Author Interview: Andrew Tweeddale

I have just finished reading a delightful novel called “Of All Faiths & None” by Andrew Tweeddale, an historical novel following the families of renowned the architect Edwin Lutyens and his client, Sir Julius Drewe, during the building of Castle Drago on Dartmoor. The novel is two love stories rolled into one – the first is the relationship between Christian Drewe, Rose Braithwaite (a nurse) and Peter Hall; the 2nd is the relationship between Edwin Lutyens’ daughter Celia and Adrian Drewe . Then we discover Edwin’s wife, Lady Emily Lutyens, and her fascination with theosophy and with Jiddu Krishnamurti, the philosopher. All entwined with the building of Castle Drogo, and the start of World War One! The novel is based on true events but some characters are purely fictional… but the stories flow, and it is a book of many pages but I enjoyed it so much that I really didn’t want the book to end. I was fully immersed into their lives from page one! I just couldn’t wait to chat to the author of this tale… so welcome Andrew 😊

Hello. I’m Andrew. I started my working life as a chef, working in small hotels and grill-houses before taking additional ‘A levels’ in history and law.  I went on to university to study law and then to law school.  It was there that I formed a long-lasting friendship with three people who I had known from university and who loved history.  I also met my wife there. One of my friends lived near Exeter and one weekend I went to Castle Drogo in Devon which was designed by the great architect Edwin Lutyens. Castle Drogo feels like a shrine to Adrian Drewe, Sir Julius Drewe’s eldest son who died in the Great War, and it seemed to me to be the perfect place to set an anti-war novel. I therefore started writing.  The first draft was completed in April 2010 with the help of a writing group I had joined. However, work and a young family stopped me from taking it further.  In 2021 I decided to retire as a lawyer and went back to the novel.  With the help of two editors, a photographer and book designer the novel was polished up for publication and in September 2022 it went on sale.

Who or what inspired you to research and write your historical novel based on real events, surrounding the building of Castle Drogo on Dartmoor, and the families of the renowned architect Edwin Lutyens and his client Sir Julius Drewe?

I had written two books on arbitration law with my wife and wanted to write something different and had been thinking about an anti-war novel for some months. At the time I had marched against the invasion of Iraq.  My view was that we were too quick to enter that war and diplomacy had not yet failed. Tony Blair’s ‘dodgy dossier’ and the death of Dr David Kelly made me more sceptical about that war.  The rights and wrongs of the Great War were also questionable and there were some similarities with the Great War and the invasion of Afghanistan. When I visited Castle Drogo, it seemed to me to be the perfect place to set a novel, as it showed that war did not differentiate between the very richest and the poorest of society.  The design of Castle Drogo started in 1910 and therefore I decided to base my novel from that date to end of 1917. As it’s a real castle, I thought I had to use the real names of the architect and Sir Julius Drewe as well as their wives’ names.  However, the interrelationship between the characters is a complete work of fiction and therefore I chose to use fictious names for most of the lead characters; i.e., Celia, Christian, Rose and Peter Hall.  Adrian was the exception to this because there is a memorial room to him in Castle Drogo. I also kept the real names of many of the minor characters (Krishnamurti, Basil Drewe, Getrude Jekyll and Mary and Elisabeth Lutyens).

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Of All Faiths & None”.  Although the novel is based on real events, many of the characters are wholly fictitious (although completely believable). I loved the feisty characters of Celia, Lady Emily Lutyens and Rose Braithwaite.  Which characters were challenging to write about?  Do you have any favourite characters?

The hardest character to write about was Krishnamurti, who Lady Emily Lutyens looked after when he came to England from India.  The theosophists, including Emily Lutyens, thought that he would become the World Teacher – a new messiah. The problem with writing about a character like Krishnamurti is that you cannot have any idea what it is like to be hailed as a messiah and how you react to that kind of adulation.  Fortunately, there is a lot written about him so you can get some impression about the person he is and the person he becomes.

My favourite character was Christian and his relationship with Rose Braithwaite. There is an attraction between them but because of the constraints and prejudices of British society it is a relationship that is doomed.

I’m intrigued by the book title – Of All Faiths & None –  Why was it picked and were there any other contenders?

Lutyens designed the Stone of Remembrance, which was to be placed in every World War One cemetery where more than a thousand soldiers had been buried.  When you stand before those stones, knowing that over a thousand graves are behind you of people who were of all faiths and none, you experience the tragedy of the Great War.  ‘Of All Faiths and None’ are words used by the War Graves Commission for the Stone of Remembrance and it just seemed apt to adopt it for the title of the novel. I wanted to convey with the title the devastation that the war caused. The novel had a working title of Castle Drogo.  However, while Castle Drogo is a central to the story it lacks any emotive aspect and therefore I changed it. 

This is your first novel – what a debut! –  and it really comprises three stories entwined into one – the building of Castle Drago; the love triangle of Rose, Christian (Kit) Drewe and Peter Hall; the later relationship between Adrian Drewe and Celia. I absolutely loved the twists and turns and the interconnecting moments. Were there any aspects of writing “Of All Faiths & None “ that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

Yes, it surprised me how the characters evolved in my imagination.  As a litigation lawyer I was used to writing statements setting out people’s recollections of events and motivations.  However, when writing about a fictitious character you need to hear them in your head.  I often have ideas for where I want the story to go but then struggle to get there with the dialogue, because the characters just won’t say what I want them to.  You then have to either change the story or change the motivations that effect the character. Often, I found myself going back and changing the nature of the characters.  This happened with Celia.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations? 

I wanted to be a graphic designer but just wasn’t good enough. 

In fact, as a young teenager, I hardly read at all except for Marvel comics. My parents used to tear their hair out at my complete lack of interest in reading. It was not my late 20s that I matured and started reading prolifically. I then became a lawyer and after doing a few years as a criminal barrister I joined a construction law firm.  However, I never envisaged being a lawyer for all of my working life and wanted to do something different. Writing historical fiction novels offers me the opportunity to be creative as well as constraining me by what has really happened.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

That’s a difficult question.  I have been a bookworm at times, but at other times I hardly read at all.  Currently I am researching about the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya and have recently finished Caroline Elkins’ book and am currently reading Huw Bennett’s book, which are both history books on the subject. My favourite genre is early 20th century as I enjoy the style of writing.  There is an elegance in the prose that we have sadly lost. My favourite authors are John Galsworthy (Forsyte Saga); Somerset Maugham (The Painted Veil) and Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited).  I prefer reading an actual book to a kindle. I have only ever read one book on a kindle and that was two weeks ago (it may grow on me).

Is “Of All Faiths & None” available to purchase worldwide?

It can be purchased via Amazon in USA, Europe, Canada and the UK or as a print to order via Waterstones, the Book Depository and many other outlets. 

https://www.waterstones.com/book/of-all-faiths-and-none/andrew-tweeddale/9781739612207

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/of-all-faiths-none-andrew-tweeddale/1141953407

https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/Of-All-Faiths–None-by-Andrew-Tweeddale/9781739612207

So yes, its available worldwide.  Also, I have a few hundred copies in my sister’s garage and in can be ordered directly from me on my website https://www.ofallfaiths.com/product-page/of-all-faiths-none

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

Kenya as this is where the Mau Mau uprising took place. If I am going to write about a place I want to see the country and meet the people.  After that it’s India – because that’s where the third book will be based.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

When I’m at home in Spain I often wear shorts, a white linen shirt and boat shoes.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Some new boat shoes … mine are leaking.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love Turnbull & Asser jackets and Church’s shoes (I just can’t afford them any more).

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes …. You can’t go to the beach in boots

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

https://www.ofallfaiths.com/

https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100084161058019

(4) Andrew Tweeddale (@AndrewTweeddal1) / Twitter

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/62403348-of-all-faiths-none

Thank you Andrew for taking the time for a chat about your wonderful book. It was a splendid read and I’m looking forward to your next book that is based in Kenya, a country with fond memories that I visited in 1990. Many thanks to both Andrew and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing who sent me a copy of Andrew’s book, Of All Faiths & None , for reviewing purposes. All views that I have expressed are entirely my own. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Andrew Tweeddale, apart from the Pinterest photograph that was taken by me, Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Poet Clare O’Brien

If you enjoy poetry and you had a fondness for David Bowie, then my guest this week, poet Clare O’Brien, may be right up your street! Clare has written a collection of poems inspired by the work of David Bowie, entitled “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” As I am a big David Bowie fan, I was certainly eager to read Clare’s poems and discuss David Bowie and his music with her. Hi Clare and welcome…

Hi! I’m Clare. Originally a Londoner, I now live and write by a sea-loch in Scotland with my husband, my wolfhound and my black cat.  That suits me much better!  My work has most often been described as speculative, neo-noir or modern gothic, but aside from writing, my main interests are history, mythology, art and the natural world.

