Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A Plot to Play With by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

My own fairytale background

I've been tagged by fellow writer and Novelista, Louise Marley, to participate in The Next Big Thing. 

So deep breath, here goes ...

What is the title of your book?

Once Upon A Winter. You can read all about the launch in the previous post, but this is more about the nitty-gritty details of why I wrote it.

Where did the idea come from for the book?
It was a Christmas present last year from Santa. No, seriously - it was. Sort of. I'd been dabbling with children's books, which had magical elements to them, but I'd been hankering to return to adult romances again, which I used to write years ago for Hodder. Could I marry the two together somehow? I wasn't sure, but faffing around on Christmas Eve because one of my children decided to wake up at midnight (which meant Santa couldn't visit till said child was asleep again), an idea floated into my head which then proceeded to keep me awake till the wee hours. Long after Santa had been and gone.

What genre does your book fall under?
I have no idea. It's NOT a Christmas book, in case anyone was wondering. Is chicklit-fantasy-reality-fairytale a genre? One minute my heroine is doing the school-run and sewing cushions for the PTA, the next she's discovering that the husband who deserted her and her children might belong more to a fictional world than the real one. The majority of the action takes place in a picturesque Welsh village 'hidden among the hills', which hopefully lends it a slightly fairytale-like quality.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
Ah *rubs hands here* everyone has their own images in their heads when they read a book, don't they? But if I had the chance to cast the movie, I would willingly audition Richard Armitage for the character of Silas. (Not with all the Hobbit make-up on, though. Remember, John Thornton, North and South *sighs dreamily*.) 
Dan Stevens (Matthew, of Downton Abbey fame) could be Daniel. 
And if Zooey Deschanel (Elf and New Girl) could pull off a convincing British accent without sounding too posh or acting too goofy and zany, she could play Nell.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
Well, I started in earnest in January and finished it literally the day my three children broke up for the school summer holidays in July (phew). I wanted to put it to one side so that I could edit it with fresh eyes in the autumn.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

I suppose if you like your characters firmly grounded in reality, then this book isn't for you; which I know is more 'putting off' than 'piquing', but I'm simply trying to be honest. It's not a dark paranormal novel, either, and if anyone likes vampires, then there aren't any to be found here. Sorry! 
As I said in an earlier post, if you like Once Upon A Time, Enchanted and Stardust, then you have similar tastes to me, and might enjoy this book. I also love Tangled, such a great romance, even if it is an animated movie; I don't care. My daughter and I watch it over and over again. And have you ever seen the film Penelope? If you have, I suppose that's the kind of world I'm trying to create. Reality - but not quite. Contemporary - but slightly timeless. 

Oh, I do go on, don't I? Apologies. I'll sign off by saying, if you do decide to read Once Upon A Winter (the direct link is under the cover image above), then thank you very much, and I hope you enjoy it. Comments and reviews are always welcome, too. I'd love to hear from you.

Very best wishes,

Valerie-Anne x

The next author I’ve tagged to tell you about her new book is another fellow Novelista - the bestselling and deservedly popular Anne Bennett.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Lunch and A Launch! by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

The Teapot Cafe
The Novelistas had their Christmas lunch in early December, always a festive and fun event, with a little silliness thrown in, as if we've all been hitting the vino rather than the tap water.

It was a huge shame that due to illness/Dog's illness Juliet Greenwood and Trisha Ashley were unable to attend. It was also a shame that our usual lovely venue had been hit by the terrible flooding in St Asaph, so we had to find somewhere new at short notice. (Thank-you, Erika, for sorting this out so quickly and efficiently, especially at this time of year, and thanks also to all the staff who took care of us.)

I have sparkly-jumper envy, but I was too cold to dress up!!

Ten of us met at the Teapot Cafe, and as well as our usual Christmas fun and games it was the launch of my latest book on Kindle - Once Upon A Winter. I really wanted to share my gratitude, and some chocolates, with my ever-supportive fellow Novelistas, because without them I'm not sure I would have ever got to this point. I also wanted to thank the Amazon Kindle bestselling author, and good friend, Louise Marley (shown on the right here with me) for all her invaluable help and advice.

