Friday, June 23, 2023

Sneaky peek at interview with Valeriya Salt

My next author interview is with Valeriya Salt, a multi-genre author who was born in Belarus, lived in Crimea and Russia, and now calls the UK her home

Her start in the publishing world didn't go too well and we discuss her 'cowboy' publisher and she has lots of advice for other new authors and the potential pitfalls they should try to avoid.

Our interview goes live on the 1st July and it's a fascinating read. If you'd like to learn more about Valeriya, please visit her links below:

Twitter: @LSalt1

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Thursday, June 15, 2023

Author interview with Tom McCaffrey

This month's interview is with author Tom McCaffrey, who is currently 66 and only wrote his first novel 4 years ago (which became a bestseller). He's indie published and writes across multiple genres - legal thriller, crime/mafia, action adventure, sci-fi and fantasy, as well as love stories, so let's meet him:

'I was born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, where I lived until I turned 61. I've been married for 45 years to my wife, Lisa, with three grown children and four grandchildren. I have been a practicing attorney since 1984 and work in the entertainment field. 

In 2017 I moved to Berthoud Colorado, and met my magical Mule, Claire.  In 2019, I sat down and wrote The Wise Ass, never thinking it would see the light of day but I was published by Black Rose Writing in February 2021. 

TWA was a surprise success and the other two books in The Claire Trilogy, An Alien Appeal and Kissing My Ass Goodbye, were both published by March 2022. Finding Jimmy Moran, the prequel to TCT arrived on April 13, 2023.'      

He has created a tweetable for you (tweet here):

'Tom McCaffrey believes his novels should be crafted like his legal work. Respect your audience and always appear to be honest and true. The Claire Trilogy and Finding Jimmy Moran brings science fiction and magic into the present-day world and leaves the reader wondering: what if it’s true?'  

I need to know more - how is Claire magical?

'I've always had animals as pets growing up. However I had no intentions of ever bringing what is considered livestock into my family. But let me give you a little background.  

Back in 1992 a psychic, the Reverend John White, a member of the Lily Dale spiritual community in upstate NY, told me I was going to move out west and live on a large property, like a ranch. I thought he was crazy. I never had any intention of moving out of New York.  

In 2014, I attended a gallery where the psychic, Bobbi Allison (the basis for the character Bobbi Angelini), picked me out of the crowd and told me I was going to move to Colorado. I thought she was crazy. 

Fast forward 4 years. Bobbi, who at that point was my friend, was visiting family in Colorado so we had breakfast. I had just adopted Claire, but I never had any conversations with Bobbi about her. First thing out of Bobbi's mouth as I sat down at the table was "You've adopted a mule, she's going to change your life." I started to respond that she already had, that I was a better human through our interactions. Bobbi said, "no, she's going to change you life in a very big way. You'll see." 

At that point in time, I had no plans to write a novel. Indeed, I didn't write it until 2019. But since Claire first came into my life we've had this intuitive connection. If she is anywhere out on the property and I look out at her from my window, she stops what's she's doing and looks up at whatever window I may be at. If I'm working on the property, she'll come over and hang around me the way your most loyal dog may do. When I'm feeling overwhelmed or stressed she'll come over and nuzzle me or give me love nibbles. As I was beginning to think about the book, I would tell her the stories that ultimately made their way into the novels.  She would listen and she has a way of vocalizing at times in response to what I may say to her.  She'll also vocalize in the same manner if my back is to her and she wants my attention.  We share a bond I have never had with any other non-human creature. So yes, Claire is magical, and was far more than just an inspiration for her character in The Claire Trilogy and Finding Jimmy Moran.' 

Oh wow, I've got goosebumps! What inspired Tom to become a writer? 

'I’m a Celt. We are story tellers by nature. I was raised in a family that enjoyed sharing stories around the dinner table. I was hoping to be a professional writer when I graduated college, but the birth of my first child compelled me to do something that would guarantee a regular income. That led me to Law School.'

What a lovely background to bring to his writing. What does his daily routine look like?

'I wake up every morning at 2 am to tend to my Mules Claire and Honey.  Then I sit down and blog – When I am ready to write a novel, I put blogging to the side and use those early hours to churn out the novel.'

