CHAT WITH PATRICIA M OSBORNE

Patricia M Osborne is married with grown-up children and grandchildren. In 2019 she graduated with an MA in Creative Writing. She is a published novelist, poet and short fiction writer with six poetry pamphlets published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press, and numerous poems and short stories appearing in various literary magazines and anthologies. Her debut poetry pamphlet, Taxus Baccata, was nominated for the Michael Marks Pamphlet Award.

Time to chat with Patricia!

I just finished reading your newest book, The Oath, and I absolutely loved it. I see that your House of Grace series begins in 1950s. What are the similarities and differences in writing characters from different times in history?

Thank you for reading The Oath, Lisette. It’s wonderful to hear that you loved it. I certainly loved writing it and I’m now missing my characters.

There are a couple of similarities in The Oath and House of Grace trilogy. The first is friendship and in particular bringing women of opposite classes together. In House of Grace, Grace’s best friend Katy is the daughter of a former coal miner, now a man-made millionaire, whereas Grace is the daughter of a lord. In The Oath, Françoise befriends her lady’s maid Tilly. Both books were set in the past therefore needed a lot of research.

Are you considering a sequel to The Oath? (I hope so!)

A sequel to The Oath is hopefully on the cards and indeed in the planning stage. Like I mentioned above, I’m missing my characters and the best way to resolve that is to write another book about them. However, I’ve had to put this aside for now as an idea for a new novel suddenly took hold.

What are the special challenges in writing a series?

The biggest challenge for me in writing a series is remembering everything about my characters in the previous books. House of Grace trilogy taught me to make sure I keep a record about my characters, right from their date of birth, colour of their hair, eyes etc and what they like doing.

What else have you written?

I have another trilogy written although not yet published. It’s an adoption story set in the 1970s. The twists and turns keep the reader guessing right until the end of the series although all three books work as standalones. However, as in House of Grace trilogy the reader will get more from the books if they read them in order.

As well as novels I’m also a poet and have had numerous poems published online, in magazines, and anthologies. I’ve also had six poetry pamphlets published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press. Four of which resulted from winning competitions with this poetry press.

Some authors, like me, always write scenes in order. But I know some people write scenes out of order. How about you?

I mainly write scenes in order but I have been known to go out of sequence if a later scene springs into my head. Only today an ending for a new novel I’ve started popped up so I had to get that down on paper. This novel is a completely different genre as it’s about time travel. Early days at the moment so I’m hoping I can carry it through.

Is it important for you to know the ending of a book before you write it? The title?

I do like to know a title when working on a book although more often than not it changes. For instance, House of Grace began as Grace, The Coal Miner’s Son, Heir of Granville, and The Oath, Sunbury House.

Some writers edit excessively as they write; others wait until a novel is finished to do the bulk of the editing. How about you?

I’m afraid I’m one of those writers who has to edit as I write. However that doesn’t mean it’s all done as the second draft is still always the time for me to layer and edit after it comes back from my editor.

Authors, especially Indies, are constantly trying to understand why some authors sell very while their talented fellow authors have a hard time of it. It’s an ongoing conundrum. What do you make of it all?

I’m not naive enough to think that my book will sell without any input from me. An author needs to network, and do marketing, and when I say this I don’t mean I go on Twitter and just tweet about my book. Instead, I interact, get to know the other writers on there, and support them. By doing this I not only build up friendships but those friends also help me. It’s all about looking after each other.

Apart from networking and marketing, an indie author needs to advertise. I tend to get on better with Facebook ads rather than Amazon. However, an author needs to be careful not to end up spending what they can’t afford. I budget at £5 a day and watch the ad. If it gets to the point where the ad is costing me more money than bringing in then I switch it off and try a different tactic.

If the book is getting clicks and still not selling then the author needs to ask why. Is it because the cover doesn’t jump out? Is the blurb not working? Does the book sample contain errors? I always believe that as indie authors our books have to be just as good as a traditional publisher produces, if not better.

Can you tell us about your road to publication?

It was only after attending Swanwick Writers’ Summer School (UK) in 2016 that I even thought about publication. Until then my manuscript had been buried in my computer archives. I was so impressed by the books in the book room at Swanwick, published by other delegates, that I was determined to return the following year with mine up for sale too. Prior to this I hadn’t even heard about self publishing, and I was also ignorant about traditional publishing, agents etc.

(Gardens at Swanwick) (above)

On returning home I dug out House of Grace and began re-working the manuscript and added another 10,000 words. My editor, also a close friend, has always believed in me, and stuck with me through the whole process. Once my manuscript was ready I sought out a professional designer for the cover and formatting.

(Wakehurst Place, Sussex, UK. Inspiration for Granville Hall in House of Grace trilogy. This is how I pictured Granville Hall. I used to visit Wakehurst regularly to see inside the house as well as its massive grounds)

The graphic designer I used came recommended from Swanwick Writers. He not only completed the cover and formatting but uploaded the file to Amazon. Because he had uploaded the file to what was then CreateSpace I was still rather ignorant of the process. However, I did insist on using my own ISBN number and imprint and White Wings Books was born.

After publishing House of Grace I made it my job to learn more about publishing and joined networks such as Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), Mark Dawson’s online self-publishing course, and Facebook groups. I soon learned loads of information including how to upload to Ingram Spark so readers could order my book via bookstores, and also get my book in libraries.

(Celebrating the launch of my debut novel in 2017)

As time went on I learned about agents, pitch letters, and traditional publishing, but there was no point trying these when I was writing a trilogy, and the first book already self published. Therefore when it came to The Oath I tried a few agents, nothing like what is recommended, but because of my age I felt I didn’t have time to hang around trying, so published again under White Wings Books.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

I am a fast typist and that definitely means I can get more words down in a shorter time. Most of my employment days were spent as a secretary typing on a typewriter. It’s so much easier now with a computer as I don’t have to worry about getting a ruler and rubber to correct a mistake. Instead, I’m able to back space, and no worries about changing the ribbon either. I hated that job.

Do you dread writing a blurb or synopsis for your novel as much as most writers do? Do you think writing a synopsis is inherently evil? Why?

Absolutely. I dread the blurb and synopsis, but in particularly the blurb. I find it difficult because I’m nervous about giving away too much information.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I’m definitely a night owl. The mornings I use for chores in the house, marketing, critique for others, leaving hopefully late afternoon and early evening for me to write. Four o’clock is normally the time my muse kicks in.

When writing I don’t drink anything other than water. The time I’m more prone to snack is when I’m not engrossed in my writing.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

Here’s a short poem from my poetry collection, Spirit Mother: Experience the Myth, published by The Hedgehog Poetry Press (2022)

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

I live in the south east of UK. If I could move anywhere it would be about twenty miles or so from where I am now to somewhere down on the coast. I’d like to be able to see, hear and smell the waves. When I visit the sea I always feel like I’ve come home. However, I’d also like to be close to a main line train station as I am now, with direct routes to London.

(On the Sussex coast UK – Happiest when I’m by the sea.)

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

On my second wedding my late sister was supposed to be driving us to the register office. When I walked out of the front door I discovered a blue limousine and chauffeur in uniform standing next to it. My sister said, ‘You didn’t really think I’d let you go to get married in my old car, did you?’ It was a lovely surprise.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

 My iPad air and a Logitech keyboard for my 60th birthday. I love it and simply couldn’t be without it. Mind you, I could do with an updated version now.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Has to be loyalty. I’m very lucky in the fact that I have plenty of loyal friends.

What music soothes your soul?

I love all music but Classic Fm is what I listen to when writing. But I never tire of hearing Tamla Motown, Reggae, Blues, Country, and Rock.

 

(I love to dress up. As a punk rocker many years ago at a holiday camp)

 

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

Not sure I have a favourite film but favourite book is Little Women which I read as a child and which influenced me in writing about family.

 

CONNECT WITH PATRICIA

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CHAT WITH PATRICIA FURSTENBERG

Patricia Furstenberg is a Romanian-South African author who is a medic by trade and a writer by heart. Among her beloved books are the historical bestseller Joyful Trouble, the page-turning thriller Silent Heroes, the history and folklore-inspired Dreamland, and the beloved children’s book The Cheetah and the Dog. Her writing is infused with recurring themes of unconditional love and realities of war, as she is drawn to the enigmatic lives of people and dogs entangled in historical events. Patricia’s profound love of history have led her writing journey to her native Romania: she created the #Im4Ro hashtag, dedicated to sharing uplifting stories. Patricia resides in South Africa with her family.

Time to chat with Pat!

What is your latest book?

My most recent book is Dreamland, Banat, Crisana, Maramures, Transylvania, 100-WORD STORIES, Folklore and History.

