Saturday, 25 March 2017

Diana talks to SJA Turney


Author’s interview – 2017. Diana talks to a rotund numpty J (His words, not mine!) 

Hi, Mr S J A Turney. This sounds a bit formal. May I call you Simon? OK.
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!

Coming back to this ...

If your latest book, Invasion – A Tale of the Empire,





was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?

Well, now, there are 4 lead characters, with a good share of screen time, so let me see… No. I’ve thought about this for at least half an hour now, and the problem is that I am completely out of touch with the acting generation. I still picture people like Alan Rickman and Gary Oldman when people say things like this. I can’t remember the name of a single actor under 50 at this exact time. Maybe I should have a poll on social media and see what everyone thinks? Or maybe I should try not to be so out of date that I still crave a wooden telly that runs on string, cogs and elastic bands.

What made you choose this genre?

Fantasy is my guilty pleasure. A chance to escape the bonds of the historical narrative and play around with the way the world works. But even then, my fantasy is heavily influenced by history because that’s true of most aspects of my life, from décor to holiday destinations. ‘Invasion’ is tightly linked to the Roman Invasion of Britain, as any even passing student of the era will quickly recognise. But essentially, yes, it is because I love to make stuff up. And in fantasy you can make stuff up more than in any other genre! It’s like a giant box of mental lego.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?

I am at the mercy of the gremlins in my head. I have at least a book idea a week. And a shower, a walk, a long drive, anything that gives me pause for thought means at least one new idea will pop into my head, be it a character, a situation or a plot. And places? Well, sometimes I go in search of locations and experience them, photograph them, walk then, smell them and so on in order to truly communicate them. Other times I will just be travelling and be struck by how much a place needs to be used in a book. The upshot is: I really don’t know. I don’t plan it. Inspiration hits me like a DAF truck every 10 minutes. It can be quite wearing, and I occasionally get distressed by the realisation that in my life I will only have time to write a tenth of the stories I want to tell.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?

I keep toying with a horror novel, which, given my reputation for battle and scenes of violence might not be a huge step, but that is pie in the sky, I think. There are too many people too much better at it than me. What I would really love to do is write humour like my heroes Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. And I’ve tried on odd occasions, but it’s really hard. I can pepper my work with humour, but to anchor a whole book on it? Who can be funny so consistently? One day, perhaps I’ll do it. I still plan to write the story of my grandfather, too, which would be full of howlers. Being shot down repeatedly by his own side in the war. Catching flies with Polish pilots. Walking into windows. Endless one-liners. He was a character.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.

I wrote (badly, I’m sure) as a kid. And I used to love writing stories at school and was always deemed ‘more creative than academic’. In 6th form and higher education, I gained a level of notoriety with tutors for twisting the meanings of essay titles so that I could write what I wanted to. I was a master at it. And at Uni I started writing short stories. Never shown them to anyone as far as I can remember, and since they were written on a 20mb Amstrad and saved to a 5.25” floppy disk, they’re now  long gone. I remember one was about the crew of a Klingon Warbird, which labels me a geek more than anything, I suppose. But I started writing properly partially as an experiment and partially through boredom. I wanted to know if Caesar’s De Bello Gallico could be made more accessible, and decided to try turning it into a novel. Marius’ Mules was born from that and has been far more successful than I ever hoped. At the time I ran a computer network for an Insurance company. I spent one day a week working like a fruitcake, running around and firefighting problems, and the other 4 days waiting for another issue to arise. I filled in my free time by writing, so I was rather lucky, really. It became a full time career in 2012 following redundancy, which rather forced my hand.

Marmite? Love it or hate it?

Ooh, I’m a hater. Can’t even eat Twiglets. ‘Orrible. Tastes like monkey rectum. (At least, I have that on good authority from a marmoset.) (Laughing. Loudly!!)

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...?

Too many to mention. Coffee on tap ‘til lunchtime, then maybe a beer during the afternoon. Used to be always my Picasso Don Quixote mug until it broke! L Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here or Insomnium’s Winter’s Gate are currently my listens of choice, but it varies from time to time. There is always a soundtrack, though. There has to be, or in the quiet my brain works too hard and I start to accidentally multitask. You have no idea the problems that causes. I have two screens on my PC and they have to have the appropriate windows on each one. Everything on my desk needs to be in the right place. I am one for routine and ritual, you see.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?

Ah, simple. Always the family. I’m a family man foremost. Our family are very tight-knit. My wife’s family have lived in the same village since her grandparents moved here, and mine came before the first war. Three generations all in the same village and two more in the churchyard. Because family is continuity, and continuity is history. It all ties in. My kids, I hope, will grow up wanting to continue on in the village and maintain those same values. Hmm. Might have gone off point a little there, but you get the idea.

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?

I had a friend who was given by a university the task of cataloguing ancient remains in Turkey. The lake of envy I found was so deep I almost drowned in it. If I could support the family by travelling around the world and cataloguing ancient sites, I would even drop the writing! Travel is one of my greatest loves. Always with home to anchor me at the end of trips, mind…

Coffee or tea? Red or white?

