and historical scope. It was also the first time I’d encountered Scots Gaelic and I learned some of the phrases by heart.  My copy has nine-hundred-and-fifty-five pages, so I won’t be stuck for reading material. There’s also a romance running through the trilogy, as does the unlikely friendship between Ewan Cameron and Major Wyndham, an officer in King George’s army. 

The books I’ve chosen show my love of history, comedy, romance and an interest in worlds/times other than my own. When I left teaching everyone thought I would write children’s books. Not so . . . However –  my latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling, published November 2020 features a headmistress who . . .Well, I’ll let the blurb do the talking for me.

My luxury item



Finally, I would take a machete with me to build shelter, fend off wild animals and make myself clothes out of large (!) flat leaves of plants I find growing in the jungle.

About Lizzie Lamb

Lizzie Lamb

After teaching her 1000th pupil and working as a deputy head teacher in a large primary school, Lizzie decided to pursue her first love: writing. She joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s New Writers’ Scheme, wrote Tall, Dark and Kilted (2012), quickly followed by Boot Camp Bride. She went on to publish Scotch on the Rocks, which achieved Best Seller status within two weeks of appearing on Amazon and her next novel, Girl in the Castle, reached #3 in the Amazon charts. Lizzie is a founder member of indie publishing group – New Romantics Press, and has hosted author events at Aspinall, St Pancras and Waterstones, Kensington, talking about the research which underpins her novels. Lizzie romance Take Me, I’m Yours, set in Wisconsin, also achieved BEST SELLER status >travel>USA. Her latest novel – Harper’s Highland Fling – has been declared her ‘best one yet’ by readers and reviewers. In it, two warring guardians are forced to join forces and set off in hot pursuit of a runaway niece and son. She has further Scottish-themed romances planned and spends most of the summer touring the Scottish Highlands researching men in kilts. As for the years she spent as a teacher, they haven’t quite gone to waste as she is building a reputation as a go-to speaker on indie publishing, and how to plan, write, and publish your debut novel.

Lizzie lives in Leicestershire (UK) with her husband, David.

She loves to hear from readers, so do get in touch . . .

You can read an extract of Lizzie’s latest novel, Harper’s Highland Fling here and the book is available in ebook and paperback format here.

3D image HHF

After a gruelling academic year, head teacher Harper MacDonald is looking forward to a summer holiday trekking in Nepal.

However, her plans are scuppered when wayward niece, Ariel, leaves a note announcing that she’s running away with a boy called Pen. The only clue to their whereabouts is a footnote: I’ll be in Scotland.

Cue a case of mistaken identity when Harper confronts the boy’s father – Rocco Penhaligon, and accuses him of cradle snatching her niece and ruining her future. At loggerheads, Harper and Rocco set off in hot pursuit of the teenagers, but the canny youngsters are always one step ahead. And, in a neat twist, it is the adults who end up in trouble, not the savvy teenagers.

Fasten your seatbelt for the road trip of your life! It’s going to be a bumpy ride!

Connect with Lizzie:


Facebook: Lizzie Lamb Writer

Twitter: @lizzie_lamb

Instagram: @lizzielambwriter

Pinterest: Lizzie Lamb

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Friday Night Drinks with… Grae J. Wall


Welcome to February! It’s feeling tentatively spring-like here in South Yorkshire today. The snow of the early week has melted and my crocus shoots are poking through the earth. All of this has brought with it s small tingle of optimism and, it is in this spirit I welcome tonight’s guest to the blog for Friday Night Drinks, poet… Grae J. Wall.

Welcome to the blog, Grae. Thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?

Given the auspicious occasion it will have to be a fine Normandy Calvados – santé.

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?

We’d have to also step back in time a couple of years as it’s sadly no longer there, but let’s head to Pastis Bar in Barcelona. It’s a tiny bar covered in weird and wonderful paintings and photos pertaining to its origin as a bar for French sailors arriving in Port.  The owner Angel is an enigmatic character who rarely smiles – one evening we set ourselves the challenge of eliciting a grin – a tough task but we got there in the end. The soundtrack is always Piaf, Brel or Aznavour, but also each night someone will take to what must literally be the smallest stage in the world – just room for one stool and a microphone. I have joyously performed there several times but perhaps my favourite evening there was when an accomplished Tango guitarist took to the stage. Part way through the evening a couple at the bar suddenly stood up and somehow in the limited space danced a suave passionate tango to the utter delight of all present. One of my favourite drinking spots on the planet – I think you’ll like it!


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?

Well I think Patti Smith for sure. I’ve always wanted to go drinking with Patti as she’s both a huge inspiration and a sterling raconteur. There’s so much I’d love to discuss – poetry, music, art and photography of course but also humanist politics and great coffee. We’d obviously talk about Jim Morrison and Arthur Rimbaud, CBGB’S and the beats. Perhaps we could even persuade her to take to that tiny stage for an impromptu reading of Piss Factory.