In Dreamland you’ll go on a captivating journey through stories that were lived, legends that explain why, and myths that reveal who these extraordinary people were. These stories are steeped in the rich history of Banat, Crisana, Maramures, and Transylvania, all of which have seen the ebb and flow of centuries and civilizations.

This is a land where history flows like a free river, boundaries blur like a bird in flight, and stories stretch like endless clouds across the vast horizon. Dacians and Romans, Huns, Peri, Magyars, Transylvanian Saxons, Szeklers, Jewish refugees, Ottoman invaders, hajduks, emperors, and priests – these diverse voices have shaped Dreamland‘s history, culture, and architecture.

Today, identities are frequently lost in the chaos of our modern world. Dreamland invites us to look back and reconnect with the stories passed down through generations. It’s an opportunity to meet people who remember their ancestors’ stories, preserving the seeds of truth and reconnect with the tales passed down through generations.

Within the pages of Dreamland you’ll discover the historical provinces of Banat, Crișana, Maramureș, and Transylvania, each with its own distinct personality and heritage. Discover Banat’s pastoral landscapes, Crişana’s golden rivers, Maramureş’s snow-covered wonders, and Transylvania’s multicultural tapestry.

This is not a traditional history book or a collection of stories. Instead, it is a collection of vivid impressions, lived experiences, profound reflections, and eloquent snapshots of an extraordinary life. I tried to brings these stories to life with passion, lyricism, and a dash of wit.

Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes. Dreamland is the second title in the Romania in 100-WORD STORIES, Folklore, and History series, and it transports the reader to Dreamland, Romania’s mystical western territory.

I see that you’re an animal lover and that animals are a big part of what you write. Please, tell us more.

Absolutely! My love of animals is more than just a theme in my writing; it’s a deep passion that runs through the very fabric of my literary creations.

When I was growing up in Romania, we lived in an apartment and shared some pretty close quarters with our dog Tar, a German Shorthaired Pointer of liver color. Anyone who has ever cared for a puppy will recall that they rarely sleep through the night at first. Here, in South Africa, we were lucky to share our lives with three generations of dogs, most of them with some kind of Rottweiler blood in them, so cuddly teddy bears. Our last two girls, loving and playful, came from the animal shelter. Today, I cherish those memories. I drew on them when I wrote my books of fog poems or my children’s stories about a dog and a different wild animal!

Interested in learning more about the millennial bond between man and dog I researched dogs involved in wars, which inspired me to write two more of my books.  Even my present work in progress has dogs, and it’s a historical fiction trilogy set in medieval Transylvania.

What are the greatest challenges in writing short stories?

Short story writing is like trying to fit a giraffe into a phone booth—you have to be concise. Like catching a unicorn, you only have a nanosecond to hook readers with an opening line. And what about the characters? They’re similar to speed dating in that you want love at first sight in just a few paragraphs. Then there’s the art of subtext, which is like an Easter egg hunt for readers. But we must resist the novel urge; it’s like trying to keep a bonsai from growing into a forest. And what about titles? They’re our one-time deal, like naming your child. Furthermore, feedback frequently leaves us wanting more—just like our readers! Finally, we strive to leave a lasting impression, similar to how a one-act play lingers long after the curtain falls.

So, writing short stories? It’s a combination of discipline, magic, and Goldilocks’ porridge-seeking abilities. And, don’t forget, it’s the path to our imaginative worlds, where every word sings and every sentence matters.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

Choosing a genre is akin to selecting an ice cream flavor from an endless parlor. You’re like a kid in a candy store, wanting to try everything. But the genres began to whisper in my ear, like mischievous little gnomes. The whimsical tales in the children’s books tugged at my heartstrings, promising giggles and wonder. Imagine a cheetah and a dog becoming best friends! Wouldn’t it be fun to write about it? So I did.

Then, like a rollercoaster ride through a dark tunnel, the contemporary thriller genre swaggered over, dressed in a military uniform and wagging the tail of a MWD (military working dog), offering me heart-pounding excitement and suspense. It was impossible to resist going to Afghanistan!

But historical fiction, like that wise librarian / Indiana Jones in the corner, draws me into its cozy world with tales of bygone eras, urging me to discover the secrets of the past. And it’s the genre that enchanted me with its spells.

So, you see, I was chosen by the genres, each of which added a layer to my writing personality. I savored each experience.

If you were to advertise your book on a bumper sticker, what would it say?

Dreamland: Uncover Centuries of Romanian History & Folklore in Just 100 Words! Get Hooked, Get Dreamland!

What else have you written?

Happy Friends is my first children’s book series I wrote. 12 short stories that can be read together or individually following the adventures of Little Tail, a small dog who leaves his serene life in search of something else, namely Snow, only to meet her, as well as making new friends. But he misses his old friends and return home, where he realizes he belonged all along.

Animal Stories for Kids is six book series about unbelievable, exciting, and inspirational TRUE friendships between unexpected pairs of animals: a cheetah and a dog, a lion and a dog, an elephant and a sheep, a bear, a lion and a tiger, a chimp and a dog, and human and the first military working dog during WW2.

Puppy, 12 months of rhymes and smiles and As Good As Gold are two books of poetry by a dog lover, for dog lovers.

Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy is my first historical fiction book.

Silent Heroes, When Love and Values Are Worth Fighting For is a contemporary thriller inspired by the war in Afghanistan. It depicts the life of Afghan population by focusing on a small community caught in this dreadful war and in the local web of deceit. But it also depicts the life of a group of US Marines and their MWD, military working dogs, deployed in Afghanistan.

My book series Romania in 100-word Stories, Folklore and History, comprises of Transylvania’s History A to Z and Dreamland. This historical fiction book set is meant to invite the readers to look into the past of a fascinating corner of East Europe, Romania. They will be surprised, and in a positive way, but the extraordinary history of this place, by its incredible myths, and meaningful legends, as well as by the feisty women and valiant men who shaped its past, influencing its future.


Eye on Sibiu roofs, Romania (above)

Corvin Castle, Romania (above)

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

The most enjoyable aspect of writing a novel is that it feels like you’re embarking on a grand adventure. It’s like planning an elaborate feast but not knowing how all the ingredients will come together. My favorite part of the process is gathering exotic spices from all over the world, filling your senses with the promise of flavors yet to be discovered.

Then there’s travel – oh, such wonderful travel! Even if it’s only in your head, you get to travel to new worlds, meet interesting characters, and visit places you’ve never been before. It’s like going on a vacation without wearing sunscreen.

But don’t forget about the good times. Of course, there are the rabbit holes that you will inevitably fall down. You’re researching the history of medieval castles one minute and reading about penguin mating habits in Antarctica the next. Isn’t it all part of the journey?

And when it comes to food, that’s where the real creativity comes into play. Attempting to recreate medieval dishes – or t least flat breads.

Each word woven is a carefully chosen thread in the grand tapestry of novel-writing, and each sentence crafted is akin to an artful dish prepared for discerning guests—the readers. As the author, you toil over the stove of imagination, blending the ingredients of plot, character, and setting into a flavorful story. You extend invitations to your audience, hoping they will partake in the banquet of your words, savoring each sentence as if it were a delicacy and finding the same satisfaction in your story that one would find in a sumptuous feast. It is, in essence, a literary symphony, a prose dance, and a manifestation of the writer’s heart and soul.

The least enjoyable part? I don’t know. I love to rise super early to carve time to write. I love to edit and polish my sentences. I love feeling like a bloodhound with my nose on a trail. Perhaps the least enjoyable is killing my darlings – the painful act of cutting out a character or a subplot that you love but doesn’t serve the story. In essence, it’s the necessary but often frustrating task of refining your raw creativity into a polished gem, and it can feel like chipping away at a beautiful sculpture to reveal the masterpiece hidden within.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

What a wonderful question! As a fan of historical fiction, I enjoy how these books transport me through time. I get to travel through time, meet kings and peasants, and dodge the occasional charging knight or hang out with strong women. Who wouldn’t want that? Plus, let’s be honest: nothing beats the feeling of saying, “Oh, I can’t go out tonight; I’m time-traveling to Tudor England, or medieval Transylvania.” It’s the ideal reason for introverts like me! In a nutshell historical fiction is my time machine to the past, and I can’t get enough of it.

Reading all of an author’s books is like entering a cozy, familiar world where their writing style becomes a soothing lullaby. With each book, you become more aware of the author’s distinct cadence and narrative voice. It’s like having a close friend tell you stories by the fire on a cold night. You’re familiar with their quirks, turns of phrase, and storytelling magic, and it’s a delight to watch them evolve and surprise you within the framework of that comforting familiarity. It’s similar to savoring a favorite dish prepared by a skilled chef—you can’t help but relish every bite and savor the nuances that distinguish it as theirs. I read all books by Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen.

