Thursday, 22 August 2013

Brid Wade: Watchers, A Matt Costello Mystery

Please help me welcome Brid Wade to Heart of Fiction.

Brid is a true-blue Dub with a love of music and literature. Brid has had an interesting life. She and her sisters had a successful singing group called The Honeybees but when love called, Brid found herself in Manchester England raising a family and experimenting with paints. She joined the local craft guild and was in charge of their annual holiday crafts fair. This led Brid down a new path in her life, working in the exhibition industry. Back in Ireland, she continued to paint as well as write. It was when she moved to Kilkenny City in the heart of Ireland that her literary creativity blossomed, and Matt Costello was born.

Do you love Ireland? Do you love mysteries? Do you love Irish mysteries? You all will want to sit up for this.

Ireland is in need of a great private detective. A hard hitting, takes-no-guff guy who will get the job done. A guy not afraid to ask the tough questions and get the answers. A guy who will go the extra mile to solve a case. And a guy, for as tough as he is on the outside, has a tender side when it comes to those he loves.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ex-police detective turned private detective, Matt Costello.

In Brid's first book in the Matt Costello Mystery series, Watchers, Matt is called to Kilbeg Village, just twelve miles from Kilkenny City, Ireland, where a body has been discovered in Drohola Woods behind an old estate house. But this is no common crime scene, as Matt soon discovers. During enquiries, the body of the estate's gamekeeper is found strung up in a tree? Suicide or another murder? What do the two bodies have in common? Matt is determined to get to the bottom of it

This story has lots of twists and turns as the action takes you from page to page. For anyone with a love of Ireland and a taste for great crime fiction, Watchers is one to try.

Brid is a very active woman and sometimes hard to pin down, but we managed to grab a few moments with her.

Welcome, Brid, and congratulations on the release of the first Matt Costello story, Watchers. I understand there are now five books in the series, Sleeping Dogs being book two and out in 2014. Sounds like you're writing continually. Do you set a daily routine for writing, or grab a few words as you have time?

I’m driven by the mood but the plot of my latest novel is always going around in my head – as though I’m automatically selecting and filing things I will include – or reject – in the next session. I find it productive to rest the work after a busy writing day or two, because, when I go back, if it doesn’t knit easily into what’s gone before, I know a change is needed. Often my writing burst will extend well into the night and, not infrequently, I go to bed only after the dawn has arrived, I’ve eaten breakfast and am sure I will actually sleep. I assume this is down to adrenalin. It can be inconvenient, but that’s the way it is. My time is totally my own. On the days I’m forced to slot in to normal life, I’m not such a happy bunny.

It sounds like a bit of both then? You find the time to write and when you do you stay with it until you've exhausted yourself and the writing session.

Do you have a special place where you like to write?
Either my living room (photo if your interested) or propped up in bed.  The living room is huge and airy with my computer lodged in one corner beside a wall of windows, which overlook a courtyard.  It’s quiet with only the sound of passing traffic beyond the gate.

Sounds like an ideal spot at the window -- watching people pass by, wondering who they are and where they're going, what mischief they're up to! If they only knew you could be putting them in a book!

What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I used to paint, a lot, but I’m a bit lazy about it these days. Because I’ve been doing it for so long, a finished painting isn’t the achievement it used to be and, if it goes wrong, well, so much for all those years of experience. No excuses. Otherwise, I’m an avid TV watcher. I jump for joy when a good new crime drama begins. There are so many repeats of all programmes – not just dramas – it’s hard to find anything watchable so I trawl the programme lists and record well ahead of broadcast. I’m a fan of period drama and a bit of a film buff. My brain is just a sponge for information so Discovery and National Geographic hold great interest. The news is a necessary evil, as are newspapers. I will never understand man’s inhumanity to man.

I would have been shocked if you hadn't listed some crime programs on your TV programming list. There are so many good ones out there these days. And you can't beat Discovery or NatGeo!

Thanks again, Brid, for joining us here today. And best of luck with your book.

Now, let's check out that excerpt --

• • •

When the remains of a woman are found in Drohola Woods, ex-Garda detective, Matt Costello, is called in by the estate owner to help with the investigation. Clues lead Matt down a twisting path to a more gruesome discovery -- the woman is one of ten who disappeared ten years ago. And now, fresh bodies are turning up.

A quaintly rural town — little more than a wide main street flanked by stone cottages and sagging two-storey buildings — Kilbeg was a hive of activity. Situated twelve miles from Kilkenny, it was home to a peaceful, contented community, most of whom still preferred to listen to local radio than tune into the Godless outpourings from commercial stations. Today they went about their business with increasing curiosity about the influx of police and media to the town.

The grapevine had been busy, and the consensus held that whatever had happened in Drohola Wood had its origins way beyond the boundaries of their town. Amid the invasion of cars and trucks, a dusty black Mercedes drew little attention as it drove slowly along the main street and parked outside the only hotel. A moment later, the driver emerged, opened the back door and retrieved an overnight bag, which he hitched over his shoulder as he mounted the steps and entered the Kilbeg Arms to meet with Sgt. Peter Conlon from Thomastown Garda Station.

“Matt!” The waiting Sergeant greeted him with a smile, extending a hand in welcome as he approached the reception desk. He wore the full navy uniform of the Force, with his peaked hat tucked under his arm. “It’s been a while. How are you?”

“Pullin’ the divil like everyone else,” Matt returned with a smile and a vigorous handshake, dropping the leather valise to the ground beside him. “It’s good to see you. I appreciate you taking the time to meet me.”

“I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see how the last Casanova is holding up after all these years,” he said jokily. “You broke a few hearts down here, you know.”

“Not intentionally,” Matt returned. “I was young and innocent back then.”

“Young, maybe. Innocent, never!” Pete countered. “What’s your involvement here?” His eyes narrowed and a frown of curiosity gathered.

