My Books

My Year of Stories is the title of my new short story collection, which released 15/10/17. You can order it on Amazon and Kobo.

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In December 2015 Abigail came to the decision that she was finally going to be a published author. She began writing and submitting short stories, as well as trying once more to find a home for her young adult novel. The year that followed was an extraordinary journey from unpublished writer to debut novelist. In this book you are invited to follow that journey, with twelve stories to represent each month, preceded by an excerpt from Abigail’s journal, giving not only background to her work but an intriguing insight into a writer’s mind.

Reviews for My Year of Stories

This is a truly delightful little book of bite sized stories, some sweet, some bitter, some a mixture of both. They chart a year in the life of author Abigail Shepherd, from raw, hopeful, would-be writer, to published novelist of the wonderful YA novel, Victoria’s Victorian Victory.

There are twelve stories in all, one for each month, and each one is preceded by a diary entry letting us know the author’s state of mind, and the circumstances in which the following tale came to be published.

This is a charming book, well written and nicely paced, it is ideal for those with busy lives, each story perfectly timed to last as long as it takes to drink a cup of coffee, and is a book I will definitely dip into time and again.

Having read this author’s novel, I was thrilled with the delightful surprise of a prequel to it, and, being December’s story, it seemed particularly apt.

In a life of stress and endless pressure, this book was a refreshing oasis of calm, making me put my troubles to one side and simply enjoy the beauty of the words.

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A wonderful journey written in a diary-style format with each month looking at the trials and tribulations of Abigail’s writing journey in a matter-of-fact way. Each month injects an insight into her style of writing through samples of short stories which were easy to read.

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A pure delight! I loved this book, not just for its charming short stories, each one quirky and unique in its own right, but also for the author’s endearing introductions to each one. A captain’s log, of sorts, the twelve preambles give us a glimpse into her writing journey, a winding road full of disappointments, celebrations, second guesses, and plenty of humor to which every writer seeking publication can relate! I highly recommend this collection. Reading each story felt like taking a quick dip in the pool on a hot summer’s day.

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This is such a delightful read. Twelve short stories, some funny, some edgy, some sad, all together beautiful. It’s hard to choose a favorite but if I must, January is my number one choice. The story about dandelion is sweet but it packed a punch so deep I had to pause at the end of the story. What a meaningful lesson there.

Abigail’s writing is precise, not a single word out of place. I love it!

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This is a delightful book that follows the journey of Abigail Shepherd from unpublished writer to debut novelist, with the release of her YA book Victoria’s Victorian Victory.

In My Year of Stories, we follow Abigail’s journey with twelve stories to represent each month, preceded by an excerpt from her journal. I like the addition of this diary extract as it gives the reader an idea how each story was created and when.

This is a book you can read in one sitting or go to when you want to read another story for the first time or as a reread. You’ll find you’ll want to do that. I read the first story, The Dandelion Clock when it was first published in Whim online magazine but I enjoyed reading it again as January’s story in this book. There is also a prequel to Victoria’s Victorian Victory.

The stories are each different, some sweet and moving, others humorous and some a little dark.

I highly recommend My Year of Stories. You’ll enjoy the read.

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Victoria’s Victorian Victory is the first in the Ditchley Farm series and is available from Amazon as a paperback and ebook.

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Fourteen year old Victoria Bloom is great at having ideas, but they don’t always go to plan. Now her mistakes will have bigger consequences than ever before, as it has fallen to her to run the family farm. With the harvest fast approaching, it’s urgent she makes it profitable again, or they will lose it altogether.

It’s not an easy task, especially with concern for her brother distracting her, not to mention a runaway apprentice boy. Hardest of all, the people she must do business with just don’t take teenage girls seriously. Can she change their minds before her family ends up in the workhouse?

Excerpt from Victoria’s Victorian Victory

Ma guessed something was wrong as soon as Sam and Vicky walked into the yard.

“What’s happened to the cart, Vicky?”

“I drove it into a ditch. I’m really sorry Ma.”

“Is it broken?”

“The front wheel. Drew and Tommy are fetching the wheelwright.”

“Sounds expensive.” She spoke lightly but Sam seemed to think he should go.

“I’ll be gettin’ back to work then.”

“See you later, Sam.” They both watched him walk away. Regretfully, on Vicky’s side. Not on Ma’s. His presence was holding her back.

“Vicky, how could you be so careless? You know we have no spare money just now.”

“I’m sorry.”

“‘Sorry’ isn’t going to mend the cart or pay the rent! I’m assuming we now have a choice between the two?”

Vicky nodded.

“Perfect. A farm with no cart, or a cart with no farm? It’s my fault. I should never have let you try and run things. What was I thinking?”

Her voice broke up and she hurried inside. Vicky went and sat inside the stable with Dolly.

Vicky’s Diary 

  Dear Diary,

  Ma made it sound like we have a choice, but we don’t really. If we don’t have the cart mended then we will lose Mr Haddow’s business and a sizeable chunk of our income. We simply can’t let that happen. But how can we pay the rent in the meantime? It’s due on Thursday. I feel so, so bad. But being sorry doesn’t help. I need to sort this. But how?