Warming up with coffee

It was a bitterly cold day, which I suppose fitted in perfectly with the book title, so I shouldn't complain. There was a scramble to bagsy the chairs next to the radiator, but we soon felt brave enough to start peeling off the layers (coats, scarfs, gloves, hats etc. - before you get any strange ideas). Out came the Christmas crackers and some portable decorations kindly provided by Cheryl.
Our own festive palm tree . .. . um . . .
teeny weeny wine
We soon got all chatty and loud and before long we were snapping crackers and tucking into our meals. I wasn't driving, so had a little bottle of wine to celebrate the launch, bearing in mind I had to look lively and alert for the school run later.

Anne Bennett & Ruth France
photo op - catch Erika looking my way!
We discussed the progress of our Advent story, which you can read here on this blog under 'Christmas Countdown'. It's a joint venture by a few of us to see if we could write a coherent tale without any structured plot and with lots of little cliffhangers along the way. Soooo not as easy as I'd thought! But it's proving fun, and it's honing my editorial skills as I try to make it flow with each daily post. (I was given permission to chop or add, as and when required.)

goodies galore *rubs hands with glee*

It's become a tradition for the Novelistas to have a Christmas raffle, too, where we each bring a gift. So no one goes home empty-handed. I was lucky enough to nab a gorgeous scarf and some chocs (thank you, Ruth).

All in all I went home a happy girl. And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have already bought Once Upon A Winter. I hope you enjoy it. It's not a Christmas book, and it's not about vampires. Or werewolves. Or angels. Or ghosts. But if, like me, you enjoy TV programmes like Once Upon A Time and films like Stardust and Enchanted, then it might be right up your street.

Quick link, direct to the book:

teeny weeny tree to go with the teeny weeny wine

Next week I'll finally be blogging on The Next Big Thing, after being tagged by Louise (see post below). I'm reading 'Breathless' at the moment, and finding it hard to put down, so I'll blame Louise if my kids go hungry and gift-less this year ;-)

Until next time - best wishes and lots of love,

Valerie-Anne x

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

The Next Big Thing by Louise Marley

I've been tagged by fellow writer Juliet Greenwood to participate in The Next Big Thing, where authors tell you all about their next book. So here goes.

What is the title of your book?

My new book is called Breathless. The heroine is Lainey Jennings, a diving instructor who is obsessed with finding a long-lost wreck called the Mary Eliza.

You can find the book on Amazon:

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Lots of different ideas collided to inspire me to write this book. The history of the Mary Eliza was loosely based on a real life ship called the Swan, which sank off the Isle of Mull in 1653. The idea of a warship sinking with its looted cargo came from the true story of the siege of Dundee in 1651. Although I expect my interest in wrecks really began with the raising of the Mary Rose, a Tudor warship which sank in 1545. As a child I remember watching on TV as her hull was finally brought to the surface after 437 years on the seabed.

I’m also fascinated by family history, and the way stories can become garbled as they are passed down through the generations. My grandfather used to love telling me tales about our seafaring ancestors, who had lived in the same Hampshire village for more than four hundred years. This gave me the idea for the character of Joseph Halfpenny, who is convinced he is descended from a notorious smuggler - even though he can’t actually prove it! Running alongside Lainey’s story I have included extracts from a journal written in 1695, which tells the story of this smuggler.
What genre does your book fall under?

My story is a blend of murder mystery and romantic comedy.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Lainey is described as being small, athletic and with short black hair. If I were to choose an actress to play her, it would probably be Ginnifer Goodwin, who plays Snow White in Once Upon A Time.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I usually take a year to write a book.

What else about your book might pique the reader's interest?

Aren’t smugglers and shipwrecks enough? I’m also fascinated by celebrity culture and my books often have a character who is a celebrity. In this book it’s Zac Nelson, a marine archeologist and TV presenter, who is famous for his documentary series on shipwrecks.

