Sunday, 23 December 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013

I thought I'd post this picture of a Christmas card my grandparents sent to friends on, or around, 1959. This card was recently given back to my father by the grandson of the person the card had been sent to all those years ago. This is a photo of their house, which was extended and changed beyond recognition into an hotel and then a carehome. My grandparents had racehorses grazing at the front and a beautiful valley with deco-shaped pools tiered down from one end to the other at the back. It was very beautiful and the pools still remain - as far as I'm aware - and this house has offered me much inspiration for my next book.

I'm almost ready for the festivities and have bought most of the food and begun wrapping presents ready for various family members to come and join us for Christmas lunch. I'll also be taking a week off work, phew, so will hopefully have time to get involved with my plotting for a few book ideas that I've had.

Happy Christmas to you and here's hoping for good health and every success in

Wednesday, 12 December 2012


12.12.12 might be a date that most of us will only see once during our lifetime, but according to the St Catherines Standard, there's an Australian woman, Florence Turpin, who was born on 12 December 1912 and she's celebrating her 100th birthday today. I can only imagine the enormous changes this lady must have seen throughout her life.

According to Jonathan Cainer, there are 'no major planetary aspects today', so apart from the date looking a little more interesting than usual it doesn't seem to be a day with any special meaning.

It is a sunny, crisp, winter's day though, so a walk on the beach should be just the thing to wake me up and give me the energy to keep going until the weekend. Who knows, I might even force myself to decorate the Christmas tree that's been standing in the conservatory since Saturday.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Exploring Bunkers with Grumps

Here's a picture of Grumps on one of our walks last weekend. He's lucky to have many different areas to go for his walks thanks to a couple of nearby beaches, a beautiful valley walk around a nearby dam and also the sand dunes down in St Ouens Bay.

This is one of our favourite walks. He particularly enjoys wandering around the bunkers - again in St Ouens Bay - to sniff out the rabbits and generally be a little snooty towards other dogs. I, on the other hand, love wandering around there - as well as Noirmont, another bunker-filled area - to study the bunkers and to think through plot strands for my WiP. It's more pleasant when the weather is warm and sunny, but I particularly enjoy these walks in gloomier weather because the atmosphere helps my imagination so much more when there seems to be the threat of a storm coming across the channel.

Do you have a favourite place where you go for inspiration?

Monday, 29 October 2012

Full Moon

Here's a picture of tonight's full moon.

The temperature has dropped, the clocks have gone back and we've starting lighting fires in the sitting room at night, so it must be Autumn. What? Already?

I love the change of the seasons and the colder weather makes me want to settle down and read. Well, after I've dragged on my warmest sloppy Joe clothes and slippers, that is.

How do you feel about Autumn/Winter?

PS These pictures were taken straight after one another, even though the sky looks much darker in the zoomed in photo.

Monday, 15 October 2012

I Have An Agent!

I'm - beyond - excited to tell you that Luigi Bonomi is now my agent! I almost feel like whispering this because I still can't quite believe that it's true.

I signed with him last week and have to admit that I had to reprint several copies of the agreement because my hand was shaking so much it wouldn't sign my signature properly.

I don't need to tell my writer friends what an exhiliarating moment this is because I'm sure it's something we've all dreamed about, many times. I keep murmuring, 'Luigi Bonomi is my agent' and 'I can't believe it'. I'm so overwhelmed that such a well-respected and wonderful agent now represents me.

I'm now going to take a deep breath and try to calm down.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Guest Post - Living On An Island - A Sense of Place in your Novel

I'm delighted to welcome Phillipa Ashley over to the Plotting Shed to tell us about a sense of place in your novel.
A sense of place is very important in all my novels; I love creating a real, vivid world and the more authentic I can make it, the easier I find it to imagine and develop my characters.
This has never been truer than for my new release; Miranda’s Mount which is set on an island castle in Cornwall.
I know what you’re thinking: ‘island castle in Cornwall’ - she must mean St Michael’s Mount.
Well, yes and no. It’s true that that the Mount inspired my Mount. In fact I can remember the exact moment I go the idea for the book. I was travelling home on a long car journey from another of my favourite locations, The Lake District, and dozing off – not at the wheel, I’m pleased to say – when the premise just slipped into my head.
Perhaps I was already planning my next holiday...
I love St Michael’s Mount and I wanted to write a book set in a similar place. But I also wanted my island to be my own creation.
Very unusually, the characters, their back stories and conflicts burst onto my head all at once. In half an hour, I’d got my story and I remember saying to my husband and daughter: ‘I’m going to write this book and this is what it’s about, these are the characters and this is what has happened to them to make them the people they are.’
When I got home, I started writing and never stopped.
I think my inspiration came because I chose such a unique and evocative, almost magical location that really captured my imagination.
An island castle is cut off by the tides twice a day and that imposes limitations on your characters. Firstly, in the physical sense, because they can’t escape from the place whenever they want to, they are ruled by nature, and they live and work in close proximity – which is a dream scenario for a romance.
But more important, are the emotional and psychological limitations that the location imposes and that big question ‘why’.
Why would someone chose to live on a tiny island in a close knit community?? It wouldn’t suit everyone; the claustrophobia, the difficulty of hiding things and the lack of privacy.
So I asked why my heroine, Miranda, loved living under those restrictions – and then I gave her a hero, Jago, who was the opposite, a man who couldn’t wait to escape the place that should be his birthright.
The heroine’s job as property manager of the island and the hero’s role as owner threw up so many interesting and dramatic opportunities, that the book seemed to write itself all the way through. I really felt I could see, hear, smell and taste the island. The chance to live there, if only my head, for nine months was pure escapist fun.
But I ought to leave it to a real expert on island life to give her own perspective – over to you, Debs!

