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Blowing the Dust Off: Caroline Dunford’s Playing for Love

It’s Day 10! The final day of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series. Today Caroline Dunford is sharing the inspiration behind her novel, Playing for Love.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

 

Inside the Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe

The Edinburgh International Festival and Fringe is well underway. Everywhere buildings are adorned in colourfully dressings, psychedelic-coloured billboards and hundreds of careful designed posters promoting what seems like an infinite number of shows. Tourists compete for pavement space with performers wearing garish wigs, riding unicycles, juggling livestock and handing out flyers for their unique greatest spectacle ever. It’s possible to walk through the city centre with some ease if you’re up early enough. Most of the throngs are then interred in the many pop-up coffee shops depleting the planet of bacon.

There’s a lot of excitement in the air, but old hands know that not of it is justified. The festival can be the place where inspirations and aspirations (to be great actors, playwrights and comedians) famously come to die. A kind of graveyard of dreams if you like. But every year a few shining stars do rise out of the mishmash of cultural fodder and go on to be household names.

As an Edinburgh resident, I have mixed feelings about this time of year. I used to review for some of the Scottish Newspapers and remember with some fondness when I’d see five shows a day and then send in copy at 3am for the morning edition. But every year the Festival and Fringe has grown larger. Sometimes we even have a Fringe to the Fringe. The latter being the idea of bringing back cheap shows that you would try on a whim. This is where we force feed a heavy dose of cynicism. The average ticket at the Fringe will leave you with a battered wallet, while a Festival show will typically send your wallet to the ICU. The city literally doubles in population during the festival weeks and with that comes an inevitable degree of overcrowding and traffic jams.

The Festival and Fringe are victims of their own successes. People come from further and further away, prepared to spend more and more, to get the real Edinburgh atmosphere. There are still the small student productions out at the most far flung edges of the city, but realistically these are lucky if the audience outnumbers the cast.

The heart of the Festival and Fringe remains, if you know where to look. It’s the one time of year when you can see a naked man in a see-through mac with a parrot on his head and people will throw money at him, rather than escort him off to the local police station. There is still a magical madness hidden among the profiteering and consumerism. And it’s in all this bustling mayhem I set Playing for Love, about a young, reclusive writer, turned playwright, who comes to the Edinburgh Fringe to see her play staged and discovers this madcap world. Nothing is quite what it seems and even the most ridiculous explanations are far from the real truth. It’s funny. It’s sad. And it’s romantic. Rather like Edinburgh itself at this time of year.

So, if you can’t make it to Edinburgh, or you are here and want a bit of an insider’s (fictional) guide then you can buy it in eBook in paperback at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Playing-Love-Warm-hearted-beautiful-Edinburgh-ebook/dp/B011OG0L3O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1502641697&sr=8-1&keywords=caroline+dunford+playing+for+love

 My website: https://caroline-dunford.squarespace.com/

My Twitter: https://twitter.com/verdandiweaves?lang=en

 

Bio:

My earliest memories are of wanting to be a writer. I found that through story I can explore the world around me and understand the thoughts and journeys of others. There is an old adage about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes to appreciate their choices. As a writer, I spend a lot of time walking in someone else’s shoes (figuratively, of course). 

I’m content when writing. Occasionally, I get frustrated when my characters refuse to conform to a carefully crafted plot, but in general sitting at my keyboard is where I feel most at home. In truth, I seldom stop thinking about stories, so when I sit down to write I tend to do so very quickly. On average, I produce between 300,000 and 400,000 words a year.

I’m unusual in that I write across a wide range of genres from historical crime to contemporary thrillers to YA science fiction. I’ve also written a number of plays that have been produced, some of which have toured internationally, and I’m exploring audio and screen dramas. Switching from prose to script is no mean feat but it’s refreshing and helps me think about telling stories in new ways.

***

Many thanks Caroline. A great way to round off our look at novels from 10 different author’s creative archives.

Happy reading everyone- and thanks for joining in this blogging adventure.

Jenny xx

 


Blowing the Dust Off: Alison Rose’s Off the Record

It’s Day 7 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series of blogs. Today my friend  and creative writing business partner, Alison Rose, is talking ‘Off the Record.’

Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

 

Hello everyone, I’m Alison Rose, and I’m delighted to be Jenny’s guest today in her From the Archives blog.  I met Jenny at a meeting of the Bath and North Wiltshire chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association a few years ago and we’ve been firm friends ever since.  My first book deal was with Jenny’s publisher, Accent Press, and in recent months we’ve become business partners, running Imagine Creative Writing workshops and retreats together.

