Author Archives: sarahlking

Ethersay – Chapter 1

Ethersay is still on sale for 99p/99c for Kindle until the end of May. To entice you all to take advantage of this great deal, today I thought I’d give you a preview of chapter one. In the first part of the story we meet Rebecca who, we quickly discover, has decided to run away from some pretty heavy personal and political trauma, with unforeseen consequences…

1

The day after the referendum, my life fell apart. It wasn’t obvious at first. Initially, I couldn’t see how bad I’d allowed things to become, how much of a mess I’d made of everything. No, at first I allowed the copious amounts of alcohol and cigarettes – yes, that old habit reared its ugly head from the graveyard of my youth – to numb me, to help me feel nothing, to help me forget how much it hurt. Then I saw him and all of a sudden it hit me, like the proverbial ton of bricks. It hit me so hard that it took my breath away. I knew then that I had to run.

Of course, I realise that it wasn’t really the referendum’s fault. The referendum, or the referendum on Scottish independence, to call it by its proper name, was more the catalyst, the match which lit the touch paper I call my life. And sure as fire is fire, it ignited me, filled me with a passion I had never felt before. It was a wonderful, addictive thing, to feel so enlivened, so empowered. For months I lived on the cusp of destiny; I lapped it up, unable to satiate my thirst. If only I’d let the passion remain political, then perhaps I wouldn’t be in the mess I’m in now.

“The Prime Minister assures Tory MPs that he will cut public spending in Scotland,” a monotone voice bleats forth from the radio. It is the sort of voice I’d noticed more and more over these past few months; that insidious media voice, the one with the gift for expressing opinion as fact, half-truth as perceived knowledge.

I turn it off, swiping the button angrily with my finger. I am in no mood to listen to that right now.

The tears well up in my eyes once again as I ruminate on the events of the past few hours. How could I have been so foolish? How could I not see what was right in front of me? I brush the tears away but they continue to form, blurring my view of the road ahead. I realise that I have no idea where I am. I glance at the clock on the dashboard. It is past midnight, the sky outside the colour of pitch tar. I sigh, realising autumn is here. Mere weeks ago I could still see that majestic band of blue lingering on the northern horizon. That is one thing I love about Scottish summertime; the long days, and the way that when night finally falls, the darkness is always delectably incomplete. It reminds me of how far north Scotland is. For some reason, I like the idea of being north.

I wonder how far north I would have to drive to see those tantalising blue hues, deeper than azure, brighter than navy. I feel as though they’re calling to me as I continue to drive, pushing my foot down harder and harder on the accelerator. I remember again that I don’t know where I am, or how long I have been driving. I light a cigarette, inhaling deeply as I realise that I don’t care. I don’t care about anything anymore. I don’t care where I’m headed, or what’s behind me.

Reaching down, I put on some music. Screw the radio and its triumphalist propaganda, its pro-establishment bile echoing across the airwaves, laughing at our defeat, stamping on our hopes for change, our aspirations for progress. Since we lost, the news had felt like one big ‘ha ha, we gotcha!’ and I hadn’t the stomach for it anymore. I need to block it out. I need to get away from it. I need to get away from everything.

In my more lucid moments, I had searched the internet for ways to emigrate. I’d learnt all about Australia and Canada and what I’d need to do to go there. I’d daydreamed about jumping on a plane, or indeed a boat, just like many of my Scottish ancestors had undoubtedly done, braving the rough seas in the hope of finding a new life, a better life. Unlike my ancestors, however, I know that there is no promised land, no greener grass on the other side of a vast ocean. The modern world is small, and known, and infinitely disappointing. In the end, I’d shut the lid of my laptop, listening to its short, sharp click as it dawned on me that I might not have the desire to stay, but neither did I have the will to leave.

Yet leaving was exactly what I’d done. I’d jumped in my car and run away, maybe not as far away as Australia, but far enough to put a safe distance between myself and my life and all the people I love.

“I mean loved,” I say aloud. The past tense is definitely more appropriate for some of them now.