And the flip side of historical fiction! What I dislike the most are historical inaccuracies. Like having knights with cell phones or Marie Antoinette ordering pizza. Okay, maybe not quite that extreme. I prefer historical fiction that is well-researched and historically accurate so that I can fully immerse myself in the past. It’s like going to a Renaissance fair and seeing someone dressed in a spacesuit—it just ruins the illusion.

How much research was involved in writing your book? How did you go about it?

Oh, let me tell you, researching Transylvania and Romanian history for my books was like embarking on a thrilling time-travel adventure! It required more research than you might think – I practically had to dust off my personal time machine. To stay fueled, I scoured libraries, archives, and historical records, not to mention countless cups of strong Romanian coffee.

In terms of locations, Sibiu, Brasov, Sighisoara, Transylvania’s country side, and Bucharest became real playgrounds for me. I wandered their cobblestone streets, sipped local wine in their medieval inns, and eavesdropped on past conversations. It’s all about immersing yourself in the details, smells, sounds, and quirks of history in order to bring those stories to life.

Writing historical fiction is a lot like being a detective, and I loved every minute of the journey through time, unearthing the treasures of forgotten stories and weaving them into my stories. It’s the kind of research that makes you feel like a time-traveling explorer, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world! It resulted in numerous blog posts that you can read on my website, as well as a solid trilogy set in medieval Transylvania – which I am currently editing.

Are you an early bird writer or night owl? And do you have any must haves like coffee, chocolates, wine, music or something else?

I am a very early writer, usually up before our neighbor’s rooster announces the crack of dawn. Just let me have my coffee mugs and my peace. Of, and my daily walks.

How would you define your style of writing?

My writing style is reminiscent of a tapestry woven with historical threads, vivid imagery, and a touch of poetic prose. I try to transport readers to different eras or unexpected locations, immersing them in the sights, sounds, and emotions of the past. It’s like strolling through a living museum, where the characters and landscapes are alive and the stories are windows into lost worlds. I hope to evoke a sense of time and place through well-chosen words and rhythmic patterns, bringing history to life in a captivating and entertaining way.

Would you like to write a short poem for us?

With pleasure!

 

Witnessing Sunrise

 

I wrap myself in muted feelings

Thick blanket like the horizon

Where a new promise surges

Through the lost vacuum of indigo dusk.

 

Dew drips between my fingers

Whispering, rolling towards the wisp of dawn

each drop arresting the crimson light

in golden arrows, hope’s alight anew.

 

Ripe daylight splits open

And I am caught at its heart, a pulsating pit,

So I return home glancing behind me

Where fog anchors in corners with one last breath.

 

 

Mpumalanga, South Africa (above)

South Africa (Indian Ocean (above)

 

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

South Africa.

Transylvania, Romania.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

Trains!

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

Dark chocolate.

Pork crackling. It refers to the crispy skin or layer of fat from roasted or fried pork, a Romanian delicacy.

If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?

Travel.

What’s the coolest surprise you’ve ever had?

Origami made by my children and garden flowers picked by my husband, out of the blue 

If you could duplicate the knowledge from any single person’s head and have it magically put into your own brain, whose knowledge would you like to have? And why.

Knowledge is a double bladed sword, it comes with life experience too and on those I prefer to place my own PG stamp. I love life. I love to discover and learn on my own, at my own pace, and make decisions – good or bad – that I learn from.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

My children.

Have you ever played a practical joke on a friend? Ever had one played on you?

No, thank you 

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Loyalty. Trustworthiness. Empathy.

Care to brag about your family?

I love them to bits. They are the best in the world. The rest is private.

If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?

A children’s cause, an old age home, and an animal shelter.

If you could have one skill that you don’t currently have, what would it be?

I would love to know how to fly an airplane.

What was your favorite year of school? Why?

I loved the six years I spent in medical school. I made some great friends, I travelled a lot, and I learned some pretty cool things, like how to dissect a human body. Something that came in good use recently. In my historical fiction WIP, of course.

What might we be surprised to know about you?

Being born in Romania, that I don’t eat pig meat and it is a personal choice.

What makes you angry?

People who run late.

What music soothes your soul?

Classical and choral.

What was the most valuable class you ever took in school? Why?

Anatomy. The human body is an amazing puzzle.

If you are a TV watcher, would you share the names of your favorite shows with us?

Bones. Rizzoli & Isles. Only Murders in the Building

If you could add a room onto your current home, what would you put in it?

Books.

What’s your favorite film of all times? Favorite book?

Pride & Prejudice, 2005

Pânza de păianjen (Spider Web) by Romanian author Cella Serghi

Have you ever walked out of a movie? If so, what was it?

No.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

People who monopolize conversations.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Coffee. Coffee. Oh, and coffee.

What are three things you think we can all do to make the world a better place?

Reduce the use of cars. Plant a tree. Read more.

What simple pleasure makes you smile?

Spending time with my family. Talking to our dog. Writing. Reading.

 

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TWICE A BROKEN BREATH

 

Hi, Friends:

I’m happy to announce that I’ve just published my 13th book and first suspense novel, Twice a Broken Breath.

Although many of my novels have suspenseful elements in them, this is the first story that is officially in the suspense genre. I came close in my last book, All That Was Taken, a suspenseful love story. The setting in that book, a sleepy beach town on the California coast, couldn’t be more different from the unique, electric pace of New York City in Twice a Broken Breath.

While several characters in my previous novels ventured into “The Big Apple,” this is the first book set there.

Here’s the blurb:

She stole his world. He’s got twenty-four hours to get it back.

Although Liam Tallamore can’t remember the first fourteen years of his life, he’s built a happy home with his wife, Carly, and their two children in suburban New Jersey … until one Friday afternoon when everything changes.

While cashing his paycheck, he’s told his bank accounts have been emptied. Once at home, he learns Carly has left him for her first love—one he never knew existed. Most devastating of all, she’s taken their eight-year-old daughter, Rayelle, and is preparing to leave the country. As if things couldn’t get worse, he has no idea where their twenty-year-old son is or why he’s been unreachable for the past two months.

With total distrust in law enforcement and no clues to guide him, Liam hops on a train to New York City, Carly’s hometown. Through the next twenty-four hours, Liam goes on a wild, unforgiving, frantic search through rain-soaked Manhattan, experiencing the brightest and the darkest humanity has to offer. This is the story of a man who refuses to quit, determined to find “a needle in a haystack,” and who, in searching for the children he loves, doesn’t yet realize he’s searching for himself as well.

* * *

Twice a Broken Breath is both a plot-driven and a character-driven story. It was exciting to write a book that had so much happening in such a limited amount of time. Interestingly enough, during the time I wrote the bulk of the book, here in Los Angeles, we had the longest stretch of rain I can ever remember here. So, as I wrote one rainy scene after another, I thanked Mother Nature for accommodating me with such inspiring sound effects.

The writing of this book held so many surprises for me. Several minor characters ended up having a role in the story that I hadn’t foreseen. As I’m sure many writers can relate to, sometimes we are the last to know what secrets the characters hold or the importance they play in our story. The ending was the dead last thing I could have imagined. It’s special when stories are told to the storyteller.

Lastly, I’d like to share this book trailer, put together for me by the talented Kathleen Harryman. (If you’re interested, visit her website and see what she can do for you.) Thank you, Kathleen!

Twice a Broken Breath, like all of my books, is available in Kindle or paperback, and is free to Kindle Unlimited readers.

You can purchase the book here: mybook.to/TwiceBroken

Thanks for stopping by.

Best wishes to all,

Lisette

VENETIAN RHAPSODY COLLABORATION: Chat with Tonya Penrose and David Bazo

 

 

 

 

How did the idea for this collaboration come to be? What was the first seed for the idea?

TONYA: The answer to this question is a story within a story. Here’s the condensed version. I was already an ardent admirer of David’s music, and we were friends. I was sitting in my porch chair listening to one of his albums when this hauntingly beautiful song began playing. Suddenly, my creative mind engaged and flashed to an emotional scene where a young couple, Eduardo and Sofia, were riding in a gondola. It was their last night together in Venice before life pulled them apart. Their story captured my heart as it continued to unfold that afternoon. They wouldn’t leave me alone. The experience left me in a state of amazement and confusion. So I grabbed my laptop and let Eduardo and Sofia share their grand love and the “unexplainables” that followed them and latched onto me.

