Monday, 27 February 2017

Spotlight & Giveaway: DREAMING SOPHIA BY MELISSA MULDOON

I am delighted to be the next stop on the Dreaming Sophia book tour



Dreaming Sophia is a magical look into Italy, language, art, and culture. It is a story about turning dreams into reality and learning to walk the fine line between fact and fantasy. When tragedy strikes, Sophia finds herself alone in the world, without direction and fearful of loving again. With only her vivid imagination to guide her, she begins a journey that will take her from the vineyards in Sonoma, California to a grad school in Philadelphia and, eventually, to Italy: Florence, Lucca, Rome, Verona, Venice, and Val d’Orcia.

​Through dreamlike encounters, Sophia meets Italian personalities—princes, poets, duchesses, artists, and film stars— who give her advice to help put her life back together. Following a path that takes her from grief to joy, she discovers the source of her creativity and learns to love again, turning her dreams into reality.

Available to buy now from


About the Author


Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta-the crazy linguist! In Italian, "matta" means "crazy" or "impassioned". Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master's degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.

Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta (studentessamatta.com). Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, "Tutti Matti per l'Italiano" and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.


Dreaming Sophia is Melissa's first novel. It is a fanciful look at art history and Italian language and culture, but it is also the culmination of personal stories and insights resulting from her experiences living in Italy, as well as her involvement and familiarity with the Italian language, painting, and art history.

As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she'd never need it again but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That "thing" was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event! Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency-a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways.
Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is married and has three boys and two beagles.

Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Dreaming Sophia. She also designed the Dreaming Sophia website and created the character illustrations that can be found in the book and on the Dreaming Sophia websites.

Connect with the Author:  

Dreaming Sophia Book Trailer







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Ends March 18


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Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Blog Tour and Guest Post by Emily Williams -- Author of LETTERS TO ELOISE

Today is my stop on the blog tour and I am delighted to welcome Emily Williams, her debut novel Letters to Eloise was published by Lutino Publications on 17 February 2017.
Emily has written some top tips for would be authors.


‘Receiving a hand written letter is something that always puts a smile on my face, no matter who the sender is.’ Flora Tierney.

When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise', or chase after the past with her estranged first love?
But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?

‘Banish me, therefore, for ever from your heart’ - Abelard to Heloise.


Amazon buy links:

US- http://a.co/0VshOdw

UK- http://amzn.eu/iO8Gtrf


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There's a novel in everyone - where is mine?!

Top five tips (I achieved from writing Letters to Eloise) for getting started on that elusive novel.

Letters to Eloise is the heart-wrenching debut epistolary novel by Emily Williams; a love story of misunderstandings, loss, and betrayal but ultimately the incredible bond between mother and child.
 
  1. If you don't get the lightning bolt; I have been lucky that my novel idea for 'Letters to Eloise', came to me all at once like a flash of lightning, not the finer details, but the basic plot idea. If you're not this lucky, try writing down lots of different ideas in a notebook until one idea hits you or several form together into one. My next novel formed from two ideas into one, it is a more psychological thriller this time. A little bit different from a romance!
  2. When you have the rough idea of a story or theme, start a handwritten note book and story map. I lined my bedroom wall with reversed Christmas wrapping paper then made a timeline of the novel across that. I drew drawings of the characters and important events in the story and added details as I went along. Forcharacter inspiration, I leafed through magazines and cut out anyone that fitted what I wanted. The same for name; I used a baby name book. This then fed into my grid timetable of each letter (chapter) in the story. The grid had the number of the chapter (date of letter) down the side, with information for each stage; great for organising sequence.
  3. Keep post-it notes next to your bed, guaranteed those best ideas are in the middle of the night. It is a bit old fashioned, but the light from your phone can disrupt sleep patterns/hormones, so I tried to avoid using the notes app on my phone. I find it harder to switch off after.
  4. No wine I'm afraid! Writing after a drink or two is def a no no, the errors will mount up! A glass of wine or two whilst looking at the story map and getting the creative juices going is a little different. I booked myself on a 10k run, raising money for the MS Society, so after running each night I would get down to the writing, too busy to pop open a cork! Plenty of time for a glass later, when celebrating the finished draft.
  5. Setting a realistic deadline is important. Many a novel of mine has been given up upon. To keep in the moment and ensure I finished, I set up a three month deadline for the first draft to be completed. I booked myself onto a writer course in London, where I needed to take my completed novel; an ideal incentive to finish. The initial ideas stage took several months and then I just sat down and got on with it! Writing was then surprisingly easy once it was all clear in my head. I wish I had done the same for the editing stage! Some evenings, I did experience writers block. I overcame this by not getting tied up with having to complete a chapter but moving around the story and writing the letters in a different order.
 
