Catching up with Author Abigail Yardimci

Super excited to welcome Abigail Yardimci to Off the Beaten Track today, especially as she is a fellow travel fiction author, who met the love of her life while travelling – just like I did! And she’s got a publication day coming up next Monday, Sept 21!

Welcome, Abigail!

Abigail Yardimci - author photo

Tell us what inspired you to write Destiny is Yours.

Cover of Destiny is Yours; a beach with two stones and a gentle wave lapping on the shore

Destiny Is Yours is based on a chapter of my own lived experience from 2006. At the beginning of that year, my fiancé and business partner of seven years just decided he didn’t want that life any more. He left with hardly a whisper of warning and I felt like all the rugs had been pulled out from under me. Ultimately, I had to decide if I was going to disappear into a shadow of my former self, or, eventually, pick myself up and open my eyes to the world in a different way.

I chose the latter and part of that involved me jetting off for a whole month to the Western coast of Turkey so I could figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I went with a friend of mine who was also newly single and we both knew we had a lot of soul-searching to do but we also wanted a bit of an adventure. Well, we got it – in bucketloads. And because that month away was so awesome and surprising, I decided it just had to be written down as a story. In fact, I wrote three books based on the whole year, of which Destiny Is Yours is the second – it’s called the Life Is Yours trilogy.

We’re all likely to suffer from heartbreak and lose our way at least once in our lives – whether it’s from the end of a relationship or something completely different – so tales of recovery and renewal are always going to be important . . . especially ones that involve sun, sea, sand and, well, you know!

When did you start writing seriously?

I’ve been writing on and off for a lot of years – probably since I was about six or seven to be honest. I studied Creative Writing at university but got disheartened by the kinds of assignments we were given and went off-track for a while. It wasn’t until I encountered intense heartbreak followed by a slow and steady reawakening to the world in 2006 that I realised I’d forgotten that writing completely fed my soul. So, I guess that’s when I started writing seriously, when I knew I had to write the Life Is Yours trilogy and somehow get it into the hands of a publisher.

It was hard work though – and life threw many a challenge in my way just to make sure that’s really what I wanted. But I kept at it slow and steady and finally, twelve years after putting pen to paper, I found the publishing deal I’d been hoping for.

What do you love most about being an author?

I love that I’m really doing my life’s work here. Even if nobody ever read my stories, I’d feel like I was doing the right thing because writing is who I am. The process of writing is undeniably hard and really eats through my confidence sometimes . . . but I just can’t leave it alone and I know that’s because I’m meant to do it. Recently, I found some type-written stories I’d written when I was seven and I really smiled to myself. Even then I knew what it was I was supposed to be doing.

I also LOVE hearing from readers. It is a heart-soaring kind of feeling when somebody divulges how they’ve identified with a character or been touched by a particular passage. A few people have even used some of the journaling and coaching techniques that my main character, Jess uses in book one, Life Is Yours. That really made me happy that people could pick something out of the book and make it their own to help themselves going forward. Beautiful.

What are you working on now?

Oh, I seem to have so many projects on the go! I’m currently re-editing the final book in the Life Is Yours trilogy. It’s as yet unnamed so I’m racking my brains trying to think up a snappy title that will work with the rest of the series.

After that, I have a very special writing project which will see my main character, Jess, several years later after the original books, about to embark on a month of fasting for Ramadan with her Muslim husband. Again, this will be based on lived experience and I’m excited because there will be humour and hilarity as well as some hard truths, epic learnings and intense emotional connections.

I also write a regular blog post about creative living, mindful parenting and top tips for sneaking more joy into your life, so I’ll be working on that. Plus, I have some top secret writing I’ve done over lockdown that I hope to shape into something resembling yet another novel!

What do you hope readers will take away from [DESTINY IS YOURS]?

What a great question! I hope readers will take some ideas about how to shake up your life when you’re feeling a little stale, broken or confused. I hope they’ll open their minds to the awesome world we live in and how there are opportunities everywhere for us to make connections and be present. I also hope they laugh and smirk and cry and cringe and gasp and imagine and sigh and smile – too much to ask, do you think?!

Here’s the blurb

There’s something about New Year’s Eve that brings people together.

How else could the two strangers, Lindy and Jess have met on a random Turkish beach with midnight gently beckoning? Slowly, they become friends through Jess’s story of heartbreak and loss . . . but the story is about to twist into something with a little more soul and a lot more adventure.

Jess’s heart is newly mended. Cracks still healing from an epic break-up, as well as a spectacularly failing business, she’s gone and booked the trip of a lifetime to Turkey with best mate Gillie, also newly single. Jess has had it with streaked mascara and sobbing for England – she wants to kick-start a life with more focus, more clarity and maybe even a little bit of magic.