Shall we go with Leonard Cohen as our other guest? I love that despite all his writing and performing he somehow retained a certain air of mystery in life – perhaps one or two snippets might be revealed. From those days of trying to be an author on Hydra to accidentally becoming one of the finest poets and songwriters of his generation. That amazing return – having retired and then discovered himself to be in a dire financial situation – coming back with such panache and gusto. I love the poetry he wrote from his Mount Baldy retreat – seemingly wrestling and failing at becoming a good Buddhist – I can relate. Such a dark wit would be compelling company for sure – and of course another potential floor spot for the evening.

Can you imagine being present for that once only Patti and Leonard duet!

Wouldn’t that be an evening! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

Well I have recently published a book of my poems (along with a few photos) – The Sound of Revolution. It was one of the positives to come out of the strange year that was 2020. Having been furloughed from my job as an Arts facilitator in March I was writing quite a lot but also found myself being asked to read and contribute to a variety of on-line festivals and events which I really enjoyed. I also decamped to my wife’s little summerhouse at the bottom of the garden and set about recording a little album mixing up poems and songs – mouseclubvirusblues – which I released on Bandcamp.  Following that I did a little interview with Andy N for his Spoken Label podcast and he asked if I was planning to publish a new book and that set me thinking that perhaps I should. The last little book I put together was probably 10 years ago now and was a very slim and limited edition so I figured it was about time. I have had a few individual poems published in various places and of course regularly post to The Poetry Underground – a Facebook group that I facilitate – but this just felt like the right moment to put together something a bit more substantial. Being furloughed allowed me the time to put it together (with the help of my daughter Emelia). For me live (or even virtually live) performance is hugely important, whether that be straight poetry gigs or mixing up poetry and music and it’s really nice to have that product that I feel proud of that I can offer to folks at the end of the show. Moving forward it’s just getting back to performing, touring and playing crazy little festivals – it was tough being a troubadour in 2020 and I’m relishing being able to re-engage with that soul.

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

I have been asked to contribute to or perform poems at several Environmental events and publications including Extinction Rebellion. Being able to engage people on such an important platform is a real honour. It’s something my mum used to do – writing poems on local issues and submitting them to the local press – and I have a feeling she’d approve. I have had folks contacting me and thanking me for some of these posts and appearances which is very sweet. Similarly I have performed at events around issues of mental health and again received some very positive responses which have been gratifying.

My biggest challenge I guess was returning from my own worst moments of ill mental health, continuing to write, record, perform and tour – not allowing those darker impulses to dictate the person you are. Accepting those demons and channeling them creatively has actually proved a strength and inspiration.

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’m not even sure I really know what that is – it’s not something I ponder on much. Maybe just being given Turbine Hall at Tate Modern to do with as I wish for some huge anarchic poetry, lomography and music installation. I guess the world tour would be nice too – but for now the Turbine Hall will suffice.


What are have planned that you are really excited about?

It hasn’t been a great year for being able to make plans but I’m just excited at being able to perform in front of real audiences again. I can’t wait to get back on the road for new adventures. In my arts worker post we had a great project planned for 2020 – Odetoberfest – a month long celebration of poetry and spoken word. We had John Hegley booked and lots of great events planned and of course we had to cancel the whole thing which was a big disappointment so maybe we can return to that plan. I’m excited about collaborating again – working with my musical compadres but also just mixing things up more – refusing to be pigeonholed or sitting in a particular box – life’s too short.

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 so lucky to be able to tour a lot on the continent – especially Germany, France and Catalunya and I have favourite little corners of each. We got married though in Las Vegas and drove over to San Francisco stopping off in Bakersfield. That was a great road trip and I loved each part of it – channeling Hunter S. Thompson, Merle Haggard and Jack Kerouac. The morning of the wedding I went for a drive down the strip and found a doo wop station on the radio – one of the coolest moments in my life, just cruising through this mad town wearing a sharp suit singing along to Sam Cooke and The Coasters. Along with the cool and the crazy it was a real eye opener discovering Americas’s underbelly – the extreme poverty and this nation of the lost and lonely that you don’t really see in the movies. We thought we were gonna die in Bakersfield when a car slowed and the window came down but actually we just got egged. In San Francisco I had the finest breakfast of my life – pancakes with blueberries and maple syrup – perfect.

I’d like to return to the States but this time it would be a road trip to take in New Orleans, Nashville and Memphis, maybe Detroit too. I love country music, the blues, jazz, soul and rock ‘n’ roll so it would be something of a spiritual pilgrimage – like coming home. I want to do the Grand Ole Opry, Graceland and find those devilish cross roads, though my soul is emphatically not for sale. Say a prayer on the street Johnny Thunders died, drink hard bourbon on Beale Street and maybe even find a breakfast to rival San Francisco.

You’ve picked some of my favourite places there. Love the madness of Vegas. We did the Nashville- Memphis- New Orleans road trip about five years ago and it was possibly my favourite trip ever. All great cities. I’m definitely going to go back to Nashville but swing up to Pigeon Forge & pay homage to the great Dolly Parton next time. Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I was the first and last Arts Council of England Contemporary and Community Music Officer. I was offered more drugs in that role than I ever have as a gigging poet and musician!

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’?

Wow – just one that’s tough! I’ll give a fleeting mention to Danny Sugerrman’s No One Here Gets Out Alive (Jim Morrison biography) which I genuinely have recommended to a few people over the years as being the finest rock ‘n’ roll biog of all time.

