Sunday, 30 December 2012

Six Sentence Sunday 30/12/12

Morning all! Well, if you can't be bothered going out in all this wind and rain, how about having a wee glimpse at the latest Six Sentence Sunday? This week's is from The Dating Game. It's been a wee while since I did a SSS, what with all the holiday, the 40th birthday celebrations and Christmas, but here goes.  The four friends are busy discussing the first profiles Gill has received from the dating agency. Enjoy!


Translate that as depressing,’ said Lisa.

‘The guy goes Zorbing for God’s sake,’ Ang said, ‘he’s hardly unadventurous, even by your standards.’

‘Well, he doesn’t do anything for me,’ said Lisa, a tad snippily.

 ‘He doesn’t need to do anything for you,’ Debbie and Angela said in unison.  ‘It’s Gill he has to do something for,’ grinned Debbie.

‘Yes, Miss McFadden, what exactly would you like him to do?’
 
You can buy The Dating Game via the links below.

http://amzn.to/RuSl7Y (UK)
http://amzn.to/WZQtZK (US)
http://amzn.to/V5snGM (Can)

Don't forget you can check out the other Six Sentence Sunday entrants, by clicking www.sixsunday.com after 2pm GMT

Have a Happy New Year when it comes and tune in on Wednesday for my 2013 To Read list.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Review - For The Love of Jazz by Elke Feuer

Morning! Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. Did you all get lots of books? I did, but that's a subject for another blog post!
In the meantime, let's catch up with what's been happening on the review front.
Today it's the turn of the debut 'romantic suspense with more than a touch of the paranormal about it' novel, For The Love of Jazz by the Cayman Islands' own Elke Feuer
(I was lucky enough to spend 2 weeks in Cayman visiting a friend who emigrated there many years ago - not much difference between its crystal clear waters and Glasgow's River Clyde...not!)

So what's this book all about then?
Restoration architect Josie Fagan takes on a project with lawyer and senator’s son, Patrick Pullman. It’s the perfect match. She needs his endorsement to save her business and he wants to restore his ancestral Chicago home. Love wasn’t part of her plan. Neither was being asked to stay at his home, haunted by ghosts, or discovering she has a claim to his home - which she adores. When she finds out his family may be responsible for her aunt’s disappearance fifty years ago, it’s a race to unearth the truth before she loses not only her business and her heart, but also her life.

Patrick can’t deny his attraction to Josie and is willing to take a chance on love since his broken engagement a year earlier. Things become complicated when he learns of their family connection and her claim to the home he loves. He doesn’t believe in ghosts, or that his family is involved in her aunt’s disappearance, so insists they work together. But, when he starts seeing his uncle’s ghost, and threats are made on her life, he’s forced to confront the possibility his family could be responsible.

Sensuality Level: Behind Closed Doors




And what did I think of it?


Unusual paranormal romance, no vampires!
I had my concerns about the novel initially, as I am not a fan of jazz. However, although For the Love of Jazz has the theme of jazz music running through it, it doesn’t dominate. Rather the jazz club and how it links the past and the present and the lives of the protagonist with her relatives is key.  From the start the novel has almost a ghost story quality. The house restoration as a theme works well and is not something I had come across before. Apart from the seriously good-looking, sexy male lead, Patrick and the unmistakeable chemistry between the protagonist, Josie and him, the dark tale which weaves its way around Josie and her aunt, who mysteriously disappeared 50 years ago makes the novel worth a read. A twist in the tale at the end, as well as the way Patrick’s family is connected to Josie’s and how Josie tries to get to the bottom of it all, whilst trying to disentangle herself (sometimes) from her attraction to Patrick, ensure there’s plenty of action. Trying to figure out who could have been the person to make Josie’s aunt disappear all those years ago is the crux of the whole story, but a little bit of obstacle-strewn romance along the way never hurt anyone!
NB: the version I read was an unedited proof. It is assumed that any errors have since been corrected.
You can buy For The Love of Jazz via Amazon for Kindle  http://amzn.to/V9Txyc (UK)
I'll be back on Sunday with a few bits n pieces for you - undecided as yet, what I am going to unveil to you next! Have a great weekend.  Sooz
 
 



Sunday, 23 December 2012

Sooz's Top 10 Books of 2012

Morning. Well, I hope it's nicer where you are. 70mph winds and driving, torrential rain are not my idea of fun and unfortunately I need to go out in it later...bleurgh!
Anyway, if you can cosy up beside your fireside, have a look at my top 10 books this year. Enjoy!
(they are in no particular order) I've also given you the link to the reviews I have done, so you can see my thoughts!

Emily Barr - Stranded - Even better than expected - strongly recommend - Suspense/Mystery
I had read a few of Emily's other books, including The First Wife and The Perfect Lie, which I loved. Stranded was very different, but I loved it.
http://amzn.to/Rez60w



 
Joanna Rees - A Twist of Fate  - Gripping contemporary saga - best book have read this year - Family Saga
Over the past 10 years, I had read all of Joanna's books which she had written with her husband, Emlyn Rees in the chicklit genre, so I really wanted to check out the new niche she had carved for herself. I wasn't disappointed.
 