Usually for me it’s coffee. I love a good coffee. Preferably half a dozen. Cortados, or Americanos or Turkish, I don’t mind. I drink coffee every day. Unless I’m ill or dehydrated in which case for some reason my body craves tea instead and I switch. But only on rare occasions. And I like both red and white. I started with red, since we used to caravan round Europe when I was a teenager. I remember the plastic bottles of French red for 3.5 francs from the supermarkets close to the caravan sites. And still better than a £5 bottle in the UK. I switched solely to white for about a decade when for some reason red started to give me awful headaches, but that has also changed over time and I’m having a bit of a red renaissance again now.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?

I begin with an idea, then stretch it out to a one page outline. Then that gets chopped into parts and chapters. Then I expand that out so that I have a full chapter plan with details of what I’m writing in each chapter. Sometimes the plans can be almost 10k words on their own! But then, without a detailed careful plan, I’d have nothing from which to deviate when I get wild, mad epiphanies mid-draft!

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?

I am arial, 10 point McBoring. I like to write my drafts in that. Partially because I find it the easiest and most relaxing to read, and also because I know the rough word-count of a page in that font, and now many words in an average line. I can judge things at a glance. But really with the printed word? I just read it as it comes. Different publishers like different things. As long as it’s legible and neat, it suits me.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?

God’s diary. No… err… the dedication page of the Bible. ‘To my wife Joan…’ In truth there are too many. I would love to read a number of lost texts. I’m not sure whether it counts, but I would ove to see an intact copy of the Forma Urbis – the giant marble map of Severan Rome that now only exists in a thousand broken fragments. That probably tops my list. And I’m waiting to read the early Roman documents found in London recently. Once, when my grandfather had his printing shop in Ripon, a local noble family brought in a document for copying in the 80s and I got to hold that, which is a high point for me, as it was signed by one of my heroes: Sir Thomas Fairfax.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!?

Happens all the time. All. The. Time. I have careful character arcs, but then the characters develop all that irritating personality as they grow and suddenly they have to do more to fit their new persona. Only once did it ever change a tale significantly. Usually I can weave it back in. Sometimes, when it happens and I’m left baffled, I take a day out and go walking until the answer strikes me. But it always does in the end. Once I killed off a character far earlier than intended because he just damn well wouldn’t behave…

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?

I tend to write in my comfort zone (Roman/Byzantine) and so I’m confident enough with my knowledge that I don’t do a lot of preparatory research. A little reading on events and personalities and so on. But once I’m writing half of every day is research. Because it’s only when you need to add a bitter fruit that you need to check precisely what fruits were available in Gaul in 50BC. And it’s only when your character needs to find a priest that you wonder ‘what did priests do all day when there wasn’t a festival on?’ Locations, though, I like to experience. I believe the very best descriptive in books can only come from experience. If you’ve worn the armour and you’ve climbed the hill fort, then you stand a better chance of communicating the experience of that to the reader. A location isn’t just terrain. It’s temperature. Smell. Feel. So I try to visit anywhere I intend to write about and soak it up.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?

Hmm. Not sure there. Clodius Pulcher was irritating in Marius’ Mules, but I knew he had a fun end to come, so I relished that. Actually, Commius. A Gallic leader, whose last screen time I completely ignored, because it really did not fit in with the flow of the series. He was pootling around on the edge of things and outside normal campaigning time and I couldn’t work out how best to tell his tale, so I didn’t. Ya, boo, sucks to you, Commius. J Actually, with my Ottoman Cycle, when I came to the fourth and final book and had the circle to close and all the loose ends to tie up a number of real characters irritated me by either being in the way or not being there to use.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?

I do. But I go away from then rather than against them. I refuse to get history wrong for the sake of a plot. But I will add to it. I did it in Marius’ Mules IX by throwing in an entire fictional campaign in the Pyrenees because I had a gap in the timeline to fill, and some backstory to tie in. It was too good an opportunity. But while there was a whole lot of fictional stuff in there it was all based at root on historical reality. Because once you start playing with that you’re no longer writing historical fiction. You’re writing fantasy. And there is a place for that – see point 2!

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?

Have you been peeking at my notes for my talk at Alderney Literary Festival? Because I touch rather heavily on that there. There is blurring by nature to my mind, because only half at best of our knowledge of the past comes from actual evidence (archaeology). The rest is either the opinion of ancient writers, who could so easily have been mistaken or making it all up, and from using logic to fill in gaps in the historical record. Half of history is fiction. Look at the Trojan War for example. So, most definitely they are blurred lines. J

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?

