Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Chris Nickson and The Constant Lovers

I want to start by thanking my guest, author Chris Nickson for taking the time to speak with me about writing, music and his latest novel, The Constant Lovers.

The Constant Lovers is the third novel of the popular Richard Nottingham series which is set in Leeds in the 1730s. The hardback edition will be released on January 26th in the UK and May 1st in the US.

Chris's last novel, Cold Cruel Winter received rave reviews and was named one of the best mysteries of 2011 by Library Journal.

1) Without giving too much away, please can you tell us a little bit about The Constant Lovers?

It's a tale of money and power, and what people will do for both - as well as the price others have to pay.

In terms of plot, it starts with a girl found murdered in the ruins of Kirkstall Abbey, outside Leeds in 1732, and the efforts of Richard Nottingham, Constable of the City, first to find out who she is, and then who murdered her. There's a love note in her pocket, but when she's eventually identified, it's apparent the note isn't from her husband.

Then a young man commits suicide at the White Cloth Hall and the situation becomes more complex...That's as far as I can go without gifting people too much.

2) For those who may not yet be familiar with the Richard Nottingham series, could you sum up in five words what one can expect from reading your novels?

History, crime, family, involvement, Leeds.

3) You have a background in music journalism; do you believe that music can influence a writer? Are there any artists or bands that influence your writing?

I don't think any music's influenced my fiction. I've used folk songs here and there in the novels, and the idea of The Broken Token (the name of the first book in the series) came from traditional songs.

4) Do you have any advice for all the aspiring writers out there?

Keep writing. It's an art, but it's also a craft, and the more you work at it in all its forms, the better you'll become.

Journalism taught me a huge amount and made me a better writer. Well, I hope it did!

5) So many fictional detectives have ended up on the big screen. Do you think this might happen to Richard Nottingham?

I've no idea on that - it's pretty much out of my hands. Wonderful as it would be, there's a part of me that's dubious about it.

Richard Nottingham is very real to me, but he doesn't have a face in my mind. Anything on TV or movies would give him that, and I'd see that face in the future, and write to it, which wouldn't be a good thing.

6) Congratulations on the upcoming release of The Constant Lovers. Can we expect to see any Richard Nottingham books in future?

Well, The Constant Lovers is the third in the series, and the fourth, which is called Come the Fear, will be out in July. It's much darker, I think, and hopefully a better book - I want each one to be better than the last.

I wish Chris the very best of luck and you can read the first two chapters of The Constant Lovers here - http://www.severnhouse.com/article/Download+Chaps+1+_+2+of+The+Constant+Lovers/670.

For more information about Chris Nickson visit www.chrisnickson.co.uk. 

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Sunday, 15 January 2012

The Colourful World of Hollie Leffel

I have always appreciated different styles of art and when the work of Hollie Leffel came to my attention, I needed to take a closer look at this colourful and talented artist.

Hollie's use of colour in her paintings really made some special creations that can be enjoyed over and over again. She is definitely a name to look out for, both now and in the future.

A few examples

There are so many paintings I like but simply couldn't choose them all so these are a select few to give you an idea of the vast scale of Hollie's talent.

To find out more about Hollie and her work, visit her website: http://www.artbyhollie.info/

Helping others

Hollie loves to help others and through her website it is possible to make a PayPal donation. All proceeds go towards providing art supplies for children who live in poverty.

Make a donation to the Dream in Colour Charity for Children and help those who are less fortunate have a brighter future.

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2012: What will you accomplish?

Throughout 2011 and to this day, I have made wonderful friends on Twitter and want to say thanks to everyone for the messages of support.

It is hard to believe the new year celebrations are already over but I am ready for any challenges that may lay ahead in 2012.

I don't always come up with resolutions but this year decided there are certain things which I want to do. The first is to complete the draft of my debut novel, secondly is to read more and lastly learn to play the guitar.

What do you want or hope to accomplish in 2012?

It does look like the next 12 months are going to be very busy and not just personally, there are a number of key historical milestones being reached.

1) 7th February will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.

2) On April 15th, it will be 100 years since the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage

3) It will be 400 years since the Pendle witch trials took place

I wish everyone the very best for 2012 and I hope it leads to dreams being fulfilled.

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Friday, 9 September 2011

Enhancing the Writer Within by Carlyle Labuschagne

I have always been more of a writer than I reader, but I learnt a little too late what an important role reading has on ones writing.

Amongst the open fields and wildlife of the majestic bushveld I stare out the car window at the beauty that surrounds me. I am twelve years old and I have a need to share what I see and what I feel. That is when I grab the pen and paper my dad has lying in his car and I write my first poem inspired by the intense need to express the overwhelming love inside of me. As a child who grew up during the apartheid era in South Africa many great books were hidden from us.

From a young age I was an athlete that spent way to much time writing poetry, writing in my journal and writing my own songs. Soon the world of gymnastics, figure skating and athletics became of less importance to me as I spent my time creating, drawing and making up music videos in my head. Little did I know that this was part of my writing process. I did not have time to read, the little time I had I spent on writing and feeling accepted by my peers. The idea of writing a novel came one day when my older brother brought home something called a computer. That quickly died when the computer was taken away from me, because I spent late night typing, when I should have been studying.