The next author I’ve tagged to tell you about her new book is my fellow Novelista, Valerie-Anne Baglietto.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

My Slutty* Writing Day by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

*I use 'slutty' in the sense that I haven't completely emptied the dishwasher yet or put the washing machine on. But I have got dressed. This is my comfiest uniform (right), and yes they're jogging pants. One of the things I love about being a writer is the fact I haven't got to slap on make-up, comb my frizz or squeeze into a power suit. Sometimes (because I'm so naughty) I'm still slopping around in my PJs at midday, in which case, I won't answer the door unless it's the postman with an important delivery, or my neighbour. If it's the latter, I feign illness - such as a migraine, or I wheeze a little and blame it on my asthma. She's very understanding.

I am very, VERY lucky that Granddad whisks my younger two off to school in the morning, and my eldest is old enough to walk to high school. It means you can sometimes find me jumping on to the PC the minute they're all out of the door, coffee mug to hand (my favourite mug, left).

I try to take regular breaks, which might involve jumping on to the exercise bike for five minutes, feeding the guinea pigs, finally putting the washing machine on or making another cup of tea/coffee. Around two o'clock or later I usually remember that I haven't had lunch yet. Needing to eat can be very inconvenient for a writer.

There are two 'workstations' in my house. The messy one downstairs where I can keep an eye on the kids and their homework, or the more calming one upstairs in the room that used to be my study but is now my eldest son's hangout.

I use it when he's out or at school, and he can't protest because I bought all the chunky, cottagey furniture with my second PLR cheque about ten years ago. He has to share the space with my novels - the ones with my name on them! - because the only other shelves are in the conservatory, and book spines get bleached by the sun out there. The rows of books hovering above the laptop also remind me that I can write. Or at least I could, before motherhood, post-natal depression and writer's block did strange things to my brain.

I've been experimenting with different genres and styles for the last few years. At the moment I'm working on contemporary fairytales. Not retellings or reversionings or anything like that, but the idea that normal, modern day people might find themselves caught up in something that ought only to happen in the world of fiction. Magical realism maybe? No vampires, werewolves or shapeshifters, though. Or angels. So I'm not sure if paranormal is the right word for it, either. Anyway, it's proving hard work, but lots of fun. We shall see where it leads. At the moment, I'm being steered towards the kettle, so I'm going to sign off and take a caffeine break.

love Valerie-Anne x
UPDATE: Since writing this post back in November, my book ONCE UPON A WINTER ( has been released, and has hit #2 in the Amazon Fairy Tale chart and #2 in Myths & Fairy Tales (so all that coffee paid off). I am now working on a novella, due out this summer.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

More Champagne Anyone? by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

And so here we are again . . .   
Champagne on ice, and wasabi-flavoured KitKat all the way from Japan

Louise Marley & Trisha Ashley
You might be forgiven for thinking all the Novelistas do all day is lounge around drinking champagne and consuming cake and exotic chocolates. We had yet another reason to celebrate at our last meeting in early October (which was also the official blog launch), as we toasted the success of our bestselling Trisha Ashley, racking up over half-a-million sales of her novels.
Surely, all the wonderful achievements the Novelistas have come together recently to drink bubbly over have clearly been due to the fact that we are a lazy bunch who just drape ourselves decoratively on our chaise longues dreaming up plotlines and updating our FB or Twitter pages to keep in touch with our adoring fans.

Yeah. Right.

Ladies who launch. And lunch.
Behind the chocolate-cake-loving fa├žade hides the years of hard slog, dedication and downright looniness that binds all the Novelistas together, and hopefully always will. We all know what it's like to hit rock bottom, just as we know the caffeine-induced highs* when a story is going so well it's practically writing itself and our fingers are skimming over the keyboard like a professional surfer hitting the waves off a Cornish beach.
Erika Woods and Cheryl Lang,
trying to hide from the camera behind
June Francis' latest book for Mills & Boon
It's only fitting that when we all get together we share our trials and tribulations, but ultimately we take the greatest pleasure from being in the company of like-minded people and taking home the warm and fuzzy feelings we somehow always manage to generate when we're together.

Anne Bennett, temporarily incapable of feeding herself

So, yes, we have fun at our lunches.
Damn right we do.
We deserve it. Collectively and as individuals.

