Good times, bad times, good memories, good lessons

This post’s title paraphrases an anonymous quote: Good times become good memories and bad times become good lessons

Across the media there’s been much talk of the terrible events of 2016 – and the terribleness of some depends upon which way you voted, though it’s fair to say most people I know, myself included, were crushed by the June result here and the November one across the pond.

Today as I dragged out my new diary – sniffed it, enjoyed the crisp, as yet unsullied pages – and transferred important information across (like all those passwords we’re not supposed to write down!) my Facebook timeline was dotted with posts celebrating Good Things of the past twelve months.

Traditionally, I have penned a review of my year here but had not felt inclined to do so for 2016 till now. The positivity on social media reminded me that I, too, have had as many good moments as difficult, if not more, and in the spirit of #lovenothate #beattheblues #hopenothate here’s my list:

Giinger2's fabulous locks

Giinger2’s fabulous locks

Ginger1 turned 18 and what a fine young man he is. Some might say my job is done, though I can’t agree. Parenting is for life.

Ginger2 turned 13 and he is shaping up nicely. And growing the finest head of hair I can think of.

I published my third novel – thanks are due to my publisher Accent Press and to all the book shops, bloggers, readers and fellow authors who supported it along its way. Bless you all.

I wrote a radio play after attending a script writing course led by Sue Teddern. It was brilliant to take on a fresh challenge and make new friends along the way. Whether or not the play is ever produced doesn’t matter (much!); the process was priceless.

I began a new novel – abandoned it and began again. Another lesson and reminder that no matter where you are in the journey there’s always something new to be learnt or discovered.Redemption Song Final

A conference I helped to organise and run – The Beach Hut Writing Academy’s From Inspiration to Publication – was a sell-out success. So much so that we’re running another in 2017.

I took part in a number of fantastic literary events – including City Reads, part of the Brighton Festival.

I was a writer-in-residence for Little Green Pig’s pop-up gallery in the summer and subsequently have been running workshops for the organisation which offers creative writing and storytelling workshops to children and young people in Brighton & Hove. A fabulous charity.

2016-08-30-09-20-40The BigFella and I made it through another year together – that’s 25 in total since we first met – and we love each other as much, perhaps more, than we ever have.

We enjoyed a great holiday in Cornwall with my lovely sister-in-law in August.

My parents are healthy and living well at a time when so many friends are facing/have faced the loss of theirs.

I witnessed friends fall in love, marry, have children, be published for the first time.

There is more love and hope in the world than hate and despair. The bad shit is given so much more air time because it is rare – at least here. We are truly blessed. Winners of the lottery of life.

Be thankful, be content. Know that every small act of compassion and kindness is meaningful. As my lovely grandma used to say: From small acorns…

Happy New Year!

 

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The Joy of Creation – and the seventh day

Back in late June I had a whole bundle of good intentions for the summer. The most important of these was to complete the first draft of my WIP; I was 30k words in. Now, I have 35k. You don’t need to be good at maths (I’m rubbish) to see that I failed to meet my objective in spectacular style. 5,000 words? A figure I would commonly knock up in less than seven days.

The Family LineThings went pear-shaped from the off. The EU referendum result rocked me to an extent and depth I was utterly unprepared for. For weeks, I could think of nothing else and fed my addiction by reading everything I encountered on social media: articles, debates, the numerous passionate conversations between friends and colleagues, and, sadly, the trolls. Struggling with despair, a ‘what’s the point, we’re all going to hell in a handcart’ attitude, I did manage the edits on the revised edition of my debut, renamed The Family Line. Which was just as well: it had a July publication date.

Then Ginger1 went away. For a month. A whole month. One child lighter I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to catch up. Wrong. Instead I fretted about him constantly, using up precious emotional and mental energy. I couldn’t focus.

