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August Challenge

I may have to sacrifice a bit of knitting time too ...

This August is going to be a big month for us. On the 9th, Chris and I celebrate our silver wedding anniversary, and on the 13th, it will be five years since we arrived here. We’re having a big party on the 7th to jointly mark these occasions. Actually, I mean huge! And I’ve set myself the challenge of having self-published a book on the Kindle by then too. And why not? It’s something I want to do and it’s achievable with a bit of hard work between now and then.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No wonder he's smiling! Photo from peoplefamous.why.com

I really do want to get my head down and start producing adult fiction. In particular, I want to get my life in France book out. It’s not just that I’m loving writing it, and that I think it will be fun to read too, but I have been spurred on by Peter Mayle’s success. I recently read that he is about to sell up his current home – for nearly 6 million pounds! And I imagine he’ll be going for somewhere bigger. He’s had a phenomenally successful writing career which came on the back of his moving to France. He’s deserved it. His books are very well written and extremely entertaining. For Christmas, my sister gave me the DVD of the TV series based on A Year in Provence. I was horrified to see that it bears next to no resemblance whatsoever to the book. I can’t see why the producers felt the need to make such changes. The book is wonderful.

 

I could handle moving into a mansion in the not-too-distant future with the proceeds of a writing career like his, no problem. So I’d better stop blogging and get another 1000 words written …

P.S. Keep an eye on the ‘My books’ page. I’m steadily adding a few more titles every day so you can see what I’ve been up to in the past.

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Writing Challenges Work

Back in March I wrote this:

This August is going to be a big month for us. On the 9th, Chris and I celebrate our silver wedding anniversary, and on the 13th, it will be five years since we arrived here. We’re having a big party on the 7th to jointly mark these occasions. And I’ve set myself the challenge of having self-published a book on the Kindle by then too. And why not? It’s something I want to do and it’s achievable with a bit of hard work between now and then.

I had envisaged having Heads Above Water, the first of my living in France books out, but in fact it’s my children’s book Oh Auntie! that pipped it to the post. I’ve finished the second draft of Heads Above Water and am currently reading through. I’ll be talking to Roger Fereday about the cover very soon, so I foresee epublishing it in September, all being well.

 

My next book on Kindle will be Beat the Hackers which I’ve just finished typing up and updating. Caitlin has designed an excellent cover for it. Like Oh Auntie!, this is a book that was previously published in traditional format by Mentor Press, but since that publisher closed its children’s publishing arm several years ago, the rights have reverted to me. So the plan is to re-release all my twenty-odd Mentor books and this time round give them the publicity they deserve. I’m writing new books too.

So – I met my challenge. In that case I’ll set another. I’m coming round to the view that writing challenges can be very productive. I want to have my work of adult fiction, Something Fishy: A Marcus Summers Mystery up on Kindle by December. This is a racy fishing-related mystery. There aren’t many in that genre yet but I think it’s a winning combination.

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From Here to Nashville by Julie Stock


Two worlds, 4,000 miles apart. Is their love strong enough to keep them together?

Rachel Hardy dreams of being a successful country music singer in Nashville’s Music City, four thousand miles away from her lonely life in Dorset. When Jackson Phillips, an independent record label owner, encourages her band to audition for a nationwide ‘Open Mic’ competition, she decides they have nothing to lose.

But when she starts to fall in love with Jackson, the stakes suddenly get higher and she finds herself with a great big dilemma on her hands. Should she abandon her dream and take the easy way out or should she leave the life she has always known behind and take a gamble on a man who has personal demons of his own?

Follow Rachel and Jackson as they learn to trust in love again to see whether their music really can unite them.

My review
This is great fun – a young British girl from Dorset wants to become an authentic Country and Western singer in Nashville. What a challenge! The determined and talented Rachel is one of our two main characters, and the other is Jackson, a music producer. These two narrate the story and their alternate points of view add a lot of interest to the story. They’re from very different backgrounds but have a shared love of music. And will there be a different kind of love too? They’re both interesting, imperfect, make mistakes but learn from them, and are generous at heart.

There are atmospheric settings in both the UK and America. The author really makes you feel like you are there with the characters.

