Places in Return to The Little French Guesthouse #2 – Saumur

With these dreary grey days getting the best of us down, I decided it was time for a few sunny photos of France again!

I know so many readers have enjoyed the settings in The Little French Guesthouse books, and I enjoy sharing the inspiration behind them.

If you missed previous posts, you can read them here:

Places in Return The Little French Guesthouse #1 – Château de Chenonceau

Inspiration for The Little French Guesthouse #2 –  A Little Sightseeing

Inspiration for The Little French Guesthouse #1 – Town and Country

In Return to The Little French Guesthouse, Emmy’s new life in France may be hectic, but her friends make sure she fits in a little sightseeing.

Knowing she needs a break, new friends Sophie and Ellie take her to Saumur for the day, where they park by the river and stroll along the wide street, the Loire on one side and large, cream stone, columned buildings on the other.

Looking for lunch, they turn in to narrower, cobbled streets for a little window shopping and to eat, then work off some calories by walking up to the castle . . .

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. . . and around its walls to look out across the river with its arched bridge. 

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I’ve been to Saumur twice now, once in the pouring rain – so no photos from that occasion – and once in seriously vicious heat, when I begged my husband to stop taking photos and get us back into an air-conditioned car before we melted! Unfortunately, that meant that when it came to finding photos for this post, I only had half a dozen to choose from.

Ah, well. Something’s better than nothing, as they say.

Return To The Little French Guest House  (LA Cour des Roses Book 2) by Helen Pollard

A lovely review from Tracey at The Reading Shed . . .

The Reading Shed

The Wonderful @bookouture and @helenpollard147 did it again and made my day when they accepted me to review another book from @NetGalley.

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Happy New Year! Most popular posts of 2016

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HAPPY NEW YEAR! WISHING YOU ALL THE VERY BEST FOR 2017 🙂

2016 was a busy year for me, with two new books published and getting such lovely reviews!

If you feel the need to catch up on the turn of events, you can read my news posts here:

From March – A HECTIC FEW MONTHS  and from December – NEWS ROUND-UP FOR 2016  

When I started this blog in the summer of 2014, my intention was to post weekly on a Sunday and I’d pretty much kept to that – but 2016 eventually got the better of me and by the summer, it was apparent I couldn’t keep that up, with all my writing deadlines. I had to cut back a little but still managed around 40 posts last year, alternating between my own takes on ‘writerly’ subjects and posts about some of my favourite places, and welcoming guest authors. Thank you to all those authors who agreed to take part over the past year🙂

The most popular posts of 2016?

To do with writing . . .  

COVER REVEAL AND PRE-ORDER FOR RETURN TO THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE  got by far the most hits. It seems everyone was keen to find out about the sequel for The Little French Guesthouse! 

 

 

29247496Coming in second was THE LONG JOURNEY TO THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE in which I detailed the long haul from the first glimmer of an idea through to publication.    

 

 

squirrel nutAnd in third place, BOOKS THAT HAVE INFLUENCED ME #1 – ENID BLYTON. I know so many writers who found Enid Blyton an inspiration – I’m not the only one whose childhood dream to become a writer was down to becoming absorbed in her stories.

 

 

The most popular posts about places . . .

It seems the French locations for my books got the most hits this year, rather than the odd post about my home county of Yorkshire . . . and why not? We all need to escape a little!

Chinon street #1INSPIRATION FOR THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE #2 got the most hits, visiting Montreuil-Bellay and Chinon in the Loire region.

 

 


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Second most popular was INSPIRATION FOR THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE #1, in which I described the aspects of the countryside, towns and villages that had enchanted me so much and led me to dream up the imaginary little town and its surrounding area in the books.

 

chenonceau-across-river-1-hpAnd third, PLACES IN RETURN TO THE LITTLE FRENCH GUESTHOUSE #1 – a visit to the glorious château at Chenonceau and its beautiful grounds.

 

And from visiting guest authors . . .

