Guest Post – The Homecoming Author, Rosie Howard On Combining Writing With Raising A Family (@rosieWritesHavenbury @emmafinnigan)

I’m thrilled to be welcoming Rosie Howard to the blog with an excellent guest blog on how she combines writing with raising her family. Rosie has a teenage daughter and a son with additional needs and has been an active campaigner for disability rights.  Rosie’s novel, The Homecoming, was published by Alison & Busby in February 2018 and is the first book in the Havenbury series.

 

the homecomingMaddy fled the idyllic market town of Havenbury Magna three years ago, the scene of a traumatic incident she revisits most clearly in her dreams. Even so, when she is called back to help at the Havenbury Arms when her godfather Patrick suffers a heart attack, she is unprepared for the welter of emotions her return provokes. Psychologist and ex-army officer Ben is sure he can help Maddy to resolve her fears, until he finds himself falling for her, and struggling with a recently uncovered family secret of which Maddy is blissfully unaware. Then Maddy’s mother, Helen, arrives and Patrick himself must confront a few uncomfortable truths about his history and the pub’s future.

 

 

Over to Rosie…

Rosie HowardFirst, thank you so much for kindly inviting me to contribute to your blog. It is – as always – an absolute pleasure to chat to people who love to read. Same! Also, who doesn’t love the opportunity to talk about themselves…? 

Writing novels is a fantastic excuse for not having a proper job. It is only with the launch of my new Havenbury series that I have started writing full time. It is exciting to see my books getting out there and to really feel  – when I sit down to write – that it is going to be read. That said, there is nothing “full time” about my work, because family comes first, or at least that’s what my family tells me. Often. If it isn’t my teenage daughter demanding extraordinary amounts of money for school trips (Florence? Really?) it is my son asking where his rugby socks are like I might actually know – his confidence is touching. Then there is my black Labrador Rosie (yep, my writing name) who inserts herself into the tiny space under my writing desk where she huffs, puffs and groans like a live sex show and makes it impossible for me to put my feet anywhere without treading on her. This is in the hope that if she is constantly front of mind I might decide to feed her or walk her. The cat is the most annoying family member though; she does this weird passive-aggressive thing where she clearly wants me to give her some food but would rather chew her own paws off than ask. Of course, I feed her, and then she makes sure I am watching as she sniffs it and turns up her nose in disgust before stalking off. Funny how it’s always gone the next time I look. I do have a husband too, by the way, I definitely remember seeing him, but I can’t quite remember where. It might have been the shed. He likes it out there. I can see the appeal.  

Gentle whingeing aside though, my life is intentionally as close to my Havenbury world as I can get it. We live in a beautiful area at the foot of the Sussex Downs, just a few miles from the sea. Our little house has four windows and a door in the middle, like a child’s drawing, and is next door to the village pub; our little community is close-knit, with its school, playing fields, village hall, church, a row of shops and active Parish Council…  living here we feel connected. There are no secrets or at least none that stay secret for long. Characters are larger than life, crises are huge (or seem that way) and there is a nosy/supportive community which is both a blessing and frequently infuriating. Our local market town is just like Havenbury Magna too. We moved from London to raise our children and out here –  in all the mud of wintertime –  it is impossible to forget the seasons like you can in the city.  

‘The Homecoming’ centres on my heroine, Maddy, who – like me in my own life – has been traumatised by a barely remembered event which leaves her badly injured. I realise – many years later, as the mother of a teenage daughter –  I also relate to Helen, Maddy’s mother, who wants more than anything, for her daughter to be happy and safe.  

We would crawl a mile over broken glass for our children, wouldn’t we? When my son got to three years old without speaking a word I realised, with a bruised heart, that life was going to be difficult for him. Thankfully, in my pre-child career, working in disability rights campaigning, I knew what parents have to do to help their children because I had seen it with my own eyes: They have to fight. 

Funny story… doing a bit of pro bono work for a charity helping children like my son, I got invited to a fancy-pants launch event in Westminster. I sidled up to the guest of honour Ed Balls (he was Secretary of State for Education at the time, I don’t bother taking his calls now, obviously) and told him about our own experiences. He kindly wrote me a supportive letter, copied to my local Education Authority. Predictably, just weeks later, I was firing off an email to the head of the Authority, pointing out they had failed to comply with their statutory duties in some detail or other and this is what happened: 

  • Within seconds I had an automated reply from this bloke, saying he was on holiday. 
  • Within minutes I had a real, human reply from said bloke saying he was on holiday but he had read my email and would deal with it as soon as he got back to the office. 
  • Within hours I had a third email from him saying, even though he was on holiday he had spoken to his office, they were totally on it and would be fixing our problem, carrying out an exacting enquiry into who messed up and taking them outside for summary execution as a major of urgency. 

