Books for Free?

The writer’s dilemma – from Kathy Sharp

Kathy Sharp

I’ve just read a cri de coeur on social media from yet another writer ready to throw in the towel. Not that she intends to give up writing, you understand – what she is giving up is the unequal struggle to make even a very modest living from it.

When I began writing novels I certainly never expected to earn a living from it – but even I was taken aback by the amount of effort (writing itself, promotion) that I needed to put in to receive even a tiny return. The increasing expectation for the written word to be provided for free, at least over the internet, certainly doesn’t help.

I have long since thrown in the towel myself. The struggle to sell reading material, even at a very low price, became more trouble than it was worth when it began to affect my health. I still have books…

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So Fast by Tracey Scott-Townsend

Linda's Book Bag

So Fast

I first met Tracey Scott-Townsend when I went to Oceans of Words, at which Tracey was speaking and you can see my write up here. I’ll be welcoming Tracey to Linda’s Book Bag on 6th October to stay in with me and tell me about one of her books, but today I’m delighted to share my review of So Fast, Tracey’s collection of poetry and I would like to thank her so much for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.

Published by Wild Pressed Books So Fast is available from Amazon, but Tracey will always send a signed copy if you contact her through her website.

So Fast

So Fast

Motherhood, family, sense of place and reflections on the human condition are at the heart of this collection of poems, mainly written in 2017.

My Review of So Fast

A collection of intimate…

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Paul Marriner: Guest post on Why He Writes

Today I’m welcoming Paul Marriner to my website, talking about WHY he writes (as opposed to how, where or what genre he writes in… Thanks for joining us, Paul.

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When I tell people I write the most common question is, ‘Where do you get your ideas?’ not, ‘Why?’ Perhaps they assume it’s for the glory and the money – ha ha. So when I asked myself the question I went back to the beginning.

From an early age I read avidly. Our local library was stuffed with books where I found adventure, excitement, characters I could relate to and wanted to meet, trivia and facts (perhaps a boy thing?) and a place where my imagination could be in jeopardy while I was still in my bedroom. In short, entertainment and education – though many might say much of what I learned has been most useful in pub quizzes and crosswords. And the great news was that as I grew, I found books for each age, including, let’s be honest, a few ‘unsavoury’ tales that were best hidden from my parents (The Mack Bolan Mafia revenge series? Yes, really). Interestingly, I never thought of reading as a form of escapism. I had a busy, active childhood and teenage years and books were not a refuge in any sense, but great entertainment in a world with few tv channels and no internet.

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By the middle of my teenage years I had perfected the art of immersing myself in books like ‘The Godfather’, ‘Catch22’, anything by Alastair Maclean or Arthur Hailey, and, dare I say it, ‘Chopper’ and ‘The Run’ (you may need to look up those last two). And I couldn’t understand how not everyone found it so easy to ‘jump’ into a book. I should say that at this stage, though I enjoyed writing stories for my English classes, I had little interest in the academic side of learning why the traditional greats of fiction (eg. Dickens, Austen, Hardy) were so lauded. In my later teenage years I began to think about how wonderful it must be to be able to write stories that pulled the reader in, engaged them and, in some way, educated – even if still in terms of ‘boyish’ facts, like where to get a sniper’s rifle made (‘Day Of The Jackal’). Then my grandmother gave me a copy of ‘Boys And Girls Together’ by William Goldman (I remember to this day her telling me it was a little ‘racy’ for her) and I began to think a little about how stories are structured and characters developed.

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I read more of Joseph Heller and William Goldman’s work and started on John Irving. And not only was I being entertained and reading ingenious ways of using the English (American?) language, I was introduced to different-thinking characters that I’d never meet in real life. I was also being subtly asked to think about new ideas (at least, new to me) regarding politics, gender, race, love, hate, life and death. And more and more I was asking myself, ‘What would I have done?’ in response to the conflicts (be they moral or physical) being fought by my favourite protagonists – not all of which were heroes. It was probably about this time I read ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest’ for the first, but not the last, time. I also read some Sci-fi (‘Dune’ etc.), fantasy (‘Lord Of The Rings’, the Thomas Covenant series), thrillers and crime novels and enjoyed them immensely for the interesting ideas and imagination they brought. They, too, raised important questions but I often struggled to place myself into the story. In case it’s of interest, I also read books by the likes of Tom Sharpe and George MacDonald Fraser both of whom were hugely talented story tellers with a skill for pacey narratives and humour.