Late July and Ginger2 finished school for the summer. A week later and his older brother returned home safe and sound – if grubby; he’d been living in a tent for the duration. Now the long break has never been an easy time in which to write, as many mothers know, but I have plodded on in the past, albeit at a reduced pace: I worked in the mornings and we played in the afternoons. It didn’t pan out that way. I did try. Time and again I sat at my pc and typed a few measly sentences, before admitting that I wasn’t getting anywhere, fast. And for days, and weeks, one question plagued me: What on earth is going on? Have I lost my passion? Will I never complete a novel again?

In the past seven years I have written six (and a bit – there’s that third of the WIP) novels, a number of short stories, and a radio play. The shorts and five of the novels have been published – the sixth is scheduled for release in June 2017 – with all the attendant promotional activity. The radio play is almost ready for submission. Whether or not it is ever produced remains to be seen. On top of this I have continued to teach, mentor and work as an editor.

Prussia Cove, Cornwall

Prussia Cove, Cornwall

In August we went away for our family holiday. This year to Cornwall, to the most southerly point of Britain: the Lizard.  On this holiday, where we walked and sailed and mostly admired the stunning beauty of the Cornish coastline (though the Helford Passage is worth a visit too) I realised that I needed to stop beating myself up. That my sub-conscious had been at work. I’m tired. I needed to take stock, step back, refill the well.

So, aside from a stint as a writer-in-residence for Little Green Pig (that’s a story for another time…) August and this first two weeks of September has passed without writing and little social media activity and – shockingly to me – it’s been OK. Really, really OK. Great, even.

2016-08-30-09-20-40

The Little Green Pig pop-up in Brighton

I’ve read a lot – both fiction and non-fiction – rediscovering my love of writing from across the pond. American literature was a strand of my degree but in recent years I’ve read British works almost exclusively, feeling the need to keep up with trends.

I’ve swam almost every day, in the sea mostly – how lucky I am to live in Brighton; I’ve hung out with much neglected, and extremely tolerant, family and friends, realising in particular that my boys are growing up fast and it won’t be too long before they’re gone. Ten years from now, I won’t regret having written five rather than eight or nine novels, but I will regret not having spent more time with my children. A novelist friend said exactly the same thing.

At the weekend I was at a character masterclass run by The Beach Hut Writing Academy, tutored by clinical psychologist Dr Sam Fraser and thriller writer Rebecca Whitney. It was a fascinating and inspiring day. I came away buzzing with ideas and during one particular  exercise I discovered what the heart of my story was – and it wasn’t what I’d thought it was! The whole thing needs a re-write.

And here I am, ready to face the autumn, to enjoy reconnecting with my craft, a rewrite, my characters and their stories, to reconnect more fully with online friends (I am fortunate to have many astoundingly wonderful online mates) and I’ve learned the importance of taking a break, stepping away and reassessing.

A writing life is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to pace ourselves.

Creation is a marvellous thing and regardless of whether or not you believe in the Christian creation story (I don’t) the significance of the seventh day should not be underestimated.

Laura x

Money Makes the World Go Around? Guest post from Karen King

The Millionaire Plan

Thanks so much, Laura, for asking me onto your blog to talk about my romance novel, The Millionaire Plan.

Delighted to have you here!

In my book, Amber decides to marry a millionaire because her parents are nearly bankrupt and forced to sell the family home, a beautiful Tudor house that had been in the family for generations. And it’s all thanks to Amber’s ex-fiancé Rod persuading them to invest in his dodgy shares. So she arms herself with a ‘How to Hook a Millionaire’ book and a ten point plan and heads of the yacht race at the exclusive Coombe Bay, Devon to hook herself a rich husband.

But is that really the best way to hook a millionaire? Modern day dating gives us a lot more options than hanging around an exclusive marina and trying to mix with the rich and famous. With the internet and phone apps like Tinder we can get straight to the chase without moving from our chair. An Internet search on dating millionaires brings up several sites such as  http://www.datingmillionaires.co.uk/ or http://sugardaddie.com/  You can have a browse at the members first before signing up and selecting any who appeal to you. You both know that you’re looking for a rich guy to date, it’s right out there no deceit.

