Category Archives: Reviews

An Interview With Pineapple Fibre Art

Art but not exactly as you know it this week – bespoke vintage inspired crochet wall art created by Emma of Pineapple Fibre Art. Using gorgeous hand dyed yarns, these intricate art pieces are certainly pretty and you can see the painstakingly amount of work that has gone into each mandala. And the size of them! I was gifted the Pale Green Penny mandala (thank you Emma) and it amazed me how big it was and how stunning it looks too. I couldn’t wait to ask Emma about her works of art … Hi Emma!

Hello, my name is Emma and I live in Devon halfway between Dartmoor and the sea.

What inspired the setting up of “Pineapple Fibre Art”?  

Pineapple Fibre Art is based on my love of vintage doily patterns and gorgeous hand dyed yarn.  No one really has white doilies under their fruit bowl anymore, but the patterns are so intricate and beautiful that I wanted a way to allow them to be enjoyed in a more contemporary setting.   The ‘pineapple’ in my business name comes from a motif that is frequently found repeated in my work and loosely resembles, you guessed it, a pineapple.  I love to crochet, I love turning a skein of yarn (merino/nylon blend for preference) into something beautiful, the possibilities in that skein of yarn are endless and that is so exciting.

Your crochet mandalas are made using gorgeous hand dyed yarns in a variety of doily patterns. What mandala patterns and colours are proving popular amongst your customers so far this season?

This season the colours have been more muted, and my most popular pattern has been the Maggie, with her tight central swirl and pineapples around the outside.  This is a 60cm design, a stunning statement piece of art.  I’ve also seen an increase in my pattern sales, which makes sense with the world still partially closed due to Covid-19.

Out of all your collection, do you have any favourites?

I’ll always have a soft spot for the Fran, a graceful 70cm hoop.  She was rather tricky to get right at first, but it was so worth it.  Despite her size she is light and airy and looks beautiful in any colourway.  This one in the soft mint green was the first and I love her!

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

Yes of course!  Obviously Brexit has made shipping to the EU more expensive, and prices for shipping have been shifting, but I am happy to set up shipping to anywhere; my parcels are light, but big so courier services are usually required.

When designing the doily patterns to add to your mandala collection, do you base your designs on original vintage pieces or do you prefer to make up your own pattern combinations?

It’s a real combination!  Many of my hoops are based on vintage patterns, tweaked to fit within the perfect circle of my wooden hula hoops.  Over time I may amend the pattern further to suit my tastes and tension, the sizes of hoops available and the size the customer wants.  I have designed from scratch my own 60cm hoop, Patience, named for the time and effort required to get it right!  I also sometimes use motifs from various patterns in tandem to suit the yarn and size I am aiming for.

How long have you been crocheting?  Can you also knit?

Ooo, I’ve been crocheting for around 12 years now I think.  A friend started me off and I got the rest from Youtube.  Knitting however… that’s much more tricky: I have knitted a scarf, and one sock.  I can sort of knit I suppose, but it’s hard going and I’d rather have a crochet hook in my hand!

Growing up, did you always want to be a designer/creative field or did your aspirations lie elsewhere?

I think like many people I didn’t come into my creativity until later.  I don’t paint or draw and wouldn’t have called myself artistic or creative when I was younger, despite always making jewellery and, later on, bags. I don’t think I ever had a particularly firm idea what I’d do as an adult after the two weeks work experience in a primary school when I was 15 told me I didn’t want to be a teacher.  I still don’t know what I want to do when I grow up, and I’m 36 now, I’ll just keep making it up as I go!

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

Dresses!  In winter I love colourful tights especially Snag mustard ones, yellow legs make me happy, in summer some chub rub shorts.  Less worry about what goes with what, and more comfy!  Teals, navy and purple figure predominately.  I’ve worked out what I like and tend to stick to it now, even if I can be a bit predictable!

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love Folksy and Etsy for beautiful unique hand made things, Seasalt for clothes, but I’ve never been much of a high street shopper and 2020 removed my desire to shop in person even further.  I could do with a couple of more summery dresses though, so I might have to brave the shops soon!

Boots or Shoes?

Boots, with crochet socks!  I hate wet feet and boots mean I can walk the dog without my feet freezing off.  And I don’t do heels, I never really learnt to walk in them.  Am I allowed to say that here?!


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

Website https://www.pineapplefibreart.com/

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

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

Thank you very much for the crochet mandala ( it is very beautiful) and thank you for telling us all about your crochet works of art. My Nan always had lots of crochet doilies scattered around her house and she would have adored your work too.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Pineapple Fibre Art (apart from the header photo and the Pinterest photo which were by Linda Hobden).

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An Interview With Simply Soaperior

Bath bombs, wax melts and shampoo bars …. this week I am interviewing Vicky from Simply Soaperior who makes the most delightful artisanal bath products! My teenage son adores the bath bombs, my niece is a Mrs Hinch fanatic so she uses the Mrs Hinch style wax melts and me? Well, I adore the shampoo bars that are specially formulated for different hair types. Hello Vicky and welcome…

Hi! My name is Vicky. I’m 36 with one daughter, who is 11 and called Ella. I moved to Newquay Cornwall from Cheshire 12 years ago, and that was the start of a completely new life for me and a new adventure. 

What inspired you to launch Simply Soaperior?

Probably not what you would expect.. Once moving to Cornwall, I began cleaning holiday homes (something I never thought I would do after being a hairdresser in the past) I wanted to do something a little special and add handmade soap for guests, but I thought to my self, I could do that. It became an addiction to making new items and wanting to try new things. I was fortunate that people loved what I made, so it became a completely different business, and 10 years on, I’m still doing something I love, and it is still an addiction. I can’t say I ever have the dread to work!

 I love the Mermaids Glamour Bath Bomb & the Yippy Hippy Bath Bomb! What products are proving most popular amongst your customers this year?

The two most popular products are the Shark Attack Bath Bomb, and the Mrs Hinch Inspired Wax Melt Selection, I would say the mermaid’s Glamour is 3rd in line though. 
 

Have you got a personal favourite from your range?

I love a bubble Bar! I’m all about bubbles and feeling all soft after the bath and that is exactly how they make you feel. I’m also a solid shampoo lover, it was my love for them that made me start to make them, I spent nearly 2 years formulation them till they were exactly how I wanted them. so many benefits from zero waste – they have a lower PH to work with hair and scalp unlike soap and a lot of bottle shampoos. 

Apart from bath products, you also produce “wax melts”.  What are wax melts?  

Wax melts are scented, pieces of wax that when gently melted by a wax warmer will  fill the surrounding area with a delightful aroma, a scent  as pleasant as any candle but without a naked flame (if using an electric warmer)

Have you any other new products in the pipeline to add to your range in the pipeline for 2021/2022?

We are making new bath bombs all time, but our big launch was the solid shampoo bars that went live at the end of May. Living by the sea and trying to do my bit on plastic everyone must try I’m sure you will make the swap!! 

Have you always been interested in cosmetics, or did your career aspirations lie elsewhere?

I have always been crafty and loved making things, as a child I use to spend hours in lush and body shop, but I never would have thought it would be what I did for a job but once I started I just couldn’t stop! There’s a lot of science behind making cosmetics so its not as simple as some people think. 


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

It’s something I will offer soon hopefully but after leaving the EU it’s not quite as simple as it was.

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

In the winter I would be ugg boots, jeans and normally a t-shirt or jumper. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m an Abercrombie jean lover, and I love scrolling through Etsy, its great for inspiration and to buy unique things.

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

Sandals and flip flops, one thing you must have when living by the beach.  

Boots or Shoes?

Boots ,trainers or sandals, because I’m all about comfort.    

For pinning later

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook/twitter etc so that readers can find out more about Simply Soaperior
www.simplysoaperior.co.uk
www.instagram.com/simply_soaperior
www.facebook.com/simplysoaperior

After this interview took place, Vicky kindly sent me a couple of bath bombs, wax melts and shampoo bar. They are wonderful – I was especially impressed with the bath bombs ! Thank you very much Vicky.

