We are sailing. Third port of call - Portland and Kennebunkport

Longfellow's home
Our cruise continues. We should have called at Newport, Rhode Island. Although conditions at sea were calm, the island was experiencing quite a storm. As we had to tender there it was decided (by the Captain) that we could not stop. So onto Portland and Kennebunkport.
We didn't stay long in Portland, Maine, but we visited  the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Our main objective was to go to Kennebunkport.

I'd heard about this place and really wanted to see it. It's the quintessential New England small town - quite beautiful.

It was a lovely day and we strolled around admiring the sights and eating ice-cream.
The Bush estate
One of the sight to see here (with some difficulty!) is the Bush family estate. It is on a small peninsula with houses for thefamily and the security agents. What a place to live!

Typical house
Kennebunkport was lovely. A marina, lovely homes, quaint shops, beautiful flower displays, and full of tourists!

Just like us!

As with many of the towns preparation for Halloween was well underway.


We are sailing - part two - Boston

Boston is a beautiful city. We enjoyed our visit there. It was definitely a place we could have spent much longer. One day was far too short.  We started off our day by finding the metro and journeying out to a suburb called Brookline. This was the birthplace of President John Kennedy.
  It's a lovely spot and it didn't take us long to find the house in which he was born in 1917. Yes., he would have been 100 years old last year. It seems incredible doesn't it?
Outside the Kennedy home.

The family lived in this house for about seven years until they outgrew it. The house is FREE to enter, which was pretty amazing!  After Kennedy's assassination his mother, Rose, assembled all the furniture that used to be in the house. She then recorded the commentary you can still listen to as you tour the rooms.
Listening to Rose Kennedy.
It was fascinating to listen to the snippets of every day life - mealtimes, school, and church

As you can imagine I took dozens of photos so I'll just share a few with you!

We had a short map to follow which took us around the area they lived. We saw their second home, the school and the church. Although all of these were private so not open to the public.

Boston is a very historic place, playing a huge part in the American War of Independence.  We followed the Freedom Trail. A well marked route around the city, making it very easy for the visitor to find the main sites.

Faneuil Hall was the site of many historic meetings during the war. It is still used for concerts and public events.
Paintings of all the main protagonists are around the upstairs meeting room.

By the Hall is Quincy Market and the market place on both sides of it.
The market hall was constructed in 1824. It is now a foodie's heaven with stall of every imaginable type of food from around the world, freshly cooked.  I couldn't forget all the fabulous ice cream and chocolate kiosks - could I!

 One of the most interesting buildiings was the Old State House.
This was constructed in 1712 and the seat of Massachusetts Colonial and State Government.
It was also the site of the Boston Massacre, when British soldiers shot and killed five people. They were defended in court by the future President, John Adams.
Read about it here

On this central balcony the Declaration of Independence was read out to the waiting crowds. 
This building is one of the oldest in the United States.
 The photo shows the meeting room and looks towards the balcony.
One interesting building (now a shop) was the Old Corner Bookstore. This was the meeting place of such writers as Emerson, Dickens, Longfellow and Stowe.
Of course with more time we would have visited the Boston Tea Party Museum. There are many buildings associated with famous people such as Benjamin Franklin or Paul Revere. We didn't get chance to visit the monument to the Battle of Bunker Hill either.
I think I really have to return to Boston as some time in the future. Next stop PORTLAND.

We Are Sailing. First stop - New York.

After six thoroughly enjoyable days sailing the Atlantic ocean,  we sailed into New York. There can be no more iconic sight than sailing past the Statue of Liberty.

Against the modern skyline it appears quite small.