Do you think someone might have mentioned I was BFF with Ed Balls? Laughing aside – and it was funny – my advice to parents with children who need extra help, (and whose child doesn’t?) would be this: 

  1. Know what you need. 
  1. Know who can give it to you. 
  1. Know their job better than they do. 
  1. Politely but firmly make your point. 
  1. Don’t take any crap. 

The happy ending is that my son is doing well in mainstream school with the support he needs. The unhappy ending is that nothing has got any easier for families in the same boat. We used our child benefit to pay for private therapy but not everyone can do that. The other story I could tell is the one about childcare in our village (previously poor) and what – as a community – we did about it (currently fabulous).  Maybe next time. Or just keep reading the Havenbury series, it is bound to pop up somewhere along the line. Art imitating life and all that… 

Right. I’m off to write the next chapter.  Or I might just put the washing in/walk the dog/empty the bins.  A writer’s life is not a glamorous one. 

Thank you for having me. xx  

———————- 

Thank you so much Rosie for a really interesting and insightful guest post! I can definitely relate to the drain on the finances that is the TEEN DAUGHTER! While I don’t have personal experience, I also recognise and appreciate the challenges parents whose children have additional needs face from my work in the sector. I have the utmost respect!

Please do look out for my review of The Homecoming coming very soon! 

 

#BlogTour – The Devil’s Dice by Roz Watkins – Guestpost and #Giveaway

I’m absolutely thrilled to be kicking of the blog tour today for Roz Watkins new crime debut, The Devil’s Dice! The first book in the DI Meg Dalton series, this is a gripping and atmospheric thriller you won’t want to miss! One of the most striking things I found about this book was the Peak District setting and I’m delighted to welcome Roz Watkins to Cosy Books today to tell us just why she chose it.

Detective Inspector Meg Dalton has recently returned to her Peak District roots, when a man’s body is found near The Devil’s Dice – a vast network of caves and well-known local suicide spot. The man’s initials and a figure of the Grim Reaper are carved into the cave wall behind his corpse, but bizarrely, the carvings have existed for over one hundred years.

The locals talk about a mysterious family curse that started in the times of the witch trials, and Meg finds it increasingly hard to know who to trust. Even her own mother may be implicated.

For Meg, the case is a chance to prove herself in a police force dominated by men, one of whom knows a lot more about her past than she’d like, and is convinced she’s not fit for the role. In a race against time, Meg finds her own life at risk as she fights to stop the murderer from killing again.

Published March 8th 2018 by HQStories

Roz Watkins is the author of the DI Meg Dalton crime series, which is set in the Peak District where Roz lives with her partner and a menagerie of demanding animals.

Her first book, The Devil’s Dice, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award, and has been optioned for TV.

Roz studied engineering at Cambridge University before training in patent law. She was a partner in a firm of patent attorneys in Derby, but this has absolutely nothing to do with there being a dead one in her first novel.

In her spare time, Roz likes to walk in the Peak District, scouting out murder locations.

Why I chose to set ‘The Devil’s Dice’ in the Peak District  

The original reason was my dog and his foul habits. I live on the edge of the Peak District, which my dog approves of because of the excellent walking. We were out one day when he disappeared. This is always a bad sign as it means he’s:

a) Found a group of picnickers and decided to invite himself along;

b) Found a stinking foetid pit in which to take a bath;

c) Found a decomposing rabbit, sheep, or on one horrible occasion cow, to devour.

So it was with some trepidation that I watched him emerge from the undergrowth looking very pleased with himself, with something dangling from his mouth, swinging pendulously with every bounding step. I caught my breath and took a step back, because (to my brain at least) it looked just like a human spine.  

As he got closer, I realised it was a hare, but it got me wondering what it might be like to come upon a human corpse when on a dog walk. And that’s what happens in ‘The Devil’s Dice’. A man dies in a cave and is found by a Labrador.  

Here’s Starsky, very proud of himself!  

I soon realised that The Peak District is a perfect location for crime novels. It has underground passageways, cliffs, quarries, and pools where evil mermaids are supposed to lurk. It also has some lovely towns, and I used Wirksworth as the inspiration for my fictional town, Eldercliffe. Wirksworth has an incredible area called The Puzzle Gardens where a jumble of tiny cottages and random gardens perch on a hillside so steep it feels like you can step out of one cottage onto the roof of another.  