Or if you want to see if there’s anyone rich in your area you can try Tinder – browse the profiles, swipe right for yes if you like them and left for no. Zooks and Match.com are also popular. It’s all very simple.

So Amber could have simply signed up to an online dating site or app and found herself a millionaire that way. But, then she wouldn’t have met Jed. That’s the trouble with online\mobile dating sites, it doesn’t leave anything to chance. You’re only selecting the person who fits your requirements but actually your ideal man might be someone who is the opposite of what you think you like. So maybe Amber’s plan of hanging out with some millionaires and trying to hook the one that appeals to her most is the best idea, after all.  Or maybe, she should forget about the plan and marry for love instead?

Love or Money – what would you marry for?

The Millionaire Plan

Love or Money – what would you marry for?

Extract

Chapter One

 Rule number 1: Make sure you’re seen at the right places

Great. Here she was, dressed to kill and without a clue what to do, Amber thought, tugging self-consciously at the hem of her dress. Everyone else was walking around in groups, or at least in pairs, chatting and laughing together and making her wish that she’d taken up Callie’s offer to go sailing with her and Simon instead of wandering around Coombe Bay Marina alone. Honestly, dressed in this skin-tight, short white designer dress, high heels, and the pile of make-up Callie had insisted she wore, she might as well have the words ‘gold-digger’ written on her forehead.

Well, that’s what she was, wasn’t it?

Not for the first time she wondered how she’d let Callie talk her into coming here to try and hook a millionaire. It was mad. Insane. Immoral.

And her only option if she didn’t want her parents to lose their home as well as their business.

Spotting a café overlooking the marina, she bought herself a latté and was making her way over to one of the tables when a white yacht caught her eye. It wasn’t huge or brash, like some of the yachts in the marina, but it was definitely classy. The sort that a millionaire would have for his own use, to sail around in rather than show off and entertain his friends. As she peered over at it, trying to read the name painted on the side, she collided into something hard. Her coffee cup went flying off the saucer, emptying its contents over a pair of cut-off denim shorts that were hugging lean, definitely male, hips.

‘Whoa!’ Strong, suntanned arms held her steady. ‘You want to try looking where you’re going,’ an incredibly sexy voice drawled in an unmistakeably American accent.

‘Sorry.’ She looked up into a pair of twinkling tawny eyes that laughed at her from a ruggedly handsome face, topped by thick, light brown hair with sun-kissed highlights. Phwoarr! was her immediate reaction, but she quickly pulled herself together. She’d just spilt coffee over this guy, for goodness sake, the least she could do was apologise instead of drooling over him like a lunatic.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she apologised again. ‘I was looking at that yacht over there. It’s fantastic, isn’t it? I’ve never seen one like that before.’ Not the thing to say, Amber, she scolded herself. You’re supposed to be acting smart and sophisticated as if you come to these sort of events all the time, not twittering away like an idiot and letting the first person you bump into know that you’ve never seen anything bigger than a dinghy before. Then she remembered that she had quite literally ‘bumped’ into this man and drowned him in coffee in the process.

‘Gosh, I’m so sorry,’ she said, fully aware that this was the third time she’d apologised but unable to stop herself gabbling. She looked down at his wet denim cut-offs, trying not to let her gaze linger on the sun-tanned legs below them, then shifted her eyes hurriedly back to his face. ‘Er, I’ll go and get a cloth so you can clean up.’

‘No need. I’m working on that yacht you were admiring so I haven’t got far to go and get changed,’ he replied. ‘Perhaps you’d like to join me and clean yourself up too? You don’t want to leave that to stain. It’ll ruin your dress.’

What? She glanced down in confusion and saw that coffee was splattered all over the bottom of her – or rather, Callie’s – dress and running down her legs. How could she have not noticed? Because I was too busy gawping at him, that’s why.

