The Soldier’s Return

Today I’ve invited Laura Libricz, author of The Soldier’s Return, the second book in the Heaven’s Pond trilogy to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her latest novel.

Welcome Laura.

Thank you so much for having me over today, Dianne!

Let’s get started, shall we?

Tell us about your novel.

LL: The Heaven’s Pond Series is a three-part historical series set in Franconia, Germany, in the early 17th The Soldier's Return covercentury during the Thirty Years War. These are the novels I have always wanted to read. Written in English and taking the German viewpoint of the war, the story is told by a young maid, a patrician, a Jesuit priest and a young Dutchman. The Master and the Maid is the first book in the series and begins the story in 1616. It’s about a young woman who loses her home, her job and her freedom. Harboring a mysterious newborn, she could lose her life. The Soldier’s Return is the second novel in the series. The year is 1626 and mercenary soldiers terrorize the countryside. A church-run witch hunt rages as well. Can three unlikely companions unite to survive? The third book, Ash and Rubble, is in the early revision stages. The year is 1632 and the Protestant city of Nuremberg is besieged by the estimated 150,000-man-strong Swedish army comprised of soldiers and camp followers, under the command of the Swedish king, Gustav II Adolf. The child of the first two books is now 16 and living in Nuremberg. Will she escape the besieged city and leave those she loves behind? This is the series climax.

What prompted you to write about this historical event? How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

LL: I originally wanted to write about the Sichardtshof farm, an abandoned hamlet in Franconia, Germany. As I researched the area, I realized how deeply the Thirty Years War shaped South Germany. The area was almost completely devoid of people after the war. It took generations to bounce back, too. The more information I uncovered, the more my interest in this time period grew. Yes, the books are formed around recorded historical events. If the weather was bad, I wrote that into the story. If troops were invading, I wrote that in. If a General and his entourage were in town, I wrote that in as well. This was very important to me. I wanted this project to be a tribute to the people who lived and died at that time and I wanted to bring this alive for an English speaking audience who may not have access to the historical archives because of language or location barriers. I’ve listed a bibliography on my website for those who’d like to do more reading.

Of course, some deviation is necessary. I don’t believe that all historical records are accurate. We must take into consideration who was doing the recording. If the church fathers were recording the events, it will be to the benefit of the church and their Christian beliefs. Those that I find most interesting, common people and women, for example, have not had a fair voice. I wanted to give them a voice.

What research did you do for this book?

LL: I began my research for this project in 2009 and am still researching today. What started as a mild interest expanded into a full blown obsession. My favorite research materials are the Heimatsbücher, the local histories put together by local historians using council records, old deeds and street plans, old Salbücher, tax records. The research is ongoing. The third book taking place during the siege of Nuremberg and because this event is well-documented, I want to get it 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?

LL: I use historical figures in my novels but I like to concentrate on invented characters. Historical figures are much more difficult for me to write because they are already famous so most readers already have their opinions about them. I find the lesser-knowns more interesting and they need me to be their voice. These are the people who really lived, that really suffered, those that had real-life issues. Kings and queens were kings and queens. Surely, enough praises have been sung!

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?

LL: All you have to do to even get a small taste of what it was like to live in a bygone era is to live without central heating for a spell. To deepen the experience, take away the gas stove and the dishwasher, turn off all the electricity and stop shopping for two weeks. Slaughter some chickens and rabbits, get on the back of a horse, collect wood for that insatiable fire. There’s no running water? Fetch some water from the well before you go to bed otherwise you have to go out in the morning. This was the backdrop of my characters’ days. For the love of the story, these tasks must take a back seat but they are ever-present, life sustaining realities.

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?

LL: I always thought that most novels were written from a female perspective so I did some surfing around after I read this question and it seems like this isn’t the case. I like to write from both perspectives. I like one as much as the other. I am very aware of cliched roles for men and women and I try to avoid this as much as I can. My characters are based on decisions I would make or people I know would make in similar circumstances. I don’t think people’s motivations have changed much over the years. We have the same urges and the same needs. Having said that, values have changed over the years. For example, family values, like the nuclear family, are a recent phenomenon and children were not always seen as an asset in 17th century Germany.

