Celebrating the release of Madeline House – Snapshots of Florence

To celebrate the release of Madeline House, book 3 in my Oregon Coast Series, I thought I’d share with you some of the locations which my characters visit. These are places which my husband and I have visited many times over the years when visiting my mother-in-law who relocated to Florence in her eighties and is the inspiration for the character of Maddy.

Old Town, Florence is a delightful spot. Its narrow streets are lined with many well-preserved historic buildings like these which are now home to restaurants, galleries and curio shops plus several bookshops, one of which provided the inspiration for Ellen’s shop, The Reading Nook. It’s a place where you can almost smell the history. Many of the buildings date back to the early twentieth century and have gone through several incarnations.

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The favourite haunts of many characters are Mo’s Seafood restaurant with it’s signature clam chowder…

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… and the coffee shop opposite Ellen’s store which is based on Coffee Roasters where my husband and I have often enjoyed coffee on the  deck just like Jenny, Ellen and Beth. In keeping with the changing face of the street, this cafe was originally a garage.
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I hope this helps bring Florence to life for you.

You can buy Madeline House at getBook.at/MadelineHouse

Madeline House Cover MEDIUM WEB

 

When Beth Carson flees her controlling husband, a  Sydney  surgeon, and begins a new life in Florence, Oregon, she  thinks he can’t hurt her anymore. She’s  wrong. Set on the beautiful Oregon Coast this is a tale of a  woman  who seeks to rise above the challenges life has thrown at her and establish a new life for herself.

 

 

Wishing you happy reading.

Regards,

Maggie

Café Cala welcomes Louise Guy

Hi Louise, welcome to Café Cala,

Louise Guy HeadshotI’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. You are making such a splash with your Crafters’ Club Series and I know my grandchildren love them. I’ve been making a raspberry and yoghurt loaf this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

Hi Maggie, thanks so much for having me. I’m delighted to hear your grandchildren are enjoying the books. Your baking sounds delicious! I’ll have a green tea, thank you.

 

1 Where did you get the idea for The Crafters’ Club books?

The idea for the Crafters’ Club formulated when I was trying to get my eldest child interested in fiction. Whilst he could read well, he was reluctant to read fiction and I was frustrated, thinking he was missing out on such a magical world. So I decided to put my women’s fiction on hold and write a book for him. At the time his two interests were Minecraft and aviation and I thought Minecraft would be an interesting place to set an advenCrafters club SocialMediaBookCover7ture. I wasn’t aware at that stage that 100 million people play the game and that my readership could span so far beyond my own son.

One book led to another and so far seven books are available in the series. Book Seven, The Secret, has just been released and books eight and nine are in production and planned for release later this year.

 

 

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

In addition to seeing my eldest child now devouring The Wimpy Kid series, Andy Griffith and a number of other fiction titles is certainly a highlight. However the most rewarding are the messages I have been receiving from parents of reluctant readers. For many, the Crafters’ Club have been the first books they’ve read by choice, and they are re-reading them!

3 How did you start writing?

I started writing in 2003 when my husband and I paused for a break on a trip around Australia. I’d always wanted to write fiction and had dabbled a bit, but it was during that trip I formulated my first full length novel. It was romantic suspense and is now buried at the bottom of a very deep drawer!

4 What would you say has helped you most?

The writing community and writers I’ve been lucky enough to meet on the Sunshine Coast have definitely been a huge help.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently finalising book 8 of The Crafters’ Club, The Promise and have just sent the first book of my new series, The Secret World of Curly Jones, to beta readers. Curly Jones is aimed at 6-10 year olds. I’m also trying to do final edits of my second women’s fiction novel, Rainbow Bay.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

To write, write, write! And surround yourself with other people who write. Online and in-real life writer friends make a huge difference. They are supportive, interesting and I think a must.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

I have a huge list of favourite authors. I’ve just had a few days to myself in Fiji where I devoured two Kristin Hannah novels which were excellent. I also loves anything by Erica James, Liane Moriarty, Diane Blacklock, Sarah Belle, Kylie Kaden, and of course your own stories. Writing for children, and having children, also has me reading Roald Dahl, Andy Griffiths, Jeff Kinney, Brian Falkner, James Phelan and many others.

Crafters club BookCovers

You can purchase the Crafters’ Club books at most bookstores, or via www.thecraftersclub.com – links to Amazon and other online purchases are available at the Crafters’ Club website.

Website: www.thecraftersclub.com

You can also contact Louise on

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/louiseguy.writer

 

Café Cala welcomes Liz Byrski

Hi Liz, welcome to Café Cala,

liz byrski

 

I’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. I have all of your books and love your writing. I’m looking forward to this next one. I’ve been making a banana and pecan loaf this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

I’ll have tea thanks Maggie.

 

1 Where did you get the idea for The Woman Next Door?

All my story ideas come from life, from watching and listening, from reading and asking myself questions about life and people and trying to find answers. In this book I was thinking about neighbours and extended family, and about issues around retirement and planning for old age.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

The whole process of writing is rewarding for me.  It’s how I learn and how I work things out, so it’s a satisfying occupation, and a great job.  It’s also often hard, frustrating and infuriating.  It’s always especially rewarding to hear from readers about what they enjoy in the books, especially if something either relates directly to their experience, or helps them to think through something in their own lives.

3 How did you start writing?

I started my working life as a very inefficient and bored secretary at 16 and then managed to get a job as a reporter on a local newspaper at the age of 21.  I always wanted to be a writer and journalism seemed to be a way of getting there.  Writing has been my job, or part of it, in a variety of ways ever since then.

4 What would you say has helped you most?

Journalism is a great discipline for anyone who wants to write.  It teaches  focus and economy of words, and involves the essential experience of being edited, sometimes ruthlessly, so one learns to self-edit too.  It also gets rid of the pretentiousness that most of us suffer from at the start.  There is no space or time for being precious about one’s writing or the feedback you get on it. It teaches hard work and attention to the discipline of writing, and the fact that whatever gets published is not only the work of the writer but of all the other people who are essential to getting a newspaper or a book out to the readers.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on another novel, a non fiction book on women and reading, and an essay about ageing.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Keep writing.  Don’t take advice about or feedback on your writing from your family and friends, or anyone who is not a writer, teacher of writer, or an editor.  Your family and friends may like what you do and encourage you but unless they know writing and publishing their advice may completely de-rail your work or lead to unreasonable expectations.  Don’t expect it to be easy.Re-write, re-write, rewrite, edit, edit, edit –  learn to read like a writer which means looking closely at the work of writers you admire and  working out how they do it and why it works.  Don’t believe it when people tell you that ‘everyone has a book in them’. They may indeed have a book inside them but the process of being a writer is get the book out of the self and onto the page.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Ian McEwan, William Boyd, Penelope Lively, Sarah Waters, David Lodge, Craig Sherbourne, Ashley Hay, Carol Shields, Margaret Forster, Pat Barker, Kate Atkinson.

The Woman Next Door 

Available in all good bookshops on June 28th.