I emailed David the next day and told him what his song, “Venetian Reverie,” had unleashed. I asked if I might get his blessing to reference his piece in the novel. I’ll stop here and let David pick up what came next.


DAVID:
Yes. Tonya and I knew each other as authors. I had expressed interest in her novels and she in turn, in my compositions. She bought a CD of one of my soundtracks and with the comments she made about the work, I immediately understood that her sensibility reached far beyond where many writers are able to visualize a scene. She could go deeper and get into the content and nuances. Our friendship blossomed immediately.

One day she wrote to tell me that while listening to my work, she had discovered one of my oldest songs, a tune dating from 1998 called “Venetian Reverie,” and how that piece had impacted and impressed her to the point that she had been transported to Venice and was able to immerse herself in the scene she tells. She even told me the names of the characters! Imagine the impact and the impression it made on me.

The dream of any author is to convey emotions to his audience, and without a doubt, what Tonya was telling me is the dream of any creator. My work had not only pleased her, but it had also touched her. What’s more, it had inspired her, and in what a way!

She told me she had decided to write about that story and I thought it was a fantastic idea. At all times, she told me that she wanted to mention as a reference and genesis of the story the song that had inspired her. I felt profusely grateful.

But the more she went deeper into the story and told me that she wanted the music also to be a protagonist in the narration, that’s when I proposed to her the possibility of making a complete soundtrack for everything that happens in the novel. She loved the idea and it has been a project that has been a bi-directional synergy: The music inspired the story, and in turn, the story generated more music. A bi-directional inspiration that never ceased to surprise Tonya and me and that allowed us to reveal ourselves to each other in the creative process.

Did you know each other at all before you decided to work together?

TONYA: Yes, Twitter brought us together. It was David’s music that opened the door to our becoming fast friends.

What was it that told you that your respective talents would complement one another so well?

TONYA: We already felt mutual respect for each other’s work. This project was seeded in trust. Our excitement in taking this journey together never wavered. Doubt never once visited us. We felt compelled to work together and see where destiny took us.

DAVID: When Tonya says that this project is a story within a story, many people might think that what she is saying is nice hyperbole. It isn’t. It’s a wonderful reality, full of magic and charm.

We found common ground from the very beginning.

How long did the process take from beginning to end? Can you explain how it worked?

TONYA: Once we agreed to move forward and do this project, I wrote the novel in maybe 2-3 months. It came in fast, along with the idea to weave into the scenes Sofia and Eduardo listening to music. That idea was a big aha and fueled our enthusiasm and commitment.

David graciously allowed me free reign to choose the music genre playing. If you ask him now, he’ll probably say, “Tonya took too many liberties.” We have some hilarious stories about that part of the process. Hint: One scene has Eduardo’s brother playing a Spanish guitar. That should be a safe instrument for me to choose. Wouldn’t you think? Nope. David informed me that all the incredible guitars in his collection didn’t include a Spanish guitar. My response to him: “You’re Spanish. Of course, you play a Spanish guitar. You play every instrument out there, including a juice harp.” Without hesitation and with great patience, he explained it would be like him asking me to write a Western novel. Don’t tell him I told you, but he wins almost every discussion, and English isn’t even his first language. It’s very annoying. 😊

After I completed the story, I sent David the manuscript and the 22 scenes that would become the foundation for the album soundtrack. I wanted him to read the novel and make sure he approved it. Fortunately for me, he caught the story’s wave and went to work composing. I was thrilled to snag a publisher in record time who embraced the excitement of our initiative. (Thank you, The Wild Rose Press and my incredible editor, Lea Schizas.)

Naturally, David and I had countless communications. We used everything but smoke signals, and some days with my unreliable internet connection, we came close to employing them. One constant remained through it all: our devotion to Sofia and Eduardo and delivering their story in words and music.

DAVID: True. We had this evolving conversation every day; we were able to offer feedback about the story and the music all the time.

Of course, I was in my little studio in the city, and Tonya in her magnificent porch in front of the lake. I think that this is the reason why she is kind enough to lose some arguments on my behalf because perhaps she feels guilty knowing that I was locked in my dark bat cave surrounded by lights and monitors and she was so in touch with nature.

What was the easiest part, and what was the most difficult?

TONYA: For me, the easiest part was having the privilege of working with someone so brilliant and talented as David Bazo. Each moment on this journey has been pure joy and full of synchronicities we can’t explain. I laughed and cried all at the same time as I wrote the story. And when David would get me on a video chat to watch him play an unfolding melody, the box of tissues sat next to me. To watch his genius unfold in composing was something to behold—a gift I will treasure forever.

As for what proved difficult, it was trying to marry the book and the album’s release date. So much behind-the-scenes goes into a complicated project like this one. And then, once we’d completed the creative process together, waiting for the big launch day was hard. Our excitement held fast.

DAVID: About that, I would like to add something. What Tonya has achieved with Venetian Rhapsody is something truly incredible. Not only has she conceived a story that you can’t stop reading, in which you can immerse yourself without holding back, but on a creative level, she has made my work simple because the music writing process has flowed like never before thanks to how easy it has been for me to identify with these characters, places, moments, situations, and feelings.

What I thought was going to be the hardest part has turned out to be the easiest. I was afraid, before having read the novel completely, that I was still not going to be able to transcribe, illustrate. and capture everything that was in this story, all that complicity, that spirit, that luminosity, and that harmony full of nuances and sentiments expressed in the book.

If I have been successful in my mission, it is thanks to the fact that her writing is so good that it has made mine possible to be so too.

What came from this collaboration that surprised you?

TONYA: The entire collaborative process, from its origin to this moment, has been a journey like no other. And, like Eduardo and Sofia, overflowing with the unexplainable. David calls what we keep experiencing together “our magic.” He’s right.

What have you learned?

TONYA: What have I learned? That the impossible is possible.

DAVID: I can tell you that for me working with Tonya has been very educational. My work usually has a lot of melancholic, dramatic, and epic connotations, and with Tonya, besides delving into romantic content, I had to include a lot of humor, fun, and lightness in my work because that’s what her novels transpire and because that’s what the project needed.

This work also transpires all that, and it is thanks to her and her magnificent narrative.

Was the book finished when you got the music?

TONYA: Yes, the book needed to be completed for David to have the fluidity to compose and know where the story could and would take him.

DAVID: What is really special about Venetian Rhapsody is that that we both inspired each other throughout the process. My music gave rise to her novel, and then the book was the genesis for all this new music.

It was a dynamic project.

Tonya: How would you describe David’s music?

TONYA: David Bazo’s music does what no composer I’ve listened to achieves. He’s able to transcend to a place where only he resides to create melodies infused with emotion and passion, no matter the song’s theme. There’s a brilliance to every piece he composes and performs. There’s a complexity to his music that keeps me coming back for more. His artistic range is breathtaking and breath-giving. What an honor it’s been to work with him. Do ask him to chat about writing a tango for Sofia and Eduardo.

David, How would you describe Tonya’s storytelling/writing?

DAVID: When you read one of Tonya’s novels, you realize what a good writer she is, but it’s when you work with her that you really realize how much talent she has. I like to say that what she writes is very movie-like. Writing the score for her book, I felt like I was writing it for a feature film because her stories are very visual, full of action, comedy, mystery, and lots of rhythm.

I would say even more. Yes, I will! Working with her is very cinematic in a different way because she takes you creatively into situations that force you to push your abilities to the limit. She’s a little Hitchcock!

Oh, do I have to chat about the tango experience? Let’s see: To illustrate the novel, I had to go through musical styles that are foreign and complicated for me, such as giving life to a music style that had the instrumental requirements and gave life to the atmosphere and the spirit of what happens in the story.

I never had the experience of writing a tango piece, let alone dancing it. (Laughs)

It was an effort and a forced learning process because Tonya told me that this piece was important to the plot and “we had to have it” in the soundtrack.

And one way or another, we “had to have it”.

No mercy for me. (More laughs).

Well, we ended up having two tangos, to be exact. There is another version of it included in the 25 minutes piano suite recorded live as an epilogue to the Soundtrack.

Fortunately for me, Tonya’s story also required other genres in which I thrive, such as a Waltz, classical music, or music with Spanish connotations.

Do you have any plans for future projects?

TONYA: We’re anxious to see if we feel tapped again to do another collaboration. David keeps hounding me to write a Western romance so he can play his juice harp. I reminded him that he’s Spanish and not from cowboy country to draw on that experience. Let me leave you all with this story. The next day I got a private concert proving me wrong again about this talented guy’s abilities. I’m still not writing the dang Western. On second thought, I just envisioned this woman with true grit leading a cattle drive. Put that in your giddy-up, Bazo.

