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Friday, 25 June 2021

INSPIRED BY CORSICA - a guest post by Vanessa Couchman

Today I'm delighted to welcome back my dear friend and fellow-author Vanessa Couchman, whose amazing novel The Corsican Widow is the Ocelot Press Book of the Month for June 2021.  I had the pleasure of working with Vanessa as editor of this novel (not that it needed much editing!), and it comes highly recommended.

Vanessa is here to talk about novels inspired by her beloved Corsica.  Read on for a fascinating insight into this magical place, and for details of a very special freebie!

Welcome, Vanessa!  Please tell us more...

Thank you, Sue!  

Corsica is blessed not only with magnificent, mountainous scenery but also with an intriguing history and culture. The island provides inspiring material for historical novelists. It has also fascinated writers for centuries.

“Corsica” Boswell

During the 18th and 19th centuries, a number of authors visited and wrote about Corsica. James Boswell, better known as Samuel Johnson’s biographer, visited Corsica during his Grand Tour in 1765. The young Corsican republic was struggling for independence from Genoa. Boswell was greatly impressed by Pasquale di Paoli, the republic’s leader, and published An Account of Corsica on his return to England.

Statue of Pasquale di Paoli in Corte 
(photo: Vanessa Couchman)

Boswell’s book is not a novel, although aspects of it may seem inventive! He remained a lifelong fan of the island, proclaiming the Corsican cause wherever he went, which earned him the nickname “Corsica” Boswell.


Several French authors visited the island and found the more gruesome themes in its history captivating. The concept of personal and family honour was particularly strong on Corsica, often culminating in vendetta when honour was breached. Vendetta diminished in the 19th century from its 18th-century peak, but it continued to pose enough of a problem for the authorities to make it an interesting topic for novelists.

The best-known novel about vendetta is Prosper Mérimée’s Colomba (1840). While visiting Corsica, Mérimée met Colomba Carabelli, whose family was involved in a particularly bloody vendetta in Fozzano, in which her son was killed. I have seen her house in Olmeto, where she moved later in life.

Colomba’s house in Olmeto 
(photo: Vanessa Couchman)

Prosper Mérimée fictionalised her story. The heroine of Colomba is young and beautiful but bloodthirsty and formidable. Following the murder of her father, she tries to incite her reluctant brother, recently returned from the Napoleonic Wars, to avenge his death.

Mérimée’s short story Mateo Falcone (1829) also deals with banditry, honour and vendetta.

Other novelists who wrote about vendetta include Honoré de Balzac (La Vendetta, 1830) and Alexandre Dumas (Les Frères Corses, 1844). Both novels dealt with the theme of expatriate Corsicans who were unable to break with the cultural traditions of their homeland.

The power of the landscape

Writers have also been inspired by the charismatic power of Corsica’s landscape, including Gustave Flaubert, Edward Lear and Guy de Maupassant. Lear published a journal of his 1868 trip and made a series of sketches and watercolours of the island’s towns and scenery.

Edward Lear – The Forest of Valdoniello 
(photo: Wikimedia Commons - Public Domain)

De Maupassant spent two months travelling around Corsica in 1880 and subsequently referred to it in novels and other writings. In Une Vie (1883), the only happy time in the heroine’s marriage to a rake occurs during their honeymoon on Corsica during a journey by pony between Ajaccio and Bastia.

All of the French novels mentioned above are available in English translation.

Tales of Corsica series

My own Corsica novels are similarly inspired by the landscape, culture and history of this enigmatic island. Both The House at Zaronza (early 20th century) and The Corsica Widow (18th century) are based on true stories.

Vendetta is not a theme in either novel, since they are both set in Cap Corse in northern Corsica, where vendetta never took such a firm hold as in the south. However, they both draw on Corsica’s unique traditions, particularly as regards beliefs in magic and the supernatural, and on its strict social mores.         

The Corsican Widow is Ocelot Press Book of the Month for June 2021. The story takes place during the mid-late 18th century, a time of great upheaval for the Corsican people.

Vanessa has lived in Southwest France since 1997 and is a self-confessed history nut. Quirky true stories often find their way into her fiction, and she likes nothing more than pottering around ruined châteaux or exploring the lesser-known byways of France. She is very attached to the Mediterranean island of Corsica, which has provided the inspiration for some of her novels and short stories.

The Tales of Corsica series are standalone novels set in the same house on the island: The Corsican Widow (18th century) and The House at Zaronza (early 20th century) are published so far.

Vanessa is also writing a trilogy set in France between 1880 and 1945.

Sign up to Vanessa’s monthly newsletter for book news, background info about France and Corsica and book recommendations, and get two free Corsica stories.

