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  1. A huge welcome this week to Carnegie Medal winner and RLF Fellow, Susan Price, who's dropped by to tell us a bit about herself and some of her books.

    Susan Price was born in the Black Country, in Oldbury. Her first book contract was signed by her father because, at 16, she was under age. She has earned her living by writing, and lecturing about writing, ever since. Recently she has worked in universities with the Royal Literary Fund.  Susan's book, The Ghost Drum, won the Carnegie Medal. She has since written more books in the Ghost World series, two of which - Ghost Drum and Ghost Song - are now reavailable as paperbacks.

    SusansGhostDrum         GHOST SONG             Ghost Dance

     

    In 2011, Susan began self-publishing e-books and, together with Katherine Roberts, co-founded the multi-author blog, Do Authors Dream of Electric Books? The 29 contributing authors call themselves the Authors Electric.

    Links

    Authors Electric Blog

    Susan Price’s website

    Twitter handle: @priceclan

     

     I asked Sue to tell us a bit more about herself.

    What was the first thing you had published?

    The first thing I had published was the first book I completed: The Devil’s Piper. I wrote it when I was fifteen, typed it on an ancient iron typewriter, and illustrated it myself, in biro pen. 

    Devils Piper

    One of A M Heath’s agents, Osyth Leeston, took me on — and sent the book to Phyllis Hunt, who was then children’s editor for Faber — and a wonderful editor.  Phyllis said she would publish the book if I could rewrite it to the standard she required. She sent me a ten page letter of comments on why the book didn’t work as well as it could, and how it could be improved.

    Looking back at this from over forty years on, I’m incredulous. I don’t think this would happen today. Publishers in those days took more care of their eco-system — they knew they had to be growing authors up to replace those they were going to lose. And, of course, both Osyth and Phyllis were extraordinarily kind and encouraging to me. Phyllis once said that she thought she had ‘brought me up’ as a writer — and I wouldn’t argue with that.

    I’ve no doubt there are people just as kind in publishing today, but I don’t think they would have the time or the leeway to help a novice along as I was helped. — Or perhaps I’m completely wrong, and just indulging in a senior moment of ‘things were better in those days?’ If so, please let me know.

    I agree with you, Susan. I was helped a great deal by encouraging editors and publishers in my early days as a writer. I don't think editors have the time to give this kind of support today.

    What do you like writing most?

    Something that sells millions, gets turned into a film and makes me rich!

    It’s a question I find hard to answer seriously. One of the comments made early in my career by my fairy godmothers, Phyllis and Osyth, was that I wrote a lot of different things, and was hard to categorise. I’ve written ‘kitchen-sink’, historicals, full-on fantasy, folkloric retellings, science-fiction, short stories, ghost stories… I’ve written for pretty much every age-group too, from babies to adults. As you can see, on my Amazon page

    And the book I’m working on now is different again: set in the present day, with a truly evil, heartless main character who enjoys tormenting other people and looks on murder as business.

    I enjoy writing it all.

    What piece of writing/work are you most proud of?

    The Ghost World Trilogy, certainly. The first one, The Ghost Drum, won the Carnegie Medal. That was a surprise  — but as soon as I finished the book, I knew it was the best thing I’d ever written.

    I went on thinking that until I turned all three into e-books (since they’d been allowed to go out of print, and no publisher would reprint them.) This meant scanning them into my computer and re-reading and proofing them all over again. While doing this, I came to the conclusion that the second book, Ghost Song, and the third book, Ghost Dance, were both, in their ways, better than the first.

    The books don’t form a classical trilogy, with each book following on from the one before. In fact, Ghost Song is a prequel to Ghost Drum, and is, I think, more lyrical. Then Ghost Dance is a stand-alone book, though set in the same world. It’s much more sinister than the first two, and has a more complicated plot.

    I’ve written a fourth book in the series, Ghost Spell, which I may bring out as an ebook one day.