The book I’ll go with though is Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys by Viv Albertine. I think it’s one of the rawest and most honest autobiographies I have ever read (along with Patti’s Just Kids – better mention that as she’s here with us!). As a journey of self-discovery, life struggle and rebirth it’s beautifully written and genuinely compelling. From those stumbling, awkward, awakening days of punk through serious illness to Hastings housewife. Viv writes so naturally and seemingly without filter offering a very personal and sometimes surprising insight in to some much covered characters including The Pistols and The Clash. What followed those years though is no less dramatic or intriguing, cancer, IVF, a grown-up job and the sad breakdown of her marriage at times find you almost shouting ‘too much information’ – but like an ambulance chaser you somehow just can’t look away. Having read and loved the book I went along to Q&A and signing session at a record Shop in Letchworth and found her to be as thoughtful, funny, self-depreciating and candid as her writing would imply. As a debut book it is really quite astoundingly accomplished and whether you are a Slits fan or not I think anyone would find the telling of her story touching and accessible. When after 25 years she decides to go and perform at an open mic night the self doubt and first night nerves rekindled you are feeling each anxious moment with her and long to offer some words of reassurance – ‘it’s OK Viv – you’ll be fine’!


In 1975, Viv Albertine was obsessed with music but it never occurred to her she could be in a band as she couldn’t play an instrument and she’d never seen a girl play electric guitar.

A year later, she was the guitarist in the hugely influential all-girl band the Slits, who fearlessly took on the male-dominated music scene and became part of a movement that changed music.

A raw, thrilling story of life on the frontiers and a candid account of Viv’s life post-punk – taking in a career in film, the pain of IVF, illness and divorce and the triumph of making music again – Clothes Music Boys is a remarkable memoir.

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 have reached an age where I do try to avoid hangovers as they just seem to last so long. I’m genuinely quite good at moderation and learnt years ago (you need to on tour) to order a glass of water each time you order a glass of wine so you have a steady intake of water throughout the evening. Never drink on an empty stomach. The other thing is stick to quality alcohol. Touring in Germany is a joy as the beer is just so good and I rarely feel hung-over there (unless we’ve finished the evening with copious schnapps which is lethal).  Always have a glass of water before sleeping and if you’ve really overdone it make that a Berocca! Should none of that work then take a late breakfast at an outdoor café – double espresso, large fresh juice and water with a large fresh croissant – sorted.

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

I’m not one for regular shopping but I love mooching round a good flea market (good for vintage lomo-cameras) or alternatively a musty bookshop or geeky record store. Saturday night is for finding an off-track bar to discover that new favourite singer/band – something cool and dark and damaged. As we are in Barcelona then the Museum of Contemporary Art is a must – great building, great exhibitions, great gift store. This an ideal Sunday thing to do and after wandering the gallery it’s perfect to take a light lunch at one of the neighbouring cafes and watch the ever present skater kids manoeuvring the concrete plaza out front. Maybe a decent art-house cinema Sunday evening – a cold war thriller or some new scandi-noir.

Thank you for joining me tonight, Grae, it has been a refreshingly rock ‘n’ roll evening!

Grae’s latest book, The Sound of Revolution can be found at (also available in e-format from regular platforms). The mouseclubvirusblues album can be found at . Whether you want to contribute or just check out the posts come join . For regular gig updates go to .

Grae J. Wall is a poet, songwriter and lomographer from St Albans UK

As an eternal troubadour, Grae’s poems and songs are often inspired by his road trips, with narratives set in the motels of Bakersfield, the bar-rooms of Berlin and the back-streets of Paris. Grae has performed at Glastonbury, Boomtown, Bestival and many more intimate festivals and venues across Europe.

Recent (actual and virtual) gigs have included Paris Lit Up, The Poetry Cafe, The Festival of New Ideas and All in the Mind Festival. Grae’s work has appeared in and on many publications, radio shows and podcasts including recent contributions to Rebelzine (Extinction Rebellion), The Rising Sun Isolation Quilt, Invisible Folk Club and Artists Responding To.

Grae J. and Los Chicos Muertos have shared the stage with inspirational characters including TV Smith, Patrik Fitzgerald, John Cooper Clarke and Jowe Head as well as backing Ed Tudorpole a few times on live renditions of Swords of a Thousand Men. They have also collaborated on the production of the acclaimed Knoxville Boy album with Knox (The Vibrators) .

Grae runs both The Poetry Underground and Isolation Arts Cafe group pages on Facebook. He has been a regular promoter as well as performer over the years facilitating gigs in many back room bars as well as showcases at Glastonbury and Trafalgar Square.

You can find out more about Grae via his website, Twitter and Instagram.

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Romancing The Romance Authors with… Penny Hampson


Today I am delighted to welcome to the blog, author Penny Hampson, to share her thoughts on writing romance with us.

Tell me a bit about the type of books you write and where you are in your publishing journey.

Hi Julie, thank you so much for inviting me here.

I came to writing quite late in life, so I feel like I am just catching up. As a historian, I’m an avid reader of stories set in the past, so when it came to writing my own, they too had to have a historical setting. Because I’m a lover of all things Georgian and Regency, my historical stories are set in the early 1800s.

