Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Cynthia Owens: Wishes of the Heart

A familiar face returns to The Plain today. Congratulations to historical romance author Cynthia Owens on the release of her latest book. Cynthia visits today with an excerpt from Wishes of the Heart, coming soon from Highland Press.

Cynthia’s stories include well-researched history, some of it learned from an inspiring gentleman she calls her "Research Hero." Her post today is a tribute to him.
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Once upon a time, there was a girl who loved books, history and Ireland. She dreamed of visiting that lovely Emerald Isle, of writing stories set in other Irish times. And sure enough, that dream came true. She published one story set in Ireland, then another and a third. She went to Ireland, and it was like going home.

And she found a Prince Charming.

Prince Charming swept her off her feet and brought her to other times and other places. He told her of Ireland, her myths and legends, her stories and her history. He took her to eerie places like “the Rookery,” dangerous places like the poison garden, and into the cottage of an Irish “wise woman” and the ballroom of the landlord’s house. Whenever the girl had questions about Ireland, he had the answers—or if he didn’t, he knew where to find them.

She called him her Research Hero.

And an amazing friendship grew up between the girl and her Research Hero, despite the fact that he lived in London and she in Montreal, Canada. They quickly moved from e-mail to Skype, and their long conversations went from Irish music to families, books to haunted castles. He was always there for the girl, a friend, a father-figure, an advisor and a shoulder to cry on.

Their friendship lasted for five and a half years, until John Quaid passed away suddenly on January 6, 2017, one day after we’d had a long, lovely chat about Ireland, history, books and the holidays.

John, you were indeed, not only my Research Hero, but my hero in all the ways that counted, and I treasured your friendship. I love you and miss you, my dearest friend, and I will never forget you.

John and I became friends on July 29, 2011. That day would have been my father’s ninety-second birthday. I think Dad knew I needed a friend at that particular time in my life, and he sent John to me. John would have said it was meant.

Blurb for Wishes of the Heart:
He’ll never be the true heir…
Tom O’Brien is trapped in the distant shadow of his rebel brother. Heir apparent to Ballycashel, his hands are bound by the fetters of the past and his father’s reluctance to take the estate into the future it so desperately needs.

She lived under a cloud of suspicion…
A wise woman suspected of witchcraft, Neave Devereux spent most of her life scorned by the superstitious village folk. Alone in her tiny cottage, she yearns for acceptance, friendship…and love.

Can Tom and Neave unite to save their village from ruin? Or will superstition and old enemies destroy Ballycashel forever?

Here’s a scene from Wishes of the Heart. In it, Sheelagh Murphy, a kitchen maid terrified of the cailleach (witch), has come to visit Neave to request a geis (love spell). I remember so well the days spent talking with John as I wrote this scene. Thanks as always for the inspiration, dear friend.
* * * * *
“Oh, please, Neave, you must help me! I’ve a little money put by...I can pay you...”

“What do you want from me, Sheelagh? How can I help you?”

“You’re the wise woman...sure, you must have a potion, a spell or something. Something I can slip to him when he’s not looking...something that will make him love me for all time?”

Neave sighed inwardly, her throat tight, and blinked back the hot, sharp sting of tears. She should have known. Oh, she should have known! Why else would Sheelagh have sought her out unless she wanted something? Bitterness blew a cold, aching breeze across her heart. She’d certainly not come to offer her friendship.

Ah, Neave, ‘tis you’re the great amadán. You should have known better than to expect your prayers to be answered. To expect her to come to you as a friend.

“Tell me about him.” The words escaped before she could call them back.

Sheelagh’s head came up, her eyes narrow and glinting with hostility. “Why?”

Why indeed? She’d no need to know anything about the man who held Sheelagh’s heart, for her ‘love spells’ were no more than piseog—superstition. Yet a sudden yearning to have another girl confide her deepest secrets swept over her. Oh, how she longed to feel that someone accepted her. Trusted her.

Liked her.

“Sure, how can I make you a love spell if I know nothing about your man?”

Sheelagh considered a moment. Neave could almost read her thoughts. The kitchen maid still didn’t know if she could trust the ‘wise woman,’ but she’d do it if it meant getting what she wanted.

Neave listened with a combination of contempt, envy and pensiveness as Sheelagh blathered on about the ‘mysterious dark man with wild blue eyes and a smile to charm the birds from the trees.’ But even as her tone softened and her eyes took on a dreamy cast, Neave still sensed the undercurrent of distrust that always stood between herself and the village folk.

When Sheelagh paused for breath, Neave was still none the wiser as to who the man might be. Knowing what was expected of her, she gave a mysterious smile and let her lashes veil her eyes for a long moment. Then, without another word, she rose and went to the hearth, where a loaf of barmbrack sat amongst the coals. She quickly wrapped it in a length of muslin and turned to face Sheelagh.

“Take this.” She kept her tone low, as Sheelagh no doubt expected her to do. “When you’re together at the full moon”—which, by Neave’s calculations should be two days hence—“give him a cut of bread and smile directly into his eyes. Only one piece, mind, and it must be done before the break of day.”

Sheelagh snatched the package in eager hands reddened by years of hard work. “One piece, before the break of day.” She gave a sudden bright smile and jumped to her feet. “Oh, thank you, Neave, thanks for the good heart of you!”

She cast a quick, nervous glance to where Bron sat silent on her perch in the rafters. She tossed a handful of coins on the table and scuttled out of the cottage.
* * * * *
About Cynthia Owens:
I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17th Century "King’s Girl," one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there.

My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three.

I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond, and The Wild Geese Series, in which five Irish heroes return from the American Civil War to find love and adventure.