Sorry, 2am? I'm usually going to bed then 🤣 I'm struggling to get my head around the logistics here - is he still practicing law and, if so, how does he find time to write too?

'Yes, I'm still practicing law. I write when I wake up, for 2 hours straight. I keep writing every day until I finish the novel. No breaks. It's almost like I channel it. I never actually recall the process of writing. I just get lost in it and then look up and it's 4am.  

I'm used to writing under court deadlines but I don't start writing any book until I know I cannot not write it. I feel like the story is bursting to get out of me. I'm almost at that point with the next book - Where The Ley Lines Meet - which is the sequel to Finding Jimmy Moran and The Claire Trilogy. I hope to start that mid-June and, with a little magic and luck, finish by the end of the summer.'

OMG, my head is reeling - when does he sleep? 😴 It must be his superpower!

'My secret weapon is that I force myself to overcome my natural  desire to procrastinate - I do it now.'

😄 Okay, so if I ditch the procrastinating, I'll turn into Superwoman, good to know although I think I'll still need sleep...!  What does Tom enjoy the most about writing?  

'The readers’ responses to the story. I like to learn that I’ve engaged them emotionally and that they love my characters as much as I do.' 

Aw, that's lovely! What has he found the hardest part of getting published?

'Rejection sucks. Back when I was young, I accumulated a stack of rejection letters in response to the short stories I had submitted. I kept them. They taught me to never quit.'

That's an admirable way of dealing with rejection. What about the best money he's ever spent as a writer?

'The money I have spent on the copies of my books that I have given away. It’s the bread on the water in a pond full of fish.' 

Interesting 🤔 Does he have any difficulty writing characters very different from himself?  

'That’s the thing. My characters take over my writing and I don’t have much say in their personalities or characteristics. And luckily, I’m so old now that I’ve experienced what it’s like at any age. Plus, the lifetime of being a litigator has taught me how to become an instant expert in just about any field.' 

Great answer, although I'm not sure 66 is 'so old'! So moving onto his new book, he's created a short synopsis for us:

'Who is Jimmy Moran? 

It starts with a lucky penny. Then a muse who bestows a mystical gift. Or maybe a curse? Family, friends, and fights abound as Jimmy breaks the law, looks for love in all the wrong places and experiences loss that transforms him. 

A mischievous Bronx boy becomes a man in his search for the love of his life.  This is the coming-of-age story of the character we meet in The Claire Trilogy, who becomes a mob lawyer, Claire the mule's best friend, and the leader of the motley crew of magical misfits.'

And a tweetable version (tweet here): 

'Jimmy Moran unveils the mystery and magic of his childhood search for love to his grown children and best friend Claire the Mule.  Learn what makes Jimmy Moran tick.'

What was the hardest scene to write and why?

'Any scene where one of my characters dies is always hard for me.  I literally weep while I’m typing it.'

Oh, I'm the same! If he could go back in time and talk to his younger writing self, what would he say?

'Never, ever give up.'

Great advice, as so many writers get disillusioned with rejection. As someone who has been through all of this, what would he consider a common trap for aspiring writers?

'Listening to other writer’s advice and rules. Write the story you want to write, as you want
to write it. Other writers have a tendency of trying to impose their style and rules on your writing. 

I only use readers who know my work and style and are there not to change what I write but to let me know if my story is working and to catch any typos. That way I know that the reader base I have created will enjoy my next work. 

You see, I’m not here to become a brilliant writer. I’m here to tell a brilliant story. That’s all that matters to me'

That's an interesting response - what makes 'a brilliant story'?

'I'm not kidding myself. I'm a journeyman writer. I can string words together in a palatable way but I'm great at dialogue and character development. 

What sets me apart is that I can tell a story in a way that will keep your attention from the beginning to the end. I invite you to sit down and become a character at the table in the story. You become part of the experience. I make you want to believe what I'm telling you is true. 

A brilliant story is one that takes the commonplace events found in everyone's life and then weaves into it a little bit of magic that everyone wants in their life. Adults don't want to admit it, but it's true. That makes it all feel real to them. It's like a kid that wants to go to Hogwarts, only I bring the magic into your everyday world and do my best to convince you it was always there. You just have to know where to look for it.'       