What was it about the work of David Bowie that gave you the inspiration to write your poetry collection – “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?”?

I’d loved his work since I was 14, when I first discovered him through the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ album. Like many others of my generation, I saw him on ‘Top Of The Pops’ and was instantly captivated!  He was also the first artist I saw perform live onstage, and I was never the same again! Since then he’s remained an important part of my imaginative life and I’ve always admired the way he responded to challenges and to change.  He adapted to different times, different tastes and to his own ageing process brilliantly and creatively.  He was never predictable.

Was it difficult to pick a title for your poetry collection?  Why did you choose “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” and were there other title contenders? 

It’s named after a spoken line of Bowie’s in an outtake from my favourite album of his, ‘1. Outside’…the outtakes are available on the internet as ‘The Leon Suites’.  It seemed to reflect the range of different characters and personae he’s adopted throughout his career.  That’s why I dedicated the book to “David Jones – the man behind the wheel”.  I never really considered any other title once I thought of that!

I found your poems fascinating. Your book’s preface states that the poetry collection is not a critique, biography or to explain his music but “an exploration of the emotions the work creates”.  Being a big Bowie fan myself, my favourite song is Heroes – so which album or song or character is your absolute favourite?

It was difficult to choose which albums to write about – I was limited to 13 as the call for submissions at Hedgehog Poetry was for a “baker’s dozen” of poems!  In the end I chose ‘Low’ to represent the Berlin trilogy because it’s a big personal favourite.  As for characters, the spaceman, who keeps coming back in different forms – from Major Tom to Ziggy Stardust to the Spaceboy to the dead astronaut in ‘Blackstar’ – is probably the most resonant character for me. As for songs – again, difficult to choose, but maybe ‘Ashes To Ashes’.  There’s so much packed into it.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be a poet or did you have other career aspirations in mind?

I always wanted to be a writer of some sort, but for a long time I didn’t really have enough to say.  I’ve worked as a teacher, a journalist, and a PR, and dabbled in music – I was in a couple of minor indie bands in the 80s.  But poetry seems to be the form of writing I’m best at!

Although you have had poetry published in several anthologies, this is your first poetry collection.  Was it harder or easier than you expected to compose a collection? Are there any new writing plans in the pipeline?

Actually, once I had a topic, writing the Bowie collection was easier than I thought – the ideas really flowed and I ended up surprising myself with what I had to say about the music.  I’m working now on a bigger collection of poems on other subjects, called “Huginn & Muninn” after Odin’s ravens.  Their names mean “thought” and “memory”.  I’ve also got a novel about half finished – it’s set in the near future, and its working title is “Light Switch”.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Absolutely!!  I read all kinds of things and don’t have a particular favourite genre, although I enjoy science fiction (especially cyberpunk), historical novels, supernatural stories and folk horror.  My favourite authors are probably Hilary Mantel,  David Mitchell, and Alan Garner, although I recently discovered the work of the Edinburgh writer Jenni Fagan and love her novels and poetry.  Other poets I keep coming back to are Ted Hughes, T.S. Eliot, R.S. Thomas and Michael Symmons Roberts. In non-fiction, I enjoy biographies and books about the natural world. I prefer real books to reading on a Kindle.

Is “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes!  You can buy it on Amazon and from lot of other online bookshops.

If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for a new poetry collection or novel, where would you go and why?

Venice, I think.  Before it sinks under the waves!  It’s always seemed mysterious, atmospheric  and unsettling, full of all kind of resonance.  It’s also been the setting for some brilliant films, like ‘Don’t Look Now, ‘Death In Venice’ and  ‘The Comfort Of Strangers’.

Clare with her wolfhound, Hamish

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I live deep in the country, so it’s often just jeans and sweaters under a waterproof!  When I venture into the city, I like vintage and slightly boho clothes rather then sticking to what’s in fashion.  I love deep reds, greens and browns – autumn colour.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Nomads is a great site for ethically sourced clothes that are also hardwearing and practical as wel as pretty. I’m also tall – nearly 6ft and a size 18 – so Snag is a great place to get tights (in all the colours and patterns you can imagine) that actually fit!  I also love trawling the charity shops of Edinburgh – have found so many fantastic things there.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’d love a pair of really stylish, sexy knee-high boots with heels!  I rarely get to wear heels at home because I’d sink into the mud, and my everyday boots are sensible flat chunky things.  But boots really make an outfit if you’re heading into the city in winter, especially with shorter skirts under a nice coat.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots for practicality and winter warmth.  But I love a pair of stylish sandals in summer.

For Pinning Later


Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Author website (where you can order signed copies!)http://clarevobrien.weebly.com/

Buy from publisher: https://www.hedgehogpress.co.uk/product-category/for-sale/hoglets/clare-obrien/

Buy from Amazon: https://amzn.to/3KSS1AN

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ClareOBrien

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/clareobrienwriter

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/insturbances/

Who am I supposed to be driving?  by Clare O’Brien is available now

ISBN: 978 191349 912 9    Paperback     Hedgehog Poetry Press    2022    RRP: £7.99

Available through booksellers, the publisher & clareobrien.weebly.com.

Thank you Clare for a fascinating insight into the music world of David Bowie via poetry. Thank you also for the review copy of “Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?”….. a oh yes, I agree with you about boots! 😜


Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission from Clare O’Brien.

“Who Am I Supposed To Be Driving?” Book cover was designed by Clare’s son, Edinburgh based illustrator Ruairdhri Wright.

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Chasing Tarzan Book Tour

Aaah Tarzan …. can you remember the strong handsome man who ruled the jungle and swung on vines? The one who made you feel safe – in your mind at any rate – in the wild and hostile environment of the jungle, fighting poachers and ferocious animals alike? I loved watching the Tarzan films as a young girl … like my blog guest, Catherine Forster, whose memoir “Chasing Tarzan” describes how the role of imagination and her fantasy Tarzan helped her to cope with the trials and tribulations growing up.

CHASING TARZAN – BOOK SUMMARY

In the 1960s, a relentless school bully makes Catherine’s life a living hell. She retreats inward, relying on a rich fantasy life––swinging through the jungle wrapped in Tarzan’s protective arms––and fervent prayers to a God she does not trust. She fasts until she feels faint, she ties a rough rope around her waist as penance, hoping God will see her worthy of His help.

As the second of eight children, Catherine is Mommy’s little helper, and like Mommy, Catherine is overwhelmed. The bullying and the adult responsibilities together foment her anger. She starts smacking her siblings, and becomes her younger sister’s nemesis. Spooked by who she is becoming, Catherine vows to escape for real, before she hurts someone—or herself.

Catherine finds salvation in a high school exchange program: new town, new school, new family, new persona. A passport celebrity. In New Zealand, nobody knows her history or her fears. Except for her Kiwi “mum,” who sees through Catherine’s façade and pulls her out from her inner safe-house. Exposed, her sense of self implodes. Catherine must finally rethink who she is.

Publisher: WiDo Publishing (July 2022)

ISBN-10: 1947966618

ISBN-13: 978-1947966611

ASIN: ‎B0B6GFLXWC

Print length: 278 pages

Purchase a copy of Chasing Tarzan on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.

MEET THE AUTHOR

Hello, and thank you for the opportunity to chat about Chasing Tarzan. I’m Catherine. I am an artist and filmmaker as well as a writer. I have three grown children and recently celebrated my twenty-seventh marriage anniversary. As the oldest daughter and second child of eight children, I was second-mom by the age of six. I have lived in several countries and many different towns in the United States. Today, I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we are building a house on the South Sound––my biggest art installation yet!.

