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Who doesn’t love a bargain?

For the first time since it came out in September 2016, Charlatan is on sale as an ebook for only $0.99 or 99p or equivalent across all platforms and countries! You can grab it now by clicking here: mybook.to/charlatan

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“A dark, tale of mystery, sorcery, and a woman’s desperate pursuit to charm the most powerful man in seventeenth-century France. A poisoning scandal at the court of King Louis XIV threatens even Athénaïs, his glamorous mistress. She seems unaware of the accusations made against her, but how far has she really gone to keep the love of the King?”

 

Having spent so much of the past year thinking about The Road to Newgate, (especially my characters Anne, Nat, William, Henry and, of course, Titus Oates) it feels weird to put Charlatan front and centre again and read through the reviews on Amazon and Goodreads to make some social media adverts like this one:

charlatan by kate braithwaite-1

It’s my first book. The product of a long and steep learning curve and one I’m still on. I do love the cover, although I’m not sure I’ll ever read the insides again!! But it’s a pleasure to sit here with a cup of tea and look at some pictures of the characters I spent so much time with – only to abandon them when the book was complete.

Here are a few pictures I don’t think I’ve shared before. They are from my copy of The Affair of the Poisons by Frances Mossiker – a book which fell apart during the making of Charlatan!

I’m hoping a few new readers of The Road to Newgate will grab this chance to take a trip to 17th century Paris this week. I’ll be watching Amazon like a hawk, that’s for sure!

New book alert! – Costa del Churros

Today I’m welcoming Isabella May who has a new book coming out soon with Crooked Cat Books…

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Muchas gracias for hosting me on your blog today to talk about my brand new novel with Crooked Cat Books! COSTA DEL CHURROS will launch on September 19th and is another romantic comedy which fuses all things foodie, travel and spirituality. I’m keeping my fingers (and paws!) crossed that it’ll have as good a reception as its predecessors…

Why write about Spain?
My first two books, Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar centred much of their activity around the quirky and mystical town of Glastonbury, UK.  But in actual fact I live in Spain nowadays and much as I relished the opportunity to write about the place where I spent my childhood through to late twenties, it was high time for a change of scene – as well as to prove to myself that I am not a One Trick Pony. Or should that be Cat?

Is Costa del Churros based on a fictional or real part of Spain?
Yes, Costa del Churros refers to the Costa del Sol, here in the gigantic province of Andalusia, where I live. I have traveled all over the country, but nowhere seems to make, eat or embrace churros (fried donut strips, often eaten dipped in a thick, velvety chocolate sauce and/or sprinkled liberally with sugar) with the aplomb of the people in this region. The churros play a central role throughout the book, used as a code word that brings four – very different – women together for flamenco lessons with their highly exuberant teacher, Carmen.

Here’s the blurb:

The rain in Spain doesn’t mainly fall on the plain…

Brits abroad Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina need more than the sweetness of churros with chocolate dipping sauce to save them from their unsavoury states of affairs.

Cue Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera, the town’s flamboyant flamenco teacher! But can she really be the answer to their prayers?

One thing’s for sure: the Costa del Sol will never be the same again.

Are these four women based on people you know?
bit of body textNot per se!
But Belinda, Julia, Laura and Georgina are definitely a beautiful fusion of some of the kaleidoscopically colourful characters I have met here over the past seven years. I wanted to paint a truthful picture of expat life in Spain (and quite possibly this will extend to other areas of The Mediterranean too). It’s all too easy to assume that a life in the sun is all soaking up its rays, sand, sea and sangria, but in actual fact, we take ourselves wherever we go! There’s absolutely no running away from your problems when you are home from home, be they romantic, financial, self-esteem based, or all of the above. Often, as soon as the novelty of the new lifestyle wears off, those issues are only exacerbated…
I thought it would make for an interesting (and comical) read to throw four women from four completely different backgrounds together, to add a little magic (a la Carmen) and to watch the fireworks – from a very safe distance.

