Blog Tour Post: My Country Childhood by Heidi Swain

I am so happy to be on the blog tour for Heidi Swain’s brand new book ‘Summer at Skylark Farm”.

My Country Childhood…

Heidi Swain
 
It will probably come as no surprise to those of you who are familiar with my writing, Tweets and cheery Facebook statuses when I say that my heart belongs to the country, but what you probably don’t know however, is why.
 
When I first came up with the idea of writing a novel or three set in and around the fictitious town of Wynbridge in the flat Fenland landscape of East Anglia, I had no idea I was going to be writing stories about places which would become quite so close to my heart and would consequently set me thinking back over a plethora of childhood memories and experiences.
 
When I first began to plan the Wynbridge map in my mind I was totally unaware of how those long gone sunny summer days filled with fruit picking and foraging had lingered on to shape far more than my formative years.
 
My dad’s side of the family have farmed the never ending expanses of Cambridgeshire land, which stretch far and beyond the twists and turns of the sinuous River Nene, for generations. There is something raw and very real about the big skies and distant horizon of the Fens and along with taking turns in the combine and tractors I can remember a time when the stubble fields were set alight after harvest and the air was thick with smoke and smuts. It might have been a frightening spectacle to some but my goodness it did the land good. Killing off pests and the dreaded black grass (which now grows unchecked by many chemical deterrents), it rejuvenated and replenished the soil ahead of drilling the following year’s crop.
 
In contrast, my mum’s father, Grandad Herb to me, worked the land he rented from the local council, growing crops to send to auction and which for the most part were picked and packed by mum and I. My school summer holidays always began with strawberry picking. Weeks and weeks were filled with working rows and rows of the prickly leaved commercial variety of plants, all lovingly cosseted with neat paths of straw to protect the fruits which were waiting to be plucked in the searing, shimmering sun.
 
How I used to wish I could be anywhere other than bent double in the merciless heat! The only consolation was the occasional soaring skylark shooting out of its nest which was hidden deep among the foliage. I remember shielding my eyes to watch the birds soar and madly sing in a desperate attempt to distract me from their vulnerable brood which I always hastily covered back up before moving on.
 
After strawberry picking came the raspberries, then blackberries, (the hardest of all the berries to gather because of the unforgiving thorns), next were gooseberries, (another thorny fiend), plums, apples and as the weather deteriorated the potatoes. For the most part I was a begrudging teenager who would far rather stay in bed and miss out on the opportunity to earn myself some pocket money, but thank goodness I didn’t.
 
Looking back it was idyllic really; Darling Buds of May in the eighties, halcyon and quite possibly responsible for my overwhelming desire to write about the Fenland landscape, farming, a charming market town and the community of folk living amongst and within them.
 
As an adult I have lived in some beautiful countryside, from Dorset to Aberdeenshire, but none has held on as tight to my heart as that of East Anglia. Now living in a busy village in Norfolk I still can’t resist the urge to get out and about, especially when I’ve been sitting at the keyboard for hours.
 
Even if I haven’t time to go far I still manage to make it as far as the fields which make up my local patch, seek out the first primroses and violets in the spring and the old haunts long favoured by nesting birds. A walk in the fresh air frees the mind, stimulates the brain and in my experience, keeps creativity flowing. Of course I could pull on my boots and pound the streets if I wanted to, but truth be told my heart does, and always will, belong to the country.
 
Heidi x
 
 

summerstakylarkfarmSummer At Skylark Farm

Amber is a city girl at heart. So when her boyfriend Jake Somerville suggests they move to the countryside to help out at his family farm, she doesn’t quite know how to react. But work has been hectic and she needs a break so she decides to grasp the opportunity and make the best of it.
 
Dreaming of organic orchards, paddling in streams and frolicking in fields, Amber packs up her things and moves to Skylark Farm. But life is not quite how she imagined – it’s cold and dirty and the farm buildings are dilapidated and crumbling.
 
But Amber is determined to make the best of it and throws herself into farm life. But can she really fit in here? And can she and Jake stay together when they are so different?
 
Published by: Simon and Schuster
 
View Book on Goodreads
Order on: Amazon UK | Amazon US 
 
Make sure to check out the other bloggers on the tour

Heidi_skylark_tour

Liza Hoeksma tells us Why She Loves Strong Women

I am incredibly happy to introduce this article for my ‘Why I Love Wednesdays’ feature as the first guest post, and it is written by Liza Hoeksma, who you can find out more about below. Thanks Liza!

