A warm welcome to author TC Booth, who's joined me on my blog today to talk about her new release, Beyond Vica, a young adult novella.
Gabby and her two best friends share a constellation in the sky named VICA. The trio named the constellation that tells the tale of their childhood friendship. Now that Gabby is fifteen, this tale written in the stars means more than ever. Gabby finds herself facing the threat of losing her best friend, Sam to cancer.
The sudden interest in Sam from people at school raises Gabby's suspicions. They've never cared about Sam before, with the exception of Brody, Gabby's other best friend. His insane good looks and off the scale popularity attracts the attention of most girls. Gabby's learned to keep her guard up with these girls who've attempted to befriend her in order to get close to Brody. She won't stand for Sam being used as a pawn in their games.
Grief over Sam's situation triggers memories of Gabby's past. She's flooded with images of a tragedy that happened when Gabby was five. To complicate matters even more, Gabby finds herself turning into one of the girls she's always complained about...the girls that drool after Brody. Gabby's afraid to let herself feel anything for Brody other than friendship. With the threat of losing Sam, she can't take a chance on jeopardizing her only other friendship.
As Gabby's world crashes down on her, she's forced to face the realities of life, death, grief, and love. How will she survive without the friendship that's written in the stars?
“I read your creative writing assignment. You’re a good writer.” Her voice is low and even.
My head snaps up. She has my writing papers in her hands. I feel betrayed by my English teacher. My teacher said all writing pieces were between us unless she asks our permission to share them.
“Mrs. Smith would like to submit it to a journal for young people, but she thought I should read it first,” Mrs. Hershey says. “It sounds like the land beyond Vica is a wonderful place. Tell me how you came up with Vica.”
I study her for a long time before I answer. It’s not easy for me to let people in on my friendship with Sam. I’ve wanted to preserve every memory. Keep it tight, like if I share anything, it’s no longer mine. I swallow and tell her the story of Brody, Sam, and me naming the stars in the upside-down V. I leave out the details of how Sam said the three stars are us.
If you want to buy this fascinating book here are the links.
My love of books developed at a young age. My third grade teacher read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to our class. From then on, I couldn’t get enough of good books. That is also the year that I won a poetry contest and had my picture taken for the newspaper. I was hooked. Reading and writing were my passions.
Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?
I had the privilege of teaching with my third grade teacher for a couple of years before she retired. I also read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle to my third grade classes.
What’s your top tip for new writers?
Read a lot of books in your genre, then write. Read and write some more. Never stop.
TC Booth was born and raised in the small town where she currently lives and teaches.
She discovered her enjoyment of writing at a young age with the writing of poetry. This love of writing developed into writing short stories for her family and students.
She wrote the children's story, The Time Travel Storm for her class that was published in 2102. Her short young adult fiction story titled "A Seasoned Card Player" was published in an anthology called A Certain Kind of Freedom last year.
She feels blessed to be living her dream of not only teaching children, but writing stories for them. She enjoys the challenge of writing about life’s journeys from a teenager’s point of view.
I've pleased to welcome back fellow Astraea author, Heather Gray, on my blog today. Heather's latest book is called Jackal. Take a look at the gorgeous cover.
Back Cover Blurb:
Hiding in the shadows just got harder.
When tragedy strikes, Juliana and her family must flee their home. Can they persuade a virtual stranger to help them? Juliana isn't so sure, especially after their chaperone threatens to cane him. Even as Juliana struggles to trust him, she finds herself drawn to this mysterious man. Surely all she wants from him is refuge…
Rupert is a man whose life depends on his ability to remain unnoticed. What, then, is he supposed to do with this family he's inherited? His life is overrun with an ancient chaperone who would terrify a lesser man, two spirited girls, and the secretive Juliana – someone he comes to think of as his own precious jewel.
With this new responsibility thrust upon him, Rupert will have to make sacrifices – but will God ask him to sacrifice everything?
A duke had been cut down in the prime of his life. According to the War Department, The Hunter was to blame.