At the very beginning of my writing journey I joined the New Writers’s Scheme of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and this meant that I received invaluable feedback and advice on my work.

My three historical books are all self-published and they form my Gentlemen Series. A Gentleman’s Promise, my debut novel, is currently being re-edited and it will be re-released early in 2021. An Officer’s Vow and A Bachelor’s Pledge are the next books in the series, though each can be read as a standalone. There are also at least a couple more stories to come.

My first contemporary novel, The Unquiet Spirit, was published by Darkstroke earlier this year. Writing this was a bit of a departure for me, with it’s present-day setting and supernatural elements, but there is also a good helping of romance and a strong historical thread running through it. As you might guess, I’m rather obsessed with history!

Why romance?

I’ve always enjoyed reading romance novels, especially when life has been a bit stressful. I think they offer much needed escapism and comfort when times are tough. I’ve always been fascinated by what makes people tick and creating two characters who develop a relationship is an opportunity for me to explore and create believable characters.

What inspires your stories?

Lots of different things inspire my stories. For instance, The Unquiet Spirit was inspired by a house I saw for sale on the internet – I wondered what it would be like to live in a house like that. It became The Beeches in my story, a house that had some interesting and spooky secrets.

Another story that I’m currently working on was inspired by a British newspaper report of 1812 about a young French emigré who came to a bit of a sticky end. My young lady however, will have a much better outcome!

Locations also inspire me. I love Falmouth, Cornwall, in the South West of England, having spent several holidays there. It has a long and interesting history and I utilised some of that history in my  historical novel, A Bachelor’s Pledge. Falmouth also plays a large part in my contemporary romance story, The Unquiet Spirit.

Another favourite place of mine is Bath, which will be familiar to any lovers of Jane Austen. Bath too, has appeared in both my historical and contemporary stories. With its fabulous architecture and stunning setting it is truly an inspirational place.

Who are your favourite romance authors, past and/or present?

Gosh, I’ve got lots of favourite authors. However, for stories set in the Regency period, my go-to author is Georgette Heyer. I’d also hesitate to call her a romance author, because her stories are much more than that. Having re-read many of them recently, I was surprised to discover that several that I’d thought of as romances are anything but. I’m thinking of titles such as A Civil Contract which is in fact a realistic portrayal of a marriage rather than a fairytale romance, or The Foundling, which is more like a coming-of-age story.

For present day romance authors, I enjoy reading Mary-Jo Putney, Mary Balogh, and the late Jo Beverley.

If you had to pick one romance novel for me to read, which one would you recommend?

This is a very difficult question to answer! But given no choice, I’d recommend Faro’s Daughter by Georgette Heyer, which tells the tale of the tempestuous Deborah Grantham and the man who is out to ruin her plans, Max Ravenscar. If you enjoy sparkling, witty dialogue, you will enjoy this book, the verbal sparring between this pair is some of Heyer’s best work. Packed with rich comedy, Heyer’s plot weaves its magic, and it is delightful to see how she brings two such unlikely personalities together. And of course she sets it in a world that is recognisably Regency, real facts about places, people, and events are inserted in an unobtrusive and natural way.


Renowned gamester and the first to admit that he is entirely void of a romantic disposition, Max Ravenscar regards all eligible females with indifference and unconcern.

But when he meets the woman his young cousin Adrian is bent on marrying – the beautiful Deborah Grantham, mistress of her aunt’s gaming house – he finds that none of his experience in risk and gambling has prepared him for such a worthy opponent.

Which romantic hero or heroine would you choose to spend your perfect romantic weekend with? Where would you go and what would you do?

There are so many wonderful romantic heroes to choose from, it is difficult to make a choice. I think I’d prefer to spend the weekend with a group of my favourite heroes and heroines from the Regency period. It would be a weekend party at a rural stately home, with lots of walks in the countryside, sumptuous rooms, delicious food, and no washing-up! I might even persuade one of the gentlemen to teach me to ride a horse – something I’ve only ever done once. How nice it would be to go for a gallop and then come back to a blazing log fire. And a weekend like this would involve so many changes of clothes: morning dresses, walking dresses, riding habits, pelisses, spencers, and bonnets. For someone like me who lives in jeans, it would be quite a novelty, but I’d really enjoy putting on a fabulous evening dress for dinner.

What is your favourite thing about being a member of the RNA? What do you think you have gained from membership?

Where do I start? It’s great feeling a part of the community of romance authors and sharing ideas and information. Before Covid, my local chapter met up for lunch once a month and I rarely left one without having learned something new or receiving encouragement – a real boost when you feel you’re getting nowhere with your writing. You can guarantee one thing, romance authors are a very supportive group.

The best thing about the RNA is the New Writers’ Scheme. This set me on my journey to becoming a published author. I’d recommend it to anyone thinking of becoming an author.

What one piece of advice or tip would you give to new writers starting out in the romance genre?

I’d advise them to join the RNA New Writers’ Scheme! It’s the best place to go to get honest feedback on your work from professionals who thoroughly understand the romance genre.

Tell us about your most recent novel.