Surely travelling round Turkey will do the trick? Jess is determined to find the answers somewhere and although she expects the delicious cocktails, the charming waiters and the golden beaches, she perhaps isn’t prepared for a mysterious pack of challenges sent by a friend; a book that transforms the way she sees her place in the world; starlit nights that begin to take over the days and an impromptu fortune-telling moment that changes everything . . .

Here’s where you can get it

Life is Yours (Book 1) Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU

Destiny is Yours (Book 2) Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU

More about Abigail and how you can follow her

Abigail Yardimci is an author, blogger and creative mindfulness practitioner. She is a Geordie girl living by the sea in South Devon in the UK with her Turkish husband and two terrifying kids. She loves to blog and gets her kicks through mindful parenting styles, creative living and chocolate.

Her writing inspiration comes from scratching the surface of everyday life to find the underlying magic that connects us all. The fire beneath the frustration, the creativity beneath the boredom, the stillness beneath the chaos.

Abigail’s debut novel, ‘Life Is Yours’ and second novel, ‘Destiny Is Yours’ are available now on Amazon and published by Britain’s Next Bestseller. Abigail also stays sane in the world of parenting by writing a popular blog called ‘Mum In The Moment’.

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram

You can also buy signed copies of Life Is Yours and Destiny Is Yours, as well as a fab range of bookish gifts, on Abigail’s website.

Catching up with Author Kitty Wilson

Kitty Wilson Author Photo

Welcome Kitty – so great to have you here!

Thanks ever so much for inviting me on your blog. It’s lovely to be here. I thought I’d talk a little about Christmas Wishes as it has just been released in paperback and we are fast approaching the time of year to snuggle down with Christmassy reads.

Tell us what inspired you to write The Cornish Village School – Christmas Wishes?

Cover of Christmas Wishes, a snowy village with floral Christmassy foliage framing a church.

The Cornish Village School series had been up and running for a little while by the time I wrote Christmas Wishes. Initially the series had been inspired by my love of Cornwall and the sense of community I found living there, my experience as an Infant teacher and the fact that I loved nothing better than to escape into a romantic comedy. As the series developed it was clear that the books were representing each of the seasons and I had always wanted to write a Christmas book, to steep myself in everything Christmas, so this book was a happy inevitability. I wanted a Nativity, Carols, choirs, Christmas elves, all the fun of being in a school in that last week of Christmas term where everything is glitter and snowmen and celebration so I crammed it all in.

I also wanted to write a book about the outrageously good-looking vicar in Penmenna. He had started off as a minor village character with all the women of the parish panting after him and I wanted to expand his role, have a hero that the world thought encapsulated handsome whilst he himself had so much baggage that not only did he not see it, the attention was completely inexplicable to him. I hope by the end of it, readers see him as a man who’s truly heroic because of his character and his actions, that his looks have very little at all to do with it. 

When did you start writing seriously?

I have always wanted to write, ever since I was a tiny little thing and have been putting pen to paper most of my life, but in truth never seriously until a few years ago. I was working as a Reception teacher and absolutely loved my job when chronic illness struck. Suddenly I was unable to work, unable to parent the way I always had and my life as it was disappeared before me. I did try and hang on for a very long time but it made me worse and worse. It wasn’t long before I was dependent upon my children and the community around me for the most basic of tasks.

It took a couple of years to get used to and after a little wallow I realised I could reframe things. I had always wanted to write and I believed that one day I would get back to the classroom but until then I would use the time to write and indulge the dream. If nothing else it would be good for me to have a purpose, be something to do on the days I was well enough to type, and show my children that just because life dealt tough blows didn’t mean you didn’t try again.

I may not be back in the classroom, and I don’t suppose I ever will be, but I have five books published, a new career that I absolutely love and have found my tribe within the writing community.

What do you love most about being an author?

This could easily become an essay. I love SO many things about being an author. There is all the obvious stuff like working from home, living in pyjamas and eating biscuits all day if I so choose. Then there is the sheer indulgence of being able to lose yourself in thought for hours at a time and claim it’s work. The world-building, the development of characters and setting and plot and all of that being a little bit tricksy until you have one magic moment where it all falls into place and you can’t wait to get it down onto paper. Seeing snippets of life as you walk around in the world and loving something so much that you then work out how to weave it into your manuscript. This is all bliss.