The Woman Next Door book cover - medium

Over the years, the residents of Emerald Street have become more than just neighbours, they have built lasting friendships over a drink and chat on their back verandahs.

Now a new chapter begins with the children having left home. Helen and Dennis have moved from their high maintenance family property to an apartment by the river with all the mod cons. For Joyce and Mac, the empty nest has Joyce craving a new challenge, while Mac fancies retirement on the south coast.

Meanwhile Polly embarks on a surprising long-distance relationship. But she worries about her friend next door. Stella’s erratic behaviour is starting to resemble something much more serious than endearing eccentricity…

With her trademark warmth and wisdom, Liz Byrski involves us in the lives and loves of Emerald Street, and reminds us what it is to be truly neighbourly.

“Liz Byrski has a guaranteed cheer squad for her novels which champion…women taking charge of their life and growing old creatively.” Daily Telegraph

“The doyenne of women’s fiction.” West Australia

You can find Liz at:

Facebook

or on her Website

 

Café Cala welcomes Pamela Hart

Hi Pamela, welcome to Café Cala,

Pamela Tree 1 - Version 2 copy

 

I’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. I’ve loved both The Soldier’s Wife and The War Bride. The latter kept me up late as I had to finish it. Loved the characters. I’ve been making savoury zuccini and feta muffins this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

Tea, please! Weak black, no sugar.

 

 

1 Where did you get the idea for The War Bride?

When I was doing the research for The Soldier’s Wife, I read a book called Bride of an ANZAC, which is the autobiography of Queenie Sunderland (remember Margaret’s friend Queenie from Reading Station?).  Queenie was such a great woman.  She wrote the book when she was 95, and died at 103!  She told the story of coming in to Sydney Harbour on a war bride ship in January 1919, and her friend Margaret finding out that her husband had lied to her and abandoned her. As soon as I read that story, I knew I had found the heart of my next book – a young English girl, excited about starting a new life with her husband, finds out that she’s been betrayed and abandoned.

But then I started thinking… and decided it would be a better story if that situation was a mix-up, rather than a straight deception. And I remembered that the last war brides had been swapped from one ship to another (from the Waimana to the Borda).  And I thought… what if the husband hadn’t got the letter about the switch…

This isn’t spoilers, as you find all this out in the first two chapters!  Margaret, my main character, has to make a new life for herself in Sydney, while Frank, her husband, believes that she has abandoned him.

What I was interested in this book is the aftermath of World War I, when people are coming home and trying to fit back into a world which has radically changed – and they have changed, as well, because of their war experiences.  And I was also interested in the sense of hope and energy which was typical of the early 1920s; and the fun!

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

Without a doubt, it’s hearing from readers!  I love to hear from people who have read my books. Obviously, it’s nice if they have liked the work, but in any case it’s interesting.  The books go out and you never really know what’s happened to them, so getting emails from readers is always lovely.  I have a Contact Pamela page on my website, pamela-hart.com to encourage people to write.

And with these books, I came back to my second love, which is research.  I think I’m a tiny bit addicted to research!

3 How did you start writing?

I was a children’s writer (as Pamela Freeman, my maiden name) before I wrote for adults, and I started writing children’s stories when I was a scriptwriter and researcher at ABC Kids.  One of the shows I was working on needed some told-to-camera stories, and I ended up writing five of the ten we needed.  I had not published any stories, but I sent these to the NSW School Magazine, and they rejected four of the five – but they took the very first story for children I wrote.  Anna Fienberg (author of the Tashi books) was the editor at the Magazine then, and I blame her for my writing career – if she’d rejected five out of five, I’d probably still be a scriptwriter!

4 What would you say has helped you most?

My husband!  I used to be a consultant in organisational communication, but when we had our son I stopped working outside the home and concentrated on writing – and that was only possible because my husband does the hard yards of going to work every day.

His support has meant that I have published far more than I would have done otherwise, and when I started writing historical novels, which was a real departure for me, he encouraged me and supported me through all my self-doubt.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m writing a novel set in 1917, about an Australian woman war correspondent who is in Italy to report on the Australian navy’s blockade of the Adriatic Sea.  This operation was called the Otranto Barrage, and hardly anyone has heard of it, but it was a crucial part of the war in the Mediterranean.

Of course, there’s a young man that she meets there, an Italian American who wants to be a war photographer.  They become a team and… well, you’ve probably figured out by now that I like a bit of romance in my stories!

Most people don’t know, but pretty much the first woman war correspondent was Australian, Louise Mack, who reported on the German invasion of Belgium early in World War I.  She went behind enemy lines and everything!  She was the inspiration for this story.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

I teach writing at the Australian Writers’ Centre, and on behalf of my students I’ve asked a lot of editors this question.  And the answer I keep getting is: don’t submit your work too soon.  Publishers talk about books being ‘half-baked’ – that is, submitted too early in the editing process.  Very often, a book will be rejected because it’s got good ideas and some good writing, but if the author had done just a couple more drafts, it would have been terrific instead of just good.

So my advice is: draft and redraft! Mostly, the difference between a professional writer and an amateur is the number of drafts they’re prepared to do!

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Oh, so many!  It’s so hard to make a short list.  I read very widely – and of course, once you’ve been a writer as long as I have, you make friends with other writers, so you have to like your friends’ books!

Australian women writers I like include Kimberly Freeman, Anita Heiss, Bronwyn Parry, Pamela Cook, and Kate Forsyth.  Others: Hilary Mantel, Val McDiarmid, Mindy Klasky… this is a really hard question!

I also read very widely in genre fiction, including crime and science fiction and fantasy.  If I started listing my favourite authors in these genres we’d be here all day!

Read an excerpt form The War Bride

PROLOGUE 13 January 1920
There didn’t seem to be a band playing. And only a few people on the wharf at Dawes Point. A handful of Army types, a man in a suit waiting with a taxi, and the normal number of stevedores lounging around, grabbing a smoko while they waited for their cargo to arrive. Frank was surprised. The last time a war-bride ship had docked – wthe war bride coverhen his mate Smitty’s girl came out – there had been crowds, an Army brass band, streamers and shouting and crying – even a man with a placard saying, ‘Welcome to your new home, Mavis’. He’d thought about making one of those for Margaret, but now he was glad he hadn’t. He felt silly enough, clutching a bunch of roses in a sweaty hand. He hoped he’d still recognise her. Two years and four months was a long time, and women did things with their hairstyles. Clothes were different. But surely Margaret’s tall, slender form would stand out the way it had at Reading train station, when they’d said goodbye. Surely he couldn’t mistake that lovely, soft smile of hers for anyone else?

