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Saturday, 28 July 2018

Here's to Happy Endings...

There's nothing better on these bright summer days than a happy ending, so I've chosen a very special book to review for my last blog post this summer: Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings.  The idea came from Yorkshire author Helena Fairfax who, along with eight author friends,  decided to write an anthology based loosely on the picturesque town of Hebden Bridge in the Calderdale Valley, where they regularly meet.

Says Helena 'The idea for Miss Moonshine came as we were all talking as a group. We were looking for one central idea to tie all the stories together - something that would work both for the historical fiction writers and the contemporary. There are lots of lovely old buildings in Hebden Bridge, and so we gradually pieced together our picture of a shop, based on a real 18th century building in the town - a former chapel, now an art gallery. The shop needed a shopkeeper, and Miss Moonshine gradually came to us. Now we think of Miss Moonshine as real, and we've all become very fond of her!'

Having recently finished the book, I must confess to feeling quite fond of the mysterious old lady myself! The reason?  Miss Moonshine manages to move through time with the most amazing agility, despite rarely leaving her  mysterious shop full of unfathomable things. She turns sadness into happiness, despair into delight  and tragedy into triumph without ever seeming to move a finger. And how does she work this magic? Even the authors don't know for sure...

The real triumph of this anthology is the way the authors have come together with one thought in mind - to seamlessly join their stories into an exceptionally good read, leaving the reader wondering what exactly is going to happen next. It's romantic escapism at its very best.

So here are the authors, in alphabetical order.

Mary Jayne Baker

Mary Jayne Baker is a novelist from Bingley, West Yorkshire. Since her debut in 2016, she has published four romantic comedies with two publishers, HarperImpulse and Mirror Books. Her latest, A Bicycle Made for Two – set in Yorkshire against the backdrop of the 2014 Tour de France – was published in April 2018. Find out more about Mary Jayne

Sophie Claire

Sophie Claire writes emotional stories set in England and in sunny Provence, where she spent her summers as a child.

Previously, she worked in marketing and proofreading academic papers, but now she’s delighted to spend her days dreaming up heartwarming contemporary romance stories set in beautiful places. Find out more about Sophie

Jacqui Cooper

Living on the edge of the Yorkshire moors, Jacqui Cooper doesn’t have to look far for inspiration for her writing. Her short stories regularly appear in popular women’s magazines, including Woman’s Weekly, The People’s Friend and Take a Break. Writing has always been her dream and she is thrilled to now be able to do it full time.

Helena Fairfax

Helena Fairfax is a freelance editor and author. Her novels have been shortlisted for several awards, including the Exeter Novel Prize and the Global Ebook Awards. Helena lives in an old mill village on the edge of the Yorkshire moors with her husband and their rescue dog, Lexi. Find out more about Helena

Kate Field

Kate Field writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and hyperactive cat.

Kate’s debut novel, The Magic of Ramblings, won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers. Find out more about Kate

Melinda Hammond

Melinda Hammond lives in the Pennines, where she weaves her stories full of romance and adventure. Since her first book was published by Robert Hale in 1983, she has had around 50 historical novels published. She won the Reviewers' Award in 2005 for Dance for a Diamond and her novel Gentlemen in Question was a Historical Novel Society Editors' Choice in 2006. Writing as Sarah Mallory, she has won the prestigious RoNA Rose Award from the Romantic Novelists Association in 2012 and 2013.

You can find her on her website,; Twitter @SarahMRomance, Facebook Melinda SarahMallory Hammond

Marie Laval

Originally from Lyon, Marie Laval now lives in the beautiful Rossendale Valley in Lancashire, and writes contemporary and historical romance with a French twist. Her latest romantic comedy, bestseller Little Pink Taxi, is published by Choc Lit.   Find out more about Marie

Helen Pollard

As a child, Helen Pollard had a vivid imagination fuelled by her love of reading, so she started to create her own stories in a notebook. She still prefers fictional worlds to real life, believes characterisation is the key to a successful book, and enjoys infusing her writing with humour and heart. Helen is a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association and The Society of Authors.

You can find her online at:

Angela Wren

Angela Wren is an actor and director at a theatre in Yorkshire, UK.  She loves stories, reading and writes the Jacques ForĂȘt crime novels set in the CĂ©vennes in south-central France.  Her short stories vary between romance, memoir, mystery and historical.  Angela has had two one-act plays recorded for local radio.