Thanks Phillipa.
Miranda's Mount is published as an E-book on October 4th by Piatkus Entice and is a sexy, funny contemporary romance set in Cornwall.
When Miranda finds herself fighting for her home, her job and her heart, sleeping with the enemy may not be the best tactic…
With no family of her own, Miranda Marshall has developed a healthy respect – some would say obsession – with other people’s histories. As property manager of a spectacular island castle in Cornwall, she’s made St Merryn’s Mount one of the UK’s most popular heritage attractions. While she may have the castle running like clockwork, Miranda hasn’t bargained on its sexy owner returning to claim his birthright. Dark, handsome and with a rakish reputation, Jago St Merryn not only looks like a pirate but is intent on flogging the Mount to a soulless leisure corporation. Miranda faces the battle of her life as she tries to persuade him to face up to his past and continue the St Merryn dynasty. But Jago has his own reasons for jumping ship and when he throws down the gauntlet to Miranda, she’s forced to delve into painful memories she’d much rather keep hidden…

Here's Phillipa's Website. You can also follow her on Twitter: @PhillipaAshley

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Guest Post - Victoria Connelly, Christmas With Mr Darcy

Today, I'm thrilled to have the lovely and very talented, Victoria Connelly doing a guest post here in the Plotting Shed, together with an extract from her latest book, Christmas With Mr Darcy. Over to you, Victoria.

When I wrote my trilogy about Jane Austen addicts, it was both exciting and daunting. I'd never written a trilogy before and, although each book can be read as a stand-alone novel, there were little overlaps and, of course, lots of research to do about Jane Austen's life and works.

The first novel, A Weekend Mr Darcy, was published in September 2010 and was followed by The Perfect Hero and Mr Darcy Forever. And that was it, I thought. No more Jane Austen for me. Three books is quite enough.

But then I kept getting emails from readers who wanted more. What happened to the characters next, they asked? Would there be another Jane Austen conference in the future?

I kept thinking about my characters too and, this time last year, the idea for a novella sequel began to emerge. I have always wanted to write a book set at Christmas so what better excuse to bring all the characters from the trilogy together than a special Christmas Jane Austen conference at Purley Hall?

It was strange because I wrote most of this book during the summer although, with the bad weather we had here in the UK, it wasn't terribly hard to imagine winter!

I had such fun writing this novella and I really hope readers will enjoy it. And will there be any more Austen-inspired stories in the future? Well, never say never!

There were few sights more beautiful in Hampshire than Purley Hall in the snow. The faded red-bricked Georgian manor house stood proudly in the middle of the white landscape as if it were at the centre of a snow globe, and the fields surrounding it were smooth and sparkling in the December sunlight.
The little village of Church Stinton looked like a Christmas card. Thatched roofs had been dusted with sugar-like snow, and the church was postcard-pretty, its great yew trees looking ethereal under their white cloaks.
The south of England had been surprised by the first snow of the year but it hadn’t been hit as badly as the north of the country and, after a week of commuter chaos, the snow was beginning to disappear. Still, as Dame Pamela Harcourt looked out of the hall window, she couldn’t help feeling anxious.
‘Can you believe that more snow has been forecast? You don’t think it will put people off coming do you?’ she asked her brother. She’d been hosting Jane Austen conferences for several years now and not one had been cancelled yet.
‘Pammy, earthquakes and tornadoes couldn’t keep Austen fans away,’ Dan said from his position at the top of a ladder as he threaded a long garland of golden stars around the Christmas tree.
Dame Pamela’s twitchy fingers reached up to the pearl choker she was wearing. It was ten o’clock in the morning but, with her billowing red velvet tunic and pearls adorning her ears, throat and wrists, she looked more suitable for a red-carpet event than a morning at home.
She moved to stand under the enormous Christmas tree which had taken four men to place in the entrance hall. It was to be decorated in red, green and gold, and it was going to look perfect with its twinkling lights and heap of shiny, beribboned presents stacked underneath.
‘Pass me the baubles,’ Dan said a moment later and Dame Pamela handed him the first of the glass baubles. They gleamed like fat rubies in the light of the hall and she watched as they were placed oh-so-carefully at intervals around the tree.
‘You really are very good at this,’ she told her brother.
‘I should be after the number of times I’ve done it,’ he said, turning around and smiling at her.
‘My wonderful little brother!’ she said. ‘What would I do without you?’ She looked at his handsome profile and his shock of red-gold hair. She adored him and had been absolutely delighted when he’d married young Robyn – one of the attendees of a past Jane Austen conference. And now they had a little daughter, Cassandra. She smiled. She had a lot to thank Jane Austen for. Not only had she provided her with an adorable sister-in-law but she had done wonders for her career too because Dame Pamela had had the privilege of playing Elizabeth Bennet and Marianne Dashwood in TV adaptations of Austen’s novels in her youth, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh and Fanny Ferrars Dashwood in her latter years. And then there were the conferences which she so looked forward to. It had started off with an annual conference in the autumn but that had proved so popular that she had decided to host a special Christmas conference too and no expense was going to be spared.
Every guest bedroom had been decorated with evergreen garlands over the fireplaces and picture frames. A new dinner service had been bought: white edged with gold. There were crystal wine glasses too and enormous flower displays threaded with fairy lights. Great green garlands adorned the enormous front door and lights had been placed in the trees lining the driveway. Dame Pamela had also insisted that the temple on the island should be decorated with lights.
Purley Hall had to look its very best for Christmas.

You can buy Christmas with Mr Darcy here.
Victoria's Website
Twitter: @VictoriaDarcy

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Plotting Shed Gets a Facelift

I spend so much time inside the shed that I barely notice the outside of it. Rob recently commented that it was looking a little shabby and suggested that it could do with a bit of a facelift.

"No problem" I said, not minding the thought of spending a couple of hours, paintbrush in hand, artistically slapping eau de nil paint over the tatty woodwork.

"You'll need to wash the green from the sides though," he added, smiling at my naive enthusiasm.


The forecast states that the next three days will be hot, sunny and perfect weather for washing down the shed, letting it dry and then painting it. So, this morning, while Grumps was reluctantly held hostage clipped at the beauty salon, I set to work.