There was a sense of anticipation and nervousness as we waited to disembark. We had been warned that the immigration process would be tedious, especially as a Mr Trump was visiting the United Nations that weekend. It was a long winded operation but not nearly so much as for those immigrants of a hundred years ago who had to go through Ellis Island.
Main assembly hall.
Our first trip that afternoon was to catch a Liberty ferry and visit Madame Liberty and then cross to Ellis Island.  The buildings on the island are vast, incorporating not only the buildings dealing with those who had just landed. There were hospital blocks and rooms for those who had to stay there for a variety of reasons. Obviously there were kitchens and dining halls. It was a fascinating place. The museum took you through every procedure these people had to face. We could have spent hours here. I finished by going into the museum where families had donated clothes and artefacts their ancestors had brought with them. Many had brought their beautiful national costumes, musical instruments and simple things like their crockery and cutlery. If you ever go to New York, this is well worth a visit.
The next day we walked the High Line.
This is an historic freight line, elevated above Manhattan's West Side and was saved from demolition by volunteers.
It is a lovely walk, with gardens, seats and past some typical New York buildings. We walked the two miles or so before then walking on the promenade towards the 9/11 memorials.

These are every bit as moving as you would expect. We chose not to go into the museum, time was an issue and I was sure I could cope with anything harrowing. The memorials were emotional enough, especially when we realised we were walking down the streets where we had watched people fleeing for their lives covered in clouds of dust and debrit.

Everything here is beautifully done.  The white roses are left by names of those who would have been celebrating their birthdays that day. We spoke to one couple who had come in search of someone who had been on one of the planes. There is a computer there by the memorials for such a use. By typing in their name, a photo and personal details comes up and then the place where the name is, for example Tower One, plaque N72. They downloaded this information to their phone and found the name easily.
From here we took the subway to the lovely and huge Central Park.
carriages in Central Park

You could spend hours in here and easily get lost! We went looking for the Dakota Building and I soon realised if you needed directions - ask a dog walker. They knew where they were! It is a beautiful place, with huge Ice Age rocks, large lakes, sculptures and lots of different paths and walks.  No trip to New York would be complete without a walk down Broadway and into Time Square.

Time Square
It is as busy and as bustling as you could imagine. The flashing lights, advertising goods and shows send you into sensory overload.
I can only give you a taste of what we saw and whittling down a couple of hundred photos to just a few was difficult!
By the end of the second day we prepared to sail away, Everyone was out on deck gazing at the city lights. Next stop Boston.
New York by night

Welcome Regency Historical author Heather King.

I’m very pleased to welcome author Heather King to my blog. Heather writes historical novels set in the Regency period. Also, under the name of Vandalia Black, she writes fantasy novels.

  Hi Heather, please tell us a little about yourself.

Hello Carol, it is lovely to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

I live in a beautiful rural part of the UK and share my home with various life forms, including two ponies, three cats, a rescued ‘Staffie’ X and a newly acquired, goofy black Labrador. I have a passion for dressage, words and stately homes; I love adverbs, am a bookworm, paperholic, grammar warden and picture straightener. I am never happier than in my wellies and can have a warped sense of humour at times. I write traditional stories, sweeping my readers into another world where they can walk beside my characters and experience events as they happen. My aim is always flowing prose, witty dialogue, engaging characters and bags of emotion – only my readers can say if I succeed!
Have you always wanted to be a writer or was it something that came to you later in life?

Even as a small child I loved to write – and dream. My bedroom had flower-edged squares on the wallpaper and it was perfect for writing my ‘news’. Although I used pencil, I pressed on rather hard! I don’t think my mother was very impressed, but I don’t recall any major repercussions. Perhaps, secretly, she was amused. There were always books to read, yet while I loved all kinds of stories, strangely, I never had ambitions to be a writer. I wanted to be a vet – until I realized I wasn’t tough enough or academic enough! I always wanted to work with animals.
What attracted you to the Regency period?

I’ve always liked history. When I was aged about eleven, I discovered Georgette Heyer’s Regency and Georgian novels. I became instantly hooked on that era, although I didn’t dare to write one for a very long time. I knew I could never come close to Georgette Heyer’s brilliance and did not want to set myself up to fail. Now I know no-one can match her and all the rest of we poor mortals can do is our very best.