 
 
 
Tracie Banister - Blame it on the Fame - Lashings of glitz and fiery personalities - chick lit at its best - Chicklit
I had already read Tracie's In Need of Therapy and quite frankly, if I had written my top 12, it would have been there, as I loved it too. I then read her debut novel, BIOTF and was very pleasantly surprised how much I enjoyed it, as I am not a fashion, designer labels girl and this was about the Oscars. Fa book and excellent new discovery in this author for me.
 
 
 
Mikkel Birkegaard - The Library of Shadows - I bought it because it contained the word Library!
Mystery/Paranormal
A charity shop bargain which introduced me to a fab author. I love books about books!
 
 
 
 
Terry Tyler - Nobody's Fault - Excellent read if you like mystery and twists!
Romantic Suspense
This was the first Terry Tyler novel I read and it's still my favourite, although I have since read the other three and am waiting (impatiently) on novel nr 5! Again, delighted to have found this author this year.
 
 
 
Jojo Moyes - Me Before You - Not as chicklit as the cover suggests, but so much better for it!
Contemporary drama/Romance  This is the first Jojo Moyes novel which I have read and I had been meaning to for 4 or 5 months, only getting around to it, when I went on holiday last month. Unfortunately I haven't done a review for it - very remiss I know. I did, however, rate it 5 stars and have asked for 2 of her other books for Christmas. Kinda speaks for itself. Here's the synopsis.
 
Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.
What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.
Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.

 
 
Maria Savva - Coincidences - a family drama which has you fighting Alice's corner
Family Drama
The first Maria Savva novel which I read (I've since also read Haunted, a psychological thriller ,which I thoroughly enjoyed, too, and I am getting a few others, including The Dream and Pieces of A Rainbow, with my Christmas Amazon voucher!)
Yet another author that I am delighted to have discovered this year. It's been quite a year!
 
 
 
Samantha Stroh-Bailey - Finding Lucas - If you liked Bridget Jones, you will love this!
Chicklit
Another new author. Glad she's already working on a second. It reminded me of a more sweary Bridget Jones' Diary - basically, imagine that Shazza (Bridget's friend) appears more often and you ge the picture. And I loved the trying to track down the one guy from your past thing that you could consider getting together with again. One to watch!
 
 
 
Carlos Ruiz Zafon - The Prisoner of Heaven - another winner from Zafon! 5 stars!
Mystery
Third in The Shadow of the Wind series. Much anticipated. Sadly I haven't reviewed this yet either, but if you are a fan of Daniel and Fermin and have read Shadow and The Angel's Game, don't delay in getting this. The usual  humour, historical references and shady mystery abound. If you haven't read Shadow, where have you been? Get your paws on it now!
 
 
 
Susan Louineau - The Chapel in the Woods - Suspense, Intrigue, History & French Village Life
Historical drama
Yet another new author discovery. But boy once I started was I hooked. In the vein of Joanne Harris, but with her own slant and style, Susan Louineau is one to look out for. Amazing novel, interweaving three historical time periods and lots of references to French food too - made me hungry!
 
 
 
And that's it from me. Hope you enjoy the recommendations as much as I did and I would love for you all to leave comments on the blog, telling me about your favourite books from 2012.
For now, have a wonderful Christmas and hope Santa is good to you! TWO more sleeps!
Sooz x

Friday, 21 December 2012

Interview with Francine LaSala

Morning
Well, only 4 more sleeps until Christmas! yay! Can you tell I love Christmas?
In fact, I have stopped mid-writing to go and turn my tree lights on. How very remiss of me!

Anyway, following on from my review of her excellent novel, The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything, I am delighted to welcome author, Francine LaSala to the blog today. And remember the giveaway to WIN a Kindle copy of the book is still open, with the winner being drawn on Christmas Eve. Good luck!


The book title, The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything, is pretty unusual, but once you start reading, also self-explanatory. Did you choose the title yourself, or did you have help and how did you arrive at it?

I always chose my book titles myself because I actually need to know what the title of a book is before I can coherently write it! My stories generally come out of my titles. I may have notes about characters and scenes running through my head before I have a title, but once I know the title, I know the book. Case in point: For several years now I’ve been working on a novel, possibly a series, about Dionysian nymphs living in the present. I have no idea what this book is called, so pretty much all that’s happening is that they’re jumping back and forth between the present and ancient Greece, drinking heavily and having lots of hot sex. I really don’t know why they’re even in the present yet, and I know that having that title will help me figure it out. But the title just won’t come to me, so for now instead of a book, all I have is an orgy. :-) There’s an old book and movie, from the late ‘70s or early ‘80s called The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. I always liked the musicality of that title, so I guess that’s why mine popped into my head so quickly. Though I didn’t expect there would be so many other “Girl” titles swimming around in the world at the same time as mine.

