It is International Day of People With a Disability and #PitMad on Twitter. This could make a powerful combination at getting authors with disabilities and chronic health conditions seen and our stories told. There are 14.1 million adults* in the UK with a disability, yet they are rarely seen in fiction and romance. When they are they are often in what can be described as ‘inspiration porn.’ There is a drive to change this as well as make writing and publishing more inclusive to the disabled community and underrepresented groups. Hopefully this will provide an influx of novels showing relatable characters representing all.
Last month, the Romantic Novelist’s Association took an important step in inclusivity by the introduction of the RNA Disco Chapter. This is an online chapter for RNA members with disabilities, chronic health conditions and neurodiversity to offer support, a safe place to chat about the obstacles we face and friendship. I was excited and nervous to take part in the #UKRomChat last week on Twitter to discuss the chapter and its importance. The chat can be began here.
I have been lucky to receive a bursary for the New Writer’s Scheme, which has given me more opportunities and friendships that I could dream of. Without it I would not have a full manuscript of A Blend of Magic on my PC and out for submission, and I would not have found my tribe. Hopefully, this chapter will spread awareness of the scheme and offer others the chance.
Two founding members Jeanna Louise Skinner and Denise also discuss the chapter, underrepresented writers and how NWS has affected their lives here.
My second witchy book review* is To Catch a Witch by one of my favourite Yorkshire author’s Sharon Booth, who we met last year on my sister blog, From Under the Duvet. You can find her interview here. She is also a fellow member of the RNA and is an inspiration when I consider going down the indie path with some of my work. When I listen to her chat, the idea seems a viable option with a chance of success. It is the last novel in the Castle Clair trilogy. Read on to discover more.
Return to Castle Clair for the final chapter of the St Clair story.
It’s three hundred and fifty years since the famous witch’s leap happened in the North Yorkshire town. Riverside Walk is swarming with eager tourists, wanting to pay tribute to the legendary Blaise St Clair. It’s also Christmas Eve, and the family has gathered to celebrate an eventful year, and to look forward to even better times ahead.
But a shock event changes everything, bringing a whole lot of trouble to the door of Castle Lodge.
For something big is happening in Castle Clair. Strangers are arriving, a prophecy is unfolding, a mystery is deepening, a reckoning is coming … and someone’s getting rather too fond of Mrs Greenwood’s baking.
The past is colliding with the present, and the future is in jeopardy. No wonder the High Council of Witches is a bit miffed.
Will the St Clairs have enough strength, courage ~ and chocolate fudge cake ~ to see them through?
Or is this the end of the world as they know it?
I was mesmerised by the other two novels based in Castle Clair which tell the stories of Sky and Star St Clair and pre-ordered this one, eager for its release but delayed reading it until now. Why? I did not want the series and the magic to end. Mistake. Big mistake, I could have reread the entire series by now. What was not a mistake was the timing. Celeste’s story begins on Christmas Eve, the 350th anniversary of Blaise St Clair’s death at Witches Leap, making it an ideal book for October with the preparations of both Halloween and Christmas. Witches and Christmas, my favourite things make it a winning combination.
Sharon Booth’s wonderful storytelling invoked the Christmas spirit and drew me into the St Clair’s world. The opening chapters are upbeat, quirky, and full of laughter as well as trepidation of what is to come. The many references to Dr Who to describe the situation made me smile and added to the festive atmosphere. Like the Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Dr Who specials make Christmas.
Celeste fast became my favourite witch with her innocent, romantic view of love, believing she will meet the one. Her gentle and kind nature makes her the ideal match for Blaise, the 17th century witch. I enjoyed watching him grapple with the steep learning curve of fitting in to the 21st century, including the changing roles of women and zippers. That scene is one I cannot get out of my head.
WOULD I RECOMMEND?
To Catch A Witch is witchy escapism wrapped up in an uplifting romance that also revisits the other St Clair sisters. With many twists and turns, it was a joy to read and is firmly one of my forever shelf with the rest of the series. This has become my favourite, but it would be wrong to read it again without the others. I can feel a Halloween tradition brewing.
Sharon Booth is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and writes uplifting women’s fiction — “love, laughter, and happy ever after”. Although a happy ending for her main characters is guaranteed, she makes them work for it!
Sharon grew up in the East Yorkshire town of Hessle, where her enduring love for all things Yorkshire was born. She now lives in Kingston-upon-Hull with her husband and their much-loved German Shepherd dog.
Since giving up her admin job at a medical practice, she spends a lot of time assuring her family of five children, assorted in-laws and hordes of grandchildren – not to mention a sceptical mother and a contrary hairdresser – that writing full-time IS a “proper” job and she HASN’T taken early retirement.
She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, adores Doctor Who and Cary Grant movies, and admits to being shamefully prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes.
Yesterday should have been a day for digging out my make up, wearing the dress planned days before, to attend the RNA’s York Afternoon Tea and have hugs from my writing tribe after a year apart. We all should have been sitting around a table full of delicious treats, clutching our wine and holding our breath for the announcement of the Joan Hessayon Award winner. Our very own Emma Jackson was a nominee after her whirlwind of a year. She has published three books since the conference with the fourth ready before Christmas. A Mistletoe Miracle was her debut. The nominees were:
Instead, we were behind our computers and iPads in our own homes watching the proceedings online. Individual squares of nominee faces appeared on the screen with the introduction from the Chair Alison May. Everyone watched the delightful speech from last year’s winner Lorna Cook as she prepared to pass on the trophy. Katie Fforde announced the winner the shocked Melissa Oliver with her novel The Rebel Heiress and the Knight, Mills and Boon Historical.
