Category Archives: Reviews

Waterbury Winter Book Tour

I’m so pleased to be part of the ”Waterbury Winter” book tour to celebrate the latest novel by author Linda Stewart Henley. Definitely a heart warming story that draws you in with its array of lovable characters – a story of friendship,and real life. This delightful story is a great book to pack in your holiday suitcase or download on your kindle to read whilst lying prone on the sunbed! I loved it!

BOOK SUMMARY

Barnaby Brown has had enough of freezing winters, insurmountable debt, a dead-end job, and his solitary life as a young widower with no one but his beloved parrot Popsicle. He yearns to move to California and reawaken his long-lost early life as an artist. But new troubles come in threes. His ancient car crashes into a snowbank. Popsicle escapes through a window carelessly left open. 

A New York gallery owner offers to represent Barnaby’s paintings—but is he on the up-and-up? All of it serves to shock Barnaby into confronting how low he has sunk, and he vows—again and again—to change. He has a few obstacles, starting with his heavy drinking and long-term neglect of his ancestral home. As he takes steps toward a better life, he re-discovers the value of old friendships and latent talents seen in new light, and finds the courage to consider a second chance at love. Rejoining the mainstream of life presents several startling mysteries he must unravel, with a few mortifying but enlightening stumbles.

A heart-warming novel about ordinary people reclaiming their dormant potential, Waterbury Winter celebrates the restorative value of art and the joy to be found in keeping promises.

Find out more about Waterbury Winter by visiting GoodReads or the author’s website. You can also purchase it on AmazonBarnes and Noble, and Bookshop.org.

MY INTERVIEW

It is with great pleasure to welcome Linda Stewart Henley onto the blog! Hi Linda!

Hello 😊 I’m Linda Stewart Henley , author of Estelle: A Novel. (Among other honors, it won Silver in the Independent Publisher Book Awards for Historical Fiction and was a finalist for The Eric Hoffer Book Awards as well as for the 2021 Nancy Pearl Award). Waterbury Winter is my second novel. I live in Anacortes, Washington, with my husband.

I’m an English-born American and I choose settings for my novels in places I have lived. These include New Orleans (Estelle) and Connecticut (Waterbury Winter)

Who or what inspired you to write “Waterbury Winter”?

During  a visit to see family for Christmas one year in a snowy part of the country, my husband and I stopped by a drugstore. It was December 26th. We were the only people in the store except for the cashier at the checkout counter.  He asked us how our Christmas was. Fine, we said, and asked him the same question. “Well, I was here, and my car broke down.” That man, unknown to him, became the model for Barnaby Brown, a lonely man who doesn’t celebrate Christmas and whose car breaks down.

I really enjoyed reading your book, “Waterbury Winter ” and I particularly enjoyed the characters of Barnaby, Julia, Lisa & Sean. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

Julia was the hardest. I had to make her relationship with Barnaby believable. I think it worked because they were both lost, haunted by their past, and stuck when they met.

Researching for your novel must have been quite interesting…for example, the brass button collections, the social work aspect, ice fishing … did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected? 

I didn’t know anything about Waterbury when I started the novel, so yes, everything surprised me. More about that in the next question.

The novel is based in New England and yet you live across the continent in Washington State. What made you pick that location for the novel?  

I wanted a location that had seen better days, just like Barnaby. Waterbury seemed right because its once famous brass industry had disappeared. It seemed like the perfect setting for the story of a man who struggles to redeem himself.

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

I never saw myself as a writer until my first novel was accepted for publication in 2020. Until then, I was just playing with words, trying to learn how to write fiction. I spent my entire career working as an administrator at institutions of higher education.

Is “Waterbury Winter ” available to purchase worldwide?

I’m not sure if it’s available worldwide, but it’s for sale through Amazon in the USA, Canada, Europe, and the UK.

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

My next novel is set in the UK at the start of WWII. I’d love to go there to confirm that I’ve accurately represented the places I write about there. I haven’t lived in England since I was sixteen. 

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

I’m not working, and most people in my part of Washington State prefer casual clothes. The rainy climate doesn’t allow for stylish shoes and many people enjoy hiking. So we wear a lot of hiking gear, even when we’re not on the trail. Having spent time in the Southern United States, where people tend to dress up more, I sometimes wish we had opportunities to wear more interesting clothes. I do have a few nice dresses, mostly summer ones. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I miss the big department stores like Nordstrom’s. I like clothing boutiques, places where the sales people want to help you find suitable clothes. The personal service is much more fun for me than online shopping. 

Boots or Shoes?

Both! I can’t imagine wearing street shoes in the mud and snow. I had to learn about this. When I first moved to Washington, I went on a hike in the Cascade Mountains. It was early spring, and the creeks were overflowing. It was impossible to keep to the trail without wading through the water. I wore hiking boots that I’d bought in California, and they weren’t waterproof. I walked all day with wet feet. After that, I went to REI and bought a sturdy pair of waterproof boots. 

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

              www.lindastewarthenleyauthor.com

              www.facebook.com/lindastewarthenley

THE BOOK TOUR DATES

Great to chat to you Linda! Thank you so much for the advance copy of your book and inviting me onto your book tour! I’ve had a blast!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Linda Stewart Henley.

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Review: Calidad Home Silk Pillowcase

DISCLAIMER ALERT: The silk pillowcase has been supplied by Calidad Home for the purpose of this review however all opinions expressed are 100% mine.

Do you suffer from bed head hair in the morning? Are you battling to keep cool at night when your menopausal body is making you sweat? Are you looking for a hypoallergenic pillowcase? Then I might have the answer for you – the Calidad Home Silk Pillowcase! I was sent a gold silk pllowcase to try out and here’s what I thought….

THE BRAND

It was a chance conversation many years ago that founder Michelle had with a girlfriend about waking up with hair resembling a birds nest, and her friend remarking that she found sleeping on a silk pillow helped not only her hair but her skin too, that introduced Michelle to the delights of silk. Michelle did extensive research into silk, and after discovering the world’s most luxurious silk – 100% Mulberry Silk, 22 Momme, Grade 6A , long strand silk – Michelle began selling 100% Mulberry Silk pillowcases in 2018. Her brand, Calidad Home, was born. “Calidad” is Spanish for quality and is an apt name as these pillowcases ooze a combination of luxury, quality, thickness and durability. Apart from pillowcases, the website offers a variety of giftboxes – ideal presents for all occasions. The website: www.silkpillowcase.co.uk

PACKAGING /DELIVERY

The silk pillowcases are luxuriously packed as befits a luxurious item – the letterbox box had “silk” quotes on it and the silk pillowcase was well wrapped to prevent postal damage. There is currently free fast delivery in the UK (1 – 3 days) and, at a cost, next day UK delivery, standard delivery to Ireland and worldwide delivery also available.

THE PRODUCT

There are a range of delightful colours of the website, and there is bound to be a colour or two that will fit in with your decor. I received the pillowcase in ”gold” but other colours available include white, grey, ivory, light pink, charcoal, dark pink, tie dye pattern, dark blue, taupe, black, light blue, leopard print, aqua, jade, zebra print, snakeskin, and lilac. The pillowcase itself is 50cm x 75cm – fits standard UK pillow sizes.