How much research, if any, did you do into the topic of amnesia?

Hmmm. I forget... Ha! A little amnesia humour! (Which is me trying to avoid telling you that I didn’t do as much research as I could have done--not because I’m lazy, though. It’s important to my story, my fictional story, that Mina not remember too much too quickly at the risk of going completely insane. The truth is, I guess I would rather not know if that’s really possible, so I didn’t dig too deeply into things...)

There are many layers to the book and the characters in particular? Which did you prefer writing - the character layers or the plot layers?

I’m a character girl all the way. I love my characters, and sometimes I loathe them. But they are everything to me. Once they’re in my head, they don’t leave me alone. They talk to me, they talk to each other. They impose themselves everywhere. They’re like my children. So characters always come first for me. The good thing about my characters, though, is that because they are so in control of me / my writing / my mind, they also let me know how the plot should unfold to accommodate them. So they are intrusive, but at least they are helpful!

Which character did you like most? (NB: I don’t mean like writing)

Char-a’tee Pryce all the way. I freaking love that woman. I love her so much in fact, I want to be friends with her. I’m considering a spin-off for her. If not a novel, maybe an empowerment book... Hmmm...

What’s real and what’s not real is a key theme running throughout the book. Did you always know from the start what would be real and what not real, from the moment you started writing or did it evolve along the way?

Definitely evolved as I wrote it. I think that’s all I can say...

The uncle figure was both likeable and not to be trusted at the same time? How did you manage this?

Oh you mean he worked? Whew! Thank God! I worried about that. I loved him all the way through, but even I didn’t trust him half the time. I had to pay very close attention to everything he did and said. In fact, I had to do this with all the characters to keep them as ambiguous as possible. No easy feat!
 
 

The husband doesn’t seem to be around much. How do you think the story would have changed, had he been more present?

I love Jack, but I think he would have gotten in the way had he been around more. I think for the reader to really feel for Mina, her isolation, her loneliness, was key. She probably would have started remembering certain things more quickly if Jack were around more, but then there wouldn’t be a story!

Although I haven’t yet read your first novel, Rita Hayworth’s Shoes, the subject matter and genre seems quite distinct. Do you think you will genre-hop much in the future and if so, which genre or specific theme would you like to write?

I love jumping genres! I think as women, as people, we’re all multi-faceted. As a writer, I can’t help but be that way. Sometimes I’m silly (Rita), sometimes I’m lost (Girl). Like everyone else, I have a past, and residual pain from my past, which is central to my next novel, A Comfortable Madness. This one is kooky like the others, but it will be considerably more dark than what readers are used to from me. There probably won’t be any westerns or sci-fi in my future books, but I don’t think I can just do “romantic comedies” or “psychological dramas” or whatever. I know it’s important from a marketing perspective to pick a genre and stick with it, but for me, I don’t see how that’s going to be possible.

The scene with the uncle, the outspoken friend, and Mina in the café where her friend tells her not to put up with the bank’s threats and Mina becomes empowered is one of my favourites. What was your favourite scene and why?

Great question! Definitely has to do with Mina getting her mojo back. I think the scene in which she returns home after standing up for herself with the shopkeeper and tears into the creditor on the other end of the phone tops the list. I did also like the scene at the house with Char and the cement mixer around the end. (Or any scene with Char for that matter. Did I mention how much I love Char-a’tee Pryce?)

Everything is not what it seems, or possibly nothing is what it seems. Many of the characters’ stereotypes get juxtaposed in the novel, in that those you expect to be do-gooders and those you expect to be a threat are often the opposite. Did all of those characters have those roles assigned early on and if not, how/when did you decide to introduce them in that way?

I don’t know why I wrote such a complicated minefield of a book... Again, I’m not really sure how to answer this specifically without giving everything away. My generic response: Some were always meant to be bad or turn out bad, and stayed on track. Some were always meant to be good and also stayed that way. And some surprised even me! How’s that?

Some Christmas themed fun stuff!

Mulled wine or egg nog?

Between these, egg nog for sure. But champagne could also be considered a holiday drink, right?

What do you have for Christmas dinner and is it similar every year?

We look forward to Christmas dinner every year. Prime rib is the main event, though what my in-laws decide will be the side dishes changes by the year.

Do you put up a tree, who does it in your family and what’s the best bit of the tree for you?

I know this will sound “bah-humbug” but I have no part in putting up our Christmas tree / decorating for Christmas. My husband does it with our kids, usually the Sunday in early December that I sneak away for my good friend’s yearly birthday brunch. It’s terrible, I know, but he’s an architect and therefore more visually- and design-gifted than I am. And as I’m the one who usually dismantles everything and puts it away, if it was left to me to decorate, the tree would probably have about three ornaments on it!

