Monday, October 31, 2022

Check out Carolyn Hughes' fabulous novel — Squire's Hazard #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @writingcalliope @cathiedunn

Squire’s Hazard

The Meonbridge Chronicles

by Carolyn Hughes

Publication Date: October 10th, 2022
Series: The Meonbridge Chronicles
Publisher: Riverdown Books
Pages: 360
Genre: Historical Fiction

How do you overcome the loathing, lust and bitterness threatening you and your family’s honour?

It’s 1363, and in Steyning Castle, Sussex, Dickon de Bohun is enjoying life as a squire in the household of Earl Raoul de Foug猫re. Or he would be, if it weren’t for Edwin de Courtenay, who’s making his life a misery with his bullying, threatening to expose the truth about Dickon’s birth.

At home in Meonbridge for Christmas, Dickon notices how grown-up his childhood playmate, Libby Fletcher, has become since he last saw her and feels the stirrings of desire. Libby, seeing how different he is too, falls instantly in love. But as a servant to Dickon’s grandmother, Lady Margaret de Bohun, she could never be his wife.

Margery Tyler, Libby’s aunt, meeting her niece by chance, learns of her passion for young Dickon. Their conversation rekindles Margery’s long-held rancour against the de Bohuns, whom she blames for all the ills that befell her family, including her own servitude. For years she’s hidden her hunger for retribution, but she can no longer keep her hostility in check.

As the future Lord of Meonbridge, Dickon knows he must rise above de Courtenay’s loathing and intimidation, and get the better of him. And, surely, he must master his lust for Libby, so his own mother’s shocking history is not repeated? Of Margery’s bitterness, however, he has yet to learn…

Beset by the hazards these powerful and dangerous emotions bring, can young Dickon summon up the courage and resolve to overcome them?

Secrets, hatred and betrayal, but also love and courage – Squire’s Hazard, the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE.

This title is available on #KindleUnlimited.

How do you plot a series without losing your threads?

This is an interesting topic and it has made me look at the structure of my series in a way I don’t think I’ve really done before. When I wrote Fortune’s Wheel, I didn’t know it would be a series. So, I didn’t “plot” the series from the beginning. But, having finished Fortune’s Wheel, I realised I wanted to write more about the folk of Meonbridge, so I wrote A Woman’s Lot. Even then I wasn’t thinking of it as a series, but by the time I wrote book 3, De Bohun’s Destiny, I knew there would be more. It’s comparatively recently that I’ve decided there will be SEVEN Meonbridge Chronicles, plus one or two spin-offs. (I’ve also already written three novellas, which are prequels to Book 1, and I am currently writing a “companion novel” that follows on from Book 4. There might be others….) So, my “planning” of the series has been somewhat back-to-front, with no clear strategy in mind. Having said that, I did, right from the start, write detailed descriptions of my main characters, and I maintain a chart with all their ages, which has proved invaluable in keeping track of them all. I have developed an entirely fictional map of Meonbridge, very roughly based on a real village in the Meon Valley, in Hampshire, to help me find my way around the place! I do also have outlines and summaries of each of the previous books. Luckily, I’ve never even thought of throwing them away once the book was published, so I have them all to refer to should I need to.

As for keeping the threads together within the story I’m actually writing. I update the character descriptions as necessary to reflect the development of the characters – aging, life events, change in ambition or outlook. I write an outline of the story, which mostly consists of major plot points (chapters), and may include scenes and sometimes even snippets of dialogue, if they happen to have popped into my head. I maintain a chart in which I record the chapters, a brief outline of their scenes, timeline, POV characters. I colour-code by character name so that I can easily see the balance of chapters, so that the threads weave together and characters carry an appropriate quantity of story given their role.

None of this is set in stone. Once I’ve done as much outlining/plotting as seems necessary, I embark on drafting, and the outline acts as a guide to the story’s development, but not a strict agenda. I rewrite the outline as I go. And I often do need to. Later books inevitably refer to events in earlier books, partly as a way of providing back story, either to remind readers of earlier events, or to help readers new to the series not be entirely lost. But mostly because, as in real life, earlier life events do sometimes have a way of coming back to haunt, or at least to influence, our present lives.

