Discover Jerusalem with author Miriam Drori

Today, I'm extending a warm welcome to author Miriam Drori, who tells us about Jerusalem, the city she now calls home. It's also where her romance, Neither Here Nor There, is set. I'm intrigued!

Let's see what Miriam has to say...

Writing Home

Jerusalem was the obvious setting for Neither Here Nor There. I wanted to write a romance. I wanted to write an unusual romance. I wanted the heroine to have a reason to hold back from throwing herself into a relationship. I wanted to write something I knew about.

Having the heroine come from the haredi community ticked all the boxes. It also made for an interesting topic – one that I was keen to explore. What better place to set my story than Jerusalem, my home town, where I see people from the haredi community every time I leave my house? Sorted, or was it?
View of David's Tower
I wasn’t sure about setting the novel in my home town. Writers often prefer to describe places further away from them, because that gives them a perspective that’s hard to gain in a place they see every day. But I think Jerusalem is such a special place that it can never become mundane, however long you live here.

Also, I had always refrained from setting a story in Jerusalem, or anywhere in Israel. I felt that readers expected any story set in Israel to involve terrorism and the ongoing struggles with our neighbours. I wasn’t sure anyone would want to read a story that didn’t mention this. I wasn’t sure readers familiar with our part of the world only through the news media would believe that there is life outside all the conflict.
Despite this explicit and distinctive setting, I wanted my story to be relevant to readers anywhere in the world. My heroine, Esty, happened to grow up in the haredi world in Jerusalem. But a lot of her experiences could parallel those of anyone who had been brought up in a sect, closed off from the outside world.

It’s also no coincidence that my main characters visit London. This was the city where I was born and grew up. For the novel, I had to picture London for someone visiting this vast metropolis for the first time. As I haven’t lived there for ever so long, this wasn’t hard to do.

When I finished the novel, I still wasn’t sure how readers would react to it. I knew there would be some antagonism because, while I don’t denigrate the haredi community, of my two main characters, one has left it and the other is outside it, so naturally both are not completely in favour of that way of life.

Having received praise from my beta readers and later from many other readers, I think my novel works. Many have learnt a lot from it while enjoying what is essentially a light romance. Others have appreciated reading a story with a familiar background. And I got to wander around my beautiful town and see it through new eyes.


Miriam Drori left London at the age of twenty-three and lived briefly in the south and the north of Israel before marrying and settling down in Jerusalem to raise two sons and a daughter. Following professions in computer programming and technical writing, she now spends her time writing creatively and editing.

Miriam began writing in order to raise awareness of social anxiety. Since then, the scope of her writing has widened, but she has never lost sight of her original goal.


Miriam Drori

Twitter: @MiriamDrori

Neither Here Nor There: a romance with a difference

Discover New Mexico with author Claire Stibbe

Today, I’m delighted to welcome author Claire Stibbe who will introduce us to New Mexico where her upcoming novel, The 9th Hour, is based. A fascinating area!

Over to Claire…

Researching ideas for my second novel in the Detective Temeke series has been so much fun, especially driving around Albuquerque through all the areas Temeke & Malin would go.

The first book takes place in Albuquerque, New Mexico where a nine-year-old African American girl has been abducted. Temeke, a detective working for violent crimes against children, is called out one early December morning to take over a case nobody wants. Why? Because former lead Detective Jack Reynolds was found dead under the bridge on Exit 230 to San Mateo. He had a gunshot wound to his head.

With a new partner, a new case and a new set of wheels, Temeke takes to the roads in search of a man who keeps the body parts of his eight young victims as trophies and has a worrying obsession with the number nine.

National Forest
With so many state parks here in New Mexico, the hiking trails are numerous and great places to soak up the mood and learn about the history of the southwest. Big blue skies, palisade cliffs and all kinds of fauna only add to each scene. With the help of detectives in the local police department, this has been crucial in piecing together the steps of a serial killer.

Slate-grey skies, a sheet of rain one minute and the growl of thunder the next has provided the right mood for my book. I love the characters and the way they lead each chapter to who knows where. And yes, normally I have a structure, only this time it all went out of the window.

