Early awakenings and oh, what a beautiful morning

Early awakenings and oh, what a beautiful morning

I’m so blessed to live in the country-side, with a 360 degree view of the sky. A blessing which it’s easy to be thankful for because nature reminds you so often. I confess I’m not always grateful when the wind is hurling rain horizontally across the farm, or snow drifts cover the drive. It’s a rare winter when we don’t lose electricity, telephone, internet, and satellite (occasionally all at once). But I figure that’s a small price to pay for the everyday glories we get to enjoy (she says valiantly, while the October sun is shining).

Today the terriers got me up early (they’re playing innocent in this shot but don’t be fooled. And yes she is sitting on him).


Terriers can be the cruellest of alarm clocks. A bark sharp enough to rouse you from sleep with instant palpitations. A sense of smell so keen it can sniff out varmint from three fields away, and a dogged (sic) determination to tell you all about it. I say varmint, but often I haven’t got a clue what has set them off. A fox, pheasant, or deer? More likely devilish spirits which drive them to wake me at an hour when all of God’s creatures should be tucked up in bed (apart from the nocturnal ones of course). Credit where credit is due though, this morning the moon was worthy of howling at.

fog and sunrise oct 15

A crescent so perfect it’s a cliché. I was out there, in my nightshirt, with the dogs, taking pictures which would never do the view justice. Nature does beauty on an epic scale which scoffs at my camera and photography skills. All the same, pretty eh?

An over-blanket of mist rolling across the fields…

fog Oct 15

And then the sun came up…

Sunrise Oct 15

Sometimes I’m thankful for yappy dogs.

Improper use of the English language

Improper use of the English language

Too long since my last post here, because my head is firmly wedged into editing which I find can be even more all consuming than the actual writing is. Third pass on the draft manuscript and I may be changing the same words backwards and forwards but I’m also still finding typos. How do they hide so craftily? I changed the font style and size for this read through, and found five obvious errors in the first couple of paragraphs. Incredible given the number of times I have already read it, and scary to think how many more I might (will) be missing.

The error rate decreased as I moved on through the manuscript,  but this could simply be the result of my anticipatory brain adjusting to the new font. Should I change the font every two paragraphs? Phew! I ought to read it on an e-reader next, but I’ve already forgotten the formatting skills which would allow me to covert the Word document. I do remember that it took me a bloody long time to learn those skills the first time around.

Of course I wrote the words, so I know what they’re going to say. And that provides the eye to brain translator with a very efficient ‘ignore and correct’ reflex which is nigh on impossible to override. That’s my psuedo-science excuse anyway. Unfortunately the reflex doesn’t work on the reader who doesn’t know what’s coming next. I know this because as a reader myself typos and errors in other’s books are glaringly obvious (although I don’t scoff at them quite as much now as I once might have done, nervous empathy stops me.)

Note to self; first draft may be a brain dump, but next time at least try to brain dump with grammar.

It will actually be a huge relief to pass the manuscript on the professionals. The editors, beta readers and proofreaders who know what they’re doing. Me, I really just like telling stories. Having said that I know that I will be protective of my work, and overly defensive about any suggested changes. Foolish, because I loved how the editing shaped and sharpened A Bed of Barley Straw, taking my jumbles of impassioned phrases and tightening them up to form a proper (or should that be improper) novel.

I’m really excited about the cover design for the new book, which is looking gorgeous. (Reveal shortly!) Having a cover makes me believe that the book is actually going to happen (in a way that writing 100k words strangely didn’t.)

Oh the vagaries of the human mind. If there are any typos or grammatical errors in this post, kindly forgive them. I am all edited out (and I know that’s not proper use of the English language.)

Crazy September and Blurb Take Two

Crazy September and Blurb Take Two

Harvest is over, the kids are back at school, and the world gets back from their holidays ready to hit autumn with refreshed vim and vigour.

September has been a crazy month for me so far. Ending the year’s farming accounts, FINISHING THE FIRST DRAFT OF MY MANUSCRIPT FOR BOOK TWO, and moving on to the hard miles; edits, rewrites, loose ends. Covers to be designed (two of them because A Bed of Barley Straw is also getting a makeover), ISBNs to be purchased and allocated. Tag lines, blurbs, synopsis (the latter of which I think should have been written before the novel, but hey I’m still a rookie accidental rebel). Formatting, uploads and tracked changes lurk ominously in my future, with the threat of highlighting all the skills I have forgotten since writing book one.

Today I’m working on the blurbs for both of my books, and I would love to hear your thoughts.

Do the words catch your interest and draw you in? Do they leave you wanting to know more? Leave a comment or email me – writersamrussell@gmail.com (You can also drop me a line there if you would like to be added to my email list for updates on the release).

Here’s where I’m at…all critiques welcome (steady GG)


You can bury the past, but can you ever forget it? Hettie Redfern has no time for men, other than for the most basic of needs. She has learnt from experience that her career is more rewarding, that horses are more trustworthy and her are dogs easier to love.

 So when Alexander Melton returns to Draymere Hall, where Hettie manages the stables, she quickly works out that despite his drop-dead good looks, his arrogance and manners leave a lot to be desired. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to stop Hettie desiring him.

 Proud, judgemental, downright rude at times, Alexander uses women for his own careless pleasure and rarely gives them a second thought. So how has Hettie Redfern got under his skin? A dangerous and idiotic obsession, given her reputation.

