A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Debrah Martin

 

Debrah Martin -BRAG

I’d like to welcome Debrah Martin to Layered Pages to talk a little about her writing. Debrah writes under three different pen names and in three very different genres. She plots fast-paced and compelling thrillers as D.B. Martin, with the first in the Patchwork trilogy, Patchwork Man, having been recently awarded a coveted B.R.A.G. Medallion. The explosive conclusion to the series, Patchwork Pieces, is to be released on 13th April 2015. As Debrah Martin she writes literary fiction, where often the truth IS stranger than fiction, and two new titles are due to be released in 2015/16. And not to be overlooked is her YA teen detective series, penned as Lily Stuart – THE teen detective. Irreverent, blunt, funny and vulnerable. Webs is the first in the series and Magpies will follow in 2015.

So why not stick to just one name and one genre?

‘Variety is the spice of life,’ she says. ‘And I continually have all these new ideas – they have to come out somehow!’

Debrah’s past careers have spanned two businesses, teaching, running business networking for the University of Winchester (UK) and social event management. She chaired the Wantage (not just Betjeman) Literary Festival in 2014 and also mentors new writers.

Debrah, why do you write?

I write because – I think like most avid writers – it’s become almost as essential as breathing for me. If I have too long a spell where I can’t immerse myself in whatever make-believe world I’m currently creating I get twitchy and eventually store up so many ideas in my head I have to get up in the middle of the night to write them down! Once I have an idea in my head, and the characters to bring it to life, it’s difficult not to tell their story, so writing isn’t an occupation or a past-time for me, it’s a passion. It’s also sometimes a way of exploring a dilemma or issue I have to solve for myself – although not maybe quite so dramatically as my characters. Life’s difficulties are usually less extreme versions of the issues they have to tackle, but nevertheless if I push my characters to their furthest limits to see what they would do there’s very often an obvious resolution to my own problems staring me right in the face. Above all though, I love to tell a story.

Patchwork Man

How has writing impacted your life?

I wonder now what it would be like not to write, and what I used to do with all these ideas I think of almost daily. It’s certainly made me more thoughtful of people in real life, their issues and why they may behave in certain – sometimes apparently inexplicable ways. It’s made me people watch, and once you start to really pay attention to the people in your world, some of those mysteries are actually much less of a mystery. You’ve just failed to notice what might be going on for them in their lives and how that impacts on their reaction to you and what’s going on in yours’. I also appreciate the world around me a lot more. Writing with your senses makes you have to actually pay attention to what you’re seeing, hearing and smelling, day in and day out. It’s incredible how much we usually miss in daily life. I remember doing an observation exercise with some students a few years ago to prove it. They all knew there was a bin by the door, but not what colour. And I only knew because I set the question! I tested myself later by going on a ‘listening walk’, concentrating solely on the sounds I usually filtered out. I was amazed at how much peripheral noise I usually ignored as I went about my daily routine, but these seemingly insignificant sensations are what, subliminally, are creating my world – or as a writer, the world I create for my readers. It’s given me a bolder, more vivid appreciation of life in general, and also made me really relish every moment I experience. I’ve always liked the poem by William Henry Davies which starts:

“What is this life if so full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare…”

But the lines,

“…No time to see in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night…”

Have especial meaning for me now because they encapsulate precisely the things I used to miss before I started writing. Writing has made me take the time to stand and stare.

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

My ideas often come at the most inappropriate moments – as my daughters will tell you. It’s not uncommon for me to announce, ‘I’ve just had this great idea …’ right in the middle of Sunday lunch and have to be threatened with terrible things to stop me dashing away to scribble it down. I also tend to think of ideas when I’m driving or when I’m walking my dog. Typical of life though, isn’t it? You always come up with the best ideas when you can’t do anything about them – then… Overall, I simply remain thankful I get the ideas, wherever I get them!

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

I received some very good advice when I first started writing, and that was to always believe in yourself because if you didn’t then no-one else would. Writing – like any art form – is completely subjective. Someone will love what someone else hates. The same applies to reviews and reviewers. Of course it’s wonderful when someone raves about your work and devastating when they trash it, but that is simply their point of view and everyone is entitled to their point of view. I think the best response to a good review is a polite thank you, and to a bad one a polite nothing, but if the bad review makes a valid point then take note of it and improve. After all, all reviews should be used positively, even when they’re negative, shouldn’t they?

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

First of all, join a writer’s group. It is simply the best way to keep motivated, keep encouraged and keep inspired. Even if you love doing something, it’s very difficult to do it in a vacuum. Having people around you who understand your passion, and feed it, is the best way of keeping your passion alive.

Then – and always – read, read, and read. Behind every good writer there are originally other exceptional writers; ones who’ve astounded, excited and amazed you, and are essentially what have prompted you to write in the first place. Maybe you won’t emulate them but you can certainly to follow in their wake. Reading good literature encourages good writing skills – how better to learn than to see a master in action? Gradually you will find yourself deconstructing their plot structures, the way their stories arc and how they create a sense of place and person without actually physically describing them at all. Then you will have the ultimate magic of the good writer at your fingertips too.

Finally, don’t give up. If you want to be published, then be aware that it’s a long and often frustrating road to any kind of success, but success is however and whatever you see it to be for yourself. And every small success is, nevertheless, success. Plan small, achievable steps along the way, explore other writer’s blogs and articles giving advice, and always pay attention to what you are asked for when submitting work to agents and publishers. But more than anything – enjoy what you do, because ultimately that’s the reason for doing it.

Debrah’s links:

Patchwork Man is available on Amazon

As is the sequel, Patchwork People

And the conclusion to the trilogy, Patchwork Pieces, is available for pre-order

For YA fiction readers, my first YA fiction, Webs, is available here

You can also find Debrah’s website here

Her blog is here

Her Facebook Page

And she’s on Twitter as @Storytellerdeb

A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Travis Daniel Bow

Travis Daniel Bow

Travis Daniel Bow

I’d like to welcome B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Travis Daniel Bow to Layered Pages to talk about his writing. Travis is the author of Thane and its sequel, King’s Table. He grew up in Reno, NV (where he raised pigs for FFA), earned degrees from Oklahoma Christian University (where he broke his collarbone in a misguided Parkour attempt) and Stanford (where he and his bike were hit by a car), and now does research and development work for Nikon. He has eight published short stories, four pending patents, one wonderful son, one beautiful wife, and one loving God.

Travis, why do you write?

Because it’s fun! I love reading (my parents had to limit my reading time to an hour a day when I was a kid), and writing is kind of like reading in reverse. You get to escape into a different world, but you also get to create that world yourself. What could be cooler? (besides a million dollars, or a Nobel prize, or a life-time supply of macaroni and cheese, of course).

I also write (non-fiction) because it helps me clarify my thoughts. When I want to form an opinion on a tough issue, I write my own little research paper about it. When I want to pray without letting my thoughts wander, I write my prayers. When I want to express something important to a friend or loved one, I write a letter or email. Writing is a more studied and careful method of communication that helps me be logical and organized.

Thane

How has writing impacted your life?

