Friday, July 31, 2020

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder (+ Giveaway)

I’m delighted today to be participating in author Dianne Freeman’s Great Escapes Virtual Book Tour for her newest release, A LADY’S GUIDE TO MISCHIEF AND MURDER, the third installment in her Countess of Harleigh Mystery series.

 Doesn’t that book cover bring up all kinds of visions and intrigue?

A Lady's Guide to Mischief and Murder
By Dianne Freeman
*Historical Cozy Mystery
*3rd in Series - A Countess of Harleigh Mystery
*Publisher: Kensington (July 28, 2020)
*Hardcover: 288 pages
*ISBN-10: 1496716930
*ISBN-13: 978-1496716934
*Digital ASIN: B07ZPL4VT2

In Dianne Freeman’s charming Victorian-era mystery series, Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, finds her sister’s wedding threatened by a vow of vengeance.

London is known for its bustle and intrigues, but the sedate English countryside can host—or hide—any number of secrets. Frances, the widowed Countess of Harleigh, needs a venue for her sister Lily’s imminent wedding, away from prying eyes. Risings, George Hazleton’s family estate in Hampshire, is a perfect choice, and soon Frances, her beloved George, and other guests have gathered to enjoy the usual country pursuits—shooting, horse riding, and romantic interludes in secluded gardens.

But the bucolic setting harbors a menace, and it’s not simply the arrival of Frances’s socially ambitious mother. Above and below stairs, mysterious accidents befall guests and staff alike. Before long, Frances suspects these “accidents” are deliberate, and fears that the intended victim is Lily’s fiancĂ©, Leo. Frances’s mother is unimpressed by Lily’s groom-to-be and would much prefer that Lily find an aristocratic husband, just as Frances did. But now that Frances has found happiness with George—a man who loves her for much more than her dowry—she heartily approves of Lily’s choice. If she can just keep the couple safe from villains and meddling mamas.

As Frances and George search for the culprit among the assembled family, friends, and servants, more victims fall prey to the mayhem. Mishaps become full-blooded murder, and it seems that no one is safe. And unless Frances can quickly flush out the culprit, the peal of wedding bells may give way to another funeral toll. . ..

A LADY'S GUIDE TO MISCHIEF AND MURDER is available to purchase at the following links:

Meet the Author:

Author Dianne Freeman
Dianne Freeman is the acclaimed author of the Countess of Harleigh Mystery series. She is an Agatha Award and Lefty Award finalist, as well as a nominee for the prestigious Mary Higgins Clark Award from Mystery Writers of America.

She spent thirty years working in corporate accounting and finance and now writes full-time. Born and raised in Michigan, she and her husband now split their time between Michigan and Arizona.

For more on Dianne and her writing, you can visit her and connect with her on the following links:

You can follow along on Dianne’s tour by stopping at the sites below. Be sure to enter the giveaway.

Thanks for stopping by today. Isn’t it fun to be transported to a different time and place through the wonderful world of books?

July 27 – Cozy Up With Kathy – REVIEW
July 27 – StoreyBook Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
July 28 – Literary Gold – CHARACTER GUEST POST
July 28 – Hearts & Scribbles – SPOTLIGHT
July 29 – Ascroft, eh? – AUTHOR INTERVIEW
July 29 – Christy's Cozy Corners – SPOTLIGHT
July 29 – Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT
July 30 – I'm All About Books – SPOTLIGHT
July 30 – Books a Plenty Book Reviews – REVIEW
July 31 - Thoughts in Progress – SPOTLIGHT
August 1 - Elizabeth McKenna - Author – SPOTLIGHT
August 1 - MJB Reviewers – SPOTLIGHT
August 2 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT


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Thursday, July 30, 2020

Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman by James B. Hansom

It’s a pleasure today to welcome author James B. Hanson here to talk about his new release, MEMOIRS OF A 20TH CENTURY GENTLEMAN, published by Valdivia Books.

If you find “On the Road” entertaining, you will definitely like James’ book. Here’s a brief synopsis of the book and then James will join us to answer some questions.

Recounting his journey over the years, from a little village in England to the deserts of the Middle East, private boarding schools to children’s care homes, world-wide trade oil tankers to a 19th Century tall ship, working as an escort to setting up an accountancy firm, James’ story is honest and compelling.

