Children Reading by Valerie Everett

Inheritance Books: Sam Russell

Today on the Inheritance Books sofa, we have Sam Russell. Hi Sam, make yourself at home. Why don’t you start off by telling us a bit about yourself?

IMG_8576I was born in London but grew up in a rural Essex village, with the freedom to run free. Idyllic childhood is a cliché, but it was absolutely that – an Enid Blyton adventure with a gaggle of village children beside me, and I have no doubt that it was our outdoor life which fostered my love of the countryside.

As an adult I trained and worked as a riding instructor. I lived overseas for a while, then came home and married a farmer. Thirty-two years later and we’re still farming together. Our three children have grown up and moved out of the farmhouse now but we’ve still got the dogs, a geriatric cat and an aged pony in the paddock. (I watch him through the window when I’m writing.)

 

Which book have you inherited from a generation above? Why is it special?

DSC_0810My special, inherited book is The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. I adored this book as a child. My mum bought it for me. She was, and still is, a genius at finding exactly the right book for the moment. The story of Maria enchanted me and Elizabeth Goudge gifted a magical world where all my passions combined: A plucky heroine, adventure, wonderful characters and a pony thrown in for good measure! There might be a theme developing here…

The copy shown in the picture is actually an exact replacement of the book I originally owned. The original having been eaten by a Welsh goat many years ago! My favourite books travelled with me when I was a kid, and on a family holiday I stacked them on a shelf next to the window. That pesky goat stuck his head through the window and ate the lot! I was inconsolable! We didn’t have a lot of money going spare back then, but Mum sourced and replaced every single book in that goat-chewed collection and I treasure them all to this day.

Which book would you leave for future generations? Why?

DSC_0811It’s so much harder to decide which book I would leave for future generations. Fiction is so personal, and there are too many brilliant titles to choose from. I considered bequeathing the volumes of Maya Angelou’s autobiography, for the sheer inspiration of her joy and talent in the face of adversity, but then I noticed the books I’d kept since my children were babies, and nostalgia won the day.

Once There Were Giants by Martin Waddell and Penny Dale is an exquisite children’s book. Holding it in my hands again takes me straight back to curling up with a little person and reading bedtime stories. And that little person is completely absorbed. It was ‘the book of the moment’, because it told the story of their lives, with warm illustrations and sympathetic words:

I would like to think that Once There Were Giants will pass to my grandchildren when the time comes, and that it will give them the same pleasure it gave to my children.

Maybe I’ll be lucky, and I’ll be the grandma with DSC_0809a little person curled on my lap absorbed in the story, because what I would most like to leave to future generations is the absolute joy of reading. (Amen to that! R)


The copy in the photography is worn and water-curled. I believe it survived the bath!

Thank you for sharing your favourite books with us, Sam. Best of luck with The Bed of Brambles.

A Bed of Brambles Cover MEDIUM WEBSam’s latest book The Bed of Brambles is available to buy now. You can find out more about Sam on her website or meet up with her on Facebook or Twitter.

 

Book review: One Dark Lie by Clare Chase

One Dark Lie

One Dark Lie by Clare Chase

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After a spate of reading fantasy novels I was in the mood for something darker. This is a murder mystery with a hint of gang violence thrown in to up the level of menace.

Ruby writes books about real people. When she is offered the chance to write the life story of murdered academic Diana Patrick-John and she can’t help but drawn into the mystery of who killed Diana.
Nate is trying to trap his sister’s killer. He’s playing a dangerous game whilst trying desperately to keep the people he loves – including Rudy – safe.

This is a tense and atmospheric book. It’s worth mentioning the Other Place city of Cambridge, which is almost a character in itself. Beautiful. I also loved the way Ruby found academic rivalry and a low level of sniping in the academic community.

I hadn’t read the previous book in the series, but that didn’t really stand in the way of my enjoying this one. It’s a good old fashioned murder mystery – not too dark, but tense and gripping.

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This review is part of a blog tour that Clare is doing to promote One Dark Lie.

One Dark Lie - high resYou can buy One Dark Lie now. You can find out more about Clare on her website or catch up with her on Facebook and Twitter.

 

How to find new authors to read

If you enjoy reading my books, you’ll probably like the work of some of the other UK romance novelists… but how do you find them? Easy, you check out the samples that we’re giving away for free – just click the book cover and download a sample in the format of your choice. All of the books in this giveaway have been shortlisted for the RoNA (Romantic Novel of the Year) awards.
www.rhodabaxter.com/instafreebie

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The giveaway runs 1st – 14th of March. RoNA winners will be announced on the 13th of March.

