Welcome to the rollicking world of Cass Claymore in Antiques and Alibis

Today I’d like to welcome Wendy H. Jones to Ascroft, eh? Wendy is here to tell us about her new crime novel, Antiques and Alibis.

Welcome Wendy. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

Antiques and AlibisWHJ: Antiques and Alibis is the first book in a brand-new humorous crime series set in Scotland. It is not a series, or indeed a book which takes itself seriously. The book description will give you a flavour of the general tone of the book and the series.

Cass Claymore, a red headed, motorbike riding, ex-ballerina inherits a Detective Agency, and accidentally employs an ex-con dwarf and an octogenarian. Hired by a client who should know better, Cass has no leads, no clue and a complete inability to solve a case. Still a girl needs to eat and her highbred client’s offering good money. Join her as, with bungling incompetence, she follows a trail littered with missing antique teddies, hapless crooks, a misplaced Lord of the Realm and dead bodies. Will Cass, and Scotland, survive?

One reviewer described it as ‘a fast-paced and zany read, packed with hilarious observations about people and life’.

What prompted you to write about this theme or topic?

WHJ: I’ve always enjoyed Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series and had a hankering to write books in a similar vein, set in Scotland. With less exploding cars, of course. We’d soon run out of cars if we got through them at that rate. I set out trying to think of the zaniest plot and characters I could come up with. I wanted the book to be completely different from my usual Tartan Noir Type Books. I also wanted the character of Cass Claymore to be completely different from Detective Inspector Shona McKenzie, the star of my DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries. This allowed me to let my imagination run wild.

How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?

WHJ: Following on from the previous answer I let my imagination run wild when it came to the characters. I jotted down all the mad traits I could put into one character and then went from there. I ended up with an ex-ballerina who rode a motorbike, knew nothing about being a detective and for some reason I just pictured her as red headed. Here red hair and Scottish background gives plenty of scope for her to be feisty and not suffer fools gladly. Thus, Cass Claymore was born. Due to the fact she doesn’t have an earthly clue what she’s doing, she needed an assistant. This needed to be someone who would be useful but not take over. This led to the idea of an ex-con. Before I’d fully worked it all out, in strolled Crammond McQuillan, Quill to his friends. A dapper, ex-con dwarf, he insisted he was joining me and staying.

I love all my characters, but have a particular soft spot for Cass, Quill, and Shona from my other series. They’ve all wormed their way into my affections and seem like real people to me. They’re family. I need to give a special shout out to Eagal, the hound from hell. Cass inherits him along with the agency. He’s more trouble than her clients.

Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?

WHJ: I have absolutely no clue. It is so zany it just rattles along and writes itself. All I can say is my mind is one weird place to be I started off with the idea of a missing antique teddy. Bear with me here (pun intended) it gets a lot wilder than that. At the beginning of the series Cass is bored, running out of money, and desperate for a case. The case of the missing teddy turns up, and she’s so desperate she takes it. This is the springboard for an adventure that takes her into situations she could never imagine.

How do you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

WHJ: I know Dundee, and indeed Scotland, well so I’m able to describe the settings well. I do visit most of the locations I talk about, so I can get a feeling of the sight, sounds and smells of the area. With regards to characters, I ask them one hundred questions about themselves and use that to get to know them well. When I know someone that well they come to life as I write. Also, they add in their own little quirks, and will do things I hadn’t even thought of. The characters tend to take over and develop their own personalities as the book, or books, progress.

What research do you do to provide background information for the novel?

WHJ: For Antiques and Alibis, I visited Aberdeen and a number of Scottish Castles. I also had to research information about being a private detective, ballet and motorbikes. It’s a grand life when visiting castles, watching ballet on the stage and screen and riding on the back of a motorbike can be classed as work.

Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?

WHJ: This is a book which does not take itself seriously. It’s a mystery with liberal dollops of humour and a whirlwind plot. Reviewers say they barely drew breath as they settled in and joined the wild ride. If you like crime and humour, then this is the book for you. Readers also get a real flavour of Scotland, and a peek into the lives of the aristocracy.

Thanks for answering my questions, Wendy, and good luck with Antiques and Alibis, the first book in the Cass Claymore Investigates series.

For more information about Wendy, please visit her website. You can find Wendy on Facebook, Bookbub and Twitter (@WendyHJones).

Antiques and Alibis is available online on Amazon. Visit Wendy’s Amazon page for more information.

Author Photo Wendy H. JonesAbout Wendy H. Jones: Wendy is an award-winning Scottish Crime Writer who lives and sets her books in Dundee, Scotland. She is also an International Public Speaker talking about writing and marketing. Killer’s Crew, the first book in her DI Shona McKenzie Mysteries was the Winner of the Books Go Social Book of the Year 2017. The Dagger’s Curse, the first book in her Young Adult mystery series, was a finalist in the Woman Alive Magazine Readers Choice Award 2017. She has signed a publishing contract with Malcolm Down and Sarah Grace Publishing for the first book in a children’s picture book series, based on a true story about a little Buffalo in Scotland. The first, Bertie’s Great Escape will be released late October 2018. When she’s not writing, Wendy spends her time travelling the world. She is also President of the Scottish Association of Writers and co-founder of Crime at the Castle, a Scottish literary festival held at Glamis Castle Scotland.