A clash of characters, a physical attraction too strong to resist. History unravelling in a perfect storm of frustrated passion.



(There is a working title but you’re not getting it yet. I do learn from some of my mistakes)

Hettie and Alexander are back at Draymere Hall, and it was never going to be a conventional love story, no hearts and flowers here.

Proud, passionate, wilful; they are alike in so many ways. That has to be a good thing doesn’t it? Or it could be very bad…they both carry scars, and old wounds have a habit of bringing new pain.

 Their bodies know what they want, and that attraction pulls them together. Hearts and minds can be thorny, less easy to satisfy. One thing is certain, together or apart their lives will move on. Alexander and Hettie’s clashes of passion and spirit will only be part of the story. 

New beginnings which give you the chance to make things right. Or the chance to make the same mistakes all over again.

Thank you for reading.



A Bed of Barley Straw Cover MEDIUM WEB

A Bed of Barley Straw by Sam Russell
The inspiration for A Bed of Barley Straw was multi-layered, but there were three things in particular which stirred my creative juices and got me writing.
The characters were my initial motivation. I saw Hettie, my heroine, as strong-willed and captivating, but far from perfect. Someone who hadn’t always got it right and still makes mistakes. I knew that Hettie would be no shrinking violet and that her history with men would be chequered. Complicated to the point that she had abandoned romance, Hettie would find it easier to love the quirky dogs and horses that she shares her life with.
My hero, Alexander Melton, is more darkly flawed. I enjoy a challenging character, but there had to be morality at the core. Finding the damaged decency buried in his heart was the crux for Alexander, a test of character development. To take a man with too much pride but create him worthy of love. Events which occur through the story were intended to shake both Alexander’s and the readers’ preconceptions. Leading him through his journey of discovery was deliciously infuriating.
The clash came next. I love a glorious mismatch. A freefall into lust with absolutely the wrong person; the gritty struggle which ensues between chemistry and reason. My idea was to delve into the minds of two people who are struggling against formidable attraction, and to find out if the wrong person can ever become the right one.
I had a lot of fun exploring that dilemma. The sparring, the spats, the stand-offs and the battles of will. The moments of physical and emotional connection. The stimulation to write became boundless!
And finally to the setting. My passion for the countryside and my background in horses and farming dropped the tale in rural England. I could clearly envisage the picturesque Cotswold village and the grandeur of Draymere Hall. Villages can be a wonderful stimulus, spurning a wealth of colourful characters, intrigue and gossip. Add to that the joys of a cosy local pub in which to play out the antics and my scene was ready to tempt the characters in.

Sequential absorption – If you’re looking for me I’m in Draymere

Sequential absorption – If you’re looking for me I’m in Draymere

I can’t deny that when I started the sequel to my debut novel I was full of trepidation. A Bed of Barley Straw just happened, all by itself. The story ran from my subconscious straight onto the page. It was an experiment, if you like, a challenge to my psyche: “you keep saying you’ve got a book in you” (that’s my psyche talking, I didn’t say it out loud) “about time you bloody well proved it.”

So I did. And I won (yay, one-nil to me!)

But now I’ve got to make it two-nil, although I’m not sure my psyche ever said “actually, you’ve got two.” What if I didn’t have? What if my debut was also my finale? So many excited requests for the next book…thrilling, wonderful feedback, but can I perform twice?

The start of a sequel is problematic and frustrating. I found that as a reader, and I am finding the same as a writer. It isn’t enough to assume that everyone has read the first book (and unlike a series, A Bed of Barley Straw is a stand-alone book). Book two picks up the story where book one ended. Saga-esque (but over too short a time frame to justify calling it the Draymere Saga, much as I like the ring of that).

Inevitably, readers must be re-introduced to the characters and settings. If you haven’t read the first book or if you read it a long time ago (apologies feedbackers – I’m going as fast as I can), I can’t bombard you with character names and places without, at the very least, a hint to their history as contained in book one. Perversely, when I am reading a sequel (especially if I am reading it soon after the preceding book) I find my mind frequently shouting “I know all that!” Don’t waste my time with flashback and re-introduction. I want the nitty gritty.

So, a conundrum and a balance to be struck. A gentle reminder here and there, a drop of reminiscence. Ideally cleared up in the first few chapters so we can all get down to the nitty gritty.  And a good editor please, to tell me if I have succeeded.

I’m delighted to say I am now in the thick of the gritty in book two. Happily the psyche, when it eventually stopped sulking, willingly poured forth a brand new story, complete with plot-twists and turns. Some of the events have even surprised me. And I thought I knew my characters better than that.

Maybe I know them too well. Like an addictive alter-ego computer game, the characters and settings threaten to become more real than my actual life. I am not ‘in the present’, I am in Draymere.

Spirited discussions with The Farmer have erupted from that old cherry – ‘who said what’.  You know the bugger:

“I told you…”, “we agreed…”, “we talked about this only yesterday…”

The most recent spirited discussion ended when The Farmer announced heatedly that he was going to start recording our conversations. Now I am not saying that he is right and I am wrong, but shortly after that encounter I called his brother Alexander. Close, both names begin with A.

I have hidden all recording devices in our house and I’m heading off to Draymere. To find out what exactly Alexander is up to now.