The giveaway includes a sample to my own Girl Having A Ball (which is shortlisted in the Best Romantic Comedy category).

If you find a new writer that you like, everyone’s a winner!

Girl Having A Ball nominated for a RoNA award

Girl Having A Ball is on the shortlist for RoNA awards for best romantic comedy. Look, they sent a fancy graphic of the category nominees: 

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The results will be announced on the 13th of March, so there’s over a month to wait to find out what happens. The other people on the shortlist are Cathy Bramley, Joanna Bolouri, Ali McNamara and Penny Parkes – all of whom write fantastic books. It’s an honour to be in their company.

If you haven’t read Girl Having A Ball yet,  it’s on special offer for 99p on Kobo,  iBooks (UK) and Amazon until Valentine’s day. If you want a sample, you can get the first 3 chapters for free on Instafreebie

If you have read Girl Having A Ball, I’d be super grateful if you could leave a review. The number of reviews a book has really makes a difference to how well it sells. I know I read reviews before I buy anything, I guess everyone else does the same.

 

Have a lovely day!

Rhoda

Goodreads Book Review: Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Sofia Khan Is Not ObligedSofia Khan Is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book after reading Jenny Colgan’s piece in The Guardian. (FWIW, I don’t agree with all of it, but I didn’t feel it was racist at all). Anyway, back to this book. I’m always going on about how there aren’t enough genre fiction books with minority characters doing normal things, so a book about a Muslim girl looking for romance sounded exactly my kind of catnip.

I really enjoyed this story. It took me a few chapters to warm to Sofia’s voice, but once I got into it, it galloped along at a good pace, like any good rom com should. There was at least one scene where I giggled out loud.
It was really nice to see a regular chick lit book featuring a Muslim girl. I liked that her day to day life was unique to her – and not super-cliched. I loved the bit where she tells her Dad that if he’d given her pocket money, she wouldn’t have had to learn to hustle. I also approve of the prominent role given to biscuits. Biscuits are important.

If you like chick lit – give it go. It’s fun. If you’re looking for a book that highlights how different a Muslim woman’s dating experience is compared to a non-Muslim’s… not so much.

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Pat’s Pantry – short novella set in Yorkshire

A little over a year ago, I wrote a long-ish short story for a competition. I didn’t win, but I ended up with a rather nice story that was too long to send out to magazines and too short to send to my publisher. At around the same time, I’d started wondering if I could try this self publishing lark. I’ve always wanted to be a traditionally published author, but… well, increasingly, you’ve got to do a lot of the book promotion yourself. It used to just be stuff like chatting to book bloggers (I like doing that) and messing about on Twitter and Facebook (I quite like that too). But now, Facebook and Twitter algorithms have changed and I end up talking to only a tiny number of people – which is fine most of the time, but if I want to try promoting anything… the message doesn’t go very far. Which means that promotion now requires paying for adverts. Chatting to my online friends, thankfully, still remains free.

All this is a long-winded way of saying that I’ve self published Pat’s Pantry so that I can try new things. If I pay for an ad and sell a few books, then I’ll at least get part of my money back. Besides, it’s cool to be a hybrid author nowadays, apparently.

What was my point? Oh yes. I eventually self published the short novella as Pat’s Pantry. It’s FREE this weekend. Please do download it, if you’re passing through Amazon. It’s a very gentle story about Sue, who gets a second chance at romance when she’d pretty much given up hope. The story is set in a tiny village in West Yorkshire. It’s only about 25 pages long, so you should be able to read it in under an hour!

 

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So yes, Pat’s Pantry. Totally free until Sunday. If you do read it and like it (or even if you don’t), please leave a review. Amazon uses the number of reviews as part of its algorithm. If a book has more than 50 reviews, apparently some Good Thing happens. I’m not sure what that is – I’m hoping showers of sparkles or cakes delivered by drone… but it’s more likely to be Amazon ranking the book a bit higher.

I know some of you read review copies and have left lovely reviews already. Thank you, thank you, thank  you! Incidentally, I love the village in this story so much, that I’m planning on writing more novellas featuring other characters from there. [If you want to be in with the cool kids and get review copies and things, sign up for my newsletter].

Have a great weekend. Hope you get all your Christmas shopping done. 

Drawing parallels between writing reports and writing fiction – and why characters are everything.