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Posted in Archives, August 2018 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Digging into a Hiro Hattori mystery

Today I’d like to welcome Susan Spann to Ascroft, eh? Susan is here to tell us about her new novel, Trial on Mount Koya.

Welcome Susan. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

Trial Mt Koya coverSS: Although TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA is the sixth Hiro Hattori mystery, it’s designed to stand alone, so readers don’t have to be familiar with Hiro and Father Mateo’s previous adventures to enjoy this book.

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

SS: TRIAL ON MOUNT KOYA is my love letter to Agatha Christie’s AND THEN THERE WERE NONE—a book I’ve loved since childhood—and also inspired by my love for Mount Kōya, a sacred peak that has been described as “the beating heart of Shingon Buddhism in Japan.”

I first traveled to Kōya three years ago, and knew the moment I set eyes on its thousand year-old temples, towering trees, and spectacular mountain vistas that I needed to take my characters—and readers—to visit this amazing place.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

SS: I strive for the greatest possible accuracy in my historical details. In the past, I’ve changed entire plots to avoid deviations from history, and whenever possible I try to weave historical events and historical figures into my novels—taking care to portray them as accurately as possible.

Each of my novels involves a mystery set against a different aspect of 16th century Japanese culture, in part because I love to explore (and share) the unique and exciting details of life in this special time and place. Like many readers, I love to feel immersed in a historical time and place, and I love it more when the details are correct—so I strive for accuracy in my novels, too.

What research did you do for this book?

SS: In addition to reading a dozen different books on everything from Shingon Buddhism to the history of Kōyasan, I made three trips to Kōya, where I stayed in thousand year-old temples, ate shojin ryori (Buddhist temple cuisine—a vegetarian style of cooking that’s also my favorite kind of food in Japan), and talked with Shingon priests. I also traveled to several other locations in Japan to look at statues and other original artistic representations of the Jusanbutsu—the Buddhist judges of the afterlife—to ensure that I had the details right.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

SS: Writing fictitious versions of real historical figures is a great responsibility—these people really lived, and I feel the burden of doing justice to their legacies and lives. It’s one thing to put words in the mouth of a character I created—I feel the weight of history, accuracy, and culture there as well, but if I give my detective a character flaw, I’m not misrepresenting who a person truly was.

On the other hand, it’s exciting to get to imagine how famous people like ninja commander Hattori Hanzō and Oda Nobunaga—a Japanese warlord who sought to become the shogun and rule Japan—might have acted, thought, and felt.

At the end of the day, I have yet to write a character that was easy, or that I didn’t love by the time the book was finished.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

SS: When I research a place and time, I try to involve all five of my senses: On Kōyasan, I attended the fire ceremony and watched the flames transform the prayers written on wooden sticks into smoke that carried those prayers to heaven. I smelled the spicy incense and the wood smoke from the fire, heard the drums and chants, and felt the roughness of tatami mats beneath my knees. After the ceremony, I ate the food these priests have eaten for a thousand years—the sour pickled plums, the tofu made from savory sesame seeds instead of soy, and the roasted tea that lingers on the tongue. When writing my novels, I try to include as many sensory experiences as I can, to transport the readers to that time and place.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

SS: Although my protagonists are both male (a necessary choice, because of the greater mobility offered to men of samurai rank in 16th century Japan) I love that I have the ability to include realistic but unexpected female characters in my novels—for example, Trial on Mount Koya includes a female samurai trained as a warrior (the Japanese term for these women is onna-bugeisha). Many readers don’t realize the wide range of activities women could engage in during this time in Japanese history—women were business owners, sake merchants, and moneylenders, as well as warriors. Even though such women were in the minority in many cases, they did exist, and I love to include them in my novels.

I strive to include a wide range of characters—male and female, old and young, from all social classes and all walks of life. Not only does it make the books more accurate, but I think it makes them more interesting too.

Thanks for answering my questions, Susan, and good luck with Trial on Mount Koya, your latest novel in the Hiro Hattori mystery series.

For more information about Susan, please visit her website. You can find Susan on Facebook and Twitter (@SusanSpann), where she founded the #PubLaw hashtag to provide legal and business information for writers.

Trial on Mount Koya is available from online retailers, including the following:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

Trial_Mt Koya_Susan SpannAbout Susan Spann: Susan is the award-winning author of the Hiro Hattori mystery novels, featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo. She began reading precociously and voraciously from her preschool days in Santa Monica, California, and as a child read everything from National Geographic to Agatha Christie.

A yearning to experience different cultures sent Susan to Tufts University in Boston, where she immersed herself in the history and culture of China and Japan. After earning an undergraduate degree in Asian Studies, Susan diverted to law school. She returned to California to practice law, where her continuing love of books has led her to specialize in intellectual property, business and publishing contracts. Her interest in Japanese history, martial arts, and mystery inspired her to write the Shinobi Mystery series featuring Hiro Hattori, a sixteenth-century ninja who brings murderers to justice with the help of Father Mateo, a Portuguese Jesuit priest.