Stuck on Cloud-8-front-finalSalterAmerican author J.L. Salter got the most hits, back in January, talking about Stuck on Cloud Eight

 

 

 

kilcraig-cover-s-mediarosemary-gemmellA close second was a recent post from Scottish author Rosemary Gemmell with her new release, Return to Kilcraig.

 

 

once-ebook-cover-3sharon-boothAnd a close third was fellow Yorkshire lass Sharon Booth with the latest in her Kearton Bay series, Once Upon A Long Ago.

 

 

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog – your support is very much appreciated.

Looking forward to sharing 2017 with you!

Christmas at our house

As ever, I’ve been rather behind and fraught over Christmas preparations, but we’re getting there.

I’ve been working hard on the first draft for Book 3 of my La Cour des Roses series and I’ve had to be very strict with my daily word count, so Christmas decorating has been a bitty affair – throw a few things on the mantelpiece one day, write half a dozen cards the next, wrap a gift five minutes before I’m due to meet up with someone (although I do take time choosing those gifts carefully) . . . You know the kind of thing, and I’m sure I’m not the only one!

I’m allowing myself a break over Christmas, so I’m looking forward to doing a little baking, drinking a little mulled wine, watching my favourite Christmas movies, and spending time with family and friends. That’s after I’ve finished cleaning the house, thinking about what we’re actually going to eat over Christmas, the gifts I haven’t got round to buying yet . . . Aaargh!

I must admit that Christmas feels a little flat to me this year as this is the first year the four of us won’t be together as a family. My 21-year-old daughter is now living back with us after finishing Uni (although she always came home at Christmas anyway), but my 18-year-old son is abroad for a whole year as a volunteer, teaching novice teenage Buddhist monks in Thailand. That will leave quite a gap in proceedings (although fewer fights over the TV and the chocolate, I suppose!)

Our tree went up last weekend. We do like a real tree, but the problem with having a small lounge is that they take up an awful lot of room. This year, we managed to find a real one that was narrower – great for space-saving, so my husband has given it a thumbs-up.

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But neither myself nor my daughter like it quite as much, somehow, so we will be lobbying for a fatter one again next year, I think!

There are many bits and pieces dotted around the house – reminders of Christmases past. I like a little sparkle for the mantelpiece . . .

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When I moved out of my childhood home in my late teens, my mother gave me the baubles from our family tree. I loved those baubles. Very fifties, very vintage. But the first year I used them was also the first year I had a cat and, young and naive as I was, I had no idea what a dangerous combination that made. So many of those baubles were shattered.

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The few I salvaged, I now keep safe, hanging a small number from this wicker frame over the mantelpiece, well away from our current feline friend, and arranging a few in an antique trifle bowl that belonged to my mother’s grandmother.

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I like to have a lot of natural things out at Christmas time – a wooden bowl of pine cones collected on walks in the woods when the children were small, dried flowers etc.

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And you just have to have candy canes, don’t you? Preferably hanging from every available perch. They disappear at a surprising rate!

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In the run-up to Christmas, there will be the usual visits to family and friends. I’ve already seen a few, so not too many to fit in now. Along the way, we’ll try to go on a few walks – and hopefully get some fresh air and sunshine, if there is any.

On Christmas Day, my parents and one of my brothers will come for Christmas dinner. My mother has dementia and doesn’t like to stay too long, so when we’ve driven her and Dad home, my brother will stay a little longer. He is a real ‘Bah, Humbug’ at Christmas, so we’ll force him to watch a fun children’s movie that he thinks he’ll hate but secretly always enjoys (with the help of a glass or two of wine . . .)

On Boxing Day, my other brother and my niece will drive north from Birmingham for visits to my parents and us. We only see them a couple of times a year, so it will be lovely to catch up.

The day after, we’ll drive to Lancashire to visit my husband’s stepmother, and then his brother and wife.

And then we’ll collapse in a heap, I imagine . . . and it will be back to work at the keyboard for me.

By New Year, I’ll be desperate to take all these deccies down and get back to normal!

