Saturday, 28 February 2015

Cover Reveal - Monogamy Twist

I'm totally delighted to reveal my new cover for Monogamy Twist - my contemporary romantic mystery -  soon to be re-released by Crooked Cat Publishing. Look out for my new version of this story coming at the end of March!


Catch me at...

Happy Saturday to you!

I'm out blog posting at my regular every-second Saturday slot at Writing Wranglers and Warriors.

'Writing in a lightweight vacuum' is the title. Find out what it's about HERE. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Visit Glencoe and Ballachulish with Cathie Dunn!

It's Friday again!  

Photo taken at North Ballachulish
I'm delighted to be welcoming a return guest today - Cathie Dunn

It's been quite a while since she visited, but when she comes I love to read about the places she mentions. 

Cathie knows a lot about a historical era that I've never personally researched (with the exception of my forays at secondary school), but that's only because my time has been devoted to other periods. I will, someday, get to know that era better... I'm sure. Meanwhile, I learn about it through reading the novels of other authors, like Cathie.

Since I have first-hand knowledge of the geographical places she mentions today, it makes reading her guest posts doubly interesting for me. I thoroughly enjoyed reading her romantic historical novel-  Highland Arms  - and definitely recommend it to readers of the Jacobite Era. 

Hello, Cathie! 

Thanks so much for having me here again, Nancy. It’s always a pleasure visiting your lovely blog.

Today, I’m happy to share my research into the Scottish Highlands in the 1720s. I delved into that era – post ‘15 and pre ’45 rebellions – for my historical adventure, Highland Arms. The novel was originally published by The Wild Rose Press, but has now found a new home at Crooked Cat Publishing in a revised version.

I’m a bit of a history nut. I'm very interested in Scottish history, particularly medieval and Jacobite, English medieval and Tudor, and the Norman conquests across England and Europe.

I love history books (though not too keen on the fancy recent ‘non-boring’ The Tudors style of writing – I’m sure it has its audience), but I’m fortunate enough to have found small booklets in Glencoe and Ballachulish, which have provided me with many inspirations. Written by historians local to the Lochaber region, you’ll find little snippets of information that helped make Highland Arms just that little bit more authentic.

Sgorr Dhonuill viewed from North Ballachulish- Wikimedia Commons
Highland Arms is set near the dramatic hills of Glencoe, just along from the (then) hamlet of Ballachulish. I have visited the area many times; it is my favourite place in Scotland. I loved creating a novel based on the stunning landscapes and troublesome history.

Even the Drovers Inn mentioned in the novel is based on a real, olde place: the cosy Clachaig Inn just outside Glencoe village! Visitors of the Scottish Highlands should check it out! Their venison is yummy!

Baile a' Chaolais, Ballachulish’s Gaelic name, means 'village of the narrows'. It lies at the junction where Loch Leven flows into the much larger Loch Linnhe. The original village was in what is now North Ballachulish, with a settlement in South Ballachulish, now linked by a road bridge, established later. I used a local historian’s accounts for details of smuggling activities in the area, which I incorporated into the novel as Rory’s activities.

Ballachulish is less than a mile from Glencoe village at the entrance to the Glencoe hills. The small villages nestle at the bottom of hills, with clouds always hovering low over the mountaintops. It is a highly atmospheric place, and one I recommend visiting – and not just for the stunning views.

Scottish history buffs will be familiar with the massacre at Glencoe that befell Clan Macdonald in 1692. You can still sense the desolation today as you travel through the glen. I used the melancholy of the area and incorporated it into a scene where the heroine, Catriona, travels on horseback towards Ballachulish. The low mist and drizzle, which tends to be the norm in Glencoe any time of year, completes the setting.

1720 was a time of great upheaval, only five years after the first Jacobite rising, the ’15. Spies lurked everywhere, and Highlanders didn’t know who they could trust. Clans fought against each other, each seeking their own advantage. Jacobites were lying low, defeated but not without hope. A tale of a Spanish ship carrying arms that was stranded in a northern Highland loch provided me with the perfect backstory – the hero, Rory, needed the muskets to start another rebellion. Or so he hoped... ;-)

In the Author’s Note in Highland Arms, I made special mention of the tales and places that inspired the story.

As you research a particular area and era, it’s often the local tales, collated and passed on, that make the best storylines. And if you are fortunate enough to spot such gems, make sure you go home with your copy! You’ll find it invaluable.

Thanks, Cathie, for such an evocative post. I'm right there with you at Ballachulish and it's fantastic that you could come away with some local tales. 
(I'd loved to be able to do that for my Celtic Fervour era, but I'm not so lucky - 2000 years ago is just too remote!)

About Cathie Dunn:
Cathie writes romantic suspense & adventure set in Scotland, England and Normandy. A hobby historian, her focus is on medieval and Jacobite eras.

She has two historical novels published:
Highland Arms, a romantic Scottish adventure and the first in The Highland Chronicles historical romance series, and Dark Deceit, the first in medieval The Anarchy Trilogy, set in Gloucestershire, England and across Normandy. She has also self-published Silent Deception, a romantic paranormal novella set in Victorian Cornwall. All her books are available on Amazon and other outlets.

Cathie lives in Scotland with her husband and two cats and currently works on a medieval Scottish romance, the second in The Highland Chronicles series.

You can find Cathie here:

Buy from
Barnes& Noble        
Betrayed by her brother’s lies, Catriona MacKenzie is banished from her home to her godmother’s manor in the remote Scottish Highlands. While her family ponders her fate, Catriona’s insatiable curiosity leads her straight into trouble–and into the arms of a notorious Highlander.