I love the elegance, the courtesy (even when insulting someone!), the architecture and furniture, the horses and – above all – men in breeches and neckcloths!
How much research do you find you need to do?

It varies. Because I spend most of my life in the nineteenth century <grin> I am fairly well versed in the day to day information. It is when my characters decide to throw me a googly and alter my plans for them that I can suddenly find myself burning the midnight oil as I follow a rabbit warren of paths to find an elusive piece of information.
In fact, I spend a fair amount of time down research rabbit holes at times like that. A classic example was for the novel I released in August last year. The Missing Duke centres upon the title character’s brother, who works for the Duke of Wellington in a secret, information-gathering capacity. (The book is a stand-alone story, yet part of the Heart of a Hero series with other authors). The story is set around the world of ballooning, so I had to do an enormous amount of research about that. My hero set off on a mission to Dover, so I had to research the town in the 1800s, along with suitable hotels and people in authority at the time, since permission was required for an unexpected trip to France. My hero took it into his head to send his secretary (my heroine in disguise) to Paris. Thus, having researched balloon flights, wind speeds, times and distances etc. across the Channel, I suddenly found I needed information on the road, hotels, distances and travel requirements to Paris, to say nothing of the city itself. I rather felt like a mole after that lot!


When do you find the best time to write?

When the muse takes me! No, being serious, morning is usually the best, although it isn’t always possible. Between the proper job, editing (which I also do) and looking after the animals, it is often a case of fitting it in when I can. I usually find anything I’ve written late in the evening has to be heavily reworked or discarded, though. Tiredness obviously clouds my judgement!

Are you a planner or a pantser?

I think I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t plot the whole book because I would never get started. I’m not able to produce ideas that way. I will have a rough idea of where the story is going when I start and then I leave it to the characters to tell me what will happen next. As I said before, they often cause me headaches by deciding to do something I hadn’t foreseen. I do think too much plotting can steal the freshness from a story. (All your plotters will now be up in arms!) The thing is, there is no right way. Every writer should write in the way which suits them, not to some formula designated by others.
The Historical Supper Club is one of the many Facebook sites you host. What gave you the idea for it?

“I wouldn’t say many,” she riposted, chuckling.

My friend Susana Ellis was involved in a weekly Facebook event set around the Regency custom of inviting people to take tea. She asked me to be a guest author and I thought it was a great idea, rather than a promo-fest which so many of the parties are. I asked her if she minded my appropriating the idea and received the go-ahead.

In the late eighteenth century in particular, gentlemen were fond of literary and similar clubs where they would meet on a regular basis, often discussing topics over dinner. I thought it would be different to have a Facebook club on similar lines, my original idea being to base it on two to three hour ‘meetings’. The inaugural event was a success, so we decided to do another at Christmas. We went all out and celebrated the Twelve Hours of Christmas, starting here in the UK, moving to the US for three hours and then continuing in Australasia while in Europe we all slept. It was a wonderful event. We did a second one at the end of January, but then I became very busy releasing Chains of Fear, (see excerpt below) so we had a little hiatus until the Midsummer Ball in July. The next one is to be a masquerade – coming soon! – and then, hopefully, we will do some shorter events through the winter.
Perhaps you’d tell us a little about the other Facebook sites?

Aside from my author page and editing/proof-reading page, I have a VIP Readers’ group for people who enjoy my books – Heather’s Ballroom Heroes – and the Historical Supper Club Authors’ group for the planning of events. I also run a new group for Creative Writing called Chapter & Verse. I wanted to give something back, since I have been lucky enough to have been given a great deal of help when I needed it. It is my belief there are people who would love to try their hand at writing but are too embarrassed to go to a writing workshop. I want to encourage those people to have a go. Equally, established authors might like new exercises to refresh their ideas, or feedback on a piece, or to do some brainstorming. Others might need help with equestrian or Regency queries.
Which books do you like to read? Who is your favourite author?