Thanks for answering my questions in such interesting detail, Laura, and good luck with your series.

For more information about Laura Libricz please visit her website and blog. Readers can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Goodreads.

The Soldier’s Return is available online at the following retailers:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound

Soldier's Return Laura LibriczAbout Laura Libricz: She was born and raised in Bethlehem PA and moved to Upstate New York when she was 22. After working a few years building Steinberger guitars, she received a scholarship to go to college. She tried to ‘do the right thing’ and study something useful, but spent all her time reading German literature. She earned a BA in German at The College of New Paltz, NY in 1991 and moved to Germany, where she resides today. When she isn’t writing she can be found sifting through city archives, picking through castle ruins or aiding the steady flood of musical instruments into the world market.

Her first novel, The Master and the Maid, is the first book of the Heaven’s Pond Trilogy. The Soldier’s Return and Ash and Rubble are the second and third books in the series.

Posted in Archives, February 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Meet Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper

Today I’ve invited Ana Brazil, author of Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper, an historical novel set in New Orleans’ gilded age, to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her novel.

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

Tell us about your novel.

Fanny Newcomb coverAB: FANNY NEWCOMB AND THE IRISH CHANNEL RIPPER is a historical mystery set in 1889 New Orleans, Louisiana. Twenty-five year old Fanny is a typewriting teacher at a settlement house in the Irish Channel slums. She’s an intelligent, ambitious woman who wants to be a lawyer (impossible in 1889 New Orleans). When her favorite typewriting student is brutally murderedmuch in the manner of Jack the Ripper’s crimes—Fanny enlists her well-connected employer Principal Sylvia Giddings and her sister Dr. Olive to hunt down the murderer.

What prompted you to write about this historical event? How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?

AB: I’ve always been fascinated by how contemporary women and men reacted to Jack the Ripper and his murderous killing spree. I was originally going to set my story in London—and have the action take place in the Toynbee Hall Settlement House in Whitechapel—but then I realized that I really needed to write an American story. And so I set the story in New Orleans about six months after the Ripper’s supposedly last London murder. I started with those historical facts and my imagination took it from there!

What research did you do for this book?

AB: I studied history at Florida State University (in Tallahassee) and decided to write my masters’ thesis about “Social Voluntarism in Gilded Age New Orleans”. I lived in New Orleans for one very long, hot summer and spent almost every day researching in the archives of Tulane University.

While I was researching, I kept discovering smart, active women who were organizing charities, educating children, and yes, opening up settlement houses. I kept thinking, “These women are incredible! Someone should write a novel about them! Someone should write a murder mystery about them!”

In addition to my archival research, I read a lot of Gilded Age newspapers. But my favorite research was—and is—walking and gawking in the neighborhoods of New Orleans.

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: Jack the Ripper was all too real and the mythology about his murders is used in the story. Writing about a real historic figure is tricky…especially if they are as infamous as Jack the Ripper. His story has been retold so many times, that I freshened it up by focusing on a copycat.

Fanny, Olive, and Sylvia are inspired by my research of late 19th century women. Newspaper editor Eliza Nicholson was a real New Orleans woman of the times (she also published poetry as Pearl Rivers) and I enjoyed introducing her into the story.

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: My husband and I visited New Orleans a few times while I was writing this book and were fortunate to tour (and fall in love with!) many of the buildings and neighborhoods mentioned.

I also dipped into some excellent 1880’s primary sources, such as the Historical Sketch Book and Guide to New Orleans and Environs (1885) and Soard’s Guide Book Illustrated, and Street Guide of New Orleans (also 1885).

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: Women, please! My goal is to tell stories about women who assert themselves to reach their happiest path in life. That’s why I have three heroines. Or four, if you include Cousin Charlotte!

Thanks for answering my questions, Ana. I think readers are always fascinated by anything related to Jack the Ripper. My interest has been piqued by this interview and I look forward to reading the novel.