David: Well, we have yet to discuss that: I’ve already written a great script called “Duel at Dawn” for Tonya to develop. If I’ve been able to shape a tango, I’m sure Tonya can write a great western. I know she can! What I’m afraid of is that she doesn’t want me to add a soundtrack with whips, mouth harps, saloon and piano bar pieces, and 25 minutes of banjo concerto. Did I mention she is the team leader here?

This is inside the album cover:

A message from award-winning author Tonya Penrose. (pen name)

Our Story: David and Tonya

The genesis for this amazing project began with a song… Not just any song but Venetian Reverie’s theme song. Gazing at a lake from my writing chair, I discovered and listened to this piece of music written by David Bazo back in 1998. Immediately, I felt transported to Venice, where the characters, Sofia and Eduardo, waited to share their story. Never has a song inspired me to write a book, but then never has there been a song like David’s hauntingly beautiful melody.

David and I came to realize the song had a destiny to fulfill, and so did we. It’s become the main soundtrack theme of my novel, Venetian Rhapsody. David agreed to compose an album, opening the door for this special collaboration.

Each song from this album companions and illustrates the story. Let David’s gifted interpretation sweep you away with Sofia and Eduardo on their unforgettable romantic journey. Prepare yourself for a fully immersive experience like no other.

Their Story: Eduardo and Sofia

In a glancing moment, Eduardo Diaz and Sofia Martin experience their first chance encounter that alters how they see their world and ignites a grand love beyond compare. A romance where the barriers of time’s constraints fall away…leaving them with an unfolding mystery around their magical and powerful connection.

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CONNECT WITH DAVID

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CHAT WITH JOY YORK

 

 

Joy York grew up in Alabama but has spent much of her adult life in the Midwest, currently living with her husband, Terry, in Indiana with their goldendoodle, Bailey. Inspired by a family legacy of oral storytelling, she began creating stories and adventures for her son when he was growing up. With encouragement from family and friends, she began to write them down. Her first book, The Bloody Shoe Affair: A daring and thrilling adventure with the jailer’s daughter, a YA mystery, was published in 2015. The sequel, The Jailer’s Daughter is currently being edited. Genuine Deceit: A Suspense Novel, her second novel, was published on Amazon in May 2021. Protective Instincts, a mystery suspense, is coming soon.

Time to chat with Joy!

What is your latest book?

My latest book is Genuine Deceit: A Suspense Novel. When a young woman finds herself unknowingly accountable for the past sins of her family, she must unravel her decades old secrets to stay alive.

This is a standalone mystery/suspense/thriller with a bit of romance.

You say you’ve been inspired by a family legacy of oral storytelling. That sounds fascinating. Can you tell us more?

My inspiration for storytelling came from listening to my Mama Leavie tell fascinating stories to me and my cousins in the evenings while sitting on her porch in rural Alabama. She sat in a swing telling tales to her wide-eyed audience of grandchildren gathered at her feet, all of which hung on every word. The scarier the story, the better. Years later, I carried on that same tradition for my young son as we sat in his favorite place, the center landing of the staircase, and I spun my own tales of princes, flying houses, ogres, and gargoyles, always making my son the conquering hero.

How did you choose the genre you write in? Or did it choose you?

My main genre is mystery/suspense/thriller with the addition of a little romance to make the characters more relatable. I have always loved mysteries. Agatha Christie novels were my favorite growing up. I loved putting the clues together to try to solve the puzzle. The more surprises and twists and turns, the better. As an adult, I was inspired by John Sandford, Sue Grafton, Clive Cussler, James Lee Burke, Jonathan Kellerman, and many others.

What else have you written?

My first book was The Bloody Shoe Affair, a young adult southern mystery set in 1968. They say to write what you know and that is what I did. This young adult novel was inspired by my visits to north Alabama to spend time with my cousin who was the jailer’s daughter. My uncle was a deputy sheriff and managed the jail in a rural county. They lived in a big brownstone house that was connected to the 2-story jail by a check-in hall. My cousin, who was the same age as me, was a fearless prankster, and I was her shy, fearful opposite. My cousin would sneak into the jail to play checkers with the prisoners and take them candy and cigarettes. When I was visiting, she would drag me along with her. She insisted we play jailer in the empty cells. I was always stuck being the prisoner. My biggest fear was getting accidentally locked in. One day when she was taking me into the dark basement of the jail to see a woman trustee who lived down there, she pointed out the evidence room. She told me that inside the room was a pair of bloody shoes from a woman who was murdered. Apparently, the voice of the dead owner would call for her bloody shoes in the middle of the night. I was terrified. Years later, The Bloody Shoe Affair was born with a fictional location, story, and characters, all inspired by childhood visits.

What do you think some of the greatest misconceptions about indie authors are?

I think many people believe indie authors are all amateur writers who self-publish because they can’t find a publisher. Or that the self-published books are poor quality. Some of the best books I have read have been written by independent authors who chose, as I did, to publish independently. Most indie authors take their writing seriously and are just as professional and talented as traditionally published authors. I have my books professionally edited and my covers designed by graphic designers, as many independent authors do as well. There are also many professional graphic websites available that give indie authors the ability to learn to develop their own covers and marketing banners. Some writers simply don’t want to wait months to receive a response from a traditional publisher. They can set their own pace.

There are also many national and international writer and illustrator organizations that provide conferences, workshops, critique groups, networking, and resources for all authors, (traditional and indie) to learn, get feedback, and hone their craft.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joy’s writing buddy, Bailey

 

What part of writing a novel do you enjoy the most? The least?

I love the creative process of writing. I am a pantser as opposed to a plotter. I don’t use an outline like a plotter. I sit down and write with a general idea and let the characters take me where they want to go. Not always where I expect. Editing is my least favorite.

After working for a very long time on a novel, many authors get to a point where they lose their objectivity and feel unable to judge their own work. Has this ever happened to you? If so, what have you done about it?

This happened with my sequel to my young adult mystery. I worked on it for two years. It was too long for a young adult novel. I knew parts were dragging, but I wasn’t sure how to fix it. I reread and edited it so many times I totally lost perspective. I put it aside to work on other projects. After three years, I recently took a crack at it because I really love the story. I decided to throw away the first five chapters, and it was like a weight was lifted. Sometimes you need to step away.

Please, tell us your experiences with social media. What are your favorite and least favorite parts?

Social media is critical to marketing. When I self-published my first book, I only had a Facebook account. I used a professional marketing company to launch. I learned a lot, but most of my sales were from my own marketing. Mostly trial and error. Twitter allows you to connect with people all over the world. I soon learned that most authors are very supportive. I set up public accounts on Facebook and Instagram. I also use Facebook Boost to advertise my posts. You can set your budget and it is easy to use. It has been very successful for me. You can also target specific geographical regions, interests, and demographics. I also use my LinkedIn account. I joined Canva Pro and learned to make banners. I am also a Pro member of Allauthor. Online book clubs are also very helpful in marketing. I am still just scratching the surface of the marketing opportunities. Although I have a blog set up, I have not used it yet. I am taking my time to figure out how to make it unique.

What do you like best about the books you read? What do you like least?

I like books that grab my attention in the first chapter. If I’m reading a mystery and can figure out who the killer is within the first few chapters, it’s hard for me to finish the book unless they have some good subplots or a stellar writing style. I love strong female characters. Unfortunately, some writers feel an independent, successful woman must be abrasive, bossy, and condescending. Like they have something to prove. I believe that is a convenient stereotype. Most strong, independent women are not only driven, but supportive, nurturing, and encouraging to their partners.

Having your work out there to be judged by strangers is often daunting for writers. Do you have any tips on handling reviews?

It can be hurtful to receive a bad review. Not everyone enjoys the same styles and genres. Even best-selling authors do not always get 5’s. Some reviewers will say it’s their best book, while others say it’s their worst. If a review offers suggestions, I read them and see what I can learn from their comments. If other reviewers offer the same comments or suggestions, I need to take it seriously and try to improve on my next book. If not, I let it go. Sometimes people trash the review because the book isn’t what they expected. Those are things I ignore. It’s a balance, but you can never let it stop you from writing. We all become better authors as we grow.

Have you received reactions/feedback to your work that has surprised you? In what way?

I have gotten a lot of feedback about my main characters, Reagan and Aiden, in Genuine Deceit. Many readers really love the characters and are suggesting a series. I hadn’t considered it until now. Maybe they have more adventures to share.

What was the best gift you ever received?

The birth of my beautiful twin grandsons. They were born two months premature a few months before the pandemic shutdown. They are now three years old and thriving. My daughter-in-law’s mother and I have bonded while helping with the boys over the years. She is now like a sister friend. I am blessed on all accounts.