I groan as the heavy drumbeat of Muse’s Uprising begins to play. I used to love that song; now I can’t bear to hear it. I recall how he had told me that it was his favourite song. I remember how he took me back to his flat, how we put on some music and drank wine and danced. In my mind’s eye, I see him grow animated as this song begins to play, his singing touchingly out of tune as he bellows the lyrics, air guitar firmly in hand. Decisively, I press the skip button. I can’t stand to be reminded of him right now.

“London Grammar. That’s better,” I say, finding immediate respite in a more peaceful melody. Respite, but not solace. More tears fall. Why can I not stop crying? The road in front becomes a blur once again as I stub out my cigarette. It’s a terrible habit; I shouldn’t have started smoking again. Another bad choice, but it’s the least of my worries now.

I feel my eyelids begin to grow heavy. It’s late; I should find somewhere to pull over and rest. I squint as I look through my windscreen, hoping to find somewhere sensible to stop. The road ahead is winding and narrow, its surface uneven under the wheels of my little car. A country road. Great; I am in the middle of nowhere. In an effort to keep myself from falling asleep, I wind my window down, allowing the cool night air to refresh me. I breathe in deeply, thinking that I can smell the sea; its delicious fragrance fills my car, the scent of salt and seaweed surrounds me.

Metallica’s The Unforgiven. The song is painfully appropriate. I hit the skip button again, my hands shaking as I start to feel chilled by the night air. I begin to long for my warm bed, the comforting familiarity of my soft sheets inviting me into peaceful slumber.

“Rebecca, stop it,” I chastise myself. “You can’t go home. There’s nothing left for you there now.”

Talking to myself. Isn’t that the first sign of madness? I laugh bitterly, sorrowfully. I am right, though. I can’t go home. It isn’t my home anymore. The gentle rustling sound made by the full bin bags flung carelessly on the back seat is a testament to that.

My car’s engine rumbles, a low, incessant hum, like bees busy at work in a swarming hive. I fling the car faster and faster along the undulating road. Live dangerously, die smiling – someone said that to me once. I feel my face crumple once again. I don’t think I want to die. I’m just not sure I want to live, either.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see something run into the path of my speeding car. A deer? A grouse? A person? My heart pounds hard in my chest as I slam my foot on the brake. I can’t kill something, or someone, today. This cannot be how today ends. Today has been horrible enough, without this. I swerve, desperately trying to avoid whichever poor creature has found itself in front of me. There is a terrible thud, followed by a pained squeal. Beneath my hands, I feel my steering wheel become heavy, useless. My tyres screech, twisted and aimless as my car leaves the road. I close my eyes as I feel myself turning, spinning. It is a bizarre sensation, momentary weightlessness followed by crushing pain as my body is shoved against the hard surface of my car. I try to scream but no sound comes out of my mouth. I lick my lips, the metallic flavour of blood overpowering me.

Foolishly, I struggle, trying to free myself. I hit my head against the roof of the car as it crushes down above me – or below me, for in the dark I cannot tell which way round I am. I am dizzy now, the warming sensation of blood as it trickles down my face making me feel simultaneously panicked and drowsy. I begin to slip away, my injured head lulling me to sleep with fantasies of climbing between those warm, soft sheets back home.

My last thought is that he is there beside me, his arms around me as he whispers sweet sentiments in my ear. I see his face, I hear his voice; I feel the rough bristles of his beard against my skin. Then he is gone, and everything fades to black.


Ethersay is available from Amazon now.

Ethersay Sale

Good news, folks! Ethersay is on sale at 99p/99c on Kindle until the end of May. So, if you haven’t yet had chance to read my contemporary novel which I released in 2017, now is your chance to snap it up at a bargain price.

Not heard of Ethersay? Want to know what it’s about? Check out the blurb:

Ethersay Cover

“The day after the referendum, my life fell apart…”

The day after the Scottish independence referendum in 2014, Glaswegian Yes activist Rebecca Owen decides to run away. After being involved in a car accident she is knocked unconscious and when she wakes, she finds herself inexplicably marooned on an isolated Scottish island, Ethersay.