It was hot already, and humid, as Sydney summers always were, but he was ruefully aware that the sweat running down his back wasn’t only from the heat. Wound tighter than a watch spring, he was. Two years and four months and no giving in to temptation, no matter what. A married man, and he’d stuck to it, and God hadn’t it been hard! But today . . . the house he’d found for them was all ready, the bed made with brand-new sheets. A thorn pricked his thumb and he loosened his grip; not long now. The SS Waimana loomed closer; still painted in its camouflage colours, even now, fourteen months after the war had ended. Frank blinked, confused. There weren’t any passengers lining the rails – no, wait, there were a couple on the top deck, holding up some kiddies to see. Where were the women? This was supposed to be a war-bride ship. It should have been packed to the gunnels. The ship was tied up and the gangplank put across the gap. A trickle of passengers came down, but the only young woman who emerged was a redhead. She winked at him as she went past, her hand tucked into a corporal’s arm. That was all – the others were a family group and a couple of men in suits. Where was Margaret? He checked the letter from the Repatriation Committee again, for the tenth time; yes, the Waimana, arriving January 1920, check shipping news for arrival date. Which he had. Surely she hadn’t got off at Fremantle or Melbourne? Maybe most of the women had been going to Melbourne, and that was why the ship was nearly empty. That would be it. But where was Margaret? Who could he ask? An Army sergeant was checking off the corporal and his redhead from a list. With the enlisted man’s instinctive avoidance of authority, Frank went instead to a sailor who was securing the mooring ropes at the bow of the ship. ‘My wife was supposed to be on this ship,’ he began. The sailor hawked and spat into the greasy Harbour water. ‘Soddin’ women.’ Frank ignored his comment. ‘Margaret Dalton?’ he asked. The sailor looked at the sky and sucked his teeth, thinking. ‘Brown hair? Good looker? About so high?’ He measured against himself. Frank nodded. ‘Yerse, I remember her. There were only a couple without their blokes. She came on board, but she took herself off again. Women – always changing their bluidy minds.’ He’d felt cold like this when he’d been shot, at Passchendaele, in the streaming mud, trying to crawl under barbed wire. The shock had gone through him the same way, exactly. ‘Took herself off . . .’ he managed. The sailor shrugged and made fast, then circled him to get back on board. ‘Life’s a shit, eh?’ he said as he climbed the gangplank. • Frank threw the roses into the gutter as he walked away. Walked and walked, hot in his good suit (his only suit) and his shiny shoes. Part of him wasn’t surprised. He’d always known that Margaret was too good for him. Too beautiful, too kind, too loving. He wasn’t worth that kind of girl; a nameless orphan with nothing more than what his two hands could make. But she hadn’t seemed to realise that. Had seemed to think they were on a par, that she was making a good bargain. Had seemed to look forward to a life in Australia.

When she’d walked with him to the station to see him off to the front, she’d cried silently, surreptitiously rubbing the tears away from her face, not wanting to make him feel any worse. They’d only been married a month, then, and parting had been so hard. When they’d kissed goodbye, her soft mouth had been salty with tears. She’d loved him then, he was certain. Two years and four months was a long time. Long enough, it seemed, for her to change her mind, even if it was at the last moment. He’d had letters; but not for a while, now he thought about it. A few months. Maybe that should have made him realise. Made him prepare himself, instead of being side-swiped like this. She should have warned him. Told him she’d had doubts. He could have reassured her. Hell, he would have gone to England to fetch her if he’d had to. Unless someone else had changed her mind for her. The thought of Margaret with another man hit him low and hard, and left him gasping. He needed a drink. There was a pub on the corner. Not one he’d been in before, but it was open. He went in and hesitated, then ordered a whisky. Beer wouldn’t chase away this shaking feeling inside him; wouldn’t put him solidly on his feet again. One whisky didn’t, either. He had another, and another. A vague sense that he was spending too much money sent him out the door, jingling the coins in his pocket, along with the key to the house he’d prepared so carefully for Margaret. It made him sick to think of living there alone. Made him walk faster, as if to outdistance the thought. He stopped for breath and realised that he’d walked a long way; had taken a familiar path, to Stanmore, and Gladys.

Well, why not? Hell, he’d been faithful the whole time, and what did he have to show for it? Anger rose up in him, finally chasing away the cold, sick dread. If Margaret didn’t want him, there was one who did. Who always had. And there was no reason now that his daughter couldn’t have a proper father. That thought was the first good one he’d had. It would be wonderful to see more of Violet. He turned into Cavendish Street and walked up to number 64, Mrs Leydin’s boarding house, where Glad had a room for her and Violet. For a moment, before he knocked, he was afraid that she wouldn’t want him, either. That she’d throw him off because he hadn’t chosen her over Margaret, despite the fact that Margaret was his lawful wedded wife. He was frozen with that fear, for a moment; that he’d be back to being alone in the world, as he always had been until that miraculous day that Margaret had said she would marry him. Alone and forsaken. But he wasn’t alone. Violet would always be his. His knock would have woken the dead. It was still early; Glad was on second shift at the biscuit factory, and she hadn’t left for work yet. She answered the door and put her hand to her heart as she saw him; did he look that bad? ‘She didn’t come,’ he said. Her pale little face flushed and she took his hand almost shyly. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said. That was Gladys. She was sorry, always, at anything that caused him pain. She really loved him. Tears came to his eyes but he didn’t want her to see, so he pulled her into his arms and hugged her. Violet came running out of their room and crowed with delight to see him. ‘Papa!’ she yelled. She barrelled into his legs and he swept her up with one arm, still holding Gladys tightly with the other.

He kissed Vi’s cheek and she threw her little arms around his neck. There was nothing like that feeling. Gladys leaned her head against his shoulder; her love and acceptance soothed the raw wound of Margaret’s rejection. ‘You and Vi should move in with me,’ he said. ‘We’ll be a proper family.’ ‘Yes,’ Glad said. She smoothed his hair back and smiled at him. There was a hint of sadness at the back of her eyes, but he concentrated on the smile, mirroring it until the sadness disappeared. ‘A proper family.’

The War Bride is available in Australia in all bookstores, Target, K-Mart, etc., as well as all online bookstores, both in hardcover and e-book.   It will be coming out in September in the UK.

You can follow Pamela on:

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Café Cala welcomes Tricia Stringer

Hi Tricia, welcome to Café Cala,

Tricia Stringer

 

I’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. I’m looking forward to reading Dust on the Horizon. I’ve been making raspberry and yoghurt muffins this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

Maggie it’s great to be here and those muffins smell divine. I’d love a long black coffee please with just a drip of milk to make it muddy.

 

1 Where did you get the idea for Dust on the Horizon?

The idea for this story has developed over many years of visiting the magnificent Flinders Ranges country in the north of South Australia. It’s such a beautiful, rugged, fascinating and demanding landscape I began to wonder how the first European settlers survived there and that sowed the seeds for the story. I had originally intended to begin with this story but went back and wrote the arrival of previous generation in Heart of the Country. Both books standalone but Dust is about the next generation.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

Discovering places I’ve never seen and finding out things about my country I didn’t know and then being able to weave them into a story to share with others.

3 How did you start writing?

I started writing stories for the children in my class to get an understanding of our local history celebrations. That taught me how little I knew about what it took to be a writer so I did a children’s writing course and I was hooked.