Susan is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year, a former president of the Northern California Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime (National and Sacramento chapters), the Historical Novel Society, and the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. She is represented by literary agent Sandra Bond of Bond Literary Agency.

When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, martial arts, photography, and hiking. She lives in Sacramento with her husband and two cats, and travels to Japan on a regular basis.

Posted in July 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Dance in Kabul

Today I’ve invited Ken Czech, author of Last Dance in Kabul to visit Ascroft, eh? to tell my readers a little about his forthcoming novel.

Welcome Ken. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

51WHrsbA5SL._AC_US218_KC: Thank you, Dianne, for inviting me. LAST DANCE IN KABUL is set in 1841 Afghanistan. When his superiors ignore his warnings of an impending Afghan insurrection, Reeve Waterton vows never to return to Kabul. But then the ex-army captain rescues strong-willed Sarah Kane from an ambush, and his plans for civilian life and self-preservation unravel around him. At first Reeve dislikes Sarah as much as she loathes him. It’s only after Reeve’s closest friend is brutally murdered and the Afghan tribes explode in revolt that he and Sarah discover their desperate need for each other.

Quite frankly, everything that could go wrong for the British goes badly wrong. Winter strikes early and heavy snows blanket the mountain passes outside of Kabul. Blizzards howl and temperatures plummet as tens of thousands of vengeful tribesmen gather to pounce on the retreating British force. Caught in that unfolding debacle, Reeve and Sarah must rely on their skills, courage, and new-found love just to survive.

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

KC: I came across a painting by W. A. Wollen titled “The Last Stand of the 44th Foot at Gandamack” while teaching 19th century European History at my university. That painting depicted a ragged, freezing group of British regulars surrounded by Afghan fighters among the rugged peaks of the Hindu Kush. It caught my imagination and I proceeded to dig deeper into the historical facts. What I discovered was the ineptitude of British leadership in Afghanistan that led to the massacre of 15,000 British and Indian soldiers and camp followers.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts?

KC: I followed the timeline of events unfolding in Kabul from autumn 1841 to January 1842 very closely. The actions of my main characters (Reeve Waterton and Sarah Kane) are woven throughout the fabric of the political and military issues arising in Afghanistan through that period.

What research did you do for this book?

KC: Two primary sources penned by survivors aided me immensely in incorporating eyewitness details into my story. Additionally, I consulted a number of secondary sources that described the events occurring in Afghanistan. William Dalrymple’s book “Return Of A King” was particularly helpful since in included rare Afghan primary accounts. My university loaned me maps that helped establish geography and topography. Several modern works concerning the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan revealed tribal relations that stretch back for centuries.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write?

KC: I do indeed use a combination of invented characters and historic figures. For me, it’s more difficult to work with invented characters because you have to create a persona that reveals strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully shows the character’s growth as the story unfolds. Reeve Waterton and Sarah Kane are invented characters, as are several of Reeve’s men and Sarah’s fiancé. I also incorporated a number of historical figures such as the leadership core of the British and Afghan forces, as well as women and soldiers who were taken hostage and survived.

Which do you prefer to write and why?

KC:  My preference is to write my story so it revolves around the main characters. I choose a place and time where an historical event occurs, and then have my characters work their way through the dilemmas they face. It may sound strange, but as I write I find their decisions even surprise me. They have to face and overcome challenges, and do so in a way that is logical and believable. It’s my feeling that a writer wants their readers to root for the protagonists even though they may sometimes be angry at the characters’ deficiencies. I get closer to invented characters than to actual historical personalities where research has generally revealed their motivations and actions. For me, the historic figures provide links to the setting and conflict of a novel.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era.

How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

KC: Read. Read. Read. By the time I finished LAST DANCE IN KABUL, I think I had consulted more than thirty books and atlases to re-create the sense of impending doom hanging over the British occupation force in Afghanistan. Making sure the terrain and weather conditions were correct was one part of the puzzle. Another part was studying paintings and illustrations that depicted costumes, accoutrements, landscapes, and even portraits to provide a real sense of time and place. Because part of my novel occurs during a savage winter, I used some of my own experiences with winter in my native Minnesota to make the scenes more realistic. Brrr!

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other? And, if so, why?

KC: An interesting question, Dianne. I think that as a male, I probably gravitate more toward writing from a male point of view. However, my first novel BEYOND THE RIVER OF SHAME featured main characters that were actual historical personalities. I tended to focus more on the female lead since she receives generally less attention than her male counterpart both in the books he wrote and in subsequent biographies. I wanted to re-create what she might have seen and experienced as the couple searched for the sources of the Nile River during the 1860s. In LAST DANCE IN KABUL, I wanted Sarah Kane to come across as a confidant and sometimes naïve woman striving against the strictures of early Victorian-era society. To me, it was especially important that Sarah emerge at the conclusion as a woman stretching her physical and emotional strengths to the limit to save the man she has come to love.

Thanks for answering my questions, Ken, and good luck with the launch of Last Dance in Kabul in early August.

Readers are invited to visit Ken’s website. You can also find him on FacebookAmazon and Goodreads.

The novel is available to pre-order on several online retailers websites:

AMAZON | BARNES AND NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

CzechAbout Ken Czech: Dr. Ken Czech is a retired history professor and an internationally recognized authority on the historical literature of exploration and sport. His passion, however, has turned to writing fiction. He and his wife Mary live in Central Minnesota on an abandoned granite quarry.

