The Butterfly Storm is Half Price!

ButtStorm700x700CenteredSet in sunny Greece and on the beautiful North Norfolk coast in the UK, The Butterfly Storm has frequently been described as ‘perfect for holiday reading’, so I thought it was a good time to do a summer promotion. Until the end of this week – Friday 8th August – The Butterfly Storm is reduced to just 99c/99p and can be downloaded here:

What Readers Are Saying About The Butterfly Storm

“I Loved this read with a capital L.” ElaineG, Amazon Top 50 Reviewer

“Beautifully written, carefully researched and expertly plotted – what more could you want from a book?” Joanne Phillips, author of Can’t Live Without 

“Beautifully precise in its descriptions, yet never dull, this is one book you will not be able to put down and will remember long after you’ve read the last words.” Elaine Jeremiah, author of The Inheritance

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Inspired by Greece – Thursday’s Children

thurschilbadgejpgThursday’s Children – A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.

Okay, so I know it’s still Wednesday in the UK but in other parts of the world such as Australia and New Zealand it’s already Thursday, so I figure I can get away with posting my Thursday’s Children offering a bit early this week. You see it also ties in neatly with the launch of my debut novel, The Butterfly Storm, as the inspiration for it came from the time I’ve spent in Greece.

It was the summer of 2000 that I first went to Greece to visit my boyfriend’s (now husband’s) family. We’d been together for about six months so it was about time I met the parents. After a four hour flight from Heathrow to Thessaloniki we were met at the airport OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAby Nik’s parents and, just as with Sophie in The Butterfly Storm, that was when my sketchy and very basic Greek was first put into practice. We then visited the whole of Nik’s family – his two sets of Grandparents and his aunt Soula – before heading home.

That first Greek holiday I remember being filled with food, sunshine, laughter, more food and day trips to the beach, Mt Olympus, a local festival and the archaeological site at Dion. Nik’s family were so lovely and welcoming and the view from Nik’s parents’ garden was of Mt Olympus. How could I not be inspired?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I set about writing a novel in 2004 for my MA in Creative Writing, before I had any idea of plot or characters I knew that I wanted to set it (at least partly) in Greece. I started to think about what it would be like to leave everything behind in the UK and permanently move to Greece and why someone would do that. To escape? For a job? For love? And that’s when Sophie Keech began to take shape, a twenty-something woman who leaves behind everything she knows to move to Greece to live with her boyfriend, Alekos, who she’s known for just six weeks.

Alekos and his family live on mainland Greece and although I haven’t been specific about exactly where they’re located, Mt Olympus and ‘fields that merge with the sky’ is the view from their restaurant garden. I wanted to capture the feel of a Greek family and the flavour of life in Greece and so Sophie experiences Greek parties filled with food and dancing. Over the course of the novel, Sophie and Alekos briefly spend some time on the island of Santorini, a place that I’ve been to and one that’s not difficult to understand why you would want to write about it.

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The path follows an incline and we puff our way up as what breeze there was disappears. We round a corner and reach the summit and suddenly the other side of the island is revealed. The island slopes down to a flat expanse of patchworked fields and whitewashed buildings ending at the southern side of the island with beaches and the sea. It’s a dramatic contrast to turn back to the caldera on our left and the steep drop to the sea crashing against the black rocks below. We start down the winding path that still clings to the edge of the caldera. Basking lizards scuttle from their sunbathing spots on rocks as we walk past.

With Alekos leading we walk on and concentrate on our footing when the path gets steep and rocky. The soil changes from a rusty red colour to ash white and charcoal black and clings to our trainers. We’ve been walking for over an hour and have lost sight of Oia but I can see across to where I think our hotel is. The ferry we’d seen crossing the caldera earlier is in the port. The whitewashed buildings of Thira are stacked one on top of each other spreading from the sea to the top of the cliffs. We walk to the top of the next hill and reach a whitewashed church with a domed roof and blue bell tower.

Have you spent anytime in Greece? What places or countries inspire you or your writing?

