A magical real world

There’s nothing more exciting and satisfying than seeing you book appear on Amazon. As it sells, which thankfully is happening for my books, I’m wondering who is buying my book and why. Books on Amazon are categorised and appear on lists which are linked to people’s reading habits. So where a book is categorised can have a significant impact on its future sales.

Both of my books are Women’s Fiction; they feature the lives of women and the category is generally marketed to female readers. I also consider my books to fall under the umbrella of Magical Realism, a small genre that is invisible on Amazon’s UK listings, although it is there behind the scenes. (Amazon US has a different approach to categories.)

I’ve always been a reader in this genre, long before I knew what it is was called. The stories told are anchored in the real world, whether historical or contemporary, and into it, the writer overlays something extraordinary. The author, Isabel Allende, is my strongest influence with her House of Spirits, which I read as a teenager, and The City of Beasts. The magical part of the story isn’t fantasy, like Tolkien or Pratchett, and it should be described in such a way that it integrates with the familiar real world a reader would know. Unlike Fantasy novels, writing Magical Realism isn’t world building or elaborate in its set-up. I simply injected something supernatural and made it part of the real world. In The Last Thing She Said, the sisters have gifts, and one of them would consider hers to be far from normal. How will she cope with it? And what impact will it have on her life?

The challenge of writing in this genre is not to get carried away with the magical aspects, just allow them to blend into the story, and focus on the reality, the things readers will recognise—the relationship between the sisters, their ambitions and need for love in their lives. In hindsight, the magical elements were the least of my worries; making the realism part work was far more important to the story.

 

The Last Thing She Said – who will believe her?

Birthdays are family time. The giving and receiving of presents, a cake maybe, and perhaps a party.

For Rose, a birthday is a day to spend in the company of her granddaughters. She likes cake, especially chocolate cake, and always has one candle on top of it to blow out. What she also does is say something, a few words. The trouble is, they don’t make much sense to her granddaughters. They listen, and forget, or so it might appear. What do you do if your grandmother claims to know the future, hears things that will come true? Each of the three sisters has to decide what to do. What if Rose really does have a gift?

Rose puckered her lips and slowly expelled a stream of air. The diminutive flame flickered for a second then died. Through the threads of smoke that lingered above the birthday cake, Rose’s pale eyes fixed on Naomi. When she spoke, her warbling voice was stretched, but the revelatory words were enunciated clearly.

‘Beware of a man named Frederick and his offer of marriage.’ Rose blinked and gave a small satisfactory nod. ‘Cut a slice for me, love.’

Naomi glanced to her side. Rebecca was poised, holding the fake ivory handle of the cake knife with a white-knuckled grasp.

‘I don’t know anyone called Frederick,’ Naomi whispered into Rebecca’s ear. She’d no plans to marry gaming geek Kyle, or any other man for that matter, at least not until she could see the benefit outshine the exuberant cost and extensive planning needed.

Rebecca pressed the knife through the layer of marble icing. ‘She’s done it. That’s all that matters,’ she said quietly.

‘What’s that?’ Rose cocked an ear towards her granddaughters. Even if Naomi bothered to ask questions, Rose, with a humorous twinkle in her eye, would likely shrug dismissively. Sometimes she claimed it was a spirit that dropped the thought into her head, other times she implied the eruption of a whispering voice was due to the revitalising energy of her birthday. The lack of consistency significantly weakened Rose’s sage advice.

On the other side of the stained kitchen table, Leia removed the plate from Rose’s hand.

‘Here, Gran, let me help you.’ She thrust the plate at Rebecca. ‘Just slice the cake. She’s had her moment.’

Her moment, as Leia put it, was something of a tradition on Rose’s birthday. The sugary-topped sponge, which Rebecca had baked that morning, the solitary pink candle and the customary extinguishing of the flame, were a necessary precursor to the miniature party. Without fail, every year, Rose, with her salt and pepper hair swept back from her face into a bun, leaned toward the candle, and spoke her words of prophecy. The only difference this time was she had said them directly to Naomi instead of to a spot on the far wall.

 

If you’re intrigued, then head over to Amazon. The Last Thing She Said is now live, available on Kindle and in print. Don’t miss out on finding out a family secret.

Three Sisters. Three Gifts. One Prophecy

“Beware of a man named Frederick and his offer of marriage.”

Rose’s granddaughters, Rebecca, Leia and Naomi, have never taken her prophecies seriously. But now that Rose is dead, and Naomi has a new man in her life, should they take heed of this mysterious warning?

Naomi needs to master the art of performing. Rebecca rarely ventures out of her house. She’s afraid of what she might see. As for Rebecca’s twin, everyone admires Leia’s giant brain, but now the genius is on the verge of a breakdown.