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two teenaged children.
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Wishes of the Heart - Available in eBook & Print from

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Maggie Tideswell: A Convenient Marriage

Please welcome multi-published author Maggie Tideswell, who visits today with a treat for paranormal romance fans: A Convenient Marriage, scheduled for release in both print and eBook on the 13th of October, 2016. Maggie, the stage is yours.
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The idea of two complete strangers getting hitched has always intrigued me, for one simple reason—why would they do such a thing? Could such a relationship succeed? By successful relationship, I understand not only the longevity of the marriage…but is it possible for the participants to actually fall in love with each other in such a strange arrangement? Love is found in the most unexpected places.

A Convenient Marriage grew over a number of years. The basic story was simple—a divorcee with two children, an ex-husband being difficult over visitation, as well as a fiancée unable to commit. Holly’s friends suggested that she needed a new husband, placing an advert in the paper for one behind her back. Joshua was struck by a simple plan when he saw the ad and responded to it.

Why would Holly marry a man she’d never met, and why would Joshua respond to an ad for a husband, then actually propose to a woman he had never clapped eyes on? So, in came the dawdling fiancée, Nicole. Both Holly and Joshua were justified in not planning the marriage to be a real one, because they each had an agenda of their own, but Nicole was the injured party. For their plan to succeed, they had to marry—the real kind, down to that all-important piece of paper married—and they had to seem to be totally in love with each other. That it is all a scam, only they would know.

And here comes the ‘but’. Holly and Joshua’s plans go awry from the moment they meet on the steps of the chapel where their fake marriage is to take place, when both recognize the immediate attraction. Back at Joshua’s wine estate—yes, he is a rich landowner where Holly expected him to be a pauper—Holly meets Joshua’s mother, his brother and sister-in-law, and Nicole, the fiancée, who found out about Joshua’s duplicity in a room full of people. No one can blame Nicole for being a tad upset. Or can they? To add to Holly’s woes, she seems to have acquired a ‘ghost’ demanding she tell a story.

Amidst Nicole’s shenanigans, Joshua’s mother’s disapproval, Holly’s ex’s aggression, and the ghost following Holly around, will these two accomplish what they set out to do? Or will life get in the way?

Joshua’s and Holly’s journey through the uncharted seas of a blind marriage, where no rules apply, is a stormy one.


About the Author
Maggie Tideswell lives in Johannesburg—South Africa, with her husband, Gareth. Shebegan writing when her kids were still very young, squeezing a few paragraphs at a time between the hectic schedule of raising three children, and working full time in the catering industry. She wrote many books before considering having them published. Now that the children have all made lives for themselves, there is more time for writing.

After much experimentation, Maggie writes passionate paranormal romance, of varying levels of heat. The paranormal, things that happen for which there are no logical explanations and ghosts are of particular interest to Maggie. What events in a person’s life would prevent that person from ‘resting’ after death? The ‘Old Religion’ is another special interest. And love, of course. Why do people fall in love? What keeps them together for a lifetime when so many relationships fail?

Maggie’s advice to aspirant novelists is two-fold. Never give up, and write every day. Writing is a craft that has to be honed with practice. And the only way to practice writing is by doing it. And a bonus, never stop reading your favorite genre. Reading it and writing it is the only training for a writer.
* * * * *
"Maggie Tideswell's latest novel, A Convenient Marriage, will have you turning pages as her characters cope with a marriage of convenience, well-meaning but nosy friends, a meddling ghost, jealous exes, and more. My advice: Make room on your Keepers shelf for this story!" (Loree Lough, best-selling author of 107 award-winning books, including Harlequin Heartwarming's "Those Marshall Boys" series.)
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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tracy Traynor: Idi & The Oracle's Quest

Author Tracy Traynor has a gem of a story here, a children's fantasy packed with magic and adventure. Idi & The Oracle’s Quest is the first book in her "Born to Be" series, currently in the works. Tracy visits today to tell us about herself and her writing.

Welcome to The Plain, Tracy. What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
Relationships are key.
What inspired you to write Idi & The Oracle’s Quest?
I didn’t set out to write, it kind of just happened. One day I got into our Beetle to drive the boys to school and this woman popped into my head. I could see her clearly, the colour of her eyes and hair and what she was wearing. When I got out of the car she had disappeared, not giving it a second thought I went about my day. The following day the same thing happened, only this time she was running through a maze. And so the story built, day by day, in my head – whilst I was driving! Obviously not something I recommend. After three months it was driving me crazy, so after reading something about writing down things that bother you I decided to write it down so it could go away! I picked up a pen and started to write …. and just couldn’t stop. That was over twenty years ago now and I have re-written it several times.
How did you come up with the title?
It was easy, Idi is my main character and the story begins with the Oracle sending Marcus (the Magician) in search of Idi to take him on a quest.
Was there much research involved?
I have to be honest and admit I love Google. I have always struggled with English being dyslexic (at school they wouldn’t let me learn French because they said I couldn’t speak English correctly and I had to have extra English lessons … which didn’t help) so now when I am writing a scene will come into my head and I will see it clearly and I know how I want to describe it but I like to Google the correct terms used in my writing for example shipping.
Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
Yes, yes and yes. I have tried to make it subliminal so it doesn’t feel as if the writer is pushing their beliefs on you, however, my whole drive is that some young person somewhere would relate to Idi and be encouraged not to let bullying and name calling label them and affect their way of thinking.
What do you feel is your biggest strength as a writer?
I’m a storyteller. People have tried to advise me not to tell but to show, but with this I greatly suffer because I can’t even grasp what they are saying to me. My whole persona is a story teller this one thing I have been unable to change, biggest strength you ask? Writing so that you can see the places and the people I talk about.
Sounds like you really enjoy storytelling. What do you like least about writing?
Editing, maybe not the first time, or even the second, but when you reach six and seventh time of editing it really does become a job.
Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?
Enid Blyton and C S Lewis
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story soon?
Book two is hopefully going to be on Amazon in December 2016. The story of Idi’s growth continues in Idi & The Talisman of Talia.
What does your family think of your writing?
One of my dreams would be that my boys would enjoy reading it – and they do, all four sons (now young men themselves) encourage me by telling me how much they enjoyed it, Sean – my eldest, has said recently that he plans to read it to Freja (his 3 year old daughter) when she is older, no nicer compliment than that.
I agree. What advice would you give an aspiring author?
The first draft of writing a book is the easy part, editing and re-writing becomes hard work. Keep your eye on the goal and chase your dream, those hours of editing will in the end all be worth it.
Great advice, Tracy. Thank you so much for telling us a little about yourself. And now, please tell us about Idi & The Oracle’s Quest.