Miss Moonshine’s Emporium of Happy Endings

Sometimes what you need is right there waiting for you...
Miss Moonshine’s Wonderful Emporium has stood in the pretty Yorkshire town of Haven Bridge for as long as anyone can remember. With her ever-changing stock, Miss Moonshine has a rare gift for providing exactly what her customers need: a fire opal necklace that provides a glimpse of a different life; a novel whose phantom doodler casts a spell over the reader; a music box whose song links love affairs across the generations. One thing is for certain: after visiting Miss Moonshine’s quirky shop, life is never the same again...
Miss Moonshine's Emporium of Happy Endings is available from Amazon in print and as an ebook. Buy link:

A final note from me. After eight years, endless posts on every topic you can think of and tens of thousands of  hits from all over the world, it's time for me to  take a break. And what better place for me to do it than in the land of happy endings?

Au revoir and thanks to everyone for your loyal  support.

A Guernsey girl living a long way from home.


Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Success at 23 The Strand!

Success has arrived in spades this summer for Devon author Linda Mitchelmore whose latest book Summer at 23 The Strand - her first with HarperCollins Digital -  is currently being read on beaches everywhere. Linda was one of the first people to encourage me when I was making the transition  from journalism to fiction and her determination to overcome adversity is what makes her such a great ally. Today I have asked her along to answer some questions about her career to far.

Paignton Harbour, a view enjoyed by each character in the book.
Welcome, Linda.
Already a well established and successful author, your first book with HarperCollins, Summer at 23 The Strand, is flying high in the Amazon charts. How does that feel?

I’m stunned, would be the honest answer. I admit to not being hugely ambitious and write because I want (have needed) to, so this is all a wonderful bonus.

How has your writing routine changed since Summer at 23 The Strand was published?
Another honest answer – there is so much PR to do/be part of that I’m actually doing a lot less, new creative writing at the moment. I don’t beat myself up about it though … I tell myself if it is writing-related then it counts as writing work!

Your new book is a series of short stories linked together by a common theme – the beach chalet where all the characters spend their holidays. Where did the idea come from?

We have a lot of beach huts around here. Huts are different from chalets (as 23 The Strand is) in that you can’t stop overnight and there is no electricity or water in them. When my children were small I used to share a beach hut with a friend, who owned hers, but the hut next door was a council-owned one and the tenants changed weekly or fortnightly. I was always fascinated by how different each lot of tenants were. Another prompt to write this book is the fact my mother cleaned holiday flats on Saturday mornings when I was younger and I used to help her when I was a teenager. Holidaymakers used to leave all sorts of stuff behind – clothes, shoes, books, jewellery, items of food – and my mother had to hand anything left behind to a supervisor, although it wasn’t unknown for her to slip something useful into her shopping bag! But one Saturday, there was a prettily-wrapped parcel on the kitchen table – ‘For the cleaner’. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look of sheer pleasure on her face that someone had left her a present and not their unwanted items. So, two ideas that have been fairly deep-rooted over a few decades, is the answer.

You have always been a prolific short story writer. Do you think a book like yours could aid the re-emergence of short stories in today’s magazines such as Woman and Woman’s Own?

I’d like to think so, but the short story market is shrinking as we speak and the cynic in me thinks it probably won’t be long before all magazines are on line. I very much hope I’m wrong. Better news is that novels in the printed-on-paper form are making a very healthy comeback.

You often say that you came to writing late in life. What advice would you give someone, young or not-so-young, keen to be published?

Research the market you want to write for and then just get on with it!

Which of your previous novels and novellas is your favourite?


Gosh, that’s a bit like being asked to choose between my children. But to answer the question, Red is for Rubies (Choc Lit) is the book I would say comes from my soul- the characters I created and the emotions I put down on paper. It’s the book that’s done least well for me, which is a bit sad, but maybe now that Summer at 23 The Strand is doing so well readers will look to see what else I’ve had published and buy Red is for Rubies. All that said, the way Summer at 23 The Strand is doing right now it is fast becoming my new favourite!


Tell us what your writing means to you and how your life would be without it.

Writing for me was (and still is) a safety net when I lost my hearing due to viral damage. In the fictional worlds I create I – through my characters – can still hear. I have auditory memory and also, now, a cochlear implant which has restored a level of hearing for which I will be eternally grateful. Thank you Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, and Claire and Gemma in particular. I doubt I would have become a writer if not for the immediate above, but it’s been a surprise, and delight, to discover writing is something I’m not half bad at.

Is there any form of writing you haven’t tried yet but would like to in the future – e.g. scriptwriting?

No, I don’t think so. I would have to learn that craft and, possibly, start on the bottom rung of the ladder and there would probably be a lot of rejections along the way before I found my way to the top. I’ve had quite enough rejections, thank you!

Thank you for talking to me, Linda. If you could have one wish granted, personally or professionally, what would it be?