Amazon author page:


Facebook page:


Thursday, 20 May 2021


Today I'm delighted to welcome my dear friend and fellow-author Nancy Jardine, whose amazing novel The Beltane Choice is the Ocelot Press Book of the Month for May.  Read on to find out more about Nancy, her amazing books, a wonderful special offer and a great competition.

Welcome back to Broad Thoughts, Nancy!  

Hello Sue, thank you for inviting me to your blog. It’s really lovely to be visiting again.


10 Questions – 10 Answers from Nancy Jardine


What do you think makes the best historical fiction?

It needs to be a compelling tale that draws the reader in to the world depicted where they can feel, hear and can almost touch the protagonists. The plot needs to keep them engrossed. The settings, the dialogue and the narrative need to be seamlessly intertwined and entirely realistic to entertain throughout. And last but definitely not least, the tale needs to be well-written and well-edited.


What does your family think of your writing?

My daughters have always been very supportive of my writing and can be critical beta readers. They’ve helped at a couple of my local book launches and since they both look very decorative that’s a great thing! My husband reads mostly non-fiction and had never read any of my novels till my latest – Beathan The Brigante – was launched in August 2020. He totally surprised me by getting himself a copy which he ‘critically reviewed’ afterwards, claiming it an entertaining read, and that he would probably read the rest of the series from the beginning. Book 1 is of course The Beltane Choice, Book of the Month (May) at Ocelot Press.


What are the most surprising things you’ve learned about yourself as an author?

From very young, I’ve always been an avid reader and love the escapism that fiction can bring me. When I re-read some of my earliest published work from 2012, I’ve difficulty believing that I really was author who wrote it. I don’t have great recall, never have, so I can surprise myself by the historical depth I managed to convey back then. I’ve learned so much more about Roman Britain during the last ten years that I’m almost tempted to re-write some archaeological aspects that I included, which are maybe now slightly out-of-date. However, life is about learning and, to me, so is the writing process.


How much research do you do?

Loads. I can never stop researching once started. I’m a book magpie and my Roman Empire bookshelf continues to spill over.


How do you relax?

I’m not great at that, but I love watching historical series that are made for TV. A nice glass of red wine helps with that relaxation.


As a self-published author, how do you promote your books?

Without a doubt, this is the toughest aspect to writing! I relatively recently became a member of a couple of retweet groups on Twitter and do daily ‘shares’. I’ve also dabbled my toes, of late, in the Amazon Advertising waters. I’m hoping my cold feet will warm up soon. I occasionally try paid promotion sites to boost sales of my novels, and have done a few Blog Tours for my books. I’m on Facebook and other Social Media places but posting there doesn’t sell my novels.


What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?

I try not to get downhearted when a poor review comes to my attention. It happens occasionally, but it’s best to accept that readers who review often read things differently. I try to find ‘quotes’ that I can use in positive promotion from most reviews I’ve received.


What makes your books stand out from the crowd?

I like to think that the strengths of my Celtic Fervour Series are in the relatively underused locations of northern Roman Britain (north England and Scotland) and that my stories are about relatively average displaced tribespeople rather than ‘Celtic’/Iron Age kings or queens. My stories are adventures; however, they’re not about Roman legionaries and the battles they’re involved in, which is what a lot of Roman Empire novels are about.


Plotter or Pantser?

Mostly pantser. The final plots for my Celtic Fervour Series have mostly grown organically, though I have a rough idea of what the book will entail at the beginning. I create timelines as I progress and check them constantly to make sure plot events work, since I try to keep to what is known about documented historical events if I’ve included them. As the series has progressed to five books and a short-story about my Garrigill warrior clan, I also have an expanding family tree which I sometimes refer to if I’ve forgotten details from an earlier book.


What’s in your future writing plan?

A great question. And probably the same as it would have been last year since my writing progress has taken a little sabbatical. I can blame the pandemic, or just admit that I’ve been less motivated.

I’m presently working on a prequel to the Celtic Fervour Series. I started this after a couple of reviewers commented that they would have preferred more specific historical background references in Book 1, The Beltane Choice. I’m hoping that the prequel will give a more detailed setting to an era that actually is very vague in pure historical terms. What is known about 1st Century northern Roman Britain comes more from archaeological interpretation than from historical sources, so it truly is a challenge that I’ve set myself.

I anticipate getting more progress made on my story that begins in Victorian Scotland during the summer. This is intended to develop into a 3-book series. And someday soon, I’ll get back to my time travel trio who will go on other adventures – they’re currently in limbo after being whizzed back to the Roman Aberdeenshire of AD 210.


