Finding Nina front cover
characters, Crooked Cat Books, Fiction

Finding Nina

UK author Sue Barnard shares a post she wrote about the main character in her new novel, Finding Nina. This is the second time Sue has used Nina as a character. As she says, Finding Nina is part-prequel, part-sequelRomance with a twist 2019.04.07 to Nice Girls Don’t.

Another character is Nina’s mom, Alice. Or as Sue says, “There are two sides to every story, and I wanted to give Alice the opportunity to tell hers.”

I thoroughly enjoyed Sue’s last novel Heathcliff, which fills in those missing years when Emily Bronte’s character disappeared. We are fellow authors at Crooked Cat Books. I like her humorous Facebook posts about public displays of typos — alas, unintentional by those who wrote them.

Read on.

WHO IS NINA?

Back in 2012, when I first started writing Nice Girls Don’t, I intended it to be a stand-alone story and I had no plans for a sequel.  Only after it was published (in 2014) did it dawn on me that a loose end had been unintentionally left dangling.  The book is set in 1982, but in one key scene, mention was made of something which had occurred almost forty years earlier – a baby girl, born in secret during World War Two, and given up for adoption.  This was not referred to again in Nice Girls Don’t, and thankfully it didn’t affect the outcome of that story, but it did leave open the possibility of another one: What could have happened to that wartime baby?

The baby was Nina, born in mid-November 1943, when World War Two was still at its height.  Her mother was seventeen and unmarried, and although the war had changed many things, the prevailing post-Victorian attitude to illegitimacy was not one of them. So one month later, just before Christmas 1943, Nina was handed over to a childless couple who formally adopted her and changed her name to Stella.

Finding Nina is part-prequel, part-sequel to Nice Girls Don’t– but it isn’t just about the eponymous Nina/Stella.  It’s also the story of Nina’s mother Alice, who is always present in the background in Nice Girls Don’t, but who (for reasons which anyone who reads the book will appreciate) never really steps out of the shadows. There are two sides to every story, and I wanted to give Alice the opportunity to tell hers.

Here is how that story begins: 

Wincanton, Somerset, England – 14thNovember 1943

“PLEASE! Help me! I can’t do this!”

Alice panted in agony as the pains increased. She had never imagined that it was possible to suffer like this. It felt as though a vicious steel band was being tightened around her stomach.

The boot-faced middle-aged midwife threw her a look which was at best unsympathetic, at worst downright hostile.

“Help? You must be joking. There’s a war on. Even if we had the stuff, we wouldn’t waste it on the likes of you. You got yourself into this mess, my girl, and you can get yourself out of it. If you’d kept your legs together nine months ago, you wouldn’t be here now!”

Alice didn’t need to be reminded that there was a war on. It was because of the war that she was now in this dreadful predicament. Without the war, she would never have left her home village to work as a Land Girl. She would never have lost her father in the freak air raid two years earlier. And she would never have met Tom, the handsome Scottish soldier who had been stationed in the nearby town, and who had captured her heart.

Closing her eyes to shut out the midwife’s glares of condemnation, Alice clenched her teeth in a vain attempt to suppress another scream. Through her pain-soaked consciousness she clung desperately to the one thought which could sustain her: the distant but already fading memory of the baby’s father.

Tom had never even known about her pregnancy. He had been posted to India eight months earlier – and his letters home had ceased before Alice had even realised she was overdue. She had no idea exactly what had happened to him, but for him to cut off all communication was so out of character that she knew she could only fear the worst. Any remaining hope of ever seeing him again was fading with each passing day.

Was it a crime to fall in love? Was it a crime to seize the moment, knowing that it might never come again? If so, she was certainly being punished for it now. Not just through the physical agony of a long and difficult labour, but also with the mental anguish which came with the knowledge that she was about to break the most damning commandment of all. The unwritten Eleventh Commandment which had been drummed into her for the whole of her short life: Thou Shalt Not Bring Shame Upon Thy Family.

“Come on, Alice. You’re doing fine.”

These words were spoken by a different voice. It was a few moments before Alice realised that the bullying midwife had been joined by a younger nurse, who was now holding a cool damp cloth against Alice’s burning forehead.

“It doesn’t…feel…like it…” Alice gasped.

“You are. It won’t be long now.”

The older midwife, who was crouching down by Alice’s feet, spoke again. “It’s breech.”

Through the fog of pain, Alice wondered if she detected a trace of malice in the woman’s tone.

“Breech? What does that mean?”

“It’s coming out feet first,” the younger midwife explained. “It means it might take a little longer.”

