All posts by Linda

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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Living The Dream

Have you ever been on holiday overseas in some idyllic place and just wondered what it would be like to live there on a permanent basis? Have you casually looked in an estate agents window or looked online for properties overseas? I know I have when I visited Madeira a few years back and since then, every time I’ve visited the island, I do get the ”urge”. I enjoy watching the TV programme ”Down Under” – when people from the UK get the chance to experience Australia or New Zealand for a week – they check out the housing market, job market, the food bills, the downtime opportunities, schooling (if necessary), opinions from ex pats and lastly they watch, usually weepy, a video from loved ones and friends giving their opinions on the ”move”. The couple then make up their minds whether they still want to move or not. The follow up programme a year or so later discovers whether they took the plunge or not! So, it was with great interest to receive ”Living The Dream” to review – this book really is the true life, warts-n-all accounts of settling overseas from women who wanted to live the dream including an eye opening account on how it feels to be a foreigner in England. This book is really essential reading for those aspiring to live abroad as well as for current expats. My guest this week is Carrie Frais, a British Broadcast journalist & PR consultant who has been living in Barcelona since 2006. She edited Living The Dream as well as contributed her story. Hi Carrie and welcome 😊

Hi! I am a British born TV and Radio journalist living in Cabrils, a pretty village about 20 minutes north of Barcelona. I am the founder of MumAbroad.com, an online resource for international families living in or relocating to Europe, FiG, a communications and creative agency and 4Voices, a platform to encourage public speaking among teenagers. I also host the podcasts ‘The Soundtrack to My Life’, ‘Notes OnLeadership’ and ‘Turo Talks’. I am married to Tom and have two teenage children Poppy & Bertie, Reggie the dog and cats Maggie and Wally.

Who or what inspired the compilation “Living TheDream” collection of true life accounts of settling overseas from women who wanted to “Live The Dream”?

#LivingTheDream was written during the pandemic, when time stopped and some of us (like me) suffered from existential angst. I realised that I hadn’t come to terms with losing both my parents a few years earlier as I had been so caught up with work and family. I also hadn’t come to terms with the loss of my childhood home and what that meant to my sense of belonging and identity. I wanted to share these thoughts and emotions with others as well as the challenges of living abroad with (in my case) losing a parent very suddenly and losing another parent after a long, drawn-out illness. I started talking to other women living abroad about these issues and I soon realised that many of them had undergone their own challenges as expats – from issues with alcohol to rootlessness. It was then that I came up with the idea of creating an anthology depicting different stories from different women but all with the underlying issues of loneliness, loss and identity. 

Being an expat has always had its misconceptions – unfortunately a lot of people do think expats are always living the high life – alcohol, parties, sunshine, beaches … Your book highlighted the diversity of expat experiences of nine women in their 40s, 50s & 60s… and great tips from those expats as well as analysis and advice from psychologist Leigh Matthews (also an expat). After moving to Barcelona in 2006, what did you realise was your biggest misconception about life in Spain compared with the UK?

Prior to 2006, my (then boyfriend, now husband) and I had divided our time between London and Barcelona for work. When I fell pregnant in 2006 we made the decision that we would move permanently to Barcelona, but we were well aware of the challenges that lay ahead. Both of us had to give up our careers (I was working at the BBC and ITN as a presenter and my husband was working in sports marketing). We had to re-invent ourselves. That was a huge challenge, but not a misconception as such as we had come across others who had been through that process and we were well aware of the difficulties. I think for me, the biggest misconception was around motherhood. I imagined a Mediterranean country full of services offering help with the many challenges of being a new mother. As time went by, I realised that new mothers in Catalonia and the rest of Spain would normally pass the childcare onto their own mothers and fathers and there were very few public or private centres that could offer new mothers like me, with no extended family nearby, a helping hand. It was then that I came up with the idea of MumAbroad – with the idea of creating a resource that would help other mothers and working women in a European country that was not their own. 

