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The Truth Is Still Out There by Angela Campbell #XFiles2015

It was only Tuesday and I was having a bad week, overwhelmed at the day job, suffering from seasonal allergies, and worried how much the veterinarian was going to charge for my cat’s annual visit that afternoon.

XFilesPosterThen I heard the news. You know, the news that Fox was officially bringing The X-FILES back for a limited six-episode run with David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson reprising their roles and Mulder and Scully, and a miraculous thing happened. All of the chaos around me faded away. I spent the rest of the day in an absurdly good mood, grinning like an idiot, completely worthless at the day job because I was too busy exchanging emails with friends who were fellow X-Philes. When the vet receptionist handed me the bill that afternoon, I smiled, said, “Thanks!” and didn’t cringe at the cost. Well, maybe I cringed a little, but still.

I know. It’s ridiculous that a TV show, for heaven’s sake, could turn my frown upside down so quickly. Especially when that TV show has been off the air for 13-plus years.

But you only have to look at the type of books I write to understand this is THE X-FILES and it had a profound effect on me. I still remember the night the first episode aired live on television. I had just started college and was starting a new journey, one I was uncertain about, one that both terrified and excited me, and one that made me feel more like an outsider than I already did. I had always been a bit of a geek, interested in the paranormal and science fiction, quiet and kind of a loner, too. Suddenly, there was a guy named Mulder who had an “I Want to Believe” poster in his office who ran around investigating UFOs, monsters and conspiracy theories. He was smart, funny, and sexy. And there was a woman named Scully who was skeptical, but she was intelligent, witty, badass and was right there at Mulder’s side no matter how harrowing things got.

I look at THE X-FILES as the birth of the modern day cool nerds. I made friends in college because of Mulder and Scully. People who already seemed really cool loved THE X-FILES as much as I did and didn’t judge me for all of the geeky things I liked. It gave us something to talk about when ordinarily we wouldn’t have said a word to each other. We discussed the possibilities of Bigfoot, aliens and the Loch Ness Monster between classes. We all admired the heck out of Scully and wanted to date Mulder — or vice versa, depending on your orientation. I wasn’t such an outsider anymore.

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Not to mention, THE X-FILES became a cult hit, and suddenly paranormal romance books became a thing. Like, a really big thing. Other paranormal-centric TV shows followed — SUPERNATURAL, FRINGE, LOST — but none have lived up to THE X-FILES in my eyes. When I met Gillian Anderson at DragonCon a few years ago, I could barely say a word to the woman because I was so nervous, and I don’t get nervous around celebrities. I remember simply saying “Thank you” because how do you express gratitude to an actress for bringing to life a character who feels like one of your best friends, who was there to help you through good times and bad without even realizing it?  You know, without sounding like some whacko stalker? So I just said “Thank you” and probably mumbled some other nonsense that embarrassed me, but whatever. I MET SCULLY! Ha!

The revived series might suck — you can’t be a true X-Phile without admitting some episodes were sloppy at best and the theatrical movies didn’t turn out too well and you either love or hate Chris Carter as a writer — but until I see it, I remain hopefully optimistic. And excited!

I bought a replica poster of Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster at an X-FILES convention once, many, many years ago. I assume it’s in storage now, but hearing the news that Mulder and Scully will be back on TV again has made me want to search for it and hang it up. I think it’d be a nice complement to my book covers.

Come to think of it, I think every book I’ve written has had at least one brief reference to Mulder and Scully in it somewhere. It’s the least I can do for those two.

So tell me: Are you excited to see the show return?

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Learn more about Angela Campbell’s books at www.AngelaCampbellOnline.com.

Cocktails on My Mind… by Nikki Moore

It’s almost time for the weekend and we were looking for some cocktail inspiration. So we asked Nikki Moore, author of the coveted #LoveLondon series, for some help!

COCKTAILS_CHELSEA

It’s no secret that I’ve loved the research trips I’ve been on for The Ritz Mary Pickfordmy#LoveLondon series, and drinking cocktails at The Ritz and trying different ones back home in Bournemouth has been no exception. So withCocktails in Chelsea released on Thursday 19th March, I thought it would be remiss of me not share some of those cocktails with you… plus a few recipes! Enjoy…

 

A lovely summery drink (a traditional with a bitof a fruity twist) is the Strawberry Margarita; really refreshing on a hot, sunny day.