Five years after an ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Rory Cameron works as a smuggler to raise money for the cause–until Catriona uncovers a plot against him and exposes his activities. Now, Rory is faced with a decision that could either save their lives or destroy both of them.

But he’s running out of time…

Highland Arms is the first in The Highland Chronicles series of historical romance novels set in the Scottish Highlands.


Thank you for visiting, Cathie. My best wishes for further great sales of Highland Arms.  


Wednesday, 25 February 2015

North Parish by Rohn Federbush is spotlighted today!

My Welcome Wednesday moments are with Rohn Federbush who has come to spotlight her historical inspirational romance North Parish.

As well as sharing her cover details, Rohn's giving us the opportunity to read from Chapter One. Enter her *GIVEAWAY* on  Rafflecopter to win something lovely! (See the end of this post.)

Parish North is the blonde adopted son of a Huron native, and with his manhood-quest completed in time for his father’s trip with a Jesuit bishop, he’s allowed to participate in the efforts to secure powwow agreements from seven tribes around the Great Lakes for the building of the Erie Canal. During the trip, Parish recognizes his vision temptress in Dorothy Evans.
Hoping to join the delegation, Dorothy Evans dreams of escaping duties as her mother’s cook-helper at Fort Detroit. Exciting windows to the wider world open for the girl in the Fort’s Jesuit library. Two centuries worth of European books convince her everything good and pure comes from nature. And when Dorothy meets the blond native, Parish North, she feels her heart quicken when he smiles in her direction. She’s positive Parish is half of her future.

When a bishop assigned to the trip persuades Dorothy’s mother to allow him to chaperon her intelligent daughter on the trip to facilitate her education, Dorothy’s mother accepts his kind offer with the comforting knowledge that Dorothy is under the protection of a man of the Church. But the Bishop’s intentions may not be as pure as they appear and Dorothy’s virtue is in danger. Will the Bishop’s unholy plan succeed?

Buy LinksAmazon | Barnes & Noble

From Chapter One: 

Fort Detroit, Fall, 1817
Cheers from the fort’s crowd drew sixteen-year-old Dorothy Evans to the river’s shore. Two high-ended Algonquin canoes from Lake Erie and a smaller French trapper’s canoe advanced toward them on the Detroit River. With each new shout, more yellow aspen leaves tumbled to the ground, crushed under the feet of soldiers and civilians rushing along the riverbank. The sober clothing of the throng clashed with the riotous colors of the maple trees.
A Chippewa runner had arrived the night before to warn, or rather to assemble the fort’s population for Bishop Pascal’s arrival. Father Sebastian, the Jesuit pastor, rose on his tiptoes to peer down river. Dorothy and her mother stood on either side of the nervous priest. Elizabeth’s short, plump figure advertised her success as the rectory’s cook. Dorothy considered herself a competent but reluctant cook’s helper.
Preparations for meals left little time to think, to read, to dream. She hurried through her daily chores to escape into the priest’s extensive library. For more than a hundred years, the Jesuits at Fort Detroit had collected Europe’s finest literature. The tomes whetted her appetite for adventure and romance.
As Dorothy waited for the Bishop, histories of Florence, its free thinkers, faces of popes and red-garbed cardinals swam in her head. The band of young and seasoned soldiers from the fort held no interest. They smelled, and treated her as the stuck-up cook’s daughter. She was only someone to hand out an extra cookie or two when their buddies weren’t around to tease. But in her secret heart, Dorothy was a mysterious spy, an adventurous temptress, a princess waiting to be rescued.
No hint of cardinal reds were in the approaching crafts, only more drab brown and black clothing. Dorothy sighed, breathed in the cool, tannic-scented air and prayed for patience as the ceremonies began. Her chores awaited and her fingers itched to re-open the Italian history she had set aside.
After the first boat emptied its passengers, a sergeant among the troops yelled, “Attention!”
The thirty or so men lined up, tucked in their shirts and squared their shoulders. The newly arrived, tall, mustached officer with soft gray eyes under menacing bushy eyebrows introduced himself to the sloppy, disgraceful bunch. “Lieutenant C. Louis Cass.” He returned their salute and marched past them taking time to point out an unbuttoned tunic, dusty boots, or straighten a jauntily placed cap. “Where is your commanding officer?”
“Abed.” A young private in the rear yelled without fear of detection.
“This way,” Father Sebastian motioned for the Bishop to follow the troops on the half-mile trek back to the fort.
Dorothy’s mother gestured for her to follow, but Dorothy shook her head. Elizabeth delayed and tidied her hair until Dorothy relented and drew closer for what she thought would be a reprimand. Her mother merely whispered. “They’re going to take more land from the natives. Mark my word.”
“Not again. Where will they let them farm now? Is that why the Bishop came?”
“Father says the seven tribes around the Great Lakes will be affected.” Elizabeth tucked a loose black strand of hair behind Dorothy’s ear. “I guess the Bishop thinks a missionary is needed to persuade the tribes to attend the new treaty powwow.”
Dorothy shook her head. “What chance do the natives have to survive, if they disagree?”
“Hurry back to help me.” Her mother scurried away to catch up to Father Sebastian.
Dorothy wandered closer to the river. Dark clouds threatened to stop the sunshine’s play with the sparkling waves. The second smaller canoe purposefully tread water in order not to be drawn ashore. Dorothy examined its crew. A tall, straight-backed Huron sat in the front of the boat. Behind him a younger native caught her eye. The shifting sunbeams highlighted the man’s blond hair. His face seemed lit from within.
His eyes dreamily swept the shoreline past her, then sharply returned as if he had been startled into remembering something. Something important.
Me, Dorothy thought. He’s looking at me. For a moment her breath seemed to stop.
She couldn’t help rushing forward to mingle among the native men helping the two pull the boat onto the sandy shore. The natives nearly bowed before the tall Huron. He spoke kindly to each. Did he personally know their families? Then he introduced the younger man to them, “My favored son.” The older man inclined his head proudly in the direction of the blond young man, whose ethereal bearing evoked the capability of walking on water.
Noticing Dorothy among the group, the older man said, “They call me Ponthe Walker.”
Dorothy nodded but could not keep her face turned away from the infinitely more interesting younger man.
“And my adopted son, Perish North.”
“I’m…I’m,” Dorothy was sure she’d never remember her own name. “Dorothy Evans. My mother is Elizabeth, the rectory cook.”
Perish stepped forward. “A pious believer then?”
Dorothy gained full use of her tongue. “More of a favorite doubter of the Lord’s. Like Saint Thomas? You know the one who had to put his hand in Jesus’ side before he would believe in the resurrection?”
Ponthe seemed to lose interest, but Perish didn’t move.
“I’ve just returned from my vision quest,” he said.
Dorothy believed he grew an inch before her eyes. She slipped a glance down to his boots to see if he’d stretched up on his toes. As she brought her gaze up, she noted his waist adornments, his broad shoulders covered in buckskin. His light blue eyes seemed bleached by the sun, or his vision.
“The manhood rite,” she said, trying not to check. A stiff breeze lifted her hair, cooling the nervous sweat on her brow.
“You’ve heard of the Midewiwins?” Perish took a step closer.
Dorothy could smell a scent of juniper. “I have, but aren’t you too young?”
Perish laughed.
A thrill passed through her at the clear, rich tones of his voice.
When his father began to lead the natives back to the Fort Detroit, Dorothy boldly pulled at Perish’s elbow. “Walk with me.”
Perish slowed to stroll beside her.
Dorothy smiled as winningly as she knew how. “Tell me.”
“I can only share Orenda’s vision message with family.” His face was serious but his eyes were friendly.
“Adopt me,” Dorothy said, then raced ahead of the group. Aware of her silliness, she knew her mother would be needing help.