Before we wrap up, let’s give readers a taste of the novel with an excerpt: “Fanny hurried the boy through the dark halls toward the back of Wisdom Hall. She barged through the Infirmary door to find Olive looking up from behind a table of dark apothecary bottles.

Well,” the doctor asked sharply. “What is it?”

Fanny put her hand gently on Liam’s shoulders, “He sa—”

Murder!” The boy honked like a trumpet. “A girl’s been murdered in Conner’s Court!”

Murdered girls don’t need doctors.” Olive scowled at Liam and returned two of the bottles to the cupboard behind her. “Even you should know that.”

They said she was murdered…but somebody screamed for a doctor.”

Fanny pressed forward gingerly, having been told more than once that the Infirmary was Olive’s sacred soil, and entrance was by invitation only. “If there’s any chance she’s still alive, we must—”

Of course we must.” Olive took a key from her pocket and turned the lock on the medicine cupboard. She grabbed her medical bag and passed the lantern on her desk to Liam. “Well, what are you waiting for?”

Readers can learn more about Ana Brazil by visiting her website and blog. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads. Fanny Newcomb and the Irish Channel Ripper is available at retailers online, including Amazon.

Fanny Newcomb's Ana BrazilAbout Ana Brazil: A native of California, Ana Brazil lived in the south for many years. She earned her MA in American history from Florida State University and traveled her way through Mississippi as an architectural historian. Ana loves fried mullet, Greek Revival colonnades, and Miss Welty’s garden. She has a weakness for almost all things New Orleans. (Although she’s not sure just how it happened…but she favors bluegrass over jazz.) The Fanny Newcomb stories celebrate the tenacity, intelligence, and wisdom of the dozens of courageous and outrageous southern women that Ana is proud to call friends. Although Ana, her husband, and their dog Traveller live in the beautiful Oakland foothills, she is forever drawn to the lush mystique of New Orleans, where Fanny Newcomb and her friends are ever prepared to seek a certain justice.

Posted in February 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Have a listen to Working Late

Tales Irish is a collection of 23 tales of Ireland that capture the spirit of the Irish at home and abroad. I’m delighted that Working Late, my story of learning to live in rural Ireland was chosen to be included in the book.

Working Late

The paperback edition was recently released and the ebook will soon follow.

Have a listen to me reading an excerpt from my story: Click Here.

Thanks for listening. I hope you edit and it gave you a flavour of the book.

Tales Irish, the complete anthology can be found on Amazon stores: Click Amazon page here.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Where Do I Go? Let’s Find Out From Beverly Magid

Today I’ve invited Beverly Magid, author of Where Do I Go, an historical novel set around the turn of the twentieth century in New York to Ascroft, eh? to tell us about her new novel.

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

Tell us about your novel.

Where Go coverBM: WHERE DO I GO is the story of Leah Peretz and her two young sons immigrating to the Lower East Side of New York in 1908. They have survived a pogrom in Russia, aimed at killing Jews in their small village, which killed Leah’s husband Morris. They come to America to live with Leah’s brothers, but life is precarious and poor, not the golden dream they had hoped for.  Leah is confronted with horrific working conditions, pitted against the bosses and faced with her son Benny running errands for the local mobster.

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

BM: The times and the place are accurate. Leah and the other characters are total fiction.

What research did you do for this book?

BM: I piled many books on my shelf about the times of the early 1900’s as well as conditions in those garment sweat shops. But to create a real world for my characters, I had to research what they wore, what they ate, read, and saw around them. How Central Park looked to them, the houses on Fifth Avenue, their trip to Coney Island. That came from photos, books and articles written about that time.

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?

BM: In this book I did bring in real people for one of the scenes later in the novel. I very carefully quoted the people named and wrote accurate details about their participation in the meeting they attended.

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?

BM: As I said in the answer before, research is necessary to create any fictional world you are writing about, especially if it is in a different time. You need to consider the weather, the light, the smells, the surroundings, what did they cook, how did they dress, what limitations does their poverty bring them, religious background. The more specific the details, the more your reader is drawn into the environment and believes in your characters and their journey.