She hesitated. He had said he was working on the yacht, which meant he didn’t own it – more’s the pity. So his boss could well be on board. And whilst the ‘How to Hook a Millionaire’ book Callie had brought and insisted she read from cover to cover had declared she should ‘seize any opportunity to mix with the seriously rich’ – and let’s face it, anyone who owned that yacht was seriously rich – meeting them with a coffee-stained dress and legs was not a good idea. ‘Always be perfectly made up and elegantly dressed’ was another rule.

‘Is your boss on board?’ she asked.

‘No, only me.’ He was looking at her intently. ‘Perhaps I should introduce myself, I’m sure your mother drilled it into you to never go off with strangers.’ He held out his hand. ‘Jed Curtess.’

She took his hand. It was strong and warm and his touch sent tingles running up her arm. ‘Amber Wynters,’ she told him.

‘Now we’ve been introduced, Amber Wynters, would you like to come on board and get cleaned up?’ he asked, a playful smile hovering on his lips.

She most definitely would but should she? She didn’t even know this man, although she had to admit that she definitely found him appealing. Should she risk going onto the yacht with him? He might not be as harmless as he seemed. She saw the teasing twinkle in his gorgeous tawny eyes and her heart flipped. Cancel harmless. This guy was a danger to her blood pressure if nothing else.

‘I promise I won’t try to seduce you,’ he said solemnly. ‘Unless you beg me to, of course.’ His eyes danced with humour and she thought there was probably a queue of women who would love him to do just that.

Buy Links

Amazon

About Karen

KK Head and ShouldersA member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Authors and the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, Karen King writes sassy, contemporary romance just right for reading on the beach.  ‘I DO – or Do I?‘ her first chick lit for Accent Press, was published in May. She has been contracted for two more. And she is delighted that Accent Press have republished her earlier romance novels, The Millionaire Plan and Never Say Forever. The Millionaire Plan was nominated for the RONE Award in 2014.

Karen has also had several short stories for women’s magazine and 120 children’s books published.

When she isn’t writing, Karen likes travelling, watching the ‘soaps’ and reading. Give her a good book and a box of chocolates and she thinks she’s in Heaven.

 

Author links

Website: http://www.karenking.net/

Twitter: @karen_king

Karen King Romance Author Facebook Page

Karen King Children’s Books Facebook Page

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/karenkingauthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/karenkingauthor/?hl=en

Revenge: A dish best eaten cold? Guest Post by JA Corrigan

Final cover high resPlease welcome debut author JA Corrigan to the blog. JA’s novel, Falling Suns, is published on 14th July by award-winning press, Accent, and it is a cracking read. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Here, she talks about revenge and its links to tragedy tradition. Thank you, JA.

The Revenge Plot is one of the oldest in history and sits easily alongside The Tragedy Plot. In fact, as the most famous of revenge plots shows us – Shakespeare’s Hamlet of course – revenge and tragedy are inextricably linked.

I pondered on this for some time.

Are they linked because essentially revenge is an unethical act and so therefore the result of retribution will always be tragic or, is the desire for revenge a natural human instinct that through religious and spiritual teachings has been demonised? The ultimate act of revenge is murder; a sin within all the major religions of the world, and in all civilised societies, a crime.

The thirst for revenge is one of the oldest human compulsions, and so using it as a theme in a novel, play or poem, stands up there as a premise that will always be interesting, throw up questions and cause angst – for both the writer and the reader. Revenge is often the precursor to a tragedy, just as much as the love story. The outcome of the act of retribution, I decided, could never be a good one.

And yet, the need and desire to ‘put right’ a wrongdoing, a brutal act, is so strong, and so much built into the human psyche that it is a storyline that for me, was hard to resist.

There can be no revenge without its ramification – that of tragedy.

Alongside the theme of revenge sat the idea of the strongest of human emotions – that of maternal love – and this too emerged as part of the premise for my story. Rachel adores her son and yet … in the opening of the novel we sense that this is not enough for her, that she wants and needs to return to her job, and with this realisation the seed is sown that Joe’s disappearance is somehow her fault.