Holding a book in your hand that is full of words that wouldn’t exist if you hadn’t sat down day after day and made them up is pretty awesome and whenever I have a new book published into paperback I do spend a couple of days with a really daft grin on my face but I think the most special thing for me is when readers reach out. When I get a message or read a review saying thank you, this made me giggle at a time in my life I really needed it. That right there, that is the very best thing about being an author.

What are you working on now?

Oh joy, joy, joy! I am writing another Christmas book and I am so excited, I really am. It is a little different to the Cornish Village School, but is still a light-hearted romantic comedy. It’s set in Bristol – I moved here the same weekend the very first Cornish Village School book came out – but despite the city being very different to Cornwall I seem to be weaving community though as much as I did with Penmenna. I am thoroughly indulging my own humour and my inner geek as I write it – which is giving me far more joy than should be legal. And that is all I can tell you at the moment!

What do you hope readers will take away from Christmas Wishes?

I hope that Christmas Wishes gives my readers that real seasonal escape that festive reads bring every year. I hope that they get caught up in the humour and relax a little with the Penmenna community as they read and enjoy a few hours away in a fictional Cornish village at Christmas time. I have to admit I really love the mischievousness of this opening chapter and Ethel and Annie (an elderly parishioner and Dan the Vicar’s grandmother) are two of my favourite characters.

But as with most light-hearted reads there are deeper issues sitting underneath the comedy and the will-they-won’t-they romance, and this one is about identity, insecurity and how we perceive ourselves compared to how others in our community perceive us. So, I also hope it helps remind people that we are all too often our harshest critic and we should be as kind to ourselves as we are to those that we love, especially at this fabulous but slightly pressured time of year.

Here’s the blurb:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Penmenna…

Teaching assistant Alice has sworn off men, which is fine because with Christmas coming she’s super busy organising the school Nativity. This should be a blast with the help of close friend and village vicar, Dan – if she can ignore those more-than-just-a-friend feelings she’s developed for him…

Dan is happy to help Alice – his secret crush – but not only is his beloved Granny Annie about to be made homeless, the church choir has disintegrated and he’s battling some dark demons from his past.

With meddling grannies and PTA wars thrown in the mix, can Alice and Dan overcome their past hurts to move forward? Will they be spending Christmas together as friends… or something more?

Here’s where you can get it:

Amazon | Kobo | iBooks | GooglePlay | Waterstones (UK)| Hive (UK)

And here’s where you can follow Kitty! She loves to hear from readers.

Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Why Schitt’s Creek is the perfect TV show

I have a confession. I came very late to the Schitt’s Creek party, but in doing so, it has proven to be the perfect isolation viewing―and I consumed all six seasons in a matter of months. It was like molten chocolate for my brain.

schitts_creek_cast

But that’s not what this blog post is about.

Schitt’s Creek is the perfect TV show for a romantic comedy author, and here’s why…

[SPOILER ALERT: I will be as judicious with spoilers as possible, but if you hate them entirely, stop reading now.]

Character arcs

Having devoured the entire series over a short period of time―seriously, how did early adopters wait out those long periods of no new episodes for the past 6 years?―the character arcs were heightened for me.

When we meet the Roses, they have just lost their billion-dollar empire to a Ponzi scheme and when they realise they ‘bought’ a town in the middle of nowhere on a lark―just because the name was funny―Schitt’s Creek―they move there. They take up residence in two adjacent motel rooms, parents in one and adult children in the other, as though they are not in their late-20s and early-30s.

The Roses are spoilt, entitled, vacuous, and completely unlikeable―fish out of water in the most perfect, beautiful way.

What ensues over the course of 6 seasons is an unveiling of humility, humanity, and tight familial bonds. And, as a viewer, you come to love them all.

I posted recently about ‘Writing the Unlikeable Character‘ and there are two factors that are key in winning over the reader or viewer.

First, the character―initially repellent―must transform. They must self-reflect, learn lessons, and decide they want to be a better person.

Second, we must see the character’s vulnerabilities, their motivations and objectives, the backstory that explains why they are the way they are. It’s the chinks in the armour that that endear these characters to us as readers or viewers.

Schitt’s Creek accomplishes this perfectly.

I cried so many times watching this show, but here are some fave moments of vulnerability.

  • Moira and the Jazzagals singing unexpectedly at Alexis graduation
  • Johnny seeing how hurt Stevie is by the travelling Lothario and treating her just like he’d treat his own daughter
  • Patrick singing ‘You’re Simply the Best’ to David and tears streaming down David’s face
  • Alexis and Ted’s ‘I love you’ dinner at the cafe in Season 6

The final episode of the series had me weeping. I loved these characters entirely and I championed their happiness.

Character arcs―booyah! This show is like a masterclass.