* * * * *

Perish watched the snowy show of petticoats as the dark-headed girl fled toward the stockade. His nostrils flared catching the scent of lilacs.
His father stopped, waiting for Perish to catch up before they continued to the fort. “Her hair is nearly black.”
“Brown eyes.” Perish pulled on one of his blond braids to anchor himself in a suddenly unknown landscape. “But she wasn’t wearing the red-spotted squaw cape.”
“But was she the girl in your vision?” Ponthe asked.
“The vision was taller, older.” Perish moved his hand above his eye level.
“Could have been floating,” Ponthe said. “You haven’t shared your vision with Renault or Kdahoi yet?”
“No.” Perish was still held in the dream world of the girl’s dark eyes. He shook himself to respond in detail to his father. “I wanted to keep my word to meet you at Fort Detroit, before I met with Mother.” He laughed in relief at his good fortune. “Then I ran across your runner’s path.”
“Dorothy Evans might have been less welcoming if she’d seen you when you came into the Bishop’s camp.”
“True.” Perish hadn’t washed for a fortnight and his hair had been dank with sweat and grime. “I hadn’t considered the Bishop’s idea of bathing of much worth, until now.”
“Beauty’s going to have a heyday with your vision.” Ponthe shook his head.
Perish was surprised that even now his father doubted the Great Spirit’s way. “It seems you have a bond with Dorothy Evans.”
“Can’t help liking her courage.” Ponthe said. “Not many parishioners under Jesuit rule voice their doubts in public.”
“She’s still a child.” Perish tried to dismiss his attraction to her bright eyes, her pert smile, that dance of energy.
Ponthe said not a word, only nodded.
“Father.” Perish stopped walking. His stomach attacked him with a great qualm, “I need to see Kdahoi.”
“Of course,” Ponthe said. “Your mother will be waiting. Tell Beauty I will meet with her when she comes to the fort. I’ll make your excuses here.”
Without another word, Perish ran down to the beach and launched his canoe.

