Some Daughters Do Have ‘Em

To celebrate publication of her second novel, I’m delighted to have Colette McCormick guesting on my blog today. She’s talking about a significant relationship: that with our mothers. Biological or given, dead or alive, our mothers help shape us. Over to you, Colette.

To my way of thinking there is no such thing as a ‘standard’ mother/daughter relationship. There is no one size fits all. Dawn French, talking to The Telegraph on Sunday in October 2015 broke it down into four categories.

  1. The best friends.
  2. The Sunday night caller.
  3. The can’t live with her, can’t live without her.
  4. Mum as staff.

The newspaper ran a poll to see which category that women most identified with and the front runner with 46% was number three. I don’t mind telling you that this was where my vote went.

I loved my mother dearly but the thought of living in the same house as her again once I’d left home brought me out in a cold sweat. We had the same blood in our veins but we were very different people. She took housework far more seriously than I do for one thing and I wouldn’t have had a look in in her kitchen. There was no way on earth that I would have chosen to live with her but I loved to visit.

That started me thinking about the other categories, the one’s I hadn’t chosen.

Why hadn’t I thought of her as my best friend? Well, to be honest I didn’t think of her as a friend at all. Why would she be? It wasn’t her job to be my friend. Her job was to raise me to be strong and independent and she did her job well. I know women who would put themselves into this category and if that is truly the case then they are very lucky.

I was never a once a week caller. For a while I was a twice a week caller but towards the end of her life I was a twice a day caller. When I left home I moved over a hundred miles away so it wasn’t like I was a regular visitor and the phone calls were the way we stayed in touch. Often, especially in her later years it felt like Groundhog Day with the same conversation repeated over and over but I don’t mind telling you that I’d give anything just to make that phone call one more time. In 2013 I was in hospital for seven weeks.  As I spent a lot of that time in ICCU we weren’t able to speak on the phone and being well over 80 by that point she wasn’t able to visit me so she wrote me a couple of letters. I’ve still got them and I look at them from time to time. On a bad day, I open the locket she used to wear which still carries a hint of her perfume.

Mum as staff? No but she would have liked to be. I’m sure that had we lived closer she would have done her share of babysitting. Also, and I’d forgotten about this until just now, when I was ill in 2013 Mum said that she wished she could have come up (to the north east) so that she could do my housework for me. I couldn’t have cared less what the house looked like but it mattered to Mum.

I’ve never underestimated how lucky I was to have had the mother that I did but I am also very aware that not everyone was as fortunate. ‘Ribbons in Her Hair’ was inspired by a conversation with someone who fell into that category. That child became Susan though their stories are very different.

My oldest friend and her daughter have a relationship that’s built on mutual respect and love and it is a beautiful thing to watch. When they are together there is a bond so strong you could almost touch it but they appear equally happy when they are apart. They know that they can call on each other should they need to but they don’t have to live in each other’s pockets.

I have another friend who argues with her mother every single day – or at least that’s how it appears. The arguments are sometimes heated and when I hear some of the comments that they throw at each other my mind boggles. Yet somehow, the relationship survives.

The thing that these two mother/daughter relationships have in common is love. Even the ones that argue like cat and dog love each other.

To feel her mother’s love was all that Susan ever wanted and I hate that any child should feel that way.

Ribbons in her Hair

Ribbons in Her Hair cover (002)Jean seems the perfect wife and mother but she struggles to love her daughters whose material comforts mask emotional neglect. When the youngest daughter, Susan, brings ‘shame’ on the family, Jean can think of only one response. She has to make the problem disappear. Finding the strength to stand up to her mother for the first time in her life, Susan does the only thing that she can to save her baby. What Susan doesn’t realise is that her mother’s emotional distance hides a dark secret of her own. Examining the divide between generations, between mothers and daughters, this emotionally charged novel asks whether we can ever truly understand another, however close our ties.

Buy Ribbons in Her Hair on Amazon

 

Facebook Author page

@colettemcauthor

About Colette

me in blue (002)Originally a city girl, Colette has made her home in a one of the many former mining villages in County Durham. When not working as a retail manager for a large children’s charity she will more than likely be writing, even if it’s only a shopping list. She also enjoys cooking, gardening and taking the dog on long walks in the countryside near her home. She has been married for almost forty years and has two grown up sons.