If you had a million dollars to give to charity, how would you allot the funds?

Paid quality education, meals, and childcare for pre-k through grade 12 for underprivileged children in inner cities and rural areas so they will have a strong and encouraging foundation to be successful in their adult lives. Preferable Montessori.

What makes you angry?

Prejudice. Intolerance. Any form of abuse or harassment. Broken trust.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Dark chocolate and fried okra. Not necessarily together! The second comes from my southern heritage. Maybe throw in a little country fried steak with homemade gravy.

What are three things you think we can all do to make this world a better place?

Be kind. Be generous. Listen.

CONNECT WITH JOY

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CHAT WITH BETH HASLAM

Beth Haslam grew up on a farm estate in Wales and was mostly seen messing around with her beloved animals or out sailing on the treacherous Menai Strait.

When she and her husband, Jack, bought a second home in France, their lives changed forever. Computers and mobile phones swapped places with understanding French customs and wrestling with the local dialect.

These days, Beth is occupied as never before, raising and saving animals, writing, and embracing life in their corner of rural France. And she loves it!

Time to chat with Beth!

Welcome, Beth! I just finished reading your new book, Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates: Series Prequel. I loved it! Congratulations!

One of the first things that came to my mind as I read was how much work you had to have put into such an undertaking. Such a labor of love. I’m curious, how much research, consulting with others, and thinking did you have to do before you began the actual writing? How long did the entire process take?

Hello Lisette, thanks so much for inviting me to chat with you here at your Writers’ Chateau. With such an evocative title, I feel wonderfully at home!

You ask such a pertinent question about Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates. On several occasions, I have been asked to write about my childhood. I initially rejected the idea. Ironically, for someone who writes memoirs, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would be remotely interested in a book focused on my upbringing. Added to this, writing solely about me makes my toes curl. Finally, a workable solution popped into my head.

The book needed lots of fun tales about my youth, but there was more. I decided to try and convey the extraordinary beauty of my rugged, enchanting homeland. I wanted to describe what it means to be Welsh, our mannerisms and our passions. To achieve this with a level of integrity needed research. Lots of research.

I sought advice from castle custodians, Welsh historians, the world’s leading authority on Mabinogion (a collection of ancient Welsh myths), sailing experts, professional Welsh chefs and more. Their advice was freely offered and unbelievably helpful. Totally absorbed, I wrote sections as I learnt, adding new knowledge and depth to my experiences. Eventually, after more than a year, the book was written.

 

I’ve read the first book in your Fat Dogs and French Estates series. (And I want to read them all!) How did writing a memoir of your childhood compare, in addition to going back much further in time to gather the information, with the writing of your wonderful series?

Thank you for being so kind about my French books. Writing about my childhood was very different. Intensely personal. At the outset, I worried about not remembering situations accurately. Fortunately, once I started reflecting on the key moments in my young life, detailed anecdotes began tumbling out of my brain with vivid clarity.

It was fascinating to learn about your childhood in Wales. I think the book has great historical value as well as being delightfully entertaining. What would you most like readers to learn about your native country?

I’m thrilled that you found the historical elements interesting. An early revelation for me was finding out that many people, particularly those outside the UK, thought Wales was a region of England. They assumed it was a chunk of land filled with stinky sheep, crumbly castles, and quaint people speaking a weird language. A bit Hobbity. I was determined to set that right.

I have tried to show readers that whilst it may be little, Wales is a multi-faceted country. From the craggy mountains to endless moors, sweeping valleys and patchwork fields, and the ocean that bathes our western shores, the topography is exceptional. I have introduced readers to our culture, language, song and history. And through anecdotes, I have tried to express the depth of Welsh emotions that course through our veins.

Throughout my writing journey, the advice of Welsh leaders in their fields added value to the historical content, which often extended beyond the remit of my book. Because of this, I decided to include a Reference section.

Everyone has different tastes, so the Reference section enables readers to cherry-pick, discovering more about a particular subject they found interesting. Although it isn’t the entire bibliography, several people have told me how much they’re enjoying following the links, so I’m glad I went ahead.

One thing I loved was reading about all of the different professions you imagined yourself doing as a child. You write so beautifully. Was writing ever a consideration?

Ah, yes, I had several convictions about my ideal vocation. As you’ll have noticed, I became a devoted animal lover at an early age, so most of my ‘brilliant’ career ideas revolved around creatures, great and small.

As for becoming an author, I loved writing stories, but at that stage, I was too much of a tomboy to consider life with a pen.

What was the most difficult part of writing this book? The easiest?

Ooh, another great question. It was probably accuracy. Once I’d decided to produce a piece with snippets of social history, I worked endlessly to provide precise information. As you’ll guess, it was often highly challenging as opinions differed on the same event. This was when I became hopelessly engrossed in my research, but I got there in the end.

Ironically, the easiest bits were recounting anecdotes about our family animals, dismal sailing efforts (I was a remarkably untalented sailor), boarding school, and living in a castle full of ghosts, all of which are etched on my brain.

When did you first decide to take your life adventures in France and write about them? Do you take notes now as you move through life?

The decision was made by accident. Jack, my husband, and I were sitting one evening in our local French auberge. Covered in cement dust as usual, it was the end of yet another tough day. We’d been working our socks off on our new home renovations whilst trying to calm Jean-Luc, our nutty artisan decorator.

Jean-Luc is neurotic. He had abruptly downed tools and refused to work with the tiler. Why? Nobody knew. It was a regular occurrence. Reflecting on this latest tantrum, Jack took a sip of his gin and tonic and sighed. “The things that have happened to us with this bloody project are so unbelievable,” he said, “you should write a book about it.” So I did.

Nowadays, I have a notebook that sits on my desk. If an event occurs that I think readers might enjoy, I’ll write a couple of bullet points and the date. I’ll take a selection to develop into written material for a future book.

What advice would you offer to someone who wants to write a memoir?

Gosh, that’s tricky. I certainly don’t feel qualified to give expert advice. Here’s what I can offer.

Be brave, follow your heart and persevere. Don’t get hung up on detail such as grammar. That can be fixed. Focus on producing the story in your words. Develop broad shoulders but never lose your grounding. Listen to, and learn from constructive comments, and never give up hope. After all, JK Rowling’s Harry Potter manuscript was rejected twelve times.

Do you know what your next book will be?

Actually, yes, I do. Whilst I’ve been in Wales (at least in my head) for the past 14 months, stories here in France have been stacking up. Tales about our deliciously nutty neighbours, trips to wondrous places and always animals. They will become the foundations for Fat Dogs and French Estates Part VI. I’ll start chapter planning next month.


Is your recent book part of a series?

Yes. Fat Dogs and Welsh Estates is the prequel to my Fat Dogs and French Estates books.

Have you ever collaborated with another writer on a project? If so, what insights about the process can you share with us?

I have. A friend and I are crazy cat ladies who habitually take in abandoned cats. Instead of chatting inanely about our kitties daily, we decided to use our skills to help cats in need. Zoe is an editor, and I write, which turned out to be a great collaboration combo.

We appealed to cat slaves worldwide to share their stories and produced an anthology about felines. Zoe and I added our own. The contributed narratives were gems and most needed tweaking. We worked together, though Zoe had the final say on editing. Wise decision. I’m hopeless with grammar.

Entitled, Completely Cats – Stories with Cattitude, we’re proud of our book. Proceeds from each sale go to International Cat Care, a fantastic cat charity. We run active pages on Facebook and Twitter, spreading the word about helping cats in need and the fabulous work of cat charities worldwide.

Do you allow others to read your work in progress, or do you keep it a secret until you’ve finished your first draft? Can you elaborate?

I have a couple of long-suffering friends who allow me to inflict early ideas on them. It might be a paragraph, a particular dialogue, a description, or a passage that doesn’t seem right. They will immediately tell me to ditch it or offer helpful suggestions.

Are you a fast typist? Does your typing speed (or lack of it) affect your writing?

Yes, I’m a reasonably poor touch-typist. Ridiculously picky though it sounds, I prefer using a full-size keyboard. I find the compact tablet versions with squashed-together keys distracting. They slow me down, threatening to steal the words dancing around in my head.

If I’m ‘in the zone’ with a particular thought/scene, I’ll fly over my desktop computer keyboard, bashing out my story as quickly as possible. There will be lots of errors, but it’s there. That literary kernel has been safely recorded.

We all know the old saying; you can’t judge a book by its cover. This is true. However, how much importance do you place on your book cover design?

Thank you. Answering this question allows me to give a shout to my illustrator, the stupendously talented Maggie Raynor.