Chasing Tarzan” began life as a series of drawings and evolved into the written word;  what made you decide to write down your story? 

It wasn’t a conscious decision, but rather, an unfolding process. Initially, I created a picture journal with captions. I am dyslexic, not severely, but enough that words were not my friend. The idea of writing a book seemed pure folly, but words came to me, invading my thoughts and drawings. As my daughter was also the target of bullies, I elected to write private passages for her. These early writings became a series of short stories; the beginnings of a book.

Your book highlighted for me how quickly bullying can escalate, and about the role the imagination can play. What was it about Tarzan that helped you through your toughest moments? 

I had a crush on Tarzan. He was so handsome, so brave, so kind to Jane and the animals. Growing up, I never wanted to be the princess. So boring. Hanging on a vine, flying through the trees, riding a top and elephant, now that’s exciting. When the bullying started and no one intervened, I looked to Tarzan; he would help me when no one else would. Immersed in the jungle with Tarzan’s strong arms around me, I could handle anything.

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to relate than you expected? 

I could fill a deep well with all the surprises. It took seven drafts to produce the book. The first four revisions were all about story; what exactly did I want to say, and how deep did I need to go (deeper than I ever thought possible). The last drafts were all about honing my writing, making the story cogent and accessible to readers.

Like many people, I’d buried much of my childhood, locked it in a box deep in my head. Unlocking that box was not easy. It was punishing to expose my powerlessness and my shame, especially considering how hard I’d fought to hide the impact of my tormentor’s cruelty. But the book would have been vapid had I not been unflinchingly honest. 

I loved your writing style and the honesty that shone through.  I went through a range of emotions – I wanted to reach out and comfort you during the bullying episodes,  I was angry at your bullies, I sympathised when you realised you were carrying out your frustrations on your younger siblings, I was annoyed at your parents for not realising what was going wrong, I was elated when you secured a place on the exchange programme to New Zealand … phew!  Did you find writing your story and sketching therapeutic? 

It was restorative and at times, meditative, but always a struggle. When stuck, the story evading me, I turned to nature. I’d go for a walk in the woods, or kayak. Alone, with the hum of nature enfolding, was when some of the most troubling memories surfaced. It was safe––not unlike the jungle with Tarzan, but real––and I let go. A heightened awareness of nature and my surroundings has been one of the biggest benefits of writing the book.

One thing I did feel was how strange it must have been for you to go from your own family where you had a lot of responsibility heaped onto you and travelled to New Zealand where the “kiwi” family functioned in a different way.  How difficult was it to adjust to living in a different country with a different family dynamic? Coming back home, what habits from New Zealand did you retain?

I still have residue of the accent. I have a keen ear for accents and they don’t wear off easily. I have traveled extensively, including living for ten years in London. As a result, I occasionally utilize words and phrases not normally used in the US, or pronounce common words differently. My children find this quite humorous. And it all started in New Zealand.

New Zealand was shock to me. I was completely disoriented. Now I was the popular girl, but didn’t know how to be one and feared being exposed as a fake. My host parents were so different––and in my eyes, too prying. Why did they keep asking me questions, want to know what I was thinking, feeling, doing? No one had enquired about my day before, had asked, “Penny for your thoughts?” It was terrifying and aggravating. I had to learn how to have a conversation about me. I also had to learn how to be a different kind of sibling. In my real home, teasing was our way of showing affection; in NZ it was deemed abuse. In time, I would learn how to be present, how to enjoy simple things like sitting around a fire in the evening, everyone with a book in hand. 

What advice would you give to a young girl  in a similar position?

That is a good question. I wish I had a magic solution to eradicate bullying, but I don’t. Despite anti-bullying programs, bullying has only increased. What progress is made on the playground is quashed online, where everyone can now be the target. 

Studies show that if a bullied child knows they are not deserving of abuse, they are less likely to suffer the long-term effects of bullying (substance abuse, depression, poor relationships, suicide). I hope the book provides evidence to those suffering, that they do not deserve this treatment. They are survivors, victims of cruelty that has nothing to do with them. I believed my tormentors: there had to be something wrong with me (fat, ugly, stupid) or otherwise I would not have been targeted. I hope Chasing Tarzan demonstrates that the bullying is an untruth, devised to hurt. They do not warrant attention.

I advise young girls to seek comfort in positive voices; a teacher, a parent, a friend, a kind stranger. We tend to clench on the negative, the cruel words and events, repeating them over and over in our heads. Hold on to the positive comments––not likes on social media––but real words and moments. Seek out allies and be one, too. Know that there are actions you can take, other than self-medication, or becoming a bully too. It is tough, it is horrendous, it is exhausting, but you have power too. The power you possess will surprise you, just as it did me.

Since your foray to New Zealand, you have travelled quite extensively across 6 continents – Any favourite destinations?  What’s top of your bucket list?

Italy. I love the food, the countryside, the people, the language. I lived in Milano for six months. It wasn’t always easy. My language skills weren’t great, communicating at work and on the street was a challenge. I was lonely at first, but Italy embraced me. Peru is also up there as a favorite. A four-day unrelenting struggle up the Machu Picchu Trail taught me I possessed a resilience I never knew I had. Plus, the Andes Mountains are breathtaking. On the top of my bucket list: Bhutan

 Is “Chasing Tarzan” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. So far, I’ve received enthusiastic responses from readers in Iceland, Croatia, England, and New Zealand.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Ha! Right now, I am wearing boot-cut jeans and a navy sweater with stars embroidered on it. When I go outside, I’ll exchange my slippers for black suede boots.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t buy clothes, textiles, or shoes online. I like to touch and feel what I’m wearing. Same goes for items like furniture, though I will browse in person and then buy online. Currently, my husband and I are building a house, so house items are big on my mind. Favorite online shop at the moment: ETSY

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

New pair of running shoes. Jeans, if I can find a pair that doesn’t have those ridiculously high cut waistlines. So uncomfortable, yet I wore them ages ago. 

Boots or Shoes?

Sandals and comfy flats in summer, boots in winter––one for hiking, and one for ambling around town. In terms of boots or shoes around town: boots! They just seem more put together. With boots, a casual outfit magically becomes fashionable.  

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Website: https://catforster.com/

Website Tarzan page: https://catforster.com/chasing-tarzan/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/catherine.forster

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/catforster/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/DizzCatk

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thank you for chatting to me Catherine – I loved reading your book and thank you for allowing me to be part of your book tour!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Catherine Forster.

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Review: Paint By Numbers UK Kit

Did you ever do painting by numbers as a child? I did, with colouring pencils, felt tips and paints. I loved it! So, when the lovely people at Paint By Numbers UK asked me if I would like to review their custom Paint by Numbers kit, I jumped at the chance. In fact, I thought it might be good for my artistic teenage son to try but when it arrived, I decided actually I am going to give it a whirl myself!

DISCLAIMER

The Paint By Numbers Custom Photo Kit were supplied by Paint By Numbers UK for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

The Kit

THE BRAND

Paint By Numbers UK have hundreds of pre made Paint by Numbers kits to choose from, there are some free download designs or you can choose to get a custom Paint By Number kit. Whichever kit you choose, they all come with a numbered sheet, a pre printed canvas, paint and brushes. Clean website with easy navigation and instructions to download your photo if you choose a custom kit , are clear and precise.

At the start….

PACKAGING AND DELIVERY

My kit came in a long tube like parcel with the numbered sheet, canvas sheet, paint and paintbrushes rolled up securely inside.
Delivery times depend on what you choose. I assume that a ready made print kit would be with you around 5 – 7 days. A custom Paint By Numbers kit takes a while so allow extra time if you are thinking of purchasing a kit for as a present. For a custom kit, it takes 2 working days to assess and process the photo; 5 – 7 days to create the custom image into a paint by numbers kit; 3 – 5 working days for shipping. After payment is received, a total delivery time is estimated. Free shipping in the UK too.

THE PRODUCT

Original photo

For custom kits, the company advises to pick a photo to download with a variety of colours, so with this in mind I decided to download my picture of a fruit stall in Funchal fruit market in Madeira. It is certainly colourful and had a lot of scope. I had 35 paints in my kit, 2 thin brushes and a slightly thicker one.