I met my now husband at 17 and didn’t have that need to express myself with writing anymore.
I was happy and happiness never fuelled my writing then. Soon I went to college, toured overseas and came back to South Africa to further my studies once more.

Nearly 6 years and two kids later I had this sensational feeling in my gut that something was missing. A friend suggested a read a book called Twilight. I frowned at the idea of reading about vampires. I know better now. Immediately I was sucked into this fantasy world. Sure I have read a few books before but this, this was extraordinary. I lived and breathed the saga for the next two month and that pang returned. Something was horribly amiss in my life. I started writing my first draft and almost completed it within three months. I was alive again.

I decided to take a years study course though a writing school at Collage SA, where without it I am sure I would not have become a published Author for 2012. I set the manuscript aside and dove into my novel writing course with great enthusiasm. I always had the greatest imagination and many stories bubbling inside of me. My tutors were excited from my first few short stories and I knew then that I was born for this.

The important thing I learnt about writing is that you have to do it as much as you can, as often as you can. More importantly my obsession for books that I never had as a kid has lead me to improve on my English, to understand the language better. Afrikaans is my first language, so where the English language is concerned I am behind. Reading has quickly become a very important learning curve towards becoming a great writer and hugely satisfying. I cannot imagine life now without reading and writing.

I have created a site where I can share my passions with my readers, my friends and mostly as I said before it is all part of my writing process. But that is not where it ends. I submitted my manuscript way too early. I am impatient like that. The third submission came back with great news and bad news. Bad news I needed lots of editing.

I had written a manuscript and rewritten it once more, did a quick spell check and hit the send button. Oops, fail. It takes more than that. I have learnt though writing groups on Twitter, Facebook and other groups what the process entails. Almost too late but with each rewrite with each revision with each pre-edit the manuscript gets better.

I currently have three manuscripts in the works where number two in The Broken series is undergoing a rewrite, a revision, a second revision and two or more pre edits. I will not be so eager to send an unrevised, unedited and rewritten and revised again and again manuscript off. Sure the publishers saw the greatness and authenticity in my novel, the thing is the editing is taking way to much time now.

So, my advice to a novice novel writer. Write , write , write. Read, read , read. And rewrite.

Happy writing.
Carlyle Labuschagne
Author of The Broken Series

You can connect with me though Twitter and Facebook:



Thank you to Clare for this wonderful opportunity.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Sarah James Interview - Part Two

Thanks for coming back. I hope you have all enjoyed the interview so far and the final part is now available to read. Don't stop now!

4. What inspired you to write Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love? What did you want to achieve by telling others about your experiences?

As I said at the start, the birth of my first child, Jack, and the shock of that birth, was a big inspiration. The antenatal classes I taught were also an inspiration. I was amazed at how many women in their early to mid thirties had never even held a baby let alone attended a birth. There was a lack in the knowledge that used to be handed down through the generations. Women are no longer at home helping their cousins or sisters look after babies. Women are at work. Most of the time they dont give babies or birth a second thought until they decide they want a baby of their own, and then all of a sudden they find themselves faced with a seemingly insurmountable learning curve.

I wanted to help women on that journey, in a friendly down to earth way that wasnt going to overwhelm them or make them feel like they were being talked down to or dictated to. I wanted women to know the truth about birth, the things that have made me laugh, the things that have made me cry. Most of all though, I wanted to empower women, wanted them to be confident in their bodies and in their heart so they could choose the birth that was right for them and their babies.

5. You mentioned about two other projects, including another non fiction book that you are currently working on. Please tell me more about these.

The non-fiction book Im working on is a parenting book; its been a long time in the making.

Originally I thought it was going to be a book about breastfeeding and sleep patterns, about babies, but Ive come to realise, as my babies have grown, that there really is no right or wrong way to bring up a baby as long as you are bringing them up with love. And besides that there are oodles of books out there telling you how to do it, something for everyone to identify with.

So with Jack turning eighteen this week I cant believe Im the mother of an eighteen year old (how did that happen?), my parenting book has morphed. Its become more of a philosophy on parenting than a how to although there are definitely how to bits in there. Its a big unwieldy thing at the moment with eight sections all headed with attributes that you would hope your child grows up to have like, independent, creative and considerate and then underneath the headings a theory on how you might gently nudge your child in the right direction. I think I had to wait until Jack was eighteen before I could write this one, had to prove I was capable of surviving the parenting journey.

The other book Im working on is a fiction book called Luka. When I had my babies I was desperate for a girl, I know, you shouldnt be, but I was. Id grown up with two sisters and a mother who I was very close to, I guess I was looking to repeat those relationships. Dont get me wrong, I love my boys desperately and wouldnt swap them for all the girls in the world, but there was just something in me, something I couldnt deny or squash, that wanted a daughter. It turns out Im not the only one out there, its amazing when you talk to women who only have boys, how many of them had been secretly wishing for a girl. So all this got me thinking. What if a boy knew that his mother had been desperately wishing for a girl? Where would that leave that kid? What would his relationship be like with his mother?