Maggie is a trained Royal Academy of Arts (London) artist and extraordinarily gifted. I have been lucky to work with her on all my Fat Dogs books. Maggie’s interpretations are spot on, needing very few alterations.

I take great care over the design of my book covers and chapter head illustrations. I will inflict my first scruffy draft on Maggie, along with ideas of what I think will work and then leave her to it.

Actually, Maggie had such fun creating baby dragons for my latest book I had to stop her. They were so good I decided to make the chapter head illustrations bigger to try and enhance readers’ overall enjoyment. Many lovely comments about them have been forthcoming, so it was the right decision. Maggie’s happy, too!

How would you define your style of writing?

I’m a descriptive storyteller. I try hard to create mental pictures in the reader’s mind so they can visualise each scene. My style is lighthearted, so there’s lots of humour, but since I share tales from life, there are serious points, and sadness, too. My ambition with every book is for readers to smile, laugh, perhaps shed a tear and sense drama, just as I did when experiencing each of the scenes described.

What’s your favorite comfort food? Least favorite food?

I’d be beheaded if any of my French friends read this! I confess that my favourite comfort food is chilli con carne. It’s piquant, easy to make, and seriously yummy.

As for my least favourite? That’s easy. Tripe and onions. Slippery, bobbly – it’s seriously dreadful stuff.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

Gosh, this is a tricky question. Probably Hercules, my little ginger ninja, an abandoned kitten. You met him in my Welsh tales.

What are the most important traits you look for in a friend?

Loyalty, sense of humour, stickability – through thick and thin, and empathy.  And since we’re on the subject of friendship, thank you so much for these super, considered questions, Lisette. I have loved chatting with you here.

Thanks so very much, Beth! It’s been an honor for me to have you at my chateau. And lastly, I want to say that in putting this interview together, I noticed the number plate on the car in the French Estates series: OMG 123! Very funny and as delightful as all of your books.

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INTERVIEW WITH SALLY CRONIN

Sally Cronin is the author of sixteen books including her memoir Size Matters: Especially when you weigh 330lb first published in 2001. This has been followed by another fifteen books both fiction and non-fiction including multi-genre collections of short stories and poetry.

As an author she understands how important it is to have support in marketing books and offers a number of FREE promotional opportunities on her blog and across her social media. Her podcast shares book reviews, poetry and short stories.

After leading a nomadic existence exploring the world, she now lives with her husband on the coast of Southern Ireland enjoying the seasonal fluctuations in the temperature of the rain.

Thank you very much, Lisette, for inviting me to join you in the Writer’s Chateau today…

(It is my great pleasure, Sally! It’s been my wish to have you as a guest for quite some time.)

Your Smorgasbord Blog Magazine is one of the best online magazines I’ve seen. It’s very special. Can you tell us how it began? Feel free to brag about your invaluable contributors.

Thank you very much. I am delighted you enjoy the blog and its format it has evolved over the last 11 years and it is something I love putting together.

The concept actually began back in 2004 when I was co-presenting some shows on English speaking radio in Spain. I had been a nutritional consultant since the late 90s and was delighted to be asked to present health segments on the morning show. After a few weeks, listeners began emailing with questions, so I thought I would start a monthly newsletter on nutrition, food, recipes, health issues etc. This was emailed out for two years on subscription and evolved to include other areas including humour. I also presented the short story competitions on the station, recording the stories, and this in part fueled my own love of writing them.

Whilst looking after my mother in the UK from 2008 I carried on presenting on radio on the local station including interviewing authors on my Sunday Show and doing a health show on Thursdays. When I turned to blogging in 2012 I therefore had all the ingredients needed to bring Smorgasbord Blog Magazine to life featuring health, nutrition, food, music, short stories, author interviews and book promotion and humour.  Of course it didn’t take off immediately but I built up a presence on social media platforms and that is how I connected with the wonderful people who now contribute as part of the team on the magazine and have become great friends too.

One of these was William Price King on Twitter.  I was putting together a series of interviews with creative artists across art, music and writing. It took a chance and contacted William and asked if he would be a guest and thankfully he agreed. He is an amazing classical and jazz singer and composer and over the last nine years he has brought an incredible range of music to the blog. In the last two years we have been co-presenting the Breakfast Show with hits from the 40s through to the 2000s and this year we are showcasing the Big Band Era and the dance crazes from the 20s through to the 50s.

Debby Gies who writes as D.G. Kaye,  connected with me back in 2015 and participated in a women’s health series with an article on heart health and then in a number of interviews.  Debby loves travelling and in 2017 began a column taking us on cruises and visits to popular destinations around the world, followed by her Relationship Column and now Spiritual Awareness. An amazing author Debby writes non-fiction and memoirs as well as terrific blog posts and also does an excellent job in foraging for funnies to share in our laughter posts every week.

Carol Taylor lives in Thailand and ran a restaurant there. She participated in one of the guest post series in 2016 with an article about her rescue dog and the organization in Thailand who work hard to take dogs off the street and re-home them. Once we got chatting about our shared passion for food and healthy eating, I asked Carol is she would like to write a food column and the rest is history. Passionate about the environment Carol created the Green Kitchen column for the blog in 2021. Currently we are re-running her information packed A-Z of Culinary terms and foods with recipes that are guaranteed to prevent malnutrition. We co-wrote the series Cook from Scratch which focused on the individual vitamins and minerals needed to be healthy and I am looking forward to showcasing her cookbook which she has promised us soon.

Finally but certainly not least, two authors with a great sense of humour also contribute to our funnies each month. Daniel (Danny Kemp) shares wonderful memes and jokes on his Facebook Page and lets me wander in from time to time to pinch and share. Malcolm Allen lives in Australia and he kindly sends us an email each month with his take on life and is happy for me to share on the blog.

I’ve read two of your books, Sally. They were wonderful. I love the creativity in your poetry and short stories. You capture so many nuances of nature and put them on center stage. Is nature your favorite topic? What else demands your attention?

Thanks for the boost for the books, Lisette. I feel most at home when I am in the natural environment. I used to clamber up and down mountains and trails wherever we lived and on holidays but these days my knees have a mind of their own. I am restricted to walks by the sea and to taking care of the flowers and the birds in the garden. Over the last six years in our home here in Ireland I have found myself the proprietor of the Birdseed Café and Spa with a regular clientele of sparrows, starlings, tits, doves, crows and jackdaws. They get a running buffet of seed, nuts, suet, fats and fruit each day and they have an ‘all you can eat’ approach which means we are fully booked every day. They bring me great pleasure and are worth every penny, particularly during the lockdown when they were not restricted in their visits and entertained every day.

My other focus is people, and you can’t get to 70 years old without a few life experiences, good and bad, and sometimes terrible, without becoming a student of human nature. These days of course, most of my interactions are online, but that is interesting in many ways. Not only do you see the normal human behavior at play, but also some that are normally kept hidden when face to face with others. Plenty of fodder for any writer, and whilst I am careful about who I follow as I have had a few less than pleasant experiences over the last twelve years, I love following people who have quirky approach to life… they are a great source of characters for stories.

Is there something you’d like to write that you haven’t written yet?

I do enjoy crime thrillers both books and movies and television dramas and in our house it is a race to identify ‘who dunnit’. I do have a work in progress that might turn out to be that genre, it is progressing along that path and we shall just have to see how it goes.

You’re known (and so appreciated) as an amazing and supportive friend to many authors and other creatives. You do an incredible amount of work to highlight the work of others. What drives you?

When I wrote my first book Size Matters about my 150lb weight loss and a nutritional guide to losing weight in 1998, I approached an agent and we worked together to edit the book and he then sent out to seven publishers. They all came back with a rejection but it wasn’t for the book which they thought was good. It was because I was in my mid-forties, probably with only the one book, no public presence and probably not newsworthy. So I self-published with a Canadian POD company and set about marketing it. My background in operations which included marketing, sales and customer services was useful as I was accustomed to preparing promotional material and I sent out press releases locally where we lived in Ireland to the national papers and also to UK women’s magazines. It did pretty well and I got quite a bit of publicity. It was a time when obesity was not the norm it is today and stories of major weight loss made news.

When we moved to Spain I worked with the Canadian company acquiring more authors for them and as my husband formatted my books, he began to format for other authors too. I began working on English speaking radio which was a great place to promote my own books and I also began helping the authors with their physical launches.

It was tough back then when the big mainstream publishes were ruling the roost and being self-published implied that your book was not worth the paper it was written on. That drove me to find ways to promote my books but also other indie authors who needed a platform. I know that people are wary of the internet and some are reluctant to open themselves up to the world, but in fact it is the best thing that ever happened as far as authors are concerned.