    I recently turned the first two, Drum and Song, into paperbacks, available through Amazon. People who’d read the books when young kept asking me where they could buy paper copies. I’m quite proud that this book is now selling to a second, even third generation!

    LINK TO THE E-BOOKS

    LINK TO THE PAPERBACKS

    But I’m also quite proud of my Sterkarm books — The Sterkarm Handshake, A Sterkarm Kiss and, soon, I hope, A Sterkarm Embrace. They have probably been the most successful of my books. Recently, I was in a school giving a talk in the library. The talk ended, the class left — but their young teacher doubled back, stuck her head round the door and said, ‘I didn’t realise it was you, but I just want to tell you that when I was 13, Sterkarm Handshake was my favourite book.’

    Sterkarm H

    Maybe this is why:— Mary Hoffman, the Book Maven, awarded my Sterkarm hero the Number 2 spot in her ‘Ten Hottest Teen Heroes.’ http://bookmavenmary.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/attractive-teen-heroes.html

    Per Sterkarm in The Sterkarm Handshake by Susan Price. It’s pronounced “stark-arm” and is the name of a family of 16th century border bandits. Per is the only and most beloved son, whose pretty face gets him the nickname of “the May” or maid. But he’s a useful man in a battle, a lusty lover and one who inspires devotion in everyone from his father, to his hounds, to the 21st century time-traveller Andrea.

    The books are a mixture of science-fiction and history, with the 16th Century Sterkarms clashing violently with the 21st Century time-travelling ‘Elves.’

    The Sterkarms are on their third film option at the moment, and I’m just hoping they’ll gallop home with it this time. I’m also hoping that soon I’ll be able to tell people that the first two have been republished, along with the third.

     

    That's fabulous news, Susan. Wishing you all the best of luck with it. Do let me know.

    What’s your favourite poem?

    That’s a tough one. Robert Graves said that you know poetry when you read it because it makes your hair stand on end – and the first time I read Ozymandias, I certainly felt my hair rise. I love Marvell’s To His Coy Mistress too — possibly the greatest knicker-dropper of all time!

    Despite being an atheist, I love U A Fanthorpe’s religious poems, particularly Joseph. And I’ve loved the old Border Ballads since I was a teenager — all human passion and crime is there: every kind of ‘cide — patri, matri, infanti, fratri.  Some wonderful phrases too, as when Edward’s mother asks him what — since he’s determined to ‘set his foot in a bottomless boat’ — does he leave to her? He answers: The World’s room/ To beg your bread/ For all the lies you told to me.’

    What do you like to do to relax?

    Read! — And watch telly. And walk over the hills. I like shooting with my longbow — though only at targets! My partner and I love island-hopping by Cally-Mac ferries. Earlier this year we got up at 3 and drove madly north for 8 hours to catch the noon CallyMac from Oban to Barra in the Outer Hebrides. We’re planning to go to Barra again, but this time make our way up the Hebrides, via ferry and causeway. My partner’s an ex-Met-Office weather observer, and very good at avoiding the worst weather.

    That must come in very handy. :)

    What do you like to read?

    All sorts. I loved the Game of Thrones series. I only meant to pass the time by looking into the Amazon sample of A Song Of Ice and Fire, but was hooked and read all seven without a break. Then watched the TV version (very good, but the books were better.)

     I love Minette Walters and Sarah Waters. I love legends and mythology. I was stunned by Mantel’s books about Cromwell – and I read and re-read Terry Pratchett all the time.

     

    Thanks for stopping by and telling us about your work, Susan. :)

  2. It's a pleasure to welcome fellow Astraea author Kathy Bosman back on my blog, to talk about her latest release, White Christmas. Just look at the gorgerous cover.