Stay away from the light Trisha!
(Trisha, Louise, Johanna Grassick and June Francis)
How many uses can you find for an empty chocolate box?

Check back soon, when we might have something more serious and literary on our blog.

Or maybe not . . .

Love Valerie-Anne ;-)

*Disclaimer - not all the Novelistas are coffee addicts.

Erika wouldn't let me sneak off without modelling The Hat

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Echo of Summer

Hello, I'm Cheryl Lang.I love writing and I'm an author in waiting! I particularly enjoy using anywhere hot as a background to the story, it gives an added dimension for the characters to cope with as well as the problems they encounter.(Who am I kidding? I just love the contrasts a tropical setting allows) I'm currently writing a novel set in Tuscany among fields of cheerful sunflowers and   hillsides of lavender. The necessary research often diverts me along some interesting routes and I tend to keep a fair bit of information as it might prove useful later on.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Hello from Beth Francis

Hi I'm Beth Francis. I'm currently working on a pocket novel set during a glorious hot summer on Anglesey. Well I do write fiction!
The views of Snowdonia from my window are obscured by torrential rain so I'm having to raid my memories of summers past. Now when was it we had that long drought? 1978?

Monday, 24 September 2012

Hello from Anne Bennett

 My name now is Anne Bennett but I was born Anne Marie Flanagan for both my parents came from the North of Ireland and were staunch Roman Catholics.  I was born and bred a Brummie but taught always to be proud of my Irish roots and so I grew up with a foot in both camps as it were and this was brought into play when I was began writing seriously.

I based my books in the main in areas I knew in Birmingham, the Inner Ring where I spent my first seven years, Aston, Pype Hayes the massive estate we were moved to under slum clearance in 1956 and Erdington and districts around there.  I always link Ireland in some way and this is usually the North which I know better than the South as we have relatives there and we spent all our holidays there as I was growing up and still go back now.  The book "Danny Boy" was different in that, as I wrote about the uprising in 1916, I had to choose a village closer to Dublin to base my family  and I chose Blessington  in County Wicklow.  I spent a few days there talking to people particularly the Blessington Local and Family History Society who had helpfully  written a book, called "Blessington Now and Then" which was an immense help to me.

My latest book "Far From Home"  tells the tale of Kate Munroe, driven from her home in Donegal because she was in love with a man forbidden to her and she settles in Stockland Green an area adjoining Erdington because she has friends there.  Her sister Sally joins her three years later and together with Kate's friend, Susie, encourage Kate to go out with David Burton who is besotted with her.  Eventually, she feels the same and they have a hasty marriage because war clouds are gathering and David wants to join the Air Force.  When war is declared Kate and her sister and Susie volunteer to become ARP Wardens.  David is posted as missing after the Fall of Singapore and Kate is overwhelmed with grief and in the middle of this, as a result of her ARP work, she discovers something that rocks her whole world as she realises that things are not what they seem and that she has been lied to all her life.

Thursday, 20 September 2012


Hi Everyone,

My name is Anne Bennett now  although it used to be Anne- Marie Flanagan and there are no prizes for guessing where my parents came from.  So though I was a Brummie born and bred in Birmingham,  I was brought up to treasure my roots and my parents were also staunch Roman Catholic.  Because of this I always felt that I had a foot in both camps as it were and when an accident put paid to my teaching career and I began to write in earnest, though I had been scribbling for years, that is what I wrote about.  I spent the first seven years of my life in a back to back house very near the city centre. We were moved in 1956 to a council house in a massive estate called Pype Hayes Estate to the north of the city and quite near  Fort Dunlop where my father worked.