Sadly, I don’t seem to find time for reading these days, except when editing. However, I love a book in which I can get lost; a story which sweeps you away and completely absorbs you. Unfortunately, being an editor makes it hard to switch off and not critique.

Probably my all-time favourite author is still Georgette Heyer, although I love Elizabeth Chadwick’s books along with many others. I adore Regency Romances, but they have to be historical fiction and well written, not those which could be set in any time. I enjoy medieval stories of derring-do and crime mysteries such as the Cadfael stories; I also like some modern paranormal/fantasy novels.
Do you have a favourite character from your own books and/or from another author?

I will admit to a very soft spot for the hero of my debut novel, A Sense of the Ridiculous, Richard Cowley. He does have opposition, though, in the hero of my newest release, Julian Templeton from Chains of Fear. As to other authors, there are just so many! From William Marshal, Britain’s forgotten Regent, to Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes; Robin Hood to the Four Musketeers; Georgette Heyer’s sprightly heroines and debonair heroes to Darcy and Elizabeth… I don’t think I can choose one there, although one of the most memorable has to be GH’s Leonie from These Old Shades. Bah!

Tell us a little about Vandalia Black and why your write for a genre so far removed from the Regency novels.

It all began when I attended Sue Johnson’s writing workshops in Pershore. At the time, I was reading a lot of vampire and other paranormal romance novels from the library, so it was a natural progression to write similar pieces in her exercises. Sue encouraged me to write short stories and submit them. It is a wonderful way to learn discipline and the skill of writing to a word count. The stories mounted up and she suggested I publish a collection – and so Vandalia Black was born. I am now considering, with the exception of the anthology, publishing everything I write under my own name, but I do have a considerable affection for Vandalia.

There is a freedom in writing something contemporary, especially in a fantasy world the author controls. It helps to refresh my creative juices for the historical novels, as well as allowing me to be a teensy bit steamier than I am in my Regency stories.
If time permits, what do you do to relax?

What is relaxing??? I usually seem to have a list of things to do! When I’m not writing, I enjoy grooming my ponies, taking long walks with the dogs, wandering around Country Houses (I never want to leave), watching costume dramas and, of course, curling up with a good book. Oh, and watching Hugh Jackman in just about anything!!
Finally, do you have any tips or advice for someone just starting out on their writing journey?

Read, read, read. Read good quality books by renowned authors in the genre you want to write in. If it’s historical, learn about the era. Immerse yourself in the mores of the time, the fashions, dialogue and manner of speaking, the architecture, food and customs. An historical novel without any historical content is not worth the paper it’s printed on or the digital space it occupies – and it has to be correct.

Write every day, even if it is only for a few minutes. The writing muscle needs exercising, the same as any other. Keep going even if you think it is rubbish. Within the fluff there may be a thread of gold you can use. Besides, eventually it will build into something. You can’t edit a blank page!

Write what you like to read and what you know. Write the story you are burning to tell.

Write in the way that suits you. We are all different. The usual advice is to get the story down as fast as you can and then edit afterwards. This does not suit everyone. Some people can plot a whole novel, with all their characters’ obstacles listed chapter by chapter. If I tried to do that I would not write anything. My books evolve as I get to know my characters and they tell me what comes next.

If possible, join a writing group, preferably with a published author or qualified teacher. If you are embarrassed to share your work in public, Sue Johnson does online courses via her website at http://www.writers-toolkit.co.uk/about.html or you can join me at Chapter & Verse Creative Writing https://www.facebook.com/groups/1063760537127282/

Never give up! Keep trying – and always carry a notebook with you.

Use the senses in your writing to give the reader a fuller picture.