In the early stages of planning my story, and with the theme of uncompromising maternal love imprinted inside my mind, I began to have the thought of how I could turn the trope of maternal love upside down and push it inside out. How an emotion that is considered good and nurturing can become bad and parasitic.

I knew I had to explore both.

When I first began to outline the plot for Falling Suns I did wrestle with myself. Could I possibly have a protagonist, and maintain my readers’ sympathy for her, when she is planning revenge and cold-blooded murder?

In the comfort of our own home, sitting on the sofa, many of us have said: ‘If he/she did that to one of mine I’d kill them.’ Fortunately this scenario is rare; i.e. that the person saying the sentence will actually be placed within the tragic circumstances to carry out such a threat. But what if you are placed in that position? What if your child was brutally murdered by a person that in time you were able to confront … and take revenge by taking the murderer’s life? What if you possessed all the tools, the emotional and mental strength to do what others could only imagine? What if?

This is the premise for Falling Suns: that Rachel Dune, the distraught and grieving mother, plans her revenge on the man who has been placed in a psychiatric unit for the brutal murder of her son. But as the story unfolds and as Rachel begins to unearth from the depths of her consciousness her own past, she begins to question that perhaps revenge is not what will appease her grief. As with many revenge plots there are other variables at play for Rachel, and it is not until she is able to explore these other factors that she slowly recognises the flaws in her plan, and the defects within her own family.

Revenge for Rachel is a need; a need that could destroy her, a need that can only end in tragedy – but not the tragedy that she herself foresees.

It is the tragedy of her past and all that lives there.

Blurb:

faalling suns preA psychological thriller for fans of Belinda Bauer, Mark Edwards, Clare Mackintosh – a dark and brooding tale about the horrors that can lurk within a family.

Ex-DI Rachel Dune’s small son is missing. Then his body is discovered. Her cousin Michael is found guilty of his murder and incarcerated in a secure psychiatric unit.

Four years later, now divorced and back in the police force, Rachel discovers that Michael is being released to a less secure step-down unit, with his freedom a likely eventuality. Unable to cope with this, she decides upon revenge, assuming a new identity to hunt him down. However, as she closes in on her target, her friend Jonathan, a journalist, uncovers unnerving information about her mother and others in her family. Jonathan begins to suspect that Rachel’s perception of the truth might not be as accurate as she thinks.

About JA Corrigan

DSC_1184JA Corrigan is originally from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, but now lives in Berkshire and shares her life with a husband, a teenage daughter and a cute cockapoo.

When not writing she is either walking the dog, reading, or cooking. She also likes to run, and drink white wine infused with hints of vanilla or gooseberries.

Falling Suns is a great, tense read. You can check out my review here.

To buy Falling Suns:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/falling-suns/julie-ann-corrigan/j-a-corrigan/9781786152497

https://bookshop.theguardian.com/catalog/product/view/id/414323/

http://amzn.to/1YbkLHg (PB)

http://amzn.to/1OekOQZ (Kindle)

http://www.whsmith.co.uk/products/falling-suns/9781786152497

Guest post from Kristen Bailey: Flippin’ Fish & other culinary delights

Kristen Bailey’s debut novel, Souper Mum, is published today by Accent Press and I have the great honour of welcoming her to my blog. Kristen is a kindred spirit; she’s as hopeless in the kitchen as I am! Some of you might remember my Great British Burn Off? But today’s all about Kristen. Over to you…

Can I cook?  Well, in theory, yes.  For example, if you gave me a chicken breast, I could season it, apply heat to it and you’d end up with one cooked chicken breast.  Ta-dah!  The problem is I’d probably overcook it.  It’d be charred (code for burnt) on the outside and inside the consistency of chalk but yes, definitely cooked.  Bon Appetit!

Souper mum cover_FCMy culinary prowess is a bit of a running joke in my family.  It started back at school where I had to create a dish for my Home Economics lesson.  I had the truly great idea that I’d coat bits of cod in cornflakes.  I called them Fish Flips.  I didn’t use any binding agent like egg or flour.  So it just ended up as shrunken rubbery pieces of cod in a sea of baked cornflakes.  Yum.  My brother still brings up this spectacular culinary fail fifteen years down the line.  When there is talk of Christmas, family birthdays and celebration meals, the conversation often goes as such:

Mum:  It’s my birthday!  Let’s go out for dinner!