It’s David Temeke’s fault. His dry wit always goes for the jugular, rubbing the Duke City Police Department up the wrong way. Unit Commander Hackett is clearly suspicious of Temeke, an African/British ex-pat, and has reluctantly assigned him a new east coast transfer, Malin Santiago. It’s a high profile case where her Hispanic/Norwegian roots are a valuable asset to the team. Can’t say why. You’ll just have to read the book. Only, Temeke believes that Santiago lacks the necessary experience for such a case which is adding a considerable strain to their professional relationship. Not to mention her physical attraction to him which is about as welcome as a skunk at a lawn party.  

I often sit in my favorite coffee shop (when I feel the need for a change of scene), and ask my characters questions. It’s amazing what they come up with. I wrote a scene for Santiago that would change Temeke’s view of her; maybe give him something to chew over. But being despicable Temeke, he wanted to leave things as they are. Unrequited love in the Northwest Area Command is much too much fun to watch. And Malin isn’t all smiles and teeth. There’s a certain metal in her psyche that gets stronger with every book. She might have started out as a pit-dweller, but she’s sure making up for it now.

All this and more in The 9th Hour, soon to be published in November 2015 by Crooked Cat Publishing.

About the Author:

Claire is the author of two Egyptian Fiction books, Chasing Pharaohs and The Fowler’s Snare. For more information on Claire Stibbe, please visit:
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Highland Arms storming up the charts!

I'm absolutely chuffed to see my Scottish historical romance, Highland Arms, climb the Amazon charts in the UK, US and Canada. Thank you, new readers! :-)

If you fancy a romantic adventure in the Scottish Highlands, look no further. There's conspiracy, murder, abduction, loss and love. 

Blurb for Highland Arms:

Betrayed by her brother’s lies, Catriona MacKenzie is banished from her home to her godmother’s manor in the remote Scottish Highlands. While her family ponders her fate, Catriona’s insatiable curiosity leads her straight into trouble–and into the arms of a notorious Highlander. 

Five years after an ill-fated Jacobite rebellion, Rory Cameron works as a smuggler to raise money for the cause–until Catriona uncovers a plot against him and exposes his activities. Now, Rory is faced with a decision that could either save their lives or destroy both of them. 

But he’s running out of time… 


Highland Arms is the first in The Highland Chronicles series of historical romance novels set in the Scottish Highlands.

Grab your copy now on Amazon or Smashwords

Discover Royaumont with Margaret K Johnson

Today, my guest is author Margaret K Johnson. She tells us about Royaumont, the setting of her novel, A Nightingale in Winter, where a hospital was housed during World War I within the walls of a former Cistercian abbey. Remarkably for its time, it was entirely run by women!

Welcome, Margaret!


A Nightingale in Winter, published by Omnific Publishing, is about Eleanor, a volunteer nurse (VAD), who is working in France during the First World War. Eleanor, who is running away from a traumatic past, throws herself into her work, and is always fascinated to learn about the latest medical advances and innovations – for example – the first blood transfusions. She begins to feel she would like to become a qualified nurse, or even a doctor after the war. 
Royaumont Hospital
It’s no surprise then, that when she gets the opportunity to travel to Royaumont to visit a hospital run in a former 13th century Cisterian abbey, she jumps at the chance, putting aside her reservations about the impropriety of travelling unaccompanied with the handsome Dirk Loreson, an American journalist.

Royaumont, with its towering chestnut trees and surrounding forests and streams, is still a special place to visit. But it was even more special during World War One, because it was a hospital staffed entirely by women of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals. These pioneering women, most of them strong members of the Suffragette Movement, were determined to prove their worth and to be part of the ‘great adventure’ of the war.

The British forces declined their help, advising them to ‘Go home and sit still,’ but other countries, including Serbia, France and Belgium, were not so archaic in their thinking and happy to accept any help that was forthcoming. During the time it was open (January 1915 – March 1919), the hospital at Royaumont admitted nearly 11,000 patients, many of them with very serious injuries. The 600 bed hospital quickly gained a reputation for its excellent medical care. Being situated only 25 miles from the front line, its staff dealt with the train after train of casualties from the Battle of the Somme, many of whom had gas gangrene infecting around their wounds.