Last week, I was asked to give a talk to a group of counselling trainees at my local FE college about creative writing and academic writing. The contact came through my local writing group, The Beverley Chapter. I was suggested to the FE college because I once belonged to the world of academia and still do  a lot of technical writing and, as you know, I write fiction.

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Totally irrelevant picture of Stormtroopers carrying chocolate.

The brief I was given was fairly vague and I found myself standing in front of a group of 26 adult students, with an hour to fill. So I started off by outlining who I was – someone who had always wanted to write fiction, but was encouraged to do something more ‘practical’ so that I could get a job when I grew up; Biochemistry degree and microbiology PhD from Oxford; short-lived post-doc career; the move into information science and intellectual property, ending up with my current job of IP officer for a university. In parallel, a second career as a romance novelist. After that, I ran out of steam a bit.

Luckily, they asked questions. Here are a few topics we covered:

 

Parallels between structuring a novel and structuring an academic essay:

Both have a beginning, a middle and an end. In academic writing it is an introduction, an argument (or, in case of science papers, a experimental section) and a conclusion. We discussed how a novel is essentially an illustration of an argument. The argument is the theme. Good will triumph over evil, the end doesn’t (or does) justify the means, love conquers all adversity – these are all themes which are exemplified in stories. You use characters to explore the theme.

 

Why use creative writing in academic writing:

I told a story about how I learned a load of stuff as an undergraduate. I was good at learning stuff and passing exams, so I did it. I even found it interesting from time to time. But I didn’t appreciate why it was important until my fourth year.

I chose to take a module called Genetics and Disease. One of the textbooks contained testimonials. The first one I read was about the CFTR protein and its gene – which is linked to cystic fibrosis. This chapter had a section written by someone whose sister died of cystic fibrosis. The contributor talked about their grief of losing their sister, about how, if she had lived longer, she could have benefited from drugs that could have improved her quality of life, and about how the contributor herself felt about the fact that she was carrying a defective copy of the gene that she could pass on to her children. This testimony moved me to tears. Suddenly, this module which was about genes and proteins and metabolic systems had meaning. It affected real people. This was important.

People are interested in people. Give case studies, where possible. It’s all about human interest. As novelists, we know this. People read to see what happens to the characters. In academic writing, there is less room for characters, but if you can find somewhere, get them in. Give the work a human context.

 

Does passive writing have a place:

Yes, I believe it does. Nothing we write is ever truly objective, but writing in the passive voice forces us to frame things in a more objective way. Most report writing is done in an objective way, but I know that in my own reports, my word choices are affected by how I feel about an invention. The facts remain the same, but at some point my opinion comes into it, sometimes without my noticing. If I describe something as say, ‘eye-catching’ it conveys a different impression to if I described it as ‘flamboyant’.

This lead onto a side discussion about opinions and their place in formal documents. There are times when you are required to give a professional opinion. This can be in the form of a recommendation. It is important that the reader is told that this is an opinion and not a fact. The facts that were used to arrive at the opinion need to be clearly listed in the text before. The introduction – argument- conclusion format lends itself well to this.

 

Saggy middles:

We discussed the flailing around stage in the middle of documents. I talked about the dreaded saggy middle that all novelists face. We talked about the thread of the narrative and how real life has events all over the place – some relevant to the plot, some not – and how, as a novelist, I have to work out which events drive the plot forward. If they’re not relevant to the plot, I have to leave them out.

This lead to a very interesting discussion about the counselling process where you know where you started and  you know where you ended up, but you’re trying to work out the narrative of how you got from one place to the other – which events were relevant, which events were background noise.

 

Towards the end someone asked me why I write romance (because from my background, it would seem I’d choose sci fi). Here’s my answer:

It’s about people falling in love. Why would you not want to write about it? People are endlessly complex. I write about people and how they change. The change happens to involve falling in love.

Besides, that first kiss feeling is wonderful and I live it again and again through my characters.

But, as they rightly pointed out, you’d expect me to read a lot of sci fi. I did when I was younger. Also fantasy and crime. I still do read those, but nowadays I read a lot of more romance and women’s fiction.  I have a theory that this fits better into the way I read post-kids. I no longer have the luxury of diving into a book and staying there for 3 hours until I’m too hungry to carry on. I read in 5 to 10 minute bursts.  I also have a shockingly bad memory (mumnesia, it’s really a thing).  A romance novel is mainly about an emotional arc, which is easier to pick up and put down.

