Saturday, 20 January 2018

#Saturday Shorts- Rhia Ashton from #Monogamy Twist

Happy Saturday wishes to you!

It's time for another short and snappy interview but instead of a fellow author, today it's a character from my contemporary romantic mystery #Monogamy Twist. The questions are only a little different to those I'd be asking my author friends, so if you've not yet read the novel, meet the main female character, a lovely young lady...
Welcome to my blog. please tell us a little about yourself. 

Hello there! My name is Rhia Ashton. I’m an ancestral family tree researcher who used to work in the cut-throat world of the museum scene in London but I swapped that to come and live in rural Yorkshire. I now run my own ancestral research company and love living in my small cottage just along from the gates of Greywood Hall. My main company now is my fabulous Irish Wolfhound, Thor- though very soon that’s about to change…

When is your best time to write?

Thor is a large, energetic dog that needs walked at least a couple of times a day so I tend to be up early for him and at my desk somewhere between 8 and 9 a.m. I try to set aside most of the day for my researching, and note-taking so there isn’t really a ‘best’ time for me. I confess to often writing my reports in the evening though I’m not a workaholic! 

Which social media platforms do you find most comfortable to use?

Ah, what a question. That can very much depend on whether I have a good internet connection, being out in the boondocks! I left most of my friends and acquaintances behind when I left London but I use Facebook when I want to connect with by best buddies.

Please tell us what your latest work is all about.

Well, here’s the strangest thing. Right now I hardly know the answer to that because, as of yesterday, not only have I got myself involved in a new research job up at Greywood Hall, I’ve also entered into a completely different sort of contract alongside that job. I don’t want to jinx things too much by talking about it before the ink is properly dry on the contract—actually I’m expecting to sign that later this morning—but the best I can tell you is that I’ve also signed up to be an official errr... companion to the new owner of Greywood Hall. 
Once the contract is signed I can give you lots more details about the whole weird situation but I can tell you that I’m absolutely itching to get into the rooms up at Greywood Hall to see what I can find there.

Did anything in particular influence you to take this new contract?

Well, let’s say there was a bit of persuasion, maybe even a touch of coercion by the brand new owner of Greywood Hall who, by the way, is probably the most gorgeous man I’ve ever clapped eyes on. Now (i.e. since yesterday afternoon) I’m beginning to realise he’s manipulative but also one of the most attractive men I’ve ever met. 
Can you see my dilemma here?

Will the research at Greywood Hall be particularly specialised?

I imagine my skills learned at University and my previous work in a London museum will be well used to unravel the secrets that are up in that old house. My main task is to find evidence which will support why Luke Salieri, the new owner, was chosen as the beneficiary of Amelia Greywood’s Dickensian will- and I really do mean the quirkiest will conditions anyone is likely to come across!  

What do you know of Luke Salieri?

At the moment? Not a lot! He was born in Australia. His mum is an Aussie but he said his dad was Italian, hence the Italian surname. He told me his background has been in the construction business but he came to England some years ago and has been mainly involved in renovating sizeable old properties, making them fit for corporate retreats and hotels with conference facilities- that sort of thing.

What’s Luke’s greatest weakness?

You’ll have to ask me that when I get to know him properly.

What’s his greatest strengths?

From one meeting, I’d definitely say he’s persuasive, maybe even ruthless.

Do you think you’ll enjoy the new job?

I’m going to adore all of the historical research and all of the cataloguing up at Greywood Hall. The other aspect of the contract, living with Luke Salieri for a whole year, just might be an unbearable burden!

What’s your favourite leisure occupation?

Taking Thor for long walks!

Do you have a favourite place to ‘hide’ out from life?

Well, that’s essentially why I moved to my cottage in Yorkshire. It was to hide away from my past life in London, not to mention being somewhere that I’d never meet up with my conniving ex- partner ever again.

Favourite food and drink?

I love a really rare steak and a glass of Malbec to wash it down. Mmmm. You're making me hungry. I have to  pop into the kitchen for something to nibble on. 

Thanks for being a great interviewee, today, Rhia. Best wishes for that new job of yours, you've a lot of challenges ahead! 

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Friday, 19 January 2018

#2 Someone to #Lean on - #Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange

Friday means it's time to give those supporting secondary characters a bit of the limelight! 

Today, I'm joined by my Crooked Cat author friend, Jennifer Wilson, who has picked a really great secondary character to feature. I've read Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile  and felt that Sir William was a lovely guy who went all out to help those he loved though, at that point, I didn't know much about his background. Jen's going to tell you more about his turncoat tendencies (Oops did I say that? So many courtiers of the era turned whither and thither many times). Please read on...

Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange Wikimedia Commons 
Hi Nancy, and thanks for inviting me over today, to talk about a secondary character, and one who I was really chuffed to include.
I’m glad to say that for both Kindred Spirits: Tower of London and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, my main characters have been there before a single word was written. Richard III and Mary, Queen of Scots were shouting at me to be written about – I just needed to find a story that worked for them.
After them though, the supporting casts proved trickier. London and Edinburgh have a lot of possible ghosts to pick through, even if you narrow it down to just a handful of locations! For the Royal Mile though, one man stood out: Sir William Kirkcaldy of Grange. 
I had first come across Sir William in a novel, The Last Knight and the Queen of Scots, by Linda Root, as I was stocking up my shiny new Kindle for a trip north of the border. I’d never heard of him before, but his tale stayed with me, and I knew he would fit into Mary’s ghostly court perfectly, even though, as far as I can tell, there’s no record of his ghost being recorded anywhere.
Born around 1520, Sir William was a fascinating character, who found himself both ally and enemy to Queen Mary, and took part, as a young man, in the infamous murder of Cardinal Beaton in 1546. He then turned his hand to spying, known by the code-name Corax to Edward VI of England. Well, to his advisors, anyway.
Mary, Queen of Scots - Blairs Museum
Wikimedia Commons
In Queen Mary’s trials with her court, he started in opposition to her, against her marriage to Lord Darnley, and became embroiled in another infamous murder, that of poor David Rizzio. Happily, my versions of Sir William and Rizzio see fit not to discuss the issue, but as with William Hastings and Richard III, it cannot be easy, spending eternity with one involved in your murder.
For the final years of his life, Sir William switched to Queen Mary’s side of the debate, and held Edinburgh Castle for her from October 1571 to its surrender in May 1573. Despite many standing in his defence, he was hanged in the city in August that year.
It was this final act in favour of Queen Mary that won Sir William his place as ghostly Mary’s most trusted friend and advisor. He was so interesting to write about, capturing that heroic edge, and, after all, who doesn’t love a knight in shining armour, willing to fight and lay down his life for his lady? It all gets very Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for this romantic!
I’ll not give the game away as to the plot of Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile (because what would be the point of that?!), but I knew I couldn’t let Sir William go passing through his white light, and vanishing from my Kindred Spirits world. As a result, there is always the chance he’ll make a reappearance at some point in the future. After all, with all that living he got through, he’s bound to have plenty of places to get his haunting teeth into…
About Jennifer
Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked in marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.

Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, with Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile following in June 2017. 
She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website
Her timeslip historical romance, The Last Plantagenet? Is available for download from Amazon.

Thank you for coming, Jen. Sir William is definitely one to watch. I don't see him as being a completely nasty character from that portrait - there's a hint behind the eyes of some hidden depth, a softness, although he must have had to be quite ruthless at times. 

I added the one of Mary, Queen of Scots which is in the Blairs Museum near Aberdeen. I remember being very impressed with it when I visited some years ago with a class of primary school kids. I stood discussing it with a small group of 10 year olds who came to the same impression as me that there was a calculation in Mary's eyes, a cold watchfulness. I'm sure that she had to be very watchful for a good part of her life.  

Portraits could never hide all the traits of the person being painted, in my opinion, so a really good look might just reveal some tiny little aspect of their character. 

Till the next supporting character visits...enjoy the days between.


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

#Review 4 of 2018 Spiral of Hooves

Tuesday Late...

If I made any resolutions at the beginning of this year it was to try to make sure to post a review as soon as possible after finishing a novel. This is the latest fiction I've read during the last week though I've been doing a lot of non-fiction research. How I quantify that as books read on Goodreads just isn't so easy.

If you're a lover of watching horse riding programmes on TV then this intriguing tale may be for you!

Spiral of HoovesSpiral of Hooves by Roland Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this tale of intrigue which kept me on my metaphorical toes, especially towards the end. There were many surprises unravelling that I hadn’t anticipated even though I did manage to work out a few of the mysteries. There were parts of the description which made me feel as though I was watching a horse riding event on TV- which I used to enjoy years ago but haven’t indulged in for some time.
Various themes are covered in this complicated plot- coping with a physical issue that others may not need to organise their life around; genetic manipulation of stock; illegal drug use; sabotage and murder – to name some of the themes.
Though Armand Sabatier is a tortured soul at the beginning, and there’s a wee bit of repetition of this, it’s worth reading on because I felt he was a character who blossomed very well as the plot unfolds. There are some lovely characters and some who made my teeth grit frequently but I’ll leave the new reader to work out if they feel the same after finishing this action packed story.

Happy reading to you and to me! My next reading is something I'm a little embarrassed about because I'm going to reread a couple of novels, hopefully skim read them, because for some reason they're still on my Kindle to be read pile even though I'm sure I've read them. There are no reviews to be found so I'll be having a quick reminder what they're about since I read them a couple of years ago and after that amount of time, I rarely remember more than the gist of novels.