Do you put up any additional decorations, lights etc? We’ve seen the American movies!

We live in a condominium complex (art imitates life!) and they have pretty strict rules about what we can put outside (and painfully so!). Though this year, my husband got creative. We have a fake tree and one year a section of it burned out. The manufacturer sent us a replacement, but my husband held on to the broken part--the very top section of the tree, which on its own looks like a little tree. This year he strung it with lights, draped it in ribbons, and “planted” it in one of the empty pots on our patio. My husband is awesome.

Do you allow any Christmas presents to be opened before 25th?

We celebrate Christmas Eve with my extended family so those presents get opened on the 24th. It’s a party that lasts well beyond midnight. When we get home, we tuck our kids in and spend the remaining wee hours of the night playing Santa, and then the children open those presents Christmas morning.

Favourite Christmas carol?

“Carol of the Bells” as performed by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, but that’s because I tend to be overly dramatic at times. I’m also a fan of irreverent, silly Christmas music. “Holy Sh*t, It’s Christmas” by Red Peters with The New Christy Hamsters makes me laugh every time. (It’s incredibly raunchy, but how fun is it to say “Holy Sh*t, It’s Christmas”? Try it!)

Do you eat breakfast on Christmas morning and if so, is it something special (I am still holding out for scrambled egg with smoked salmon and a glass of pink champagne - guess it won’t be this year!)

One glass of Christmas champagne is good for the little one! And congrats by the way about that. So exciting! We’re generally so wrecked from Christmas Eve, and our kids are way too excited to eat, we pretty much end up nibbling on the cookies “Santa” doesn’t finish.

What would you like from Father Christmas this year?

A film deal!

Have you ever, with your own kids, had that moment of panic when you realise what they have asked for, simply cannot be got anywhere for love nor money? If not, can you recall this ever happening to your parents trying to get you something? What was it?

This question is far more interesting than the answer’s going to be: Nah. Sorry! We don’t get that nuts over these things in my family--not the generation before us or the next generation. We’re all pretty easy that way. (That way. THAT way. We’re no angels, believe me!)

Most awful present you have ever received (suggest you go back a few years, so as not to offend anyone!)

Ha! I just answered this question for an 8-question promo I did with some author pals!


For me it was a pair of powder pink potholders and apron from my then-boyfriend for our first Christmas! The awful part of it was here we were in our “lingerie days,” and he’s already domesticating me?! Of course the upside is that I still have that apron--and that guy. We’ll be married nine years this coming Valentine’s Day!

***

Thanks so much for having me, Sooz! A very Merry Christmas to you and your family, and lots of love and blessings to you in the New Year!
 
 

 You can buy The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything via the following links:-
http://amzn.to/XIaMXK (UK)
http://amzn.to/ZNaB2F (US)
http://amzn.to/YjryRY (Can)

You can also follow her progress on Twitter https://twitter.com/francinelasala

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Francine-LaSala-Author/223109337705912

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4679863.Francine_LaSala

Tune in on Sunday for my Top 10 books of the year. I haven't included my own, but you feel free to do so! I'd love to hear what your favourite books of the year were.

And don't forget to enter Francine's giveaway - simply leave a comment on today's blog post! Have a grea weekend everyone. Sooz

 

 

 

 



Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Review and giveaway of The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything

Just to confuse you, this week we are having the book review today and the author, Francine LaSala's interview, on Friday. Hope you are all ready for Christmas. I have 2 presents to wrap and a dessert to decide upon, but apart from that, I am tickety boo!

So without further ado, what's this book all about?
 
Mina Clark is losing her mind—or maybe it’s already gone. She isn’t quite sure. Feeling displaced in her over-priced McMansion-dotted suburban world, she is grappling not only with deep debt, a mostly absent husband, and her playground-terrorizer 3-year old Emma, but also with a significant amnesia she can’t shake—a “temporary” condition now going on several years, brought on by a traumatic event she cannot remember, and which everyone around her feels is best forgotten. A routine trip to the dentist changes everything for Mina, and suddenly she's not sure if what's happening is real, of if she's just now fully losing her mind... especially when she realizes the only person she thought she could trust is the one she fears the most.

This latest novel by Francine LaSala (Rita Hayworth’s Shoes) is a fast-paced, richly layered, and darkly humorous satire filled with quirky characters and unforgettable moments of humanity.
 