Given that the Covid 19 global pandemic has curtailed most travel plans during this early part of 2021, where would your ideal location be if you got the go-ahead to have a holiday?

Melrose, to re-visit the Trimontium Roman Museum (see the photo above) and to visit the Vindolanda Fort on Hadrian’s Wall (and some other forts along the wall while I’m in the vicinity). I missed out on a visit to York last year, to sell my novels alongside other historical authors at the Eboracum Festival,  and would love to get down there if they plan another one. I’m not quite ready to fly off anywhere exotic, but destinations that I can drive to, or take a train to, sound like a great plan! My husband might like the idea of doing another cruise, but not just yet for me.



Don’t miss out on the bargains!

During the whole month of May, as the Ocelot Press Book of the Month, Nancy Jardine’s Celtic Fervour Series of historical adventures will be on special prices.

The Beltane Choice will be 99p

The other 4 novels in the series will be reduced to £1.99 (equivalent prices across the Amazon network)

Nancy has a couple of competitions on the Ocelot Press Readers page on Facebook during May 2021 where you can win 1) a beautiful Celtic Keyring 2) a signed copy of The Beltane Choice. Join us there and enter the competitions


Nancy Jardine lives in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. She creates her fictional characters for her historical; time travel historical; and contemporary mystery/ thriller novels at her usually messy desk. When not writing, researching (a total obsession), reading or gardening, her young grandchildren will probably be entertaining her. Or, she’ll be binge-watching historical series’ made for TV.

Signing/ selling her novels at local events is great fun, as is giving author presentations – on her novels or on Ancient Roman Scotland – to groups large and small. Both are a fabulous excuse to get away from the keyboard and meet new readers. Zoom sessions have lately been an entertaining alternative to face-to-face events till Covid 19 pandemic rules permit local events to restart.

Current memberships are with the Historical Novel Society; Scottish Association of Writers; Federation of Writers Scotland, Romantic Novelists Association and the Alliance of Independent Authors. She’s self-published with the author co-operative Ocelot Press.

You can find her at these places:






Amazon Author page

Monday, 10 May 2021

Feature: PAPARAZZI by Jo Fenton

Today I'm delighted to welcome back a dear friend and fellow-scribe.  Jo Fenton and I started our writing careers at around the same time.  It's hard to believe that was more than eight years ago!

Jo's latest novel, Paparazzi, is published today.  It is the second in her Becky White thriller series, and I had the pleasure of working with her as editor of this amazing story.  Believe me, she's really excelled herself with this one.  Read on to find out more about it, and for news of an exciting giveaway!


A stalker. A popstar’s family murdered. A terrified photographer. 

It’s thirty years since Becky White joined the police. Now, six months after leaving the force, she is suffering from PTSD, when an old friend turns up with a tempting offer. 

Following the creation of The White Knight Detective Agency, their first client is a press photographer – a member of the Paparazzi – a young woman with a mysterious and troublesome stalker.

But as the case develops, Becky and Joanna find themselves embroiled in murder. When they are unable to prevent further deaths, their investigation takes them down an unexpected path.

But can they trust their instinct? And will they identify the killer in time to save a child’s life?

Paparazzi, the second instalment in the bestselling Becky White Thriller series. takes you on a journey into the deceptive world of superstars – and those who follow them! 

Purchase Links

UK -

US -

Jo Fenton grew up in Hertfordshire, UK. She devoured books from an early age, particularly enjoying adventure books, school stories and fantasy. She wanted to be a scientist from aged six after being given a wonderful book titled Science Can Be Fun. At eleven, she discovered Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer, and now has an eclectic and much-loved book collection cluttering her home office.

Jo combines an exciting career in Clinical Research with an equally exciting but very different career as a writer of psychological thrillers.

When not working, she runs (very slowly), and chats to lots of people. She lives in Manchester with her husband, two sons, a Corgi and a tankful of tropical fish. She is an active and enthusiastic member of two writing groups and a reading group.





Giveaway to win a signed copy of Revelation by Jo Fenton (the first in the Becky White thriller series)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please click here to enter via Rafflecopter.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data.  I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Huge thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Thursday, 6 May 2021

SECRET'S OUT - a guest post by Lizzie Chantree

Today I'm delighted to welcome a very special guest: my friend and fellow-author Lizzie Chantree, who is here to talk about her latest book.  

Welcome, Lizzie!  Please, tell us more!


Hi Sue, and thank you for inviting me onto your blog today. I’m thrilled to be sharing details about my latest book, which is called Shh… It’s Our Secret.