My finished painting

MY CONCLUSION

According to the website, creating art relieves stress, encourages creative thinking, increases brain plasticity and imparts other mental health benefits. All I know is, that after a busy few weeks at work it was nice to come home and spend an hour or so in the evening, doing a bit of painting – it was very therapeutic and enjoyable. Some of the numbers I found hard to read as they were so small, so I may have put the wrong shade in places! Also, I found I am not very neat with a paintbrush as I would be with a pencil or felt tip pen – but I like the idea of the paint being daubed on, like an abstract painting! At the end of the day, I have a painting I’m proud of and that’s all that matters. Would I purchase again? Oh yes, most definitely. It was a great activity to do away from my phone/computer/TV . Highly recommended 10/10.

For Pinning Later. Halfway through…

COMPANY DETAILS
https://paint-by-number.com/en-ph
 – Official Website

https://www.tiktok.com/@custom_paint_by_numbers – Official Tiktok account

https://www.instagram.com/painting_by_numbers_co/ – Official Instgram Account

My thanks goes to Paint By Numbers UK for sending me my custom kit to review. I had a blast!

Linda x

All photos are by Linda Hobden.



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A Shadow Of Love Book Tour

If you enjoy a good love story and all things spooky … then this book, A Shadow Of Love by Amy S Cutler, may be just up your street… or alley! Amy is a published author of short stories and poems and this paranormal romance is her first novel – and what a debut! The story had me hooked from page one….

THE STORY

When Annabelle flees her abusive husband and moves into an 1860’s farmhouse, she soon learns that she is not alone; she shares her home with Christian, the ghost of a poet who killed himself in 1917. Christian, wanting nothing but solitude, tries to scare Annabelle away, but once they come together while she is dreaming, they fall in love. The clock is ticking for Christian, for moments after his hanging his fiance magically cursed his spirit to be stuck on earth for one hundred years, and his time is almost up.

With Annabelle’s ex threatening her and the spirit she has fallen in love with on the verge of disappearing, Annabelle becomes obsessed with staying with Christian, and will do anything to be with him.

Being in love with a ghost is bad enough, but for Annabelle, discovering that her true love will be crossing over at any moment pushes her over the edge of reckless behavior.

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

ISBN-10: 1684339402

ISBN-13: 978-1684339402

ASIN: ‎B09NXMRHV2

Print length: 163 pages

Purchase a copy of Shadow of Love on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org. You can also add this to your GoodReads reading list.  

MEET THE AUTHOR

Hello! I am Amy, the author of paranormal romance novel, “A Shadow of Love.” I also run a ski area in New York State with my family, where I spend an inappropriate amount of time writing random pieces of fiction.

“A Shadow Of Love ” is certainly a spooky ghost love story and your writing focus is centered on the spooky, suspense, horror, science fiction, and poetry. Who or what inspired you to start your writing career? 

When I was young, my parents had a house about five hours away from home where we would spend almost every weekend. That’s a lot of time in the car, and I passed the time by reading, or listening to my Walkman. I read a lot of Danielle Stelle and Stephen King – an odd mix, sure – so it’s probably not surprising that my first novel was a mix of romance and ghosts. Writing has always been something that I turned to, either to explain what my mouth couldn’t form words for, or just as a creative outlet. 

“A Shadow Of Love ” is a ghost story with a romantic bizarre twist.  Annabelle being in love with a ghost sounds silly at first but then her nightmares draw you in and Christian becomes real in your imagination too, that it soon seems like being in love with a ghost seems quite normal ….  Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

I loved writing about Annabelle. She is independent and brave, leaving an abusive marriage and living on her own. I really enjoyed finding the strength in that vulnerability. I had the hardest time with Scott, her ex. I just didn’t like him, and had a hard time giving him depth. I wrote this while in grad school, and my advisor kept telling me that he was too one dimensional, and I really struggled to try and find a good or sensitive side to him.

I love reading gothic/horror/thriller novels – so what attracted you to writing ghost stories? 

I have always loved ghost stories. I like the thrill of being scared while reading a book or watching a movie, and writing them is even more fun!

If you could visit any country/place in the world, to base a future novel in, where would you go and why? 

I would go to an isolated castle near the ocean. Can you imagine? The storms, the crashing waves, the echoes from the stone walls and floors. I get happy chills just thinking about it.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Yes I am! My favorite genre is horror, and I love Stephen King,  Peter Straub, Shirley Jackson, Edgar Allan Poe, Ray Bradbury – to name a few.

Actual book … I love to hold a book, the way they smell, the history of where it has been and who else has read it. I appreciate the Kindle for portability and do use one, but I would always rather have a physical book in my hands.

Growing up had you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations?

I have wanted to be an author since I can remember. I have always also known that I would be in the ski business, which is my family’s business, but it is nice that they can work together and share my time.

Your other big love is skiing – you are Executive Manager at Mount Peter Ski Area in New York.  How old was you when you started skiing?  Do you get ideas for stories whilst on the slopes?

I have been skiing since I was two years old. I grew up on skis, the mountain was my babysitter in the winter months. I do get story ideas while skiing, but then again, I get story ideas at the grocery store. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I am very casual. Jeans, T-shirt in the summer and sweater in the winter. I like cardigans because my temperature fluctuates so much that I am constantly taking off or putting on a layer, and I can’t stand pulling shirts over my hair all day.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Sundance is my absolute favorite online store, for not only clothes but home décor and jewelry. I currently have 19 items on my wishlist!

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Winter boots! Winter is coming and I have a hard time finding something that is grippy, waterproof, comfortable, and warm but not too warm since I work inside most of the day.

Boots or Shoes?

Well, flip flops. But in the cooler months, I go for boots. Even though I work inside most of the time, I never know when I have to go out onto the mountain, and I’d rather be safe than cold and wet.

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc.

Website: www.AmysHippieHut.com

On Instagram and Twitter I can be found at AmysHippieHut

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thank you Amy for inviting me onto your book tour, for chatting and for the copy of your book for reviewing. PS. Totally off topic but I love your twitter/instagram handle! 😀

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Amy Cutler.

Header photo is by Linda Hobden and was taken in Lisciano Niccone on the Tuscany/Umbria border in Italy.

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An Interview With LoadOfOlBobbins

Bright, fun and bold accessories inspired by nature and pigeons – my guest this week is bubbly Jess Taylor, a talented textile artist and illustrator. I caught up with Jess recently, to find out why she particularly likes pigeons …and Birkenstocks ! Hi Jess and welcome!

Hi I’m Jess aka Loadofolbobbins a textile artist and illustrator based by the sea in Portsmouth, UK. With a love of silhouettes and a penchant for pigeons, I make bright, bold and fun sustainable accessories inspired by nature, literature and cosplaying pigeons.

What inspired you to set up “LoadOfOlBobbins”?

After graduating with my degree from art school I found myself in a bit of a creative wilderness, careers advice wasn’t top of the list of priorities on my degree course! Navigating the transition between being in full time education and then out in the big wide world was a bumpy one. After some success entering a few competitions, one of which means I have a piece on permanent display at Blackfriars Station, Bankside Entrance (wave hi from me if you find yourself there!) I found a love for illustration and decided to create a shop to start selling my work, thus Loadofolbobbins was born.

I am always curious to know the origins of brand names, so why did you choose “LoadOfOlBobbins”? Did you consider other names?

Once I knew that I wanted to create a shop to sell my wares, the mission to find a suitable name began. During a phone call brainstorming session with my fab big sister and fellow creative biz owner The Makers Marks, (who I unashamedly bribe with my stitched and illustrated wares), we threw around all manner of stitchy names. ‘Bobbin along’… lots of bobbins were mentioned and in a magical light bulb moment Loadofolbobbins was born.


You have a lovely wide range of illustrated products inspired by nature, literature and cosplaying pigeons!  What products and designs are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

Over the years I’ve been very lucky with all the fab customers I’ve had, they seem to like quite a broad range of my work and my new ‘Birds of a Feather’ collection is getting a great reception. Fred the pigeon is always very popular and good for a giggle and there are definitely a strong contingent of Brontë lovers out there who enjoy my ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Jane Eyre’ inspired jewellery. But my all time best seller is definitely my ‘Deeds Not Words’ pin. I always see a surge in sales during elections and particularly tumultuous times, I like to think it helps keep people going and encourages them to keep making their voice heard at the ballot box.