“My client, a Dublin solicitor, represents the estate owners,” he explained. “They’re worried about possible legal implications surrounding the discovery. That’s the official line. Truthfully, I know nothing more than what the news bulletins are giving out. Can you fill me in?”

The Sergeant considered the man before him: an ex-Garda detective, former work colleague and friend, but there was a policy of silence, as always, in developing cases. “You know the drill as well as I do, Matt,” he told him.

“Yes, I do,” Matt replied with a smile, “and I also know you’ll be sharing the best bits over a dram with your favourite innkeeper tonight. So come on, Pete, give.”

Glancing warily around him, the Sergeant moved closer and lowered his voice. “There’s not much to add to the official reports,” he said. “This Butler kid went missing yesterday evening. A couple of his friends had been with him in the late afternoon after school, but when they left to go home, young Butler decided he wanted to stay. He does it often, but when he didn’t turn up by eight o’clock his grandmother got worried and called us. We spoke to the gamekeeper — an old gent called Fowler — who told us that the last he’d seen of the boy was when he shouted to him and he took off into a section of the woods that’s a private part of the estate. He decided to leave him to find his way out rather than go after him, because he knew the lad was already frightened and he had little hope of catching him. We gathered a search party and went looking.

“Honestly, Matt,” he went on, “without lights in there you wouldn’t be able to see a hand in front of your face. We didn’t locate him until after ten and it was by pure chance. It looked like he’d tripped and fallen into a hole. He was out for the count and when we lifted him, we spotted bones. It turned out to be a sunken grave. An ambulance took him to hospital to be checked out. Other than a few scratches and bruises, he seems to be alright, but they’re keeping him under observation for a few days.”

“Any idea how old the grave is?” Matt asked.

“Forensics think somewhere around twelve to fifteen years, but it’s an early estimate. They’re still in there gathering evidence.”

“Male or female?”

“Female — young, somewhere between eighteen and thirty.”

Matt shook his head in sadness and sighed. “Any missing persons on your books that might fit?” 

“Sorry, that’s as much as I can tell you,” the Sergeant said firmly.

“Thanks, Pete,” he replied acceptingly. “I owe you one."

• • •

Born in Dublin, Ireland, Brid’s family hails from the inner city, making her a true blue ‘Dub’. One of four sisters, she was educated by the Holy Faith Nuns in Larkhill. Always drawn to the arts, Brid studied piano at the Municipal School of Music. Later she joined a band where she played the electronic organ and sang harmony with her sister. They were known as The Honeybees.

At nineteen, she met her future husband and travelled to Manchester for a year before returning to Ireland where they married and she settled down to become a stay-at-home mum to their three children. At that time she learned to paint, which led to her joining The North Dublin Craftworkers’ Association, on whose behalf she ran the annual Christmas Craft Gift Fair in the city centre. This led to a new career within the exhibition industry.

In 2001, seeking a change of environment, Brid moved to Kilkenny City and began to write. An avid armchair detective, she chose her favourite genre; crime fiction. Her aim was to create a character in a series of mystery stories based in modern Ireland. Matt Costello is that character. In 2006, she relocated to Inistioge, a picturesque village outside Kilkenny City, where she continues to write and paint.
Find Brid Online --

The Street Gallery
Tirgearr Publishing

-- > Brid is giving away a copy of Watchers to one lucky commenter. Leave her a question or comment here with your email address to be automatically in the draw.

Or you can grab a copy of Watchers now for just $4.49 through Tirgearr Publishing.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Elaine Dodge: Harcourt's Mountain

Today, we're welcoming author, Elaine Dodge. Please join me in congratulating her on her debut novel, Harcourt's Mountain.

Elaine comes to us from South Africa. Born in Zambia and raised in Zimbabwe, she has spent her life pursuing creative endeavors, training as a designer, being an entrepreneur, and eventually working in the television industry. All the while, Elaine was writing in the background. Earlier this year, she plucked up the courage and started that dreaded process all authors fear . . . submissions. It was Tirgearr Publishing's luck to have received her work over their desk.

Harcourt's Mountain is set about as far from South Africa as one can get, and in a time none of our grand-parents' generation can recall. The year is 1867, the place is the mountains of British Columbia in what's now known as Canada.

This story harkens back to classic historical romances, where heroes were rugged yet honorable, women were strong yet demure, and times were changing quickly as the west was being won.

Elaine tells us the story of Hope Booker who finds herself as a sort of bride-for-sale to the highest bidder. Luke Harcourt spots Hope on the auction block and knows she doesn't belong there. She's obviously a woman of breeding and wonders about her circumstance. He's not in the market for a servant or a bride, but something in Hope's eyes draws him instantly and he wasn't no time in making sure he's taking her home with him.

As this is romance, we know the two will fall in love. It's the tale of that adventure you won't want to miss. My goodness! This story is set within the forested mountains of 19th century British Columbia. A time before airline contrails marred the sky, a time before huge town expansions and cities were a long journey away, a time when one lived off the land. It was a time when one could sit on their porch of an afternoon and hear the hawks screeching overhead, a time when bear were common-sight, a time when one could ride a horse for days and not see another human being.

A time forgotten? Perhaps. But it's a time brought back to life through the eyes of Luke and Hope as they life off the land, and find a way through the hardship to find love. A great read!

We had a chance to chat with Elaine --

Welcome to Heart of Fiction, Elaine, and congratulations on the release of Harcourt's Mountain.

It sounds like you've had an incredible life so far. Born in an exotic (to the rest of us) location, working in TV, being a designer . . . now writing. A busy life for sure. So our readers want to know, what is your daily writing routine like?

I’m currently between jobs (I’m a freelance TV producer) so my days are different to when I’m working. I get up at what I call a reasonable hour – 9ish, wash last night’s dishes and then get to work on my new book – The Device Hunter. I try to go for a walk in the afternoons.  I usually finsh up my writing day at about 6pm unless I’m on a roll. I aim to walk first thing in the morning but haven’t gotten around to getting up earlier yet. When I’m working then I write in the evenings after dinner.