Why I Love… Strong women

My family has just celebrated my mum turning 70 and as my brother said in his birthday toast, she’s the sort of woman who when life gives her lemons, whacks them in a gin and tonic and throws a party. Growing up she set me an example of being someone who was always willing to stand up for other people whether it was serving as a local councillor, raising money for the nearby women’s refuge or campaigning against apartheid in South Africa.
My mum also gave me a love of fiction and it’s no surprise that I love it when I come across a really strong female character. One who makes me want to shout and cheer, one who inspires me to be braver, work harder and never give up. If you love a strong and feisty heroine, you might like to try one of these books:
Invention of WingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
On Sarah’s 11th birthday her wealthy family give her Hetty, her very own slave girl and so begins an incredible story of slavery, friendship, cruelty and courage. Set in America in the 19th Century this book is heart-breaking and yet awe-inspiring. Sarah and a number of other characters are based on real people who stood against the common thinking of the time and tried to turn the tide against slavery. I love reading about people who break boundaries because of their beliefs and who stand up against the evils they see around them. Some of the scenes are pretty hard to stomach but the story is so beautifully told that it will draw you in and leave you desperate to know how it turns out for Sarah, Hetty and all those around them.
RoomRoom by Emma Donoghue
Though in this book we see life through the eyes of five year old Jack, we are quickly introduced to his mum, Joy, and realise she is the only person he has ever met. They live together in Room and Jack has no understanding there is a whole world outside. Joy was a normal girl until the most horrendous of circumstances changed her life and that’s what’s amazing about her character. Despite the hell she continues to live in – Joy makes everything as normal as possible as she can for Jack. It’s amazing what you could survive if you had to. One of the things I loved was that she had moments of breakdown, when forcing herself to be OK for Jack’s sake became too much. That felt so real to me; being a strong woman isn’t about pretending life is all OK. Joy does what she needs to in order to survive and she gives Jack everything she has; nothing is stronger than a mother’s love.
NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristen Hannah
This was one of my favourite reads of last year, a beautifully written story featuring two amazing sisters separated during the Second World War. Struggling to survive Vianne and Isabelle take wildly different paths as France is occupied, one forced to take the enemy into her home and the other considering becoming part of the Resistance. There are no easy choices as the women struggle to make it through each day, longing to see their country free again, and the book is a humbling and eye-opening read about the realities of war on those left behind. A heart-breaking but utterly compelling read that highlights the resilience of so many women.
How to be a womanHow to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Our heroine here is a real one as this book is part memoir of Caitlin’s life and part social commentary. She covers everything from the joys of puberty to the pressure women constantly face to have children. She tackles feminism and takes it from being something of a dirty word to something that is just common sense for every decent human being (“it’s just everyone being polite”). Chances are you won’t agree with what she says on every topic but you’ll no doubt find yourself fascinated by her opinions, entertained by her stories and laughing at her honest and hilarious observations.
AnneOfGreenGablesAnne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
She may be a daydreamer prone to disasters but Anne is nothing if not feisty. This orphaned girl captures the heart of every reader who meets her so if you’ve not given her a try yet don’t be put off by how old the book is – some things stand the test of time! In a world of cynicism you can’t help but lap up Anne’s romantic nature and innocent fantasies, if you live in a concrete jungle like me, you’ll love the stunning surroundings of Prince Edward Island, if you need something to make you smile you can’t help but love Anne’s ability to get herself into trouble, and if you love romance – no other relationship in fiction can touch that of Anne and Gilbert. Anne will forever be my favourite heroine; she never lets life’s disappointments break her, she stays optimistic and keeps dreaming, she sacrifices for those she loves and she refuses to quit.
So those are some of my favourite heroines to be found in the pages of a book – I’d love to know some of yours. Here’s to strong women: “May we know them, may we be them and may we raise them”.
Thanks again Liza, I will make sure to check out all of the books! What books have you read that have strong women in?
More Than EnoughAuthor info
Liza’s first novel More Than Enough is out now and was voted ‘Mumsnet Best’ by Mumsnet readers. She lives in Hertfordshire, works part-time for a charity, can easily lose hours on Pinterest and spends much of her life helping people spell and pronounce her Dutch surname (think Hook-smar).
Find Lisa on Twitter | Goodreads
Buy her book on Amazon

Blog Tour: My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

I am so happy to be part of this blog tour, today Jasmine shares her influences on writing this book & I have my review of this fantastic book. Thank you Jasmine!
Jasmine on her influences when writing ‘My Heart and Other Black Holes’
As I state in the Author’s Note in the back of My Heart and Other Black Holes, I began to write the book in January 2013, a few days after the death of one of my very closest friends. I found myself in a place of deep grief and working almost compulsively on the manuscript was one of the ways in which I dealt with those feelings. And while the manuscript is a complete work of fiction (in no way based on me, my friend, or anyone else I know), I do think my own personal grief served as a chief inspiration.

Guest Post: The Inspiration behind ‘The Boy in the Cemetery’ by Sebastian Gregory

boyincemetery

I would like to think that the inspiration for The Boy in the Cemetery had not come from me at all. That I do not have a place in my head where the dead never die and still walk the earth, protecting their secrets and passing the time by creating elaborate sculptures from the bones of the long departed.   Unfortunately though, that is not the case, so the question would be why I would write about such things. Yes, there are horrible and upsetting scenes that happen in the story, both in the supernatural and real world.  I wanted to write about how a friendship would work when two wounded souls found each other, even though they are separated by two hundred years and a heartbeat.
I also wanted to tell a young adult story that had adult themes and issues that affected young people. I did not want to shy away from the subject just because it was unsettling and awful, but I wanted to show there is always someone who can show kindness and a way out of even the most terrible of situations. In all my stories so far I have always been inspired to write about the power to overcome despite the trials and sometimes adverse childhoods.

Sebastian Gregory’s THE BOY IN THE CEMETERY is only £0.99 for a limited time on Amazon, Apple and other retailers.

asylum_fairytale_creatures     The Gruesome Adventures of Alice in Undeadland
THE ASYLUM OF FAIRY TALE CREATURES is free for a limited time on Amazon, Apple and other retailers.
THE GRUESOME ADVENTURES OF ALICE IN UNDEADLAND is £0.99 for a limited time on Amazon, Apple and other retailers.
Look out for A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY, coming in December.