 




If you love mystery and quirky books, this is for you!
I was given an Advance Review Copy by the author.
I have rated it Amazon 4 stars, but had it been possible, I would have rated it 4.5
Initially I was intrigued by the title, and thought, I really must find out what this is about!
The book was nothing like I expected. I saw amnesia and for some reason had decided it was going to be akin to Jodi Picoult's books. It wasn't, but it was all the better for it, because it showed a type of book that I would never have thought of reading, but which I hugely enjoyed, devouring it in only 3 days.
I didn't guess who the baddies were. There are some very clever mind games going on not just for the amnesiac, but as regards the author toying with the reader. It is very subtly done and is very effective.
I liked the protagonist, Mina, particularly when she started to act more like her old self. I thought the way this came about and what was later revealed about this, was funny and also very well choreographed.
The little old lady, Esther, and the larger than life female friend whom Mina meets, were very well portrayed indeed, as was the main male character( can't tell you too much about him - as would be giving you clues!)
What is real to Mina and to the rest of the world may not always be the same thing, or is it? That's the quintessential question. Is she imagining things? If so, what? Who is she really?
If you like mystery, combined with relationships within families and a little bit of surrealism thrown in, then you are on to a winner with this novel. A sinister tale.


Francine has kindly offered a Kindle copy of The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything. To be in with a chance of winning, please just leave a comment on the blog about today's post, including your email address, so I can contact you if you win. Good luck!
Winner will be drawn on Christmas Eve

You can buy The Girl, The Gold Tooth and Everything here:
http://amzn.to/XIaMXK (UK)
http://amzn.to/ZNaB2F (US)
http://amzn.to/YjryRY (Can)
The novel is also available in paperback from Amazon and I am guessing other outlets too!
and Francine's debut novel, Rita Hayworth's Shoes (on my reading list!) here:
http://amzn.to/U7XMMn (UK)
http://amzn.to/UbXPI5 (US)
http://amzn.to/UCoH0O (Can)





Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sooz's 40th Birthday Blog Post


Happy Birthday To Me, Happy 40th Birthday To Me (you know the rest!)

40! Really! Where did the time go? It got me thinking about my past birthdays and which ones I remember most.

I think the first one I remember was my 7th birthday. My mum was in hospital, as she was pregnant with my sister and I was staying with my gran and grampa. My aunt bought me a Holly Hobby ironing board and iron (wishful thinking!) and my parents bought me a doctor’s kit and nurse’s uniform(also wishful thinking).  Wish I'd kept my Holly Hobbie ironing board  - apparently it's a collector's item now!
 
 

Fast forward several years, and although I had loads of great presents over the years and excellent birthday celebrations with various friends and family, there are few that I can say,'that was my such and such birthday’.  I remember my 18th birthday, where I had a house party and then decided for some reason ( I suspect too much mulled wine) that going for a run at 10pm on a freezing December night in shorts and a vest was a good idea...(in my defence I was an athlete and used to run for Scotland) I can, however, assure you there will be no repeat of that this year! I also remember the gold necklace my parents bought me for my 18th.

My 21st was spent in Glasgow’s city centre, mostly in Yates’ Wine Lodge, if I recall, with lots of friends from work. It was that year when Mr Blobby was number one in the charts and I thought it was hilarious to pretend I was Mr Blobby. Methinks I had partaken of too much mulled wine then too. And I remember the gold watch my parents bought me.
 
 
 
 

My 30th saw about twenty friends and family set up camp in the Winnock Hotel in Drymen (near Loch Lomond) for their murder mystery night. It was brilliant fun, but my sister maintained for about two years afterwards, that one of my friends was actually one of the actors.  This time it was my Other Half that bought me the gold watch.
 
 

And now it’s my 40th. This has been the longest birthday celebration ever and with good reason. I am lucky enough to have lots of friends mainly from my various jobs over the years, as well as some university and schoolfriends, many of whom don’t know each other. I received my first birthday present, a watch, round about the middle of November. I then went to the Isle of Arran, off the west coast of Scotland, for an overnight stay, with one of my best friends a week after that. Every time we go anywhere, stuff happens! We ended up coming third in the pub quiz in a tiny pub, where an American couple had decided to have their unofficial wedding reception - just witnesses and around 20 ‘locals’. I also got birthday cake No.1 and my first birthday-related ‘beamer’ (red face for those who require translation)
 
 
 
 

A few days later and it was off to Madeira with my Other Half. A week in the sun this time of year is always welcome (actually at any time of year). Being waited on and just chilling out for a week was utter bliss.
 
  (photo - ALamy)
 

Then it was home again and a visit from a very good friend from Austria, which I combined with an early birthday lunch out last weekend with 8 friends.   Birthday Cake No. 2 and more pressies.

Roll on Wed and out for dinner again - more food, more gifts.

Thurs - cards started arriving by post.

Fri came around and more gifts and cards started arriving by post. The evening meant out to our favourite restaurant with my Other Half and his parents for dinner

Sat - I had the great pleasure to meet my beta reader, Laura Cowan, who also is a master baker and agreed to make my official birthday cake for the big day. Check it out below. Isn’t it great? Birthday Cake Nr 3.
 
 
 

 
 
Of course, it had to be a book! 

 

And then the Grand Finale, Sun 16th December 2012 - The Big Four O - a family dinner out in my home town, with my cherubic nephews, siblings (not quite so cherubic!), parents, auntie, cousin and Other Half.


