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Ross Armstrong Writers Tip

Ross ArmstrongAuthor of ‘The Watcher’, Ross Armstrong shares his writing tips for aspiring authors.

Throw out the idea of writing a great line. Come up with a great structure. Test it over and over again. Chip away at it until it’s a perfect statue. Make sure it’s clear but surprising. Then write a clear and surprising first chapter. Re draft it a hundred times until it’s the most clear and surprising and enticing and true to you it can be.

Cover Reveal – The Secrets Of Ivy Garden By Catherine Ferguson

The Secrets Of Ivy GardenThe cover has been revealed for Catherine Ferguson’s new book, ‘The Secrets Of Ivy Garden’ and it’s a pretty one.

What the back cover says

When Holly breaks up with her boyfriend Dean, she’s at a loss as to what to do next. But things go from bad to worse when her beloved grandmother Ivy dies – and Holly is left in charge of sorting out Ivy’s house and garden. As she sorts through her grandmother’s belongings and makes her way through the wilderness outside, Holly soon finds that there is more to Ivy than meets the eye, and uncovers a surprising family secret that changes everything…

This is a heart-warming and hilarious story from Catherine Ferguson about starting over, learning to garden and most of all learning to love.

You can pre-order The Secrets of Ivy Garden from Amazon and will be available to buy from 3rd April 2017.

If Ever I Fall Book Tour – Extract

If Ever I FallToday, I’m hosting the book tour for S.D Robertson’s, emotional new book called ‘If Ever I Fall’ and I’ve got an extract for you lucky people to enjoy.

Dan stood at the lounge window of his crappy flat and watched the snow overwhelm the communal garden. It was coming down thick and fast: a torrent of fat flakes racing each other to the ground.

Getting into the office tomorrow – deadline day, of course – would be a nightmare, although better from here in the suburbs than it would have been from out at the house. Then, once he got to work, he’d have to squeeze in all those weather-related stories: the sledging snaps; the inevitable school closures; the traffic chaos.

Perfect weather for Valentine’s Day. How romantic for all those lovebirds, he thought, envious of their happiness. There was a time, long ago, when he and Maria used to be like that: a happy young couple out on a date to celebrate Valentine’s. He could even remember the two of them walking home through falling snow one year, early on in their relationship, arm in arm and stuffed with expensive restaurant food.

Back then, they had been utterly content in each other’s company. It made Dan’s head hurt to think how great they used to be together. It gave him hope that they could still fix things, while also frustrating the hell out of him that they’d drifted so far apart. Once upon a time people used to call them the perfect couple. With hindsight, Dan could see why: they’d had that magic combination of being in love as well as best friends. They’d enjoyed a lot of the same books, films, pubs, clubs and restaurants. They’d largely liked and disliked the same people – and realised they didn’t need or want a big social group, since they were both happiest when it was just the two of them. And when their views had differed, such as on the topic of religion, each had respected the other’s opinion rather than trying to change it.

That was a million miles away from where they’d ended up. And whether it was snowing or not, Dan knew for sure that neither of them would ever again view Valentine’s Day the way they once had.

February the fourteenth was Sam’s birthday. Everything else paled into insignificance. She should have been turning sixteen. They should have been celebrating her milestone as a family. Instead, she was gone.

Absent again on her special day. Frozen in time. Fourteen forever, like the date.

Dan walked over to the coffee table and poured himself another drink from the open bottle of vodka. He’d not even bothered to replace the lid. What was the point? He’d be drinking it all tonight. And whatever else it took.

The pain was always there. It never left him. But days like this tore at the wound; they poked and prodded at it, allowing no respite.

He’d barely done a thing at work. Even Maurice hadn’t been able to keep up with all his cigarette breaks. Several people had asked if he was all right, sensing that something was wrong; he’d said he was fine, which couldn’t have been further from the truth. And then at 2 p.m., unable to bear it any more, he’d left for a fictional hospital appointment.

It was 6.30 p.m. now. He’d been drinking for four hours: first in a quiet corner of a local pub and then, once the after-work crowd arrived, he’d returned here. Not home. He couldn’t bring himself to call it that. He still held out hope that he’d be able to reconcile with Maria and move back to his real home. He had to believe that was possible for the sake of his own sanity.