I particularly like the fun Unicorn Pigeon Wooden Necklace.  Do you have a particular favourite design? 

Oooh now you’re asking! I’m one of those people that finds it almost impossible to pick one favourite, annoying I know. I think because you spend so much time developing and creating your work and put so much of yourself into every piece it’s difficult to single one out. A big maker perk though keep a few pieces for myself, so I’ve got every pair of my bird earrings and wear them all the time!

As you are based in Portsmouth, are your products available to purchase overseas? 

I love having customers from all over the world and have sent my work off to new homes across the globe everywhere from Brazil and Australia, to Europe and the US, it’s funny to think my art is better travelled than me. In more recent years however, quite a few new bits of legislation have made it prohibitively expensive to send to some places. I do still sell to the US and Canada, via my Folksy and Etsy shops, and am open to enquiries from other places on a case by case basis.


What inspired your original cosplaying pigeon Fred?  What do you particularly like about pigeons? You have an illustrated book of Fred’s cosplaying adventures – where do you get your ideas from ? 

Fred first appeared on the scene right at the beginning of my Loadofolbobbins journey back in 2014, debuting at my first market with a pair of reindeer antlers.   I’ve always loved pigeons they’re such beautiful birds, the iridescent plumage at their necks is stunning plus all those incredible tones of grey. They’ve also got such wonderful personalities and are incredibly clever; did you know they can distinguish between different human faces?! Most of my ideas for Fred’s adventures comes from things that make me laugh, if I find it funny odds are someone else will too….I hope!

What was the hardest or most unusual piece of artwork/illustration you’ve created so far?    

Earlier this year I collaborated with my composer dad on an animated relaxation video for a new wellbeing app called Syntropy. We saw the call out for artists and thought it would be a fun project we could do together. It was a real departure from anything I’ve ever done before and I hand drew 969 individual frames which took many, many weeks. Ignorance was definitely bliss before I undertook this challenge. I’m really looking forward to seeing it go live in the app in November.

Have you always wanted to be an artist/illustrator or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

As soon as my tiny toddler hands had their first finger painting experience it was clear that I was destined for a career in the arts. I come from a really wonderfully arty family so have always been surrounded by the arts, I think between us we have everything covered, writing, music, visual art you name it. When I was very little I did want to be a bird, but I feel I’ve managed to at least be bird adjacent with my many creations.


When you are not illustrating, what do you enjoy doing in your spare time? 

Probably unsurprisingly I like to hang out in my garden with the birds that keep us entertained with their feeder shenanigans. I need to get better at giving myself time off to be honest but I love reading, discovering new music and I’m on a real documentary watching kick at the moment which I’ve blogged about a bit, lots of uplifting inspiring arty viewing has definitely been a joy lately and the new series of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ is just brilliant.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes
would you normally be found wearing?

Pretty much anything and everything turquoise and in the blue green family, my absolute favourite colours. I have a lovely pair of sparkly Birkenstocks which I am particularly fond of and a fabulous collection of statement earrings by other wonderful makers. Big and colourful is definitely my vibe.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Slight bit of family bias here but I love my sister’s needlepoint kits and she’s just released an amazing book which I’m super proud of, everyone should check out page 86 there’s a Jessica stitch! 

I’m finding new and wonderful makers all the time and have recently found a bunch more thanks to the fab Super Seconds Festival organised by Ink & Bear. It’s a great event where 250 makers sell their seconds and end of line stock at big discounts, the next one is 1st & 2nd April 2023 so definitely worth keeping your eye out for that. 


What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’ve had a hankering to do a bit of sewing lately and after a successful attempt at making myself a kimono style top, with some of my rather large fabric stash, I’ve got my eyes on a kaftan dress pattern. Some fancy new Birkenstocks to match would be lovely too.

Boots or Shoes?

Probably shoes, oh my gosh you got me to pick a favourite! To be honest anything that fits my wide feet is a real dream. So many lovely shoes out there just don’t fit me, did I mention I love Birkenstocks?!


Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about LoadOfOlBobbins. 

I can be found in various pockets of the internet at my website https://www.loadofolbobbins.com/shoponline and on Instagram and Twitter as @loadofolbobbins for those from further afield who’d like to shop my wares there are links to my Folksy and Etsy store on my website shop page. I look forward to hearing from some of you!

Great to chat with you Jess!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Jess Taylor (LoadOfOlBobbins). The Pinterest pic is courtesy of Folksy.

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Breaking Free

The words of the iconic Queen song – “I want to break free !” – must be the mantra of people around the world who suffer from chronic fatigue, long covid, anxiety, agoraphobia and other similar conditions. Orthodox medical approach to treating chronic fatigue CFS (which used to be called ME) has tended to be regarded as ”something you just need to learn to live with“. But, my guest this week, Jan Rothney, is on a mission to demonstrate that recovery is certainly possible and not to resign yourself to thinking nothing can be done. And Jan should know – she has lived with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for many years but went on a journey of learning and discovery, and has managed to achieve recovery status. She has just published her book, ”Breaking Free” to help fellow sufferers get on the road back to recovery. Let’s welcome Jan onto the blog …. Hi Jan!

Hello! I am Jan Rothney, author of the book “Breaking Free: A Guide to Recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Long Covid” and creator of the online training programme “Reset to Thrive”, which complements the book and is a great visual aid to recovery, as well as showing people how to live life more healthily, whether or not they had chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) or Long Covid fatigue symptoms. My background was working as a behaviour therapist, lecturing in health and social care and, after recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome myself and losing my job, I ran a clinic for recovery from chronic fatigue syndrome and related illnesses.

What made you decide to launch your book, “Breaking Free”?

I decided to launch the book because I was retiring from working as a practitioner and wanted to pass on all my information and expertise; being able to offer my expertise in an modestly-priced book meant recovery could be affordable for anyone. Also, during the pandemic I realised that so many symptoms of Long Covid are similar to those of chronic fatigue syndrome. I believe my approach could also help those suffering from Long Covid too. Indeed, it is estimated that 25% of Long Covid patients will be diagnosed with CFS. 

Reading your book “Breaking Free”, I thought to myself that the guide to recovery after Long Covid and Chronic Fatigue could also be applied to a certain extent to deal with anxiety/panic attacks/agoraphobia too. What are your top tips to help sufferers get back on the road to recovery?

All the tools in the book are useful for other conditions but my own experience is that people with mental health issues also need support from a practitioner or therapist. However, the book is really useful for people who feel they are burning out – are “Tired All the Time”, struggling to keep going – and for those with fibromyalgia. 

My top tips would be to know it is a recoverable condition, to learn how to override the primitive survival system, to focus on where the body is working rather than when it isn’t, to relearn how to approach triggers or events that you used to take for granted (neutral events) and which now feel hard or threatening, and to massively celebrate successes, no matter how small. Crucially, the malfunctioning system needs to know you are safe, not by avoiding life but by approaching everything the right way and making the environment safe. Then it will rebalance itself and revert to the healthy functioning system, that lets your body heal, repair and thrive again.

After suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) for many years, and being faced with the orthodox medical approach “to learn to live with the condition” – how and when did you realise that full recovery was indeed possible?

When I first had CFS I recovered on my own. I always assumed I would recover because I realised that my protective system had taken over to shut down my body. Fortunately I knew how to change that because of my background working with clients to rebalance this system. My GP was instrumental in my recovery because he always told me I would recover, no matter how many times I crashed and ended up back in bed for days or weeks. His faith gave me a lifeline when I was at my lowest points. 

This is why I was so shocked when I relapsed a few years later, and was referred to the new specialist CFS clinic, wherethe official line is “there is no cure or treatment, and you have to learn to manage the condition”. In fact, they wouldn’t put me forward for group support until I said, “I accept I will never recover”. 

In the book I explain how professionals’ beliefs about the condition and practise, have powerful influence on outcome and recovery, so I wrote the book as much for professionals as sufferers. Thankfully, I found a complementary practitioner who reminded me I can recover and got me back on track. Heading for a further relapse a few years later, I realised I had to change how I do life, in order to stop relapses forever and to stay healthy. Part Two of the book is about how to be completely healthy and symptom free. I do not manage the condition – I got rid of it many years ago. 