• A fast-paced magical children’s fantasy novel with a strong message of encouragement and empowerment for those being bullied or put down because they are different.

• Author Tracy Traynor is an inspiring mother of four boys who writes to encourage children who suffer the prejudices that she did.

• An epic tale of the battle between good and evil with all of the elements that fantasy readers love but with an underlying emotional strength.

• The first book in a trilogy that, in the tradition of Ursula’ Le Guin’s Earthsea books, encompasses the best of fantasy adventure with a coming of age story.

Idi is a young boy who has never been loved. Marcus is an old man who wonders whether his life can still have value now he is old.

Abandoned at birth Idi grows up in a village where the people despise and ridicule him. It seems that Idi’s dreams of escape may have been answered one day, when Marcus the magician arrives and offers to take him on a quest, to save the future King of Talia. Along the journey Marcus begins to nurture Idi on the precepts of life and magic.

Idi’s battered self-esteem hinders his growth in magic, until his love for Katrina (a baby they save on their journey) helps him break through the walls he has created, enabling him to reach his full potential, and to become a magician that the world of Talia respect and love.
* * * * *
About Tracy Traynor:
Tracy Traynor grew up with the belief that she was stupid. Everyone told her so because she had learning difficulties so she thought it must be true. It was later, when she got divorced and discovered that she had the inner strength to raise four young boys on her own, that she began writing, determined to help children overcome the labels that others place on them.

Tracy lives in Merseyside, England.

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Idi & The Oracle’s Quest / Available in Paperback and eBook from

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Abbey MacMunn: Touched

Paranormal romance lovers, take note! Touched is on its way from Tirgearr Publishing, and author Abbey MacMunn is visiting today to tell us all about it. Touched is scheduled for release on July 13, 2016, but we’re going to enjoy an excerpt today.

Welcome to The Plain, Abbey.
Thank you for having me on your blog today, it’s lovely to be here.
Tell us where you’re from.
I live in Hampshire, UK.
How would you generally categorize the books/stories you write?
Romance, with elements of fantasy or the supernatural, and a touch of chick lit too.
A wonderful blend. Do you set your books/stories in your hometown, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
So far, my books have been set in England, but I’ve been lucky enough to have traveled to places like Malaysia, Bali and India, so I might weave my experiences there into a book one day.
Sounds like your have lots of exotic fodder for future stories. How much of your writing is based on people or events familiar to you?
I have a vivid, sometimes weird imagination, so most of it is made up. For character and story ideas, I love to people watch, and I have an awful habit of eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations.
What was the hardest part of the story to write?
The fight scene. I needed it to be epic, edge-of-your-seat stuff—there are swords, daggers and a magical blizzard involved—but I had to careful not to write to much blood and gore… it is a romance after all.
What was the easiest part of the story to write?
My female protagonist, Cami. She’s self-conscious and naïve, but underneath she has a determined spirit that sees her through the dreadful things I put her through.
Was there much research involved?
I had to research ancient weapons, like Scottish Claymore swords, Egyptian daggers and many more. (Some of my characters are immortal so they have weapons from many time periods.) My Google search history looked like I was creating an armory!
Do you have a set writing routine?
On the weekend, I like to get up very early (5am) in the morning to write to for a couple of hours before the rest of my family get up. And during the week, when I’m not doing my day job, I try to fit in some writing when my kids are at school.
Do you listen to music when you write?
Absolutely not. I like to have complete silence when I’m in the writing zone. Not easy to achieve in a houseful of four kids! I’ve been known to lock myself in the cupboard under the stairs, Harry Potter style. (It’s quite big, with a desk and a chair so it’s really not that bad at all.)
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story soon?
I’m working on the follow on to Touched, book two in the Immortal Ties series, and a sci fi romance.
Name a few of your favorite non-writing activities.
I like watching TV and movies, mainly anything fantasy/supernatural, and I like reading, painting and sewing too.
Thank you so much for telling us about yourself. And now, let’s take a peek at Touched.
* * * * *
When inquisitive antique dealer Cami Wilson learns she’s the revered offspring of an immortal mother and a mortal father, it’s not just her hybrid status that has her all flustered. The title comes with her very own super-sexy guardian.

Jaded immortal Joseph Carlisle has only one thing on his mind; his sworn duty to protect the hybrid from those who wish her harm. Anything else would be complicated. That is until they meet.

Chemistry sizzles between them but there’s a problem—the hybrid's curse. Cami’s touch, skin to skin, proves near fatal to her and all immortals, Joseph included.

But the fated lovers discover her curse is the least of their concerns when a friend's deadly betrayal threatens to tear them apart forever.

He might have just saved her life, but pinned to the freezing concrete by some wannabe hero was not her idea of fun. Cami Wilson shoved the unyielding wall of his chest, fighting not only him but the rising panic. ‘Get the hell off me!’

The guy remained on top of her, using his large frame to protect her from the chunks of smouldering metal hurtling to the ground around her. Icy air met with fiery heat and smoke infused the atmosphere like the fifth of November, but there were no sparkling fireworks to admire, only the flaming inferno, which seconds earlier had been her car.

