The Daughters Of Red Hill Hall: A gripping novel of family, secrets and murder by Kathleen McGurl

The daughter of red hill hallWhen Gemma discovers a pair of ancient duelling pistols encrusted with rubies in the basement of the local museum, she is immediately intrigued…

On a fateful night in 1838 two sisters were found shot in the cellars of Red Hill Hall. And when Gemma begins to delve deeper into their history she begins to realise that the secrets of that night are darker than anyone had ever imagined.

As the shocking events of the past begin to unravel, Gemma’s own life starts to fall apart. Loyalties are tested and suddenly it seems as if history is repeating itself, as Gemma learns that female friendships can be deadly…

My Thoughts:

The Daughters of Red Hill Hall has dual story lines that weave together wonderfully. This story has a great plot and the pace was perfect. There are some surprises and twist along the way and I found myself emotional invested in the characters. I really admire McGurl’s focus on the relationship between Rebecca and Sarah. She also shows that not everything is what it seems and what resentment and jealousy can do to people. I wondered just how far she would go with this and I was really astounded the way things turned out.

An old case of dueling pistols is brilliant! My hats off to the author.

I’ve rated this book three and a half stars.

I received a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie N. Hopkins

Cover Crush: The Tory Widow by Christine Blevins

The Tory WidowI absolutely adore American History and how this great nation was founded. I am really looking forward to reading this book and I LOVE the book cover! I think it’s perfect for the story and I am delighted to see a picture of a woman without her entire head missing from the layout! Okay, okay… I have to admit something. This book falls under the Genre-Romance as well as 18th Century Literature. I am not a fan of romance stories. Having said that, because of the cover and the historical influence of the story, I’m willing to give it a go.

Book Description:

On a bright May day in New York City, Anne Peabody receives an unexpected kiss from a stranger. Bringing news of the repeal of the Stamp Act, Jack Hampton, a member of the Sons of Liberty, abruptly sweeps Anne into his arms, kisses her-and then leaves her to her fate of an arranged marriage…

1775: Nearly ten years have passed and Anne, now the Widow Merrick, continues her late husband’s business printing Tory propaganda, not because she believes in the cause, but because she needs the money to survive. When her shop is ransacked by the Sons of Liberty, Anne once again comes face to face with Jack and finds herself drawn to the ardent patriot and his rebel cause.

As shots ring out at Lexington and war erupts, Anne is faced with a life-altering decision: sit back and watch her world torn apart, or stand and fight for both her country’s independence and her own.

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Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Flashlight Commentary’s latest cover crush here

Other great book bloggers who cover crush

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon

Wish-List 5: A Little of This & A Little of That

This month I am not sticking to any particular theme. I am in the mood to add a variety of stories to my never ending wish-list. The question is, will I ever get to my list? I think so. Matter of fact I have read a few already this year. Not bad but I need to read more. As they say, there is never enough time in the day. There is night time of course but one must get some sleep every once in a while. I hope you enjoy checking out this list and I hope some will be of interest to you. Enjoy! 

The Whole Art of DetectionThe Whole Art of Detection

Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes

by Lyndsay Faye

Expected Publish Date: March 7, 2017

Internationally bestselling author Lyndsay Faye was introduced to the Sherlock Holmes mysteries when she was ten years old and her dad suggested she read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” She immediately became enamored with tales of Holmes and his esteemed biographer Dr. John Watson, and later, began spinning these quintessential characters into her own works of fiction—from her acclaimed debut novel, Dust and Shadow, which pitted the famous detective against Jack the Ripper, to a series of short stories for the Strand Magazine, whose predecessor published the very first Sherlock Holmes short story in 1891.

Faye’s best Holmes tales, including two new works, are brought together in The Whole Art of Detection, a stunning collection that spans Holmes’s career, from self-taught young upstart to publicly lauded detective, both before and after his faked death over a Swiss waterfall in 1894. In “The Lowther Park Mystery,” the unsociable Holmes is forced to attend a garden party at the request of his politician brother and improvises a bit of theater to foil a conspiracy against the government. “The Adventure of the Thames Tunnel” brings Holmes’s attention to the baffling murder of a jewel thief in the middle of an underground railway passage. With Holmes and Watson encountering all manner of ungrateful relatives, phony psychologists, wronged wives, plaid-garbed villains, and even a peculiar species of deadly red leech, The Whole Art of Detection is a must-read for Sherlockians and any fan of historical crime fiction with a modern sensibility.

Stolen BeautyStolen Beauty

A Novel

by Laurie Lico Albanese

Expected Publish Date: Feb 7, 2017

From the dawn of the twentieth century to the devastation of World War II, this exhilarating novel of love, war, art, and family gives voice to two extraordinary women and brings to life the true story behind the creation and near destruction of Gustav Klimt’s most remarkable paintings.