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?

BM: My protagonists have all been female, but some of my favorite characters have been male. In SOWN IN TEARS, I loved writing about the Russian captain, in FLYING OUT OF BROOKLYN, Bobby, the wounded World War 2 soldier is a favorite. And in WHERE DO I GO, I loved writing the character of 10 year old Benny, Leah’s son. Getting into the minds of the other gender is a wonderful adventure.  I hope the readers will have the same adventure I did.

Thanks for answering my questions, Beverly. The world Leah lives in sounds fascinating and I look forward to reading about her life.

Readers can learn more about Beverly Magid by visiting her website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Where Do I Go is available online on Amazon and other online retailers.

Where Go Beverly MagidAbout Beverly Magid: She was a journalist and public relations exec in the entertainment industry before writing her novels. A New Yorker at heart, she’s a long-time resident of Los Angeles. A political junkie, an advocate for the victims of war atrocities as well as animal cruelty, she believes strongly that caring for the vulnerable shows the real values of a person and a country.

Posted in January 2018, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Simply Celebrating Christmas

I love the buzz and glitter of Christmas: strings of coloured lights winking on the Christmas tree in ever-changing patterns; ornaments and tinsel in every imaginable, shiny colour; real or imitation pine wreaths, garlands and trees adorned with baubles; and the plethora of novelty items that serenade listeners with Christmas songs and carols.

Recently I’ve thought about what the season would be like without all of this. For the past couple of years, I’ve been writing a series of stories set during the Second World War in County Fermanagh – for those of you not familiar with it, it’s a county at the western edge of Northern Ireland bordering the Republic of Ireland. Most people in the western world are aware that the United Kingdom faced hardships during the Second World War, making their holiday celebrations frugal and treats rare and cherished. Conditions varied from place to place, and heavily bombed towns and cities fared worse than others.

Northern Ireland was more fortunate than many other places and its celebrations continued much as they had before the war, with less disruption than other places experienced. In County Fermanagh there had always been some differences in the way Christmas was celebrated between town and country, and between Protestant and Roman Catholic homes, but overall Christmas was kept in the same way as it always had been in homes throughout the county during the war years.

The modern festive season is much more glitzy than the wartime one. During the Second World War in County Fermanagh houses were decorated with holly and ivy, paper chains, and candles set in carved-out turnip bases. Children received simple gifts in their stockings on Christmas morning, and walked or rode in a pony and trap to church before returning home for the family dinner. In many homes a bird, usually a goose or a chicken if the larger bird couldn’t be obtained, graced the Christmas dinner table accompanied by available vegetables, including potatoes and turnips. The meat was cooked slowly in a range or a roasting pot hung on a crook over the fire. Ration coupons were saved to buy extra sugar, butter and other items but the coupons might not provide the woman of the house with all she required to bake a Christmas cake and other treats. A healthy black market trade both ways across the border with the neutral Irish Free State supplied the shortfall.

There was a huge influx of Allied troops into Northern Ireland during the war and many families invited servicemen stationed at the numerous army and RAF camps in the county to share their Christmas dinner. Their hospitality was amply repaid by the soldiers and airmen who brought treats such as tinned fruit or meat, chocolates and other luxuries. The American servicemen were particularly welcome guests as they raided their camps’ bountiful stores to bring choice items not available in the British military camps.

Preparations for the festive season began a few days before Christmas Eve (not before Halloween as is now often the case) and the festivities continued throughout the twelve days of Christmas: from Christmas Day until 6th January or Little Christmas as it is often called. While Christmas was primarily a religious holiday, it was also a time to forget cares and enjoy life with family and friends.

Although they were counterbalanced by the changes the servicemen brought to the county, both materially and socially, privation and hardship were part of the war years. But the adversity they experienced didn’t ruin their Christmas celebrations. The festive season had always been celebrated simply and they continued to enjoy it as they always had. Christmas didn’t lose its lustre during the difficult years of the war.