I love the idea of opening his readers eyes to the magic, but what do they think? Does Tom read reviews and how does he deal with them? 

'I read them all. Like life, you can’t please everybody. Luckily, I have way more positive than negative reviews. But negative reviews still sting.'     

I think you'll agree, Tom has brought a little magic to this interview too. If you'd like to learn more about him, please visit his links below:

Twitter:  @wisecelt
Instagram: Wisecelt

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Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Sneaky peeky at interview with Tom McCaffrey

This month's author interview is with Tom McCaffrey who seems a real force of nature. A writer, blogger, lawyer, husband, father, grandfather... the list goes on, and he still has time to talk to me about his fascinating books and career.

We chat about his series, which started with the unexpected bestseller 'The Wise Ass', which was followed by 'An Alien Appeal' and  'Kissing My Ass Goodbye'. His new novel is titled 'Finding Jimmy Moran' and the omens look good for a further bestseller - what a star! 

Our interview goes live on the 15th June and it's a fascinating read but if you'd like to learn more about Tom, please visit his links below:

Twitter:  @wisecelt
Instagram: Wisecelt

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Thursday, June 1, 2023

Author interview with Jacqui Black / Book review 'The Romanov brooch affair '


This month's author interview is with Jacqui Black, the author of two books (the first already published, the second due to be published on the 3rd June 2023), both cosy murder mysteries in her Donaldson-Gilks Mystery Series. So let's meet Jacqui:

'At school I enjoyed English and English Literature classes, devouring such classics as Dickens Oliver Twist, Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, and Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim.  

Mathematics classes, on the other hand, were sheer torture. I recall, with agonising clarity, how I repeatedly informed my teacher I’d never learn the mysterious art of trigonometry or the other perplexing formulas he taught with such patient diligence.

He’d have been completely bemused to learn I subsequently trained as an accountant and spent 35 years in a commercial environment. Life’s funny like that. Always throwing you the unexpected.

When I took early retirement, I thought I’d have a go at writing a novel of my own. After all, they say everyone has at least one book in them. But what should I write about?

I’ve always been interested in the arts, specifically old black and white films between the 1930’s, and 1960’s. My particular favourites feature Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple, Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, and films directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Having reflected for a while, it suddenly became obvious; I’d write a cosy murder mystery.  Simple!'

I'm not sure it's quite that easy but what a great can-do attitude 😄 Jacqui has just started using Twitter so it would be lovely if you could follow her there @JacquiBlackAuth , and she has produced a tweetable for you (tweet here):

'If you’re looking to relax, or simply want to get away from the stress of everyday life for a while, why not dip into the novels of Jacqui Black, an exciting new author in the Cosy Murder Mystery genre.'

Jacqui published her first novel in 2021 and as this is a second career, I wondered how easy she found the world of writing and publishing?

'The writing element is the most enjoyable, and the least problematic. I’m a ‘pantser’ so, I write an outline of approximately eight pages and then sit down at my laptop and start at chapter one. Sometimes the characters take on a life of their own, and I wander away from my original outline. I find that very exciting. From time to time even I don’t know where the story is going. Usually, it’s all the better for that. Writing is a slow process, I spend three hours a day with my head down, trying to complete at least one chapter a week. It doesn’t always work out that way, other mundane things seem to barge in, such as housework, shopping, etc.

Getting a traditional publisher and/or agent is hard. When I completed FATHOM, I spent months approaching agents and publishers with a book synopsis and query letter. Most didn’t reply. Those that did were polite, but all declined. Very few offered encouragement or advice. It doesn’t do a lot for your self-esteem.

A nagging thought kept running through my mind. ‘This is a damn good book, and it deserves to be read.’  So, I started looking at self-publishing on Amazon. It helped that I have a commercial background. Some of the admin takes a bit of getting to grips with, especially when it comes to the promotional and marketing side of things.

My advice to any budding author is take it slowly, do your business research, have a publishing plan, and be doggedly persistent. I would also add you simply MUST have your book professionally edited and a professionally designed cover. There are a lot of novels to compete with out there. Yours absolutely has to stand out.