Luka is about a fourteen-year-old boy who struggles with all these questions, particularly the one of whether his mother loves his sister more than him. Im on the final edit of this book, hoping to have it out by the end of the year.

I want to start by saying a big thanks to Sarah for taking the time to answer my questions and I wish her the very best of luck with Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love, as well as other projects.

For more details, visit - http://www.sarahjames.com.au/ or if you would like to purchase a copy of this book, it can be done via the following link - http://tinyurl.com/3rj365e.

Sarah James Interview - Part One

I was recently given the opportunity to interview Sarah James about her book - Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love. Keep on reading to find out more about this interesting guide for both mums and dads to be.

1. Your book Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love is an excellent guide to help prepare mothers and fathers-to-be for the process of pregnancy and childbirth. Please tell me more about it. What can readers expect to learn?

When I fell pregnant with my first son, Jack, I was already a qualified midwife whod delivered hundreds of babies. I thought I knew everything there was to know about pregnancy and birth, then I had Jack. Birth and labour were a shock, I couldnt believe how different it was to what Id expected it to be.

Lying there in the birth suite with Jack in my arms I remember distinctly thinking that if I was this unprepared, how would a woman who wasnt a midwife, a woman who knew nothing about birth cope? That was when the idea for Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love was born (excuse the pun). I wanted to write a book that was open and honest, that told the real story of birth, no glossing over, no hidden agendas, just the simple truth told from the heart.

Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love is a combination of both my personal and professional experience covering topics such as anatomy and physiology, the ouch factor how labour will really feel, and it includes my four birth stories which range from just short of a caesarean section to a homebirth.

Women who have read the book have told me that its like sitting down with a midwife whos your best friend and having a heart to heart chat over a cup of coffee. What I hope my readers get from Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love is empowerment and a belief in their own heart, Pregnancy and birth is about your heart, about how you feel inside. Be true to yourself. Listen to everyones story but most of all listen to your heart.'

2. If you could provide any mother and father-to-be with a few key pointers, what would they be?

Do antenatal classes, for the insight, but also so your support person feels comfortable and confident. Youre going to need them to be.

Interview as many people as you have to find the right person to look after you during your pregnancy and birth. Take a list of questions and ask all of them, dont compromise, the right person will be out there, sometimes you have to be patient though.

Think of giving birth as the same as making love, its that intimate. Then, when you have that picture in your head, decide who you want at the birth. The one biggest factor influencing your birth is your ability to relax so you need to be extremely comfortable with whoever you decide to have at the birth.

Have a birth plan but make sure its flexible. Dont write it down, instead envisage it as on going conversation between you, your partner and your midwife (or doctor).
Enjoy as much of your pregnancy and your birth as you can, you never know, this could be the last time you do it.

Remember, womens bodies are made for giving birth; you have waited (even if you dont know it) your whole life to do this, embrace it and be in awe at your ability to open and welcome a new life.

3. As a mother of four, is Midwife Wisdom, Mother Love based on personal or professional experience? Or a combination of both?

A combination of both my personal and professional experience. My own four birth stories are in the book, they show you from a very personal angle what birth is like and also help to illustrate how one woman can experience birth in so many different ways.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Dead Never Lie - Chapter One

I thought the time was right to share chapter one of my short story, The Dead Never Lie with you all.

Comments are more than welcome and certainly appreciated.


Chapter One

“Why am I here? This was a mistake!” Jennifer Harding scolded herself for a decision that had been made when her judgement was impaired. She hadn’t been thinking straight.

To begin with, he had been very charming and attentive but things soon changed and his true colours began to emerge. She allowed herself to be lured to the house under the pretence of love and affection.

Desperately searching for a way out, turning ever which way to escape his clutches, she soon realised this was going to be an impossible task. Unfamiliar surroundings and an endless maze of corridors were what greeted her.

She recalled her coming of age celebration a few months back. It had involved a hunting expedition with her father. Suddenly, memories flooded back to that lone deer which cowered in a corner, trapped. The fear in its eyes was clearly evident, because at any moment, the final call of death would be brought upon it. Right now, that was how she felt, the helpless prey to an able hunter.

Suddenly, Jennifer’s head snapped up as the unmistakable sound of footsteps that echoed from somewhere within the building. There was no way of working out his position, his trajectory, but one thing was certain, he was definitely on a mission.

“Keep moving, keep moving!” a repeating sequence of words that sounded almost like a motivational chant came out of her mouth.  

Trying to stay one step ahead of the game was difficult, especially as the shadows that bounced off walls appeared to be playing with her.

The room was large, with an impressive array of antiques, but there was nowhere to conceal herself. Like an animal in an open field, she was exposed to every type of enemy. No matter what direction danger approached from, it would get to her eventually.

A sudden flicker of movement by one of the many windows halted her movement and she held her breath. “More shadows?”