Once or twice, yes. If you can’t hate your villain, then there’s a good chance no one else will. If you can’t love your hero will anyone else? My own emotions are a yardstick for whether I’ve succeeded with a character. I still have to wipe away a tear when I read the epilogue to Interregnum, and it’s been over a decade since I wrote that, and I’ve read it many times. My new villain in Marius’ Mules X is an interesting one, though. In no way black and white. I think I like him. It is, of course, fine to be bored with a hero but love the bad guy. Otherwise I’d never have made it through Dexter.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?

I read a lot of Historical Fiction, some fantasy, a lot of non-fiction, and some humour. But what I’ve recently got rather a taste for is 20th century murder mysteries and thrillers. Michael Ridpath’s Traitor’s Gate was the best book I read all that year (2 years ago). And last year I read Luke McCallin’s Inspector Reinhardt whodunnits.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?

I would never presume… But if I were to, I think a light, dry red. It’s a fantasy novel, but as I noted fairly heavily influenced by Rome, so red wine is the most appropriate. You probably wouldn’t want to mix it with water, though like the Romans did.

Last but not least... favourite author?

An easy one for me. Always Guy Gavriel Kay. An author who cut his teeth on the original fantasy by helping Christopher Tolkien gather together his father’s notes and turning them into the Silmarillion. I read his first solo book when it came out in ’84, and have been a devoted fan ever since. He writes fantasy that is so closely identified with historical eras and locations that they are fictional reflections of our own reality, and he does it with such passion and power that he has yet to write a work that does not move me to my core.

Thank you Simon. I really enjoyed this!

(He's not that rotund, is he???)

Simon Turney is an author of Roman and medieval historical fiction, gritty historical fantasy and rollicking Roman children's books.

He lives with his family and extended menagerie of pets in rural North Yorkshire. A born and bred Yorkshireman with a love of the country, he divides his time between staring at a computer screen while surrounded by the natural glory of the Yorkshire Dales and charging around the world wherever he can find the breathtaking remains of the classical era.

Since leaving school and University, Simon has tried a great number of careers, including car sales, insurance, software engineering, computer network management, civil service and even painting and decorating sales. He has lived in four counties but never strayed far from his beloved Yorkshire.

While struck with ennui at the corporate world in 2003 Simon, a lover of Roman history, decided to combine writing and history with a new look at Caesar's diaries. Marius' Mules was followed two years later by Interregnum - an attempt to create a new fantasy world with a flavour of Rome. Since then, the success and popularity of both has spawned sequels to each work. Simon's portfolio has expanded over the years to include a series set in the medieval era (The Ottoman Cycle), a series of Roman thrillers (Praetorian), and most recently a new series of Roman novels for children.

As well as his website at http://www.sjaturney.co.uk, Simon maintains a website detailing the Roman sites he visits at http://www.roman-sites.com, and a blog at http://sjat.wordpress.com He can be found on Twitter as @SJATurney and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SJATurney/ (His comments make me laugh on FB every day!)
          
 
 
© Diana Milne January 2017 © S.J.A. Turney 2017







Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sharon Reviews: To Be A Queen by Annie Whitehead

Today Sharon reviews To Be A Queen by Annie Whitehead. The author has kindly offered a paperback copy as a giveaway. To be in with the chance of winning this amazing book, simply leave a comment below, or on our Facebook page. The draw will be made on Wednesday 29th March. Good luck!!!

 One family, two kingdoms, one common enemy ...
This is the true story of Aethelflaed, the ‘Lady of the Mercians’, daughter of Alfred the Great. She was the only female leader of an Anglo-Saxon kingdom.
Born into the royal house of Wessex at the height of the Viking wars, she is sent to her aunt in Mercia as a foster-child, only to return home when the Vikings overrun Mercia. In Wessex, she witnesses another Viking attack and this compounds her fear of the enemy.
She falls in love with a Mercian lord but is heartbroken to be given as bride to the ruler of Mercia to seal the alliance between the two Anglo-Saxon kingdoms.
She must learn to subjugate her feelings for her first love, overcome her indifference to her husband and win the hearts of the Mercians who despise her as a foreigner and twice make an attempt on her life.
When her husband falls ill and is incapacitated, she has to learn to rule and lead an army in his stead. Eventually she must fight to save her adopted Mercia from the Vikings and, ultimately, her own brother.
 


Written by Annie Whitehead, To Be A Queen, is the fascinating story of the most remarkable of Saxon women, Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians and daughter of Alfred the Great. The novel leads us through Aethelflaed's personal journey, from a sheltered childhood in the heart of Wessex to marriage, motherhood, and a remarkable partnership with her brother Edward, who succeeded their father as King of Wessex. Aethelflaed and Edward spearhead the fight against the Danes and the struggle to unite England under one ruler.