In too many ways to count. It’s allowed me to log workouts, update Facebook statuses, compose witty messages scrawled in car-window dust (‘Wash Me!’), and even buy a house, get married, and pay my taxes (none of which would be possible without signing my name).

On a deeper level, writing has given me an outlet, a way to express stories or topics that I care about to people that I may never meet. I hope I never take that opportunity for granted.

King's Table Front Cover by Travis Bow

What advice would you give to beginning writers?

There’s a lot of good advice I could regurgitate here. Write a lot. Read a lot. Write about things you care about or know about. Don’t give up. These are things we all know, and they sound a lot better coming from someone wise and successful.

My most unique tip would be this: don’t take your writing too seriously.

Here’s what I mean. If you’re a writer, you probably enjoy English, which means you probably took a lot of English classes, which means you probably spent a lot of time over-analyzing the writing of famous people, which means you’ve probably fantasized about being one of those famous people, which means that when you write, someplace in the back of your head is probably envisioning a class full of dreamy eyed students crooning over the genius of your choice of verbs or metaphors or font style.

There are two things wrong with letting this type of fantasy shape your writing (OK, at least two things).

One is that it’s probably false; most people that read your work will be reading it for entertainment, not analyzing, and if it ever becomes one of those unfortunate classics ready to be picked apart by college English students, you’ll probably be dead and gone anyway.

The second is that obsessing over the literary greatness of your writing will limit your writing.

I am convinced that the majority of writer’s block and pompous, generic, or ridiculous writing comes from the writer thinking too much about what people are going to think about the words being written. This can paralyze you (like my two-year-old son gets paralyzed when he tries to draw something on his whiteboard and realizes it doesn’t look write… and concludes that he should stop drawing). It can also make you write lame imitations of what you’ve already seen in an attempt to latch on to someone else’s greatness, or alternatively rebel and write ridiculous metaphors in an attempt to be different from anything you’ve ever seen.

Don’t do it. Don’t worry about the greatness of your every sentence… at least until the second or third draft. Some of the best material I’ve written has started with me saying, “OK, I’m now going to write the worst story ever”

Author’s Book Links:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Or Smashwords Also, as of today, King’s Table (Thane’s sequel) is also available on Amazon   and Smashwords

 

 

Sunday Book Highlight

Children of the shadows Staurt Laing

Book Blurb:

Edinburgh November 1745 As the nights grow longer in the depths of a Scottish winter, Robert Young, Captain Travers, their families and friends, chase the darkness away as they gather to celebrate a joyful engagement. But grim news casts a pall over the happy atmosphere. A sobbing woman has carried the body of a child into the headquarters of Edinburgh’s Town Guard. In her hand she still clutches a bloody dagger. What at first was thought to be no more than a domestic tragedy soon becomes a hunt for a cold blooded killer who runs the worst possible sort of brothel. Robert Young faces a race against time to find the guilty and save other children from the same fate. His investigation will bring him face to face with his deadliest and most ruthless adversary to date and leave him fighting for his life!

 Excerpt:

“A murder is it?” the man said with no flicker of emotion on his face. “You had best explain further captain”.

As quickly as he could Charles outlined what he knew of the crime. From when the woman had entered the Guardhouse covered in blood bearing the body of Kirsty MacDonald, through to her assertion of other children being held in a brothel. Point by point he went through every detail while the councilors listened in a stony silence without questions or interruptions. Only when he asked again that the woman be turned over to him was there was any display of interest. One man to his right sat forward to look towards him as he said, “do you think there is any truth to her claims captain?”

Charles quickly nodded in response. To reveal he himself thought it more than likely that the prisoner was lying to try and save her own neck was not something he wished to share with these men. “It seems possible sir. We know that several dozen women and children were left behind when the rebels departed the city. Most exist by begging but I believe some of them may have turned to prostitution to get by. If some of these children have been lured from the streets and forced to work in a brothel I think it would be worthwhile to investigate and if possible free them from such a cruel fate…”

“A cruel fate!” another man suddenly laughed. As every face turned towards him he continued with bitterness clear in his voice, “These damn rebels invaded our homes! They took what they wanted and made us thank them for the privilege of being robbed! They strutted the streets like cockerels with their blue bonnets and swords and stinking tartan! Why in the name of God should we concern ourselves if some of the bitches and whelps left in their wake are starving now? I think the Town Guard would be of more use to the city if they rooted these vagabonds out and sent them back to the wilderness they call home!”

Several heads nodded and there was a murmur of agreement at this sentiment. Emboldened by this show of support he added with a sneer, “and what will become of these children supposedly held in a brothel sir? You rescue them – hurrah! – and then what? I’ll tell you what captain! They’ll end up being placed in the work-house where we shall be expected to feed and clothe them! Can you explain why we should pay for the upkeep of these stinking caterans that blight out streets?”

Charles was struggling to contain his irritation at this man but forced his voice to remain calm as he replied carefully, “sir, it is children being forced to work in a brothel that I am talking about. Surely as Christians we cannot allow small children to be used for so foul a purpose?”

The man scowled and spat out “Papists!” He then shook his head but said no more as he studied the papers on the table before him. Another man now raised a finger to attract Charles’ attention. “While we can all share your feelings towards the cruel fate of these children it has to be admitted that they are not the only children who find themselves in such a predicament are they? Why sir, only last year I recall your men closing down just such an establishment and the city found itself responsible for…five children if I recall correctly? Five children sir who must be fed, watered, clothed and cared for and these were children of Edinburgh sir! They were not some flotsam washed down from the Highlands in the wake of the invaders!” He shook his head. “No sir, I can fully understand your concern but really, is it worth the bother and the risk of allowing a murderer free rein to roam our streets? I can see no benefit to the city in this. What if she, the prisoner I refer to here, were to be rescued from your custody by confederates and accomplices sir? What then indeed? From what you have told us, you have the guilty party safely locked away in the Tollbooth where she can get up to no further mischief and I for one think it best that is just where she should remain!”

Stuart Laing

Born and raised on the east coast of Scotland in the ancient Pictish Kingdom of Fife Stuart grew up looking across the Firth of Forth towards the spires and turrets of the city of Edinburgh and its castle atop its volcanic eyrie.

He has always been fascinated by the history of Auld Reekie and has spent most of his life studying Scottish history in all its aspects whenever he finds the time between family, work and the thousand and one other things that seek to distract him.

Despite the vast panorama of Scotland’s history he always find himself being drawn back to the cobbled streets of the Old Town. Those streets have provided the inspiration for his stories and characters.

He would urge all visitors to Scotland’s ancient capital to (briefly) venture into one of the narrow closes running down from the Royal Mile to get a flavour of how alive with mischief, mayhem, love and laughter these streets once were.

Author Website

 

 

Review: Haunted by Lynn Carthage

Haunted

Moving to my stepfather’s English country mansion sounded so promising. But the Arnaud Manor is neglected and unwelcoming, and I get the feeling it isn’t exactly uninhabited. Something wants to hurt us–especially my little sister, Tabby.