In the meantime, I would like to thank all my readers and wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂

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News round-up for 2016

With 2016 drawing rapidly to a close (where does the time go?), I decided it was about time to give out a general news update, as it was March when I last summed up! If you want to go back that far, you can read about my move to being a full-time writer and my contract with Bookouture, among other things, here.

2924749628th April saw the release of my first chick-lit for Bookouture and the first in the La Cour des Roses series, The Little French Guesthouse. 

I was taken aback – and of course delighted – by how well the book was received, with wonderful reviews from readers and bloggers (440  5* reviews on Amazon UK to date!)

The book had been such a long time coming (you can read about its journey from the glimmer of an idea to publication here), so it was wonderful that people were enjoying it so much.

The first draft for the sequel went in to my editor about the same time, so knowing that people loved the characters and would like to read more about them helped me through all the structural edits, copy edits, line edits . . . phew! Needing to get the second book out before the end of the summer meant tight deadlines. I was working very long days, eternally thankful that I’d given up the day job at Christmas!

Return to The little French Guesthouse was born on 26th August, but writing a sequel is a nerve-wracking business.

I waited anxiously. Would people like it as much as the first one? Have I still “got it”? I waited in trepidation for the reviews to come in.

Sighs of relief – it was enjoyed just as much as the first, in some cases more so! 

 

At this point, I had to take a writing break for a couple of months. My brain was mush, and I was mentally and physically exhausted.

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On a personal front, my daughter graduated from university in July and came back home to live, while my son finished his A-levels and then prepared to go volunteering abroad for a year – involving a lot of paperwork and organising and packing – so July and August were hectic and stressful. I can’t say it was easy waving him off at the end of August for a whole year! 😦

Hubby and I finally took a much-needed break in September (we hadn’t been away for over a year) and enjoyed a wonderful fortnight in Devon and Cornwall, where we were lucky with the weather. Coastal walks, reading on the beach, crab sandwiches, cream teas . . . just the job!

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Meanwhile, the reviews kept rolling in for Return to The Little French Guesthouse, with so many readers asking me whether there would be a Book 3 and when it was coming out.

Not being one to disappoint, I took a deep breath and got back to my keyboard in October. That month, I also met my Bookouture editor for the first time, which was lovely, after working together ‘remotely’ for nearly a year!

And so, as those of you who have been following previous blog posts will already suspect, that TBR pile hasn’t had much of a dent made in it.

Books in attic

 

Books on Kindle

And that clearing-up of the years-worth of heaven-knows-what in my attic never did get shifted. Well, not by me, anyway – too many writing deadlines. 

Floor of attic

Poor hubby got so sick of tripping over everything every time he wanted to get to his desk, he took it upon himself to make a start. We still have a very long way to go, but it looks just the teeniest bit more like an actual room now , and all the c**p has been moved to one half of the place, so you can at least get around without risking breaking your neck.

And now Christmas is looming. Have I started decorating yet? Er – no. Have I done my Christmas shopping yet? Er – a little bit. Have I planned Christmas Day’s menu yet? Same as last year, I suspect. Anything for ease. 

With a strict daily word count to achieve and a deadline of just a few weeks for the first draft, I admit I can feel a little Christmas panic coming on. The third book in the La Cour des Roses series is due out sometime in July, I hope, but there will be a lot of work to put in between now and then!

 

 

Welcome . . . Rosemary Gemmell!

I’m so pleased to welcome Rosemary Gemmell to the blog to talk about her beloved homeland Scotland as a background for many of her books and her latest release, Return to Kilgraig. I’ve known Rosemary online for a while now, as we are fellow members of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and I was delighted to meet her at an event a year or so ago. For her first visit to my blog, I had plenty of questions for her – but first, the cover and the blurb . . .

kilcraig-cover-s-mediaThe legacy of her beloved grandmother’s cottage in the Scottish village of Kilcraig seems like the ideal solution after Christy Morrison’s recent trauma. Until the threats begin. Can she trust her heart and allow herself to fall in love again?