Tell us a bit about Carmen Maria Abril de la Fuente Ferrera…
Well, she was a joy to write.
And I think all of us could do with a Carmen in our lives. Not only is she a talented flamenco teacher, but she has watched the way Franco’s repression of the female has gnawed away at her mother, and at the lives of countless women around her. So Carmen’s mission is one of empowerment. And she’s particularly passionate about encouraging women to have their cake and eat it. Truly, I’d love for nothing more than to click my fingers and magic her up every time I witness a female friend or family member declare in a café/restaurant/gelateria ‘Oh! I really shouldn’t indulge… I’ll start the diet again next week!’
For Carmen is the antidote to any and all of that prescribed female behaviour, an advocate for positive body image on beaches and sun-loungers the length of the coast. She’s a breath of fresh air injecting a much-needed confidence boost to all four of the main characters in the story.

If your tummy has started to rumble… here’s that all important Universal Amazon buying link: mybook.to/costadelchurros

You can find out about Isabella May’s other books, and follow her quirky cake and cocktail posts at these places:

www.isabellamayauthor.com

Twitter – @IsabellaMayBks

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/IsabellaMayAuthor/

Instagram – @isabella_may_author
downloadIsabella May lives in (mostly) sunny Andalucia, Spain with her husband, daughter and son, creatively inspired by the sea and the mountains. Having grown up on Glastonbury’s ley lines however, she’s unable to completely shake off her spiritual inner child, and is a Law of Attraction fanatic.

Cake, cocktail, and travel obsessed, she also loves nothing more than to (quietly) break life’s ‘rules’.

Costa del Churros is her third novel.

Introducing – Jane Bwye, author

Read on here to find out about talented writer Jane Bwye. She is the author of two excellent novels set in Africa and is just about to branch out into non-fiction with a book I probably need to read quite urgently! But I’ll let Jane speak for herself…

Welcome, Jane! What can you tell us about how you came to write your novels, Breath of Africa and Grass Shoots?

breath of africa - 902kbThe story of my first novel, Breath of Africa, begins in the Mau Mau emergency of mid-20th century Kenya. I had intended to write a single book, addressing, among others, the problem of racialism in a former African colony. But I quickly realized the subject was so vast, that a sequel was necessary. A natural break in the lives of my characters came towards the end of the century, so I ended the book there.

But Grass Shoots isn’t just an ordinary sequel. It is very much a standalone book in its own right, as present-day Kenya is vastly different from the naïve idealism of a newly independent state. Racial problems have given way to something more sinister.

Power and politics have overridden concerns about the welfare of the people, and corruption has its hold on great and small alike. But there appears to be a glimmer of hope on the recent horizon.

Final coverThe story revolves around an interracial love triangle in a scenario of poverty, greed and violence, with a smattering of educated common sense. Corruption must be addressed, and the people are tiring of their leaders squabbling over power. The people want to better themselves. And I want my book to present a hopeful light at the end of the tunnel. How can my characters turn into harbingers of a brighter future? Government to government aid cannot work reliably when corruption is rife.

Could a charity be channeled towards new dimensions, by empowering the people instead of turning them into “poor relations”? Emily – an AIDS orphan -, Paul, the son of her benefactor, and Sam – the product of an African/Eurasian liaison – believe and show that it can be done…

… which is why I wrote this book!

Do you have a favourite scene in Grass Shoots?

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May I let my book speak for itself? This scene comes in the final chapter of Grass Shoots, and as well as offering basic bush lore, it encapsulates my love for the wild open spaces of Africa:

Emily went out by herself to savour the magic of their special place… Reaching a bend, she looked to her left.

