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Saturday, 27 May 2017

Interview: D.J. Torres

Fancy a chat? Of course you do! I sat down with the author D.J. Torres to ask some questions and get some answers.

Good morning! Could you please introduce yourself? 

I’m just a normal girl who loves to write... and sometimes fights crime.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I never planned on writing a book. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved writing. I admit to being the girl who enjoyed writing essays in school. The Nature of Gods started with an idea for a screenplay, but as I wrote, the story naturally expanded. I realised that I wouldn’t do the story justice by trying to contain it in a screenplay so I started working on the novel, which has led me here.

What draws you to writing fantasy?

I love the fantasy genre because of the freedom you can take when creating a world. It allows you to create and share something that has never existed before.

Tell me about The Nature of Gods.

I think the tagline sums it up best: All-powerful ancient deities are out to destroy the world; nothing that two girls can’t handle, right?
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Image: D.J. Torres

The story follows sixteen-year-old Olivia as she navigates survival in the world overthrown by gods and goddesses who demand worship. Then Olivia meets Nature and this awkward artist with no confidence is catapulted to the forefront of humanity’s battle for survival. Considering I used the word “survival” twice, it is safe to say it’s a story of survival, but it’s also about girl power, teamwork, and finding your courage.

How do you get inspiration?

Music. Songs can be so powerful! They have the ability to trigger imaginative thoughts and bring forth emotions you didn’t even know you possessed. I am always searching YouTube for new songs and different mixes. Once I find that song that unlocks that scene in my mind, I play it to death.

Did you use real mythology for inspiration in the book?

Yes and no. There are gods from mythology you will instantly recognise, but I wanted to tell a different story by tweaking different aspects of the gods. I used mythology to tell the story, as opposed to telling a story about mythology.

Tell me about your research process when starting to write a new book.

Google is my bestie. Seriously, I talk to Google like it’s a real person. For The Nature of Gods, I researched mythology within different cultures, plus I stared at a lot of maps of the world. If you need to find random countries on a map, I’m your girl.

What’s your writing process?

I start with an outline of where I want the story to go, find a song that sparks my imagination, and then I imagine the scene in my head as if it were a movie. I think about the different sights, feelings, and sounds. Brick by brick, I literally construct the world in my brain. Once I have a movie playing in my head, I perform what I lovingly call, “Word Barf.” I try to get everything on the page. After that, I start to edit. I repeat this process over and over and over again until a book forms.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Sometimes it is hard to know when to stop editing the story and let it stand as the story you wrote it to be. There is a fine line between polished work and demolished work. I have learned that if you edit when you are in a bad mood, you tend to demolish the story. Lesson learned! I now surrounded myself with things I love when I edit. Coffee and treats are my friends.

What do you love most about writing?

I love giving birth to new thoughts, new adventures, and new characters. It’s the most amazing feeling when you get into that writing groove where the words just pour off your fingertips. You suddenly realise that hours have passed, but it felt like minutes because you were just so engrossed in this world you created.
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Image: D.J. Torres

Which authors inspire you?

J.K. Rowling, Rick Riordan, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien. What inspires me the most about these authors is that they created amazing worlds that I wouldn’t hesitate to live in. That’s what I want to do for others.

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

It is important to write for yourself and not for other people. You should be open to people’s critiques (because they are SUPER helpful), but you have to stay true to the story and the characters. If you followed everyone’s advice, your story would be pulled in so many different directions and it would turn into a hot mess. So when people give me notes about the book, I sit and think about if that note is true to the story or not.

Why did you decide to self-publish?

It just boils down to the fact that I wanted to put the story out there for readers. Self-publishing isn’t easy, but I have a strong support team of editors, marketers, and just utterly supportive people so it made sense to forge my own pathway. I also really enjoy the freedom and control you maintain when you choose to publish yourself.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It’s no secret that I want to attend Hogwarts and hang out with Hagrid and his collection of exotic creatures, but I wouldn’t be opposed to attending Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. I desperately want to rock that powder blue cape.

What are your ambitions for your writing career?