Maybe if she hadn’t been so intrigued by the antique brooch she held in her hand or distracted by the weird, periodic buzzing emitting from it, she might have seen him coming at her in full, rugby tackle mode.

He lifted a little, easing the crushing pressure on her ribs, but remained inches from her face. Glacier-blue eyes met hers, captivating and intense. ‘Are you hurt?’

His gravelly voice did something tingly to her insides. She went to speak, but no words came. Nothing came to mind. Not the explosion. Not the contents of her shopping trolley strewn all over Morrisons’ car park. Not the fact she could have been killed. Somehow, none of it registered.

She gawped back at him like a doe-eyed teenager, taking in the angular sweep of a jawline peppered with dark stubble, and well-defined lips that parted invitingly as he drew in his breath.

His gaze lingered on her mouth in a breath-taking moment right out of one of those soppy rom-coms she liked to watch.

Forget burning cars and curious brooches… hel-lo, future husband.

Somewhere to her left, an engine revved loudly, and he turned his head towards the sound. Overlong, tousled hair tickled her cheek, and she got a faint whiff of citrus shampoo.

Hmm, lovely…

A second later, his attention returned to her. His grave expression burned with an urgency that brought her down from the clouds. ‘Dammit! I asked if you were hurt.’

‘No, I…’

In a move so swift it wasn’t humanly possible, he leapt to his feet and hauled her up beside him. The brooch slipped from her gloved hand and landed on the ground.

The man cursed under his breath and stooped to retrieve it. With an exasperated look, he waved it in front of her as though she were a baby dropping her dummy for the hundredth time. ‘You need to take more care of this. Don’t you know how important it is?’

Sudden indignation flared. Cami snatched the jewel from his grasp and slipped it back into her coat pocket. Okay, the guy rocked the sexy, just-rolled-out-of-bed look, but his patronising attitude set her teeth on edge. What right did he have to tell her what to do? And what on Earth did he know about a weird, vibrating brooch she’d been given by her adoptive mother, the only clue she had to her past?

* * * * *

About Abbey MacMunn:
Abbey MacMunn writes paranormal, fantasy and sci fi romance. She lives in Hampshire, UK with her husband and their four children. She is a proud member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association.

When she’s not writing, she likes to watch films and TV shows – anything from rom-coms to superheroes to science fiction movies.

* * * * *
Touched / Available for Pre-Order from

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Cynthia Owens: Yesterday's Promise

A warm hello to a familiar face! Congratulations to Cynthia Owens on her forthcoming release, Yesterday’s Promise, Book 4 of her popular Wild Geese Series. Cynthia’s post today is about bullying, a poignant and topical subject pertinent to her new release. Welcome back, Cynthia.
* * * * *
Good morning, Pat! It’s so lovely to be back at the Plain to celebrate my upcoming release, Yesterday’s Promise. This story is a bit special to me. It’s the fourth story in my Wild Geese Series, as well as my tenth book, released in my tenth year of writing professionally. So it’s a double celebration for me!

This One’s For the Girls

This one’s for the girls…and we know who we are. Those of us who were left out of things, who overheard the careful catty remarks made in audible undertones. Who were convinced we were not quite good enough for the so-called charmed circle. Well, it seems that, like Valerie, we were wrong. We are good enough. We just need to believe in ourselves.

The words are from the first part of the dedication of Yesterday’s Promise. I’m not a plotter (I prefer to let my characters tell me their story, rather than trying to fit them into my plot), so I didn’t plan to have my heroine be bullied. It just sort of happened. But as I wrote those scenes, I felt my own past come back to haunt me.

You see, I was one of those girls. One of the girls who got left out of shopping trips, who wasn’t invited to parties, and who was taunted throughout my school days. Not for any particular reason that I knew of, except that I was painfully shy and lived most of my life through books. And maybe because I so desperately wanted people to like me.

Bullying—especially cyber-bullying—is very much in the news these days. I’m so very, very thankful that I grew up in the days before the Internet. At least when school was over, I could leave everything behind. I could close my bedroom door behind me and lose myself in a book.

Girls nowadays aren’t so lucky, and my heart goes out to every one of those children who suffers the taunts and slurs online.

The so-called "experts" of today insist that if a child is being bullied at school, he or she should tell someone—a parent, a teacher, a friend. But it’s not quite that easy. There’s a stigma attached to being bullied that no one but a survivor can understand. Underneath all the hurt, and the wondering why you’ve been singled out, there’s shame. Shame at being singled out. Shame that everyone around you knows what’s happening. I never told my parents what was happening because I was afraid they’d be disappointed in me.

This blog isn’t intended to be a treatise about bullying. I’m a survivor, but it took me years to gain confidence in myself, to believe that I really was "good enough," to believe that people really do like me.

And yet, every time I hear of a child being bullied, it all comes back like it’s yesterday.

There’s no easy solution to the problem of kids being bullied. It’s been around probably since the beginning of time. But I can advise parents to teach their children to be kind to each other, to realize that just because someone seems "different," doesn’t necessarily mean they should be shunned or laughed at. Because underneath everything, in our hearts, we’re all the same.

If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?
~William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice

And here’s a very relevant excerpt from Yesterday’s Promise:

The whispers began even before the door banged shut.

"Well, what did you expect? You know what they’re saying about Edmund Stanton."

"Oh, do tell!"

"They’re saying he’s a bit…addled…since he came back from the war."

"I heard he was tortured in that Libby Prison."

"And as for that sister of his…ran off with a soldier, is what I heard."

"My dear, they say she followed him to the front."

"But who was he?"

"No one knows." A horrified gasp. "But she’s ruined just the same, isn’t she? Wouldn’t even be here tonight if her father didn’t do business with Catherine’s daddy."