I hear you on the getting up early thing, especially if it means exercise. ;-) Sounds like you're a 'night writer' like so many other authors. I find the night a good time to write because there's little chance of anyone knocking on my door or ringing me -- blissful peace!

Now that we know you're a night writer, we want to know . . . clutter or clean? Tell us about your writing space. Do you prefer working with lots of stuff around you, or do you have to have everything clean and in its place before you can begin?

Johannesburg Skyline
I recently moved into a smaller cottage nearly at the highest point in Johannesburg. Two of the walls are floor to ceiling wood and glass folding doors. Johannesburg is a sprawling city and is also known as the largest man-made forest in the world, so you can imagine my view. The sunsets, thunderstorms and lightning displays are truly magnificent. A double front door with a stain-glass picture of a castle on a hill with a river flowing past it taking up most of the door helps the Rapunzel illusion. I write at a plain pine dining table with all my writing books and research files lined up neatly before me. A purple dinosaur moneybox perches on one corner. I support Gospel For Asia who, at Christmas, have a special program where you can ‘buy’ farmyard animals which they then distribute to needy families in Asia. I wanted a moneybox for all my loose change that reminded me of my planned purchase for this year. The dinosaur was the closest thing I could find to a camel. Just the other day a friend said she couldn’t imagine a better ‘writer’s loft’ than where I am now. I must admit there are days when I feel a bit like Rapunzel in her tower, complete with four poster bed.

I'd say your friend was right. Sounds like an idyllic location. And that view . . . sounds amazing. It's actually a wonder you get any writing done.

I suppose the next question begs to be asked -- What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing (and sitting out to look at that stellar view)?

Watching TV, movies, tapestry, dinner with friends. I love tennis but can seldom find anyone to play with. Being single, one has to fit in with married friends timetables.

Single aside, sounds like you're busy enough for two people, and you have some great pastimes. And now you can add published author to your list.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us, and best of luck with Harcourt's Mountain. Can't wait to see The Device Hunter!

So, readers, how about a taste of Luke Harcourt? ;-)

• • • 

Spring, 1867
The western frontier of British Columbia hardly seems a likely place for romance. Filthy, terrified and confused, Hope Booker is waiting to be sold off the ‘bride’ ship. Luke Harcourt happens upon the sale. It’s not love at first sight, but he feels compelled to save her from a life of slavery and prostitution. To allay her fears of being raped by him, Luke promises never to touch her. Being a man of his word, this is a pledge he quickly finds almost impossible to keep.

Battling their growing attraction to each other, they must learn to live together in the forests of the wild and almost unexplored mountains. They face white water, Indians, wolves, as well as a dangerous man from Hope’s past.

No longer able to deny their feelings, their ‘happy-ever-after’ is shattered when a corrupt land baron forces Luke’s hand. Enraged at the man’s actions, Luke rides into town—and disappears.

Alone and pregnant, Hope faces the prospect of the worst winter in ten years. The trauma of fighting off a hungry grizzly brings on labor, but the baby is stuck. Luke meanwhile wakes up on a ship bound for South America, captained by a revengeful sadist who plans to murder him. Luke’s chances of survival are slim. Can he stay alive and make it back to Hope in time?

The mob had passed on, crowding their way to the harbour. Harcourt crossed the street and made his way down towards the feed depot. He’d already bought the flour, sugar, coffee and beans. He’d splashed out this time and bought some potatoes as well. As soon as he paid for the animal feed he could fetch the wagon from the livery stable, collect his purchases and get out of here. Unfortunately, the feed depot was on the wharf, beyond the bride ship. Because of the crowd, he couldn’t get near it. Even if he could, he’d never get the wagon through to collect his purchases. He realised he’d just have to wait. It had to end sometime.

To get out of the slightly drunken, malodorous press of men, Luke hoisted himself on to a large crate and made himself comfortable.

The mob was growing restless. The ship had docked a while ago and there was no sign of the women. Brogan, the brute from the whorehouse, appeared, roughly elbowing his way through the crowd, clearing a path. James Carter, the constable, followed behind him. The lawman didn’t look happy. He clearly found the matter distasteful, but it wasn’t illegal, as such, so he couldn’t stop it. His presence, theoretically, should instil in the buyers some sense of decency. He wasn’t hopeful.

A smile on his face and a small ledger in one hand, Butler sauntered along in his wake, a piratical swagger in every step. Cheering and applause broke out as he stepped up the gangplank. He turned at the top and took off his hat with a flourish. “Gentlemen! How good of you to come and welcome the new brides to our small town.”

The mob cheered.

“Unfortunately, we cannot supply everyone here today with a new wife. Good women seem to be in short supply everywhere.” The men laughed. “Now, just to be clear, I’m not selling the women. That would be illegal.” There was a roar of delight from the mob. “But the expense of bringing them to you fine gentlemen needs to be repaid. However, as I said, there aren’t enough women to go around. So, this will be an auction. Each woman will go to the man who bids the highest for her. For her expenses I mean.”
There was some cheering, some groans and a few angry shouts. Clearly the gold hadn’t been good to some of the men this year.

“Shall we bring out the women?” Butler shouted.

The roar was deafening. Even the sight of a new woman was enough for men who hadn’t seen one in months and couldn’t always afford the prices charged by Babette, the madam of the Bright Star brothel.
The women were brought out of the hold into the bright sunlight till the deck was crowded with so-called brides blinking in the glare. What it must have been like below deck during the journey Harcourt shuddered to think. He’d captured a few slave ships during his time in the United States Navy and this one had the same lines. He wouldn’t be surprised to learn it had been built as one. It would be perfect for this cargo. What were they after all, but another type of slave? It would also explain the faint smell that emanated from it. The stench soaked its way into the very fibre of the ship. You could never get rid of it completely, unless you burnt it. A fitting end for a foul vessel, as far as he was concerned.