    WhiteChristmasKiss453X680

     

    Blurb:

    Rachelle runs a little wedding chapel on the Coderica Passenger Liner. Two years on the passenger liner haven’t helped her find peace from past mistakes. Ray brings his girlfriend on the Coderica’s grand cruise to Europe. When his plans to marry her in the little chapel go horribly wrong and the relationship fails, Ray and Rachelle are drawn to each other like moths to a flame. Romance blossoms in Europe, culminating on Christmas Day. But the cruise ends and Rachelle isn’t sure she’s ready to leave the Coderica with Ray. Will the memory of their white Christmas kiss be strong enough to bring them together forever?

     

    Excerpt

    “I’m thinking of ending the whole relationship.”

    The woman walked to the fire and placed her hands near its warmth. “The air by that window is cold.”

    “The weirdest thing is that I’m actually enjoying being away from her.”

    “Would you like another drink?”

    It was actually humorous how she avoided the conversation. He shook his head. “I’d like to get to my ship cabin safely without toppling overboard.”

    “Whatever.”

    “Are you feeling relaxed?”

    She shrugged.

    He couldn’t bear it any longer. In a moment, he rose and moved to her, placing his hands on her sagging shoulders. “What did you run away from?”

    “I’m sorry?” She turned to him, her eyes haunted, cheeks flushed with embarrassment—or was it the heat of the fire?

    “I can see it in your eyes…the hurt…the confusion.”

    She pulled away and attempted to walk back to the window, but he grabbed her hand, desperate for her to open up and release the pent-up, albeit negative, energy. The force of their opposite movements made her spin around to face him, her soft cheeks inches from his gaze. Her lips were pursed and pale pink—no lipstick, no cracks, just smooth and plump. A warm vanilla scent wafted from her hair, mingling with the lazy smell of liqueur and wood smoke. In a moment, he’d tucked her up against him, and he’d moved his lips onto hers. The pressure he gave her surprised even him, as also the need to remain there, locked in a kiss in a smoky bar in Spain when his future wife stood vigil in a hospital back home.

    He expected her to pull away and break the contact. Waited for her scathing comment to add fuel to his guilt. Instead, her whole body softened in his grasp, making him unable to retreat. He explored her mouth with simple movement, which she mirrored. They were instinctively in tune, and the arousal he experienced sent shock waves through him. It felt so intense that he was now convinced Desia wasn’t the only woman who stirred him to such passion. In fact, this felt far deeper and more intense than Desia’s…

    “I have to go.” She pulled away and turned from him, grabbing her jacket in haste.

     Want to read more? You can buy it here:

    Amazon

    Barnes and Noble

    Smashwords

    Wattpad (first chapter free)

    KoboAuthor Pic short hair

    Author Bio:

    Kathy loves reading and writing even more. She homeschools her three kids, so in between unsuccessfully explaining the difference between subject and predicate or how to divide fractions, she enters an imaginary world of troubled and passionate characters whose stories take over the page. Kathy lives in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, where the summers are hot, the winters cool, and bugs thrive. Her first published novel, Wedding Gown Girl, came out in 2012 with Astraea Press. She belongs to the Romance Writers of South Africa Group (ROSA) which has been her greatest support and inspiration the last few years.

     

    Online Links for Kathy:

    Website and blog

    Facebook author page

    Twitter

    Goodreads

    Pinterest

    Amazon

    YouTube

    Newsletter Subscription

     You can read Kathy's earlier blog here: http://www.karenking.net/blog/read_114386/guest-author-kathy-bosman.html

  3. A warm welcome back to fellow Astraea author, Helen Pollard, who's dropped by to tell us about her latest romance, Warm Hearts in  Winter.

    Book cover

    Blurb:

    Can two hearts thaw on the midwinter moors?

    Forced by circumstance into the world of temping, when Abby Davis accepts an assignment in the wilds of Yorkshire as personal assistant to a widowed novelist, she assumes he is an ageing recluse.

    Thirty-something Jack Blane is anything but. Still struggling to get his life and writing career back on track three years after his wife’s death, Jack isn’t ready for a breath of fresh air like Abby.