"And he never married her?"

A giggle. "Well, you don’t see a ring on her finger, do you?"

Declan heard every spiteful word. And Valerie must have heard them too. He watched her eyes grow bigger and darker, her face bleed white. Her hand clenched around her cup of punch, while the other twisted into the voluminous folds of her skirt.

He didn’t wait to hear what else the members of New York Society might say about her. He crossed the ballroom in a few quick strides and seized Valerie’s hand.

"I pray you’re not engaged for this dance, Miss Stanton. I’ve been wanting to dance with you ever since I saw you come in. Your loveliness puts every other girl here to shame." With a quick motion, he took the cup from her hand, placed it on a table, and whirled her into the dance, praying he’d not stumble over his own feet.

"Declan…" She stared up at him, her eyes clouded with tears and confusion. "What—how…?"

"Smile at me. Act as though you’re having a good time. Don’t you dare let those spiteful little cats see you cry. And for the Lord’s sake, pray I don’t trample all over your feet."
. . . . . . . . . . . .

Valerie glanced around, feeling the silence.

Feeling everyone’s gaze fixed on her.

The whispers started again.

"Could that be he? The man she ran off to?

"He’s certainly a handsome devil. But did you hear the accent?"

"Irish as Paddy’s pigs. No wonder her parents disapproved."

Her face burned. Oh, this was what she’d dreaded! The gossip, the nasty asides that were meant to be heard by all. The rumor, the innuendo.
* * * * *
The Book Blurb for Yesterday’s Promise:

…Like the Wild Geese of Old Ireland, five boys grew to manhood despite hunger, war, and the mean streets of New York…
An army doctor, Declan Morrissey fought for the survival of every wounded soldier, rejoicing when they recovered, mourning bitterly when they died.

Valerie Stanton was his beautiful battlefield nurse, strong, courageous, and dedicated.

He never dreamed she was an heiress, or that she’d break his heart in a desperate gamble to save the life of another man.

Now that they’ve found each other again, can they overcome past deception and claim the happily ever after they dreamed of?
* * * * *
About Cynthia Owens:
I believe I was destined to be interested in history. One of my distant ancestors, Thomas Aubert, reportedly sailed up the St. Lawrence River to discover Canada some 26 years before Jacques Cartier’s 1534 voyage. Another relative was a 17th Century "King’s Girl," one of a group of young unmarried girls sent to New France (now the province of Quebec) as brides for the habitants (settlers) there.

My passion for reading made me long to write books like the ones I enjoyed, and I tried penning sequels to my favorite Nancy Drew mysteries. Later, fancying myself a female version of Andrew Lloyd Weber, I drafted a musical set in Paris during WWII.

A former journalist and lifelong Celtophile, I enjoyed a previous career as a reporter/editor for a small chain of community newspapers before returning to my first love, romantic fiction. My stories usually include an Irish setting, hero or heroine, and sometimes all three.

I’m the author of The Claddagh Series, historical romances set in Ireland and beyond, and The Wild Geese Series, in which five Irish heroes return from the American Civil War to find love and adventure.

I’m a member of the Romance Writers of America, Hearts Through History Romance Writers, and Celtic Hearts Romance Writers. A lifelong resident of Montreal, Canada, I still live there with my own Celtic hero and our two teenaged children.
* * * * *

Monday, August 3, 2015

Hannah Warren: The Cottage on the Border

Please welcome Netherlands author Hannah Warren and her fascinating contemporary family saga, The Cottage on the Border. Not only is Hannah treating us to an enjoyable interview with her main character, she’s also giving away an eCopy of her book, first in a trilogy. All you have to do is leave a comment answering the question at the end of the interview. Welcome to The Plain, Hannah.
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Thank you for having me here on your blog. I am thrilled to be here.

When I told her I wanted to do something different from the ordinary author interview, Pat suggested to interview one of my characters. ‘Hmm’, I thought at first, ‘how crazy can I get?’ But while cycling to the nearest town to do my shopping on a Dutch summer’s day with a temperature of 16 °C (60 °F) -ghastly! -, I felt quite sane and immediately tons of questions popped into my head that I’d like to ask the main character of my trilogy: Jenna Kroon de Coligny.

The Jenna Kroon Series is my first attempt at writing a trilogy but it didn't originally start out as such. Book 1 The Cottage on The Border, published by Tirgearr Publishing on 29 May 2014, was meant as a standalone novel about the troubled but talented modern dancer Jenna Kroon de Coligny (19) and her distorted ancestry and difficult upbringing. It explores Jenna's tentative attempts at accepting that adopted bonds prevail over blood bonds.

Book 2 The Farm on Nieuw Land Road, coming from Tirgearr Publishing in 2016, continues Jenna’s story. Book 3, The House On Broadway, will also be published by Tirgearr Publishing.

So high time to ask Jenna some questions about herself.