I recently wrote a blog post for Mary Anne Yarde’s blog about Christmas during the Second World War in Northern Ireland and it caused me to reflect on enjoying simple pleasures during the holidays. Amidst the glitz of the modern festive season, there’s still so many simple things we can enjoy. Have you ever threaded popcorn onto a string to drape across the branches of your tree or made a paper chain to decorate your house? Do you sit in the dark with your favourite drink (with or without alcohol tipped into it) and watch the flames dance in your fire or watch a candle flicker tentatively on the mantelpiece? Have you breathed in the fresh pine scent as you made a Christmas wreath for your front door? Do you savour the smell of logs burning in the fire or the scent of cinnamon wafting from the oven? Have you gazed up at the stars twinkling in the sky then scanned the darkness for lights glowing in the windows of neighbouring houses? Do you stop to listen to buskers and carollers on the street singing carols and Christmas songs? Have you stepped outside after a fresh snowfall and listened to the crunch of the snow underfoot and marvelled at the beauty of the white blanket?

What other simple holiday pleasures do you enjoy? As I said at the beginning of this post, I take a childlike delight in the glitz but I don’t need any of it to enjoy the holiday season as there are so many simple pleasures I enjoy too. Even if you are a fan of the glitz, why not take some time to enjoy the simple things this Christmas too?

Before I return to the fire to curl up with one of the Christmas novels I’m reading, I’d like to wish you, your family and friends a simple, wonderful Christmas!

Posted in December 2017 | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Discussing Isabella Unashamed

Today I’d like to welcome Helen R. Davis to Ascroft, eh? to discuss Isabella Unashamed.

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

Tell us about your novel.

H.R.D: ISABELLA UNASHAMED is a novel about Isabella I of Castile, one of history’s most infamous queens. She is widely viewed today through the lens of a more politically correct mindset that looks upon her as a despot. This is an alternate history novel that imagines Isabella taking a different route, not only after the fall of Grenada, but with her children.

What prompted you to write about this historical event?

Isabella coverH.R.D: I have always been both fascinated and repulsed by Isabella I. Unlike Elizabeth I, she is not remembered fondly in historical novels or books. I learned about Isabella as a teenager, through the Royal Diary series Isabel:Jewel of Castilla, by Carolyn Meyer. Though I adored her independent spirit, I loathed her intolerance, not realizing, of course, I was projecting my own values onto a figure who lived long before 20th/21st century ideals. As I matured, I began to view Isabella in a more nuanced light. I decided to try to re-imagine how her life and legacy would have been if she had done things a little differently. The inspiration was my own CLEOPATRA UNCONQUERED series, but I did not identify with Isabella or Spain as passionately as I do Cleopatra and ancient Egypt, so I decided to team up with Carolina Casas, who knew Isabella’s story more intimately than I did.

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

H.R.D: While this is alternate history, we still stuck to the details known about Castilian customs, the 15th and 16th century, Isabella and Ferdinand’s characters and what was known about them.

What research did you do for this book?

H.R.D: I have visited Spain and the palace where Ferdinand and Isabella married in Segovia. Carolina has done most of the reading of the nonfiction sources used. I also read several biographies on Isabella, and several novels to help with her writing style.

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?

H.R.D: Writing is easy for me, so I don’t really have any difficulties. The difficulty for me was writing scenes set in Spain, since I have more of a passion for France, England and Egypt.

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?

H.R.D: Part of it is being in Isabella’s castle and walking the same streets and places she walked in in Spain. Another part is just reading until you feel you ‘know’ the personages of the past. I did a lot of research on Spain in college, and most of it culminated in this novel.

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?

H.R.D: Female characters. While I would not go as far as to say women have been purposely written out of history, they are still underrepresented.

Thanks for answering my questions, Helen, and good luck with the novel. Isabella Unashamed is available on online retailers, including Amazon.