SILK – THE BENEFITS

There are lots of known benefits about sleeping on a silk pillow :

  • it reduces fine lines and wrinkles – umm I’ve not had the pillowcase that long to say whether I have noticed a reduction to my wrinkles … so watch this space!
  • sleeker, smoother hair (no more bedhead hair) – My hair hasn’t been like a bird’s nest in the morning 😊
  • Hydrating glowing skin – when you sleep on a cotton pillowcase, cotton is an absorbent material that will suck the moisture out of your skin. Silk is a natural product and has an amazingly smooth texture that doesn’t snag or dry out your skin. My son has tried out the pillow for a few weeks – his acne has cleared up significantly.
  • Hypoallergenic – the pillow is a repellent against bed mites, dust and pollen. As both my son and I suffer from hay fever (grass pollen and tree pollen respectively) I found it greatly reduced my itchy eyes and my son currently has been ok too.
  • Cooling to sleep on – a big plus for me! I hate a warm pillow!! As silk is a natural product, the pillow will keep you cool in summer and warm in winter.
  • Durable and strong – not tested this aspect but silk is 5 times stronger than steel. Michelle’s own children have had pillow fights and the pillowcases haven’t suffered. I believe you. The pillowcases feel thick and substantial and are well made and finished.

LAUNDRY ADVICE

The pillowcase is fully machine washable. The advice is to wash on a cool wash (30°) inside out, the company recommends Ecover and no stain removers. I followed the advice to the letter. There were a couple of dribble stains that did not fully disappear after washing but are hardly noticeable. The pillowcase was quick to dry – tumble drying is not recommended and the advice was to dry laying flat. I don’t have an area where I could lie the pillowcase to dry , so I did put it on my washing line to dry. After washing, the pillowcase did crease a lot but a cool iron solved that problem quickly.

CONCLUSION

I like this pillowcase. It certainly looks good, has many benefits and is machine washable to boot. I love the variety of colours available and the silk pillowcase makes a gorgeous gift whether on its own, in a giftbox or as part of a larger pamper giftbox. My thanks to Michelle for giving me the opportunity to review, enjoy and reap the benefits of this lovely silk pillowcase.

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All photographs were taken by Linda Hobden,

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Author Interview: Andreas F Clenow

What do you get when a Zurich -based financier/best selling investment guide author decides to write a novel? A thoroughly entertaining crime mystery set amongst the world of secretive private banks in Switzerland. A Most Private Bank is the debut novel by Andreas F Clenow, a fictional story but one based on a world that does exist – the world of financial empires, rich kids, private banks and criminal empires. The novel oozes charisma, mystery, seduction, romance and enough twists and turns to keep you hooked. The characters you can visualise in your mind … Sandra (the faithful secretary/lifesaver); Jim Dixon – the middle aged dealmaker with a fallen past; Christina Rosenbaum – the young , rich, stunning & flirtatious client; …. the sidekick, police officer, spy, bank manager, gun slingers… Oh, and Jim’s knowledge and addiction to the finest Swiss watches. Add a pinch of passion. Definitely fast paced, definitely page turning and in a setting that gives it that added wow factor. Highly recommended.

I caught up with author Andreas F Clenow to find out more about his writing, his finance career and ….cows! Hi Andreas!

Hi Linda, and thank you for having me! I am quite possibly the only Swiss financier in the world who can brag about having grown up in a place with the tourist slogan “Cow Densest Town of Sweden.” I left my native country some twenty years ago after going on a business trip to Geneva that turned out to be a little longer than planned. Rather than going back North, I found a wife, moved to Zurich, founded a hedge fund, got a son and bought a house. It’s been an interesting ride.

“A Most Private Bank” is your debut novel – a fictional crime mystery set among the world of secretive private banks.   What inspired you to write a novel ? 

I have wanted to write a novel for decades but I wasn’t sure if I had anything really interesting to say.  I believe that, at least for most of us, it takes life experience to craft a vivid world and to tell a meaningful story. This story plays out in the secretive and amoral world of hidden money, a world that I know well, perhaps too well. 

We’re now all starting to get used to regular data leaks, again and again showing that so many banks and bankers are little more than highly paid grifters. I wanted to show my take on this, to tell stories from the inside without actually exposing real people to legal or physical danger. Most of all, myself.

And of course, now that finance, hedge funds and banks are getting a bad rep, and deservedly so, I thought perhaps we could get #notallhedgefundmanagers trending on twitter… 

You are a Zurich-based financier – 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?

This was overall a very tough call. My book takes place in Zurich over a single week, and it involves only a handful of key characters. In reality, almost all people and scenes are based on real events, experienced by myself or people close to me. Of course, all characters are combined, based on multiple real people and the actual events involved far more people over a far longer time. My own role in these events vary just as widely. While my main character’s place is always front and centre, mine may have been anything from a key participant to an unwilling observer. 

It may be surprising to the readers of the book, but if anything, I have toned things down for the book. Sometimes reality simply isn’t believable. 

The hardest character to write was without a doubt Christina. I believe that it’s always tricky for a man to write a female character, but even more so if you need a manipulative Femme Fatale who won’t hesitate to use any means available to get what she wants. As a man writing such a character, you’re walking a fine line and you take the risk of the reader mistaking your male characters’ misogyny for your own.  

Were there any aspects of writing your novel that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected (considering you have written 3 non fiction books) ? 

Writing a work of fiction was orders of magnitude harder than writing finance books. At the same time, it was also far more fun.

What truly surprised me though was the publishing process. My first three books, all non-fiction, have hit all the top of the best-seller lists, achieved sales ranks in the top one percent globally and got translated into eight languages. Non-fiction publishers from all over the world have called me to ask if I’m writing another and if they can have it. 

In the fiction space, nobody cares. Publishers don’t take calls from authors and after fifty requests, only twenty agents got back to me with a copy/pasted ‘no thanks’. The rest didn’t bother replying to emails or returning phone calls. A large number of literary agents, quite oddly, state on their websites that they don’t deal with people of my race or background. I found the process rather absurd, but thanks to my previous work and contacts I found a way of getting the book out there and making it a success anyhow. 

Hypothetically speaking, if “ A Most Private Bank” was made into a film, who would you love to see portraying the characters, especially Jim Dixon and Christina Rosenbaum? 

I thought Matthew McConaughey would make a good Jim! A cynical fallen hedge fund manager, hiding out in Europe and playing the big fish in a small pond. The amoral leading man, concealing his true feelings and motives from the readers and playing the game on his terms.

Do you think we could get away with Keira Knightley for Christina? I know, she’s a few years older than my character but I think she’d pull it off! Would you mind giving her a call for me, Linda?

Have you always wanted to have a career in the financial field or writing or did you have other aspirations? 

My first week at the University of Gothenburg I found myself sitting on a couch with a beer, a guy from the computer club and a girl from the trading club. They were both trying to recruit me as a new member. I’d like to say that I turned the trading club down, but the truth is that I applied to both and got rejected from that one. That’s probably why I started my first IT company, back in the mid 90s, before I started my first finance company.

I always enjoyed the intersection of finance and computers, which is why quant finance appealed to me. But if you’re asking about earlier days, I have a dirty confession. In my teens, I was a… politician. Don’t tell anyone.

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

Absolutely! I carry my Kindle everywhere. When I was younger, I read only non-fiction. That flipped upside down some 15-20 years ago and now I devour fiction. In particular, I love the classic hard boiled masters, and I hope that shines through in my own work. Hammett and Chandler are of course at the top of my list.

I made the mistake of reading the brilliant World War Z by Max Brooks during the first wave of the pandemic. It’s such an amazing book, written with such realism, that I started to blur the real pandemic outside the door with the zombie pandemic that he crafted! 

Another author which gives me somewhat mixed feelings is Brett Easton Ellis, and in particular Less Than Zero. It’s the kind of book which makes me both impressed and depressed. The latter, because of the fact that he produced such a masterpiece at the age of 21 and that there is no way that I could ever learn to be that good if I had a hundred years.

 Is A Most Private Bank  available to purchase worldwide?

If you find a country where they don’t sell it, let me know!

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

I like to dress well, but prefer to mix styles for a bit of personal touch. At the moment, I’m wearing a grey pinstripe Ermenegildo Zegna jacket with a crimson pocket square, matching the short sleeve Boggi Milano polo of the same shade of crimson which I have on under it. 