In Squire’s Hazard, it is the manner of the eponymous squire Dickon’s birth that comes back to haunt him. That was part of the story of Book 1, Fortune’s Wheel. What happened in Book 3, De Bohun’s Destiny, is a factor too in his present troubles. A secondary thread in Squire’s Hazard involves Margery, a woman for whom the events of the past are a source of terrible rancour that will eventually add to Dickon’s present problems. As I was writing Squire’s Hazard, I needed to refer often to those earlier books, to ensure I remembered what happened correctly (or, in fact, understood why Margery misremembered events, or put her own spin on things…) 

By now, having written the fifth book, I do know a lot about Meonbridge. I know the village, the community, the backstories of all the principal characters, some in more detail than others, depending on how important they are in carrying the story. The storylines are intended to further the lives of the characters and the community. For each new book, I start from determining which characters will tell the story, and then the storyline continues from earlier stories. This hasn’t been planned but emerges as a result of what has happened before. So, for example, in Book 2, A Woman’s Lot, Emma left Meonbridge, apparently to find a better life for herself and her children. In Book 4, Children’s Fate, we catch up with them again, and the storyline was developed partly to reveal whether her hopes were realised.

So, I do have various tools to help me recall the events of earlier books and keep the series coherent and on track. But in truth I do also simply reread those books, or relevant parts of them, to remind me what happened as I write about them again. 

In principle, the overall idea of the series is to watch how the people of Meonbridge recovered from the Black Death – that’s the main storyline in Book 1 – and then follow different characters’ lives over the ensuing years. Each book is set two or three years after the previous one. Each has its own set of POV characters but they do overlap between books, and some characters have more of a principal role – for example, Margaret and Alice appear in every book, whilst other characters appear more than once but not necessarily as main characters. The number of POV characters has increased with each book. Book 1 has three, book 2, four. Book 3 has 5, plus two “subsidiary” POV characters. Book 4 and 5 both have four main POV plus three “subsidiaries”. It’s a lot to keep track of!

Does the series have an overall structure and arc? Because I’ve not planned it from the beginning, it certainly didn’t. But more recently I think I have shaped an arc for it.

Any series must have ups and downs, where individual characters and/or the life of the whole community come under threat and do or don’t recover. The Meonbridge Chronicles series doesn’t really have a trajectory, apart from the chronological one. All the books have an arc of their own: the stories are essentially standalone, though they all have earlier threads woven through them, and each book does have a conclusion, a rounding off of that storyline. At the end of Squire’s Hazard, I hint at future events. And, although I didn’t know it when I started, I do now know that Dickon is a main thread throughout the series, for he is introduced as a baby in Book 1, is important to the storyline in Book 3, has a major role in Book 5, Squire’s Hazard, and will be essentially the “hero” by Book 7.  Knowing this has come to me relatively recently! I didn’t know how long the series would be or how it would end, but now I do know both. So my “plotting” may have been unconventional but I’m glad that I at last know where I’m going!  

Carolyn Hughes

Carolyn Hughes has lived much of her life in Hampshire. With a first degree in Classics and English, she started working life as a computer programmer, then a very new profession. But it was technical authoring that later proved her vocation, as she wrote and edited material, some fascinating, some dull, for an array of different clients, including banks, an international hotel group and medical instruments manufacturers.

Having written creatively for most of her adult life, it was not until her children flew the nest several years ago that writing historical fiction took centre stage, alongside gaining a Master’s degree in Creative Writing from Portsmouth University and a PhD from the University of Southampton.

Squire’s Hazard is the fifth MEONBRIDGE CHRONICLE, and more stories about the folk of Meonbridge will follow.

You can connect with Carolyn through her website and social media.

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Sunday, October 30, 2022

Exciting Blog Tours and Book Spotlights coming in November 2022

馃崅 Hello again, lovely followers! 馃崅

As the nights draw in earlier and earlier, we’re thrilled to offer you the perfect treat to while away those long, dark hours: books! 

Discover fabulous stories by award-winning and bestselling authors, and get ready for the perfect reads! 馃摎

Just click on the banners to see our exciting Blog Tours and Book Spotlights all through November 2022.

I'll be adding the wonderful Book Spotlights & Guest Posts throughout the month.

Happy reading! 馃槉

Thank you from the Coffee Pot Book Club team! xx

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Blog Tour: The Captain's Woman by Holly Bush

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club on tour with…

The Captain’s Woman

The Thompsons of Locust Street

by Holly Bush

馃専馃専 Cover Reveal Book Blast 馃専馃専

December 1st, 2022

Publication Date: January 10th, 2023
Publisher: Holly Bush Books
Pages: 213
Genre: Historical Romance

Meet the Thompsons of Locust Street, an unconventional family taking Philadelphia high society by storm…
1870. Muireall Thompson takes her duties seriously as the eldest sibling after her parents die on their family’s crossing from Scotland to America in 1854.  Their death made her responsible for her remaining family and left little time for her to grieve her beloved parents. 