I had become a big fan of William Goldman and his ability to write great stories in any genre, not to mention screen plays, and I started to wonder about what it took to be not just a story teller but a writer. In particular a quote from Goldman struck a chord with me (though I don’t think his was the original quote). It went something like, ‘Believe you have secrets to tell.’ From this I inferred that it was ok to have some confidence that you ‘knew’ or ‘saw’ something many others didn’t and finding a way to tell them, in a story, was a worthwhile pursuit.

So I tried to write some stories and it was very, very difficult. By now life, family, work, sport and music was keeping me busy, though I kept reading. All the time I harboured an aspiration to write something that would entertain (that word yet again), might hold up a mirror to the reader, reveal (perceived) secrets and nudge them to ask questions of themselves and others. That was what I’d found in my favourite books and to do all that within a story of my own creation would be an achievement.

Whether I failed or succeeded it would have to be writing the stories I wanted to, in my own style, whatever that might turn out to be… Which is what I’m doing, though it’s not always easy to type with fingers crossed that there’s an audience out there somewhere that will enjoy the engagement, look into the mirror I’m trying to hold up and think about some questions perhaps they hadn’t considered before. Sometimes I write a piece which edges close to achieving those aims (in my view) and occasionally the prose is interesting, perhaps even ‘alive’, in some sense. And on those rare occasions the satisfaction makes the hard work, knock-backs and self-doubt worthwhile – and, boiling it right down, that’s really why I write, for those rare moments.

I should add I also had some small hope that I could write stories which encouraged me to explore and understand some of my own history, background and motivations. To an extent this has been the case but I feel I’m still not clear in my own mind about the success, or otherwise, of that, so perhaps it’s a topic for another time. It may turn out this is the best reason of all for me to write, but it’s early days yet…

I’d like to finish with a big thank you to Tracey for giving me a reason to take a step back and think through some stuff I hadn’t properly considered before.

Paul

Paul on drums

Check out Paul’s novel The Blue Bench here

Why I Love Yorkshire: Guest post by Sharon Booth

I’m happy to welcome author Sharon Booth onto my website today. She tells us all about why Yorkshire is so important in her life, and why it inevitably found its way into all of her novels. Make yourself a cup of Yorkshire tea and sit back and enjoy a taste of Yorkshire, with Sharon.

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Sharon Booth

All my novels are set in Yorkshire. It wasn’t meant to be that way. When I was writing my first full-length novel, There Must Be an Angel, I had originally intended to set it in Glastonbury. It was on a journey to Somerset, after all, that the first three characters popped into my head, and it was while wandering the streets of the mystical town that I began to plot out their stories.

Somehow, though, as the months went on, I began to feel that my characters just weren’t settled in the location I had placed them. I could hear their voices so clearly, and there was no doubting it. They were speaking to me with Yorkshire accents.

It seems unthinkable to me now that Eliza, Rose, Lexi and Rhiannon could live anywhere but Kearton Bay – a former fishing and smuggling village on the North Yorkshire coast that strongly resembles Robin Hood’s Bay. Kearton Bay’s streets are peopled with men and women I know, and voices I recognise.

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Whitby

I suppose the truth is, having lived in Yorkshire all my life, the county is in my blood and bones, as well as my heart. I love its varied landscape, from the picturesque Dales to the wild North York Moors, from the flat plains of Holderness with its crumbling cliffs and huge skies, to the pretty, and much underrated, Wolds.

But it’s the people, too. There is something about Yorkshire folk that intrigues and delights me. They can be “mardy” and annoying, not to mention stubborn as mules, but there’s a warmth and familiarity about them. I love to travel to different parts of the UK, and I’m making it my mission to see as much of this beautiful country as I can, but there’s no place like home for me. I remember once, on our way home from Scotland, we travelled back on a hot, sunny day and pulled over to check the map, unsure we were going in the right direction. Almost immediately, we were approached by a young woman with a couple of small children beside her. “You all right, love?” she asked. “Need any help?” We looked at each other and had the broadest smiles on our faces. We were back in Yorkshire, and all was well with the world.