A little longer? How many more hours can this go on?

“I can’t…”

“Yes, you can. Come on, now. Push gently, and I’ll guide the baby out. We can do this together.”

“No! I…” Alice’s next words were lost in a piercing scream, then another, then another. Then, suddenly, it was all over. She lay back, panting and exhausted.

“Well done, Alice,” the younger nurse said, as she covered her with a rough utility blanket. “You’ve got a beautiful baby girl.”

The older midwife snatched up the baby, marched across the room and placed her on the scales. “Six pounds five,” she barked.

“Is that good?” Alice asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

“It’s not bad, considering,” the younger nurse answered. “What are you going to call her?”

“I don’t know…”

As her daughter was placed in her arms, names were the very last thing on Alice’s mind. She glanced down at the wrinkled features, and the tiny fingers which were already gripping her own.

Yes, she thought, she is beautiful. And she is going to need a name. But what’s the point? I can’t possibly keep her.

She looked up at the young nurse. “What’s your name?” she asked.

“Nina.”

Alice looked up at her through brimming eyes. “That’s a lovely name. I’ll call her Nina, after you.”

FINDING NINA is officially released June 3, but is already available for pre-order.

1943: A broken-hearted teenager gives birth in secret. Her soldier sweetheart has disappeared, and she reluctantly gives up her daughter for adoption.

1960: A girl discovers a dark family secret, but it is swiftly brushed back under the carpet. Conventions must be adhered to.

1982: A young woman learns of the existence of a secret cousin. She yearns to find her long-lost relative, but is held back by legal constraints.  Life goes on.

2004: Everything changes…

 ABOUT SUE:

Sue Barnard is a British novelist, editor and award-winning poet who was born in North Wales some time during the last millennium.  She speaks French like a Belgian, German like a schoolgirl, and Italian and Portuguese like an Englishwoman abroad.  She now lives in Cheshire, UK, with her extremely patient husband and a large collection of unfinished scribblings.

Her mind is so warped that she has appeared on BBC TV’s Only Connect quiz show, and she has also compiled questions for BBC Radio 4’s fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as “professionally weird.” The label has stuck.

Sue’s own family background is far stranger than any work of fiction. She would write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

Finding Nina, which is her sixth novel, is not that book.

Blog   Facebook   G+   Twitter   Instagram   Amazon  Goodreads  RNA

ALSO BY SUE BARNARD:

The Ghostly Father  Nice Girls Don’t  The Unkindest Cut of All  Never on Saturday  Heathcliff

 

 

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Author Interview, characters, Crooked Cat Books

Meet Martin Carter of Cultivating a Fuji

Author Miriam Drori has written this post about a character in her latest book, Cultivating a Fuji. She writes about Martin Carter, the book’s main character. Here’s what Miriam says about Martin: “Probably every reader has met a Martin at some time in their lives. Did they worry aboutBookArrival3 him? Did they wonder how he came to be like that? Or did they just laugh and move on?” Intriguing.

I have a confession to make. Miriam is also my editor, so I am looking forward to reading her book.

Here, I will let her tell you about Martin Carter.

Who is your character?

He’s called Martin Carter. He comes from London, lives by the sea in Bournemouth and works there as a computer programmer. This is 1977. Nowadays, he’d be called a software engineer.

What does he/she look like?

He looks normal – short brown hair, blue eyes, average height. His clothes look a bit geeky sometimes, or maybe it’s just the way he wears them. But still, he gets mistaken for normal. Until he opens his mouth.

What is your character’s back story?

What stands out in Martin’s childhood is bullying. He was the one all the children loved to make fun of. The adults in his life provided no support whatsoever. The teachers believed children had to solve their problems on their own. His parents were too wrapped up in themselves to be able to help in any way.

What is your character’s role in your novel?

Martin is the main character. His whole life is laid bare in the novel – not as a series of episodes, but rather via two main events, decades apart, that elegantly divide the novel into two parts. In the first part, Martin is sent to Japan. In the second part… you’ll have to read the novel to find out.

Why should readers care about this character?

Probably every reader has met a Martin at some time in their lives. Did they worry about him? Did they wonder how he came to be like that? Or did they just laugh and move on? Many of the characters in the novel choose the last of those options, but fortunately not all of them do. Even those who make the effort struggle to make him out. But readers have the advantage of being able to delve deeper inside his head and emerge with a better understanding and possibly empathy.

Give a brief excerpt featuring your character.