Suffering from memory loss, Rebecca finds herself drawn into the island’s mysteries, particularly those surrounding the strange disappearance of a young woman, Delilah Berry, whose fate seems to be inextricably intertwined with her own. As Rebecca draws closer to the truth about Delilah, she is forced to confront what happened to her in Glasgow, and everything she lost, with devastating consequences…

A stirring tale of passion, loss and betrayal, Ethersay is a novel about the search for truth, but also the pain of remembering.

What readers have said:

“A book you can lose yourself in on a winter day. I can honestly say I’ve never read anything like it yet. Buy it!”

“A gem of a book. Couldn’t put it down from the minute I opened it.”

“The twists and turns of this book are numerous and heart breaking.”

“What a terrific novel. It had me hooked from the first page and I read it in two sittings as I didn’t want to put it aside until the mystery of Ethersay was revealed.”

“The way King infused Scotland’s political history into the story was brilliant, and all the mystery, suspense, and drama kept me intrigued and clutching my chest at times.”

Ethersay is available from Amazon now. If you’ve previously read and enjoyed Ethersay, please share and spread the word!

 

Book Review: Spin by K.J. Farnham

Sixteen-year-old Jenna Kemp is a typical high school girl, complete with a loyal group of friends and a seemingly understanding boyfriend. But when the demons from Jenna’s childhood resurface, she’s suddenly spinning out of control–drinking, partying–anything to numb the pain of the past. After distancing herself from her friends and befriending an outcast, her friends and family start questioning and judging her choices. 

But when Jenna doesn’t come home one night, her friends and family realize it’s more than just adolescent rebellion. Jenna’s mysterious disappearance proves that there’s more on the line than they realized. As they sift through a series of her personal diaries, the truth becomes terrifying. Will Jenna’s final diary entry reveal the greatest mystery of all–her whereabouts?

K.J. Farnham’s latest novel is a young adult story with a mystery at its heart. After reading and enjoying all of Farnham’s previous works, including her last YA novel Don’t Call Me Kit Kat, I was really looking forward to getting stuck into my copy of Spin, and I definitely was not disappointed. Spin is a pacey, edgy read which immediately grabbed me; a compulsive page-turner which kept me up way past my bedtime on the several nights it took me to read it.

The mystery of Jenna Kemp’s disappearance and whereabouts is pieced together in a narrative which moves between past and present, and between several different characters’ points of view. This jigsaw-building structure is complex but expertly crafted by Farnham, who uses this format to reveal the story gradually, weaving the details of Jenna’s life in the months before her disappearance in amongst the pain and confusion of her family and friends in the aftermath. I particularly like the way Farnham employs contrasting narratives and tenses as the story moves between the past and the present. For the reader, the use of first person and present tense gives a deep and immediate insight into the responses of Jenna’s loved ones, whilst the use of third person and past tense for Jenna’s part of the story keeps her, rather aptly, at arms length.

As in her previous YA work, Farnham’s Spin deals with some difficult topics, delving deeply into some complex emotional and mental health issues as Jenna’s story unfolds. Without wishing to give too much away about the plot (and therefore the mystery), I think that Farnham’s handling of this tough subject matter is commendable for its realism and sensitivity. The story pivots around a number of strong, well-drawn characters; all flawed in one way or another and not all likable, but all easily imagined as they play their various parts in steering the reader towards answering the question: where is Jenna Kemp? The answer, when it comes, is unexpected, shocking, and a fitting end to a very tough tale.

A gripping, suspense-filled read. Five stars.

Spin is available on Amazon UK now. To find out more about K.J. Farnham’s work, check out her website or Goodreads page. 

Book Review: The Comet Seekers by Helen Sedgwick

Two lives. One night sky.

Róisín and François first meet in the snowy white expanse of Antarctica, searching for a comet overhead.

While Róisín grew up in a tiny village in Ireland, ablaze with a passion for science and the skies, François was raised by his restless young mother, who dreamt of new worlds but was unable to turn her back on her past.

As we loop back through their lives we see their paths cross as they come closer and closer to this moment, brought together by the infinite possibilities of the night sky.

I’ll admit that I wasn’t actually looking for something new to read when I came across this book. I was in a shop in town, browsing the books for my kids when my attention was caught by the adults section, and by a cover with two shadowy figures and a comet overhead. I picked it up, read the blurb and thought, ‘hmm, intriguing’. I wasn’t wrong.