My latest book, A Bachelor’s Pledge, is an action-filled adventure set in England during the Napoleonic Wars. At its core is the growing romance between secret agent Phil Cullen and lady’s companion Sophia Turner. Both have their reasons for not wishing to see each other again, but circumstances and a ruthless French spy set their lives on a collision course.

A Bachelor’s Pledge is available as an ebook (free on Kindle Unlimited) and a paperback from Amazon here.

A Bachelor's Pledge

The woman who haunts his dreams

Secret agent Phil Cullen is upset when he discovers that the young woman he rescued from Mrs Newbodys establishment has absconded from his housekeepers care without a word. Thinking he has been deceived, he resolves to forget about her… something easier said than done.

The man she wants to forget

Sophia Turner is horrified when she is duped into entering a notorious house of ill-repute. Then a handsome stranger comes to her aid. Desperate that no one learns of this scandalous episode, Sophia flees to the one friend she knows she can trust. With luck, she will never see her mysterious rescuer again.

But fate has other plans…

Months later, Phil is on the trail of an elusive French agent and Sophia is a respectable lady’s companion when fate again intervenes, taking their lives on a collision course.

Traitors, spies, and shameful family secrets – will these bring Sophia and Phil together… or drive them apart?

About the Author

Penny Hampson

Some time ago Penny Hampson decided to follow her passion for history by studying with the Open University. She graduated with honours and went on to complete a post-graduate degree.

Penny then landed her dream role, working in an environment where she was surrounded by rare books and historical manuscripts. Flash forward nineteen years, and the opportunity came along to indulge her other main passion – writing. Penny joined the New Writers’ Scheme of the RNA and  three years later published her debut novel, A Gentleman’s Promise, a traditional Regency romance. Other books in the same genre soon followed.

But never happy in a rut, Penny also writes contemporary suspense with paranormal and romantic elements. Her first book in this genre is The Unquiet Spirit, published by Darkstroke.

Penny lives with her family in Oxfordshire, and when she is not writing, she enjoys reading, walking, swimming, and the odd gin and tonic (not all at the same time).

Connect with Penny:



Facebook: Penny Hampson Author

Twitter: @penny_hampson

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Friday Night Drinks with… Kate Ryder


It’s the final Friday of the month and January is almost over, thank goodness! Is it me or has this been a really long month? Anyway, that feels like something to celebrate, so I am delighted to be joined on the blog by tonight’s virtual drinking companion, author… Kate Ryder.


Kate, glad you finally made it to my virtual bar! Thank you for joining me. First things first, what are you drinking?

Thank you for inviting me to your Friday Night Drinks.  I have a penchant for gin, so I’ll have a glass of the curiously distilled, award-winning Wild Coast Gin from Curio Spirits; the small family business that creates craft spirits in their distillery on the Lizard peninsula, in Cornwall.  Made with Cornish spring water and quadruple-distilled with natural botanicals, including hand-foraged rock samphire from the Cornish cliffs, this tantalising spirit is smooth enough to drink neat, although I’ll have it with flavoured tonic water, please – possibly rhubarb or elderflower.

Sounds delicious. Gin is also my tipple of choice. I sadly failed at Dry January halfway through this year, which I only feel a tiny bit guilty about given current circumstances!  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?

Having spent the day giving you a guided tour around the dramatically beautiful coastline of North Cornwall – the location for my latest book, Beneath Cornish Skies – I’d take you to the boutique hotel, The Beach at Bude.  Overlooking Summerleaze Beach, which is featured in the novel, the hotel enjoys striking views from its terraces.  Its buzzing Beach Bar, designed with industrial chic in mind, has a chrome-topped bar and a number of orange leather chairs with metal backing.  I have to warn you, though, there are often live performances on Fridays, so we’d have to speak up or find a secluded corner.  And we’d definitely have to try out the bar’s selection of decadent cocktails.  I’ll start with their Cornish mojito, which includes cider, brandy, mint, lime and a shot of Gabriel Boudier Crème de Cassis de Dijon!


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?

We’d be drinking with the late actor, Alan Rickman, who had me from his performance in ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’.  I’m sure he would have many a fascinating and interesting tale to tell.  From humble beginnings, despite becoming a household name as a successful, award-winning film and stage actor, he never seemed to lose his sense of perspective.  On my wish list is a copy of his collection of diary entries due to be published in 2022, which apparently give a fresh insight into his art and reveal the real Alan Rickman; funny, passionate and occasionally provocative.

The second person we’d be drinking with is the multi-award winning actress, Dame Helen Mirren.  I love that feisty woman.  Not only is she a hugely talented actress but also she doesn’t suffer fools and is not frightened of having strong opinions and speaking her mind.  She and Alan worked together on several occasions and, no doubt, they would provide us with an entertainingly lively and humorous evening.  Also, she was the inspiration for a character in my 2-part Romantic Suspense, Summer in a Cornish Cove, and its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff.  I think she’d be highly amused to learn that!

Great choices, I adore Alan Rickman. He played some of the best characters ever seen on screen, and always nailed those one-liners! So, now we’re settled, tell me what you are up to at the moment. How and why did you start it and where do you want it to go?