Were there any aspects of moving to Spain that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

I’d already lived in Madrid during University and in Barcelona post University so that really was the underlying reason I wanted to move back to Spain in the first place – for its vibrancy, its outdoor lifestyle, its entrepreneurial spirit (in Barcelona at least) and its generally relaxed mode, especially towards work. The British used to laugh at the Spanish for their ‘mañana’ attitude. It’s not really like that – they just have a fantastic balance between work and leisure here, which I think if the British analysed further, they might be a little envious of. 

You are a founding member of “Bremain in Spain”, which campaigns to protect the rights of British Citizens living in Spain & Europe.  How has BREXIT influenced or changed expat life in Europe?  

It’s definitely made me feel less British and more European. When I first moved to Barcelona I felt that being British was almost a badge of honour. People respected the British, its strongeconomy and its progressive attitudes. Brexit was a huge shock to the Spanish. They could not understand why the British would not want other Europeans to come to live and work in the UK. I felt embarrassed by the result of the referendum. It didn`t reflect my values and I felt we all got tarnished by the same brush. Luckily I was able to get Irish citizenship and I now have an Irish (EU) passport as well as my British one!

Let’s be positive – what is your favourite thing about living in Barcelona?  

Having the Mediterranean, the Pyrenees, exquisite architecture and incredible gastronomy all within touching distance. 

One question I really want to know is, as you are already living in a tourist destination, when planning a holiday do you go back to the country of your birth, do you explore another area in your new “adopted” country; or do you book a holiday in a country or place vastly different from where you live?

I used to go regularly back to the UK when my parents were around and then Covid hit and this year was the first year in three years I went back for an extended length of time. We went to Cornwall and it was fabulous! Normally we go on a tour between family and friends houses in and around London but this year we decided to give ourselves a break and indulge in a typical British family holiday. We were there during the heatwave (or one of them!) which was a little surreal on a British holiday but it was hugely enjoyable. If we are not going to the UK or somewhere in the north of Spain we usually head to Languedoc in France we have a cute little townhouse. 

Is “#LivingTheDream” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes it is – it’s available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Waterstones as well as other well-known online stores.

You founded a fabulous website in 2008 called MumAbroad.com What inspired you to start this website?  In your opinion, what has been the most valuable resource the website has provided for expats and expats to be in Europe?

As I mentioned earlier, MumAbroad was initially started for selfish reasons – to help me with my journey navigating motherhood in a foreign country and then the site began to grow organically and we extended it to France, Italy and Germany. Initially the website was more a resource for new parents living abroad but as my own children and my business partner’s children have grown up, so has the website in that we now focus more on education, educational specialisms, child and adult therapy, relocation and on women and business. We aim to give a platform to mothers who want to get back into the workplace or have set up their own business after having taken time out of work when having a young family.

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

I made a promise to myself a year or so ago that I would only buy vintage, second hand or locally made clothes draw the line at underwear and sports gear though!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love the ‘Vide Greniers’ markets across the border in France which often have fabulous vintage clothes, there’s a local fashion market nearby called ‘Emocions’ which is held twice a year showcasing local designers and I love my nearest vintage shop ‘Carousel’ located in a vibrant coastal town called Vilassar de Mar. 

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

To find a couple of every day well fitted vintage jeans. I run a coworking space nearby and whereas before I could get away with just having a decent top for zoom calls, I now need to think about the whole outfit! 

Boots or Shoes?

Always boots. I love the clunkiness and comfiness of boots.

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

For pinning later

Websites: www.carriefrais.co.uk

www.mumabroad.com and www.FiGBcn.com

https://www.4-voices.com  and www.mixcloud.com/carrie-frais

Facebook: @carrie.frais        Twitter: @carriechantall1

Instagram: @carrie_frais      LinkedIn: carrie-frais

#Living The Dream: Expat Life Stripped Bare 

edited by Carrie Frais is published by Springtime Books (paperback, RRP £10) and available through bookshops & internet booksellers.