With nothing else to do, he studied the women on deck. He couldn’t believe any right-minded female would willingly put herself into this kind of situation. Their clothing was in various stages of disrepair, their hair bedraggled. They looked dirty, coarse and unkempt—even less attractive than the girls at the Bright Star, if that were possible. It was obvious more than half were already whores by profession. In response to the catcalling and the whistles they pulled down their tops and shaking their shoulders let their breasts wobble and bounce around. The men cheered and pushed to get to the front. The bidding was fast and aggressive.

The first woman off the ship disappeared into the mob. Harcourt doubted very much she’d make it through the day without being raped by at least a dozen men. The whole enterprise sickened him.
The auction took on a predictable rhythm. Harcourt leaned back against the wall, tipped his hat over his eyes, and dozed off. After a few hours, the crowd had thinned somewhat. Most of the women had been sold. There were only a dozen or so left. Harcourt stretched. He was just about to jump from his perch when a tall woman in a predictably dirty, once light grey dress, was brought forward. Perhaps it was the dress that caught his eye. It was silk, well cut and modest. It looked expensive.

Harcourt’s eyes narrowed. This woman was no prostitute. She’d made some attempt to clean herself up and although her hair needed a wash and good brush, she had at least tried to bring some order to it. She looked intelligent and, despite the scared look in her eyes, calm. Her hands were folded in front of her. She was clearly a lady. She made no attempt to catch the eye of any man in the crowd. Instead, she looked over their heads towards the mountains. Perhaps she liked what she saw for she took a deep breath, lifted her chin and squared her shoulders.

Instinctively, Harcourt knew she would be no man’s whore. And, like the doctor had said, with the wrong man that would probably mean a killing. There was laughter from the men. A few coarse jokes.
Harcourt glanced over at Butler. He was talking emphatically to the constable. He called over the big man from the whorehouse, indicated the woman and nodded at something the brute said. Harcourt realised no one had bid for her.

He stood up on his crate. “I’ll take her.”

Everyone turned to look at him, including the woman.

Butler stroked his thin moustache with his finger and thumb. He smiled. “Mr. Harcourt, you know the rules. You must bid for her. How much do you offer?”

“One hundred dollars, in gold.”

There was a gasp from the men on the wharf. Even Harcourt was shocked. He’d spoken without thinking. It was the highest bid of the day, made more spectacular by the fact that it was totally uncontested.
“Sold to Mr. Harcourt!” shouted the constable before Butler, or anyone else could respond. 

A flash of annoyance crossed Butler’s face. The lawman waved a hand, calling Harcourt on board.
Standing beside the woman on the greasy deck, Harcourt realised she was almost the same height as him. Slender with dark brown hair. He’d been right, she did have intelligent eyes. Apart from that, it was hard to tell what she’d look like cleaned up. One thing was obvious—she stank.

“Do you agree to this transaction in the full understanding of what it means and entails, and that it’s legally binding as a marriage?” Constable Carter asked Harcourt.

“Yes,” he replied.

Carter asked the woman the same question. She took a deep breath, “Absolutely not. I didn’t ask to be brought here. I don’t wish to marry any man. I do wish to be taken home.”
• • •

Elaine was born in Zambia, grew up in Zimbabwe and currently lives in South Africa. Books have filled her life from the very beginning. She trained as a designer, worked in that industry for years, even running her own company for a while. A long stint in advertising followed. In the last few years, she's been toiling away in the TV industry, winning an odd international award. But that wasn’t enough. She wanted to “tell stories”. She is passionate about it. She feels most alive when she's writing, and delights in letting her imagination run riot. In November 2011, she finally took the plunge and decided to “wrestle the Rottweiler” and started putting all those stories on paper.

Find Elaine Online --

-- > Elaine is giving away a copy of Harcourt's Mountain to one lucky commenter. Leave her a question or comment here with your email address to be automatically in the draw.

Or you can grab a copy of Harcourt's Mountain now for just $4.99 through Tirgearr Publishing.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Elizabeth McKenna: Cera's Place

Please help us welcome, Elizabeth McKenna to Heart of Fiction. Today we'll be chatting with Elizabeth about her debut release, Cera's Place, but first, let's meet Elizabeth.

Elizabeth said she never read romance until later in life when she received a Nora Roberts book as a gift. She's been an insatiable reader ever since. She had always wanted to write, but life had a way of pushing her dreams of publication to one side. Work, a family, and other obligations found a way of edging out serious writing. When she finally got the chance to finish her first novel, however, she was unstoppable. And Cera's Place is not just Elizabeth's debut novel, it has also won her many accolades, including being the Historical Romance of the Year 2012 at Escape with Dollycas Book Reviews, and she's racked up an impressive collection of five star reviews. Her dreams of publication paid off in spades.

Cera's Place is a historical romance set in 1869 San Francisco. Saloon owner, Cera Cassidy, is on a mission to save the reputation of women looking for honest work, and with that, redemption and a future most 'working girls' are never afforded. Men are offered a hot meal and a drink, but the girls in Cera's Place are off limits. A great start to an interesting story.

The story really takes off the night a Chinese girls shows up in the saloon with an incredible tale. Cera is horrified at what she hears and vows to get to the bottom of things.

Sexy hero, Jake Tanner, is drawn to Cera's Place in more ways than one. While seeking to fulfill a friend's dying wish, he discovers a woman so incredible she steals his heart. Does Cera's own past hold any secrets to why she's hellbent on saving these girls? And will that past allow her to accept Jake's help?

I wonder!

For anyone who loves a good historical romance, enjoys an unusual plot twist, and a historic California setting, Cera's Place is a worth a read.