I’m currently wearing my marketing hat for Beneath Cornish Skies.  People assume that writing a novel is the difficult part, but marketing and self-promotion rank way up there!  To date, my novels published with Aria are available as eBooks and POD.  However, the company has committed to printing my latest book as a traditional paperback, which will be available from April in major bookshops, including Waterstones, W H Smith and Foyles.  I plan to encourage local, independent bookshops to climb on board and, so, come early spring – if Covid rules allow – I will travel the full length and breadth of Cornwall and pay them all a visit.

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

My proudest moment was when I first received a physical copy of my debut novel, The Forgotten Promise.  Becoming a novelist has been a long-held dream, and one that took a significant milestone birthday to stir me into action and do something about it, otherwise it ran the risk of remaining simply “a dream”.  My editor accepted this novel as the third in my four-book contract.  With further editorial development, the book was retitled Secrets of the Mist.  I’m proud to say that not only did it reach #49 on Amazon Kindle but also it achieved #1 bestseller in Time Travel Romance in the UK, Canada and Australia.


My biggest challenge has been finding the time to write.  Until late 2019 I worked full-time and, what with other commitments, this meant I had to snatch any spare moment to write.  Often, I was at the computer for a couple of hours at 2am!  Deadlines always make me feel panicky… but I discovered that by taking a deep breath, keeping my nerve and maintaining focus, I am able to meet them.

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!

Several reviewers have stated my words conjure up vivid images and it’s as if they’re watching a film rather than reading a book.  Now, if my novels were discovered and turned into films… that would be really cool!

When I wrote my 2-part romantic suspense mini-series, I already knew which actor I would want in the lead role – Aidan Turner.  He was well-known to only a relatively few ardent fans at the time, but since then a well-received British historical drama television series, set on the windswept Cornish cliffs and based on Winston Graham’s recklessly heroic mine owner, Ross Poldark, has gained the tri-corn wearing star many more ardent supporters.


What do you have planned that you are really excited about?

I’ve now fulfilled my contract with Aria and who knows what the future will bring!  I’ve always loved the unknown and its myriad of possibilities, and although a little scary it’s also exciting not knowing where my writing career will go.  I’m creative by nature and really enjoy the artistic control that comes with being an indie writer.  However, I realise the worth of having a publishing company behind you and the industry expertise that it brings to the table.  Hmmm… as they say, watch this space!

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?

During my late twenties I worked for a long-haul tour operator and I’ve been fortunate to have travelled to many exotic places.  However, I have a sister who lives in Australia and that country has a special place in my heart, and I’ve visited a handful of times.  She lives in Sydney, which I found vibrant and buzzing, filled with art galleries and museums, and, of course, the famous Opera House.  But, also, the wider country appeals to my love of the natural world and there are still many areas to discover on that continent.

On one visit we stayed on Brampton Island, which lies at the southern end of the world famous Whitsunday Passage.  Boasting a unique ecosystem and a diverse range of unexplored flora, fauna and birds, Brampton Island is part of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area and considered a national park.  The island offered numerous nature walking tracks and a dozen world-renowned sun-drenched beaches with crystal clear blue waters covering coral reefs, home to an amazing array of marine life.  One memorable experience was, whilst snorkelling, a large and curious turtle kept us company for a good hour!  Since that visit, I understand the island has been sold and is currently closed; caught up in limbo and paperwork with talk of redevelopment to a 7-star world-class resort in the coming years.

So, Tasmania and New Zealand beckon…

Tell me one interesting/surprising/secret fact about yourself.

I’ve flown on Concorde and the captain invited me to the cockpit!

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’?

Not knowing your preferred genre, that’s a tricky one.  Nevertheless, sticking with the mystical, slightly otherworldly theme that runs through Beneath Cornish Skies, I would recommend a writer that I’ve only recently discovered.  The front cover of Carol Lovekin’s Wild Spinning Girls captured my imagination with its potent imagery that so accurately depicts the novel.  It’s a gift of a story, wildly atmospheric and the incredible prose is poetry itself.  Carol has the gossamer touch, spinning words into magic, and I’m so looking forward to reading her other works.


Ida Llewellyn loses her job and her parents in the space of a few weeks and, thrown completely off course, she sets off to Wales to the house her father has left her. But Heather, the young woman still in her teens whose home it was, keeps the house as a shrine to her late mother and is determined to scare Ida away. The two girls battle with suspicion and fear before discovering that the secrets harboured by their thoughtless parents have grown rotten with time, and that any ghosts Ty’r Cwmwl harbours are of their own making. Their broken hearts will only mend once they cast off the house and its history, and let go of the keepsakes that they treasure like childhood dreams.

I have a copy of this book waiting patiently on my TBR. So many bloggers raved about it on publication last year. 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’ll force myself to drink loads of water before going to bed, and again in the morning to rehydrate.  If that doesn’t clear my head, I’ll have a cup of herbal ginger tea and then spend time outdoors in nature with my gorgeous Arab horse to blow away any lingering cobwebs.


Your horse is beautiful! Mine is a bit stockier and less pretty, but I love him anyway! After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?

Walking the cliffs with my husband and exploring secluded coves, followed by a quiet evening in, sharing the stories I’d heard during my night out with you, Alan and Helen!