Comedy

I love a good ensemble, character-driven comedy (Brooklyn 99 is a fave) but (for me) what sets this show apart from others is that all four lead actors―and many of the supporting actors―are, quite simply, comic geniuses.

Their skills as actors lead to authentic comedy. There aren’t snazzy rim-shot one-liners, there’s no need for a laugh track. It is just hilarious. I laughed aloud―like a proper, throw my head back laugh―every episode.

The comedy in Schitt’s Creek comes from the whole (character) self―the vocal tones and intonations, the facial expressions, the gestures and postures, the pauses―as much as it comes from the lines.

Though the lines are brilliant.

David to Moira after she is insensitive to Alexis’ break-up: “I have never heard someone say so many wrong things one after the other, [pause] consecutively, [pause] in a row.” You can get that quote on a T-shirt. But what makes the line is the pause Daniel Levy (as David) incredulously takes before he says it, the pauses in the line to drive home David’s meaning, and the horror on his face. Genius.

Catherine O’Hara’s Moira is incredibly funnyher appearance, her dialogue, her gait, the intonation of her bizarre affected accent. There’s a whole compilation on YouTube of every time she says ‘baby‘. I laugh when she appears on screen, girding my comic loins for whatever is to come.

Moira

And Alexis’ posture, gestures and facial expressions, Johnny’s raised eyebrows and confused smileall of these comic nuggets is a masterclass in developing a fully-fleshed-out comedic character.

As a writer of romcoms, I aim to pepper my stories with authentic comedy―the humour coming from the ridiculous real-life situations that make us laugh at ourselves, either in the moment or in retrospect. And I can enhance comedic moments by hitting on all the details that make them up, not just the dialogue―just like in Schitt’s Creek.

Romance

Romantic love is one of the dominant themes in Schitt’s Creek.

At the heart of the show is the great love affair of Johnny and Moira―forty years and counting―and every time Moira mentions how they met, or remembers a romantic interlude, her eyes sparkle.

And, surely, only someone who is completely in love with Moira would be as patient and loving towards her as Johnny is. Moira tells Alexis, when she’s facing a love conundrum, that she and Johnny work so well despite their differences, because they want the best for each other and they love and respect each other. Swoon.

[Major spoiler]Patrick is the perfect love interest for David. Their love story is so romantic, so genuine, that when David doubted he was worthy of Patrick’s love, I wanted to reach into the TV and shake him. These are two people who truly see each other, and they are both better people for the love they share. Swoon.

first kiss_0

[Major spoiler]Watching Alexis fall in love was like watching a toddler take their first steps. Her relationship with Ted begins superficially―he’s the hottest guy in town, so ‘obvs’ she is going to pair up with him. It’s only when she loses him that she realises how kind, thoughtful, generous and incredible he is. When she gets a second chance, she does everything she can not to screw it up―including agreeing to live overseas in a tent―and ultimately realises that she loves him enough to let him go. Selfless, real, and heartbreaking love. Swoon and sob.

Even Roland and Jocelyn are madly in love, which provides it’s own comedy, because, really, Jocelyn? Roland???

At some point (probably soon, as we have just gone into our second lockdown here in Melbourne) I will start at the beginning and watch it all again―this time with fresh eyes as a masterclass in the romantic comedy genre.

 

 

 

Romance Tropes Part 2: The Love Triangle

Earlier this year I wrote about the ‘Enemies to Lovers‘ trope in romcoms and today I’m tackling a trope that, for some readers, is a HUGE turn-off. How do I know that some readers vehemently dislike the love triangle trope? Because I’ve written a love triangle and have learnt* that for some readers, a love triangle equates to cheating―regardless of the circumstances.

Also, this is the most popular post defining ‘love triangle’ from the Urban Dictionary:

Love Triangle

So, let’s dig in.

Simply, as the Urban Dictionary’s indicates, a love triangle is when the main character has genuine romantic feelings for two other characters.

Where I think a good love triangle diverges from this definition is that it is possible for 2 out of 3 people to end up happy. As I write romcoms, this is critical―readers want a ‘happily ever after’ at the end of the main character’s journey.

Another key ingredient to a good love triangle is when each love interest brings out something special in the main character―that both relationships lead to that character’s growth.

One of my favourite love triangles (ever) is from Bridget Jones’s Diary (book and film series).

BJD

Daniel Cleaver is the sexy bad boy who awakens Bridget’s sexuality, sassiness and grit―a downturn in their relationship prompts her to quit her ho-hum job and get into television. And, of course, Mark D’Arcy is the curmudgeon, who despite all outward appearances tells Bridget he likes her ‘just the way you are’ (swoon). Bridget is transformed by her relationships by both men, gaining both confidence and self-acceptance.