At the risk of becoming a brand spokesperson, my blue jeans are also from Boggi Milano, secured by a brown spotted ostrich belt. The shoes are black On sneakers, the up and coming Swiss brand of comfortable sports footwear. A discrete steel Rolex Submariner on a black-and-silver NATO strap rounds off the picture.

For leaving the office, I have a black Hugo Boss overcoat, a grey cashmere baseball cap, naturally without any text or logo, and gold plated square aviators from Randolph Engineering.

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Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

In terms of fashion, I very much prefer the old brick and mortar experience. Perhaps that is at least in part due to not fitting the regular molds, and the difficulties of finding anything that fits off-the-rack. I have the nation’s most prolific shopping street right outside the office, but quite honestly I would rather take the car for an hour to the many excellent brand outlets in Switzerland and Germany. High fashion designer quality at half the price, what’s not to like!

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

Spring is approaching rapidly and a new pair of Bally loafers would be nice.

Boots or Shoes?

Unless I’m hiking the Alps, I’d go for shoes, either comfortable sneakers or oxfords. 

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


My novel, A Most Private Bank is available here: https://smarturl.it/amostprivatebank And of course, you can read more about the book, and get in contact with me through my author website, https://www.clenow.com/.

All photographs are by Linda Hobden (apart from the author pic, published with kind permission of Andreas F Clenow).

My thanks to Andreas and to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity for the copy of ”A Most Private Bank” for review purposes.

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Review: Aura Print

Love is in the air… it’s fast approaching that romantic date of the year, 14th February – St Valentine’s Day … when committed couples think about tying the knot and announcing their love to the world. If you are engaged and looking at getting married, then my review this week with print specialists Aura Print might just inspire you when it comes to all aspects of wedding stationery from Save The Date cards to guest place cards.
DISCLOSURE: I was gifted the Aura Print Sample Pack in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my own.

SO WHO ARE AURA PRINT?

Based in Yorkshire, Aura Print started life in 2007 with Liam Smith as a one man operation. In 2022, the company has grown, and Liam is now accompanied by a dedicated team of nearly 20 experienced print professionals, all with their own specialities such as foil printing, precision cutting etc. From providing the printing needs for companies in Huddersfield and other areas in Yorkshire; Aura Print prints for a range of customers across the globe from USA to Europe. Aura Print’s main goal is to provide a high quality print, that doesn’t break the bank with expert service thrown in.

THE WEBSITE

https://aura-print.com/uk/

I found the website easy to navigate, with an amazing choice of printing services offered not just limited to wedding stationery – including flyers, business cards, menus, vouchers, playing cards. When it comes to wedding themes though, couples are certainly spoilt for choice – every theme is covered such as winter weddings, elegant, modern, geometric, rustic, vintage, summer … and you can even request your own bespoke design. The ordering process is simple: choose a design; select paper type and thickness; order online ; approve your digital print …. then wait for your order to be delivered. The ”magic” time is 3pm – that is the daily cut off point for despatching items; and turnaround time starts from that time too.

THE PRODUCTS

SAVE THE DATE CARD

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”Rock Rose” – square 148 x 148 mm – Scarlet Colour Core 800gsm

A beautiful design – I love the bold colours and roses are my favourite flowers so that is probably why the design captures my attention. The card is beautifully thick – unlikely to get damaged in the post. The autumnal colours are just perfect for those Autumn weddings … and Autumn happens to be my favourite time of the year too! Sending a “Save The Date” card is a relatively new tradition in the UK but is quickly trending and is a lovely way of letting people know of your future intentions.

INVITATIONS

“Prism” – Conqueror Contour Diamond White 300gsm – A5 148 x 210mm

Posh paper this and another pretty design! This design features a beautiful faux gold geometric border and a watercolour style print.

RSVP CARD

”Secret Garden” – Recycled Uncoated 350gsm A6 – 105 x148mm

A pretty simple, elegant design ideal for the modern couple. This particular card is made from uncoated recycled card. I used proper ink to write on this card and the paper is such good quality it didn’t smudge.

THANK YOU CARD


Hitched” – Kraft 259gsm – A6 105 x 148 mm

A novel way to say ” thank you” to your guests and to share one of your favourite photos of the day. “Hitched” is a delightful design with a natural feel, great if you are planning an outdoor or woodland themed wedding.

PLACE CARD

Summer Mint – Uncoated 350gsm – 100x 80mm

A basic design in a gorgeous mint green colour that epitomises elegance and is ideal for that Spring or Summer wedding. I love the handwritten style text print too.

BELLY BAND / STICKER

Ferragni – Belly Band – to fit A5 – Pearlescent 290gsm ; Sticker – Round 50mm – Paper Sticker High Tack

Ferragni is a pretty floral design that would suit a variety of wedding themes from elegant to vintage. I love the pearlescent finish card of the belly band sample and the sticker idea is pretty novel too.

TAG WITH STRING

Snow Meadow – 50 x 90 mm – Pearlescent 290gsm & silver string.

For that winter wedding , Snow Meadow design doesn’t disappoint. I love the versatility of these tags too – as Save The Dates, invites, wedding favours, table decorations ….

MY VERDICT

I was very impressed by the designs, quality of print and paper, as well as the variety of stationery on offer. The website was extremely easy to navigate (very important) and the instructions on how to order easy to understand. The FAQ section covered every scenario imaginable – very useful when you have a nervous couple trying to organise their wedding! Having my own daughter getting married in January 2023 and my son the following year, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Aura Print. 8/10

My thanks goes to Liam of Aura Print for sending me the sample pack for this review. All photographs are copyright © LindaHobden

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An Interview With Jessica Bell

My guest this week is the multi-talented Jessica Bell : she is author of the fantastic dystopian novel “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness”; a poet with 3 poetry collections under her belt; a writing/publishing coach; graphic designer; voice over actor; daughter of iconic Australian indie rock legends; singer-songwriter; and singer with the ambient electronica band ”Keep Shelly” (where she is known as the ballsy alter -ego Bruno). Phew! How does she do it all?! First, let me tell you about her book, ”How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” …..

MY BOOK REVIEW

I was sent a copy of the “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” book by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for reviewing and are my views are entirely my own. “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” is written by Jessica Bell.

Let me admit from the start – I’m a thriller fan that also likes to read the odd historical novel, travelogue and classic literature. So, when Ben approached me with this book, a dystopian genre offering, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’m glad I welcomed the book with open arms though, as the story kept me riveted from the very beginning to the very last word. The story is set in a near -future world that is ruled by happiness and the pursuit of happiness is everybody’s goal in life – without happiness you are doomed to die young; with happiness you are granted immortality. But finding real happiness isn’t easy especially when time is running out. Selma Beyett runs the new local bakery, and her husband, Jerome, must die in six months unless he finds perpetual happiness. He has a loving family, a job he adores … so why can’t he find happiness. Icasia, a misfit and ”tatter” doomed to die young for the crime of her child’s unhappiness. Icasia gets food for herself and her son by bartering, and when she walks into Selma’s bakery to barter new customers for food, Selma and Icasia strike up on an unexpected friendship. In a desperate effort to save Jerome from death, the two ladies go on a profound search for happiness and what they discover leads to some questions about what we take for granted and what happiness really is. Very thought provoking, highly entertaining and a great read. Loved it. 9/10

THE INTERVIEW

I’m so pleased to be able to welcome Jessica onto the blog! Hi Jessica!

Hello 😊I am Jessica Bell and I’m an author, designer, singer/songwriter and publisher and I work from a little corner in my loungeroom. I’m also a mother of a two-year-old boy named Madoc Maximus, whose first spoken phrase was ‘half a moon,’ and who once claimed the renovation banging next door, was ‘the heartbeat of building’.

“How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” is set in a near-future society ruled by happiness. Where did you draw the inspiration to write this futuristic novel? 

