Scotch on the Rocks by Lizzie Lamb

What I loved about this book was how easy it was to see it unfolding in my mind, and how much it reminded me of those old black and white films, where the hero and heroine exchange snappy dialogue and circle round each other, but you just know that they are made for each other – however much she makes sarcastic comments, and however much he tries to play his cards close to his chest. This would make a great film, although preferably in colour! It has all the ingredients, after all:
Setting? The story takes place on the Scottish island of Eilean na Sgairbh, which is cut off from the mainland twice a day, and is reached by a causeway called The Narrows, so there is a fantastic setting.
Heroine? A sassy, independent, intelligent young woman called Ishabel Stuart, who has returned to the island after the death of her father – a man, it has to be said, who was not exactly easy to like. Issy returns to her Aunt Esme’s home, hoping to find peace and quiet, and some sort of refuge, with the woman who has been like a mother to her, since her own mother, Isabella Tartaruga – a famous opera singer – more or less abandoned Issy in pursuit of her career. What Issy finds is that Esme is about to leave the island for one of her “missions” and she is leaving behind a paying guest. Issy isn’t happy about having unexpected company. Not only does she have to organise the service for her father, but she has secretly broken off her engagement to her boss’s son, Jack, and also quit her job. She intends to start afresh on the island, and having to care for a house guest isn’t part of her plan.
Hero? The unwelcome house guest turns out to be Brodie, a tall, auburn-haired hunk of gorgeousness, all the way from America. Brodie is charming and friendly, and soon has the islanders eating out of his hand, not least the impressionable young Lindy, who helps Esme out at her guesthouse.
Secondary characters? Lots of them. Lindy channels various guises, refusing to accept that her future lays on the island. She is determined that one day, she will lead a more glamorous life. When Issy arrives home, Lindy is being Lola, who intends to head back to the USA with Brodie. There are plenty of other characters who add colour and cause amusement, too. Irene runs The Pickled Herring pub, and plenty of fun is to be had within those walls. Then there’s Mary Tennant who is Lindy’s long-suffering mother, running the post office with very little help from her flighty daughter. Best of all, there’s Pershing the parrot, whose vocabulary is colourful, to say the least. Pershing seems to have a pretty good grasp of what’s going on, and provides useful commentary and unvarnished opinions at every opportunity. He also causes some damage to Brodie, which leads to quite a revelation for Issy! Issy’s parents are larger-than-life characters. Isabella, who was actually born in Scotland, has adopted the persona of the grand Italian opera singer, and is desperate to be the centre of attention wherever she goes. Then there’s Issy’s father, a successful businessman who became a lay preacher, strict and unforgiving, leaving his daughter not a single penny in his will – his shadow looms large over her life, long after he’s gone.
Plot? Ah, full of twists and turns. Secrets and lies, heartache and loss, a mission and a hidden history. A mysterious tattoo. A ruined distillery, owned by the Stuarts, which once made the fabulous Twa Burns Whisky. A cruel deception and a big surprise. It’s all there, and it unfolds beautifully through the narrative.
Romance? The best kind. It starts off with mistrust and doubt, sparks fly, passion ignites and then…Well, some romances are forever. There’s nothing so romantic as a hero who vows never to hurt the heroine, never to leave her, and to love her forever. Especially when you just know he’s speaking the truth. And I do love a hero in a kilt, not to mention that auburn hair. Sigh.
So you see, this would be a great film. For now, though, read the book and watch it all unfold in your mind’s eye. Sometimes the imagination is even better than celluloid, after all, and Lizzie Lamb’s assured writing is all you really need. Another winner. Can’t wait for book four. 5/5

You can buy Scotch on the Rocks herescotch on the rocks

Step Away from the Delete Button!

Today, I honestly feel as if a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. No, it’s nothing to do with dieting. If

I'm not going near them!

I’m not going near them!

only! That’s a whole different story. Suffice it to say that I was doing quite well, until I spent a week at my daughter’s house, pet sitting and house sitting, without my husband keeping his beady eye on me. Left to my own devices, I skipped gaily around the aisles of the supermarket (I’m lying, I couldn’t skip to save my life) and filled the trolley with all the treats I have been deprived of for the last few weeks. I daren’t get on the scales now. I’m my own worst enemy, as my mother frequently points out. Thank you, Mother.

 

Anyway, I digress.  Today – as I was saying before I so rudely interrupted myself – I feel a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders. Today, I got the urge to work on Kearton Bay Book Three. I have been avoiding it for so long that I can’t begin to tell you what a relief it is to be able to say that. Well, write that, but you know what I mean.

Before I found the razor...

Before I found the razor…

I have procrastinated for so long over this book that I’ve grown a beard. Hey, it’s not my fault – it’s my hormones. Or lack of them. Or something. Anyway, I’ve shaved it off now. But the point is, I didn’t want to write it. Why? You tell me. Maybe it was because I was afraid that I couldn’t write it. You see, There Must Be an Angel took simply ages to write – two and a half years, actually. When I’d finished it, I immediately began work on A Kiss from a Rose, and although that had its ups and downs, once it got going it was a joy to write. By the time Angel was published, Rose was already finished and ready to send to the editor. There was no pressure, no worries, no stress.

 

A little snack to help me think

A little snack to help me think

When Rose was being edited, I knew I had to get on with the third novel in the Kearton Bay series. So what did I do instead? I panicked. I came up with plot lines and characters. I even wrote several scenes. Then I thought, this is rubbish. I can’t use this! So I put it all in the recycle bin, and paced up and down a lot, and ate a ton of chocolate, and lost the ability to sleep, and decided I was a total fraud who only had two novels in me. I knew I had to write something. Anything. So I wrote another story which, thankfully, was accepted by DC Thomson and published as a People’s Friend pocket novel.

 

Rose was published. People loved it. They wanted to know when they could read the third instalment. I sat staring at my computer in a daze. I had nothing. So I wrote another novel, with a completely different cast of characters, and a whole new setting – the Yorkshire Dales. Then I wrote a short story and that was published in The People’s Friend, this time in the magazine. And still I panicked whenever I thought about Kearton Bay. What if I couldn’t do it? What if the third book wasn’t as good as the first two? What if I couldn’t get back into the “feel” of the series? What if, what if, what if. In despair, I picked up my Kindle and read There Must Be an Angel all over again for the first time since it was published. It felt great to be back among my old friends. It was almost a family reunion!

My only bin not full of chocolate wrappers

My only bin not full of chocolate wrappers

Then, this morning, I woke up and I just knew. I wanted to write that book. I wanted to go back to Kearton Bay. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. I went into my office, cup of tea in hand, switched on my computer, and began to type.  As I wrote, it occurred to me that one of the scenes I was writing was similar to one I’d written all that time ago. Out of curiosity, I went into the recycle bin and dug out the thousands of words I’d written and ditched. I sat, engrossed, as I read through them. My cup of tea went cold. (It’s okay. I have a very understanding husband and he made me another one!) I enjoyed myself so much that before I knew it, it was time for lunch, and my brilliant husband brought me up something to eat. I sat there, thinking, why did I ditch all this? It’s the story I wanted to tell. It’s the story I still want to tell. What was I so afraid of? So now, those pages have been drafted back into Scrivener, along with the new words that I’ve written this morning.

There are some amendments to be made, and I still have a long way to go, but it’s looking good. Better than that, it’s feeling good. It feels right. It’s working. So the moral of the story is, never, ever delete your old work, because even if you think it’s rubbish, there may well come a time when you look at it and realise it’s exactly what you need right now. And even if it still isn’t right for what you’re working on now, it may well be just the thing in the future. Believe in yourself, believe that you can do it. And, for pity’s sake, step away from that delete button!

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Sorry, but I haven’t mentioned Doctor Who in AGES!

Have a great week! xx

Cover Story

It’s been almost eleven months since I published There Must Be an Angel. How time flies, right? It’s been a steep learning curve, and I feel I’ve been groping in the dark for most of that time, trying to figure out the marketing side of things, and trying to come to terms with the fact that I’m now a published author. It’s still difficult to believe, even though I’ve since published a second novel, A Kiss from a Rose, and had a pocket novel published by  DC Thomson, and (exciting!) am about to have a short story published in The People’s Friend Special no 119 (out February 17th, I believe, in case you’re interested).

So, you know, it’s been a busy year, and I’ve had my ups and downs. There have been some fantastic highs. Getting positive reviews,  for both novels, from people I don’t know at all, is amazing. Having my novella accepted by DC Thomson was a real thrill, as was getting the email that confirmed they were buying my short story. It’s only since telling people about these two events that I’ve realised how tough it is to get your writing into print with them, so I’m really honoured, and it was so exciting to see my People’s Friend pocket novel on sale in supermarkets, newsagents and WH Smith!

On the other hand, I’ve realised how tough it is to make an impact. I read recently that there are now four million books available in the Amazon Kindle store. Four million! How do my little books get noticed? Having said that, it cheered me up a bit to think that both novels have been in the top ten thousand at various times. I’d been thinking that was pretty lowly, but when you look at the bigger picture you see things very differently. It’s still an uphill struggle to get people to notice your work, though, and sometimes it does seem like an impossible task. I felt like giving up at times, but how do you give up something you love? You can’t, and the simple fact is, I love writing. So, even though I didn’t hit the top one hundred, I kept writing.

I’ve recently completed edits on my third novel, and I was testing out a cover idea on my writing pals, the Write Romantics, and showed them my design and asked for their opinions. The one thing about the Write Romantics is that they’re honest. Thank goodness. They pointed out that I was missing the obvious.

Being a bit dim, I asked what was the obvious? Because, obviously, I’d definitely missed it. Back came the chorus – “Yorkshire!” It turns out that what they associate my stories with the most are the settings. The glorious North Yorkshire coast, the quaint smuggling village based on Robin Hood’s Bay, beautiful Whitby, the moors and the heather, the red roofs and winding passageways, that are the backdrop for the Kearton Bay stories, and the majesty of the amazing Yorkshire Dales, with those rolling hills, lush valleys and sparkling rivers, that provide the setting for my new novel.

“You should make more of the locations,” they informed me.  Well, I went away and sulked for a bit, and then I thought about it. Then I ate some chocolate and felt a bit better and thought about it some more. Then I set about designing new covers and sent them to Jo, who is a whizz at these things, and luckily, she loved them.

So, the upshot of it all is, I’ve been rebranded. And it didn’t hurt a bit! I haven’t changed the paperback covers for Angel and Rose, but the Kindle versions are now sporting their lovely new designs, which show off the beautiful area they’re set in. Future Kearton Bay books will have both Kindle and paperback covers in a similar vein.

I really hope you like them!

There Must Be An Angel ebook cover NEW STYLE (1)A Kiss From A Rose ebook cover NEW STYLE (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have a great week xxx

 

In Praise of Libraries

Today (February 6th) is National Libraries Day, and the internet has been full of articles about the importance of libraries, and information about events that are being held to celebrate this special day. Which got me thinking about my own experience of libraries, and also made me realise that my relationship with them has changed dramatically. And not in a good way.

My first experience of a library – that I can remember, anyway – was when I was around four or five years old. Having sat through an assembly at school and hearing the Nativity story for the first time in my life, I was so enamoured of this miraculous tale that I wanted to know more about it. My dad simply said, ‘Well, let’s go to the library and you can get a book about it.’

