Category Archives: Books

Raising Jess: A Tale Of Hope Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of author Vickie Rubin’s “Raising Jess: A Tale Of Hope” book tour. Raising Jess is one of the most heart warming, uplifting and honest written memoirs I’ve come across in a long time. Before I welcome Vickie onto the blog, here’s a quick book summary:


Raising Jess: A Story of Hope is the powerful story of one family’s survival when faced with adversity. Written with compassion, honesty, and humor, it tells of a family changed forever by the birth of a child with a rare chromosome deletion and their courageous decision to choose hope. Facing the challenges of caring for her daughter, marriage struggles, and the question of having more children, Vickie Rubin gives a glimpse in the world of her family and transformation while raising Jess. This beautiful, gripping memoir will delight and leave you wanting more.

Publisher: Page Publishing

Print length: 250 pages


Hello Vickie and welcome to the blog 😊

Hello! My name is Vickie Rubin, and I am the author of the award-winning memoir “Raising Jess: A Story of Hope.” This heartwarming story describes the joy and challenges of caring for our daughter, who was born with a rare chromosome deletion. I am a blogger and started my blog in March 2020, about the same time we were all told, “Don’t Leave the House!”  I am a mom to three adult children and Nana to three grandchildren. And Fur-Mom to two dogs (an Italian Greyhound, a therapy dog, and a Hungarian Vizsla). My husband Mitch and I plan to celebrate our 45th (YIKES, that’s a big number!) Anniversary in December.  

 “Raising Jess: A Tale of Hope” is definitely an uplifting and thought provoking memoir – what made you decide to write down your story? 

My Mom always said I should write a book. My adult children encouraged me to start writing after I retired from my career. Perhaps it wasn’t an official retirement since I became an author almost immediately—Hmm, failed retirement?   I felt an inspiration to share our story.  My original thought was that if “Raising Jess” didn’t get published, the narrative would still be a legacy for our family. The book was also written to demonstrate to readers that it is possible to be a thriving, active family, have more children if you wish to, and be involved in everyone’s life, “even though” you are faced with many challenges. Things WILL get better, “even though” it is hard to see that when you are in the thick of it. Additionally, the memoir raises awareness of what it is like behind closed doors for a family raising a child with severe intellectual and physical disabilities, demonstrating survival and hope with humor. It’s vital for professionals working with families of individuals with disabilities to read about the parents’ perspective. Raising Jess is our story of hope.  We believe hopecan be found in family, friends, and groups of people with similar experiences. Hope is all around if you keep looking. 

Your book highlighted for me how hard raising a child with a disability can be, how the need for a supportive network is vital; managing family dynamics as well as  the other various emotions and dilemmas faced ; combined with  moments of pure joy.  What helped you get through your toughest moments when Jess was first diagnosed?

When Jess was first diagnosed, I felt a sense of relief. I know that is not what you expect to hear. We knew she was delayed, yet the pediatrician continued to dismiss my concerns.  At one point, the doctor told me I needed counseling because Jess was fine. Well, perhaps I needed counseling, BUT Jess was not okay.  When my husband and I finally received confirmation from another physician that Jess was delayed in all her milestones, we were heartbroken, yet I felt a sense of relief. Now I can do something to help our daughter! Learning as much as I could from other families, attending therapies, and, at one point, trying alternative exercises for Jess kept my days active.  What helped me was finding friends who empathized with us without feeling sorry for us.  And having more children. Our three children and now our grandchildren are the joys of our life.  

Jess has the rare 1q43-44 chromosome micro deletion syndrome … what’s that exactly? 

1q43-44 microdeletion syndrome is a rare genetic diagnosis in which a portion of the long arm (Q) of chromosome one goes missing. This leads to a mix of symptoms, including developmental delays, intellectual challenges, speech issues, motor difficulties, unusual physical and cerebral traits, seizures, and distinct behaviors. Often, this syndrome arises due to a spontaneous gene deletion, but sometimes, it’s passed down in families.  Managing this isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It involves tailored therapies, medical help for seizures, specialized education, community services, and support. Given its rarity (fewer than 1000 cases in the USA), consulting with genetic experts and medical professionals is crucial for up-to-date information and support.

 OK, now the definition in mom-speak is that Jessica is missing a piece of her first chromosome.  It happened suddenly at conception, as confirmed by my husband and my genetic testing.  We are not carriers, so it was not passed down from us. This means that Jessica’s siblings are not likely to have children with the same genetic diagnosis.  Finding the correct diagnosis took 21 years because the technology had to catch up to our daughter, Jessica! 

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

Writing the chapter on the grandparent and sibling experience was difficult. First, did I really want to hear what Jessica’s brother and sister had to say about their childhood? The answer was yes, and the resulting interview is an activity I would recommend for all families. One example was when I asked Jessica’s brother, “How would you describe Jess today to somebody you just met?” He did not describe her disability, loud noises, wheelchair, or hardships. It was simple: “She’s mysister

Exploring the grandparent experience was more complicated than expected, especially interviewing my parents. I wanted to open a dialogue about Jessica’s grandparents’ perspective, so I sent my initial email to Dad. I informed him that I was interviewing everyone about their relationship with Jess and emailed the questions, hoping it would be easier for him to ponder at his own pace. 

Dad’s reply was the following:

“These are tough questions. I am thinking about them and realize I came up short as a grandfather. The questions have made me go back and think…I know I would do anything to make her life easier, but the interaction was different. It opened up a lot of questions. I am afraid Icame up short.”

I was daunted after I received Dad’s answer to my interview. “I think I came up short” resonated with me. I did not expect that response. My answer to him was:

“The questions were not intended to hurt you—your help made the difference between us making it and not, so if you think you came up short in one area, you exceeded in others.”

I truly appreciated his honesty and tried to make sense of his words. My dad was born in  1930 and raised in a highly different era where individuals withdisabilities were rarely cared for at home. Considering the time period in which my father was brought up, it was important to understand the norms for parents of that period. Back in the day, it would have been unusual for a child with adisability to be visible; most spent their childhood in institutions and were seldom seen in public.

I recognized that my parents’ experience with individuals with disabilitieswas limited, and their views were shaped by society’s attitudes in the decades they were raised. There are no hard feelings about my parents not knowing howto get involved. Perhaps I should have made suggestions or encouraged moreinteraction, but I also didn’t know how. It is a gift that this conversation with my parents was possible; it was enlightening for each of us.

I loved your writing style and the honesty that shone through.  I particularly liked the chapters written by Jess’s siblings about their feelings growing up – it’s so important for them to have their viewpoints heard, too. Did you find writing your story about raising Jess therapeutic? 

Thank you! And yes, writing was therapeutic for me. Writing each day about raising Jess and our family helped me to remember, evaluate, reminisce, and appreciate those years. My husband and children were my first editors, and that process opened up many new conversations and “Ah-Ha” moments.  The humorous instances came back with a roar and still keep me laughing.  

Talking about therapeutic, I was so busy writing, editing, publishing, and promoting during the Covid years 2020-2021 that it kept me sane; writing balanced and helped me look forward to something during those “groundhog” days.  

One thing I did feel was how strange it must have been for you to go from having Jess at home to having her at the stage of life where she wanted to be “independent”and have her own home . How difficult could you adjust to Jess living in a different place?  How well did Jess adapt? 

Choosing a group home for your loved one is monumental. Selecting a residential option outside of our home felt like giving up. We are her loving parents! Were we no longer willing or able to provide the daily physical care for our daughter? Were we making the right decision? Jessica was approaching age 25. As mom and dad, it was unreasonable but understandable to think we would always be around to provide the intense care that Jessica required. The hard reality hit us as she and we aged.  Mitch and I needed to make this decision when we were clearheaded. We knew that moving Jessica into a home in our community, with the proper support, was vital to her future and ours. We wanted Jessica to continue living a happy life surrounded by friends and family.  She deserves the privilege to live with her peers as independently as possible.  It took a while for me to find myself after Jess moved. My identity was my mom, who had a 24/7 responsibility.  Who was I now? Who were Mitch and I as a couple? It took a while to find ourselves, but we did. Even though Jess is in a group home, she is still our daughter and still needs intense family involvement.

Jess adapted remarkably well. Familiar items from home surrounded her, and we visited often. I think she was ready to leave her parents’ house!

What advice would you give to other young families finding themselves in a similar position to you?

●       When I discovered that Jess was delayed, I was so focused on fixing Jess that I didn’t stop to be momma and baby.  I was too focused on the therapy, not the fun (but this didn’t last long). Remember to have fun.

●       Accept support and help from others

●       If you have a spouse or partner, plan twosome time each week. Whether you are going out or on a date at home when your child is asleep.  

●       When you get on an airplane, the flight attendant reminds you to put on your mask first and then help others. The same applies to caretakers. Remember to take care of yourself so you remain strong to care for your child.

●       I found a Facebook group with families who have similar concerns helpful – but you need to be careful that it is a supportive, positive group and not a complaining group that can bring you down

●       Stay positive -Jessica changed our life for the better and has taught me more than I will ever teach her.           

Vickie’s current favourite shoes – Cole Haan Platform Wingtip Oxfords

You have a blog called “Vickie’s Views”  – What do you enjoy most about blogging?  

“Vickie’s Views” offers a blend of heartfelt wisdom, humor, and warmth, combining personal anecdotes and professional insights on disability, travel, and everyday life. I love writing a blog that touches others and receiving comments. Knowing that readers relate to or find comfort and humor in my words gives me joy.  I feel a huge connection with my readers.

Is “Raising Jess: A Tale Of Hope” available to purchase worldwide? Amazon UK Amazon BE

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

I spend a lot of time exercising and playing with my grandchildren. So, as much as I like clothes, shoes, and bags, I typically wear leggings, tees, and sneakers! My four-year-old granddaughter is very into princess wear and gowns. She complained that I was not fancy enough for a day of hanging out at home. Below is a photo of formal wear with Noa on a random Tuesday. 

Do you have any favorite shops or online sites?

 I try to shop locally, but when I am unable to do so, I most frequently go to Bloomingdale’s. I admit I buy a lot of Amazon, which is the opposite of shopping locally. 

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

I have a pair of Armani wide-pleated trousers and a skirt. They look like pants from the front, but the back is a long skirt. Weird, right? They were my mom’s, and I tried them on and loved the fit, style, and, yes, the weirdness of the look. I am invited to a wedding in August and am looking for the perfect top to go with the pants/skirt. Please help! 

Boots or Shoes?

I live in Buffalo, NY, so I guess I should say boots, but I want to say shoes.  I wrote a blog about my first pair of fancy shoes. Finding the right shoe to go with an outfit always feels good!  I try to go for a pop of color like red or pink, more recently, light blue.  But my current favorite shoes are my Cole Haan silvery-gold Platform Wingtip Oxfords.  My husband and I traveled to Texas, and I bought my first pair of cowboy boots. I absolutely love them for their looks but not the comfort!

My real obsession is designer purses. I know, I know—what a waste—but if you divide the cost by the years of wear and tear, it’s not so bad! I own my mother-in-law’s Gucci handbag, which is over 50 years old, but if you look at it, it looks new—and it didn’t even need handbag Botox!