A thoroughly enjoyable book, To Be A Queen, draws the reader in from the very first sentence,  recounting the story of Aethelflaed's life while telling you the bigger story that is the making of England. Many readers may be familiar with Aethelflaed from the Bernard Cornwell The Last Kingdom series, but Annie Whitehead develops the Lady of Mercia to even greater depths, getting under the skin and into the heart of this amazing woman.
The story moves at an incredible pace, examining all aspects of Aethelflaed's personal and public life. Where this book shines is in the personal relationships that Aethelflaed develops through the years. In her teen years, she is sent to Mercia, to a loveless marriage and an older husband, Ethelred, a stranger who himself is  unsure how to treat this teenage girl, his wife. Aethelflaed is always close to her brother, Edward, from childhood playmate to fellow warrior and overlord.

He [Edward] raised his eyebrows. "Hate? Not I. I will not cower before him nor cringe when he rants, that is all. You are kinder to him than I, it is true, but I do not hate him. I have no time for things like that." 
She nudged him. "Feelings, do you mean?"
"Waste of time. They are not real."
"Well, if it was not feelings that drove you to fish me from the water, I thank whatever it was."
"I am here to look after you while my father cannot. As one day I will look after Wessex as my father has not. You are my sister. What else is there to know about why I saved you from drowning?"
She was not persuaded and carried on as if he had not interrupted. "And whatever it was, it must be akin to the thing that drives you to giddiness every time that Gwen walks by."
"Ah, Gwen." he lay down on the grass and put his hands behind his head. "You have hit upon something there."
Teasel nudged him. "So you are not always thinking only of kingship. Not when your thoughts are on Gwen. But beware; Mother will not like it if she hears what you are about."





To Be A Queen has you hooked from the very beginning. Aethelflaed is a strong, sympathetic character, whose life and loves - and sense of adventure - make for some fascinating reading. She is all-too-human, struggling through misunderstandings, making mistakes and suffering insecurities; attributes which make her all the more endearing to the reader. She does, however, have an admirable inner strength, which drives her to carry on even under the direst circumstances.
The story stays true to the historical fact, filling in the details where the historical record is lacking. The incredible depth of research that has been done by the author shines through on every page, from the building of burhs, through the battles and to the advance of the Danes and alliances of the Saxons and Welsh. Such research helps to transport the reader back in time, to the sights, sounds and smells of Anglo-Saxon England. Mercia, Wessex and even Wales, are described in great detail, the difference in landscapes flashing by as we ride from Winchester, to London, to the mountains of Wales.


Annie Whitehead has managed to tell one of the greatest stories in English history, that of the making of England, from the point of view of one who was there, Aethelflaed was right in the middle of the decision-making and the action. To Be A Queen tells the story of how she grew from being a young, teenage bride, to a formidable and confident opponent of the Danes. It is a story that is gripping to the very end, it will have you in tears at one moment, while egging the Saxons on to victory at the next.
It is, quite simply, a book that is not to be missed.


About the author: Annie Whitehead is a history graduate and prize-winning author. To Be A Queen was her first novel, and was long-listed for HNS Book of the Year 2016, awarded an IndieBRAG Medallion and a Chill Books’ Readers’ Award. Her second, Alvar the Kingmaker, is also a true story, and concentrates on a little-known period of history which begins with the king being caught in bed with his wife and her mother, and ends with the murder of another king, a crime attributed to his stepmother, the queen. Central to the story is Alvar, Earl of Mercia. Having helped King Edgar to secure the throne, amid great unrest he then fights to clear the queen’s name, bring the country back from the brink of civil war, and stabilise the monarchy for Edgar’s son, Aethelred the Unready. He does this at great personal cost, and he soon finds that his enemies will stop at little, and that not even his loved ones are safe… The book has an IndieBRAG Medallion, was awarded a Discovering Diamonds Award, and was chosen as Chill Books’ Book of the Month for Jan 2017. Annie was a contributor to the anthology of short stories, 1066 Turned Upside Down, in which nine authors re-imagine the events of 1066, and which has just been awarded HNS Editors’ choice and long-listed for Book of the Year 2017. She is a member of the Royal Historical Society, and is currently working on a contribution to a non-fiction book to be published by Pen & Sword Books in the summer of 2017.



Amazon author page;Website; Blog; Twitter; Facebook; @anniewhiteheadauthor; To Be A Queen; Alvar the Kingmaker; 1066 Turned Upside Down


About the The Reviewer: Sharon Bennett Connolly has been fascinated by history for over 30 years. She has studied it at university and worked as a tour guide at several historic sites.
Sharon has been writing a blog entitled 'History...the Interesting Bits' for a little over 2 years and has just finished her first non-fiction work, 'Heroines of the Medieval World', which looks into the lives of some of the most fascinating women from medieval history and will be published by Amberley in September 2017. It is now available for pre-order from Amazon.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Diana talks to Karen Vaughan



Hi Karen, I wouldn't have discovered your wonderful, quirky-humoured mystery books if you had not entered (and won) a recent Review Blog prize draw, starting us both talking. Now I am hooked and I am reading them as fast as I can buy them and I thought it was a good idea to talk to you here and introduce you to a much wider audience.


First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!