In this excerpt, Martin has just paid a visit to Kevin, who’s in hospital. Kevin was all set to go to Japan when he broke his leg. That’s why Martin’s going instead.

Martin retraced his steps to the hospital entrance, an easy task when you simply had to follow the EXIT signs. On the way, he paused at a flower shop. Inside, a man was looking around at the flowers, some in pots, others in bunches. A woman was talking to another, presumably the assistant. A pink rose leaned towards Martin from the other side of the glass, and seemed to be smiling. If the rose were a person, Martin thought, it would have tried to start a conversation with him and given up.

Martin studied the smile. Was it kind or leering? He couldn’t tell. With people he could; they were much more transparent. Often Martin was sure he knew exactly what they were thinking simply by watching their faces. Mostly, they were thinking something uncomplimentary about him.

Martin hadn’t noticed the flower shop on his way in. He’d been concentrating on finding the way to Kevin’s ward in orthopaedics. Following the signs along several corridors. Trying to look as if he knew where he was going so that no one would ask if he needed help. Turning on his heel when he reached a dead end and trying again. Once in the ward, looking carefully at each face he passed until he found the one he recognised, even at that unusual angle.

Should he have bought flowers for Kevin? He wasn’t sure, but he thought that might be something normal people did. Never mind. It would have been too normal an action for him. Kevin wouldn’t have expected it. He was probably surprised that Martin turned up at all, and he wouldn’t have gone if John hadn’t suggested it. Martin had considered making the excuse that he’d only just got back from the passport office and tomorrow he’d be busy packing, but in the end the visit went well and he was glad he’d made the effort.

A man standing in the doorway of the flower shop addressed Martin. “Excuse me, can I help you choose some flowers for a patient? We have some lovely, fresh chrysanthemums. Or our daffodils would make a fine present. Would you like to take a look?”

How dare he assume I want to buy his flowers, was Martin’s immediate thought. Just because I’m looking doesn’t mean I want to buy anything. I wasn’t even inside his stupid shop.

“No!” Even Martin was surprised at the volume of the word that came out of his mouth. The vendor was clearly taken aback. Martin turned and marched past him towards the exit. Serves him right, he thought, although he was beginning to wonder whether the flower-seller really deserved that response. He’d been annoyed at being disturbed from his reveries, and had directed his anger at the man who was really only doing his job. Never mind. That was the advantage of interacting with strangers. You didn’t have to see them again and know they remembered a previous embarrassing incident.

A brief synopsis

Convinced that his imperfect, solitary existence is the best it will ever be, Martin unexpectedly finds himself being sent to represent his company in Japan. His colleagues think it’s a joke; his bosses are certain he will fail. What does Martin think? He simply does what he’s told. That’s how he’s survived up to now – by hiding his feelings.

Amazingly, in the land of strange rituals, sweet and juicy apples, and too much saké, Martin flourishes and achieves the impossible. But that’s only the beginning. Keeping up the momentum for change proves futile. So, too, is a return to what he had before. Is there a way forward, or should he put an end to the search now?

Gradually, as you’ll see when Martin looks back from near the end of his journey, life improves. There’s even a woman, Fiona, who brings her own baggage to the relationship, but brightens Martin’s days. And just when you think there can be no more surprises, another one pops up.

Throughout his life, people have laughed at ‘weirdo’ Martin; and you, as you read, will have plenty of opportunity to laugh, too. Go ahead, laugh away, but you’ll find that there’s also a serious side to all this…

Miriam Drori on social media

Miriam Drori can be found on Facebook, Twitter, GoodreadsPinterest, Instagram, Wattpad and on her website/blog and social anxiety blog

Amazon page: Author.to/MiriamDroriAtAmazon

Cultivating a Fuji: mybook.to/cultivatingafuji

Social Anxiety Revealed: myBook.to/socialanxietyrevealed

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6Ws, Author Interview, Crooked Cat Books

6Ws with Alice Castle

Alice Castle is the next author to be featured in this 6Ws series. Besides being fellow Crooked Cat Books authors, Alice and I share a professional background — journalism. Now she writes the London Murder Mysteries series, which is on the cozy side. After all her sleuth is a single mum.

Homicide in Herne Hill, the next, has an Oct. 3 release day. Scroll down to get a Outlook-cwkzoymtsynopsis.

Here are her responses to my 6Ws — who, what, when, where, how, and why. (How does end with a W.)

Who is author Alice Castle?

I’m a former national newspaper journalist, I’ve worked on various papers including The Times, The Daily Telegraph and The Daily Express. I’m now an editor for various publishers as well as a novelist.