The book I want to share with you today is my first published novel, Off the Record.  Here’s the blurb:

“This is the chance of a lifetime, so don’t blow it! Journalist Kate Armstrong has always known that music icon Johnson Brand’s platinum-selling first album was written about his break-up with her mother, Alexandra. When Kate’s boss sends her out to interview the star himself, her life is turned upside down when her resemblance to Alexandra prompts Johnson to seek out her mother and renew their relationship. Kate suddenly has a lot on her plate – coming to terms with Alexandra and Johnson’s rekindling relationship, as well as keeping the two of them out of the public eye, all the while trying to resist the advances of Johnson’s playboy son, Paul. She thinks she has everything under control, until a threatening figure from the band’s past rears its ugly head. Will love tear them all apart … again?”

I was inspired to write Off the Record after watching the movie Grease on a rainy afternoon.  Off the Record actually has very little to do with the film, but watching Grease had sparked memories of the year that it came out – 1977 – when I was the English exchange student at a high school in Indiana, USA.  As I watched Grease with my teenaged daughter, I remembered the people I’d known in 1977 and wondered what they were doing now.  One of the boys had been a talented singer and that sparked my idea of a rock star. I was working for a Christian charity at the time and knew a lot of lady vicars… and so it began.

I started asking ‘What if?’ and the characters and story began to form – the divorced, aging rock star; the widowed lady vicar; his record producer son; her journalist daughter.  Could the older couple have anything in common after so many years apart? Would their children be able to overcome their desire to protect their parents and their suspicion of each other? And who was causing so much trouble for them all?

I loved writing Off the Record and I’m proud that it was the first of my books to be published. It was intended to be the story of love rekindled in middle age, but I couldn’t resist the call of the couple’s grown-up children, who shot sparks at each other right from the start.  So in Off the Record you get two love stories for the price of one! I guess I always wanted to be swept off my feet by a sexy rock star and so I had a lot of fun making it happen for Kate and Alexandra.

If you’d like to read Off the Record, here’s the link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Off-Record-Alison-Rose-x/dp/1783752491/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1502203726&sr=1-7&keywords=off+the+record

Thanks so much to Jenny for inviting me along today and thank you for taking the time to read this.  I hope you enjoy Off the Record too!

If you’d like to know more about me and my writing, please visit my website at www.alisonroseknight.com and if you want to find out what Jenny and I are up to as Imagine… see www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk

Many thanks Alison! Always great to have you pop by.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to find out what Jenny Harper is going to share with us.

Happy reading,

Jenny x


Blowing the Dust Off: Rachel Brimble’s The Temptation of Laura

It’s Day 5 of my Blowing the Dust Off series. Today we are in the company of the fabulous Rachel Brimble. She is taking a peck at her Victorian romance, The Temptation of Laura.

Go grab a cuppa, sit down, and enjoy…

 

The Temptation of Laura…

Despite the title of my second Victorian romance, The Temptation of Laura is not so much about the temptation of Laura herself, but the temptations life throws at her, the hero and many of the secondary characters. Temptation is all around us and more often than not, that temptation could be perceived as opportunity. It’s fear that holds us back from surrendering or resisting.

The book is set against the backdrop of Bath’s theatre world during the late 19th century. There were many changes happening, socially, economically and sexually during this time. The first whispers of the women’s revolution had begun to circulate…not that many men noticed until around 1903 when The Women’s Social and Political Union was founded.

The leaders and supporters of the group began to cause a stir––marching and petitioning for their right to vote. This is marked as a hugely significant and rightly respected time for women at the time. Men had no choice but to sit up and take notice when so many women banded together and refused to be ignored.

This leads me to the question of temptation…I love exploring this theme and all the imaginings it conjures. Each of us is faced with temptations (or decisions) every day and I, for one, am hugely guilty of making the easy, expected, even socially acceptable decision. My books tend to be about the women who do the exact opposite. What better way to earn a living than to create a woman you admire and want to see succeed in her chosen vocation, romance or spiritually satisfying path?

Laura’s story began in book one of my Victorian series with eKensington when she appeared as a secondary character in The Seduction of Emily. It wasn’t long before I knew she deserved a richer, more in-depth story of her own. As a prostitute struggling for a better life…a dreamer who longs to be onstage, I sensed Laura would be a joy to write and spend some time with over the course of 85,000 words. She didn’t let me down J

Hope I’ve ‘tempted’ you to read the book!