We caught up with Elizabeth for a quick chat --

Welcome, Elizabeth! Congratulations with Cera's Place and the outstanding reception it's been receiving. I know you're busy, so thanks for taking time from your busy schedule to chat with us.

Our readers enjoy hearing about their favorite authors and what they get up to behind the screen. What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I enjoy sleeping, but I never get to do it, so it doesn’t really count. Cooking and traveling are high on my list. My girls are active in sports, so if we aren’t in a car driving them somewhere, we’re sitting on bleachers watching them compete in volleyball, basketball or softball. We live near a small lake, so if the weather is nice, we go boating. We have a very energetic/neurotic  dog, so we do a lot of walking through the neighborhood to tire her out. (It never seems to work.) And of course, if there’s a quiet moment, I turn on my Kindle.

The lake sounds divine! Does sound like you have a very busy lifestyle. How you find time to write is beyond me, but happy to say I'm glad you do have that time.

When you are writing, what is your space like? Are you a neat freak or do you nest (like me . . . sigh)?

In one word – messy – which is unusual because the rest of my house is extremely neat and clean. I have a home office where I telecommute full time as a technical writer and do most of my fiction writing. Though I vaccum the office once a week, it only gets dusted when I can’t breathe anymore (there’s just too many pictures of my girls, books, papers etc. to move).  I really need to at least re-paint the walls some day soon. It is the only room I haven’t redecorated in the 15 years we’ve lived in the house. Did I mention my office also serves as a drying room for my laundry? It’s all very inspirational!!

LOL I fully understand the dusting and the clutter.You're a nester. You enjoy having things you love around you while you work. A happy writer is a productive writer, eh? Love your desk, btw!

So, with everything you have going on in your life, do you set a daily routine to write or just grab what you can as it's available to you?

Any spare moment I have is spent writing fiction. Since I have a family and a full time job, they come first, but I usually find time before and after dinner to write.

Sounds like you're a night writer like most of us. With such a full life, night time, when it's quiet, must be idyllic.

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us.

-- > Elizabeth is giving away a copy of Cera's Place to one lucky commenter. Leave her a question or comment here with your email address to be automatically in the draw.

Now, let's get onto Cera's Place --

• • • 

In 1869, San Francisco saloon owner Cera Cassidy offers redemption to any woman looking for honest work. At Cera's Place, men can get a decent hot meal with a whiskey, but if they want anything more, they have to take their desires elsewhere. One summer night, a distraught Chinese girl bursts through the swinging doors with a shocking tale of murder, kidnapping, and prostitution. Outraged, Cera vows to set things right.

Jake Tanner, a scarred ex-soldier haunted by the horrors of the Civil War, is on a mission to fulfill a friend's dying wish. The trail has brought him to Cera's door. Captivated by her Irish beauty, he wants to join her fight - but will she let him?

Elizabeth McKenna's debut novel is a fast-paced adventure filled with memorable characters that will leave you wanting more. Get lost in a time gone by and fall in love today!

For the rest of the night, Cera’s eyes moved between the clock above the bar and the saloon doors as she waited for closing time. Expecting to see Biggs’ ugly face or even another Chinese warrior, her stomach clenched every time someone came in. Finally, a few minutes after midnight, she rushed the last of her customers out the door and breathed a sigh of relief.

She swung the heavy inner door shut, but as she fit the key in the lock, someone pushed the door open from the other side. Panicked, she called out, “Sorry, we’re closed!”

Her alarm changed to surprise when Jake stuck his head through the opening. “Oh, it’s you. Weren’t you heading out of town? It’s been a long night and I need to close up, Mr. Tanner, but you’re welcome to come back tomorrow.”

Crossing the room, she picked up a rag and began wiping down the bar. In the mirror on the wall, she watched his reflection come up behind her. Her eyes widened in disbelief when he placed his hands on either side of her body, trapping her against the bar rail.

Feigning indifference, she turned around to face him. Earlier in the day, his eyes had appeared the indigo blue of a stormy sea, but now they reflected a dull black. It was impossible not to see the aching weariness in them.

The scent of soap mixed with leather and tobacco filled her nose. If the price of his recent bath included a shave, he had wasted his money. A fine line of dark stubble covered his chin and cheeks. She tried to resist the urge, but her eyes sought out the red scar running down his brown face.

Hoping to make up for that slip of rudeness, she asked, “Are you feeling better, Mr. Tanner?”

“Better?” His eyes narrowed slightly in confusion.

“Your headache, is it gone?”

He nodded, understanding. “Yes, thank you for asking. I’m better now.”

Taking one of her hands, he placed it next to his eye, where the scar began. He moved her fingers down his cheek over the raised path, stopping at the corner of his mouth. Then, he dropped her hand and placed his back on the bar rail.

“Are you better now?” he asked in a low voice.

Cera shook her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to stare. It’s just…how did you get…?”

He ignored her question, though the corner of his mouth lifted into a half smile.

“Do you find something funny?” She sidestepped into his arm, thinking he would move and let her pass. Instead, he held firm, shifting his body back into alignment with hers.

“Oh no, there’s nothing funny going on here.” He closed the distance between them to a mere inch, but when Cera stiffened, he stepped back.

“Well, what are you doing here, Mr. Tanner? Is there something you need?” She tried to sound exasperated.

Jake’s laugh held little humor. “Miss Cera, I have no idea what I need, but I did come here for a reason. Call it an experiment, if you will.” With his finger, he lifted her chin and then pressed her lips with his. When he released her, he sighed. “That was better than I remembered it to be.”

He looked into her eyes one last time before walking out into the night. Cera let go of the breath she had been holding. She knew what he needed, but she was pretty sure she needed it more.