I want to write! Wherever that takes me, I just want to continue pursuing my passion. I want to provide new worlds, new escapes, for readers. I also want to encourage others to create and follow their dreams.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

Easy! Without question, I would be a dolphin trainer. If I could swim with dolphins every day, I would.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

I binge watch T.V. shows like no other, I love coffee a little too much, and I definitely have a sweet tooth. More than anything, I want to make a positive difference in the world. I’m still working on the details of that.

What are you currently working on?

Book 2 for the Nature series is currently in the works. I am super excited about where the story is going. I also have a couple of children books bouncing around in my brain. I might even tackle a twist on superheroes.

What are you reading at the moment?

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I may or may not (definitely may) have seen the movie first. I have never cried so much in my life. I’m talking gator tears streaming down my face. After the movie, I desperately needed to learn more about the characters. The book does dive into back-stories and has a lot more plot points than the movie.
For more information about D.J. Torres, visit her website or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads or Pinterest. The Nature of Gods is available to buy now.

What do you think? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Friday, 26 May 2017

Blog Tour Spotlight: Summer at Conwenna Cove by Darcie Boleyn

After having previously reviewed Something Old, Something New by Darcie Boleyn, I was really looking forward to reading more from her. So when Summer at Conwenna Cove came around and I was invited onto the blog tour, I jumped at the chance. After all, what self-respecting book blogger could resist a stop on a blog tour for a book they've been looking forward to reading? Definitely not me, that's for sure!

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I also got the opportunity to ask Darcie about how she did her research for the book:
I did a lot of reading about Cornwall on the internet and made lots of notes about typical Cornish towns and villages. I also looked at old holiday photographs from my own Cornish holidays, to try to get the details just right. To get the greyhound details accurate, I contacted some of the very helpful people at Greyhound Rescue Wales for their greyhound stories and for advice about Gabe’s behaviour in the story.
About Summer at Conwenna Cove

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Image: Darcie Boleyn / Faye Rogers PR
Eve has a glittering career, a loving husband and a future. But a terrible twist of fate means she loses it all, and with nowhere left to turn she flees to her Aunt Mary’s home in Cornwall. The last thing on her mind is romance – until she meets Jack.

Jack has seen the worst things people can do to each other and realised he is better off alone. He settles in Conwenna Cove, and saves his affections for the rescue dogs he cares for. But when Eve arrives in the village he can’t deny his attraction to her.

Eve and Jack are both scared to trust, but when they come together it’s impossible for either to ignore their feelings. Can they put their fears aside and learn to love again?

Summer at Conwenna Cove is an emotional and heart-warming holiday read about being brave enough to take a chance on love.

Summer at Conwenna Cove is available to buy now.

About Darcie Boleyn

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Image: Darcie Boleyn / Faye Rogers PR
Darcie Boleyn has a huge heart and is a real softy. She never fails to cry at books and movies, whether the ending is happy or not. Darcie is in possession of an overactive imagination that often keeps her awake at night.

Her childhood dream was to become a Jedi but she hasn’t yet found suitable transport to take her to a galaxy far, far away. She also has reservations about how she’d look in a gold bikini, as she rather enjoys red wine, cheese and loves anything with ginger or cherries in it – especially chocolate. 

Darcie fell in love in New York, got married in the snow, rescues uncoordinated greyhounds and can usually be found reading or typing away on her laptop.

For more information about Darcie and her books, check out her blog or follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Guest Post: Five Places to Visit With My Fiction by Hannah Fielding

In all my fiction, one truth is apparent: I am passionate about travel. Kenya, Italy, Spain, France, Britain, Ireland, the Greek Islands, Egypt – all these countries, and more – are places that have inspired my writing.

Here are five places you can visit by reading one of my books.