Inspire and be inspired by clicking on this linky and joining in with the Thursday’s Children blog hop. Big thanks go to hosts Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez.

Kali Xrhonia! – WIPpet Wednesday

What do you mean it’s Wednesday already? Eek! That means it’s just one week until I launch The Butterfly Storm. So. much. to. do. But there’s always time for WIPpet Wednesday – that wonderful time of the week when fabulous writers from all over the globe come together to share what they’ve been busy working on. These past few days (maybe that should read weeks) have, one way or another, been pretty crazy so it will be lovely to grab a coffee today and take 15 minutes… 30 minutes out just to sit down and read some fantasy from Raewyn, a slice of The Inheritance from Elaine and more about Grumnlin from Kathi. Perhaps if we’re lucky there will be more bloodsucking from Kate and sugarplum fairy treats from Emily. Hopefully Alana, ReGi, Jessica, Krista and Eden will be joining in too along with a few new faces.

It’s actually hot and sunny in the UK at the moment – shock, horror – so really I should be posting a hot and sultry extract from The Butterfly Storm that’s set in Greece. Well, this extract is set in Greece but it takes place on New Year’s Eve when it’s actually snowing outside (trust me that does happen in northern Greece around Mt Olympus where the novel is set). You see this extract works as a stand alone piece plus it’s conveniently five paragraphs from chapter five for the 5th June. No WIPpet maths needed this week… All I think I need to tell you is that Lena is Alekos’ sister and Callia is her baby daughter. Oh, and just in case you don’t get it (which I’m pretty sure you will) kali xhronia means Happy New Year, or literally, good year! Which I hope it is for all of us.

Lena knocks her glass against mine. ‘To the New Year and more of this wine! I’d better check if Callia needs feeding, plus Mama will be wondering why I’m not serving drinks and being a good host to our guests. Alekos is far better at being sociable than me; he has a natural way with people, but what Mama wants…’ she raises an eyebrow and we both smile.

The band is playing by the time I emerge from the kitchen with a tray of glasses filled with mulled wine. A few guests, led by Despina, have already made a circle on the dance floor. The first time I’d been made to dance at Alekos’ cousin’s wedding, I’d surprised myself at how much I had enjoyed it. I was rubbish though, particularly at the fast dances, where my feet would get muddled and I’d crash into the person next to me.

My tray of wine is soon emptied and I stand at the edge of the dance floor and tap my foot to the music.

‘Sophie!’ Takis calls as he sidesteps past me. He puts his free arm across my shoulders and pulls me into the dance. My feet follow Takis’, stepping forward, forward, back and across, along with everyone else circling in time with the beat of the music. This is what I love about Greece, the spontaneity, the passion and zest for life. Alekos is on the opposite side of the circle sandwiched between Despina and Demetrius. His face is hot from dancing and his shirt buttons are undone halfway down his chest. He catches my eye and winks.

The dancing continues until nearly midnight when the band stops playing, although I barely notice with the amount of shouting, laughter and singing going on. Everyone holds hands. The TV above the bar is on. Alekos holds me, and a stranger’s sweaty hand grips my free one. We drown the Athens crowd out with our countdown: ‘Dheka, enea, okto, epta, eksi, pende, tesera, tria, dhio, ena! Kali xrhonia!’

Post an extract of your WIP that corresponds to the date, add your link to the linky over on host K L Schwengel’s blog and become one of the WIPpeteers – it’s really that easy.

Food Glorious Food – Thursday’s Children

Thursday’s Children – A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.

A couple of last week’s Thursday’s Children posts, specifically Rhiann Wynn-Nolet’s post about fog and Kate Michael’s post on wolves and witches, got me thinking about what themes or elements feature in my own writing. I’ve completed two very different novels. The first, The Butterfly Storm, which I’m publishing in just a few weeks time is contemporary women’s fiction, whilst Time Shifters is a time-travel adventure story for 8 – 12 year-olds. However, there is something they both have in common and that is food.