 

Posted in July 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Makes A Place Where You Want To Be?

Timeless watch header

Over the past few weeks I’ve been telling readers a little about my new cozy mystery, A Timeless Celebration. Today I’d like to tell you a little about an important element that binds the story together: Fenwater’s sense of community.

Cozy mysteries are always set in a pleasing place for the reader to be. That’s part of what makes them ‘cozy’ and what readers expect from the genre. The setting needs to be appealing, not gritty. But it takes more than just the physical setting to make a place somewhere that readers want to be.

220px-Fergus_Ontario_St_Andrew_St_EDoesn’t it give you a boost when you walk down the street and you meet people you know? A friendly smile, as someone asks how you are, let’s you know they care and it makes you feel like you’re where you belong.

This friendship and caring, or community feeling, is something that never fails to amaze me whenever I experience it. When I lived in Toronto, Canada, a city of around 3 million people, after I left the few streets that comprised my own neighbourhood I never bumped into anyone I knew. I wouldn’t expect to walk down Yonge Street, the city’s main thoroughfare, and see a familiar face. So when I moved to Belfast, a city of half a million, almost three decades ago, I couldn’t get over how often I met people I knew when I was shopping in the city centre on a Saturday afternoon. And I liked the warm, happy feeling I got when I stopped to chat with them.

Farm distanceWhen I later moved west across Northern Ireland, to a farm several miles from the nearest village, I was again amazed and pleased to find that when I bumped into people I knew in the village and the nearby market town they always had time to stop for a chat. I soon knew much more about the families living on the surrounding farms than I ever did about my neighbours in Toronto.

As I was writing the first six stories in The Yankee Years, a WWII historical fiction series set in County Fermanagh not far from where I live, one of the things that was important to me was to convey this strong sense of community I had encountered as it captured the distinctive, welcoming atmosphere of the place, and provided the tone I wanted to create in the stories.

So, when I got the idea for a mystery series, one of the first things I needed was a setting for it. As I considered where I wanted that to be, my mind travelled back to Fergus, a small town in Ontario that I knew well. A couple weeks ago, I told you how the physical setting of the town appealed to me: it’s quaint and has a strong Scottish flavour to it.

Fergus_Grand_River_2013Spending time there with my mother when she lived in a local nursing home, I discovered the townspeople were friendly and welcoming. When I visited, I pushed my mother’s wheelchair along the peaceful banks of the Grand River, greeting other walkers we passed, and at a nearby diner where we ate lunch, the waitress always remembered my mother’s order. You quickly felt that you were welcome there, just as I later experienced in Northern Ireland. When I remembered the town’s atmosphere, I knew that it was the right setting for a cozy mystery and I set out to infuse the community feeling I experienced there into the fictional Fenwater so that readers will feel welcome there too.

A Timeless Celebration will be released this autumn. I hope you’ll read it and afterwards you can tell me whether I’ve successfully created a pleasing setting.

KS Offer ends timerA Timeless Celebration will happen this autumn because more than 70 readers pre-ordered copies of the novel through its Kickstarter campaign. I’m so grateful to them for doing that. Each of those readers will receive their copy a month before the novel is released on Amazon.

The Kickstarter campaign closes this coming Friday evening. If you would like to pre-order a copy, and have a chance to receive other rewards too, you still have a few days left to do so. You will get your copy before it’s released on Amazon.

Stop by the Kickstarter campaign page for all the detailshttps://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1073238739/a-timeless-celebration-a-century-cottage-cozy-myst

Posted in Archives, May 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Did The Idea Come From?

Although it’s more than a century since the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912, people are still fascinated by the tragedy and artefacts that have been recovered from the ship are prized. When I began toying with ideas for the plot of A Timeless Celebration, I did some background research about the town that inspired Fenwater, including online browsing through the collection of the local museum.

I was excited to stumble across a pocket watch that was labelled as a possession of a Titanic survivor. But I felt a quick let down when I read the detailed description of the item and discovered that the survivor had owned the watch later in life and it had not been aboard the ill-fated ship. The watch lost its significance for me. But, although this item did not have the historical significance I had hoped for, it got me thinking and the idea grew that an artefact from the Titanic should play a part in my novel.

My research revealed that since the Titanic’s resting place was discovered in 1985, several salvage operations have retrieved a huge number of artefacts from the seabed around the wreck. In fact, so much has been amassed that Guernsey’s Auctioneers & Brokers in New York, in a controversial auction, sold more than 5000 items estimated to be worth $190 million in a single lot in 2012. Included in the sale were watches, jewellery, clothing, a cook’s hat, binoculars, tableware and much more. The lack of light and air on the ocean floor as well as the fact that goods were made to be durable a century ago goes a long way to explain why so many of these items have survived in the depths of ocean for so long.

As well as items recovered by salvagers, personal items found on the bodies of victims also survive. First Class Lift Attendant Alfred King from Tyneside possessed a copy of a telegram from his uncle to his family telling them not to worry about Alfred as the ship was unsinkable. The telegram and other personal effects, including Alfred’s pipe, purse and watch were on his body when it was found.