Okay, so I might be a little sensitive lately. My parents act oblivious to me, my old life is far away in San Francisco, and the gorgeous guy I just met tells me terrible stories about the infamous Madame Arnaud who lived here long ago, and about missing children and vengeful spirits. The kind of stories that are impossible to believe–until you’re living in one of them, fighting to protect everyone you love…

**********

What first drew me to this story was a family moving to a English country mansion, a haunting, and a sense of mystery to it…I’m not a paranormal reader normally but this one called out to me and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a debut novel as well and it was definitely entertaining and spooky to say the least. I think many young readers will find it flows really well and there is a lot of tension and surprises you don’t see coming…

Another thing that grab my attention was the infamous Madame Arnaud’s role in the story. I didn’t see that coming. I can’t tell you what part of the plot relates to, you will have to read the book to find out!

I also enjoyed the historical aspects to the story and feel it enriches and gives the plot more depth. I recommend this to young readers who enjoy light paranormal stories with a blend of the past.

I’m giving this a four star rating.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

Interview with Judith Redline Coopey

Judith Redline Coopey

Judith Redline Coopey

I’d like to welcome, Judith Redline Coopey to Layered Pages. She was born in Altoona, PA holds degrees from the Pennsylvania State University and Arizona State University. A passion for history inherited from her father drives her writing and a love for Pennsylvania sustains it. Her first book, Redfield Farm was the story of the Underground Railroad in Bedford County, Pennsylvania. The second, Waterproof, tells how the 1889 Johnstown Flood nearly destroyed a whole city and one young woman’s life. Looking For Jane is a quest for love and family in the 1890s brought to life through the eyes of Nell, a young girl convinced that Calamity Jane is her mother. Her most recent work, The Furnace: Volume One of the Juniata Iron Trilogy, is set on an iron plantation near where she grew up and tells the story of an ill-conceived marriage of convenience as it plays out over a lifetime. As a teacher, writer and student of history, Ms Coopey finds her inspiration in the rich history of her native state and in stories of the lives of those who have gone before.

Hello, Judith. Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, The Furnace. Please tell me a little about your story.

I’ve come to writing through my father who was a voracious reader of historical fiction, and a writer himself, though unpublished. I grew up with a conscious sense of history and I just never grew out of it. I taught history for twenty-two years, loving every minute of it, and I study history in just about any form – genealogy being one of my favorites. So when I came to the point in my life where I could devote myself to writing, historical fiction was the logical choice.

01_The Furnace

How did you come to choose your period and setting for your story?

The setting for The Furnace is about a mile from where I grew up in rural western Pennsylvania. It was an iron plantation in the 1800s, and my curiosity was aroused when I realized that despite its derelict condition in the 1950s when I lived nearby, it was once a major iron producing enterprise. Once I got interested in the nineteenth century iron industry, my story grew out of my research.

What is an example of how Ellie deals with her life with Adam?

Ellie is very young when her path in life is determined by the actions of others – all men. She is angry and immature – a dangerous combination. So she takes her anger out on Adam because he is handy, and she withholds affection, favors her son over him, and is given to fits of temper. Her attraction to Timothy Judge, disastrous though it may be, is one example of her attempts to deal with the lot life has given her.

Why did you choose the iron industry as Adam’s profession?

That all goes back to Mt Etna as a place familiar to me and my curiosity about what went on there in the past. I wanted to write a family saga based on what was then a major industry in Pennsylvania.

What in the nineteenth century interest you the most?

I love the whole 19th century. It was such a time of change because of industrialization. It wasn’t so long ago, really, and it begins with life pretty much as it had been for centuries and ends with a totally changed, mechanized society. People went from living on self-sufficient farms to living and working in cities, in factories. While there were improvements in the quality of life, they came at a high price, and at a rapid rate. We live with extremely rapid change now, but for an agrarian people to experience change at the rate they did was unheard of and probably very hard to adjust to. There was so much happening against this background of change: the United States was establishing itself as a sovereign nation, the westward movement, the struggle over slavery, the Civil War. It’s a treasure trove!

You deal with-what I think-is an important theme in your story. The lack of women’s rights. I’m sure without a doubt there were many strong women during this time who did not deal with it well. I know I wouldn’t. What do you hope women who read your story will come away with? Surprisingly, I’ve come across women who do not have an awareness of how it was for women…

I hope readers will realize what little power women had then, but I also hope they will think about the history of women’s struggles and realize that in much of the world today women are just embarking on the journey toward equality. The struggle has been and continues to be long and difficult. We owe a debt of gratitude to the women who’ve come before and who were willing to fight the good fight for women’s rights. The women’s movement began during Ellie’s lifetime, and while I chose not to have her involved in it, I wanted readers to realize the need for it.

Why do you choose to write in this genre?

I like to tell the story of Stephen King, who, when asked why he writes about scary subjects, replied, “What makes you think I have a choice?” That’s my reply to the questions of genre, time and place.

How long did it take to write your story?

It’s always hard to answer that question because I work on more than one project at a time. I may be writing a first draft of one book, doing research for another and revising a third. Not all in the same day, mind you. But I usually research for about a year before I write anything. I know the research is about done when I start to read the same things over and over about my topic. The story usually grows out of the research, but that doesn’t happen in the blink of an eye. Sometimes it has to settle for a while. Once I start writing, I can get the first draft out rather quickly, but that doesn’t mean I’m done. By far the most important part of making a good book is revising, polishing, working it until you feel it is as good as you can make it and ready for the world to judge. So I can’t really say for sure, but a minimum of two years, usually.

How often do you write?

I write every day. At least I work at writing every day. What I do isn’t always seat on the chair, fingers on the keys, but I work at it all the time.

What do you love most about writing?

Writing!

Thank you, Judith!

You’re welcome. Thank you for your interest in my work.

For more information please visit Judith Redline Coopey’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Judith Redline Coopey Blog Tour Schedule

Monday, March 16 Spotlight at Literary Chanteuse Spotlight at What Is That Book About

Tuesday, March 17 Review, Interview, & Giveaway at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus (The Furnace)

Wednesday, March 18 Spotlight & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time

Thursday, March 19 Review at 100 Pages a Day (Looking for Jane)

Friday, March 20 Review at Rainy Day Reviews (Waterproof)

Monday, March 23 Review, Interview, & Giveaway at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus (Looking for Jane)

Wednesday, March 25 Interview at Layered Pages

Friday, March 27 Spotlight & Giveaway at Susan Heim on Writing

Saturday, March 28 Spotlight at Mythical Books

Monday, March 30 Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection Spotlight at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

Tuesday, March 31 Review at Beth’s Book Nook (Looking for Jane) Review, Interview, & Giveaway at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus (Waterproof)

Wednesday, April 1 Review & Interview at Jorie Loves a Story (Redfield Farm) Guest Post at A Literary Vacation

Friday, April 3 Review at Book Babe

Saturday, April 4 Review at Book Nerd (The Furnace)

Monday, April 6 Review, Interview, & Giveaway at A Virtual Hobby Store and Coffee Haus (Redfield Farm)

06_JRCBlogTour Banner_FINAL_JPEG

 

 

A Writer’s Life with Jude Knight

 

Jude Knight

I’d like to welcome, Jude Knight to Layered Pages to talk about her writing. She writes strong determined heroines, heroes who can appreciate a clever capable woman, villains you’ll love to loathe, and all with a leavening of humour.