* * * * *

Raisin River Camp
An evil wind seemed destined to slow his trip down to the Raisin River’s mouth to his mother’s village. The trip was difficult in the canoe meant for river use instead of slicing the storm waves on Lake Erie.
At the Raisin River camp, the moon’s position told Perish he’d reached Beauty’s isolated wigwam close to midnight. Perish smiled. If need be, he’d be able to find his home blindfolded. He wrapped himself in his blanket outside the entrance and waited for dawn.
“Perish,” Beauty scolded in the morning. “I nearly broke my neck falling over your lazy carcass.”
Perish had missed her laughter. He bowed as men did to their mothers. “I had a vision.”
“I see. First coffee, then symbols.”
After his mother’s breakfast of corn flapjacks, Perish realized a certain tension had left his body. Across the river the Potawatomi village was coming to life. Dogs were barking and familiar cooking sounds marked the morning. “Why is it I can only relax here?”
“You’ve been safe here for many years.” Beauty said. “The world outside is filled with tales of violence.”
“Is it true you told Governor Hull to abandon the fort or you would scalp him yourself?”
“Renault told you that nonsense.” Beauty smoothed her plaited hair down, in her habitual show of vanity, the only one Perish could recall.
“My Copper Harbor dream was a peaceful one.”
“I’m glad.” Beauty cleared away the remnants of their morning meal.
“I stayed in the cleft of rock, where some men leave pictures of their vision guides.” Perish recalled his heightened awareness. “A lightning storm from the west rolled past me but I could still see the islands in Lake Superior. I was wet with the rain, hungry, and cold. Then someone lifted my chin, or I looked up into the pelting rain to the tops of the cliff. A woman in a red-spotted cape drifted on the wind. We were eye-to-eye when she spoke.”
“What did she say?” Beauty couldn’t hold back her curiosity, but she kept her head bowed away from Perish.
Perish tugged on his mother’s buckskin skirt as he had as a child. Still Beauty wouldn’t meet his eyes, so he told her. “She asked me how many generations of children we would beget.”
“A Biblical phrase. To give birth.” As Perish explained the word, his body remembered his initial visceral response to his dream girl at Copper Harbor, which matched his reaction to Dorothy’s appearance at Fort Detroit. Was she the one, his intended mate? He prayed the Lord’s will would be accomplished.
“That was all?” Beauty seemed disappointed. Her green eyes were full upon him now.
Perish dug into his memory to find something more for her. “Hmm. I think I fell asleep then. When I woke up the sun was shining and even my clothes had dried. I must have slept through an entire day.” Perish stood up and stretched as if refreshed from that long nap. “I have enough energy to run all the way to Fort Detroit.”
Beauty insisted he give her more details. “What did she look like? Was she a white-haired, old witch? A young woman? Smiling?”
Perish attended to his bedroll. “I met her at the fort.”
Beauty dropped the coffee pot. “Already?”
The campfire sputtered, too.
“I hope so.” Perish frowned. What if Dorothy wasn’t the same woman as his vision? Where would he start his future if Dorothy wasn’t his intended mate? “Her hair was nearly black and her eyes a dark brown.”
“A native.” Beauty seemed satisfied.
“No.” Perish watched his mother sit down too hard. “Her name is Dorothy Evans. Her mother is the Jesuits’ cook.”
Beauty held her head with both hands. “I know of them. I’ll have to meditate on this. I’ll make more coffee. Did you bring any tobacco?”
Perish was embarrassed now. “Sorry, Mother.” He began to gather the rest of his belongings. “I can barter for some at the fort.”
“Don’t go on my account. ” Beauty flashed angry green eyes at him. “Renault will be here tomorrow.”
“Should I wait to tell him about my vision?” Perish decided to stay with his mother until then. He loved the quietness of their home camp. “I could help you get ready for winter.”
“Will you be gone?” Beauty seemed worried.
“You’ve been without me for three winters now.” Perish accompanied Ponthe when he tended his fur traps throughout the last few winters. The landscape was safer because fewer white men ventured out in the heavy snows.
“I’m getting older.” His mother straightened her back as if a kink had suddenly caused a pain. Not one year of age showed on her face, her eyes were clear, her teeth sound.
“I could bring Dorothy here for you to meet.” Perish refused to think of Beauty as an aging woman. “Or, you can visit with her when we join Ponthe at the fort.”
A bright smile flickered for a second across his mother’s face. “Yes,” she said. “We’ll wait for Renault to join us.”
Beauty retreated into her wigwam and Perish laid down resting his head on his bedroll. “Now that I’m a man, Mother.” Perish tried to choose his words carefully but there was no gracious way of asking. “Where do your green eyes come from?”
“A Chinaman,” she called from inside the wigwam, and then laughed.
The old answer kept its secrets.
Perish said, “I wish you could have seen Ponthe with President Monroe.”
“I know Ponthe was taller.” Beauty exited her rounded abode, straightening from her bowed position. She handed Perish a new porcupine-quill vest. “Why do the whites need more land?”
“White men want to carve a new river out of dry land.” Perish stood and Beauty placed the vest over his head, helping him tie the side trusses. “Wagons will float farther west for settlers to claim more of our land. “Mother, the vest is beautiful.”
Perish picked at one of the beads on his vest.
Beauty slapped at his hand. “Careful you’ll undo a whole string.”
Perish knew the land-grab story was old, only the excuse was new. “They call the new river they want to build the Erie Canal.”

* * * * *

When Ed Renault arrived the next day, his canoe wasn’t filled with beaver pelts. Perish remembered Renault’s stories of when he first came to the new world as a young trapper, when the land was still thick with beaver. The deer hides and a few fox furs bore witness to Renault’s honed and deft trapping skills. In the weeks since he delivered Perish to Copper Harbor, the man had plied his trade well.
At times Perish speculated Renault might be a relative of his mother’s, but she denied any family link other than a long affiliation with their French trapper friend.
Renault’s hair was streaked with gray. Perish couldn’t recollect the gray when they had parted at the slip of the new moon. Had he been so wrapped-up in his own adventure not to notice signs of aging?
“Hard trip, friend?” Perish asked, helping to beach the loaded canoe.
“A bear tried to talk me out of life.” Renault drew up his shirt, where the claw marks of the beast still showed red, ugly welts.
Perish forgot his upbringing and drew the big trapper’s head down in a manly hug. “I’m glad he changed his mind.”
Renault grinned from ear to ear. “Me, too.”
“A few salves will erase most.” Beauty had caught sight of Renault’s raked chest before he could lower his rough blouse. She shook the trapper’s hand, a rare occurrence for them.
A glint of moisture shimmered in the old man’s eyes before Renault’s booming voice told them of other fights with Indians and settlers. The trapper was a peaceful man and Perish chalked up most of the stories to historic bravado in the face of the bear disaster.
Renault finished off another story with a cup of Beauty’s coffee, before asking Perish, “So you’re a man now?”
“And he’s met the woman of his vision.” Beauty teased him. “At the fort, a white girl.”
“When do we leave?” Renault laughed. “Have to check out a new member of this tribe.”
“I’m not sure she was the girl, Mother.” Perish could feel a blush rising as his body started to come alive again. Now that he was a man, he’d hoped to control at least this reddening of face.