Linda x

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

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Sins Of Our Mothers Book Tour

I’m pleased to be part of the “Sins Of Our Mothers “ book tour to celebrate the latest Dystopian fiction by author Nicole Souza. Dystopian fiction isn’t a genre I’m familiar with but as I read “Sins Of Our Mothers” with an open mind, I found myself getting totally engrossed with the storyline and the characters. This is a great book to read on the sunbed as summer approaches….

Book Summary

It has been fifteen hundred years since the solar flare devastation of the Global Catastrophe. Due to the radioactivity in the harvesting fields, society dismisses its defective children as nothing more than flawed products of the malfunctioned seeds in the field.

But Lyratelle, a hyper-observant musical prodigy, believes these “defects” are intelligent, particularly her own sibling, the youngest child of her impervious mother. Abandoning her dream career, Lyratelle climbs the bureaucratic ladder to run the Defect Research Center, where she can safeguard the child.

With an underground team of women who share her uncertainties, Lyratelle unearths the Old History truth that womankind’s survival actually hinges on the existence of these defects.

When General Sarah Love, the city’s most powerful advocate against the defects, detects Lyratelle’s sympathy toward the creatures, she threatens the life of Lyratelle’s sibling.

Now Lyratelle’s desperate attempt to save this child endangers everyone she loves—her team, her family, even the existence of the defects themselves.

Print Length: 358 PagesGenre: Dystopian FictionASIN: B08FNMQ3XVPublisher: E.L. Marker  
Sins of Our Mothers is available to purchase now on Amazon.com.

MY INTERVIEW

It is with great pleasure to welcome Nicole Souza onto the blog. Hi Nicole!

Hi! I’m super envious of ancient philosophers. I imagine they gathered in groups, passing around their favorite snacks while stretching their aching joints, immersed in discussions surrounding the questions that link human hearts: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What is truth? How can we maximize joy and minimize suffering? What is the meaning of family relations? Where does death take us?

I’m envious, that is, until I realize this is the very scene at my family girls’ nights. Though overall our society dedicates less time to questioning mortality and our existence in general due to the insane velocity of modern demands, we’re all philosophers in our souls.

Conversation is my fuel. I love people. I love others’ unique stories. I love finding connections with members of the human family who live oceans apart from me, who speak other languages, and whose experiences are vastly different from mine. While I was born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, my husband was born and raised in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil. Our upbringings, and the way we experience life, are so distinct. I’m profoundly grateful.

Among my immediately family—parents and eight siblings—are spoken seven languages: English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Tongan, Mandarin, and Dutch. Among my siblings-in-law, including one who passed away thirteen years ago, are five ethnicities and four nationalities. My nieces’ and nephews’ heritages span the globe. Most are being raised in bilingual households, three of whom live in beautiful Taiwan where English is their second language.

If all I had in life was a pretty piece of land and my family to enjoy it with, I’d want for nothing. I love my people.

As if I don’t get enough language in my personal life, I also got my B.A. in Languages with a minor in Women Studies. Growing up I thought I’d study music. I’ve played piano since age five and violin since age eight. Teaching violin was my first job and I thought it would be my last. But I’ll be honest, as much as I love people, especially kids, I’m not equipped with the divine patience needed to teach them how to play musical instruments. Oh, my heart; how terribly, terribly hard that was for me. I’m grateful to have found my thing—writing stories alone in my room surrounded by dogs and donuts.

Who or what inspired you to write “Sins Of Our Mothers”?

In college, I made an astounding observation: nearly all my straight, married girlfriends, and those with a live-in boyfriend, were the sole providers in their relationships. Each one of their husbands or boyfriends was profoundly unhappy and had developed at least one addiction that was affecting their relationship. Though all relatively close to my age, these weren’t just friends here in the states. These were women of multiple ethnicities and cultures.

Some spoke English, some didn’t. Some had children, some were students, some had mortgages, some were renting, some lived with parents or in-laws. The one thing they had in common was an unemployed adult man depending on their salary. The most bizarre detail was that none of the women with children depended on their male partners for childcare, even though they were home all day. They either relied on relatives or paid for professional childcare.

The men’s addictions ranged from simple things like alternate realities to more intense things like pornography and even detrimental things like alcohol and destructive drugs. Some of the men were students. Some were college graduates, some high school graduates. All had essentially disappeared from their families, their communities, and society—a trend I began to notice extended far outside my circle of contacts.

While several of these couples split or divorced, many pulled through and have progressed together. The fact that so many close friends—wonderful, intelligent people—intersected in this weird place all at once felt significant. I remember thinking, “These women literally do everything. They could just remove the men and their lives would remain the same, but without the stress of supporting a grown man and his addictions. All women really need from men is their sperm, right? Aside from that, are men even necessary?”

Settlement 1163 in the novel represents the struggles of those men. Lilac City, where the women live, represents women who bear and raise their children, as well as provide for their families, alone. While the burden of supporting men in their homes is gone, they still, unknowingly, support the men in the settlements through taxes. But the emotional burden of feeling like they do everything alone doesn’t exist in the book because the only world the characters know is a completely female one.

The first draft of Sins of Our Mothers sent me on an arduous journey where I learned that, not only are men necessary, but masculinity is infinitely more valuable than those currently in power would have us believe. There’s a lot of talk nowadays about toxic masculinity. What’s not being talked about is how essential masculinity is to a free, successful, harmonious society. If we’re to achieve our potential as the twenty-first century generation of the human family, and ensure future generations can liberally pursue happiness, we need good men.

The final draft of the book is, I hope, a depiction of what I learned along that journey.

 I really enjoyed reading your book, “Sins Of Our Mothers ” and I particularly enjoyed the character of Lyratelle Faith. What character did you particularly enjoy writing about? What character was the hardest to portray?

Lyratelle is my favorite character, too. She embodies female power and the strengths of womanhood as I’ve come to understand them thus far in my life. I hope one day to see someof her relentless drive in myself. But that’s a far, far distant goal. I most enjoyed writing her, inside and out. It’s so fun for me when readers ask about her because it feels like we’re chattingabout a mutual friend. She’s the kind of woman with whom anyone would benefit from a friendship. She’s compassionate, aware of and concerned for the disenfranchised, and constantly striving to better the world for her loved ones and, consequently, the human family.

The character that was the hardest to portray was Grace, hands down. She’s so brilliant and passionate about technology and electronics, which is quite the opposite of me. While I do love many virtual reality games, especially Beat Saber, I have no idea or desire to understand how it all works. I’m grateful there are people like Grace in the world so people like me can undeservedly enjoy their hard work. If everyone were like me, we’d literally sit around all day, passing around our favorite snacks while stretching our aching joints, immersed in philosophical discussion. Grace is so rad because she would dominate those discussions while simultaneously programming virtual worlds and haptic suits.

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 learned a lot about IVF. It astounds me that doctors have developed medicine to the point where they can initiate humanlife in a petri dish and reimplant the fertilized egg into the woman’s uterus. Again, I’m grateful these kinds of advanced humans exist in the world. It makes me appreciate even more profoundly the variety that exists among our human family.

Studying pregnancy in general made me appreciate men far more than I did previously. Of course, growing up with an awesome dad, grandpas, three brothers, and more male uncles and cousins than I care to count, I always loved and appreciated men. But really internalizing, not just casually knowing, that women can’t bear children without men was strangely humbling.

I’m so accustomed to women being these independent powerhouses that push through mortal suffering and just get stuff done. Even within pregnancy, the participation between the female and male is so mind-blowingly lopsided, and yet, a woman cannot have a child without the sperm of a man. I spent a ton of time just pondering the significance of this fact. I’d known it since I was a child but somehow maintained this superior image of women that was so distinct from the simplicity of men. I didn’t realize I’d been subconsciously questioning men’s significance.

Well, I don’t doubt it anymore thanks to the research and careful consideration that went into writing Sins of Our Mothers.The world needs good men more than anything else right now. I hope that came across clear in the book.

This novel comes under the genre of Dystopian Fiction  – have you ever explored or hoped to write under other genres?