Las Ramblas, Barcelona

Novel: Legacy

In my latest book, the protagonists meet as strangers in the big, bustling, vibrant city of Barcelona. Here is a glimpse of the heroine’s impressions of Las Ramblas, the busy main street:
The brightly lit promenade, adorned with plane trees, was seething with a river of people. As she joined the cosmopolitan throng, it felt like all of the action – Barcelona’s entire nightlife – was centred on this wide, tree-lined street, from cosy traditional Spanish bars and restaurants to clubs lit up with neon. The hubbub was indescribable. … Luna could barely take in the staggering parade of diversions. There were booksellers, souvenir stands, flamenco dancers, clowns and acrobats. A dozen street performers, painted bronze or white like statues, wowed the crowds in a fantastic array of costumes, some standing or sitting, others moving in jerky mime.
The Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

Novel: Burning Embers

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Image: Hannah Fielding
The Masai Mara is a vast game reserve in Narok County, Kenya, where visitors can see so many wild animals in their natural habitat: lions and leopards and cheetahs and zebras and wildebeest and the Thomson’s gazelle. In Burning Embers, my characters have a spectacular opportunity to view the Masai Mara from on high, with a hot-air balloon ride:
Gradually the mist had lifted, and the sun burst forth, a ball of fire radiating the sky with unnaturally incandescent hues. Coral was reminded of the strident brushwork and wild colors of the Fauvist paintings that filled her mother’s gallery, which Coral had always loved. The scene was now set for the show to begin: the drama in which the broad, breath-taking landscapes of Africa were the stage and the animals the actors.
Pamplona, Spain

Novel: Masquerade

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Image: Hannah Fielding
Pamplona is a beautiful city that is known internationally for a single event: the Running of the Bulls. This is a very old tradition in which six bulls are let loose in the old quarter of the town’s streets and people attempt to outrun them before they reach the bullring, a distance of 825 metres. The Encierro lasts only two and a half minutes or so, but so much occurs in that time. It is what Ernest Hemingway called a ‘wonderful nightmare’.

Piazza San Marco, Venice

Novel: The Echoes of Love

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Image: Hannah Fielding
Napoleon called St Mark’s Square in Venice ‘the drawing room of Europe’. Certainly, it is always busy, because it is so popular with tourists (and with pigeons, I may add!). They come for good reason: to see the stunning Byzantine architecture of St Mark’s Basilica, its imposing Campanile bell tower with gold archangel Gabriel weathervane, and the early-Renaissance clock tower. They also flock to the oldest coffee house in the world, Caffè Florian, whose clientele has included Balzac, Goethe, Casanova, Lord Byron, Proust, Stravinsky, Rousseau and Dickens.

The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Novel: Indiscretion

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Image: Hannah Fielding
This complex of palaces has a fairy-tale feel right out of the Arabian Nights. It was built by the Moors on a steep wooded hill during the mid-14th century, and it is the very pinnacle of their architecture, a glorification of a long-distant past. Here, within these silent walls, where the shadows and echoes of the past confront one at every step, where the ghosts of emirs, slaves and beautiful princesses move through the corridors with silent footsteps; here in this wonderful and mystery-laden atmosphere dwells romance.

About Legacy

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Image: Hannah Fielding
A troubled young journalist finds her loyalties tested when love and desire unearth dark secrets from the past.

Spring, 2010. When Luna Ward, a science journalist from New York, travels halfway across the world to work undercover at an alternative health clinic in Cadiz, her ordered life is thrown into turmoil.

The doctor she is to investigate, the controversial Rodrigo Rueda de Calderon, is not what she expected. With his wild gypsy looks and devilish sense of humour, he is intent upon drawing her to him. But how can she surrender to a passion that threatens all reason; and how could he ever learn to trust her when he discovers her true identity? Then Luna finds that Ruy is carrying a corrosive secret of his own…

Luna’s native Spanish blood begins to fire in this land of exotic legends, flamboyant gypsies and seductive flamenco guitars, as dazzling Cadiz weaves its own magic on her heart. Can Luna and Ruy’s love survive their families’ legacy of feuding and tragedy, and rise like the phoenix from the ashes of the past?

Legacy is a story of truth, dreams and desire. But in a world of secrets, you need to be careful what you wish for…

Legacy is available to buy now.

About Hannah Fielding

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Image: Hannah Fielding
Hannah Fielding is an incurable romantic. The seeds for her writing career were sown in early childhood, spent in Egypt, when she came to an agreement with her governess Zula: for each fairy story Zula told, Hannah would invent and relate one of her own. Years later – following a degree in French literature, several years of travelling in Europe, falling in love with an Englishman, the arrival of two beautiful children and a career in property development – Hannah decided after so many years of yearning to write that the time was now. Today, she lives the dream: writing full time at her homes in Kent, England, and the South of France, where she dreams up romances overlooking breath-taking views of the Mediterranean. 