 

Read more

 

Reviews:

Such an enjoyable story, Abigail makes you really care about the characters and you want to know what will happen to them next. Loved this book, hope there will be a sequel.

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Victoria’s Victorian Victory is a well-written story that will carry you back to rural Victorian times. It is very well researched and the story comes to life with the mention of food eaten, everyday life including using a copper boiler to wash the clothes and much more.

The strongest aspect of the book is its main character, Victoria Bloom, who has just lost her father, and then her elder brother goes to London for work. Victoria is only fourteen but the drastic changes in her life make her realise she loves her home, her family, and she is going to do everything she can to, not only save it, but to improve it. It’s her sheer determination to succeed that makes her a great character but Victoria also knows she has to work hard to achieve her plans.

Abigail Shepherd portrays the Bloom farm as idyllic but also gives a very realistic and true representation of the hard life of domestic Victorian times.

We, in our present time, often say that things were better and less complicated in the good old days. I think this book shows that contentment and a sense of achievement come from dedication and hard work, no matter the era.

I highly recommend Victoria’s Victorian Victory as a story for all ages. Victoria is an inspiration.

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Every time I opened this novel, I felt I was stepping back in time to an era many of us view as simpler, somewhat mellow, and irresistibly romantic. The author (who clearly knows her subject inside out!) does a splendid job making pastoral Victorian living realistic, showing contemporary readers that life back then wasn’t so simple and laid-back after all, but was in fact filled with as much hustle and bustle as today’s world is. At the same time I was discovering what life was like on a working farm through the eyes of precocious Victoria, I was breathing in the refreshing air of a time that was indeed simpler than today in many ways, namely in its strong sense of community, the love and loyalty of family, as well as the pure joys of little things, such as homemade pound cake with pink icing and fresh-picked flowers.

I loved the spunk and courage of the heroine and found her a tremendous example for women of all ages. She proves that determination, vision, and a healthy dose of stubbornness can defy the odds and make dreams come true.

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A very nice gentle but absorbing story. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

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 I very much enjoyed this charming tale of a farming family on the outskirts of a small English market town in the reign of Queen Victoria. Abigail Shepherd interweaves her very detailed research with a light touch, opening a window on a vivid world that blew in through my senses and made me feel as much at home in Ma’s kitchen as I am in Laurie Lee’s.
Victoria and the other main characters are varied and individual, and the dynamic relationship between farm and town is fascinating, particularly the world of the shop-girls. I was only sorry that the story stopped short of developing the potential for conflict implicit in some of the relationships – and there are some minor characters with sketchy but intriguing backgrounds who I’d love to read more about. A sequel, perhaps…?
Abigail is subtle in pointing up the contrast between ordinary daily life then and now, never hammering the reader over the head with history, but leaving the images to stand for themselves. Though they never deflect focus from the narrative, major social themes are the bones of the story: attitudes to women, poverty, exploitation of children, class differences, death and disease – not to mention the fine line between producing food and the reality of living hand-to-mouth in a world without a single Tesco van to deliver your online order.
I feel this book is a perfect fit for the top end of MG or lower YA age ranges, and would be a fantastic topic read for classes studying the Victorians, or looking at sustainability issues like food sourcing, local v. global, throwaway clothing culture, etc. That said, it’s not at all a ‘preachy’ book, but rather a great piece of time travel.

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Victoria’s Victorian Victory is a charming, old fashioned novel set in Victorian times and reminded me very much of the writings of L.M. Montgomery, the Lark Rise to Candleford series and the Flambards trilogy by K.M. Peyton.

Extremely well written, the novel is nicely paced with well developed, believable characters and a strong plot line. The author has obviously researched the period thoroughly, because the details were absolutely spot on, adding so much depth and authenticity you could almost smell the fresh cut hay and hear the mooing of the cows.

Victoria’s Victorian Victory is about 14 year old Victoria Bloom, whose life is turned upside down after the death of her father. Expecting her older brother to take up the challenge of running the family farm, things take a turn for the worse when her brother Charlie is seduced away by the bright lights of London, leaving Victoria and her family to cope alone, with the rent due, a harvest to get in and the very real prospect of the workhouse looming before them.

However, Victoria is not a girl to take adversity lying down and I think her character is one of the book’s main strengths. Almost modern in her thinking and outlook, Victoria is determined her family will keep their home. Not only that, she is convinced she can make the farm thrive and become more prosperous than ever.

In this age of “kick ass” futuristic heroines, all in love with vampires or werewolves, it was a refreshing change to read a book where the heroine was just strong minded and independent because that’s her character. Not because she has super powers, or a destiny to fulfill, but just because her sheer grit, determination and stubbornness will never let her admit defeat. In Victoria’s eyes, an obstacle is there to be got around, and get around them she does. Often with a cheek and inventiveness that had me chuckling.

If there is one tiny flaw with the book, it’s that it ended too abruptly, leaving me wanting more of Victoria and her family. I am hopeful that the author has a sequel in mind as there is definitely, in my opinion, far more of Victoria’s tale to be told.

All in all, a thoroughly lovely book, highly recommended.

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