Aside: the third book in the trilogy is extremely different from the 3rd film and (I think) vastly better.

In Sweet Home Alabama, which also explores the enemies to lovers trope, Melanie is engaged to Andrew (Patrick Dempsey) and returns home to Alabama to secure a divorce from Jake (Josh Lucas), who she married when they were just out of high school.

SHA

[SPOILER] Melanie learns that she’s her truest self when she’s with her soon to be ex-husband and, yes, she shares a kiss with him while still engaged to Andrew, but her ‘cheating’ is far from malicious. She realises that she has genuine feelings for each man and must decide what ‘happily ever after’ means to her.

The television show Younger explores a love triangle over multiple seasons (currently 6 and soon to be 7).

the-everygirl-younger-triangle-fictional-love-triangles

Liza, 40, masquerades as a 20-something to get a job in publishing and has a relationship with the much younger Josh, who knows her real age and doesn’t care about the age difference, and the age-appropriate Charles, who thinks she is 20-something and is, ironically, concerned about the age difference.

Liza oscillates between these two relationships over the multiple seasons, only rarely ‘cheating’ on one when she is officially with the other. It’s a moral dilemma for her as well as a romantic one, because she loves them both and doesn’t want to hurt either man―though, of course she does. This is a love triangle and someone always gets hurt in a love triangle.

In the 1st book of The Holiday Romance series, One Summer in Santorini, Sarah meets and falls for 2 very different men.

Each brings out something different in her. With the older James, she sees herself in a new light―that her ‘heart on her sleeve’ approach to life and the hopeful way she enjoys simple pleasures, make her immensely lovable, something she has never quite believed about herself.

With the younger Josh, she sees how ‘stuck’ she is in her own life and she learns that she has the power to transform it. She needs to stop feeling sorry for herself and participate fully in her own life.

Sarah has genuine feeling for them both and wants to figure out which man―if either―is the right man for her, and in A Sunset in Sydney [NO SPOILERS], we find out.

But along the way, she is in a relationship with both men. This is the core of the love triangle I’ve written and while some readers balk at Sarah’s ‘cheating’, it is never malicious, and being duplicitous about her two relationships makes her uneasy. It should also be said that there is no commitment to either man until the end of Sarah’s love triangle story.

Lastly, I wanted to share my fave love triangle romcom series by Lindsey Kelk, the Tess Brookes series, in which Tess’s love pendulum swings between Charlie, her longtime crush, and Nick, the brooding journalist.

18888251._SY475_

Fair warning, it does take 3 books to find out who, if either, she ends up with but it’s a fabulous ride!

‘Til next time, happy reading and if you have a fave fictitious love triangle, drop in in the comments.

*By ‘learnt’ I mean that I’ve read some ‘passionate’ reviews of my books saying just this.**

**Maybe if you hate a trope so passionately, don’t read books based on that trope. 😉

Publication Day for A Sunset in Sydney

Updated ASIS

It’s publication day for my third novel, A Sunset in Sydney, the direct sequel to my first novel, One Summer in Santorini. To mark the occasion, I wanted to share an excerpt from the Acknowledgements:

I wrote this book while living in Bali. It was Spring 2018, and I was on a year-long sabbatical with my partner and love, Ben. Often I wrote poolside or perched on a sun lounger―yes, really. I also wrote at the beach, in our outdoor workspace, and at my favourite cafe.

The sabbatical was Ben’s idea. And after some cajoling and reassurance from him that it would be amazing, I put on my big-girl knickers and we quit our jobs, gave away a lot of our stuff, packed the rest into a storage cage, and bought a one-way ticket to the rest of the world, first stop Bali.

If it wasn’t for Ben’s bravery, support, and intrepid spirit I would not have gone on sabbatical and I wouldn’t have written this book or That Night in Paris. You see, while on sabbatical I gave myself “permission” to be an author, to throw myself into writing, editing, and querying, and to seek out writing as a career.

So, as my third book is published, and I have just sent across structural edits for my fourth book and am finishing the draft of my fifth, a huge thank you to Ben.

I hope you enjoy this latest instalment of The Holiday Romance series and the conclusion to Sarah’s story.

What other authors have to say about A Sunset in Sydney.

“Guaranteed to have you holding your breath to the very last page.” Julie Houston

“I’m such a fan of this series.” Ella Allbright

Lose yourself in this perfect, escapist read.” Samantha Tonge

“Sandy Barker blends romance and travel to make the perfect summer read.” Lynne Shelby

Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon US

Also available on all other ebook platforms. Print books available from September 17.