As you now run a CFS clinic and are a health & social care lecturer, what is it about your job that you enjoy most or which gives you the most satisfaction? What is the downside?

I absolutely loved my job as a practitioner, and previously as a lecturer because it is so rewarding to see people recover and achieve. The downside was that I didn’t have enough time to spend with my family and to care for my grandchildren, so I retired.  The book has been wonderful, as I get lovely comments from people on how much it has helped them. One email today said “your new book is absolutely brilliant; I’ve been reading at every opportunity and is going to be a massive help on its own – it is going to be my bible to recovery for a long time! Thank you.”

Is ME & CFS the same condition?

Yes. The term M.E (which stands for myalgicencephalomyelitis), was replaced by the term chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) so, yes, they are the same condition but there is a lot of controversy in the M.E world about the new terminology and they still refer to it as M.E. However,myalgic encephalomyelitis literally means muscle pain and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord, typically due to acute viral infection, but there is no evidence of this so I use the term CFS and clarify that fatigue is not tiredness but the body shutting down.

Growing up, did you always want a “people related” or “health based” career or did you want to pursue a completely different direction?

I have known since I was 4 or 5 years old that I wanted to work with people and have been really lucky to do the two things I love best, teaching and being a practitioner for health and social care.

What are the common problems/symptoms that new patients ask advice on and what do you suggest they should try instead?

Typical symptoms clients with chronic fatigue syndrome have are: flu like symptoms, unrefreshing sleep, aching muscles, sore throat, swollen glands, complete exhaustion, post exertion malaise, brain fog, difficulty with speech and social interaction, pumping heart, temperature fluctuations and hypersensitivity to touch, sound, light, taste or smell. Similar symptoms are exhibited with Long Covid as the body’s defence responses to an infection don’t turn off and people get stuck in the “sickness loop”. Clients with fibromyalgia typically have pain in specific joints and tender spots. People with Burnout or Tired All the Time often have complete exhaustion but not necessarily the sickness defence responses; however, they will often have signs that the body is struggling, such as IBS, skin rashes, susceptibility to infections, or sensitivity to foods and chemicals such as household products or make up. I teach clients how to break the survival system dominance and, instead, switch to the reset to thrive mode.

Is your book, “Breaking Free” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, the book is available worldwide from:

• The publisher, Arkbound: https://arkbound.com/product/breaking-free-by-jan-rothney/ – and they are offering a 20% discount for the next 6 months if you order through their website. To claim your 20% discount, use the code: BreakingFree2022.

• The Book Depository:https://www.bookdepository.com/Breaking-Free-Jan-Rothney/9781912092154

• Other internet booksellers, including Waterstones

• Bookshops – you can order the book at any good high street bookshop

• and as an ebook from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Breaking-Chronic-Fatigue-Covid-Symptoms-ebook/dp/B09ZT6PJC9 ( please leave a review if downloading the ebook!).

Personal now – What outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

I normally wear jeans, tops and cardigans or jumpers. When I run a clinic, I usually wear a smart dress. You can most often find me in walking boots or stilettos!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I am trying to be more environmentally conscious and buy ethically sourced materials, so I buy cashmere or linen and cotton clothes from www.purecollection.com, and tops from baukjen.com and www.bambooclothing.co.uk.  My latest jeans are Salsa Secret, although I need to check their fairtrade and environment rating.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

Next on my list is sandals and a couple of thin strap linen tops from Pure Collection for summer.

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. I love my walking boots as they fit like a glove and are great for walking the South West Coast Path or the beach with my dog. I also love Dubarry ankle boots and wear them all the time, unless it is summer. 

Links you would like to share:

Websites: www.resettothrive.co.uk and janrothney.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Breaking-Free-102627489024150

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reset_to_thrive_/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/FreefromCfs

Thank you Jan for chatting to us today and I’m sure you’ve inspired many sufferers to strive for recovery. Thanks also for the copy of your book for reviewing purposes – I found it most interesting – good advice and workable goals.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Jan Rothney.

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The House On Linden Way Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of another book tour – this time it is to highlight “The House On Linden Way ”by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. This gothic/suspense thriller is just the ticket for Hallowe’en, with its ghosts and a haunted house to boot!

BOOK SUMMARY

While passing through her hometown a decade after she left, Amber Blake impulsively revisits her old house on Linden Way. She only means to stay a moment, to show her three-year-old daughter Bee the place where she grew up. But when the kindly new owners invite them inside, Amber cannot resist.

Soon Bee is missing, the owners have disappeared, and Amber finds herself in a houseful of ghosts. Time takes on new meaning as she loses herself in living memories and a past that does not wish to be forgotten. 

As Amber fights the powerful lure of a childhood she’d long left behind, her tenuous hold on the real world slips further from her grasp. Is it merely nostalgia she’s battling, or something far more menacing? Who haunts the house on Linden Way, and where are they hiding her child? 

MY INTERVIEW

As the nights draw in, there is nothing more comforting than curling up with a good book – and this adult gothic suspense novel by Elizabeth Maria Naranjo is certainly a story that sucks you in and takes you on an magical adventure that is full of suspense, and enough spookiness to lift the hairs on the back of your neck. I caught up with author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo to chat about her love of ghost stories…Hi Elizabeth! …

Hello! I’m Elizabeth, an author in Tempe, Arizona, who loves ghost stories, rainy days (rare here!), and woodsy getaways. I’ve been writing since I can remember and publishing for about ten years, mostly short fiction and essays in literary journals, but also a book here and there. I’m excited to be here sharing my latest novel, The House on Linden Way, so thank you! 

“The House On Linden Way” is your adult gothic suspense novel; you have also written a young adult novel centered around magical realism – “The Fourth Wall”, and numerous short stories and creative non fiction. Who or what inspired you to start your writing career? 

I don’t remember ever not writing, so I can’t pinpoint who or what my earliest inspiration was, but I do remember my teachers, as early as second grade, singling me out as a writer and applauding and encouraging my creative efforts. This was an early source of confidence for me and I clung to it, embracing writing as an identity. Teachers have incredible influence. 

The House On Linden Way” is a ghost story with a suspense twist.  There are a lot of ghosts and as you read, sometimes you meet characters in the book and just wonder, are they real or figments of imagination?  And then there’s Amber and her daughter Bee…. Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life? Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest?

The character that most closely resembles real life is the house itself; I used my childhood home, which I have an almost mythical attachment to, as the setting for the novel. The character of Joey is loosely based on my brother Michael. I appreciate stories that focus on sibling relationships, especially brother/sister relationships, since that’s what I’ve known.

The character I enjoyed writing most was adult Amber, because she was the easiest. She had a clear problem—her daughter was missing and she needed to find her. Little Amber was the hardest, depending on her age in the memories. Her conflict was not as straight-forward, because she wasn’t always aware of it; she doesn’t know what the reader knows. That’s a tricky point of view, but it was a fun challenge.

I love reading gothic/horror/thriller novels – so what attracted you to writing a novel in that genre? 

I love reading gothic and horror novels too! I grew up consuming all forms of horror media, from movies to music to books. My brother definitely had something to do with that! The first real horror book I read was Stephen King’s IT and it stuck with me because I’m fascinated with childhood fears; they know no bounds. As for gothic themes and settings, these have also always appealed to me because gothic is the perfect blend of horror and sadness and beauty. 

If you could visit any country/place in the world, to base a future novel in, where would you go and why? 

Switzerland is so breathtakingly beautiful. The charming villages, the dramatic mountainscapes, the crystal-blue lakes and spruce forests… the whole country looks like a fairy tale. I’d go there. 

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre? Kindle or actual book? 

Fellow bookworm here for sure! Speculative fiction is my favorite, from ghost stories to supernatural horror to magical realism. Although I will admit an indulgence for cozy mysteries, the sillier the better. 

I’m evenly split on Kindle vs. print. What matters to me is the type/size of the print book—I can’t stand hardcovers, and I much prefer mass market paperbacks over trade paperbacks. They’re the perfect size! That said, if a book is more than 400 pages, I’d rather read it on Kindle.

Growing up had you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations?