Shh… It’s Our Secret is about a very shy woman who is trying to find her voice. Violet has a secret that could change the lives of all of the café bar regulars where she works and effect the greater community around her. Feeling unappreciated by her boyfriend and the sister who raised her, Violet sets out to find inner strength, push her demons aside and show the world what she can really do. This sets off a chain of events that none of them could have predicted and Violets quiet life becomes a thing of the past.

This book is full of friendship, laughter and fun, as well as second chances at love. It is a romantic tale about pushing doubts aside and believing in ourselves, whatever the consequences.

 Shh… It’s Our Secret, by Lizzie Chantree

Violet has a secret that could change the lives of everyone she knows and loves, especially the regulars at the run-down café bar where she works. After losing her parents at a young age, they are the closest thing she has to a family and she feels responsible for them.

Kai is a jaded music producer who has just moved outside of town. Seeking solitude from the stress of his job, he’s looking for seclusion. The only problem is he can’t seem to escape the band members and songwriters who keep showing up at his house.

When Kai wanders into the bar and Violet’s life, he accidently discovers her closely guarded secret. Can Kai help her rediscover her self-confidence or should some secrets remain undiscovered?

International bestselling author and award-winning inventor, Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year in 2000. She discovered her love of writing fiction when her children were little and now works as a business mentor and runs a popular networking hour on social media, where creatives can support to each other. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, that are about women with unusual and adventurous businesses, who are far stronger than they realise. She lives with her family on the coast in Essex. Visit her website at or follow her on Twitter @Lizzie_Chantree


Short bio:


International bestselling author Lizzie Chantree, started her own business at the age of 18 and became one of Fair Play London and The Patent Office’s British Female Inventors of the Year. She writes books full of friendship and laughter, about women with unusual businesses, who are stronger than they realise.


Book links: Lizzie Chantree.

Universal book buy link: The little ice cream shop:


Universal book buy link: Networking for writers:

Universal book buy link: If you love me, I’m yours:

Universal book buy link: Ninja School Mum:

Universal book buy link: Babe Driven:

Universal book buy link: Love’s Child:

Universal book buy link: Finding Gina:

Universal link: Shh… It’s Our Secret:


Social media links:


Author page:



Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Book Review: THE LEGACY by Alison Knight

The Legacy is a spin-off story from Alison Knight’s previous novel Mine, which was first published in November 2020.  Both novels are set in and around London in 1969. The Legacy can be read as a stand-alone story, but it does refer to a significant event in Mine, so if you are also planning to read Mine I recommend that you do that first if you want to avoid spoilers.  In fact, I recommend that you read it anyway – it is an amazing and very moving story.  You can find out more about it here.

The Legacy opens with a scene which also occurs in Mine: a wealthy elderly lady, aware that she does not have long to live, summons a solicitor to her deathbed and issues instructions to change her will.  Her only living relative is her lazy and profligate nephew, James, who had been relying on inheriting his aunt’s money in order to settle his many debts.  But under the terms of her new will she bequeaths him £5,000 (around £70,000 in today’s money) – not by any means a trivial amount, but nowhere near enough to cover everything he owes.  The rest of her estate (money, property, valuables and investments) is left to her god-daughter Charlotte.  Unaware of his aunt’s last-minute change of mind, James quits his dead-end job as soon as he hears of her death – and is horrified to learn that he is to receive only a small proportion of her estate rather than the huge fortune he had been expecting.   

Charlotte, who has always earned her own living and is used to a modest lifestyle, is totally unprepared for the sudden acquisition of a life-changing amount of money, and soon begins to wonder if it is changing her life in a way she hadn't anticipated or even wanted.  Meanwhile, James turns to increasingly desperate measures in his attempts to shake off his many creditors and to get his hands on the money which he still believes is rightly his.

The Legacy is perfectly crafted and beautifully written, with a fast pace, an intriguing plot, and a shocking twist which took me completely by surprise.  It is a wonderful cautionary tale about the perils of living beyond one’s means, of relying on expectations rather than making one’s own way in the world, and of counting one’s chickens before they hatch.  Highly recommended.

The Legacy

An unexpected inheritance.  A web of deceit.  A desperate escape.

London, 1969.

James has his dreams of an easy life shattered when his aunt disinherits him, leaving her fortune to her god-daughter, Charlotte.  He turns to his friend, Percy, to help him reclaim his inheritance - and to pay off his creditors.  But when their plans backfire, James becomes the pawn of Percy and his criminal associates.

Charlotte is stunned when she is told of her windfall.  After an attempt at cheating her out of her inheritance fails, James tries to intimidate her.  But she is stronger than he thinks, having secrets of her own to guard, and sends him away with a bloody nose and no choice but to retreat for now.