4 What would you say has helped you most?

Studying, belonging to writing groups and organisations and fellow writers, so many have been so willing to support and share their knowledge of the industry. I am particularly grateful to Monica McInerney and Fiona McIntosh who were very supportive when I was still trying to find my way.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on Jewel in the North which centres around the third generation of the Baker and Wiltshire families I introduced in Heart of the Country and continued in Dust on the Horizon. It’s wonderful to write about the characters who were only children in the previous book and are now adults making their way in the world. I love still having the older generation in the story as well. It’s like being with good friends.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Write every day. I’ve had to teach myself to write every day. It’s not always the best writing but the words are on the page. You can’t edit a blank page so the trick is to write every day and get the story down, even if it’s only a couple of hundred words you will eventually finish it. Then you can edit. Attend workshops, join a writers’ group, be with other writers. Read for enjoyment but also to learn more about the craft of writing. Write down your writing goals. Be realistic and keep on keeping on.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

I read widely across all kinds of genres and naming favourites is very tricky.  I’ll list Monica McInerney, Fiona McIntosh, Bryce Courtney, Rachael Johns, TM Clark, Kate Morton and Tony Park just to get the ball rolling but there are many more.

Dust on the Horizon

Dust on the Horizon FC (670x1024)1881  Joseph Baker works hard on his pastoral lease at Smith’s Ridge, in the beautiful but harsh land of the Flinders Ranges. For Joseph this lease, lost to his family in the early days of settlement, offers a future for his young family and that of his Aboriginal friend, the loyal and courageous Binda. Joseph is a clever man, but it is a hard land to work and drought is once more upon the country.

New arrivals to the small rural town of Hawker, Henry Wiltshire and young wife Catherine, open a general store and commission business. Unscrupulous but clever, Henry has plans to prosper from the locals’ fortunes, and quickly makes powerful friends, but when he throws Binda’s family out of his shop, his bigotry makes an immediate enemy of Joseph and a die is cast…

Then the dark force of Jack Aldridge, a man torn between two worlds, crosses their path. Outcast and resentful, he wants what Henry and Joseph have and will stop at nothing to take it.

As the drought widens and the burning heat exhausts the land, Joseph, Henry and Jack’s lives become intertwined in a way that none could have predicted. In their final confrontation not all will survive.

This sweeping historical saga takes us into the beautiful and brutal landscape of the Flinders Ranges and through the gold rush, following the fate of three men and the women they love. Men and women whose lives become intertwined by love and deceit until nature itself takes control and changes their destinies forever.

Available from most book outlets and as an ebook. More details at http://www.harlequinbooks.com.au/product/9781760374235

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Café Cala welcomes Fiona McArthur

Hi Fiona, welcome to Café Cala,

Fi at CI’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. I’m really looking forward to reading Aussie Midwives. I’ve been making strawberry and pecan muffins this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?
Hi Maggie, it’s great to be here. Thanks so much for asking me. I’m an Earl Grey fan, no milk, thanks.

1 Where did you get the idea for Aussie Midwives?

The idea was suggested a couple of years ago. At the time I was a little daunted to ask my peers for their stories but I was told because of my background and love of my work I’d be able to give the reader a great window into the world of the midwife. Two fiction books for Penguin later I finally found the courage to ask for volunteers.  Because of the generosity of the midwives in the book I think we have provided great insight and a real diversity across Australia. The readers are certainly appreciating the honesty and passion all the midwives have shared.  I’m very proud of the end result and it really is a heart warming read.

aussie midwives‘Being present as the midwife at a baby’s birth is one of life’s glorious adventures.’

Nineteen Australian midwives share their incredible stories with passionate midwife and bestselling author Fiona McArthur.

Midwives play a vital role in supporting women through some of the most challenging and rewarding moments of their lives.  These remarkable professionals watch over births across Australia from the remote outback to busy urban hospitals.

Meet Annie, working on the tiny island of Saibai where mothers arrive by dinghy; Kate, a clinical midwifery consultant, who sees women with high-risk pregnancies; Priscilla and Jillian who fly thousands of miles to get mothers and babies to hospital safely with the Royal Flying Doctor Service; and Louise, who gives impromptu consultations in the aisles of the local supermarket.

Funny one minute and heartbreaking the next, Aussie Midwives explores the joys, emotion and drama of childbirth and the lasting effect it has on the people who work in this extraordinary profession.

 2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

I love helping readers marvel at how amazing ordinary women and men are. How they stand by each other, put themselves at risk or under stress to help others, how the Australian environment presents challenges like those faced by the flying doctor flight nurses, or the high tech city hospital. And of course I love writing about maternity scenes with the idea of a mother-to-be, reading it, and remembering something that will help her on her journey. It is lovely to hold the end book baby or when someone sends you a photo of your book in a distant bookshop

3 How did you start writing?

I was always going to write a book but it took me until I was thirty, with four little boys, and another on the way, before I started. Then I wrote lots of book beginnings, no endings, and ten years later I finished my first full book. That’s the one I sold and I’ve sold more than 30 since then – fiction, non-fiction, romance, textbook.

4 What would you say has helped you most?

What helped the most …

To write – when someone told me anyone can do it –just be professional – it’s amazing how something small like that sticks in your brain and giuves you permission to dare yourself. And of course Emma Darcy’s “finish the damn book”.

To sell – Romance Writers of Australia and the people I met there who shared so much. My agent Clare Forster for the single titles and non-fiction.

To keep going – the support of my husband who is very proud of me and the fact that he believes the money I make is mine for travelling which I love. But I also keep writing because if I don’t I get twitchy, my head fills up with ideas, and nobody can live with me. I think a lot of writers are like that.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve just finished my third single title medical/rural women’s fiction for Penguin. The release of that has been put back because we all (me and Penguin) got snowed with the AUSSIE MIDWIVES when my my previous editor left. But it will be out late this year or early next year.

I’m also editing a non-fiction birth book I bought-back (copyright) from Penguin so I could update it and I’m really looking forward to getting that back out there for new mums (and experienced mums and dads who would like a quick refresh). I couldn’t do all that technical on-line stuff without the help of Annie Seaton who’s making it into a POD e-book for me. I wanted to be able to update it and while it sold well, it didn’t sell well enough for a re-print from Penguin so we’re making that happen via e-books. A midwife I met when she was a student has done all my illustrations. Its called THE DON’T PANIC GUIDE TO BIRTH on Amazon. It won’t make a fortune but when I’m gone there will be a little midwife voice telling mums ‘You can do it.”that they can download to their phone and read in 2 hours.

I’m also halfway through a medical romance for M&B and it’s just lovely to let the characters run. That’s something I’ve discovered isn’t quite as easy in a single title book.  So a change is as good as a holiday and I do believe you get rusty if you don’t write stories just like any other exercise.

I’ve also started planning the next Penguin fiction because this fabulous backstory idea fell into my lap at a lecture I attended the other day and I can’t wait for my heroine, Sienna, to try to solve that medical dilemma. I’m busy plotting that out this month while I wait for the proofs from HEART OF THE SKY.