Below are the first pair of fancy shoes– Ferragamo

Links you would like to share:

·        Raising Jess (Amazon)  

·        Shop page on website

·        Barnes and Noble

·        Vickie’s Views-  

·        Facebook –

·        Instagram 1-

·        2-minute PBS video – Vickie Rubin



Fantastic to chat with you, Vickie – and for that wedding to go with those delightful sounding trouser/skirt combo, how about a brightly coloured patterned or floral camisole/floaty top to contrast with your black bottoms ? Fuchsia pinks/oranges with splashes of black ? 😊

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Vickie Rubin

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Queering The American Dream Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of Angela Yarber’s “Queering The American Dream” book tour. Families come in all shapes and sizes as the memoir/travelogue, “Queering The AmericanDream” by Rev Angela Yarber, shows. Travelling the length and breadth of the USA in a camper named Freya , the queer clergywoman, her wife and child, make up a family unit that defies the normal American definition of a family unit. Before I introduce Angela to the blog, here’s a mini summary of her book:


Beginning the day the Supreme Court ruled her marriage legal, Angela Yarber’s queer little family traversed the American landscape for two years in a camper named Freya, following in the footsteps of revolutionary women from history and myth. Amid her wanderings, this queer clergywoman grapples with the loss of faith, addiction, death, parenting, and what it means to reimagine the so-called dream promised to so many. With unapologetic grief, humor, and radical imagination, she creates a new dream, not just for herself, but for all marginalized people living in America.

Publisher: Parson’s Porch

ISBN-10: 195558141X

ISBN-13: 978-1955581417

Print Length: 188 pages
Purchase a copy of the book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and You can also add it to your list on Goodreads.


Hi Angela and welcome to the blog!

Hi, I’m Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber, but most people call my Dr. Ang. I’m an award-winning author of 8 books and founder of Tehom Center Publishing, a press publishing feminist and queer authors, with a commitment to elevate BIPOC writers. With a Ph.D. in Art and Religion, I’ve been a professor of women’s, gender, and sexuality studies for nearly two decades.

More than a formal bio or accolades, I’m a queer feminist mama of two foster kiddos with disabilities who my wife and I adopted. In addition to writing and publishing, I’m a working artist and all my work is grounded in teaching about revolutionary women. I’m an enneagram 1, INTJ, Leo sun and Cancer moon who loves the magical place between creativity and organization.

What inspired you to write Queering The American Dream?

I was inspired to write my book because I’m sick of seeing so many marginalized people bound to the so-called dreams that have been systematically designed to disenfranchise us. Heteronormativity. White supremacy. The 9-to-5 rat race. Broken education, medical, and criminal justice systems. We’ve been told to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps by a country that has stolen our boots. And that’s not ok.

Or, to quote my queer clergywomen coven, “Honey, it’s not you. It’s the system.”

I wrote and published this book so that readers can see examples of what it means to live and dream differently. Because, in the words of Toni Morrison, the only life “you can have is the one you can imagine.” My inspiration is an exercise is radical imagination, of dreaming what life and work and vocation and family could look like if we heed the wisdom of queer women of color who have been dreaming creative, alternative, dismantling dreams from the jump. It wasn’t easy, but my wife and I tried to follow this queer, intersectional wisdom.

Your book follows your travels across the USA in a camper named Freya, with your little family consisting of yourself, your wife and your child. I have a campervan too so I can appreciate the nomadic dream. Where did you feel most comfortable and accepted as a family unit? In your opinion, why do you think some people you encountered didn’t appreciate that families come in all shapes and sizes?

Well, the day we left on our journey was literally the day the Supreme Court ruled our marriage legal, so roughly half the country still didn’t believe our family deserved equal treatment under the law. And this discrimination still exists in myriad other ways, often fueled by exclusive religion and bully pulpits.

Likely the place where we felt most accepted was Hawai’i Island, though there remain pockets of exclusion there, as well.

What or who inspired you to become a clergywoman? 

Interestingly, many of the same revolutionary women whose stories fill my book also inspired my initial call to ministry. Because my beliefs have shifted over the 20 years since I became a clergywoman, I now say that I hold my ordination with an open hand, no longer serving or practicing within my faith tradition.

It’s oddly one of the same quotes that inspired my travels that also inspires my calling. Passionate nomad, Freya Stark, claims, “It’s the beckoning that counts, not the clicking latch behind you.” Whether it’s the call to activism, the call to write, the call travel, or the call to ministry, the power of the call can’t be denied.

 “Queering The American Dream ” is more than a memoir/travelogue – you introduced snippets of the inspirational power of  Frida Kahlo and Pauli Murray too as you wove your way across the US – did you find recollecting your experiences harder or easier to write down than you expected?

Probably easier. Knowing that I rest on the shoulders of so many revolutionary women—from Murray and Kahlo to Audre Lorde, Jarena Lee, Gloria Anzaldúa, and so many others—emboldened me to write, not simply for myself, but on behalf of others.

Making courageous changes to one’s life path is not easy to do – what do you feel prevents a lot of people from being brave and making that leap? 

That same “clicking latch” that Freya Stark spoke of earlier. The clicking latch of adulthood, propriety, societal expectations, parenthood, and career can sometimes stifle bravery and creativity. Simultaneously, many people—including myself in many instances—lack the privilege and resources to make such a leap. My white privilege and higher education, for example, made taking the leap much easier. At the same time, my queerness and low socio-economic background made it all the harder. Many people have the bravery, but lack the resources. I hope that my book helps readers see that resilience, creativity, and integrity can bolster courage to step into the unknown.

Can you tell us a bit more about your time on Hawaii – what were your highlights about living in Hawaii and the downside? 

Living in Hawai’i is complicated. For me, it is paradise defined and I am tremendously grateful to have called Hawai’i Island home for five years and to have adopted my daughter through the foster care system there. The beauty of the island—its history, culture, myth, and geography—was both liberatory and salvific for me during some very difficult times.

Simultaneously, my wife and I discerned we could no longer live in the islands for two primary reasons. The first was the lack of infrastructure in supporting our children’s disabilities and medical care. The second, and more overarching, was that as haoli, or white people, we realized that, no matter our intentions or support of Hawaiian sovereignty, our presence on the island as non-kanaka landowners was contributing to colonization. We now support Hawaiian sovereignty and the aloha aina movement from afar by elevating the work of kanaka maoli. 

Growing up, what were your initial career aspirations?  

As a child, I wanted to be a dancer. And I retired from a career in professional dance at 30.

Is your book, Queering The American Dream, available to purchase worldwide?


Are you a bookworm?  If so, do you prefer “actual” books or kindle?  What genre(s) do you enjoy reading? 

I think I’d call myself a bookworm. I do run a publishing company, Tehom Center Publishing, a press publishing feminist and queer authors, with a commitment to elevate BIPOC readers, so reading is kinda my job! 

As an academic, a lot of my reading is research based in gender studies, queer theory, and spirituality. And for fun, I really love travel memoir. I like an actual book in hand.

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

I’m very casual. At home, I’m usually in a sarong or gym clothes. Out and about, I usually wear shorts and a t-shirt or a sundress. Slippahs (flip flops) or running shoes.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

I’m not really into shopping, but I try to support the Syracuse Cultural Worker.

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

I used to be a major “shoe slut,” at one point owning 3 pairs of pink stilettos alone, but when we traveled full-time and “went tiny,” I narrowed my shoes down to 8 pairs total. All practical.

Though I rarely wear heels any more, I have been dreaming about the perfect pair of rainbow heels to wear throughout my book tour.

Boots or Shoes?

I really prefer slippahs, but if I had to choose between boots and shoes, I’d say my vegan leather Frida Kahlo combat boots are my decision.

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

Purchase book:

My website:

Publishing Company website:

Get connected to Book Tour:


Fabulous to chat to you, Angela! Thanks for inviting me onto your book tour and for the copy of your book to review.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Rev Angela Yarber

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Author Interview: Daniel Bird

I have just read a book called “Sorry Men” that did make me giggle. The book is by Daniel Bird and it is a hilarious collection of 35 short stories about men, filled with unforgettable characters leading blighted lives and forming questionable solutions. Sorry Men paints a picture of half of the world’s population that is sometimes lovable, occasionally infuriating and very often pathetic.

Stories include: A father has his daughter’s crayon drawings tattooed all over his body so he can never lose sight of them. A commuter pretends to be Russian in an attempt to avoid being robbed. After a first date, a lovesick man plays it cooler than anybody ever has. The ex-husband of a lottery winner finds optimism in the numbers she chose. Two astronauts scour the solar system for a new home for mankind whilst pining for their exes. The world of Sorry Men is one of earnestness and desperation; fate and farce; hilarity and hopelessness. It absolutely will not restore your faith in men!

So after laughing …. I finally got round to interviewing author Daniel Bird himself! A big warm welcome Daniel…

Hello, I’m Daniel Bird. I’m from Dorset in the UK. After studying a degree in drama I moved to Hong Kong to travel a bit and earn some cash as I was riddled with student debt. An initial plan to stay for a year changed almost as soon as I landed. I’ve been here for almost twenty years now. It’s safe to say that I quite like Hong Kong. I’m an English and Drama teacher, examiner, and now a writer. 

Who or what inspired you to write your collection of short stories of “Sorry Men”?

Sorry Men’ came about as a result of a writing exercise I forced myself to do after years of rejections. I got into short story writing in my late twenties. I started sending pieces to publications that were accepting submissions on various themes. Naturally, I got absolutely nowhere. I didn’t get any feedback either. As all budding writers know, you wait many months for a response from a magazine or journal and when you get the rejection you tend to send it somewhere else without even reflecting on why it was rejected in the first place. You think you’re right and that the publication is insane for not printing you. I ended up saddled with a handful of pieces which I was convinced deserved to be published. They weren’t. They probably shouldn’t have been either. I would wait for a response before starting a new one. It was painfully inefficient. 

To become more productive and get better at the craft, I set myself the task of writing 100 short stories in a hundred days. A variation of automatic writing – whatever came into my head during that session would get put down. I gave myself a rule: each story could be no longer than an A4 sheet. That meant I had to get to the ‘meat’ of the story faster and be efficient with my expression. Once the hundred were done, I printed them off and read them all with a piping hot mug of coffee in hand. Despite having written each one with whatever had come into my head at that time, I noticed a distinct theme throughout the work. That theme was this motley crew of rather sorry men. It appeared that I had largely written about men facing some sort of personal crisis or flawed logic in their thinking. That sounds heavy, but it was actually mostly comical. I started to tighten the stories up, cut 65% of them (painful) and created the collection that is now my first book ‘Sorry Men’. 

A huge influence on the nature of the comedy and characters in these stories is ‘The Diary of a Nobody’ written in 1892 by George and Weedon Grossmith. It’s about a somewhat hapless but earnest man called Charles Pooter who tries his best to be accepted in middle class society. I read it every single year and it still makes me laugh. What it so effortlessly portrays is a man’s desire to be validated by others. I don’t think that feature of men has changed a lot since Queen Victoria left the throne. Even in its Victorian setting ‘Diary of a Nobody’ still resonates with its hilarious display of behaviours and interactions I have experienced and observed in the 21st century. I give a nod to ‘Diary of a Nobody’ in the opening pages of ‘Sorry Men’ because its battle between ego and indignity was a huge inspiration in developing the book as a cohesive whole. I have taken that lack-of-self-awareness-comedy in a slightly different direction to the one Charles Pooter went in. My stories are more absurd, surreal, sometimes cruel, and more cringeworthy than ‘Diary of a Nobody’. I believe that’s because I’m reflecting the modern day. Also, I’m not a Victorian. 

For Pinning Later

Sorry Men ” is a collection of short stories about men! The characters are quite a varied bunch – my favourite story was the father who got tattoos of his daughter’s drawings.  I did feel sorry for him!!  Did you base a lot of your men characters on you and people you’ve met in life?

I think a lot of male friends worry that I have taken something they’ve specifically said or done and made it into a story. That isn’t the case at all. What I base the characters on is this sort of general ‘essence’ of men I have observed springing from societal expectations, their personal delusions, and the absurd reality of male behaviour. Each story plays out as testimony to the feeling of perplexity many men feel as they grow beyond their teenage years and navigate relationships and life. The gap between the idealised maturity that’s expected and the reality of lived experience is a potent backdrop for comedy. At the core of ‘Sorry Men’ is the ego and its powerful need, when faced with its own shortcomings, to assert itself and stay convinced of its own rectitude. This results in impulsiveness, stark naivety, and farce, among other amusing things. 