 

 

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Debut Novelist Tour: Ladies’ Day by Sarah Barton

Ladies' Day - Sarah Barton - Book Cover (002)I’m delighted to welcome novelist Sarah Barton to my blog today as part of the tour to launch her women’s fiction debut, Ladies’ Day. I was sent an ARC and you can read my review over on Amazon and Goodreads. In the meantime, here’s a little about the book.

Working in a fading Manchester department store, four women hide their dark secrets: abuse, an illicit affair, huge debts and an overwhelming desire to have a child at any cost. Will their secrets destroy their lives?

An unlikely bond is formed but will it suffice to solve their disparate problems?

Buy ‘Ladies’ Day’ at Amazon (universal link): http://getbook.at/LadiesDay

Ladies' Day Sarah Barton Quotes (002)

About Sarah

Sarah Barton Author Image (002)

Sarah Barton is a contemporary fiction writer who lives in South Manchester. While she spends her days running a property management company her nights are spent with her family and her literary work. Sarah is happiest with a G + T in one hand and a pen in the other.

Website: . https://www.sarahbartonauthor.com/
FB Author Page: https://www.facebook.com/SarahBartonAuthor/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/S_Barton_Author

Amazon Author Page: author.to/SarahBarton

 

Ladies' Day - Sarah BArton - Book Blog Tour Poster.png

 

 

Identity and Connectedness by Sandra Danby

Today, I’d like to welcome author Sandra Danby to my blog. Sandra’s latest novel is about an artist, and is set in her native Yorkshire – no prizes for spotting the overlaps with my own work! Over to you, Sandra.

Connectedness by Sandra Danby (1) - CopyOne of the landmarks of childhood is realising that your experience does not typify the norm; that other children live completely different lives from the one you live, that not all families are like yours. We make easy assumptions about a person based on the public face we see, but we cannot know what is really going on inside her head or why she is the person she is.

This public/private conundrum came to fascinate me the more I wrote the character of Justine Tree, the artist in my new novel Connectedness. As an art student, she gave away her baby. As an adult artist, hugely successful, she hides the truth and her emotions within her art. Always afraid someone will work out the truth. Disguising her secret with the image of an over-emotional artist who shows everything to the public. Wearing a mask. When all the time her secret is there within her art, if someone only takes the time to analyse and observe the detail.

Throughout her training and career as an artist, Justine struggles with the concept of truth. Should she paint what the tutors expect of her, even though she dislikes it, in order to get a good mark? Will she submit to her agent’s demands for additional small works because ‘they sell well’ even though Justine dislikes painting to order. Should she tell the truth about the hidden contents of her collages; the filling, the bubble wrap, the air? Her work focuses on nature and her Yorkshire childhood; subjects she feels are safe, but scratch the surface and her shame will be revealed. How much longer can she go on hiding her secret, the pain of which explode with relentless frequency causing mind-bending migraines which oddly free her from the trauma to paint without constraint.

patchwork of leaves - CopyBut how, if she embraces the truth and searches for her lost daughter, how can her art survive if she admits she has lied? How can her daughter ever respect a mother who not only abandoned her but denied her existence? Once she has charged identity detective Rose Haldane with finding her daughter, Justine is terrified of the process she has set in motion, obscuring facts, avoiding Rose’s questions, ignoring emails. The truth, it is said, will set you free. To Justine, the truth could mean the end… or a new beginning.

About ‘Connectedness’

To the outside world, artist Justine Tree has it all… but she always has a secret that threatens to destroy everything. Her art sells around the world, but does anyone truly know her? When her mother dies, she returns to her childhood home in Yorkshire where she decides to confront her past. She asks journalist Rose Haldane to find the baby she gave away when she was an art student, but only when Rose starts to ask difficult questions does Justine truly understand what she must face.

Is Justine strong enough to admit the secrets and lies of her past? To speak aloud the deeds she has hidden for 27 years, the real inspiration for her work that sells for millions of pounds. Could the truth trash her artistic reputation? Does Justine care more about her daughter, or her art? And what will she do if her daughter hates her?

This tale of art, adoption, romance and loss moves between now and the Eighties, from London’s art world to the bleak isolated cliffs of East Yorkshire and the hot orange blossom streets of Málaga, Spain.

A family mystery for fans of Maggie O’Farrell, Lucinda Riley, Tracy Rees and Rachel Hore.