Explaining how each chapter of his life shaped him, James discusses in a frank and open manner his struggle with bipolar disorder, and how he was able to survive an early childhood of neglect, deciding at the age of nine to take some semblance of control, to his search for a family to love.

Taking a philosophical approach to life’s twists and turns, James retells of his experience of travel, love, family, business and adventure.  Explaining how his childhood experiences affected his approach to life in later years, his struggle with mental health issues of bi-polar mania and depression and how, over the years, society’s own views on the subject changed to include a more open and honest acceptance for people to begin to try to better understand.

Analyzing how an understanding of history can help see the present through clearer eyes in order to better prepare for the future; James shares his own take on humanity’s long journey through time and space to give those who have an interest in the next generations a warning of what to expect if the opportunity to make immediate changes is not taken.

Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman is not only a tale of adventure, family, childhood and travel but a thesis on humanity and how lessons forgotten through the distraction of social media may lead to the repetition of failures of the last fifty years in the dawn of this new 21st Century.

Conversing directly with the reader, James takes you on a journey of a lifetime, initially titled ‘Extracts from a Hell of a Life’, using humor and charm, James is able to give an experience of joy, sorrow, heartache and hope, unique in its style and delivery.

Welcome, James. Thanks for answering some questions for us.

What’s the process of writing like for you; and why is Part One so short?

Why its so short is a fair question; and Ill try to give it an equally fair answer:
1) Its the first part and so I guess Id like to get an honest reaction from readers to the project as a whole. Do you like the premise, the style, and how its been presented?
2) The next part of the story involves a couple of chapters which may take some space in the book, making Part One either a bit long or splitting that particular part and making the story too fragmented.
3) Writing this has taken a lot more out of me than Id ever have imagined, and to be brutally honest I need a break from it to spend some quality time with my wife and daughter.

The other books in this series will probably be much longer, but I think its appropriate that this one is on the shorter side. Like a first date to get to know each other, before the longer more intimate ones.

As to the process, firstly I allow things to flow around my mind quite freely and let them fall into place as they like. I get most of the writing done at night when the World is at its quietest, and I can get around twenty to thirty pages done in a sitting, if I completely immerse myself. Of course, the editing takes much longer, as you know I tend to go off-piste and ramble quite often, so that often requires a lot of tidying up, but generally, its just a question of sitting down and recounting each experience. I lose a lot of time between writing sessions sometimes as afterwards I can feel really horrible in my head and end up being physically sick for two or three days until it subsides and I feel more “normal" again. 

I try to pre-empt it and prepare myself but one never knows whats going to send ones head into a spiral; for instance when I was writing the attempted rape part, I was fully prepared and ready for the potential mental fallout and nothing happened. But then after simply editing the Prologue, I ended up feeling really down and disparaged for a whole day afterwards, wondering if the entire undertaking was merely a vanity project everyone would scoff at; to then just receive reviews along the lines of: “These “books" should be categorized as Mystery; as why this so-called “author" thought anyone would be interested in his life is probably the greatest mystery of the entire saga. So thats probably the hardest aspect of writing these memoirs, managing the Darkness it evokes, in all its forms.

Why are the Memoirs based in five parts, five books seems a lot?

Originally, when my wife helped me list out the entire chronology a few years ago, it became clear that there was no way to communicate the entire journey within just one book; so right now Ive detailed it as five, but well see.

The working titles for these Memoirs are:
Part One ~ Innocence
Part Two ~ Innocence Lost
Part Three ~ In no sense
Part Four ~ In a sense
Part Five ~ Inner sense

Do you have any release dates yet?

Part Two will be available on pre-release order when this book is launched, Ive penciled in 1st December 2020, although it could well be released earlier than that. As to the other books in the series, Ive penciled in every June and December; Ill try to get them done sooner for you, and the upcoming one will always be available on pre-order so that youre not ever left wondering about the next release.

You say that it is a work of autobiographical fiction; so how much is actually true?

Well, obviously the final chapter isnt real as its based a few years into the future although the story around preparing the journal is true, just placed in the future; but the rest of these memoirs is more or less as it happened, or as I remember it.

After all, you can ask two people about an event they shared and youll often get two completely different versions. But to answer the question, no, I havent spiced anything up for a better story; its all true.

What was your favorite part to write; and which was the hardest?