Growing up, I used to read a lot of men’s magazines such as FHM or Loaded. These gave a very reassuring one-sided presentation of how men behave or should behave. Men being action heroes, extremely confident, domineering, stoic, that sort of thing, but I think everybody knows this is fabricated nonsense. There are plenty of obvious reasons why those magazines are no longer as popular (or even exist). As an adult it became very obvious to me that men can be sensitive, in touch with their emotions, and completely fallible and daft in a way that contradicted my previous diet of ‘lads mags’. I’ve taken great pleasure in fleshing out my characters with the insecurities and weaknesses that I think all men have at some point in their lives, especially when it comes to relationships.

Which short story did you enjoy writing about the most?  

The story I enjoyed writing the most was ‘Steps’. It’s about a man who bumps into his ex-girlfriend travelling in the opposite direction on an escalator on The Tube. As they get closer she calls out and informs him that the dog they had owned together had to be put down. Before she can finish explaining, she is out of earshot as she continues her ascent on the escalator. What follows is a farcical scene in which they are unable to sustain the conversation because they keep getting on the escalator at the wrong time. It was good fun imagining that situation and the visual mechanics of a comedy like that. I also revel in the awkwardness and indignity of trying to have a very challenging private conversation somewhere as public as an escalator at rush hour.

Which character was the hardest to portray?

The hardest character to portray is, funnily enough, also from a dog-related tale. It’s about a gentleman who owns the cleverest dog in the world, ‘Jimbo’. One day Jimbo saves a boy who was accidentally knocked into a river by his father.  The father is at first grateful, but when the owner berates him for being careless, ego kicks in and the embarrassed father claims the dog injured his son. What follows is a campaign by the father to have the clever dog destroyed. However, I didn’t just want a ‘sad’ story about a dog owner whose favourite pet is put down. I wanted to show that in the final moments in the vet’s surgery that the owner’s understanding of what happened has changed. He is so intimidated by the legal proceedings and the reactions of those around him that he really thinks his dog is now dangerous. To get that idea across in just a few sentences was very difficult. This idea that his ‘sorry’ state is not actually the tragic loss of his dog but that he is not resolute enough with his own convictions. The last few sentences of that story were some of the ones I redrafted most.

This is your first book collection of short stories. Were there any aspects of writing the stories that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise? 

Despite the brevity of the stories, they have been edited dozens and dozens of times. Since they are ‘flash’ short stories every word matters and I was surprised at how much time I spent tinkering. Part of the process of deciding what I might change came from reading aloud to others. It’s a big part of my practice now. Seeing listeners’ reactions helped me gauge the success of a story, of course in terms of clarity but also how the humour landed. 

Sequencing the stories required a lot more effort than I had anticipated. I wanted to continually surprise the reader, give deliberate variation to the situations being shown or the tone or voice presented. As I have written in the description on the back cover, ‘[Sorry Men] absolutely will not restore your faith in men’. Yes, there is a chance for redemption for many of these characters, but whether they take it or not is another thing. ‘Sorry Men’ is definitely the kind of book you can dip in and out as arbitrarily as you wish. The connection between the stories is the theme, not the narrative. My personal preference is reading it from front to back. I’ve done my best to make that journey a little kaleidoscopic and, for the final couple of stories to really hit best, then they must be allowed to lean on the image of the men I have constructed in the many stories that come before. I wanted to build to the point where that lack of faith in men was of course amusing but ultimately convincing.

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

It’s always going to be the UK for me. Living in Hong Kong has given me ample opportunity to reflect on British culture, language and behaviour. Whenever I’m back in the UK I always appreciate the nuance of the humour there. I miss the subtleties of small talk about the weather, chatting with elderly people, and banter in general. I think it’s best to write what you know and I feel, even though I don’t live and work in the UK, that it’s the place that has the most value for me for stories and especially characters. Having said that, I do think that the expatriate community around the globe is another rich area for characters. You certainly do meet some people out here in Asia who have settled and are more than happy to give you unsolicited advice whilst very sunburnt. Maybe ‘Sorry Expatriate Men’ could be the next book. 

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

I prefer actual books and I do read a fair bit. I’m a big fan of the crime/thriller genre. I love buying the latest thriller at the airport before travelling. A long time ago my Dad got me into Jeffrey Deaver’s ‘Lincoln Rhyme’ series and I’d happily go back and read them all again if only I could make myself forget the twists. My grandfather and aunt always pass me a bag of books whenever I visit them. There is always a David Baldacci in there somewhere. My favourite crime/thriller novels of the last year or so have been by Simon Mason, Lee Child, Peter May, Owen Matthews, Karin Slaughter, and David McCloskey. 

When I’m not reading crime, I enjoy Mark Haddon (I think his ‘Pier Falls’ is the best short story collection ever written), Dan Rhodes (hilarious), Kazuo Ishiguro, Sebastian Faulks, and Ian McEwan. My go-to book recommendation is ‘Madonna in a Fur Coat’ by Sabahattin Ali. It will make you cry, though. 

Is “Sorry Men” available to purchase worldwide?

It is. Paperback you can order online from all good online stores. There is an eBook too. If you live in Hong Kong, I’ll happily sell you a signed one in the cafe of your choice. 

Growing up had you always wanted to be a writer or teacher or did you have other career aspirations?

I wanted to be an actor or a bodyguard. I realised quite quickly I lacked the self-confidence, physique or eyesight for either of those. Whilst corrective laser surgery has solved one problem, I’ve always struggled with having the courage to explore acting, even though I teach drama. I always admire those students or friends who possess the ability to get on stage or in film. Writing has always been there because I used to love penning letters to my grandparents. That’s where the smidgen of confidence I had as a kid and teenager was: in using written words and in making others laugh. I fell into teaching very happily and I’m delighted to have made a career out of it. It suits me I think because teaching, in a bizarre way, combines a lot of my inner ambitions. Being in the classroom is a kind of performance and role you take on. Also, much like a famous actor, the audience is either captivated or thinks you’re an absolute idiot. I have no idea how being a bodyguard comes into that, though. 

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

As a teacher I have to dress fairly smart, so it’s always a shirt and trousers. I get away with trainers as I’m on my feet all day and we do a lot of very active drama games. My outfits are as plain and boring as humanly possible. I don’t like to stick out too much. I think the most adventurous thing I did was get some sort of light green trousers last year and I think that was enough excitement for my wardrobe for a while. If I’m outside of work then I prefer black t-shirts, mainly because it’s so unbearably hot in Hong Kong in the summer that you want to hide the sweat stains. I love a big cardigan. Whilst I like to think it can make me look like Tom Hardy, it doesn’t. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

Any shop that doesn’t cover their clothes in writing is a good one for me. I like M&S for that reason and I’m happy to now be the age of the people in their adverts. I also like Maison Kitsuné and a French brand called Peter Polo. My favourite shop for clothing was J Crew but it’s gone now; perhaps it will return for a sequel so I can restock my armoury of plaid shirts again.

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

Anything that actually fits me properly. My weight fluctuates a fair bit because I tend to return to the UK for a month in the summer. Seeing friends and family means drinking beer, indulging in fatty food and not exercising. When term starts in Hong Kong September I’m usually 8kg heavier and my shirt buttons are hanging on like Sylvester Stallone in the opening scene of ‘Cliffhanger’. I lose the weight in a couple of months and then it’s back on at Christmas. This is entirely unhealthy but it is a good excuse to buy something new that actually fits (for that month). 

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes look better on me. My dad says that the last time he saw legs like mine they were being chased by a fox around a farm. Boots look daft on me. Imagine a golf club sticking out of a wellington. 

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

Instagram: dannotarealbird

X: dannotarealbird

Fantastic to speak to you Daniel about your book and exploits in Hong Kong. Expat Sorry Men book follow up sounds like an epic idea! Thank you for the review copy of Sorry Men; thanks also to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing.

Linda x

Photo credits: Frankie Adamson; Justin Chui (Justin Chui Productions 2024); Spoon Chan; Linda Hobden

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Author Interview: Caroline J L Thomason

My guest on the blog this week is author Caroline J L Thomason whose debut novel is a fantasy romance novel featuring a blind doctor who uses echolocation to “see”. The book is aimed at a young adult audience, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story so I think it really does have a wider appeal. Here’s a quick book summary before we meet Caroline ….

Book cover. Red heart entwined with a green stethoscope. A green and red dagger on the left hand side. Plain black background


Close your eyes and look into the light. What do you see?

Now click with your tongue, then face a wall and click again. What do you hear?

Using the rebounding echoes from these clicks is how Ambarenyll sees his world ever since he became blind in a Darmé rebel attack. Thirteen years have passed, and he feels comfortable enough to pick up his stethoscope and practise medicine once more. But the fragile relation between the Mané and Darmé factions in Landaïla is threatened with a new series of rebel attacks, and the doctor winds up in the middle of the conflict when he has to treat Princess Jade, heir of the Mané King. He is confronted with the past he long buried. Matters become more complicated as the attraction between Ambarenyll and Jade grows. Little do they know that a dark family secret is the very foundation for the ongoing conflict and could plummet everything into even deeper chaos.

This novel will be enjoyed by people who love fantasy with elements of romance and medicine. It will appeal to readers who enjoyed Rosemarked by Livia Blackburne and The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen.


Hi Caroline & welcome to the blog!

Black & white head & shoulders picture of the author, smiling.

Hello! I’m Caroline otherwise known as C. J. L. Thomason the author of “Crown and Scalpel”, my debut novel. I’m from Belgium, Flanders more specifically and speak four languages (Dutch, German, French and English), though not all equally well. I was born in the German-speaking region of Belgium to two Flemish parents in 1988. When I was 6, I moved to Flanders, where I still currently live on a farm with my dad and paternal aunt. Apart from writing fiction I enjoy carriage riding with my Shetland pony Harold and going for a walk with my two corgis Ginny and Lenny. I have a second Shetland pony JJ, and both of them are accompanied by my aunt’s horse and another pony of a girl living in the neighbourhood. 

I currently teach at a college and hope to combine this with food and packaging research in the future. 

Who or what inspired you to write “Crown and Scalpel”? 

Crown and Scalpel has two main sources of inspiration. The first dates back to when I was about 16 years old as I createdthe characters Ambarenyll, Jade, Faraiël and Raven together with my friend, Rose (she is also the first one whom I dedicated this book to). None of these characters are the same as they were at that time, only the fact that Jade was a Princess and Ambarenyll her love interest made it into the final story. But after we created these characters, I would start writing scenes with them and show them to Rose and she would comment. When I told her I wanted to write a story featuring these four characters, she was very excited and remains to this day still one of my biggest supporters. The second inspiration was Daniel Kish (and the second person I dedicated this book to). After I saw a video of him on YouTube demonstrating echolocation and how he as a completely blind person used it to ride a bike and go hiking all by himself, I was inspired to write a story about a blind protagonist. I also get asked why a doctor? Well, my dad is a veterinarian and I’ve always had a fascination for medicine, maybe in another universe I might have become a doctor in medicine instead of a doctor in engineering technology. 

Author sitting at a wooden table signing a pile of her books. She is wearing glasses, a plum coloured jacket and a blue neck scarf.

“Crown and Scalpel” is a young adult fantasy romance novel featuring a blind doctor, Ambarenyll, who uses echolocation to “see”.  Although aimed at a younger audience, this older female actually enjoyed the romantic story line with a hint of mystery 😊 The characters are well written  –  I had a fondest for Ambarenyll  but I also liked the forthright Princess Jade!  She made me giggle at times. 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?