Hannah is a multi-award-winning novelist, and to date she has published five novels: Burning Embers, ‘romance like Hollywood used to make’, set in Kenya; The Echoes of Love, ‘an epic love story that is beautifully told’ set in Italy; and the Andalusian Nights Trilogy – Indiscretion, Masquerade and Legacy – her fieriest novels yet, set in sunny, sultry Spain.

For more information about Hannah and her work, please visit her website or follow her on Twitter, Facebook or Goodreads.

Which of these places do you wish you could visit? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Interview: Pat Abercromby

It's my stop on the blog tour for Just One Life by Pat Abercromby! I sat down with Pat for a quick chat.


Good morning, Pat! Tell me a little about yourself.

I am beyond retirement age but not retired! My background is eclectic and covers medical research, journalism, running my own recruiting company, therapeutic massage, and running a training school for therapists. I currently still have a private practice and I am also a partner in a corporate wellness company.

How did you first become interested in writing?

I have been involved in journalism on and off since my late teens and decided to write my first fictional novel two years ago when I finally had time to focus on writing.

Tell me about Just One Life.

This story is about one successful and fulfilled woman’s life which spirals into obliteration when her husband has a serious stroke and almost overnight, all that identified her is sublimated into her full-time caring role. She then discovers a shocking secret about her husband, but it is too late to leave and she is trapped. But she is a survivor and when her husband develops dementia and goes into full-time residential nursing home care, she reclaims herself and carries on with her life, supported throughout by her childhood girlfriend Iona.

Where did you get the inspiration from?

From elements of my own life and from a strong desire to honour the role and lives of the millions of unsung carers in this country alone, who have had to put their own hopes and ambitions aside to care for a family member. It is also to honour the value of friendship when the going gets hard.

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Image: Pat Abercromby / Authoright UK PR
Tell me about your research process for the book.

This is my first novel and I am so impressed with the information available on Google! Research at this level has been very easy, no need to spend hours pouring over reference books in the library. I have been in all the locations mentioned in the story too.

What was your writing process like?

My first draft just getting the story line written down quickly was 10,000 words. My goal was 80,000 and my creative writing teacher really helped me with the craft of writing a novel. Also the constructive feedback I got from friends and other creative writers really helped.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Probably finding time in a busy life. I am a night owl, but sometimes I am too tired after a busy day to write and I refuse to get up at 5am as some writers do! Also, the reviewing of proofreading and editing which meant reading through the manuscript several times, that was tedious but a very necessary part of the writing process.

What do you love most about writing?

I love the way the characters take on a life of their own once you start writing about them. I had the basic story line in my head, but some of the unexpected events that popped into the plot quite took me by surprise!

Which authors inspire you?

Kate Atkinson, Jojo Moyes, Jodi Picoult. I admire them both for their style of writing and the diverse range of story lines that they develop.

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Image: Pat Abercromby / Authoright UK PR

What’s your all-time favourite book?

I must have read thousands over my lifetime but the first book I remember being enthralled with as a youngster was Black Beauty by Anna Sewell and that story started me off with an unquenchable desire for reading.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing?

I would have loved to be a vet although I would be retired by now. The other most fulfilling work I still do is remedial massage. I like to ease my clients’ aches and pains.

What are your interests outside of writing and reading?

Classical music and gardening and walking my dog in the fields where I live. Meeting up with friends and travelling when I can.

What are you currently working on? 

An environmental book called Safe As Houses.

It has been on the back burner for a couple of years since I started writing Just One Life, but I need to get on with it now although I have another novel waiting in my head to be written which could be a distraction!

What are you reading at the moment?

I belong to two book clubs and currently I am reading William Boyd, Any Human Heart. Not my choice but it has made me laugh in places so far (his description of a rugby scrum is priceless) but probably would not bother to read another book by him.

Just One Life is available to buy now.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below! 