Best of luck writing your novel! I do hope you enjoy reading mine.

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Thank you Emily - I'm sure these tips will be of help to aspiring authors.


About the Author

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Emily Williams lives by the seaside in West Sussex with her family and a large menagerie of small pets. After graduating from Sussex University with a BA in Psychology, Emily trained as a primary school teacher and teaches in a local school. Letters to Eloise is her debut novel.


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Monday, 20 February 2017

Guest Post by Clare Harvey -- Author of THE ENGLISH AGENT

I am delighted to be the first stop on the blog tour for The English Agent and am thrilled that author Clare Harvey has written a piece on how images have inspired her in the story.

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How far will two women go to survive a war? 

Having suffered a traumatic experience in the Blitz, Edie feels utterly disillusioned with life in wartime London. The chance to work with the Secret Operations Executive (SOE) helping the resistance in Paris offers a fresh start. Codenamed ‘Yvette’, she’s parachuted into France and met by the two other members of her SOE cell. 

Back in London, Vera desperately needs to be made a UK citizen to erase the secrets of her past. Working at the foreign office in charge of agents presents an opportunity for blackmail. But when she loses contact with one agent in the field, codenamed Yvette, her loyalties are torn…

Published in paperback by Simon & Schuster on the 23rd February 2017



(Clare on the way to Paris, researching The English Agent)

Does every picture tell a story? For me, the old cliché holds true. An arresting image can set the tone of a whole novel, and that was certainly the case when I was researching and writing my new book The English Agent. Take this photograph of the arc de Triomphe in WW2, for example:


Every morning German soldiers would parade from the arc de Triomphe, and along avenue Foch. Seeing this photo, I couldn’t help but wonder how ordinary French people would feel about this Nazi march right through the symbolic heart of their conquered territory, and then I began to wonder how a captured English agent being held in the Nazi security services HQ at 84 avenue Foch would react at hearing this march pass beneath her window every day. Would it anger her enough to help her resist interrogation and plan her escape, or would it make her feel so demoralised that she’d attempt suicide in captivity? Whichever would be the case, this image was in the back of my mind during my research trip to Paris in 2015 and throughout the writing process.

(Clare researching The English Agent: arc de Triomphe, and below outside 84, avenue Foch, the former headquarters of the German homeland security services in Paris – where secret agents were held and questioned.)


Another picture that proved an important stepping off point was this one of German soldiers chatting with French girls outside the Moulin Rouge.


In the immediate aftermath of WW2 French woman who’d had relationships with German soldiers were vilified: paraded through the streets with shaven heads for their crime of ‘collaboration’. But the truth was a little more complex. Almost all young French men had been rounded up and sent off to forced labour camps in Germany. Most German soldiers were conscripts, not necessarily believing in Nazi ideology, and having no choice as to where they were posted. Moreover, French women were poor and hungry, whilst the soldiers had food and money. I began to think about what it would be like for a young conscript in Paris: how he would treat and be treated by the girls he met. What if one of the girls wasn’t French at all, but a British Agent working undercover. And if he began to find himself falling in love with ‘the enemy’ - what then? Would passion trump patriotic loyalty, or would he be overcome with guilt at his feelings, and end up jeopardising the safety of the woman he loved?