Of the many types of items that have survived the shipwreck, I think one of the most poignant is the pocket watch, a personal item that was often engraved and spanned the social classes. They were recovered from many bodies, including wealthy businessman, John J Astor; second class passenger and Cornwall native John Chapman, who was travelling to America to start a new life with his bride, and third class passenger Mary Mangan from Addergoole parish, Ireland.

Pocket watches consist of many tiny components which can easily be damaged by rough use and the oil that greased the internal mechanism was prone to freeze at very low temperatures. So many of these watches stopped when their owners were thrown into the ocean as the ship sank. Their hands still displaying the time they stopped provide a chilling reminder of the tragedy.

After reading about some of the individual tragedies associated with these items, a pocket watch that had survived the sinking of the Titanic seemed the right choice for the artefact that would be central to my novel’s plot. It’s small and easy to conceal, which would make its theft practicable and it’s an item that has huge emotional significance. So an antique lady’s pocket watch became the starting point for A Timeless Celebration.

So far, from what I’ve told you, you know that the watch in the story has been stolen. Who did it or why? Well, you’ll have to read the novel for those answers. But the novel isn’t available yet. I’ve finished writing it and am ready to edit and print it – when I have raised the money to do so. Pre-ordering a copy of the novel, which you will receive before it’s released on Amazon, will help to make the book happen. Find out more: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1073238739/a-timeless-celebration-a-century-cottage-cozy-myst 

 

Posted in Archives, May 2018 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Explore Every Book and Cranny

Today I’ve invited Pamela Martin, mystery and thriller author, to visit Ascroft, eh? to tell us a bit about her writing and her latest series.

Welcome Pamela.

PM: Thank you for giving me the chance to introduce myself, along with Fay Lynn, Gayla, and Evangeline, the stars of my Every Book and Cranny mysteries.

My name is Pamela Martin, and I am a former schoolteacher. I taught multiple grades and subjects from first grade to seniors, ending in the middle and high school social studies.

The series is set in a small South Texas town. Sisters Fay Lynn and Gayla run a bookstore with a coffee shop; their best friend, Evangeline, operates an antique shop.

In All Trussed Up, the second book of the series (the first full-length novel), small-town drama catches them off-guard when the town’s mayor, a man everyone loves to hate, is murdered, and Evie ends up at the top of the suspect list. Someone takes exception to their snoop…to their investigation, and it looks like it might cost Fay Lynn everything – including her life.

People ask writers all the time, “Where do you get your ideas? How do you develop strong characters?” The second question is actually easier for me to answer, because they are all based in reality. Fay Lynn’s and Gayla’s bookstore and bistro come from my long-held thought that I’d love to do that some day. Gayla is a “feisty dame,” as she might have been described in days gone by. She and Evangeline are conglomerates of strong and yet gracious women I’ve had the privilege of knowing. And sometimes a character is a huge exaggeration of a real person or a person I’d like to meet in my own life.

Story ideas are a little harder to explain, because I don’t always know exactly where they come from. Many probably stitch together bits and pieces of news reports and other novels, I suspect. Generally, I start by choosing a victim and thinking of reasons someone might have had to hurt him or her.

Next, I choose a method of dispatching the victim; that way, as I determine the suspects I can make sure at least one of them is capable of carrying it out.

Finally, I pick the three or four reasons I liked best on the earlier list, and I create a suspect for each, deciding on a name, occupation, alibi, and secret for each. Then, the fun begins!

For this series, there is also a history connection that will help decide the weapon, motive, or other factors.

Finally, a word of advice to aspiring writers: There are two secrets you need to know – (1) read every day and (2) write every day. Reading helps you build vocabulary, and it helps you become familiar with writing styles. Writing daily is important because, quite simply, we get good at what we practice.

And, for those of you thinking, “I’d love to write, but I’m not good enough” – someone wiser than I am said, “If you’re good enough to enjoy doing it, you’re good enough to be doing it.”

Thanks for telling us about the Every Book and Cranny series and how you create your stories, Pamela, and good luck with the series.

Readers can find the books online. Click here for details: https://www.books2read.com/b/4jwlvd

Posted in Archives, May 2018 | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Where did it begin?

It’s been a week since A Timeless Celebration’s Kickstarter campaign launched on World Book Day. The week has flown as I have contacted everyone I can think of to be sure they know that the campaign is underway. Thanks to those of you who have supported the campaign – since many people have pledged for their copy of the book anonymously I don’t know who you are to thank you personally – but I appreciate it.

Timeless final 2mgWe’re off to a good start one week into the campaign – we’ve received pledges to pre-order the book to bring the total up to  55% of the total goal. If readers continue to pledge to pre-order their copy of the book and the other rewards that I’m offering, we’ll meet the goal and I’ll be able to get A Timeless Celebration edited and out to readers.

In case you were wondering how A Timeless Celebration got started, let me tell you a bit about that. To my way of thinking, the setting of a story is just as important to a novel as the plot and characters are. So, last summer when memories of times I spent in Fergus, a small Canadian town a couple hours north of Toronto, kept popping up in my mind, I suddenly realised that it was the perfect place to set the new series I had been thinking about writing.