Me:  I could cook?

Mum:  Or we could go out for dinner?

And I’m not sure why I’m so bad at cooking, I give it a good ol’ stab.  I have cookbooks about my person which I bookmark and drool over.  I watch the odd cookery show and help myself to those random recipe cards you find at the back of supermarkets.  But for some reason, those glossy pictures of burnished lamb shanks with crowns of rosemary, and lustrous fruit tarts usually get lost in translation through my cooking skills.  I’m not sure if it’s my bad maths that can never work out the timings or perhaps there is something fundamentally wrong with my palate but many a time, my kids curiously drag their forks around their plates.  Children who are essentially, the worst food critics, ever. ‘I don’t like it.’  Imagine that as a restaurant review in The Times, just that.  Ouch.

The general reaction to my cooking

The general reaction to my cooking

And what is worse is that I come from a family of foodies.  My mother is the archetypal kitchen-dwelling matriarch.  When you eat at her table, it’s a veritable feast of courses and flavours and love.  My sister produces layered, well-iced cakes that are GBBO worthy. I have aunts, cousins, grandmothers who have recipes and dishes that are firm family favourites.  And then there’s me.  Mac and cheese, anyone?  I make a decent mac and cheese?  With a side of frozen peas?

So in a market saturated with cook books, foodie blogs and faddy diet advice, I wrote Souper Mum for mums like me, the non-cooking sorts.  The ones who try, who let occasional junk pepper their dining tables but who also level it out with a bit of broccoli.  Mums who have limited cooking skill, fussy little customers and who have to think about other constraints like time, fatigue and budget.  It’s like the proper Hunger Games.  Your kitchens are the battlefields; they’re not the pastel, beech work-topped utopias you see in your cookbooks.  These kitchens are covered in yesterday’s washing up, school newsletters, Lego and a remote control without any batteries.  The mums within have little to no foodie wisdom or ability; they’re literally just winging it with a bag of pasta, a tin of chopped tomatoes and half a block of cheddar cheese.267828_10150312087550731_6309393_n

My Souper Mum is Jools Campbell: she grills cupcakes, messes up scrambled eggs and has never really worked out the secret mastery involved in chopping onions.  Let’s just say I had a catalogue of excellent bad-cooking anecdotes to lend to her story.  Her journey is one of self-discovery – the same one that I think most mothers go on when they find themselves embroiled in parenthood and are trying to dig through the debris to remember what’s important in life and reclaim their sense of identity.  Her story is set against a foodie culture she decides to take a stand against with hilarious if life-altering consequences.  If your life is full of quinoa, samphire and you’re one of those full-on crazy people who feel the need to make their own puff pastry, then I warn you, you may not like what Jools has to say.  However, if tonight you’ve opened your kitchen cabinet, reached for the baked beans and are examining those last few slices of bread for mould then Souper Mum might just be your new best friend….

DSC_5363Souper Mum is the story of Jools Campbell, a stay-at-home mother of four, who becomes an unlikely foodie hero when she stands up to a pompous celebrity chef, Tommy McCoy on a reality show.  Armed with fish fingers and a severely limited cooking repertoire, we watch as she becomes a reluctant celebrity and learns some important life lessons about love, family and the joyless merits of quinoa.

To buy Souper Mum, click on this link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Souper-Mum-Kristen-Bailey/dp/1786150689/

BIO

Mother-of-four, gin-drinker, binge-watcher, receipt hoarder, hapless dog owner, enthusiastic but terrible cook.  Kristen lives in Fleet, Hampshire and has had short fiction published in several publications. The sequel to Souper Mum will be published later in the year.