When Ross McKinley reluctantly welcomes Christy back to the village, he has hardened his heart against love, until they begin to renew their childhood friendship. But someone is determined Christy should go back to London. Will they find the culprit in time?

You can view the trailer here

and the book is available at:     AMAZON UK     AMAZON US

 

And now to find out more from the author herself . . .

Rosemary, your latest book is set in Scotland, as are many of your stories. Why do you think it makes such a fabulous backdrop for what you write?

Well first of all, I’ve always lived in the west coast of Scotland (so far!) and love being within easy distance of the River Clyde and Loch Lomond. It’s a country of such majestic scenery that no matter where I go, from the southern Dumfries and Galloway region to the Highlands, I’m never far from mountains, lochs or glens. Such dramatic scenery as well as the centuries of history and legend attached to many areas provides endless settings and inspiration. Even the islands all have their own individual beauty, while the west and east coasts are so different but each with its own identity. Evidently Germans, Russians and Americans (to name those I’ve heard mentioned in this regard) find it a very romantic country, although they probably see it through romanticised spectacles!

Do you always research and visit the area your books are set in?

Up until now, I’ve only used settings with which I am very familiar as that’s been part of the enjoyment, wanting to share a little of the atmosphere and beauty. One of my tween books, Summer of the Eagles, was inspired by the west coast Isle of Cumbrae which I’ve visited many times over the years and it wasn’t difficult to let my imagination provide the slight fantasy element in the story. The Highland Lass is very much homage to my own area of Inverclyde, along with visits to Argyllshire, Ayrshire, Glasgow and Loch Lomond. The only area I revisited for a little more research was Ayrshire for the historical part of the story, where Robert Burns met Highland Mary. Otherwise, it was all from my own experience and knowledge about where I grew up, together with the necessary reading for the historical facts.

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The latest book set in Scotland, Return to Kilcraig, is inspired by a variety of the lovely country villages around here but isn’t any one of them. The country roads and local loch all exist, however, but could be one of several! I’ve no doubt I’ll continue to set books and novellas in Scotland but one of them at least is set in the east coast and I may need to do a little more exploring for that one.

Sounds like the perfect excuse for a bit of travelling, if you ask me!

There is an element of mystery involved alongside romance in this one. Can you tell us a little about how and why? (without giving the game away!)

My own favourite type of book to read is Romantic Suspense, or romance with a touch of mystery and intrigue and my Regency books and Victorian novella (as Romy) all have an element of intrigue. With this new contemporary novel, I wanted to see if I could make it more suspenseful while keeping the romantic element, albeit on a sweeter level. I think it’s turned out fairly even between romance and suspense (hopefully) but there is more of an element of danger and a little mystery about what is happening to Christy when she returns to the village and why. Because I love references to literature (which several of my books have), there is even a little mystery over a particular copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam and I was able to incorporate some of the lines from it here and there. I think I’m foremost a character writer so I’ve tried to include enough characters to keep the mystery alive until near the end.

Which aspects of Ross and Christy’s characters did you enjoy writing the most? Did anything about them surprise you as they developed?

I enjoyed writing about a couple who had known each other for many years but had never had the chance to develop their friendship into something deeper before now. I particularly enjoyed writing about Ross, and the story is told partly from his point of view. He is the kind of hero I like to read about – reserved, honest and hard to read for the heroine. Two people have told me there is a slightly modern Regency feel to it so perhaps he’s an old fashioned, honourable character in some ways.

Christy is wracked with guilt for two different reasons so it takes her a while to trust her heart, especially when she starts receiving threats. The character that most surprised me was Ross’s brother, Cameron – he developed in quite a different way from I envisaged. But that’s why I like writing a novel as I go, without planning it in advance. It lets the characters grow as they interact with each other.

Oh, yes, I love that aspect of writing, when your characters take on a life of their own!

What are you working on next?