About the authors of Isabella Unashamed:

Isabella_Helen R. DavisHelen R. Davis: She is an American author. Her first novel, Evita: My Argentina was previously published as Evita: My Life and republished with Custom Book Publications in Hong Kong. Her second novel, CLEOPATRA UNCONQUERED, which is the first in a series, imagines a world in which Antony and Cleopatra, rather than Augustus Caesar, are the victors of the Battle of Actium. the sequel, CLEOPATRA VICTORIOUS, will be released soon, followed by the titles CLEOPATRA MAGNIFICA and CLEOPATRA TRIUMPHANT. Her third novel, or at least, her third historical novel/alternate history, THE MOST HAPPY, will be published with Callipe Editorial, based out of Madrid Spain.

For more information, please visit Helen Davis’ website. You can also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Carolina Casas: She has a BA in History and a minor in women’s studies.

Isabella_Carolina CasasHer debut novel “Isabella Unashamed” was co-written with the author of “Cleopatra Unconquered” & “The Most Happy”, Helen R. Davis, and it is a powerful alternative historical novel that asks the important question that has been on everyone’s mind: what-if? What if Isabella had taken a different route than the one she did following the surrender of Granada at the beginning of 1492.

A young woman who enjoys life and giving to others, she is also a self-proclaimed nerd who currently resides in the lone star state of Texas where she spends her free time writing, drawing, reading about her favorite historical subjects and watching classical horror and rom-coms with her friends.

Carolina’s journey into the realm of alternate history began when she was very little. After a frightful and sleepless night, she was introduced to the legend of King Arthur and his knights through Sir Thomas Mallory’s epic “Le Morte d’Arthur” which started her fascination with the medieval period and later with other eras. This, along with her curiosity, has led her to delve into the realm of alternate history.

Carolina has several pages on Facebook where she works alongside other history buffs and novelists (Tudor Nerds with Glasses and Tudor Facts vs. Fiction), as well as a history blog where she shares her thoughts on movies and TV shows as well.

You can also find her on Twitter and Goodreads.

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

Not Just in my Head Anymore

As I mentioned on Facebook a few days ago, I’ve just had my first experience of hearing one of my short stories, An Unbidden Visitor, come alive – through the skillful narration of audiobook narrator, Elizabeth Klett.

As I write, I hear the story in my head: the mood I want to create in the narrative passages and the sound of each character’s voice. I imagine most writers have clear ideas about how their stories should sound. Of course, this doesn’t mean that a reader will envision the story in exactly the same way as the writer. Each reader will have his own perception of it and that’s to be expected. But, listening to an audiobook gives the reader a chance to hear the story as the writer envisioned it.

An Unbidden Visitor is a ghost tale, and a tale of the disturbing effect the unnatural visitation has on a community. My main character, Bridie Murphy, is at the centre of the storm as she copes with the poltergeist that has invaded her house and family, and the fear and suspicion its presence evokes from her friends and neighbours.

The story is told in the first person from Bridie’s perspective so I wanted the narrator’s voice to convey her fear, despair and sorrow as events escalate and she is faced with a heartrending decision. I also wanted the narrator to convey the mix of hope and tension that threads through the story. And all of this needed to be done with a convincing Irish accent as the narrator is speaking with Bridie’s voice.

In order to find a narrator, I listened to audition tapes from several narrators who work for the company that produced the audiobook. I chose three who I enjoyed listening to and asked them to audition an excerpt from An Unbidden Visitor. When I listened to these auditions, I immediately liked Elizabeth’s rendition of the excerpt. She captured Bridie’s voice as I imagined it and also set the correct tone of the story. It was an easy decision to ask her to do the narration.

When I made the decision who would narrate the story, I had only each narrator’s short biographical sketch and their audition tapes to base it on. I only discovered after I hired Elizabeth that her audiobook narration credentials are impressive. She also has a background in acting and teaches English at college level so it’s not suprising she was able to analyse and interpret the story with only minimal guidance from me. No doubt, her acting experience also provided the voice training and skills needed to produce the required accent. It was a real pleasure to work with Elizabeth – and so exciting to hear the results.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to hear Bridie Murphy step off the page – and not only in my head. That’s the magic that a skilled narrator makes happen and I’m delighted that I decided to delve into the world of audiobooks.