But at the minute I’m doing lots of promo stuff for AUSSIE MIDWIVES and working 3 days a week as a midwifery educator and playing with grandkids. So I guess I’m busy. J That’s why I listen to a lot of audiobooks as I drive to work or I wouldn’t have time to read.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Join a writing group. Write every day even if it’s just a couple of hundred words. Writing gets better with practice. Write until you get to the end of the book. Don’t wait for ten years like I did to finish your first book. Keep reading.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Jojo Moyes is my new fave. Diana Gabaldon and her Cross Stitch – I couldn’t put it down and even took it on a kayak trip to read between paddling. Iona Andrews and the Kate Daniels Series – these were all in audiobooks and I still keep hoping she’ll write another one. I grew up on Modesty Blaise and have just found a novel I didn’t know was available from Peter O’Donnell who died in 2010. So that’s for after the M&B is finished.

So that’s me, thanks so much for having me, Maggie, my webpage is http://www.fionamcarthurauthor.com and my books can be found from the buy links on the home page. Waving to readers and writers, and wishing you all joy in your next book. xxFi

Café Cala welcomes Kerrie Paterson

Hi Kerrie, welcome to Café Cala,
kerrie paterson-1000x1500

 

I’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. I’m really looking forward to reading Chasing Dreams. I’ve been making a banana and blueberry loaf this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

Thanks for having me, Maggie! Banana and blueberry loaf sounds yummy. I’ll have a tea, thanks.

 

 

1 Where did you get the idea for Chasing Dreams?

Chasing Dream’s heroine, Bel, started as a secondary character in the first Hope Creek book, Letting Go. Bel brought Helen to Hope Creek to give her road safety presentation to the high school – she believed in its importance because she’d been injured as a teen by skylarking in a vehicle. So I had a character with a snippet of backstory and delved into her character from there. And I’m a sucker for a reunion story, so what better person to bring back than her old boyfriend who was driving when she had her accident.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

The most rewarding thing about my writing has been having some people say my books have touched them or helped them through a bad time. That’s an amazing feeling!

3 How did you start writing?

When I was quite young I wanted to be a writer, but never thought that was something “real” people could do. So despite writing stories as I grew up (which I never showed to anyone!), being an author wasn’t really a consideration. Having an aptitude for maths, I ended up in IT instead, primarily as a computer programmer! Writing a book remained on my bucket list though.

As I approached my 40th birthday and went through a mid-life ‘what do I want to do when I grow up’ crisis, I decided to stop putting it off and to write the damn book! I enrolled in several online courses, and luckily for me, found my way quite soon to Romance Writers of Australia and my local writing group, Hunter Romance Writers.

4 What would you say has helped you most?

I think being a part of the RWA and the HRW has helped me the most. I honestly would have given up in the first six months if not for the support of like-minded people. The RWA contests, the conferences, the camaraderie – all of it has been equally as important!

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently working on a second story in the Jacaranda Avenue series, working title Secrets of Jacaranda Avenue. The first (Return to Jacaranda Avenue) will be published by Escape Publishing on 15th May. It’s another second chance at love story with a tad more action than my Hope Creek books. Like all of my books, Toria’s Secret has an older hero and heroine (in their 40s) – but this one also has a stalker J

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Find your tribe. Find a group that gets you when you talk about the voices in your head, who loves a Happy Ever After (or even a Happy For Now) and who are actually writing – not just talking about writing. Don’t be too quick to jump on the self-publishing roller coaster when you’re first starting out. It’s far nicer to make your mistakes out of the public eye! There is so much you don’t know about writing when you first start out (or at least that was true for me) – take the time to learn, enter contests for the feedback and be patient.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Too many to name! My favourite is Nora Roberts, particularly her contemporary trilogies and suspense. Other favourites are Dianne Blacklock, Cathy Kelly, Liane Moriarty and Jackie French. I have a huge list of RWA friends who are also must-buys for me but I’m scared I’ll leave someone out if I start listing names! But generally if it’s rural romance, romantic suspense or women’s fiction, I’ll read it.

Chasing Dreams (Hope Creek Series #2)


Chasing DreamsCan they score a love match the second time around?

Almost twenty years ago, Belinda Morrison’s teenage dreams of playing top level cricket were shattered after a night of fun went wrong. While she lay in a hospital bed, the ute’s driver, her boyfriend Marc, left town.

Now Marc Orsini’s a cop, and he’s been sent back to Hope Creek as a temporary posting.

The sparks are still there, stronger than ever, and after a shaky start, their relationship ignites again.

With many ties to the community, the town is Bel’s life, but Marc has responsibilities elsewhere. She can’t risk a short-term romance, but how can she let him walk out of her life for a second time?

Chasing Dreams follows on from Letting Go but can also be read as a stand-alone.

You can buy it from AmazoniTunesSmashwords or most ebook retailers.

Excerpt:

Body relaxed, Bel laid her head over his heart and splayed her hand over his chest, slipping a finger inside the gap between the buttons as she used to do. His body sprang to life and he sucked in a quick breath. She wasn’t drunk. Maybe a little more relaxed than he’d seen her, but it wasn’t like he was taking advantage of her. More like the other way around at the moment.

He turned his head, breathing in her perfume and grazed the top of her head with his lips. She tilted her head and gazed at him with big soft eyes, her lips parted slightly. Slowly, giving her time to reject him, he lowered his head until his lips hovered over hers. Then a centimetre more until his lips were on hers; the taste of her, the feel of their kiss instantly spinning him back twenty years.

Her lips parted with a soft sigh. He threaded his hands into her hair, cupping her head while he deepened the kiss. She met him kiss for kiss, as eager as he was. His heart threatened to burst from his chest. This was something he’d never expected in a million years — to be back in his teenage house, kissing the love of his life. And he’d realised she was. No-one had ever come close to his memory of Bella.

Thanks so much for having me today Maggie. You can find me on Facebook (far too often!) or sign up to my newsletter or blog at my website.

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Café Cala welcomes Josephine Moon

Hi Josephine, welcome to Café Cala,

I’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. I’m really looking forward to reading The Beekeeper’s Secret. I’ve been making chocolate brownies this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

Josephine Moon

Why thank you so much for having me here. I’m a bit of a chai tragic. It’s a great thing you’re baking brownies because I often describe my books as being like brownies—sweet, indulgent, a treat for the senses, but with chunky nuts to chew on.

But, having said that, I have been describing The Beekeeper’s Secret as a chocolate with a dark, bitter centre, but covered in just enough sweetness to make the whole thing rich and enjoyable and leaving you wanting more.

 

1 Where did you get the idea for The Beekeepers Secret?

I was trying to write a family saga set on a coffee farm, that’s where it started. I did lots of research about coffee, really intellectually interested, but I had no passion for it. So I had to ask myself, what was I passionate about? And the answer was bees!

So I did research on bees and was really getting into that. I’d abandoned my family saga and was now trying to write a book about beekeeping and corporate sabotage, but there were these nuns in the background who were very strong and very insistent. I kept writing this book on corporate sabotage and I kept trying to write the nuns into the story until it became clear that they didn’t belong there at all.