Jude, why do you write?

I write because I cannot not write. Stories keep occurring to me, and I have to know what happens next.

I’ve told stories since I could talk, and I’ve written since I learned how. At primary school, I created dramas with a cast of any other child who wanted to play. At secondary school, I wrote short stories and published them in a student paper friends and I created and ran off on an old Gestetner.

Then came family, a mortgage, and the need to earn a living. I became a commercial writer, and poured my creativity into computer manuals and government reports. (Yes, you might well laugh.)

But the stories didn’t go away. In notebooks and computer files, I have nearly 100 story lines, more than 40 of them set in the late-Georgian, but other historicals, plus fantasy, sf, and contemporary. For a long time, I’d finish them inside my head – which, like any form of self-gratification, was temporarily satisfying but ultimately sterile. A story teller isn’t a story teller without an audience.

What is your writing process?

I tell myself the bare bones of the story, flesh out particular scenes that interest me, hear scraps of dialogue and see bits of action. Then I research the period, write detailed character sketches, and create a full story outline.

Then I ignore everything once I start writing, and let the story take me wherever it wants to go. I write like a knit: I lose track of the pattern, and I’m always dropping stitches.

Once I write THE END, I go back to my original plans. I analyse the story as it stands, find the holes and the dropped plot points, and decide what needs to be fixed. After the rewrite, it goes to beta readers, and the third draft takes their suggestions into account.

How has writing impacted your life?

For a start, I’ve never been so busy. I’ve set myself a publication schedule that, with a full-time day job, is turning out to be grueling. I’m convinced I was wise to wait until I was no longer raising children and grandchildren. They would have been neglected. I become absorbed and the time flies, and my PRH (personal romantic hero) arrives home, and I’m still in my pyjamas. I haven’t had breakfast and the chickens and cats haven’t been fed, but that’s in the 21st century. In the 19th, all is going as it should.

Fortunately, PRH supports me fully, and keeps me supplied with bacon and egg sandwiches and coffee.

The second way writing fiction has impacted on my life is that I’ve seldom been so happy. This is what I was made to do, and I love it. It’s the most fun one can have while standing (at least at my age).

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

No particular time. The characters go on working behind my back, and an idea will pop up in the middle of another story, or when I’m in a meeting at work, or even in church. Sometimes, I’m forced into a corner by an inconvenient historical fact, and the solution to it turns out to be better than my original plans.

That happened in Farewell to Kindness, when I wanted to get rid of the minor villains by having them imprisoned for smuggling. But they were wealthy, and would have paid the fine and never seen the inside of a goal. Criminal justice worked on a different system back then.

In the end, my hero set them up to rob him on the highway – a crime against him and the King. This meant he could prosecute them and have them imprisoned. And it serendipitously put him in the right place to rescue the heroine.

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

I’ve been fortunate with Candle’s Christmas Chair, my novella, to have mostly positive reviews. And I try to stay positive about the others, too. I blogged about bad reviews after I had two in one week that really panned the poor little story. In summary, I want to 1. Learn from them 2. Accept that any publicity is good publicity, 3. Understand that a bad review that states what someone doesn’t like may attract readers that like just that thing. What to do with a bad review

What advice would you give a beginner writer?

Write and keep writing. And when you’re not writing, read. Set a daily word count and stick to it. Make writing what you do whenever you’re waiting for an appointment or a bus; whenever you have a few minutes to spare. If you write 200 words a day, in a year you will have a novel. So just write.

Farewell to Kindness

Fairwell to kindness

Regency noir (On prerelease; on sale from 31 March 2015)

Price: US99c to 8 April 2015; USD3.49 from 9 April 2015

For three years, Rede has been searching for those who ordered the murders of his wife and children. Now close to end of his quest, he travels to his country estate to be close to the investigation.

He is fascinated by the lovely widow who lives in one of the cottages he owns. A widow who pays no rent. A widow, moreover, with a small daughter whose distinctive eyes mark her as as the child of his predecessor as Earl.

Six years ago, Anne blackmailed Rede’s predecessor at arrow-point for an income and a place to livein hiding from her guardian’s sinister plans for her and her sisters. He no longer has legal rights over her, but the youngest sister is still only 18. He cannot be allowed to find her.

Rede is everything she has learned not to trust: a man, a peer, a Redepenning. If he discovers who she is, she may lose everything.

To build a future together, Rede and Anne must be prepared to face their pasts.

Heat: PG13 edging towards R in places

Excerpts of Farewell to Kindness

George was drunk. But not nearly drunk enough. He still saw his young friend’s dying eyes everywhere. In half-caught glimpses of strangers reflected in windows along Bond Street, under the hats of coachmen that passed him along the silent streets to Bedford Square, in the flickering lamps that shone pallidly against the cold London dawn as he stumbled up the steps to his front door.

They followed his every waking hour: hot, angry, hate-filled eyes that had once been warm with admiration.

He drank to forget, but all he could do was remember.

One more flight of stairs, then through the half open door to his private sitting room, already reaching for the waiting decanter of brandy as he crossed the floor.

He had a glass of oblivion halfway to his lips before he noticed the painting.

It stood on an easel, lit by a carefully arranged tree of candles. George’s own face was illuminated—the golden shades of his hair, his intensely blue eyes. The artist had captured his high cheekbones and sculpted jaw. “One of London’s most beautiful men,” he’d been called.

He stalked to the easel, moving with great care to avoid spilling his drink.

Yes. The artist had talent. Who could have given him such a thing?

As he bent forward to look at it more closely, something whipped past his face. With a solid thunk, an arrow struck the painting, to stand quivering between the painted eyes.

******

Rede stayed for a while, shaking hands with those who came for an introduction, catching up with those he’d met during the week, and generally making himself pleasant.

Several times, he met eyes as blue as his own, fringed like his with dark lashes. His predecessors had certainly left a mark on the population. Many of the poorer members of the community bore the certain sign that a female ancestor had caught a Redepenning’s fickle attention.

Mrs Forsythe, the rent-free tenant, wasn’t introduced. He had been hearing her name all week. His tenants spoke of her warmly, and with respect, listing her good deeds, and praising her kindness. From what they said, she was a lynch pin of village life. Listening to their stories, he’d formed a picture of a mature widow; a gentlewoman of private—if straitened—means; a bustling matron with a finger in all the charitable activity of the parish.

The trio of young ladies on the path broke up, two coming over to be introduced as the daughters of the Rector and the Squire. The third young lady collected a child and another young woman from the Rectory garden.

The child was a little older than his Rita would have been; perhaps the age Joseph would have been, had he lived. She studied him curiously as she passed; meeting his blue gaze with her own. Indeed, he could have been looking at one of his own childhood portraits, cast in a more feminine mould.

She didn’t take her colouring from the two young ladies with her. And a quick glance after her showed that bonnets masked the faces of the two ladies they joined.