So the books I write are mainly based either in the inner ring of Birmingham or in Pype Hayes or near by Erdington or Aston which I also knew quite well and the Irish link is usually in the North where my parents came from and where out school holidays were spent.  "Far From Home" which was out in January  was based in Stockland Green which runs alongside Erdington and the area my husband grew up in.  Stockland Green has changed a great deal, but  the areas I grew up in and Aston bear no resemblance to the times I write about and so I must research it as thoroughly as I possibly can to get it right.  I am asked many a time why I write about the war years and the reason is because I am fascinated by the way ordinary people coped with six years of war when their lives were often turned upside down and they often also had the worry of loved ones away fighting

In "Far From Home", the elders sister of a Donegal family, Kate Munroe is almost forced to leave home for she falls desperately in love with a man forbidden to her and she settled in Stockland Green because she had friends there..  When her sister, Sally joins her three years later she is surprised to find Kate still grieving for her lost love, but urged by Sally and her friend Susie Mason she agrees to date David Burton and eventually falls in love with him. But war clouds are gathering and they are married hastily before David joins the Royal Air Force.   Kate and Sally volunteer for work as ARP Wardens and when David is posted missing Kate thinks she will never be able to cope with the loss of him .  And then, through her ARP work, she discovers something that rocks her whole world for she realises nothing is as it seems and she has been lied to all her life.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

September Celebrations by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

The Novelistas seem to find any excuse to celebrate these days.  We're becoming dangerously accustomed to champagne and homemade cakes. But it's a tribute to our hard-working, determined and talented writers that our excuses are, on the whole, rather valid.

This month we were toasting the success on Kindle of Louise Marley's e-books. Having sold nearly sixty-thousand to date, she's spent weeks in the romantic suspense charts. (She also gets embarrassed rather easily, and tries to hide in photos.)

Juliet Greenwood has received much acclaim for her first novel with Honno Press, 'Eden's Garden', a moving, atmospheric, time-slip story. But not content with the beautiful paperback version, it was released on Kindle and soared into the historical fiction charts. To celebrate its success she baked a luscious chocolate cake. The Novelistas had to stoically resign themselves to expanding their waistlines and quaffing yet more champagne. *Sigh*

Although we were down to nine this month, we didn't let that stop us. We never do. Funny that. But we always miss the members who can't be with us. Hopefully we'll have a full house next month, when we'll be celebrating . . . um . . . Halloween or something.

Entranced by the cake-cutting ceremony

Bye for now!
Love the NW Novelistas x

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Hello from Louise Marley

Hello, I’m Louise Marley. I write novels (chick-lit mixed with crime) and short stories. I’m inspired by old houses and loud music, so it’s lucky I live in a very rural area with lots of history and no one to complain about the music apart from a few sheep.
When I’m working on a new book I like to take lots of photographs of possible settings and then create a virtual mood board to inspire me. My book Why Do Fools Fall In Love is set during the making of a costume drama in Bath. As part of my research I watched a lot of filming and the photo below was taken during the making of A Respectable Trade.
Although some people might call this procrastination ...

Friday, 7 September 2012

Cause to Celebrate

I discovered from an article in the Bookseller today that I have now sold over half a million paperback copies of my novels - over six hundred thousand, in fact - and have been too excited to stop talking about it since!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Hello from Trisha!

Hi everyone, I think I have made it - though it isn't like me to be late to the party!
     Here's a totally random picture - the cake I made from Wedding Tiers for the book launch a couple of years back.

Look forward to all your posts,

Trisha Ashley x

Hello from Juliet

Hello! I'm Juliet Greenwood, author of the time-slip 'Eden's Garden'. 

This is me at the doorway to Gwydir Castle, near Betws-y-Coed, researching my next book amongst the peacocks in the grounds.

I have a definite obsession with gardens, large, or small ....

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Hello!  This is me - Annie Burrows - at the last meeting of the Novelistas I attended.  On that occasion we celebrated the launch of my July release for Harlequin Mills & Boon, "An Escapade and an Engagement".  And everyone got a fan in their goody bag, as the story is set in Regency England.
Gosh - I've always wanted a fan!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Summer by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

Summer may be slipping away from us, but we can still cherish the memories. Here's a little glimpse of August in Devon to inspire you on a dreary day.

Welcome to Our Blog by Valerie-Anne Baglietto

Welcome to our new blog! We are still finding our feet, but hope to post properly in the next few days. Please do check back soon.

With love from the NW Novelistas x