There was a loud snort of concern. A wildebeest stood poised for flight. They eyed each other, frozen with tension. He was big: he tossed his horns and stamped a foot, then snorted again. Emily stood her ground and so did he. Only a few yards separated them, and a feeling of unease spread through her. Help was out of reach in the house on the other side of the dam. If she retreated, the animal would chase her down. She held her breath, and eyed the surrounding long grass, looking for an escape route – and the wildebeest lowered its head. To her great relief, it continued sedately on its way across her path. She had broken the confrontation, and it no longer saw her as a threat.

For one long moment she had been a mere creature out there facing danger, tasting the fear experienced by wild animals every moment of their vulnerable lives. It was a humbling experience.

What can you share about your writing processes? Outline or no outline? Revisions? Changes in point of view?

I did outline the book, but only in a very broad sense. I kind of let my characters dictate their thoughts and actions within the chapters. This often leads to additions, and sometimes deletions in the final edits, to comply with my publisher’s requirements. I used several points of view, mostly between the three main characters. But I also experimented by changing to the present tense when writing in the head of Sam’s father, a key character throughout both books. I believe this technique helped to emphasize the intensity of his experiences and emotions. The book, together with the research, took me a year to write.

Can you recommend any books you have read and loved?

At a young age I was lured by the novels of Nevil Shute into a hankering to visit Australia. And The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough fulfilled so many of my yearnings for romance, that I have lost count of the number of times I have read it.

What about a movie or album?

I prefer curling up in a corner with a novel in my lap over any other form of media. There is only one film which to my mind can compare favourably with the book. Doctor Zhivago. I have seen it countless times – even more times than I have read the book, which is quite an admission. And the haunting music never fails to stir my romantic soul.

What is your best piece of advice for other writers?

coverpicOnce you have written your book, perfected it to the best of your ability, and perhaps achieved your dream of finding a publisher … now, you must put aside your deep involvement in the story. You need to turn yourself into a hard-nosed entrepreneur and act in a business-like manner to make it succeed. If you’d like to learn how to do this, I have a book launch coming up on 15th August 2018!

Connect with Jane at her website and blog or click on the covers to find out more about her books!

New book alert! The Thieftaker’s Trek by Joan Sumner

Congratulations to author Joan Sumner on her debut historical novel The Thieftaker’s Trek!, published today by Bastei Entertainment. I first met Joan at a Historical Novel Society conference and can’t wait to read her book. It arrived on my kindle this morning!

Here is the story:

Screen Shot 2018-07-10 at 7.27.24 AMRevenge   Abduction   Blackmail   Murder

It’s 1810. The industrial revolution in Britain is at its height. Enormous profits in the British cotton mills and factories are made, working around the illicit black slave trade, using white child slaves.

Frobisher, a London catcher of thieves is a widowed father with a dark past. He’s hired to find Harry, the young son of an impoverished army widow. The child is enticed from home to earn a penny. The trail leads the thief-taker out of the city onto the English canal network and beyond to Derbyshire.

Simultaneously, a murder takes Goldziher, a Bow Street detective and friend of Frobisher, into London’s Spitalfield slums. The involvement of minor nobility introduces political dimensions and concerns.

In both cases the witnesses are children which complicates matters for the investigators…

The crime novel is based on historical fact.

About the Author

joanJoan Sumner, MBA (Dundee)and Fellow of Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, has a working background across the private, public and voluntary sectors. Semi-retired, she has settled in Midlothian, Scotland to write, closer to family and friends.

An award winning historical novelist, Joan formerly contributed self-help articles to a national weekly. Her travel abroad articles and occasional BBC radio contributions mostly starred her vintage MGB car.

Joan’s small garden hosts a family of hedgehogs, giving enjoyment to everyone she knows!

She is a member of the Society of Authors, the Edinburgh Writers’ Club and the National Trust for Scotland. She paints, plays tennis and golf, and loves to travel – particularly by car.

But her passion is weaving mystery stories around little known historical facts. You can follow her on linkedin/in/joan-s-sumner-144332a0/ and Facebook.