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Knaresbrorough

When I was a child, my parents didn’t have a car and they didn’t have much money either. Holidays, therefore, were spent locally on the Yorkshire coast. We usually stayed in caravans or chalets. Sometimes, if money was particularly tight, we’d travel no more than twenty miles to stay on the Holderness coast. Mostly, though, we headed to Primrose Valley near Filey, staying in beautiful caravans. My nanna and grandad and auntie and uncle would be in a bungalow across the road, and various other great aunts and uncles, cousins and half cousins would be dotted around the village. We’d meet up every day to have picnics on the beach, paddle in the sea, go roller-skating or on the swing boats. Evenings would be spent walking along the sands to Filey, where we’d buy fish and chips for tea, then head back to a little pub, where the adults would disappear into the grownups’ bar for an hour, and us kids would sit in a little room, eating peanuts and crisps and drinking cola.

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Scarborough

They were very simple, basic holidays, but the memory of those days on the Yorkshire coast stayed with me. As an adult, whenever things got too much for me, when “real life” overwhelmed me and I needed to recharge my batteries, I would jump on a bus or train and head up to Filey or Scarborough for the day, to breathe in the sea air, watch the waves lapping on the sands, gaze up at those huge skies, and realise that, whatever was bringing me down, this too would pass. There’s nothing like being by the sea to put things in perspective. One memorable year, we spent our holiday in Whitby. I had my fifteenth birthday there, and I decided I had never been to a more beautiful area in my life. We visited Robin Hood’s Bay for the first time, and I never forgot that experience. I had no idea how important that little place would become to me.

I’d always wanted to visit the Yorkshire Dales, but – unbelievably – I was in my thirties before I finally went there. I fell in love with the area immediately, and these days we visit frequently, sometimes just for the day, other times for a week. Researching my family tree, I was delighted to discover a whole branch of my family came from Swaledale, and it made me feel even more connected to the area. I had to set one of my books there, and although I changed Swaledale to Skimmerdale, This Other Eden is a love letter to the home of my ancestors. It’s been a real pleasure, recently, to work on the follow-up, which I’m hoping will be published in September.

When I was at school, we went on a trip one day to Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey. I was captivated by these historic sites, and by the beauty of the surrounding area.  Years later, Helmsley would become Helmston, a market town featured in most of my books, and Rievaulx Abbey would be the inspiration for the ruined abbey at Kirkby Skimmer in This Other Eden.

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Whitby Abbey

We are so fortunate to have so many ancient buildings in Yorkshire. Scarborough Castle has also featured in one of my books, as has Burton Agnes Hall in East Yorkshire, which became Kearton Hall in Once Upon a Long Ago.  I’ve already tucked Knaresborough, with its glorious castle, into my file for a future series. The pretty villages dotted around the North York Moors inspired me when I created my Bramblewick series, and I have plans to write another series set in the Yorkshire Wolds. How could I not? They may not get as much attention as the Dales or Moors, but they are stunning, with some of the prettiest villages you’re ever likely to see.

When I was writing my Moorland Heroes series, I headed to an unfamiliar part of Yorkshire – the West Riding. I was writing about a modern-day Mr Rochester, so obviously I wanted to visit the Brontë Parsonage in Haworth! The Brontës are probably the most famous of Yorkshire’s writers, and like millions of other people, I love their work – particularly Jane Eyre. It’s not difficult, in the area surrounding Haworth, to imagine the brooding Mr Rochester riding his horse across the moors, or see Cathy and Heathcliff in each other’s arms beneath a glowering sky.

Wherever you go in Yorkshire, you can find inspiration, and many writers have done just that. From the gothic horror of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, washing up on the shores of Whitby, to the cobbled streets of Victorian Hull in Valerie Wood’s fabulous historical novels; from the wide open spaces of Holderness in Winifred Holtby’s South Riding, to The Secret Garden of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s North Yorkshire; from the dramatic moors of Brontë country, to the rolling hills and glorious dales of James Herriot country, Yorkshire’s varied landscape has lent itself to a massively diverse range of literary works.