• • •

Elizabeth McKenna is a full-time technical writer/editor for a large software company. She never read romance novels until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

She had always wanted to write fiction, so when a psychic told her she would write a book, Elizabeth felt obligated to give it a try. She combined her love of history, romance and a happy ending to write her first novel Cera's Place. She recently released a short story titled The Gypsy Casts a Spell.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin (Packers, Brewers, and Badgers - oh my!) with her understanding husband, two beautiful daughters, and sassy Labrador. When she isn't writing, working, or being a mom, she's sleeping.

• • •

Find Elizabeth online --

Twitter name:

Grab a copy of Cera's Place for your digital reader. This book is available for most digital formats for just 99c, or paperback for $10.99.

Ebook: $.99 (US) at Amazon, Barnes & NobleSmashwordsAppleKoboSony and Diesel
Paperback: $10.99 (US) at CreateSpaceAmazon and

-- > Elizabeth is giving away a copy of Cera's Place to one lucky commenter. Leave her a question or comment here with your email address to be automatically in the draw.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Stella Whitelaw: Yesterday Once More

It's our pleasure to welcome back the incomparable, Stella Whitelaw. Stella has had a wonderfully long career as an author, and has quite a repertoire of published works to her credit. Some of those include the Jordan Lacey Mystery Series, No Darker Heaven, and Lucifer's Bride, all republished by Tirgearr Publishing.

Stella is also the author of over 200 short stories. She has been organizing this tantalizing collection into a new series: The Once More Series.

Today we celebrate the first collection in this new series, Yesterday Once More, a collection of historical short stories. Stella takes us back to 1537 in Table for Two,1587 in Run Crimson, 1646 in The Second Ark, 1805 in Loblolly Boy, 1881 to read The Diary of Dr Arthur Southwick, 1939 in Southpaw, 1939 in Jubilee Jones, and a historical time travel set between 1881 and 2000 in The Dome is Square and Made of Jelly.

This is a fabulous collection of historical tales --

In A Table for Two, can we guess who Miriam's dinner companion is?

And in Crimson Run, who is Sarah stitching a crimson petticoat for?

The Second Ark takes us into the heart of 17th century England where a severe storm threatens a small family. Will the rain every stop?

We sail the oceans with The Loblolly Boy, aboard Lord Nelson's ship to the Battle of Trafalgar. Is this the life young Dan wanted?

Take a step back in time to read The Diary of Dr Arthur Southwick, the man instrumental in the introduction of the electric chair as a humane means of dispatching criminals. You can Google this one!

Southpaw is the story of a young hairstylist, Mary, who dreams of a life with her soldier boy. But during the war, the future is uncertain.

Jubilee Jones is a tale told from an unlikely point of view.

Finally, The Dome is Square and Made of Jelly -- A clever title for a clever story of a woman working for the London Gasworks in 1881 who suddenly finds herself standing inside the Millennium Dome in 2000, the gasworks having been demolished for the Dome!

This is a wonderful journey through history. Stella introduces us to several historical characters in the telling of each of these unique stories. I'm hard-pressed to decide which I liked the most. All are so cleverly told. Many could actually be expanded into longer stories, but these short versions are well-satisfying and ideal for anyone looking for a quick read, or an introduction to a new-to-you-author.

I can't wait to see the next inclusion in this series: Christmas Once More, slated for a November release.

Here's an excerpt from The Second Ark --

The sky was the blackest I had ever seen. I prayed my Meg would not be bewitched by it and produce a babe with a mark on its face. The village women had many a black tale to tell about storms and thunder. The scurrying wind was getting up and beginning to howl like a wolf from the Downs. Branches were hitting my face as the gale took hold of the tree and thrashed it around.

The monks were writing it down that 1646 had been a year of horrendous storms, torrential rain and flooding, with pellets of ice as big as rings. I never knew the number of the year. But the heavy rain worried me.

There was no work to be done in this downpour. I set off for home, my feet slipping in the mud. A sudden gust of wind struck my back and sent my feet flying from under me. I fell on my back on the streaming mud, scrabbling for a hold but my hands found nothing to cling to. Meg would be in a fine temper when she saw the state of my shirt now. There might be no supper for me but a wedge of stale bread and hard cheese.

The rain was turning into small stones of ice, bouncing off the ground, hitting and stinging my face like a shower of pins. I could barely see my way back to the cottage even though I knew every step in the dark. The rain had turned it into a weird foreign place, every bit of landscape changed and contorted. Trees that I had known since a boy were fallen, their roots stuck out of the ground, bleeding into the torrent.

The cottage was swathed in a thick mist, almost impossible to see within a curtain of rain. The wind was lifting the thatch and I was sorry I had not put a new top coat of thatch on the lower layer when we first came to the cottage. It had not had one for twenty years and was sorely in need of patching.

Meg was huddled inside the cottage, the wind howling straight through it. She was already drenched, trying to save her washing, but the wind had whisked it away and my shirts were now rolling over the Downs.

“Will, my Will,” she cried, clinging to me. “The sty has gone and the hen coop. I have lost all my good hens.”

“Let me see what I can find,” I said, dreading to go out again into the storm. I could feel the walls of the cottage shaking but the flint stone and mortar was strong. There were a few bedraggled hens sheltering under a flattened bush and I tucked them under my arms and took them back to Meg. The pigs had found their own way into the cottage and were huddled against the far wall. No fire left in the hearth for the rain was coming in through the roof. Water was swirling in through the flapping door, and already the floor was a mass of mud. Our bed was wet and sodden, heaving like a raft.

The stairs to the upper chamber had long ago rotted, destroyed by some earlier disaster or lack of money to repair. I used a makeshift ladder if there was need to fetch something from the store kept upstairs. It was not a proper ladder with rungs, but a sturdy trunk of tree that had enough branches strutted out for footholds.

I was an old hand at climbing it but I doubted if my Meg in her swollen state would find it easy. But the water was pouring in and finding nowhere to go, was filling up to her knee level. She was trying to save our precious bits of pottery but they were falling from the alcove over the hearth and smashing on the hard stone.