Friday, 5 May 2017

Guest Post: Writing Fantasy from Experience by Ryan Elainska

Sometimes I play a game with myself. It goes like this: I’ll be driving along the highway, thinking about how I need to generate new story ideas, so I’ll decide that I will force myself to come up with one right then and there, based on whatever next catches my attention. Back when I was writing screenplays, I once played this game when I was driving alongside a semi-truck, and it resulted in an idea for a script about a woman who finds out that her truck-driver husband has four other wives all along his route, and goes on a road trip to meet them. I actually wrote the first draft of this. Was it a great idea? Meh. It could have been. I’m not sure I put in the work to make it as good as I could have, and that’s probably why that script is sitting in a drawer somewhere.

The last time I played this game, I was driving past a small clump of trees behind an old farmhouse standing on the south edge of U.S. Highway 30 in Northern Indiana. It was the dead of winter, and the trees were glittering with frost. An image floated into my head of something frozen and dying, something old and left behind from former days, crawling out of the woods into that old farmhouse, trying to cling to life. Within seconds, that something had taken shape as one of the dryads of Classical mythology, still lingering in the world but growing weak from lack of human reverence and the encroachment of developed society into the domain of leaf and branch. (Like Tolkien and his characters, I feel almost personally aggrieved every time I see a tree cut down for what I deem insufficient cause.)

That dryad eventually grew into one half of the story for my novel Beneath the Trees, but the other half needed to be human. Their story needed to reflect the waning days of magic and power slowly stealing the vitality of the dryads, so the narrator of Beneath the Trees became a singer-songwriter whose wife is fading out of the world because of a terminal illness.

I’ve never lost a spouse, but for the better part of a year early in our marriage, my wife had a terrible and debilitating migraine. It never left her, and on her very best days, she could only function at about seventy-five percent. On her worst days, she stayed in bed, curled into a ball, with a pillow over her eyes. I’m forced to imagine what she must have felt during those eight months, but I know from experience what it was like for me to watch someone I loved suffer, to occasionally have to care for her to the detriment of my own productivity and to worry that she would never be whole again.

Beneath the Trees is not about me or my wife, but I put my own experience to work in writing this story of someone struggling to keep their spirits alive and to imagine how their life could possibly continue as their partner slips into the darkness. (Naturally, I also researched the process of caring for a loved one with this specific illness, and that research shaped not only the details of certain scenes but the very climax of the story.) The resulting story combines a theme that holds a deeply personal significance to me with a lifelong love of trees, and of being lost in the woods. Anyone who wants to come in and get lost with me is welcome.

About Beneath the Trees

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Image: Ryan Elainska
I should have known better than to go running in the woods after dark like that. Maybe that’s why the storm came - why I found the wood nymph huddled in the wreckage of our barn the next morning. My wife had been fading fast; I could hardly recognise whatever was looking out of her eyes these days, and it was just the wrong time for painful old memories to come knocking at our door. I let the darkness into the house - into my thoughts - and before I knew it, I was losing not just Molly but the spark that made us come alive.

And there she was: the spirit of the trees, summoning me to recover what she’d lost - and what I’d lost? She wasn’t quite so clear about that part. But just her touch sent me plummeting down into a world I’d never dared to really believe in - the world of the dryads, a world under siege by a dark, foreign power that cares nothing for the trees. And was I supposed to drive it out, to take back what it had stolen? All I really wanted was just to get Molly through these last few days with dignity, without pain - or that’s what I told myself. What she wanted - I just couldn’t figure out how to give her that.

Beneath the Trees is available to buy now.

About Ryan Elainska

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Image: Ryan Elainska
Ryan Elainska’s writing career started in early childhood, with his first short story about a monster who eats the fuses out of a family’s fuse box. He has been writing ever since. After a short flirtation with screenwriting and two years in the world of TV and film production, he started (and finished) a blog exploring the intersection between Christianity and feminism before returning to fiction-writing. Throughout 2016, he published Her True Name, a series of mythological short stories about an immortal Unnamed Heroine. Readers can still find the series for free at his website.

Ryan lives in Northern Indiana with his wife Sally. Connect with him on Twitter, at his website, or on Goodreads.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!