Author Archives: Sarah

Reading for enjoyment – necessary for our wellbeing…

open book for reading

Inspired by Liz’s super post last week, I am indulging myself this weekend because it is Mothering Sunday.

I have decided I am not going to write.

I am going to be reading.

But hang on, is reading an indulgence or a necessity?

We all need time off to recharge our batteries, refill the well, get our head together — whatever you want to call it. Sometimes it can be a good walk, or a browse around a museum, or just hanging out with friends.

chatting about reading authors we love

Or reading a good book

In these uncertain times, most of the things listed above are just not practical.
Except the last.interior Leakey's Bookshop Inverness

So, this weekend I am going to indulge myself with books. Lots of them. I shall dip in and out, look at old favourites and rearrange my teetering TBR pile. (Okay, I confess, the picture on the right is NOT my TBR books, but I’d love it to be! This is Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness, a treasure trove for anyone who loves browsing books.)

Later I shall also be asking you to recommend new ones to make that TBR pile teeter even more perilously!

cover Death Come To Cornwall by Kate JohnsonI am currently enjoying a lovely cosy crime mystery by Kate Johnson Death Comes to Cornwall.

When I am in the middle of writing a romance, my reading time is limited and so is my concentration span.

Also, I have to read something from another genre, and this one fits the bill very nicely. It has an enjoyable romance, gorgeous setting and enough mystery to keep me guessing without addling my poor cold-befuddled brain. (No, it’s not befuddled with that virus. Just an ordinary common-or-garden cold.)

Another cosy crime author whose books are always adding to my TBR pile is Lesley Cookman. Her Libby Sarjeant series is a constant delight. I love the Kentish village setting and quirky characters.

cover Murder In Steeple Martin by Lesley Cookman

I shall also be pulling books from my “keeper’s shelf” and reminding myself how much I enjoyed them. Like P D James’ thrillers – always absorbing but a little unsettling, too. Her talent for acute observation always makes me a bit uncomfortable, possibly because of what I fear she might have observed in me, had we ever met!

Sherlock Holmes with pipe and magnifying glass

And then there is the Shetland Series by Ann Cleeves.

cover Cold Earth by Ann Cleeves

 

I discovered these wonderful books after watching the first television series, and I devoured the lot, almost back to back. Perhaps it was because we were already thinking of moving to Scotland but I fell in love with the island setting.

Her characters, too, are so well drawn. And so much better, if I dare say so, than the tv version, although that, too is very good.

 

Comfort Reads

Illness or bad news can be so dispiriting, can’t it?
That’s when I find myself reaching for my comfort reads.

My poor Georgette Heyer paperbacks are beginning to fall apart now, but they still do the trick. These are the covers of my copies: I considered putting up pictures of the latest, glossy covers but heck, these are much-loved books. So here they are in all their, er, glory!

worn covers of 3 Georgette Heyer Regencies

There are others, of course, mainly contemporary romances, that I reach for when I need to cover Afgternoon Tea at the Sunflower Cafe by Milly Johnsonescape the world. My early Katie Fforde books are very well thumbed, and a few years ago I discovered another author to add to my favourites: Milly Johnson.

Milly’s new books never linger on the TBR pile very long!

If you can have such a thing as no nonsense comedy then Milly delivers it. Her situations are very real, the characters complex but there are always plenty of laughs and a satisfying ending.
What more can I ask for in a feel-good read?

And as I begin to recover – from my cold 😉 – I find I start thinking of all those things I have missed while curled up on the sofa with a blanket and a box of tissues. Like cooking a new recipe. So I like to browse through recipe books, ones with nice glossy pictures that can inspire me to put on an apron and slave over a hot stove.
Like these three beauties: Delia, James Martin, Nigella.

covers of cookbooks by Delia Smith, James Martin, Nigella Lawson

Now, did I mention Scotland earlier?

Scotland – and specifically the Highlands – is my new passion. (Look out for a kilted Highlander later in the year!) I just cannot get enough of the place.

At Christmas I was given a perfectly delightful coffee table book, Highland Retreats.

cover of Highland Retreats by Mary MiersWhen I need to rest my eyes from all those printed pages, I can browse through pictures of the sumptuously romantic castles of the north of Scotland. It is the perfect book to have to hand when the weather is too foul to venture out of doors.

I can take a virtual tour of the Highlands, marvel at the fairy-tale turrets of Dunrobin Castle and Ardverikie. (That’s the Scots Baronial hunting lodge used as Glen Bogle in “Monarch of the Glen” — remember that series? Based on the books of Compton Mackenzie).

I can browse through pictures of the sumptuous interiors, imagine the gatherings, parties, balls taking place in the baronial halls, drinking hot toddies before a blazing fire. Best to keep these ideas as dreams? I suspect the reality was long draughty corridors and smoking chimneys!

I admit there is very little in the book that is of use to me, since my historicals are mainly set pre-Victorian times. But as I said at the beginning, this is a weekend of indulgence. No pressure to research or learn anything, just to sit and enjoy.

Now it’s your turn

So, dear guest, what are YOU reading?  I have had my say. Now it is over to you to tell me what you will be reading/browsing this weekend — or into the week, if you have time to spare.

Whatever it is, I hope it takes you away to somewhere magical, even if only for a while!

Sarah Mallory author image

Sarah Mallory

The Housekeeper, Good or Otherwise. And a competition

Just a note that the competition is now closed – but do please, keep reading!autumnal trees

So here we are again, at the beginning of another November. At this time of the year the winter sun shines directly into my kitchen window. It acts as a spotlight to any dust or marks that I have missed.  And I miss a lot.

house cleaning cartoon

Oh dear, I do not think I would make a very good housekeeper! I would much rather be reading a book.

