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Tuesday 25 November 2014

A Lovely Blog Award

Coming Soon! 20th December 2014 
You are Invited to a Christmas Party Blog Hop!

 ~ ~ ~ 

I have been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award 
by the delightful (and very talented) 
Anna Belfrage. (Thank you Anna!)

If you like timeslip novels – she’s your author.

Of course I am very pleased and proud to have been nominated, but the drawback with these sort of things is that they come with obligations:

1.   Link to the person who passed the award on: Anna Belfrage and her wonderful Graham Saga Novels I enjoy her highly interesting (and very lovely) Blog

2.     Post The Lovely Blog Award logo: there it is above – and it is also on the sidebar
3.     Share seven interesting facts about yourself. Hmm, have to think about this ‘rule’.
4.     Pass the award on by nominating up to 15 bloggers for the award.

So seven interesting things about me:

1.     I don’t ‘do’ kitchens. I’m a hopeless cook. I even manage to mess up ready meals. I often say that I only have a kitchen because it came with the house. Although now that I live in a wonderful old Devon farmhouse, I do rather love my cosy kitchen. Just not the cooking bit that is involved with it.

2.     I used to be scared of spiders. I’m still not keen on them, especially those big ones that scuttle away like a 100 metres sprinter – or those big hairy ones that sit and glare at you just out of reach on the ceiling. However, there are a lot more spiders in the middle of the North Devon Countryside than we used to get in London. I usually encounter at least one a day – especially this time of year. I had one on my jumper the other day. I surprised myself by saying “Oh, where did you come from?” and brushed her off with a quick flick off the tea towel. Gosh aren’t I brave! LOL

3.     I want to horse ride again. The spirit is willing, the aching joints of knees and hips are not. I have managed to get on and ride up the lane. Nearly killed me. Getting off was even worse as I had seized up. Still I will try again. Maybe when it stops raining.

4.     I have a customised Jack Sparrow figure. I spent an enjoyable afternoon, a few years ago, turning the figure into my Jesamiah Acorne. He stands on the window sill, glowering at me whenever I spend time doing other things (such as writing this) instead of getting on with his next adventure. I do occasionally come down into my study of a morning and find him flat on his face. The rum bottle he carries quite empty….

No, not Jack, Jesamiah!
5.     I love fluffy hotwater bottles. Only when it is cold, of course. I have a beautiful blue one that stays warm for hours.

6.     I also love my favourite two teddybears. One is Cobb. He was a birthday present many years ago from my daughter. He was purchased in Lyme Regis (hence the name). I saw him in a shop window and said “Oh I would love him for my birthday!” Come the big day though. No teddy. I tried my best to keep quiet and say nothing. Hide the disappointment. I knew I should have bought him for myself. Three days later I gave in. “You didn’t buy me that teddy then?” My  Daughter clapped her hand to her mouth, dashed off, came back with a parcel. “Sorry Mum, I forgot to give it to you.” 

Bleebear and Cobb
   Teddy number two is Bleebear. A present from daughter and her husband. Both bears are so lovely and warm – unlike the hotwater bottle the teddies just get warmer and warmer, not colder.

7.     I often get up in the early hours of the morning, come downstairs, let the dog out, make a cup of tea and answer some e-mails. Well, if I find I can’t sleep, I might as well do something productive. There’s only so many sheep you can count….

Early Morning view from my study
And to pass the Lovely Blog Award on to?
Well first, two lovely people who deserve the award:

1 Pauline Barclay because she is such a sweet lady, and I enjoy her blog.

2 Janis Pegrum Smith because she is my assistant editor for Historical Novel Society Indie Reviews, a dear friend and fantastic author. Check out her latest The Book Ark.

Next some bloggers who have invited me as a guest, which in itself lovely – but they also have some very interesting blogs!

3 Roz Morris: The Undercover Soundtrack  Music that inspires the writing: “Once a week I host a writer who uses music as part of their creative environment – perhaps to connect with a character, populate a mysterious place, or hold  a moment still to explore its depths.”

4 SKY PURINGTON'S A writer’s Mind  This was a Christmas Slot instigated -  I loved writing this short story about my Jesamiah for this event!

6 Jane Davis  ‘Jane Davis is one of my newfound heroes. A prizewinning literary author who tackles the trickiest of subjects and has turned to producing the very finest self-published literary works. She’s a wonderful writer I’m cheering on full voice.’ – Dan Holloway

7  Debbie Young: Author, book promotion advisor and commissioning editor of the Alliance of Independent Authors' blog of self-publishing advice – and all round super lady!