Thank you for inviting me to chat to you, Marilyn. My one wish? Can I only have one? Okay, so here goes  - the time, money, and staff to have fresh sheets on my bed every day!
Linda was born and brought up in Devon, just a stone’s throw from the sea. She is still within walking distance of the house she lived in as a child and the hospital where she was born. A world traveller she is not and it’s rare to go into town and not see someone she knows with whom to stop and have a chat.
Linda’s best subject at school was always English but becoming a writer never entered her head until she lost her hearing and decided to take a writing course for ‘something to do’ while the rest of her family watched TV or listened to music. She began with sending letters to magazines – the ones that gave monetary prizes or decent gifts like cameras and garden equipment and Schaeffer pens – mercenary little madam that she is! Short story submissions to magazines followed (she has had in excess of 300 short stories published, worldwide, now) and it seemed a natural step to have a bash at writing a novel, guided by her mentor who doesn’t wish to be named but who, for Linda, will always beummer at 23 The Strand is Linda’s seventh published novel.
Linda does get dragged from her keyboard now and then to ride pillion on her husband’s vintage motorbikes (yes, plural – he has six), and walking (preferably near water) remains a joy and a regular occurrence – pub lunches at the end of said walks are always a draw.
Family is very important to Linda and she now has two grandchildren, Alex and Emily, who are such a joy and huge fun – it seems easier watching grandchildren grow and develop than it did when she was a new and very inexperienced mum to her own children. There are also two adorable grand-dogs in the equation – Lola and Max – so family get-togethers are always rather full on with fun and noise! If she can find the time she might write a ‘family’ novel .... watch this space.

Linda at home in her garden


Monday, 2 July 2018

What heatwave? I just want to be in a pond....

As the temperature hit 29 degrees in London this week I recalled my very first heatwave. I was just two years old, travelling with my paternal grandmother  from Guernsey to England across the English Channel, then on by train to the Midlands. Granny had lived through the bitter winters of the German Occupation of the Channel Islands so, despite the May sunshine, had dressed me for  a trip to the Arctic Circle. Over my liberty bodice she added a blouse and warm woolly jumper, topped with a sturdy tweed jacket. Matching hand-made leggings that buttoned up the front (and wouldn't unbutton - I know because I tried) completed the outfit.

I got hotter and hotter, gasping for air, and as I looked out of the window, watching the fields go by, my eyes fell upon …. a pond. A large expanse of water. Probably the largest pond - at such a tender age - that I had ever seen. What followed was something dear Granny never forgot.

'I want to be in a pond and I'm not in a pond,' I wailed, to the amusement of  the other occupants of the compartment. 'I WANT TO BE IN A POND AND I'M NOT IN A POND.' My protestations got  louder until it was clear I wasn't going to stop. The amusement soon turned to irritation - then anger. Oh, what happy childhood memories.

 If you've ever wondered why we Brits talk about the weather all the time, the answer is simple. Firstly, we're obsessed with it. Secondly, we've simply no idea what to say to strangers. Now, as the temperature continues to rise, we can talk about it as much as we like. To taxi drivers, unsolicited telesales callers, postmen, policemen (if you're lucky enough to meet one) hairdressers, hotel staff - the list goes on.  No wonder our nation is immortalised for the words 'Turned out nice again.'

An American friend of mine who hails from Maine, New England, is  amused with the British obsession with winter weather. 'Snow drifts six foot deep, automobiles buried alive.' she says. 'That's how it is  at home in winter. But in Britain  the first snow fall makes headline news.' She has a point.

Several years ago, at a writers' retreat, we were asked to compose the opening paragraph of a contemporary novel. 'And make sure it's not about the weather,' warned the tutor.  This, I soon discovered, was very good advice.  Nothing, it seems, can be more boring than rain. (or lack of it.) There will always be exceptions to the rule, of course, such as the critically acclaimed opening to Charles Dickens' masterpiece Bleak House (reproduced below.)  But that really is the exception. My favourite opening of all  remains 'It was a dark and stormy night...' the one my mother  read out loud to me on a winter's evening when I couldn't get to sleep.

At the risk of showing my age I still love Martha and the Vandellas' 1963 hit Heatwave from the musical  As Thousands Cheer, which  must be ripe for a revival. And nothing evokes summer days more than the Beach Boys belting out Surfing USA.

When my elder daughter was growing up she was obsessed with Australian TV, full of beaches, barbeques and suntanned bodies. The teenage stars did occasionally go to school but most of their spare time was spent on the beach or by the pool. So, is that what we're doing now in Britain? Taking time off and heading for the beach? No, the workforce are carrying on as usual, the men removing their ties, the women taking a lunchtime dip, but none with the aplomb of our European counterparts.

So can I suggest we all find a pond. A very large pond. And, throwing caution to the wind, jump in it.

Implacable November weather. As much mud in the streets as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full-grown snow-flakes — gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun.

Charles Dickens - Bleak House