“John Catchpole will be mad at this,” I muttered.

“He’ll have other things to worry about,” said Meg, bunching up her wet skirt as if to protect the babe from the water.

John Catchpole owned the cottage among many other properties in the neighbourhood. I was a tenant farmer, also kinsman, and paid my dues when I could.

• • •

Stella Whitelaw began writing seriously at the age of nine. She was ill with measles when her father gave her an Imperial Portable typewriter. Covered in spots, she sat up in bed and taught herself to type.

At sixteen, she became a cub reporter and worked her way up to Chief Reporter. She was the first woman Chief Reporter, the youngest, and the only one who was pregnant.

After producing a family, she became Secretary of the Parliamentary Press Gallery at the House of Commons. Secretary then meant the original meaning, Secretariat, the keeper of secrets. She was awarded an MBE in 2001 but is not sure why.

Like Trollope, she wrote books on the train and in the recesses. The Jordan Lacey PI series is her favourite and the cruise crime books. Her big romances, No Darker Heaven and Sweet Seduction, were a marathon adventure.

Stella has won a woman’s magazine national short story competition and the London Magazine’s Art of Writing competition judged by Sheridan Morley. The Elizabeth Goudge Cup was presented to her at Guildford University.

Homeless cats find their way to Stella’s lifelong hospitality and she has written eight books of cat stories for the 7 – 70 plus.

Find Stella online --

Stella's Website
Stella's Blog
Tirgearr Publishing

• • •

Tirgearr Publishing is giving away a copy of Yesterday Once More today to one lucky commenter. Leave Stella a message with your email address, or ask her a question, and be automatically entered into the random drawing.

Or grab a copy of Yesterday Once More here.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Annette Drake: Celebration House

Today we welcome Annette Drake, author of Celebration House, a touching story of love and acceptance.

Annette has never been one to 'settle for' or sit still when there is so much out there to discover. She left high school early to attend university where she earned her degree in journalism. She continued her education by obtaining a bachelors of science to pursue a career in nursing. The love of the written word was never put on the back burner, even as she raised her family. She always dabbled.

It was when her kids were all finally in school that she turned her love of writing in a serious direction, completing not one or two novels, but three! Celebration House is the first, we're sure, in a long back list.

Let me tell you a bit about Celebration House. This one should be read with a box of tissues to hand. That's my first warning. My second is be prepared to chuckle while you read.

Carrie Hansen is a health care professional. She's dedicated her life to caring for those in need. How was she to predict she would be come the patient? After unexpected heart surgery, Carrie wakes with a special ability . . . she can see ghosts!

OK, don't roll your eyes and give me the Sixth Sense quote. I won't repeat it. You know which one it is. This story is wholly different. Trust me.

It's soon discovered that Carrie has a terminal illness. Does she wallow in her own grief? No. Does she sit back and let the end come? No. Like Annette herself, Carrie puts her big girl panties on and gets to work on living the rest of her life to the best of her abilities. Her goal? She buys a run down Antebellum house to restore -- Stratton House.

You may be asking, 'What the heck is a woman with a terminal illness doing buying a ruined house to restore? Shouldn't she be traveling the world?' Sure, she could do that, but she'd rather put her money where it counts . . . to leave something of herself to last when she's gone. How cool is that? Celebration House is just that . . . a place where people can come to celebrate the wonderful things in their lives.

Remember when I said Stratton House is an Antebellum mansion? Picture old south Greek revival plantation houses with neoclassical designs. Picture Gone With the Wind's Tara and you get the idea. Tall columns supporting an big veranda beneath a Greek revival gable, all protecting a wide portico at the front entrance . . . lush, green leafy trees lining the drive . . . ladies in hoop skirts swanning around the garden . . . well, just about.

And remember when I said Carrie can now see ghosts? Yeah, the house is full of them. And they're bent on keeping Carrie out of the house. It doesn't help when Carrie's own family are trying to get her to see sense. Little do they realize that Stratton House is the only thing making sense in her life now.

You gotta read this one. Really!

We pulled Annette away from her office for a quick chat to talk to us about her life as a writer --

Welcome, Annette, and congrats on the release of Celebration House. I know you're working hard on your next story so we appreciate you taking time out to have a quick chat.

Getting to it, tell us about your writing space. Your story has an amazing setting. Surely you got your idea from your own surroundings, right?

Ruby monitoring the printing
I write in a 100-year-old farmhouse in rural Washington. My office window overlooks my garden, which is over-planted with tomatoes, zucchini and corn. I have a Bassett Hound who was intended to keep out the rabbits, but he’s useless. He chases them in circles, baying and baying. He never catches one. My window faces east, and I’m an early riser so I’m often treated to the first kiss of the sun on the horizon. I’m not alone. My chickens rise early too, especially the rooster who I was promised was a female. He crows to me, and I say back, “I’m already awake, Priscilla. Thank you just the same.”

I have two computers because I’m cursed with the trait of impatience. I hate waiting for things to load. My desk is surrounded by my favorite family photos and the writing books I treasure, including Stephen King’s On Writing and Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. Quotes from King grace my walls, including my favorite: “Stopping a piece of work just because it’s hard, either emotionally or imaginatively, is a bad idea. Sometimes you have to go on when you don’t feel like it, and sometimes you’re doing good work when it feels like all you’re managing is to shovel shit from a sitting position.” I shovel a lot of shit.

See? I knew you had a great setting to write from! And hey, we all shove the brown stuff from time to time. Sounds like you have a full house too. Love your rooster called Priscilla LOL I used to know a woman with a female dog called Dave. Aren't we funny people? :-)

So, with so much going on around you, what is your daily writing routine like?