Jackal had been put onto The Hunter's scent and told to ferret him out at all cost. It was his job, his duty to the crown, and he treated it with the seriousness it demanded. Evil could not be allowed to go unpunished, and people who took pleasure in destroying the lives of others would not walk away with impunity, not on his watch.
Jackal met with his contacts in the Austrian government and found no gratification in revealing they had a traitor in their midst. It had been a necessary move, and now the problem would be dealt with. The Austrians would put The Hunter down, and England's hands would remain clean of the mess, exactly as the minister wanted.
Grim foreboding furrowed his brow as he left the meeting with the Austrians. His lack of evidence mocked him. He'd done as ordered, and they'd believed him, but had it been his choice, he'd have gathered more proof first.
Jackal climbed into his carriage and slapped his hand against the roof, signaling the driver with his readiness to depart. A lengthy ride awaited him. He would leave the carriage and his current identity behind in Munich once he arrived there. New papers and fresh horses were waiting for him. The same would happen again when he crossed over into Stuttgart, and then again in Brussels. His task was clear: remain alive long enough to claim each of the new identities and return safely to his homeland.
Sitting back on the roughly cushioned seat, he accepted what he'd begun to suspect. This would be his last assignment for the crown. He was getting too old for the job. The time to retire was upon him. The younger bucks were willing – if not entirely ready – to take their place among the ranks of the unseen, unknown, and unnamed heroes of war. Jackal shook his head. Not too long ago, he'd been one of those young bucks. Ready for retirement at age thirty-two? The thought would be laughable in any other career. In his line of work, though, only those who retired young lived to be old and grey.
Lost in melancholy, Jackal barely noted the change from the raucous noise of a bustling merchant district to the quiet pastoral sounds that would accompany him on most of this journey. Europe was a large land with rich cities interspersed with vast emptiness dotted with small hamlets. Traveling by carriage would take weeks, but as long as he could report back that he'd done as ordered, it would be worth the time.
He settled into his seat. They were still days from their first sanctioned stop. As always, the best defense was to keep moving.
A change in the carriage's soothing methodical movement woke Jackal from his doze and alerted him that something was amiss. Awareness coursed through his veins, pushing away the remnant of sleep. A quick glance at the curtained window told him it was late morning. They'd ridden through the night to put as much distance as possible between them and Vienna – the current hub of Austrian government.
The carriage was moving with a wildness he'd felt only one other time in his life. Dread snaked through his middle as he accepted the truth. There was no longer a driver in control of his conveyance. Jackal crouched low on the floor for balance as he prepared to throw open the door and jump. Perhaps he should have sought retirement one assignment sooner.
Before his hand could touch the door, a jarring force threw Jackal against the seat to his left, shooting pain up his arm. They'd been boarded, then, and his driver – an agent he'd worked with for years – had likely not been alive to sound the alarm. Emotion would come later. For now, Jackal needed to focus on one thing: Survival.
The carriage gained speed under the skillful hand of whoever now sat in the driver's seat. I should have jumped when I had the chance. Jackal shook his head as he calculated the odds of survival.
Palming his gun, he pounded on the roof of the carriage, commanding the driver to stop. Surprise flared to life as his conveyance did indeed come to a standstill. Rather than slow to a gentle stop, the carriage halted its forward momentum in a skidding bone-shaking fashion. It was the kind of stop that guaranteed no beast would be able to walk away from it afterward.
Jackal jumped before the dust could settle. His best chance would be to go on the offence and catch the driver off-guard. Though he'd assumed the driver had a partner, nothing could have prepared him for the vicious attack awaiting him on the other side of the door.
Jackal no sooner touched the ground than he was trampled under the anxious feet of a high-stepping horse. He'd not even had a chance to gain his footing. As he lay on the ground, Jackal both heard and felt the breaking of bone in his left leg. A couple of his ribs surrendered to the heavy hooves as well. Rolling onto his side, he took aim at the perpetrator. The sun blinded him, and he could distinguish no features on the man whose gun dared him to move. In the split second it took for him to reassure himself he was not aiming at an innocent bystander – for they were indeed in one of the numerous modest hamlets that dotted the continent's countryside – the rider pulled the trigger, and pain seared through Jackal's already throbbing leg. It felt as if the lead had burrowed its way into his very bone.