So I had to ask them, what do you want?

And they wanted a whole book. Specifically, Maria, one of our main characters, wanted a whole book. And when something turns up that strongly and persistently, as a writer, I believe it’s my duty

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

I’ve been so touched by the number of emails I’ve had from people who’ve contacted me to say that reading my book was the very thing they needed at that time in their life, or that it helped them through a really rough patch, or that they hadn’t read a novel in over 10 years and mine was the first one since then and now they wanted to keep reading. These things really affect me.

3 How did you start writing?

I wrote my first book when I was nine. It was called ‘Starlight the Brumby’. I acted it out in the backyard and then wrote it out. My dad took it to work and had his secretary type it up. He kept it and gave it to me at the time that The Tea Chest was published. I think it’s not bad, actually!

4 What would you say has helped you most?

Being part of the Queensland Writers Centre and attending dozens of courses in the craft of writing. Having good writing buddies along the way to get good feedback from but also moral support. And writing ten manuscripts on the way to publication.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I’m working on my fourth foodie fiction book, this one with a food theme of cheese and set in the UK. I’m not very far into it so I can’t share more than that, but I was inspired during my trip to the Cotswolds last year so I’ve set the book in a little village there and am really enjoying it.

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Be curious. People often say to write what you know. But I think you need to write about what you want to know. Writing what you know will take you so far but writing what you want to know will take you so much further.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

Monica McInerney, Liane Moriarty, Kimberley Freeman, Kate Morton, Danielle Hawkins, Hilary Spiers.

The Beekeeper’s Secret

WATCH THE BOOK TRAILER 

Beekeepers secret

 

Maria Lindsey has secrets to hide. Living on top of a secluded mountain is a good way to hide from the world… until her past begins to track her down. 

 

‘Maria knew about guilt. It was a stubborn, pervasive and toxic emotion, and incredibly difficult to shake. Especially if really, deep down, you didn’t think you deserved to let it go.‘

Maria Lindsey is content. She spends her solitary days tending her bees and creating delicious honey products to fund orphaned children. A former nun, her life at Honeybee Haven has long been shaped by her self-imposed penance for terrible past events. But the arrival of two letters heralds the shattering of Maria’s peaceful existence.

Pushing aside the misgivings of her family and friends, Tansy Butterfield, on the eve of her marriage, made a serious deal with her adored husband, Dougal. A deal she’d intended to honour. But, seven years on, Tansy is finding her current feelings difficult to ignore. And on top of those not-really-there feelings, Dougal wants to move to Canada!

The surprising and intriguing new novel about the astounding secrets we keep from those we love from the bestselling author of The Tea Chest.

You can connect with Josephine on Facebook or her Website

 

Café Cala welcomes Sinead Moriarty

Hi Sinead, welcome to Café Cala,

Repro Free:Tuesday 1st September 2015. Picture Jason Clarke.

I’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. I really enjoyed The Way We Were  and now I’m looking forward to reading your other novels. I’ve been making some apple and walnut muffins this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

I’m delighted to be invited to Café Cala, what a treat. Can I please have coffee and lots of muffins!!  I love apple and walnut….how fantastic!

 

1 Where did you get the idea for The Way We Were?

The idea for the Way We Were had been percolating in the back of my mind for years. I just couldn’t figure out a way to make the story work.

Back in the late 1980s Brian Keenan and John McCarthy, among others, were kidnapped and taken hostage in Beirut. They remained in captivity for over four years and when they were finally released the two men talked about this incredible friendship that had kept them sane. You could see the deep connection and love between them. To this day they are best friends and the bond between them remains. I was always fascinated by this and by the fact that John McCarthy’s girlfriend campaigned so tirelessly to get him released and then when he was released everyone presumed they’d end up together…but in fact they broke up and he married someone else.

I wanted to somehow write a book with some of these themes worked into the storyline.

The Way We Were is about a married couple, Ben and Alice, who have two teenage daughters and who love each other deeply but are going through a bump in their marriage.

Like all relationships theirs has got a bit stale. Ben is feeling restless. He’s having a mid-life crisis. Is this it? He wonders. He feels his life has become mundane and is slipping through his fingers. He wants to shake things up, to feel vibrant again. Ben craves adventure and when someone offers him the opportunity to have that adventure he jumps at the chance.

Ben’s fellow surgeon asks him to go to Africa, to Eritrea to operate with another colleague, Declan. Ben knows there is a risk involved as the country is very unstable, but he says yes.

He knows Alice will be worried about him, he knows it’s a dangerous place but he can’t wait to go and experience something new with a fellow surgeon.

Alice is furious and worried sick that something will happen to him. It turns out she was right and what happens next changes their lives forever.

The book is really about love and the power of memories. Alice needs to forget Ben to survive and be a good mother to their daughters, but he clings to her memory to keep himself alive.

What will happen to their lives? Can Ben survive? Will they ever see each other again? If they do, can they possibly get back to the way they were?

I wanted to explore the power of memory. I also wanted to look at how people change. What happens when the person you know so well is altered by life? When something happens to turn your life upside down and you have to change to survive, can you get back the way you were or are you permanently altered?

Is a happy ending possible for these two characters?

 2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

I have found something that I love to do and managed to turn it from a hobby into a job. I think that is such a privilege and I never take it for granted. To do something you enjoy for a living is truly wonderful. I also find writing a great switch off. All my worries and woes disappear when I’m immersed in a new book.

3 How did you start writing?

I always wrote essays and kept a diary as a child but I only began writing creatively when I turned 30. I decided it was ‘now or never’ so I began writing a novel in my spare time – before, during and after work. My first two novels were turned down by everyone which was a bit demoralising! But I kept going and my third novel, The Baby Trail, which is about a couple struggling with infertility was picked up by Penguin and has now been translated into 25 languages.

 4 What would you say has helped you most?

Loving what I do and reader feedback. On bad writing days when nothing is coming out, I just sit and wait…and wait…something eventually comes. It may all end up being deleted but it helps to move the story along. On days when I’m feeling that the new book is not good enough, a message on Facebook or an e-mail from a reader will give me the incentive to keep going and remind me that I can do it. I really do value feedback from readers enormously.

 5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on a new book. I’m at the 30,000 word mark when doubt always sets in. But I feel passionately about the story and I think it’s going to be OK. I’m due to have a meeting with my editor to discuss how it’s going, let’s hope she likes it so far!!

 6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Be passionate about your story, don’t let knock backs stop you and believe in yourself.

 7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

I read everything from non-fiction to literary fiction to popular fiction, crime, biographies, historical novels….everything and anything I can get my hands on.

The Way We WereThe Way We Were

London, Holland Park, November 2014

Dan reached over and took two glasses of champagne from the waiter. Handing one to Alice, he smiled reassuringly at her, then tapped his to get everyone’s attention. He cleared his throat and made a toast: ‘I’m so happy that you, my closest friends, could be here tonight to meet Alice properly. You all know my story, and you also know from me that Alice has had a very difficult time. I feel very lucky to have met her. Second chances are hard to come by in life, and I’m grabbing this one with both hands. Here’s to new beginnings with the most wonderful woman in the world.’