Resigned, James and his spoiled pampered girlfriend Fliss (Percy's sister) travel across France on a misison that promises to free James from the criminals for good.  But James isn't convinced he can trust Fliss, so makes his own plans to start a new life.

Will James be able to get away, or will his past catch up with him?  Will Charlotte's secrets turn the legacy into a curse?

Purchase link: 

Alison Knight has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.

In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.

The Legacy is a drama set in 1960s London. Like her previous book, Mine, it explores themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, showing how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.

Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops ( as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.


Social Media Links –

Huge thanks to Rachel’s Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Tuesday, 27 April 2021

AN ACT OF LOVE - an interview with Carol Drinkwater

Today I'm thrilled to welcome to my blog my dear friend the award-winning actress, writer, film-maker and all-round lovely person, Carol Drinkwater.  Carol's latest novel, An Act of Love, is published just two days from now.

Welcome to Broad Thoughts, Carol.  What prompted you to first start writing? What was the first thing you wrote?

I have been writing since I was about eight years old. From the age of four onwards, or from any consciousness about the future and making choices, I wanted to be an actress. I then discovered words.

When I was naughty my parents used to banish me to the spare bedroom. This room had two wonders as far as I was concerned. The first was that there was a large square wooden platform that stood about five feet off the ground. This became ‘my stage, my theatre’. I could climb onto a chair and from there onto the stage where I could ‘perform’. The other gift the room gave me was that this spare room was where my father stored all his fancy dress costumes. As well as being a musician, my father also had his own theatrical agency at the back of which was his fancy dress shop. He would travel all over buying up costumes from old theatres or fancy dress shops going out of business, or wherever. He stored them in this room. It reeked of mothballs and old bits of fur. Those smells were potent to me, they held all possibilities.

So, now I had a stage and costumes, but no plays, no words. Daddy got me a huge Shakespeare jigsaw puzzle, like an enormous round plate. At its centre was Shakespeare’s head. Encircling this portrait were thirty-seven coloured images. Each was a depiction of a moment from one of Will’s plays. That jigsaw puzzle took up a large section of my stage. I skirted about it, prancing back and forth (about two steps each way!) dolled up in costumes from Daddy’s rails of clothes. I was attempting to imitate the silent figures in the jigsaw portrayals.

My next precious gift was a Complete Works of Shakespeare. My very own hefty black Bible from which I copied out words, sentences, that I did not understand. Those words were the beginning of writing for me. The seed, the keys to universes I had not yet encountered. Coxcomb, for example. What was that? I put the words in the mouths of the characters I was dressed up to represent. Even if I didn’t understand the difference between Falstaff or Mistress Quickly and Cleopatra! But those names conjured up so many ideas for me.

Then I began writing short plays or exchanges of dialogue between my newly-born characters. By the age of ten I had written a play that I produced, directed, starred in at school. This we performed at my Irish convent and then I took it on a “tour” to local old people’s homes. The residents watched on from their wheelchairs in utter bemusement!

That sounds intriguing.  I wish I'd been there to see it!

Can you summarise your latest work in just a few words?

It is a Bildungsroman, a coming-of-age novel. It is also a WWII story of love and courage. One young woman’s journey from the revelation of first love, through her darkest hours, to ...  (The novel tells the rest!!)


What was the inspiration for this book?

Inland of where we live on the French Riviera, the Côte d’Azur, I came across a remarkable story of a small mountain village whose inhabitants welcomed into their community almost a thousand fugitive Jews. They hid these refugees for almost a year between November 1942 to September 1943 when the Nazis arrived into this Free Zone region of France. At that point the Jewish families who had made friends, built relationships with their French hosts, were obliged to flee.


Did you do any research for the book?

MASSES and masses.

I love research, but it's a real thief of time...

What does a typical writing day involve for you?

A great deal of hard work!  When I am at work on a novel or novella, I usually write for about seven hours. It sleeps with me too. The characters, their journeys, their desires, disappointments and confusions. It is a twenty-four hour commitment!


How do you decide on the names for your characters?

Interesting question. Some characters seem to name themselves. Others I look for in local directories or I take them partially from people I have met or heard of.


Do you plot your novels in advance, or allow them to develop as you write?

I am one of those who sets out to work without knowing where I am going. The stories unfold and develop as I write. It is an exciting and sometimes terrifying process.

I know exactly what you mean.  That's happened to me too.  I've tried plotting out a novel in advance, only to find that the characters have their own ideas and take the story in a whole new direction!

Which writers have influenced your own writing?