On Writers Abroad this week I’ve also been blogging about audiobooks and shared my experience of creating this one. You’ll find that blog post here.

An Unbidden Visitor was released last week and is available on various online audiobook distributors, including Audible and iTunes.

Posted in Archives, November 2017 | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Look at Love and Other Hazards

Last weekend I read Love and Other Hazards by Claudia Riess, a story of modern life, love and family relationships.

Here’s what the publisher, River Grove Books, says the book: “Glenda Fieldston is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with her seven-year-old daughter, Astrid, when Eugene Lerman comes walking by with his eight-year-old daughter, Meredith, a schoolmate of Astrid’s. The families spot each other, Glenda and Eugene engage in long-range cursory assessments, and then they go their separate ways.

But not for long. Glenda and Eugene cross paths professionally soon after, and circumstances at work bring them into close association. So begins a friendship fraught with complications. Glenda’s independence is self-imposed and fierce. Eugene’s was foisted on him by a wife who left him. Although Glenda’s and Eugene’s personal demons are incompatible, their longings are, confoundedly, in harmony. Their cautious friendship is further inhibited by past and present relationships, and it remains to be seen if they can break out of their set ways to make a break for uncharted love.”

This contemporary romance, with its unique and captivating set of characters, is witty and poignant at the same time. Its realistic treatment of issues of modern life makes it a believable, satisfying read.

The main character, Glenda, is a determinedly single modern woman who doesn’t lie and views sex as merely a physical function. As the story progresses, and the author reveals the reason for Glenda’s unwillingness to commit to a monogamous relationship, the reader can’t help but root for the strong, yet vulnerable character. Glenda’s emotional journey hooks the reader and draws her through the story, on a tempestuous route that eventually arrives at a satisfying conclusion.

Although I spend most of my time with characters from an earlier era, I thoroughly enjoyed this refreshing change of perspective. The story is complex and there isn’t an absolute, black and white answer for every quandary, but it’s an uplifting affirmation of the indomitable nature of the human spirit. I heartily recommend it to readers who enjoy a good story, even if they aren’t fans of love stories. Spend a few hours with Glenda and Eugene. It’ll be worth it.

Readers can learn more about the author and her writing by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook, Twitter and her Goodreads page.

Love and Other Hazards is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and other online retailers.

About Claudia Riess: She is a Vassar graduate who has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker magazine and Holt, Rinehart and Winston books and has edited several art history monographs. Her first novel, “Reclining Nude,” was published by Stein and Day. Oliver Sacks, author of “Awakenings,” had said her first book was “exquisite—and delicate… a most courageous book, full of daring—a daring only possible to a passionate and pure heart.” The author divides her time between the Hamptons and Manhattan with her husband, Bob.

Posted in Archives, November 2017 | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Thumbing Through The French Collection

Today I’ve invited Vanessa Couchman, author of the French Collection and a fellow member of Writers Abroad, to visit Ascroft, eh? to talk about her new collection of short stories set in France, which will be launched tomorrow.

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

Tell us about your short story collection.

VC: Thanks for hosting me on your blog today, Dianne. Before I turned to novels, I started by writing short stories – and in fact I still do. My husband and I moved to southwest France 20 years ago and many of my stories are set in France. It has a fascinating history and culture and provides many anecdotes and plenty of inspiration for writers. To celebrate our two decades in France, I decided to choose a selection of my stories and publish them in a short volume, French Collection: Twelve Short Stories.

What research did you do for this book? How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
VC: I love the research aspect of writing historical fiction. Often, when I’m researching a particular topic, I come across another one by chance that leads to a story in itself. Some of the research you do never gets used, except to provide contextual background, but that is important, too.