Yes! After the Sins of Our Mothers trilogy is complete, I’ll be working on a fantasy series. I also have a manga-style adventureproject I work on when I need a break from the heavier writing.It’s slow coming because my art skills are about a two out of ten. But I’m inching along. I actually asked my thirteen-year-old nephew recently to take over the drawing part for me as he’s far more talented. I promised to get him some sample pages by the end of the week, so we’ll see.

I’m also working on my mother-in-law’s biography. She has the most fascinating life story and I really want to make sure it’s told.

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

The one commonality I share with Lyratelle is in our youths we both dreamed of being concert mistresses of renowned symphonies, but ultimately chose other career paths. While she went the way of geniuses and hardworking folk, I chose to lock myself in my room with my snacks and write stories.

My private violin instructor was a member of the Utah Symphony. I went to her rehearsals during those career shadowing days in elementary school. I just knew that would be my future. Yet, here I am. It’s been weeks since I even touched my beloved violin.

I did always want to tell stories, too. Being a writer was high on my list of career options. There’s just something about storytelling that awakens my soul. I learn so much better reading and writing stories than I ever have doing busywork. I believe the greatest minds throughout history have taught in parables because stories can be understood by all minds, no matter where they fall on the genius scale. Stories are powerful and unifying.

Is “Sins Of Our Mothers ” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes! Barnes and Noble has international shopping available online. Amazon Kindle International is available in over 170 countries. Amazon also ships hard copies internationally to over 100 countries.

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

Taiwan, definitely. My sister and her family live there. It’s one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited. Vast cities pressed right up against gorgeous beaches create the perfect setting for a multi-genre/crossover story. There’s so much romantic simplicity in the island’s nature and so much modern hustle and bustle in the thick of the cities. And the Taiwanese people are the friendliest, most generous, polite people I’ve ever had the pleasure of interacting with. I’ve always loved Mandarin Chinese so spending quality time in Taiwan would boost my speaking and listening skills, though I don’t suppose I’ll ever get the characters down.

Having lived in several cities in Brazil, I would say the state Rio Grande do Sul is next on the list. It’s my second home and I miss it every day. Especially the amazing people.

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read?

My two lifelong favorite books are The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, and The Giver by Lois Lowry. The Hiding Place is a kind of anomaly as I don’t usually enjoy nonfiction as much as fiction. But The Giver fits right into my type of story. In fact, it shaped my reading preferences quite a lot. I first read it when I was really young so every book since has been measured against it.

I don’t discriminate against any genre as there are good books in all. As long as a story keeps me interested, I’ll devour it.

Lately, I’ve been more immersed in manga than novels. Hajime Isayama satisfied my longing for a well-written story with his amazing series Attack on Titan. I don’t suppose I’ll ever love anyone—real or fictional—as much as I love Levi Ackerman. Though Otcho/Shogun from Naoki Urasawa’smanga series Twentieth Century Boys comes close. I guess I’m a sucker for strong, independent men with traumatizing pasts.

I know it’s cliché, but I can’t fail to mention J.K. Rowling’s mind-blowing talent for storytelling. I know I’m not the only one because I’ve heard others mention how reading the Harry Potter series felt much more like watching. That world truly lives on those pages.

For Pinning Later

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

If you ever find me at home, it’ll undoubtedly be in a MooMoo and department store ankle socks with my hair down. On a regular day out and about, I prefer tall, form-fitting print T-shirts (likely featuring Levi Ackerman), loose leggings (deep pockets, of course), and Vans slip-ons with my hair in a messy bun. Not because I’m stylish and rock a messy bun, but because everything I try to do with my hair is messy, and buns are convenient when running errands. I’ll most likely be in glasses when dressed casually.

Because I’m aware that none of these outfits are conducive to an adult lifestyle, I do have an alternative outfit for meetings and social gatherings. There, you’ll find me in boots, a long comfortable skirt, a dressy loose blouse, and oversized earrings. I don’t wear jewelry often but when I do, huge earrings and gaudy rings are my thing. When it really matters, I have my sister do my hair.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I don’t say this as an author: if ever I go somewhere in person to browse, it’s a bookstore. I love the smell of books. Plus, I’m always on the lookout for the children’s book You Are Special by Max Lucado. I keep buying myself a copy only to give it away. It’s such an amazing book. Strangely, it’s often unavailable in stores so I check occasionally to see if it’s stocked.

Online, I spend a lot of time browsing redbubble.com. It’s a great site for personalized gifts and keepsakes, especially if you’re looking for something related to an inside joke. Plus, I adore such shops that feature independent artists.

This might be too bizarre a detail but, being from Utah, I like to hop on ksl.com and visit the classifieds to see what farm animals and RVs are available. I have this dream of buying a little farm and filling it with all the cute animals city living doesn’t accommodate. I also dream of an RV but haven’t found the right one. It’s as important to get right as was choosing my spouse.

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

It’s been a long time since I had a proper gorgeous pair of boots. That will definitely be my next big clothing purchase.

Boots or Shoes?

Boots! I love boots! Especially being from Utah. A stylish pair of heavy-duty boots that allow me to hike and also hit the town with friends is the best piece of clothing. Winter, summer, rain, or shine, boots work for everything.

I have the feeling I’ll be browsing for boots online in my MooMoo tonight.

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

https://nicolesouzabooks.com

https://www.facebook.com/nicolesouzabooks/

https://www.instagram.com/nicolesouzabooks/ 

THE BOOK TOUR DATES

Great to chat with you Nicole! I look forward to reading your mother in law’s biography too. I hope your farm dream becomes a reality and 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 Nicole Souza

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An Interview With Author Martin Venning

Described as a “Geopolitical Thriller”, author Martin Venning’s debut book “The Primary Objective” certainly ticked all my boxes when it comes to a good read – a thriller, based in a far flung place, strong believable characters, adventure and a touch of escapism. The thriller is based largely in the borderlands of Azerbaijan and Iran, an area not usually covered in adventure books and features quite a few feisty strong female characters too. The blurb says the book is a story about fate and how a disparate group of characters interact, often unwittingly, to make the best of the situation they find themselves in. I don’t know about fate, perhaps that does play a part, but reading the book I enjoyed the interactions between the characters and how their personal lives entwined with the task they were set and a few unexpected twists along the way. It was certainly a page turner!

THE STORY

Peace International is a New York based global reconciliation and mediation charity that seeks to prevent wars, regional disputes and rebuild civil societies. When a tip comes in that Iran is building a chemical and biological weapons research and production centre, it soon becomes clear that where they’re considering building – close to the border with Azerbaijan – could destabilise the Gulf region and beyond. 

Selecting a small team of volunteers, they form a task force to collect evidence, entering through a dangerous semi-lawless area in southern Azerbaijan. What they discover is a far more complicated web of challenges than a weapons facility. For PI Operations Director, Edwin Wilson, the mission is his most perilous yet, threatening the lives of his team and the international reputation of his organisation. But for two Iranian men, Fawaz and Jamshid, the stakes are even higher

Driven by contrasting personal circumstances and life chances, they face difficult choices as they seek different paths to prosperity in a controlling, repressive society that takes no prisoners…alive. 

I was lucky enough to get a chance to chat to Martin about his excellent debut…. Hi Martin!

Hi I’m Martin. Keen hiker in the Pennines. And Creative Writer.

“The Primary Objective” is your debut novel – and what a fantastic debut!  Who or what inspired you to put pen to paper? 

It’s weird I have always known I would end up as a writer. My business experience taught me to write phorensically – with clarity and conciseness. The discipline to develop an extended piece of work, I thought may be beyond me. For years I toyed with  but ultimately ducked the challenge. It took an unscheduled extended period in hospital following an accident to help me on my way. 