You can find more images that catalysed The English Agent on my Pinterest page: https://uk.pinterest.com/clareharvey13/the-english-agent/
I also regularly post the pictures that are inspiring my current work-in-progress on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clareharvey13/
And Twitter: @ClareHarveyauth

Thank you Clare for giving us an insight into how pictures have inspired your writing.


About Clare Harvey



Clare Harvey is an ex-army wife. The Gunner Girl, her debut novel, was inspired by her mother-in-law's experience during WWII and written while her husband was on active service in Afghanistan. She has travelled widely and worked all over the world, doing voluntary work in Tanzania and as a journalist and tutor in Nepal, Germany and Northern Ireland. She hitchhiked from Zanzibar to Cape Town, and went on to work for an overseas charity before falling in love with a soldier. She now lives in Nottingham with her family.


Please follow the other lovely bloggers on the tour below



I will be reviewing The English Agent later in the week.

You can buy The English Agent at Amazon UK - Amazon US



Saturday, 18 February 2017

Q & A with Charles Salzberg -- Author of SWANN'S WAY OUT + Giveaway! (Detective Series)




Detective Henry Swann returns to search for the truth behind a
Hollywood hack, fraudulent art and the sudden absence of his son

NEW YORK CITY – Fans of Henry Swann, rejoice! He’s back in the usual cerbral, hard-boiled way that everyone knows and loves in Charles Salzberg’s latest addition to the detective’s adventures, “Swann’s Way Out” (Feb. 20, 2017, Down & Out Books).

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In the newest novel in Salzberg’s suspenseful crime fiction series, Swann is on the search for $1 million seemingly embezzled by a shady Hollywood producer, the salesman of a possibly illegal painting, and in an intriguing turn of events, his long-estranged teenage son. With such an unusual personal distraction, a guilt-ridden Swann is forced to step away from his paying cases to chase after his son, who seems to have joined some sort of cult.

With Salzberg’s always-brilliant writing and beautiful plotting, three mysteries intertwine into a brilliant, hold-your-breath story as Swann sleuths his way to the finish in this dazzling follow-up to “Swann’s Lake of Despair” (2014), which was re-released in November 2016 along with the other books in the Henry Swann series, “Swann’s Last Song” and “Swann Dives In.”


An Interview with
Charles Salzberg

Henry Swann is a classic amateur detective, but in “Swann’s Way Out,” your fourth book in the series, he’s really starting to get his bearings. How has his detective style changed since the first book, “Swann’s Last Song?”

Macintosh HD:Users:donovanchase:Desktop:charles.pngFor one thing, he’s a little more sure of himself now in terms of gathering information and putting that information together so it forms a logical pattern. Swann doesn’t really solve crimes as much as he makes sense of them, while at the same time, he grapples with his personal demons—the untimely death of his wife, his neglect of his son, his inability to set down roots. As someone who has for years lived on the margins of society, he’s trying to carve out a solid life for himself, one with connections to other people. And in an odd way, he makes up for real family by surrounding himself with friends like Goldblatt and Klavan. In short, his work has helped him adjust better to life, not that he still doesn’t feel like a complete fraud and outsider, as do most of us.

The mysteries in this book happen in three different locations. Was it difficult to tie them all together?
Not at all. In fact, it’s fun shifting the action from place to place. It gives the book a sense of movement and working with several plots at the same time I think is an added element that forces the reader (and me) to pay closer attention. It also adds to the sense of disorientation and alienation Swann suffers from. He never really feels “at home” anyplace, and so moving around mirrors his psychological disconnection.