So many. Well, Shakespeare as a beginning. Marguerite Duras, Isabel Allende, Graham Greene, William Boyd. Every writer I have ever read has had some tiny influence on my work, even if only for me to say "I don’t like that" or "This story doesn’t speak to me". Films, too. I am a film fanatic, and watching films is a method of comprehending and getting to grips with story-telling for me.

I filmed episodes of James Herriot’s stories for so many years that his work began to seep into me. I understood that his love of his territory and those around him gave his books a special magic. And he never wrote down to his readers. Two very important lessons for me.


What has been the best part of the writing process…and the worst?

Holding the finished work in my hands, talking to readers at literary festivals and other book events, sitting on a plane or train and spotting someone reading one of my books – that is all very special.


Does your new book have a message for the reader?

I don’t think in term of messages. I find such an approach too didactic for me. I aim to tell stories, to reveal the public and private journeys of my characters. The women,  mostly women,  that I am writing about move through time and space and their perception of life changes and life impacts on them. I am fascinated by the inner lives of people, their secret selves. It was one of the early attractions of becoming an actress too. Damage, passion, urges that have no brakes, cannot be held back by reason, acts that cannot be undone ... these are a few of the areas that fascinate me.

If you kill someone you cannot bring them back to life. No matter how much you regret your act. The same if you hurt someone, you can apologise if you are able to, but the damage has been done. All forms of love and violence towards others, judgements of them. These all impact on other people. Everything is on the move, interacting with everything else.


Do you have any advice for new writers?

WRITE, just keep at it. There is no other way, no magic solution. No one else will write YOUR book. It comes from you and that can be both a joyous and a painfrul process, dragging it out into the open and onto the page. But it is also a WONDROUS process. It never fails to amaze  and thrill me. (PS: I should listen to my own advice more frequently!!)


Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you, Sue, merci, for inviting me here and thank you to those of you who have given your time to read this. I hope you will read An Act of Love and it will excite you.  Cx

Thank you so much for visiting my blog today, Carol.  It has been a real honour to host you.  Please come again!

Carol Drinkwater is a multi-award-winning actress, writer and film-maker.  As an actress, she is probably best known for her portrayal of Helen Herriot in the BBC television series All Creatues Great and Small (based on the books by James Herriot).

Carol is the author of twenty-four books, both fiction and non-fiction, and has achieved bestselling status (over a million copies sold worldwide) with her quartet of memoirs set on her Olive Farm in the south of France.  Carol's fascination with the olive tree extended to a solo Mediterranean journey in search of the tree's mythical secrets.  The resulting bestselling travel books, The Olive Route and The Olive Tree, have also inspired a five-part documentary film series.

Carol's four Kindle Singles - novella-length stories commissioned by Amazon - are The Girl in Room Fourteen, Hotel Paradise, A Simple Act of Kindness and The Love of a Stranger.  They have reached the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic.

Her latest novel, to be published by Penguin on 29th April 2021, is AN ACT OF LOVE.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING - a guest post by Miriam Drori

Today I'm delighted to welcome back to the blog my dear friend and fellow-author Miriam Drori, who is here to talk about her first venture into crime fiction - and, in particular, the importance of setting in a story.

Welcome, Miriam!  Please, tell us more...

Thank you for hosting me today, Sue. I’m excited about the launch of my first crime novel, just five days from now.

I will get to the topic of setting, I promise, but I have to start by explaining how my first crime novel came about. The first novel I ever tried to write, in about 2004, was flawed because it didn’t really have much of a plot. It took me a long time to realise that, and I’m glad I eventually discarded it. But the main character, a loner who lived in Bournemouth, UK, remained with me. I just needed a good story for him. I came up with two ideas. What if he was accused of committing a murder? And what if he was sent to Japan on work? The second idea won and turned into my novel Cultivating a Fuji.

The first idea continued to intrigue me. But I couldn’t write that story with the same character, because Cultivating a Fuji follows my character to the end of his life. So I created a new character with some similarities to the other, and marked differences, the main one being that I removed him from Bournemouth and plonked him in Jerusalem, Israel – my home town.

What did that do for my character (now called Asaf), my story, my readers and me?

His apartment becomes smaller. I could have put him in a larger flat, but this one seemed right for him. Rentals are expensive here. He rides on buses, while in Bournemouth he walked. He sings songs in Hebrew for motivation. His work colleagues, rather than going off to the pub, hold a celebration in the office. Each attendee drinks one little glass of wine and eats a slice of cream cake.