This is a story which draws the reader in from the very start. Beautifully structured, each chapter loops through time and characters at a pace which is impressive but never confusing. The focus of the story is on Francois and Roisin, and those in their lives, past and present, and how they both arrive at a moment in Antarctica, gazing at the night sky.  Written in the third person present tense, each part of the story takes place when there is a comet visible overhead. As the reader comes to learn, the comets are the tethering link between all characters, the living and the dead.

If the well-structured plot drew me in, then it was the style which had me hooked. Sedgwick has a masterful ability to express a great deal of beauty in just a few words. Her poetic descriptions of comets and of the universe are clearly heartfelt, while the picture she paints of each character is deep and perceptive. All this results in a story which is sincere, engaging, and a considerable emotional rollercoaster for the reader. There are parts of this story which made me smile, and equally parts which made me feel as though I could weep. And I suppose that’s the point.

An impulse buy which I’m very glad I made. Five stars.

The Problem with Time

Last week my copy of the twentieth anniversary edition of Mslexia magazine dropped through the door. Mslexia, for those who haven’t heard of it before, is a quarterly magazine for women who write. I’ve been subscribing to it for some time now after it was recommended to me by a playwright friend of mine, and always find the topical articles, industry insights and showcases of writing enjoyable and often thought-provoking to read.

This quarter’s edition features an article which really resonated with me. It’s entitled ‘The Tests of Time’, and begs an important question. ‘Most women work a double shift, of day job and caring responsibilities,’ the writer Aki Schilz states. ‘So how are we to fit in a third shift of writing?’ Yes, I thought – how, indeed.

After reading the article, I began to think about my own life and the challenges to finding the space and time to write which I experience, and how well (or otherwise) I overcome these. Like so many women who write, I have work and family responsibilities. These responsibilities are never static; instead they evolve as, for example, children grow older and jobs change, and thus my writing practices too have had to adapt.

When I started writing my first novel, The Gisburn Witch, back in late 2013, my children were younger and I worked only at the weekends. This meant that on weekday evenings the children would be in bed by 7pm, leaving me a full evening to write. I wrote a lot in the evenings back then, and thinking back my routine was very fixed and predictable. I also had time in the day when my children were napping or at nursery to grab an hour or two to write. This routine is now a thing of the past: evenings are trickier as my kids go to bed later, often they have evening activities, and indeed I now have a different job with more varied hours and it’s not uncommon for me to be out at work in the evenings as well as during the day.

These days my writing routine has to be more fluid (I’m going to use that word as it sounds better than ‘erratic’). So, what impact does this have on my writing? Well, for one thing, it’s got progressively slower. Those who follow my blog regularly will know that I’m currently working on my forthcoming novel The House at Kirtlebeck End; it’s almost a year since I wrote the first chapter in that story and I’ve still got about another 40,000 words to write. Usually I aim to write a novel in around nine months – this is something I managed to do with A Woman Named Sellers and Ethersay, but in recent times it’s become apparent that this is no longer a realistic target.

I also find that having to be creative about carving out time makes getting into the right frame of mind for writing very hit or miss. There are days when I write a lot, when I feel good about what I’ve put down on the page and when I feel a sense of achievement. And there are other days when after everything else is done and I sit down to write, I either hate what comes out or, more often, I have to accept that it just isn’t happening, that I’m drained and I’ve nothing left with which to create. That’s frustrating and it’s hard because I feel then like I’m the barrier to my own work.

Of course, it isn’t all doom and gloom. Learning to be adaptable means that I’m very good now at writing anywhere. I don’t have to be in my own home or my own room to write, but I can comfortably take my laptop into a busy cafe or noisy soft play and just get on with it. When I’m in the right frame of mind for writing, I’m also better at using the time I do have to write, at getting myself immediately focused on the task of putting words on the page. Tiredness might be a problem, but procrastination isn’t.

On reflection, I think the key for me is to recognise that there are constraints and pressures on my writing time, and that those are things I cannot change, although those constraints themselves will evolve over time. What I can do, however, is value the time I do get, put it to best use, and focus on what I do manage to do, rather than fretting over what I didn’t do. And, on that note, I’m off to do some writing.