    Snowed in at his winter retreat on the moors, as the weeks go by and their working relationship becomes friendship and maybe more, Abby must rethink her policy of never getting involved with someone at work … and Jack must decide whether he is willing to risk the pain of love a second time.

     Excerpt from Chapter One:

    Abby chewed her lip in anxious concentration as she peered through the windscreen, her fingers gripping the steering wheel so hard her knuckles were white. The narrow country road would be hard to negotiate at the best of times, but in the dark and the snow it was almost impossible. Despite her slow speed, the full beam from her headlights barely showed a bend until she was almost upon it — but since there was nowhere to turn around, all she could do was grit her teeth, stay calm and fervently hope her satnav didn't lead her down a sheep track or into a swollen river.

    She allowed herself a soft curse at the weather and directed another at Casey while she was at it. It was all her fault this was happening. No, that wasn't true. Her friend was only trying to help, and it was because of their friendship that Abby had been foolish enough to accept this assignment. That and the fact she'd had little choice in the matter. Her recent bad luck — if that was what you could call it — hadn't allowed her the luxury of choice. She needed a job. Her best friend managed a temping agency. A job came up. Abby had exactly ten minutes to decide whether to accept the post of personal assistant to some thriller writer she'd never heard of. Casey had heard of him and recommended she did. Actually, she reminded her she was in no position to refuse. It would be a challenge, Casey said. Unusual, Casey said. Abby trusted her and accepted.

    And now look. Desperate to set off before the weather deteriorated, she'd packed in such a hurry she'd probably forgotten half of what she needed, and she'd been driving for two hours through conditions that only got worse by the minute. She wasn't sure her ageing car could take much more. The wipers were clogged with the thick snowflakes that swirled across the windscreen, reducing visibility to virtually nothing. She had no idea what she would do if something came in the opposite direction — although she was so far out in the middle of nowhere she doubted there was another soul around. That is, apart from Jack Blane — her new boss for the next few weeks — who in his wisdom had chosen to write his latest novel miles from civilization on the bleak Yorkshire moors in the worst winter weather for years. Abby had heard writers liked solitude, but this was ridiculous!

    Just as she was beginning to think this whole thing must be a bad dream, her satnav archly informed her she was nearly there. Abby slowed her car to a crawl, peering over the steering wheel like an old lady who'd forgotten her glasses.

    "Nearly where?" she asked the machine's know-it-all voice.

    A dark shape loomed at the side of the road, and she screeched to a halt. Not a bright move. The car skidded nearly full circle, and Abby had to fight both the wheel and her own panic to regain control. Her heart thudding, she opened the driver's window and stuck her head out. A house of forbidding dark stone, dusted liberally with snow, stood silhouetted against the grey sky. Abby glared at her satnav and back at the house. Well, this must be it. There was certainly nowhere else in sight.

    "Great. Out of the frying pan and straight onto the set of Wuthering Heights," she muttered.

    Want to read more? Here's where you can buy the book:

    Amazon.com

    Amazon.co.uk

    Barnes & Noble

    Kobo

    Smashwords

     

     About Helen

     I asked Helen to tell us a bit about herself.

    How did you get started writing?

    As a child, my love of reading Enid Blyton’s ‘Magic Faraway Tree’ books got me started. I read and reread those books by the light of the street lamp outside my window, well past my bedtime! I loved the way she created whole new worlds, and I wanted to be able to do that for myself, so I started writing stories in a special notebook (I still have it, although it’s a little battered now!)

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    I love watching old cop shows from the 1970s and 80s – they take me right back to my child-and-teenhood!  Hawaii Five-O, The Rockford Files, Starsky & Hutch, Magnum, Cagney & Lacey … I’ve got my daughter hooked on those last three!

    What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    Let your imagination flow and enjoy the experience … but then if you’re aiming for publication, that first draft will need far more editing and polishing than you think!