If only Maria was on the same page. Last week she’d flown off the handle because he’d not found time to call in and fix a leaking tap in the downstairs bathroom.

You can buy If Ever I Fall from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Who’s That Girl? Book Tour – Extract

Who's That Girl? PaperbackOn the book tour for the paperback release of Mhairi McFarlane’s fabulously fun and hilarous book called ‘Who’s That Girl?’, I’ve a taster from the book, so sit back and enjoy.

‘Ladies and gentleman, sorry about the delay. . .’ said the groom into the microphone at last.

Jack’s slightly anaemic speech ticked off the things it was supposed to do, according to the internet cheat sheets. He said how beautiful the bridesmaids looked and thanked everyone for being there. He read out cards from absent relatives. He thanked the hotel for the hospitality and both sets of parents for their support.

When he finished with the pledge: ‘I don’t know what I did to deserve you, Charlotte. I will spend the rest of my life trying to make sure you don’t regret your decision today,’ Edie almost knocked back the flute of toasting champagne in one go.

The best man Craig’s speech was amusing in as much as it was horribly misjudged, with gag after gag about the varying successes of Jack’s sexploits at university. He seemed to think these tales were suitable because ‘We were all at it!’ and they were, ‘A bloody good bunch of chaps.’ (Jack went to Durham.) At the mention of a rugby game called ‘Pig Gamble,’ Jack snapped, ‘Perhaps leave that one out, eh?’ and Craig cut straight to, ‘Jack and Charlotte, everyone!’

The bride had a nervous fixed grin and her mum had a face like an arse operation.

Charlotte’s chief bridesmaid, Lucie, was passed the micro- phone.

Edie had heard much of the legend of Lucie Maguire, from Charlotte’s awed anecdotes in the office. She was a ruthlessly successful estate agent (‘She could sell you an outdoor toilet!’), mother of challenging twins who were expelled from pre-school (‘they’re extremely spirited’) and a Quidditch champion. (‘A game from a kid’s book,’ Jack had said to Edie. ‘What next, pro Pooh Sticks?’)

She ‘spoke as she found’ (trans: rude); ‘didn’t suffer fools gladly’ (rude to peoples’ faces) and ‘didn’t stand for nonsense’ (very rude to people’s faces).

Edie thought Lucie was someone you wouldn’t choose as your best friend unless there’d been a global pandemic extinc- tion event, and probably not even then.

‘Hello, everyone,’ she said, in her confident, cut-glass tones, one hand on her salmon silk draped hip: ‘I’m Lucie. I’m the chief bridesmaid and Charlotte’s best friend since our St Andrews days.’

Edie half expected her to finish this sentence: ‘BSc Hons, accredited by the NAEA.’

‘I’ve got a bit of a cheeky little surprise for the happy couple now.’

Edie sat up straighter and thought really? A wedding day surprise with no power of veto? Oof…

‘I wanted to do something really special for my best friend today and decided on this. Congratulations, Jack and Charlotte. This is for you.

Oh, and to make the song scan, I’ve had to Brangelina you as “Charlack”, hope that’s OK, guys.’

Song? Every pair of buttocks in the room clenched.

‘So, on one, two, THREE . . .’

The other two – blushing, literally – bridesmaids simultaneously produced handbells and started shaking them in sync. They wore the expressions of people who had come to terms with their fate a while ago, yet the moment was no less powerfully awful for it.

Lucie began singing. She had a good enough voice for a cappella, but it was still the shock of a cappella that was sending the whole room into a straight-backed, pop-eyed rictus of English embarrassment.To the tune of Julie Andrews’ ‘My Favourite Things’, she belted out:
Basset hounds and daffodils and red Hunter wellies Clarins and Clooney films on big HD tellies Land Rover Explorers all covered in mud These are a few of Charlack’s totes fave things!

Edie found it hard to comprehend that someone thought this fell into the category of a good idea.That there’d been no shred of doubt during the conceptual process. Also, ‘Charlack’ sounded like a Doctor Who baddie. A squirty one.

Cotswolds and cream teas and scrummy brunches Meribel and Formula One and long liquid lunches These are a few of Charlack’s totes fave things!