MY QUESTION FOR ME? What would I do for a Klondike bar?? Do an open mike comedy night.
(She is serious, folks! Has anyone heard her sing? Maybe we should just club together and buy her one!)
What would I do with it once I got it???-eat it of course!

If your latest book HOLMES IN AMERICA- was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role?
I would put Ricky Gervais in the lead role because Nigel Holmes is as politically incorrect as he is!

What made you choose this genre?  I have always loved mysteries and I love comedy so I thought I would combine them.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters? In my head, really, and people have given me some really neat ideas that I might use. 
If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?
I have got a few romance/romantic suspense stories in progress.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.

It was a huge drift. I was home sick and very bored. I started writing what is now 'Dead on Arrival' in 2005 and just kept going - it's like potato chips; you can't just eat one!
Marmite? Love it or hate it? MAKES NASTY HACKING SOUNDS—UM HATE IT. (No need to be polite, Karen, say what you really think!!!)
Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??
My 'Please don't annoy the author' mug, full of coffee or tea. 70s Classic rock or oldies.


I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?
Characters rule!

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?
Stand up comedian. I am also an author/book promoter.

Coffee or tea? Red or white?
Both coffee and tea-sorry can't choose. Red as it is bold and vibrant like my characters

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way? I write by the seat of my pants  -my characters write it I am just the typist

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose? COMIC SANS MS

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be? Romeo and Juliette.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!? I had it planned in my nano last year - Playing Dead - that the thugs would abduct my protagonists, but one of them took off and made a deal with the badasses.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?

Not much, I am lazy -LOL- mostly online, but I did go down to Toronto to research one area that would play a prominent part of the story!
Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?

My editor has a nemesis named Stella so after hearing stories about her I gave her a part but she is so annoying I had her kill her ex husband and sent her off to jail. I have killed off a few people on paper that just needed it.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?
It’s called creative license I believe. I get close to the truth but the facts get warped sometimes
.
Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred? Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?
I love Jeff Gibbons, my cop in my series; he is married but a girl can dream.
What do you enjoy reading for pleasure? It's easier to say what I don't like -- HORROR!

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?
I don’t recommend drinking anything as you might spit it out while laughing, but wine is good.
Last but not least... favourite author? James Patterson, Jonathan Kellerman and many more

Your answers have been as fun and funny as your books, Karen, so now I will tell people a bit about you:
Karen Vaughan lives in Peterborough Ontario with her husband Jim and a cat named JJ. She is the mom of a 26-year-old daughter and four grown stepchildren, a newborn granddaughter and a 6-year-old grandson named Izak who could very well be smarter than a fifth grader. DEAD COMIC STANDING is her second novel. Her first novel DEAD ON ARRIVAL garnered praise from friends, family, and online gamers. She also enjoys doing crafts and other hobbies. Her third book and sequel to DEAD ON ARRIVAL is called OVER HER DEAD BODY. DAYTONA DEAD is the third in that series and was released in May 2013. Other than writing Karen loves to read, do crafts and play online games. Currently, she hosts an internet radio show called WRITERS ROUND TABLE since January the 14th, 2014. She has a quirky sense of humor and shows this in her mysteries and her side hobby of stand-up comedy. DEAD MEN DON’T SWING AND JAMAICA DEAD WERE PUBLISHED in January 2015. LEFT FOR DEAD AND HOLMES IN AMERICA WERE PUBLISHED IN 2016. Karen is currently working on her 7th book in the Laura and Gerry series DEAD TO WRITES.                


© Diana Milne January 2017 © Karen Vaughan February 2017































Wednesday, 15 March 2017

The Sixpenny Tiger by Jeanette Taylor Ford - a review by Diana Milne.

 The author is generously giving away a traditionally printed copy of the book and if the winner lives in the UK, it will be signed by the author! To be in with a chance of winning, simply comment on the blog (below) or comment on the Review or Review Blog Facebook page. It is worth winning!

If you are not fortunate enough to win it, you can buy it here  The Sixpenny Tiger



About the book:

When Sally Golding achieves her dream job, to work caring for children in a 'home', she becomes deeply involved with the children. One in particular, Davey, touches her heart. The older brother to John, he is often blamed for John's misdeeds by his housemother, Marjorie, who seems to have taken a great dislike to him. Davey's problems become much worse when Marjorie marries his father, Tony Adams and the boys go home to live with them. Marjorie subjects Davey to violent abuse; Davey dreams of finding Sally and her becoming his mother.


But Sally has problems of her own. Now in an abusive marriage, she needs all her strength to cope. And Joe, who is in love with Sally, is struggling to keep his life together having lost her to Evan, her husband.

However, fate has things in store for all of them. Will Davey manage to escape from his personal hell? Will Joe finally achieve his dream to be with Sally? And what of Marjorie - what is it that happened in her life to make her the way she is with Davey?


This story shows the great power of love - and that of forgiveness.