I was watching The Giver. And I wondered what would happen in these kinds of stories if the characters didn’t fight against these totalitarian societies, but instead learned to live happily within them, and of course, whether that would make an interesting story. Would these dystopias potentially become utopias, or a mix of the two? And how/why?

I loved the variety of characters – Who were the hardest characters to portray? Who were the easiest?

I love getting inside the heads of my characters, so I wouldn’t say any were particularly hard or easy. I did very much enjoy writing Jerome’s character, though, I think because I love the challenge of writing a person who is totally different from myself. I think I most enjoyed the very first time he attended DeathCare Therapy. I also loved writing the secondary character of Phyvwonoh, the therapist that behaves a little like AI … but perhaps isn’t!

I loved the main character Icasia Bloom –  and I did have a soft spot for Selma’s husband, Jerome, too. Do you have favourite characters?

Jerome is a clear favourite. But since the antagonist of this story is actually the Globe and not one particular person, I pretty much fell in love with all them for one reason or another.

You have, so far, written, a memoir, 5 novels, 3 poetry collections and a “Writing In A Nutshell” series and a variety of publications. Were there any aspects of writing “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

This is the first book that has ever started with a clear outline and chapter summaries. I usually write by the seat of my pants, but this book needed clear organization. When reading the final product, the world doesn’t actually seem very complicated, but in order for everything to make sense, and slot together, a lot of backstory needed to be written that actually didn’t need to end up in the book. It was very hard for me to cut it all out! I’m going to provide access to all that backstory to subscribers of my newsletter soon.

 If “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Icasia Bloom, Selma Beyett, Jerome and Leila?

Oh gosh, I never do this. I always create a unique picture in my head. Okay, after a bit of Googling, I’d say the following:

Icasia: Claire Foy

Selma: Nicole Kidman

Jerome: Matthew McConaughey or Colin Farrell

Leila: Sophia Lillis

Music also plays a big part of your life – being the daughter of iconic Australian indie rock legends as well as being a singer/songwriter and singer in the ambient electronica band “Keep Shelly”. Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or in music or did you actually have other career aspirations?

I wanted to become a dancer as a pre-tween. I would make up my own choreography in my bedroom to artists like Madonna, Prince, MC Hammer and Technotronic! As a teen, I wanted to become a rock star. That dream has never left me. I still want to become a rock star! But I guess I’m getting on a bit now, so I’ve accepted my fate. As a young adult I aspired to become an archaeologist, so I started out at university studying archaeology. But I was terrible at maths and continued to fail the research methods modules, and therefore quit. I then asked myself, what do I already know how to do? (I was a lazy young adult!) and decided that I already knew how to speak English, so signed up for a Bachelor of Arts, with a major in English. Ha!

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

The last two years since having my son have been difficult to find time to read, but before that, oh yes. I devoured around one book a week. I’m open to any genre if the writing hooks me. I do especially love speculative fiction, especially Margaret Atwood’s. Also a big fan of Marilynne Robinson, Rebecca Miller, Roz Morris, Jeanette Winterson, and Magdalena Ball.

 Is “How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness”  availableto purchase worldwide?

Yes!

If you could travel to any place on Earth to get inspiration for your next novel, where would you go and why?

I will most likely be diving into the sequel to my memoir ‘GO: A Memoir About Binge-drinking, Self-hatred, and Finding Happiness’. The sequel is tentatively entitled, ‘STAY: A Memoir about Self-love, Changing Your Life, and Living Your Dream’. So, the place I would ‘travel’ to again, is the STAGE. I’ve really missed performing live since the pandemic.

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

Pre-mother/pandemic days:

Outfit one: ripped black faded jeans, a band t-shirt and a black pair of laced ankle boots from Camper (flat no heels).

Outfit two: Bright coloured leggings, and a body-fitted casual black mini dress, and black converse sneakers.

Post-mother/pandemic days: Barefoot, viscose lounge wear from Oysho!

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Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Love Oysho for me, and Mori Baby for my son.

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

To be honest, to fit back into my performance outfits! I haven’t been able to get back to my skinny self since having a baby. My favourite is a pair of black sequined fitted pants and an apricot-coloured semi-see-through tank. Yes, I wear a lot of black.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! More rock ‘n’ roll.

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

Best I just share my portfolio site iamjessicabell.com where you can access all the different facets of me and all my socials. 😊

Fabulous chatting to you Jessica! I love your style of writing and you’ve probably converted me to including some dystopian genre books to my reading list! Thanks also to Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for sending me a copy of ”How Icasia Bloom Touched Happiness” to review.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of Jessica Bell.

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American Goddess

Over the last couple of months I have read some really great books, as you may have already gathered over the last few book posts and “American Goddess” is no exception. I was sent a copy of the “American Goddess” book by Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for reviewing and are my views are entirely my own. “American Goddess” is written by L M Affrossman, an author who is also known for work in drama and journalism.

MY MINI REVIEW OF AMERICAN GODDESS

There is a secret, a dangerous secret, known as The Woman’s Secret. And it is in Edinburgh that Peter and Ellisha Kelso meet Dr B McBride. Dr McBride knows about The Woman’s Secret. Once Peter and Ellisha discover The Woman’s Secret, they decide to use what they know to heal the planet and produce a kinder, gentler world …. and it isn’t too long before the idea becomes viral and Ellisha becomes the new face of hope for despairing people everywhere. BUT…. oh yes, there is a BUT…. there is still heartache and despair….

I found the storytelling riveting…. a simple plausible idea, an idea that goes viral and spins out of control. A delicious mixture of ancient thoughts, religious fervour and modern day drama. Believable and likeable characters, a storyline that isn’t far fetched but is “different” and a great book to lose yourself in for a few hours. I loved it. 9/10

THE INTERVIEW

After reading the “American Goddess”, I was buzzing with questions and I was fortunate that author, L M Affrossman agreed to satisfy my curiosity to chat all things “American Goddess”, books and her dream wardrobe! Welcome Lesley! 😊

Hi, I’m Lesley. I live in Scotland where I spend my days writing and being harassed by local wildlife, who see no reason to hunt when they can knock on my back door and demand breakfast.

What was the inspiration behind “American Goddess”?

I suppose the core inspiration was the way in which, as humans, we construct reality through stories. And most significantly, what happens to a person once they buy into a particular mythology. It’s very hard to walk away from the stories that define us, even when we are faced with facts that contradict our world outlook.

I loved the variety of characters – Who were the hardest characters to portray? Who were the easiest?   

I think Ellisha was the hardest. She is in an unprecedented position, and it was hard to show her becoming more and more remote from the world, while keeping her real. There had to be something unearthly about her, while at the same time, she had to be a recognizable modern day woman with desires and fears and hopes and dreams. Her husband was also hard to write. He was such an arrogant fool at the start of the book, and it was hard to like him until later.

I loved Dr McBride –  for her eccentricity and I did have a soft spot for Peter, especially when he tried to regain his relationship with Ellisha. Do you have favourite characters? 

I have to confess Dr Babs McBride was my favourite. I thought of her as a sort of debauched Mary Beard, though much more wicked and calculating. Every woman knows there is a point where you become invisible. I wanted to show a woman in that position who still had bite.

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

Everything about the book was hard. Essentially, I had to come up with a new mythology and show how it would get inside people’s heads. I wrote 21 versions of it before I was happy to show it to reviewers. I’m like that with everything. Never shop with me.

 If “American Goddess” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Peter, Ellisha, Miriam, Perdita, Duncan, Dr McBride?