In the dazzling glitter of 1903 Vienna, Adele Bloch-Bauer—young, beautiful, brilliant, and Jewish—meets painter Gustav Klimt. Wealthy in everything but freedom, Adele embraces Klimt’s renegade genius as the two awaken to the erotic possibilities on the canvas and beyond. Though they enjoy a life where sex and art are just beginning to break through the façade of conventional society, the city is also exhibiting a disturbing increase in anti-Semitism, as political hatred foments in the shadows of Adele’s coffee house afternoons and cultural salons.

Nearly forty years later, Adele’s niece Maria Altmann is a newlywed when the Nazis invade Austria—and overnight, her beloved Vienna becomes a war zone. When her husband is arrested and her family is forced out of their home, Maria must summon the courage and resilience that is her aunt’s legacy if she is to survive and keep her family—and their history—alive.

Will Maria and her family escape the grip of Nazis’ grip? And what will become of the paintings that her aunt nearly sacrificed everything for?

Impeccably researched and a “must-read for fans of Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale and Paula McLain’s Circling the Sun” (Christina Baker Kline, #1New York Times bestselling author), Stolen Beauty intertwines the tales of two remarkable women across more than a hundred years. It juxtaposes passion and discovery against hatred and despair, and shines a light on our ability to love, to destroy, and above all, to endure.

The Orphan's TaleThe Orphan’s Tale

by Pam Jenoff

Expected Publish Date: Feb 21, 2017

The Nightingale meets Water for Elephants in this powerful novel of friendship and sacrifice, set in a traveling circus during World War II, by international bestselling author Pam Jenoff.

Seventeen-year-old Noa has been cast out in disgrace after becoming pregnant by a Nazi soldier during the occupation of her native Holland. Heartbroken over the loss of the baby she was forced to give up for adoption, she lives above a small German rail station, which she cleans in order to earn her keep.

A Deadly ThawA Deadly Thaw

by Sarah Ward

Expected Publish Date: Sep 27, 2016

Lena Grey is found guilty of murdering her husband, who was found smothered in their bed. She offers no defense, and serves fourteen long years in prison. But within months of her release nearly two decades later, his body is found in a disused morgue, recently killed. Who was the man she killed before, and why did she lie about his identity?

Detective Inspector Francis Sadler and his Derbyshire team try to discover how such a well-orchestrated deception could have occurred. DC Connie Childs is convinced that something greater than marital strife caused the murders, but before Lena can be questioned further, she vanishes. Back in Lena’s childhood home, her sister Kat, a therapist, is shocked by her sister’s duplicity. When she begins to receive mysterious packages from a young man claiming to know her sister’s location, Kat is drawn into her own investigation of her family’s well-hidden secrets. As her inquiries begin to collide with the murder investigation, a link to the sisters’ teenage lives emerges, and the line between victim and perpetrator becomes blurred in this tightly-plotted, compelling novel perfect for fans of Deborah Crombie and Sharon Bolton.

The Trial of Marie MontrecourtThe Trial of Marie Montrecourt

by Kay Patrick

Expected Publish Date: May 28, 2016

1899 and Marie Montrecourt arrives in Harrogate from France, an eighteen-year-old, penniless orphan, facing an uncertain future and knowing little of her past. Meanwhile in London, Evelyn Harringdon is dealing with the death of his father, one of the most influential men in Parliament and a hero of the first Boer War.

It would seem that these two events have little in common but they are linked by a scandal, one that is deeply buried in the past.

As Marie struggles to find a place for herself in her new life she is drawn into the fight for women’s rights, while Evelyn discovers that political corruption threatens to ruin his family’s good name. It is his obsession with discovering the truth that brings him into contact with Marie – a meeting that will prove dangerous for them both. They are prisoners of the past, and Evelyn’s attempt at atonement sets Marie on a path which will lead her into making a terrible choice. It’s one which will transform her from an innocent young woman into the central player in a notorious murder trial…

Here are some of the wishlists from a few of my friends this month:

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court 

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired

Erin @ Flashlight Commentary 


Review: The Ninja’s Daughter by Susan Spann

02_The-Ninjas-Daughter-1Book Description:

Autumn, 1565: When an actor’s daughter is murdered on the banks of Kyoto’s Kamo River, master ninja Hiro Hattori and Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo are the victim’s only hope for justice.

As political tensions rise in the wake of the shogun’s recent death, and rival warlords threaten war, the Kyoto police forbid an investigation of the killing, to keep the peace–but Hiro has a personal connection to the girl, and must avenge her. The secret investigation leads Hiro and Father Mateo deep into the exclusive world of Kyoto’s theater guilds, where they quickly learn that nothing, and no one, is as it seems. With only a mysterious golden coin to guide them, the investigators uncover a forbidden love affair, a missing mask, and a dangerous link to corruption within the Kyoto police department that leaves Hiro and Father Mateo running for their lives.