Hannah: Hello Jenna, welcome to my interview. I’m looking forward to it. Hope you are too.
Jenna: Well, you know me, Hannah, the eternal skeptic. Let’s hear your questions first and then I’ll tell you how I feel about answering them.
Hannah: Okay, fair enough. Are there any aspects I have to steer clear from? Gosh, I feel like I’m interviewing a celebrity.
Jenna: *shrugs* I don’t answer questions about my childhood memories. For the rest, each question will be considered separately.
Hannah: Most people you come in touch with, for example your foster family and your dance manager Mario Mozzi, approach you in a friendly and positive way. They seem to like you and greatly admire you as a dancer but you do not always react with the same friendliness. Are you aware of that?
Jenna: I don’t believe we’re obliged to react to others the same way they react to us. If people choose to use kindness and friendliness as their approach to others that’s fine by me. I’ve never been a very empathic person – Haha that’s an understatement, I know – nor do I have an inclination to appease others. I may not be the friendliest of the bunch but at least I’m honest. I don’t soft-soap and I don’t play the hypocrite. Perhaps I’m just not good with words. I generally don’t feel my best outside the dance floor.
Hannah: Do you think you express a ‘different language’ when you dance?
Jenna: *smiles genuinely* I’m sure of it. If I didn’t, no one would continue to put up with me. As a rule, I don’t analyse myself but when I dance, I become softer, opener…uhm…nicer. Dance gives me many more opportunities to communicate emotions. I can never catch them in words or in a dialogue. And frankly, I don’t need to. I wasn’t born to talk. I’ll gladly leave that to others.
Hannah: You seem to be doing a good job now.
Jenna: Well, I’ve never given an interview before. This is a novelty. Probably will be a once only. When I danced with Mozzi in Amsterdam, I let him do the talking and now my manager answers the press. It’s safer that way, no doubt. Less treading on people’s toes. The show must continue to bring in the cash. It won’t help if I keep rubbing up against everyone.
Hannah: There is an eternal debate going on whether you are an anorectic or not. You certainly become edgy when people comment on your food intake or your weight. Do you want to tell us why?
Jenna: *screws up her eyes, then sighs* Not really, but okay. Perhaps best to clear the air for once and for all.
1. I’m not an anorectic. I forget to eat as I’m not hungry. My brother Vincent, the psychiatrist you know, finally believes me. It’s a different disorder that only resembles anorexia. I’ve forgotten the Latin term for it because it doesn’t interest me. Anorectics are hungry until they starve themselves and then can’t get food inside anymore. But I have no hunger impulse for god knows what reason. Because I’m always busy with dancing, I forget to eat and because it’s such a hard physical training every idiot understands that I should eat. Yeah, I’m that idiot. But I really have to force it down. Eating is not something that’s easy for me, so if I’m really focused or too tired, I don’t have the discipline to sit down and eat at regular times.
2. I naturally have a very slender built and look skinny anyway. If it wasn’t for my muscles I’d be a real mongrel.
3. I hate anorectics. There are so many people on this earth that have no access to food and those silly people decide they just won’t take nourishment, for whatever stupid reason. Because it is a stupid reason that starts them off! I truly wish I had the hunger impulse. At least I now know that the more I relax, the better I can digest food.
Hannah: So how is the situation now?
Jenna: I’m okay. My ideal weight is 50 kilos and I’ve managed to stay that for 6 months now without a relapse. I’ve never been able to keep this weight for so long. It helps that I have a cook now, who prepares my portions with all the necessary ingredients and vitamins. She sees to it that I don’t skip any portion. I prefer to call them portions, not meals. The word meal doesn’t do it for me.
Hannah: I’m glad to hear that. Can you tell us a little more about your emotional stability right now? Your mood swings in combination with the underweight seem to have been the greatest obstacles to your career.
Jenna: *grins maliciously* I never have any idea what will happen to me tomorrow but the home front currently thinks of me as keeping to the straight and narrow, so we’ll see if they’re right. After I’d stayed with Denise at Nieuw Land Farm for a while, I felt strong enough to go back to New York to complete the choreography course at Madison Ballet School. And I passed! Right now I’m taking a look at my options. Boras has asked me to partner with him again and although he’s a great dancer, he gets under my skin from time to time. A bit like Vincent. These guys are just too damn nice and that always awakens the superbitch in me. So I’m probably doing him a favour by turning his offer down. But, yeah, I’ll definitely be dancing here or there on some stage, modern or classical, or a mix of my own.
Hannah: Next to dancing, you have at least one other gift. When you hold a photo in your hand, you can see the story behind the photo. Do you want to explain that to us?
Jenna: *peers intently at me with her violet eyes* I’d be willing to explain to you what it is if I understood it myself. It’s just something that happens, involuntarily. I really have no clue. But I don’t particularly enjoy it, especially because when I come back to the ‘now’, I’m all stiff and shaky as if I’ve been lying in a hard wooden coffin for hours. I try to avoid touching photographs, sometimes even looking at them, but the pull can be so strong that I can’t resist it. Then I know I’m supposed to ‘see’ the story. It’s like pieces of a puzzle, sometimes from a period before I was born and sometimes quite recently. Haven’t tried to see the future yet. Well, *she shrugs* I wouldn’t want to be in the future if I could help it. The past has already taken place, so there’s nothing that can be changed about it, but the future? No, thank you!
Hannah: One final question. Do you think you will ever be happy, or at least come into quieter waters?
Jenna: Excellent question but I’m not answering it. Here’s the deal. Ask your readers this question. The one who gives the correct answer wins a copy of The Cottage on The Border.
Hannah: Okay. I will do that. Thank you for this interview, Jenna. I’ve learnt a lot more about you.
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Book Blurb for The Cottage on The Border:
Jenna's earliest memory is of her mother's feet dangling in dust motes, as a three year old left orphaned while her mother's corpse hung from a beam. Her mother committed suicide, that's how she escaped and freed herself. When her own life falls apart Jenna's earliest memory becomes her anchor, she too wants to be free.

Vincent Van Son is Jenna's adopted brother, her psychiatrist, perhaps her only friend. He takes her to the Cottage for recovery, determined to rescue his sister from herself after her failed suicide attempt. The cottage on the border is at Oud Land, and is the location of many dark secrets.

Jenna's close call with death leaves her open to the psychic world, and in this cottage in the onset of a misty winter, Jenna hears them, the voices of the past, memories of what happened on the border. It becomes a journey to herself. She has to listen, to witness, she has no choice. Their stories are her story, and it is a long heritage of murder, deceit, ethnic discourse and betrayal.