Rebecca suspects Naomi’s new boyfriend is hiding something. She begs Leia, now living in the US, to investigate.

Leia’s search takes her to a remote farm in Ohio on the trail of the truth behind a tragic death.

Just who is Ethan? And what isn’t he telling Naomi?

In a story full of drama and mystery, the sisters discover there is more that connects them than they realise, and that only together can they discover exactly what’s behind Rose’s prophecy.

The Last Thing She Said

Who will believe her?

Amazon

(Print and Kindle)

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Book club questions – what happened at Heachley Hall? #bookclubs

I’m more than delighted, and a little scared, when I find out my book, The Women of Heachley Hall, is featuring at a book club. What do people talk about? Readers are always reviewers, even if they never  post anything on a public forum, and as a writer, it is there at the back of my mind, all the time – what is that makes a book a good read?

If you are in a book club, then please consider my book, and if you do, I’d love to hear back from you.

I crafted a few questions I’d like to ask, if I was there. Just food for thought, things that intrigue me about the themes and characters.

Warning to those who haven’t read it – some spoilers!!!

 

  • Would you live in Heachley Hall on your own? What makes somebody tenacious?
  • Would you have left the house at any time, and if so, when?
  • Miriam sacrifices her love to free Charles from his curse. What convinces her to do this?
  • Do people punish themselves too harshly for guilty feelings – is Charles’s guilt justified?
  • Did you guess the ending?  Is Charles a ‘ghost’ or ‘time-traveller’?
  • How much do the other characters contribute to the book?
  • Did I make the right decision to tell Charles’s story in a journal or should I have done it differently – ie. In dialogue or interspersed between Miriam’s story?

Considering a pre-emptive strike – do I put readers questions in my next book?

It’s coming soon…

My next book is in its final stages of editing, and here is the cover!

Ebook cover

Three Sisters. Three Gifts. One Prophecy.

Do you like to read about free chapters and short stories, or find out more about your favourite author including their work in progress?

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A trip down memory lane in Norfolk

For our holiday, my family and I crossed the expanse of the Midlands to visit the Norfolk coast. We drove through The Fens, where parents lived out their childhood, and saw the house where my mother was born, the market town where my father’s family had a store and by the side of a road, the cemetry where my grandparents are buried. It has been probably twenty years since I last visited these memory spots. Locating them wasn’t difficult, my memories are locked in, but they weren’t the same. A door had moved and why did I recall an upright gravestone, when in fact it is flat in the ground? The little alterations that I had made in my mind had stuck and I corrected them, chiding myself for not recalling the finer details.

Then on to the coast and the chance to see more places I visited as a small child and from which I took the inspiration for my book, The Women of Heachley Hall. Heachley doesn’t exist, but the woods around Heacham do. There is no Little Knottisham, my fictional hamlet, but Snettisham, Dersingham and Ringstead are real. The latter being the village where my grandfather was born. We drove through it, passed the flintstone cottages. I tried to capture those round stones in the walls of Heachley Hall because I knew they were significant for the region.

We came across a major fire – a haystack fully alight on the top of a hill. On the other side of the field, a small piece of hot black plastic had blown over and caught the dry grasses of a hedgerow. The smouldering fire quickly spread and we called the fire service, alarmed at the proximity of a row of houses. A few hours later, the field was black charcoal (according to the news reports) and the gardens of one house had suffered. How quickly devastation arrives, sweeping its way across the tinderbox of drought ridden fields. I never thought when I wrote my book and described how a house fire spread to a neighbouring wood that it would be played out miles from where I imagined my story to be set. Thankfully, the fire service saved the houses and the fire was contained.

Above Old Hunstanton cliffs, we ate ice-cream in the sweltering heat and down on the beach, paddled in the tidal pools. The cliff face in places had collapsed just below the prominent, inoperative lighthouse. I snapped photos, wanting to frame the images just as I described them in my book. The late afternoon sun loitered in the sky above the sea – an unusual feature of the east coast where the sun typically rises over the sea and sets over land. The curvature of the coastline allows the sun to track the beaches from East to West.

There, done. I felt satisfied. Mission accomplished. I might not live in Norfolk, but the connection to the county remains strong. I’m so glad I chose to set a book about memories where my memories live on.

As for my next work – I remain in East Anglia. Can’t seem to let go of the region.