Will I ever set a novel outside of Yorkshire? Never say never, of course, but for now I still have so much of God’s own county to explore, so much inspiration to draw upon, that I don’t feel the need to look elsewhere. I’m Yorkshire born and bred, and I wear my white rose with pride!

Heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire

You can find out more about Sharon by visiting her website at www.sharonboothwriter.com

Follow her on Amazon: bit.ly/sharonboothpageUK or bit.ly/sharonboothpageUS.

You can find Sharon on Facebook: www.facebook.com/sharonboothwriter, or Twitter as @Sharon_Booth1.

Sharon Booth writes heartwarming love stories set in beautiful Yorkshire locations.

She wrote her first book when she was ten. It was about a boarding school that specialised in ballet and, given that she’d never been to boarding school and hadn’t a clue about ballet, it’s probably a good thing that no copy of this masterpiece survives.

She is the author of ten novels with Fabrian Books and has also written for DC Thomson and Ulverscroft. Her short story, The Other Side of Christmas, was included in the Winter Tales anthology – a collection of seasonal stories by popular writers, in aid of The Cystic Fibrosis Trust and The Teenage Cancer Trust.

Sharon lives in East Yorkshire, with her husband and their dog. She is one tenth of The Write Romantics, and a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. 

She has a love/hate relationship with chocolate, is a devoted Whovian, and prone to all-consuming crushes on fictional heroes. If forced to choose her favourite fictional hero, however, she would probably say Paddington Bear.

 

Author In the Limelight: Rena Rossner

Rena

I’m really happy to welcome Rena Rossner today. She’s an agent at Deborah Harris Literary Agency and an author who lives in Jerusalem. Her amazing (and unutterably attractive!) novel The Sisters of Winter Wood (a magical tale of secrets, family ties and fairy tales weaving through history) is published by Orbit and released on 27 Sept. 2018.

sisters winter wood

Isn’t this book beautiful? Rena’s incredibly busy but I was lucky enough to catch a quick interview with her, after reading a thread she wrote on Twitter (and pinching it, with her permission):

Tracey: Hi Rena. It’s great to have a chance to chat with you again. We go back a few years to the days when we were both posting chapters of our WIPs on the writers’ website, Authonomy (now defunct.) I was thrilled and delighted when, as a novice writer, you invited me to join your LitFic forum, on which we all took turns to have our work critiqued by fellow members ‘under the spotlight’. After a year or so, a small group of us joined together to follow our own imaginary yellow brick road in search of agents or publishers. You helped us all with a spreadsheet of agents  and plenty of querying advice.
We all met up in autumn 2012 in the Peak District. (RIP Judith Williamson.)

yellow brick road crew (2)

Since then, Rena, you’ve gone on to become a world-travelling agent for the Deborah Harris Literary Agency. I’ve enjoyed meeting up with you several times at the London Book Fair and I love to keep up with the goings-on of your family online; like me, you are the mother of several children, and I see from your online pictures that yours are growing up as quickly as mine!

As you write your second (‘nth!) novel – to a deadline – I’d like to invite you to share your thoughts on your writing process.

Rena: Thanks, Tracey. I’ll share something about writing: it sucks. No. I’m just kidding. It is life-giving. It is why we do this thing called books. It is everything. Also: sometimes it really sucks. Getting the perfect beautiful scene you have in your head onto paper can be excruciating.

Tracey: Does being a literary agent help?

Rena: Yes. I’m glad that I’m an agent who is also an author. Because I know how hard it is. But I also know that everyone’s process is different. For example: maybe YOU actually really do love the writing process. I personally love the rewriting process.
It’s not just that my first drafts suck. It’s more than that. My first drafts aren’t books. They are piles of bones. And only when I finish with all the bones can I go back and figure out which bones are missing and what goes where until I make a skeleton. And then I start again.

Tracey: I like the way you describe the process as organic – i.e. flesh and bones – and describe both the pleasure and pain as equally necessary elements of building a book.

Rena: It feels that way. Next I need to add the sinews and the muscles and the organs. The blood flow. And then I start again. Then there’s skin. Then hair. Then facial features. But right now I’m growing bones and it’s the part I hate the most. I like making things pretty. And this is not pretty.

