The leaves are mostly all gone from the deciduous trees and plants, heralding the start of winter. We don’t often get snow in England, but when we do everything comes to a standstill even it’s just a light covering. Mostly, it rains. This year we do need lots of rain. Even though I live in what’s often called Wet Yorkshire, it’s predicted that we’ll still have a hosepipe ban through next summer. It rained heavily one morning when we were staying in Borrowdale in Cumbria last month. By lunchtime, the water levels had risen to swamp the low-lying pathways by the river’s edge, driving walkers onto the road.
So, this is the time of year for comfort reading. My go to selection for these long wet days in the run up to Christmas is The Chronicles of Alsea – a ten book science fiction series by Fletcher Delancey.
Back in the days of my youth, it would have been an annual reread of The Lord of the Rings (starting with The Hobbit, of course). Further back (and on occasion nowadays) it was The Chronicles of Narnia and visits to the Lake District with Swallows and Amazons.
My latest novel has been out for six weeks now. Maybe not exactly in the comfort reading category – but it’s a romance, so of course there’s a happy ever after ending.
My debut novel, Starting Over, was published on 1 October 2014. So it seemed auspicious that my 12th novel was released on 1 October 2022. It’s also fitting that Changing Times begins in October…the start of the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” (as observed by John Keats in his poem, To Autumn).
Changing Times is set in London 2023 and has a cast of characters ranging in age from 20s to 70s. It is something of a family saga, with the older folks from Changing Perspectives interacting with the younger generation. The focus is mainly on the lives and loves of Holly and Luc Barker.
Back in 1993, Holly and Luc were very young, aged four and six. And several of the other young people who come into the story weren’t yet born. That’s why I think of the book as a family saga. The older generation are dealing with the changes taking place in their bodies and minds as they age. And the younger ones are now in the front line of a rapidly changing world.
But the one thing that doesn’t change, regardless of age, is the quest for romance and the recognition that long-term loving relationships are possible. I hope readers will enjoy this story as the family dramas play out with dysfunctional families and families of choice.
Seems like most of my blogs this year have featured our trips to the part of England known as the Lake District. We can’t seem to stay away. But there’s something about the place that draws us back again and again. It doesn’t hurt that it’s only a two-hour drive away as well.
So, here’s a few more photos from our latest visit just over a week ago.
Back to the real world and the feelings surrounding the release of another book. It’s a combination of delight and fear. By this time next week I will be a nervous wreck wondering if anyone will buy the book and if those that do will enjoy the story. You can check out the blurb here on the Affinity Rainbow Publications website. (Release date: 1st October 2022)
During lock-down months of inactivity over the last few years, you would think I had loads of time to write. Instead, I felt a kind of inertia. Trying to write new books took longer than usual. I could have spent the time planning, if writing wasn’t happening. But that didn’t manifest itself in any way.
Book number twelve finally started to take shape in my mind, albeit slowly. It has its roots in the one I started writing over thirty years ago. Changing Perspectives was eventually finished and published in 2017. I was happy with the end of the story. It seemed a good place to leave my characters. A sequel wasn’t even a consideration back then. With all my books, though, I’ve never actually written ‘The End.’ My thinking on this is that unless they do a Hamlet where everyone dies, the characters carry on with their lives.
Towards the end of last year, it occurred to me that a lot will have happened to those characters whose story was set in 1993. There were children, some not yet born, who would now be adults. What kind of lives did they lead? What would they be doing now? As for the older generation…now in their late sixties, early seventies…how did they fare?
So, from these seeds, a story idea began to grow. The result is Changing Times.
Thirty years on from when we first met Dani Barker and Camila Callaghan in Changing Perspectives, they’re enjoying marriage and semi-retirement in a luxury flat near London.
Dani’s niece, Holly, runs their mixed media business, now gaining a foothold in the highly competitive online games market. Holly’s older sibling, Luc, influences people to take action on climate issues with their website, Gaia One: One Earth, One Chance.