“Once my cousins arrive, we’ll invite the local gentry to dinner,” he told Mrs Ashbrook. “I’ve met some of them. Could you perhaps introduce me to others?”

As he’d hoped, she launched into a list of all the gentlemen and ladies in the neighbourhood, starting with those present. He listened impatiently as the objects of his interest moved further and further towards the gate.

At last, just as they passed under the arch, Mrs Ashbrook said, “and Mrs Forsythe and her sisters, the Miss Haverstocks. They were standing right there by the church… oh dear, you’ve missed them. They’ve just left.”

The slender figure hurrying away down the road with her sisters and daughter did not fit the picture he’d formed of the busy Mrs Forsythe. Not at all.

He continued listening to Mrs Ashbrook, commenting when appropriate, murmuring pleasantries to the people she took him to around the churchyard. And with another part of his mind he planned a change in the order of his tenant visits.

Meeting Mrs Forsythe, owner of the trimmest pair of ankles he had ever noticed and mother of a Redepenning by-blow, was suddenly a priority.

******************

What was it about this woman that made Rede want to spend time with her? She was, of course, delectable. But many women had faces and forms as lovely.

Since Marie-Josèphe died, he’d felt the stirrings of lust from time to time—and more than stirrings. Acting on those stirrings always felt like too much trouble, though.

In his private desires, as in all the rest of his life, he saw the world as if through a thick blanket that numbed feeling. He went through the motions of looking after his business interests and the Earldom, of acting appropriately in social occasions, of charming his tenants and his neighbours—but all the time, he was acting a part, as if he had been buried with his wife and children, and was reaching from the grave to operate his own body like a puppet.

Except when he woke each morning with his grief still raw. Except when he was planning how to make his enemies pay. Except when he read the reports David sent him every week.

And now, something beyond his vengeance was reaching through the blanket of unfeeling and bringing him back to life. Or, rather, someone.

He studied her for a moment, as he stood apart from the group. He couldn’t put his finger on what made her different. Perhaps it was that she talked to him, and not to his title or his wealth. He enjoyed her wit, her humour. He liked how she treated him with no more and no less deference than she did Will or the Squire or the innkeeper’s wife.

Today, she was dressed far more like a lady than a cottager, in a light-coloured dress in the modern style, modestly covering but shaping to her bosom, and dropping from there to a flounced hem. Yesterday’s apron had defined her slender waist, but the dress beneath it had hidden her shape entirely. Today’s dress left her waist a mystery, but clung to her hips and legs as she walked…

It would give the villagers confidence to see their lord working side by side with the other local leaders. Rede had run large teams of trappers, invested the money into multiple enterprises and made a not inconsiderable fortune by finding managers he could trust and inspiring them to give their all to serve him. He knew the value of showing his tenants and neighbours that he counted himself one of them.

His decision to help was for the village at large, not to impress the lovely Mrs Forsythe.

“And,” he admonished himself as he rode away, “if you believe that, I have a village built of pure gold in Upper Canada that I’d like to sell you.”

********

Rede leaned closer to Anne.

“Have I told you yet how lovely you look this evening?”

“Susan’s maid, Markham, is a wonder. She chose the gown, and altered it.” Anne preened a little, twisting from side to side in display.

“Lovely,” Rede agreed. “I always think you lovely, but I’m delighted to see you in clothes that are fit for you. And you managed to match the ribbon I gave you!”

Anne blushed. Rede was quick to notice and guess the reason. “That is the ribbon I gave you!”

“I happened to have it in my pocket,” Anne murmured.

Rede looked so smug at the thought that she wanted to rein him in.

“Rede, your nephew saw us last night, and he has told Baroness Carrington.”

He was instantly serious. “How…? Oh no. I forgot the lookout in his bedroom. Anne, I do apologise. I should not have… you were so lovely that I lost myself. But that is not an excuse. I should have been more careful. I will be more careful.”

“It cannot happen again, Rede.”

“What are you two looking so serious about,” Kitty asked. “Anne, did you know that in Russia, there is a water spirit that seeks out men and drowns them? And witches live in cottages with chicken legs, so they can turn the cottages around! If you go into the forest, they may catch you!”

“Really,” Rede said, “and you saw these yourself, Alex?”

Major Redepenning just laughed.

“In Canada,” Rede told Kitty, “the Rugaru live in the forest. They are part human and part wolf, and they eat ice. In the river live the Memaquasesak. They are little people, who love sweet things and are always to blame when baking goes missing.”

“And you saw these yourself, Rede?” the Major mocked.

“I certainly had many sweet things go missing. But that could have been John. Or perhaps it was Ti Jean.”

Then Rede told them the tale of Ti Jean and the Rugaru, and Major Redepenning topped it with a story of Baba Yaga and foolish Ivan, and the supper passed merrily.

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A Writer’s Life with Author Nancy Bilyeau

I’d like to welcome Nancy Bilyeau to Layered Pages today to talk about her writing and to share with you all her newly released novel, The Tapestry. This story is the third in the award-winning Joanna Stafford series that takes place in the heart of the Tudor court. Thrilling plots, historical intrigue and unforgettable characters. I highly recommend this series!

Nancy, why do you write?

My journey to fiction is a little unusual. I have been writing professionally since I was 22 years old, and earning bylines before then. I was the managing editor of my college newspaper, The Michigan Daily, at the University of Michigan. But as I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines, moving into editing, it just didn’t occur to me that I could write fiction. Even less that I could write the sorts of books I’d most enjoyed reading since I was about 11 years old: historical fiction. My 13-year-old daughter reads J.K. Rowing and Rick Riordan. At her age, I was devouring Mary Stewart and Jean Plaidy. And as I grew older, I continued to read the genre: Norah Lofts, Mary Renault, Bernard Cornwall, Robert Graves, and Margaret George. Right before I started my own first novel, I read Possession, by A.S. Byatt. What made me decide to try to write novels 20 years after I graduated from college? I was invited to a small fiction workshop in a teacher’s workshop, because they needed four people to keep going and they only had three. I was a seat warmer. I walked in, saying, “I am not sure what I want to write, but I know it will be historical, set in Tudor England.” Once I started writing my novel, I couldn’t stop. It became an obsession. I love creating my own world and characters to live in it. It’s very hard, but incredibly rewarding.

The Crown (Joanna Stafford, #1)

The Crown (Joanna Stafford, #1)

How has writing impacted your life?

It’s exciting to put out these books and I’m happy to find readers who respond to them. I’m always touched to get a positive email or hear something nice. And also I’ve met so many incredible authors and bloggers and lovers of history. Ten years ago, I don’t know how I would meet many of them, because they come through social media largely, followed by perhaps a meeting at a writer’s conference or some other event. These people have enriched my life. Now I can’t imagine not knowing them!

The Chalice (Joanna Stafford, #2)

The Chalice (Joanna Stafford, #2)

What advice would you give to beginner writers?