I can’t outright say that I based my characters on people I’ve met, with the exception of George, who strongly resembles Daniel Kish, both in the way he became blind and his teaching approach of echolocation – something Daniel himself noticed as well and to which he replied he was “humbly gratified”. I did base several characters or at least certain characteristics on myself or based on situations I’ve encountered in my life. Jade, for example, holds many similarities to me, she is strong-willed and has a fierce temper, but is very fragile on the inside. Which is something I would use to describe myself. And the way Ambarenyll deals with his grief comes from my own experience of losing my mum in a car crash when I was 12.

Writing most characters came easily to me, so if I must pick one that was the hardest then I probably pick Raven, because she was the character originally created by my friend Rose and I wanted to do her justice. The one that I enjoyed writing the most about, was definitely Ambarenyll, that’s why he is the protagonist. 

As this was your debut novel, were there any aspects of writing the novel that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

Not the writing itself but when I was looking for ways to publish this novel, I contacted Daniel Kish, because I wanted to be sure that Ambarenyll’s blindness and use of echolocation was portrayed right. I was amazed with how open and helpful Daniel was with sharing his insights. And he complimented me by saying: “Thanks for your diligence in portraying the blindness bit right. I’d say you’ve probably come closer than any other author I can readily think of. And yes, I can see you’ve done your homework.” He was also incredibly supportive to help get the book published. And I was again pleasantly surprised when Siobhan Meade, a blind vlogster also reacted extremely positively to the book with: “it’s more than a story; it’s a reflection of my reality in blindness. Ambarenyll’s use of echolocation and his resilience deeply resonates. This book captures the essence of perceiving the world beyond sight. Great read”. 

Author wearing glasses, blue neck scarf, gold coloured watch holding a copy of her novel while standing next to a tall screen displaying a giant sized book cover

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

I’ve been several times to Japan during my PhD years, because the company where I did my PhD is part of the Japanese manufacturer Kuraray. I also love series and stories set in Japan, certainly Edo Period. But if I would write a story set in Japan, who knows. There are many other places I would love to visit, but not necessarily to write a story about.

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

Maybe not as much as I used to be due to time constraints. As a child I really loved reading, especially right before bedtime. I participated in many events related to book reading. In Flanders there used to be a yearly youth book month, in which children would be given a chance to read a selection of books within in certain age category and review them. This event would always end with a themed activity day where the authors would be present for reading and signing sessions. I still have several signed copies on my shelf. My favourite genres are fantasy and cosy detective. My favourite authors growing up in the ’90 and 2000’ were Marc De Bel (a Flemish author), J. K. Rowling and Eoin Colfer. A few years ago I came across the thriller “Aquila” by Ursula Poznanski, an Austrian writer. I read it in German – the advantage of being a polyglot – and really loved it. I definitely recommend it and put some other books by her on my list. As for Kindle or actual books, I see the advantage of eReaders and do have one myself, but I still like actual books a bit more. 

Is “Crown and Scalpel” available to purchase worldwide?

“Crown and Scalpel” is available worldwide through the website of my publisher Palavro and Arkbound. It’s also on Amazon both in eBook as well as printed version. 

A corgi wearing glasses sitting on a sofa with an open book in its paws, looking as though it is reading the story

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

If you’d asked my dad this question, he would undoubtedly say I was quite young when I said I wanted to become a writer, how young I’m not sure. I think it was after my mum died in a car crash when I was 12 that I first mentioned I wanted to become a writer. For a brief period, I wanted to become a biologist. Yet I majored in economics and languages in secondary school and afterwards decided to study languages and literature at the University of Leuven. It only took one year for me to realise this wasn’t the right path for me and then I switched to sciences. First, I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Agro- and Biotechnology and later I obtained my Master’s and PhD in Engineering technology – Packaging technology. I’ve worked in the industry, but found that I enjoy teaching and academic research way more. In the meantime writing became a hobby and I’m still happy with that decision. 

You were born in the German speaking region of Belgium, to two Flemish parents, just how difficult was it to write and publish English fiction as a non-native speaker?

I learned English when I was in my second year of secondary school and to be honest in the beginning, I was really rubbish at it. But I was an avid reader and a huge fan of the Harry Potter and Artemis Fowl series amongst others. When a new book was published, I generally couldn’t wait for a Dutch release, so I started reading in English and learned on the go. Additionally, when I grew up, only kids shows and films were dubbed in Dutch, so we used to watch most series and films in their original language with subtitles which also helps with learning another language. And most Flemish are able to speak 2 or 3 languages.

When I first started writing in English, it wasn’t anywhere near as what it is today, but over time my English improved and I often relied – still do, by the way – on using the Dictionary app on my laptop, which also includes a Thesaurus. I would start with words I knew and then by looking them up in the Thesaurus expand my vocabulary. 

Although I didn’t finish my studies in Languages and Literature, it was still helpful with improving my language skills and after I took a turn into sciences we were regularly confronted with English course material and scientific papers, and I did my PhD in English as well. It was also during my PhD years from 2015 to 2019 that I really got into writing “Crown and Scalpel” as I found it very relaxing at the end of a workday. The first draft was finished around the same time as my doctoral thesis.

Coffee Table in the Tarte Tatin coffee shop - the table top has a blue/white world map inlay. On the table is a Tarte Tatin menu, copy of the book, daisy motif china tea cup on a lilac saucer quarter filled with weak tea, a cream/black teapot and a white ornate lidded sugar bowl with spoon.

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

It varies a bit, most of the time when I’m at work I’m wearing jeans a simple blouse or vest and sneakers. But during the summer I wear dresses more often. In general my look can be described as sporty but elegant. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I prefer visiting physical shops to online shopping because I like to feel the fabrics. The shop I visit most is probably LolaLiza, which is a Belgian brand. 

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

Probably some new white sneakers and maybe some new summer wear like a dress. 

Boots or Shoes?

That’s a tough one, most footwear I own are shoes, mainly sneakers because they’re very comfy. But I do love well-fitting boots especially in the Winter, unfortunately I used to have very skinny legs, making it very tough to find a good fit. My solution to this is ankle boots.

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



X: @CJL_Thomason

Instagram: cjl_thomason

Thank you Caroline for the copy of “Crown and Scalpel” for reviewing.

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Caroline J L Thomason. Photo Credits: Marianne Peyffers, Oana-Maria Pop, Caroline J L Thomason, Liesbeth Driessen .

Linda x

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Who Saved Who Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of Roslyn Cohn’s “Who Saved Who” Book Tour…. this is definitely a book for all dog lovers and I know many of my readers are definitely dog mad!


Growing up in beautiful Bohemian 1970s Marin County, the daughter of a funny pawnbroker-jeweler with vision who knew the streets and a warm, independent Mom turned Naturalist-Animal Rights Activist, Roz is an award-winning actress who spent 20 years in NYC, where she worked on stages from the size of a postage stamp to Broadway. 

Roz begins Who Saved Who with her unique parents and upbringing which is so crucial in understanding both her and her journey during 2022. While living in a post-Pandemic world, her career on hold and with politics and the environment in a persistent state of toxic tension, there was little left of life to be desired, so believed Marin County raised and NYC ripened Roz.  Told through words, pictures, and video, “Who Saved Who” is an honest, sometimes funny, many times moving, and ultimately joyous journey of 2022 with a woman who was lost. With messages from the Other Side and the words that her Mother said to her years ago, “We save dogs, Roz, that’s what we do,” Roz was able to climb out of deep sadness and found a purpose ignited she didn’t know was flickering inside.

In “Who Saved Who,” readers may recognize their own journey in loving dogs – perhaps heal themselves from the loss of their own beloved furry family member – and best of all, readers may find their hearts open to saving their next canine companion. “Who Saved Who” does more than warm the heart, it can help heal the spirit. It’s an easy and fulfilling read – paws down.

ISBN-13: 979-8865682363


Print Length: 157 pages


Hi everyone reading this interview and thank you for taking the time to do so! I’m Roslyn “Roz” Cohn, the author of Who Saved Who.

Hi Roz 👋 Who or what inspired you to write your memoir “Who Saved Who”?

I use Facebook as a journal in many ways. The book goes into the incredibly difficult journey I began in 2022 and as I wrote, I was gaining more and more comments about how moved people were. By the time the magical thing happened to me, there were over 400 literally watching in real time the videos and photos I was posting as this experience unfolded. Those readers begged me to write the book in order to help those who have gone through the losses as I did. I really doubted whether I had a purpose any longer in this life and maybe my time here was coming to an end – and then my journey took off in a way no crystal ball could ever have predicted. It’s a very uplifting story in the end.

Your book highlighted the joy and love encountered when you have dogs in your life; as well as the importance of animal rescue. What advice would you give to someone considering caring for dogs from a rescue centre? 

Great question. Be sure you are ready for the responsibility of being a dog parent. They need to be walked, fed throughout the day, given play to stay engaged and healthy and most importantly, they require affection. Make sure you have the finances to afford veterinary bills but a word on that. There are incredible organizations like The Amanda Foundation which help people out in case one is experiencing financial hardship. It is far better to save a dog’s life if one even has a small apartment and limited funds for a big vet emergency rather than let them be killed. There are 500 dogs killed daily in the Los Angeles Animal Services system so these beautiful beings are far better off in a home with someone who is willing to simply walk, feed and love them. The joy you get in return far outweighs any of the responsibility and occasional vet bills. Also be sure to get pet insurance because you will need it. I find it to be more fair than my own personal insurance!

Maui & 8 pup pups with Grammy Roz

I loved reading the tales about the gorgeous dogs that shared your life, past and present, especially Maui, Kona and the pups.  What is the best thing about loving dogs ? Is there a downside? 

Oh, thank you so much Linda! They make life WONDERFUL. Nature is spiritual so having a dog, one of nature’s most amazing beings, is being surrounded by positive, loving, smart, fun and funny spirit 24/7. The downside is the searing pain you experience when they are suffering or have reached their end of life. My dad always said to me, “Loving a dog would be my greatest joy and deepest sorrow.” It is so true. But I find that now I understand there really is The Other Side, that the pain of them crossing over will be horrible but I know in time we will be re-united. That helps. Some may think that’s bonkers and that’s fair. I know it’s not. When one reads the book, they will find out exactly why I am so certain about this.

Your mum was a naturalist and an animal rights activist- how much of your relationship with dogs was shaped by your upbringing? Do you think children benefit, in general, from being around dogs (or other pets)? 

Such fantastic questions! I love you use the term “mum.” Are you British? I love the Brits and the UK. My mom’s paternal side was from the Isle of Skye in Scotland. My upbringing completely shaped my relationship with dogs. There was one reviewer who gave me a scathing “review” because this person doesn’t believe one should treat dogs with the same amount of affection as a human. They felt I was doing a disservice to dogs in how I love them and treat them on equal ground. All I can say about that person is that they are NOT anyone I would ever want to know. I feel horrible for the dogs in their life because they deserve better. Dogs, like all living beings, thrive with affection and consideration. My mom told me the story that when she and my dad got one of their early dogs – not even sure if she meant Brandy who is in the book – Mom wanted the dog sleeping with them but my dad didn’t want that. My mom said, “Then you’re sleeping on the floor.” The dog slept with them from then on out. It actually was my dad who was sometimes more googoo gaga about our dogs than Mom in how demonstrative he was in his affection for them. Dad could never bear it when we had to help one of our dogs cross over. He couldn’t face it because he loved them so deeply. 

Both Maui and Kona were very skittish when I got them – clearly they were abused – and now Maui is no longer terrified of other people. Kona is still very distrustful but he has blossomed with me and he is slowly opening up to some people I am able to bring over. I know I could push him and “force” him to encounter more people, but if it stresses him out, I really don’t want to push him too much. This is their Sanctuary and I treat them with the sacred respect here that they deserve. My folks taught me they are worthy of as much love as one would give one’s child. There is no difference. I am grateful to have grown up in a home where dogs were so cherished.