The hospital’s success was greatly due to its founder and chief surgeon, Dr Frances Ivens. Dr Ivens came across as such an interesting and strong character during my research, that I included her as a character in A Nightingale in Winter. Frances Ivens was pioneering in many ways, and her practises meant that the hospital was extremely successful in saving both lives and limbs that might otherwise have been amputated. She was a very inspiring figure, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been quite so surprised, following the publication of the book, to discover another novel that uses Dr Ivens and the hospital at Royaumont – In Falling Snow by Mary-Rose MacColl! Through my writing and research, I already felt I had a passing acquaintance with Frances, and now I could learn even more about her, since she plays a large part in MacColl’s novel.

I do think that settings can become like characters in a book – when you have a place like Royaumont, where cloisters have to become hospital wards, laundry has to be hoisted up huge stairwells, and nightingales sing under the moonlight in the surrounding forests it cannot help but affect action and emotions. Although Royamont only features in a few chapters of A Nightingale in Winter, they are very important chapters for my character, Eleanor, for she is intoxicated by everything that is Royaumont. And Dirk, the American journalist? Is she intoxicated by him as well? You’ll have to read the book to find out!


It is 1916, and The Great War is raging throughout Europe. Eleanor Martin is traveling to France to serve as a volunteer nurse. She only wants to bury herself in her work on the Front and forget her traumatic past. But when her ship is torpedoed, Eleanor has to act quickly to save an American journalist’s life. As she cradles Dirk Loreson’s broken body in her arms, speaking to him to keep him conscious, the possibility of a whole different future begins to open up for her.

Leo Cartwright, an ambitious artist, is also en route to the Front. A ruthless man who will stop at nothing to find inspiration for his paintings, Leo’s path is destined to cross with Eleanor’s. As she comes under his spell, will she find the strength to resist his demands? Will she trust her growing love for Dirk?

A Nightingale in Winter is about courage and searing ambition at a time when the very foundations of the world have been shaken.

A Nightingale in Winter is available in ebook and paperback formats.

Amazon UK  Amazon US


Margaret K Johnson began writing after finishing at Art College to support her career as an artist.

Writing quickly replaced painting as her major passion, and these days her canvasses lay neglected in her studio. She is the author of women’s fiction, stage plays and many original fiction readers in various genres for people learning to speak English.

Margaret also teaches fiction writing and has an MA in Creative Writing (Scriptwriting) from the University of East Anglia. She lives in Norwich, UK with her partner and their bouncy son and dog.

Discover Verona with author Sue Barnard

Today, I welcome the lovely Sue Barnard to My Place. Not only is Sue a highly talented writer, she's also a history nut (sound familiar?) - and she studied Italian and French, two languages I love. :-)

Sue's novel, The Ghostly Father, tells an alternative story to Romeo & Juliet, the world's most famous – and most tragic – romance. Today, she's telling us more about them, and their city of Verona...
Roman Arena
Two households, both alike in dignity,
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene,
From ancient grudge break to new mutiny,
Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes
A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life,
Whose misadventured, piteous overthrows
Do with their death bury their parents’ strife…

So begins William Shakespeare’s tragic tale of Romeo and Juliet, the story for which the city of Verona is justly famous.  

In fact, more than one-third of Shakespeare’s plays are set wholly or partly in Italy, and all of them display an amazingly detailed knowledge of the country, its customs and its people.  Indeed, some Shakespeare scholars believe that this is where his so-called “lost years” (between leaving his home town of Stratford-upon-Avon in 1585 and arriving in London seven years later) were in fact spent.

San Zeno, Last Supper
The jury is still out on whether or not this is true, but the fact remains that Verona (perhaps more than any other place which is the setting for a Shakespeare play) has definitely made the most of this association.  Fans of Romeo & Juliet can now visit several sites in the city which claim to have links with the characters and events from this iconic love story.