You have to believe in yourself. It’s a cliché but it’s so true! If you decide to go the traditional publishing route, it can be very bruising and you must be strong. I will share with you the saga of my being published in England to demonstrate the extreme up’s and down’s. After my agent sold ‘The Crown” in America to Touchstone Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, a co-agent sold it to Orion Books in England in a very exciting newsworthy two-book deal. My British editor came to NYC for some reason and while here took me out to a fabulous dinner. I was ecstatic. But when the book was actually published in February 2012, there was no staff publicist assigned—and it received virtually no reviews. So, not surprisingly, the book didn’t sell well. I was upset. But then, the Crime Writer’s Association put “The Crown” on the shortlist for the Ellis Peters Historical Dagger Award and called it “the debut of the year.” Again—I was ecstatic. This would turn it all around! But the release of “The Chalice” had no more publicity or attention than “The Crown,” with predictable results. Low sales. I asked the UK co-agent to go in and talk to the publishing team on my behalf. She came back with the news that I shouldn’t worry—my team in England reassured her that they weren’t

expecting big sales at this stage, they were growing me for the long term. They believed in me. Several months later, I was told that the British publisher did not want my third book in the Joanna Stafford series. I was dropped. You can’t believe how upset I was. The agents tried to get another publisher to take it, but no one wanted the third in a series. One editor I had very high hopes for waited months to decide she didn’t want the book. I got the news in an email as I sat down to a birthday lunch with friends. I had to leave the table and cry in the bathroom. So, OK, my fiction career was officially dead in England. But I couldn’t give up on my books or the readers I knew I had in England. I was able to obtain the ebook rights for the UK and I self-published the book a few days ago. And people are buying it with enthusiasm! There were many times I wanted to give up, but I didn’t. You have to adopt that spirit if you want to write books for the marketplace.

The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford, #3) Newly Released

The Tapestry (Joanna Stafford, #3) Newly Released

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

Again, I am a little unusual. I know a lot of novelists who refuse to read bad reviews and if they do, they become very upset. I am not happy to see them, but I read them carefully and think about whether there is something I can learn from it. Maybe this comes from my magazine background—you have to have a fairly thick skin on your work.

Author Bio:

Nancy photo

I’m a novelist, a magazine editor, a mother, and a wife—but not in that order! I am writing a series of novels for Simon & Schuster on a Dominican novice struggling to survive the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the time of Henry VIII. The first two novels, ‘The Crown’ and ‘The Chalice,’ are on sale in North America, the United Kingdom, and 9 foreign countries. ‘The Tapestry’ goes on sale March 24, 2015.

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A Writer’s Life with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Kristen Taber

Kristen Taber

Kristen Taber

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Kristen Taber to Layered Pages to talk to me about her writing. Born in Bangor, Maine, Kristen spent her childhood at the feet of an Irish storytelling grandfather, learning to blend fact with fiction and imagination with reality. She lived within the realm of the tales that captivated her, breathing life into characters and crafting stories even before she could read.

Those stories have since turned into over a hundred poems, several short tales, and five manuscripts in both the Young Adult and Adult genres. Currently, Ms. Taber is completing the five-part Ærenden series from her home office in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Kristen, why do you write?

My husband says I need to write to preserve my sanity. He means it as a joke, of course, but in some ways he might be right. For me, writing is as necessary as eating. My mind is constantly spinning, constructing tales, seeing characters living alongside real people. I make up back stories for strangers and daydream whenever I’m not too busy (and sometimes when I should be). Writing collects these spinning thoughts and brings them to life. It allows them to leave my head so I have room for something else. Sometimes that something else is actually real life duties, but often it’s more characters. I guess you could say my motto is “Create. Write. Repeat.”

What is your writing process?

I don’t have an extensive process, but I do have criteria that make it possible to write. I need a place where I have no demands. If at home, I wear headphones so I won’t hear the family playing upstairs. If I go outside the house, I like to find a coffee shop with enough background noise that I can get absorbed by it and not be distracted by something I can focus on (a lone conversation, a TV, etc).  Once I have the right location, I need a few hours. I’ve never been the type of person who could write in 15 minute bursts. It takes me about 30 minutes to get into my characters’ minds, then I stay with them for hours. If I’m interrupted, I lose my train of thought easily, so having that block of time is so important to making sure a book stays on track.

As to how I write, I’m a plotter-pantser. I have a whiteboard in my office where I keep track of the plot over the course of my series, detail characters and points I need to close out in each book, and jot down ideas as they come up while writing. I have a general idea about where the story is going, how it will end, and where I want it to go, but I learned long ago that my idea of what needs to happen and the characters’ sometimes vary. Most of the time the characters win when I fight back, so I go along with the plot twists they deliver and hold on tight. Sometimes these tangents get edited out in the second draft, but other times I wind up enjoying the new direction better. As an example, one of my main characters, Cal, was supposed to be a minor character. When his turn came to leave the book, he persisted in annoying me until I let him stay.

Kristen Taber book cover

How has writing impacted your life?

I can’t imagine life without writing. It touches every aspect of who I am. It allows me the chance to create, to invent, to feel like I’m constructing something new and valuable. Without writing, I wouldn’t have my self-publishing journey, and without that, I wouldn’t have many of the people in my life I consider friends. My editor, several authors, a few bloggers, even readers who I talk to on a regular basis all came into my life because of my writing. I’m grateful that my passion has led to so many blessings outside of my books.

When do your best ideas come to you for a story?

Nearly all of my novels have started as random scenes that visited in the moments between wakefulness and sleeping, when my mind wanders most and my creativity runs wild. After a scene plays out, I’m usually snapped awake and have the compulsion to write about it. Needless to say, I have many nights of little to no sleep, but its well worth it when I can read the start of a new book by the time the sun rises.

How do you respond to positive and negative reviews?

Positive reviews always make me so happy! They give me the confidence to write the next scene. Negative reviews are great for learning. I read each one carefully, dissect what the reviewer has said and try to figure out if there’s a way I can make improvements in my writing. I hope everyone likes my books, of course, but I understand how subjective art can be. Opinions will vary, so I try to weigh all of my reviews individually and as part of a whole (especially when they contradict each other). Ultimately, no matter what they say, it’s great to know people are reading my books.

What advice would you give a beginner writer?

First and foremost, enjoy your stories. Don’t try to chase the trends, because those are always changing and if you write something because it’s what you think others want to read, but you don’t want to read it yourself, that will come across. Instead of becoming a living world, what you create will seem false. Second, while you don’t always have to follow the rules (grammar, structure, etc.), it’s important to know the rules so you know what you can break to make your story flow. And third, just write. No matter what you do and how busy your life might be, find time to write. As with anything else, exercising daily will keep your writing muscles limber and well-toned.

Links:

Website

Ærenden

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Sunday Book Highlight

A Rage to Live

B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree

Victor Breitburg is a survivor of the Lódz Ghetto, Auschwitz, Buchenwald, Rhemsdorf and Theresienstadt concentration camps. He was liberated with a group known as “The Boys”. Their experiences have been documented in Sir Martin Gilbert’s Book, The Boys:Triumph Over Adversity. Victor and many of “The Boys” are still in contact with one another, although as it is with WWII veterans, their numbers are slowly diminishing.