Perspective returns to the introspective prima ballerina, she has learned the truth of her family, of this cottage of psychic confessions. She alone emerges from the rubble of six decades of troubled family history, a lone phoenix.

The Cottage on The Border is a tale of murder, mystery, intrigue, familial despair, heartbreak, and spiritual resurrection.

About Hannah Warren:
Hannah Warren was born in Paris (Fr.) in 1956 as a second child to a Dutch father and an English mother. She has lived in The Netherlands almost all her life but maintains strong ties with her own favourite triangle: France, UK and Holland.

Hannah studied Dutch literature and Mass Communication at the University of Amsterdam and later obtained a B.A. in English Literature and Language and a B.A. in Translation from Rotterdam University. After having been a lecturer and a translator for many years, she now works as a staff member at the International Office of HZ University of Applied Sciences in Vlissingen.

Her free-time is taken up by writing fiction and doing Yoga. She also likes going on long hikes while listening to audiobooks. After having been a single mum for nearly two decades, her three children have flown the nest. The great sadness that befell Hannah in March 2014 was the loss of her eldest child, daughter Joy, who died after an intense two-year struggle against bile duct cancer. Currently her second child, son Ivor, is fighting a brain tumour. Her whole life and the future of her children (-in-law) is totally upside down. Writing fiction is Hannah’s main outlet in her grief.

From the age of 8, Ms Warren has written poetry, novels and short stories but it took her over 50 years to become a published author. In the past four years she signed with two small Indie publishing houses, who released Hannah’s first two novels, a literary romance and a suspenseful family saga. She is currently writing the sequel to the second book and also a five-book series about five generations of daughters between 1876 and 2015. Hannah found her niche in writing fictional stories about strong women who lead challenging lives.
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The Cottage on the Border / eBook available from

Friday, July 24, 2015

Emma Stein: Into the Void

We have an unusual treat for fans of historical fiction today. Emma Stein’s Into the Void, set in 1835, brings us on a fascinating journey around the world. The eBook debuts next month, but it’s available for pre-order now for only 99¢.

Welcome to The Plain, Emma. Let’s get to know you a little. Where are you from?
I am from Denver, Colorado but now live, write, and translate in Kiel, which is between Hamburg and Copenhagen.
What sparked your interest in writing?
I was always interested in places I had never been and times I could never live in. While reading was a way for me to access them, writing was a way for me to make them my own. I can’t deny it was a lovely escape from a cutthroat high school and has helped me deal with life as a foreigner bogged down by bureaucracy in the meantime.
What components, in your opinion, make a great story?
I think the writing itself and the message the book is trying to express are more important than what actually happens. A friend recently advised me to return my copy of Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain) by Thomas Mann because the narrator allegedly describes the interior of the sanatorium for several hundred pages. However, I’m looking forward to those pages because I know they will be full of beautiful passages and astute observations.
Do you set your books/stories in your hometown, or do you prefer more exotic locations?
That depends on your definition of hometown. If you mean Denver, Colorado—where I grew up—then no, but if you mean the different places I have lived (United State, Germany, France, Russia, Canada) and other places where I feel at home (Denmark, Holland, Austria), then yes. Into the Void, for example, is a journey through satires of the places I have lived; while my interpretation and satire pokes fun at the modern versions of these places, the book is set much earlier, around 1835.
You’re certainly well traveled. What inspired you to write Into the Void?
To be honest, I needed to vent about a couple things, so I sat down and wrote some rather poignant satirical letters about a certain selection of authorities and social customs making life as a foreigner rather difficult. The collection of letters grew over time, and late in 2013 I had the idea of turning them into a book based on a scholar’s voyage in search of utopia.
How did you come up with the title?
The original title was Letters from Abroad, but while apt, it sounded a bit flaccid. While studying at Queen’s, I came across a collection of essays called Ins Leere Gesprochen, which means "spoken into the void", and I thought that was a passing concept for this book. My main character, Horace, writes his letters and sends them across enormous distances, never knowing for sure whether they will arrive. He is thus literally writing into a void. What is more, though, his travels take him into unknown regions; Horace is investigating places people in his country know very little about, so he is also traveling into a void.
Was there much research involved?
There was a lot of research involved because most societies are based on at least one theory in Cultural Studies I found interesting as a grad student. Little did I know back in 2009-2010 I was researching not only for my essays and Master’s thesis but also for a historical fiction book.
Is there a message in your story you want readers to grasp?
I have always thought it is important not to judge what is different from what I have learned but to try to understand it and learn from it. That train of thought runs throughout Into the Void, as do my convictions that wealth needs to be more evenly distributed around the world and that we all need to rethink our consumption practices.
What do you like least about writing?
When I go back through my texts, I have to get rid of many "Germanisms" and "Dutchisms" these days and sometimes cannot find an adequate equivalent in English. In Into the Void, I used them to my benefit to satirize bureaucracy and its very complicated words and sentences, but often I find myself sitting in front of a sentence wondering something to the effect of "Now how can I write what I actually mean by it does to think at?"
A challenge indeed. Which authors do you feel have influenced your writing most?
Franz Kafka has been crucial for my written work—you’ll find the books even native German speakers put down lovingly displayed in my curio cabinet. Horace Walpole and his astute social observations were certainly at the root of my Horace in Into the Void, but his influence is really localized in that book and does not appear in other works. At least at the outset, Tim Burton was influential in my comics, but I have started to gear myself more towards the masterminds behind South Park.
If you could go back in time, what author would you most like to invite to share a chat and a bottle of wine?
Although I adore Kafka’s work, I think I would have to choose Horace Walpole, and of course we would have to share the bottle of wine in his magnificent castle Strawberry Hill. I would be sure to dress historically correctly and wear my English Rococo gown for the occasion.
What’s next for you? Can we look forward to a new story soon?
I am working on a book titled Unspeakables, but unfortunately it is a bit slow-going at the moment because the topic is very heavy, and after I have done my forty hours a week translating, I often feel I cannot give the characters the attention and respect they deserve. It is quite frustrating at times. However, the bread-and-butter job does not keep me from planning my blog (Viking Office Chronicles) and comics (Totally Glad I Studied History and Totally Glad I Moved to Germany). They are much lighter in nature and to some extent are inspired by the various jobs I am working and have worked. More information about them is going to available on my website, which will go live in the middle of August.
Name a few of your favorite non-writing activities.
Cycling rather fast and—I admit it—rather aggressively in the clothing I have designed and sewn. I would be very happy if I could afford a baby grand piano one of these days or bring my cello to Germany so I can start playing again. In the meantime, there’s nothing like plundering my friend’s collection of scores and following along while listening to other people play.
Sounds like you have plenty to keep you busy, Emma. Thank you for sharing a little of your world with us. And now, let’s take a peek at Into the Void.
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The country of Anglina is teeming with social upheaval, and its officials have found an unlikely national hero in a philosopher and social activist named Horace. The Anglinian government has appointed the effeminate, irreverent, and stubborn scholar to undertake a journey around the world to learn the secret of other countries’ success. Unfortunately for Horace, most of the societies he visits turn out to be drastically different from what he expected, and he repeatedly sends scathing but witty reports about his travels and the people he encounters.