Firstly, I noticed that the elderberry hedging from the field next-door was touching the back of the shed. So, I found the loppers and climbed between the seven foot wall by the field and the woodwork. Suffice to say, I now have one crushed thumb (slight exaggeration, maybe), a bruised chest (the less said about that the better), and I dread to think what insects down the back of my tee shirt.

Then, I filled the mop bucket with hot soapy water, got the soft yard brush and began the awkward task of washing the woodwork. I'm now soaking wet, gritting my teeth from close encounters with several behemoth spiders, and not quite so keen on having to paint. *shivers*

Time for a cup of tea, I think. I have a feeling I'm far better suited to lying in the sunshine reading a book than trying to act as if I'm good at this DIY lark.

UPDATE: I've updated the picture at the top of this post with an 'After' photo. Yes, I know, it doesn't look much different, does it? And naturally the day couldn't pass without his grumpiness getting in on the action.
Guess who got covered in paint? I'm not sure how well you can see it on his grey coat, but thankfully it didn't take too much effort to get rid of the evidence.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Researching the Occupation & RNA NWS

The book I'm working on at the moment is set in Jersey during the Occupation and researching it has been great fun. Although there are constant reminders from those days - walls along the beaches, countless bunkers and concrete towers across the coast and even in fields - I thought I'd pretty much covered sources for research.

Then Rob mentioned that he had some papers he'd collected years ago stored in his mother's loft and these are some of them. Now I have access to newspapers of that time showing the news - obviously - but also adverts and other smaller stories of the day. What a find!

The downside is that although I'd completed this book a couple of years ago, I've now decided to give it a major rewrite, which has meant changing one of the character's stories almost completely. So, despite taking this week off work to concentrate on it, as well as working on this book over the past month, I know that I'm not going to be able to submit a full manuscript for this years RNA NWS. I've never submitted a 'partial' before, but this will be the third book I've rewritten this year, so I'm trying not to be too hard on myself about it. I can't help feeling frustrated though.

Right, I now need to stop fretting about it and get on with the rewrite. Good luck to all my other NWS colleagues who are typing furiously to get their books completed by the 31st August deadline.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Positive Thinking

My daughter and son have just returned from a trip to Florida where they visited the Kennedy Space Centre. While they were there they kindly bought a mug for me with this picture/quote on it. I love the idea of positive thinking and am editing in between birthday parties, family visits and a stronking great head cold/vertigo and typing like a...well, like a mad typist.

I'm doing my best to finish my wip so that I can send it off to the RNA NWS in time for the 31 August deadline. The deadline for me will actually be 24 August, because no post is delivered (or collected, I believe) on the weekends in Jersey! So, I'll need to make sure this is posted on the Thursday/Friday prior to the 31 August as it will be going parcel post and will take a couple of days to get to the UK.

Right now, there isn't a cat's chance in blackberries that it's going to be finished in time, but I'm going to keep tapping away and send the best wip possible in the time I have left. The book has already been written, but I've decided to change it - drastically - and therefore am in the middle of an almost total rewrite. Not the best timing to do this I'm sure you'll agree. I'd better get on with it then. Have a great week.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Good Housekeeping Novel Comp - Runner-up

Okay, I know I'm probably driving everyone mad about this, because if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you'll have already discovered I was one of the runners-up in the Good Housekeeping Novel Competition (out of 7,000 entrants...can you believe it? I can't). However, I couldn't not post about this on my blog too, so here goes...

If you buy Good Housekeeping magasine - August edition, pages 46/47 - you'll see my name. *squeals with continuous excitement*

If you go to the Good Housekeeping online site you can read the first 250 words of both my entry and those of the other two runners-up. You'll also find the link for the other shortlisted entries. My first 250 words would be followed by, 'All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born. (WB Yeats, Easter, 1916).

Right, I'll let you get on now and get back down to reading my final (for now) edits outloud.

This is the second week of my summer holidays from work and it's been lousy weather, but to be honest, it's suited me fine because I've spent most of my time working on edits. According to our weather forecast the sun reappears on Sunday, just in time for my return to Play.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Naughty Pirates & Better Behaved Graduate

My son wrote this 'story' for me when he was very little and I recently came across it again. Reading this story about pirates and what they can do to you(!) it's hard to imagine that little boy - who was, by the way, the naughtiest child I've ever had to deal with - is now 21 and will be graduating this week with a 2:1 in Politics & International Relations. Who'd have thought it? *whispers* 'Not me!'

I'm incredibly proud and my outfit is hanging up ready for our flight to the mainland. Sister, daughter and mother have been given instructions on: How to work the toaster; when and how much to feed Divadog; to look out for the postman because Divadog particularly hates his bicycle; and a million other concerns. As if any of them have no idea what to do when I'm away? Which they do, but they just let me waffle and probably take no notice at all. I'm only away for a few hours for pity's sake! I thinks I'm probably just a little over-excited.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Daydreams & Edits

I'm in the shed editing.

I'm sure my days are a little like Groundhog Day for my poor family. I'm either in the shed writing/editing, or sitting in the conservatory/outside reading books to review for Novelicious. So, if I'm not at work, you can pretty much know where to find me.

Physically, that is. I'm always somewhere else in my head. Then again, my school reports often said, '...Deborah spends far too much time daydreaming/staring out of windows/in a world of her own.'

Finally I've found something that makes the most of my tendancy to drift away into my own world. One of these days *crosses fingers and thinks positively* I'll see the result of all these daydreams/edits in book/e-book form.

Well, you've got to dream, haven't you?

Friday, 8 June 2012

Voting, HNS Conference & Award

The voting has started for the Novelicious Undiscovered 2012. If you haven't cast your vote yet, please pop over, read the entries and vote, for your favourite. More details on the fantastic prizes. Voting ends on June 20th.

HNS Conference 2012
I've just booked to attend the Historical Novel Society Conference in September and I can't wait. Do let me know if you'll be going too, I'd love to meet up with online friends.