He pulled the trigger of his flintlock pistol, and the man on the horse recoiled. Even as Jackal reached for the gun concealed at the ankle of his wounded leg, he knew it was futile. The rider had a second gun in-hand before his own fingers even brushed against the grip of his hidden weapon. Pain tore through his shoulder, immobilizing his shooting arm. Another ball of lead ripped into his middle. He felt his blood seeping out onto the street.
Accepting his fate, he asked only one thing. "At whose hand am I to die this day?"
Laughter vile enough to sour port met his question. "Today the Jackal shall meet his end at the hands of The Hunter."
The Hunter? The Austrians were supposed to have him by now.
"Your plan failed, and I am free. Prepare to die."
Blackness closing in around him, Jackal released the last thought held captive in his mind.
Cold claimed his body as he slipped into darkness. He neither heard nor felt the next shot.
Wow, Heather! Can't wait to see what happens next! If you want to read more, you can buy Heather's book from the links below:
Heather Gray is the author of the Ladies of Larkspur inspirational western romance series, including Mail Order man, Just Dessert, and Redemption. She also writes the Regency Refuge series with titles His Saving Grace, Jackal, and the soon-to-be-released Queen. But that's not all! Interested in contemporary Christian romance? Take a look at Ten Million Reasons and Nowhere for Christmas.
Heather loves coffee, God, her family, and laughter – not necessarily in that order! She writes approachable and flawed characters who, through the highs and lows of life, find a way to love God, embrace each day, and laugh out loud right along with her. And, yeah, her books almost always have someone who's a coffee addict. Some things just can't be helped.
Thanks for dropping by, Heather. Good luck with your book!
I'm delighted to welcome my friend and fellow author, David Calcutt, onto my blog today. David has had a long and varied writing career, he writes plays, poetry and stories. As a writer of plays, he has worked in theatre, radio and community theatre.
David's play 'The Life and Times of the Tat Man' is currently on tour and is a huge success.
Tony Barret as The Tat Man
I asked David to tell us about himself
How did you get started writing?
I used to be a poet. By which I mean, way back in the early 1970’s that’s how I thought of myself. I think I can be forgiven that indulgence. I was very young and had the arrogance of youth and didn’t know any better. One reason I called myself a poet was because that was what I chiefly wrote, or tried my best to write, and that’s as good a reason as any, I suppose. Another was because one of my chief aims in life was to be a professional writer, in other words, to be paid for my writing, and to make a living out of it, and it so happened that it was for a poem that I first received a cheque. So, I thought, my work must be of some worth of someone’s willing to pay me for it, and if that was the case, I’d better work at it. And that’s what I did for the next seven or eight years, with greater or lesser degrees of success. That is to say, I think I got better at the writing, but didn’t make that much money out of it, because, although I had quite a few poems published in several small press magazines – all print, of course, as these were pre-internet times – and published a couple of pamphlets, not many of those publishers paid. In fact, I don’t recall any of them paying, except for the BBC. And it was to the BBC and the radio that I turned my attention in an effort to achieve my aim of becoming a professional writer because, by the end of the decade, it had become clear to me that I wasn’t going to do it writing poetry.
You can read some of David's poems on his website.
So I began writing plays for the radio and, after many rejections and with some practice and encouragement, had one accepted, and then another. At the same time I began writing plays for the stage as well, working with youth theatres and community groups mainly. This took up all of my writing time and, eventually led to my achieving that aim, of becoming a professional writer. And in order to do that I had stopped being a poet, and became a playwright. Later on I wrote some children’s novels, and I still from time to time write poetry. But it was a playwright that I was earning, and still chiefly earn my living.
Which do you like writing most?