     

    Photo

    About Helen Pollard:

    Helen Pollard writes contemporary romance with old-fashioned heart. She firmly believes there will always be a place for romantic fiction, no matter how fast-paced and cynical the world becomes. Readers still want that feel-good factor - to escape from their own world for a while and see how a budding romance can blossom and overcome adversity to develop into love ... and we all need a little love, right?

    A Yorkshire lass, Helen is married, with two teenagers. They share space with a Jekyll and Hyde cat that alternates between being obsessively affectionate and viciously psychotic. Antiseptic cream is always close at hand.

    When Helen’s not working or writing, it goes without saying that she loves to read. She also enjoys a good coffee in a quiet bookshop, and appreciates the company of family and close friends.

     

    Find Helen at:

    Facebook:  http://tinyurl.com/FacebookHelenPollardWrites    

    Website & Blog:  www.helenpollardwrites.wordpress.com

     

    Thanks for dropping by to tell us about your book, Helen. :)

  4. Hooray , my second YA, Sapphire Blue, is released today so I'm my 'Guest Author' this week. I was delighted when Solstice Publishing offered to publish Sapphire Blue just over a week after I submitted it.

    Sapphire Blue is an afterlife mix of romance and horror, but it's Sapphire and Will's love for each other that's at the heart of the story so I was chuffed to see the cover the artist, Michelle Crocker of http://mlcdesigns4you.weebly.com/  designed for it. I  think it really gets the feel of the story across. Thanks Michelle.

    sapphire blue final cover

    Sapphire Blue is different to anything I've ever written before. For a start the two main characters die in the first chapter. And secondly, it has quite a bit of horror in it and I don't usually write horror, it scares me! I felt that this book called for it though as it's about the lengths Sapphire and Will go to in order to find each other in the afterlife so they can be together for eternity. Here's the blurb:

     

    Can love survive death?

    “No one has ever walked out of Red. Once the Soul Catchers get you they don’t let you go.” Denny’s words scare me but I have no choice. If Will is in Red that’s where I have to go.

    I’ve never really thought what it was like when you died. I’m only 16, too young to worry about that. At least I thought I was. I’ve heard about Heaven and Hell, of course, but it doesn’t look like I’m in either of them. All I know is that Will is here too and I need to find him. I can’t face spending eternity without him.

     

    And here's an extract from the first chapter

    Our first drive together. Later, I’ll take photos of wherever it is we’re going, save a leaflet, a ticket, or receipt. Today deserves a whole page in our scrapbook.

    Will’s a good driver. His eyes constantly dart to the mirrors to check what’s behind him, around him, in front of him, and he keeps his speed steady. I feel safe with him.

    I look out of the passenger window, trying to guess where we’re going. As soon as we join the dual carriageway I know. Mawlish Cove. Where we went for our very first proper date. It’s our special place, the one we go to when we want to celebrate something, but usually we have to cycle there. I think of all the places we can go now that Will can drive, to the coast a few miles away, a sightseeing tour of the local villages, maybe even drive to Wales to see my cousin, Gemma. I’ll be seventeen in a few months and maybe I can pass my test too, then we can go away for weekend, share the driving. I glance at Will and smile. I’m so proud of him.

    “I love you,” I say.

    “Love you too,” he replies. Then he starts singing.

    “Sapphire Blue,

    I do love you,

    Forever me,

    Forever you!” I join in the chorus, bubbles of happiness fizzing through me.

    Will wrote the song for me last Christmas, calling it 'Sapphire ‘Blue’ after the color of my eyes—he said. He knew his folks were buying him the guitar he’d been begging for all year, so had secretly written the song to surprise me. It was the first thing he played. I remember how he picked up the guitar, slowly strumming the strings, then he’d walked over to me, sat down beside me and gazing into my eyes he’d started singing. It was only a short song, one verse, nothing special, I guess, but it summed us up. Me and Will, together forever. A warm surge of love spreads through me. I reach out and touch his hand. He turns to me and our eyes meet.