But now her brothers and sisters are adults, even the youngest Thompson is nearly ready to face the world on his own. What would she do, she wondered, when she was alone, other than care for an elderly aunt and volunteer at the Sisters of Charity orphanage? Had all the chances for a family of her own, children, a husband, passed her by?
Widower Anthony Marcus, recently Captain Marcus of the Union Army, is a man scrapping the bottom of his dignity and hanging on to his honor by the barest thread. Reduced to doing odd jobs to keep a roof over his dear daughter Ann’s head, he often leaves her with the Sisters of Charity, who run an orphanage nearby, while he is out seeking steady work with a decent salary that will allow him to move from their single room living quarters. 
At the Orphanage the Sisters inform Muireall that Ann’s father was several hours late and that the girl had refused to eat a meal with the other children. Muireall promised to return the child quickly and takes her to her Locust Street home for a hot meal. Anthony Marcus interrupted their family dinner shortly after, panicked that his daughter was with strangers. 

This begins a friendship held together by their own growing respect for one another and the charm of Ann Marcus. But disaster lurks again for the Thompson family just as Muireall and Anthony’s regard for each other has grown into something much more.

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Holly Bush

Holly Bush writes historical romance set in the the late 1800s, in Victorian England, and an occasional Women’s Fiction title. Her books are described as emotional, with heartfelt, sexy romance. 

She makes her home with her husband in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

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Friday, October 28, 2022

Blog Tour: The Flame Tree by Siobhan Daiko

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club on tour with…

The Flame Tree

The Hong Kong Collection

by Siobhan Daiko

** New Release Book Blast **

January 23rd, 2023

Publication Date: January 19th, 2023
Publisher: Asolando Books
Pages: 300
Genre: Asian Historical Fiction

In the spring of 1939, dashing young William Burton and the beautiful Constance Han set sail from London on the same ocean liner to Hong Kong.

Romance blossoms while they enjoy games of deck quoits and spend sultry tropical evenings dancing under the stars. Connie is intrigued by Will’s talent for writing poetry, and she offers to give him Cantonese lessons to help him with his new job—a cadet in the colonial service.

But once in Hong Kong, Connie is constrained by filial duty towards her Eurasian parents, and their wish for her to marry someone from her own background. She can't forget Will however and arranges to meet him in secret under the magnificent canopy of a flame of the forest tree—where she fulfils her promise to teach him to speak Chinese.

Before too long, trouble looms as Japanese forces gather on the border between Hong Kong and mainland China. Will joins a commando group tasked with operating behind enemy lines, and Connie becomes involved in the fight against local fifth columnists.

When war breaks out, they find themselves drawn into a wider conflict than their battle against prejudice. Can they survive and achieve a future together? Or do forces beyond their control keep them forever apart?

Based on a little-known true story, The Flame Tree is a tale of love and survival against all the odds.


"Siobhan Daiko will tug at your heartstrings, and leave you desperate for more..." 
~ Ellie Yarde, The Coffee Pot Book Club

"Daiko is an author you’ll want to add to your historical fiction favourites." 
~ Netgalley Reviewer

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Siobhan Daiko

Siobhan Daiko is a British historical fiction author. A lover of all things Italian, she lives in the Veneto region of northern Italy with her husband, a Havanese dog and a rescued cat. 

Siobhan was born of English parents in Hong Kong, attended boarding school in Australia, and then moved to the UK—where she taught modern foreign languages in a Welsh comprehensive school. She now spends her time writing page-turners and enjoying her life near Venice. 

Her novels are compelling, poignant, and deeply moving, with strong characters and evocative settings, but always with romance at their heart. You can find more about her books on her website

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Check out Harry Duffin's thrilling novel — Island of Dreams #HistoricalFamilySaga #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @duffin26 @cathiedunn

Island of Dreams

by Harry Duffin

Publication Date: December 2022
Publisher: Cumulus Publishing
Pages: 420
Genre: Historical Family Saga

In May 1939, when Professor Carl Mueller, his wife, Esther, and their three children flee Nazi Germany, and find refuge on the paradise island of Cuba, they are all full of hopes and dreams for a safe and happy future. 

But those dreams are shattered when Carl and Esther are confronted by a ghost from their past, and old betrayals return to haunt them.
The turbulent years of political corruption leading to Batista’s dictatorship, forces the older children to take very different paths to pursue their own dangerous dreams.

And - among the chaos and the conflict that finally leads to Castro’s revolution and victory in 1959, an unlikely love begins to grow - a love that threatens the whole family.

Having escaped a war-torn Europe, their Island of Dreams is to tear them apart forever.