Funny you should ask that. Someone recently said to me that the book could be seen as an allegory for Meghan Markle. It wasn’t my intention, but if Meghan’s looking for some acting jobs the part of Ellisha is waiting… Peter would naturally have to be played by Richard Madden (Robb Stark of GoT) , a very versatile Scottish actor. I love Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve). She could be either Perdita or Dr McBride. She’d be brilliant at either of them.  Rory McCann has to be Duncan MacCaa … because who else could do it?  As to Mariam, I’m going to go a little bit out there and say I’d like to see Olivia Gillies, a young drama student I know, do the part. I think she’d bring such a fresh perspective to it

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you actually have other career aspirations? 

I’ve had other careers but never other aspirations. Writing is what I live and breathe, though I take time off for chocolate.

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

I’m more of a book sand worm (lovers of Dune will get that one). I don’t have a favourite genre. I think you can write about anything if you do it well, and the most exciting ideas can be dull if handled badly. I’m reading a novel called, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan at the moment, which takes place in nineteenth century China and deals with the practice of foot binding. It’s dreadful and fascinating in equal measures. I’m definitely a Kindle fan. I didn’t think I would like it at first, but without it, I would have no room to move in my house. My partner is also thrilled as it means he doesn’t have to carry a small library of my books on his back when we are travelling.

 Is “American Goddess”  available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. The book is available in all the usual outlets.

If you could travel to any place on Earth to get inspiration for your next novel, where would you go and why? 

My next novel follows an individual’s past lives, and I would love to visit China or Egypt to do some research. I love to get a sense of cultures quite unlike my own. Though anywhere that challenges my perceptions would do.

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

I really want to make it sound like I dress like Carrie from Sex and the City, but in truth as I spend most of my time squinting at a laptop, I like comfortable slouchy clothes so The White Stuff is a haunting ground for me. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Well, as I said, The White Stuff is a favourite. Their clothes are comfortable but still have that feminine floaty feel. When it comes to going out, I like Brora. I prefer timeless pieces that I can rewear. 

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

Well, my middle son is graduating this month, and this naturally means that I need a new outfit. I’m probably off to Reiss for a coat and probably a blouse and maybe some trousers…

Boots or Shoes?

Boots. You can’t splash through puddles in shoes.

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

For Pinning Later © Linda Hobden

www.sparsilebooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/sparsilebooks

Twitter: @SparsileBooks

It was fabulous to chat to you Lesley and I look forward to reading your next book!

Linda x

All photographs have been published with the kind permission of L M Affrossman (apart from the Pinterest picture which was by Linda Hobden) . Thanks also to Ben Cameron (Cameron Publicity & Marketing) for the copy of “American Goddess”.

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Breaking The Silence Book Tour

About Breaking the Silence:

Secrets. Lies. Silences. Stories told by parents and their families to protect themselves. A father who defends his wife despite her damage to their daughter’s health and welfare. A mother, shielded by her husband, who perpetuates murderous acts of violence against the daughter, and keeps secret her husband’s sexual “play” with the young girl.

And yet … Nancy King, determined to learn the truth of her childhood and the heartbreaking effects it has had on her adult life, uncovers the secrets. Sees through the lies. Breaks the silence.

Empowered by the stories she told herself as a child, she learns to use stories as part of her work as a university professor teaching theater, drama, world literature, and creative expression. Gradually, with the help of body work and therapy, she finds her voice. Says no to abuse and abusers. Reclaims herself and life. Writes a memoir.

She climbs mountains. Weaves tapestries. Writes books. Makes friends. Creates a meaningful life.

This is her story.

Product details

·         Publisher ‏ : ‎ Terra Nova Books (July 1, 2020)

·         Language ‏ : ‎ English

·         Paperback ‏ : ‎ 386 pages

·         ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1948749491

·         ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1948749497

·         Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 1 pounds

·         Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.5 x 0.75 x 8.5 inches

·         Best Sellers Rank: #2,282,277 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

o    #2,012 in Child Abuse (Books)

o    #3,060 in Abuse Self-Help

o    #72,812 in Memoirs (Books)

Purchase your copy now available on Amazon. Make sure to add it to your GoodReads reading list too.

MY REVIEW

This memoir is truly inspirational and shocking that this sort of abuse existed (and still can exist). Reading the memoir, I went through a rollercoaster of emotions – I felt let down by her father who was weak and failed to protect Nancy; I felt extreme anger at her mother’s actions and acid tongue; I admired Nancy’s coping mechanism and her steadfast belief in the healing power of stories; my heart ached as she strived to reconnect with your family; I wanted to blow optimism in her direction to help her form a meaningful relationship with her son; and I was so willing for her sister to be her ally. It definitely isn’t easy reading, it’s emotionally charged and yet the story still brims with optimism that isn’t expected. And Nancy proves that there is a healing power in stories.

About Author Nancy King from the author herself!

I was born in Brooklyn, NYC. From the time I was 8 years old, until I left for college at 17, I traveled by myself into Manhattan to take a dance, theatre, or music lesson. After class I was free to wander about the City until I had to leave for home at 4:30. I ate in small Mom & Pop ethnic restaurants, savoring food I could neither spell nor pronounce. Theatre and dance tickets in the balconies were cheap and museums were free. All I needed were two nickels for the train rides, a nickel in case I had to make a phone call, and a quarter for lunch. The City was mine to explore. These years made an indelible impression on me in many ways: I enjoyed being with a diverse group of people, attending a variety of arts performances, and making my way in unfamiliar worlds with confidence and curiosity.

Early experiences with abuse both at home and school led me to becoming a teacher, writer, playwright, and essayist, always focusing on issues of empowerment. I have taught creative writing, storymaking, drama, and literacy workshops in schools, universities, professional development programs, prisons, Head Start, mental hospitals, recreational centers, programs for children and adults with learning differences, and older adult programs in the US and abroad.

In 1985 I was diagnosed with a rare and anomalous form of leukemia. When treatment allowed me to think in terms of years rather than months, and ten years after becoming a full professor at the University of Delaware, I received my PhD, in multi-disciplinary studies focusing on literature, psychology, and philosophy.

As an award-winning author of seven books of nonfiction, my focus has always been on developing creative expression, arts-based approaches to learning, and student-centered learning. I have also written five novels, one of which, The Stones Speak, has been optioned for a movie. The focus in all of my writing and teaching has always been on empowerment. My newest book, a memoir, Breaking the Silence, is about the healing power of stories.  

Follow the author online on her website.

— Blog Tour Calendar

November 29th @ The Muffin    

Join us at The Muffin for an author interview, giveaway, and blog tour launch post for Nancy King’s Memoir “Breaking the Silence”

https://muffin.wow-womenonwriting.com/

November 30th @ Mindy McGinnis

Mindy McGinnis interviews Nancy King about her recently published memoir “Breaking the Silence”. Don’t miss this engaging interview! 

https://www.mindymcginnis.com/blog

December 8th @ Lost Wisp of Cosmic Dust

Sreevarsha Sreejith shares her review of Nancy King’s memoir “Breaking the Silence”. Stop by Instagram to learn more! 

https://www.instagram.com/lostwispofcosmicdust/

December 9th @ KnottyNeedle Creative

Judy reviews and shares her thoughts after reading “Breaking the Silence” by Nancy King. Find out what she thinks about this recently released memoir.

December 10th @ Madeline Sharples Choices

Fellow memoirist Madeline Sharples spotlights Nancy King’s “Breaking the Silence” on her blog today. Readers will be inspired by this newly released memoir!

http://madelinesharples.com/

December 13th @ Lisa Haselton Reviews and Interviews

Lisa Haselton reviews memoirist Nancy King about her recently released “Breaking the Silence”. Readers won’t want to miss this opportunity to be inspired! 

https://lisahaselton.com/blog/

December 16th @ Word Magic: All About Books

Today’s book spotlight at Word Magic is Nancy King’s memoir “Breaking the Silence”. Readers will also hear from Wisconsin student Carmen Otto as she shares her thoughts after reading this insightful story.

http://fionaingramauthor.blogspot.com/

December 17th @ Bring on Lemons with Crystal Otto 

WOW!’s very own Crystal Otto shares her insight into the beautiful and inspiring memoir, “Breaking the Silence” by Nancy King.