Victor’s journey from Lódz, to the camps in Europe, to England, Scotland and the United States and his new life in America is the story told in this volume.

Victor completed studies in America, became a successful businessman and an accomplished lecturer on the Holocaust, having received numerous awards and citations for his role as an educator.

He is a widower, having been married to his beloved wife Lucille for sixty years.

He currently lives in Coconut Creek Florida, and at 84 years old, occasionally speaks on Yom HaShoa. He has written some poems, short stories and is considering a novel based on the early days of the Mossad, the Israeli Secret Service. Victor has two daughters, Denise and Myra. Denise is married to Mark and they have two children, Maya and Eli.

 Excerpt from Chapter 9: Resettlements and Goodbyes

We must have been traveling for several hours, with some stops to permit other trains to pass. We observed that eastbound trains were army trains and westbound trains were transports for the Red Cross. We knew that the Germans were suffering heavy casualties on the eastern front. Were they losing the war? Were they winning on the western front? Is this why they needed our help?

We stopped for the night and every one settled down to sleep. We still had bread and there was a barrel of water. If we had to go to the toilet, we put up a little curtain and went through a crack in the floor as we relieved ourselves down onto the railroad tracks. The mood on the train improved. Most were thinking that if they wanted to kill us, why would they use such a valuable train? We must have stopped a dozen times. Every time we stopped, we stood there for hours. This was the third day.

All of sudden there was a commotion. We went through a gate and the train stopped. There was silence, and we knew we had arrived. Everyone put on their backpacks and waited for the doors of the train to open. I heard my heart beating. I was not at ease and my lips were trembling. My mother gathered us in her arms and told us to stay together. “If for some reason we get separated, we should not forget that our meeting destination is with my sister in Brooklyn.” She kissed us. I hugged my mother.

I said, “Nothing is going happen to us, we are going to stay together.”

I took Felek’s hand, but he pulled it away and said, “Take care of Sarah. I am twelve years old and am able to help myself.” I smiled at him. He certainly was growing up. I was surprised at his reaction. He turned out to be such a good-looking kid. He was a Breitburg; blond and blue eyed. I am a cross breed between the Wajnmans and Brajtburgs.

Waiting for the door to slide open was hard. We didn’t know what to expect. At that moment I felt we should pray to the Almighty, “Please let this nightmare end for us so that one day we might go to the Promised Land and serve you for eternity.”

victor-and-joe

Victor & Joe

Joseph Krygier is the Pastor of New Covenant Baptist Fellowship in Buffalo, New York. He has written about and been engaged in cross-cultural ministry for over thirty years. He has taught in Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Australia. His current overseas ministry is TheosDoulos Church Planting Movement, training pastors in the Philippines on the island of Mindanao. Before becoming ordained, he was involved in theater, dance and lighting design. His a musician and a composer and he is currently writing a one-man play, Chagrined, based on this book. An audio book version will soon be available with the talent of Lee Wilkof and other Broadway actors.  He is married to Deborah, who works for the Buffalo Public Schools and has a son Aaron, who is pursuing a career as a writer and an actor.

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Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Debrah Martin

Debrah Martin -BRAG

Debrah Martin writes under three different pen names and in three very different genres. She plots fast-paced and compelling thrillers as D.B. Martin, with the first in the Patchwork trilogy, Patchwork Man, having been recently awarded a coveted B.R.A.G. Medallion. The explosive conclusion to the series, Patchwork Pieces, is to be released on 13th April 2015. As Debrah Martin she writes literary fiction, where often the truth IS stranger than fiction, and two new titles are due to be released in 2015/16. And not to be overlooked is her YA teen detective series, penned as Lily Stuart – THE teen detective. Irreverent, blunt, funny and vulnerable. Webs is the first in the series and Magpies will follow in 2015.

So why not stick to just one name and one genre?

‘Variety is the spice of life,’ she says. ‘And I continually have all these new ideas – they have to come out somehow!’

Debrah’s past careers have spanned two businesses, teaching, running business networking for the University of Winchester (UK) and social event management. She chaired the Wantage (not just Betjeman) Literary Festival in 2014 and also mentors new writers.

Hello, Debrah! Thank you for chatting with me today and your B.R.A.G. Medallion book, Patchwork Man. I must say, what a fantastic title! It catches the reader’s eyes and leaves them wanting to find out more about the story. Before you tell me how your title pertains to the story, tell me about your book.

Patchwork Man

Lawrence Juste QC finds himself tricked into taking a case defending a juvenile against a charge of manslaughter by his clever – but dead – wife. Normally he wouldn’t even have opened the folder without her around to persuade him, but she’s left something else to do that for her; a list of all the unsavoury people and events from his past. The ones he’s carefully hidden until now and didn’t even know she was aware of.

Disconcertingly, the boy reminds him of himself – not only as a person but in the crime he’s supposed to have committed. Taking the case catapults Juste into a world that touches his own past with alarming regularity until it throws up the brother he betrayed as a teenager, the bully he’s done his best to avoid ever since and a disturbingly attractive female liaison. It also leads him on a journey in which he rediscovers the family he rejected, has to answer for the murder he should have ensured was fairly tried, but didn’t, and himself – or the principles the man who styled himself Lawrence Juste once wanted to observe. By the time the book closes, the links to his forgotten family have drawn significantly closer and so has the childhood bully. And the one person who still seems to be the linchpin for all of it is Juste’s dead wife whose influence oddly still seems to be very much alive and active…

Your story is set in two specific times – Lawrence/Kenny’s childhood is based in the 1950’s in Croydon, England. Run-down, poverty-stricken and dismal. The ‘present-day’ story is 1999, with Lawrence (born 1950) and now middle-aged, well-to-do, respected and living in London. How did you decide to write about these periods, topic and what was challenging about the themes? Also, please share a bit of research you might have done.

It all started with my mother’s description of how the rag and bone man used to tour the streets years ago. My mother is now eighty. It was such a vivid piece of living history I wrote it up straight away and then started looking around at what else was happening at the time. Next I hit on some information about what it was like being in a children’s home in the fifties and how some of the children desperately wanted to leave that past behind them when they left. I started to think about what it might be like for someone with an experience so bad they wanted to entirely forget it and turn their back on the whole of their past life, even the times before they were unhappy. That obviously provided the possibility of wanting past misdeeds to be hidden too, and for them to later come back and haunt the protagonist. He, or she, therefore had to be a ‘fallen hero’ and I particularly liked the idea of one who was ultra-respectable but intrinsically damaged – or dramatically failing to adhere to the principles they once aspired too. Lawrence Juste was ‘born’, and after having seen an adaptation for the theatre of To Kill a Mocking Bird, my long-time admiration of the book found its target in the principles of justice and fairness Juste aspires to, but lost sight of a long time beforehand.