The Butterfly Storm is partly set in Greece and writing about Greece goes hand-in-hand with writing about food. Anyone who’s been lucky enough to spend time in Greece will know that you’ll be well fed whether you stay with a family or eat out at a taverna. One of the iconic lines from the film, My Big Fat Greek Wedding is ‘You must eat!’ (along with the hilarious ‘He don’t eat no meat?’) and it’s a line that’s been uttered many a time by my Greek mother-in-law. In Greece you don’t get a choice of which pudding you want, usually you just get given a plate with a (very generous) slice of all three (or four) sweets that are on offer.

So yes, food does feature frequently in The Butterfly Storm and sometimes it’s deliciously appetising:

Sixteen of us squeeze round two tables joined together on the patio. Spoons dip in and out of salads; forks stab roasted red peppers and juicy chunks of pork souvlaki. The lamb is carried over from the coals, de-skewered and placed on a massive plate in front of Despina to be carved. The meat falls off the bone in great chunks and is passed along the table. Its rich meaty scent disperses into the night air.

and other times not so much:

I poke my head round the kitchen door. Despina, sparkling in a jewelled pink top over black trousers, pulls a dish of kokoretsi from the oven. The stomach-churning smell of liver-filled intestines sticks in my throat. I wrinkle my nose at the delicacy.

For Maisie, Danny and Lizzie, my three characters that are stuck in the past in Time Shifters, food is understandably at the forefront of their minds when they spend most of the time being cold, tired and hungry…

I reached forward and took a piece of dry bread and a chunk of meat. Lizzie popped a piece of bread into her mouth and we chewed in silence for a while. All I could think about was Mum’s lasagne and sweet and sour chicken with egg fried rice from the Chinese.

“I wish this was a double cheeseburger and we were in MacDonald’s instead of here,” Lizzie said and spat a chewed lump of bread onto the grass and ripped off a piece of meat instead. “That bread was off yesterday.”

It’s not all dry bread and rumbling stomachs though, as sometimes they get to tuck into a feast as in this scene in 1471:

Robbie placed himself at the head of the table and Lizzie and me plonked ourselves opposite each other. Another servant – better dressed than we were – entered the hall and set a plate and spoon in front of us. The first servant spooned a mound of casserole on to our plates and I tucked into warm rabbit, carrots and onion. “This is so good,” I said.

“I caught and killed the rabbit myself,” Robbie said and winked.

Lizzie wrinkled her nose but carried on eating.

and again in an Inn on the way to London in 1666:

Our plates were piled high with chunks of roasted pork with carrots and potatoes smothered in melted butter.

“The crackling is amazing,” Danny said, crunching through his mouthful.

Lizzie cut a ladylike portion of roast pork with her knife and fork and popped it and a carrot into her mouth and chewed slowly. “Wow, this is like a proper roast dinner.”

It was better. The meat was tasty and succulent and the vegetables were fresh and seasonal. My dad was an organic farmer and always wanted to convert everyone into eating organic. He would be proud of this meal. Without saying another word we finished every scrap of food on our plates and mopped up the juice with a chunk of whole-wheat bread. To drink we had a tankard of weak ale each, which Danny downed in one. He leaned back in his chair and patted his stomach. “That was the best meal I’ve ever had,” he said.

All this talk of food has made me hungry, so I’m off to get some breakfast.

How about you, does food feature at all in your writing?

Inspire and be inspired by clicking on this linky and joining in with the Thursday’s Children blog hop. Big thanks go to hosts Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez.

New Country, New Start – WIPpet Wednesday

There’s actually some dialogue in this week’s WIPpet – not a lot and some of it is in Greek, but I managed to find an extract from The Butterfly Storm that included dialogue and didn’t give much of the story away.

New starts can be challenging but in these 22 paragraphs that start on page 13 (for 2013) Sophie is relishing the fact that she’s left the UK behind and moved to Greece to be with Alekos. In the scene before this extract Sophie’s been picked up from the airport by Alekos and his mum and dad (Despina and Takis), and they’ve driven through the hot and manic streets of Thessaloniki and away from the city before finally arriving at Sophie’s new home. By the way, kapoozi means watermelon in Greek.