The claps and whoops Melissa deserved were lost in cyber space. Technology is great and has helped connect us all during the pandemic but nothing beats the atmosphere of celebrations when people are together in reality. The excited buzz filling the room adds to the occasion and spontaneous, unique memories are be formed by one off chats, unexpected meetings and the chance to find new friends. Hopefully, next year everyone will have a chance to congratulate Melissa Oliver in person so she gets the recognition she deserved this time and we can also celebrate the RNA 60th birthday as planned with great company and food like last year.
One of my dear friends in our writing group, Emma Wilson has signed up to Kate Nash’s agency so I hope we will have another good reason to celebrate if she is nominated for next year’s award with her wonderful heartfelt novel. Watch this space.
If you are looking for a spooky gripping read for the long chilly nights in the run up to Halloween grab Emma Jackson’s The Devil’s Bride. My review for it is here.
More soon, stay safe and happy writing!
September is Dystonia Awareness month; I am taking part in the Dystonia Around the World challenge to raise funds and awareness for Dystonia UK. More info can be found here.
I have written June update in the title but it should read 2020 update because this poor blog has remained largely untouched since the RNA Afternoon tea last year. Why, when I have exciting good news to tell you? The answer may not be what you expect. 2020 has been a dystopian year throwing life unimaginable challenges but the main reason I have been missing is I have been writing. Yes, writing, editing and The End has been typed on the last page of A Blend of Magic.
But first, a catch up of the year.
This Year’s News
Last year I won a free six-month mentorship with Alison May, which started in January. This has been a turning point in my writing, confidence and determination to finish A Blend of Magic and not hide it away in a drawer but send it out in the world. I just need to keep my fear of failure under control. Her advice and support has been invaluable.
I was given another bursary for the New writer’s Scheme at the Romantic Novelist’s Association. If you write any form of novel with a romantic thread, check it out. As with my mentorship, the warmth and support of the Association has had a massive influence in my writing. Or check out the speech from the Queen of Romantic Fiction Milly Johnson speech. She says it all.
Lockdown happened and I was placed in the shielding category. As I am usually at home not much changed except, I can not see my aunt or meet up with my local writing group on a Friday. It is amazing how much two hours a week of human company can be missed. Thank heavens for WhatsApp. As doom and gloom raged outside the bubble around me, I decided to hide in my imagination. I have surfaced to catch up with my writing friends and drink tea. This was the best decision as I have been productive and words have been written (except on here – oops).
I finished umpteen drafts of A Blend of Magic and sent it off to be critiqued with the NWS and within 3 weeks it was returned. The reader liked it and only a few tweaks are needed to improve it – phew!
For the first time I sent it off to an agent (eek) and I have entered more competitions.
I have started a new project which I am so excited about. I wake in the morning wanting to connect with the characters and write their stories. Where they will take me? I don’t know and it is exciting to find out. I hope the enthusiasm lasts and does not dwindle the further I am into the manuscript as I am only 6000 words in. It is a step away from magic into the world of dance.
The question is should Willow and Vincent make a fleeting cameo appearance or should it be set in a completely different world?
I hope you are all staying safe and as lockdown is easing you remain so. I have chosen to remain in my creative bubble a while longer and am grateful I am able to do so while others can not.
As many of you know, I am on the New Writer’s Scheme (NWS) with the Romantic Novelists Association (RNA) and it has been an invaluable experience this year. Last Saturday was the annual York Afternoon Tea with the announcement of the winner of the Joan Hessayon Award at the stunning Merchant Taylor Hall. After meeting new friends at the conference in July, I had been looking forward to this event for weeks. There was a moment when it looked as if I would not be able to attend but to my surprise offers of lifts soon arrived. This is the kindest organisation I have come across. Everyone is warm, friendly and supportive. Many are willing to step out of the box to help. Going to one of those events is like coming home, you are greeted with hugs, wonderful food, encouraged to tell your news, and achievements, however small they are in the scheme of things, are celebrated and any falls commiserated. You also want to spend longer there than planned to soak up the love. I truly have found my tribe.
The spread of food was amazing and the macaroons were divine. While drinking lots of cups of tea I caught up with all the positive news from friends old and new. I am proud of all of them and excited that the conference and RNA has boosted their work and confidence too. Watch this space as I believe they will be up for the Joan Hessayon Award in the next couple of years.
The author’s of one of my favourite books, The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was nominated for the award. The Joan Hessayon Award is for published books by new writers. Jenni Keer’s books always make me smile with the subtle strands of magic running through them. Her warmth shines on the page making them ideal snuggling under the duvet. The mutual love of teacups is also a draw. My review for this is here.
There were fifteen contenders and more books have been added to my TBR list. The worthy winner was Lorna Cook with The Forgotten Village. I am looking forward to reading this as soon as I can. The speech from last year’s winner Hannah Begbie with her novel, Mother, was inspiring and emotional making me more determined to write.
My NWS report from the RNA is back; it was positive and my novel, A Blend of Magic has promise. The readers comments were upbeat and encouraging so along with the weekend’s event I have a boost of energy to finish this latest draft.
Researching A Blend of Magic has reignited my interest in the paranormal, magic and witchcraft. What better way to learn more on these subjects than to enrol as an apprentice at my own The Enchanted Emporium. My journey as a rookie witch can be found here.
NanoWriMo is fast approaching and I have plans if A Blend of Magic can be rested in a drawer. Watch this space!