 

www.joansumner.com

Blog tour: The Secret Life of Mrs London by Rebecca Rosenberg

New & Final Tour Banner for Rebeccas blog tour

As a historical fiction fan, I was super happy to get the chance to read The Secret Life of Mrs London, by Rebecca Rosenberg. Here’s the scoop:

The Secret Life of Mrs. LondonSan Francisco, 1915. As America teeters on the brink of world war, Charmian and her husband, famed novelist Jack London, wrestle with genius and desire, politics and marital competitiveness. Charmian longs to be viewed as an equal partner who put her own career on hold to support her husband, but Jack doesn’t see it that way…until Charmian is pulled from the audience during a magic show by escape artist Harry Houdini, a man enmeshed in his own complicated marriage. Suddenly, charmed by the attention Houdini pays her and entranced by his sexual magnetism, Charmian’s eyes open to a world of possibilities that could be her escape.

As Charmian grapples with her urge to explore the forbidden, Jack’s increasingly reckless behavior threatens her dedication. Now torn between two of history’s most mysterious and charismatic figures, she must find the courage to forge her own path, even as she fears the loss of everything she holds dear.

My Review

In the last few years I have read a fair few novels based around the wife/mistress/sister of a famous historical figure. Here are just some I could mention:

 

 

It’s a great idea – a way to explore a famous life through the eyes of the person closest to them, and to look at the pleasures – and sometimes perils – of living with and loving someone who is highly driven and creative. So how would this one stack up? Well, for me, The Secret Life of Mrs London can take a place on the shelf next to any of these. It has all the same hallmarks of great writing, engaging characters, relationship drama and a vibrant evocation of a different time and place.

Mrs London, Charmain, is a complex character. She loves Jack London but feels her own writing is lost in the tide of his success, his reliance on her as his secretary and his ambitions to build a California mansion, Wolf House. Jack also maintains separate sleeping quarters, leaving Charmain sexually frustrated and open to temptation. This comes in the form of handsome Harry Houdini, another fascinating character, who brings with him into Charmain’s life, his child-like wife, Bess.

The Secret Life of Mrs London is a warm, engaging portrait of a woman struggling to find herself. Like the best of these ‘wife’ stories, although my initial attraction for picking them up is find out more about the famous name, as a reader, I stay for the wife’s story. Charmain struggles to put herself first. She has to remind herself that this is her life, even as she fears being “nothing without Jack.” How she succeeds and/or fails had me totally gripped. Highly recommended.

About the Author:

Rebecca_Rosenberg__novelist_1California native Rebecca Rosenberg lives on a lavender farm with her family in Sonoma, the Valley of the Moon, where she and her husband founded the largest lavender product company in America, Sonoma Lavender. A long-time student of Jack London’s work and an avid fan of his daring wife, Charmian, Rosenberg is a graduate of the Stanford Writing Certificate Program. THE SECRET LIFE OF MRS. LONDON is her first novel, following her non-fiction, LAVENDER FIELDS OF AMERICA.

Rebecca Rosenberg’s next historical novel is GOLD DIGGER the story of BABY DOE TABOR.

Website

Facebook

Buy the Book:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon AU

 

2 weeks to go…

With 2 weeks to go until the official publication date for The Road to Newgate, I thought I’d do a little update post on the kind of things keeping me busy/awake at night.

To party or not to party?

One of my main preoccupations in the last month or so has been trying to decide whether to have an actual in-person book launch. I am not good at such things and the whole look at me, look at me, aspect makes me feel deeply worried! Add to that that over here in the Mushroom Capital of America (aka the Kennett Square/West Chester area of Pennsylvania) we are already in week 3 of the long summer holidays and lots of people are away and… nope. No party planned.

Titus_OatesBUT… I am having an online launch on facebook. Not quite sure how this will go, but I’m hoping to do some giveways and have some friendly authors talking about books and particularly about the importance of antagonists to make stories exciting to read. I will talking about this unpleasant chap (among others!)