An excerpt from Chains of Fear  

When diplomat Sir Julian Templeton falls over a stricken gentlewoman, he little expects to end up marrying her. Neither does he anticipate the pitfalls he must negotiate, nor the shifts he must make, in order to win his bride’s love and trust.
Impoverished and desperate, Miss Helena Dorking reluctantly accepts the handsome stranger’s offer of help after she is left for dead in the snow. When, on finding his mother unexpectedly from home, Sir Julian honourably offers marriage to save Helena from ruin, she has little choice but to accept him. Yet how can she be the wife he wants and needs? How can she overcome her fears and allow herself to love him?
Somehow Julian must find a way to cut the chains which bind Helena to her fear so he can win her heart.

Julian narrowed his eyes. Was the girl a common thief? True enough, she was dressed in little more than rags, yet her voice had been cultured and had contained a ring of pride, of authority. He fixed his gaze on the sorry specimen in front of him, knowing full well who held the reins in this establishment. Mrs. Perry was famed in the locality for ruling both her husband and her business with an iron hand, and for her inflexible views on anyone or anything she considered immoral. One look at the girl’s poor clothing would have been enough to damn her, he was sure.
“Did she eat the ham?” he asked, his low voice holding a current of steel the man could not mistake.
“Well, as to that, sir,” blustered the innkeeper, avoiding Julian’s sharp perusal and looking uncomfortable, “I believe she had already gone when my wife brought it to her.”
If the woman had delivered it at all, Julian thought cynically.
“So she has naught to pay for and you have no reason to refuse to proffer her assistance now.” His tone brooked no argument.
“I shall see to it right away, sir.”
“Good. See that you do. Oh, and Perry?” The landlord turned back again, one hand tugging at his ear and his forehead puckered. He shuffled his feet and tried to avoid Julian’s stern gaze. “Tell Mrs. Perry, if she has any further doubts on the matter, I shall stand the nonsense.”
“Oh, ah… very good, sir. As you wish, sir.”
The hotelier bowed and scuttled away, leaving Julian once more eyeing the prone figure. For some absurd reason he could not fathom, he had a notion she was in need of his protection – and that was a circumstance he preferred not to contemplate. This situation was already fraught with sufficient pitfalls to induce terror in a stronger man than he.
Murmuring an apology, he took back his greatcoat, endeavouring not to notice the girl’s long, slender limbs where the thin gown hugged them, nor remember the pitiful lack of flesh on her bones. His gaze shuddered unwillingly to the swell of her bodice, surprised to find the curves of a woman, not the child he had thought her. A wave of something indefinable squeezed his chest, as unexpected as it was unwanted. He was a fool. She could be anybody. She could be a beggar, a thief, a fallen woman – even, mayhap, with an illegitimate child secreted somewhere nearby. So why, when he could have had his pick of the fashionable ladies in Vienna and yet had felt nothing, did he feel such a reaction now?
Interrupting his thoughts, the girl chose that moment to stir. Her lashes fluttered against her alabaster cheek. Then her eyes opened; the wealth of sadness in their emerald depths speared his heart. Like a moth, her gaze flitted back and forth. When, at length, it settled on him, a flicker of alarm crossed her face and with a tiny mewl, she scuttled back against the chair arm farthest from him. Wincing at the movement, she raised one hand to her head, the other reaching out in supplication.
“Keep away from me!” Her voice was a thin reed of fear.
With a calmness he was far from feeling, Julian stepped backwards, both hands aloft in placatory fashion.
“Rest assured, you are quite safe,” he soothed. “Indeed, I mean you no harm. I found you in difficulty without.” He gestured towards the doorway. “I have sent for the landlady; she will see you to a bedchamber and attend your injury.”
Instead of showing relief at his words, the girl’s eyes widened and she shook her head. She seemed terrified.
“No… no, sir, I cannot,” she stuttered, her voice cracking in a manner far removed from her previous assurance. With a wild look around the room, she swung her feet to the floor and began to rise. “I cannot remain here.”
No sooner had she gained her feet than she turned the colour of whey and swooned, her body collapsing forward in a limp tangle of grey fabric. Dropping his coat, Julian caught her mere inches from the floor. It was as he was rising with her cradled against his broad chest that Mrs. Perry entered the room. Wearing a white apron over a brown wool gown, and an expression of outrage, she paused on the threshold, her arms folded beneath her ample bosom and her starched cap quivering with indignation.
“Well! I said from the start that young woman was no better than she ought to be. Arriving on foot as she did, without escort or luggage and, I’ll warrant, barely a penny to her name. She’ll have been dismissed, that’s what, and as I told Perry, I’ll not have such as her in this house. You’ll not set her up as your fancy-piece here, Sir Julian, no matter how much of the nonsense you plan to stand for! I will thank you to—”
“She is not my—”
“—I will thank you to remove yourself and the young woman from these premises forthwith. Such goings-on as I never thought to see – and in my own coffee room! I confess to being surprised in you, Sir Julian, I always considered you a gentleman of high moral fibre.”
“Mrs. Perry, if I might explain. The young lady swooned.”
“Ay, I daresay she did,” the incensed lady uttered darkly. “Well, she may do it elsewhere. This is a respectable establishment, Sir Julian. She is not welcome here and, I am sorry to say, neither are you whilst you keep such dubious company. Good evening.” In high dudgeon, she swept from the room.
Julian swore softly and glanced down at the woeful figure in his arms. “Now, what the Good Lord am I to do with you?” he muttered. “I cannot just abandon you.”

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Paula Martin talks about her new novel and a beautiful part of Ireland

I'm delighted to welcome Paula Martin to my blog. Her latest novel in the Mist Na Mara series is due to be released this week.  Paula tells us about why she loves writing her 'Irish' novels.

Where did the inspiration for Irish Shadows come from?
I knew I wanted to write a fifth Irish story and, as my other four ‘Mist Na Mara’ books are all stand-alone stories, with different heroes and heroines, I needed a new hero and heroine. Fortunately, one of the minor characters in Book 4, Irish Deceptions was nudging me to write her story. Then I realised it was five years since I wrote the first of my Irish books, so what better than to have an anniversary celebration at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre, and bring in an a rather gorgeous American event manager to organise it? I also wanted the story to include an aspect of Irish history, and it didn’t take me long to realise that the Irish Civil War in the 1920s would give my characters an unsolved mystery to deal with, in addition to their relationship issues, and the other shadows from their pasts.

I know you like to have a person in mind when picturing your main characters. Who did you choose for Rose and Liam?
Rose is a figment of my imagination. I can picture her in my mind, but I didn’t base her on anyone in particular. I have to confess, though, that I soon realised Liam bore a rather striking resemblance to the Canadian Prime Minister!

Do you enjoy the research you do for your novels? You must have done a great deal of research about the civil war. Do you find it difficult to pick which parts you want to include?
As a historian by profession (and a long career as a history teacher), I enjoy researching anything! However, as with all background research, I invariably end up with far more information than I actually need for the story. There’s a fine line between too much and not enough info, and I (eventually!) pare it down to what I think is absolutely necessary. Probably 95% of my research doesn’t appear in the story, but that 95% is necessary in order to ensure that the 5% I actually use is correct.

Many of the characters in Shadows are old friends. Are you particularly fond of any of them?
As you say, they are old friends now, and I feel as if I know them better than some of my real-life friends! I always become very fond of my heroes and heroines while I am writing their stories, and several of them live on, in minor roles, in the later novels. Other characters in the stories also became very real, and very dear, to me. One of my favourites is Alice Vernon, an aged actress, who featured in Irish Intrigue. To begin with, I imagined her as Maureen O’Hara, but somehow she morphed into Maggie Smith! Sister Gabriel, in Irish Secrets, is another favourite – stern and uncooperative to begin with, but mellowing into a gentle and loving soul who goes out of her way to help the heroine of the story. And, of course, I must mention Finny – Adam Finlay – a cheeky, streetwise thirteen-year-old. When he was first mentioned in Irish Deceptions, I had no idea he was going to capture my heart! But he did, and so I had to bring him into Irish Shadows with a bigger part to play. Even my editor, after she read the manuscript, said, ‘I LOVE Finny!’ And so do I.