Romance has been in short supply for both Holly and Luc. Immersed in her work, Holly’s dating life is non-existent. For Luc, family prejudices stand in the way of a relationship with the love of their life.
Can Holly and Luc succeed in making the changes necessary to achieve their own happy ever afters?
I certainly enjoyed revisiting the older characters who are, after all, closer to my age. It was also fascinating to discover how the younger generation developed through the intervening years. Although Changing Times is a sequel, I think readers will be able to appreciate the story without having read Changing Perspectives.
The Lake District once again…this time to Borrowdale and the lovely Derwentwater. On our way there we stopped off at Levens Hall for a stroll around the gardens. Topiary gone mad.
Then Linthwaite – overlooking Windermere – and a greeting from Mr Toad.
There were sheep everywhere, of course. We spotted these two – ewe and lamb – making a break for it in Borrowdale.
Also an abundance of signs featuring red squirrels – a protected species.
After a boat trip around Derwentwater, we drove up to Mire House. Its main claim to fame is that Alfred, Lord Tennyson stayed there and was inspired to write his Morte d’Arthur poem. He saw a vision of a hand grasping a sword rising out of the Lake Bassenthwaite. One of the memorials to his time there, is a stone circle surrounding a Round Table.
Nearer home…an early morning visit to Haworth. All quiet in the village, no cars or people.
No more travels for a bit. The editing process for my next book will take up some of my time over the rest of the summer. It’s due out on 1 October and you can see a preview of the cover and blurb for Changing Times on the Affinity Rainbow Publications website.
I only started listening to audiobooks about four years ago. Up until then I hadn’t seriously considered having any of my books narrated. However, listening to books that I’d already read gave me an insight into how the different medium could enhance the story. With the right narrator, the words gained new life.
I was lucky to find the ideal narrator living almost on my doorstep, only a few miles along the road. We met for an initial discussion about how she worked and I didn’t need much more convincing to take the plunge. I gave her my two latest books to look at. Not long after that she sent me a sample of a scene from Changing Perspectives.
That was the game changer. I was sold on making the commitment to have the book recorded. Nicola Victoria Vincent is a wonderful voice actor. Hearing her treatment of different character voices gave the story a whole new depth. (It also showed up some of my writing glitches.)
Anyway, that was the start of my journey into audio. Nicki’s now produced two more of my novels – Starting Over and Darcy Comes Home. I’ve funded the productions myself and I’m not likely to break even on the costs. But it’s worth it to me to have my stories out in this format.
Only recently, Bella Books has taken the steps to have all of Katherine V Forrest’s books recorded. Daughters of a Coral Dawn is one of my favourites which I’ve read many times over the years (first published in 1984 by Naiad Press). The audio version is sensational though and it’s almost like experiencing the story for the first time.
So, every month is now Audiobook Appreciation Month for me. I know this is true for many other audio book converts. Long may it continue.
For this year’s Audiobook Appreciation Month, Jae has set up a fantastic giveaway with 23 authors taking part. I’m offering three US/UK Audible codes for Darcy Comes Home. To enter, just fill in the form on Jae’s blog:
The time between blog posts is getting longer and longer. I haven’t felt compelled to communicate much. Maybe it’s a residue from the lockdowns. Having emerged from a cave-like existence, I’m not bursting with ideas to share. How do bears cope, emerging from their winter hibernation? How long does it take them to readjust to a wakeful life?
Slowly, emerging from this state, my wife and I have started venturing out of our cave. This month, it was a trip to the Lake District. For those not familiar with the geography of England, this is in the northwest corner, a part of Cumbria near the Scottish border. The terrain is a reminder of what the ice age left behind…a fractured landscape of great beauty…glacial ribbons of water, dramatic fells and mountains with romantic names: Scafell Pike, The Old Man of Coniston, Skiddaw, and Helvellyn. Also home to the stories of Arthur Ransome and Beatrix Potter.
It’s one of our favourite places. Although we’re not great walkers, we enjoy the scenery…so here’s a few pics from our most recent visit.