Kids definitely benefit being around dogs. This is where you truly learn to love. People can be so complicated and prone to mood swings be they a child or adult. That’s humans. Dogs are pure love. All they want to do is love us. They teach you to be able to live in the moment, be enthralled in the simplest things like a bird flying above and really using one’s senses to get the full experience. They teach us to receive love and return it. They teach us to be kind and compassionate. They are Divine. I truly mean that.

Kona, Maui & the puppies

Oh yes Roz, I’m English! 😊…. I was brought up with cats – I have 3 at home – well 2 really now as my tomcat Leo has taken a fancy to my neighbour and decided to live with her!!! But my parent’s friends had  gorgeous Red Setters and my in laws have a red setter and an Irish setter  – both I adore. Do you have a breed or two that you are particularly drawn to? 

Cats are a hoot! I had one for a time in NYC, Smooch was his name, but when my boyfriend and I broke up, he took our cat as I was traveling out of town to do theatre. Then I had a roommate for about a year in NYC and she had 2 cats, Luna and Tommy. Luna was “catty” but Tommy was a love and he would snuggle with me all the time. I adored him!!

Setters are Gorgeous dogs!!! Oh boy!!! Each dogs is so beautiful. Well, I will say that all Cohn dogs are good looking regardless of the breed. We had Dalmations as a kid and now I wouldn’t get a purebred as they have a lot of health issues. Fluke was part Dalmation and part English Pointer. He was Stunning as readers will see and had the best attributes of both breeds. I do love Australian Sheperds/Queensland Heelers like Niki and Kona in the book. And now I’m in love with Cattle dogs which Maui is. And then there was Diva, a German Shepherd-Rottweiler mix, my most meaningful girl of all time because she was first my Mom’s and then mine for 11 years!!! And, oh, I can’t choose as each of our dogs have left such an imprint on my heart and soul. We’ve also had Duchess the Boxer, Keisha our gorgeous Flat Coat Retriever, Blue – he was a stunner – was some kind of Aussie I believe, Betsy was a Rottie-Shepherd adorable girl, Maxferd was a handsome Border Collie mix, all so gorgeous and unique. So, I really can’t say which breed is my favorite. Dogs are a slice of heaven on earth.

Growing up, did you always want a career in acting, writing, with animals or did you have completely different career aspirations? 

I had this overwhelming need to be an actress from the time I was very young. I have a neurological condition, Essential Tremors, that became a source of great shame for me since 2ndgrade when I was mocked. It’s in the book. I never told my parents so I never got the counseling to come to terms what this disorder is. So, by the time I was 9, I was writing desperate letters to God, “Please God, I HAVE to be a successful actress. I HAVE TO ACT. Please let me not be nervous. Please let me be able to successful. It’s really sad to know a 9 year old – me – would cry myself to sleep because I was so worried these tremors would destroy my career. 9 years old!!! Then I wanted to be a Ballerina in addition and worked very hard. But I have a rare skin condition where my top layer of skin doesn’t bond with the one underneath on my hands and feet. It’s gotten much better through the years but when I was about 3-4, it was very, very bad when it was hot outside. When I told my dad I wanted to be a ballerina, he told me I couldn’t because of my blisters. He had to carry me as a 3 to 5 year old child because my feet were so raw. But he made me walk even still, no matter how it hurt. That was a great lesson because he taught me that no matter how hard something is, you still have the ability to “walk through it.” No matter how hard. And then he would pick me up when it got too painful. But I am stubborn and I did train very hard in ballet and when I was on pointe for a year, my feet would bleed. I still did it. I have super tight hips so I knew I wouldn’t ultimately be able to do ballet and that’s when I wanted to become a Broadway Female version of the great Ben Vereen. I hung up my  toe shoes as I was entering 9th grade and trained very intensely in Broadway jazz dance. If you don’t know who Ben is, Youtube his name and he will blow you away!!!!

My mom always told me I was a writer and I have no idea how she knew that but I guess I do have ability in that department. The few things I’ve written for myself as an actress have been very well received. It really is so important to me that people read this book so I can help bring awareness about shelter dogs and why it’s so important to adopt them. Or even volunteer at a shelter.  Life with a dog is, paws down, the most honest and pure of relationships in life. I don’t have childrenso they are my furry kids.I

Maui & Kona

Is “Who Saved Who” available to purchase worldwide?

It’s only available on Amazon. I have a niece who lives in Portugal and she has this thing called a VPN which enables those living overseas to purchase digital Amazon books. I’m not sure how it works but that’s how she was able to read it.

I do love animals, but I am wary of cows! Not particularly sure why! Are there any animals you have a fear of or a bit wary of?  

OMG! That’s hilarious!!! Aren’t we humans so funny with our phobias? I can no longer drive freeways, they scare me so terribly. Hhhhmmmm, do I have any fear of animals? Well, I have no desire to hold a snake but they are fascinating. And I don’t want to be anywhere near a poisonous spider like a black widow or a tarantula. I am scared to scuba dive because I think I would have a heart attack if I was near a shark or barracuda. I am terrified of sharks but I would never eat shark fin soup as I think that’s evil to waste their lives like that. I cannot understand how someone thinks it’s “fun” to swi in a cage with a Great White shark. No thank you!!!! It’s funny. A good friend of my Dad’s was this well respected stuntman, Ted Grossman. Ted was Ryan O’Neill’s stunt double in What’s Up Doc, et al. He was the guy in Jaws 1 who dies in the estuary. It took me until I was in my 20s to see Ted in that film because Great Whites freak me out so badly. I’m a lap swimmer and when that movie came out, just the poster gave me terrible fears a Great White would be able to come through our pool drain. So dumb but it made me learn to swim faster!

Maui & Kona

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

I live in those leggings with pockets. I adore them!!! And if I had the space and funds, I think I would want to be able to own at least 20 different styles of boots. I LOVE boots!!! Always have!!! When I was a little girl with these blisters in sweltering Marin, I would be dressed in black tights and black go-go style boots, regardless of the blisters. I really was like Wednesday in The Addams Family in my mind back then. I also love good tennis shoes because I’m a walker and active. I can’t stand not moving. Makes me crazy as I have a ton of energy and still the dancer mentality of staying slim. Being fit is super important to longevity and working on stage. It takes stamina to do that and working in Film/TV is very demanding on stamina as you have very long days.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

My dad was the shopper. He loved to take me shopping because he was overweight and I guess I looked good in clothes. He used to call me “high pockets” because my legs are long. So he would take me clothes shopping and have me buy whatever he felt was flattering. He had great taste. I miss shopping with Dad because he made it so fun. I’m like my mom. She hated shopping. I get so frustrated trying on all those clothes without my Dad’s or someone else’s eye – but I do love the customer service at Nordstroms. Macy’s is more my speed in variety but they aren’t managed very well and it’s murder trying to find someone to help you!

Diva, Fluke & Roz playing tug

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

I have been looking for a pair of boots to replace these Donald Pliner one’s I got years ago at It’s A Wrap. That’s a showbiz re-sale shop and I have worn his fabulous black fabric, silver metal tipped knee high boots for years. I got them for $50 at least 20 years ago and have worn them to pretty much shreds at this point. To buy them new, they are quite expensive – too expensive for me and I haven’t found them in any stores to even consider trying on a pair. The cloth is now coming off of my pair and I can’t really wear them any longer. I have very thin calves and his fabric boots are perfect for me. By any chance, do you have any sources for those?!!!! I have been looking!!!! I also need to get to Express and check out their current Editor pants. I typically have a pair in my closet but don’t have any now. Your question has spurred me on to get over to Express))

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots!!! My first goal was to be a go-go dancer in a cage. No joke. I think I was 5 years old. I love go-go style boots!!! So sexy)))

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

My Link Tree:





My thanks to Roslyn for inviting me onto her book tour; for agreeing to be interviewed; for a copy of her lovely book for reviewing. All photographs have been published with kind permission of Roslyn Cohn. Header picture is of me with my in law’s Red Setter, Reid 😊

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Author Interview: Kelsie Stoker

I recently read “Silenda” by Kelsie Stoker – it’s a young ( and not so young as it turns out!) adult fantasy novel by 22 year old debut Scottish author, Kelsie Stoker. This story is set in an alternative universe but explores human reactions over life after death. It is a young adult book and yet I found the book interesting, the storyline entertaining and thought provoking. and wow, what a powerful debut! I would certainly recommend the book to those not so young adult readers too! After reading the book, I couldn’t wait to chat to Kelsie about the inspiration behind her novel. But first, here’s a quick book summary…..


Silenda’ is told from the perspective of two alternating narrators. Horatio Young is an introverted bystander to his own life, afraid of his own agency, but afraid of feeling ‘static’. When he is thrust into a life-threatening situation, he must act. Carson Whitmoore doesn’t know a lot about herself. In fact, she knows hardly anything at all. Carson wakes up in an empty apartment with no memory of how she got there. She must retrieve her lost memories and expose the source that took them. 

Horatio and Carson are forced to navigate a world split in two – the Umbras who believe in eternal nothingness beyond the grave, and the Luxies who believe in an unending afterlife. 

When terror strikes the city and political tensions rise, Horatio’s powerful uncle recruits him as an insider to exploit Umbra secrets, but Horatio and his friends uncover something far more sinister – an underground organisation named Silenda who will go to dangerous lengths to uncover the ultimate truth; what really happens when we die?  


Hi Kelsie and welcome to the blog 👋

Hi ! My name is Kelsie Stoker and I am a 22-year-old fiction writer from Glasgow. I’m a passionate feminist and a lover of the arts! I adore fashion – I think the body is a canvas and that self-expression really extends our influence and gives life meaning. In ten years’ time, I’d like to see myself in some big-shot New York apartment clutching a glass of red wine, but for now I can be found listening to Hall and Oates and cuddling my mini poodle. ‘Silenda’ is my debut novel and I think a lot of my personality shines through in it – I’d say I’m like a hybrid of Astrid and Horatio!

“Silenda” is your debut novel – a young adult fantasy story set in an alternative universe.  It is a politically aware book exploring aspects of religious diversity, sexual orientation, labelling, life after death and how society rejects the “grey” areas of life. Who or what inspired you to write “Silenda”?

When I was fourteen, I was diagnosed with a brain tumour. I think having that sort of diagnosis at such a young age very much accelerated my existential thinking – it was the first time I became very aware of my own mortality. I was brought up in an atheist family, so I’d never really had a relationship with God, but after my diagnosis, I had a lot of questions for the guy – if he existed, why would he do this to me? So, for me, it’s a struggle to believe in any divinity, but I found myself envious of those who could. I’ve always felt my emotions very intensely so trying to find somewhere to direct my faith was an intense personal struggle. I’m a very empathetic person, so it’s always been very important to me to respect and try to understand people from different walks of life. Having a committed relationship with God is something I can’t really relate to, so understanding it really matters to me. 

I’m a lover of people – I think we are all just so complex and fascinating. We are all made from the same material but we are moulded and transformed in such different ways. We aren’t born with a purpose, the universe doesn’t seem to have prescribed us one, so we spend our whole lives trying to find one. For me, embracing the ‘grey area’, means not exhausting ourselves trying to belong to anything or conform to the confinements of something because we think we’re supposed to. Fluidity is so important, to learn to just be, and if whatever you are doesn’t have a name, that’s okay! Our language is a system that is supposed to cater to us, not the other way around.  

You are a young adult yourself – so are your characters based on observations of people you’ve come across in the past and incidents you’ve experienced ? Who were the hardest characters to portray?