Thank you Carrie for the chat, thank you for the chance to review “Living The Dream” – it was definitely an interesting read and highly recommended.

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Carrie Frais apart from the Pinterest and header picture which are by Linda Hobden.

Linda x

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An Interview With Author David Laws

During holiday season what can be better than finding a good book to read? One book I took on holiday with me to review, was ”Her Private War” by David Laws…

© LindaHobden

My Review

Based around the time of World War One, this novel tells the story of Charlotte Dovedale , a woman whose ambition was to be a pilot and fly for her country. But England at that time was on the verge of war, the suffragette movement was gaining momentum and Charlotte had to put up with prejudices and setbacks – from her own mother, her brother, the powers that be…. she had Scott though, who taught her to fly, had faith in her ability and, although Charlotte hated to admit it, he was rather handsome. Determined to fly, she takes on a photographer role in a frontline air base close to the French/Belgian border. Close enough to get to the planes and show her ability but will she get a chance?????????? You’ll just have to read the book to find out! I enjoyed the story, the era it was based in, the story twists were unbelievably subtle and you can tell a lot of research went into presenting a novel that truly reflected the mood of that time.

The Interview

So, it is with great joy to welcome onto the blog this week the author, David Laws.

Hello! I’m a journalist turned thriller writer with five published novels, launching in 2018 with Munich The Man Who Said No! (Chamberlain controversy), went on to Exit Day (Brexitconspiracy) 2019 and then in 2020 The Fuhrer’s Orphans (rescuing children from the Nazis). The latest is Her Private War (exploits of a woman pilot in the First World War)

Who or what inspired you to research and write “Her Private War”?

Inspiration for my main character in Her Private War, Charlotte Dovedale, arose from a visit to the only remaining operational First World War aerodrome in this country – at a tiny Essex village called Stow Maries. They had female workers on site (in a hut separated from the rest!) and women are well represented on information displays. Stow is a wonderful resource for how things worked back then with lots of inspirational personal stories. Add in their own aircraft and hangars and other early aircraft that drop in on flying days.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Her Private Book”.  I haven’t read many books based during World War I Britain and nowadays it is easy to forget the struggles women had to be thought about seriously, especially when it came to jobs and their roles in wartime.  I loved the character of Charlotte Dovedale! She was my absolute favourite! What character was the hardest to write? Who was the easiest?  Did you base the mannerisms of the characters on people that you have come across in your research? 

I enjoyed researching the character of Charlotte, her trials and tribulations, and when I’d got her, she appeared easily on the page. Of course, you have to remember women were actually banned from the air at that time, so my challenge was to find ways for her to break the embargo. The hardest person to write was the father of her best friend whom she idolised as a kind of substitute father. He let her down and I had to give him legitimate reasons to do so. Mannerisms… they came from watching people in buses and trains!

When you were researching in preparation for this novel, were there any aspects of life around that time in general, that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

The more you get into the 1910-14 age the more surprises! Poverty at that time was such that the war was actually a boon to those who were not in immediate danger. If you hailed from the horror of the slums being called up to the forces meant three meals a day, proper beds, a nice uniform and respect for who you were. Many pleaded: please don’t stop the war! I was also able to add a little texture from the family lexicon.

Hypothetically speaking, if “Her Private War” was made into a film, who would you think would be most suited to the characters of Charlotte and Scott?

My film choices for Charlotte and Scott; Kate Winslet and Tom Holland.

Growing up, have you always wanted to be a journalist/author or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

I always wanted to be a reporter from my teens, started writing a magazine at school and couldn’t wait to get started. Probably wrote about a hundred letters of application before I landed a job. Asking questions of other people, that’s the key… but now I ask questions of myself instead, delving into the imagination with ‘What if….?’

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

Unsurprisingly, my favourite genre is the thriller, with Robert Harris probably the master of the art. Add in Philip Kerr, Ken Follett, Jack Higgins, Henry Porter, Peter Robinson, Robert Goddard, Gerald Seymour and Charles Cumming. I’m happy with either Kindle or paperback.