Music is central to the story and helps bring the book alive. If you like country music, but even if you don’t, you’ll enjoy seeing behind the musical scenes.

The pace is brisk, and the plot is enjoyable and fresh. Julie Stock’s writing flows and is enjoyable to read.

Purchase link: – mybook.to/FromHeretoNashville

Author bio:
Julie Stock writes contemporary feel-good romance from around the world: novels, novellas and short stories. She published her debut novel, From Here to Nashville, in February 2015 and her second novel, The Vineyard in Alsace in March 2017. Over You (Sam’s Story) and Finding You (Jenna’s Story), her follow-up novellas to From Here to Nashville were published in 2018, making the From Here to You series complete. She has also published a boxed set of the From Here to You trilogy of books.

The Bistro by Watersmeet Bridge was published in August 2019, followed by Bittersweet, a collection of 12 Short Stories for Modern Life in September 2019.

Julie is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and The Society of Authors.

Julie is married and lives with her family in Bedfordshire in the UK.

Social media links
Website – www.julie-stock.co.uk
Twitter – https://twitter.com/wood_beez48
Facebook Author Page – www.facebook.com/JulieStockAuthor
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/julie.stockauthor/

Giveaway to Win a signed paperback copy of From Here to Nashville, a bookmark and a guitar magnet (Open to UK Only)
*Terms and Conditions –UK entries welcome. Please enter using the Rafflecopter box below. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/33c69494348/

 

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Designer You by Sarahlyn Bruck: moving but ultimately upbeat

Synopsis

Pam Wheeler checked every box: Happy marriage? Check. Fantastic kid? Check. Booming career? Check.

So when her husband dies in a freak accident and their DIY empire goes on life support, Pam must fix the relationship with her troubled and grief-stricken daughter and save the family business.

Pam and Nate were a couple who just couldn’t get away from each other, sharing not only their bed, but also a successful lifestyle empire as DIY home renovators, bloggers, podcasters, and co-authors.

When Nate dies in a freak accident, Pam becomes a 44-year-old widow, at once too young and too old—too young to be thrust into widowhood and too old to rejoin the dating pool.

Now the single mother of a headstrong and grief-stricken teenager, Pam’s life becomes a juggling act between dealing with her loss and learning how to parent by herself. On top of all that she also must reinvent herself or lose the empire that she and Nate had built so carefully.

It is time for Pam to seize the opportunity to step up as a mother, come out from behind Nate’s shadow, and rise as the sole face of the Designer You brand, and maybe, possibly, hopefully, find love again.

 

My review

Given its story line, you might expect this to be a harrowing book. However, whilst it portrays raw grief very effectively, it’s at heart a positive, optimistic book. Pam has to deal with a nightmare scenario, and she does. Not always the best way perhaps, and not without succumbing to despair a few times, but she copes. Not only for herself, but also her teenage daughter who is already at a difficult time of life and now has all this extra awfulness thrust on her. Pam has support from her family, and Nate’s, but she still feels very much alone. So when her daughter vents her frustrations on her too, it’s not easy.

Pam buries herself in her business. Not from choice. but because she has to keep Designer You going. She and Nate had a quite lavish lifestyle and Grace is at a swish private school, so there are plenty of bills to pay. However, it’s a diversion from dwelling on Nate all the time. Pam meets a lot of challenges in becoming the new, lone face of their business. Some are  harder than others to deal with, but she soldiers on. Along the way she encounters Charlie, a divorcee, and they click, sharing as they do their aloneness and the problems that teenagers can bring.

Pam is a wonderful character – inherently strong, but also vulnerable. She’s energetic, endlessly patient with her daughter but also brings her up short when Grace pushes things that bit too far. She’s a loving mum who does her best but makes the odd mistake along the way. She doesn’t always want to be an adult, but she knows she has to be.

The language of the book is vigorous and energetic with clever, apt imagery. For example, Pam scowls at her watch, and her friend Becky, who’s British, sounds ‘authoritarian’ whenever she speaks because of her accent.

It’s an absorbing read, very moving but also, ultimately, very upbeat.

Super cover too.

 

Purchase Linkhttps://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DH6B38H/

Author Bio – Sarahlyn Bruck writes contemporary women’s fiction and lives in Philadelphia with her husband and daughter. She is the author of DESIGNER YOU, published by Crooked Cat Books on August 31, 2018. Sarahlyn teaches writing and literature at a local community college and also coaches writers for Author Accelerator.