But do you know what, instead of there being an anti-climax, now that the day has arrived, I only have 9 more days to wait until Christmas!

Have a great festive period everyone!

Sooz (aka Auld Yin)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Interview & Giveaway with Melanie Hudson

Morning. Today is the day, I promise, when I will put up my tree. The presents are bought - all of them. Almost all the cards have been sent, so tree and present wrapping for me today (I am confined to the house by dint of waiting on parcels to be delivered...) A bit of Classic FM, carols and away we go!
But first, another NEW feature for the blog! Not only am I interviewing author of The Wedding Cake Tree, Melanie Hudson, but she has very magnanimously offered a paperback copy of her book. Simply leave a comment on today's post to be entered into the draw to win it.

This week, we have a special Christmas-themed Q&A, as well as the usual book related one. Enjoy!


The title is quite unusual. Does it have particular significance for you?
I adore trees. To me, they symbolise a great deal  – permanence, strength, shelter, protection – I could go on. Grace’s mother, Rosamund, plants a number of trees throughout her life in different locations. She sends Grace to find the trees. The most important tree in both women’s lives is a wedding cake tree which Rosamund planted in the garden of the family home when Grace was born; it’s Grace’s tree – it’s the family tree.  Bearing in mind Grace is sent on a journey of discovery to uncover her family history which has been kept a secret from her, it seemed apt to name the book after ‘the family tree’.  Also, a wedding cake tree grows in layers (it’s a beautiful tree). The layers symbolise the stages of Rosamund’s life.

The book has a strong military focus. I know you have a background in the military. What can you tell us about that and why you chose to include this element in your novel?
I joined the Royal Air Force in 1994, worked with the Army for two years in operational environments, and then transferred to the Royal Navy in 2004 – so I’ve had a colourful military career. My own identity has been moulded by my time spent working with the armed forces.  There is an old adage that you should ‘write what you know’, so I should imagine any book I write in the future will have a military thread running through in some guise or another. I didn’t want to write a war story though; I wanted to touch upon the emotional side of modern day soldiering. One of the main characters (Alasdair) is a Royal Marine.  Rosamund (the mother) is ex-military too.  I loved the idea of having a strong female military character, even though this aspect of her life is only a small part of the book.

The mother is quite a character, even though she speaks from beyond the grave. How did you manage to bring her to life so well? (pardon the pun!) Did you employ any particular techniques?
Rosamund seems to be the character readers appreciate/like the most.  I think the reason for this is because she speaks to the reader directly through her letters. I wanted the reader to ‘become’ Grace while they are reading the letters, and, therefore, feel that they are on the journey with her. Rosamund is absolutely honest about love, regrets, achievements and failures. The letters are, at times, a heart- breaking portrayal of her life, which makes them/her endearing.
The passages set in Scotland are particularly evocative. I know you have visited some of the places, but as you managed to describe them so well, I wonder if you have visited all of them? if so, which was your favourite and why?
I adore Scotland.  I lived there for three years (Ayrshire and Moray) and got to know the Cairngorm area particularly well.  I’m an avid hill walker so the whole of the Highlands is like manna from heaven.  The walk that Grace and Alasdair do on Ben Macdui is one that I have done many times. I took a group of Navy junior ratings on a two day hike across the Cairngorms a few years ago. When we got to Loch A’an, they all stripped off and jumped in (which is where I got the skinny dipping idea from); I won’t be telling whether or not I joined them! Favourite part of Scotland? Impossible to answer.  On the one hand, my immediate response would be the Loch A’an/NethyBridge area. But then I would feel guilty about not including the west coast. Grace and Alasdair go to Arisaig. To me, the west coast of Scotland is the most romantic place on earth.  Having said that, I spent a couple of days there alone this summer, and that was heaven too.
 
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Would your hero, Alasdair, be your ideal man and is that the image you have of who the perfect soldier is?
Oh, Alasdair – women find him completely dreamy.  Was I so transparent? Basically, yes, he is my ‘ideal man’, but I don’t have an image of the ideal soldier; they are all heroes in their own way.  Having said that, I never wanted Alasdair to be perfect – who is? He has his own demons, but that’s all part of his character.  I wanted him to be neither James Bond nor Bear Grylls.  I wanted him to be a genuine, kind, gritty and utterly loveable kind of a guy. I wanted him to be the sort of man who could be rescuing the Prime Minister from a burning building one minute, and then taking the kids swimming the next.  I also liked the idea of a strong male character who is capable and in tune with nature.  Having said that, he has his weaknesses like everyone else; and there is a power shift at the end…but I can’t say more as it will give the game away.
I particularly liked the scene at the wedding with the young man in the wheelchair, as it lent extra depth to the story and the main characters’ attitudes and personalities. How much did you consciously try to weave extra layers of the military in this way into the story and can you give a few examples?
Initially the book was fairly political in places.  Grace and Alasdair had in-depth conversations about modern day conflict. But I realised that it was the only part of the book where I was consciously pushing across my own opinions - my own feelings of frustration and confusion and my desperate desire to hope that every military life lost during the past few years hasn’t been in vain.  But although literature should enable the reader to sit for a moment and ponder, this book was never intended as something that was overtly opinionated or political, so I deleted all of the scenes that had become a little too intense – they slowed the book down and weren’t in keeping with the story.  As for Alex and Alasdair, I wanted to illustrate the unbreakable bond of a solid military friendship, and I wanted to show that it isn’t just those with physical injuries that suffer.
Which do you prefer to write, description or dialogue and why?
I don’t have a preference. Both are enjoyable. I find description easier than dialogue, which means I have to cut great swathes of it in the edit.