Thank you for joining me tonight, Kate, I’ve had a really great evening and I wish you great success with your current book and future projects.

Kate’s latest book, Beneath Cornish Skies is a heart-warming love story about taking a chance on a new beginning.  Published as an eBook on 7 January 2021, available here, the paperback is scheduled for publication on 1 April and is available for pre-order now.


To an outsider, Cassandra Shaw‘s life looks perfect. She lives in a beautiful, luxurious house in the English countryside with a handsome, wealthy boyfriend who insists she needn’t do a day’s work in her life. But Cassie knows that something is not right. Her boyfriend has grown colder, treating her more like a housekeeper than a future wife. And her time feels empty and purposeless.

Cassandra has always been riddled with insecurities and self-doubt, but, just for once, she decides to take a chance on a new beginning. She answers an advert for a live-in nanny, horse trainer, cook and all-round ‘Superhuman’ for a family living in a rambling manor house on the rugged North Cornish coast. The work is hard and tiring, but Cassie has never felt so fulfilled.

As Cassie learns to connect with the natural beauty unfolding around her, Cornwall starts to offer up its secrets. Soon, Cassie starts wondering if she was drawn to this isolated part of the coast for a reason. Why was she guided to Foxcombe Manor? What are the flashes of light she sees in the valley? Is it her imagination or does someone brush past her? And who is the mysterious man living deep in the woods?

A beautiful romance with a hint of ghostliness, Beneath Cornish Skies is for anyone who has ever longed to start their lives again.

Kate Ryder is an Amazon Kindle international best seller who writes timeslip and romantic suspense with a ‘true to life’ narrative.  On leaving school she studied drama but soon discovered her preference for writing rather than performing.  Since then, she has worked in the publishing, tour operating and property industries, and has travelled widely.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors, in 2017 Kate signed a 4-book contract with Aria (digital imprint of award-winning independent publisher, Head of Zeus).

Summer in a Cornish Cove, a contemporary romantic suspense set on the Lizard Peninsula, saw her nominated for the RNA’s 2018 Joan Hessayon award, while its standalone sequel, Cottage on a Cornish Cliff, reached the heady heights of #2 in Kindle Literary Sagas.

Secrets of the Mist, a mysterious timeslip romance, was not only rated in the #top 50 on Amazon UK Paid Kindle but also achieved #1 Kindle best-selling status in the UK, Canada and Australia.  In its original, self-published version as The Forgotten Promise, it was awarded the very first Chill with a Book “Book of the Month”.

Her fourth book with Aria, Beneath Cornish Skies, is set on the wildly rugged north Cornish coast and tells the story of one woman’s journey in finding her true self.

Originally from the South East of England, today Kate lives on the Cornish side of the beautiful Tamar Valley with her husband and a collection of animals.

You can find out more about Kate and her writing on her website, and via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Desert Island Books with… Christina Courtenay


It’s time for me to send another unsuspecting character off to my lovely but deserted island, with only five books and one luxury item to keep them company. This week I have packed off author Christina Courtenay, let’s see what she has chosen to take with her.

Thank you so much for inviting me, Julie! I have to say that it’s incredibly difficult to choose just five books to take with me, but I have gone with my absolute all-time favourites and they should keep me going for a long time on that desert island!  I’m rather hoping the island is in the Outer Hebrides or somewhere equally chilly, as I’m not a huge fan of hot weather, although I suppose if I’m surrounded by a tropical ocean I can always cool off easily enough 😊

Book One – Cotillion by Georgette Heyer


Kitty Charing’s life-changing inheritance comes with a catch.

Her eccentric and childless guardian, Mr. Penicuik, is leaving Kitty all of his vast fortune – but with one condition. She must marry one of his five grand-nephews.

However, Kitty’s clear favourite – the rakish Jack Westruther – doesn’t appear at all interested in the arrangement. To make Jack jealous, Kitty impulsively convinces his cousin, the kind-hearted and chivalrous Freddy Standen, to enter into a pretend engagement.

But the more time she spends with Freddy, the more Kitty wonders whether Jack is the right choice after all…

This is my ultimate comfort read and my absolute favourite Heyer book. I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve read it, but I enjoy it just as much each time. In this story she turns her usual alpha male hero plot on its head and instead it’s the unlikely Freddy Standen who gets to be the true hero. At first, the reader can’t possibly imagine it, but as the story progresses, he proves to have hidden strengths. The humour in this book is also second to none – definitely Heyer at her very best! I’ll never tire of reading this and it will cheer me up if I’m feeling down.

Book Two – Midnight is a Lonely Place by Barbara Erskine


After a broken love affair, biographer Kate Kennedy retires to a remote cottage on the wild Essex coast to work on her new book, until her landlord’s daughter uncovers a Roman site nearby and long-buried passions are unleashed…

In her lonely cottage, Kate is terrorized by mysterious forces. What do these ghosts want? Should the truth about the violent events of long ago be exposed or remain concealed? Kate must struggle for her life against earthbound spirits and ancient curses as hate, jealousy, revenge and passion do battle across the centuries…

I might have to read this one in broad daylight, even if I’m totally alone on that island, as it scares me half to death each time, but it’s one of the most perfect timeslip stories I’ve ever read. The ghostly phenomena are chilling and feel incredibly real – I always imagine myself in that remote place being haunted by a long-dead Roman hellbent on revenge. The romance is poignant and there is something so satisfying in finding that good triumphs over evil – I love that!