DESIGNER YOU is Sarahlyn’s debut, and she is hard at work on her next book. Want the latest updates? Follow along for news, events, and announcements at sarahlynbruck.com. You can sign up for her monthly newsletter there, too.

Social Media Links – Website: www.sarahlynbruck.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sarahlynbruck/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/@sarahbruck/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/slbruck/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/5803427-sarahlyn-bruck

Do follow the rest of the tour, and look back to what you’ve missed so far:

 

 

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The Glass Diplomat by S R Wilsher: a stark and absorbing novel

Happy publication day to author S R Wilsher!

Synopsis of The Glass Diplomat

In 1973 Chile, as General Augusto Pinochet seizes power, thirteen-year-old English schoolboy Charlie Norton watches his father walk into the night and never return. Taken in by diplomat, Tomas Abrego, his life becomes intricately linked to the family.

Despite his love for the Abrego sisters, he’s unable to prevent Maria falling under the spell of a left-wing revolutionary, or Sophia from marrying the right-wing Minister of Justice.

His connection to the family is complicated by the growing impression that Tomas Abrego was somehow involved in his father’s disappearance.

As the conflict of a family divided by politics comes to a head on the night of the 1989 student riots, Charlie has to act to save the sisters from an enemy they cannot see.

 

My Review

From a dictator in my last book review on this book blog to a diplomat, who serves under a dictator. But this diplomat is a glass diplomat. That’s certainly an interesting concept that gets you thinking even before you start reading the book. Glass as an adjective suggests fragility or transparence, but also hints that, once broken, sharp and dangerous edges are left that can do harm.

The diplomat in question is Tomas Abrego, who takes our hero, Charlie, under his wing.

The background is that Charlie’s father owns a factory in Santiago, and spends more and more time there. Charlie goes to join him from England during school holidays. During one visit some menacing men in suits and soldiers visit. Charlie overhears his father refusing to turn his factory over to the manufacture of military items. Not long after Charlie’s father disappears and this is when Tomas Abrego steps in. Tomas has two daughters, Maria and Sophia, and from now on the lives of the three  young people become firmly interwoven.

This novel is strongly character driven, and we meet some fascinating personalities in the book. Good or bad, they’re all flawed, all human, all very convincing. Each reflects their culture, and each has their own set of judgement values. What’s right for one is wrong for another.

Charlie’s life is something of a balancing act. He walks along a knife-edge where the two cultures of Chile and the West meet. It’s also where two families meet, his own and his ‘adopted’ one. He treads carefully between the two sisters too.

Charlie develops throughout the  novel as he gradually gains full understanding of what is going on around him. Early on he is slow to react, and there are losses as a result. But later he becomes decisive, assured and confident in his own morality and with his new philosophy. He remains vulnerable, however, and is a sympathetic but admirable figure, one we quickly warm to and continue to care about.

And what of Tomas, our diplomat? Charlie, at his mercy to begin with, ends up being the one with the power. Tomas has manipulated others all his life, mainly with threats and acts of violence, but eventually he is the one manipulated. His power is finally shattered like glass.

This is a totally absorbing novel, throwing stark light on what happens in dictatorships. Diplomacy has a rather different meaning.

Purchase Links

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Glass-Diplomat-S-R-Wilsher-ebook/dp/B07G3J165Y

Amazon US – https://www.amazon.com/Glass-Diplomat-S-R-Wilsher-ebook/dp/B07G3J165Y

 

Author Bio

It didn’t occur to me to write until I was twenty-two, prompted by reading a disappointing book by an author I’d previously liked. I wrote thirty pages of a story I abandoned because it didn’t work on any level. I moved on to a thriller about lost treasure in Central America; which I finished, but never showed to anyone. Two more went the way of the first, and I forgave the author.

After that I became more interested in people-centric stories. I also decided I needed to get some help with my writing, and studied for a degree with the OU. I chose Psychology partly because it was an easier sell to my family than Creative Writing. But mainly because it suited the changing tastes of my writing. When I look back, so many of my choices have been about my writing.