Recipe

1.5 cups of strawberries Strawberry Margarita

1 x cup crushed ice

1/2 cup tequila

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

0.25 cup of sugar

3 tablespoons Cointreau

 

Use a blender to blend until smooth, pour into glasses and garnish with lime or strawberries.

 

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a cocktail that has five different types of alcohol in it, so the Long Island Iced Tea is a firm favourite!

Recipe

1.5 cl TequilaLong Island Iced Tea

1.5 cl Vodka

1.5 cl White Rum

1.5 cl Triple Sec

1.5 cl Gin

2.5 cl Lemon juice

3.0 cl Gomme syrup

1 dash of coke

 

Serve in a highball glass over ice, stir gently and drink!

Both Cosmo’s (Cosmopolitan) and Mojito’s feature in Cocktails in Chelsea, probably because they’re two of my favourites. Cosmo’s are perfectly balanced with vodka offset against juicy cranberry and a splash of lime; while zingy Cuban minty Mojito’s are great for sipping while lying on a beach (I’ve done this in a deckchair, overlooking the Med on the French Riviera…)

Recipe

4 cl Vodka Citron

1.5 cl Cointreau

1.5 cl Fresh lime juice

3 cl Cranberry juice

 

Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker full of ice, shake well and strain twice into a glass, garnish with a slice of lime.

 

Recipe

 Cosmo and Mojito

4 cl (4 parts) Bacardi (or other white rum)

3 cl (3 parts) Fresh lime juice

6 mint leaves

2 teaspoons sugar

Soda water

 

Muddle the mint leaves with the sugar and lime juice, add the rum and top up with soda water. Garnish with a mint sprig and serve with a straw.

 

The trip to The Ritz was a definite highlight, and being served cocktails in the gorgeous art-deco bar was no exception. I was brave and tried something new, the Mary Pickford, according to The Ritz, ‘ A prohibition classic created in the 1920’s at the Hotel National De Cuba for the silent movie star who was in Cuba filming a movie with her husband, Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin.’ I can’t give you the full recipe but it contains Rum, lime cordial, pineapple cordial, cherry liquor and pomegranate syrup….

Happy St Patrick’s Day! from Carmel Harrington

Whether you are Irish or simply Irish at heart, it’s likely that on St. pretendPatrick’s Day, you will wear something green and partake in some form of celebration to mark the day. Parades are held worldwide, with people celebrating Irish culture with floats, dancing, food, drink and of course wearing fifty shades of green.

 

 

 

Icarmel’ll be marching this year with my family in the Enniscorthy Parade with Focal – Wexford Literary Festival. Our parades are a celebration of local clubs and organisations in our county, where football and hurling teams proudly wear their club colours with pride, alongside hip hop dance groups. Our floats are on a much smaller scale than in many countries worldwide. You know, it was this time last year, that I was on a  mini book tour for Beyond Grace’s Rainbow, for it’s US release. My timing was perfect, because I was invited to participate in the Chicago Parade on the 16th March, feeling like a prom queen as I stood waving to all atop a white and green float. Then I flew into New York, to march in their famous parade down fifth avenue. Wearing a purple and gold sash no less, I was a proud Wexford gal!

 

 

I was gobsmacked by how seriously the US takCarmelHe this holiday. I’ve never seen so much green worn by so many people, from every corner of the globe. At one of my book signings, a lovely Italian womanarrived, dressed head to toe in green. When I questioned her about her Irish heritage (assumptions, assumptions!), she told me that she had none. She’d simply worn green in honour of me!

 

I know that for many, St Patrick’s Day is an excuse to go drinking. It’s been reported that over 13 million pints of guinness is drank worldwide every year on this day. But did you know that up until 1970, you couldn’t get a drink in Ireland on St. Patricks day? All pubs were closed for religious purposes. If you wanted a jar, you had to attend the annual Crufts dog show, the only event where alcohol was allowed. It’s been reported that many a person suddenly became interested in cocker spaniels and Irish wolfhounds, on this one day a year.