It does, however, take work to build a presence and to understand that marketing your books is part of being an author. Some still don’t get it and think that readers are just going to rush over to Amazon to buy their books whilst they sit on the sidelines and watch the show.  It simply does not work that way, and there are plenty of con artists out there ready to part authors from their money with promises they cannot keep.

I know the readership of my own books is within the writing community online, and it is important to be an active member.  Supporting other authors and their books is part of that focus, and I get a great deal of pleasure in helping boost the interest in their work.

I love the way you write poetry in triangular shapes. It’s so pretty and clever. Did you always write this way? Why is this special to you?

There are a number of forms that occur when using syllabic poetry and it does often reinforce the message in the poem. A triangle or a reversed triangle can add an emphasis to the words either bringing to a point by ending on one word, or bringing the whole poem to a satisfying ending with the longest line.  Other forms mirror the subject of the poem…for example a Butterfly Cinquain such as this one I wrote recently.

Metamorphosis

gorging
caterpillars
camouflaged to conceal
their tempting plump juvenile forms
prepare
to morph into silken cocoons
for metamorphosis
as a bewinged
delight.

Please, tell us about your latest book.

My latest book is Variety is the Spice of Life : A Blend of Poetry and Prose.

In the first part, I share my most recent poetry about life, love, relationships with a special section on my garden and its inhabitants. In the second half of the book, there are eight short stories all with a different theme, with touches of revenge, paranormal, mystery, and love.

You’ve written a lot of books. Do you have a favorite?

Since it is partly auto-biographical, I would say Just An Odd Job Girl is one I that is special to me. I have certainly had a varied career, and it was fun to take the jobs and my experiences and turn it into a novel. I am always delighted when I see a review for the book even though I wrote it in 2002, and I love the comments it receives when I have serialized on the blog.

Do you have any advice for first-time authors?

I have worked with many first time authors, and most get in touch when their book is already published and they are just thinking about how to promote it. I believe very strongly that it is important to be preparing for the marketing of a first book almost before you begin writing it.

I know that people can be dismissive of blogging and social media and say they don’t have time for it, but without an online presence how do they expect their book to be noticed. Amazon is just a book store and it doesn’t do any marketing except when you are more established and your book has sold some copies.

I appreciate that it takes time to gain followers on social media and connect with like-minded followers who might read your book or at least share to their own connections, but it is worth the effort.

I have been running my series on PR for authors and book marketing on my blog through January 2023, but I have a pdf of the series for anyone who would like a copy. It goes into detail on how to set up an online presence including Amazon, Goodreads, and social media and it is available by emailing me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Do you have any advice to a new author if they asked you whether to pursue the traditional route to publishing or to start out as an independent writer?

There is still a lingering disdain for indie publishing that annoys me intensely since the work involved in the writing of a book through to it landing on the bookshelf is complex and time consuming. I know that there are some books around that might not be as good as they should be but with grammar aids, editing services and technology advances books are of a higher standard. I have certainly paid good money for mainstream published books that I have not finished.

I know some authors who have gone the mainstream route to publishing and some do very well and others felt their control of the process including the editing of their books has been compromised. Many have now taken back the copyright for their books and are Indie and happy to be so.

Additionally today, unless you are considered to be the next Lee Child or Stephen King, you can forget about a massive advance and kiss goodbye to a mega marketing campaign.  Many end up doing the same book promotions as an indie author.

By all means if you are a new author, do your research. I always have a current copy of Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook which lists agents, publishers and also useful articles on presenting your manuscript. You need to avoid a shotgun approach to sending out your work and narrow down specific agents and publishers who work with your genre or area of expertise. For example children’s books or young adult, memoirs, and romance, and then check out their requirements for a submission and follow it to the letter.

If you face rejection, then keep going, but don’t dismiss the idea of self-publishing and if you have been building your brand along the way you will already be set up and ready to go it alone with the help of the writing community.

Where do you live now? If you had to move to another city/state/country, where might that be?

We live on the east coast of Ireland in County Wexford about half a mile from the sea. We have been living here for nearly seven years after having a home in Madrid for seventeen years.  It did take me a while to acclimatize after enjoying 300 days of sunshine and 60 days of rain or snow, to the complete opposite of 300 days of rain and 60 days of sunshine!  Well it feels like that anyway, although the warmth of the people around us makes up for it.  We are about to move again this year to a smaller house, but it will be here in Ireland further down the coast. Ireland is one of the most economically stable countries in the EU and for pensioners it offers excellent benefits.

Trains, planes, automobiles, or boats?

We used to do all of the above and I still enjoy a road trip from time to time. We have swapped planes for ferries whenever possible and to be honest it would take an emergency to get me into an airport and on a plane today. We would still like to do the Rockies by train so perhaps with enough margaritas I might be persuaded to fly again, but it would take quite a few.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?

I definitely count being taught to read and write as up there as the best gifts I have received. Without that I would never enjoyed all the books I have read, been able to enjoy a wonderful varied career, indulged in my passion for writing and probably never met my husband. After all, without being able to read and write, I would never have been assistant manager in the hotel in Wales he decided to stay in on business and ask me out on a date.

Thank you very much, Lisette, for allowing me to share my thoughts and I would love to respond to any comments and questions from your readers.

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ALL THAT WAS TAKEN

 

 

My new book, All That Was Taken, is my twelfth book. Looking back on all of my novels, I had a very different reason to write each one. Some were rational (or irrational) decisions, and others were just tiny seeds of inspiration that were calling out to be planted so they could grow.

One of the most common questions authors are asked is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Of course, there are always the people who say things like, “I’ve got a great story idea for you. OMG, you should write about my crazy family!” To which I try to explain, in the nicest way, that it may be a great story for them to write (and I encourage them to do so), but one must write what one feels passionate about. Inspiration is about so much more than a “good story,” and it’s unique to every writer. It’s about feeling a connection that’s worth thinking about, writing about, and rewriting for as long as it takes. If I’m going to write about a crazy family, it’s going to be one that I invent, as I don’t tend to write autobiographical novels.

I really struggled with several possibilities for number twelve. Sometimes, we’re overwhelmed with ideas and don’t know which one to run with, but at other times, it’s not as easy. An author can choose any idea, but finding that passion isn’t always something that comes pre-packaged with a great story line.

So, as I was struggling, I came upon a folder of art that I’d tucked away for inspiration. There was a painting of a man wearing a long black coat briskly walking at night in the fog, at the water’s edge of the ocean. And that was all I needed. Who was he? Where was he going? What was his life like? Was he running from something? Or going toward something? Perhaps both?

I thought about him for quite a while; then I thought about other stories that were vying for contention. But this man kept coming back to me, asking me to get to know him. Over time, I shared my various ideas with my friend Lisa. Finally, I asked her, “Which one should I write?” And without hesitation, she said, “The man on the beach.”

I gave him a dog, and I was off to the races.

I probably spent more time developing this novel than any previous one I’ve written. Before I could write the first word, I had to know everything I could about him. Why had he chosen to live a life of solitude? What happened in his past?

It took me over a month to get to know him as well as I can get to know any character before I begin to write them.

Once I began writing, the first draft came to me within a few months, but it wasn’t until countless rewrites, a beta reader, and two editors that I felt as ready as I’ll ever feel to publish this book. As a side note, this character turned out to be someone I’d love to know in the real world, and his nemesis one I wouldn’t want to know in any world.

Below is a blurb for the book:

All That Was Taken is a contemporary fiction novel that delves deeply into love, loss, and healing but comes with a suspenseful twist.

For eight years, John Hennessey has lived in near-solitude on Catalina Island. He keeps his world small, for every precious thing in his life has been taken from him. But when his peaceful existence is threatened, he buys a cottage farther up the California coast in the sleepy town of Teal Beach.

There he meets Sunny Harrison, owner of the Teal Beach Sundial Inn where he stays until his cottage is ready for move in. The connection between them is magical, though both are surviving painful pasts and are afraid to trust … especially as an undercurrent of darkness dwells in their midst.

In no time at all, their quiet lives explode. Sunny receives ominous phone calls while John grapples with his own unsettling communications. Their bond strengthens as dangerous enemies threaten.

New guests at the hotel appear to have ulterior motives, and with each passing day, more and more feels eerily out of place. As tensions escalate and the enemy comes into focus, John and Sunny know they face grave danger from people with no conscience. Yet, they have no idea what diabolical plans lie in wait for them.

* * * *


You can find the book on Amazon
. This book, as all of my books, are available in Kindle, paperback, and free to read on Kindle Unlimited.

Thanks so much for reading.

Best wishes to all,

Lisette