She writes a weekly blog about being a modern mother.  That and more can be found at her website: http://www.kristenbaileywrites.com

You can also find her on:

Twitter @baileyforce6 and Facebook www.facebook.com/kristenbaileywrites

Sounds fantastic, Kristen. Best of luck – with the book (and tonight’s supper!). x

Book Review: This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell

51bLYEeNwHL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Those of you who read my posts, tweets, and follow me on other social media platforms will know that I am a HUGE fan of Maggie O’Farrell’s work, so you can imagine my excitement when I received an ARC of This Must Be The Place from über-blogger Anne Williams. Thank you, lovely Anne!

I first encountered Maggie O’Farrell’s work many years ago through my monthly subscription to glossy mag, Red. (Forgive the formality of the full name. I don’t know her so ‘Maggie’ seems overly familiar and using her surname only, whilst a convention, feels too formal for a woman whose soul I feel I have a window into on account of her writing). A copy of My Lover’s Lover was included in the shrink-wrapped package. It sat on my bedside table for ages – I am crazy mad about the late, great Bernice Rubens and at the time was working my way through her books – but when I did pick up My Lover’s Lover, I enjoyed it immensely and sought out her debut: After You’d Gone, which I adored. Ever since, I have waited eagerly for each new MO. How’s an abbreviation? And if there are any publishers listening in, I guess this goes to show that giving books away for free – paperbacks – really can bring in new readers. I’m less convinced about Kindle because it must be easy to forget they’re there, on your machine.

Back to Ms O’Farrell’s (better still?) novels. They are all great, but if I had to choose I’d say my favourites were: After You’d Gone and The Hand That First Held Mine.

Until now.

OMG, This Must Be The Place is bloody brilliant. Swearie good.

Crossing continents and three decades, it’s an expansive, sweeping, epic-yet-intimate story of a group of interrelated people. Told from multiple points of view, at the centre of the maelstrom is Daniel, a complex, flawed, beautiful man who’s made a bit of a hash of his life. In less assured, and frankly genius hands, this could have been a dog’s dinner. Instead, it is a glorious study of a marriage, people struggling to find their place in this messy but often wonderful world. Brim-full of fascinating characters (a reclusive film star; a stammering boy; an elderly woman who has recently left her husband; a film-maker’s assistant; I could go on), psychological insight and vivid storytelling, I found that as I read each section I didn’t want it to finish; I wanted to discover more about this particular character’s story and yet, simultaneously, I wanted to find out how others were faring since I’d seen them last.

No review can really do this novel justice – certainly no review I can write. So, I’ll leave by saying: Read it. It is divine.

The Official Blurb:
Meet Daniel Sullivan, a man with a complicated life. A New Yorker living in the wilds of Ireland, he has children he never sees in California, a father he loathes in Brooklyn and a wife, Claudette, who is a reclusive ex-film star given to shooting at anyone who ventures up their driveway.
He is also about to find out something about a woman he lost touch with twenty years ago, and this discovery will send him off-course, far away from wife and home. Will his love for Claudette be enough to bring him back?

This Must Be The Place is released on 17 May. Buy it here. Or at your local bookshop.

Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey rules: Guest post from historical novelist Tom Williams

Back HomeToday, please welcome another Accent Press author to my gaff. Tomorrow is the official launch of Back Home and I’ll be there in person to toast Tom’s latest offering. In the meantime, let’s raise a virtual glass here. Cheers, Tom. Over to you.

Back Home is the sixth historical novel that I’ve written but it differs from the other five in that it is not tied to a specific historical event. My son insists that I like writing historical novels because I lack imagination. It’s true that if somebody asks me where I get my ideas from, the answer is, “History books.” Indeed, part of the fun of plotting my previous novels has been making sure that my characters are in the right place, at the right time, to fit the historical record. My fictional creations meet and talk with real people, often using the words that those real people actually did use in their diaries and letters. It can be challenging, but it’s a lot of fun, and it does mean that I seldom have to ask myself, “What happens next?”