 

Here’s the blurb & buy links:

Laura Robinson has always been dazzled by the glamour of the stage. But perhaps acting and selling one’s favors are not so different—for Laura must feign pleasure with the men she beds to survive. Now, with her only friend at death’s door and a ruthless pimp at her heels, escaping her occupation seems impossible. Hoping to attract a gentleman, she attends the theater. Yet the man Laura captivates is no customer, but a rising star and playwright…

Adam Lacey has been driven to distraction since the moment he saw Laura. She is his ideal leading lady come to irresistible life—and so much more. Certain they can make the perfect team on and off stage, he is determined to win her heart—and discover her story. But that is precisely what Laura fears. And she has no idea that Adam harbors shameful secrets of his own. Will the truth free them to love—or destroy all their dreams…?

 Amazon US

 Amazon UK

 Barnes & Noble

 

Bio:

Rachel lives with her husband and two teenage daughters in a small town near Bath in the UK. After having several novels published by small US presses, she secured agent representation in 2011. Since 2013, she has had seven books published by Harlequin Superromance (Templeton Cove Stories) and an eight coming in Feb 2018. She also has four Victorian romances with eKensington/Lyrical Press.

Rachel is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and Romance Writers of America, and was selected to mentor the Superromance finalist of So You Think You Can Write 2014 contest. When she isn’t writing, you’ll find Rachel with her head in a book or walking the beautiful English countryside with her family. Her dream place to live is Bourton-on-the-Water in South West England.

She likes nothing more than connecting and chatting with her readers and fellow romance writers. Rachel would love to hear from you!

Links:

 Website

Blog

Twitter

Facebook

Facebook Street Team – Rachel’s Readers

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Rachel-Brimble/e/B007829ZRM/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1490948101&sr=8-1

Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/1806411.Rachel_Brimble

 Many thanks Rachel, fabulous stuff.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to see what Jane Jackson is tempting us with.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx

 

 

 


Blowing the Dust Off: Kirsten McKenzie’s Fifteen Postcards

It’s Day 4 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series of blogs. Today Kirsten McKenzie is taking time out from preparing for an archaeological adventure to tell us all about the fabulous novel, Fifteen Postcards.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

 

Travel Back in Time

Today I make the long journey from Auckland to Newcastle upon Tyne. Three different plane changes and one train trip will see me to my hotel in the centre of the city, where I suspect I shall then sleep for several hours. Why the long journey? I’m heading back to volunteer at an archaeological dig at Vindolanda, all in the name of research.

When I sat down to write my first novel, I didn’t plot or plan. I had no glorious ending in sight, I had merely made a sweeping statement to my family that I would write a novel when my youngest daughter started school, and so I did. I started with this paragraph:

“In a cramped little street, in a dusty corner of London, stands a set of two-storey brick facade shops. An architectural relic from last century, miraculously untouched by the bulldozers of modern developers. A greengrocer, a boutique, a gentlemen’s tailor, the ubiquitous Chinese dumpling shop, and The Old Curiosity Shop, an antique shop named after the Charles Dickens classic of the same name. The sort of shop passers-by would wonder if anyone ever went in or, indeed, whether they actually ever sold anything.”

That paragraph turned in ‘Fifteen Postcards’, a historical time slip novel traversing three continents and two centuries. It took me eighteen months to write, and even then it ended on a cliffhanger as the story grew too large for just one book.

A couple of months after ‘Fifteen Postcards’ was published by Accent Press, I turned up at Vindolanda for my first experience of volunteering on an archaeological site. And I fell in love. Every shovel full of dirt felt like a treasure hunt, but the sort of hunt where you all celebrate finding shards of pottery or slivers of glass. The most exciting article I found was a chair leg, beautifully preserved in the unique environment at Vindolanda.

It was that experience which dictated the direction the sequel to ‘Fifteen Postcards’ would then take. ‘The Last Letter’ was written in twelve months, and may include some references to digging up Roman statues….I’m not going to spoil the plot here!

Accent Press published ‘The Last Letter’ which again had an ending which nicely morphs into another sequel. So now my first novel ‘Fifteen Postcards’ has turned into a trilogy. It did that without me even realising, but time slip fiction does that to you. There are so many interesting threads of history you can weave into a storyline that you just don’t want to leave anything out.