I first visited Fergus, Ontario in the early 1980s. At the beginning of August each year the Fergus Highland Games are held and I went to compete with the pipe band I belonged to. It was always an amazing day as the town’s Scottish heritage came to the fore. The air was filled with the sound of bagpipes and drums and there was a sea of tartan everywhere. At the beginning of this century, I became a regular visitor to the town and got to know it a bit better when my mother went to live in the local nursing home.

220px-Fergus_Ontario_St_Andrew_St_EI’ve always been impressed by the town’s distinctive character: it is proud of its Scottish cultural traditions and heritage and is also keen to preserve its Canadian architectural heritage. Walking along the residential streets in the evenings, under huge, mature oak and maple trees when I visit, I always admire the many beautiful, well-kept houses that are more than one hundred years old. These old houses are known as century houses. Some are brick and others stone; the ones I particularly admire are the stone houses, built from pink or gray granite, which was quarried locally. These granite houses remind me of the rows of gray stone houses I’ve seen curving along the long main thoroughfares in villages in Scotland and, although their architecture is very much part of the locentury stone house vector1cal Ontario region, they really add to the town’s Scottish flavour.

History has always fascinated me and I was so enchanted by these century houses that I took photographs of some of the really lovely ones. There was one style that particularly appealed to me: the Ontario Cottage. It was a traditional architectural style in the province of Ontario during the nineteenth century. The small rectangular houses are one and a half storeys high with large windows and a central gable above the front door. At the time they were built, Gothic architecture was in fashion and the gables were often adorned with this style’s intricate ornamentation. The houses are compact and functional as well as very attractive.

One day when I was out for a walk, I spotted one of these Ontario Cottages on a side street and fell in love with it. I don’t know the current owner or the house’s history but something about it just drew me to it. So I photographed it, as I had many other houses in the town, and when I looked at the photograph later I knew that was the house my character, Lois Stone would live in when she moved from the big city to a small town (you can see the house on the cover of the book). So the house and the town were the stepping off point for A Timeless Celebration. Once I knew where Lois would live, I created the other characters and the story.

If you would like a copy of the novel, would you help me make it a reality? Unless I receive pledges to pre-order the book that total the funding goal set, Kickstarter will not release any of the money to me after the campaign ends. You can find all the details here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1073238739/a-timeless-celebration-a-century-cottage-cozy-myst  

KS FB post 4

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Will you give me a push?

It’s World Book Day today so what better day for me to begin the final push to ‘birth a book’?

KS World book day 3

What am I on about? Let me explain a bit. After writing historical fiction for several years now, last summer I began writing my first cozy mystery, A Timeless Celebration. The novel is set in the fictional town of Fenwater, which was inspired by a small town in Ontario, Canada where I spent a lot of time during the 1980s. The town made such an impression on me that I decided it would be a great place to set my new series of mystery novels, the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries.

A Timeless Celebration, the first book in the series, opens as a Titanic artefact is stolen a week before Fenwater’s 150th anniversary celebration and it’s up to Lois Stone to catch the thief. Middle-aged widow Lois has moved from bustling Toronto to tranquil Fenwater and is settling into her new life, feeling secure away from the dangers of the city. Then two events happen that shatter her serenity: her house is burgled and an antique watch belonging to a Titanic survivor is stolen. Her best friend, Marge was responsible for the watch’s safekeeping until its presentation to the local Museum at the town’s 150th anniversary party and its disappearance will jeopardise her job. Marge has always been a wonderful friend and Lois won’t let her reputation be tarnished or her job endangered by an accusation of theft. She’s determined to catch the thief and find the watch in time to save her best friend’s job and the town’s 150th anniversary party. 

During the past two years, I’ve released six novellas in The Yankee Years series and paid the production costs for each book myself while keeping the retail price very reasonable – and that means each book sale generates only a small profit so I have little to reinvest. I also hired an amazing narrator and funded the production of two audiobooks, An Unbidden Visitor, and Dancing Shadows, Tramping Hooves. After producing these books, I’ve invested as much as I reasonably can for the foreseeable future.

But I’m really excited about this new series and I want to keep the momentum going so I decided to raise the funds to produce the first book by asking readers to pre-order their copies through a Kickstarter campaign. When you make a pledge, besides pre-ordering A Timeless Celebration, there’s also the chance to get the two collections of stories in The Yankee Years series as well as a prequel story to the Century Cottage Cozy Mysteries series. Have a look at my campaign page to see what you receive when you make a pledge to pre-order a copy of A Timeless Celebration. You’ll find the information here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1073238739/1229889383?ref=462159&token=0e81cee8

In order for Kickstarter to release the money to me, I need to receive enough in pre-order pledges to meet the funding goal I set. If the total amount of money pledged falls short of the goal, I won’t receive any of it.

So, will you give me a push to help birth A Timeless Celebration? I’m inviting you to visit my Kickstarter page for more information and I hope you’ll join the readers who are helping this book become a reality by pledging to pre-order your own copy.

Thanks for your help!

Posted in April 2018, Archives, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Discover The Revolutionist

Today I’ve invited Robert Tucker, author of The Revolutionist to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about his new novel.