The story includes several colourful Israeli characters and Nathalie, a new immigrant from France. Nathalie sometimes struggles with the language and customs, but she’s strong and not easily swayed. She continues to believe in Asaf’s innocence even though no one else does. Jerusalem has plenty of places that fit the story. The liberty bell (symbolising freedom) and French cheeses and baguettes in the market (reminding Nathalie of home) are two examples.

Readers will get to see a fair bit of the city they wouldn’t see as tourists. Dwellings range from a small place in a rundown (though improving) neighbourhood to a large, beautifully renovated house in the most sought-after location. Other fascinating cites are introduced in the novel. You can see some of them in this post.

I loved wandering around my city to research this novel. Setting the story in my home town also made it easy for me to take photos to show off to potential readers and anyone interested. That proximity would be convenient at any time, but particularly during these strange times when travel is so complicated.

Style and the Solitary

An unexpected murder. A suspect with a reason. The power of unwavering belief.

A murder has been committed in an office in Jerusalem.  That's for sure.  The rest is not as clear-cut as it might seem.

Asaf languishes in his cell, unable to tell his story even to himself.  How can he tell it to someone who elicits such fear within him?

His colleague, Nathalie, has studied Beauty and the Beast.  She understands its moral.  Maybe that's why she's the only one who believes in Asaf, the suspect.  But she's new in the company - and in the country.  Would anyone take her opinion seriously?

She coerces her flatmates, Yarden and Tehila, into helping her investigate.  As they uncover new trails, will they be able to reverse popular opinion?

In the end, will Beauty's belief be strong enough to waken the Beast?  Or, in this case, can Style waken the Solitary?

Both paperback and ebook versions of Style and the Solitary can be ordered now from Amazon.

About Miriam

Miriam Drori is the author of several novels and short stories. The genres of her novels have ranged from romance to historical fiction to uplit. In her latest novel, she ventures into crime and returns to her home town of Jerusalem.

When not writing, Miriam enjoys reading and (when permitted) hiking, travelling and folk dancing. She is passionate about raising awareness of social anxiety.

Miriam can be found on her website and blog as well as on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and elsewhere. Do follow her for news of events, including an exciting joint online book launch on 6th May. She’s also hosting a Facebook online party for Style and the Solitary on launch day.

Saturday, 17 April 2021


Today I'm delighted to feature the debut novel of fellow Darkstroke author Dan Clark.  The Boy in the Well is a tense psychological thriller with a shocking twist which took me completely by surprise.  It was published on 13th April and is already gaining rave reviews.

I had the pleasure of working with Dan as editor of this amazing story.  Highly recommended.

The Boy in the Well

A time to mourn. A gruesome find. A race for the truth.

After her husband and son are killed in a tragic car accident, Carolyn goes to stay with her mother in a quiet, rural town. She hopes the break will help her cope with her loss.

Soon, Carolyn discovers that the small town holds unforgivable secrets. One she stumbles upon when she discovers the body of a young boy down a well – only to find he has disappeared when she returns with the police.

The local residents, including Carolyn’s mother, doubt her discovery and blame it on her current state of mind. Rumours begin to spread.

With somebody determined to stop Carolyn uncovering the truth, she knows she needs to prove what she saw. Not just for the boy and his family but also for herself.

Will Carolyn be able to find the proof she needs? Or will her life be in danger if she continues her search?


Purchase Link -

Author Bio – Dan was born in the North West of England. He started reading Stephen King from an early age and is still a committed fan today, believing this is what inspired him to start writing.

After leaving school, he studied Accounting before realising working with numbers wasn’t for him. He has done numerous jobs which include, working in retail, in busy restaurants as a Chef, driving a taxi and moving on to driving lorries.

Dan lives with his fiancée, Rachel, and easily-annoyed cat, Burt. In his free time he loves to find a comfortable chair with a large cup of tea and read thriller and horror novels. He enjoys walking and being out in the countryside and devotes most of his time to his passion: writing his own stories.

Social Media Links –

Twitter: @DanielRClark3


Facebook page.

Instagram: @dan_clark100

Huge thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the opportunity to take part in this blog tour.

Wednesday, 7 April 2021

THE LEWIS CHESSMEN - a guest post by Yvonne Marjot

Today I'm delighted to welcome my friend and fellow-author Yvonne Marjot, whose amazing novel The Calgary Chessman is the Ocelot Press Book of the Month for April.  She's here to talk about the real-life discovery of The Lewis Chessmen, which provided the inspiration for the story.  

Welcome, Yvonne!  Please tell us more.

The Lewis Chessmen

Central to the plot of The Calgary Chessman is the discovery of a mysterious object buried in the sand at Calgary Bay – an object that resembles one of the famous Lewis Chessmen. So, what do we know about the Lewis Chessmen?