My next book wasn’t the sequel to ‘The Last Letter’. Those characters needed to have a bit of time out, to sit around and stew in colonial New Zealand, or Victorian England, or underneath the rule of the Raj in India. While those characters were resting, I wrote ‘Painted’ a bloodless horror about an art appraiser and a houseful of malevolent portraits. Again, the antique dealer side of me couldn’t resist pulling in all the antique references.

Painted’ took eight months to write, so I’m getting faster which is a good thing! Now that’s out of my system I can revisit the wonderful characters from ‘Fifteen Postcards’ and ‘The Last Letter’ and maybe I’ll fling them into Roman Britain or modern day America? Who knows! But when I step onto the first plane today, I know that I will have my laptop with me, and two glorious weeks of free evenings to write in the most beautiful of locations, with very little responsibilities. And I’m imagining wonderful words will flow.

 

Kirsten excavating at Vindolanda

Author Bio
For many years Kirsten McKenzie worked in her family’s antique store, where she went from being allowed to sell the 50c postcards to selling $5,000 Worcester vases and seventeenth century silverware, providing a unique insight into the world of antiques which touches every aspect of her writing. Her time slip novels have been called Antiques Roadshow gone viral, and The Time Travellers Wife meets The Far Pavilions.

Her horror novel Painted was released in June 2017.

Now a full time author, she lives in New Zealand with her husband, daughters, and her SPCA rescue cat, and can be found procrastinating on Twitter.

Social Media Links

Facebook: www.facebook.com/kirstenmckenzieauthor

Twitter: www.twitter.com/kiwimrsmac

Instagram: www.instagram.com/kiwimrsmac

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/kiwimrsmac

Book Links:

UK Amazon: www.amazon.co.uk/Fifteen-Postcards-Travel-Solve-Mystery-ebook/dp/B00XXZIO0C

US Amazon: www.amazon.com/Fifteen-Postcards-Travel-Mystery-Curiosity-ebook/dp/B00XXZIO0C 

Many thanks Kirsten. What a great blog. I hope your excavation time is fantastic- not at all jealous…honest…

Come back tomorrow to hear what the lovely Rachel Brimble has to share with us.

Happy reading,

Jenny xx


Blowing the Dust Off: Marie Laval’s A Spell in Provence

It’s Day 3 of my ‘Blowing the Dust Off’ series of blogs. Today I’m welcoming fellow Accent author, Marie Laval, to my place to talk about her French romance, A Spell in Provence.

Grab a cuppa and enjoy…

 

FINDING INSPIRATION IN PROVENCE 

People often wonder how writers find ideas for their novels. Although I can find inspiration from many different places – a song, a painting, a poem, or even a road map! – I can pinpoint the exact moment when I got the idea for my contemporary romantic suspense A SPELL IN PROVENCE. A few years ago I visited the lovely town of Cassis during a family holiday in Provence. We had an impromptu picnic lunch of baguette, ham and cheese on a village square and sat next to an old stone fountain with an inscription in Latin…and that was it!   

 

Fountains have a special place in the novel, but they are, and always were, very important in Provence. According to an old Provençal saying ‘Eici, l’aigo es d’or’, which translates by ‘Here, water is gold’ – and no wonder when you think how hot it can get in the summer and how parched the earth can be. Anyone who read the wonderful ‘Jean de Florette’ and ‘Manon des Sources’ by Marcel Pagnol, or saw the films, can remember the struggles and hardship the characters faced and their anguish of the characters when the water supply ran dry.

A SPELL IN PROVENCE is set near Bonnieux in the Lubéron region of Provence, one of the many hill-top villages dotting the countryside. My heroine leaves England and buys Bellefontaine, a ‘bastide’ (an old farmhouse) she renovates and plans to open as a guesthouse….until eerie things happen and jeopardise her dream. The hero of the story, Fabien Coste, is heir to an old aristocratic family and has turned his ancestral manor house into a luxury hotel. Once again, the manor house is based on a real place – the castle in Lourmarin – but I have of course changed a few details.

Another important setting in the story is the ancient village of ‘Bories’, which are stone huts dating back from the Iron Age, and which were still used as shelter by shepherds until a few years ago. You can also find isolated bories scattered in the landscape when you travel through Provence.

Provence is not only a beautiful place, it also has a fascinating history – in particular ancient history – which is pivotal to my novel’s story line. Before the Greeks, and later the Romans settled there, the Salyens were the largest Gallic tribe. By the 6th century BC, their main centre was Entremont, which is located on a plateau above what is now Aix-en-Provence.