Welcome Robert. Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

RT: Two different families escape from the political tyranny of their respective homelands, the Josephsons Revolutionist coverfrom Sweden and Matias and Kurt Bauman, brothers from Germany and Austria Hungary, with the aid of a Viennese opera diva, Sophie Augusta Rose, and Jean Guenoc, a former Jesuit priest, family friend and protector and partisan of the French underground.

Their journey brings them to America in the throes of the industrial revolution during the 1890s and early 1900s. Ingrid and Olaf Josephson settle on a small wheat farm in North Central Minnesota to raise their children, Newt and Julie.

Among the Jewish entrepreneurs forced to leave Germany and Austria-Hungary, Matias and Kurt Bauman re-establish their transportation company in Chicago, Illinois

In search of a secret list of insurgent social democrats, the bounty hunter assassin, Luther Baggot, tracks his victims to the American heartland. Following the murder of their mother and father, Newt, Julie, and their friends, Aaron and Beth Peet, hide from the killer in a Northern Minnesota logging camp. Believing the children have taken possession of the list, Luther tracks them down.

Fleeing to a central Minnesota town, the four young people come across a remote business location of Bauman Enterprises and meet Matias Bauman, who had been a friend and former political collaborator with Newt’s and Julie’s parents. He takes them all to Chicago where a different world opens up to them as they are thrust into the turmoil and violence of an urban society and economy careening into the new century.

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

RT: As the grandson of immigrants who fled persecution in Germany and Austria-Hungary and came to America during the early 1900’s, the early history of our country and the rise of the middle-class have always held a fascination for me. The dramatic depiction of fictional characters placed in actual events sharply and realistically bring alive the harsh times and adversity of the multitude of people who sought freedom and a better way of life and demonstrate that only a little over one-hundred years have passed to bring us to where we are as a struggling society today.

The chronology and events of history have captured and held my interest for many reasons, among them being stories that entertain, educate, and inform. Learning about the lives of my immigrant grandparents coming to America from Czechoslovakia during the early 1900s and the lives of my parents during the 1920s, 30s, and 40s provided the initial motivation. Researching and writing historical fiction is a way to learn more about myself and my origins and the social, political, and economic influences related to my generation.

Whether writing historical fiction or non-fiction or fantasy, I’m drawn into the societies and cultures of a particular period that inspire the creation of characters who bring that era to life. Not only do I experience this dynamic in books, but in films, plays, dance, music, and other art forms.

Researching history takes me into the exploration of new territory outside of my own life experience through reading other sources, interviews, travel, and films.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

RT: Historical facts provided the foundation for the novel. I placed my fictional characters and historical figures within the context of what actually happened and adapted scenes, dialogue, and narrative accordingly in supporting the direction of the story.

What research did you do for this book?

RT: The novel features an extensive bibliography.

Although a number of fine books are written from personal experience by authors who lived through those times, much of the historical writing by contemporary authors is dependent on secondary sources. Forays into the past for story material is a rewarding part of the creative process.

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel. Which is more difficult to write? Which do you prefer to write and why?

RT: Both fictionally created characters and historic figures are integral to the story. The lives of the characters tend to influence the direction of the plot rather than my imposing the plot on them. Writing invented characters is more difficult than bringing historic figures to life. I prefer the creative satisfaction of writing invented characters.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

RT: I place the characters into planned situations, conflicts, and events and see and experience their world from their eyes. This approach enhances the verisimilitude or authenticity of the characters and their world for me as a writer (walking in their shoes) and ultimately for the reader. Recreating the lives of the characters is a discovery process for me that becomes the foundation of their story and expands to myriad others in the context of historical events at the turn of the twentieth century.

The Revolutionist offers an unusual entertaining, dynamic story populated with colorfully drawn characters, dramatic tension, a sense of immediacy, and a cinematic visual style.

The historical chronology and events capture a reader’s attention for many reasons, among them being a plot that entertains, educates, and informs. In writing this novel, I was drawn into the societies and cultures of a particular period that inspired the creation of characters who bring that era to life.

The Revolutionist will take a reader into the exploration of new territory outside of his or her life.

Personal integrity is a powerful recurring theme.

I think the issues and conflicts in this story are manifested in different societies and cultures every day. Throughout the world and locally all around us, people are struggling against tyranny and injustice to have good meaningful lives in ways that matter to them. I believe readers will identify with the lives of the characters and what happens to them.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

RT: Although the majority of my protagonists in my books are female, I’m comfortable writing about both male and female characters. I find that female characters offer greater psychological complexity than established male archetypes, however. There are many new books of historical fiction being published featuring female characters.

Thanks for answering my questions in such interesting detail, Robert, and good luck with your new novel.

For more information about Robert Tucker, please visit his website. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads. The novel is available online at the following retail outlets:

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | INDIEBOUND

About Robert Tucker: Rob is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara and received his Revolutionist_Robert M. Tuckergraduate degree in communications from the University of California, Los Angeles.

He worked as a business and management consultant to advertising, corporate communications, and media production companies as well as many others. Now retired, he resides with his wife in Southern California where he devotes much of his time to writing.

He is a recipient of the Samuel Goldwyn and Donald Davis Literary Awards. An affinity for family and the astute observation of generational interaction pervade his novels.