As your fourth book in the Henry Swann series, are there any things that surprised you about Henry as a character in the latest book?
Everything surprises me about Swann. I don’t go into these books with a “plan.” They’re not plotted out and not only don’t I ever know what’s going to happen, I also don’t know what characters are going to appear and when they do what role they’re going to play in the story. Besides, he’s not the kind of character who does much planning about his life. He doesn’t know where he’s going to be or what he’s going to do from one day to the next. That’s what keeps the books fresh and fun to write for me, but also a little scary and challenging. So, when I actually sit down at my desk to write I have two feelings…anticipation as to what’s going to happen next, and fear because what if I don’t know what’s going to happen next? Or what if it’s not very interesting?

Henry Swann’s son is a fascinating development in his character. How does his entrance affect Henry?
Swann has always suffered enormous guilt as a result of sending his son away to live with his maternal grandparents after his mother, Swann’s wife, was killed in a freak accident. The only way he can deal with this “abandonment,” because that’s what it was no matter how often he tells himself it was for his son’s own good, is through denial. This results in him thinking about him as little as he possibly can. But when his son turns up missing he can’t do this anymore, and yet it proves him with an opportunity to use his skill, what he does best, finding things, to reconnect with his son and maybe, just maybe, assuage some of that guilt he’s carried with him all these years. He hopes it might lead him to redemption, something we’re all looking for, by the way, in that he can finally make up for all those lost years when he was out of touch.

For long-time Henry Swann fans, what do they have most to look forward to in the upcoming release?
More Goldblatt, for one thing. Their partnership is now solidified and although Swann is not pleased about working with someone else, especially Goldblatt, he has come to accept it and it’s probably made him better at what he does, and lit something of a fire under him. For the first time in a long time he’s not only responsible for himself for for someone else. He doesn’t like this but still he knows it probably makes him a better person. Readers can also expect to be brought into two worlds that interest me: the fine art scene and Hollywood. They’re very different art forms, but in a way they’re very similar in that they’re based on smoke and mirrors, deception, fantasy and sleight of hand. In both cases, if successful, the viewer is totally conned, but not necessarily duped.

Is it true that you initially intended “Swann’s Way Out” to be the last book in the series?
Well, I thought it would be because I thought I’d taken the character as far as I could, that I had nothing new to say about him or the world that existed around him. And so I started and completed another novel called Second Story Man, with two new protagonists (actually, they weren’t totally new, as they were “borrowed” from an earlier novel, Devil in the Hole), and even started what I think might be another detective series with a very different kind of detective. But just when I thought I was out, he pulled me back in again. In other words, I got a first line for a new Swann and then two ideas for two new cases he could work on, one of them would reveal more about Goldblatt’s background, and the other would have him get involved in a murder trial. And one of the reasons I said I would stop is that I didn’t think I could come up with another title, but I think I have, at least for now, and that’s Swann’s Down, so there you go. There will be a fifth Swann, probably out in the spring of 2018 (and I only say this so that now I actually do have to finish it).




Praise for the Henry Swann Detective Series


“Swann’s Lake of Despair”
"Smart, satisfying, even profound, this is exactly what every mystery reader is looking for: A terrific story, full of wit and originality, and a master class in voice. Charles Salzberg is a true talent, and his Henry Swann is a classic--complex, hilarious, and completely charming."—Hank Phillippi Ryan
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"Like a good detective, Swann looks past the obvious and follows the plot twists to their unexpected conclusions. As he clips through his paces, Swann takes the reader on an enjoyable ride sprinkled with plenty of sass and vinegar and illuminated by the bright lights and dark underside of the Big Apple. He’s a hero who grows more endearing with each book and whose capers ultimately beg the question: What’s next for Henry Swann?”—Books in Brief
"Swann's Lake of Despair feels like three short story concepts that have been merged, shoe-horned as it were, into a single storyline. It's a little slow going at first, as each subplot requires its own setup and there is nothing to connect them. (Indeed, they turn out to be three completely separate storylines.) Too, Henry Swann is a difficult character to embrace. He's gruff and aloof, and yet tends to grow on the reader as someone who's also basically fair and incredibly insightful. But what is most intriguing about the book is how Swann negotiates an end game to each of his cases. For each, there is a simple way out but it clearly isn't the right way out; what Swann wants to do — indeed, what the reader wants Swann to do — is come up with an exit strategy that may not be easy but one that is mutually acceptable to all parties involved, allowing each to walk away agreeable with the outcome if not necessarily completely satisfied with it. There's a nuanced complexity here that makes this all very appealing in the end. A solid mystery and one that is recommended.”—Mysterious Reviews