Sandra’s Bio

Sandra Danby author1 - photo Ion Paciu (1)Sandra Danby is a proud Yorkshire woman, tennis nut and tea drinker. She believes a walk on the beach will cure most ills. Unlike Rose Haldane, the identity detective in her two novels, Ignoring Gravity and Connectedness, Sandra is not adopted.

About the ‘Identity Detective’ series

Rose Haldane, journalist and identity detective, reunites the people lost through adoption. The stories you don’t see on television shows. The difficult cases. The people who cannot be found, who are thought lost forever. And each new challenge makes Rose re-live her own adoption story, each birth mother and father, adopted child, and adoptive parent she talks to, reminds her of her own birth mother Kate. Each book in the ‘Identity Detective’ series considers the viewpoint of one person trapped in this horrible dilemma. In the first book of the series, Ignoring Gravity, it is Rose’s experience we follow as an adult discovering she was adopted as a baby. Connectedness is the story of a birth mother, her hopes and anxieties, her guilt and fear, and her longing to see her baby again. Sweet Joy, the third novel, will tell the story of a baby abandoned during The Blitz, and how the now elderly woman is desperate to know her story before it is too late.

Sandra’s links

Amazon UK link: https://amzn.to/2q6qy5Z

Author website: http://www.sandradanby.com/

Twitter: @SandraDanby

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/sandradanbyauthor

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6563021.Sandra_Danby

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/sandradan1/

 

Once upon a time… by Jenny Kane

Thank you ever so much for inviting me here today to kick off my five day blog tour to celebrate the re-release of my part modern/part medieval novel, Romancing Robin Hood.

Hey, it’s always lovely to have you here – and it’s been a while. Settle in for a smashing read, folks. Over to you, Jenny.

Once upon a time, when the world was young, I was a very shy teenager.

I was also a bit- shall we say unusual? I suspect the words ‘odd’ and ‘eccentric’ would be more accurate, but I’ll let you make your own mind up on that…

I never did the pop or film star crush thing. Never had pictures of Bryan Adams or Wham on my wall. Adam Ant didn’t look up at me from my pencil case, and I did not wake up to see a life sized poster of Morrissey’s backside complete with gladioli (or whatever flower it was) sticking out of his backside!

Nor was I into the Pac Man craze (I am so giving my age away here!), and the background music to Manic Minor drove me nuts! I didn’t buy Jackie, or indulge in spending my money on Cosmopolitan so I’d seem more grown up than I was.

It wasn’t that I didn’t like music or playing the odd game of tennis on the Atari- but I had a different sort of fascination.

Robin Hood!

It all started because I was ill for ages and ages when I was 14. I missed a lot of school. But as always in life, timing is everything- and I was saved by an instant and unshakeable love for the series of Robin of Sherwood that was being aired on ITV at the time. It was the third series- I hadn’t seen either of the first two. (I have now- loads of times!) As I was at home so much, my parents rented one of those new fangled video recorders so I could record stuff and watch it when I liked. (Thanks Mum and Dad- still very grateful for that.)

The VCR arrived the same day as the episode of Robin of Sherwood called Adam Bell was aired- I recorded it and watched it 8 times the next day- and then again, and again and again. Now- over 20 years later- I can still quote the script!! (Okay- that’s nothing to be proud of- see- I’m a bit odd.)

It wasn’t the tight tights that had captured my heart though- it was the story. The whole story. All of it. I wanted to know everything- EVERYTHING- that could possibly be known about Robin Hood. No film, book (nonfiction or fiction), was safe from me.

My bedroom walls disappeared under posters of Robin Hood- any posters- from Errol Flynn, to Richard Greene, to the statue up in Nottingham, to the gorgeous Ray Winstone who played Will Scarlet (Okay- you have me there- I still have a ‘thing’ for Ray Winstone- there is such a twinkle in those eyes!)

The interest became an obsession (In RH not Ray Winstone). When I was well again my parents took me to Sherwood for a short holiday- I learnt archery, I read medieval political poems and ballads- I wanted to know the truth- did he exist or didn’t he?

I did a project on Robin Hood for my A’ level History. Then I went to university and did a specialist course in Medieval Castle and Ecclesiastical Architecture…I was a medieval junky. It seemed only natural to do a PhD on the subject- and that is exactly what I did.