I know I have been fortunate and owe a debt of gratitude to so many NHS workers in Leeds & Huddersfield. For a period I was bedridden and ended up spending time with people with no prospect of recovery, some who were getting used their new prospects as amputees. Somehow they had come to terms with making the best of their situation. Nurtured by the attentive care of strangers, many seemed naturally to find chinks of light in their personal darkness. They were a great inspiration. It made me start to imagine what it must be like to become institutionalised- to live your life within the boundaries set arbitrarily by some anonymous organisation which seemed to dictate every aspect of daily life and behaviour.  Dangerous too – as though your mind has gone on to automatic pilot. When to eat, what to eat when to rest and when to take medication. Planning a trip to the loo took some forethought almost like a military operation.  

It was amazing how this regime challenged the ability to think rationally and independently. Whether you`re in hospital, prison or working in a corporate environment the pressure to conform is universal. 

I had trained as a journalist, so always thought I could write a book if I had to. If you are a journalist summing up a story in a few paragraphs is straightforward. Writing a sustained narrative is hard. When I focused on writing I was as involved as the reader. I had no idea how the story would work out; but it happened as a result of a period with no distractions!

I enjoyed reading the book from start to finish. It was a great adventure story that kept me riveted. All the characters were very believable, but I really loved the strong female characters of Mahta and Amy Fong.   So, which character did you enjoy writing about the most?  Which character was the hardest? 

Glad you picked up the emphasis on female characters. The book features five women, different ages, each in different pressurised situations taking responsibility for shaping their futures in a male dominated society which doesn`t easily recognise women’s rights. Two stand out for me. One is Anya, a former Azeri soldier with a score to settle, making a life as a tourist guide having suffered the rigours of combat. I like her because of her detachment and mental discipline. She finds a way of containing and resolving her negative experiences, so she can move on to live a more positive life. The other is Shimina, a young girl in the provinces, who wants to break free from the social norms of her community to have a social life, an education and marry a man of her choosing. A normal aspiration in the West, but not so in that part of the world! Mahta is someone who has used her intellect to escape the pressures of day-to-day life but realises she has paid a heavy price for the privilege which cost her marriage and personal privacy. Amy Fong is an innocent, someone obliged to do her national service, but comes to realise how dangerous it can be. Another, Hanah is born into privilege and so has no need to conform to societal norms. The hardest character to write about was Hafiz al Fouadi. He was not a criminal but was corrupted by a society he was part of. He went through hard times and had to be entrepreneurial to get by and build his wealth, whilst trying to avoid the obvious trappings of success, that would raise suspicion. His approach to being an entrepreneur was amoral on occasions ie. if he could make money, he`d do it. His inability to differentiate between right and wrong ultimately costs him his life.The reason why Al-Fouadi was the hardest to write about was the fact was he was an ‘accidental’ bad guy. Because he had some good qualities it was difficult to find the balance in the description of his character…

Were there any aspects of writing the thriller that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?  

Yes, most characters caught up in thrillers are not exceptional people, just ordinary folk having to contend with extraordinary circumstances. Who’s to say any of us aren’t caught up in a real-life thriller at some stage of a story’s development? That’s why I love them. Good thrillers normally tell stories of how people react when they are put under some sort of pressure. Their reactions often define their characters and plots.

Growing up have you always wanted to be a writer or did your career plans lie elsewhere? 

I have always enjoyed writing, and have come to appreciate its value to me, acting as a distraction from the day-to-day humdrum of earning a living! Not sure yet whether I am good enough to earn a crust, but may revise this answer when my second book is published later this year.

‘The Primary Objective’ is based in Iran/Azerbaijan – what is it about Iran that attracts you and why did you decide to base your novel in that area?  

Firstly, it’s a corner of the world not many people know about or have visited so the reader gets a chance to go exploring with me! Given its remoteness it is also a place where tribal bonds are stronger than national boundaries and laws. Secondly, “The Primary Objective”demonstrates how laws are interpreted to suit local conditions and the interests of the ruling, usually corrupt minority. What is really engaging about Iran from a writer’s perspective is that it is a society that obliges people to live clandestine lives. For example, men who drink alcohol in secret. Women who dress in colourful clothing and wear make-up to stay in. Government agents checking up on people suspected of having illicit sex, people who earn money desperate to give it to charity to avoid being pilloried as “an exploiter of the oppressed”.  The country also has a fascinating and rich history which is not widely known in the west and all of this makes a topical backdrop for a novel.

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

I’m old school. I like a physical book you can get hold of, mark the pages or worse. For me a book is like a room you need to make it yours and live in it. I’m thinking about making The Primary Objective an audio book if there is the demand for it. I go through mad periods of voracious reading especially if I get into something which holds my attention. Writing is such a competitive business. There are so many excellent writers out there. My favourites are Gerald Seymour, Charles Cumming and Bernard Cornwell. Love their styles and the construction of their plots.

 Is “The Primary Objective” available to purchase worldwide? 

Yes, if all else fails Amazon will get it to you wherever you are or want a quick read via Apple Books…

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

I have produced manuscripts for two other books so far, so I won’t comment on their settings. I tend to write about places I have travelled to at some time in the past, so the next one might be set a little closer to home!

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

Like to be smart but low-key;  jacket and polo neck maybe dark chinos.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? 

Nervous about buying clothes online but quite like NewChic

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

Probably a new leather tan jacket if I sell a few books.

Boots or Shoes?

Shoes definitely. Love good quality brown brogues. Since my accident boots aren’t comfy on my ankles these days. 

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

www.mvenning.net

Thank you Martin for chatting to me about your book “The Primary Objective” and for the copy of your book too.

Linda x

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

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An Interview With Author Ashley Brown

London based author and writing coach Ashley Brown told me that her writing was inspired by the rollercoaster of life, fuelled by coffee and an insatiable sweet tooth – especially where jammy dodger biscuits are concerned! Her latest book “ The Sugar Game” is a modern novel which looks at the phenomenon of Sugar Daddy websites and the young women who willingly sign up to be sugar babies. Lured by glamour, romance, opulence, money, fun and independence, these young women often find what they crave (or do they?) and the risks involved are just as real. “The Sugar Game” follows the lives of 2 best friends who join up to become sugar babies – 2 young ladies who crave glamour, fun, clothes and a plan to cover each other’s back to make meetings as safe as possible. But did they really realise what they would be risking? I found the book fascinating and a really good, believable read so I couldn’t wait to discuss the book with Ashley over jammie dodgers…

Hi, I’m Ashley, where to start? Well, I have been driven by curiosity my whole life. I was born in Kent and raised in small village, you know the ones I mean…the kind where they still have milk floats and the baker knows your name. I tried the ‘normal’ route that my friends and family were taking, even managed seven years at law school to become a lawyer for the grand total of two weeks. (Ally McBeal can take the rap for that one. Thankfully that Alice in Wonderland approach to life got the better of me. My inner Alice led me to job-hop around the world for a few exhausting and hilarious years. They inspired my first novel ‘Jobslut’. Writing was such a relief. I have finally found what feels like my place in the world, and settled my restless soul. So here I am still, typing away and supporting aspiring writers to find their voice.

Who or what inspired you to write “The Sugar Game”? 

In a word, choices. They intrigue me. Particularly those of young women pulled to the ‘big city’, determined to make something of themselves. I know that feeling intimately, the call of the wild. That first rush of freedom you inhale landing in a fresh playground to chase your dreams. One thing you will get to know about me from reading my books is that I am inspired by real life, I have always been observing the world around me. When living in LA during my years of job hopping having decided to dip my toes into acting, this was a choice I saw many young women were making to fund their ambitions. Women that became my friends, who were open, vulnerable and honest with me about their secret lives. Once my eyes were opened, I realised this was a a trade that seems to be happening everywhere yet nowhere, wrapped in discretion and secrecy. I was hooked and a story was developing, so I followed it exploring a world that blends light and dark and attracts some very interesting characters. 


I really enjoyed reading your book, “The Sugar Game”.  London is an exciting place for young people, and this novel follows the lives of two young ladies in London who decide to join up a Sugar Daddy website to become sugar babies, in a bid to experience some glamour, romance and an opulent lifestyle – which are real but so are the risks.  I thought you balanced out the heady romance with the associated risks very well. Why do you think Sugar Daddy websites are very popular? Do you think the emotional/ physical risks are swept under the carpet? 