He pulled her close and kissed her as his friends clapped and cheered.

Alice glanced over at Jools and Holly, who were standing in the corner with Dan’s daughter, Stella. Jools gave her mother a crooked smile, while Holly raised her hands in a double thumbs-up. Alice smiled back and allowed herself to breathe. Everything was going to be fine. She had made the right decision.

Alice leaned into Dan and said, ‘Thank you for … well, for everything. For saving me and for making me see that I could be happy again . . .’ She stopped as her voice quivered.

Dan kissed her hand. ‘You’re the one who’s made me happy. I want to tell them about the engagement.’ Alice tried to protest but before she could stop him, he bellowed, ‘One final thing. I’ve asked Alice to marry me.’

The room went silent. Clearly Dan’s friends had not been expecting this. But then someone began to clap and everyone joined in.

Alice frowned. ‘Dan, I told you I needed time for me and the girls to get used to the idea before announcing it.’

‘Relax, darling, I told the girls when they arrived that I was going to announce it tonight. They told me to go ahead.’ Dan beamed

Before Alice could say anything else, there was a quiet cough at Dan’s elbow and the event organizer shot him an apologetic smile. ‘Excuse me, so sorry to interrupt, but I’d just like to check when you wish the food to be served, Mr Penfold.’

Dan kissed Alice once more, then headed towards the kitchen. Alice’s brother, Kevin, came over to her. Squeezing her hand, he said, ‘Calm down, it was going to come out soon anyway.’

‘I know, but I don’t like surprises. I’m worried about the girls.’

‘They’re fine. They really like Dan. Alice, smile, you’re going to scare the guests.’

Alice laughed, letting go of the tension in her stomach. ‘You’re right. I guess I’m still getting used to the idea of marrying someone else.’

‘You deserve to be happy. He’s a good man. You have to look forward now.’

Alice’s eyes filled with tears. ‘Thanks, Kevin, you’ve been brilliant. I really do love Dan and, like he said, I’m going to take this second chance and embrace it.’

‘Good for you,’ he said. ‘If only his brother was gay – I could get seriously used to this.’ He waved his hand around at the plush furnishings and enormous chandeliers.

‘Your prince will come,’ Alice teased him.     ‘When? I’m not getting any younger. Older gay men are not in demand, especially the ones with no money!’

‘If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.’ Alice kissed her brother’s cheek.

‘By the way, you should probably say something, Alice. I overheard one of Dan’s friends mutter that he hoped Dan was doing the right thing. They all seem nice enough, but I’d say the idea of him taking on a widow and two kids has raised a few eyebrows.’

Alice sighed. She and Dan had kept to themselves during their whirlwind romance so she didn’t know his friends, but she did want them to like her. There were about twenty people gathered in the room, and she was doing her best to talk to each one. They seemed very nice, but it was all a bit intimidating. She decided her brother was right, that she needed to take the bull by the horns and say a few words.

Dan was walking towards her. As he came close she caught his hand and whispered, ‘I’d like to say something too, if that’s all right.’

He looked pleased. ‘Of course, darling.’

Alice tapped the side of her glass for silence. The chatter died down. ‘I’m sorry to string out the speeches, but I’d like to add something quickly. I never expected to be lucky enough to meet someone again, but then Dan came into my life and he’s made me see that there is such a thing as a second chance. I –’

Alice was interrupted by Mrs Jenkins, Dan’s housekeeper, who pressed her arm gently. She was holding a phone. ‘I’m sorry, Alice,’ she whispered, ‘but there’s a man on the phone who says he must talk to you urgently. An emergency. A Mr Jonathan Londis from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.’

Alice excused herself, took the phone and walked out into the vast reception area.

‘Hello?’ Alice said, her voice sounding odd in the emptiness of the large hallway.

‘Hello, Mrs Gregory, I’m calling you with some rather incredible news.’ He sounded breathless. ‘I have someone here who wants to say hello.’

Alice’s heart began to beat very fast. Her mouth went dry. What was going on? Her hands were trembling uncontrollably. ‘Hello – who is it?’

The Way We Were is available on Amazon and in bookshops and supermarkets.

You can contact Sinead on Facebook and Twitter or via her webpage.

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Café Cala welcomes Sally Hepworth

Hi Sally, welcome to Café Cala,

Sally Hepworth

 

I’m delighted to have you visit Café Cala. I really enjoyed The Things We Keep and now I’m looking forward to reading your first novel. I’ve been making a fig cake this morning. Would you like tea or coffee with yours?

 

Thank you for having me. Fig Cake! I think I’ll take tea. English Breakfast. Milk, no sugar.

1 Where did you get the idea for The Things We Keep?

The seed for The Things We Keep was planted several years ago, when I watched a TV segment about a young woman—a newlywed—who was pregnant with her first child. She had also recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at 31 years old.  I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I had no idea that people so young could have this disease. And I wondered: what must it be like to lose your memories when you are supposed to be making them?

Then, only a year or two ago, I was having coffee with a friend who is a nurse at a dementia facility. She told me about an elderly man and woman who held hands in the communal living area of the centre every day. They were both non-verbal and their memories were less than five minutes long. Yet every day, they sat next to each other and held hands.

It got me thinking about that TV segment I’d watched years earlier. And about the relationship between love and memory. I thought to myself: maybe, just maybe, this is a book.

2 What have you found most rewarding about your writing?

Seeing your book on the shelf of a bookstore is enormously rewarding. It has a way of magically erasing all the hard times that came before it. Of course, the actual writing process has its joys, and I do rather enjoy the process of dreaming up a new story … but nothing beats seeing your book on the shelf for the first time.

3 How did you start writing?

Well, I learned to write when I was five … and ever since then I’ve been writing stories. Before that I made-up stories in my head. But I started writing with a view to publication while on maternity leave with my son (who is now 6). Since then, I have written 4 novels—3 of which have been published, the other will be published next year. (my first novel, Love Like The French, was published in the German language only).

4 What would you say has helped you most?

My writer friends have been amazing. I have a great network of author friends, and we all read each other’s work and provide a sounding board for each other in what can be a solitary business. I honestly do not know where I’d be without them.

5 What are you working on at the moment?

I’m doing a final read through of my new novel, By Myself with You. I’ll be sending it off to my editor in the next few days. Eeeek!

6 What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Arm yourself with the mechanics of novel writing (through short courses, or reading some of the many books out there). Some writers believe this can stifle the creative process, but I find it better to know the rules and consciously break them, than to not know the rules at all.

7 Which authors do you enjoy reading?

I read a lot of women’s fiction. My favourite authors are Sue Monk Kidd, Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult. Lately I’ve also been partial to a psychological thriller. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Girl on a Train by Paula Hawkins and Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica were all fantastic.