And talking of books, at the end of this piece there is the chance for you to win a few (four!) plus extra goodies.

‘OW THE OTHER ‘ALF LIVED

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Sarah Mallory: Living and writing in the Scottish Highlands.

Those who know me from Social media will probably realise that I have moved. A big move. Massive. After 30 years in one house I have moved to the Scottish Highlands.   To Wester Ross. It has been described as Britain’s last great wilderness, and with good reason. Moving here is not just another country, it is another life and a very different one. The language is almost the same. Almost, but not quite. One has to think more about it. No one asks where you live, it is where are you staying, as if you are just passing through.

Hospitality is generous, tea, cake or biscuits are often offered as a matter of course. Which means I need to brush up on my baking skills.

Okay, I doubt I will EVER bake anything this good!

The Scottish Highlands from a writer’s point of view

I travel through this land with my writer’s hat on. The landscape feels old. Continue reading

Nourishment for the Soul (but no escaping literature)

Today I am calm, relaxed. I wanted to share that with you.

The reason?

I have just returned from a few days touring the Highlands. The North Coast 500 to be exact. And what has this to do with writing, you may ask? Well, it does us all good to get away from the desk occasionally, to be inspired by new locations, different ways of life.

Nourishment for the soul

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Cakes, Crooks and Fallen Women. Controlling Characters?

So. It is Almost Out (just like one of Heyer’s hopeful young ladies of the Regency). The Highborn Housekeeper. My book about a noblewoman turned cook. A kind of Regency Nigella.
And funnily enough, my heroine resembles her, too. In my head.

Picture by Brian Minkoff-London Pixels

Controlling Fallen Women?The Ton's Most Notorious Rake by Sarah Mallory

A few years ago I wrote about the fallen women of Compton Parva. (That was my working title. It was published by Harlequin/Mills & Boon as The Ton’s Most Notorious Rake.)

One of the “fallen women” was Nancy, the big-hearted, big-bosomed earl’s daughter who was the mother hen of the group, looking after everyone.

Controlling Nancy? She was far too large a personality to be confined to a bit part in one book.
I fought it, I truly did, but no. She would NOT lie down. Continue reading

The Sweet Sorrow of Endings

I have done it!  I have finished my latest historical romance!
Hooray, I hear you say. At last.
About time.champagne to celebrate book endings

writer worries waiting for editor's verdict

It has been polished, re-polished and sent winging its merry way to The Editor, the god-like creature who will pronounce judgement upon my baby. As some old writer hack said, “parting is such sweet sorrow.”
It is an anxious time.

But while I wait, chewing my nails to the quick, I have been pondering on Life, the Universe and…

Endings

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Perfecting the Practice of Procrastination

Procrastination? Oh look, there’s a squirrel!

a cute squirrel is an excuse for procrastination

Hi, Sarah here. If you think writing is easy, think again!

Yes, an author might have a burst of creativity, ideas may come thick and fast, but translating those scenes in one’s head into a publishable book can be tortuous. Sometimes anything seems a better option than actually putting words on the page.

Recently, Liz Fielding and I sat down to discuss the problem of procrastination. Then we were distracted!

So — yesterday we finally sat down to discuss it!

Procrastination is the thief of time

Liz:  Ah, the P word, Sarah. What can I say?  When the words are slow to come, there is always the lure of Pinterest… Continue reading

Strongholds, Sea, Sand. And Swordmakers

Sarah opens up on the tortuous route of the author’s imagination…towards swordmakers

Inspiration

Every author needs it. Something that sparks the imagination and begins the tortuous route that leads to a full novel. It might take months, or even years, but we all have to start somewhere.

For every book.

This is the story of one such route to inspiration

It started with a castle. This castle to be exact. Dunstanburgh, standing proud on a windy, sea-battered promontory on the Northumberland coast.

Dunstanburgh Castle and rolling waves

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A Moving Post (if you’ll excuse the pun) : Liz and Sarah tell all

Moving is never easy

moving day boxesLiz: Moving is a two-way problem. Either you’re upsizing, in which case you don’t have enough furniture, or downsizing, in which case you have too much of everything.

moving van awaits

My Old Man said Follow the Van…

 

 

 

Sarah: To make things worse, I moved twice within twelve months (I know, madness, but we had A Plan… more of that later).

moving boxes ready to load

Liz: Aargh! I have just downsized from a five bedroom, four reception house to a two bedroom flat. I had too much of everything and what I’d have liked to have kept was mostly the wrong size. Where on earth do you start!

moving preparationsSarah: I know exactly what you mean!  We had a dream of moving to the west coast of Scotland but we had no property in mind when we moved out of our old house, so no idea what we would need to keep. All I knew was that we would not need much Continue reading

Reader, I married them (while researching the rake)

statue of a rake?As anyone researching the Regency period knows, the rake — the real Regency rake — was dangerous, unscrupulous and sometimes even a vicious womaniser.

I am very sorry, dear reader, if I have shattered your illusions.

Many of us like the fantasy of “taming” a bad boy, but most of us know in our hearts that it is nigh on impossible. Not quite impossible, of course. There are exceptions to the rule, but these are probably as rare in real life as the number of real live dukes in existence (which may be material for another story, another time).

silhouette of man's head in question markquestion mark being broken by handThere is always something to research for a new book. Often it seems obvious — military history for instance, when one sets a book around the Battle of Waterloo; or costume details for the period.

We have to invent a history for each of our characters. It may not feature in the actual book, but it is very necessary. As my latest book has proved. Continue reading