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Now thankfully, if you fancy a pint of the black stuff you can raise a glass with us all to your hearts content. Black stuff is one of the nicknames for guinness, but if you prefer you can run with a pint of plain, or a scoop or jar. All acceptable.

 

We love how much our national holiday has spread throughout the world. It’s like a green epidemic. But be warned, there are a few things that you must never do, if you want to avoid upsetting us!

 

First of all, in the name of all that is green, remember thisliamstpattys. You never, ever, call it St. Patty’s Day. We’ll let you away with St. Paddy’s, but utter the word Patty and you can expect a strong reaction. It’s just wrong.And speaking of no-no’s, here’s another. Enough already with the Paddy Irishman jokes. They’re not funny.To us at least. Poor old Paddy has done his time being the fall guy.

 

Another thing that drives us mad,is random people shouting phrases like ‘Top of the morning to ya!’ and uttering begorra’s and begod’s in their dozens. Well I’ll let you into a secret. I’ve never once, ever, heard an actual Irish person say any of that. I reckon John Wayne in The Quiet Man has a lot to answer to. So if you feel the urge to shout that to one of us, take a sip of your guinness and resist it! Oh and by the way, hate to break this to you, but there are no such thing as leprachauns. Sorry to all the fans of Darby O’Gill. But fact’s are facts.

 

With Irish living all over the world, no matter where you are, it’s near impossible now to avoid the celebrations. And that’s pretty cool if you ask me. Celebrate with us, don your green, slap some shamrock on your lapel, raise your glass, read a book by an Irish fiction author (ahem….) and have   craic agus ceol in abundance.

 

And remember, “There are only two kinds of people in the world. The Irish and those who wish they were.” – Irish Saying

 

 Happy St. Patrick’s Day

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Bookspiration: Behind the Scenes of ‘In the Shadow of Winter’ by Lorna Gray

103490-FC50It was International Women’s Day this week and debut author Lorna Gray is here today to talk about the inspiring women behind historical adventure In the Shadow of Winter

Thursday marks the release of my debut novel In the Shadow of Winter, where heroine Eleanor Phillips tackles the relentless winter which holds post-war Britain in its deadly grip. She finds this considerably easier to deal with than the unexpected return of former love Matthew Croft and the danger that follows him to her door. Eleanor is brave, capable and very determined. She is also, needless to say, a fictional character, so since it was International Women’s Day only a few days ago, it seems a very good time to write a little piece about the real women who were my inspiration to write her.

In early 1947, nearly two years after the end of WWII, British women (and men of course) were still dealing with rationing and shortages, and now they had to face one of the most severe winters on record. Shortages became so extreme that bread rationing was introduced, although this wasn’t an immediate problem for my next-door neighbour’s mother, since she couldn’t get to her nearest bakery to buy bread anyway. It was two miles away and spent half its time buried under snow-drifts of up to six metres deep. Desperate, she improvised with a sack of wheat that had been intended as cattle feed, grinding it up as fine as she could and baking it into a loaf. Apparently it was virtually inedible, which is saying something given how determined people were to use anything and everything in those weeks of hardship. But the one positive side is that it did motivate the boys on the farm to dig a path through snow and hedges across the fields, and to find a way to get to that bakery after all.

When the snow finally thawed, everyone must have been expecting things to get better but, as is frequently the way of these things, they really didn’t. The respite came sooner for those lucky enough to live on the Cotswold hilltops, Eleanor included, but the last great storm of the winter brought high winds and rain that added to the meltwater, and a large number of towns and villages were submerged when rivers burst their banks. One lady I spoke to from Frampton-on-Severn told me of her delight when she peered across piles of her rescued possessions out of her first floor window – downstairs was more than a little damp – to discover the milk-man still doing his rounds. He conveniently brought his barge right up to her window and left the milk on the sill.

Milkman_s

Since food seems to be an ongoing theme here, it is worth mentioning the dinner menu I discovered in a notable women’s magazine. It was nestling between advice on how to renovate old clothes and an advert for infants’ gripe-water (Entirely free from Opium and other narcotic drugs!). One intrepid reader had sent in her menu for ‘Party Food’, which used only unrestricted ingredients. It began with a delicious cauliflower soup, moved on to creamed haddock and baked beans, and concluded with stuffed marrow. I think it is safe to say that although I find these women’s stories fascinating and an inspiration, I don’t envy them their culinary choices.