Thank you again Anna - I thoroughly enjyed doing this!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Wow! Fantastic Prize for indie or unpublished authors!

The SilverWood Team - lovely ladies producing lovely books
One of the things I like about my UK indie publisher, SilverWood Books is that they work immensely hard at creating exciting opportunities not only for their own authors but for other writers as well. 

At SilverWood's recent Writing & Self-Publishing Open Day, Publishing Director Helen Hart announced that SilverWood had teamed up with Kobo Writing Life to offer a writing competition. The prize…? A digital publishing deal! At the Open Day, she and KWL’s UK Manager, Diego Marano, outlined how the competition would work.

(Diego is such an interesting guy to listen to on the subject of ebooks, if you ever get the chance!). Since then, Helen Hart has let me know that she’s negotiated for Berforts, one of SilverWood’s regular book printers, to sponsor a paperback edition too. So the lucky winner will now receive a digital and print publishing package, while the runner up gets a Kobo Aura H2O (their new waterproof e-reading device…might have to check that out myself for relaxing reading in the bath!).

If you’ve written a novel, or you’re in the process of writing one (and you’re unpublished or self-published) then this competition is a fantastic opportunity. Entrants are asked to submit a one-page synopsis (no longer than 500 words) of the plot of the book they would like to publish along with first chapter (no longer than 5,000 words).

One Winner and one Runner Up will be selected by a dedicated review panel on the basis of the combined strength of the synopsis and the single chapter submitted. 

Find out more about the Open Day Writing Competition on the SilverWood site here and on the Kobo Writing Life site here. 

One of the competition judges is writer and television presenter Dr Sanjida O’Connell. She’s the author of eight books including the historical novels ‘The Naked Name of Love’ and ‘Sugar Island’. Spotting the historical fiction connection, Helen Hart introduced me to Sanjida so we could produce this article for my for Tuesday Talk Slot: 

Sanjida, what are you working on at the moment?
I'm writing a psychological thriller set in Yorkshire. It's part of a two book deal with Corvus; the first one is coming out in spring 2016.

What are you most looking forward to in judging the Open Day Writing Competition?
I'm looking forward to being immersed in someone else's imaginary world, being absorbed by their use of words and transported by their story.

What is best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? 
Rather than waiting for inspiration to strike - just write! Set aside time, a few times a week if you can, dedicated to writing, researching or editing your manuscript. The rest of the time, carry a notebook with you to jot down any ideas, quirky scenes you observe or conversations you overhear!

Do you have a top tip about promoting books online?
Content is crucial but presentation is also key - so I would make sure you use a good technical editor  and/or copy editor and who will also proof read the final draft.  Also use a graphic artist to create a stunning and eye-catching book jacket, that will work well at thumb nail size as well as full scale. I know many writers say that using these professionals is expensive - but isn't your work worth the best you can afford? 

Thank you, Sanjida!

To enter the writing competition please visit Kobo Writing Life’s 
online entry form

And if you want to get a flavour of what SilverWood’s recent 
Open Day was like, check out their film 
here on You Tube 

I must confess to having a small role myself, and the chance to give my little book ‘Discovering the Diamond’ a wave… and Helen Hart’s just reminded me that ‘DtD’ is a good read for anyone polishing their manuscript before entering a competition! You'll be able to find me quite easily in the video - just look for my 'trademark' hat! 

If you want to find out more about the competition, drop the SilverWood team a line (

visit us on Facebook 

or connect on Twitter @SilverWoodBooks

Tuesday 11 November 2014

Tuesday Talk: Meet Susan Keogh's Jack Mallory...

by Susan Keogh

First and foremost, my Jack Mallory trilogy is a sea story. However, there is nearly as much happening on land as well, specifically Charles Town, Carolina (modern day Charleston, South Carolina). So you could say Jack’s two worlds are specific colors: blue and green. I thought I would tell you a bit about those worlds and the real life inspirations behind the settings of my novels.The story starts in 1685, but most of the adventure takes place in 1692.

The first novel, The Prodigal, begins in the Caribbean, both on land and sea, but the majority of the story takes place at sea as Jack’s pirate brig, Prodigal, sails to the waters off the colonial province of Carolina (which included both modern-day North and South Carolinas) as he searches for James Logan, the pirate responsible for the murder of Jack’s father and the kidnapping of his mother. 