My thoughts:

The Ninja’s Daughter was a real treat to read. I don’t think I have read a story that takes place in Japan during the 16th Century before. The culture, social norms, customs, class distinctions during that period are really fascinating and Spann really shows that in this story. Not only that but the political and social conflicts were interesting as well.

Spann does a great job in keeping her readers engaged with the story and the mystery of who killed Emi. The Kyoto police do not feel that her death is worth an investigation and Hiro Hattori and Father Mateo are determined to find the killer. What a dual those two make. I loved the interaction between them and how they uncover the killer and so on.

This story makes a good stand-alone but I look forward to reading more Hiro’s and Mateo’s life from the previous books.

I rated this story three stars.

About the Author

03_Susan-SpannSusan Spann is the author of three previous novels in the Shinobi Mystery series: Claws of the Cat, Blade of the Samurai, and Flask of the Drunken Master. She has a degree in Asian Studies and a lifelong love of Japanese history and culture. . When not writing, she works as a transactional attorney focusing on publishing and business law, and raises seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium.

For more information, please visit Susan Spann’s website. You can also follow her on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads.



Interview with Andrea Zuvich

Andrea ZuvichAndrea Zuvich is visiting me today to talk with me about her book, The Stuart Vampire and about the period in history she focuses on. Andrea is a seventeenth-century historian specialising in the House of Stuart (1603–1714), as well as a historical advisor and author of historical fiction. She is the host of the popular ‘The Seventeenth Century Lady’ blog. She has degrees in History and Anthropology. Zuvich has appeared on television and radio discussing the Stuarts and gives lectures on the dynasty throughout the UK. She was one of the original developers of and leaders on the Garden History Tours at Kensington Palace. Zuvich, a Chilean-American born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, now lives in England with her husband.

Hi, Andrea! Thank you for chatting with me today about your book, The Stuart Vampire. Tell me a little about the premise.

Thank you for having me on this great site! The Stuart Vampire follows the brief life of Henry Stuart, Duke of Gloucester, who was the youngest son of King Charles I (and therefore the youngest brother of King Charles II). Henry historically died from smallpox when he was twenty, and my story takes a decidedly paranormal turn from that point on and takes us along on Henry’s journey as he copes with his forced transformation into a vampire and he embarks on a mission to try to make something good out of this horrible curse. Along the way, he meets Susanna, the shocking inhabitants of the isolated village of Coffin’s Bishop, Sebastian (originally a mediaeval stonemason), among others.

Why 17th Century?

For me, the seventeenth century has it all and is yet grossly overlooked by both readers and authors (though I’m pleased to say I’ve seen a steady surge in interest from both in the past couple of years). The century was pretty controversial and one can still get heated arguments about topics from that time (i.e. whether or not it was lawful to execute King Charles I, what we should call the English Civil Wars, if we should recognize William and Mary as true sovereigns or usurpers… the list goes on and on). I love the aesthetics of this time period as well – the Baroque style is sometimes criticised for being over-exuberant and outrageously flamboyant – but I love it as, to me, it’s stunning and unashamed of displaying the gamut of human emotion.

The Stuart Vampire

Tell me a little about Charles II.

Ah, Charles II, hands-down the most popular of the Stuarts. Often called the “Merry Monarch”, he is best remembered for his rather prolific love life and for the Great Fire of London rather than for the political events during his reign – which included the Popish Plot of the 1670s, the Rye House Plot of 1683, the Secret Treaty of Dover with Louis XIV of France, etc. Charles II appears occasionally in The Stuart Vampire because he was an important figure in Henry’s life.

What are the emotional triggers of Contessa Griselda di Cuorenero and how does she act on them?

Griselda is the main antagonist of the book. Her biggest flaw is her obsession with her looks. She’s been fortunate to have beauty, but naturally this fades with time and it is the lengths to which she’ll go to in order to maintain this beauty that shows the depths of her vanity and evil. I can’t comment any further without giving anything away!

What is the courage and strengths of Henry Stuart? -and possibly the isolation he may feel with these attributes.

Henry has a strong sense of morality, and I think this is his strongest point. When he is around Griselda, she is a despicable individual and he knows he does not want to be like her. His longing to maintain his humanity is touching but at the same time makes him lonely. His devotion to and love for Susanna is another strength, and it’s the same for her. After a secret is revealed, Susanna tells Henry that “Our love will be the light and the darkness shall perish beneath the weight of it” – and that’s the strength of their relationship in a nutshell.

How is your character(s) influenced by their setting?

At one point, Henry leaves London and goes into the countryside, which does influence him – I think characters, like real people, do get influenced by their surroundings and those who surround them. The town of Coffin’s Bishop is a negative influence on Susanna, who does need to get away from that horrid place just for some peace of mind.