An Accidental Week

Happy Saturday! For me at least, it’s been something of a long week, but by no means an uneventful one. It’s also been a bit unlucky. Over the last seven days I’ve managed to hit myself in the face with an I pad resulting in a bit of a colourful right cheekbone (thank goodness for make up), and I’ve got yet another cold which has caused laryngitis. Yesterday evening I lost my voice completely; thankfully my voice seems to be coming back now but squeaking at my family is far from ideal!

Fortunately, my bad luck hasn’t affected my writing, which has been progressing well. This week I hit 65,000 words in my first draft of The House at Kirtlebeck End. I shared this teaser extract on social media:

I hope this has you intrigued! I’m really excited about this book and the more I write, the more I can’t wait to share it with you. I aim to have the first draft finished in the next couple of months.

I also took some time to catch up on how my other books are doing, and noticed that The Gisburn Witch has a new review on Amazon UK. It was lovely to see that a reader has given it five stars and left some really positive comments about the book. It’s no exaggeration to say that good reviews really do make my day.

The Pendle Witch Trials have been getting quite a lot of attention again, generated by big new releases in the literary world such as Stacey Halls’ The Familiars, and television shows such as Channel 5 (UK)’s Digging Up Britain’s Past. I have finally found some time to catch up with this series and watch the episode about the Pendle witches. The episode focused on an archaeological dig to try to locate the remains of the lost Malkin Tower, home of the Device family. I won’t spoil it by telling you if they were successful or not, but it is good to see that after hundreds of years this tragic tale is still attracting interest and attention. If you want to find out more about the TV show, check out the review on the Radio Times website.

I hope you all have a lovely weekend – I’m off to try and get The House at Kirtlebeck End up to 70,000 words before Sunday night! It’s all about setting goals…!

 

A healthy dose of motivation

A few weeks ago, I entered a tweet your pitch competition on Twitter, under the hashtag #XpoNorth. Authors based in Scotland were asked to pitch their work, even if it was incomplete, and told that agents and publishers would be watching. I’m not on Twitter all that often, and this particular contest would have escaped my notice entirely if it hadn’t been for a cursory flick through my news feed and seeing a pitch by a fellow author. Since my current work in progress, The House at Kirtlebeck End, isn’t complete and I’m not at the pitching stage as yet, I had to give a lot of thought as to what to say about my book in so few words! In the end I made two attempts at it, one of which was this:

I tweeted, added my hashtag and promptly forgot all about it, if I’m honest. It was a Friday, the weekend was looming, the kids were home and family life beckoned. Then, a few days later, I logged on to Twitter again and saw this:

I’m not going to lie, readers; my heart sang just a little bit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not getting carried away. After all a pitch is just an advert, a hook, and not a full manuscript. Heck, I don’t even have a completed manuscript yet. But nonetheless this was interest from the publishing industry. As an author who has been through the ‘submit, wait, hope, silence’ process a good few times, this represents progress.

Above all, it gave me the kick I needed to make me throw everything I’ve got into getting this book finished.

I have, of course, sent a query to the publisher – not an easy task for a book which isn’t written yet, by the way! I’ve yet to hear anything, and I might not hear anything, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter. This interest was exactly what I needed to motivate me to get this book written, and if this reply to my tweet ultimately serves no greater purpose than that, I’ll still be happy.

Getting off to a good start…

Happy new year! After a lovely festive break I have finally persuaded myself back into the writing room to get on with some writing, and some blogging. At the end of last year I promised you a post on my 2019 goals, and as this is the first post of the new year, setting out my targets for the months ahead seems like a good place to start.

So, let’s get on with it, shall we?

Goal 1 – Finish writing The House at Kirtlebeck End: I’ve mentioned previously on my blog that progress on my new contemporary novel has been a wee bit slow. However, I ended 2018 with it roughly half-written and have made completing it my top priority for 2019.

Goal 2 – Submit The House at Kirtlebeck End to agents/publishers: Well, what have I got to lose? Having been through the querying process before with a couple of my other books, I know that this can take some time. Nonetheless, I believe in this book and its ability to have a broad appeal, and so I owe it to myself and my work to give it the best possible chance of success. And, if it doesn’t get picked up, I can of course publish it myself.