I like to rise early, about 5 a.m., and write until my young son wakes up and calls to me. But, now I also write at night because I have so much to do and not enough time to do it. I always write far later than I intend, but writing brings me joy. Most of the time. My goal is 1,000 words per day. Sometimes, those words come easy. Sometimes, not so much. But, generally speaking, I have an idea and I try to put that scene onto a blank page as accurately and honestly as I know how. There are so many books I want to write. Thus my commitment to 1,000 words a day. I’m focusing on the business of promoting Celebration House, having just finished the final edits. So now, the characters of my next book, “A Year with Geno,” call to me. 'Come talk with us,' they both say. 'We miss you. Spend time with us.' And I want to. I really do, but the business of promoting “Celebration House” takes priority.

Oh, I understand when characters talk to you. Pretty hard to resist, I must admit. I admire your determination to write a thousand words a day. With so much going on, do you have time for hobbies or other interests? What do you enjoy doing when you're not writing?

I enjoy sleeping. Really. I love to sleep. But as children’s author Deborah Hopkinson taught me, to be a successful writer, you’ve got to want to write more than sleep.

I also own a horse, Lacy, who I rescued a few years back. I love going out to my old red barn to see her. I turn on my favorite Pandora station, usually The Judds for this part of my day, and brush her and talk with her until the sun sets. I find great comfort in this simple task.

Thanks so much for visiting with us, Annette. Your time is precious, as we can tell, so we really appreciate the time you've taken out of your day today.

So, how about an extract from Celebration House?

• • •

Carrie Hansen spent her life caring for cardiac patients. Little did she know she would become a patient herself. After recovering from her own heart surgery, she realizes she has a special gift: the ability to see and talk with the dead.

Now, with her new heart failing, she leaves the bustle of Seattle behind and returns to Lexington, Missouri, the small town where she spent her childhood. Here, she sets out to restore an abandoned antebellum mansion and open it as a venue for celebrations.

Carrie’s work is cut out for her. The 150-year-old Greek revival house is in need of serious repair. Her sister, Melanie, bullies Carrie into returning to Seattle, predicting “her little project” is doomed to fail. Finally, Carrie’s health gives out on her, requiring emergency surgery.

But she will not give up. Carrie’s unique gift allows her to build relationships with the mansion’s original occupants, especially Major Tom Stewart, the handsome Civil War soldier who died a hundred years before Carrie was born. He encourages and comforts her, though not in the physical way they both desire.

Then there’s the builder of the house, Colonel Bartholomew Stratton. If there’s one thing this 19th century horse trader cannot abide, it’s the living trespassing on his estate. He delights in scaring these intruders away, even if they are paying guests.

Will Carrie finish restoring Celebration House or will it finish her? And how can she plan a future with a man who only has a past?

• • • 

Driving up to the house, she smiled. She loved the long driveway, the poplar trees on both sides. Behind the trees, the fences had fallen into disrepair. Just one more thing she’d have to fix. She parked her car alongside the house and stacked her groceries and camping gear on the front porch. Seeing a small barn behind the main building, she decided to explore and see if there was room to park her car inside.

Carrie opened the door and stepped inside. Sunlight streamed in through the dirty windows. Even though the barn had been vacant for years, she smelled hay and horses.

Looking to her left, she saw a man shaving. He was bare from the waist up, his chest finely proportioned, lean, and muscular. His arms were powerfully built, and his right hand remained steady as he scraped the white soap from his angular jaw. His dark blue uniform pants were tucked into black leather knee-high riding boots. He stood at least six foot tall, and though Carrie hadn’t made her living in the carnival, she guessed he was probably younger than her, likely in his mid twenties. He peered intently at a small mirror tacked up on one of the barn walls. She waited to speak until after he’d finished the last swipe with the ivory-handled straight blade and had dipped it into the basin of soapy water.

“Good morning.”

He turned towards her suddenly, his expression an equal mix of surprise and annoyance. He dropped the razor and grabbed his shirt off a nearby nail. He turned his back to Carrie and pulled it on.

“You can see me, ma’am?” he asked, buttoning his shirt before stuffing it into his pants.

“Yes. Do you see me?”

“Yes, but I believe I have the advantage. I am dead. You are not.”

“I’m sorry to intrude on you. I’m Carrie Hansen,” she said, stepping toward him and extending her hand.

Without even thinking, he reached to shake her hand but his passed through hers. They both jerked back.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to intrude,” she said.

“You surprised me. That’s all. We don’t get many visitors out here, especially living ones who can see us,” he said, putting his blue uniform coat over his shirt and buttoning the long row of brass buttons. “I’m Maj. Thomas Stewart, at your service,” he said, bowing formally at the waist.

“I am sorry I startled you. I sometimes forget that ghosts aren’t accustomed to being seen.”

“How may I be of service to you, Miss Hansen?”

“Where can I find Col. Stratton? I need to speak with him.”

His dark blue eyes showed his puzzlement. “The living do not go looking for Col. Stratton. What business do you have with him?”

“I bought this house, and I intend to live here.”

• • •

Annette Drake is a writer whose work is character-driven and celebrates the law of unintended consequences.

Annette left high school after two years to obtain her GED and attend Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri. There she earned a degree in journalism before working as a reporter and editor for newspapers in Missouri and Kansas. She earned a bachelor of science in nursing in 1994 from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri, and worked as a registered nurse in hospitals throughout Missouri, Alaska and Washington for 18 years before returning her focus to writing.

Annette recently completed her middle-grade novel, Bone Girl, and is hard at work revising her steamy contemporary romance, A Year with Geno.

She is the mother of four children. The oldest is a senior at the University of Washington; the youngest is a kindergartener. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators. She loves libraries, basset hounds and bakeries. She does not camp.

Find Annette online --

Tirgearr Publishing
• • •

Tirgearr Publishing is giving away a copy of Celebration House today to one lucky commenter. Leave Annette a message with your email address, or ask her a question, and be automatically entered into the random drawing.

Or grab a copy of Celebration House here.