The Prodigal herself was inspired by a modern-day replica of the U.S. brig Niagara, which sails out of Erie, Pennsylvania. The Niagara, however, is from the War of 1812, some 120 years after Jack Mallory sails, so her design has many differences from the Prodigal, including her sail plan. For example, the Prodigal did not carry jibs or staysails. Those came into use a bit later. Yet the Niagara is a brig (two-masts), and so I could learn about the sails and rigging and how such a vessel performed by studying her.
I was fortunate enough to sail upon her multiple times, once as a crewmember (and I recommend anyone visiting Erie to sign up for one of their many day sails; it’s an experience you won’t forget)..

Jack Mallory’s time at sea takes him as far north as James Town, Virginia, the oldest settlement in the United States. This visit occurs during the third and most recent novel, The Fortune.

James Town is preserved as a national historic site, another place I highly recommend for a visit. As you can see in the photo I took below during my research trip, archaeological digs continue to progress there, revealing more and more about the history of America’s first settlement.

In the background of the picture is the James River. Temperatures the day of my visit hovered above 100 degrees F. I purposefully went during the same time of year that Jack had gone there so I (a Yankee from Michigan) could get a feel for the environment.

The ending of The Prodigal takes place off the Outer Banks of modern day North Carolina, and this is also where the second book, The Alliance, picks up the story. My visit to the Outer Banks, of course, reflects a much different landscape than back in Jack Mallory’s day—beaches lined with mile after mile of vacation rental homes.

But there are still signs of piracy on those shores.

The sections of the stories that take place on land are primarily set at Leighlin Plantation outside of Charles Town, some twelve miles up the Ashley River. The name of the plantation is taken from a small town in Ireland, the birthplace of the plantation’s owner (the town of Leighlin is known today as Leighlinbridge). Non-Irish readers will no doubt pronounce its name as Lee-lin, but the correct pronunciation is closer to Leck-lin. Leighlin is presented as one of the first Carolina plantations to grow rice, a crop that would eventually become the colony’s greatest export and thus one of the reasons behind the importation of thousands of African slaves.

When I wrote the first draft of The Prodigal, I had laid out the interior of Leighlin House pretty well but was still a bit sketchy about the exterior. It wasn’t until I went to Charleston for my first research trip that I decided what the house truly looked like, both inside and out. I visited three plantations while I was there, one being Drayton Hall, which is a National Trust Historic Site and a place I urge all visitors to Charleston to experience.

Drayton Hall is a magnificently preserved plantation house, originally built in the early 1700’s, its architecture inspired by Andrea Palladio.

Symmetry is in all things. One can virtually cut Drayton Hall down the center and find equal halves in each side. Each of the two floors has a central room—the Great Hall on the first level and another on the second, with two rooms leading off each side. Those chambers are nearly mirror images of one another.

The lowest level of the house is a raised English basement. In Leighlin House, this area is used not only for plantation stores but its connecting rooms are occupied by the house servants and the handful of white workers.

I fell in love with Drayton the first time I toured the house. I knew the minute I stepped inside that this would be the design on which I based Leighlin House. From the outside it seems immense, but the interior somehow provides a feeling of a much smaller house, of a certain intimacy and charm.

When it comes to the land surrounding Leighlin House, I knew I wanted something grand and unique. And there are few places as grand and unique as Middleton Plantation, located just up the Ashley River from Drayton Hall. (A bit of movie trivia for you: the grounds of Middleton were used for a scene in the Mel Gibson Revolutionary War movie “The Patriot.”)

I spent hours on both of my visits wandering the lush, manicured grounds with its glorious, huge gardens. While I didn’t include the intricately-designed garden for Leighlin (I used only a small part of it while the overall design I used for Wildwood Plantation), I knew I wanted to use many of the other features of the land, such as the bluff on which the house sits, the river view, and the ornamental ponds. 

The path in the photo above leads to beautiful green, sweeping terraces. Below the terraces are the two ornamental ponds that form the shape of butterfly wings. While I didn’t get as elaborate as the wings, I did incorporate the ponds into Leighlin’s landscape.

Beyond the ponds would be Leighlin’s main landing, for in those days the river was the only way to travel to and from Charles Town as well as to ship products downriver to be sold and shipped by sea to distant markets.

So now when you read the Jack Mallory trilogy, you will have a good image of where many of the scenes take place. There are sword fights and ship-to-ship battles aboard the Prodigal when Jack is at sea, and when he is ashore there is intrigue and more than one lady to keep him busy, all set to a backdrop of early colonial America.