* * * * *

Fort Detroit
Later that week Dorothy’s mother was too busy ordering her helpers around the kitchen to be bothered. So, Dorothy was trapped into taking Bishop Pascal and Father Sebastian a decanter of sherry and glasses into the rectory library. She sat the tray down safely, but her curtsy to the Bishop was clumsy. If she had been more graceful, she could have disappeared without them noticing.
“Bella parva,” Bishop Pascal said.
“Dorothy, let me introduce you.” Father Sebastian pushed her forward. “She has read nearly every book in the library.”
“Lovely,” the Bishop said. “What do you think of Saint Augustine’s conversion?”
“Silly,” she said without thinking.
“I beg your pardon,” the clerics said together.
Dorothy collected her wits. “St. Augustine based his conversion on his mother’s natural worry about his future.” The sober pair remained unconvinced. “On a laundry day among the drying linens.”
“I don’t remember that,” Father Sebastian said.
“Never happened,” Bishop Pascal declared.
Dorothy nodded believing the whole thing was made up so the saint could paint himself as a devoted sinner in order to relive the deeds. “Don’t you think he dwelt on his errors more than he needed to?” It seemed an innocent question to her.
“Of course not.” Bishop Pascal was obviously scandalized. “Father, I think you need to review the studies of your pupil more closely.”
Father Sebastian scratched the remaining hair on his balding head. “She reads Latin and has read the Old Testament four times, the New Testament eight.” He turned to Dorothy a proud smile on his face. “Isn’t that true?”
“Yes,” she said. “Every morning I wake with a hundred doubts, read all day and put them to rest before I can sleep.”
“Doubts?” the Bishop asked in a warning tone.
Undeterred, Dorothy continued. “I think the book of Ecclesiastes says it best when it rightly names belief in a Supreme Being as our vanity’s willingness to find the best in ourselves.”
“Dorothy!” Father Sebastian seemed embarrassed.
“A lot of work is needed, Father.” The Bishop ignored Dorothy so she slipped out into the hall, careful to eavesdrop. “That child could infect a whole nation of natives. Correct her before it’s too late.”
“She reads everything,” Father Sebastian tried to explain.
“Lock this room up and allow her only texts that will illuminate her belief.”
“But the Bible?”
“Needs careful interpretation.” Bishop Pascal raised his voice to stop further debate. “The laity is ill-equipped.”
“I can see that.” Father Sebastian acquiesced to his superior. “I’ll make sure she is forbidden to enter the room.”
Dorothy was devastated. The library was lost to her? Life wouldn’t be worth living. Where would her mind go to find solace? Her stomach hurt and angry tears burned her cheeks. She ran to the kitchen. Mother would fix it.

Rohn Federbush retired as an administrator from the University of Michigan in 1999. She received a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing in 1995 from Eastern Michigan University. Frederick Busch of Colgate granted a 1997 summer stipend for her ghost-story collection. Michael Joyce of Vassar encouraged earlier writing at Jackson Community College, Jackson, Michigan in 1981. Rohn has completed fourteen novels, with an additional mystery nearly finished, 120 short stories and 150 poems to date.

North Parish
An Ann Arborite, Professor Silas Douglas, became the first president of Michigan’s Historical Society. He was a teenager who witnessed the 1818 Maumee River treaty signing by seven tribes for President Monroe’s Erie Canal. The names of the tribes and the individual natives have been preserved in the Ann Arbor Public Library.
North Parish follows the diplomats around the Great Lakes.


Thank you for sharing with us today, Rohn. My best wishes to you for fantastic sales of your exciting novel! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 23 February 2015

Monday Moments with Helen J Rolfe and The Friendship Tree

My Monday Moments are with new Crooked Cat author - Helen J. Rolfe. 

Helen's debut novel- The Friendship Tree - launches tomorrow, Tuesday 24th February. Though she's excitedly making preparations for the launch, she's popped in today to answer some interview questions so that we can get to know her. 

Since it’s your first visit to my blog, can you give my readers a little background about yourself, please…

Where are you from, and where do you live now?
Hi, I am from the UK but have only recently returned from 14 years in Australia. There, I spent 9 years in Melbourne and another 5 in Sydney. We are now based in Bath, which is beautiful.

Wonderful. I've never been to Bath - Australia neither - though they're on my 'To Go To' list. 
Can you tell us a few more things about yourself that might not be covered in your bio?
I studied a Bachelor of Science at Bournemouth University, gaining a degree in Strategic Systems Management. I went on to become a computer programmer at Norwich Union and then travelled overseas and worked for another large insurance company. While I wish I’d studied something that I loved, I will never regret the path I followed because it ultimately led me to be where I am today…husband and kids included! I also think that the experiences I have had so far in my life have helped generate ideas for stories, settings and characters.

You’ve a Contemporary Women’s Fiction novel coming out soon with Crooked Cat Publishing - The Friendship Tree. ( BTW- Great cover!) Please give us a little hint of what it’s about?
A friendship tree binds a community together when the past resurfaces.

The Friendship Tree is about the importance of love, friendship and trust and it’s about facing up to life’s challenges, not running away.

Are you a plotter, or a pantser, when it comes to creating your novels?
I’m more of a plotter…at least most of the time! I like to get a basic idea down first, then expand on my characters and work out the details of their appearance, personalities and their quirks. I enjoy the research stage, too, and once I have everything together I start my first draft.