What does she write?

I write cozy crime whodunits. My London Murder Mystery series features a single mum amateur sleuth, Beth Haldane. Beth is a thirty-something widow with a ten-year-old son, Ben, and a haughty black and white cat, Magpie.

When does she write?

I write in the mornings, as early as possible. Though I would by no means describe myself as a morning person, I still find this is the time when the ideas flow best. And it’s the quietest time in our busy house.

How does she write?

I write on my beloved Mac laptop, for as long as I can, but always writing at least a thousand words a day – twice as many as Graham Greene! I drink an awful lot of tea while I’m at it.

Where does she write?

At the moment, I write in my bedroom as various children are home from uni or school, and it’s too noisy and busy elsewhere. Usually, I write in the kitchen, with at least one of our two cats trying to drape itself across my keyboard.

Why does she write?

Because I have to. If I don’t have a novel on the go, I find myself writing incredibly long emails.

Give readers a brief description of your new book plus when it is available to buy and where, plus the publisher.

My new book, coming out on Oct. 3, is Homicide in Herne Hill, published by Crooked Cat. Beth Haldane, SE21’s premier – and only – single mum amateur sleuth, is really pleased to find a new friend at the school gates, in the shape of irrepressibly bouncy Nina. As well as a way with words, Nina has a puzzle she wants Beth to solve, centred on the solicitor’s office where she works in Herne Hill.

But as the mystery thickens, threatening to drag in not just Nina and her boss but the yummy mummies of Dulwich, too, Beth is about to find out just how far some people will go to keep up appearances. The fourth book in the London Murder Mystery series, this is Beth’s toughest case yet.

Other works:

London Murder Mystery series: Death in Dulwich, The Girl in the Gallery, Calamity in Camberwell.

Chicklit: Hot Chocolate, also published in German as Schokoherz.

Alice Castle on social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DDsDiary

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/alice.castle.355

Websites: https://www.alicecastleauthor.comhttps://www.dulwichdivorcee.com

Instagram:https://www.instagram.com/alice_castle__/

Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6446735.Alice_Castle

 

 

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Author Interview, Crooked Cat Books, New release

Opening Scene: Hunter’s Revenge

Val Penny is the next author to be featured in my Opening Scene series, specifically for her next mystery set in Scotland, Hunter’s Revenge. Here’s how she pitches the book, the second in her Hunter series: “Hunter by name – Hunter by Hunter's Revenge Covernature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until his friend’s death is revenged.”

I read the first in this series and was hooked. But then again, I am a huge fan of mysteries set in the UK. She is also a fellow author at Crooked Cat Books.

Hunter’s Revenge has a Sept. 9 release.

Here are the links to buy Hunter’s Chase and Hunter’s Revenge: myBook.to/HuntersChase and myBook.to/HuntersRevenge. 

So how does Hunter’s Revenge begin? Here’s a description from Val.

 DI Hunter Wilson is called to the scene of a murder. He is shocked to find the victim is his friend and colleague, George Reinbold. Who would want to harm the quiet, old man? Why was a book worth £23,000 delivered to him that morning? Why is the security in George’s home so intense? Hunter must investigate his friend’s past as well as the present to identify the killer and identify George’s killer.

Hunter also finds a new supply of cocaine from Peru flooding HMP Edinburgh and the city. The courier leads Hunter to the criminal gang, but Hunter requires the help of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable, Sir Peter Myerscough and local gangster Ian Thomson to make his case. Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this taught crime thriller.

Here is an excerpt from the prologue of Hunter’s RevengeHunter's Revenge Banner

The last thing Georg did on his eighteenth birthday was kill a man.

He really hadn’t meant to kill the Stasi officer in front of him, but it was him or Georg – and Georg did not want to die. It was the first time he’d seen a corpse. The streets were slick with ice. The man lost his balance and cracked his head on the pavement. Georg stared down at the body: there was blood and brains all over the pavement. He looked into the officer’s eyes. They stared blindly to heaven, but Georg knew there wasn’t a Stasi officer on earth who was going there. He looked away from death and towards his friends in horror, but when they saw what had happened, they scattered. Georg picked up the officer’s gun and began to run.

More Stasi officers appeared as the boys fled.

Georg was out of breath when he got home.

“What’s the rush, son?” his father asked.

“Shit, Dad! It’s bad.”

“You’re drunk! No language in this house, boy,” said his grandmother.

“Dad, the boys and me were leaving the bar to come home and we saw a Stasi officer”

“So?”

“We were laughing and having fun.”

“And?”