Alekos nudged me awake from where I dozed, rocking against his shoulder, my arm still encircling the cool, green skin of the kapoozi.

‘Home,’ he whispered. His breath tickled my ear.

‘I didn’t mean to fall asleep,’ I said, rubbing my eyes. The glare from the sun distorted my view. All I could see of my new home was a silhouette. The car slowed between open gates and crunched over gravel. Takis parked neatly in the shadow of the restaurant next to two other cars.

‘What do you think?’ Alekos asked. I scrambled out of the car after him. I shaded my eyes with my hand and savoured the elegance of the building with its arched windows, red-tiled roof and pale, caramel-stained walls.

‘I had no idea it was this beautiful,’ I said.

Alekos grinned and hooked his arm around my waist, pulling me towards him until I was pressed against his chest. ‘Are you happy?’

‘Happy doesn’t even come close,’ I said. His eyebrows scrunched in confusion. I kissed him. ‘I’m so happy I met you.’

He’d changed me. He’d made me question what I wanted, what life meant. He had dragged me out of the 9 to 5 rut. There was no normality about this place. Estiatorio O Kipos the sign above the restaurant entrance read. Alekos said it meant The Garden Restaurant. To me it meant a new life.

Takis dragged my luggage from the boot. Despina had disappeared inside and I heard her calling to someone. Alekos smiled and beckoned me towards the garden and sunshine.

Beyond the terrace there was a bar with the same red roof and warm-coloured walls as the restaurant. Olive trees lined the far edge of the garden, their intricately woven branches shading the seating below. I imagined couples getting cosy beneath the trees once darkness descended. The garden’s centrepiece was a fountain encircled by a wooden bench. The place was so quiet I could hear the trickle of water.

I’d swapped housemates for Alekos and his family, a flat above an off-licence for a bedroom above a first-class restaurant, a kitchen windowsill of ailing spider plants for a garden the size of a football pitch, and noise and traffic for fields that merged with the sky.

Aleko, pes tin Sophie gia tin dulia,’ Despina called from the restaurant steps.

Ochi tora, Mama.’

I looked at him. ‘What is it?’

Tipota. Nothing.’

‘Go on, tell me.’

He shrugged and pointed. ‘See the bar?’

I nodded.

‘That’s where you are going to work.’

‘I’m going to what?’

‘It’s decided. You won’t have to find a job. Mama thought it’d be easy for you.’

‘I don’t know enough Greek – any Greek yet.’

A couple of new WIPpeteers have joined us in the last week or two, so if you fancy jumping on the bandwagon and sharing your work in progress then why not join in too? Just select a section of your WIP that relates to the date, add your link to the linky that K L Schwengel hosts over on her fabulous blog and enjoy reading all the other wonderful WIPpet Wednesday posts – yes, it really is that easy.

Interested in Pinterest – Thursday’s Children

Thursday’s Children – A weekly blog hop where writers come together to talk about whatever inspires them.

I’ve been meaning to join Pinterest for a while now and I finally got round to doing so yesterday when I spent a happy hour or two setting up my account and browsing other people’s pins. I also managed to set up my own boards including one I’ve entitled ‘lovely stuff’ where I’ve pinned images that are inspirational, interesting or simply downright beautiful, and another board for The Butterfly Storm where I’ve pinned the cover of my novel and where I want to include images of places in Greece and Norfolk that feature in the novel.

Pinterest

A couple of months ago I interviewed my brother, Tom Frost, for my 5 Minutes With… feature. Tom’s an illustrator and print maker and when I asked him about what inspires him, the first thing he mentioned was Pinterest and I can now fully appreciate why. However, Pinterest should come with a health warning: you will lose hours of your life gazing at images of libraries and books or drooling over white sand beaches and colourful autumn scenes. But when writer’s block strikes Pinterest might just be a saviour in getting those creative juices bubbling again, whether that means looking at images of great book covers, travel destinations or cute cats. It’s definitely worth a try don’t you think?