Goal 3 – Research my next historical novel: I’m in the early stages of doing this, having tentatively decided to try my hand at writing about Jane Welsh Carlyle, wife of the nineteenth century Scottish novelist and historian Thomas Carlyle. It’s early days but I would like to have completed my research by the end of the year so that I can begin writing in 2020. Besides, research will keep me busy while I patiently await replies for Goal 2…

Goal 4 – Keep writing and submitting to magazines/journals: I’m keen to build on last year’s successes here, and so will keep writing shorter pieces whenever the mood takes me.

And there you have it. 2019’s goals are, I believe, perfectly achievable but even so, writing and researching is time-consuming and therefore I am going to need to stay focused. With this in mind, I have decided not to set myself a marketing-related goal this year. The past few years have taught me that marketing and book promotion, whilst useful, can be a real draw on an author’s time and energies, and I simply don’t have time to do everything. That’s not to say I won’t still be blogging or posting on social media, but inevitably there will be less promo activity from me. So please, in 2019 more than ever before, if you enjoy one of my books then tell a friend, write a review, share a post, retweet me! Organic reach and good old fashioned recommendations will be more vital for me than ever 😉

In 2018 I did pretty well with my goals, achieving most and getting them all at least underway. Hopefully I can do the same in 2019. Now, back to the writing den I go – The House at Kirtlebeck End isn’t going to write itself…

Favourite Books of 2018

With 2018 fast drawing to a close, I thought that today I would reflect upon the books I’ve read during the last twelve months and select my favourites. This year, for the first time, I participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge, setting myself the modest target of reading twenty books in a year. This doesn’t sound like much, but as a lot of writers will tell you, when you’re working hard on your own stories it can be tough to find the time to read a lot! In the end I exceeded my target, reading 24 books between January and December. With a little over a week to go until the new year and a hefty non-fiction book underway, it seems unlikely that I’ll complete anything else before Hogmanay. So, without any further ado, here are my favourite books of 2018!

Warrior Daughter by Janet Paisley

Genre: Historical Fiction

Blurb: Inspired by first century AD warrior women, Janet Paisley’s Warrior Daughter is a gripping adventure about one young woman’s struggle to survive in the harsh Celtic wilderness.

2,000 years ago on the Isle of Skye, a warrior is born.

Daughter of an Iron Age warrior queen, Skaaha is wild, headstrong and revered. But she is also a child, and when a chariot race leaves the queen dead and her menacing rival Mara in her place, Skaaha’s charmed life lies in ruins.

Vulnerable, her future imperilled, Skaaha seeks to forge a life beyond the new queen’s reach. But with rumour, fear and danger sweeping the island, she cannot remain unmoved. Broken by brutal misfortune, alone in a world of mistrust, Skaaha must unearth the courage to confront her enemies in defence of her people.

Illuminated by the great Celtic fire festivals, Warrior Daughter is inspired by the historical Scathach, a fierce warrior woman of the first century AD and forerunner to the equally ferocious Boudicca.

Rating: Five stars. An epic, heart-stopping prehistorical adventure which would work wonderfully as a film. Read my full review  here.

A Case of Serendipity by KJ Farnham

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb: Ruth Bateman is at her wit’s end. If Bucky’s Beans doesn’t stop spamming her phone with discount codes for frou-frou java concoctions, she’s going to flip. After multiple failed attempts to unsubscribe, Ruth takes to the company’s Facebook page to vent her frustration over the never-ending texts.

When attorney, Henry Mancuso, stumbles upon Ruth’s complaint, he has no idea that a simple Facebook scroll is going to change his life. Now, he has to get Ruth to agree to a class action lawsuit when she’s just looking for some peace on her mobile device—not a drawn-out case against a coffeehouse giant.

As Ruth and Henry battle the legal waters, a friendship full of fun and spontaneity blooms. But could something more be brewing between these two and this coffeehouse case?

Rating: Five Stars. If you like romance without erotica, well-rounded, likable characters and uplifting plots then this book is for you. Highly recommended. Read my full review here.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Genre: Young Adult

Blurb: Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Rating: Five stars. A highly entertaining, relevant and powerful read. Read my full review here.