What is the greatest challenge of writing a story with Vampires in it?

Believability, especially from those who know me as a more serious historian. Most of my days are spent writing nonfiction history, but I’m very keen on making history accessible to as many people as possible as I don’t think it should only be for the academic community. When some people hear that I’ve written “a vampire story” they have a rude tendency to roll their eyes and/or chuckle, but the fact is, this story has made Henry Stuart known to a lot more people – people who have subsequently gone on to read more about the Stuarts, the English Civil Wars, the seventeenth century, and so on. I had one teenager contact me saying that solely because of The Stuart Vampire, she decided to get books about the Stuarts from her library to learn more about them – which is great! And that’s certainly nothing to snigger about.

Where can readers buy your book?

The Stuart Vampire is available in both paperback and eBook formats on Amazon, iBooks, Google Books, signed copies are available through my website, and the book will soon to be released as an audiobook on Audible. My other books are also available in these formats, but the two nonfiction books, A Year in the Life of Stuart Britain (hardback, 2016) and The Stuarts in 100 Facts (paperback, 2015) can be bought from any good bookseller.

Please tell me about yourself as an Historian.

History has been a very important aspect of my life since I was a little girl. I remember I was in the fourth grade and I knew I wanted to be a historian. I went to a community college during high school and then got my AA in History, and then I went to the University of Central Florida where I obtained two BA degrees – one in History and the other in Anthropology. After this, I got married and moved to the UK, and continued my history studies with Oxford University and Princeton University. That being said, there was absolutely no better training for me than actually delving into archives around the world – handling documents from the seventeenth century brought the history to life in ways that could never be done in a classroom. Indeed, by the time I had finished studying history in university, I was burned out, I almost couldn’t stand it anymore as formal study and the somewhat politically biased teaching wasn’t right for me. I had time off and fell in love with history again, by self-teaching with primary sources. Whilst living in London, I volunteered at Kensington Palace and later was one of the creators and leaders on their Garden History Tours, which was a very enlightening experience for me. Since 2010, I’ve run The Seventeenth Century Lady website which is devoted to all things seventeenth-century, with an emphasis on European history. I’ve been giving lectures on the Stuart period of 1603-1714 for several years now, and it’s a delight to do so.

Will you write other stories related to the paranormal?

It’s funny because I was never before interested in paranormal stories until The Stuart Vampire. That being said, I’ve had numerous readers who have responded favorably to this and many have asked for a continuation of Henry’s story – which does indeed interest me!

What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished writing a short story set during the plague outbreak of 1630s Venice, and I’m also recording the audio version of The Stuart Vampire. I’m expecting a child due in October, so I hope to finish off two more historical fiction novels that I’ve been working on over the past few years (I started my novel about William and Mary in 2010, and my novel about a Restoration actress’s adventures in 2014) – we’ll see how that goes!

Often times the best inspiration comes within us. How do you flesh out your characters to drive the plot?

I write historical novels based on historical fact, and there are unknowns in any biography and I use my imagination – strictly based on in-depth study on that person’s behavior and character – to flesh out the story. I rather see the whole process as though the facts are the bones of a fish, and my job is to give educated guesses as to the rest – to flesh out the fish. Every author has their way of going about it, but I’m comfortable with this so I’ll keep on trucking.

Thank you, Andrea!

Thank you, Stephanie!

Please visit Andrea’s site here

Other Links:

Amazon Profile



Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Scott D. Prill

Scott Prill BRAGI’d like to welcome Scott Douglas Prill today to talk with me about his book, Into the Realm of Time. Scott was born in Iowa and received a M.S. degree in Environmental Engineering from the University of Iowa in 1977.  His subsequent career choices have reflected a strong interest in natural resources.  Since graduating, Scott has held positions as a limnologist and environmental consultant.  He also has a M.B.A. and is a Certified Hazardous Materials Manager.  For the previous twenty-six years, Scott has been an in-house environmental consultant for the law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren s.c. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Scott resides in Bayside, Wisconsin, with his wife, Marcie.  He enjoys spending time with their three adult children and writing.  Into the Realm of Time is Scott’s debut novel. 

Hello Scott! Thank you for chatting with me today. How did you discover indieBRAG?

Stephanie – thank you for the opportunity for me to be a part of the indieBRAG interview process.  I am pleased to answer your questions.

I discovered indieBRAG through a work colleague who recommended I submit Into the Realm of Time to indieBRAG for review.   I am pleased I listened to his recommendation.   This is the first book I have written and I am learning about new literary groups such as indieBRAG and Goodreads and the positive ideas such groups offer to independent writers like me.

Into the Realm of TimeTell me about your book, Into the Realm of Time.