As a little girl, I imagined being an author or a schoolteacher. Now I’m both! It works well for me because as much as I love writing, I wouldn’t want to make a career out of it. I like having a steady paycheck and health insurance, and I like the feeling that my writing is something I do because I enjoy it and not because I have to. I also really like teaching! I’m surrounded by little people all day who are amazing and make me laugh and also make me want to tear my hair out sometimes, but it’s just such a rewarding job. 

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

In the summer I wear dresses; it’s just too hot here in the desert to wear anything else. Simple, sleeveless, A-line dresses, heeled flip flops for shoes. In fall and winter, jeans and boots all the way, with v-neck tees and a light jacket or cardigan. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I really don’t like clothes shopping, so I stick with the basics: for jeans it’s Old Navy, for dresses it’s JCPenney, and for shoes… well, I’ll just wear them until they’re peeling apart rather than go shoe shopping. 

However, if we’re talking any shops, I could spend an entire day in Barnes & Noble. Online my go-to is Etsy, because the creativity and talent of others is wonderful and I love supporting fellow creatives and getting (and giving!) homemade gifts. 

For Pinning Later

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

I’d like some more tunics because they’re so cute to pair with leggings and boots—I teach in an elementary school and we can wear leggings but not jeans, and I’ve never been a slacks person. Shirts can be tricky for me; I’m only 5 foot 2, and that’s rounding up, so I need just the right length or I look even shorter! 

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! Always! They’re just so much more comfortable. Also, I have really big feet, so shoes look silly on me, like I have clown feet. Ankle boots are the perfect solution for this, I’ve found. Also, with boots I never have that problem where the back of the shoe rubs the back of your ankle and you don’t know until you’ve worn the shoes for a whole day and then it’s too late to take them back. Forget shoes. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc

Website: http://www.elizabethmarianaranjo.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/emarianaranjo

BOOK TOUR DATES

Thank you to Elizabeth Maria Naranjo for letting me be part of The House On Linden Way book tour. Thank you for the review copy of The House On Linden Way – I found the book highly enjoyable 😊

Linda x

All photographs in the article have been published with kind permission of Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. The Pinterest and header photo were both by Linda Hobden.

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An Interview With Cliff Beach

My guest this week is the groovy American musician, Cliff Beach, who has just published his book ”Side Hustle & Flow” which chronicles his music career journey as well as giving readers a detailed and realistic approach to how people can run their passion projects alongside the day job. And Cliff certainly knows his stuff – he is a successful musician but his full time day job is actually VP of Digital & Operations with online beauty company, BeautyTap. So, how does he do it all? I caught up with Cliff recently to find out… Hi Cliff, and welcome…

Hi! I am a musician and author based in Los Angeles, CA. I have a 10-piece funk band which performs regularly in Southern California and toured the West Coast this year.

Your book, “Side Hustle & Flow” is a detailed & realistic approach to how you can successfully run your passion projects alongside your day job, as well as providing practical productivity ideas and real-life techniques. What was the initial inspiration for writing this book?

It was my bucket list, pandemic project. Originally the book was titled “From Full to Fulfilled” as I wanted to learn why some people had full lives that were full of busyness, and some had fulfilled lives that were about their business. As it progressed, I realized that I had inadvertently curated my life to be able to work full-time and work on my side hustles full time by becoming very good at goal setting and time-management.

I loved the questions at the end of each chapter – they really helped to frame idea and to sort out priorities – and it made it easier to feel that having a successful side hustle is certainly achievable! What do you feel is the biggest hurdle people face when trying to run their passion/side hustle alongside their day job?

First, many people do not think it is achievable, because they have an all or nothing mindset or have self-limiting beliefs or have never learned how to make and set goals. The biggest hurdle is facing your fears. Fears are triggered by anxiety and stress that set in, and we don’t want to look foolish or fail publicly so we talk ourselves out of it. I am trying to live by a rule “Love the idea for 5 mins” that I learned from Mel Robbins because often in life we kill our own ideas before we even have time to believe it could be possible. If you try, you might, achieve it but if you don’t try, you won’t achieve it.

Were there any aspects of writing “Side Hustle & Flow” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

The writing of at least the first draft moved right along, but it was the ten rounds of editing that almost killed me. I never thought I would hate my own ideas or reading my own words, and now that I have done the audiobook it was torture all over again, but once you have some distance from it, you get graduation goggles on and think ‘it’s not so bad.’ I didn’t know how much I didn’t know about the English language until my editors humbled me in the process. But it did make the book better each time, it is a labor of love.

Your full-time day job is VP of Digital & Operations with online beauty company Beautytap. Do you feel that your side hustles/passions – music, TEDX speaker, Toastmaster, author – have helped you to be productive in your day job too? If so, in which ways?

Yes, I think many firms should think more intrapreneurial. Just today I interviewed a person for a job at our firm and they expressed that outside of their normal work they owned a few Boba tea shops in LA, which was very impressive to me. Without telling me I can understand that for a person to work and have a side hustle and manage not, 1 or 2 but 3 locations, plus other endeavors, that person is a go-getter, that person wants to continually improve, and they can set goals and time manage while dealing with a high level stress. I’d take a person with soft skills and hustle any day over someone who looks good on paper. They used to say the proof is the pudding, but I say the proof is in the output. What your produce matters.

What attracted you to the role of Toastmaster?

I learned Warren Buffet displays no degrees on his wall, only a public speaking certificate. I think people think they speak well but can still improve, while others are afraid to speak in public. Effective communication is what changes someone from good to great and not just at work and career but in interpersonal relationships. In the world of texting and shorthand, people are not using as many words, and we have a more passive than explicit and direct nature when we speak now. In Toastmasters practicing persuasive, humorous, impromptu, and succinct speeches have helped me immensely, by having a warm, supportive environment to practice and a methodology that has evolved over the past 90+ years to be tried and true. 

Music also plays a very big part of your life – having a hit song “Confident”; winner of 2 Global Music Awards and the John Lennon Songwriting Contest Grand Prize; House-band leader for Josh Gates Tonight on Discovery Channel; and host of Deeper Grooves on 88.5FM KCSN; plus, a spell on “American Idol”. So, growing up, did you want to have a career in writing or in music or did you actually have other career aspirations?

When I was young, I wanted to be a chef. I used to love watching cooking shows. I almost became a doctor, but I decided last minute to go to Music Conservatory at Berklee instead. It worked out in the end though I do love to cook, I can’t stand the sight of blood.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

I used to read a lot of books, but I am more into audio books and book summaries now. I read mostly self-help. I love Tim Ferris, Tim Robbins, Jim Rohn, Les Brown, Zig Ziglar Brian Tracy and more, but mostly I read Success Magazine, which is all substance and no fluff and over 100+ years old.

 Is “Side Hustle & Flow” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, on Eyewear Publishing, it is available worldwide in hard cover first edition and will soon be available on audio and eventually digital.

Have you got a passion project bucket list of activities you would love to try but haven’t as yet?

Yes, I am working on a lot of music projects at the moment, one more contemporary project, three jazz projects, a soul project and possibly a blues project. I created a legacy document at 30 almost 10 years ago on my first ep info and beyond and now I am looking to plan and plot out the next decade. I said I would make ten albums in 10 years, and I have done almost that in nine so far.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

Depends on the day sometimes more casual, sometimes dressy but always in my brand/band colors which are red and black. I liked the White Stripes, who wore red and white so I chose red and black. Red is the first color you see, so it makes me stand out in a crowd.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I shop a lot at Ross Stores and Amazon. I am not brand specific, and I do like a bargain. I never go to the mall.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

You can never have too many hats. I just got a wide brim red fedora, but I’d like a regular brim red fedora as well next purchase.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes, because boots are too heavy and unlike the song they are not made for walking.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g., website/facebook etc

Sidehustleandflow.net

Blackspringpressgroup.com

Facebook.com/cliffbeachmusic

Twitter.com/cliffbeachmusic

Instagram.com/cliffbeachmusic

https://Cliffbeachmusic.com

https://Californiasoulmusic.com

Red is one of my favourite colours to wear also – it definitely sends out a powerful message – and the colour suits you too, Cliff 😊

Linda x

Photo Credits: Sheldon Botler. Header photo: Linda Hobden. All photographs published with kind permission of Cliff Beach.