Poets Pass by Hillary DeVisser

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb: Dr. Avery O’Gara is a psychiatrist who doesn’t trust men any further than she can throw them. She prefers her boundaries high and her trysts without emotional ties. She likes her privacy and values her independence above all else. Avery’s home in the country is her sanctuary, her escape from the emotional overload of her job. Her sense of peace is destroyed, beginning with the appearance of muddy boot prints outside her window.

Recently divorced, Officer Jake Marcovic needs a change of scenery. He leaves Chicago and his manipulative ex-wife behind for family and a much slower pace of living. Relocating back to his rural roots, he sees women as money-hungry opportunists and avoids commitment like the plague. His focus is on establishing himself in his once-familiar community and enjoying the women who appreciate a man in uniform.

When high walls are built up to protect hearts, what happens when they come crashing down?

Rating: Five stars. The third installment of the Coal Country series, this is a heartfelt romance with just the right amount of suspense. Hillary DeVisser was one of my featured indie authors earlier this year – you can read that post and find out more here.

The Wages of Sin by Kaite Welsh

Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Crime

Blurb: Sarah Gilchrist has fled London and a troubled past to join the University of Edinburgh’s medical school in 1892, the first year it admits women. She is determined to become a doctor despite the misgivings of her family and society, but Sarah quickly finds plenty of barriers at school itself: professors who refuse to teach their new pupils, male students determined to force out their female counterparts, and—perhaps worst of all—her female peers who will do anything to avoid being associated with a fallen woman.

Desperate for a proper education, Sarah turns to one of the city’s ramshackle charitable hospitals for additional training. The St Giles’ Infirmary for Women ministers to the downtrodden and drunk, the thieves and whores with nowhere else to go. In this environment, alongside a group of smart and tough teachers, Sarah gets quite an education. But when Lucy, one of Sarah’s patients, turns up in the university dissecting room as a battered corpse, Sarah finds herself drawn into a murky underworld of bribery, brothels, and body snatchers.

Painfully aware of just how little separates her own life from that of her former patient’s, Sarah is determined to find out what happened to Lucy and bring those responsible for her death to justice. But as she searches for answers in Edinburgh’s dank alleyways, bawdy houses and fight clubs, Sarah comes closer and closer to uncovering one of Edinburgh’s most lucrative trades, and, in doing so, puts her own life at risk…

Rating: Five stars. A highly enjoyable read – I am looking forward to the next installment in the series already. Read my full review here.

The Bachelors by E S Carter

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

Blurb: It is a well-known fact that a single man without a penny to his name must be in want of a rich wife.
Darcy, Bingham and Wick Austen are about to lose the family business.
Without a miracle or a substantial cash investment, Austen’s – the bookstore chain that was established by their great-great grandfather – will go into receivership.
A chance encounter at a charity ball with the attractive, single and filthy-rich Bennet sisters has Wick Austen convincing his brothers that the way to save their livelihoods rests at the Bennet’s red-soled-shoe clad feet.
But these three women are far more than your average, simpering, society-loving heiresses.

Darcy isn’t so sure about his youngest brother’s plan, especially when the smart, feisty and ridiculously sexy Eliza Bennet shoots down his advances in a ball of flames, and accuses him of being a proud and egotistical jerk.
Meanwhile, Bingham meets the sweet and approachable Jane, and insta-love ensues, and Wick gets used up and spat out by the youngest and most flighty sister, Lydia.
Will the Austen bachelors secure a wife and save the family name or will they become the Bennet sister’s latest conquests?

Rating: Five stars. A sassy modern tale inspired by Jane Austen’s classic novel, Pride and Prejudice. In addition to The Bachelors, E S Carter is the author of the Love by Numbers and Red Order series – more about these over on Goodreads.

Nasty Women by 404 Ink

Genre: Non-Fiction

Blurb: With intolerance and inequality increasingly normalised by the day, it’s more important than ever for women to share their experiences. We must hold the truth to account in the midst of sensationalism and international political turmoil. Nasty Women is a collection of essays, interviews and accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century.