There are also miles of tunnels running underground in the area of the Peak District where I live. Being trapped underground with water rising around me is one of my worst nightmares, so it seemed natural to inflict this on my poor, long-suffering character in my fist book. I invented a network of tunnels called The Labyrinth, but it was based on real cave systems like the ones at The Heights of Abraham and Castleton.  

I gave my main character a fear of heights so I could torture her some more by making the victim live in a house perched on the edge of a quarry. This was based on the quarry at Wirksworth, where the houses almost teeter on its edge.  

This Peak District is also rich with folk tales and legends. I tend to make up my own stories to fit with the themes of the books, and in the first book, suspected witches were historically taken into the Labyrinth to be hanged. But my ideas are often inspired by real local folk tales which are usually quite gruesome.  

Friends think it’s strange (and a little worrying) that the beauty of the Peak District gets me thinking about murder, but my excuse is that it all started with the dog.  

Win!!!

Thanks to the very generous people at HQ Stories I Have THREE hardback copies of The Devil’s Dice to giveaway. Simply pop over to follow my twitter account @Vicki_cosybooks and Re-tweet my pinned post. U.K. Only I’m afraid. Ends Midnight 22nd March 2018 .

#Blogtour #Guestpost When The Future Comes Too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke @midasPR

Today I’m welcoming author Selina Siak Chin Yoke to Cosy Books to tell us about the inspiration behind her new novel, When The Future Comes Too Soon. Over to you Selina…

When the Future Comes Too Soon: my inspiration, why and how I needed to tell the story 

SelinaI began writing out of desperation and a cherished dream. In 2009, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Chemo took place over four months, during which I had a medical routine. When chemo ended I thought I would be better, but I felt worse. The ground beneath me seemed to have collapsed. I found no equilibrium – until I started writing. It was a miracle: the act of putting words into sentences transformed me. I remembered a dream I’d had of writing a novel loosely based on my great grandmother’s life. With every page I wrote, my strength returned. Writing saved my life.

Mei Foong’s story is an important one to tell in my new novel. Most people know what happened in WWII in Europe, but what happened in Asia is often overlooked. If the story has been told at all, it has often been from a colonial perspective – involving the resistance, for instance, the so-called tiny band of Force 136, which actually had little impact on the vast majority of Malayans. For most Malayans, the stresses of war were immense. I wanted to show what it was like for a local family and to tell the story from the perspective of a woman who is like many women of the time – strong without knowing it.

In writing historical fiction, historical accuracy is vital to me. I cross-check facts and use a mix of sources: archives, libraries, the Internet, anecdotes from interviews and subject experts. I also reflect the world as it was in my stories. In my debut novel, The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds, there are many children because families were large in those days. An early reader wrote in her review that I should have “kept to 5 children”. From a literary viewpoint that would have been easier! But it would have been unrealistic. I also made a decision not to dilute Asian names to make it easier for Western readers. We have to get used to Western names, and I don’t see why we should have to make our names simpler in literature.

When the Futures Comes too Soon by Selina Siak Chin Yoke is out now (Amazon Crossing) 

when the future comes too soon

In Japanese-occupied Malaya, lives are shattered and a woman discovers her inner strength in a world ravaged by war.

Following the death of their matriarch, the lives of Chye Hoon’s family turned upside down. Now that the British have fled and the Japanese have conquered, their once-benign world changes overnight.

Amid the turmoil, Chye Hoon’s daughter-in-law, Mei Foong, must fend for her family as her husband, Weng Yu, becomes increasingly embittered. Challenged in ways she never could have imagined and forced into hiding, Mei Foong finds a deep reservoir of resilience she did not know she had and soon draws the attentions of another man.

Is Mei Foong’s resolve enough to save herself, her marriage, and her family? Only when peace returns to Malaya will she learn the full price she must pay for survival.

 About The Author

Of Malaysian-Chinese heritage, Selina Siak Chin Yoke (石清玉) grew up listening to family stories and ancient legends. She always knew that one day, she would write. After an eclectic life as a physicist, banker and trader in London, the heavens intervened. In 2009 Chin Yoke was diagnosed with cancer. While recovering, she decided not to delay her dream of writing any longer. Her first novel, The Woman Who Breathed Two Worlds (The Malayan Series, #1), was published on November 1, 2016 and made an immediate emotional connection with readers. It debuted as an Amazon best-seller in historical fiction, was named by Goodreads as one of the 6 best books of November 2016 and has been compared to the work of Pearl S. Buck and Amy Tan.