Catching up (again) with Author Fiona Leitch

I am super excited to welcome back Fiona Leitch, the “mashup maven”. As well as adoring her, I am in awe of her incredible ability to combine my two favourite genres, Crime Fiction and Romance!

She has a new book coming out in a couple of weeks, and this is one not to miss because it’s the sequel to one of my fave books from 2019, Dead in Venice. It’s called Murder Ahoy!

Tell us about Bella Tyson, your heroine in Dead in Venice and Murder Ahoy!

Bella is a famous crime writer in her late 40s from South London. She dropped out of university and went off to have adventures, with a vague idea of writing about them. She loves chocolate, sex and travel, and her language can be pretty fruity. She’s probably my favourite character, as she’s the one most like me!

What do you love most about writing a series?

I love being able to introduce a character or a theme in one book, as maybe a sub plot or secondary character, and then expand on them in the next book. One of the main characters in Murder Ahoy! is talked about in the first novel and has had a profound effect on Bella in her past, but we don’t actually meet him until we’re onboard the cruise ship in book two.

What is the most challenging thing about writing a series?

I think the hardest thing is keeping it fresh. How many dead bodies can one woman come across without it sounding contrived?! I used to love ‘Midsummer Murders’ on the TV, but after a while it started to feel a bit daft – the murder rate in that cluster of small country villages was higher than that of New York!

You have been called the “mashup maven”. Tell us about how you bring genres together.

It all started when I tried to write something serious and it ended up being funny without me trying (if anything I was trying NOT to be funny). I can’t resist making it absurd or giving the characters witty dialogue. I’m also a sucker for romance and a happy ending. But as much as I love reading other people’s romcoms, and I adore the movies, I can’t seem to write a straight romcom. I think the frustrated filmmaker in me wants more action! So I gravitate towards writing mysteries, or romcoms with a darker edge. Readers seem to like a mash up but publishers, not so much sadly.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a new series, The Nosey Parker Mysteries, set in Cornwall. Jodie ‘Nosey’ Parker is an ex-copper turned caterer who returns to the small Cornish seaside town she grew up in with her teenage daughter. She’s supposed to be retired from the force, but whenever there’s a crime she can’t resist sticking her nose in and helping solve it, along with hunky local CID officer Nathan, her old school friend, Tony, and a whole cast of colourful characters. The first book, Murder On The Menu, will be out in January.

Blurb for Murder Ahoy!

Famous crime writer Bella Tyson is hired to co-host a Murder Mystery cruise, on a luxury liner sailing from Southampton to New York. She’s expecting an easy ride; fun and games, surrounded by amateur sleuths and fans of her books, all the while staying in a deluxe cabin and enjoying the spa and the amazing restaurants on board, culminating in a visit to one of her favourite cities in the world – the Big Apple.

She’s NOT expecting to be stuck on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic with her two least favourite people in the world, her hot but unfaithful bastard ex-husband Joel Quigley and fellow crime writer, bitch goddess and Twitter frenemy, Louise Meyers. And when real live dead bodies start turning up – as well as fake not-really-dead bodies – Bella’s dreams of being pampered on the high seas turn sour.

Accused of a murder she would have liked to commit but didn’t, and helped (or hindered) by a gang of unlikely detectives, can Bella find out who the real murderer is before the ship reaches its destination and New York’s finest drag her off?

Buy links

Amazon AU | Amazon UK | Amazon US |

Follow Fiona

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Writing the “unlikeable” character

LB
Initially unlikable, but utterly loveable―Elle from Legally Blonde

I’m currently writing my fifth book and my sixth main character―the maths doesn’t add up, because one book has three main characters and two books have the same main character. Anyway …

I am hyper aware that my current main character is, based on her role as a supporting character in another book, “unlikeable”―so much so, that when I mentioned to a friend who I was writing about, she cringed.

So, why write this character? Why give her a whole book?

In short, it’s because I love her.

I love the hard, prickly exterior she uses to mask a lifetime of being terrified of vulnerability. I love that, once she does care about someone, she is fiercely loyal and generous. I love that she is feisty and bold, independent and resourceful.

I love that, just like the rest of us, she is complex and a mass of contradictions, and that there are clear reasons why she is like she is.

I am about 80% into the book, and I’m enjoying watching her grow. There are moments she has, where she realises something about herself, or where her heart fills, and I am proud of her―this imaginary person.

And I’m realising as I write, that the through-line of this book is compassion―for oneself, for others. She may not be likeable to every reader right away, but as the layers strip away, she is/becomes a beautiful human being. How many times have we met someone who irked us, and through compassion, we’ve realised that there is more going on than their exterior, that we could love them or let them into our lives?