The story takes place during 372-375 AD.  The Roman Empire is on the brink of its great decline.  The fierce Roman General Marcus Augustus Valerias contemplates his future.  Though at the peak of his success and power, through victories against both external and internal enemies of Rome, the General is weary of the brutality of continual war and yearns for a different life away from his legions and battlefields.  At the same time, Claire, the widowed queen of a kingdom in Britannia, risks everything to protect her children from a bloodthirsty usurper.  A priest, named Joseph, tries to hide his dark past as he pursues salvation in the Christian faith.  Flavius, a Roman officer who deserted his legion, seeks redemption for the cruel actions he has inflicted on behalf of a corrupt tyrant.

All the while, two Hun brothers, Uldric and Rao, are ruled by their ambitions to ruthlessly establish and expand a Hun empire.  The story of these intertwined destinies unfolds against the backdrop of love, power, greed, religion, valor and sacrifice in this turbulent period.  Fates are not foretold and events lead to a climactic epic battle.  Each character must make choices and it is these crucial decisions that decide their ultimate fates.

Into the Realm of Time is a fictional narrative of timeless personal struggles set against an unsettled Roman Empire.  Christianity had eclipsed paganism as the state religion and Britannia was an orphaned and wild Roman province.  The Huns were emerging and pushing the panicked barbarian Goths into the eastern edge of the Empire.  It is a tumultuous time as Rome tenuously clings to its status as a dominant power – the time of General Marcus Augustus Valerias.

What are the habits of your protagonist(s)?

I’m not sure if the book describes the habits of my characters as much as it does the character’s own qualities.  I consider Into the Realm of Time to have one protagonist and several sub-protagonists and antagonists.

Marcus Augustus Valerias, the main protagonist, is a highly successful military general.  He is the emperors’ enforcer and is counted on to defeat the emperors’ enemies both outside and inside the Empire.  Valerias is strong willed, a brilliant military strategist, and a leader of men.  He never lost a battle.  He demands much of his men, but he maintains a strong bond of loyalty with his legions.

Yet, the military is all he has known in his life.  Thus, even though he won’t admit it, he has doubts about the path he has taken in life and wonders if there is something more than serving in the army.  He yearns for a new life and whatever that life offers.  He retires from the army and searches for a new meaning. He finds that new life but also discovers he cannot leave his past behind him.

Self-image is important in characters, how is this important to your characters? 

Developing the characters within the storyline was my most important aspect in writing Into the Realm of Time.  I wanted to write a book where the characters were not super heroes and super villains; good versus evil.  The main characters have positive characteristics as well as flaws.  General Valerias, for example, is a complicated man.  He is a highly successful Roman General.  He is a brutal man in a brutal time.  Yet he has a strong inner turmoil.  He is searching for contentment and when he finds contentment, he learns it is only a fleeting feeling.  He has never had children and yet children are drawn to him.  Another character, Claire, puts aside her title as queen to save her children from a bloodthirsty usurper.   Joseph, the Christian priest, has much to learn about the meaning of Christianity.

Into the Realm of Time is a book of character development. The interactions of characters with others and events defined their self-images.

What fascinates you most about the Roman Empire?

I have enjoyed watching movies and reading about the Roman Empire since boyhood.    The Robe, Ben Hur, Spartacus and Gladiator and others have influenced my thinking of the Empire.  On the other hand, the information (facts) in books I have read tends to bring the magic of movies to reality.

I think the fact that the Empire lasted several centuries is remarkable.  Although the Western part of the Empire collapsed around 476 AD, the Eastern part lasted almost one thousand more years.  The Empire was a dichotomy: the Empire provided culture, order, law and security for its habitants.  Yet it could be very brutal to outsiders and even its own citizens.  It is interesting to note that Christianity emerged during the Empire.  Several times Christianity and Christians were persecuted by the Romans; however, eventually Christianity became the state religion.

Another item of note is that some historians have referred to the period after the fall of the Western Empire as the Dark Ages.  Thus, despite its shortcomings, the Roman Empire provided a well-defined civilization for hundreds of years.

Describe the Hun Empire.

During the period of 372-375 AD there was little knowledge of the Huns.  The Huns began to appear at this time from the steppes of central Asia. Their appearance westward caused a panic among the Goths who migrated into the eastern part of the Roman Empire. These events form the basis for the historical time frame for Into the Realm of Time.

The story in the book takes place well before the appearance of Attila the Hun by over half a century. In 372 AD the Huns were largely an emerging mystery force.

There were a lot of events happening during this period, did you face any challenges while writing about this?

When I prepared to write Into the Realm of Time, my first decision was to settle on a time frame on which to base the story.  This decision was critical to me.  I wanted to write a story that takes place towards the end of the Western Roman Empire, but not at its very end.   I also wanted the time to be a period of the Empire that was not as well-known as other periods.  I wanted to avoid having anything to do with Attila the Hun and King Arthur as there have been a multitude of books written about these men.  Finally, like most periods towards the end of the Empire, 372-375 AD was a time of turmoil.