Where and when were they found?

Factual information provided here came from several books, Archaeology magazines and websites including Although the Calgary chess piece is of course pure speculation, the Lewis chess pieces themselves are full of mystery, as almost nothing is known for sure about their origins, who they were made for, or how they came to be where they were found.

At some point before April 1831, at Uig* in the Isle of Lewis (Leòdhas), in the Outer Hebrides, a cache of just under 100 carved figures was found. The exact number and the circumstances of their finding remain clouded, though local legends name Malcolm MacLeod of Penny Donald (Peighinn Dòmhnall) in Uig as the finder. *Gaelic ‘Uig’ from Norse ‘Vik’ meaning a bay.

In 1831 Roderick Ririe from Stornoway (Steòrnabhagh on Lewis brought 93 ivory objects, most readily recognised as chess pieces, to a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, in Edinburgh. He sold some to a local dealer, but 10 had already been sold to Charles Sharpe. These (and one other) eventually ended up in the care of National Museums, Scotland. Later that year the British Museum purchased 83 pieces. The British Museum display is a highlight of any visit, and the pieces have real character and presence. I never visit the museum without paying them my respects.

It’s easy to imagine a lone man digging in dunes, perhaps where a storm has shifted the sand, and spotting something interesting. But Sharpe’s description (by this point at least third-hand) suggests the pieces were in some kind of stone-lined chamber or vaulted room, which became exposed by erosion. This was said to be associated with a nearby nunnery (although no evidence of the nunnery remains) but might instead have been a souterrain, an Iron Age underground storage structure, common in this part of Scotland.

There is speculation, with some justification, that the find spot was in fact not Penny Donald but an abandoned township called Mèalasta, near Uig Strand, where there was a medieval church and a quite substantial and wealthy township, the kind that might well have been able to afford expensive luxuries such as gaming tokens. It is also believed that rather than being a single chance find, some of the chessmen could have been discovered as early as the 1780s, and may have been displayed in a local house until an antiquarian (perhaps Ririe himself)  happened to see them and realise they must be ancient (and possibly valuable).

In The Calgary Chessman I’ve stuck with the idea of a chance find, dug out of beach sand. Calgary Bay, with its wild north-western outlook and scattering of homes, bears a strong resemblance to Uig strand today: white shell-sand dancing across empty beaches backed by machair and rising sand dunes. It’s easy to walk there today and imagine that treasure could be hidden beneath the sand, just waiting to be discovered. 

How old are they, and where did they come from?

The age of the chessmen (calculated by a range of means, including details of their decoration) suggests they were made during the ascendancy of the Lords of the Isles. Their design harkens back to Viking times, but they are not believed to originate from that era, despite the some of the ‘warders’ (the equivalent of rooks in the modern game) being depicted as berserkers, biting their shields in rage. More is said about this in The Calgary Chessman, but amongst other evidence is the fact that these are amongst the earliest chess figures ever found that have the bishop pieces wearing their mitre (hat) sideways, as bishops do today.


It’s generally agreed that they date from the period 1150-1200A.D. This includes the period where the Archbishop of Nidaros (Trondheim) in Norway. was given authority over all the bishops of the Isles. This might prove important, as there is strong evidence the chess pieces originated in Scandinavia, perhaps even at Trondheim itself.

Two chess pieces similar to the Lewis hoard were found in digs at Trondheim, and that seems too big a coincidence to ignore. On the other hand, it looks likely that the walrus ivory from which most of the pieces were made came through the Icelandic trade, and an argument can be made for a craft workshop based in Iceland itself. These days, Scandinavia seems very remote from Scotland, but during the early Middle Ages there was a strong trade presence right down the west coast of Scotland and through the Isles, and also between Norway, Iceland, Shetland and the Orkneys. There’s every reason to expect Norse traders to be working in the Inner and Outer Hebrides at the time.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this taste of the tale of the Lewis Chessmen (utterly real and solid and sitting in museums waiting to greet you when we are once again allowed to visit), and that it whets your appetite to read more about my imaginary chess piece, and the role it comes to play in the life of my protagonist, Cas Longmore, in The Calgary Chessman.

Yvonne Marjot is a lost kiwi, now living in the Inner Hebrides. She has been making up stories and poems for as long as she can remember, and once won a case of port in a poetry competition. Her archaeological romances, beginning with The Calgary Chessman, are published with Ocelot Press, along with her paranormal romance, Walking on Wild Air.

 She lives on the Isle of Mull where she is volunteering during the Covid19 pandemic, but normally runs the local public library. She has three grown-up children and a very naughty cat. 

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