It is always a puzzle to me why Jeanette Taylor Ford's writing is not better known and more widely read. With her brilliantly thought out storylines and believable characters she should be topping the Indie charts every week. This book, The Sixpenny Tiger, is no exception and gripped me from page one, conjuring in me every emotion known to the human psyche. Any book that can raise genuine feeling for a character has to be considered by me to be story telling at it's best.

The story is prefaced by a beautiful and meaningful poem by the author, another discipline in which she excels.

The book reads easily and freely and makes the reader keep the pages turning. Although the style at times seems almost lightweight, this seeming naiveté is deliberately used - the book is in the third person so consequently the simplistic style and language mask, as intended, the horror and fear the boy endured and keeping it as 'his' story. Using her unique style, Taylor Ford vividly describes the pain of a child, Davey, who feels he is to blame for the actions and failings of his or her adults and the words "he felt as if he was dead and nothing mattered" so accurately sum up the utter desolation of a child after abandonment. Unfairly accused of things his younger brother has done and even more unfairly charged by his father of looking after the younger child, a burden with which an older child is often lumbered by a well meaning but misguided adult, Davey suffers silently and copes as best he can.


The description of the back ground life and times of the era, late 1960s and early 1970s, are very well researched, realistically portrayed and accurate forming a reliable backdrop on which we can see the story unfold. Wait till you get to the description of a loaf of bread! The 'golden brown and crispy' top of the cottage loaf will have your mouth watering! I could almost smell it!


Adult emotions and lives are equally as well described and the characters very well portrayed. Without giving too many spoilers, by the end of the book, the reader understands why Marjorie acted the way she did and throughout this charming book, a feeling of hope persists, even in the darkest moments.

I think this quote, near to the end of the book, sums it all up perfectly:

“Well love, you will be with me until you grow up and leave to live a life of your own. But the tiger will remain with me for ever because it will always remind me of you and how I love you and you love me, even when I am very old! That tiger represents how love can help us overcome our problems; we just have to believe.”

What other people said:

By Sue Harris on 21 Sept. 2015. Format: Kindle Edition         
"The Sixpenny Tiger is a real page turner, but be warned, you will need a box of Kleenex at hand.
At the core of the story is the sensitive issue of child abuse, where the main character, young Davey finds himself an innocent victim of a sustained and unjustified campaign of physical abuse.
Jeanette takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride of emotions, with unexpected twist and turns. Davey remains positive, believing in the love and compassion of the one person in his life who he knows can, and will, help him. A deeply moving read with a highly charged and complex story-line, delivered with skill and empathy.''


About the author:

"Jeanette Taylor-Ford is a retired Teaching Assistant. She grew up in Cromer, Norfolk and moved to Hereford with her parents when she was seventeen. An undiagnosed Coeliac, Jeanette was a delicate child and missed great deal of schooling, but she had a natural ability to write good stories, even at the tender age of nine or ten. When young her ambition was to be a journalist but life took her in another direction and her life’s work has been with children – firstly as a nursery assistant in a children’s home, and later in education. In between she raised her own six children and she now has seven grandchildren. Jeanette took up writing again in 2010; she reasoned that she would need something to do with retirement looming, although as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, she is kept busy. She lives with her husband Tony, a retired teacher and headmaster, in Nottinghamshire, England.

In Jeanette's words: I am a born story teller. From my school days I have loved making up stories. One teacher I had said he always left my work until last to mark because he knew he would get a good read from me after he'd ploughed through all the bad work! I loved doing bedtime stories with my children and, in my last position as a Teaching Assistant, from which I am now retired, my favourite thing was reading to the children when I got the chance, also helping them to make up stories of their own. Those who have read my stories have enjoyed them, so I finally decided to inflict them upon the world in general. Some of them are ghostly tales, combined with loveable characters and interesting situations which make them ghost stories with a difference. However, I also write children's stories and other genres, which are not yet published

Click on this link for Jeanette Taylor Ford's other books please.

You may read my 'Diana Talks' interview with Jeanette Taylor Ford by clicking here: Diana talks to Jeanette Taylor Ford

© Diana Milne, March 2017

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Diana talks to Rod Glenn

Rod is a multi talented man. Not only is he a superb actor, he is  one of the geniuses behind Wild Wolf Publishing and is also an established author in his own right (or should that be 'in his own write'???)

It is a pleasure to be able to talk with you Rod...
First things first I am sure there is a question that you have always longed to be asked. Now is the chance. Ask your own question and answer it!  What scares you most?  The possibility that there is absolutely nothing after death.  I’m not a religious person, but I desperately hope that there is something after death.

If your latest book 'No Chance In Hell' was adapted into a TV show or a film, who would you like to play the lead role? Me! I split my time between writing and acting and I’d love to play the action hero lead. Failing that, if Tom Hardy can pull off a Geordie accent I guess he can have the gig.

What made you choose this genre? I don’t specifically choose a genre – I tend to write from a basic idea and the genre and everything else tends to evolve from there.  No Chance In Hell is an action/horror, but my previous novels are thrillers, sci-fi and post-apocalyptic, so I’m not picky!