Havana’s Necr贸polis de Crist贸bal Col贸n is known as one of the world’s most captivating cemeteries. It is enormous, grandiose and eccentric. 
‘The Crist贸bal Col贸n?’ said Freddie. ‘But Carl wasn’t Catholic.’
 Esther had gathered Freddie and Hans together to discuss the funeral arrangements.
 ‘Everyone gets buried there,’ she said. ‘Everyone important.’ 
 ‘If they are Catholic,’ said Freddie.
 ‘I am.’
 ‘But you’re not being buried, Mama,’ said Hans.
 She looked at him. Hans shrugged and avoided her eyes. The look was enough.
 ‘I am the next of kin, Freddie. I think Carl would have wanted that.’
Knowing that Esther had never visited Carl when he was dying, Freddie said, ‘Why, did you ask him?’
Despite Freddie’s objections, it was Esther’s event. She had it her way. Mrs Price altered Esther’s most elegant black dress, which she wore with the diamond necklace. On his mother’s instructions, Hans paid for the most magnificent wreaths for the coffin, and Carlotta was made to scrub Klaus to within an inch of his life. Esther wanted to put on a show.
 But there were few people at the ceremony. The family, Carlotta, a few of Professor Carls’ poorer patients and an elegant woman Freddie didn’t recognise. It wasn’t Isabel Luisa Gonzales Rio de Cruz. ‘La Isabel’ exerted a powerful influence among the elite. None of her circle came.
Freddie stood a step back from the small group surrounding the flower-festooned grave of the man he had helped to die. He looked around him, anxiously. She would come, he felt it. Despite the danger, she would come. As the black-frocked priest droned beneath the fierce sky, Freddie surveyed the vast sweep of marble tombs, cold, even in heat of the sun, that surrounded the tiny group of mourners. 
The ornate cemetery looked deserted, but he knew they were there. Invisible, deadly, concealed among the lavish tombs of Havana’s famous and wealthy dead; crouching beside the weeping angels, the praying Madonna’s, the mock castles of granite and the towering black pyramid, last resting place of the city’s most celebrated and scandalous lovers – they were there. Hiding behind those final monuments to vanity, cradling their weapons, believing she would take up the challenge. 
His heart thumped heavily inside the damp cotton shirt and linen jacket. Reaching inside, he felt the butt of the gun he had brought from Hans. He hadn’t fired a gun since he’d fought against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. It felt foolish to have one now, but he was prepared to give up his life to defend her.
She was brave and headstrong, and she would come, somehow. Freddie craved and feared it at the same time. ‘Craved’ – the word revealed his age as much as his feelings. Foolish old man, harbouring such dreams. Dreams he had promised himself she would never know. 
They were dreams she had given him. For he had none when the ship sailed into the harbour all those years ago. She had brought him her dreams, bright as that May morning, as innocent as he was corrupt…

Harry Duffin

Harry is an award-winning British screenwriter, who was on the first writing team of the BBC’s EASTENDERS, and won the Writers’ Guild Award for Best TV serial for CORONATION STREET. 

He was Head of Development at Cloud 9 Screen Entertainment Group, producing seven major television series, including ‘Swiss Family Robinson’ starring Richard ‘John Boy’ Thomas, and ‘Twist in the Tale’, featuring William Shatner. 

He was the co-creator of the UK Channel Five teen-cult drama series ‘THE TRIBE’, which ran for five series. 

He has written three novels, CHICAGO MAY, BIRTH OF THE MALL RATS [an intro to the TV series THE TRIBE], and ISLAND OF DREAMS which will be published in December 2022. CHICAGO MAY is the first book of a two-part series.

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Thursday, October 27, 2022

Check out Mary L. Schmidt's poignant story — Her Alibi #HistoricalBiography #BlogTour #CoffeePotBookClub @MaryLSchmidt @cathiedunn

Her Alibi

by Mary L. Schmidt

Publication Date:  August 31st, 2022
Publisher: M Schmidt Productions
Page Length: 76 Pages
Genre: Biographical History / Memoir

Visions of her Cherokee grandmother, Cordieflashed through Mary's mind as her mother, Marguerite, informed her that her stepfather shot himself and was in the hospitalOh no!

No! This can't be! Not after the joking around at my home last night. NO!!!! Did she use me last night? She'd never use her scapegoat child. No, she couldn't! Even Marguerite wouldn't sink that low! Or would she? Marguerite had always been abusive and vile to most people, and especially to her children and husbands, but would she shoot Harold?

Yet, here I was, and I had to tell the police that, yes, my mother was at my home all evening and into the night. How despicable that my mother connived her way into using me as her alibi.