    Just for a couple of seconds. An eye blink. Hardly any time at all.

    But long enough for us to not notice the container fall off the back of the lorry in front. When we do notice, it’s in the middle of the road, blocking our path. A shard of ice slithers down my spine.

    “Stop! Will, stop! We’re going to crash!”

    Even as I shriek the words I know that there isn’t enough time to stop. I’m frozen to my seat, my eyes fixed in terror on the huge metal box just meters away.

    “Hold tight!” Will jerks the steering wheel to the left in an attempt to avoid it, but he loses control of the car, and we’re skidding off the road. OMG, now we’re heading for a huge tree. It’s looming in front of us, solid and immovable. Its long, leafy branches swaying in the wind like scaly, green arms reaching out to grab us.

    “Shit!” Will’s almost standing on the brakes in an effort to stop the car. My body shoots forward, then is pulled back by the seatbelt. My head slams against the back of the seat. The tires screech as the car starts to slow down but not quick enough for us to avoid the tree. I shut my eyes, not wanting to see the inevitable, horrific moment of impact. I can hear Will shouting, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I love you!” I want to tell him that I love him too, but I can’t speak, can’t move, my body’s turned into a block of granite.

    I’m dimly aware that someone is screaming as if their soul is being ripped from their body. It is a few seconds before I realize that the screams are mine.

    We’re going to die.

    Craaaaaash!

    An explosion shatters in my head.

     

    *****

     

    I hope you like the sound of Sapphire Blue and would like to read it. If you do it's available from Amazon.com and Amazon.uk.

     

  5. I'm delighted to welcome J.J. Nite to my blog today, to tell us about her new book His Christmas Bride. Isn't the cover fantastic?

    HisChristmasBride500x750

     

    Blurb

    Hugh Alexander, Earl of Kerry, returned from the war physically and emotionally scarred. He is determined to never set foot inside of a ballroom again, convinced that no one would want him anyway. Hugh isolates himself and says it is only until he heals, and then he meets Annabelle. She doesn’t appear to be effected by his appearance and is quite beautiful. If only she wasn’t a maid in his household.

    Annabelle has lived and worked in the Earl’s townhouse her whole life. She knows nothing about her family and since her mother’s passing ten years earlier, has no one to ask about them. Annabelle unwittingly helps Hugh find his will to recover and encourages him to open himself up to his family again. While she doesn’t yearn for anything more, there is a secret that, if brought to light, could destroy everything she knows to be true.

    Can the new friendship and budding feelings Annabelle and Hugh have for one another be enough to overcome an uncertain future? Or will they be forever lost to each other?

    Want to read more? You can buy the book here: 

    Links

    Amazon

    B&N

     

    About the Author

    I asked J.J.Nite to tell us a little about herself.

    How did you get started writing?

    I’ve been creating stories almost my whole life according to my mother. Putting them on paper didn’t happen until much later. I wrote my first novel when my youngest was one, and then it was standing at the kitchen counter because it was the only safe place for the laptop

    Can you tell us a fun fact about yourself?

    I’m a terrible dancer. I know where the beat is, but the moves just aren’t there. I do enjoy embarrassing my children when I dance in the kitchen though.

    What’s your top writing tip for new writers?

    Keep writing! You’re going to learn and grow so much with each story you write.

    Author Photo  A brief Author bio.

    J. J. Nite lives in North Alabama with her husband, 3 kids, 2 dogs, and 5 goldfish.  She writes young adult sweet romance for Astraea Press and loves reading as much as possible. J.J.'s also found that if she doesn't write something every day, her mood is that of a bear waking from hibernation. Don't worry though, the children have learned to let Mommy write a little before approaching.

    Twitter: @jjnite

    Facebook:

     Thank you for dropping by J.J. Nite!