Who is your favourite minor character and why?
Grace’s Aunt Annie, no question.  She’s a no-nonsense, ‘tell it how it is’ northerner – like nearly every member of my family.  I loved creating a character that was both brusque and incredibly kind.  I also wanted the reader to decide upon their own opinion of her – not to be swayed by Rosamund’s description of her in the letter.  Basically, she’s good fun.
Why did you choose the European country you did as a part of the quest?  (I am trying to be vague here to avoid spoilers!)
I lived for six months in the ‘European location that shan’t be named’. One of the things Rosamund is trying to teach Grace, is that location and landscape can play a huge factor in determining your actions in life.  If you move away from the norm temporarily (i.e. from your own town, your own country) you may act/make decisions you wouldn’t usually make…we all get a little carried away on holiday don’t we?  That is what happened to Rosamund, and she wants to show her daughter why she made some of the decisions she made in her life (which weren’t necessarily based on common sense!).
 
 
As you wrote about Grace’s mother being a person having a life before being Grace’s mother, did you think about your own mother, or indeed yourself seen from your children’s point of view in the future?
I didn’t think about my own mother at all… I don’t want to think about her in any way other than my perfect mum; it would destroy the image (which is exactly how Grace feels initially).  The inspiration for the mother/daughter relationship came from the fact that my son saw a photograph of me wearing army fatigues while I was in Iraq. He asked who the person in the picture was. I told him it was me, which he didn’t like – it wasn’t how he has pigeon-holed me in his mind. I doubt he’ll ever really know anything about the life I lived before he was born (oh, the irony!).

Fun stuff - a Christmas themed question base today!

I know, like me, you are a huge Rupert Penry-Jones fan, but I believe he has been usurped of late. Tell us who you would like to find wrapped up under your Christmas tree?
Hilarious. Yes, Rupert is to die for, isn’t he?  I kind of like the Ben Ainslee look, but (and I’m afraid it’s a cliché) Daniel Craig was particularly sexy in Skyfall.  Unfortunately, Alasdair is pure fiction, or else I’d be happy to find him under my  tree.  I think attraction is just as much emotional as physical.

Christmas carols or rock music?
Carols.

Love or hate Christmas and has this attitude changed with having children?
I ‘like’ Christmas personally, and I ‘love’ Christmas for my son; I try to make the house all ‘Christmassy’.  But I don’t go mad on the present thing (and that’s not because I’m tight or anything).  We lived in Dubai for a while, and everything seemed to be about money and possessions. I don’t want my son to grow up that way… although he does do particularly well at Christmas.  I’m very proud of him.  He never asks for lots of possessions because he’s completely loyal to his old toys. Oh, and I HATE the Christmas music they play in the shops – especially Slade!  I worked in Burtons Menswear during the day and behind a bar at night during the holidays when I was a student.  Burtons played that horrendous 1980s Christmas album all the live-long day (Slade, George Michael, Wizard, Band Aid, Shakin’ Stevens etc … you know, that horrific song where that Nobby bloke shouts ‘It’s Christmas!’… yeah, I hate those songs).  And then I would go to work in a bar in the evenings and hear them all again - but under Karaoke conditions; I don’t know how I survived it!

Is Halloween too early for Christmas decorations?
Too early - fact.

If you go out for a meal prior to Christmas in a restaurant, do you have turkey and Christmas pudding or not?
No, never. Life’s too short.