Tracey: It’s not?

Rena: No! Me writing a new book is excruciating. It’s pain. It’s not fun.

Tracey: So why do  it?

Rena: I write because only in rewriting am I able to make the body of the work match what is in my head. And I have to start somewhere. I hate this part of writing because it’s ugly. But I don’t know any other way to do it.

Tracey: Tell me more about your methods of pinning a WIP down on paper.

Rena: I’ve been thinking so much about process. Wondering how I can enjoy this more. And I realized that part of what I enjoy is the research. Yes, it’s falling down rabbit holes and feels like procrastination. But only in research do I make connections b/w all the threads in my head.

Tracey: So how do you solve your mental torment when writing a new book?

Rena: I’m always learning to embrace my process. It’s hard. Especially now that I’m writing a book on a deadline for the first time in my life. But I keep reminding myself: these are just bones. Nobody sees the bones.

Tracey: Nobody Sees the Bones sounds like a great novel title (*makes note*)

Rena: I tell myself that none of what I’m writing now will show. Nobody will ever see this part. Maybe none of these words will make it to the final draft…it helps me keep going. Putting one word in front of the other, even if I know that they are all wrong. But that’s just me.
Anyway. That’s what I have to share. That’s my wisdom from the past painstaking month of trying to grow the bones of my next book. Growing bones is hard. But if I don’t do this part I won’t be able to get to the next part. So I keep going.

Tracey: Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, Rena. Personally, I’ve learned so much from watching you progress through the stages of becoming an incredibly accomplished writer and renowned agent over the past eight years or so. I can’t wait for your novel to be released in September. We’ll have to try and meet up again next year and I can buy a signed copy directly from you. But first, I may have to treat myself to a sneak-peak on Kindle…

 

 

 

The Road is Forested

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In June Phil and I set off in our latest van (RIP the Bus-with-a-woodstove!) For our first-ever trip abroad. We’ve spent years exploring all the corners of the British Isles but this was the first time we’d taken the van on the ferry to Europe. As we now live in Hull, we had only a short drive down the Clive Sullivan way to the ferry. It was exciting to have a cabin of our own, and entertainment laid on for the night. (Yeah, I know: little things please little minds, etc.) We stood on the top deck as we sailed out of the Humber, while Phil helped me plot a future novel, which would involve this very estuary. There was a rainbow to cheer us on our way.

estuary

I can’t say I slept that well – I don’t like total darkness and so I had to keep putting the light on. No worries for Phil though, it takes a lot to wake him up! The next morning, we obtained a free breakfast because the card machine wasn’t working. Then we drove off the ferry and into Holland. We also passed through a corner of Belgium before entering Germany.

bridge, rotterdam

We were headed for Stuttgart and planned to arrive there the following afternoon. (The extra special purpose of the trip was to attend my youngest son’s wedding!) Phil drove and drove and after a while I kept falling asleep and waking up with a snort. It was hot, too. I was pleased when we stopped for the night in the beautiful Mosel Valley, surrounded by vineyards.

 

Fortunately, a wine-tasting session was just about to begin as we arrived. We bought six bottles. Later we went for an evening walk.

river mosel

I had no idea  Holland, Belgium and Germany were covered in so much forest. No wonder there are so many European fairy tales set in the deepest, darkest woods. I was blown away by the Baden Württemberg landscape. I fell in love with Germany.

forest mountain

Forests, forests as far as the eye can see. this is the view from the road and it goes on and on. After another long day of Phil driving, and me falling asleep and waking up to make tea and serve lunch in some of the beautifully-landscaped and well-provisioned laybys (no height barriers or ‘No Overnight Camping’ signs such as we’re accustomed to in the UK, here) We arrived at the final, busy stretch of road into Stuttgart. My son and his wife are both world foot-travellers. They met in Iceland, and I was privileged to be present at the time so I’m so happy he’s married Jacky. They’re planning to live and work in Stuttgart for a few years and they’ve just moved into an apartment. This is the view from their balcony: (as you can see, it’s only a short walk into the forest.)

street to the forest

Phil and I slept in a parking lot by a running track, a short walk from their apartment. The next morning, Jacky took us to the Stadtbibliothek Stuttgart, a library that looks as though it ought to feature in a Sci-Fi film. We climbed up to the roof for an amazing view of Stuttgart. It was humbling to hear of the city being flattened during the Second World War.