It was my PhD that taught me to write- (a tome of epic proportions that is still knocking around my old Uni library gathering dust, while e-versions of it are scattered around many American Universities). Rather than finish off my love of RH- my PhD polished it to perfection.

I guess it was only a matter of time before I decided to write a novel about a Robin Hood obsessed historian like Dr Grace Harper, the leading lady in Romancing Robin Hood.

Blurb

When you’re in love with a man of legend, how can anyone else match up?

Dr Grace Harper has loved the stories of Robin Hood ever since she first saw them on TV as a teenager. Now, with her fortieth birthday just around the corner, she’s a successful academic in Medieval History—but Grace is stuck in a rut.

Grace is supposed to be writing a textbook on a real-life medieval criminal gang—the Folvilles—but instead she is captivated by a novel she’s secretly writing. A medieval mystery which entwines the story of Folvilles with her long-time love of Robin Hood—and a feisty young woman named Mathilda of Twyford.

Just as she is trying to work out how Mathilda can survive being kidnapped by the Folvilles, Grace’s best friend Daisy announces she is getting married. After a whirlwind romance with a man she loves as much as the creatures in her animal shelter, Daisy has press-ganged Grace into being her bridesmaid.

Witnessing Daisy’s new-found happiness, Grace starts to re-evaluate her own life. Is her devotion to a man who may or may not have lived hundreds of years ago really a substitute for a real-life hero of her own? Grace’s life doesn’t get any easier when she meets Dr Robert Franks—a rival academic who she is determined to dislike but finds herself being increasingly drawn to… If only he didn’t know quite so much about Robin Hood.

Suddenly, spending more time living in the past than the present doesn’t seem such a good idea…

If you would like to read more about Grace, then you can buy Romancing Robin Hood from all good retailers, including…

Amazon – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Romancing-Robin-Hood-Jenny-Kane/dp/1999855248/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1517319761&sr=1-2&keywords=romancing+robin+hood+Jenny+Kane

Also- should you wish to revisit the heady days of 1980’s Robin of Sherwood– I (as Jennifer Ash) was lucky enough to be asked to write 2 episodes of the new audio series.

I’m sure you can appreciate how exciting it was for me to be asked to write for the very show that led me on the road that changed my life, gave me a career direction, and has given me so much joy over the past thirty years. Talk about lucky!

You can find the buy links for the Robin of Sherwood audio dramas here- https://spitefulpuppet.com/product-category/robin-of-sherwood/

Many thanks, Laura. Fantastic – here’s to many more merry men – and women.

Happy reading everyone,

Jenny xx

Bio

With a background in history and archaeology, Jenny Kane should really be sat in a dusty university library translating Medieval Latin criminal records, before writing research documents that hardly anyone would want to read. Instead, tucked away in the South West of England, Jenny Kane writes stories with one hand, while designing creative writing workshops for ‘Imagine’ with the other.

Jenny spends a large part of her time in her local Costa, where she creates her stories, including the novels Romancing Robin Hood (LittWizz Press, 2018), Abi’s Neighbour (Accent Press, 2017), Another Glass of Champagne (Accent, 2016), Abi’s House (Accent Press, June 2015), the best selling contemporary romance Another Cup of Coffee (Accent Press, 2013), and the novella length sequels Another Cup of Christmas (Accent Press, 2013), Christmas in the Cotswolds, (Accent Press, 2014), and Christmas at the Castle, (Accent Press, 2015).

Jenny also writes medieval crime fiction as Jennifer Ash.

The Outlaw’s Ransom and The Winter Outlaw will both be published by Littwitz Press in early 2018

Jenny Kane is also the author of quirky children’s picture books There’s a Cow in the Flat (Hushpuppy, 2014) and Ben’s Biscuit Tin (Hushpuppy, 2015)

Keep your eye on Jenny’s blog at www.jennykane.co.uk for more details.

Twitter- @JennyKaneAuthor   @JenAshHistory     @Imagine_Writing

Facebook -https://www.facebook.com/JennyKaneRomance?ref=hl

Facebook for Jennifer Ash -https://www.facebook.com/jenniferashhistorical/?ref=bookmarks

Facebook for Imagine – https://www.facebook.com/ImagineCreativeWriting/?ref=settings

Jenny Kane also writes erotica as Kay Jaybee. (www.kayjaybee.me.uk)

 

 

Whoop, whoop for Skin Deep!