Back Home is different. My narrator, John Williamson, has returned to England after his adventures with the real James Brooke (The White Rajah) and having survived the all-too-real horrors of the Indian Mutiny (Cawnpore). Back in his native land, though, there are no great events for him to be caught up in, so I had a blank page on which to write whatever story I wanted.

In fact, I didn’t really have an entirely blank page. Cawnpore had ended with John Williamson landing in Devon and in The White Rajah I had suggested that he died in Devon, so the story has to begin and end there. But, reading history books in search of plot material, I had been caught up by tales of the Victorian underworld and these seemed to centre on London. Certainly London’s underworld is the best documented, largely because of Mayhew’s astonishing work on London Labour and the London Poor. John, I decided, would travel to London for one last adventure before retiring to live out his years peacefully in Devon. And that adventure would involve the criminal gangs of London and, in particular, Seven Dials, an area that had fascinated me for years. (I’ve written about Seven Dials and why I wanted to set the story there on Lynne Shelby’s blog)

Within that loose geographical outline, I could write whatever I wanted. I thought it was important, though, that the story reflected the tone of the previous John Williamson stories and was historically accurate. Although the events are completely fictional, the historical framework within which they take place is quite detailed – arguably more so than in the previous stories. The London that John explores is the London of Bradshaw’s 1862 Hand Book. The streets are the streets of the Post Office Directory map of London from 1857 and the people he encounters are Mayhew’s characters. The background of worries about possible invasion by the French and concern about communist revolutionaries is real. (Karl Marx features, and his character – and some of his words – are true to life.) I learned how to forge a sovereign (I really could, I think) and where to pick up a prostitute. I found the cost of a light lunch and what exhibits were popular in the British Museum. And, once I’d done all this, I let rip with a story about villains and secret policemen and government plots that is entirely fantasy.

In the end, the difference was less than I might have expected. History sets limits on what you can have your characters achieve, even when they are very much on the margins of great events. It turns out that Dr Who is right. History is governed by wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey rules. The attempted revolt of the people of Seven Dials is doomed: they will vanish from history. Enemies of the state will quietly die, possibly in not-quite-explained circumstances. Social misfits will conform or perish or, just possibly, escape back to Devon and a sort of peace. In art, as in life, history will move on remorselessly. We have less control of our characters, and our lives, than we like to think.

BLURB
In 1859, John Williamson returns from India, broken by his experiences in the Mutiny. England has become a country he hardly recognises. Industrialisation at home and military expansion abroad have made Britain into a dynamic political and economic power that dominates the world. Yet, in London, he finds the same divide between the poor and the rich that he saw in the Far East. Once again, is caught between the machinations of the powerful and the resistance of the powerless. But now that he is back home, can he escape the cycle of violence that has dogged his life?

LINKS
The White Rajah: myBook.to/WhiteRajah
Cawnpore: myBook.to/Cawnpore
Back Home: mybook.to/backhome

And here are the stories about James Burke.
Burke in the Land of Silver: myBook.to/LandofSilver
Burke and the Bedouin: mybook.to/Bedouin
Burke at Waterloo: myBook.to/BurkeWaterloo

I blog at http://thewhiterajah.blogspot.co.uk/
My Facebook author page is https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams/
My Twitter handle is @TomCW99

Bio:
Tom portraitTom Williams used to write about boring things for money. If you wanted an analysis of complaints volumes in legal services or attitudes to diversity at the BBC, then he was your man. Now he writes much more interesting books about historical characters and earns in a year about what he could make in a day back then. (This, unfortunately, is absolutely true.) He also writes a blog (http://thewhiterajah.blogspot.co.uk/) which is widely read all over the world and generates no income at all.

Besides making no money from writing, Tom makes no money out of occasionally teaching people to tango and then spends all the money he hasn’t made on going to dance in Argentina.
Tom has a wife who, fortunately, has a well-paid job, and a grown-up son who has resolved that he is never, ever, going to write anything.

Thanks for stopping by, Tom. Good luck with the rest of the tour and the book itself. May it fly off the virtual shelves.