Hmm, good question! Ive always enjoyed descriptive writing. Putting myself back on those rocks night fishing was fun, literally tasting the sea salt on my lips was a nice moment.

I guess the hardest part in this book was recounting how it felt being that little boy at the top of the stairs when my father first walked out; mainly because I hate how, over the decades, Ive remained that broken hearted kid to a certain extent, and I dont like feeling weak like that.

It doesnt do any good and can only detract from what I want to achieve at any given time; I certainly dont like the idea that I ever just feel sorry for myself as its not how I roll.

Obviously, Im trying to avoid terming such thoughts as being pathetic as that just sounds like my father speaking through me.

Whats your writing process? Do you make loads of notes and plan things out, or just leave them to evolve on their own?

To be honest Ive never made a lot of notes, Im not one for over-preparation in anything I do. Thorough, yes absolutely, but too many fixed plans doesnt give one the flexibility one needs for a launch; whether its a book or a business.

In every single school I went to I was always being marked down in Mathematics class for not writing out the full number of steps in any particular calculation, even though the answer was correct; I always wrote down the full breakdown as it was in my head, but apparently I was always missing a few. As a kid it used to infuriate me beyond belief.

Whether launching a new business model or writing these books Ive always ensured that for every hours’ actual work there has been at least three hours’ thinking it over beforehand. If you dont, you often end up having to throw everything in the bin and start again. If I prepare it in my mind, then its simply a question of getting it out of my head.

Why use a pseudonym?

Well, obviously for a little privacy, if these books do end up being popular, building a readership and selling a lot of copies, Id rather not constantly have my name recognized while simply living my life, due to the personal nature of the content; also for my wife and daughter, who obviously share my surname, so that they can live in anonymity.

Therefore, should any of you know my real name I would respectfully ask, for their sakes, that you keep it to yourself please x

Plus, I find the name hilarious, something my wife suggested.

Is it an instruction: James. Be handsome.
Is it a statement: James be handsome!
Or is it a question: James be handsome???

Spending so much time within my own darkness writing these memoirs, its just nice to have something around them which makes me giggle.

Are we going to hear more about how you met your wife?

To quote Tom Hanks character in “Saving Private Ryan”: No, that one’s just for me.

There wasnt much description for the individual book, merely a broad description for the series; why is that?

To be honest it just doesnt read well; in the cold light of day when you list what happens in this book, Part One, it sounds boring:

I was born, lived in a village for a bit, moved to Saudi, and then return to the UK. I dont think anyone would rush out to read THAT story, so I decided just to leave a brief description of the entire memoirs, if people like Part One theyll read Part Two and so on.

So, what do we have to look forward to in the next few books?

Part Two involves balancing attending “posh boarding schools, while being in social services care dealing with childrens homes and foster parents during the holidays; it wasnt easy. Having said that there are a few funny stories and Im keen, as with all the books, not to make the experience of reading them too dry or sad.

In Part Three the little boy weve all got to know unfortunately becomes a teenager; and Im really not looking forward to living in the head of my teenage self again, but who would?

In Parts Four and Five theres more travel, so thats going to be fun; describing all the people and places, not to mention some of the hilarious stories along the way. Im a little worried though that some of my readership of the first couple of books may not like the following ones: after all, some do involve a lot of time with „the ladies! For my part, I only ever wanted to fall in love and have a family; but most of the possible candidates I either didnt fall in love with, or they merely wanted to use me as a plaything!

So, the books become more along the Erotica or Romantic line?

Erotica, no, I hope not; after all, dont forget that my sister and mother in-law among others may be within the readership, I dont want them throwing up do I ;-)

I mean, in Part One, the fishing trips didnt turn into an instruction manual of sea-fishing did it? So, Im going to try not to go into too much detail, other than what the story needs; like I say I always try to think about my Readers experience. I sometimes find myself walking a tightrope between being absolutely honest and not offending anyone; so, I try to stick to the first and avoid the latter as best as I can.

Can we have an example?

An example of how Im going to deal with the more intimate stories? Sure, why not; Ill pop a couple of examples of how Id like to deal with those in at the end of this interview if youd like x

Your current health comes up in the book, especially at the beginning; how is it now?