Some of the individual stories required quite a lot of research. Several of them are set during World War I, for example, and it’s important to be accurate when referring to real historical events. One of the stories, ‘Bertie’s Buttons’, was inspired by the Christmas Truce of 1914 when soldiers from both sides all along the Western Front emerged from their trenches and met in No Man’s Land. In addition to researching the known facts about these events, I also came across a few personal accounts, fortunately available on the Internet. The personal viewpoint adds depth and authenticity.

Another story concerns a pedlar who was chased from a southern French village in 1628 during a plague outbreak. This is based on a true story, but the known facts about the event are very limited, so I had to embroider those quite a bit within the context of what is known about the plague epidemic that year.

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

VC: Mostly, the characters in French Collection are invented. The only story that uses real historic figures is entitled The Artist and the Acrobat. In that, the celebrated painter Edgar Degas wants to paint Miss La La, who was a circus performer in the 1870s-80s, renowned for her great physical strength and acrobatic feats.

I find I prefer to write about invented people, although sometimes they comprise aspects of real people. I suspect it is more difficult to write about known historical figures, since the scope for invention is much more limited. You can allow yourself freer rein if you make up the characters. Also, it intrigues me to write about ‘normal’ people who are affected by global events.

In an historical fiction 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?

VC: Many of the stories are set in places I know in the area where we live. Some of them have barely changed since medieval times, which makes it easier to imagine how it might have been to live in them. I have also read a lot about the history of the area and I am always interested to learn about anecdotes that reveal how life was at a certain period. The French have a strong tradition of romans du terroir (novels set in the countryside) and a firm attachment to their rural roots. You get a good idea about French life in bygone days from those.

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

VC: I don’t think I have a preference. In my novels, I have tended to write about female main characters. In the 12 short stories in French Collection, five of the main characters are male and seven are female. One of the themes in my work is how French society changed during the 20th century – and particularly the effect of these changes on women, which happened slowly but surely. But, overall, I tend to use characters that best fit the story, whether male or female.

Thanks for answering my questions, Vanessa and good luck with your new release, French Collection.

Readers can learn more about Vanessa and her writing by visiting her website and connecting with her on Facebook and Twitter. She also writes a blog about life in France which you can find here.

French Collection: Twelve Short Stories is available in paperback and e-book formats from Amazon.

About Vanessa Couchman: Vanessa is a British novelist and short story writer who has lived in southwest France since 1997. She has written two novels, The House at Zaronza and The Corsican Widow, and is working on a third. Her short stories have been placed in competitions and published in anthologies. French Collection, her collection of short stories set in France, is published on 9th November.

Posted in November 2017 | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Did I mention Only One Remedy?

YY 5 available

This autumn has been flying by as I’ve been busy writing. I’m currently working on Whispers on Water, the sixth book in The Yankee Years series, which will be available in December and I’ve also started work on the first book in a new cozy mystery series that takes me back to small town Ontario where I spent lots of time in my early adulthood.  But I’ll tell you more about that one soon.

But first, I wanted to mention that Only One Remedy, Book 5 in The Yankee Years series was launched in mid-August, just before I went to Austria on my summer holiday (check Facebook for photos from that trip) and I’ve been so caught up in my current writing projects since I returned from that trip, that I’ve never even mentioned the release of Only One Remedy on this blog. Oops….

So I think it’s time I did. Do you want to know a little more about Only One Remedy?

Here goes:
January 1943: When a Sunderland flying-boat is forced to land in foggy weather near Ardess Rectory then bursts into flames, Reverend Herbert Lindsay and U.S. army nurse Marjorie Baxter work together to assist in the evacuation of injured crew members. Afterwards in the chaotic Receiving wing at the nearby military hospital at Necarne Castle, Herbert’s concern for an overwhelmed staff member arouses Marjorie’s jealousy and threatens to drive a wedge between them.  

In the aftermath of the flying-boat accident, can Marjorie and Herbert find a remedy that will salve their doubts and fears, and save their budding romance?

I hope you will find the summary for Only One Remedy interesting. You can learn more about the book by visiting its Amazon page here.

I’ll be back with more news soon. Meanwhile I better get back to writing.

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