Casa di Giulietta
The best-known and most popular of these is the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house), situated in a small courtyard just off the busy Via Cappello.  The attraction itself is a twentieth-century invention, but the three-storey period house is tastefully and sensitively furnished, and includes some of the costumes and furniture which were used in Franco Zeffirelli’s wonderful 1968 film.  

The courtyard, which is free to enter, is home to a bronze statue of Juliet – no doubt a reference to Lord Montague’s promise to “raise her statue in pure gold” – and is overlooked by a small but perfectly-formed balcony which is accessible from inside the house.

A couple of blocks away, along the Via Arche Scaligere, is the Casa di Romeo (Romeo’s House).  This impressive-looking fifteenth-century building is believed to have originally been the home of the Montecchi family (who became the Montagues in the play).  

The house is now a restaurant.

Giulietta's tomb
The other main attraction is the Tomba di Giulietta (Juliet’s tomb) – a fine red marble sarcophagus which can be found in the medieval cloister of a former Capuchin monastery.  This is the scene where, in Shakespeare’s play, Friar Lawrence’s plan to reunite the lovers goes so horribly wrong – but where, in my version of the story, events take a slightly different turn.  

A short walk away is the magnificent San Remo church with its highly unusual two-storey structure.  

Although there is nothing to link this church directly to the story of Romeo & Juliet, I can easily imagine the chapel in the crypt being the location for the lovers’ secret wedding.

But Verona isn’t just about Romeo & Juliet; visitors who can tear themselves away from the story of the star-cross’d lovers will find lots of other things to entertain them.  The amazing Roman Arena, which flanks one side of the Piazza Brà, is now home to the famous annual Verona Opera Festival.  

Other attractions include the Giardino Giusti  gardens, the Roman Theatre, the historic Castelvecchio, and an awesome array of fascinating churches.  One of my favourites is San Zeno Maggiore, a short distance from the city centre.  This spectacular medieval basilica boasts some amazing frescos of the Last Supper, at which the Disciples appear to be eating roast scorpion washed down with pints of Guinness or lager!

My personal favourite place in Verona is the discreet spot where tasteful homage is paid to the English playwright who placed the city so firmly on the literary map.  In one corner of the Piazza Brà, adjacent to the large arched portal which marks the start of the road to Mantua, is a small bronze bust of Shakespeare himself.  Alongside, in English and Italian, are inscribed the words spoken by Romeo on receiving the news of his banishment from Verona:

There is no world without Verona walls
But purgatory, torture, hell itself,
Hence banishèd is banished from the world,
And world’s exile is death.

All in all, fair Verona is a truly remarkable place, and a worthy setting for what is probably the world’s most famous love story.


The Ghostly Father by Sue Barnard:

Romeo & Juliet - was this what really happened? 

When Juliet Roberts is asked to make sense of an ancient Italian manuscript, she little suspects that she will find herself propelled into the midst of one of the greatest love stories of all time. But this is only the beginning. As more hidden secrets come to light, Juliet discovers that the tragic tale of her famous namesake might have had a very different outcome... 

A favourite classic story with a major new twist.

Amazon UK  Amazon US  Smashwords


About Sue Barnard:

Sue was born in North Wales but has spent most of her life in and around Manchester. After
graduating from Durham University, where she studied French and Italian, Sue got married then had a variety of office jobs before becoming a full-time parent. If she had her way, the phrase "non-working mother" would be banned from the English language.

Since then she has had a series of part-time jobs, including some work as a freelance copywriter. In parallel with this she took several courses in Creative Writing. Her writing achievements include winning the Writing Magazine New Subscribers Poetry Competition for 2013.  

Sue has a mind which is sufficiently warped as to be capable of compiling questions for BBC Radio 4's fiendishly difficult Round Britain Quiz. This once caused one of her sons to describe her as "professionally weird." The label has stuck.

In addition to working as an editor for Crooked Cat Publishing, Sue is the author of three novels: The Ghostly Father, Nice Girls Don't and The Unkindest Cut of All.

She is also very interested in Family History. Her own background is stranger than fiction; she'd write a book about it if she thought anybody would believe her.

San Remo church crypt