I read A Game of Thrones recently (only the first one, I’ll get to the next in time). DH and I discussed it later. I went on and on about the relationships and the emotional arcs of the characters. He asked me what I thought of the politics … tumbleweed. I’d been too invested in the character conflicts to really pay attention to the subtleties of the politics. I got the broad brush stuff (you can’t miss it), but the subtle power games… nope.

I love reading thrillers (not horror – I’m squeamish). Again, I will plug into the emotional tension and feel the characters’ fear in my short bursts of reading. Give me something where the character emotions  are secondary to the beautiful descriptions and I’ll probably put it down after two chapters.

This being a counselling group, we also talked about how I wasn’t allowed to read romance novels as a young teen, in case it gave me ‘ideas’. I was supposed to focus on studying. I grew up in Sri Lanka, where this was normal. I negotiated with my mother and read ONE Sweet Dreams romance. One. In the end, I decided to write my own. I still have my old typescripts – they’re badly faded and the edges have almost melted from being handled by hot little hands, but you can still read the notes my school friends scribbled in the margins. Reader feedback. It’s a wonderful thing.

The people in the group were all very lovely and said it was different and interesting talk. I hope it was. It was certainly a very interesting experience for me. The people I usually talk to are writers who are more interested in the how than the why. It was interesting to be made to think about why I write what I write. I still come to the same answer. People are so fascinating. Why wouldn’t you want to explore them more?

Goodreads book review: The Christmas Promise by Sue Moorcroft

The Christmas Promise: The perfect cosy festive treat!The Christmas Promise: The perfect cosy festive treat! by Sue Moorcroft

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked this up because it’s a Sue Moorcroft book. I tend to read anything she releases!

Ava Bliss makes couture hats. She’s fiercely independent (to the point of irritating people ). She’s also being threatened with porn bombing by her sleazy, creepy ex. The ex is a total douchbag, but seems almost a different person when sober, so you can see what Ava saw in him at first. A lot of the book deals with the all too familiar threat of porn bombing – specially, pointing out that the victim did nothing wrong by posing for someone they trusted. This is likely to be thing that stops people from getting help, so it was good to see it tackled head on like this.

Issues aside, it’s a lovely story about an independent woman struggling to make a success of her business and a man who is trying very hard to be a good son. The relationship between Sam and his mother is beautiful. I dare you to read it without melting.

The celebs who walk into the story are brilliant (and realistic).

I live in a town where there’s a race course and lots of hat shops, but I’d never stopped to think about hats and the people who make them. I learned a lot about hats through reading this book. I’ll look at those hat displays with new understanding now!

All in all a lovely, festive story. My thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for the review copy of the book.

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Bacteria inspired names and GBBO – a podcast

A few months ago Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books reviewed Please Release Me. She also contacted me and asked if I would do a podcast for her blog. It’s gone live today!

212. Gin & Tonic, Bacteria, and the US and UK Romance Markets: An Interview with Rhoda Baxter

For those who aren’t followers for the affectionately named ‘Bitchery’, it’s a blog about romance novels written by a group of very smart women who read romance because it’s fun. They also read high brow literary fiction, but, you know, romance is where the heart is.

Anyway. Sarah and I talked about all kinds of things – like how romance is defined in the US vs UK markets, how jacket covers differ in the two countries, the diversity debate that is currently rocking the US romance publishing world (but hasn’t quite reached here yet) and the lack of scientists in romance novels until The Big Bang Theory came along. Because we both like cake, we also discussed gin and tonic cupcakes. It seemed rude not to.

I’m off to jump up and down in an excited manner for a few minutes now. If you listen to the podcast, please leave a comment and let me know what you thought! Especially  if you know any good recipes for cupcakes.

 

 

Goodreads Book Review: The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

The Duchess War (Brothers Sinister, #1)The Duchess War by Courtney Milan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’d never read any Courtney Milan before and I totally loved this book. Minnie is a strong, clever character. I loved the dynamic between the characters too.
Robert is handsome and rich etc, but he’s also not an alpha-hole. He realises that Minnie is cleverer than he is and he’s totally fine with that.

The dialogue is excellent. The secondary characters were extremely likeable without being anodyne. To be honest, it’s worth reading just for the conversation about how dragons can’t milk princesses because they don’t have opposable thumbs.

Smart heroines, beta heroes (albeit broad shouldered, rich and handsome ones), good dialogue… I’ll read more of Courtney Milan’s books.

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