Fresh paint and dim sum and brow dyes and lashes Rugger and Wimbledon and also The Ashes These are a few of Charlack’s totes fave things!

Edie couldn’t risk her composure by glancing at Louis, who she knew would be almost combusting with delight. The top table simply stared.

. . . When the work bites!

When the phone rings!

When they’re feeling totes emosh

They can simply remember these totes fave things and then they won’t feel so grooosssssss

Edie held her expression steady as Lucie fog-horned the last word, arm extended, and hoped very hard this horror was over. But, no – Lucie was counting herself into the next verse.

In the brief lull, the hearing-aid man could be heard speaking to his wife.

‘What IS this dreadful folly? Who told this woman she could sing? My God, what an abysmal din.’

Lucie carried on with the next verse but now the room was transfixed by the entirely audible commentary offered by hearing-aid man. He apparently didn’t realise that he was shouting. Desperate shushing from the wife could also be heard, to no avail.

‘Good grief, whatever next. I came to a wedding, not an amateur night revue show. I feel like Prince Philip when he’s forced to look at a native display of bare behinds. Oh nonsense, Deirdre, it’s bad taste, is what it is.’

The spittle-flecked shhhhhhhh! of the spousal shushing reached a constrained hysteria, while laughter rippled nerv- ously around the room.

Edie could feel that Louis had corpsed, his whole body convulsing and shaking next to her.

Ad land and glad hand and smashing your goals Jet planes and chow mein with crispy spring rolls Tiffany boxes all tied up with ribbon
These are a few of Charlack’s totes fave thiiiinggssssss

‘. . .Will this ordeal ever end? No wonder this country’s in such a mess if this sort of vulgar display of your shortcomings is considered suitable entertainment.What?Well I doubt anyone can hear me over the iron lung yodellings of Kiri Te Canary. This is the sort of story which ends with the words, “Before Turning The Gun On Himself.”’

Edie didn’t know where to look. Having the heckler on her table made her feel implicated, as if she might be throwing her voice or feeding him lines.

Edie’s eyes were inexorably drawn to Jack, who was staring right back at her, palm clamped over mouth. His eyes were dancing with: what’s happening, this is insane?!

She might’ve known – he not only found this funny, he singled Edie out to be his co-conspirator. Edie almost smiled in reflex, then caught herself and quickly looked away. Oh no you don’t. Not today, of all days.

Just nipping to the loo, Edie muttered, and fled the scene.

Did that wee taster leave you bursting to know more? You can buy Who’s That Girl? from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.

Before It Rains By Dinah Jefferies

Before The Rains‘Before The Rains’ is the latest book by Dinah Jefferies.

1930, Rajputana, India. Since her husband’s death, 28-year-old photojournalist Eliza’s only companion has been her camera. When the British Government send her to an Indian princely state to photograph the royal family, she’s determined to make a name for herself. But when Eliza arrives at the palace she meets Jay, the Prince’s handsome, brooding brother. While Eliza awakens Jay to the poverty of his people, he awakens her to the injustices of British rule. Soon Jay and Eliza find they have more in common than they think. But their families – and society – think otherwise. Eventually they will have to make a choice between doing what’s expected, or following their hearts. .

‘Before The Rains’ is the first book that I’ve read by Dinah and it was a lovely gentle and exotic introduction to the author.

The story is seen from the perspective of Eliza, who has been sent to India to photograph the Royal family, in her adventure, she is hoping the escape the heartbreak of losing her husband and is looking forward to throwing herself into her work. But, the last thing she expects, is to find herself attracted to Jay, a handsome and charismatic man that she is reluctantly drawn to. As the story progresses and Eliza and Jay find themselves drawing closer to each other, Eliza begins to feel her broken heart begin to mend and begin to feel happier in life. But just Eliza begins to find happiness, all that is taken away when a secret from her past is revealed and her new relationship is put into question when prejudices are pitted against the couple.

Set against the swirling colours of India, this romantic tale makes for fascinating and insightful reading, with a strong and independent female lead and brooding hero, this suspenseful and thrilling story is riddled with secrets and drama and was impossible to put down.

You can pre-order Before the Rains from Amazon and will be available to buy from good bookshops from 23rd February 2017.