What was some of the research you needed to do for the story and what was your process?

I read several books that were based on the fall of the Roman Empire.  Based on the information in these books, I settled on the time of 372 to 375 AD.  The Roman Empire was still formidable and had two emperors.  Christianity was the established religion of the empire.  I also read Gore Vidal’s novel, Julian, to get a feel of the time that was different from the other books I read which were more fact based.

I list my reference sources at the end of the book.

Where can readers buy your book? 

You can purchase the book on Amazon in either hard copy (paperback) or through Kindle.  It is also sold at several bookstores in southern Wisconsin. I sell an occasional book myself, which I sign.  I must also note that the book is at several libraries.  Please check my website for sales/library locations.

What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on the sequel to Into the Realm of Time.  When I finished Into the Realm of Time, I knew there was more to the story and I wanted to complete the saga.  This will be a two-book series.  The sequel will hopefully be finished within two years – no guarantees!

I enjoy discussing Into the Realm of Time with anyone as that has been part of the “fun” of writing the book.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Scott Prill who is the author of, Into the Realm of Time, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Into the Realm of Time, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member


Interview with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Alison Ripley Cubitt

Alison Ripley Cubitt BRAG

I’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree Alison Ripley Cubitt today to talk with me about her book, Castles in the Air. Alison worked in film and TV production for 15 years for companies including Walt Disney and the BBC but always wanted to give up the day job to be a writer. She had a column on screenwriting for Writing Magazine, has had two lifestyle and travel titles published and wrote the screenplay for Waves, a short film drama and winner, Special Jury Prize, Worldfest, Houston. Serial expats, Sean and Alison have lived in Malaysia, Canada, New Zealand and Australia and are now based in leafy Hampshire.

Alison, please tell me about your story, Castles in the Air

Castles in the Air: A Family Memoir of Love and Loss is a memoir, the story of my mother Molly’s expat life from her teenage years living in the Far East in wartime to her challenging middle age.

What brought you to write this book?

I’d written about mothers and daughters in film and short fiction, as a way of exploring the notion that every family has secrets. Molly died in the early 1990s, and I waited twenty years to pluck up the courage to read her letters and diaries. When I did, I realised that Castles in the Air was the book I had to write.

And I knew that this time that I could no longer hide behind fiction and that I needed to tell the story as narrative non-fiction.

How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

If I hadn’t grown up as a third culture kid, I doubt I’d even be a writer. When I went to boarding school as a young child (which wasn’t a lifestyle choice, there were no schools near where we lived), I escaped into my imagination. I wrote my first fiction as a child. As an adult I find I write about the place I’ve most recently left, rather than the one I happen to be living in at the time.

Castles in the Air BRAGWhat were Molly’s strengths and weaknesses?

Molly was fearless, and I say this with envy. I wish I had half her courage. She didn’t care about what people thought of her either, and I admired that in her too. In a crisis she was brilliant.

But she had a father who doted on her and she would always get her own way, which exasperated Ciss, her mother, who had grown up in a poor family. Although she was charming and could be the life and soul of the party, she was self-absorbed. I think she also had an addictive personality.

What are the emotional triggers in the book for you and how did you act upon them? 

It’s quite hard to be objective about the emotional triggers in this book because it’s a memoir and I’m a character! In a nutshell, the main emotional trigger was my curiosity at the relationship my mother had with Steve, the man she’d first met back in 1939 in Singapore. This was the catalyst for my writing the book in the first place.

Were there any challenges writing this story? What was your process?

This is, without doubt, the most difficult book I have ever written. I had to relive some painful memories, not just once, but again and again as I did my rewrites and proofs. I had a duty to the characters who are still alive, to stress that I was telling my version of events, which might not necessarily square with their experiences. I believe that a memoirist, unlike a historian or a biographer, is an unreliable narrator.

As far as the process was concerned, it was essential to come up with a watertight structure first. I had so much material, but it was a question of where I started. In a sense, it’s like being an architect. Once I had my blueprint, I could build the book around that.

Will you please give an example of Molly’s life in colonial Hong Kong and Malaya?

Molly had been a bit of a wild child, as a carefree adolescent in pre-war Hong Kong.  She and her friends would go round to each other’s houses when the parents were out, rifle through the wardrobes and try on all the evening clothes! They nearly got caught out when one mother came home early. But in 1939, with war imminent, the family was evacuated in a military convoy to Singapore.

‘We heard on the wireless that England [Britain] had declared war against Germany. It was an eerie feeling, and although I was only thirteen years old at the time, I was a little bit scared, although excited. We were advised to carry our life-jackets around with us at all times as there were submarines on our tail.’ Extract from Castles in the Air.