As ever in all the Mist Na Mara series, you take us to some beautiful places. You must know this area really well? Which is your favourite place?
I fell in love with the wild, unspoiled area of Connemara when I first saw it eleven years ago. I’ve been to the west of Ireland about eight times since then, and I always smile when I see my first view of the Twelve Bens as I drive along the N59 road from Galway to Clifden. The mountains aren’t especially high (none of them over 2,500 feet) but they are stark and dramatic, and I love them. I’ve featured several other favourite places into the books, notably the Sky Road, near Clifden, which has wonderful views of Clifden Bay and the Atlantic, and, of course, the small town of Clifden itself. Other favourites include Galway Bay, the Cliffs of Moher, and also the small town of Dalkey and nearby Killiney Bay on the east coast of Ireland.

Is Skelleen based on a real place?
Partly! I actually amalgamated two places I have visited to ‘create’ the village of Skelleen, and my imagination added more details. I ‘located’ it in a real place, and have given a few clues in a couple of the books. Probably only people with a knowledge of the area can pick up on those clues and work out where ‘Skelleen’ actually is!

I love the cover for Shadows. Are you pleased with it? Who designed it?
It was designed by Elle J. Rossi, who designed all my Mist Na Mara covers, and I love it. I think it’s my favourite of all the Irish covers. The characters are perfect, and I feel that the background, with the grey clouds over the bay, represents the shadows of the past which Rose and Liam have to deal with in order to find a future together.

Many of your readers have been eagerly waiting for Irish Shadows, the fifth book in the series. I understand you thought this may be the last. What is your current WIP?
Good question! I really thought Irish Shadows would be the final book of the series, and I started to write another novel set partly in the English Lake District and partly in Yorkshire. Eight chapters in, and I wasn’t happy with it. This has actually happened before, first with Irish Intrigue and then with Irish Deceptions. I tried to set them somewhere else, but Ireland pulled me back – and it continues to do so! So I have just relocated my current WIP to Ireland, which has also necessitated changing the hero’s research from 15th century England to an aspect of Irish history. After some thought, I decided on An Gorta Mórthe Great Hunger, sometimes known as the Irish Potato Famine.

If you weren’t writing the Mist Na Mara series, what sort of novel would you like to write?
Before the Mist Na Mara series, I wrote five books set in different locations – London’s theatre world, the English Lake District, Paris, Iceland, and Egypt, so maybe someday I’ll suddenly decide on a new location. However, as I’ve been writing romance stories since I was in my teens, I doubt I will change genre now. Over the years, I have changed slightly from stories centred on the relationship between the hero and heroine to stories with one or more subplots interwoven with the romance, and I do like the challenge of introducing (and then trying to work out) more intrigue or mystery.

I find thinking of titles quite difficult. How do you come up with your titles?
Sometimes I know the title as soon as I get the idea for a story. Other times I ask my beta readers for ideas, and eventually the title jumps out at me!

What is your typical writing day?
For day, read evening, because that’s when I do my writing. I can edit, critique, write blogs, answer interview questions, etc during the day, but my ‘creative muse’ is a night owl, like me. Maybe that’s a throwback to when I was working full-time, and evenings were ‘my’ time – or maybe that’s an excuse, because I took early retirement about twenty years ago! I usually start by reading and doing some editing of the chapter I’m currently writing, which helps to get me into the right mood to continue.