Good question. One as a writer, I was keen to take a deep dive into, peeling back the layers of the onion. The great thing about fiction is it allows you to explore the truth in a way non-fiction never touches. What I found was interesting. When you look at the reason’s women become sugar babies, their motivations and struggles are ones all we can all relate too. From wanting a better life, childhood demons, insecurities driving a need for ultra-independence. Our fears and aspirations lead us all to take different paths, upon which we embark yes initially the emotional and physical risks are ignored. And when you look at the backdrop of relationships that is more the norm these days, from broken homes to the media glamourising divorce (I mean even Brad and Jen didn’t make it) love almost becomes the enemy. For some women becoming a sugar baby is a way of seeking revenge. Using their femininity to make them feel powerful What I do know is that at some point or another, the risks and damage catch up with you. There is certainly a sugar tax that comes with the lifestyle. Though the beautiful thing is that no matter what choice you make, when you are ready, it’s never too late to write a different story. 

The characters in this novel are quite believable – Jess & her bestie Holly, Tom the taxi driver, the shady Harry….etc which character did you relate to the most?  Which character was the hardest part to write? 

I would say Harry. He was the darkest of all the characters. And most behind in his journey of the ultimate destination I hope all my characters to be heading. Living an authentic, fulfilling life and accepting love to be a part of it. Yeah, I think Harry still has a way to go. And naturally Jess and Holly still have a few bumps ahead of them. I fell so in love with the characters that this has turned into a three books series, so watch this space. 

 Researching Sugar Daddy websites and the lives of sugar babies for your novel must have been quite interesting… did you discover anything that shocked you or uncover some nugget of information that was unexpected?  

There were many stories and juicy discoveries which I am sure trickled into the books some way or another. Though speaking to the men made me realize you can never guess someone’s reasons for doing something. One gentleman told me the reason he turned to sugar babies was that he found women his own age jaded and too keen for the things he had already done. He was twice divorced, had kids and just wanted some fun. Though guess what? After two years of dating sugar babies, he became bored of the lack of connection with girls half his age, gave it up and went back to finding one of those jaded women who understood him. On the other extreme, I did discover that for a lucky few this is a place they find true love. One girl I know is still happily married to a sugar daddy she met years ago. That’s the thing about love, it writes a million different stories. 

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

Have a read of Job Slut and you will see I had every career aspiration going. I dipped my toes in everything from law, property to acting before I hunkered down to reflect on it all. That will always make my first book very special to me, it was where I found my true calling, something I had nearly given up on. 

Is “The Sugar Game ” available to purchase worldwide?

It is indeed, via all the online bookstores and in terms of physical stores it is currently stocked in Hong Kong and LA. Perhaps after lockdown it will be in more, I do miss a browse around a bookshop.

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

Anywhere hot with a beach, exotic fruits and fresh air. Its more the process of travelling that inspires me over the destination, once I am in that travelling head space idea’s tend to flood in every which way. 

Are you a bookworm yourself? If so, what genres (or authors) do you usually like to read? 

I wouldn’t say I am a complete book worm, though I am always reading something. I love movies, shows and plays too. I read women’s fiction, I love the classics like Bridget Jones and Sex in the City. I read authors from Jane Fallon to Lisa Jewell, though always open to new blurbs that catch my curiosity. 

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

Ok, so since I moved to LA I went from high heels and office wear to trainers and yoga pants. And it kinda stuck. The great thing about being a writer is I can wear whatever I feel comfy in, I am currently wearing a black topshop jumper and navy leggings. When I dress up, I tend to stick to jeans, heels and a nice shirt. 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I love Topshop and Armani exchange if I am feeling fancy. 

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

More colourful, comfy jumpers to snuggle up in. Also I am always ordering hats, pink, black, grey and white, fluffy ones. 

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots, I find them so much more comfy, and can put them over jeans and leggings. Though in the summer, flip-flops or wedges. 

For pinning later


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

Come follow me on insta @ashleyloubrown for writing inspiration, a dose of my life and exciting new projects. 

For books, a nose through my blog or find your own voice with some coaching head over to my website www.ashleyloubrown.com

My thanks to Ashley and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of The Sugar Game for reviewing purposes. All opinions that I have made are my own.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Ashley Brown

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Say It With Songs

A song can conjure up many memories – good, bad and ugly. Many of us have that “special” song and what can be nicer on your anniversary, birthday, special moment than sending a card to that person who has that song connection with you. Song words convey such a lot but to have that song playable in card form is so nice! I came across Ellie’s website, Say It With Words, and immediately hunted for my wedding song – Aerosmith’s “I Don’t WantTo Miss A Thing” to send to my husband on our anniversary! Alas they didn’t feature that song, but a quick email request and Ellie was able to help and thus the card was born! Another email to Ellie requesting an interview…. Hi Ellie!


Hello! My name is Ellie Fitzgerald. I live in Surrey with my husband Paul of 20 years, our 17 year old daughter & our giant Malamute Cherry

What inspired you to set up “Say It With Songs”?

Last February, I searched for a Valentine’s Day card for my Husband, nothing was hitting the mark. At the same time a song came on the radio in the shop – it was ‘our song’ with the words that meant so much and said everything I wanted to say – I wanted to send him that song ….. it was then the idea was born. Having worked in the music industry for 20 years, music is a great passion of mine, so when I was made redundant when lockdown hit, I decided to jump in and give it a go. Say it with Songs – combines the sentiment of a greeting card with the power of a song.

So, how do you access the music part of the card? L

It’s really simple – on front of every card is an instantly recognisable song lyric eg “ I will always love you” On the reverse of the card is a code – you simply open your smartphone camera and scan the code and then you can choose to stream the full song instantly from either YouTube, Spotify or Amazon Music. You can play it as many times as you like & keep it forever.We all have a song that takes us back to a time, person or moment in seconds….whether it’s a ballad, a dance floor classic, a heavy rock anthem or a pop cheese guilty pleasure …in just a few notes we are literally right back there. Everyone has also heard a song with lyrics that speak to the heart, resonate, help us through, give us strength or – simply – make us smile

You have a lovely variety of cards with a great song range too. What song title cards are proving popular amongst your customers so far?

We have over 100 titles, our top five titles are ‘Have I told you Lately’ Van Morrison, ‘You are the Sunshine of My Life’ Stevie Wonder, ‘Cant help falling in love with you’ Elvis Presley, ‘Never Gonna Give you Up’ Rick Astley and ‘Girls Just wanna have fun’ Cyndi Lauper.

Have you got a favourite card? What is the story behind your favourite song?

So, the song that started it all for me was ‘By Your Side’ By Sade, it literally says everything I want to say to my husband. His song to me is ‘knocks me off my feet’ by Stevie Wonder, a song we have loved since we met. Both songs are now cards.



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

 The cards are shipped internationally and we are just starting to distribute in other countries so its growing fast.

Although you have a great song range, do you cater for bespoke cards eg if the special song you wanted doesn’t feature in your range? 

We try too, I get maybe 10/20 suggestions a week from people and those that I feel will be loved by many are added to the new titles schedule – we add maybe 5 new cards every 2 weeks.

10% of your profit goes to the music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins.  What does the charity do?

Nordoff Robbins provides vital music therapy to enrich the lives of people with life-limiting illnesses, disabilities and feelings of isolation.

Are your cards made from ethically sourced materials?

Of course – building a brand with a sustainable imprint was fundamental. We use FSC approved 350gsm card, its acid free, with a Heavy Metal Absence & made using vegetable based inks. We use recycled envelopes & wrap in 100% biodegradable cellowrap. Proudly designed and made in the UK.

Have you always wanted to have a musical career or did your career aspirations lay elsewhere?

I always wanted to work in music so followed that path from day 1 . I have worked on both the record label side & managed the careers of  artists, but building music brands has always been my passion and where my creativity sits best.