“Swann Dives In”


“I always love it when I come across a new private detective to admire and worship, someone who is brave where I'm weak, someone who gets his hands dirty while I keep mine clean. Henry Swann is such a detective and he tells a great story. For fans of hard-boiled mysteries or just plain old good fiction, I'm sure you'll love ‘Swann Dives In.’”
– Jonathan Ames, author of “Wake Up, Sir!” and creator of “Bored to Death”


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“If you like your P.I.s sexy, well-read and wise-cracking, Henry Swann is your man. Swann dives into a case with a prickly millionaire, a missing heiress and some rare manuscripts in this literate and literary novel.”
– Rosemary Harris, Anthony & Agatha-nominated author of “Pushing Up Daisies”


“Henry Swann is the great tradition of American mystery heroes: world-weary, philosophical, tough, and competent. This novel is totally entertaining.”
– Laurence Klavan, Edgar Award-winning author of “The Cutting Room” and “The Shooting Script”


“‘Swann Dives In” takes you in all kinds of unexpected directions, not only giving the reader a fresh view of the crime novel but a fresh view of the nature of crime itself.”
– Lauren Weisberger, author of “The Devil Wears Prada”




“Swann’s Last Song”


“‘Swann’s Last Song’ is wonderful and original and has the feel of Hitchcock. Henry Swann is a delightfully appealing guy, and at times, laugh-out loud funny. The story is action packed while being remarkably charming. I can’t wait to read what case Swann is on next. I couldn't put it down the way I can't put down the ‘No. 1 Ladies Detective Society.’”
– Patty Dann, author of “Mermaids” and “The Goldfish Went On Vacation”


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Swann's got the smarts and hard-boiled cynicism of Sam Spade, but he's also got a wicked sense of humor that keeps things cool even when the action gets hot.”
– Brian Kilmeade, co-host of “Fox & Friends” (Fox TV), author of “The Games Do Count” and “How They Played the Game”


“Salzberg's a hell of a writer. He delivers thrills, insight and plenty of laughs. Swann is a very cool take on the classic PI.”
– Andrew Klavan, author of “True Crime,” “Dynamite Road,”“Damnation Street” and “Don’t Say a Word”


“You can’t help but be intrigued by a skip tracer who quotes poetry. ‘Swann’s Last Song’ sucks you in from page one, offering up taut prose, crisp dialogue and wry observations on the grittier layers of city life. Bravo to Charles Salzberg, who’s crafted a plot that moves as fast as a stolen car.”
– Sally Koslow, author of “Little Pink Slips”


“A veritable travelogue of suspense, ‘Swann's Last Song’ grabs hold of the reader and doesn't let go. Salzberg's anti-hero Henry Swann is a soulful, investigator and one of the most paradoxically endearing characters I've come across. I hope this isn't Swann's last song.”
– Joy Behar, co-host of “The View” and author of “Joy Shtick”


“In ‘Swann’s Last Song,’ Salzberg has devilishly toyed with the usual conventions of the detective novel and produced a mind-bending, literary joyride across two continents to find not only the identity of a murderer but of the victim.”
– Robert Hicks, author of “The Widow of the South”


“Funny, edgy, and surprisingly tender, ‘Swann's Last Song’ takes us on a voyage through a world that many of us are affected by, but few know as well as Charles Salzberg and his fast-talking narrator, skip tracer Henry Swann. We can all understand what it means to have something – or somebody – disappear from our lives, but it takes a colorful narrator like Swann to show us what it means to reclaim them.”
– Roy Hoffman, author of “Chicken Dreaming Corn”



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