This book is a true memoir drawing upon the locals and inspiration of the areas in which the author lives and works. Names of towns, places, facilities, and people are real except for three men. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is not coincidental in nature and places where events take place are from her life growing up.

The saga of being her alibi started late in the evening one cold winter day in 1982. For three years, my mother never once came to visit the place where I lived with my first husband, who was abusive, but that’s for a different book. 

My doorbell rang, and I ran to see who it was. I saw Mother’s face through the peephole.

“It’s a little late already. What’s up?” I inquired.

Mother smiled, which she seldom did. I was surprised to find her in such a good mood. I almost didn’t believe my eyes! My mother stopping by – but why? Something was up for sure.

“Can’t I visit my daughter?” Mother asked. 
I nodded, but a cloud of doubt hung in my mind. I opened the door to allow her in, but I was still dumbfounded. Why would Mother visit me now?

After she was there for a while, the doubts left and we sat down and shared coffee and leftover bread from breakfast, the conversation flowing between us almost naturally.

It was one of those rare moments when Mother spoke to me, and I, the daughter who always craved her love, basked in what I believed was a reconciliation of sorts. Yet it was a devious plan on her part.
“Something’s bothering me,” Mother said.

I paused. Something’s always bothering you, I wanted to say. But feeling that the barrier was broken somehow by the evening’s conversation, I asked, “What’s bothering you?”

“Harold.” Mother stopped laughing. She was telling me a funny incident earlier, and when she shifted the topic to her husband, her facial expression immediately changed.

“What about him?” I questioned.

The wrinkles in the corners of her eyes deepened as she smirked. When she spoke, I thought I caught a hint of concern in her voice. I wasn’t sure though.

“Do you think people are really capable of suicide?” she asked.

I looked at her, surprised. “There’s news about suicides every day,” I said. In my head, I found it hard to understand them, though. Life was so wonderful. Why would anybody want to take his or her life if tomorrow holds a promise of something better that could come along? “Why? How’s Harold?”

Mother shook her head. Her expression brightened once again. “I think he wants to take his life.”

“That’s preposterous!” I burst out. I didn’t know if my outburst was because I couldn’t believe Harold would take his life, or because Mother didn’t show any compassion. She made life hell for him, but suicide?? Thus, I chose my words carefully as I had no idea where she was headed with this conversation. “Why? He doesn’t strike me as the type.”

Mother had been so hard on me that I found it hard to believe she would worry over someone so deeply. Besides, she seemed very buoyant that night.

“Do you know what his problem is?”

“I don’t know. But he seems really depressed.” Then she laughed loudly. “Enough about that; this time is for us.” She pointed her finger to herself and then to me. “Let’s forget about Harold and go back to other more meaningful discussions.”

I frowned, but for the first time, I felt a step closer to her, even though this situation didn’t feel right. I had to be careful with my words as I didn’t want her to punch or kick me, which hadn’t happened since I moved out of her home. 

In my heart and soul, I knew I couldn’t build a bridge with my mother without love, so no fence mended. She was a total stranger to me, laughing and telling stupid jokes without a care in the world. Harold was forgotten when she finally left after four hours, and I locked my front door. 

The next morning, I awoke to such horrible news. Mother had “found” Harold with a gunshot wound in his upper abdomen outside their house, and in the blue Ford truck.

My earlier trips to hospitals when I was young came back to me. The feeling of fear, of whether there would still be tomorrow, taunted me. My heart clenched thinking about poor Harold.

I was afraid of Mother, so I never had the courage to visit Harold in the hospital. My conversation with my mother came to mind, and I remembered her telling me that Harold was depressed.

Police officers came in to talk to Harold. They wanted to talk to him alone, but my mother rarely left his side, playing the devoted wife. When Harold was alone, he was silent, probably out of fear, and refused to talk with the police. Why didn’t the police pick up on that? 

When asked where Mother was the night before finding Harold with a gunshot wound in his stomach, and sitting in the cold of night, inside a pickup truck outside their house. Well, my mother told all the police officers that she had been with me!!! 

It was true, but it horrified me because I felt used. I was her alibi–she did use me. Now what do I do? My mother had me stuck tight, and she knew it! I hated being stuck!!! 

Will Harold live? Will my mother be charged for this crime? Am I safe? Such a cold, devious, and evil Mother she was!  

Mary L. Schmidt

Mary L. Schmidt writes under her given name and a pen name, S. Jackson. She lives in the USA with her husband, Michael, and loves to visit their son, Gene, and two grandchildren, Austin and Emma. 

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