I think it’s important to be flexible as you’re writing that first draft, though, because ideas do come to you as you progress and find your characters acting in ways you hadn’t predicted!

I tend to have a vague idea of what my main characters might look like early on in the manuscript and then I go trawling the image sites for the perfect ones for me. Around the ‘printed-out’ images, I plan their characteristics etc. Do you have any particular tricks that you use for initial character building?
I’m the same! I know roughly what I’d like the character to look like and then I trawl images so that I can work out the finer details. I think that it’s important to have a clear idea in your mind of who your characters are, especially the protagonist(s).

Your settings for The Friendship Tree are Australia and the UK. Have you used places that you’ve actually visited, or are they amalgams of places that have impressed you at some time or other?
The majority of The Friendship Tree is set in a town called Brewer Creek, which is a fictitious town in the Central Coast of New South Wales. I based Brewer Creek on towns that I have visited in Australia (not necessarily New South Wales). I have also included Sydney and London, both of which I have visited and loved.

Is The Friendship Tree a traditional romance in that it has a happy ever after ending, or is it like some I’ve read recently where it’s more of an exposition of characters moving forward; getting on with their lives but the ending isn’t quite so rosy as an HEA romance?
I will say that The Friendship Tree has a happy ending but I wouldn’t say that it’s a traditional ‘happy ever after’…more of a satisfactory ‘happy for now’. There are some less rosy moments in the book but I think that overall the story is uplifting and positive, and the characters all learn something about themselves and each other by the end.

Do you have a large cast of characters in The Friendship Tree if some of the themes are family and friendships?
The cast isn’t really huge, given that Brewer Creek is a small town, but there are certainly a few storylines running in parallel about some of the characters.

Did you have the characters names immediately after you started the manuscript, or have they changed as you wrote it? Do you have any favourite way of choosing character names?
The Friendship Tree centres on Tamara Harding’s journey, but originally her name was Jenna. I changed her name because my male protagonist is Jake, and I decided that names beginning with a different letter would be better.

I also had Jean Abbott, who runs the milk bar in Brewer Creek. Deciding I had too many ‘J’s’, I changed her name to Daphne…not a good idea to do a ‘change all’ in Word, though, as suddenly I had Tamara pulling on her ‘skinny Daphnes’ and Jake’s bum looking great in his ‘faded Daphnes’!
I've made a few errors in the past with 'change all' in Word, too, and won't do that again!
I write historical and contemporary work and find I don’t need to do very much research for my contemporary work but need a lot for my historicals. Did you need to spend much time doing focused research for The Friendship Tree?
The research stage for this book wasn’t too laborious because Brewer Creek is fictitious. However, I did have to be more careful when I was writing about Sydney and London, as they are real places.

Tamara Harding is a PR account executive and Jake Manning is a vet, so there was a certain amount of research surrounding their careers as I haven’t worked in either industry. I enjoyed the research though, and my author friend, Rachael Thomas, who owns a Dairy Farm in Wales, was able to help with a few technical details about cows.

What else did you write before The Friendship Tree?
I studied journalism while I was still working in I.T. and then began work as a freelance journalist writing for womens health and fitness magazines. I covered so many interesting topics from tai chi, Pilates and pregnancy, to depression, and back pain.

I joined the RNA in 2012 and as a result I met the other Write Romantics who have become good friends. Together, The Write Romantics released Winter Tales, an anthology of winter and Christmas stories at the end of 2014. The stories are written by the ten members of The Write Romantics, plus other generous published authors. All proceeds from Winter Tales go to our two nominated charities, the Teenage Cancer Trust and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. Winter Tales is still available now, via Amazon.

What’s in store for your writing in the first half of 2015?
I’m busy finalising my next two books ready for submission, and I hope to get started with planning and working on the first draft of book number four.

For fun. What are:
The three things you miss most about living in Australia?
1. Friends, of course.
2. I miss the wide roads…we have a lovely 4WD but I’m thinking we should’ve chosen a mini!
3. The balmy nights of 35 degrees, sipping on a glass of Sauv Blanc.
The three things you miss the least?
1. Slathering on the factor 50 sunscreen every day, for at least six months of the year!
2. Killer spiders and gruesome cockroaches.
3. I can’t think of anything else!!

Did you ever feel that your novel, The Friendship Tree, would never be published?
All the time! I had my fair share of rejections, but each time, I listened to feedback, kept learning the craft of writing and reworked The Friendship Tree into a much better novel. I hope readers enjoy the story. The Friendship Tree will be released on February 24th.

Thank you so much, Nancy, for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve enjoyed my visit!

Great answers - thank you! It's lovely to get to know you, Helen, and you're welcome anytime. 
Helen's short story, 'Christmas in July' appears in the anthology 'Winter Tales', which is a collection of stories put together by the blog group The Write Romantics and other incredibly generous authors who are helping to raise funds for The Teenage Cancer Trust and the Cystic Fibrosis Trust.
You can find out more about Helen J Rolfe at:

About The Friendship Tree...
Is running away ever the answer?
Tamara Harding left the UK to join family in Australia, but more importantly, to put ten thousand miles between her and her ex, Bradley Cox. She is soon drawn in to the small community of Brewer Creek where she becomes the coordinator for an old fashioned Friendship Tree – a chart telling people who they can call on in times of trouble.

As she vows to start over, she meets Jake Manning – and life gets more complicated than she could ever have imagined. Jake is the direct competitor for the family business, and a man with a dark secret, and Tamara struggles to fight her attraction to him as she deals with secrets of her own and an ex who refuses to give up.