Thanks to Rebecca Leith for nominating me for the Sunshine Award. Mama J kindly nominated me for this too a couple of weeks ago, so I'll link to that post here. I always enjoy Rebecca's interesting and fun blog posts. If you haven't already discovered them, you're in for a treat.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

My Dream of You Online Launch Party

I'm so excited to be taking part in my lovely writer friend Denyse Kirkby's online launch party for her novel, My Dream of You. I haven't had the chance to read My Dream of You yet, but I do have my copy and loved her debut novel Without Alice and memoir From Zaftig to Aspie, so I know I'll enjoy this book too.

Crime of passion or cruel twist of fate?

One summer’s day Betty let love carry her a step too far. That exquisite sun dappled afternoon became one of her best memories but also the catalyst for the worst experience of her life. Now elderly, Betty has been running from her past since she was a teenager, and it’s about to catch up with her. Will the experience be as awful as she fears or wonderful beyond imagining?

Praise for My Dream of You:

“D.J. Kirkby writes with compassion and energy, creating characters you can really care about.” Sarah Salway (Canterbury Poet Laureate)

"Evocatively written, My Dream of You is an absorbing read filled with interesting characters, plot twists, and emotion." Talli Roland, bestselling author of Build a Man

“A tale of motherhood, of hope and of love. Truly touching” Caroline Smailes, author of 99 Reasons Why

My Dream of You is published today (5 June) by Punked Books as an e-book and is available on Amazon UK for £1.53 and Amazon US for $2.40.

Everyone who leaves a ‘pick me’ comment on the My Dream of You online launch party blog post, and/or shares the post from Denyse's Facebook Author Page, and/or Tweets using the #MDOY hashtag making sure to copy @djkirkby in gets their name entered into a draw for some wonderful prizes.

Names can only be entered until midnight on June 5th and the winner will be announced on Denyse's blog on Sunday June 11th.

Quarterly newsletter sign up page:

Friday, 1 June 2012

Meeting The Queen... (not me, my grandparents)

My grandparents, George and Mary, were lucky enough to meet the Queen a couple of times.

Here are a few pictures from my grandmother's album filled with photos, invitations and menus, etc from those occasions. This is when they met the Queen at, I believe, Government House in 1957.

They were lucky enough to be invited to a Dinner in 1957 and this is their invitation. Many others were also invited of course, but my grandmother was always so proud to have attended.

Here they are dressed in all their finery before leaving home to go onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia when The Queen visited in 1957.

Below is a photo of the menu from the Luncheon where The Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were Guests of Honour in 1949.

The long white glove was the one she wore to shake hands with The Queen in 1957. Naturally, I've tried it on...

I saw the Queen once, when she visited Jersey about twenty years ago. I was with my grandmother then and other family members, but on this occasion we sat on a low granite wall by the road and waited for her car to drive past. The Queen waved and we were all delighted.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Summer and Whirlwind Tours

It's been a hectic week, which began with me having to get up at 5am on Monday to catch the red-eye to London for the day. I usually get up at 6am, so you'd think that one hour earlier wouldn't make much difference, but I was a little bleary-eyed when I arrived home at 8.35pm and not impressed when my son phoned 'for a chat' at 11.15pm. Bless him.

Today I took three colleagues for a whirlwind tour of the beaches on the western side of the island and also showed them some of places where I take the dog for walks. They seemed to enjoy their brief tour and took many photos of the small bays and the larger beaches overlooking the other islands.

This tree fern is in Val de la Mare, a resevoir down the road from my home and somewhere where joggers like to run and where I occasionally walk Divadog. It's so peaceful and very beautiful.

Can you tell I'm in a chirpy mood? It's all down to the glorious weather and I'm hoping that now we've seen a little bit of sunshine summer is on its way. It's amazing how much happier people seem to be when the sun is shining. Especially me!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Liberation Day

It's Liberation Day here in Jersey. Yesterday it was Guernsey's day to celebrate, tomorrow it'll be Sarks and on 16th Alderley. Liberation Day means different things to the different generations. For the children, or those not connected to the past of the island it's a day off school or work, but for those who have been brought up here listening to the stories from the occupation it means something far more personal.

For my father's generation it means remembering the years of austerity, fear at the hands of the German army and lack of food, but never a lack of hope. It meant fighting back in their own inimitable way. You can still see the 'V' signs embedded in granite around the island. The Royal Square is one place you'll find this sign of resistance. People still remember those that helped and those that 'talked' and some remember the horrible retaliation against 'Jerry-bags', the women who fraternised with the Germans.

My father was very small when they had to pack up and leave on one of the last boats out of the island. He was taken by his mother, with his older brother and cousin to live, firstly in London from where he was evacuated twice and in various other places in England. He returned to the island soon after the occupation with a different accent and had to learn to fit in once again. When I asked recently why my grandmother never kept any photos from before the war, he reminded me that when you're evacuated you can only take a few, vital belongings, you don't have much time to think and maybe her photos were not the most important things for her to take when she had three boys to contend with.

For my generation, it's remembering teachers, Mrs Du Feu was one much loved teacher, telling us how her mother was frightened one day when she was baking bread in her kitchen and a German officer walked in. It's hearing older locals telling us about their memories and the ever-present reminder of the fortification dotted all around our island on the coast and in fields and some gardens.

Every year we celebrate by hoisting flags, holding a commemorative service and a ceremony in Liberation Square as well as enjoying parties, but however we remember this date we are aware of the importance of it and know that those years of occupation can never be forgotten, nor should they be.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Dad's Plane Crash (in the 1970s)

A few weeks ago in a meme I mentioned that my dad had survived a plane crash. Here's the local newspaper article with a picture of my dad (he's the blond one standing in front of the plane, his friend who was with him when it crashed is sitting inside the plane).