People, politics, pressure, punk – From working class experience to racial divides in Trump’s America, being a child of immigrants, to sexual assault, Brexit, pregnancy, contraception, identity, family, finding a voice online, role models and more, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Zeba Talkhani, Chitra Ramaswamy are just a few of the incredible women who share their experience here.

Keep telling your stories, and tell them loud.

Rating: Five stars. An excellent and thought-provoking read. Read my full review here.

Glasdrum by Fiona MacBain

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Blurb: One town. Five women. Dark events.

Life is not easy for the women of Glasdrum…

A skeleton is unearthed, too many walkers are falling to their deaths off mountain cliffs, and the local pub doesn’t know how to make a decent raspberry daiquiri.

Single mother Megan is a hill runner and cannabis dealer, an unlikely friend of well-to-do Finella, whose confident appearance hides struggles with her unpleasant husband and unruly children.

Vicky is Finella’s child-minder, and when Finella’s husband starts digging about in her past, he discovers she has a secret. How far will she go to protect it?

Glasdrum is a culture shock to Londoner Sarah, but she finds friendship with local journalist Catriona, recently returned to her home town but haunted by memories from her past.

The women battle through daily life while the spectre of death looms over the town. Could one of them be living with a killer?

Rating: Five stars. A gripping read, perfect for enjoying from the comfort of your sun lounger. Read my full review here.

And there you have it! This is my final post of this year; therefore I’d like to take the opportunity to thank you all for your support during 2018, and to wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. 

The Year in Review

Back in January, I set myself five writing goals for 2018 and posted them up on my blog. I decided at the time not to call these resolutions; my logic being that in doing so I would be setting myself up for a fall, that it would be better to aim to do certain things rather than solemnly swear that I would do so.

I suppose you could call that letting myself off the hook in advance! Nonetheless, let’s see how I did, shall we?

Goal 1: Finish the third book in my Witches of Pendle series

Success! As regular readers of my blog will know, not only did I finish writing it, but I published the third instalment The Pendle Witch Girl back in the summer.

Goal 2: Get working on my next contemporary novel

I’m pleased to report that I made some progress on this particular goal during 2018. Currently I have written about 40,000 words for my contemporary story, The House at Kirtlebeck End. Progress has been slower than I would have liked; however, the story is really starting to take shape and work will continue into 2019. So, watch this space…

Goal 3: Start researching for my next historical novel

Ah. I haven’t made much headway with this one, if I’m honest.  This is mainly because my focus this year has been very much on goals 1 and 2, but also because I have struggled a little to decide which historical fiction project to concentrate on. I’m still reading around a couple of potential subjects so at the moment I’m just seeing where the research leads me. I suspect that once I have finished writing The House at Kirtlebeck End I’ll make a choice about which story I want to write next. Whatever happens, I’m ready to get my teeth into something historical for my next book and I feel very excited about a number of different options I have swirling around my brain right now.

Goal 4: Get some short stories into print/online publications

This goal was probably the hardest to achieve because unlike the others, it was out of my control and very much in the hands of the editors of the many magazines and journals out there. As I mentioned when I set this goal for myself, in 2017 I had written a lot of short stories and tried to get them published without much success. I’m pleased to say that 2018 was far more successful in this regard, with 3 of my short stories being published online and one also finding its way into an anthology of dark literature. Check out my other work page for the links to these stories.

Goal 5: Keep talking about my work

Almost 12 months ago I included this goal on my list so that I would be conscious of it, as I recognised that ‘talking up’ my work isn’t exactly a strength of mine. In 2018 I tried hard with this, maintaining an active blog and social media channels, running a successful marketing campaign for the release of The Pendle Witch Girl and participating in a couple of author interviews. Overall, I think I didn’t do too badly with this.

So, in terms of writing goals, I’d say 2018 has been a pretty successful year. Like any occupation, sometimes being a writer can feel like an uphill struggle, and it is easy to focus on the negatives, the things which you haven’t achieved, the rejections and so forth. It is good, therefore, to take stock, to think about what you did manage to do and how far you’ve come in a year. And I have to say, I feel fairly cheerful after writing this! In January I’ll be back with my list of goals for 2019.