Goodreads Book Giveaway
A Bed of Barley Straw
by Sam Russell
Giveaway ends December 01, 2016.
See the giveaway details
Giveaway ends December 01, 2016.
See the giveaway details
A little gift from me to you – steamy romance to warm a chilly weekend. A Bed of Barley Straw will be free to download on Kindle from today until November 15th.
Click here to download your copy
Happy reading xx
I’m blown away by the rustic romance of Cumbria this week. Even the barns are enchanting, and then there are the hills, the rocks and the lakes; forests and waterfalls. There are lambs in the fields (and on the narrow lane to our cottage); calves with doe eyes grazing behind dry stone walls. The foxgloves in bloom, poking pink flowers through bright green fern…
Catch your breath in amazement stuff around every corner. And I’m inspired. Land Rovers and collie dogs working for their living. Farmhouses and cottages, keeping centuries of stories behind stone walls. And a countryside so rugged that just getting by must be a challenge for the people who live there after the tourists have gone home. When the rain pours off the mountains and the lakes overflow, or the roads are blocked by snow drift. When swift cloud engulfs the rocky hills and valleys to leave you isolated in a world of mist.
Across the field from our holiday home stood our nearest neighbour; a white-washed stone cottage with a grey slate roof and a wooden gate to the front. The red Mini Cooper outside, with it’s personalised number plate, tells me that this must be Hayley’s house. There’s no sign of children, so I’ve decided that Hayley is in her mid twenties. And she lives alone, because the house is empty when Hayley has gone to work. No regular visitors either, but one irregular one: Late in the evening a Land Rover parks beside the red Mini. It’s gone before dawn. A proper working vehicle, this, with winches, and muddy tyres. Long wheel based and laden with gear. No personalised number plate to help me out here, but I’m going to say that this Landy is driven by a man who works on the land. A farmer or a gamekeeper, maybe even a vet. Occupations which might explain why he turns up so late and is gone so early. Or could it be that there’s an altogether different story unfolding in that cottage…
Hmmm. I think I can feel a Cumbrian rustic romance coming on.
A quick one this week, because we’re off on a mini UK tour, and I really ought to be packing, or editing, or cleaning the house. Because you have to leave the house extra-clean when you’re not going to be in it, don’t you?
I’ve just spoken to the mates who are coming with us, and we’ve sorted our packing lists: Wellies, waterproofs, sun-cream and sandals. So, pack for all weather, basically. I’m glad the car doesn’t have a baggage allowance.
A pre-harvest jolly to Yorkshire, Scotland and the Royal Highland Show (which I’m weirdly excited about). Home via the lake district, by boat if necessary, seeing as nature is filling those lakes up as I write. I’d quite like to bring a Highland cow back with me, but only one that can swim.
I’m taking the editing with me (who am I kidding?) because I’m about to bust my latest self-imposed deadline, (final re-writes back to the editor before I go away, oh dear). And I’m stressing about the ancient terriers, or stressing about the poor souls who I’m leaving in charge of them, actually. They’re standing outside in the rain at the moment (the terriers, not the carers), looking ancient and mighty bedraggled (I won’t humiliate them by sharing a picture here). But, for some reason which I really can’t fathom, they do come back in to pee. I might lay a shavings bed in the boot room , then the carers can just muck them out.
Here’s wishing for some sunshine, (and an England win tonight). COME ON ENGLAND/SUMMER (delete as required) – let’s be having you!
Great holiday escapism – 5* reader reviews.
Steamy contemporary romance set on an English Country Estate.
Click HERE to download your FREE Kindle copy.
This offer runs from the 9th to the 13th June 2016.
As writers, we have a rich selection of words we can use to set a mood; an emotion; a moment. The art of good writing (and the joy of good reading) takes us right in to a time and and a place – and sets the mood of the moment – without telling us.
There’s a scene in the novel I’m editing (A Bed of Brambles – the sequel to A Bed of Barley Straw) where the hero (Alexander) is sitting above cliffs, recovering from the hurt of an emotional upset, and being soothed by the landscape around him. So, that’s me telling you what’s happening.
Amidst her pleas of “Show us!” My editor queried my choice of words in this scene – “would he be calmed by the waves crashing against the rocks?”
Good point; crashing and rocks are hard, angry words. How about “calmed by the waves washing across the pebbles on the beach?”
Here’s one picture of the landscape, similar to that which I’m seeing when I’m writing the scene:
It is angry isn’t it? The waves are crashing against the rocks. It’s moody, and melancholy; in turmoil. Blacks and greys and an unsettled sea – all very Poldark! Passionate, oh Lord, there’s all sorts of angsty words I could use (and a risk of becoming clichéd)
Here it is in sunnier mood:
Now I’m uplifted. The sun warming the cliff-face, ripples on the grey-green water… and I could talk about the clouds, but I mustn’t overdo it. I’m falling into that cliché trap again (frothy and fluffy, the ocean tumbling over the rocks).
The same coastline, different angle – let’s do serene:
I’ll let you chose your own words, I’m not sure Alexander is ever quite this peaceful, still, enticing. Oh, hang on, he is enticing, just not in such a clean way 😉
It’s a maze and a labyrinth, feeling your way to the right words. And that’s before I’ve even told you how he’s sitting on the bench… Is he leaning forward with his head in his hands? Is he lounging back against the salt-bleached wood with his long legs stretched out in front of him…
It’s a mood, a moment in the novel. It’s why editing fries your brain.