How do you get ideas for plots and characters?  Sometimes from seeing something or someone in the street, or a basic ‘what if’ question might pop into my head or even from a dream.  Inspiration can come from anywhere.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!)  you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind?  I have an idea for a very different take on the werewolf genre which I’m toying with at the moment. (Rod, if it comes to fruition, may I have the chance to review it for the Review, please?)

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously.  I started writing in primary school and I never stopped. I’ve always been compelled to write. At the same time that I was writing my first childish stories I was also taking part in every school play – I’ve always been compelled to do both.

Marmite? Love it or hate it? I’m weird – I can take it or leave it.  Write into that what you will… (Well, I can write into that that you are weird!!!)

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...??  I prefer silence when writing – I don’t like any distractions.  Other than that, no, writing is a job, as is acting, so they need to be treated as such.  I get up and I write, whether I’m in the mood or not.  You have to get yourself into a routine and put the graft in.  It’s a solitary job, so if you don’t motivate yourself no one else will.  If you use excuses like I’m not in a creative mood or I have writer’s block then writing will only ever be a hobby.  You will never earn a living from it.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters?  Ha, both.  You have to maintain some perspective or you’ll disappear too far down the rabbit hole. *See below

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job?  I’m extremely lucky that I have my two dream jobs – actor and writer. (So are we, your viewers and readers)

Coffee or tea? Red or white?  I always have a cup of strong Yorkshire tea first thing in the morning and then coffee throughout the rest of the day.  Red every time for wine, mainly rioja.

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way?  I usually only start with a basic premise and allow the story and characters to evolve from there.  With my debut novel (The King of America) I started with a question – what if America was ruled by a monarchy?

If you had free choice over the font your book is printed in, what font/fonts would you choose?  I like Garamond – feels a little warmer to me than the likes of Time New Roman or Arial. (Yep!)

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be?  It would definitely be top secret government documents on aliens and UFOs.

Have any of your characters ever shocked you and gone off on their own adventure leaving you scratching your head??? If so how did you cope with that!? Characters are always surprising me!  Sometimes one written in as a small insignificant role blossoms into a lead character and visa versa.  Sometimes they die too soon, sometimes they survive when I thought they wouldn’t.  You just have to keep writing and trust in the story.  The hard work begins in the re-drafting stages anyway – that’s where all the re-writes, cuts, changes and additions happen.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips?  I continually research throughout the writing of a novel, whether it is looking on Google Maps at a specific area or a fact check, research is key to realism and realism is key to making your story believable.  Even the most fantastical story involving magic, dragons, aliens and demons must be fundamentally believable on a base level.  I used to go on research trips, but with so much information available at the click of a mouse it’s rarely necessary these days.  If it is needed though then I have no hesitation.

Fiction authors have to contend with real characters invading our stories. Are there any ‘real’ characters you have been tempted to prematurely kill off or ignore because you just don’t like them or they spoil the plot?  They do occasionally sneak in, sometimes as a bit of fun for a friend or family member, but often a ‘real’ person might fit the bill better than a complete fabrication, so I might change their name and tweak other physical or personality traits so that I’m the only one who knows who that character is based on.  As writers we probably do this a lot more often than we admit, whether it is just someone we noticed in the coffee shop once or a friend we’ve known since kindergarten.

Are you prepared to go away from the known facts for the sake of the story and if so how do you get around this?  Realism is always paramount for me, so I will stick to the facts as much as possible, only veering off if it does not detract from the story’s believability.

Do you find that the lines between fact and fiction sometimes become blurred?  Fact is quite often stranger than fiction, so the line is indeed microscopically thin.

Have you ever totally hated or fallen in love with one of your characters?  I tend to love all my characters, even the nasty ones, so I do tend to feel their pain.  My antagonists always have some redeemable qualities about them, that grey area that makes them human, no matter what they do.  Likewise with my protagonists – they usually have a darker side.  You cannot have light without dark. 

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure?  I read all sorts – Edgar Allan Poe, Terry Pratchett, H P Lovecraft, H G Wells, Christopher Brookmyre, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, J R R Tolkein, Bernard Cornwell, Douglas Adams, Roger Zelazny and many, many more. To be a good writer you have to read a great deal and from different genres and authors.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book?  A stiff one!  Whisky.

Last but not least... favourite author?  It’s almost impossible to chose one, but I would edge towards Edgar Allan Poe.
 *




Rod Glenn was brought up in the north east of England and lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with wife, Vanessa. His writing is of a dark nature with darkly humorous undertones. He also an actor, some roles include The Hippopotamus, Wolfblood, Outside, The Fairy Flag, The Hollow Crown and Ripper Street.