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

December 20th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Author Anthony Avina spotlight’s the newly released memoir “Breaking the Silence” by Nancy King. Find out more about this moving memoir and it’s inspiring author today!

December 24th @ The Faerie Review

Lily at the Faerie Review shares her book review of “Breaking the Silence” by Nancy King. This is a memoir about a mountain climbing author who has inspired many (despite all odds)! 

https://www.thefaeriereview.com/

December 26th @ Author Anthony Avina’s Blog

Author Anthony Avina reviews “Breaking the Silence” by Nancy King. Find out more about this moving memoir and Anthony’s thoughts after reading it! 

December 27th @ Christy Flutterby 

Fellow author Christy O’Callaghan reviews Nancy King’s “Breaking the Silence” and shares her thoughts with readers on her blog. Find out more about this moving memoir and it’s resilient author! 

https://christyflutterby.com/

December 28th @ Bring on Lemons with Michelle DelPonte

Wisconsin mother and healthcare worker Michelle DelPonte couldn’t wait to get her hands on Nancy King’s memoir “Breaking the Silence”. Today Michelle will share her review of this touching memoir. Stop at Bring on Lemons to learn more!

http://bringonlemons.blogspot.com/

January 1st @ Boots Shoes and Fashion

Readers at Boots Shoes and Fashion will be enlightened as Linda reviews Nancy King’s newly released memoir “Breaking the Silence”. Don’t miss an opportunity to learn from someone who has overcome the odds! 

https://bootsshoesandfashion.com/breaking-the-silence-book-tour

January 2nd @ Linda Appleman Shapiro

Fellow memoirist Linda Appleman Shapiro hosts Nancy King and “Breaking the Silence” as today’s feature book on her blog! 

http://applemanshapiro.com/category/book-reviews/

Photographs have been published with kind permission of Nancy King (apart from header, which was taken by myself, Linda Hobden)

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An Interview With Author Martin Gore

British theatregoers relish the theatre all year round but at Christmas time, nothing can beat the lure of a traditional pantomime and at the height of summer, the seaside revues. The Cromer Pier Show is an iconic piece of British theatre that is of the standard of a London West End production. Author Martin Gore set himself a real challenge – a work of fiction set in a real place, namely Cromer Pier. Having written, to date, 9 pantomimes, 3 plays (and 3 novels), as well as dabbling in Amateur Dramatics himself, I believe Martin is possibly well placed to write such a book. And what a lovely, feel good read it is too! This book has it all : a goody, a baddy, a misunderstood, a love interest, a starlet, a has been and a hero. The ideal book to curl up and read during the Winter before planning your road trip to Cromer, of course. I caught up with author Martin to find out about the lure of Cromer …. Welcome Martin….

Hello, I’m Martin. I’m a 64 year old Accountant who semi-retired in 2015 to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing, but when I was nine years old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.

I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.

The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written nine. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, is now available on:

https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com/product-page/he-s-behind-you-by-martin-gore

Pen Pals was my first novel, but the two that followed, The Road to Cromer Pier, and the newly published sequel, The Road from Cromer Pier, are based on family holidays as a boy, including trips to the end of the pier show, known then as the Summertime Special Show.

I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.

The Road From Cromer Pier” is the follow up book to your previous novel, “The Road To Cromer Pier” – although it can be a stand alone book –  the story is set in 2019 in Cromer.  How difficult was it to write a work of fiction based around and about a real place? 

Very difficult, for a number of reasons. When I approached the theatre in 2017 they kindly invited me to a meeting to discuss the current show, and I discovered that far from being an archaic piece of British theatre it was, in point of fact, a West End standard show. This in itself required a pretty fundamental rewrite as I needed to do justice to the show and its cast. Another practical difficulty were names. To inadvertently portray a person with the same name as a baddie was one of my biggest fears, so I went for relatively obscure names, and googled them first. On the other hand, readers who love Cromer love the story too, so being set in a real place does have an upside. Some places are renamed too – in particular you won’t find a Majestic Hotel in Cromer!

What was it particularly about Cromer Pier, Cromer and its Theatre that inspired you to write your novels?

My father was from Norwich, and we lived in Coventry, about as far from the seaside as you could get! So, for a seaside holiday Cromer was an inevitable choice, given his love of fish & chips and Cromer crabs. We stayed in several different holiday flats, included Mrs Rippingales on the sea front, called Bloomingdales bed and breakfast in the first book. As I grew older I came to love musical theatre as my father did. I’ve been involved in the Amdram world for sometime as a writer, sound technician and actor, so writing what started out as a play about the end of the pier show seemed interesting. I liked the idea of someone suddenly faced with a life changing disaster running away to a place where life was so much simpler, the safe haven of his childhood holidays.

I loved the variety of characters – are the 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?

Having spent a good deal of my career in financially troubled companies I guess Tom Stanley is a bit autobiographical, so the business stuff in the book has a basis in first hand experience. Portraying his feelings for his wife in bereavement was very difficult of course, but comments I received suggest I pulled it off. As a male writer, writing female characters is inevitably challenging. The second book deals with stage fright and domestic abuse, so I researched those topics very carefully to make sure that the story line was credible. 

I had a soft spot for the widowed turnaround expert Tom and for Janet, Karen’s mother. Do you have favourite characters? 

Lech Wojiek is probably my favourite, as he makes a journey from hapless magician who could barely speak English at the start of the first book to successful mainstay of the show in the second. Lauren’s developing relationship with Cyril in the first book, in particular when he turned up at the railway station and talked her out of leaving, is probably my favourite moment, and it was the lack of Cyril’s back story that gave me the idea for the sequel, which I never intended there to be.

You have, so far, written 9 pantomimes, 3 plays and 3 novels. Were there any aspects of writing your Cromer Pier book series that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected?

To be honest I’m most surprised that I’ve written three full length novels at all! I’m delighted that they have been well rated on Amazon, and earned the lovely comments people have made about them. I learned a good deal through my first novel, and the work of my editor, Alice Bayton, who ruthlessly culled my tendency for repetition. I guess that commencing my writing journey with pantomime was a good way to start, given that you start with the framework in place. The most difficult pantomime to write was Beauty and the Beast, because there is no natural comedy in the story, but it’s still my favourite. Hearing people laugh at what you write is simply wonderful. My biggest frustration is that I haven’t managed to get the play version of the first Cromer Pier book performed, but I haven’t given up yet!  

If “Cromer Pier” was to become a TV film, who would you pick to represent the main characters eg Tom,Karen, Lionel, Cyril  ? What about the singers, Hannah & Amy?

Well obviously, they’d need to be Britain’s greatest! Emma Thompson as Janet? Bill Nighy as Cyril? Jim Broadbent as Lionel? Lily James as Amy? Colin Firth as Tom? Kate Beckinsale as Karen? Kate Winslet as Hannah? Well, I can dream!  

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

Only as a nine-year-old, then the reality of earning a living and raising a family took over, and I don’t regret that. As a council house kid who made it from Office Junior to Director, I’m committed to building aspirations and life chances of our young people, and launched the ‘Song for Hull’ project as part of HullCity of Culture, linking schools with NHS careers via a rock concert experience. The last one featured 400 kids and an audience of 1100 at Hull’s Bonus Arena.

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

No, I’m not really. I tend to read more biographies to be honest, on ebook. When I read fiction, I tend to go to Hailey, De Mille and Goddard, but my wife is trying to broaden my horizons. My writing is rather Archer like by way of genre; family sagas with lots of interwoven story lines.

Is “The Road from Cromer Pier”  available to purchase worldwide?

Yes indeed, via the mighty Amazon.