The research was easy in some ways as some of my family had lived in Croydon in both the 1950’s and 1990’s. I, myself, lived in London in the 1980’s. The more difficult area to research was the state of children’s homes in the 1950’s and 1960’s. I was both disturbed and pleased to be told by someone who’d actually worked in a children’s home round about that time that my description was very accurate – of both the kind of buildings and arrangements in place as well as the incidents that occurred. Research for me is usually a mix of research using the internet, and interviewing people with recall of appropriate places and times. Personal remembrances are much more ‘alive’ than research conducted through books or the internet, but both are be necessary because the memory is fallible, whereas recorded facts tend not to be! I’m not a legal eagle, but I had a massive stroke of luck in coming across someone who introduced me to a British High Court Judge and he checked the legal and procedural sections for credibility and accuracy. He asked to remain nameless of course, but I’m indebted to him for his kindness in helping with Patchwork Man.

What is an example of a choice or a path Lawrence takes that affects his life and how does he deal with it?

Laurence made a major life path choice in his teens when he decided he was going to cut himself off from his past. It derived from self-preservation, firstly after an incident at the children’s home he spent his teenage years in,

“… it was the determination to never be falling backwards with a knife in my gut that kept me safe until Jaggers arrived.”

And subsequently that determination to survive taught him how to subdivide his life and his emotions so he could operate almost robotically, and not be truly touched emotionally:

“… Keep everything separate; separate lives. That way the trouble of one life wouldn’t spill over into the other. The two versions. Fragmented…”

But this is only possible until he’s forced to become involved with people who operate quite differently to him; Danny – who might be his son, and Kat, who disturbs all kinds of hitherto stifled emotions. He’s never dealt in emotion or loyalty before. Facing his past as it collides with his present requires him to also face himself, and the man he’s become.

“… Advice can be good at the time, but time moves situations on and everything is changed. And to be a whole person the fragments have to be assembled …”

What is a Patchwork Man? And this must be how you came up with your title.

My patchwork man is Laurence,

“…Maybe we’re all patchworks, slowly adding to the pattern, piece by piece – some frayed, some neatly sewn, some brightly coloured and some dull and faded from over-use…”

But I think we are all patchworks, created out of our experiences and past choices. They inform our behavior, create our instinctive responses, and sometimes come unraveled if there’s a loose thread that someone or something tugs hard enough on. I’m also fascinated with how life can change dramatically from one moment to the next and what we thought was the pattern of our world can tangle or even become undone. That was what I wanted to portray in Laurence – the man who thought he’d got everything sewn up tight, only to find that single loose thread pulled, and with it everything else coming unstitched too.

How much time did you spend writing your story?

The whole trilogy took me just over a year to write. I worked on it more or less continuously during that year and the story took over and told itself after a while. I find that quite often happens when I get to know the characters well because what they choose to do is almost inevitable once I’ve understood them and their motivations and fears. Of course there is always – as with real life – the chance that they will act out of character because of a revelation, and Laurence does have one of those moments in the final book of the trilogy; Patchwork Pieces, out on the 13th April, but I’ll keep what a secret …

Where in your home do you like to write and what is your process?

I have a writing room which used to be my daughters ballet studio – until she gave it up. I could, if I wished, admire myself in two walls of mirrors whilst hanging off the ballet barre, but of course I’d rather sit at my desk and write! My day starts with a mug of tea and a review of what I did the day before. If I’m on a roll I might get a whole chapter down in first draft, but often it’s much more slow-moving. I tend to write a whole first draft before doing any editing, and once a first draft is completed I like to put it away for a while before going back for the first round of editing. It enables me to see it with fresh eyes. I don’t use Scrivener or any of the other tools some writers use. I have a spreadsheet detailing the chapters, the main plot points occurring in them, Sometimes there are quite detailed descriptions if I’ve already imagined some elements of the chapter in my head, like a conversation between characters or a specific turning point in the plot, or sometimes just a sentence I particularly like. The spreadsheet gradually gets scrawled all over as I think of things I’d like to change or add to, or the characters themselves dictate that something different should happen. I try to break the day up with a walk with my dog unless our English weather puts a stop to that. Otherwise, Rosie, my retriever lays just behind where I sit at my desk and reminds me from time to time that she’d like some attention too! My writing day usually ends round about 4.30pm when my younger daughter arrives home from school, demanding food – why are teenagers always starving? If, by then, I’m most of the way through a chapter, it’s been a good day, but often the progress will have been more in determining plot points, character development and collating research material in the early days of the book.

Who designed your book cover?

The cover design is mainly mine, but brought to life by a cover designer. After looking at a number of book covers in the genre, I decided I needed a theme for all of the books in the trilogy and chose the images with that in mind. The basic white background of the front cover was a natural choice because of the first image I chose and it also perfectly complimented the theme of something coming out of nothing. Laurence Juste starts out as a ‘nothing’ person – hidden secrets, hidden past, hidden emotions, and on the front of Patchwork Man he’s just about to break cover. The images progress through the spying eye of Patchwork People – and there’s a distinctly spying eye at the heart of the second book in the trilogy – to the handprint on the cover of the final book in the trilogy, Patchwork Pieces, where Laurence’s identity is sealed.

In your bio it say you write under three pen name. How do you keep up with that? *smiling* That is impressive!

With difficulty! I often have more than one book in progress, is really how. At the moment I’m working on Magpies, my next YA fiction, but I’m also plagued with all sorts of ideas for The Definition of Iniquity, which is to be my next suspense thriller. I also have Thirty times Thirty, another literary fiction underway. In progress too are a re-release of a novel now out of print from 2013, and waiting in the wings with my agent is Falling Awake – also a literary fiction. I chose to write under three pennames mainly on my agent’s advice. She felt that it would be confusing for readers to pick up a book written in one genre anticipating it to be a particular kind of story, only to find it was something completely different. I can see the sense in this and as long as the ideas and stories keep flowing and readers keep reading, I’m happy to be read under any name.

How did you discover indieBRAG?

I first found indieBRAG via another author agented by my literary agent, A for Authors; Alison Morton. Alison also writes suspense thrillers and I was interested in the award she referred to having won for one of them as she is also an indie. I had a look around the B.R.A.G. website and was impressed by both its authenticity and its professional approach. I decided to submit Patchwork Man, although hardly daring think I would be awarded a BRAG medallion so you can imagine how delighted I was when I did. Being an indie author is tough at times. So many doors are closed to you by the traditional publishing world, yet I know from other indie authors that I have read that there are some extremely talented writers out there – more talented, dare I say, than some authors published by mainstream and major publishers. To receive an award based on a thorough and professional review is not only an honour – and an accolade very much worth having – it’s a validation of all the work that goes into writing a book and garnering the self-belief to self-publish it. What more can I say than that I am delighted to be able to BRAG about mine.

Where can readers buy your book?

Patchwork Man is available on Amazon

As is the sequel, Patchwork People

And the conclusion to the trilogy, Patchwork Pieces, is available for pre-order

For YA fiction readers, my first YA fiction, Webs, is available here

You can also find Debrah’s website here

Her blog is here

Her Facebook Page

And she’s on Twitter as @Storytellerdeb

Thank you, Debrah! It was a pleasure chatting with you. Please visit Layered Pages again soon.

A message from BRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Debrah Martin, who is the author of, Patchwork Man, our medallion honorees at indieBRAG . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Patchwork Man, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.