Deciding to have a mini-break in mid-March was always going to be risky, weather wise. We were fortunate to have two days of gorgeous sunshine in the North East. Here are a few photos from our travels.
Back home, feeling refreshed and invigorated, I was delighted to discover that Darcy Comes Home is now available as an audio book on Audible and Amazon (soon to be on iTunes as well). Narrated by Nicola Victoria Vincent.
I was going to do an end of year blog. But, here it is – the fifth of January already. What was there to say about 2021? It was very similar to 2020. The main difference was getting vaccinated: three jabs for Covid 19 and a flu jab. Although this did have the effect of making us feel a bit safer about going out, we stuck to travel within England and didn’t go anywhere without masks and hand sanitiser.
2020 was such a strange year that I found writing difficult, so I wasn’t expecting to be able to release a new novel in 2021. However, an idea did start to percolate in my benumbed brain after Christmas last year and the result was Darcy Comes Home. (Check out this lovely book review)
My publisher also released Three Mile Cache, a novella I’ve had sitting in a drawer for almost thirty years. They also decided to release each of the stories from the limited edition Affinity 10th Anniversary Christmas Anthology separately. My contribution was Winterbourne Revisited.
So, with very little to say at the moment, here are a few photos from our travels last year.
My publisher also gave their website a facelift. Please check it out – all their books are competitively priced – and there are some freebies on offer too.
Here’s hoping for a less restrictive year (going into our third year in the time of Covid). Whatever happens, take the time to enjoy some good reading along the way.
The idea of comfort reading when it’s cold and snowy outside brings to mind two of my childhood favourites – that I still go back to now and again – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome.
Eventually I found a way to weave my own winter story with Christmas at Winterbourne. Narnia gets a reference in it (as it does in a few of my books).
Last year, when my publisher invited their authors to submit stories for a Christmas-themed anthology, I decided it was time to see what had happened to my characters in the intervening four years since publication.
“Winterbourne Revisited” was the result. The main focus for the story was the child who was born on Boxing Day. Teri is looking forward to her fourth birthday and all she wants for Christmas is…snow. Lots of it…just like at the time of her birth, when Winterbourne House was snowbound. As in the original story, I managed to include some Christmas Cracker jokes. This is an excerpt from the family’s Christmas Eve dinner with just Teri, her parents, and Clare, their guest from Australia.
Teri had followed her mother into the room and climbed onto the chair next to Clare. She immediately picked up her cracker and said, “Pull.”
Clare obliged with a smile, then offered her own to the girl. Teri was clearly well versed in cracker etiquette and pulled it before diving in to explore what had come out of her own. Wil and Gaby shared theirs with each other.
“Eat your soup before it gets cold.” Gaby’s instruction was aimed at her daughter but Clare picked up her spoon obediently. She’d only managed two mouthfuls when Teri plucked at her sleeve and held out her cracker joke.
“You want me to read this. Okay. Hm. I think it’s been written especially for you, little one. What do they sing at a snowman’s birthday party?” Clare looked around the table. “Any guesses?”
Blank looks all round.
“Must be something to do with cold or freezing,” Wil offered.
“You’re getting warm, or maybe I should say, cold.” Clare smiled. “Freeze a jolly good fellow.”
Teri looked puzzled, although her parents had laughed. “What does it mean?”
Clare sang the words for her, but the girl still looked puzzled. “Who’s he? It’s my birthday on Boxing Day. I want lots of snow and a snow horse.”
“I know, sweetheart.” Clare looked to Wil for help.
Wil shrugged. “How about this one, then? What kind of bird can write?”
“Oh, I know that one.” Gaby said quickly. “A penguin!”
Teri was distracted with the toy that had fallen out of her cracker. Clare wondered if her either of her parents had x-ray vision when they’d distributed the Christmas crackers at each place setting. The girl was playing with a small plastic horse.
So, if you’re looking for some Christmas-related comfort reading, how about giving this one a go.