When danger descends on Brewer Creek in the form of Jake’s own past, Tamara soon realises the Friendship Tree does a lot more than organise fundraising events and working bees; it has the power to unite an entire town. But will Tamara see past the complications and allow herself a happy ending with Jake?

Or will she run away again?

 Pre-Order from Amazon

Best wishes with The Friendship Tree, Helen, it sounds wonderful and thank you for visiting today.


Sunday, 22 February 2015

On the hot seat...

Happy Sunday to you!

I'm out blogging today at Miriam Drori's blog but this time I'm answering her brilliant questions. She's asking me things like....

Miriam: Nancy, I am amazed and very impressed by all that you manage to do. You have published a number of books in various genres and are working on several more. You post regularly on your blog, thrilling readers with interviews, wonderful scenery and updates about you and your writing. You appear on other blogs in guest posts and interviews. You are active on social media. You do author events. And on top of all that you have babysitting duties. Do you have a secret stash of daily hours that mere mortals like me can’t access? How do you fit everything in?
ME: I don’t feel I do fit everything in. I have ‘things’ I want to achieve in a day but often the domestic side overtakes everything else and the priorities shift. Your readers can read more of my domestic situation in my bio below, so I won’t repeat here. An exciting update would be that…the foundations for the new house were started only yesterday [now a few days ago] and I’m sure you can imagine that there was a lot of celebration in our house after all the red tape issues were finally over. I’m about to begin a BLOG DIARY about ‘My lost back garden’. Anyone interested can follow the progress on my blog.
Catch the rest of the inteview HERE

Saturday, 21 February 2015

And so it begins….garden metamorphosis and first writings.

Happy Saturday wishes to everyone! 

Back border
Once upon a time, I had a front garden, side garden and a back garden. This series of blog posts will be about the metamorphosis of my back garden over the last two decades and is likely to be produced from today... right through to around August 2015.

Exciting things are happening!

But first some my back ground. 

In 1989, the summer after I moved into my house, my back garden was completely laid out as a large vegetable plot used for growing all kinds of seasonal root vegetables and summer fruits. There were apple trees, raspberry canes, blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes, very prickly gooseberries and loads of deliciously fine strawberries. The excellent potato crop was matched by strings of onions, carrots, cabbage….You name it and I probably tried it, including Jerusalem artichoke, asparagus and many herbs. (Sadly, I can't easily lay my hands on any photos of this stage of my back garden, but if they surface I'll add them.)

For around a decade, I tried to keep the back vegetable garden going but it became a huge problem for many different reasons. The veggies were too plentiful to eat fresh so they were frozen and popped into my huge 15 cubic feet chest freezer. Some of these were in the freezer till the next crop appeared because the family had fled the nest to university. However, my primary teaching job meant a huge time commitment and left me little time to garden except during school holidays – which was also the only time to take long holidays away from home.

I wanted to get away for a few weeks in July but it meant coming back to a horrendous weedy mess! Anyone who gardens knows what I’m talking about.

Another reason surfaced to take my time away from back garden maintenance. In 1999, I also undertook my first ever writing project that wasn’t preparation of my own class materials. The project was called ‘Locos 99’. The task set for me was to make a book of photocopiable teaching materials that could be used for ages approximately 7 through 10 – the subject being the railway locomotive works in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, which operated from around 1896 through to the late 1950s. Funding for the project was seriously limited so I voluntarily took it on and used my own time and resources to create the package.

Since I’m not a born and bred local, I had to do a lot of very enjoyable research. My husband, Alan, helped greatly with this since he was keen to help me with the computer skills needed to self- publish the materials. Yes, it was also my very first foray into self-publishing though I didn’t really realise it at the time.

When I wasn’t snatching a few hours to keep the garden in order, I produced a 100 page (A4 size) document of worksheets for use on school photocopy machines. Along with the worksheets, the pack included ‘An Image Gallery’ of old photograph copies of steam engines; a cassette tape of memories of ex-‘Loco’ workers - the Inverurie works lovingly known as the ‘LOCO’ works. An innovative addition to the pack was also a home produced CD-Rom version of all of the worksheets and background information which could be used on the then School BBC computers. 50 packs of the Locos 99 materials and just before school resumed in August 1999 I delivered the packs to the most local libraries and the rest to the primary schools around the Garioch area of Aberdeenshire
Raised beds and patio
The summer days vanished but it proved to be time well spent and I learned a lot about writing a non-fiction work.

That year my back garden was somewhat neglected but doing the Locos 99 project was also a catalyst for change. The following year I got rid of the vegetable patch and turned the whole area into a shrub border with a lawn area. I also (personally) built a raised flower bed and back patio with space for an outside barbeque. The barbeque was underused since we still preferred to barbeque in the front garden which, though it may not sound like it, is a more private area.

Easier maintenance of the back garden continued till 2014 when plans for my back garden changed, hugely. At the beginning of February 2014, my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter moved in to my house – the plan being for them to use my back garden to build a new house of their own. My grandson was born in March 2014 swelling our household numbers to 6 but planning permission just isn't so predictable.

September 2014
My 'Gonna build a house!' series now begins... Here is #1 post 

A new house was going to appear but only after the first red tape was sorted out.

Months passed when basic back garden  maintenance was done, till eventually in September 2014 the digger came for the first time. To make the extent of the site more easily assessed the back garden was stripped of the plantings.

The trees and bushes were yanked out. The patio slabs were removed and the brickwork of the raised beds pulled apart.

September 2014
It was a day of mixed feelings for me. It had taken me around 3 weeks to build the hard landscaping but the digger took about 3 hours to rip apart the whole back garden.