How did you decide on your title?

Molly used the phrase, building castles in the air, in her letters as a teenager to her friend Steve. Her dreams and schemes kept her going during the time she and her mother were stuck in South Africa on their own with no money for six months, waiting for a ship to take them to East Africa.

Is there a message in this story you would like readers to grasp?

As I write in this book about mothers and daughters and the secrets within families, it’s more of a question than a message I want to pose, and that is, can we ever know the ones we love?

Where can readers buy your book?

From 22 August the ebook will be available through other digital retailers, including iBooks and Kobo. It’s currently available on Amazon

The print version can be ordered from bookshops or through CreateSpace expanded distribution, which now includes Walmart.

Author Link:



***Please be sure to check out my other interview with Alison under her pen name, Lambert Nagle here.

A message from indieBRAG:

We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Alison Ripley Cubitt who is the author of, Castles in the Air, our medallion honoree at indieBRAG. To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion ®, 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, Castles in the Air, merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.

indiebrag team member

Cover Crush: The Buried Book by D.M. Pulley

Cover Crush banner

First off I’d like to say I LOVE the title! What book junkie wouldn’t? Anyhow, the cover sets the tone for the story, I think. From what I gather about the story, Jasper is a young boy who has a bird’s eye view of his surrounding and sees things a person as young as he shouldn’t see or experience. Or anyone for that matter. I take it from the focal point of the farm on the cover is his Uncles. One can just imagine his life there from what the book description reads. I am totally digging the tinted, dark, and subtle tones of the cover. The title and premise makes for an interesting book. Looking forward to diving in soon and can’t wait to see how the title plays into the story.


The Buried bookWhen Althea Leary abandons her nine-year-old son, Jasper, he’s left on his uncle’s farm with nothing but a change of clothes and a Bible.

It’s 1952, and Jasper isn’t allowed to ask questions or make a fuss. He’s lucky to even have a home and must keep his mouth shut and his ears open to stay in his uncle’s good graces. No one knows where his mother went or whether she’s coming back. Desperate to see her again, he must take matters into his own hands. From the farm, he embarks on a treacherous search that will take him to the squalid hideaways of Detroit and back again, through tawdry taverns, peep shows, and gambling houses.

As he’s drawn deeper into an adult world of corruption, scandal, and murder, Jasper uncovers the shocking past still chasing his mother—and now it’s chasing him too.

Kindle Edition, 412 pages

Expected publication: August 23rd 2016 by Lake Union Publishing

Cover Crush is a weekly series that originated with Erin at Flashlight Commentary.

Flashlight Commentary’s latest cover crush here 

Other great book bloggers who cover crush

Heather @ The Maiden’s Court-coming soon

Magdalena @ A Bookaholic Swede

Holly @ 2 Kids and Tired

Colleen @ A Literary Vacation -Coming soon


Review: Arrowood by Laura McHugh

ArrowoodArrowood is the most ornate and beautiful of the grand historical houses that line the Mississippi River in southern Iowa, where the days are long and humid and communities are small and closed. It has its own secrets and ghostly presence: It’s where Arden’s young twin sisters were abducted nearly twenty years ago—never to be seen again. Now, Arden has inherited Arrowood, and she returns to her childhood home determined to establish what really happened that traumatic summer. But the house and the surrounding town hold their secrets close—and the truth, when Arden finds it, is more devastating than she ever could have imagined.


My thoughts:

As Arden returns to her ancestor’s home-Arrowood- in Southern Iowa the author describes an imposing second empire style with three stories in a town called, Keokuk that had once seen grandeur in its days. A town that was once was and now is where great houses had/has its own distinctive architecture mark on it. Where lingering pain inflicted on the family long ago and still holds deep, dark secrets.

This story has such a strong sense of time and place. I contribute that to the author’s impeccable description of imagery, the landscape and the emotions she invokes from her characters. Where tragedy and secrets from the past haunt the present.

The tragedy of Arden and her family losing her twin sisters was gut wrenching and Arden needing to find out what really happen to her little sisters and putting to rest some of the heart ache that came afterwards is brilliantly told. What is even more heart breaking is discovering that everything you thought turns out not what you imagined happened to them. How Arden deals with that is extraordinary.

Laura McHugh has really breathed life into her characters and brings her readers a captivating story. One I will never forget and one I would like to revisit again one day. I can’t say enough about this book and how it impacted me emotionally. I highly recommend this story and have rated it five stars.

I obtained a copy of this book through NetGalley for an honest review.

Stephanie M. Hopkins

A Writers’s Life Part II with B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G.J. Reilly

Garrith OReilly BRAG II’d like to welcome back B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree G.J. Reilly to Layered Pages. Back in July we talked about his writing process, how writing has impacted his life and where his ideas come from.  Today we talk further in-depth about his emotions as a writer, goals, boundaries and so on…

By day, G. J. Reilly is a teacher of (mostly) ICT and Computing in the South Wales valleys, where he lives with his long-suffering wife and 2.4 cats. 