 

Here’s a link to that: Book launch for The Road to Newgate

 

Book blogs

Ah, book blogs. Book bloggers are awesome at a) reading lots of books and b) sharing their love of books. For The Road to Newgate I’m doing a couple of tours – one this week and another in August. I’ve also done some outreach of my own and so hopefully there will be people reading the book very soon and talking about how they found it. All fingers and toes are crossed. Links will be posted as things appear.

Writing about stuff about the book (Yay. This is the bit I love)

Recently I’ve written about 17th century coffee shops – very important to my character Nat but not the favourite place of his lovely wife Anne. Read that here.

I’ve also done a piece about jobs for women in the 17th century, a time when a married woman pretty much belonged to her husband. Read that one here.

And I have another coming out next week about childbirth and midwifery. Loved writing that one. Will post a link when it is published but here’s a picture from one of the books I refer to in the article, Jane Sharp’s The Midwives Book, published in 1671.

Other bits and bobs are in the works too.

Foetus_in_the_womb

Posting books

Today I posted off 2 signed copies of The Road to Newgate plus two of the little books my mum has made. One went to a friend’s mum, someone who super kindly read my last book as it struggled through the proof reading stages and helped me catch some late errors that the publisher had missed. And the other went to the winner of a blog giveway. It’s a funny thing to send your words out into the world!

New writing

Oh yes that. Mmm. Well it’s not easy to make a lot of progress during the summer with 3 kids at home and either demanding food or to be driven somewhere. Plus there is the World Cup and now Wimbledon to distract me. However, I am plotting and thinking and doing all that background stuff that will pay off when the time comes. Soon I hope!

Book recommendation! Kindred Spirits – Westminster Abbey

Tomorrow is publication day for third Kindred Spirit book by my fellow Crooked Cat author Jennifer C. Wilson. As a historical fiction writer and fan, I’m really looking forward to reading this. Jennifer has been plucking some of my favourite characters from British history and giving them a unique and imaginative twist. Why didn’t I think of writing something like this??? 😉

Introducing Kindred Spirits: Westminster Abbey by Jennifer C. Wilson

JCW-Kindred-WestminsterOn hallowed ground…
With over three thousand burials and memorials, including seventeen monarchs, life for the ghostly community of Westminster Abbey was never going to be a quiet one. Add in some fiery Tudor tempers, and several centuries-old feuds, and things can only go one way: chaotic.

Against the backdrop of England’s most important church, though, it isn’t all tempers and tantrums. Poets’ Corner hosts poetry battles and writing workshops, and close friendships form across the ages.

With the arrival of Mary Queen of Scots, however, battle ensues. Will Queens Mary I and Elizabeth I ever find their common ground, and lasting peace?

More about the series from author, Jennifer C. Wilson:

In the Kindred Spirits series, we meet the ghosts of historical characters, in a range of contemporary settings. Have you ever wondered what Richard III and Anne Boleyn might have in common, what Mary, Queen of Scots is getting up to now, or what happens when the visitors leave some of the most popular attractions in the country? Well, here’s your chance!

In the third of the Kindred Spirits series, we visit Westminster Abbey, and I hope you enjoy meeting a new community of ghosts. Mind, with modern travel so easy these days, a few faces we’ve already encountered might just show up too…

Praise for the Kindred Spirits series

“A light hearted, humorous, and at times tender read which you’ll enjoy whether you like history or not.”

“This light-hearted, imaginative read is a new take on historical fiction but make no mistake, this is not only a fun read but an educational tool.”

“A brilliantly unique idea from a distinctive new voice in fiction.”

About Jennifer

JenniferCWilson-NEW-January2018Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who developed an equal passion for history whilst stalking Mary, Queen of Scots of childhood holidays (she since moved on to Richard III). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consultant since graduating.

Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to work on developing her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. Her Kindred Spirits novels are published by Crooked Cat Books and available via Amazon, along with her self-published timeslip novella, The Last Plantagenet? She can be found online at her blog, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

Book news: The Corsican Widow by Vanessa Couchman

Last week Vanessa Couchman’s latest novel The Corsican Widow was released and I’ve been lucky to have the chance to ask Vanessa some questions about her new book and writing in general.

The Corsican Widow Cover MEDIUM WEBCorsica, 1755. Can Valeria Peretti escape the destiny that is mapped out for her?

While the island struggles for independence against its Genoese masters, she must marry an older, wealthy man. A quiet, respectable life apparently awaits Valeria, but a prophecy on the eve of her betrothal spells misfortune ahead.

As her life unfolds, Valeria’s attempts to fight against her fate bring her into conflict with the unbending moral code of Corsican society. She must make a choice between her personal wishes and social duty that will cast her far away from Corsica’s shores.

Inspiring Corsican landscape

 

Vanessa, welcome! How did you come to write this story?

I didn’t actually set out to write this particular story, but I stumbled upon it while researching for something else. A history of Corsica, written in the 18th century, contained a snippet about a wealthy widow who suffers from loneliness after her husband’s death. She falls for her shepherd and incurs the disapproval and wrath of her village, which is governed by the rigid Corsican code of behavior.

This story wouldn’t leave me alone and I had to write it, although it took me two years. All I had to go on was the historical fragment and I couldn’t find out any more about it. However, this allowed me to give free rein to my imagination. Although it’s mostly set on the island of Corsica, part of the novel takes place in Marseille. The theme is one that has always interested me: the role of women in male-dominated societies.

Nonza on Cap Corse, Corsica

Tell me about a favorite scene or character in your novel.

The Corsicans are great believers in magic and the supernatural, and the novel includes several instances where these are invoked. One of my favorite scenes occurs at the beginning of the book.

The main character, 20 year-old Valeria, is destined for an arranged marriage with a wealthy widower whom she has never met. She is desperate to know how her life will turn out, and so she asks her friend, an elderly healer named Margherita, to read her fortune. Margherita does this by polishing a sheep’s shoulder blade, holding it to the light and reading what appears there. This means of foretelling the future was commonly done by shepherds. It’s even said that they accurately predicted the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte! Margherita sees something that clearly frightens her, but refuses to tell Valeria and pretends there was nothing there.

What was your process in writing The Corsican Widow?

I did outline the book, but, as always, it changed somewhat in the writing. I wrote nine separate drafts and the opening chapter changed at least three times. I also set part of the book in a brothel in Marseille, but it ended up resembling a girls’ boarding school – quite different from the 18th-century reality! So that setting was changed. The book took me quite a long time to write, mainly because around the middle section I had several choices for taking it forward and that paralyzed me. I took a break from it, which allowed me to see more clearly which way the story should go.

The book was always in Valeria’s (the main character) point of view. I wrote it in third person deep POV, so it is always Valeria who is experiencing or thinking things.

Can recommend a few novels you have read and loved?

I loved Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites. It’s a rather bleak book, set in the unforgiving landscape and climate of Iceland, but her writing is superb. In a different vein, I really enjoyed Naomi Wood’s Mrs Hemingway, which is written from the POV of each of Ernest Hemingway’s four wives in turn. It’s not easy to write about real people, but she pulls it off.

(I loved these books too!!)

And do you have any movies you would recommend?

The movie I keep coming back to is ‘Jean de Florette’, based on the novel by Marcel Pagnol. Set in Provence, in the south of France, two cunning farmers plot to trick a newcomer out of his newly inherited property. It starred Yves Montand, Daniel Auteuil and Gerard Dépardieu. It is just brilliant and wonderfully evocative of French rural society after World War I. I live in France and, of course, the film was shot in French, but I’m sure it’s available with English subtitles.