I figured what better way to find inspiration for my new WIP, The House of Stone than by making a board featuring images of Tanzania and Zanzibar where the novel will be set. At the moment I’m still at the planning stage, jotting down plot ideas, getting to grips with the characters and figuring out exactly where in Tanzania and on Zanzibar the action will take place. When I actually start writing it though I think I’ll head over to Pinterest and take a look at my board and be inspired by the peeling blue paint of an old door in Stone Town or soak up the quiet beauty of a dhow bobbing up and down on the turquoise ocean.

Are you on Pinterest? If not is it something that interests you?

Inspire and be inspired by clicking on this linky and joining in with the Thursday’s Children blog hop. Big thanks go to hosts Rhiann Wynn-Nolet and Kristina Perez.

First Hint of Autumn – WIPpet Wednesday

Place plays an important part in The Butterfly Storm. Although the novel is completely fictional, the time I’ve spent in Greece has greatly influenced the story. Another major setting is the UK’s north Norfolk coast, again a place I know well from many holidays and visits to my grandparents who lived there. For today’s WIPpet I’ve chosen another descriptive passage, mainly because any dialogue reveals too much of the story. These 15 lines from chapter 15  take place when Sophie is back from Greece staying in Norfolk at her Mum’s house. (Marcy is one of the barmaids at the local pub.)

 

After a cup of freshly brewed coffee, I take Marcy’s advice and walk up the road to Blakeney. It’s as if the place has come alive overnight. Cars rush past me filled with families off on Saturday morning outings. The hill I can see from the cottage is deceptive. It’s not steep but it steadily keeps on going up, winding round the corner beneath the shade of a wood before finally levelling off next to the church. I cross a main road and find myself on a narrow lane packed with people heading down to the patch of blue between the houses. It’s the same here as in Greece with the last holidaymakers clinging to the remains of summer. Children pass by in shorts and sandals clutching fishing nets and buckets. Despite the peppering of clouds and the cool breeze, people are still dressed for mid-August. In Greece, the first hint of autumn sends the locals reaching for their winter clothes. I understand the need in Britain to hang onto every second of sunshine. I have so many memories of camping holidays with Mum. The sound of rain drumming on a window always reminds me of being huddled inside our tent.

I reach the end of the street and it opens on to a harbour filled with boats bobbing up and down on the channel of water. The marshes stretch so far out I can’t even see the sea. The taste of salt is strong and seagulls squawk overhead.

If you’ve got a work in progress you’d like to share and you enjoy reading what other writers are working on then simply write a post using a section of your WIP that relates in some way to the day (15 words, lines or paragraphs from chapter 15 or even 10 lines from chapter 5). Add your link to the little blue linky over on K L Schwengel’s excellent blog and read the other diverse offerings from the WIPpeteers.

The Butterfly Storm – WIPpet Wednesday

Today is the 1st May and exactly six weeks until I publish and launch my novel, The Butterfly Storm. To celebrate that fact – and also because it’s getting more and more difficult to find suitable extracts from Time Shifters that don’t give too much of the plot away – I’m going to use WIPpet Wednesdays to post snippets from The Butterfly Storm leading up to launch day on the 12th June.

Up until the point of being published a novel is continually a work in progress. It starts with an idea, then builds plot and characters. Then there’s the first rough draft, then a second, third, fourth and fifth draft (or more) where the novel gets butchered and then put back together again hopefully into something that resembles a story with heart, a plot that keeps a reader hooked and believable characters that can be related to. After that there’s the final editing process, which is the time to weed out any inconsistencies, such as ensuring the character who has blue eyes in chapter 1 doesn’t have hazel eyes by chapter 21, and make sure each chapter, paragraph, sentence and word counts towards moving the story along. After that comes the proofreading stage to catch the last of any formatting, spelling and grammatical errors.