Horace is dedicated to serving his country and takes pride in his assignment, but as his journey progresses, he begins to suffer from isolation and repeated failures at integrating into different societies. Not only does he grapple with bureaucracy, language barriers, and foreign climates, he is also confronted with ghosts from his own past. Incarceration in one of his destinations unleashes waves of self-doubt and an identity crisis, but Horace perseveres in the name of Anglina and out of self-respect. His determination pays off: just as he has all but lost hope, Horace encounters a series of communes whose inhabitants welcome him into their ranks and open his eyes to more a liberal and egalitarian way of life.
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Nearing LaHague
Between Anglina and Boasille

Dear Addie,

The tradesmen who have been kind enough to take me on as a bit of useless cargo on their voyage to Boasille are docking at their first port of call tomorrow. From what I have heard, there are some rather willing prostitutes in the city of LaHague who will do anything for a bottle of our good Anglinian gin. That would explain the contents of our cargo hold to some extent, I suppose. "Give’m a swig and they’ll return the favour fives times over...or under or sideways!" is how my cultivated shipmates put it.

If they offered postal services as well, I would have no qualms pocketing a little bottle of gin from the hold and slipping it into a painted woman’s bag, but I believe the poor dears are much better at transmitting syphilis than messages. But if LaHague is as large as my illustrious companions have suggested, I assume there will be a postal service somewhere along the docks. I am a bit reluctant to stray too far on my own, you see. I imagine the great unwashed on this ship have enjoyed pulling my leg this whole time, telling me horror stories about little "flippity-floppity fops" like myself who vanished as soon as they set foot outside the dock and shipyard area. "First their fineries evaporated into the air, then the powder in their hair. They looked like men then in the face, then disappeared without a trace."

Aside from chanting that primitive rhyme outside my cabin door at night and otherwise taunting me, the sailors have as little to do with me as possible. At the very sight of me, they spring effeminately to the side and lift imaginary skirts like grand ladies trying to avoid a muddy puddle, and they eye my rather modest cravatte as though it could spray a gale of deadly vapours at them any minute.

Even the captain is incapable of shaking my hand in a morning greeting without checking that his gloves are snugly insulating his fingers against the contagious disease of affectation I appear to be carrying.

In me, they all see a reflection of what they most fear becoming, or perhaps a reflection of what they already are, but refuse to acknowledge. When one of the unwashed fellows let loose a remark even you would find foul and loose, I retorted that he also must at least enjoy the company of men if he chose a profession where he hardly sees a woman the whole year round. You need not see my swollen left eye to gather that remark did not go over especially well.

I know I have only been away from Anglina for ten or eleven days now, and have really nothing to say with regards to my mission from the Council. Nonetheless, I am still sending you a report, so to speak, lest I become a sloth early on in my journey and fail to shake the persona. After all, I’ve seen no shortage of well-meaning persons appointed to positions or missions, only to fall asleep at the wheel in the lap of luxury.

No, I am by no means implying the Council’s manner of governing the country has anything at all to do with my present research on alternative social models. Every member of the Council is as responsible as the next, with the exception of Horace and Addie.

Speaking of which, I am aware that you and several of the other members waged bets on whether I would abandon this task within the first week—I assume you waged against me and acted out a scene of me forcing the captain to turn the ship around with your typical drunken gusto.

I hope your bet was smaller than your disappointment.

Due to the social isolation the circumstances have forced upon me, I have had quite a bit of time to reflect upon my undertaking in the name of Anglina. The distances I am going to cover seem daunting now that I have crossed the first leagues, and they have reminded me that developments in the transportation of goods and people has lagged considerably behind developments in the production of both.

And this is the easy part of my journey . . .
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About Emma Stein:
Emma was born near Chicago in 1986 and has lived abroad since 2008. Her experiences in France, Canada, Germany, and Russia influence her work considerably. Theories from Cultural Studies and Sociology form another cornerstone of Emma’s work, and she enlivens what many people would consider dry texts with interpretations that are full of wit and unexpected spins on the order of things. Her penchant for pinpointing the foibles and follies of both herself and her fellows is a fine source for her satires, be they written or illustrated.

Emma has lived in Germany since 2011. She currently resides with her skittish cat in Kiel, where she continues to surprise the natives with the historically inspired clothing that she designs and wears.
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Into the Void / eBook available for pre-order from