Free on Kindle 10th – 14th March, a little steamy romance to get you through those cold March nights xx
Click HERE to download your copy.
Rogues and scoundrels, womanisers, damaged souls. Tall, dark and brooding… there are almost as many clichés to describe our romantic bad boys as there are bad boys in fiction.
And it’s a conundrum isn’t it? That characters in stories can get away with murder (literally, or should that be literarily) and yet still win our love.
From Heathcliff to Rochester, Rupert Campbell-Black to Christian Grey; romantic bad boys have drawn us in since stories began. Personal tolerances vary, but if you have loved fiction, film or theatre I’d be willing to bet that you have loved a bad boy too.
“Mad, bad and dangerous to know” these guys are not always easy to love. They’re not easy to master as characters either. Writing a bastard is simple, asking readers to fall in love with him…not so much. Clearly it can be done, and when done well the lovable bad boy is a wondrous thing. The fictional scoundrel can be gloriously addictive, and its an addiction which you don’t even need to feel guilty about.
There are degrees of badness; from the endearing Lothario through to the downright criminal badass. If the writing is good enough there are few ‘crimes’ that cannot be forgiven. But therein lies the rub of characterisation; a badly written bad-boy can easily become just a nasty bastard. No one loves a nasty bastard.
There aren’t any rules, but I’ve got some thoughts on writing that most elusive of creatures – that frustrating, unattainable but heart-breakingly desirable hero, the romantic rogue who will carry us away on a carpet of magical fantasy.
I’d love to hear about your favourite fictional bad boys, or if you’re writing one yourself let me know how you go about developing their character.
I am editing. Argh!
I’m deep in the thicket, with 100k words between me and the timber of my finished novel, and every one of them has to be tested to earn its place in the manuscript.
Do my characters have, well, character? Is the plot believable? Am I consistent with point of view? Have my scenes got structure and motivation. Shit…am I actually writing scenes at all?
If you thought that writing a novel was hard, try a substantive edit. I believe I could knock off 20k words in the time it takes to edit a paragraph (10k of those words will be cut later of course). I’m learning on the job, and I figure I always will be. There may be writers out there who find it
a piece of cake (cliché) easy, and wield their cutting pen with stern, orderly (adjective+adverb) precision. Who get that perfect story arc and place their reactions/dilemmas with pin-point (you work it out) accuracy within it.
I’m not one of them (she
sobbed, wept, cried, sighed SAID!). This is damn hard work, and right now I really can’t see the wood for the trees (yet another cliché slipped in there).
But it’s also exciting. I’m writing, I’m learning, and learning is good isn’t it?
I’m off to find the path through this forest now.
As a writer of contemporary romance with a novel to sell I am clear about my target market. Now I’m not a fan of pigeon holes. Or of sweeping judgements which attempt to predict character by demographic. But having issued that disclaimer, please bear with me as I litter this post with offensive generalisation. It’s the grubby truth of marketing, and I accept that having a criteria on which to base your marketing efforts does make sense.
To ensure the best response to my own marketing, I carefully researched my target audience. Ok, that’s a lie. I gave it my best guess. I mean we’re talking contemporary romance. How hard can it be? Young women of average intelligence education. We all know that it’s the dreamy lasses who want to read about gorgeous hunks – men who will love them completely, and whose hearts they will mend. Passion, adoration (and a soupçon of scorching-but-meaningful rumpy-pumpy). The cynical mid-lifers (of which I am one, which should have told me something as I am writing this stuff) have been there, done that and thrown away the t-shirt. Some have nurtured ill will against romance ever since the departure of husband number three. And the highly educated know enough to understand that it’s all a load of fanciful tosh, they are busy improving their literary minds with important books.
The elderly? Please. You need to ask? As for men, well we all know that their perfect relationship is straight-forward (willing woman – leg over – meat pie for dinner. Depart to watch the match). If the match is showing widescreen at the pub, we have our happy-every-after. I warned you that this would be offensive.
If you are ranting at me right now, please take some solace in knowing that I now understand the folly of these collective ‘isms’. They are wrong, wrong and wrong again. We are indeed all romantic fools at heart. Take if you will as an example, the lovely letter I received this week from a farmer. A man who I happen to know is the wrong side of 60 (strike that, let’s make it the right side of 60!) He qualified his letter with the fact that he wasn’t much of a book reader, preferring the Farmer’s Weekly. He reads, he tells me, one book a year, on his holiday. He usually chooses a romance (did you see that coming? If not – shame on you.) That letter made my week. And there is the card I received in the post from an octogenarian. The photographs sent to me of my book in exotic locations, despatched by a woman who holds rank in City banking. The builder I met in Tesco who apologised for having not read my novel yet. I countered his apology with one of my own; “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, what do you usually read?” His reply – “Mills & Boon.” I misjudged, again.
One of my closest friends is on husband number three. I realise now that this fact alone is a credit to her faith in true love. Isn’t that really the message of every romance? And she’s read the book three times. Happy endings, I find, can bring a tear to the most hardened of eyes. Boo sucks demographic. You don’t know us at all.