Novels:
The King of America
Sinema: The Northumberland Massacre
The King of America: Epic Edition
The Killing Moon
Sinema 2: Sympathy for the Devil
Holiday of the Dead (contributor)
Radgepacket Vol. 1 (contributor)
P.O.W. Wartime Log of F/Sgt T D Glenn (contributor)
Sinema 3: The Troy Consortium
Wild Wolf's Twisted Tails (contributor)
Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 2 (contributor)
The Fortress 
*               

 *From above. On 23rd April, which is St George's day and my birthday (and the birth and death day of some bloke called Shakespeare) my 'Diana talks' is called 'Diana talks to herself...' 
In this fascinating discussion (?) I explore the reasons why I have never written commercially and why what Rod says above is all a part of it.

© Diana Milne January 2017 © Rod Glenn February 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Diana talks to Kristie Dean

Hi Kristie, lovely to catch up with you and have a chat...
I have loved all your books but particularly your two Richard III related books...

''Richard III is probably the House of York’s best-known figure, but the other members of the family are just as intriguing as the king who fell on Bosworth Field brings to life the people and their  places in her latest book, On the Trail of the Yorks (with brilliant maps and photographs*)''

What made you choose this genre? I love non-fiction because it allows me to research the history I love and then present it to others. I like explaining what actually happened, although I’ve been toying with the idea of writing fiction as well.

How do you get ideas for plots and characters? I get the ideas for my books from what I love. Both Richard III and his family have always interested me, so they were my focus when I decided I wanted to write a travel history. Actually, the idea of the travel history book came about because I’d always wanted a book to give me locations for my favorite figures from history, especially Richard III.

If, as a one off, (and you could guarantee publication!) you could write anything you wanted, is there another genre you would love to work with and do you already have a budding plot line in mind? I would love to write a thriller. I have had an idea in mind for a while based on an incident that happened to me when I was in college. I’m not sure if I will ever put it on paper, though.

Was becoming a writer a conscious decision or something that you drifted into (or even something so compelling that it could not be denied?) How old were you when you first started to write seriously. It was a conscious decision. I’ve been writing since 4th grade (around nine years old) and it’s always been something important for me to do. I can’t stand a blank piece of paper.  I studied journalism in school as an undergraduate prior to earning my master’s in history, so writing non-fiction has been a good fit.  

Marmite? Love it or hate it? I have never been able to bring myself to try it… ((Smile))

Do you have any rituals and routines when writing? Your favourite cup for example or ‘that’ piece of music...?? I have to begin the day with coffee and play with my pets for a few moments before I start working. I love to work at my desk, but in all honesty, I am so messy that it’s often covered and I have to write in the family room.

I promise I won’t tell them the answer to this, but when you are writing, who is more important, your family or your characters? My family is more important, but I do neglect them while writing. It becomes an all-consuming passion. I have started at 7 a.m. and finished at 10 p.m. without noticing. I love what I do!

Other than writing full time, what would be your dream job? I would love to be a travel guide and take people to my favorite destinations.

Coffee or tea? Red or white? Coffee and white

How much of your work is planned before you start? Do you have a full draft or let it find its way? For non-fiction I plan it out, but if I find another location or something I need to add through my research, I will add it.

Imagine that you could get hold of any original source document. What would it be? Oh, that’s an easy one for me. Titulus Regius.

How much research do you do and do you ever go on research trips? For a non-fiction book, meticulous research is necessary.  In addition to primary research for the historic background, I traveled to almost every site I discuss. I liked the chance to get the ‘feel’ of the location.

What do you enjoy reading for pleasure? I read just about anything. This morning I read the back of the Cheerios box. It hadn’t changed since the last time I read it, but it was there and I was bored. Seriously, I will read just about any genre, although I’m not big on fantasy. My preference is either history or thrillers.

What drink would you recommend drinking whilst reading your latest book? White wine. ((I read it at the airport whilst drinking coffee. I can recommend that too!))

Last but not least... favourite author? This is a difficult one for me. I like so many authors, but I do enjoy Susanna Kearsley and Barbara Erskine (Lady of Hay is a favourite!) For non-fiction, there are many authors I admire, so it would take forever to list them all. I do have a book that I’m chomping at the bit to read, which hopefully will be released soon. Sharon Bennett Connolly is doing a book about medieval heroines, and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.
*
Kristie Dean has an MA in History and now enjoys teaching the subject, following a successful career in public relations. Her particular historic interest is the medieval era, specifically the Plantagenets, the Wars of the Roses and the Tudors.
She has been published in several online magazines and local newspapers, and presented a paper at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. She has also published a series of short guidebooks (less than 20 pages) to help visitors to the UK find great locations

You can follow Kristie on Twitter @kristiedavisdea, or like her Facebook page, The World of Richard III. She also has a blog at KristieDean.com. When not traveling for research, you can find Kristie at home in Tennessee with her husband, three dogs, and two cats.


© Diana Milne January 2017 © Kristie Dean February 2017

* Maps in the book by Lady White Art and Sharon Connelly provided some wonderful photos