I think I realise now, having written the novel, just how much my characters are an amalgamation of people I know. When I was writing it, I didn’t consciously mould a character to fit any particular person. I’m not really a planner in any aspect of my life, and the same applies to my writing. I let the characters make their own decisions based on what I learn about them as the story goes on. I think we write what we know whether we realise it or not – or we write interpretations of things we don’t know – which just end up being reliant on the things we do know! It’s all very subconscious but influence from people I know is definitely in there. When I was writing for Horatio, I was writing pretty much as myself, I think. His existential thinking, his struggle with his bisexuality and his fear of being static, is definitely straight from my own brain! With Carson’s perspective, I definitely felt that I was trying to channel someone other than myself. If I was in her position, I’d probably just cry. In regard to my other characters, the only other influence that is obvious to me, is Hayden’s dark and snappy sense of humour – that’s definitely my sister, Nikki!

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

I definitely wanted to write a story that I would love to read – so the story came easy to me, which was lovely. It’s packed full of things that I care about so it was a very cathartic process. However, because it’s a very politically aware novel, I definitely felt under pressure to do it well. There’s always the fear of being branded ‘too woke’, but I wrote things the way I see them, and the way I believe them – it’s my version of the truth, so it’s all I can really do! I wanted to make some sort of point about straight, white, cis men in power, but I tried to make that apparent without having any of my characters say anything outright about it. I wanted to make it clear that the diverse, colourful and fluid group of young people at the centre of the story, were not being represented by their leadership. 

I also tried very hard to simplify complex issues and use ‘umbrella’ terms for religious / spiritual and non-religious groups. I really did not want to imply that I was writing about any particular faith, because that is not the case, and would go against the whole point of the story!

Hypothetically speaking, if “Silenda” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Horatio and Carson? 

Seeing ‘Silenda’ on the big screen is a dream! I think Sadie Sink would be a great fit for Carson. I imagine Carson to be petite with red hair. I think Sadie Sink would be great at embodying Carson’s innocent look paired with her fiery ambition. Coincidentally, I met my boyfriend, Sean Munro, after the novel had already been written and he looks eerily like how I imagined Horatio…he’s also an actor so has helped me with promotional content. 

As for my other characters, it’s hard for me to cast them because they are so original in my head. Although I think a young blonde Evan Peters would have made a great Hayden!

Although “Silenda” is based in an alternative universe, is your fictional town/urban area inspired by any city/town/area in the “real” world?  If so, what was it about this place or places that ignited your imagination and got the creative juices flowing? 

Yes! The Rowleys is entirely influenced by the Gorbals, a historical part of Glasgow that has been infamous for its social problems; poverty, deprivation, and gang violence. Especially in the 1920s and 1930’s, the Gorbals were a very undesirable place to live, although many did due to overcrowding. The Gorbals became pretty synonymous with the working-class, and possibly even the marginalised. In 1954, the legend of ‘the Gorbals vampire’ was born, with the story spreading among school children that a 7-foot-tall vampire with iron teeth was on the loose! This legend inspired ‘the Rowleys vampire’, a story terrorising a derived part of the city.

West Town is a bit of an amalgamation, with the landscape inspire by the mountainous beauty of Glen Coe and Bellumside village inspire by the architecture of Edinburgh Old Town. I love my country so there is a lot of Scottish influence, but The Urb is a very futuristic city, channelling aspects of Tokyo. I think it’s crazy that in the post-modern world, such contrasting architecture can exist in such close proximity to each other.

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

I am a bookworm! Reading stories that excited me as a child definitely inspired me to write. I used to read a lot more than I do now because I’m always thinking about what I could write next, but when I can find the time, it’s so relaxing. I love fantasy novels and grew up reading a lot of YA fiction, but I love Gothic Horror, especially the classics, i.e. Shirley Jackson, Mary Shelly, Henry James…

The first YA book series I became really invested in was The Hunger Games, it’s still a favourite!

I 100% prefer a book, I think the smell of a good book is part of the reading experience!

 Is “Silenda” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! It can be purchased on Amazon, via the Waterstones website,, and Blackwell’s online!

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

I love a chunky boot! Pairing something very girly and soft with 70s boots is something I love to do. I also love a fur coat – faux of course! I think my style is very feminine – I love pink, leopard print and sparkles – it borders on mob-wife sometimes. I’m always trying to channel Barbie as well…I love how experimental she is.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I visited Vienna in December and stumbled across a store called ‘Glitzerwelten’. It was fabulous! Lots of faux fur, glitter and lots and lots of pink. I bought a gorgeous baby-pink fur wrap while I was there – I put it straight on! I’d love to go back.

As for online, I love shopping on Vinted – I think it’s very important to promote sustainable fashion. 

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

I’d really love some sundresses this summer – something quite elegant and classy. Maybe florals? Something that makes me look picnic-ready at all times! Maybe I could pair it with a thatched sunhat – that would be super cute.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, definitely! I just adore chunky boots. I’m also 5’11 so a little platform empathises my height and makes me feel very confident. I love being tall!

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

Read my blog here:

Instagram: @kelsiestoker/insta

X: @KCStoker_Author / twitter

TikTok: @kelsiestoker/ tiktok

Fabulous chatting to you, Kelsie and congratulations on a fantastic debut book. Thanks also for the copy of Silenda for reviewing.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Kelsie Stoker

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Disrupted Book Tour

Book tour time! I’m so pleased to be part of author B.Lynn Goodwin’s book tour promoting her excellent young adult book, “Disrupted”. “Disrupted” is Lynn’s 5th book and it tackles social issues, earthquake trauma, homelessness, grief, missing persons and a touch of young love in the mix. Phew! Upon reviewing the book, I found that Disrupted tackled themes head on in a relatable way, the characters and their mannerisms were believable and it was certainly a pleasant read to boot. Before I interview Lynn, here’s a quick book summary to whet your appetite:


The San Ramos High students are busy rehearsing their performance of Our Town when the school and the surrounding towns are rocked by a 7.1 earthquake. As a series of unusual aftershocks disrupt the town further, their school is deemed unsafe, and the show is postponed indefinitely unless they can find a way to turn that bad luck around. Dealing with their own personal difficulties and led by the stage manager, Sandee, who is working her way through the loss of her brother, they attempt to bring the community together, make the performance a success, and do their share to raise funds to rebuild. Both the show and life must go on!

Publisher: Olympia Publishers

ISBN-10: 1804393487

ISBN-13: 978-1804393482


Print Length: 238 pages


Welcome to the blog! Please introduce yourself😊

Hello 👋 Here’s the bio I usually send out: 

B. Lynn Goodwin wrote two award-winning books, a YA called Talent, and a memoir titled Never Too Late: From Wannabe to Wife at 62. Her newest book,Disrupted, came out on January 25th, 2024 She’s written author interviews, book reviews and article for WriterAdvice, since 1997 and writes for other sites as well. 

She also teaches, runs a Writing Extravaganza, and reviews books at Story Circle Network. She’s on the boards of Story Circle Network and the Women’s National Book Association—NorCal and judges writing contests. She edits every genre except poetry and loves helping writers improve. She lives east of Berkeley and west of the San Joaquin Valley with her husband and their lively Maltese.

Who or what inspired you to write “Disrupted”?

Good question. I wrote about Sandee Mason in “Talent”, and many people wanted to know more, so I thought about her life at fictitious San Ramos High School and how her world changed when her brother died. Then I started on “what ifs.” 

What if an earthquake disrupted rehearsal?

What if it closed down the school?

What if an earthquake cracked kitchen walls and took buildings off their foundations?

How would Sandee react if she was in the aftermath of an emotional earthquake?

I had great fun recreating her world and adding a boy who hangs out at Starbucks an awful lot.

Disrupted ” is a YA story set in California. The characters are a mix of High School students and their families – all struggling to cope in various ways following an earthquake. I had a fondest for the main character, Sandee. Her determination to bring her community together whilst coping with her grieving parents (plus her own grief), her budding romantic feelings, her concern for her close friends and her steadfast attitude to get Theatre show performance back on track is certainly admirable. She made me giggle at times too! Did you base a lot of your characters on you and people you’ve met in life?

As you know, memory distorts. I’m not sure if Sandee is a combination of the high school students I once directed in Our Town, the show Sandee is working on, or she’s a student I wanted to work with. Or both. I know teens love having friends and trying on new roles, and they did a lot of that in my drama classes. Maybe it spilled over.

Which character did you enjoy writing about the most?

I almost feel like a parent here, because I’m not sure I have any favorites. I like Sandee, of course, but I am proud of the way Nicole copes, and Jenn reminds me of airheads I’ve taught, and I feel for Diego, who’s afraid of his emotions, and Pete, who’s deliberately detached and putting on a show of his own.

Which character was the hardest?

 Until this moment I hadn’t thought of that. Sorry, but I have no answer.

What do you enjoy most about writing novels for young adults?

Technology may have changed the world but adolescent insecurities, needs, and aspirations haven’t changed much. I enjoy writing about their struggles and growth.

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

You’re getting my brain churning here. I’d love to see the islands of Hawaii as those who grew up there see them. I’d love to experience the native residents’ views of tourists. I suppose this desire came from my work with an author who grew up in Hawaii and is working on her life story.

Are you a bookworm?

Certainly. Also a book hoarder.

What is your favourite genre and/or authors?

My favorite is also the book I’m reading at the moment. I’m sent lots of books for review, and I love women’s fiction, psychological thrillers, and realistic YA. I sometimes like books about people in politics and the state of the world. I like watching others solve problems.

Kindle or actual book? 

I like switching off between Kindle and actual books. I can adjust the print size in a Kindle or a PDF, but sometimes I want to sit in the sun, hold a book, and read in the old school way.

Is “Disrupted” available to purchase worldwide?

Probably. Certainly anyone can purchase either the print book or the e-book from Amazon,Disrupted- Goodwin, B Lynn- 9781804393482- Books.

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

That would be a good subject for a memoir. I wanted to be a teacher, and I’ve taught English and drama in high school and college. I also did a stint teaching adult literacy through At the same time I was taking care of my mother and discovering the importance of journaling for perspective. For a long time writing was on the back burner. Then it became a refuge. You can learn more at

I have an interest in Earthquakes although I have only experienced a small tremor but I did go on an earthquake simulator in Florida once that was supposed to replicate a strong 7.5 earthquake and that was pretty scary! Living in California, what is your own experience and did you discover any facts that you weren’t aware of when researching for your book?

I’ll never forget the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake, which shook us all up. The World Series had just started and since the Oakland A’s were playing the San Francisco Giants it was in the Bay Area. The TV went black, the hanging lamp over the dining room swung and I raced to get under a door frame. So it was a sliding glass door with an aluminum frame. I didn’t stay there because a lamp I’d inherited from my father was about to crash and I didn’t want it to break. Crazy times. At least our condo stayed on its foundation.

Apparently there was an earthquake this morning not far from Berkeley. Based on the Facebook posts, I suspect it extended up into Vallejo. We never felt it here though. 

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

My sister is the fashionista. Right now I’m dressed in comfortable black pants, an embroidered, long sleeved, salmon tee, and a jacket that goes with a different shirt. I have socks on but no shoes. Even though I dress casually and simply, I admire fashion and sometimes window shop on websites. My favorite top is a green sweater with a low V neck that makes me look thin. I’ve been known to dress up for readings and workshops.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

My mother used to shop at I. Magnin’s and later Nordstrom’s, but that was long ago. I still have some of the classic clothes from those stores, but these days I’m just as likely to go to Chico’s or maybe J. Jill or Macy’s.

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

I’ve worn out the arch supports on my walking shoes again, and I need to replace those asap. I’d like to try Naot’s again. I realize you haven’t met my feet, but they’re quite a challenge. I have plenty of clothes, but several pairs of pants have gotten quite loose, and while that’s a good thing, I’d like a really comfortable slip on pair suitable for spring and summer.