Her second novel, When the Future Comes Too Soon (The Malayan Series, #2), was published on July 18, 2017. Readers can expect the same brand of immersive historical fiction, but each book in the series can be read independently. Be prepared for surprises! When not creating new characters for the Malayan Series, Chin Yoke writes a blog at http://siakchinyoke.com/blog.

 

#BlogTour #GuestPost – Books That Influenced Let Her Go by Dawn Barker @Canelo_co #LetHerGo

I’m delighted to welcome author Dawn Barker to Cosy Books to tell us about the books that influenced her novel, Let Her Go.

dawn barkerDawn Barker is a psychiatrist and author. She grew up in Scotland, then in 2001 she moved to Australia, completed her psychiatric training and began writing. Her first novel, Fractured, was selected for the 2010 Hachette/Queensland Writers Centre manuscript development programme, was one of Australia’s bestselling debut fiction titles for 2013, and was shortlisted for the 2014 WA Premier’s Book Awards. Her second novel is Let Her Go. Dawn lives in Perth with her husband and three young children.

 

Books that influenced Let Her Go 

 When I’m writing, I deliberately avoid reading books that are similar in theme to my manuscript and so I didn’t read books specifically to research the issues in let Her Go. I worried that if I did, I’d become anxious about my own writing, at least thinking, ‘oh no, someone’s already done that’, and most likely thinking, ‘they’ve written it so much better than I ever could’!  

 However, there were a couple of books that influenced me in a way, books I’d read before writing Let Her Go, books that kept popping into my mind as I wrote.  

 The first was Margaret Atwood’s amazing The Handmaid’s Tale. I’ve read this book several times, and as I started to write Let Her Go, I saw that the world she imagined in a speculative fiction novel – where an underclass of women are used for reproductive purposes – is not that far removed from the one we live in now. I love how she uses speculative fiction to make us think about contemporary issues. Once I understood how much I was thinking about this book, I found some amazing images of her characters and book covers and placed them on my desk as I was writing as inspiration.  

 Another book that was an inspiration was David Vann’s brilliant Caribou Island. David Vann is one of my favourite writers: I love how he’s not afraid of dark themes. While Caribou Island is set in Alaska, a long way from Western Australia (where Let her Go is set) Vann is an expert at using landscape – Caribou Island – to increase the intensity between characters. I loved the idea of an island being an escape from life, but also how it can quickly turn into a prison. This gave me the idea to set some of Let Her Go on Rottnest, a small island just off Perth, which is now a holiday destination but has a dark history. 

 Finally, Robert Drewe’s The Drowner, a fictionalized account of the life of CY O Connor, whose story appears in the background of Let Her Go, was very useful. CY O Connor was a brilliant Irish engineer who built Fremantle harbor, and then was in charge of developing a pipeline to take water from Perth to the Goldfields of Western Australia, an engineering feat initially thought to be impossible. His story was both brilliant and tragic, and as I looked for settings for Let Her Go, CY O Connor kept appearing (literally, with statues of him in many places I looked!) and the drama of his life influenced the drama in Let Her Go. 

 It wasn’t only books that influenced me when writing Let Her Go; it had a soundtrack in my mind too. That was Florence and The Machine’s soaring album, Ceremonials. I often listened to it as I edited Let Her Go in my local library, as it seemed to match the mood perfectly. 

 It’s now been a couple of year since Let Her Go was first published in Australia, and only recently I have a read a couple of books that deal with similar themes: M.L. Stedman’s The Light Between The Oceans, and more recently, Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty. I am glad that they weren’t around when I wrote Let Her Go as they are both excellent books and would have caused me a lot of anxiety! 

 

Could you share your child with someone else?let her go book

Zoe wanted a baby more than anything. But her dreams will come at a price…
After years of struggling to conceive, Zoe and her husband face the prospect of never having a family. When Zoe’s stepsister, Nadia, offers to be a surrogate it presents the perfect solution. A healthy girl, Louise, is born.

But no one imagined just how hard it would be to know someone else was also mother to your child. As the pressure on Zoe and Nadia mounts, they make choices that there is no going back from.

Years later, Louise is in desperate need of her family’s help. Can they put their painful history aside to save the child they love so much?

Don’t miss this explosive and moving drama. Perfect for fans of Amanda Prowse, Kelly
Rimmer and Kerry Fisher

Published May 2017 by Canelo

Let her Go is currently available in ebook at the special price of just 99p for 30 days from the 21st August 2017  

Let Her Go