This happened years ago, but I still remember lying in bed when I was supposed to be asleep and could hear my grandmother arrive in tears at the house so she could be there when news arrived about them both. My parents and grandmother often took part air rallys. I always stayed at home with my siblings, but I remember being taken to see all the small planes at the airport.

The crash didn't happen during an air rally though. On this occasion, dad and his friend were taking two other pilots to collect a new plane in Dinard and it was on the way back, with the other plane some way behind them that they crashed. The other pilots circled the area for as long as possible before returning to the nearest airport. I gather that dad and his friend drifted quite a way - the currents are very strong in the channel - but they were rescued and weren't badly injured. When they arrived in France they were offered brandies to perk them up and amused their French hosts by declining the brandies and asking for cups of tea instead.

Each year on 21st May, the anniversary of the crash, I send my dad a card and I'm incredibly grateful that he lived to tell us all about it. Strangely enough, he's not at all scared of flying.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Novelicious Undiscovered - Top 20 Announced

Earlier today the Novelicious Undiscovered 2012 Top 20 were announced. Congratulations to everyone who made it into the Top 20.

To find out who they were and what happens next, here's the link to Novelicious.

Thank you to everyone who left a comment on my previous post where I interviewed the very dashing hero. Robert Denham, from The Penny Bangle by Margaret James.

The lucky winner - chosen at random - of the large Victorian Penny is...

Pat Posner

Congratulations Pat.

Please can you email your address to me at debs dot carr at jerseymail dot co dot uk and I'll forward your details on to Choc Lit Publishers who very kindly offered this lovely prize as part of their Penny Bangle Interviews Blog Tour.

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Penny Bangle Interviews - Robert

When should you trust your heart?

It’s 1942 when Cassie Taylor reluctantly leaves Birmingham to become a land girl on a farm in Dorset.

There she meets Robert and Stephen Denham, twins recovering from injuries sustained at Dunkirk. Cassie is instantly drawn to Stephen, but is wary of the more complex Robert – who doesn’t seem to like Cassie one little bit.

At first, Robert wants to sack the inexperienced city girl. But Cassie soon learns, and Robert comes to admire her courage, finding himself deeply attracted to Cassie. Just as their romance blossoms, he’s called back into active service.

Anxious to have adventures herself, Cassie joins the ATS. In Egypt, she meets up with Robert, and they become engaged. However, war separates them again as Robert is sent to Italy and Cassie back to the UK.

Robert is reported missing, presumed dead. Stephen wants to take Robert’s place in Cassie’s heart. But will Cassie stay true to the memory of her first love, and will Robert come home again?

I'm thrilled to be able start off The Penny Bangle Interviews by interviewing the hero of this book, Robert. Welcome to the Plotting Shed, Robert.

When Cassie first arrived at your family farm you didn’t take to her straight away. What was it that made you realise she had more about her than you’d first thought?
I’d asked the Ministry of Labour to find us a new land girl, and I was expecting to be sent someone strong, healthy and with lots of experience. So I was livid when this skinny little waif from Birmingham turned up. When we asked where she’d been before she came to us, it turned out she’d worked in a factory. She’d never been out of Birmingham, and she’d never seen a cow, let alone milked one.

At first, she was absolutely terrified of the cows. She shook every time she went near them. But she soon learned, and she made it clear she was much tougher than she looked. One day, she did something really stupid and was quite badly hurt. I still feel sick when I think about it. But she got up the following morning and said she was fit enough to go back to work. I got used to seeing that stubborn expression on her face, the one that said I’ll show you, Robert Denham – and she did.

Sometimes, I’d catch her smiling at me. She has a gorgeous smile. Soon, I realised I had liked her from the moment we’d first met, and it wasn’t long before I fell in love.

Can you tell us a bit about how you must have felt to discover that Cassie was volunteering for dangerous missions?
I didn’t like it at all!

I was in the army, Cassie had joined the ATS, and I’d been sent to North Africa. I was horrified when I heard she was on her way to Alexandria on a troopship ploughing through the Mediterranean, being attacked by German U-boats and dive-bombed by Italian planes.

But, even if I’d known what she was plotting, I wouldn’t have tried to stop her doing anything. It would have been a waste of time. I was relieved when they sent her back to the UK, but she was furious. She wanted to go to Italy with the army, and settle Mussolini once and for all.

Had you always hoped to stay on the farm, or did you have ambitions for adventures elsewhere?
I’d always admired my father, who was a professional soldier before he became a farmer. But I didn’t want to be a soldier myself until the war began.

If there hadn’t been a war, I’d probably have wanted to do something other than farming, anyway. I enjoyed being in the army, but you’ll have to read the story to find out what I’m doing now!

What was the hardest thing about meeting up with Cassie and then having to leave her again?
She never had the opportunities I had as a child, but she’s as smart and clever as anyone I know. She’s also very vulnerable, however, and I saw that side of her for the first time when we were in Alexandria together. I understood that beneath all her toughness, cockiness and cheekiness was a girl who didn’t actually think much of herself. She couldn’t quite believe it when things went well. I found I was determined to make sure things would always go well for Cassie.

Why was it hard to leave Cassie? Well, because I wanted to see her again in this world, not the next, and I didn’t know if I would.

You sound a very different personality to your twin brother Stephen, so it must make it very difficult when someone so close to you also decides that they want to be with the woman you love?
It’s difficult to know someone like Steve. On the surface, he’s confident and cheerful. But, deep down, he’s insecure and needs plenty of reassurance. He’s a bit like Cassie in that respect. What you see first of all isn’t necessarily what you get.

Cassie liked Steve from the start, long before she liked me. Well, everybody likes Steve. He’s a nice bloke. But, when Cassie and I fell in love, it caused a lot of tension between Steve and me.

The one really big row I had with Cassie was about Steve. I asked her if she’d gone to bed with him while I was in Italy and they were both in the UK. She lost it completely. Then she told me to get out of her life. That was when I realised she meant the world to me and I had to find some way to get her back.

Thank you, Debs – it’s been a pleasure to talk to you.