Boots or Shoes?

When I was 18 and going to college in Poughkeepsie, NY, I went searching for boots. The pair I found wouldn’t zip over my calves, and the clerk assured me that no one made anything wider. So boots were for skinny people. Slenderellas. People who didn’t look like me. I didn’t know then how many of us were facing the same problem and that there were stores where we could get fitted. I used to love nice shoes. Now I’m grateful for shoes that I can walk in.

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

X – @Lgood67334


Great chatting to you Lynn. Thank you for the review copy of Disrupted.
All photographs have been published with the kind permission of B Lynn Goodwin.

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Author Interview: João Cerqueira

This week I am so pleased to be able to welcome onto the blog the internationally published Portuguese author, João Cerqueira. João is author of 9 books and has been published in 8 countries. His latest novel, “Perestroika”, is a political/historical novel that was originally published in Portuguese in 2023 and was published in English in January 2024. Although it is a fictional novel, set in a fictional country, it is based on insights and incidents that occurred in the communist era of Eastern Europe during the 1970s/1980s. Here’s a quick book summary:


The story opens in 1978 and introduces the citizens of Slavia (a fictitious Eastern European country). Among them is Ludwig Kirchner, an artist who is struggling to survive in concentration camps whilst the terrifying elites of the regime live in luxury and moral depravity.

However, for the citizens of Slavia, everything changes in the late-1980s, with the advent of Perestroika. In the revolutionary turmoil that follows, former crime boss Ivan Fiorov leads the newly formed “Freedom Party”, heralding a wave of insecurity and oppression that resembles the previous dictatorship.


Welcome to the blog, João…. please, introduce yourself 😊

Hello. I am João. I was born and live in Viana do Castelo, Portugal. I completed a PhD in Art History at the Faculty of Letters of the University of Porto. I teach at the Escola Superior de Educação de Viana. I have written nine books, published in eight countries and I have won five literary prizes in the United States and one prize in Italy.

My childhood was spent in the countryside and on the beach, so I have always had a very close relationship with nature. Despite shooting birds and killing mice as a child, today I am a defender of nature and its creatures. I live on a farm where I grows fruit trees and vegetables with my wife and our daughter. I can’t have dinner without drinking wine, and I love champagne.

Who or what inspired you to write “Perestroika”?

The novel “Perestroika” results from the profound impact of the images of the fall of the Berlin Wall and people demanding freedom in the streets of communist countries. In addition to bringing freedom to half of the Europeans, Gorbachev’s Perestroika ended the Cold War and the threat of nuclear war. However, oddly enough, the topic was forgotten. To my knowledge, there is no film, TV series, or novel—except mine—that addresses one of the most important changes of the 20th century.

Furthermore, I visited Cuba three times and saw with my own eyes how a communist country works: there is no freedom of expression, there are no free elections, there are no human rights, and anyone who protests is arrested.

Additionally, some characters in the book are taken from European history: 

The painter Ludwig Kirchner, Lia Kirchner’s father, was inspired by the German expressionist painter of the same name, whose works Hitler considered Degenerate Art.

The People’s Commissar for Culture, Zut Zdanov, was inspired by the Stalinist leader Andrei Zhdanov, responsible for culture in the USSR, who defended socialist realism in art and banned modernism.

President Alfred Ionescu was inspired by the playwright Eugène Ionesco, creator of the theatre of the absurd – which brings us back to the absurdity of communist regimes.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Perestroika” and I particularly enjoyed how you portrayed the characters of Lia Kirchner, Helena Yava, Silvia Lenka  & Ivan Fiorov. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

I tried to ensure that no character was one-dimensional: good or bad. They are people of flesh and blood with qualities and defects who are forced to change their behavior due to Perestroika.

That said, my favourite characters are the Commissar for Education Helena Yava because she understands that she served a dictatorial regime and tries to redeem herself; and, of course, the main character, Lia Kirchner, the girl trained by the communist regime, who will become its main opponent.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting..… did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected? 

I consulted a wide range of books, including the works of Anne Applebaum Gulag and Iron Curtain, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The First Circle and The Gulag Archipelago, Victor Kravchenko’s I Choose Freedom, Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon, and others.

The horrors of communist regimes didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was that the party members, as they rose through the ranks, began to live more and more like capitalists. The communist leaders were authentic bourgeois.

The novel is based in fictional country of Slavia – although reading the novel I could  visualise the images of the news reports on TV that I remembered seeing in the 1970s/1980s of Communist Eastern Europe. What were your reasons for picking a fictitious location for the novel?  

Perestroika could have taken place in the Soviet Union, Poland or another communist country. But that would impose limitations on my creativity. In order to be able to write the story I had in my head, it was necessary to create an imaginary country: Slavia.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

My love of books was instilled by my father, who bequeathed me a library with over a thousand books. I looked at those books and dreamed of doing something similar. I thought those writers were the most important people in the world. I wanted to be like them. 

In this library I discovered the classics of world literature. Among the reference books, I discovered, as a spiritual guide and instruction manual for the winding road of life, Erasmus of Rotterdam’s “In praise of Folly.”This is why humor is so important in my writing.

Is “Perestroika” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, Perestroika is on Amazon and in the main online bookstores.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why? 

When I travel around the world, I always discover something that ends up in my books. More than the places, it’s the people who inspire me. On a tropical island or at the North Pole, human beings can show solidarity or fight each other.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? And are you a kindle or “proper book” fan?

I only read paper books. My favorite writers are Marcel Proust, Pär Largerkvist, Mikhail Bulgakov, George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Phillip Roth, Paul Auster, W. G. Sebald, Italo Calvino, Henrique Vila-Matas,, José Saramago and Lobo Antunes.

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

I try to keep up with fashion and dress well. I like to combine classic and modern styles. As for shoes, I like Timberland and Fred Perry trainers.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Those that are on sale, with low prices.

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

I need to buy a brown blazer for spring and light blue shirts.

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

Amazon UK:

Amazon US:


Author page:

Thanks so much for chatting with me today João – “Perestroika” brought back memories of TV news and my travels in the 1980s! I loved the book, so thank you very much for my review copy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of João Cerqueira.

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Mercy And Grace Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the “Mercy and Grace” book tour, introducing a very emotional and well written story by author Anoop Judge.

My thoughts? This is a whirlwind of a story – the raw love of two young people from different religious backgrounds whose lives are torn apart; an “orphan” born out of love who discovers her back story in an unusual way; a mother reunited with her daughter; cultural differences, lives behind closed doors…. and things are not always what they seem. And an abundance of love in its many disguises. Can you tell that I loved the book?


At twenty-one years old, Gia Kumari finally leaves the Delhi orphanage where she was raised. With few prospects for the future, she receives an unexpected invitation from a stranger named Sonia Shah, in San Francisco: an internship at Sonia’s weddings and event company. Jia and America. It’s love at first sight as she navigates an unfamiliar but irresistible new world of firsts. 

It’s Gia’s first real job: her first meeting with her only known family, her uncle Mohammed Khan, and her first romance, with Sonia’s quirky yet charming stepson, Adi. But it might be too good to be true. Gia’s newfound happiness is unfolding in the shadow of a terrible family secret, the impact of which is still being felt in a place Gia now calls home. To save what matters most, Gia must come to terms with a tragic past she’s only beginning to understand—and a lifetime of lies she must learn to forgive.

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (September 19, 2023)

ISBN-10: 1662509219

ISBN-13: 978-1662509216


Print Length: 283 pages


Welcome to the blog, Anoop! 😊

Hello! I am Anoop. Born and raised in New Delhi, I now reside in California. I hold an MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California and am the recipient of the 2021 Advisory Board Award, and the 2023 Alumni Scholarship. I am the author of four novels: “The Rummy Club”, which won the 2015 Beverly Hills Book Award, “The Awakening of Meena Rawat” an excerpt of which was nominated for the 2019 Pushcart Prize, “No Ordinary Thursday,” and “Mercy and Grace”. You may also recognize me from the show Gems of Ruby Hill, a reality-TV series streaming on @watchcpics showcasing my life as an author and writer. I call myself a recovering litigator: I practiced in state and federal courts for many years before I  replaced legal briefs with fictional tales. I am an Instructor at Stanford University’s Stanford Continuing Studies.

Who or what inspired you to write “Mercy and Grace”?

I was inspired to write “Mercy and Grace”, because the India that exists now is very different from the one I grew up in. Over the years, the religious right in India has used hate propaganda to push the country away from its inclusive, secular founding vision as envisaged by Mahatma Gandhi.  Hinduism used to be a very liberal and tolerant religion, but India’s current prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has created a distinct fascist ideology dubbed “Hinduvata” to distinguish it from Hinduism. “The movement does not demand a theocratic state or any explicit embrace of Hinduism as the state religion. Hindutva is a national-cultural rather than a religious category, seen as synonymous with the idea of India. Indians of other faiths, including Muslims, should therefore have no trouble accepting Hindutva, according to the Sangh Parivar. If they choose not to, they must be traitors to the nation.” (Ref: I have watched the growing trend of extreme loathing backed by physical violence against Muslims and Christians with fear in my heart. I am not a Muslim myself, but I am a Sikh, a minority religion derivative of Hinduism. I witnessed firsthand how fundamentalist group leaders coordinated and led frenzied mob attacks against innocent Sikh citizens when Prime Minister Indra Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh security guard who acted solely of his own volition. In spite of the divisive political administration in the last White House election, I do not exaggerate when I say that I feel safer in the United States than I do in India. So, I wanted to write a novel about how the giving and taking of religious offense against minorities affects innocent people, ordinary people who have no stake in politics but are only trying to live their small lives.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Mercy And Grace ” and I particularly enjoyed the characters of Gia Kumari, Sonia Shah and Adi. Which character did you particularly enjoy writing about? Which character was the hardest to portray?

That would probably be Sonia Shah, because of how the religious upheaval in her life and her past, causes her to become a very different woman from the one she initially was.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting…for example, the wedding event business,  the Hindu/Moslem relationships, the orphanage, the Indian communities in California … although you were born & raised in India  and now reside in California, did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected? 