I’m very aware that becoming a bestselling author is a VERY slow affair. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that, just maybe, in twenty years’ time, I might become an overnight success!'

I love that, although twenty years? That sounds a bit tough! Having a business background seems a valuable tool for any writer, so does she have any advice for fledgling authors?  

'My background is certainly an advantage when it comes to the business element of being an author.  And it is a business. I apportion my available time; part of the day writing, the remainder carrying out admin. I would recommend doing what you can for yourself, outsourcing everything else. Not only will this method keep you sane, but it will also free up precious time to write.
Also, I find it’s good business strategy to keep everything under review. I constantly ask myself, ‘Can I do this more efficiently/profitably?’  
The Alliance of Independent Authors have several self-help guides which I have found useful.'

Great advice! What does she enjoy the most about writing?

'The escapism. Switching off the humdrum of real life and entering an enchanted world where I can control everything. It’s very cathartic being able to ensure mean-spirited characters get their comeuppance in life.'

Hear, hear (and why doesn't that happen in real life?)! Does Jacqui have a favourite novel?

I don’t have a favourite novel, as such; I love them all. My favourite authors include Agatha Christie (naturally), Dorothy L Sayers, PG Wodehouse and more recently, John Mortimer, Sue Townsend and CJ Sansom.

When I read and re-read them, I always marvel at how clever the author has been in the construction and development of the story and their characters.'

The book I'm reviewing is the second in the series and I asked for a brief synopsis (tweet here):

'THE ROMANOV BROOCH AFFAIR - A Russian gem – A Royal secret – Has a member of the Imperial family escaped a horrifying fate?  Discover the answer in a riveting new cosy murder mystery novel by Jacqui Black.'

And here's an extract from the novel itself (tweet here):

‘Have you heard the news, Pyotr?’ a diminutive grey-haired man in a postman’s uniform called out, his outline framed over the open top of a stable door.  Bouncing from foot to foot, his eyes gleamed with intrigue …….'

What inspired her to write this book?

'My stories are based around real-life conspiracy theories, which I find absolutely fascinating.   I take elements from the theory and incorporate them into a fictional story.  THE ROMANOV BROOCH AFFAIR is the second in a series which I believe has all the essentials for a good read; murder, mystery, glamour, myths and legends, and a soupcon of romance.'

Who doesn't love a good conspiracy? Does she find herself actively seeking them out now, for future books?

'I’ve loved conspiracy theories since I can’t remember when, and I’m constantly looking for new ones. It’s the mystery element, coupled with amazement at their audacity, that draws me in.

Conspiracy theories are everywhere - in history, politics, high finance, Royalty, even friends and family can provide good story ideas. If something particularly interests me, I’ll search out a few documentaries on the subject. I keep a pad for notes and then delve much deeper until I’m happy I have a good solid factual framework around which I can weave a new fictional novel.'

As her books are set in the past, is her priority historical accuracy or is she happy with portraying a general gist?

'Historical accuracy is important, and I try to keep it as truthful as possible. To my mind, it’s these supplementary details which preserve my novels authenticity. My aim is for the reader to question the accepted official version of events. Is it possible the authorities concealed what really happened all those years ago?  However, when necessary, I do use broad brushstrokes to help the plot flow and keep reader interest.'

And how does she select the names of her characters?

It depends on the character’s circumstances. If they are British, something usually presents itself. I look for names that have a connection with the person, i.e. what they do for a living, a trait in their character. For example, in my first novel, FATHOM, I named the gardener ‘Herbert Digweed’ and the chauffeur ‘Edwin Speed.’ If they are from another country, I look up country specific names on the internet, then review their English meaning hoping for something appropriate.'

If she could go back in time, what would she tell her younger writing self?

'To start writing earlier and don’t be afraid to self-publish.  

Having said that, your life experiences make you the author you are. I’ve had such a lot of wonderful and not so wonderful adventures. I’m sure you know the saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ It’s so true, and it gives you an enormous archive you can channel into your writing.'

That does beg the question, how much of Jacqui is in her characters?