Even though I’ve got to that end stage every time I read through The Butterfly Storm I’m reading it as a writer and editor wanting to find ways of improving it and I’m not even sure that thought process will actually stop once I publish it. Will it even be possible for me to read it from a reader’s rather than a writer’s point of view? Either way I can confidently say that I’m very happy with my novel and how it’s has turned out – and I should be after nine years in the making.

So, in celebration of the 1st May, it being a beautiful sunny spring day here in Bristol and my launch being just a few weeks away, I give you one paragraph from chapter one of The Butterfly Storm. The following scene is set in Greece, Sophie is the narrator and Takis and Despina are Sophie’s Greek boyfriend’s parents.

It’s early July and it’s been over a hundred degrees in the shade all week. I’ve never felt heat like it. The cats lie spread-eagled beneath the vines, clinging to what shade they can. They look miserable, not even venturing towards the fields in search of mice, lizards or snakes. Even Takis, the calmest person I’ve ever met, curses the weather as much as Despina does. No one steps outside between midday and three. In the nearby village, roads are deserted and blinds and shutters are closed as if a hurricane is on its way rather than a heatwave. Only in the evening, after their siesta, do people reappear, to sit on their porches and fan themselves. Despina makes frappes and Takis drinks them outside the kitchen door as fast as they appear.

It’s easy to join in with WIPpet Wednesday, just post an extract from your WIP that relates in some way to the day – one line or paragraph from chapter one or even chapter 11 for example – and then add the link to the linky over on K L Schwengel’s blog.

12/12/12

Tomorrow is the 12th December 2012, or the 12/12/12. A pretty special day in itself but for Nik and I it’s the 12th anniversary of when we got together. We met whilst working at Warner Village Cinemas (now Vue) in Bristol and got together at the staff Christmas party on the evening of the 12th December 2000. Nik proposed during our holiday in the Maldives on the 10th May 2007, three days after my 30th birthday, and we got married exactly a year later in Greece. So the 10th May next year will be our 5th wedding anniversary but tomorrow we’re celebrating 12 years together.

Along with my parents, Nik has been a constant supporter of my writing dream and has always believed in me. In fact when life got particularly tough in the first few months of 2011 it was Nik who gave me the confidence and boost I needed to focus on writing non-fiction for a while instead of my novel.

As every writer knows, rejections come with the territory. At the start of 2011 I sent my second novel, Time Shifters, out to a handful of agents. (I’m self-publishing my first novel, The Butterfly Storm in 2013.) I then got what every writer and budding novelist dreams of, a phone call out of the blue from an agent. She said she loved the first three chapters of my novel and was excited by the sound of the rest of it and would I like to send her the whole novel? Would I? I could barely contain my excitement. I emailed her my novel that very day and then endured the dreaded wait.

What happened next was simply bad luck. When I queried the status of Time Shifters after a few weeks of waiting I had a very apologetic reply from the agent saying that unfortunately she was leaving the agency and so would be passing my novel onto one of her colleagues to consider. She also said that she hoped her colleague would ‘love it as much as she did’. As it turned out her colleague didn’t love it as much, although she did send me a lovely long email detailing what she did like and left it open for me to re-submit it to her on the condition I made the significant changes she had suggested. It was at this point with other negative stuff going on in my life that Nik said enough is enough and suggested that I put aside Time Shifters for a while and focused on making some money from writing articles again.

So, in May 2011 I stopped sending out Time Shifters to agents and started looking for article writing opportunities. I’d written articles in the past with some success and had been published in magazines such as New Welsh Review and Chapter and Verse but that was a few years earlier. Things had changed since then and there were far more opportunities and markets out there for freelance writers because of the internet and the explosion of blogs and online writing. I re-subscribed to Write This Moment, a fantastic resource for freelancers looking for work, and within just a few weeks I’d found various paid writing opportunities including regular freelance work with easyJet holidays. After just a few months the hard work paid off and resulted in me being able to reduce my hours by half at my ‘day job’ in November last year.

And that’s all thanks to Nik. Happy 12th anniversary. x