 Is “Her Private War” available to purchase worldwide?

Her Private War is available to all English speaking readers(62 reviews in the UK, 38 in the US and 35 in Canada) and there are eight European translation versions of the book, the most recent in Spain, which I visited a few weeks back to help with the launch.

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

I’ve always fancied Amsterdam as a starter for another story… all that water, all those crimes, the paintings, the artists and the forgers. Dirty work at the crossroads, as my Mum used to say.

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

As a keen walker I’m usually in outdoor gear, mostly The North Face, with Craghoppers and Karrimor boots (like slippers); on other occasions I attempt smart casual with jeans, favouring Gardeur or Meyer bought at a great little tailor’s in my local town.

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

Some comfortable Oxford shoes.

Boots Or Shoes?

Oxford Shoes

Links you would like to share:

For Pinning Later © LindaHobden

David Laws books on Amazon; 

website: https://davidlaws.co.uk

twitter@davidlawsauthor; 

Facebook; Thriller Writers@davidlawsbooks.Book

Thank you very much David for chatting to me about your book and also thank you for sending me a copy of Her Private War for reviewing. I really enjoyed the read 😊 Thanks also to Ben Cameron

All photographs have been published with kind permission of David Laws, apart from where marked.

Linda x

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Spotlight On Feet

Do you know the importance of correct posture? Do you know the impact that slippers can make on our joints and muscles? Have you been wearing the right kind of footwear when working from home? Are your feet causing you pain? My guest, Christophe Champs, knows everything there is to know about feet and footwear. He is a consultant in podiatry & biomechanics as well as founder of the PODO clinic in London. His expertise has taken him around the world from Paris to Toronto, Dubai to The Maldives, Monaco to London. Hi Christophe and welcome…

My name is Christophe Champs and my ‘thing’ is to make people’s bodies work better. I shaped my professional career following a poor medical experience that made me dream about a clinic / workshop like PODO. Since the opening of the place in central London in April 2021, I have been living the dream!

You work with clients to help correct their postural & bio mechanical issues that are causing them pain or putting them at risk of injury. So what is the importance of correcting your posture?

Posture is everything and, I believe, today back and neck pain are everywhere. Having a strong foundation with an upright posture is an easy way to improve our quality of life. 

At PODO we discuss your three postures; standing, sitting and even your sleeping one, as we consider orthotics to be only one piece of the puzzle. Patients are often surprised to discover how beneficial custom orthotics can be for back and neck pain.

Some people walk around the house barefooted, others prefer wearing slippers. What is best for your feet? 

The answer will depend on 2 factors:

• Your physical attributes, such as your flexibility, fat pad atrophy…

• What you do barefoot or in slippers and how much time you spend in those.

Health is about balance. Balance well the time when you need shoes and support with the time you need to be barefoot to let your foot muscles work and your skin and nails breath.

Slippers are practical but have no positive effect for your health and well-being. 

If you spend 10 hours a day with shoes on at work and don’t have any body-pain when you are barefoot, then spend your evening barefoot. 

I do it myself every evening and wear orthotics all day long.

Your clinic, PODO, provides customised orthotics – what is the procedure and what materials do you use?

At PODO I use a step-by-step procedure. The clinic has been designed to take the patient ona journey and spend 90 minutes on his or her body.

We start with an interview to identify the goal of the visit. Then we move onto the Podobaroscop, where I look at the entire body through some static tests, then the examination table for multiple, hands-on checks on the patient. Finally comes the gait analysis to look at the dynamics – or how the body moves and compensates.

Following the consultation, the patient journey continues in the workshop area. As every body is asymmetrical, both feet are treated independently. 

We use two footprints on our Podograph for me to prepare all the material needed. Then we create two different foot moulds thanks to our Podolab.