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

Shoes – At the moment in lockdown life- its trainers and wellies, but fab ones – I have some amazing glitter Nike Air Force 1 & also some cool Veja ones that I virtually live in and so new Hunter wellies (for walking my giant dog) that are knee high and have a slight platform.Prior to lockdown, I have some Isabel Marant boots that have a hidden wedge so although they are flat, they make your legs look great, and for going out, my favourite EVER pair of heels are a Stuart Weitzman for Russell and Bromley pair – I wore them with silk PJs this NYE lockdown.Clothing, pre-lockdown, it’s usually a silk midi skirt from Anthropologie and a funky graphic tee as my go-to.Now its Hush trackies and comfy cool sweats as my work wardrobe.

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites? (Apart from your own!)

Yes, My go to is hushuk.com and Anthropologie – Literally love everything from these brands.

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

Everything from Anthropologie – in the sale ! Their sales are insane!

Boots or Shoes? ( & Why?) 

Right now, it’s actually boots, with working from home and lockdown and walking my huge dog twice a day – The cool new black Hunter boots give me my glam fix (even in a tracksuit) but normally it’s shoes every time.

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

Website www.sayitwithsongs.com

Instagram: @sayitwithsongscards

Facebook: @sayitwithsongs

 Please check us out – and get 15% off with code BOOTSANDSHOES

My thanks to Ellie at Say It With Songs for creating my “Don’t Want To Miss A Thing “ card. The Aerosmith photographs are by Linda Hobden; the other photographs are published with kind permission of Say It With Words.

Linda x

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Little Book Of Big Knowing Book Tour

It has been a “different “ couple of years since COVID-19 entered our lives and turned what we took for granted upside down – despite the hardships, pain, loss and freedom curtailment there has been some uplifting and positive moments too. So, with life and its problems in the forefront of most people’s minds, on my blog this week I’ve joined author Michele Sammon’s “Little Book Of Big Knowing Book Tour”. Michele wrote this book for those folks who love thinking about life’s big questions, like “What’s My Purpose?”, “Why Am I Here?” …. I’m sure you’ve got the drift….

Book Summary

The Little Book of Big Knowing is filled with tiny bursts of insight to nourish your heart, warm your Soul, and help you to remember your true self. 

If you find yourself asking big, deep life questions like, “What’s my purpose?” and “Why am I here?” then you’ll want to curl up with The Little Book of Big Knowing.

Three reasons why you’ll love this book:

  1. ·     It includes gentle reminders of why you are here, who you are at your core, and why your dreams matter to more than just you.
  2. ·     This book will help you to look at life in a light-hearted, joyful way. Consider it spirituality with a playful twist!
  3. ·     And the best part is, the book is written in short bursts you can read in any order. So you can pick it up, read a little bit, put it down, and come back to it when you’re ready for more!

This book is perfect for someone who wants a little dose of playful spirituality every day to remind them of the bigger picture.

Print Length: 138 Pages 

Genre: Spiritual Self-Help 

ISBN-10: 1736168606 

ISBN-13: 978-1736168608 

Publisher: Michele Sammons 

The Little Book of Big Knowing is available to purchase at Amazon.comBarnes and Noble, and Walmart.com. You can also add this to your reading list on GoodReads.com. 

About the Author, Michele Sammons 

Michele makes her home in Memphis, Tennessee, with husband Scott and chocolate Labrador, Dewey. The Little Book of Big Knowing is Michele’s first book, but probably not her last. You can discover more about Michele’s work on her website: 

https://www.michelesammons.com

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MY REVIEW

This little book is definitely big in sayings and quotes – it is the sort of book you dive in at various points and the sayings you come across seem to strike a chord with whatever question you’re pondering. You can read the book from cover to cover – and I did for the review back in January – but it was only afterwards, weeks later, that I realised the book’s true potential and strength lies with the fact it needs to be delved into at intervals! I do have my favourite excerpts and they need no explanation…

“Face life with a twinkle in your eye and a smile in your heart”

And …

“Change occurs from the inside out. Change is about shifting your perspective, choosing what you give your attention to, where you put your focus.”

Excerpts FromBigKnowing_eBook.

BOOK TOUR DETAILS



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My thanks goes to Michele Sammons & the Book Tour team (Nicole & Kelly) for inviting me to join the book tour and for the copy of the delightful Little Book Of Big Knowing.

Photographs are published with kind permission of Michele Sammons (the author photo & the book). The header photo & Pinterest photo are by Linda Hobden.

Linda x

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But First Rumi Book Tour

I’m really excited to be able to interview author Chitra Ramaswami as part of her “But First Rumi Book Tour”. “But First Rumi” is a delightful memoir by Chitra Ramaswami. Rumi is a beautiful stray Omani street cat who took a liking to Chitra and trusted Chitra to help him and in return Rumi helped Chitra. This book is more than a tale of a cat being rescued – the memoir explores how love and trust between cats and people can develop, how attitudes towards street cats develop, and how love develops. The book is written in such a refreshingly honest way and I loved reading the escapades of Rumi & co. I really enjoyed chatting to Chitra about all things cats …. But, before that, here is the official resumé of the book:

When Chitra discovered a stray cat in need of help, she never thought they’d wind up saving each other. Struggling to come to terms with an unexpected diagnosis, Chitra returned home to Oman seeking a sense of familiarity. What she discovered instead was a very special cat who changed her life. But First, Rumi is the story of how, day by day, Rumi and Chitra got to know one another, and as she learned to love the little stray, she began to see greater life lessons about herself, her family, her home country and her place in the world. 

What unfolds when girl and cat meet? What happens when you follow your heart? What if the world is not as it seems? Is it worth taking a chance? 

Print Length: 158 Pages

Genre: Memoir

THE INTERVIEW

Hi! I’m Chitra – author of the memoir  “But First, Rumi” . I was born and brought up in the Middle East to Indian parents and now live in New Jersey. I’ve worked in healthcare as a physician and a health educator and now I’ve turned author. This is my first time publishing and excited to see what this experience brings my way. 

Who or what inspired you to write your memoir, “But First, Rumi!”?

I believe the answer lies in my book title 🙂 My cat Rumi inspired me to share our journey with the world. As someone who’s written most of her life, I believe every story has its own predestined time – from when it gets penned down to when it is on its way to its readers where it finally comes to fruition. 

Your book highlighted the life of an Omani Mau/street cat, and your growing love of Rumi.  I found the book interesting as well as entertaining.  I thought how different were the attitudes towards cats, stray cats in particular, in Oman compared with the UK/ USA. Why do you think the Omani street cats are regarded with such suspicion?

Firstly, thank you for reading our story and am glad you enjoyed it. Yes, attitudes towards stray cats are different in Oman as compared to say a Western country. But what makes it interesting is that Oman is  home to people from all over the world added to its own descendants and  this varied demographic may hold the reasons that have led to the current state of the Omani stray cats. We have collectively failed our felines. I believe suspicion towards anything generally arises from a certain lack of awareness or unfamiliarity or a previous negative experience. And yes, this is only a part of the problem as I explain in the book. Another common issue is abandonment either due to misjudgment of what caring for a cat entails or when people leave for their home countries and haven’t planned well for the transition. Ofcourse, COVID-19  has added additional financial strains to the process as well.

Were there any aspects of writing your book that surprised you, pleasantly or otherwise?

The process of writing the book was enjoyable. I also had a great editor and we worked well together. What amused me the most was the amount of work that went into publishing a book outside of actually writing the book! The time and effort needed to get your book in front of your readers has been eye opening. I’ve learnt a lot over the past few months. Maybe I should write about it haha!

What do you enjoy most about having a cat? What did you find most daunting at first?

I’ve come to realize over time that my energy is quite similar to a cat’s. I remember watching a documentary that talked about how cats and humans are actually more alike evolutionarily as compared to say dogs and humans. So it’s not surprising to me that I’m able to just be myself around them rather effortlessly. However, before my experience with Rumi, I  was rather wary of cats and didn’t really know what to make of them. I maintain that I didn’t give them a fair chance and went with the popular notion that dogs were more expressive and loving as companion animals. 