Book Three – The Winter Sea (aka Sophia’s Secret) by Susanna Kearsley


A hauntingly beautiful tale of love that transcends time: an American writer travels to Scotland to craft a novel about the Jacobite Rebellion, only to discover her own ancestral memories of that torrid moment in Scottish history…

In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown. When young Sophia Paterson travels to Slains Castle by the sea, she finds herself in the midst of the dangerous intrigue.

Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of that historic Scottish castle, she starts to write. But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be the only living person who knows the truth–the ultimate betrayal–that happened all those years ago.

This is another absolutely perfect timeslip story, although a lot less terrifying. It’s a wonderful, gentle read that just sweeps you along and it’s the only book in the last twenty years to have made me cry (in a good way) when I read the ending. It is set during the beginning of the Jacobite rebellions, an era that fascinates me, and it’s so incredibly emotional and romantic. I could reread this forever and still never get enough of it!

Book Four – Brother Cadfael’s Penance by Ellis Peters


The cloistered walls of Shrewsbury Abbey have always protected Brother Cadfael from the raging Civil War. But when fighting escalates between Empress Maud and King Stephen, the war takes a deadly step closer to him.

Taken prisoner in the battle for Maud’s land is Olivier de Bretagne, Brother Cadfael’s own son- born as a result of a brief encounter thirty years earlier. Now Brother Cadfael resolves to plead for his son’s release at a peace conference scheduled to take place in Coventry; but there is no sign of Olivier there.

After much soul searching, Cadfael makes the difficult decision to break his monastic vows, leaving Coventry without permission- because he knows he must do everything in his power to find his son.

The twentieth and final instalment in Ms Peters’ series about the clever thirteenth century monk was everything I had hoped it would be. Having followed him through the entire series, and knowing that he had loose ends to tie up, I’d hoped that would happen in this story and I wasn’t disappointed. There is something incredibly satisfying in taking a long journey with a character and then leaving them exactly at a point in their lives where you know they’ll be ok. Whenever I finish this, I give a happy sigh and the characters stay in my mind for a long time.

Book Five – Shadow of the Moon by M M Kaye


Shadow of the Moon is the story of Winter de Ballesteros, a beautiful English heiress who has come to India to be married. It is also the tale of Captain Alex Randall, her escort and protector, who knows that Winter’s husband to be has become a debauched wreck of a man.

When India bursts into flaming hatreds and bitter bloodshed during the dark days of the Mutiny, Alex and Winter are thrown unwillingly together in the brutal and urgent struggle for survival.

I think this can only be described as an epic historical, set against the backdrop of colonial India during the Mutiny. It is thrilling, exciting and wonderfully romantic, and the heroine is one of the strongest I’ve ever encountered (plus I love her name – Winter). I love history and you certainly get to really live through it vicariously here. Although it’s a very long book, it keeps me spellbound every time I pick it up. It will definitely help to pass the time on my remote island!

My luxury item


A Swiss Army knife (or other similar multi-purpose tool) – the largest one available – would probably come in very handy for building, cutting and cooking etc. They seem to contain just about every imaginable tool all cleverly tucked in.

About Christine Courtenay

Christina Courtenay 2020 two

Christina Courtenay writes historical romance, time slip and time travel stories, and lives in Herefordshire (near the Welsh border) in the UK. Although born in England, she has a Swedish mother and was brought up in Sweden – hence her abiding interest in the Vikings. Christina is a former chairman of the UK’s Romantic Novelists’ Association and has won several awards, including the RoNA for Best Historical Romantic Novel twice with Highland Storms (2012) and The Gilded Fan (2014).  The Runes of Destiny (time travel published by Headline 10th December 2020) is her latest novel. Christina is a keen amateur genealogist and loves history and archaeology (the armchair variety).

Christina’s latest book is The Runes of Destiny, a Viking time travel story published by Headline Review which you can buy here.

TROD Medium

Separated by time. Brought together by fate.

‘Linnea felt a shiver travel the length of her spine. It hadn’t been a joke – the runes really had shown her destiny.’

Indulging her fascination for the Viking language and losing herself in an archaeological dig is just what Linnea Berger needs after her recent trauma. Uncovering an exquisite brooch, she blacks out reading the runic inscription, only to come to, surrounded by men in Viking costume, who seem to take re-enactment very seriously.

Lost and confused, Linnea finds herself in the power of Hrafn, a Viking warrior who claims her as his thrall and takes her on a treacherous journey across the seas to sell her for profit. Setting sail, she confronts the unthinkable: she has travelled back to the ninth century.

Linnea is determined to find a way back to her own time, but there’s a connection forming with Hrafn. Can she resist the call of the runes and accept her destiny lies here …

Connect with Christina:


Facebook: Christina Courtenay Author

Twitter: @PiaCCourtenay

Instagram: @ChristinaCourtenayAuthor

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