“For a laugh I knocked his hat off.”

“Idiot! You know Stasi have no sense of humour. Ever. So what next?”

“He pulled his gun and told us to stand silently against the wall.”

“And you apologised and complied, I hope.”

“I panicked and punched him. He slipped on the ice and fell over. He hit his head on the ground, and when I checked him, he wasn’t breathing. He was dead. I just took his gun and ran.”

The silence in the room was deafening.

“You did what? You fucking idiot! Did you really punch a Stasi officer? Are you mad? You know we don’t even have to openly engage in resistance to draw the attention of the Stasi and incur its retribution. Just failing to conform with mainstream society can be enough. Shit! I sired a fool.” Georg’s father’s red face reflected his rage.

“And now you are here,” his grandmother added. “You ran home, leading them straight to us. We will all die now. Thank you.”

“What is all the noise?” Georg’s mother came through from the kitchen, drying her hands on her apron. His twin sister Ingrid and younger brother Wilhelm followed her. They looked bewildered. Their father rarely raised his voice, especially not to Georg.

As his father explained the issues, Georg’s mother burst into tears.

“They will kill him,” she whispered. 

About Val Penny:

Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland. She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats. She has a law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University.

She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer. However she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store. Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.

Her crime novels, Hunter’s Chase and Hunter’s Revenge are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books. The third book in the series, Hunter’s Force, follows shortly.

Val Penny on social media:

www.authorvalpenny.com

www.facebook.com/valerie.penny.739

www.facebook.com/groups/296295777444303

twitter.com/valeriepenny

 

 

 

 

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Book Sale, Crooked Cat Books, Kindle

Such a Deal: 99 Cents for a Really Good Book

Who loves a bargain? I sure as heck do, especially when it comes to books. Readers who use Kindle have three days — July 24-26 — to buy themselves some great books from Crooked Cat Books’ authors for 99 cents. What could you buy these days for that amount of money?

Crooked Cat Books is my publisher. So, yes, you can buy my first mystery, Chasing the Case for 99 cents. And just in time because the second in the Isabel Long Mystery Series, Redneck’s Revenge, will be out very soon. Chasing the Case cover copyHere’s the link: http://mybook.to/chasingthecase

But I’m not going to be selfish about this promotion because Crooked Cat has gathered together a pride of great authors writing in several genres: mystery in all of its ramifications; romance; historical; fantasy; and non-fiction.

It’s an easy way to load up your Kindle without breaking the bank and to try out new authors.

When I first signed on with Crooked Cat Books in November, I used its winter sale to stock up on books and to get a feel for what my fellow authors write. By the way, they are an international group, including the UK, other parts of Europe, Australia, Canada, and the U.S.

That’s how I got to know: Katharine Johnson, the author of three books including her latest The Secret; Lorcan Kavanagh, who wrote the dark thriller, Texas Dakota; and Nancy Jardine’s mystery Topaz Eyes. Then there was Olga Swan’s memoir Pensioners in Paradis, and Sue Barnard’s intriguing Never on Saturday. Others include Alice Castle’s London Murder Mysteries, Anne-Marie Ormsby’s dark fantasy Purgatory Hotel and Isabella May’s Oh! What a Pavlova and The Cocktail Bar.

I found I was in very good company.

Let me make some other recommendations.IMG_5824

History buff? Try John Jackson’s Heart of Stoneand with a ghostly twist, Jennifer C. Wilson’s Kindred Spirits Series, and Kate Braitwaite’s The Road to Newgate. Romance your thing? Lizzie Chantree, Sue Roebuck, Carre-Anne Schless, Jess B. Moore, Miriam Drori, Awen Thornber, and Kate Armitage have books for you.

For fantasy, check out Heidi Catherine’s Soulweaver Series. An Australian author, she explores the concept that we fall in love with the same people life after life. Yup, she makes me believe in love everlasting.

Crooked Cat has a strong collection of thriller fiction including those written by J.V. Baptie, Maisie Porter, Alex Macbeth, Daralyse Lyons, Seamus Heffernan, Columbkill Noonan, and C.J. Sutton. Also look for Val Penny’s Hunter’s Chase, the first in the Edinburgh Crime Mysteries. Then there are Angela Wren’s books set in France.

I could go on and on, but this gives you an idea of the variety available.

So this is how you do it. Starting Tuesday, June 24, go to Amazon’s book session and plug in Crooked Cat Books to search. You might get a few books that have cat in the title but don’t be fooled. The right books will cost 99 cents in the U.S. or 99 p if you are in the UK.

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