As a thank you for Robert agreeing to be interviewed in the Plotting Shed Choc Lit are kindly giving away one large Victorian Penny to a lucky winner who leaves a 'Pick Me' comment on this blog. (The winner will be chosen at random next weekend).

The rest of the interviews will be as follows:
Interview with Cassie - 23 April at the Book Babes
Interview with Margaret - 30 April on the Romaniacs
Finale and Publication Day on 7 May at the Authors' Corner at Choc Lit

Tuesday, 10 April 2012


If you've ever seen pictures of the inside of my shed you'll know that I surround myself with photos, clippings and notes as well as the driftwood, signs and objet d'art that I've found on my travels. I find each and every one of these 'bits' inspirational in some way, either because they spark of a memory or simply because they remind me of something or someone in my WiP.

This picture was taken one day last summer when my aunt and I found a place that I'd only imagined still existing and thanks to her having the nerve to ask a lady who lived there if we could come in and look round, it led to one of the highlights of my life and a day I still can't believe happened.

When my historical novel is published (see, I'm being very positive today) I'll tell you all about it, but for now I just wanted to post this picture and to remind me that whether I am lucky enough for my book to be published, or not (oops, positivity slipping) no one can take away that surreal day.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Happy Easter/Passover

I'd like to wish everyone a Happy Easter or Passover this weekend.

This hyacinth was picked from my garden this morning, the vase is from Jersey Potteries, the cards are from my mother-in-law and the little chick egg is Robs! We do have other eggs, but they wouldn't fit into the picture!

This weekend is the start of a week with my son back at home on a short break from third year studies at uni, my daughter (working today and tomorrow) but here the rest of the time, a big family party on Monday, my birthday (yay, pressies!) and then a week off from work. It's a little chilly, but the sun's blazing and I'm in the conservatory reading, The Captain's Daughter by Leah Fleming.

What will you be doing this weekend?

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Novelicious Undiscovered Entries & A Bored Dog

Most of my waking time is spent in front of a laptop/computer. If I'm not at work then I'm either in the shed, or in the conservatory writing, editing or reading books to review for Alternative Thursday over at At the moment I'm reading competition entries for Novelicious Undiscovered.

Don't forget, if you want to enter Novelicious Undiscovered, the closing date is this Tuesday, 3rd April.

My family are fine with this. Rob works a lot and loves gardening. Sas, when she's not at school, has a social life that really could keep a full-time social secretary busy and James is at uni. So, that leaves poor Grumps. He's the one who has to sit/lie and wait for me to finish. Something I never seem to do without immediately starting on the next book, etc.

He does go for a walk every day, usually to the beach, and whenever I go out in the car he comes with me, usually sitting on the front seat with the teens in the back!

Poor him. He always looks so miserable, even when he's having fun.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

A Great Weekend

I had a wonderful Mother's Day last weekend. My son unexpectedly came back for a long weekend and these are the gifts my children and the Grumpy one gave me, as well as beautiful cards with thoughtful words written inside each of them.

These glorious tulips arrived by post from my son.

My lovely daughter bought me this book.

I love Leah Fleming's books and was going to wait until the paperback version of this book came out, but now I don't have to.

The Grumpy one bought me this beautiful orchid as well as a new pair of secateurs. Well, obviously Rob bought them on his behalf, thanks Rob.

To celebrate the new, sharper secateurs I began trimming back the tangle of honeysuckle and clematis that had overtaken one area of the garden. Some of the plants had grown over an old, dying palm tree and when I tried to pull the greenery away from the tree Rob noticed that it was moving rather more than it should have done and shouted for me to move out of the way.

Needless to say, the palm tree was rotten at the roots and the eighteen foot monster crashed down next to me. I don't know who was more surprised me or Grumps who gazed at it in horror for a few moments before taking the opportunity to have a celebratory wee against the horizontal tree. Charming!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Dancing With Sean Connery (Mum, not me)

For those of you who commented on my last blog post about my mum dancing with Sean Connery, here are the pictures.

It was the sixties. Doesn't she look lovely? He looks gorgeous too, of course, but then he was James Bond!


Thursday, 8 March 2012

And The Award Goes To...Me

I was awarded the Liebster Blog Award by the kind and talented Choc Lit authors. Thank you, ladies.

I've got to give five random facts about myself and pass this on to a blog that I want to recommend to you.

- My mother once danced with Sean Connery. I'd forgotten about this until my sister told me that a postman came to her door last week and asked if it was her mother who had danced with SC all those years ago! (Odd?)
- My father had a plane crash and survived. Phew.
- I was asked to leave the convent school I attended when I was twelve because they said that I charming and always polite, but if I didn't want to do something, nothing could persuade me to do it. My daughter now goes to this school and is doing very well, thankfully.
- When my mother was pregnant they thought I was twins! I'm not sure what that says about me...
- I can ride side-saddle. (Although I haven't for years. Not much reason for it!)
I'd like to pass this award on to Jean Bull.

The lovely Diane Fordham passed the Sunshine Award on to me. For this award I need to tell you several things that make me happy.
- Reading in my conservatory with Grumps sitting next to me and the sun shining outside.
- Chocolate. (Goes without saying really though).
- Watching tv with my family with a fire in the grate when it's wintery outside.
- Opening books sent from publishers for my Alternative Thursday reviews at Novelicious.
- Walking the Grumps on St Ouens' Beach.
- Going out to lunch with Rob and the children.
- Writing in my shed.
I'd like to pass this award on to Flowerpot.

I didn't win a RoNA Award *mind wanders off into a daydream* at the Romantic Novelists' Association's 2012 Award reception, but the following authors did :

CONTEMPORARY ROMANTIC NOVEL - Summer of Love by Katie Fforde
EPIC ROMANTIC NOVEL - The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
HISTORICAL ROMANTIC NOVEL - Highland Storms by Christina Courtenay
ROMANTIC COMEDY NOVEL - Please Don’t Stop the Music by Jane Lovering
YOUNG ADULT ROMANTIC NOVEL - Dark Ride by Caroline Green
THE RoNA ROSE AWARD - The Dangerous Lord Darrington by Sarah Mallory
THE HARRY BOWLING PRIZE WINNER - A Dark Flowering by Natalie Lloyd-Evans
Congratulations to them all.