'That’s a difficult one. Veronica, one of my principal protagonists, endures the stifling social conventions of the early 1900’s. To some extent her fictional experiences are loosely based on my own in the 1980’s. Being a young woman in commerce I was viewed as somewhat of a novelty. In those days there was a certain expectation young girls would marry and have a family. When I left school, the careers teacher suggested just two options:  working at the local factory, or training as a secretary.  I chose the latter. When I became an accountant, I discovered some of my employers had difficulty dealing with a financially educated woman. 
Other character traits are observed from people’s behaviour. If I think a certain mannerism suits a particular character, I use it. Further research on the internet may be necessary if I need to better understand what drives a personality.'

Does Jacqui read reviews of her books and if so, how does she deal with them?

'I do read my reviews. I find it gives you a boost to know someone appreciates your work. Bad reviews are part of the publishing process. It hurts, but you must develop a thick skin. I tell myself, ‘You can’t please all the people, all of the time.’ It’s a matter of personal choice.

I also read reviews of other authors in my genre. I find this helps to include plenty of the positive suggestions and avoid readers ‘pet hates’, which can be very constructive for me, when creating my own novels.'

What a great way of using reviews! Please remember to do your bit and write reviews too (and if you're not sure how, read here)! I finished by asking if there's anything she’d like to say to you, her readers?

'Thank you for spending your precious time and money to read my novels.  I really do appreciate it.  If you found enjoyment in them, please tell your friends and family.'



I was privileged to read a copy of this book before its release on the 3rd June. I don't usually read cosy murder mysteries but the title of this novel intrigued me. I loved the idea of a novel linked to the 'missing' crown jewels, after the Romanov family were killed by Bolshevik revolutionaries, and was interested to see where this would take me.

A short prologue starts in Russia where we learn about the death of the Tsar and his family, before we launch into the main part of the novel, set one year later, initially in London. 

Here we meet Lancelot Donaldson-Gilks, our protagonist, who is reading about the recent sale of a 'Fabergé ruby and diamond brooch in the shape of the Russian Imperial eagles.'  He's fascinated about the secret identity of the seller, but then notices that Nessie has been spotted again. This isn't great news because he's about to head north on the train, to his family's estate which borders Loch Ness, so the area will be busy. He's meeting up with his extended family for 'The Glorious Twelfth' where they'll partake in the first grouse shoot of the year. 

The family arrive at Braemuir Castle and we experience all the fun (and politics!) that a family get-together can bring. Add in a dash of royalty joining the shoot, along with their entourage including foreign dignitaries, a dead body being removed from the train, another found floating in Loch Ness, and the Chief Superintendent of Scotland Yard just happening to be in Braemuir, and you can can see we're in for an adventure!

Jacqui is very good at making history come alive, from the formal dialogue with household staff to specific procedures of the day. She's able to bring great ambience to her fiction and when the story moves to Scotland, she delights in showing us the wonderful scenery. One of the many examples is,

'White-tailed eagles wheeled gracefully above dense pine forests, granite boulders littered the ice-cold burns snaking across heather-clad moors, and thick bracken made a good hiding place for red deer, a stag’s bellow the only indication of their presence' 

I loved the language, ‘just because a dead body’s been found doesn’t mean skulduggery’s involved’, and the rich characters, such as newspaper reporter Veronica, who is strong and stands up to the normally dominant men,  ‘That’s the sort of cynical remark I’d expect from the bourgeoisie’. 

There's a great mix of real facts scattered throughout the fiction, it was one of those books where you felt you learnt a bit about the period in addition to working out the mystery.

I don't want to say any more about the plot because I don't want to give away any spoilers, but I will say it that it's a fun romp. It has some lovely twists and turns, and I enjoyed trying to work out what was going on, whilst soaking up the rich atmosphere. 

If you enjoy a gentle, rather than gritty, murder mystery, then I recommend 'The Romanov Brooch Affair'. Cosy is a great description of the style as you will want to snuggle down and absorb the setting, experiencing another era when the world was a very different place, and it's charming.

If you'd like to find out more about the author, please visit her links below:

Website: (you can order her book exclusively here)



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