Another theme that developed through my research was the realisation that across the country, the lanes and roads were left impassable for days on end. Those who lived in rural farmsteads, like Eleanor, were well and truly on their own. No-one was coming to help, and no-one knew what their nearest neighbours were up to, or sometimes if they were even still alive. It made the perfect setting for the rescue of a desperate man, and the threat that followed close behind.

Above all, In the Shadow of Winter is more than a trip into history. These women who kindly shared their experiences made the account of their deprivations a lesson in cheerful determination, and just the same, Eleanor is ready to tackle any fresh challenge that the weather flings at her. The main difference between their stories and Eleanor’s is that the storm didn’t bring them face to face with suspicion and the old ties of a failed romance. Or at least if it did, they’re not telling.

Order In the Shadow of Winter now.

What Readers Want – Lynne Drew’s View on the Trends in Women’s Fiction

The brilliant Lynne Drew, publisher of amazing women’s fiction, is here to give us her view on the hottest trends in commercial fiction at the moment.  #Romance15 

Lynne Drew

OH if only I had a pound for every time someone asks about industry trends. And if only it were that simple – pick what everyone wants and you’d have a bestseller. However, here are a few thoughts …

  1. Gone Girl keeps running and running. There’s no let-up in appetite for the domestic thriller – the novel that peers behind the net curtain of married life to see what’s really going on. These novels aren’t traditional crime novels, hinging on detection or motive, and nor do they always feature police investigations. They’re psychological and the appeal lies in the suspense, the building menace that comes, usually, from unreliable narrators and unpredictable characters; characters who are drawn to look just like people we know, in marriages we recognise, and jobs we find familiar. The tension lies in who you can ever really know – or trust…and how easily any of us might find ourselves in that situation. Girl on the Train, which has just shot straight to the hardback number 1 slot, is a prime example of this. It makes a change from women being the raped, beaten victims of male psychopaths and reflects a female appetite for novels that inhabit the complex psychological worlds of marriage, work and friendship.
  1. There’s a continued appetite for historical fiction in all its guises. This isn’t just the big Wolf Hall variety – it’s an appetite for rich, layered novels, sometimes with two strands, that take us back to a very different or difficult time and let us experience it. The twentieth-century continues to throw up rich pickings here, whether it’s Isabel Wolff memorably evoking the Indonesian prisoner of war camps that many of us knew nothing about, or Rosie Thomas re-creating Kashmir during the Second World War and depicting the isolation and unrest of that time. Downton and Mr Selfridge continue to draw huge audiences and prove how thirsty we are to have a different period illuminated through the characters we engage with. Perhaps too, as we move ever faster into a tech age, the past century seems so very different.
  1. Darker, sadder fiction- perhaps because of the times we live in, perhaps as a reaction to austerity, we all seem to be loving a good tearjerker or a story that looks inwards. These are novels with more introspective themes; novels that deal with tough subjects and sometimes with death, but ultimately give us a feeling of hope for the future, and deliver emotional reward for the reader. The amazing word-of-mouth sales of Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer’s stunning debut about mental illness, loss, and brotherly love, just go to show how strongly we’re all responding.
  1. But, as with last year, for the times when you don’t want any of the above, just help yourself to a cupcake in a cute setting. I’m not sure this trend has much further to run – but I probably said that last year, and 2014 was full to bursting with cake-y, cutesy, beach-based vintage teashop books, most performing best on Kindle and feeding an apparently insatiable appetite for entertaining escapism at a low entry price.
  1. My wildcard prediction for the year ahead is that we’ll see more novels set in different universes or different places – timeslip or post-apocalypse in some way; not sci-fi or fantasy in the true sense, but a very slightly different world to where we are now, tipped just slightly from the one we recognise. As the speed of the technological revolution hastens, so we become fascinated by how closely worlds similar to our – but in vastly different landscapes, or remote, inaccessible corners of the globe, tipped over by one small thing – might be what lies ahead.

How we read is changing and there are more distractions for readers than ever before – so above all, the power of strong original voices telling stories you can’t put down has to prevail. We all share our thoughts more than ever before, making it easier to pick out a great read. And that has to be a good thing for all of us who love to curl up with a good book.

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