I’ve said before that I know my books won’t be for every reader. My first three books are about the Parsons sisters, Sarah and Cat. For some readers, these characters read as “immature”―”how can these women be in their thirties?”―and for those readers, Sarah and Cat are unlikeable because of their immaturity. But I stand by them as believable, because in many ways, Sarah is a lot like a thirty-something Sandy―sometimes whiny, often witty, confused about love, and trying to find her way.

But what’s important to me as a writer, is that these realistic, perhaps unlikeable women, transform. I want my books to be about growing, learning, opening the heart, and transformation.

And in real life, imagine how dull it would be if every person we met was instantly likeable, if no one rubbed us up the wrong way, or disagreed with us, or challenged us to see ourselves in a new light. How would we grow? How would we develop compassion and understanding? I posit that we wouldn’t.

So, even if you initially find a character unlikeable, give them a chance to reveal themselves, to become their true, loveable selves―just like Elle.

 

 

#CoverReveal Love Me Like You Do by Aimee Brown

It is an absolute pleasure to be part of the cover reveal for the incredible author Aimee Brown’s next book, Love Me Like You Do!

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About the book

A runaway bride. A handsome stranger. Two pasts to put behind them.

Parker is ready to marry the man of her dreams. But he isn’t ready to marry her. It would be helpful if he didn’t choose their wedding day to tell her this. But as she flees from the travesty behind her, she literally runs into the arms of a handsome stranger. The southern drawl, the dreamy eyes, she can’t fall for another man after being left at the altar – can she?

When Liam agreed to go to go on a date he didn’t expect to leave with the bride. Nor did he expect to take her the emergency room. Immediately he’s drawn to her fiery spirit, her kind heart and beautiful smile. Liam’s got a whole host of problems and a past that keeps coming back, now can’t be the time to fall in love, but Parker might just be the one to break down his barriers and let him live a little – if she’ll let him in.

Will these two strangers allow serendipity to put them together, or will their fears keep them apart?

Buy links: 

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Kobo | Google Play

About Aimee Brown

Aimee Brown is a writer of romantic comedies set in Portland, Oregon, and an avid reader. She spends much of her time writing, raising three teenagers, binge-watching shows on Netflix and obsessively cleaning and redecorating her house. She’s fluent in sarcasm and has been known to utter profanities like she’s competing for a medal. Aimee grew up in Oregon, but is now a transplant living in cold Montana with her husband of twenty years, three teenage children, and far too many pets. She is a lot older than she looks and yes, that is a tattoo across her chest. (“In the Portlandia spirit, yes, I lived many years in PDX and I do indeed have a bird tattooed on me – 2!”) Aimee is very active on social media. You can find her at any of the networks below. Stop by and say hello!

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Follow Aria

www.ariafiction.com | Twitter | InstagramFacebook

 

Catching up with Author Katie Ginger

It is a pleasure to welcome the wonderful author, Katie Ginger, who is here to talk about her latest book Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay and all things writing.

Tell us what inspired you to write Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay?

I really love writing books set in the summer and had originally pitched this to my editor as being set at a music festival. We have a chat about what fitted better with the genre and decided that a food festival would be better and much more on trend. As a result, Swallowtail Bay’s strawberry festival was born with a main character who wanted to turn it into a food festival. Though the setting changed a little, the characters all remained as I’d envisaged them with Hetty being strong and feisty and John being grouchy in his crumbling country home!

When did you start writing seriously?

I took redundancy from my job in 2014, and decided to do something completely different from working as a manager in the museums sector. I signed up for a distance learning novel writing course as I’d always loved writing but had never felt confident about it, and it all went from there! I decided to really try and get a book deal after my cousin passed away from cancer and was lucky enough to be offered a two-book deal with HQ Digital in January 2018. It’s kind of just snowballed from there!

What do you love most about being an author?

Everything! Can I say everything?! But I really do love everything about it. I love thinking and plotting stories, figuring out who my characters are and what they do and what their emotional scars are. I love the excitement of the first draft and discovering the story and then editing. Editing is, I think the hardest thing but a necessary evil! Weirdly, the stage I love most is copy editing. I am so in awe of copy editors who know all the technical rules about dangling participles and all that stuff. That’s when a manuscript really gets shined up, I think!

What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on edits for the Christmas novel: the final book in the Swallowtail Bay series! I’ll be kind of sad to say goodbye to that little town! Then I’ll be working on some ideas for romantic comedies for next year (very excited about those!). I’m also venturing into a bit of historical cozy mystery writing under the pen name K E Coburn. It’s pretty full on, but I love it!