As always, I’m writing short stories, articles, occasional poems, plus the end of another children’s book – all while in the middle of one novella and a novel started some time ago. And that’s only the ones I’m planning to get on with first! I have several in the background, including a Victorian crime novel started a couple of years ago set in my own area. The first 15,000 words won second prize at our annual Scottish Association of Writers Conference and I still haven’t continued with it – even though a few people have told me to concentrate on that! I don’t think my butterfly tendencies will ever change now but I am trying very hard to complete whatever I begin at last. The variety keeps the slog and pleasure of writing interesting.

Gosh, Rosemary, you are such a busy lady! Thank you for visiting – it’s been lovely to find out more about you and your writing 🙂

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

rosemary-gemmellRosemary Gemmell is a published historical and contemporary novelist for adults (also as Romy) and also writes for the Middle Grade/tween age group (as Ros). Her short stories, articles and occasional poems have been published in UK magazines, in the US, and online and several stories have won awards.

Rosemary has a Post-graduate Masters in literature and history and is a member of the Society of Authors, the Romantic Novelists’ Association, and the Scottish Associations of Writers. She also loves to dance!

You can find Rosemary at:

Rosemary’s website          Rosemary’s Reading and Writing blog          Twitter          Facebook 

 

Ilkley Literature Festival #2 – Michelle Paver

This year, I attended two events at the Ilkley Literature Festival.

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I wrote about the first one – Tracy Chevalier – back in October. If you missed it, you can read about it here.

The second event I attended was with author Michelle Paver.

ilkley-lit-fest-michelle-paver-hpOnce again, I have to confess that I mainly attended this to accompany my daughter who, when she was younger, avidly devoured Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness books for young people – a series which got my daughter interested in both reading and writing historical fiction.

I also have to confess that I haven’t as yet got round to reading any of Michelle Paver’s books – but that is a state of affairs that will definitely change, now I have heard her speak!

For her most recent books, Michelle Paver has turned to writing what might best be described as ghost stories for adults. Dark Matter was published in 2010 to critical acclaim, and her latest release, Thin Air, was the main subject of this talk.

The author began by discussing why we like ghost stories and frightening ourselves. As a child, she was influenced, among other things,  by the churchyard near her family home and a forbidding suit of armour in the house!

Her take on adult ghost stories is that we like stories that deliver emotion, and fear is one of the strongest emotions of all . . . and thankfully there is safety if the scare is only fictional 🙂

She went on to talk about how she goes about writing such a story. She scares her readers by manipulating them, and so she must be analytical in  choreographing the ‘haunting’ and maintaining the right balance, always aiming for subtlety over horror. Most important, she feels, is the atmosphere – it must be powerful and ‘real’, and she must persuade the reader that they are there. She strives to make her story both physically and psychologically plausible – nothing happens that cannot be explained, but the lines are blurred. The scariness comes from the gap between knowledge and belief.

thin-air-michelle-paver-hpThin Air is set in India in the 1930s, the golden age of mountaineering, where her protagonist finds himself alone during an expedition on Kangchenjunga in the Himalayas.

It’s clear that Ms Paver does a great deal of research for her books. She has been on quite a few travelling adventures, drawing on them for her descriptions and plot, and she would feel uncomfortable writing about somewhere she has not experienced at least a little for herself. Waking up in a thin tent to dead silence after a storm, only to hear footsteps outside, knowing there is mere canvas between you and whatever-it-is, is pretty good material for your writing!

dark-matter-michelle-paver-hpIn all her books, it seems Ms Paver has been drawn to write about some element of the natural world – the battle between man and the wild. Dark Matter, for example, involves an Arctic expedition in the late 1930s, and her Chronicles of Ancient Darkness series is set six thousand years ago in an ancient world of woods and caves.

Michelle Paver came across as friendly and warm to her audience, peppering her talk with personal experiences and a sense of humour. She was more than happy to answer  any questions put to her during the Q & A session at the end. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening – apart from its result, which is that my TBR pile of books continues to grow . . .