I did, however, receive a Special Commendation for my entry to the Harry Bowling Prize. I may have mentioned this once, or twice...

Friday, 2 March 2012

Editing In The Shed...

I'm in the shed editing, so really, I should sign off and get on with it, but there's so much going on at the moment. Here's a snippet...

On Monday it's the Romantic Novelists' Association's Awards 2012 (RONAs). I'd love to have been there, but work is hectic and I've only just returned from the Caribbean so I couldn't really take the time off.

The closing date for the Novelicious Undiscovered 2012 Writing Competition is on 3rd April (only a month away), so if you were thinking of entering (wish I could, but as part of the team I can't) don't forget to send your submission in before that date.

Posts about the line up for the Historical Novel Society Conference in September are very exciting. I have a three special birthdays this year (none of them mine) and each one is on a date/weekend when a conference I'd hoped to attend is being held. Thankfully, I should be able to make this one.

Right, enough chatter. It's time I made a fresh cup of tea and carried on with my editing.

What are your writing plans this year?

Friday, 24 February 2012

Fogbound In Jersey...

It's our second day of fog and, as is the case when you live on an island, our second day with no flights, newspapers, mail, etc. I don't mind too much because I'm not going anywhere and thankfully am not stranded in an airport trying to get home. However, February is a dull month at the best of times and with the fog and very little to see, I'd much rather be in Antigua, Shirley Heights to be exact.

The lucky winner of Evonne Wareham's fabulous new book, Never Coming Home, and a Wispa bar, is Talli Roland. Congratulations, Talli, I hope you enjoy Evonne's book as much as I did.

Don't forget you can also have a chance to win a copy of this book (and a Wispa!) at Novelicious where I've reviewed, Never Coming Home, and where Choc Lit Publishers are including the giveaway as part of the 'Wispa it...' blog tour. Here's the link. All you have to do is leave a comment.

I love reviewing books for Novelicious and never know what treasures I'm going to find in my postbox each day when I come home from work. None today, thanks to the fog! At the moment I'm lucky enough to have a copy of Liz Fenwick's debut novel, The Cornish House, so I'm going to wish you all a great weekend, make a cup of tea and carry on reading it.

Ooh, before I forget, if anyone lives in London and can pick up a copy of the Metro mag on 27th February (especially the insert) and forward it to me, I'd be very grateful.

Friday, 17 February 2012

The 'Wispa It' Blog Tour - Never Coming Home by Evonne Wareham

Never Coming Home... The ‘Wispa It …’ Blog Tour

‘Wispa It...’ Snippet No. 5
She was as striking as her mother, but with a wilder edge.
The dark curls were barely kept in check by a flamingo pink
scarf. Flawless skin. Wide, dark eyes. Wide, full mouth.
There were smudges under those eyes, and tension in the set
of her head that shouldn’t be there.

Just a short one this time – Devlin’s first sight of Kaz from chapter two of Never Coming Home. Drop in next week to find out what Kaz thinks of Devlin at that first meeting!

Writing both sides of the love story.
There are many types of romance. (Loud cheer.) Lots are written solely from the point of view of the heroine, which provides all sorts of possibilities for delicious misunderstanding and guessing games on the part of heroine and reader. ‘What is he thinking?’ Those are the books where you really get to engage and empathise with the heroine. You follow her journey, and experience all her joys and her sorrows. When you put the book down you truely feel that you have lost a friend.

But that’s not the only way.
A fundamental requirement for anyone who wants to write for Choc-Lit is that the hero will get his chance at a point of view. As well as understanding the heroine, we get to see the hero up close and personal. We get to know what he's thinking as well as what he's doing. As a reader, I love the opportunity to follow the hero's journey on the inside, and experience his heartache as well as the heroine’s. (Of course there will be heart ache. This is romance. The Happy Ever After has to be worked for!)

It's also very rewarding to write from both points of view.
If your hero is an action man, like Devlin in Never Coming Home, there are frequent instances where he is doing one thing and feeling something quite different. I particularly enjoyed exploring the ambiguity of Devlin's past -- the man he was, and the man he might be -- exploring his vulnerabilities as he makes the transition from one to the other. The reader would never know anything about that from his actions. He'd make darn sure of it. He acknowledges that he has issues about being in control of any situation. His business partner, Bobby, who has a pretty clear-eyed view of him, accuses him of thinking that he's some sort of superman. He never lets his guard drop, but inside his head there is all the confusion and puzzlement of a man coming to terms with the path his life has taken. And realising, for the first time, what it might mean to fall in love. It’s immensely satisfying to write both sides of the love story. I hope it is just as satisfying to the reader to enjoy them.

The rest of the blog tour will be as follows:
Tuesday 21st February Sarah Broadhurst Sarah's Book Reviews
Thursday 23rd February Debs Carr Novelicious
Friday 24th February Elle Symonds Trashionista
Tuesday 28th February Tara Chevrestt Book Babe
Friday 2nd March Lou Graham Lou Graham's Blog
Wednesday 7th March Author's Blog Choc Lit website

Evonne was born in South Wales and spent her childhood there. After university she migrated to London, where she worked in local government, scribbled novels in her spare time and went to the theatre a lot. Now she’s back in Wales, writing and studying history and living by the sea. Her membership of the Romantic Novelists’ Association lets her enjoy the company of other authors and gives her an excuse to sneak back to London from time to time for essential stuff, like attending parties. She still loves the theatre, likes staying in hotels and enjoys walking on the beach, where she daydreams about her characters. She hopes that all those things come through in her books – drama, glamorous locations, engaging heroines and dangerous heroes.