The thing about being a playwright, or a novelist or a poet, though, is that these are labels that we put on ourselves, or other put people put on us, in order to define what we do. They help identify us to the outside world. Or to put us into easily identifiable boxes. But there’s something in my nature that resists that, that doesn’t want, as a writer, to be so easily identifiable. I like the freedom of being able to move from one form to another, to work at the craft of each of those forms, to discover what’s different about them and what’s similar, and to find ways in which might they resonate with and inform each other. And, in my case at least, what lies behind each of those forms, the thing that gives them their energy, their life-force if you like, is story. And its story, I think, that is the root and bedrock of all writing. We are by nature storytelling creatures, and storytelling is a shared experience. It illuminates and elucidates some aspect of human experience in the world, and it only comes to life when it is told by one person to another. It is as much the act of listening as that of telling that creates the story as a living thing in the moment and gives it its luminescence. It has an improvisational quality about it as well, because it’s never truly finished. The moment one person tells it to another, it changes, becomes something new again.
I think this might be why I do feel most at ease when I’m writing a play. Because the script, when you’ve finished writing, isn’t actually the finished thing. It only really comes into its own when it’s presented by actors in front of an audience, and depends upon both actors and audience to bring it to life. It’s also a form that is capable of embracing all the other written and performing art-forms – storytelling, poetry, music, dance and song. A play is a generous creature, all-inclusive. It’s also different each time it’s performed.
This has become very clear to me in my most recent piece of work, a one-man play called “The Life and Times of the Tat Man”. Being a one-man play (it was written for someone else to perform, not me) it does have that storytelling quality, in that the actor is speaking directly to the audience, and each time I’ve watched Tony perform it, it’s different, because the audience is different. And, although I know I’ve written it, it feels like he’s speaking it himself for the first time. The craft is there, all right, I know that because of the work I put into writing it. But it’s not just my craft. There’s the actor’s craft as well, and the director’s craft in helping the actor to shape it. And the audience’s craft as well, the craft of listening, and engaging, and playing their part in helping the piece have its own life, there on the stage in front of them, and later, in their memories and imaginations. If what we want as writers is for others to be moved by our work, for it resonate with them on an immediate and emotional level, for it to have some meaning beyond the individual, then I’ve yet to find a better way of coming close to that.
Your play, 'The Life and Times of theTat Man' sounds fascinating, David.
As a writer of poetry, David's work has appeared in many print and online magazines, and he has two recent pamphlets published, "Road Kill" and "Through The Woods".
Several of David's plays for young people are published by Oxford University Press.
As a writer of stories, he has had novels and stories for young people published by OUP and, most recently, a book of Robin Hood stories published by Barefoot Books. He has worked as a writer in various community settings.
This weekend I attended the RNA conference wearing my other hat as Kay Harborne, Romantic Novelist. Except I kept getting mixed up - and mixing everyone else up - by still referring to myself as Karen King. It’s not easy having two identities. Do you have two twitter handles, two Facebook pages, two websites? This was the topic of a really interesting workshop by Pamela Hartshorne who also writes M&B romances under the name of Jessica Hart – and is much more famous than me so needs two of everything.
I went with my friend, Ann Evan, and we had a fantastic time. Here we both are all dressed up for the Gala Dinner.
We were lucky enough to share a table with the lovely Harlequin Editors, Lucy Gilmour and Victoria Oundjian.
The food was fantastic. I took a photo of the starter but managed to restrain myself from taking photos of all the meal and letting everyone know that my usual meal is out of the freezer into the oven/micro.
I attended lots of workshops, all incredibly useful, and had some one to ones with editors. The editors were really positive about work I submitted but I’m not going to jinx anything by talking about it yet. Just keep your fingers crossed for me, please!
I left with a lovely goody bag full of free books, chocolates and author’s goodies, lots of interesting and very helpful information by talented authors such as Sue Moorcroft Janet Gover, Alison Sherlock and Kate Long to mention just a few, and wonderful memories of an inspiring – but exhausting – weekend. Now to get writing!
I'm delighted that my first romance novel, Never Say Forever, has been re-released today by Astraea Press. Just look at this fab new cover!
Do you follow your dream or follow your heart?
That’s the decision Kendall McKenzie has to make when she meets hunky businessman Jake Newman. It’s obvious that he’s as attracted to her as she is to him. But Kendall has vowed to never get married – and it seems that Jake, too, is determined to never commit. When the two are together however sparks fly and it’s obvious to everyone except themselves that they’re meant to be together. Can Kendall trust Jake enough to give him her heart? And if she does will she have to say goodbye to her dream?