 

Phil and I went on into Stuttgart for lunch and a look around.

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Schloss Platz

fountain schloss platz

phil stuttgart

That evening, Phil and I met the rest of the family at Jacky’s parents’ house. We were treated to an amazing meal and lots, and lots of wine. The following morning we put on our glad rags and set off from the hotel with some of our new relatives-to-be for the train into Ditzingen where the wedding was to take place at the Rathaus (town hall). There was time to take tea in the market square beforehand.

pre wedding tea with the in laws

I can’t even describe the joy of what followed…

wedding

Leaving the Rathaus, Jacky’s colleagues at the market stall presented the couple with balloons and a vegetable-bouquet. Caat, the dog Zak and Jacky rescued in Catalonia, was present throughout the whole day. Jacky wore a traditional dress that had belonged to her great-grandmother. Luckily, Zak’s outfit matched perfectly.

wedding couple

The three men at the feast are Zak’s father, stepfather and father-in-law 🙂

three men at the feast

Photographs in the park between wedding cake and dinner… (Zak’s dad on the right and stepdad on the left)

fam at the wedding

An outdoor living-room…

garden chair

Ulrika, one of Jacky’s grandmas, made the couple a personalised quilt as a wedding present.

wedding quilt

I’ll finish up with some photos from the second week of Phil’s and my journey…

 

wing mirror view

 

eb town centre

 

campsite

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My Dogs in my Books

Our beautiful, black Labrador, Riley, travelled all over the UK with Phil and I in our former van, the bus-with-a-woodstove. Similarly to ‘Jack’ in my novel The Eliza Doll. Jack lives in a van with his companion, Ellie, who travels the country selling her handmade dolls at craft fairs. Jack is modelled entirely on Riley.

blue streaked sky at Arran

riley me van

It nearly broke our hearts when Riley had to be put down in 2016. He had poisoned himself by eating what we think may have been a death cap mushroom.

Beloved boy

We now have two rescued dogs who were both found on the streets of Romania. Luna, my birthday present two years ago, came to live with us when Riley was still alive. They were a perfect visual contrast and shared a brief love. Luna had been found in a cardboard box…

dogs in box

…on the street in Budapest with her two sisters at the age of about five months. Riley helped her acclimatise to family

black and white

(and beach) life.

Luna Riley beach

In my sixth novel, Luna ‘plays’ Alicia, a white stray dog that adopts my character Maya, while she’s living in a Catalonian mountain community. The Vagabond Mother, as yet unpublished, is the story of a middle-aged woman who takes off with a backpack, in search of her missing son. In the book, Alicia follows Maya as she leaves the community she’s been staying at to hitch hike to Barcelona, and Maya ends up taking her back to the UK with her. Alicia is as loyal, nervous and loving as my own lovely Luna.

Luna

Pixie is the second dog we adopted from Seven Strays Dog Rescue. It was too sad that Riley had to be put down and that Luna was left alone, so we chose a smaller dog to keep her company. Allow me to present introduce Miss Pixie:

Pixie

Pixie was also abandoned in Romania. She had a puppy, who has now also been rehomed in the UK.

pix n pup

Pixie ‘stars’ in my fifth novel (currently out on submission) Sea Babies. Pixie plays a similarly-small, brown dog call Titania (Tatty) who’s dumped on my main character, Lauren. Lauren quickly grows to love Tatty and they explore the wild countryside of Uig on the Isle of Lewis together (see second-to-top picture in this post) and Tatty comforts Lauren while she comes to terms with a recent, drastic change in circumstances

Luna and Pixie love each other, and they love me and Phil and our cat, Pheoby. The Girls (including the cat) are happy whether we’re off on one adventure or another in our van, but also when we cuddle up on the sofa at home.

P and LL and P

both

Oh, and here’s a picture of Pheoby, the camping cat. I really must add a strong, female cat character in my next book…

pheobs