He has an eclectic selection of hobbies, from playing a number of musical instruments with varying degrees of competence to learning the art of contact juggling and teaching sword-based martial arts. Having gained his degree, he spent ten years working in industry, before deciding to change career and head into education.

With an interest in high fantasy, contemporary fantasy and science fiction from a young age, it comes as no surprise that his first work falls into the young adult contemporary fantasy genre.

What are your goals as a writer?

At the moment, my goal is to write stories that readers remember and enjoy. If it leads to bigger things in the future, I’ll be happy with that.

What are the boundaries you push as a writer?

At the moment, it feels like just about everything is a boundary for writers unless you’re the type that enjoys the potential for controversy. We seem to have entered a period of heightened social awareness (fairly recently), where just about anything can be taken out of context or be offensive to somebody. There seems to be a confused state of what is acceptable, where any personal opinion made public needs to be sanitized first, or risk the wrath of thousands. For example, if I were to publish the language used by John Steinbeck in ‘Of Mice and Men’ nowadays, I’d be close to committing professional suicide for the backlash it would invite.

InquestorWith the ‘Book of Jerrick’ series, I’m trying to challenge this pervasive sense of moral superiority that’s crept into daily life. ‘We are better than them because …’ and ‘You can’t say that because …’ have become the mantra of social media in everything from politics to religion. So, by creating two factions that share a common ancestry, I hope I can illustrate how we are one as bad the other in the atrocities we commit, but equally as good as each other for our acts of kindness and civility. Or to put it another way, our history is important for the lessons it teaches us, but it’s how we live in the present that defines us.

It’s not exactly a great shove in the direction of social reform (like books on the civil rights movement, or stories about the heroines of women’s liberation); it’s more a passive statement of dissatisfaction about the current state of affairs, aimed at the generations that will shape the future and buried in enough subtext that it doesn’t spoil what I hope is a good story.

What are the changing emotions you have as a writer?

From the point of view of the story, I can wholeheartedly say that I try to empathize with my characters as much as possible. I’ve always felt that investing emotionally as an author helps readers to do the same. What that means (to me anyway), is writing from experience. In instances where I don’t have the experience to draw on – like the horror of killing someone for example – I try to imagine myself in that situation and translate how I would feel to the page. I suppose it’s how I would imagine what life is like as a method actor, but instead of one character at a time, there are hosts of them running around in my head, all needing the same attention to detail to make them pop. It can be an exhausting process, especially if I’m writing two or three different scenes at a time. And it can be just as exhausting away from the keyboard too. There’s the excitement of a great idea, or solving a problem I’ve been thinking about for days and the trepidation of how the story is going to be received. It’s a wonder most writers don’t end up a hot mess in a corner somewhere, gibbering insanely!

What are your personal motivations in story-telling?

Piper_altFor me, it’s mostly about reciprocation. I used to love being read to as a child, but there’s little better about a good book than discovering it in your own voice and in your own time. I consider myself to have been extraordinarily privileged to have had access to some amazing stories, told by some exceptional wordsmiths. Giving that experience to somebody else would be a dream come true for me.

My favorite stories are the ones that move me in some way, whether they make me feel happy, or sad, or angry, it doesn’t matter. But, to have the gift to be able to move someone you’ve never met to tears, or laughter, without them ever really knowing the sound of your voice … it fascinates me. You can always tell when an author’s doing it right if you look at the face of someone who’s engrossed in their book. To me, that is what story-telling is all about: allowing readers to take a trip outside of themselves if only for the length of a chapter each time and giving back a little of the joy I’ve had in the worlds of other authors.

Define your writing style.

I’m not sure I can answer that. I think the best thing to do would be to ask the people who have read my work. All I can tell you is that you’ll probably find echoes of a number of authors and various styles in there. I read as widely as I can, even textbooks from time to time, so I’d be surprised if none of that experience has influenced my writing in some way. I think it would be sad to think that it hadn’t.  It’s definitely my voice, however. If we had ever spoken face to face, I’m sure you’d recognize the intonation (even without the valleys accent on words like ‘hear’ and ‘year’).

Five sentences that describe your craft.

To me, writing is a magical mishmash of personal experience and an overactive imagination.  It’s a real pain in the butt when I’m trying to get a good night’s sleep. It’s an intimate look at what goes on inside my head – but only the best bits. It’s also the easiest thing in the world to practice and the hardest to try to master. And it can be long, hard, lonely work sometimes … but it’s worth it!

Check out these other great posts with G.J. Reilly!

B.R.A.G. Interview

 A Writer’s Life Part I

 Self-Publishing: An Author’s Experience