The Things we keepAnna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease at only 38 years old, knows that her twin, Jack, has chosen Rosalind House because Luke, another young resident is there. As if, Anna muses, a little companionship will soften the unfairness of her fate.

Eve Bennett also comes to Rosalind House reluctantly. Once a pampered wealthy wife she is now cooking and cleaning to make ends meet.

Both women are facing futures they didn’t expect. And with only unreliable memories to guide them, they have no choice but to lean on and trust something more powerful. Something closer to the heart.

The Things We Keep is the product of my desire to tell a story about love defying all odds.

EXCERPT

ANNA

No one trusts anything I say. If I point out, for example, that the toast is burning or that it’s time for the six o’clock news, people marvel. How about that? It is time for the six o’clock news. Well done, Anna. Maybe if I were eighty-eight instead of thirty-eight, I wouldn’t care. Then again, maybe I would. As a new resident of Rosalind House, an assisted-living facility for senior citizens, I’m having a new appreciation for the hardships of the elderly.

“Anna, this is Bert,” someone says as man slopes by, clutching the handles of his walker. I’ve been introduced to half a dozen people who look more or less like Bert: old, ashen, hunched-over. I suppose this is what they’ll all look like.

We’re on wicker lawn chairs in the streaming sunshine, and I know Jack brought me out here to make us both feel better. Yes, you’re checking into an old folks’ home, but look, it has a garden!

I wave to Bert, but my gaze is fixed across the lawn, where my five-year-old nephew, Ethan, is having coins pulled out of his ears by a man in a navy and red striped dressing gown. My mood lifts. Ethan always jokes that he’s my favorite nephew, and even though I deny it in public, it’s true. He’s the youngest of Jack’s boys, and definitely the best one.

Once, when he was four, I took him for a spin on my motorcycle. I didn’t even bother asking Brayden or Hank; I knew they’d just say it was dangerous and then tell their mother. As far as I know, Ethan never told. Brayden and Hank know what’s wrong with me—I can tell from the way they talk to me. But Ethan either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. I really don’t mind which one.

“And this is Clara.”

Clara wanders toward us with remarkable speed (compared to the others). She’s probably in her eighties—but portly, more robust looking than the rest. With a cloud of fluffy yellow-gray hair, she reminds me of a newborn chick.

“I’ve been looking forward to meetin’ you, honey,” she says, then gives me a whiskery kiss. A burst of fragrance fills my airspace. Normally I don’t like to be kissed, yet from her, the gesture feels oddly natural. And these days, I make a point of respecting people who are natural around me. “If you need anything at all, you let me know,” she says, then wanders off toward a huge oak tree. When she gets there, she kisses the man in the navy and red striped dressing gown full on the mouth in a way that feels vaguely territorial, like she’s staking her claim.

Beside me, Jack is to talking to Eric, the centre’s manager—a paunchy, red-faced man with a thick Tom Selleck mustache and a titter of a laugh that, by rights, should belong to a female in her eighties. Every time I hear it (which is a lot, he seems to chortle at the end of just about every sentence), I jerk around, looking for a ladies’ auxiliary group giggling over its knitting. He and Jack talk, and I listen without really hearing. “We do a lot of activities and will keep her active . . . twenty-four-hour care and security . . . experience with dementia . . . the best possible place for her . . .”

Blah, blah, blah. Eric has a certain desperate-to-please manner about him, but all in all, he could be worse. When we arrived, he spoke directly to me, asking my advice on an old knee injury that had been giving him some trouble. He needed a doctor not a paramedic, and I explained this, but I appreciated the question. These days, the most interesting conversations I have are about my favourite colour or type of food. I like it when people remember that I’m a person, not just a person with Alzheimer’s.

Jack seems to have forgotten that. Ever since I went to live with him and Helen, he’s stopped being my brother and started being my dad, which is beyond annoying. He thinks I don’t hear when he and Helen whisper about me in the kitchen. That I don’t notice they exchange a look whenever I offer to walk the boys to school. That I don’t see Helen trailing me in the car, making sure I don’t become disoriented on the way there.

Jack’s been through this before—we both have—and I know he considers himself a expert. I have to keep reminding him that he’s an attorney, not a neurologist. Besides, the situations are very different. Mom was in denial about her disease. She fought to hang on to her independence right up to the point when she burned down the family home. But I have no plans to fight the inevitable.

The upside of this place, if I’m choosing to be positive, is that not everyone is nuts. Jack and I looked at a few of those dementia-specific units, and they were like Zombie City, full of crazies and folks doing the seven-mile stare. This place, at least, is also for the general aging community—the ones who need their meals cooked and laundry done, or a reminder to take their medication—kind of a hotel for the elderly (the wealthy elderly, judging by the zeros on the check Jack wrote this morning).

Still, I’m not exactly thrilled to be here. It was bad enough when Jack sent me to “day care.” Seriously, that’s what it’s called. A day program for people like me. Also for people not like me, because with only 5 percent of Alzheimer’s cases occurring in people under the age of sixty-five, there aren’t a lot of people like me. That’s what makes this situation all the more unusual. I’m not checking into just any residential care facility—no sirree. We’ve travelled all the way to Short Hills, New Jersey, from Philadelphia so I can live in a facility with someone like me. A guy, also with younger-onset dementia, someone Jack heard about through the Dementia Support Network. Since learning about the guy, Jack has been hell-bent on getting me into the very same care facility, which is weird. As though having two young people in a place filled with oldies makes it spring break instead of residential care.

“Would you like to meet Luke, Anna?” Eric asks, and Jack nods enthusiastically. Luke must be the guy. Apparently, they’ve been saving him for last. Maybe he’s going to rappel down from a tree or something? It will have to be something impressive if they think it’s going to make a difference.

“No. I just want to go to my room.”

I stand. Jack and Eric exchange a look, and I feel the wind leave their sails.

“Sure,” Jack says. “Do you want me to take you there? Anna?”

My vision starts to blur. I don’t want to look at Jack, but he stands up, too, gets right in my face so I can’t look anywhere else. His eyes are full and wet, and I catch a glimpse of the softhearted man he used to be before his brushes with dementia and abandonment hardened him up.

“Anna,” he says, “I know you’re scared.”

“Scared?” I snort. But I am scared. The funny thing about being a twin is that all your life, someone is right by your side. But in a moment, Jack’s going to leave. And then I’m going to be alone.

“Get lost, would you?” I tell Jack finally. “I have a pedicure booked in half an hour. This place has a health spa, right?”

Jack laughs and gets to his feet, shooing a drop from his cheek. When he was younger Jack used to sport a golden tan, but now his skin is pale, almost as white as my own. I suspect this may be my fault. “Ethan! Come and say good-bye to Anna.”

Ethan thunders across the lawn to us and tosses himself into my arms. My little blond nephew, I notice, still has a tan. He strangles me in a hug. “Bye, Anna Banana.”

When he pulls away, I take a long hard look at the large white bandage covering his left cheek and try to remember the angry red burns and welts underneath. I need to remember them. They’re the reason I’m here.

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