I’ve been writing all my adult life, but nine years ago I had a kidney transplant which interrupted my career, to everyone’s relief. It did mean my output increased, and I developed a work plan that sees me with two projects on the go at any one time. Although that has taken a hit in recent months as I’m currently renovating a house and getting to know my very new granddaughter.

I write for no other reason than I enjoy it deeply. I like the challenge of making a story work. I get a thrill from tinkering with the structure, of creating characters that I care about, and of manipulating a plot that unravels unpredictably, yet logically. I like to write myself into a corner and then see how I can escape. To me, writing is a puzzle I like to spend my time trying to solve.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @srwilsher

Website: http://www.srwilsher.com

Follow the rest of The Glass Diplomat’s tour:

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The Bookshop Detective by Jan Ellis: a super seaside mystery

Synopsis

When a ghost ship is spotted on the horizon one spring evening, bookseller Eleanor Mace decides to investigate the myths and legends of Combemouth, the seaside town where she runs The Reading Room. As Eleanor digs deeper into the town’s history, she becomes intrigued by a Victorian crime report and is determined to find out what happened to a boy at the centre the case – one with intriguing links to the present.

As Eleanor begins to uncover the truth – aided by the vicar but somewhat stalled by the local librarian – she has an unexpected challenge on her own horizon. Daniel – her husband of six months – is determined that they give up their separate homes and find a new place together. But Eleanor adores her cottage by the sea and resists, guaranteeing that things turn a little frosty as the summer begins.

A celebrity book launch, an exploding dress and some salsa-dancing pensioners make this a mystery with a difference.

 

My Review

This book is the third in ‘The Bookshop by the Sea’ series, but you don’t need to read the earlier books to enjoy it. We are succinctly introduced to the characters and given enough background to be quickly able to work out who’s who and how everyone is connected.

Legends are rife about ghost ships (sometimes called phantom ships) – mysterious empty ships, either real or imagined, that sail the seas with no-one on board. The Flying Dutchman and the Princess Augusta are famous mythical examples and everyone’s heard of the Mary Celeste. So it’s an evocative image to use at the beginning of this book. The spotting of the Santa Ana leads Eleanor Mace, our heroine, into a spot of investigating that ends up with her researching a Victorian crime.

The novel is as much about Eleanor herself as her investigations – her role in the town, her relationships, especially with new husband Daniel and her family, and her development as a character. She’s likeable, funny, resolute and altogether a fascinating person to know. I particularly admire how good she is with her sometimes grumpy husband as they deal with the thorny issue of where to live.

There’s a cast of interesting secondary but distinctive characters to meet, all of whom have their important role in the novel. No stereotypes or shadowy figures here, they’re all rounded and memorable.

The writing is crisp yet flowing, and you’re swept along by the story, just like our ghost ship is swept along by the wind and the sea. You might just intend to read a chapter or two but it’s hard to put this excellent book down. As is typical of the cosy mystery, there may not be any major showdowns or violent confrontations, but there’s gentle tension building up and a denouement that surprises. It’s a delightful read that won’t give you nightmares, thank goodness!, but will give you plenty to think about and make you want to read more books by this author.

 

Details

Title: The Bookshop Detective (The Bookshop by the Sea series)

Publisher: Waverley Books

Publication Date: May 2017

Formats: Kindle and Paperback

ISBN: 978-1849344456

Genre: Contemporary women’s fiction/humour/mystery

Page Count: 256

Buy Links: Kindle – https://amzn.to/2KLTNqO

Paperback – https://amzn.to/2KwD7Ew

 

About the author

Jan Ellis began writing fiction by accident in 2013. Until then, she had led a blameless life as a publisher, editor and historian of early modern Spain. She fell into fiction when a digital publisher approached her to write a history book, then made the mistake of mentioning women’s fiction, which sounded much more fun.

In 2017, her four e-novellas were published in paperback by Waverley Books who also commissioned a brand-new title, The Bookshop Detective.

Jan describes her books as romcom/mystery with the emphasis firmly on family, friendship and humour. She specialises in small-town settings, with realistic characters who range in age from young teens to 80-somethings.

As well as being an author, Jan continues to work at the heart of the book trade. Jan Ellis is a nom-de-plume.