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

Funnily, I never thought of writing as a career even though I always wrote. But moving forward, I’ve decided to share my works with the world. I’m curious by nature – always have been, which in turn has led me to pursue many paths. So be it working with people with various ailments, or teaching or riding horses or ice climbing…. the list is diverse. I’m not really a one aspiration person and am eager to see where my life takes me next. 

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

Yes, I’ve loved to read since forever. Favorite genres – Biographies, memoirs, short stories. I’m not into fiction much but am on board with Haruki Murakami’s magical realism. It’s bewitching almost. Love Khaled Hosseini’s works. In poetry – Works of Rumi, Tabrizi, Gibran to name a few. There’s always more than one story that‘s being told in a book and one of them is about the author themselves, their roots,  convictions, motivations – it all comes through. So I tend to consciously seek out authors from various backgrounds for this experience. I find it as good or even better than travel. 

Nothing beats the feel of an actual book but I’m a recent Kindle convert – saves space, easy to bookmark, or look up anything I need to, can even read on my Kindle app on my phone etc 

Is “But First Rumi” available to purchase worldwide?

Yes worldwide – Both ebook and paperback. It’s also available in a bookstore in Oman and managed to sell out and has just been restocked! 

Will there be more tales about Rumi in the future?

Definitely 🙂 There may be a second book in the works as we speak!

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

Hmmm. Depends on the season. I’m a sucker for knee length boots in the winter – I never grew out of my Michael Korrs Preston boots with the golden buckle – love those tiny touches! I also love my riding boots from Dover’s. If I’m going out for dinner or tea I love getting dressed up – A-line skirt and top or a Pakistani embroidered suit( we call it shalwar Kameez), and peep toed heels but overtime I find myself settling for pointed flats – Zara and Rothys always have a lovely line of those. These days, I’m always in my adidas and pumas – thanks to COVID! Not complaining though – I always manage to find something to fall in love with! 

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

Zara, Kate Spade, J. Crew, Ann Taylor, Image…the list goes on also love custom shirts I design myself. Etsy’s also a very interesting place – be it for custom clothes, accessories etc 

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

I’ve been looking into vegan fashion lately. It’s a fascinating world and I’m still exploring it. Love the Dharma Store – fun tees and they have vegan phone grips too! I also have my eye on the Catalina tote from lo and sons – super functional and love the shoe compartment at the bottom. So yes, I won’t be surprised if my fashion choices will be completely different five years down the line. I’m learning and growing every day. 

Links you would like to share e.g. website/facebook etc
Website: https://cramaswami.com/Instagram: @rumionamission2017


My thanks goes to Chitra for agreeing to be interviewed, for inviting me to join in her book tour and for a copy of her delightful memoir.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chitra Ramaswami

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Review: Lovelox Locket

Personalised lockets are fantastic gifts to give your loved one as a Valentines gift but why stop there? They make fantastic gifts for Mother’s Day, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Baby Showers, Just Because…. how about a locket that is not only engraved but contains photographs inside? Whose photos do you include – your significant other, your parents, your grandparents, loved ones who are no longer alive, your children, your pets? That was the dilemma I had when I was lucky enough to receive a locket to review. I settled on some lovey dovey photos of my husband and I taken a couple of years ago on holiday in Cape Verde. Whatever the occasion for the gift, quality is important and doubly important when you are ordering online. So here’s my review and thoughts about Lovelox lockets:

Disclosure: I was gifted the “Lovelox Locket ” in exchange for an honest review; all opinions expressed are entirely my own.


SO WHO ARE LOVELOX?

LOVELOX is a British jewellery brand specialising in personalised lockets made by hand from precious metals and natural diamonds. LOVELOX London was established in 2021 by James Bishton, but the family business has been in the jewellery sector since the 1880s. LOVELOX has a simple mission – to create treasured keepsakes to celebrate meaningful moments in your life. A bespoke locket from LOVELOX certainly does that – each beautiful locket is engraved, assembled by hand and packed in the UK.

THE WEBSITE

www.loveloxlockets.com

The website displays some beautiful lockets of various styles that it is really hard to choose. Once you have picked a locket, it is really simple to add the personalisation and photographs – the step by step guide is easy to follow. Adding photographs is optional. Using the photo guide you can position your chosen photos. LOVELOX have a lab quality printer and they use professional grade glossy paper which are instrumental in picking up every pixel in your photos to produce a crisp image every time. Each photo is carefully cut out and inserted in the locket casing by hand. It is hard to envisage what the photos would look like in miniature form. One word of warning though: pick photos that are bright, good quality and are not too “fussy”. The photographs I chose were of my husband and I stealing a kiss at sunset on a glorious African beach…. they came out a bit underexposed for my liking. It is still nice to have them in my locket though!

THE LOCKET

The locket I chose was the Heart Personalised Silver Locket, which is a solid 925 sterling silver heart shaped locket on a very thin adjustable solid silver chain, 16”- 18” length..The locket itself is 18mm wide and 18mm high . I had the locket personalised with my name in an italic script but there were other options available eg initials, short message etc. I was very impressed with the engraving, and the locket overall. I picked the 16-18” length although there was a longer option available.

PACKING & DELIVERY

The locket was beautifully packaged in a luxury gift box enclosed in a sturdy cardboard box in a chic white/black colouring. Just the ticket for a truly perfect gift – it just oozes quality. Delivery in the UK is fairly quick – within 2 working days available – although the standard delivery time is 3 -5 days. LOVELOX uses the DPD Next Day Courier Service for the majority of the UK apart from the Scottish Highlands, Scottish Islands, Channel Islands and Northern Ireland where the Royal Mail 1st Class Parcel Signed Off service is used instead.

MY VERDICT

This is a really beautiful locket. The engraving is excellent and the photograph idea is lovely – just make sure the photographs are bright and as clear as possible! Perhaps the website should alert customers if the photos are too dark or too bright at the scanning in stage? Having said that, the enjoyment of my necklace wasn’t dampened by it – the photos are great memories of a fun time. 8/10

For Pinning Later

My thanks goes to Lovelox for gifting the beautiful locket for this review.  

Linda x

All photographs are copyright © Linda Hobden 

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An Interview With Author Chad T Douglas

If you like fantasy with a touch of unlikely romance, along with a dose of adventure fiction featuring pirates, vampires, werewolves, mystical sea creatures and magic; then you’ll love this trilogy. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of the 1st book in the Lore Trilogy, “A Pirate’s Charm” by author Chad T Douglas and found it was the perfect light escapism during the recent lockdown. Let’s face it, we all need some escapism at times! I caught up with Chad virtually to find out what gave him his ideas … but before I welcome Chad onto the blog, here’s a quick summary of the Lore Series…

A Pirate’s Charm (Book 1)

When she flees Barbados in the late 1780s, the last thing Molly Bishop expects is to begin life anew with a criminal—much less the infamous Captain Thomas Crowe. On the high seas, far from her old life and even farther from England and her Uncle Samuel’s farm, Molly learns more than just the way of outcasts. Captain Crowe keeps secrets—many secrets—and possesses an extraordinary ring crafted by Molly’s father—a man she thought to be long gone.

East and Eight (Book 2)

Thomas Crowe and Molly Bishop walk into trouble’s open arms once again when an Atlantean sorceress, the mermaid Oi’alli, comes to Tom looking for a stolen talisman. When Tom refuses to return it, the consequences are dire. Plagued by two new foes, a demon and a mysterious octet of immortal-hunters known simply as “The Eight”, the future is looking dark for Tom. Molly Bishop is his only hope. Armed with new strength and magical powers, Molly lights the way as she and Tom make a treacherous journey east, to the heart of Romania.

The Old World (book 3)

Thomas Crowe is gone. The maniacal Captain Jack Darcy and the Order of the Blood Moon have taken the crew of the Roatán Butterfly prisoner; The Eight, a secretive band of immortal-killers, are quickly seizing control of the British Empire, and Molly Bishop is sailing against her will into faraway waters. Molly must now overcome tragedy and despair to keep a promise she made to Tom. Driven only by hope and a prophecy, she will fight to reclaim her life and her freedom.