There were other important centres, such as nearby Glanum. This settlement was dedicated to the Celtic god Glanis, and built around a spring known for its healing powers. The Salyens had the strange – some might say gruesome – custom of displaying the severed heads of enemies at the city gate. They left no writing but many statues of gods and warriors, some of them holding severed heads.

 

When researching and writing A SPELL IN PROVENCE, I loved surrounding myself with photos of hill-top villages, of old fountains and of lavender and sunflower fields. I grew up in Lyon and spent many holidays in the South of France as a child. Writing the novel brought back fond memories of playing in the sunshine, breathing in scents of herbs and flowers, and listening to the woody song of the cicadas.

A SPELL IN PROVENCE is published by Áccent Press and is available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00RVQO8RM

 ***

Blurb:

With few roots in England and having just lost her job, Amy Carter decides to give up on home and start a new life in France, spending her redundancy package turning an overgrown Provençal farmhouse, Bellefontaine, into a successful hotel. Though she has big plans for her new home, none of them involves falling in love – least of all with Fabien Coste, the handsome but arrogant owner of a nearby château.  As romance blossoms, eerie and strange happenings in Bellefontaine hint at a dark mystery of the Provençal countryside which dates back many centuries and holds an entanglement between the ladies of Bellefontaine and the ducs de Coste at its centre. As Amy works to unravel the mystery, she begins to wonder if it may not just be her heart at risk, but her life too.

A SPELL IN PROVENCE is published by Áccent Press and is available from http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00RVQO8RM

 

Excerpt

Shivering in the cold breeze despite her shawl, Amy joined the guests lining up to be greeted by Fabien, who in true lord of the manor style, stood tall and imposing at the top of the steps, with torches burning on either side of him.

          He might wear a black dining suit and a crisp white shirt instead of a suit of armour, but there was something untamed, fundamentally uncivilized and proprietary about the way he surveyed the crowd – as if he truly owned everything and everyone, like Frédéric had said, and Amy was seized by an irresistible, irrational and overwhelming urge to flee. She didn’t want to speak to Fabien Coste, didn’t want to put up with his arrogant ways. He could keep his fancy chateau, his contacts and glamorous guests, she didn’t need him. She would walk home. It wasn’t that far.

          She was about to step aside when he looked down and their gaze met. Shadows danced on his face. The torches hissed in the breeze, their flames shooting high in the air and reflecting in his green eyes, giving them a deep, dangerous glow. For the space of a heartbeat, the noise of conversations around her became distant and fuzzy, and all she could see was him.

          He walked down, took her hand and lifted it to his lips. Even though his mouth barely touched her skin, a flash of heat reverberated through her body.

          ‘Mademoiselle Carter – Amy, you’re here at last.’

          It was the first time he’d spoken her first name. He made it sound French, sensual and incredibly romantic. Aimée. Beloved.

          ‘Shall I escort you inside and introduce you to a few people?’

          Panic made her heart flutter and turned her brain to mush.

          ‘Well, it’s just that …’

          He arched a dark eyebrow, looked down, and smiled as if he knew exactly what she was feeling.

          ‘You’re here now. You might as well make the most of it.’

 

Author Bio:

Originally from Lyon in France, Marie studied History and Law at university there before moving to Lancashire in England where she worked in a variety of jobs, from PA in a busy university department to teacher of French in schools and colleges. Writing, however, was always her passion, and she spends what little free time she has dreaming and making up stories. She writes both contemporary and historical romance. ANGEL HEART, THE LION’S EMBRACE, the DANCING FOR THE DEVIL Trilogy are published by Áccent Press, as is her contemporary romantic suspense novel A SPELL IN PROVENCE. She also writes short stories for the World Romance Writers – Letterbox Love Stories and Escape to Africa – and has just signed a publishing contract with Choc Lit for another contemporary suspense novel to be published in 2018.

You can find Marie here http://marielaval.blogspot.co.uk/

and https://www.facebook.com/marielavalauthor?fref=ts

and https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6538479.Marie_Laval

https://twitter.com/MarieLaval1

 

Many thanks Marie. I’ve always wanted to visit Provence- I am inspired to head that way sooner rather than later.

Don’t forget to come back tomorrow to read what Kirsten McKenzie has to offer us.

Happy reading,

Jenny x

 

 

 

 


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