He turned and saw an open door leading into the kitchen where Kendall, her back towards him, was unplugging the kettle. She was wearing a neat, grey, pinstriped suit, the jacket tapering in at the waist and the skirt finishing just above the knee, with enough of a slit to reveal her very shapely legs.
She turned around and smiled at him, and his heart missed a beat. She was incredibly pretty and fresh, even at this early hour. Her glowing hair was loosely tied back from her face, which was bare of make‑up apart from a touch of lipstick, and her eyes were bright and sparkling, as if she’d had a restful night’s sleep.
“OK, I’m ready now. I’ve just got to get my suitcase out of the bedroom.”
Here was where he was supposed to tell her that she was staying at the Birmingham office, that he didn’t need her in Spain, after all. But the words wouldn’t come. He might not need her in Spain with him, but he definitely wanted her there.
“Ouch!” Kendall’s cry of pain interrupted his thoughts. He dashed down the hall and saw her bending down, rubbing the back of her leg, the suitcase on the floor behind her.
“Are you all right?” he asked, worried. His eyes rested on the hole in her tights and the bruise already forming. “That looks nasty,” he said sympathetically.
She flushed. “The case was heavier than I thought. I stumbled and caught the back of my leg with it. I’ll be fine. I just need to change my tights.”
“I’ll wait in the car for you.” He effortlessly picked up the heavy suitcase. “And we’re all right for a few minutes if you want to put some ice on that bruise.” Without waiting for an answer, he carried the suitcase out the front door.
Maybe he was the one who needed the ice, he thought, as he took the case down to the car. The sight of Kendall’s bare skin peeping through the hole in her tights and hint of cleavage as she’d bent down to rub her leg had certainly made his temperature rise.
Don’t even think about it, he warned himself as he pressed the remote to open the car boot. This was a business trip, and he had to keep it that way. He never mixed business with pleasure and he wasn’t about to start now. Not even with Kendall McKenzie.
Especially not with Kendall McKenzie.
It was only as she walked into the car park at the back of the flats that Kendall realised she didn’t know what sort of car Jake drove, but the sleek, midnight‑blue sedan just had to be his. She was a bit taken aback when he got out, walked around, and opened the passenger door for her. Not many guys did that nowadays.
“Thank you,” she said as she slid onto the leather seat.
“My pleasure.” There was a hint of teasing in his reply, as if he knew he’d surprised her.
“Love the car,” she said as he got in beside her.
He flashed her a smile. “I quite like it too.”
“It might have been better if you’d got someone to drop us off at the airport so they could take the car back,” she suggested. “I wouldn’t risk leaving a car like this parked at the airport.”
ʺI’m not. I’ve left a spare set of keys with my chauffeur. He’ll pick it up later this morning then drive it home for me. It didn’t seem fair to drag him out of bed this early.”
He’s a nice guy, Kendall thought, kind and considerate yet rich and successful. In her experience, the qualities hadnʹt always mixed.
As they drove along, she was acutely aware of his presence beside her, of his strong hands holding the wheel casually but firmly, of his left hand reaching down to change gears effortlessly and smoothly, just a few centimetres from her knee.
“How long did you teach in Thailand?” he asked her. “I spent a bit of time over there myself a couple of years ago. It’s a beautiful country.”
“I was there for a year.” She was glad of the diversion. “I taught in a school in Chiang Mai.”
For the rest of the journey they spoke about Thailand and some of the other countries they had both visited, and she realised that he was actually very easy to talk to with a good sense of humour. She was almost sorry when they arrived at the airport; she’d enjoyed his company so much.
Careful, she told herself. I bet he’s as charming as this with all the women he meets. She knew he had a reputation for collecting beautiful girlfriends — Tanya had hinted as much at the engagement party. He was the eternal bachelor. Well, she was the eternal bachelor girl, wasn’t she? She could handle Jake Newman, even if he did make her go all goose-bumpy