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

Smart casual is a far as I go really, even for Teams meetings in my Non-Executive board meetings. I haven’t worn a suit in two years, and I don’t like formal wear like DJ’s. I do have a couple of formal pairs of shoes, one brown and one black, but I mainly wear casual now.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I wear a lot of Crew, but I do like shopping, unusually for a bloke. I like independent shops, and Jarroldsin Norwich and Cromer have stocked my books when others will only accept orders. I like to support the smaller guys whenever I can.

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

To be honest I daren’t buy any trousers as I’ve put on some lockdown weight and won’t admit it! My golf shoes are pretty near worn out, so my trusty Echo’s need replacing. I have big size eleven feet with a wide fitting!

Boots or Shoes? 

I only have walking boots, so casual shoes are all I need now.

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

www.martingore.co.uk / @authorgore on twitter / Martin Gore on facebook / instagram

Fabulous chatting to you Martin! Thank you for the copy of The Road From Cromer Pier for reviewing.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Martin Gore.

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Spotlight On The Andalusian Mystery Series

In the UK, the nights are drawing in and what can be nicer than cosy nights by a roaring fire, curled up in an armchair with a hot chocolate toddy and a good book? Even better when the books are mysteries based in the sunnier climate of Andalusia in Spain. Author Paul S Bradley has written 5 books in the series so far, and I was fortunate to receive his first book in the series to review: Darkness In Málaga.

MY REVIEW OF DARKNESS IN MALAGA

Darkness in Málaga is a crime mystery set in Spain and a story of many parts expertly woven into one. It is a book inspired by a true murder and a dedication is made at the front of the book to the memory of Cecilia Natalia Coria Olivares who was murdered in Nerva on September 8, 2008. So where do I start? It begins with a young girl being abducted; a group of African refugees fleeing Africa to reach Spain; a corrupt official; a wily detective, Leon Prado, who fears he may have lost his way as he tries to solve the abductions; then there is Phillip, who was in the British Intelligence Corps, who retired in Spain to lick his emotional wounds after his acrimonious divorce from his gorgeous Russian wife; Juliet, a beautiful British waitress, half Phillip’s age, but somebody he would love to know better; Amanda, the CNN film maker, following the refugee story. When Juliet goes missing, Phillip helps Detective Leon Prado, to piece together the kidnaps, along with Amanda. But that is only the start of it….things get darker, much darker. I loved it! It had enough suspense to keep me interested, some romance and light hearted moments too…

So, I just had to invite author Paul Bradley onto my blog about his writing, his life in Spain and his fashion choices, of course! Hi Paul and welcome:

How does one describe a person who lives in a quaint village by the beautiful blue Mediterranean, and travels, pandemics permitting, around the Iberian Peninsula with small groups of North American Alumni showing them the fascinating mix of ancient and modern Spain? Fortunate, one could say, but as it is me, I will go a step further. I have not lived and worked in Spain for over thirty years by accident. Coming here was a deliberate and planned attempt to redesign my life away from the London rat race. I had always dreamed of loving what I do and not just work because I needed to earn money. I risked all, and thankfully it paid off. It was dodgy restaurant translations that opened the door. When I informed the beach restaurant owner that he was offering me Ironed Squid instead of grilled squid, I was immediately pressed into service to fix his poor communications materials. Then the restaurant next door wanted the same and I was in business. That evolved into property and lifestyle magazines, guidebooks, and travelogues. Pre-Google, someone had to physically gather material about this marvelous country and happily that fell into my lap. As I grew older, and some kindly Governments started sending me money every month for not doing much, it gave me the opportunity to switch to writing novels, something I can do until the wooden box beckons.

“Darkness in Málaga” is the first in the series of 5 books of the Andalusian Mystery Series. The others are: Darkness in Ronda; Darkness in Vélez-Málaga; Darkness in Granada; Darkness in Córdoba. What inspired the book series?  Are they stand alone books or best read in numerical order?

According to Mark Twain, one of the key ingredients to good writing is; write what you know. I’ve always admired JK Rowling for her ability to conjure up imaginary worlds from nowhere, although I suspect that the smoky gothic spires of Edinburgh contributed much to her fantasies as she gazed out of the window of the café where she started writing Harry Potter books. After all these years, I know Spain better than most Spaniards, so it seemed logical to set my books in my adopted homeland. Agatha Christie stories have endured many treatments over the years, and I love them all. Around the time that I was thinking about starting to write fiction novels, I happened to be escorting a group around Northern England. We stayed for a few days at the Old White Swan in Harrogate where during the winter of 1926,the enigmatic crime writer stayed to escape the madding crowd. She posed as Mrs. Teresa Neele until after ten days the banjo player recognized her. It prompted me to write crime mysteries set in Spain from where emerged the Andalusian Mystery Series. The first four cases can be read alone but are linked together. Darkness in Córdoba, which is currently a work in progress, is a stand-alone case but involving the main characters.

Having lived in Nerja, Spain since 1992 , 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?

Following on from my preferences to write what I know, readers may be interested to discover that all the characters in my books are loosely based on people that I have met on my travels. I change their namesand personal details, but their physical descriptions and behaviours are recognizable. I often use the threat of including my travel clients in my book if they complain too much. If they are particularly bad, they are likely to be the antagonist. I can’t say it encourages people to behave any differently, but it raises a titter and helps with sales. Without a doubt the hardest characters to invent are politicians. I say this becausethe motivations of policemen and criminals are pretty much the same the world over, but politicians are a breed of their own. Trying to keep them well grounded in any plot is difficult because they are always trying to self-promote, or make a point, and I’m often tempted to let them to the detriment of the storyline.

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

Writing experts, particularly my editor, bang on about showing not telling. This was a difficult transition for me as a travel writer because I was used to describing what I saw and weaving those visual memoriesaround historical facts gleaned from guides, brochures, or libraries. Fictional stories need real characters that actually think, speak, eat, sleep and dream. The story is revealed through their thoughts, dialogue, and deeds. It took quite a while to develop the required experience to do that with any level of competence.

As you not only live in Spain, but have also travelled extensively around the Iberian Peninsula, what are your top 5 favourite places that you recommend visiting whilst in Spain.

Spain is one of the most diverse countries I have ever been to. It is more mountainous than Switzerland, and the landscapes vary from emerald-green to dusty desert the further south you go. It’s the gateway to Africa. Travelers from all over the dark continent have been crossing to her shores since time began looking to trade or discover a better life, and continue to do so. It has abundant agriculture of almost everything imaginable. It’s safe, affordable and has an unbeatable climate. Wine lovers could spend years exploring the vineyards of La Rioja or Ribera del Duero. Historians can drool over the wealth ofmonuments and there are so many archeological discoveries, they now tend to photograph them and carry on with whatever building project revealed them. Numerous languages are spoken, and every town has a beautiful church or cathedral packed with religious artefacts. But it is the people that set this country aside. They are the warmest, kindest, and most considerate that I have ever had the pleasure to have known. The consequence of this is that everywhere you go, is a memorable treasure. You would have to waterboard me to extract five preferences so assuming you have, here goes. San Sebastian is for the gourmet; Toledo is unbeatable for religious history and dramatic location. Ronda for bullfighting fans,bandits and so much more, Barcelona for the young and dynamic, Madrid attracts the elegant and discerning.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations?

Writing was the only subject I was good at during my school years. Regrettably, I didn’t recognize the importance of that at the time and no one pushed me in that direction. I recall doing homework at the military boarding school I was sent to sitting next to several boys who knew exactly what they wanted to do. I could never work out if this were true or if their parents had told them what to aim for. My father was keen for me to join the army but polishing boots and being shouted at for six years deterred me from more of the same. Like most lost souls of limited academic achievements, I launched myself on a voyage of discovery trying numerous jobs eventually ending up in sales and then running my own business. The writing of proposals was all I excelled at which prompted me to enter a writing contest for the Sunday Telegraph. I came second and won two hundred pounds. This minor event was the spur that changed my life. For the first time I felt I had accomplished something and built on that, eventually coming to Spainand putting it into practice.