Book cover credit: Image Stricken

Thank you to Cliff Beach & Ben Cameron (Cameron Publicity & Marketing) for the review copy of ”Side Hustle & Flow”. All opinions expressed in this article are 100% my own.

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The Maids Of Biddenden

My holiday book this year was the fascinating novel “The Maids Of Biddenden” by G D Harper. It is really an ”imagined biography” – a novel based on the legendary story of Mary and Eliza Chaulkhurst, the 12th century conjoined twins who hailed from Biddenden, Kent. A really heart warming and inspirational story of two women, with two distinctly different personalities and two different careers but sharing the one body. Although it is an imagined biography, the storyline isn’t far fetched and I was drawn into the world of the twins from the start. I loved the fact that although they were one body they were definitely two distinct people in their own right. I could easily imagine how frightened people were when they first encountered the twins, and how innocent the twins were, thinking that everybody starts life conjoined. This novel piqued my interest in finding out more about the twins, I cried at the cruelty, I laughed at the antics and petty quarrels between the girls and my heart melted when they encountered people who treated them with kindness. This book is the first in a new historical fiction trilogy highlighting little known stories from Kent and Sussex, by author GD Harper ( although , he has written 3 brilliant psychological thrillers – Love’s Long Road, A Friend In Deed and Silent Money). I couldn’t wait to chat to Glyn to find out more about the Maids of Biddenden … Hi Glyn! Please introduce yourself 😊

Hello! I went to Glasgow University in 1975 and lived in the city’s West End, the time and place for the setting of the majority of my first two novels, Love’s Long Road and Silent Money.

I also worked in Russia and Ukraine for ten years, which gave me ideas for the plot and setting that I used in my third novel, “A Friend in Deed”. Although somewhat overtaken by recent events, I think it still remains an entertaining read.

I now live in East Sussex, not far from Biddenden in Kent, which is the setting for my latest novel, The Maids of Biddenden, the imagined biography of Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst, conjoined twins born in 1100 into a wealthy family from the small Kent village of Biddenden. When they died they left their money to charity, which almost 900 years later still gives donations to the elderly of the village every Easter Monday, making it one of oldest continuous charity doles in England. Visitors to the village when the dole is handed out can buy Biddenden cakes, shaped in the image of the Maids. They are rock-hard and inedible, but store well and are kept as souvenirs.

I became a full-time author in 2016. My writing was placed third in the Lightship Prize for first-time authors and has won a 2016 Wishing Shelf Award Red Ribbon, longlisted for the 2017 UK Novel Writing Competition, the Wishing Shelf 2018 awards, the 2020 Page Turner Writer Award, the 2021 Flash 500 Award, the 2021 Impress Prize and the 2021 Exeter Novel Prize. The Maids of Biddenden was number one in Medieval History on amazon.com in the month it was launched.

Who or what inspired you to research and write about The Maids of Biddenden? 

When you arrive in Biddenden, you are greeted by a village sign of the two women side-by-side and the same image is seen throughout the village. It is an astonishing story, and one that I always tell when I’m showing visitors around this beautiful part of Kent. But when I am asked specific questions about them, I realise how little factual information is known about Eliza and Mary. For a novelist, this is actually good news as I realised I had a largely blank canvas to describe a possible life for them. 

That was the inspiration for me writing, The Maids of Biddenden. I used the real-life historical events and characters of the time to give a factual backcloth to the story and carefully researched what was known about rural life in Kent at that time and the places where the book is set; Malling, Maidstone, Tenterden, Ashford, Canterbury and, of course, Biddenden itself. 

Property of Wellcome Institute in London, used with permission.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Maids of Biddenden”.  Although the novel is based on legendary story of the 12th century conjoined twins Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst and is essentially an imagined biography, I loved the portrayal of the twins and could imagine the reactions from people that met them. I loved that the twins had distinctly different personalities and I did giggle a bit when Eliza had a love interest! My heart melted when they were given a looking glass and I was so upset when Mary became ill.  They were definitely my favourite characters in the novel but I also had a soft spot for Sister Agnes, Gerbert and Gaston. Which characters were challenging to write about? 

I think Gudrun, the Maids’ stepmother was the most challenging. The twins spend their early years hidden away and being cared for by nuns, so she doesn’t meet them until they are six years old and is horrified both by the sight of them and the fact that she believes the family will be shunned if they return with them to Biddenden and so plots to stop that from happening. But over the course of the book she begins to accept and then admire them, and by the end she holds them in even higher esteem than the villagers do themselves. It was important to me to make this significant character as credible and believable as I think it has a message about how attitudes to disability are changing in today’s society as well. 

 Did you have any favourite characters?

Eliza and Mary are of course my favourites, but I enjoyed the challenge of bringing some of the minor characters to life – the outspoken alewife, Ada; the warring nobles William de Ashford and Robert de Crevecoeur, Deorwin the wise and compassionate village reeve, etc

© Paul Webster

Having already written 3 very popular psychological thrillers – Love’s Long Road; A Friend In Deed  &  Silent Money – “ The Maids Of Biddenden” is obviously a different genre (although written just as well!)  Were there any aspects of writing “The Maids Of Biddenden “ that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise, compared with writing psychological thrillers?

I was worried about how to give my author voice a historical feel without resorting to pastiche. And you can’t write in the actual language of the time as it would be incomprehensible, but you also need to make sure you don’t sound overly contemporary and avoid anachronisms. Hopefully, I’ve got the balance right, and if anything, I always veered more towards making the story easy to read rather than overly flowery and obtuse.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be an author or did you have other career aspirations? 

I had a first career in marketing, but I always wanted to be a writer. I didn’t start writing until I was in my fifties, as I think it took me until then to feel I had enough of an informed view of life to write words people would want to read.

 “The Maids Of Biddenden” is the first book of a planned trilogy of historical fiction highlighting little known stories from Kent and Sussex. Can you tell us a bit about the other books?  

It is the first part of a trilogy bringing to life obscure historical events and characters from Kent and Sussex. The outline of the second book is already defined and I’m currently working on a first draft.

Are you a bookworm? What is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book? 

Not as much as I’d like to be. I like reading authors who are easy to read, but have a great quality of prose that is both lyrical and evocative. I’m reading Jessie Burton’s The Miniaturist at the moment, Delia Owen’s Where the Crawdad’s Sing before that. I also love the imagery in Ian McEwan’s books. 

And being a bit of a technophobe, I always read paperbacks.

Biddenden Cakes. Photo by Paul Webster

 Is “The Maids Of Biddenden” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes it is, in both paperback and e-book. I was number 16 in overall sales on Amazon in Australia at the beginning of September, number two in historical fiction behind the new Maggie O’Farrell novel. Having said I’m a technophobe, I’m amazed at how easy it is these days to market and sell books all over the world.

 If you could visit any place in the world to give you inspiration for your next book, where would you go and why? 

I’m working with facsimiles and transcriptions of 16th-century documents at the moment, the sourcematerial for my next novel. I’d love to visit the British Library and the Bodleian Library and see the actual documents for myself and see what additional insights they reveal.

Personal now – what outfits and shoes would you normally be found wearing?

When you get to a certain age, you have to up your game when it comes to clothes if you want to look smart, you can’t get away with cheap stuff anymore. Tailored suit with t shirt and leather sneakers if I’m going out, something non-slobby if I’m nipping down to the shops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I like to buy my clothes in the independent shops in Brighton’s Lanes and go down and do a blitz shopthere once a year. Ted Baker and Paul Smith are the chains I like and so I pop into their shops in Covent Garden when I’m in London. I never buy clothes online.

What’s next on your clothes/shoe wish list?

A new Arc’teryx waterproof jacket for wearing in the Scottish mountains. My current one is coming to the end of its useful life.

Boots or Shoes? 

I’ll say boots, as I love climbing and trekking. But if you mean for casualwear, I’ll have to choose shoes. I like boots, but they don’t like me. Always giving me blisters.

For Pinning Later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc 

Website:​​www.gdharper.com

Instagram: ​​@gdharperauthor

Thank you Glyn for agreeing to be interviewed; and thank you to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing (and Glyn) for sending me a copy of ”The Maids Of Biddenden” for reviewing. My thoughts about the book are 100% mine! 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of G D Harper and copyright information on certain photos has been added.

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