His works are literary and genre upmarket fiction that address the nature and importance of personal integrity.

Posted in Archives, March 2017, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Peering into ‘The Cold Light of Dawn’

Today I’ve invited Anna Belfrage, author of The Cold Light of Dawn, the fourth book her current series to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her latest novel.

Welcome Anna.

Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

Cold Light of Dawn coverAB: The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in my series about the rise and fall of Roger Mortimer, first Earl of March. In this instalment, a very young Edward III is no longer content with being his regents’ puppet, and while Queen Isabella and Mortimer do their best to retain control over him, time is working in Edward’s favour. Caught in the middle of this conflict is Adam de Guirande, my fictional (and very honourable) knight who serves Edward but loves Mortimer as a father.

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

AB: I’ve wanted to write about the times of Edward II and in particular Roger Mortimer since my sixth-grade history teacher spent a double/period history class sharing his own passion about these events with us. He was no Edward II fan. In fact, he wasn’t much of a Mortimer fan either, but he found Mortimer the necessary catalysator to rid England of Edward II and pave the way for Edward III, in Mr Wilmshurst’s opinion the best king ever.

How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

AB: In this case, I stick pretty close to historical facts (with one major exception, but I will not reveal it here as it is central to the plot) When I do deviate, it is usually because there’s an element of uncertainty regarding the fact itself – some things we believe to be true are often based on somewhat flimsy evidence and could, in fact, be untrue.

However, the recorded events of 1329 and 1330 offer plenty of drama in themselves, so there was little reason to not stick to them. Roger Mortimer points out (he’s in my head a lot) that he does feel I could have ignored certain facts and specifically events that happened on November 29, 1330. I did not feel I could, which left me with a terrible headache for days while Roger kicked his way round my brain in retribution.

What research did you do for this book?

AB: Well, I’ve read a lot of biographies 😊 And then I’ve spent a lot of time visiting various sites. On one such visit I was standing on what remains of a curtain wall and realized, to my sorrow, that the view from this particular point faced east, not west. It obliged me to rewrite a rather beautiful sunset scene….

Do you use a mixture of historic figures and invented characters in the novel? Which is more difficult to write? Which to you prefer to write and why?

AB: Yes. I prefer having fictional protagonists as this allows me much more freedom in what happens to them. However, the point of the novel is to tell the story of what really happened (from the POV of my characters) in the years 1329 and 1330 so Edward III, Roger Mortimer, Henry of Lancaster and quite a lot of other real characters are very much a part of the cast. One real figure that I have taken some liberties with is Thomas of Brotherton, uncle to Edward III. In recorded history, he doesn’t appear much, being dubbed an “unremarkable” man. This has allowed me to create a fictional Thomas, loosely built round the facts we know.

In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?

AB: Well, first of all I believe the human experience is relatively unchanged if we compare now to then. We experience the same emotions as our ancestors did and probably express those emotions in similar ways, albeit our vocabulary is different to theirs. So I would argue there is little difference in breathing life into a contemporary character and a character from the past. However, there are some fundamental differences: the Church played a very central role in everyone’s life in the 14th century, which I of course have to reflect. Likewise, a woman back then usually had a much more restricted role than us modern women do—even if I do not believe this means medieval women as a rule were weak and submissive.

There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?

AB: I suppose that depends on what period you write about. Also, I’d argue that very many historical novels are in fact built round a female rather than a male protagonist (take Philippa Gregory’s books as an example) I like writing both genders – I enjoy presenting the events through both a female and a male lens so to say. Obviously, if I want the character to be part of a battle, it will have to be from a male’s POV—at least if I’m writing 14th century. Likewise, a birthing chamber was unlikely to have any men present.

Thanks for answering my questions in such interesting detail and leaving me with a couple questions to ponder, Anna. I know I’ll only get the answers in the book so I look forward to reading it.

For more information about Anna Belfrage, please visit her website, www.annabelfrage.com. Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel. You can also connect with Anna on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

The Cold Light of Dawn is the fourth in Anna Belfrage’s series, The King’s Greatest Enemy, the story of a man torn apart by his loyalties to his lord and his king. It is available at the following outlets:

Amazon US | Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Anna BelfrageAbout Anna Belfrage: Anna was raised abroad, on a pungent mix of Latin American culture, English history and Swedish traditions. As a result she’s multilingual and most of her reading is historical- both non-fiction and fiction. Possessed of a lively imagination, she has drawers full of potential stories, all of them set in the past. She was always going to be a writer – or a historian, preferably both. Ideally, Anna aspired to becoming a pioneer time traveller, but science has as yet not advanced to the point of making that possible. Instead she ended up with a degree in Business and Finance, with very little time to spare for her most favourite pursuit. Still, one does as one must, and in between juggling a challenging career Anna raised her four children on a potent combination of invented stories, historical debates and masses of good food and homemade cakes. They seem to thrive…

For years she combined a challenging career with four children and the odd snatched moment of writing. Nowadays Anna spends most of her spare time at her writing desk. The children are half grown, the house is at times eerily silent and she slips away into her imaginary world, with her imaginary characters. Every now and then the one and only man in her life pops his head in to ensure she’s still there.

Posted in Archives, March 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment