You Don’t Always Know What You Think You Know

knowledge-1052010_1920Research is essential for authors. How many times have I heard that? And I’ve always heartily agreed, because reading something that you know isn’t correct – well, it jerks you out of the story, and that’s never a good thing. Right?

So I’m very glad that I made a last minute decision to check something out recently, and rather cross with myself that I didn’t think to do it earlier. Because if I’d left it, I’d have been kicking myself sooner or later – probably when some diligent reader pointed out that I’d got my facts WRONG!

One scene in my WIP takes place in Scarborough Castle. Now, Scarborough’s not too far from where I live. I can be 14103037_1053187758131796_6037040528867828839_othere and back in an afternoon with plenty of time to stroll around. I’ve even been known to get the bus there. (That didn’t go down too well, as I was only supposed to be going into town for an hour or so, but the bus was just there and it was a lovely day, and who could resist?) Anyway…

Extraordinary as it sounds, I haven’t been to the castle for decades. I’m not sure why. I mean, it’s not exactly hidden away. You only have to look up and there it is, straddling the headland and making the skyline a rather more beautiful and interesting feature. Anyway, it’s so familiar that I somehow fooled myself into thinking I knew all about it, and that I remembered what it was like to go round the place. With my infallible memory and a little help from the website, I could describe a visit to the castle perfectly. Of course I could.

Wrong! Thank goodness for DH who willingly drove me there yesterday, and cheerfully accompanied me into the castle grounds – despite his long-standing and alarmingly savage allergy to ancient buildings and anything remotely historical. It was typical Bank Holiday weather, unfortunately, with drizzle and plenty of mist. Still, we weren’t going to let that stop us. If we waited for sunshine we might never go anywhere. We’re British, after all.

The first thing I discovered was that I hadn’t mentioned that you buy your tickets inside a gift shop. Well, I wouldn’t have done, as I couldn’t even remember there being a gift shop at the entrance. It was so long ago that I last visited it’s quite possible there wasn’t a gift shop at the entrance. In fact, it’s so long ago, it’s possible that the castle itself was still in the process of being completed.

The second thing I realised was that I’d somehow convinced myself that the toilets were inside the cafe, and had one of my characters heading into them. Thank goodness for my visit yesterday, or my character’s own visit would have resulted in a rather embarrassing scene, and possibly arrest. There are no toilets in the cafe. Phew!

But the main thing that struck me was simply this. You just can’t convey the atmosphere and flavour of a place unless14114918_10154464909302350_2219733068235230935_o you’ve actually been. You can Google it, and read about it, and look at maps and photos, but there’s nothing to beat actually being there. Yes, I know it’s not always possible, and I’m certainly not saying that writers should limit themselves to writing about places they’re able to travel to themselves, because sometimes the budget simply doesn’t stretch that far. Sometimes, it’s not humanly possible. But when you get the chance – when it’s right on your own doorstep – there’s really no excuse. Standing inside the castle keep, gazing out over the North Sea, staring in awe at the cannon balls that bombarded the castle during the civil war, imagining the terrible conditions endured by the Royalist troops during the Siege of Scarborough Castle in 1645…You just don’t get that feeling from a computer screen.

Besides, it’s a great reason for a day out! I enjoyed myself so much, I signed up to join English Heritage. DH didn’t go that far, but he did agree that he’d had a fantastic day, and got quite absorbed in reading the information boards and looking at the exhibits. Just shows you!

 

14114982_1053197118130860_1290308887757741587_oOh, and on the way back to the car, we got to visit Anne Bronte’s grave, where someone had left some heather from the moors – a really thoughtful gesture that gave me quite a lump in my throat. All in all, it was a fantastic day. Who needs sunshine?

You can find out more about Scarborough Castle and English Heritage here.

Have a great week!

Sharonxxx (3)

 

Dreaming About Daran by Jessica Redland

I’ll be honest and say that I tend to take longer and longer to read books these days. I used to fly through them, but there are so many distractions in life, and calls on my time, not to mention the annoyance of eyes that get tired much quicker than they used to, that I find it can take a week or two to work my way through a novel – even a novel that I’m really enjoying. I read this book, Dreaming About Daran, in one day, which, to me, says it all.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Jessica Redland’s Whitsborough Bay series. Searching for Steven was good, and had an interesting premise, a lovely setting, and warm, believable characters. I was delighted when its sequel, Getting Over Gary, proved to be an even better read. For me, though, the series hits its pinnacle with Dreaming About Daran.

Clare was always the odd one out in the trio of friends. Not as warm or “cosy” as Sarah and Elise, not as romantic, nor as family-oriented, she always seemed on the outside, somehow. In Getting Over Gary, we saw her soften a little in her attitude to Elise, and without wishing to give anything away, she emerged as more likeable. I always felt, though, that there was something buried deep within Clare that, one day, would make an explosive story. I was right.

Dreaming About Daran is much deeper than its predecessors. I think each book in this series has grown progressively darker, tackling more serious issues, but in this final instalment, Jessica Redland has created a really gripping and quite gut-wrenching story.

I can’t go into any details, as I don’t want to risk spoiling it for new readers, but suffice it to say, Clare has to make a journey away from the life she has built for herself, into the world she left behind – a world so painful that she has managed to bury it. Or so she thinks.

There is humour, of course, and warmth, and friendship, and all the usual Jessica Redland trademarks that ensure a joyous read, but there is so much more to it than that. Secrets and lies, shock and fear, pain and grief, all combine to lead the reader through a most unexpected path into the darkness of Clare’s past. There is a great deal to be uncovered before we can walk safely out into the sunshine again.

For me, personally, this is by far my favourite of the three books, and I felt quite sorry to reach the end of the trilogy. The good news is that, with a writer this talented, I’m sure I’ll have new stories to read by Jessica Redland before long. I can’t wait to see where she takes us next! 5/5

You can buy Dreaming About Daran here

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The Dirigible King’s Daughter by Alys West

Anyone who knows me will tell you that Whitby is one of my favourite places, so any book set there is always going to attract my attention. I’ll hold my hands up and admit I’ve never read steampunk before, but when the Write Romantics published our charity anthology Winter Tales,  it included a short story called A Pistol for Propriety, written by Alys, and I’d long thought that the story deserved to be expanded upon. Luckily, Alys had the same thought, and the result is this wonderful novel.

I was quickly drawn into this snapshot of an alternative Whitby – imagining dirigibles sailing by Whitby Abbey, piloted by handsome men wearing flying jackets, helmets and goggles – men like Charlie, or Viscount Davenport, to give him his proper title.

Charlie is a real hero, but he’s more than matched by the independent “New Woman” Harriet Hardy. Harriet has had many troubles and heartaches to overcome, and has learned to defend herself in a man’s world. Unfortunately, her self-defence lands her in a lot of trouble, and her actions plunge both her and Charlie into an unexpected adventure.

As the net tightens around them both, an unorthodox solution is presented to Harriet, but the shadows of the past are all around her. She is the Dirigible King’s daughter, and that’s a heavy burden for her to carry. And Charlie may be a good man, but is it fair to drag him into the murky depths of her family’s shame?

With a chase across Whitby, journeys on steam powered omnibuses, and flights through the air in the wondrous dirigibles, this is a romance with a twist. Lots of fun, lots of adventure…And lots of tea. A really wonderful treat to read.

You can buy The Dirigible King’s Daughter here.

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And the winner is…

cracker-1245584_1920Congratulations to Christine Corkill, who is the lucky winner of a signed copy of This Other Eden! Thank you to everyone who entered the draw, and remember , you can buy the Kindle version of the book by clicking on the link at the side of this post, or if you want the paperback, it’s available here (UK) or here (USA).

 

 

 

 

This Other Eden is the first in the Skimmerdale series, and the second will be out next year. I really enjoyed my jaunt over to the Yorkshire Dales, and can’t wait to return there to see what everyone’s been up to.  Here’s what people have been saying about This Other Eden

“I so loved this book! If you love Ozzy Osbourne and P.G.Wodehouse then this book is a must!”

“The stunning Yorkshire Dales, a gorgeous brooding young farmer, and lots of secrets. What’s not to love about this fabulous novel?”

“A hugely entertaining jaunt of a novel through the Yorkshire dales.”

“This story, set against the backdrop of sheep farming in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales is a must read.”

“I adored this fabulous tale of love, lies and mistaken identity.”

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THIS OTHER EDEN (SKIMMERDALE BOOK ONE)

Eden wants to keep her job, and, as that means spending the summer caring for three young children in the wilds of the Yorkshire Dales, she has no choice but to go along with it. Her consolation prize is that their father is unexpectedly gorgeous. Sadly for Eden, she’s not quite herself any longer…
Honey wants to spend the summer with her married politician lover. The only problem is, there are quite a few people determined to put obstacles in her path. But what Honey wants, Honey usually gets…
Cain wants a knighthood and is willing to sacrifice almost anything for it. If his daughter is putting that goal in jeopardy, it’s time to get tough…
Lavinia wants to keep her marriage intact, and if that means turning a blind eye to her husband’s philandering, she’ll do it. But that doesn’t mean she can’t have someone else spying for her…
Eliot wants to care for his children, and to be left in peace to heal. When he gets an unexpected guest, he wonders if it’s time to start living again. But is this sheep farmer having the wool pulled over his eyes?
Cake baking, jam making, gymkhana games and sheep showing. Blackmail, deception, spying and cheating. Laughter, forgiveness, redemption and falling in love. A lot can happen during one summer in Skimmerdale…

 

Have a great week!

Sharonxxx (3)

 

Summer At Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain #AugustReviews

August has been designated as the month for reviews, so if you’ve read a book you’ve enjoyed recently, why not head over to Amazon and tell other people all about it? You don’t have to write an essay. A line or two will do, and it will mean the world to the author. Trust me, I know!

With that in mind, I decided to post a review for a book I read recently – Summer at Skylark Farm by Heidi Swain. Here it is:

This is a lovely feel-good story from Heidi Swain! I confess, I haven’t got round to reading The Cherry Tree Cafe yet, but even though this is a follow-on novel, it didn’t matter, and it didn’t detract one iota from my enjoyment of the story.
I was drawn to the book by the lovely cover, and I was very relieved to find that the contents lived up to the promise of the pretty artwork. This is the story of a city girl, with a busy career and a hectic life, who moves to the countryside for the sake of love. Where many women might crumble in the face of starting a whole new life, Amber gets on with things, and throws herself heart and soul into making a success not only of her relationship with boyfriend Jake, but of Skylark Farm, too.
It’s not easy. She has left behind everyone she knows, and finds herself living with Jake’s aunt, and surrounded by his friends. Not only that, but Jake is definitely keeping secrets, and she’s pretty sure that his friends are in on them. But Amber’s not one to be easily deterred, and she rolls up her sleeves, pulls on her wellies and gets on with it.
Before long, she’s won over Jake’s family and friends, and she realises she’s falling in love with her new home. But Jake’s past is about to catch up with them, and secrets are about to be revealed. Dark clouds are gathering, and soon Amber’s future looks to be in doubt. Can sunshine return to Skylark Farm? Can Amber turn around the fortunes of her new home? And can she and Jake survive the biggest shock of all?
I thoroughly enjoyed this lovely story, and I will definitely be catching up with The Cherry Tree Cafe before long. A real summery treat.

You can buy Summer at Skylark Farm here.

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Happy Yorkshire Day!

Happy Yorkshire Day to you all, whether you are from the Land of the White Rose or not. As you may, or may not, know (if not, where have you been?) I’m from Yorkshire myself, and I’m reet proud of the fact. Yorkshire is a beautiful and diverse county, and to celebrate its special day, I’ve decided to not only show you some fabulous photographs of the place, but to also give away a prize! Yes! Who says we Yorkshire folk are tight?

 

Swaledale, inspiration for Skimmerdale

Swaledale, inspiration for Skimmerdale

 

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Burton Agnes Hall, inspiration for Kearton Hall

 

Helmsley, my Helmston

Helmsley, my Helmston

 

Beautiful day in Whitby

Beautiful day in Whitby

 

Thatched cottage, Thornton-le-Dale

Thatched cottage, Thornton-le-Dale

 

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

 

Robin Hood's Bay aka Kearton Bay

Robin Hood’s Bay aka Kearton Bay

 

Helmsley

Helmsley

 

Sign for the Kearton Country Hotel in Thwaite, Swaledale

Sign for the Kearton Country Hotel in Thwaite, Swaledale

 

The Humber Bridge

The Humber Bridge

 

Clifford's Tower, York

Clifford’s Tower, York

 

Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks

 

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey

 

North Yorkshire Moors village

North Yorkshire Moors village

 

Burton Agnes church

Burton Agnes church

 

Stone barn, Yorkshire Dales

Stone barn, Yorkshire Dales

 

East Yorkshire countryside

East Yorkshire countryside

 

Bishop Burton village, East Yorkshire

Bishop Burton village, East Yorkshire

 

Bronte Parsonage

Bronte Parsonage

 

Knaresborough

Knaresborough

 

Our county city of York

Our county city of York

 

Lots of these places have inspired me in my writing. All my books are set in Yorkshire, and I love to visit the locations and imagine my characters walking around, living their lives in these beautiful settings. The Kearton Bay books were set on the North Yorkshire coast, around Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby. This Other Eden is based in the fictional area of Skimmerdale, which was inspired by the real life Swaledale in the northern Yorkshire Dales.

If you’d like to win a signed copy of This Other Eden, just send me your details through the Contact Me page, and I’ll pick one winner at random. Competition closes on Friday evening at 8pm.

Happy Yorkshire Day!

Sharonxxx (3)