Well, this is a smashing way to end 2017. Thank you Sonya Alford; I’m honoured and humbled to be amongst such company.

This is the second ‘best of 2017’ that Skin Deep’s made and I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve made no secret of the fact that it’s the favourite of my books (and it’s not because it’s the most recent, ‘cos it’s not – it was the second novel I wrote, fourth to be published!) and as a result this is especially pleasing. THANK YOU. via My Top 12 Books of 2017

My Big Books of 2017

As the year draws to a close, it’s traditional for me to consider the books I’ve most enjoyed in the past twelve months. I don’t like using ‘best’, because this is a personal list and my preferred reading tends to reflect my emotional state as much as, if not more than, anything.

2017 has been a tough year, both personally and professionally – it’s been pretty shitty politically and economically, too, in my opinion. On the home front, to name but one challenge, there was a horrendous run-in with Southern Rail and Ginger1, my eldest boy. Professionally, while Skin Deep has been incredibly well-received (reviews were beyond my wildest hopes and dreams – thank you, dear readers) sales are, to coin a publishing cliché, disappointing.

So, perhaps it shouldn’t surprise me – or you – that the majority of the books I’ve enjoyed the most this year are dark in tone and subject matter. The up-lit star might have been rising across the publishing landscape, but not in my house! Here’s my list of the novels (yes, they’re all novels this year) that have impressed me the most:

IMG_3650Our Kind of Cruelty by Araminta Hall – this isn’t out till Spring 2018 but I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy. A stunning exploration of obsessive love which delves deep into the twisted heart of a secretive, sexually charged relationship and the aftermath of its breakdown. One of the most compelling and psychologically complex thrillers I’ve read in a very long time – and its commentary on our current world is perceptive and terrifying in equal measure. I have no doubt this will be one of the most talked about psych thrillers of 2018. Breathtaking.

The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins – a celebrated academic and TV presenter – a woman who ‘has it all’ writes a memoir about a long-lost heroine, reluctantly enlisting the aid of a socially inept housekeeper. It’s a novel about ambition, privilege, morality and dung beetles. Fabulous.

The Muse by Jessie Burton – I adored The Miniaturist and I’m fascinated by the Spanish civil war and art so this was near enough a sure thing. That said, I preferred Burton’s debut, but her second offering is wonderful story, set across two time-frames, about hidden treasures, faking it, love and identity.

IMG_3651Ivy and Abe by Elizabeth Enfield – another one not released until 2018 (February) which I read this year. A story of love and quantum physics, it’s beautiful, sad and clever. We meet the eponymous protagonists over the course of 70 years in 11 different realities, or universes. Fans of The Versions of Us (like me) and Life After Life should enjoy it. Gorgeous.

Lie with Me by Sabine Durrant – with a lying, narcissistic literary novelist at its heart and a supporting cast of unlikable metropolitan-elite types, this is a gripping and clever psychological thriller about a missing child and the dangers of little lies. Durrant’s brilliance lies in her ability to evoke sympathy for her male lead, Paul.

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel – it’s not a spoiler to reveal that this is a tale of incest (we know within the first 20 pages, if not earlier) set in the American mid-West. It’s a subject matter many will find distasteful, but Engel writes beautifully and sensitively. This incredible work has shades of Rebecca and reminded me in tone and in the portrayal of small town America and its inhabitants of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects – a much stronger book than her more successful Gone Girl, in my humble opinion.

That’s it. My to-read tower remains in danger of toppling and with lots of wonderful books scheduled for 2018 – including one by my good friend, Kate Helm (I can’t wait!) – I only hope I have enough time to write!

Merry Christmas one and all – here’s to the New Year!

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Laura x

 

Back to Manchester @ChorltonBF

789d2f_cc6d2af0db1f4c12b1409c7ec943895f~mv2I’m delighted to announce that I’ll be appearing at the fantastic Chorlton Book Festival, on Wednesday 22nd November 2017 7:00pm – 9:00pm

Being in Manchester, I’ll be talking about Skin Deep – about Hulme and art, and beauty and exploitation, and all things bookish. The event is at Chorlton Library, Manchester Rd, Manchester M21 9PN and it’s free to attend. I’m excited to be returning to Manchester – a city I know and love – and hope that some of you can come along.

To book: 0161 227 3700 or visit the website here: https://www.chorltonbookfestival.co.uk/calender

Skin Deep Poster