Irish Shadows
After a heart-breaking experience, Rose Finlay has vowed never to give another man a chance to hurt her – until Liam McKenna arrives at Mist Na Mara Arts Centre to organise an anniversary celebration event. Liam has his own reasons for not wanting to embark on a new relationship, and both fight the mutual magnetic attraction.
Shocks await them when Liam meets the boy his sister gave up for adoption twenty years earlier, and Rose’s ‘ex’ makes contact with her thirteen-year-old son. Rose also discovers a betrayal which has divided her family since the Irish Civil War in the 1920s.
Will Liam and Rose be able to resolve all the shadows from the past in order to find a future together?
Irish Shadows is available for pre-order at 99c/99p, prior to release on June 27th. Link for purchase is https://bit.ly/2rRFwhV, or visit my Amazon page https://www.amazon.com/Paula-Martin/e/B005BRF9AI/

Please welcome my new guest Poppy Blake

Poppy's novels are based in the Windmill Cafe. Not only are her stories lovely and heartwarming to read, the book covers are a real pleasure to look at!

Hi Poppy.
Welcome to my blog.

Hi Carol, it’s great to be here. Thank you for having me as a guest.

I love the idea of the Windmill series.  Are you working on the ‘Spring Edition’?
Thank you! I’ve just finished editing the Christmas edition – The Windmill Café – Christmas Trees which is out on the 20th September and features a fun Christmas tree decorating competition. There’s everything from trees with painted woodland animals, to tiny wooden windmills, to hand-made leather purses and bags. I love dressing our Christmas tree – I tend to overdo it, to be honest, but there’s nothing better than a thick necklace of tinsel to brighten up a room, is there? I’m not planning a spring edition at the moment, but you never know….

Where did the inspiration for the series come from?
My two favourite genres are romantic comedy and cozy mysteries, so when I sat down to create the community surrounding the Windmill Café I knew it had to have both these elements – an uplifting, fun-filled story with a twist of surprise thrown in for good measure. I’d had a fabulous holiday in Norfolk, visited a couple of windmills and the idea sprang from that – although I didn’t find one with peppermint coloured sails!

Do you have anything in mind for your next novel?
I’m busy planning my next series. It’s a great excuse to take a weekend break in a gorgeous part of the country in the name of research. For a change, I already have a title - for the first book at least. I usually leave that job to the last minute as I find it so difficult.

So many new writers are interested in how an author found a publisher.  What is your story?
I was really lucky! I’m not sure what to call it – fate, fortune, the alignment of the stars? When I finished The Windmill Café – Summer Breeze I decided to take a chance and send it to my first-choice publisher – the fabulous people at HarperImpulse. Would you believe that when my manuscript landed on my editor, Charlotte Ledger’s desk, she had just attended a relative’s wedding at a Windmill in Norfolk! What a coincidence!

What is your typical writing day?
I tend to write in the mornings, often long-hand in a notebook – any excuse to indulge in lots of pretty stationery. Then in the afternoons, I type up what I’ve written and edit as I go along. I don’t have a strict daily word count goal, but a good day would be around 1000 words.

Do you have a dedicated place where you like to write?
Much to my family’s irritation, I like to write at the kitchen table because it’s nearest to the kettle. I love to have a plentiful supply of tea and biscuits to fuel my imagination!

What would be your advice to new writers who wish to be published?
I think every writer is different, and what works for one person might not work for someone else. The best advice I was given when I started writing was ‘read a lot, write a lot, and persevere’. There’s lots of rejection associated with the life of a writer, new or established, you just have to pick yourself up, dust yourself down, and try again. There’ve been many very famous authors who had lots of rejections before they went on to make their name in the literary world.

Many thanks Poppy for coming along today. Good luck with your novels.
Thanks Carol, it’s been great chatting with you.
Love Poppy x

We are sailing. Third port of call - Portland and Kennebunkport

Longfellow's home Our cruise continues. We should have called at Newport, Rhode Island. Although conditions at sea were calm, the ...