What a good question! My sister-in-law is a wedding coordinator of some note in the Los Angeles Indian community, so I do have quite a bit of insight into that business. I was legal counsel and president for 13 years of a 501 C(3) organization that provides financial support to more than 4000 orphan, destitute, or otherwise disadvantaged children via partner organizations in India. Therefore, I had firsthand knowledge of how orphanages in India operate.In writing this book what did surprise me was how frenzied mobs of Hindu fundamentalists hell-bent on Muslim blood resort to pulling down the underwear of Muslim men to see if they are circumcised or not as a way of determining if they are of Muslim faith or not.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

I was raised in a middle-class family in New Delhi, India, where education was key, fresh pomfret fish for dinner was a treat, and budget-conscious holidays in hill stations defined our summers. As a young girl, I was expected to apply myself at college, get a job that would allow me to be financially self-reliant, get married, and have kids—in that order. Given this worldview, “writing” was a bourgeois activity, encouraged by my mom, an avid fan of Reader’s Digest and Harlequin romances. My mom loved stories, and she made up endless tales on the fly—Ravan, the demon who was afraid of cake, the fairy who couldn’t find her magic, the princess who was forced to marry the tyrannical prince and was rescued just in time by the pauper she loved. She gave me those things, and that’s how I survived adolescence. My command over the English language made me appear smarter than I was—growing up in post-colonial Delhi, where your zip code and what your Dad did for a living was all that mattered, the only way for a young woman to stand out was her chutzpah and her ability to flaunt her knowledge of big, blocky English words.  Soon, I had a prolific output. At age eleven, my mother made my brother, and I compete in a war of words—we had to write an essay about an out-of-town family wedding we’d attended—and, from the way my mom’s dark eyes shone as she read my offering, I knew I’d scored. In my teens, I spilled my hormonal angst over pages and pages of a daily journal that began with the salutation, “Dear, Diary.” One summer, I did an internship at a leading advertising agency as a copywriter, coming up with pithy slogans and jingles. After high school, when I enrolled in Hindu College at Delhi University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, no one in my family was surprised. But, convention dictated that I procure a practical degree that would result in a paying job. This catapulted me into law school after graduation. Writing remained my first love, though—while pursuing my legal studies, I wrote a column for ‘Mid-day,’ a weekly newspaper, titled ‘University Beat’, and I was a correspondent for All India Radio, submitting weekly news stories that were read aloud on air. While in my second year at law school, I was approached by a publishing house (Twenty-Twenty Media) to write a Dummies—style book for recent college graduates on the legal profession titled “Law: What’s It All About and How to Get in.”  When a mess of typewritten pages—loosely bound by a haldi-stained pink ribbon—of dozens of interviews with notable legal experts in New Delhi became a published book of 92 pages, I couldn’t get over the shock of it. It was an eye-opening experience to see how good editing and an attractive book cover could transform my word vomit into a brilliantly-structured, polished work. I knew then that when I had the time, I would write books that appealed me to as a reader—fiction that wove imaginary worlds and left me spellbound with the magic of it. When I met and married my husband and immigrated to the United States, I continued to pursue my legal studies, acquiring both a JD and an Esq. at the end of my name. Writing legal briefs that would persuade judges opened my critical eye and taught me how to turn a good phrase. When I left law practice and stayed home to raise my kids, I began writing in earnest. Ten years ago, my dream came true with the launch of my first novel ‘The Rummy Club’ (Daggerhorn Publishing; 2014) that gave voice through my story to the East-Indian diaspora in the context of 21st century America. In the last ten years, I’ve continued to learn the craft of fiction and write stories that have been published in many literary journals  The themes of recreating identity, immigration, changing roles of women, and racial conflict deeply resonate with me and inspire me to write. I am passionate about applying these themes to my background and the traditions I grew up with, as well as the new traditions I have co-created with my first-generation children while living in America. I’m fortunate that I have a literary agent who believes in my stories, and although the publishing industry is fickle—my fifth novel narrating the story of two estranged sisters based on colorism—-didn’t receive much traction from acquiring editors forcing me to shelve it, I continue to write. As Anne Frank said, “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” (Excerpted from Anoop Judge’s Nov 1, 2020 blog post.) 

 Is “Mercy And Grace ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, they are. Thanks to the power and reach of Amazon.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why? 

If I could visit any place in the world to be inspired to write my next novel, it would be South Africa. I found South Africa so different from every other place I have visited, with its safaris where you can watch the Big Five predators in their natural environment, and the country’s rich culture as manifested in its food and traditions.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? And are you a kindle or “proper book” fan?

Yes I am. The genre I like to read the most is what I write in which is book club fiction, also called upmarket fiction: a combination of commercial and literary fiction. It has universal and relevant teams everyone can connect to, and a hyper-focused plot but doesn’t necessarily end in doom, gloom and suffering. I always loved the feel of an actual book with pages, and never thought I would convert to Kindle, but my techie son who is an engineer got me started on Kindle. Now, I can’t give it up because it’s just so darn convenient. I’m always reading a book and it’s the first thing I turn to when I’m standing in a long queue, or I’m feeling bored.

Apart from being an author, you have appeared in the US TV reality series, Gems of Ruby.  Did you enjoy being in a TV reality show? Was it nerve racking? 

I enjoyed shooting the reality TV series, in part, because it was with friends I knew well; women who I consider my best friends and who would keep safe from any dark secrets I didn’t want exposed, haha. It was nerve-racking, only in the sense because we didn’t know what would finally come out of the editing room and how we would be portrayed on screen. It’s also crazy how addictive being on screen can be— the cringe-worthy aspect of seeing yourself on screen goes away very quickly when people begin to recognize you, and talk to you about the scenes they’ve seen you in.

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

I’m not a very casual person, so you won’t find me lounging around in sweats, except when I attend my Pilates classes. Usually you’ll find me in jeans with bright-colored blouses, and tailored jackets or in a dress if I’m going out.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I mix-and-match high-and-low, so you’ll find me shopping both at Nordstrom and at Shein. It’s what catches my eye. I don’t like to break the bank on outifits because I’m trendy, and enjoy being a seasonal shopper.

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

A white faux fur jacket.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots because they instantly make you look polished. I always like to be well turned-out when I’m going out because looking good instills a confidence in me, and makes me feel strong.

Links you would like to share:


Thank you Anoop for inviting me onto your book tour, for a review copy of the brilliant “Mercy And Grace” book and for agreeing to be interviewed.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Anoop Judge.

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Analyzing The Prescotts Book Tour

This week I’m so pleased to be part of author Dawn Reno Langley’s “Analyzing The Prescotts” Book Tour. This is the first time I’ve encountered a book in the LGBTQ+ literary fiction genre and it was extremely impressive reading – the very dramatic storyline drew me in and as each member of the Prescotts unravelled their views to their therapist, my opinions changed and then I realised I was getting caught up in the private life of Cotton Barnes, the therapist too. It was definitely a hard book to put down …. And I couldn’t wait to chat to Dawn about her reasons for choosing this storyline in our interview, but first here’s a quick summary of “Analyzing The Prescotts”….


Cotton Barnes, a Raleigh, NC, therapist, leveled by a client’s recent suicide, is struggling to resume her practice when she begins working with the Prescotts, a family fractured when the father comes out as transgender and begins transitioning. They relate their stories in their chosen voices, each family member’s narrative in a different format. Journals, social media, and other nontraditional narratives challenge Dr. Barnes’ therapeutic skills. While each member of the Prescotts dodge land mines behind the closed doors of her therapy office, the Raleigh, North Carolina area is rocked by a series of LGBTQ+ hate crimes. As Cotton finds herself stalking the family, worried that she might not be able to “save them,” her husband slips away, and Cotton is forced to make a decision that will determine whether she saves her own marriage or the Prescotts.

Publisher: Black Rose Publishing

Print length: 308 pages


Hi Dawn and a big warm welcome to the blog 😊 Please introduce yourself to the readers …I

Hello, I’m Dawn Reno Langley. I’m a writer who has worked in every genre except screenplays (because I just like writing about everything!). Though I’m originally from the Boston area, I live in North Carolina with my scientist husband and my twelve-year-old Schichon, Izzy. I love traveling and am about to go on a new adventure — to Chile! 

Who or what inspired you to write “Analyzing The Prescotts”?

During the dissertation process for my PhD, I studied transgender authors and what they wrote both pre- and post-transition. Their works were fascinating to me for many different reasons, and the story about the Prescotts was inspired by their memoirs.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Analyzing ThePrescotts ” and I particularly enjoyed the characters of Cotton, Hailey, & Janis.  I had sympathy for Gray too. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

I’m so glad you enjoyed the story! That means a lot to me. I spend years with these characters, so when I release a book, it’s like sending my children into the world. 

I love all my characters, but I love Hailey and the kids most in this book. They are the ones who respond with love, while Gray is incredibly screwed up, and Cotton needs more time to recover from her breakdown before she takes on helping others. 

Cotton was the most difficult to portray, because she had to be professional yet skewed. She’s not a person really capable of helping the Prescotts, and she knows that her breaking points are affecting her ability to be an effective therapist. In essence, she’s not a bad therapist, but the Prescotts challenge her, and she probably shouldn’t be treating them. Ultimately, they teach her what it means to be a family, and I believe she is changed for the better, even though her own life falls apart.

Hypothetically speaking, if “Analyzing The Prescotts “ was made into a film, who would you consider to be great actors to play the roles of Cotton, Gray, Hailey, Janis, Marcus, Cherylynn & Cotton’s husband ? 

Wow, that’s a tough question. Hmm, I really think Meg Ryan would be a great choice for Cotton, because she has the ability to be both fragile and strong when portraying females caught in tough situations. For Gray, I think Lizzy Caplan might be a good choice. She has the ability to play a serious woman with a scary side. Hailey has to be Renee Zelwegger. She has proven to be a tour de force when taking on tough characters, and I think she’d be perfect for Hailey. As for Janis, Millie Bobby Brown can be tough and tortured, the way Janis is, and I think she’d bring an edge to the role that few others could manage.  Ella Anderson is perfect for Cherylynn. Ella has an innocent, happy face, as well as the depth to show the myriad emotions the middle child endures. Marcus could be played by Asher Morrissette, who has starred in soap operas and has a full range of facial emotions. Finally, I always imagined Thomas as Ethan Hawke–handsome, slim, and intense. That was a fun exercise!

The novel is based in North Carolina. What made you pick that location for the novel?

I live in North Carolina and know the area well. The place where Cotton lives is only minutes away from a house I used to own, the therapist’s office is based on one that I have visited, the Prescotts’ house is one I passed every day on my way to work, and the Raleigh/Durham area has experienced the type of gender bashing that I describe in the novel.

Growing up, did you envisage yourself as a writer or did you have other career aspirations?

I’ve been a writer since the age of 9 when my first article was published, but I never really thought I could make a living at this profession. I always wanted to be a flight attendant so I could travel. (And even though I’m not a flight attendant, I have travelled extensively, so that dream has been fulfilled). It wasn’t until I was in college and became editor of the newspaper that I realized all I wanted to do was write–and I’ve done so ever since.

Is “Analyzing The Prescotts ” available to purchase worldwide?

By the way, whether the book is available worldwide, we just released the audio book, and the book is now available in the US,  Canada, the UK, and Australia.

If you could visit any place in the world to inspire your next novel, where would you go and why? 

I’d love to visit Uzbekistan, because it’s a mysterious, fascinating place that is not “over-touristed.” I’m not sure what kind of story I’d place there, but visiting the country would be inspiration enough for many stories, I believe.

I’d also like to revisit Kenya to get more information for a follow-up story to my novel, The Mourning Parade. I have an outline already started for a new book, but it’s waiting until I finish editing a trilogy that’s set here in the U.S.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? And are you a kindle or “proper book” fan?

Oh, yes! I’ve spent my whole life with piles of books around me. When I was a child, I read every book in my little local library before graduating to the “big” library where I devoured biographies, books on traveling, and novels. Now, I read mostly literary novels (Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Cunningham, and Abraham Verghese are some of my favorite authors), but I also love fantasies, and I’d count books like Station Eleven, Night Circus, and The Ocean at the End of the Lane among my favorites. 

I love a physical book, but I have a Kindle because I do a lot of traveling and books are heavy!

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

I’m a writer, so sweats are my go-to. I also teach yoga, so I wear lots of leggings and sweatshirts. However, I do like to get dressed up and for the launch party for Analyzing the Prescotts, I wore a winter white outfit — crepe pants, turtleneck top, and below-the-knee duster coat. My favorite colors are black or white, so that’s what I usually wear. (I could use some fashion advice :-)).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Sundance clothing is one of my fav online shops. It’s owned by Robert Redford and features a lot of casual, funky clothing that I’d love to wear.

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

I’d love a pair of nice hiking shoes for the times when my husband and I are traveling. We walk/hike everywhere! 

Boots or Shoes?

I love boots in the winter, but usually wear Sperry’s in the summer.

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

Facebook: @dawnrenolangley

TikTok: @proflangley    

Insta: @proflangley  

Pinterest: @proflangley   


Such a pleasure to have you on the blog, Dawn. Thank you for inviting me onto your book tour and thank you for a copy of your book “Analyzing The Prescotts “ for reviewing … a book I thoroughly enjoyed reading so 10/10 for me 😊

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Dawn Reno Langley, apart from the clock header photo which was taken by me.

Linda x

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