The Women of Heachley Hall is now available on iBooks, Kobo, Nook and Indigo

The story is intriguing and at times had me on the edge of my seat. The book is beautifully written and the story tempts the reader with snippets of clues throughout the book. The house itself is almost a breathing entity with its own personality and I loved this about it. A cleverly written plot that drew me in and had me wandering the rooms of Heachley Hall along with Miriam. A story about love, regret and the secrets families keep. Highly recommended.  ~ Brook Cottage Books

 

Heachley Hall is open for business! #newrelease

Today my magical mystery book goes live on Amazon, which means the doors of Heachley Hall are fully open for you to come in and explore, alongside Miriam, who has to decide whether she can really live in a decaying house for year and a day.

I don’t possess the skills needed to renovate a Victorian hall, so I sympathise with her initial decision – sell and run away from the problem. But, I’m also drawn to old houses and the stories they have to tell. If you are intrigued by mysteries and gothic houses, then stay with Miriam for a while and see what happens as she uncovers the secret behind her great-aunt’s legacy, a mystery that only women can solve.

Chapter one – exploring Heachley Hall

The life of a freelance illustrator will never rake in the millions so when twenty-eight year old Miriam discovers she’s the sole surviving heir to her great-aunt’s fortune, she can’t believe her luck. She dreams of selling her poky city flat and buying a studio.

But great fortune comes with an unbreakable contract. To earn her inheritance, Miriam must live a year and a day in the decaying Heachley Hall.

The fond memories of visiting the once grand Victorian mansion are all she has left of her parents and the million pound inheritance is enough of a temptation to encourage her to live there alone.

After all, a year’s not that long. So with the help of a local handyman, she begins to transform the house.

But the mystery remains. Why would loving Aunt Felicity do this to her?

Alone in the hall with her old life miles away, Miriam is desperate to discover the truth behind Felicity’s terms. Miriam believes the answer is hiding in her aunt’s last possession: a lost box. But delving into Felicity and Heachley’s long past is going to turn Miriam’s view of the world upside down.

Does she dare keep searching, and if she does, what if she finds something she wasn’t seeking?

Has something tragic happened at Heachley Hall?

Miriam has one year to uncover an unimaginable past.

“The story is beautifully constructed and precious, and it is very satisfying.” – Rosie Amber Reviewers

“This beautifully written mystery weaves a spell around the house and the people connected to it.” – Goodreads reviewer

Available on Kindle, Kindle Unlimited and Print

Amazon

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My desk is a little cluttered #amwriting

A cluttered desk – is it a sign of a disorganised mind or a busy one?

I’ve a jotter pad with things scribbled on it, which at the time of writing meant something, but a few days later has lost all hope of being something.

Stacked next to me are printouts of chapters with annotations; tiny writing scrawled in margins and highlighted passages I want to change.

A piece of paper with a family tree, important dates, the names of my characters!

Waiting for me to start work are two pairs of glasses – one for reading and one for when I use the computer. My eyesight is complicated and frustrating at times.

When I feel the urge, I write with a fountain pen and leave ink stains on my fingers like a badge of honour or tattoo. My handwriting is appalling, but sometimes the words flow quicker on paper and I’m forced to keep writing, rather than go back and make corrections.

Every morning, I switch on my laptop and wait for it to connect to the internet and monitor. Every morning Windows refuses to recognise my monitor and requires a manual kick up the bum to make it work. It takes ten minutes for the software to kickstart. Just long enough to make a cup of tea.

The most important tool is my keyboard – a split ergonomic one. My husband can’t cope with it. I love it, primarily because my little finger dislocates from time to time and the ergonomic design relieves the strain on my fingers. It seems perfectly natural to have my elbows sticking out, my wrists angled and my fingers splayed – I play the piano.

I learnt to touch type as a student using a mainframe dumb terminal and integrated keyboard – mechanical and noisy. Both the keyboard and software were unforgiving in their feedback, ‘speaking’ in the strident tone of a drill sergeant as if one was standing over my shoulder instead of a curt message on the green screen.

‘If you don’t get this right, I’ll send a thousand volts through your fingers’

‘You have eight fingers and two thumbs – use them!’

‘Are you wearing gloves today?’

I guess whoever wrote the typing course had a sense of humour. Years later, it is the one thing I learnt a university that I use every day of my life. Even when I studied to be a biologist, I was inadvertently preparing myself for a writer’s life.

Sh – don’t tell anyone!

The biggest challenge I face in publishing The Women of Heachley Hall is keeping quiet. When you want to sell your book, have it read by countless millions (or realistically a few thousand!), then they want to know what they’re getting, don’t they?

When I sought feedback on the draft manuscripts, my friendly readers fell into two camps: those whom I gave some indication of the story, others, including my editor, to whom I gave next to nothing away. The outcome was quite clear. The less said the better!

So, shush, don’t tell anyone Heachley’s secret. Let everyone else find out for themselves.

hush