The library was above the Town Hall

The library was above the Town Hall

Now, I may or may not have visited the library before this, but I really don’t remember any previous visits. So off we went, me and my dad, to the local library, which was above the town hall. I well remember my dad pushing open that door at the side of the building, and the creaking of the stairs as we made our way up to the first floor. Opening the library door, I was faced with a large counter, where solemn looking librarians stamped books with silent authority. The stamping of books fascinated me. I wanted to be a librarian for years, just so I could stamp books.

The main room of the library was, unsurprisingly, given over to adult books, but

Ladybird Book of Baby Jesus

Ladybird Book of Baby Jesus

there was a small room that was purely for children, and, oh! What heaven lay behind that door. On that particular visit I found a Ladybird Book of Baby Jesus and fell upon it in delight. Later visits yielded treasures such as Paddington, the Wombles, Stig of the Dump, Babar and Milly-Molly-Mandy.

I was lucky. My mum and dad were avid readers, and my dad would often take me to the library where I was allowed to choose two or three books. As I got a bit older, I was allowed to go alone, and would spend hours in there, choosing books and sitting at the little table by the window, browsing through them and deciding which ones I would take home with me that day.

Milly-Molly-Mandy

Milly-Molly-Mandy

As I got even older and could venture into the city on my own on the bus, I would take my pocket money each week and head to WH Smith to choose a new pony book every Saturday. But before I reached that age, the library was essential to me. Our little town had only one bookshop, and it wasn’t a particularly large one. Often, books had to be ordered and there would be an agonising wait for weeks until the stock arrived. I remember having The Cat that Walked a Week, by Meindert Dejong, read to me at school, and deciding that there was nothing that I wanted in my life more than that book. I begged my mum to buy me a copy. She was reluctant. It was a hardback book and quite expensive, but eventually she agreed and placed an order. I had to wait for ages until we got a call from the shop to say it had arrived. It wasn’t that easy to get new books. They weren’t cheap. There were no Kindles, no Amazon. The

The Cat that Walked a Week

The Cat that Walked a Week

library kept me sane.

I only really got new books at Christmas. They were my favourite presents. Invariably, they were Enid Blyton books, all hardbacks, and usually I would get at least three from my parents, who recognised my addiction to reading and, thankfully, encouraged it.  But three books a year would never have been enough for me. Those visits to the library were essential.

School libraries were a wonderful discovery, too. Packed to the rafters with books I couldn’t wait to get my hands on. I could never have afforded to buy them all. With a library at school and a library round the corner from my home, I never had to worry about running out of reading material.

When my own children were little, I took them all to the local library and they soon had their own little tickets. After school, I would take them there and let them choose books, while I browsed for yet more myself.

With the advent of the IT age, spaces were cleared so that computers could be set up in the libraries. My childhood library closed and a new one opened, modern and spacious with lots of glass and no creaky stairs. I realised that librarians didn’t just specialise in stamping books – not that they ever had, of course. But now, it wasn’t just books they had to know about. They had to understand the world wide web and information technology. Reference books were less in demand. We had Google, after all. Paperbacks were on sale in supermarkets. I could download a book I wanted to read in seconds to my brand new Kindle.

Hello Mr Twiddle

Hello Mr Twiddle

To my shame, I haven’t been to a library for some years now. Thinking about them today, I realise how vital they were to me and to my own children. There must be many people who still rely on them. Not everyone has access to technology at home. Not everyone has money to spare for books. Libraries have changed and adapted, holding events to help and encourage youngsters to read, classes to teach information technology, “meet-the-author” evenings and talks…Libraries are having to fight back, because so many have closed. It’s easy to blame the authorities for the closure of the libraries, but we have to look to ourselves, too. How many of us use them regularly? How many of us use them at all?

I am so thankful that I had access to a good library, and that I was lucky enough to have parents who recognised the importance of reading, and were happy to take me there. I hope that libraries will be around for a long, long time, revealing new worlds to young children, opening doors for all those eager to learn and discover. It would be a sadder world without them.

Have a great week xx