(I’ve seen this film! It’s great. I need to watch it again ASAP)

Finally, if you could give one piece of advice to other writers, what would it be?

Write what you want to write, not what you think you ought to write or that is the flavor of the moment. That way, your writing will come from the heart and will be all the more authentic for it.

Screen Shot 2018-05-14 at 8.45.03 AMI love this answer and totally agree. I’m really looking forward to reading Vanessa’s new book but will be starting out with her first novel, The House of Zarona. 

Vanessa Couchman

To find out more about Vanessa and her writing, please check out her website, or find her on twitter @Vanessainfrance, facebook and at amazon.

 

 

 

Book review: A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen did not write enough books. Only six. Six! And those six are so well loved that a whole industry has risen up to supply the unending demand for more things Jane. I’ve read my fair share, with mixed feelings in some cases, but this latest one to come my way was a pleasure to read from start to finish.

perf5.500x8.500.inddThe book in question is A Jane Austen Daydream by Scott D. Southard.

The key word here is ‘daydream’. This novel is a fictional – almost speculative – biography of Jane Austen in her twenties. While Southard uses lots of biographical facts about Jane and her family for his plot, this is not in any sense a dramatization of her known biography. Instead it’s an imagined life, a what might-have-been (but probably wasn’t). And it’s a lot of fun.

The novel opens – in the spirit of Pride and Prejudice – with Jane and her elder sister Cassandra being invited to a ball. Mrs Austen, very Mrs Bennett-esque, is greatly excited at the prospect of marrying off her two daughters, and Jane, to be fair, is equally ready. Having heard from a gypsy that she will fall in love, when Jane encounters a handsome, eligible young man in the library at the ball, she is more than ready to cast him as her husband-to-be. But ‘the other Austen daughter’ – as she is known in a clearly disparaging contrast to Cassandra – does not find her path to love, or publication, runs smoothly.

Screen Shot 2018-04-23 at 8.20.12 PMSouthard’s Jane is an engaging, witty character. She is a little silly at points but matures nicely and learns from her mistakes (think Emma, anyone?). Jane’s search for success in love and literature had me turning the pages, and the cast of characters surrounding her is well-drawn and often amusing. I particularly liked her brothers, both in terms of their characters and their crisp and engaging dialogue.

Because Southard’s main character is Jane Austen, her every exchange offers an opportunity to link to the books that we all know and love. Jane’s story parallels those of her literary creations at times – especially Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Eliot. She meets a Mrs Catherine de Bourgh, a Mary Crawford, and a man putting on a performance of Lover’s Vows, the play that caused so much distress to Fanny in Mansfield Park. There is a comic Reverend, a best friend called Harriet… I could go on, but I won’t spoil the fun.

Serious bravery is required to take on Jane Austen and mess with her in fiction. Janeites know their stuff. Even non-Janeites (like me) know quite a bit. I’ve read all the books. Some of them several times. And I’ve a sketchy knowledge about Jane Austen’s life, at least in terms of her death and love life. But I’m confident that fans of Austen who open this book in the right spirit – ready to be entertained and enjoy a Jane that might not quite match up to their own preconceptions – will thoroughly enjoy their trip to a well-written, witty Regency England, full of references to those six wonderful books. Highly recommended.

Scott Southard author pic(1)Scott D. Southard, the author of A Jane Austen Daydream, swears he is not obsessed with Jane Austen. He is also the author of the novels: My Problem with Doors, Megan, Permanent Spring Showers, Maximilian Standforth and the Case of the Dangerous Dare, and 3 Days in Rome. With his eclectic writing he has found his way into radio, being the creator of the radio comedy series The Dante Experience. The production was honored with the Golden Headset Award for Best MultiCast Audio and the Silver Ogle Award for Best Fantasy Audio Production. Scott received his Master’s in writing from the University of Southern California. Scott can be found on the internet via his writing blog “The Musings & Artful Blunders of Scott D. Southard” (sdsouthard.com)  where he writes on far-ranging topics like writing, art, books, TV, writing, parenting, life, movies, and writing. He even shares original fiction on the site. Currently, Scott resides in Michigan with his very understanding wife, his two patient children, and a very opinionated dog named Bronte.