Big family celebrations for Christmas or intimate gathering?
My family is massive.  In the past, we all got together at Mum’s house on Christmas Eve (although, because of my life in the forces, I haven’t always been able to get there).  But Mum and Dad live in a tiny house now, and Dad was critically ill earlier this year, so it’s just not possible anymore.  I always said I would only be in my own home for Christmas once I had a child (for the magic), but this year we will be in Yorkshire at my parents – which will end up being one of those fraught family Christmases.  But Dad has been ill and I don’t often get the opportunity to see my parents.  I know it sounds awful, but I don’t want to say, ‘I should have made more of an effort’ one day.  Quite a few of us are going to a restaurant in Leeds for lunch which should be good.  I have about 12 nephews and nieces and we’re going bowling on Christmas Eve – it’s good for my son to see everyone. We live in Devon, but my family are in Yorkshire, so he doesn’t know his family very well, which is a shame.
Favourite toy you remember getting as a child for Christmas
I remember a favourite, but I can tell you the worst… a bloody doll and pram! I never had that ‘little girl’ desire to have dolls, I just didn’t have the ‘gene’.  I could have wept when I ripped open the paper and saw a Tiny Tears doll…in fact, I probably did weep.  My parents didn’t have much money so I had to be grateful and ‘pretend’ to play with the thing, but I just didn’t see the point.  I was so jealous of my brother's Action Men – I know they are ‘dolls’ too – but at least they came with tanks and parachutes and caterpillar tread trucks, and swivel eyes and clinging hands (I think you may have hit on a raw nerve here!).
What have you asked Santa for?
A dart board, but I know he’ll forget.
Would you ever write a Christmas themed book and if so, what element of Christmas do you think it would incorporate?

If I wrote a Christmassy book it would be about the build-up to Christmas rather than the day itself (I find Christmas day to be a bit of an anti-climax…bah humbug!).
Are you a traditional Christmas person or have you added your own traditions along the way? What’s your favourite?
I’m traditional.
Mum has this fairy on her tree that is fifty years old.  Three of us (out of six) want her. Mum said the only solution is that she will have to get buried with her as we will all fall out over the fairy when possessions are divided out.  This all sounds petty, but that threadbare, discoloured, scrappy fairy represents everything we hold dear about Christmas…family, home and happy memories – which is why we all want her (I’m thinking kidnap!).   I’m in the village Christmas choir – Away In a Manger is my favourite. Oh, and I love the Nativity. My son is a ‘wise man’ this year.  If you knew my son, you would know that I will walk into church with great trepidation – ad-libbing is his forté!
 
 
And that's it for today. Remember you can win Melanie's book by posting a comment on today's post. Winner will be drawn on Monday.
You can follow Melanie on Twitter at melanie_hudson_
Tune in on Sunday - my 40th birthday, for a special surprise!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Cover Release - Never Alone by Linn B Halton

Morning
Well, here's a first for the blog. Never had one of these before, apart from my own! So, without further ado, today I am delighted to showcase fellow author Linn B Halton and her cover for her new novel, Never Alone.

A contemporary romance with a Twist!
It’s fabulous to be talking to Susan Buchanan, fresh from her successful launch of The Dating Game. Hearty congrats!
I’m in that pre-launch phase known as the ‘panic’ time! Waking up in the middle of the night thinking ‘have I forgotten anything???’
Well, first things first, I have a shiny new cover that’s hot off the press! Susan asked what inspired the design and I have to say it was simple, because I knew exactly what I wanted. It’s a love story and the main character, Holly Atherton seems to have an aversion to wedding rings! So, when asked, I said ‘hearts and rings’. How easy was that?
So what is this psychic romance all about?
“It’s a gift to be shown something that allows you to make a difference and alter the outcome of someone else’s life. However, the weight of the responsibility that goes along with that is huge and what about the ethics? The thing I have to ask myself, is how did my actions change the future?”
Holly is the envy of all her friends, she has lived with the gorgeous Will for five years and supported him every step of the way. His IT business is about to go global and they are on the verge of having all their dreams come true! A life split between homes in the UK and Los Angeles beckons, offering them a glamorous and exciting lifestyle they will both fit into quite perfectly. So when Will pops the question, why won’t Holly say ‘yes’?
A series of terrifying encounters unleashes an inherited psychic connection within Holly. Her ‘perfect’ life is turned upside down as she struggles with the reality of her ‘gift’. Help comes from a chance meeting with medium Peter Shaw and she discovers that she is also being given healing and protection by the spirits of two people. One of them is her best friend’s brother, Nick, who died suddenly in tragic circumstances. Holly finds herself confiding in him in an attempt to sort out her own life.
She begins to sense that the path she’s on isn’t the one she’s destined for, but is it too late to change things? The thought of hurting the people she loves the most causes her to bury her emotions, until fate takes a hand………..
Life’s all about the choices we make … Never Alone releases on 16 January, 2013!
Linn’s links:
About the author:
Linn writes contemporary women's love stories that reflect life, but you are always guaranteed an ending that won't disappoint!
Love, life and beyond… but it’s ALWAYS about the romance!
Linn signed with US publishing house Sapphire Star Publishing in 2012; The Quintessential Gemini, a heart-warming romance was released in June 2012 and The Restaurant @ The Mill, a collection of life/love stories based around an old mill, was released in August 2012. Linn is a member of the RNA.
Linn also has two self-published books – Touched By The Light (a psychic romance that will make you think) and Being A Sceptic Is Oh So Easy (a diary of events/true story).
Linn is a featured new Author loveahappyending.com and also one of the Editors on the website's magazine-style blog.
 
Well, that's it for today - tune in on Friday for my review of newly released The Wedding Cake Tree by Melanie Hudson