Were there tears? Not too many. No gardening during the autumn months was quite appealing.
More months passed. Eventually, by November, the planning permits were granted but the building warrants still had to be processed.

November 2014

Stay tuned for the realities of house building!


Friday, 20 February 2015

Caledonia...with Amy Hoff

My Friday Familiarising continues with Amy Hoff - a lovely lady of many talents...and I'd like to Hail Caledonia as well...

I'm delighted to welcome my new guest  - Crooked Cat author Amy Hoff - who, I'm sure, is having a fantastic Friday. Her urban fantasy novel Caledonia launches today. 

When I first saw the cover design for Amy's Crooked Cat novel, I was intrigued. For me the word Caledonia is synonymous with a song my mother used to sing, the words of which tend to circle in my head for hours after any mention of Caledonia. My mother sang her song with great pride  - and I'm sure Amy is also delighted and proud to see her novel launch today!

As many readers of this blog, and of my writing in general, will already know - I'm very proud to be Scottish. That doesn't mean the romanticised glossy 'highland hero' image some might have of Scotland: I'm proud of the country in its entirety. I find it's always interesting to discover what others think about Scotland and Amy Hoff fits that bill since she has more than a passing experience of living in my country. Even more than that, she has experience of living in Glasgow - the city of my birth -  though her knowledge of the city is much more recent than mine. Every city has nice areas and less nice ones and I believe Amy hasn't been shy over learning about the latter. 

I don't know Amy well, yet, so I asked her some nosy questions... 

Can you please tell us where you’re from and where you’re currently living?
I was born in northern Minnesota, but have lived most of my life on the road. I spent five years, give or take, in Glasgow, and have recently moved to Ireland.

Amy - I drove north from Rochester, Minnesota, to Winnipeg. We wound our way up through northern Minnesota and dipped a toe in North Dakota. But back to the interview... Tell us 3 more things about yourself that might not be in an author bio?
I love mint chocolate chip ice cream, I've somehow acquired a love of tea, and a Malaysian snake wrangler once took me on a jetski ride.

I'm trying to get a mental image of that last one, Amy! I don't think you'll find many snake wranglers in Scotland or Ireland, but you might find a jet-ski. What’s a typical day like for you…or do you never have typical days?
I never have typical days. 

Did anyone, or anything, influence you or encourage you to become a writer?
I've been writing since I was seven years old, as something I've always just automatically done.  I've had a variety of influences and favourite authors, but primarily I find that it is difficult for me not to write.

What genres do you write in?
Primarily in horror, fantasy, and historical fiction.

Folklore, and in particular Scottish folklore, is a great interest of yours which sneaks its way into your writing. Can you tell us more about your Scottish University studies?
I've been studying Scotland for over fifteen years. I felt very fortunate to be able to earn my Master's at the University of Glasgow, and begin my PhD research in Scottish monster folklore in Scotland.

What's your first published work?
Caledonia is my first published novel.

What prompted you to write Caledonia- today being the official launch from Crooked Cat Publishing? And can you tell us something that won’t be covered in the blurb for Caledonia?
I lived in Glasgow while I was studying folklore. Glasgow can be a rough city, and the dichotomy of the faerie lore coupled with the everyday reality of the place made me think it was perfect for urban fantasy. There's also a lot of humour and heart in it that I find particularly Glaswegian. Something that won't be covered in the blurb is that for the web series, which is based on the book, we filmed in all the neighbourhoods you might not expect: Possilpark, Maryhill, Easterhouse, Bridgeton.

As well as finding time to write fiction, you’re heavily involved in the Theatre Arts.  I've got lots of questions in my mind about this creative side of your day but how about these:
How did you get involved in this? What projects are you currently working on? Does your Theatre Group tend to produce specialised material for the stage?
I founded and run a company called Cult Classic about five years ago. Our group has shifted away from theatre and is fully committed to the Caledonia webseries at the moment, but that doesn't mean we won't return to theatre in the future. I started the company because many people wanted to see what I might call geek classics onstage. We did the only official UK production of Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog and the only amateur stage adaptation of British cult novel Good Omens with the permission of the authors, which is our great pride and joy. We are currently submitting for web series festival season and have some plans for the future, but we aren't quite ready to announce the news just yet!

My lips are sealed! What have been the main learning curves that you’ve encountered during the writing of Caledonia, maybe things that have been vastly different from your adaptations of famous novels for performing on stage?
I've found that film is a very different medium. I am accustomed to weekly rehearsals, and my actors are used to projecting their voices as well as stage acting. We're also learning a great deal about visual storytelling in this medium.
Mortal Souls- Leah and Dorian

Do you see yourself as veering towards more fiction writing in the future, with less time spent on the dramatic scene?
I'd say I plan on both. I tend to write almost constantly so I don't find other things to be particularly time-consuming, as I've always written because I feel compelled to write. I enjoy doing many things; I've often been told I work too hard!

Internet promotion for our books is so vital. Have you any advice to share? Any techniques you think you’ll be using after publication of Caledonia?
The only thing I know is to find every single avenue possible, which I am also doing with my web series. This in itself is a full-time job, and I continue to discover new avenues of promotion for both the series and the novel. There's a lot to be said for the kind of sheer intensity it takes just to investigate these avenues, send out emails, and share where you are welcome to do so.

I totally agree with you, Amy, as will most Crooked Cats. A 24 hour day just doesn't suffice. Thanks for your brilliant answers.

You can see more of the Caledonia Web Series at

Buy Caledonia from:
Amazon UK

Thank you for visiting today, Amy. Best wishes from me for a successful launch of Caledonia.