Hi Chad & welcome!

Hi! My name is Chad T. Douglas (just “Chad” everywhere except my book covers lol) and I’m the author of both the Lore trilogy and the in-development Earthshine series. I started writing works of fiction when I was about 17 and still in high school. I’ve always loved stories—especially legends, mythologies, and folklore from all across the world—and all manner of imaginative media. That, in combination for a natural attraction to writing, visual arts, and music, as well as some traveling in my early 20s, set me on the path to authorship. I’m a two-time graduate of the University of Florida in Gainesville and currently work as a content developer and general creative in the field of digital marketing.

Who or what inspired you to write the Lore trilogy?

This is a question I’m asked frequently and one of my favorites to answer because it’s also the story of how I began writing in general…

The Lore series was really a product of two things—a lifelong love for fantasy fiction, myths, and legends and a specificfrustration with what pop culture was producing when I was about 17 years old (around 2007-2008). I grew up reading everything from Harry Potter to Dracula, watching everything from Pirates of the Caribbean to An American Werewolf in London, and playing video games that delved every aspect of sci-fi and fantasy within those realms and in between. I also had a “thing” for writing. I just hadn’t really embraced it yet.

I was a sophomore or junior in high school when I co-founded an afternoon club for creatives—students who wanted or needed an extra block of time in the day to write their stories, sketch their comics and graphic novels, or just have a space to talk about their fandoms with others who loved stories and storytelling. One afternoon, as things were wrapping up and we were all waiting on our rides home, I overheard a few of the other club members talking about Twilight (this was before it had become a huge sensation), and I wondered, “When is someone going to realize we need a story that brings things like magic, werewolves and vampires, pirates, folk legends, and every other cool fantasy-fiction trope together in one faithful, imaginative, and memorable super-story?” No kidding—it was moments later that I decided that I wasn’t going to wait for that story to come along on its own time. I decided that I might as well write that story myself. I knew what I wanted and I was confident that I could write it, so why not, right?

I spent every free afternoon and evening for the rest of high school writing what would eventually comprise A Pirate’s Charm and East and Eight (Lore “1” and “2,” respectively). I’d finish The Old World as a college student, having ditched my first degree in Architecture for one in English Language and Literature (no regrets).

© LindaHobden


I really enjoyed reading your book, the first in the Lore trilogy, “A Pirate’s Charm”. It was the ideal escapism book featuring a mash up of pirates, romance, magic, vampires, werewolves and mythical sea creatures. Was there any character that you particularly endeared yourself to? Which character was the hardest to develop?

It won’t come as a shock that most of my attention and personal interest was split equally between the series’s two protagonists, Molly and Thomas. Especially while revising the series, I went back over everything to make sure, more than anything, that readers would know that the books had not one but two true “main” characters. I hadn’t set out to write a story that gave only one character the spotlight because, personally, I love stories that emphasize how characters with compelling tales can influence one another so heavily and because I really wanted to highlight the protagonists’ unique and powerful bond. Allowing them to grow together and inspire one another and have one another’s backs felt more natural and relatable, the way a great partnership or romance should be. Consequently, this made Thomas and Molly the most difficult characters to write. They share many long scenes and dialogues, but each has a particular disposition, particular desires, specific quirks, and so on, making it exhausting to switch back and forth between them while keeping them true to their character.

One of my two favorite characters, conceptually, however, is Oi’alli. She first appears in the second installment of the trilogy and is extremely important to me. I had to get her just right. Not only is she a key influencer in the plot from her entrance in the series to its ultimate conclusion, she was also the character whom I needed to be the “quintessential mermaid” in the Lore universe. Merfolk are among the primary mythological players in the series, alongside werewolves and vampires, and I made it a very personal mission to “make mermaids cooler” than anyone else ever had. Pirates, werewolves, vampires—those have been done well, and many times over. I felt it was time for the merfolk to shine, so that became a key goal in Lore 2 and 3. Despite not getting the “pagetime” Molly and Tom get, I spent much, much more time on Oi’alli—her look, her origins, her significance in regard to the series’s mythological foundations and history, and more.

My other personal favorite character is Corvessa. Without giving too much away, she’s a key villain, and the things she does to warp and manipulate other characters (and the plot itself) was just too much fun to write. I loved designing her look, her demeanor, and the scenes she hijacks. What made her most interesting to me, though, was the fact that she actually won the affection of some of my audience. The first time I met a reader who was sincerely rooting for Corvessa was the most unexpected delight. 

Apart from Lore, you have published other novels and are currently writing another science fiction/trilogy.  Do you prefer writing trilogies rather than stand alone novels?

There are things I love about writing both kinds of stories, but I have to say that writing series is what I prefer. Every time I finish a standalone novel, all I want to do is extend the story with another installment lol. I just can’t resist continuously developing another character, another arc, another chapter that builds on everything that’s already happened.

Your books are mostly science fiction or fantasy based, but  when you read a book, what is your favourite genre and/or authors? Kindle or actual book?

Here’s where I’m a bit weird. Because I’m a writer, you may expect that I’d prefer reading over any other medium (most of my readers assume I’m as big a reader as they are), but that’s never been the case. My love for sci-fi and fantasy stems from being a big consumer of TV, movies, and video games. Additionally, rather than reading to get inspired, I spend a lot of time listening to music. I tend to build playlists when I’m outlining stories, because I match key scenes to certain moods I find in songs or genres that I like. When I do read, I tend to read about history, about concepts, or about people whom I find interesting (biographies/autobiographies).

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

I didn’t commit to being a writer until about 19 or 20 years old. Even after having written 2 of the 3 novels that would become the Lore trilogy, I was entering college with the intention of becoming an architect. Before then, I’d considered some kind of a career in psychology, which never materialized. The more work experience I got, the more it became clear that I needed to do creative things. I loved writing, I loved visual design and photomanipulation, and I loved “building” in a broad sense, and those things led me to digital marketing.

Have you got other novels or plans in the pipeline for 2021 that you can tell us about? 

I do! I’ve spent the last few years outlining a series that will continue a story where Big Blue 10,022 left off (2018). I have big plans for it, so it’s hard to say whether the writing starts in early or late 2021, but my mind is set on it and I would like to be able to bring the first installment to the next book festival I attend.

Is the Lore trilogy available to purchase worldwide?

Yes, you can find both digital and hard copy editions in essentially all the online marketplaces, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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

I know for sure that I would want to see the town of Jiufen (Taiwan), parts of Nepal, and some coastal parts of Scandinavia. There are locations in the upcoming series that were inspired by those locations’ characteristics. Being able to see them in person would help to capture the local mood in addition to the look. 

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

I love colder weather and the clothes that pair with it, so my favorite outfit right now is a pair of dark jeans (the kind that flex; I won’t go back to traditional), my Dan Post western boots (or white Nike sneakers), my black denim Levi trucker jacket, a TruWood Hawk wooden watch, and various other wooden jewelry (ring, bracelet, etc).

Do you have any favourite shops or online sites?

I’m pretty choosy when it comes to clothing, so I normally buy things I didn’t expect right on the spot. Consequently, I don’t have any real loyalties to certain shops or brands at the moment. I’ll have an idea of what I’m looking for and then do some marathon Googling until a particular shop woos me with something.

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

I’ve been eyeing a new scally cap (flat cap) recently. I own one that I never wear because it’s too big. I can’t quite pin down the color I want at the moment.

Boots or Shoes? 

Boots. There’s just something timeless about them. I also think the right pair can do more for an outfit’s character than an otherwise equally good pair of shoes.

For Pinning Later


Thanks very much for chatting with us today and I wish you great success with your book plans later in the year. Thanks also to Chad and Ben Cameron of Cameron Publicity & Marketing for the copy of the book “A Pirate’s Charm”. The views expressed by myself are 100% my own and thanks to Ben Cameron for the round up review of the trilogy.

Linda x

All photographs have been published with kind permission of Chad T Douglas; apart from the header photo , Pinterest photo and one marked ©LindaHobden.

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