 

Other Details From The Author:

 

Website: www.janelliswriter.com

See also Stellar Scribes website: https://stellarscribes5.wixsite.com/stellarscribes

Facebook: Jan Ellis (Writer)

Instagram (even if I don’t know how it works…)

https://www.instagram.com/jan_ellis_writer/

 

Events:

I chaired a ‘romcom’ panel at WestonLitFest this spring (and have been invited back for 2019) and have also spoken at Tiverton Literary Festival. Thanks to The Bookshop Detective, I was part of a crime and mystery evening at The Big Green Bookshop in North London with best-selling authors Lisa Cutts, Simon Booker and William Shaw. In October 2018, I will again be talking about the book at the Yeovil Literary Festival.

I’m a member of ‘Stellar Scribes‘ and together we speak at libraries and run creative writing workshops. I’ve also appeared in the local press and spoken on the radio about my books which, at their core, are about family, friendship and the humour inherent in everyday life.

My paperbacks are widely available from libraries, and Waterstones currently stock them in five of their South West branches. I’ve also been lucky enough to earn shelf space on the shelves of independent bookshops across the country.

When I’m not being Jan Ellis, I do sales and marketing for part of the Booksellers Association of the UK and Ireland (BA) and I’m a non-fiction publisher by trade, which means that I’ve been attending the London and Frankfurt Book Fairs for more years than I care to remember…

Other paperback titles:

An Unexpected Affair and A Summer of Surprises (no. 1 in The Bookshop by the Sea series)

French Kisses and A London Affair

 

Contact: [email protected]

 

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Turning a Blog into a Book – Creating a Nofiblok

I’ve done it. Best of Blog in France is up for free on Smashwords here. It took a lot of time and effort, but I’m pleased with the results and I hope it will prove to be good advertising for my upcoming Heads Above Water, the account of our first couple of years on France.

So, what gave me the idea to do a blog book? And what can I call it? We have blovels as a term for novels presented on blogs and ficlogs for fictional blogs. I’m going to call my non-fiction blog-based book a nofiblok. I expect to see it all the dictionaries soon!

Right, well, Blog in France is proving to be a very popular blog, with its mixture of expat experiences, practical advice, small delves into local and national history, occasional rants but mostly a light hearted look at all things French. I’ve written 318 posts now. Taking up the WordPress ‘blog post a day’ challenge last February really was a turning point. Viewership soared as a result of having fresh content every day, so I’d advise anyone to go that route.

So I had plenty of material to choose from, and I was keen to get a non-fiction book out there. Up to now I’ve only had children’s fiction published, both traditionally and independently in ebook form. It’s a good way to test the waters. People enjoy reading about the experience of folk like us who have taken the plunge to ‘live the dream’, however nightmarish it turns out to be occasionally! There’s an audience out there. Let’s give them something to read.

I’ve taken my pick of entries from the first couple of years of my blog. There weren’t very many to choose from at first. I was a very slack blogger in those early days! Actually, it was more like too exhausted to write since we were up to our necks in renovations at the time. I’ve included photos, generally one per two blogs. I use a lot of photos in Blog in France so I had a lovely selection to choose from. They really add that human interest element.

But how to organise the entries. Consecutively by date would have been too bitty in my opinion. By subject? I began doing that but there was a danger that I’d have two many different categories as my posts are very wide ranging. In the end I plumped for January to December, incorporating the two years together. I don’t think that’s confusing, and it gives a very good sense of the seasons. Life in rural France is governed totally by the weather. We have our summer way of life, and our winter one. We spend so much time outside round and about on our 75 acres that we’re totally in touch with the elements and weather. A calendar year layout for the blog brings this into focus. You live the year with us, from the bleak frozenness of January, to the blossoming of life in April, to the heavy heat of July and August, the colours and freshness of October, and back to the deep depths of winter.

Finally, the cover. I spent an hour or so with a glass of wine and a croissant and a camera. There was some cheese too but that didn’t look right with the others. I’m pleased with the end result. It says France, I think, without resorting to the Eiffel Tower, as happens so often with French related books.

Anyway, you know what they say about the proof of the pudding … so please have a read and see what you think! Please let me know. And remember, Heads Above Water is coming soon!