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

I grew up in Market Harborough, Leicestershire where my mother was an infant teacher. She took me and my sister to the library every week. I love everything about books. From the browsing experience to the final choice, to the thrill of opening the first page. I don’t mind ebooks, but I do prefer an actual book.

Are your Andalusian series of books available to purchase worldwide?

The Andalusian Mystery Series is available globally in ebook and Print format in most major online bookstores and can be ordered by your local bookshop.

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

I’m a jeans, shirt and V neck pullover person in the short Spanish winters, and because I love hikingalong the beach or in the mountains, I’m well provided with Mephisto walking shoes. In the warmer months, like most of the year, it’s shorts, short sleeve shirts and Mephisto sandals with a rather weird Australian paper hat to keep my scalp from frying.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love playing virtual golf on wgt.com and occasionally browse Facebook to see what my daughters and grandchildren are up to. However, as I spend most of my days in front of a screen, I try and avoid them in the evenings. With the outdoor life in Spain, that is not too difficult.

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

Even after, thirty years away from the UK, I still haven’t changed the Marks and Spencer’s socks and underwear habit. With such a long lockdown marooning me here in Nerja, stocks are starting to dwindle.

Boots or Shoes? 

Believe me, after six years spitting and polishing boots at a military boarding school, it’s no contest. Shoes every time.

For Pinning Later

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

www.paulbradley.eu

www.facebook.com/PaulBradleyinNerja/

Thank you very much Paul for taking the time to chat on the blog, for the copy of Darkness in Málaga… I am eagerly working my way through the other books in the series 😊

Linda x

All photographs (apart from Pinterest & header) have been published with kind permission of Paul S Bradley.

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An Interview With Author Shaun Hand

During lockdown I read a book that was sent to me to review by book publicity agent Ben Cameron – a book which made me laugh, cry and pine for a night down at my local pub to “people watch”! This book was called “The Sadness of The King George “ by author & musician, Shaun Hand. It was a book that was laugh out loud funny; the characters were absolutely believable; and, as it says in the book blurb, “unflinchingly honest”. The story is set in a local, rundown pub “The King George” in the West Midlands – an old style pub that has sticky carpets and tables, soggy bar towels, regular customers who sit or stand in the same places exchanging the same words of wisdom; the Saturday night aggro; run by the pub landlord, the Gaffer, who no one sees; the mouthy barmaid, Siobahn, who runs the place like clockwork although no one really appreciates her; the pompous barman; the young 20 year old barman who wonders if there is more to life than pulling pints, pondering over love and looking forward to the next fag break; and Amy, the new young barmaid – full of hope and object of desire. Written from the viewpoint of the 20 year old barman as he tries to find his way through life especially when it comes to love, work and being cool. So, it was with great pleasure that I was able to catch up with the author Shaun … Hi Shaun & welcome…

Hello, I’m Shaun Hand. A life-sized writer, musician, charity shopper, and amateur gardener from Birmingham (the UK one).

“The Sadness of the King George” is a refreshing modern tale of life from the old pub – a young 20 year old unconfident lad who serves the locals, the confident barmaid, the landlord, the characters who frequent the local on a daily basis –   What made you decide to write “The Sadness of The King George”?

Thanks! I wanted to write it ‘cos that’s the world I lived in from the time I was 18 to 35, pretty much half my life! It’s a world that’s dying as the 21st century establishes itself, and so I wanted to capture it realistically, good and bad.

The book characters are all absolutely believable and probably found in most pubs in the UK – as you worked in pubs and bars in your twenties too, were 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?

Totally — although some were exaggerated or embellished for effect. The hardest one to portray was probably the narrator because although he was partly based on me at 20, he was also based on about four other people, and so I had to be careful sometimes not to just make him do or think what I would do in real life.

Copyright © LindaHobden

Your first book was “Pop Art Poems: The Music Of The Jam”  – vastly different genre to “The Sadness Of The King George”. Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, either by being harder or easier to write about than you expected? 

It was the first time I’d ever written a long-form piece of fiction, and I think the biggest, most pleasant surprise for me was a point pretty early on where one of the characters started telling me what they should say and where the story should go rather than the other way round — I realised that they’d come to life and that it was becoming more of a novel than an idea.

Hypothetically speaking, if you could go anywhere in the world to get inspiration for another book, where would you go and why? 

I don’t think I’d need to go anywhere specific, really. I tend to write about smalltown, suburban England, so maybe somewhere to escape that! I’ve got a romantic notion of going off to a B&B in Llandudno or somewhere for a week and just writing.

Have you always wanted to have a career in writing or did you have other aspirations? 

I always wanted to be a professional musician, but having tasted the reality of the work involved to barely make ends meet (leaving your family for months on end to go touring etc)and some of the darker side of it, I think I’m happier and more fulfilled being a writer who does books, music, poetry, whatever takes my fancy. Right now, that feels more liberating to me than any amount of distance I could travel to play to four people for no money (or even no people for four money).

Copyright © LindaHobden

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

I am, and I read more and more avidly as I get older, but I don’t have a favourite genre. I love anything with a good story and vivid characters, but then I also love a good music or author biography (I’ve just finished Billy Bragg’s book about skiffle, which was brilliant). The only author I’ve read everything by (even the bad stuff) is George Orwell. My wife put me on to Sarah Waters, and I’ve really got into her; Fingersmith is a brilliant book. Also slowly working my way through David Bowie’s 100 Favourite Books list, although some of it’s a little too dry for me.

And books, absolutely, every time. I can’t walk past a charity shop without having a nose. Kindles just don’t have that magic, or the smell.

 Is “The Sadness Of The King George ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes. You can either line Jeff’s Bezos’ pockets or contact your local indie bookseller. It’s orderable through Waterstones too.

You are also a musician with your band FABRIK – what instrument do you play? What music genre?

My main instrument is the guitar, but I also play piano and bass and make drum loops for us to write songs over. We’re pretty trip-hoppy but a bit weirder. If you like stuff like Portisheadand Massive Attack, then we’re probably your kind of thing.

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

I flit between two extremes: trackies and trainers if I’m round the house, just nipping out, or just want to be comfortable. If I’m going out, DJing, gigging, or just want to look good, then it’s a suit with some nice loafers or these black-and-white 1920s-style shoes I got from one of those “4 shiny suits for £10” kind of shops years back.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites ?

For clothes? Probably H&M. I live in Wolverhampton and everywhere else decent has shut down. Increasingly, I’m getting stuff from charity shops; I don’t like buying clothes online really.

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

I’ve got me brother-in-law’s wedding coming up, and I’d really like to get a decent dark blue, fitted double-breasted suit for it, but I can’t find one that wouldn’t make me look like an early ‘90s Tory MP. Beyond that, I’ve got a few suit jackets from charity shops that need taking in.

Shoe-wise, I’d love some decent brogues and could do with some boots — trainers with jeans limits the kind of top you can carry off, and loafers with jeans can be dangerous territory. I need some new wellies too for me gardening.

 Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?)

Shoes because I like wearing brightly coloured socks (teddy-boy style, not ones with novelty patterns).

For Pinning Later

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

Buy book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sadness-King-George-Shaun-Hand/dp/1916084575/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

Instagram: @shaunpatrickhand

Twitter: @shaunhandauthor

FABRIK: https://www.fabriktheband.co.uk/

Thanks very much for the nostalgia trip – I really enjoyed the book and the customer antics! Thank you Ben Cameron for sending me the book to read and review in the first place.

Linda x

The photographs of Shaun have been published with kind permission of Shaun Hand; the other photographs were taken by LindaHobden.

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