 

 

Introducing Alex Macbeth and The Red Die

The body of a man with a red die in his pocket is washed ashore near a quiet village on the coast of the Indian Ocean in southern Africa. But what looked initially like a corpse that came in with the tide soon turns out to be a murder case that will lead Comandante Felisberto and his team to the edge of danger and despair as they uncover a trail leading up to the highest echelons of power in their country.

Can Felisberto and his ‘motley crew of rural investigators’ solve the case – and survive?

OOOH! Alex Macbeth’s debut novel, THE RED DIE, sounds right up my reading alley and so, while I wait for my pre-order copy to land on my kindle this weekend, I jumped at the chance to ask Alex some questions about this gripping new story, set in Mozambique.

Alex, how did you come to write this particular novel?

Alex_smallI was sat in a police station in Mozambique because somebody had stolen my motorbike. Despite the curious situation, I was overwhelmed by some of the challenges the officers faced; there were no aspirins in the district, yet hundreds of crimes. A total of six officers policed a town of more than 130,000 people. The force’s only car often ran out of petrol and the local police force had no forensic department.

I think in Europe we have a stereotype of African policemen as corrupt and malicious figures, but I realised that the challenges of being a detective in an African village are huge and often under-appreciated. So I was inspired to create a rural African hero, a shrewd, ‘hardboiled’ detective who despite his limited resources is determined to fight crime. The quirky setting grew on me and with research the story became my debut novel, THE RED DIE.

Do you have a favorite scene or character in your novel?

I have to say, there are several I enjoyed writing, although the scene in which my protagonist, Comandante Felisberto, jumps out of an exploding plane without knowing whether his parachute works is one of my favourites.

I also enjoy writing dialogue a lot so the interrogation scenes, which usually come with a twist, are also among some of the scenes that I enjoy re-reading the most.

What was your process in writing THE RED DIE? How long did it take?

THE RED DIE took five years to write and went through at least twelve drafts.  As the plot developed, I had to do more and more research. Subsequent drafts helped shape some of the details that contribute to the sense of place (Mozambique), the characters, their relationships (e.g the grumpy and technophobe old-school detective and his technology-obsessed deputy) – and also plot twists.

26221053_10155867073520761_3564073603336382054_oI wanted to create a detective who was both tough but sensitive, just but hard. I tried to take what I could from Chandler’s hardboiled detectives and combine it with the attempt to rectify moral hazard that is so present in Nordic Noir. And I set it in Mozambique, in the small district where my family have lived for the last fifteen years.

The story is told from three points of view. The main story follows Comandante Felisberto, the investigating detective. The secondary story features Tomlinson, a British zoologist in Mozambique. Podolski, a dodgy British banker in London, makes the odd appearance too.

I always think the books author’s read tell me a lot about them and their books. Can you recommend some three novels you have read and loved?

THE WINTER QUEEN – Boris Akunin

THE LAUGHING POLICEMAN – Sjowall & Wahloo

WIZARD OF THE CROW – Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Hmm, Alex. You have chosen 3 books I have never heard of! Thank you! I’m excited to check them out.

And finally, what is the best piece of advice you have for other writers?

Gosh, that’s tough. I guess the best advice is keep writing and believe in your voice, even if at times others, or even you, don’t like it. It takes time to find a voice we feel comfortable with as writers. Meanwhile, read as much as you can! Others have already shown the way to write great stories, we just need to catch up on how to do it.

Alex Macbeth’s debut novel, THE RED DIE, is available on Amazon in the UK & the US

To know more, find Alex on twitter, facebook and at his website.