Like I said before, my mind can destroy my physical being in seconds, especially the day or so after writing these memoirs; but apart from that its been much better than it was over the last few years. I work hard to avoid anything which could trigger another attack of pneumonia, so I never go out in the rain, avoid body sprays, bleach, or any moisture in the air.

I havent coughed up blood in ages, and only very occasionally black out; and thats often only when Im laughing, and my brain doesnt get enough oxygen.

So, I just try to take things as easy as I can; after all, following a pneumonia episode it can takes up to eight months to recover; and each time it happens becomes more dangerous.

You mention ‘On the Road’ as one of your main influencers; are you a big reader yourself, and what sort of books do you like?

Youll probably be disappointed to hear but Im quite “thinly read, in that I love a very small section of the Worlds literature; naval historical books, and am quite keen on the Napoleonic Wars, although technically they should be termed as the French Revolutionary Wars until 1800 or so.

I love historical non-fiction as they educate, such as Dee Browns “Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee”. But I could also munch on Rudyard Kipling all day long. What else? George Orwells “Homage to Catalonia”. Patrick Susskind’s “Perfume Steinbecks “Tortilla Flat” (I particularly love the way he introduces each chapter in that work). And Elizabeth Kosovars “The Historian” is amazing.

So, what are your other interests? What takes up your time when youre not writing?

I spent quite a number of my earlier years as a sailor aboard oil tankers, yachts and then running a 19th Century Tall Ship. So as sailors often do when ashore having seen more than Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman 162 enough sunrises, sunsets and beautiful breathe-taking vistas, I can quite happily, even nowadays, just chill at home. I can happily binge on different history documentaries, films or box sets; not reality shows or soap-operas though.

I would love to spend more time showing my wife and daughter this beautiful World in which we live, especially before the negative Global effects of pollution and industry start to make that too dangerous. I generally spend as much time as I can with my wife and daughter; after all, having spent decades trying to find them it wouldnt be very clever of me not to want to spend every minute I can with them would it!

You mention helping other ‘would be’ writers, and putting an element of the royalties from these books into doing so, what do you have in mind for this?

Another good question: it often depends on the person in front of me, where they are with their work and what questions or needs they have. But, at Valdivia Books, we look to help people with every aspect of writing projects, including helping to get it published and the sales and marketing afterwards.

One day Id like to give talks on how writing can help deal having to live with depression, bipolar or other residual aspects of ones past. Ive often likened it to having PTSD like those in the armed forces when they return from a conflict; its probably the best Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman 163 way to describe it to someone who hasnt lived with it themselves.

Either way, any way I can help people Ill be happy to do so wherever and however I can. Im always interested in any thoughts, comments or ideas people may have so feel free to get in touch and let me know what you think on that side of things.

One last question; you must realize that conversing with your reader as you do throughout the book is, let’s say, a little unusual. Why do you do it and where do you get our voice from?

Do I know Im weird do you mean? Yes, people may have mentioned it over the years! I guess I think this whole memoir project will work better if its a two-way process rather than simply a monologue of my saying “this happened, then this happened”.

Obviously having spent so much time alone over the years before I met my wife, one tends to end up with quite a “busy” head, lots of voices in there all jostling to be heard; and I guess they have thoughts and questions on these works too, why things are written as they are, and why its ended up looking as it does, just like you.

Im not only happy to acknowledge those voices but am fine to allow them to converse in the background, although it can get a bit much sometimes. Probably why I like to be Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman 164 distracted with films or TV shows; anything to get my head to shut up for a while so I can get a little “peace and quiet”!

Anyway, I hope these questions included some of the ones you may have had whilst reading this book; and if any of you have any further questions feel free to get in touch and let me know. Perhaps Ill do this interview segment at the end of each book and include some of them. And, once again, if I could ask you to leave a review of this book, pop onto our website for a direct link. Thank you.

James, thanks for joining us today and sharing this insight into your story and writing.

Author James B. Hansom with Lloyd
Here’s a bit of background on James.

James B. Hansom, born in 1976, lives with his wife and daughter in Warwickshire, England. Written under a pseudonym, Memoirs of a 20th Century Gentleman is the first published work under that name.

James champions the use of creative writing as a therapeutic way for people struggling with their past to find peace, helping first-time Authors to publish and turn their experiences into a useful tool for the future.

For more information or to contact James visit:  

Thanks everyone for stopping by today during James’ visit. What are your thoughts on a book where the author converses with the reader?