For a chance to win a copy of Never Coming Home and a Wispa, please leave a comment saying why you think you deserve to win a copy of this book and I'll ask Evonne to choose a winner.

Evonne’s novel Never Coming Home will be published March 2012 shortly followed by her paranormal thriller Out of Sight Out of Mind.

For more information visit and Evonne’s blog. You can also tweet with her @evonnewareham.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Novelicious Undiscovered 2012 Competition

Do you think you could be Britain's next Chick Lit Star?

We've launched the Novelicious Undiscovered 2012 Competition over at

This writing competition is in association with Avon (HarperCollins), Books and the City (Simon & Schuster UK), and Literary Agent, Diane Banks and invites aspiring commercial women’s fiction writers to submit the first 3000 words of their novel to before April 3rd.

The top twenty entries, as chosen by the team, will be showcased on the site during May and put to a public vote in June. From these top twenty entries two winners will be chosen.

The People’s Choice award winner (the entry with the highest amount of public votes) will win:
· A full manuscript critique with Avon Commissioning Editor Caroline Hogg over tea and cake in their London offices
· A £50 voucher for
· An introduction to and entry critique from Literary Agent Diane Banks of Diane Banks Associates Ltd
· A selection of 10 Avon Titles
· A Kindle

The Books and the City Choice award winner (chosen from the top 20 entries by the Fiction Editorial department at Simon & Schuster UK) will win:
· A full manuscript critique from a member of the Fiction Editorial team at Simon & Schuster UK
· Author Mentoring and meeting with Sunday Times Bestselling author of RSVP, Helen Warner
· A £50 voucher from
· A Selection of 10 Books and the City Titles

Maxine Hitchcock, Fiction Editorial Director at Simon & Schuster UK says:
“We're thrilled to play a part in the brilliant Novelicious Undiscovered competition. Simon & Schuster / Books and the City prides itself on finding new talent and in recent years has discovered wonderful new voices such as Jane Costello, Milly Johnson, Helen Warner and Ali Harris who have gone on to hit the bestseller lists. We're honoured to be working with Novelicious, such a supporter and champion of female fiction, to find potential new stars.”

Diane Banks of Diane Banks Associates Ltd says:
"I'm delighted to have the opportunity to critique the winner of Undiscovered and the option to offer them representation. A competition which is judged by readers is a promising way to discover new talent and I'm excited about seeing the shortlist"

Caroline Hogg, Commissioning editor at Avon says:
“It’s such a pleasure to be involved with the Novelicious Undiscovered competition. For years Novelicious has been championing fantastic women’s fiction and the team there sum up everything that’s best about publishing: a genuine love of good writing and the boundless energy and good humour it takes to keep trying new things. At Avon we’re always on the look-out for brilliant new voices to add to our list of stellar authors – among them bestsellers Miranda Dickinson, Trisha Ashley and Claudia Carroll – so who knows what we might find through Novelicious Undiscovered!”

Kirsty Greenwood, Founding Editor of
“I am so excited to able to extend such an amazing opportunity to Britain’s aspiring writers. Novelicious is passionate about women’s fiction, and we are hopeful that the ‘Undiscovered’ competition will unearth some sparkling new talent in the genre.”
The Winner of Novelicious Undiscovered will be announced on 26th June. For full entry details and terms and conditions please visit

You can find out how to enter here and read the Terms and Conditions of the competition here.

For all further enquiries about Novelicious Undiscovered 2012 please contact

Sunday, 12 February 2012

When The Only Ice...

...I had to contend with were the ice cubes in my drinks from the Commodore Club!

This isn't the view I'm waking up to anymore.

I'm wearing much more than this pink top right now...

Although Duncan 'Donuts' is still showing people around St Thomas USVI.

Here he was showing us the beach where Charles Lindburgh landed his plane, The Spirit of St Louis, in January 1928.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Rob's Tom Cruise Moment!

This glorious view was taken from the viewing platform at the Hyatt Hotel in Fort Lauderdale where we spent one night before beginning our Caribbean cruise to four islands and the Panama Canal.

I'd stayed at this hotel years ago with my father, sister, lovely grandmother and uncle (now both dead) and brother. We'd gone to the revolving restaurant for lunch and then stepping into the lift when we went to leave, my father was horrified to discover (too late) that it was an outside, fully glass lift (including the floor).

When I realized this was where we were staying I told Rob about the restaurant at the top of the hotel and the lift and said I'd like to go up there again and take pictures for my dad. However, there was a large sign saying that the restaurant was closed for a private function and that it was closed.

Well, when I decide I want to do something very little puts me off and a simple 'No' doesn't seem to register that often (a useful personality trait to possess when you have a passion to be published, I suppose). So, we went up to the restaurant and asked the two security guards if we could possibly have a quick look round. By this time we'd been joined by another english couple. The guards soon gave in and Rob left his hand luggage in the restaurant and the four of us raced outside and spent about ten minutes, 'oohing' and 'ahhing', and I felt very nostalgic and delighted with the pictures I'd be able to take home to my dad.

"Right, I suppose we'd better go back in now," said Rob, "We've got to board the ship soon."

It was then that we discovered there wasn't any door handle on the outside of the door to get back in. We all hurried to the window to wave at the guards, who'd both disappeared.

"Phone someone," I suggested.

"No reception," said Rob, gazing across at the Queen Victoria longingly. "We've got to find a way down."

It was then that I noticed an emergency stairway going into the floor. Rob went down and shouted that the door was locked on the following level.

"Don't come down and let that door lock behind me," he shouted. "Wait to see if I can find a door further down that I can use. We don't want to get stuck in this stairwell."

I have to admit that laughing probably wasn't very helpful, but I couldn't help myself. Thankfully he eventually found a landing where the door was unlocked and we were able to get down.

A week later on the cruise, we met another couple and the man embarrassingly admitted that he'd stupidly gone up to the revolving restaurant, gone outside on the viewing deck and... We did tell him that we'd done the same thing. He was english too...

More about the cruise soon.