What do you hope readers will take away from Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay?

I really just want to give readers a little bit of respite from this crazy world we’re in right now. I hope I manage to make them laugh and smile and enjoy being somewhere else, away from the day-to-day worries. If I can do that, then I’ve hit the jackpot!

More about Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay

Grab your strawberries and cream and get ready to return to the beautiful Swallowtail Bay!

Summer is in full swing and the locals are getting excited for the launch of the Swallowtail Bay strawberry food festival. But will all run smoothly when festival organiser Hetty’s heart is torn between lord of the manor John Thornhill and successful bakery owner Ben?

Buy Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay

Amazon UK | Amazon US | Amazon AU | Amazon CA 

More about Katie Ginger

Katie lives in the South East of England, by the sea, and she really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. Summer Strawberries at Swallowtail Bay is her fifth novel. The first, Spring Tides at Swallowtail Bay is available now. Her debut novel The Little Theatre on the Seafront was shortlisted for the Katie Fforde Debut Novel of the Year award, and her stand- alone Christmas novel Snowflakes at Mistletoe Cottage was a US Amazon bestseller.

When she’s not writing, Katie spends her time drinking gin, or with her husband, trying to keep alive their two children, Ellie and Sam. And there’s also their adorable King Charles Spaniel, Wotsit (yes, he is named after the crisps!).

Follow Katie

www.keginger.com | Facebook|Twitter | Instagram

 

What’s in a (character) name?

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As an author, choosing names can be one of the most fun aspects of writing or one of the trickiest.

An author can spend hours on baby name generators, or genealogy and history sites to come up with the perfect names―not only for their main characters, but every supporting character, the names of towns, and even fabricated company names. As an author, I’ve even ‘borrowed’ names from my friends, family and former students.

But why is naming so hard? For me, there are a few reasons.

Names are subjective and (often) have personal connotations for the reader

As a former schoolteacher, there are some names that I won’t touch with a barge pole, simply because they elicit memories of difficult students. Those names may be completely innocuous to most readers, but as I’ll spend the most time with my characters, they make the ‘no go’ list.

The same goes for names with varying ‘heat levels’. If I’m naming a sexy love interest, are some names off limits? Is Milo a hot guy’s name or a hot drink from Australia? Where will my readers land on Rupert (no for me) or Henry (yes for me―but only because of Cavill)?

And while I am a huge Keanu fan―and of course there are quite a few Keanu’s out there in the world, especially ones born after The Matrix came out in ‘99―it’s just too evocative of the Keanu that it’s on the ‘no go’ list too.

Names are ‘fashionable’ and ‘unfashionable’

As we know, names go in and out of fashion, with some names circling back onto the ‘fashionable’ list every other decade or so.

After the film, Splash, came out in the mid-80s, the most popular girls’ name for years was ‘Madison’―simply because a mermaid named herself after Madison Avenue in New York. Until then it was just a last name, but it might be perfect for a character born in the 80s.

And writers of historical fiction are limited even further. There probably weren’t (m)any Kylies or Kylos in the 1800s. As an aside, I have so much respect for historical fiction authors―all that research!

Names have to ‘fit’ the character

I’ve heard this from other authors, so I know I’m not the only one to do it, but sometimes I will choose a name for a character and as I am writing, I realise it doesn’t ‘fit’―that they are not an ‘Eleanor’, but more of a ‘Susan’. Of course, this ties back to my first point about names having connotations, but the name must suit the personality of the character, as it is one of the tools an author uses to evoke their characteristics.

In my 4th book, one of the characters is an actor and I’ve given him a stage name―his mother’s maiden name as his first name. And I got her maiden name from researching last names from Oxfordshire. I tried combinations of last names until I got one that just evoked ‘international film star’.

And many authors I know will name the villain or the antagonist after someone they’ve encountered in real life. It makes me wonder if there really was a ‘Hannibal’ in Thomas Harris’s life, when he penned The Silence of the Lambs.

When naming comes easily

Sometimes naming isn’t hard, like when a character arrives in my head (almost) fully formed, including their name. And some names are an homage to someone special.

In my 4th book, there are three main characters―best friends―and all their names begin with ‘L’, Lauren, Lisa, and Lucy. I have special friends with those names and writing their names into a book is a lovely way of honouring them. Even naming minor characters after people I know can a fun way to include them in my work.

So, next time a character’s name lands with you perfectly, or rubs you the wrong way, just know that the author may have agonised over that choice. And ask yourself if it hit or missed the mark because one of the reasons I’ve mentioned here.

Originally posted on Portable Magic as a stop on my blog tour for That Night in Paris.