Each layer of the orthotics is warmed up to become mouldable and placed on each foot mould with the patient foot on top… Because the best template of your foot really is yourfoot! I do not to use any foot casts or send anything away to factories for anyone else to make my patients orthotics. The moulding stage is actually the patient’s favourite part. Which makes sense. After all, who doesn’t like to have warm feet? 

Following the moulding of every layer, I glue them all together and trim the orthotics in front of the patient. I find having the patient involved in the process very beneficial to the treatment plan. On one hand it allows me to craft orthotics which are very snug and accurate and, on the other, it gives more time for the patients to share and learn more about their condition.

Who are the typical candidates that you would recommend for PODO orthotics?

I’d say that if you have pain which increases when you stand for long periods or when you increase your level of activity (exercise), then you must have someone looking at how your body works and what is causing the pain or discomfort. I am ensuring that PODO doesn’t become too specialised, in order to keep a diversity in patients’ stories. All patients are interesting and challenging when it comes to Biomechanics and I am delighted to see every age, discipline and level throughout the course of each week. 

You offer 2 types of orthotics length – short & long.  What are differences between the two?

The size! Just kidding of course. 

A short set of orthotics allows the patient to wear them in dressy shoes with not much volume available. Actually, it often happens with a short set of orthotics that patients go down a shoe size when adding the orthotics into their shoes! This is simply because the forefoot stops spreading and patients realise that they have been wearing shoes that are too big because of their foot type, rather than the actual size of their foot.

Full length orthotics will replace the existing insole of the shoes. It’s straightforward when you can replace them in all your shoes. They are also covered with a soft padding, which the patients appreciate.

There is not one set better than the other. When going for a spare set I would alwaysrecommend having one of each. You do not need it for the treatment to work but it is practical and always a pleasure to have the choice.

 You have been a consultant in podiatry & biomechanics for many years and your experience & expertise has taken you around the world from Paris to Toronto, Dubai, The Maldives, Monaco and since 2016, London – have you always wanted to be in the podiatry industry or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

Orthotics changed my life at the age of 14. I literally planned every career move and work experience abroad around my purpose. I could have keep playing rugby, but I quickly understood that having a purpose at such a young age was a blessing. No time wasted, more time to travel and learn, getting better and better without ever settling into any comfort zone. Working with different cultures is really something I’d recommend to any young professional, as it makes our future choice wiser.

What are the biggest mistakes people make when buying footwear? What are your recommendations?

Not trying both shoes on – and buying online. 

A number doesn’t fit your foot and you won’t always be the same shoe size. There are so many reasons to require a different shoe size from one purchase to another. Take your time to try your shoes with the socks you intend to wear and towards the end of the day. 

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

I am not a shoe collector but then I don’t wear dressy shoes. I like my Nike Zoom Vomeroand lots of blue navy casual trainers with white soles and no logo. Many brands make thatkind of shoe and I change brand regularly so as not to get bored and to check them out too.But never change the colour. I like blue, it’s my feel-good colour and I always have some blue on me. Quite ridiculous to be honest!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

I wish I had but I struggle as much as my patients in front of those good-looking new trends that don’t tick my boxes – and with the absence of consistency in shoe making with most big brands. There are still some stores I recommend a lot such as ECCO, TODS and RM WILLIAMS, depending on your budget and the type of shoes you want.

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

A pair of customised RM Williams – navy blue of course!

Boots or Shoes?

Don’t choose, take both! 

Laced up boots are good for your ankle when you wear them. However, over time as the muscles surrounding your ankle will work less, their reactivity on uneven terrain is reduced and they become less protective against ankle sprain. Fashion-wise, I find boots great to look casual and feel relaxed!

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

Web: www.podo.london

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/podo.london/  

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/podo.london/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/PodoLondon

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCss43g6-7mcNBwrRnf1zKlw

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/christophe-champs-podo/

Thank you for joining me on the blog Christoph – I really love the fact that you have a ”feel good” colour! I love navy blue too but red is my colour I think 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Christophe Champs (PODO Clinic) apart from the Header & Pinterest pic which are by Linda Hobden.

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